Loyalty in Death:In Death 09

By: J. D. Robb

“Oh, sorry. Put me down, Zeke.” But she kept an arm wrapped possessively around him even when her feet hit the floor. “Lieutenant, this is Zeke.”

“I got that far.”

“My brother.”

“Oh yeah?” Eve took another look, searching for family resemblance. There was none—not body type, not coloring, not in features. “Nice to meet you.”

“Didn’t mean to interrupt.” Zeke flushed a little and held out a big hand. “Dee’s had lots of good things to say about you, Lieutenant.”

“Glad to hear it.” Eve found her hand lost inside one the consistency of granite and as gentle as silk. “So which one are you?”

“Zeke’s the baby,” Peabody said with such adoration Eve had to grin.

“Some baby. What are you, about six-six?”

“And a quarter,” he said with a shy smile.

“He takes after our father. They’re both tall and skinny.” Peabody gave her brother a fierce squeeze. “Zeke’s a wood artist. He builds the most beautiful furniture and cabinets.”

“Come on, Dee.” The flush became a blush. “I’m just a carpenter. Handy with tools, that’s all.”

“There’s a lot of that going around lately,” Eve murmured.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming to New York?” Peabody demanded.

“Wanted to surprise you. Didn’t know for sure I’d come until a couple of days ago.”

He stroked a hand over her hair in a way that made Eve think of relationships again. Some weren’t about sex or power or control. Some were just about love.

“I got a commission to custom-build cabinets from these people who saw my work back in Arizona.”

“That’s great. How long will it take?”

“Don’t know till they’re done.”

“Okay, well, you’ll stay at my place. I’ll get you the key and tell you how to get there. You’ll take the subway.” She gnawed her lip. “Don’t go wandering around, Zeke. It’s not like home. Are you carrying your money and ID in your back pocket, because—”

“Peabody.” Eve held up a finger for attention. “Take the rest of the day on personal time, get your brother settled in.”

“I don’t want to be any trouble,” Zeke began.

“You’ll be more trouble if she’s worried about you getting mugged six times before you get to her apartment.” Eve added a smile to soften it, though she’d already decided the guy had M for mark all over his face. “Things are slow here, anyway.”

“The Cooke case.”

“I think I can handle it solo,” Eve said mildly. “Anything pops, I’ll tag you. Go show Zeke the wonders of New York.”

“Thanks, Dallas.” Peabody took her brother’s hand, vowing that she’d make sure he didn’t see the seamier side of those wonders.

“Nice to’ve met you, Lieutenant.”

“You, too.” She watched them go off, Zeke bending his body slightly toward Peabody as she bubbled with sisterly affection.

Families, Eve mused. They continued to baffle her. But it was nice to see that, occasionally, they worked.

“Everyone loved J. C.” Chris Tipple, Branson’s executive assistant, was a man of about thirty with hair approximately the same shade as the swollen red rims of his eyes. Even now he wept unashamedly, tears trickling down his chubby, pleasant face. “Everyone.”

Which might have been the problem, Eve mused, and waited once again while Chris scrubbed his cheeks with his crumpled handkerchief. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“It’s just impossible to believe he won’t come through that door.” His breath hitched as he stared at the closed door of the big, bright office suite. “Ever again. Everyone’s in shock. When B. D. made the announcement this morning, no one could speak.”

He pressed the handkerchief to his mouth as if his voice had failed him again.

B. Donald Branson, the victim’s brother and partner, Eve knew, and waited for Chris to finish.

“You want some water, Chris? A soother?”

“I’ve taken a soother. It doesn’t seem to help. We were very close.” Mopping his streaming eyes, Chris didn’t notice Eve’s look of consideration.

“You had a personal relationship?”

“Oh yes. I’d been with J. C. for nearly eight years. He was much more than my employer. He was . . . he was like a father to me. Pardon me.”

Obviously overcome, he buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry. J. C. wouldn’t want me to fall apart this way. It doesn’t help. But I can’t—I don’t think any of us can take it in. We’re closing down for a week. The whole operation. Offices, factories, everything. The memorial . . .” He trailed off, struggling. “The memorial service is scheduled for tomorrow.”


“J. C. wouldn’t have wanted it to be drawn out. How could she have done it?” He fisted the damp cloth in his hand, staring blindly at Eve. “How could she have done it, Lieutenant? J. C. adored her.”