Loyalty in Death:In Death 09

By: J. D. Robb

No drugs or alcohol in the system, she noted. No indication of recent sexual activity. Stomach contents indicated a simple last meal of carrot pasta and peas in a light cream sauce, cracked wheat bread, and herbal tea ingested less than an hour before time of death.

Pretty boring meal, she decided, for such a sneaky ladies’ man.

And who, she asked herself, said he was a ladies’ man but the women who’d killed him? In their damn rush to clear the dockets, they hadn’t given her time to verify the motive for the pissy man two.

When it hit the media, and it would, she imagined a lot of dissatisfied sexual partners were going to be eyeing the tool closet.

Lover piss you off? she thought. Well, see how he likes a taste of the Branson 8000—the choice of professionals and serious hobbyists. Oh yeah, she thought Lisbeth Cooke could work up a pretty jazzy ad campaign using that angle. Sales would shoot right up.

Relationships had to be society’s most baffling and brutal form of entertainment. Most could make an arena ball playoff game look like a ballroom dance. Still, lonely souls continued to seek them out, cling to them, fret and fight over them, and mourn the loss of them.

No wonder the world was full of whacks.

The glint of her wedding ring caught her eye and made her wince. That was different, she assured herself. She hadn’t sought anything out. It had found her, taken her down like a hard tackle to the back of the knees. And if Roarke ever decided he wanted out, she’d probably let him live.

In a permanent body cast.

Disgusted all around, she spun back to her machine and began to hammer out the investigative report the PA’s office apparently didn’t want to bother with.

She glanced up as E-Detective Ian McNab poked a head in her doorway. His long golden hair was braided today, and only one iridescent hoop graced his earlobe. Obviously to make up for the conservative touch, he wore a thick sweater in screaming greens and blues that hung to the hips of black pipe-stem trousers. Shiny blue boots completed the look.

He grinned at her, green eyes bold in a pretty face. “Hey, Dallas, I finished checking out your victim’s ’links and personal memo book. The stuff from his office just came in, but I figured you’d want what I’ve got so far.”

“Then why isn’t your report on my desk unit?” she asked dryly.

“Just thought I’d bring it over personally.” With a friendly smile, he dropped a disc on her desk, then plopped his butt on the corner.

“Peabody’s running data for me, McNab.”

“Yeah.” He moved his shoulders. “So, she’s in her cube?”

“She’s not interested in you, pal. Get a clue here.”

He turned his hand over, examined his nails critically. “Who says I’m interested in her? She still seeing Monroe, or what?”

“We don’t talk about it.”

His eyes met hers briefly, and they shared a moment of the vague disapproval neither of them liked to show for Peabody’s continued involvement with a slick if appealing licensed companion. “Just curious, that’s all.”

“So ask her yourself.” And report back to me, she added silently.

“I do.” He grinned again. “Gives her a chance to snarl at me. She’s got great teeth.”

He got up, paced around Eve’s cramped box of an office. They both would have been surprised to realize their thoughts on relationships were, at that moment, running on parallel lines.

McNab’s hot date with an off-planet flight consultant had cooled and soured the night before. She’d bored him, he thought now, which should have been impossible as she’d put her truly magnificent breasts on display in something sheer and silver.

He hadn’t been able to work up any enthusiasm because his thoughts had continued to drift to the way a certain prickly cop looked in her starched uniform.

What the hell did she wear under that thing? he wondered now, as he had unfortunately wondered the night before. That speculation had caused him to end the evening early, annoying the flight consultant so that when he came to his senses—as he was sure he would—he’d never get another shot at those beautiful breasts.

He was, he decided, spending too many nights home alone, watching the screen.

Which reminded him.

“Hey, I caught Mavis’s video on-screen last night. Frigid.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty great.” Eve thought of her friend; even now on her first tour to promote her recording disc for Roarke’s entertainment arm, singing her butt off in Atlanta. Mavis Freestone, Eve thought sentimentally, was a long way from shrieking her lungs out for the zoned and the glazed at dives like the Blue Squirrel.

“The disc is starting to take off. Roarke thinks it’ll make the top twenty next week.”

McNab jingled credit chips in his pocket. “And we knew her when, right?”

He was stalling, Eve thought, and she was letting him. “I think Roarke’s planning a party or something once she gets back.”

“Yeah? Great.” Then he perked up at the unmistakable sound of police-issue shoes slapping worn linoleum. McNab had his hands in his pockets and a look of sheer disinterest on his face when Peabody came through the door.