Memory in Death:In Death 22

By: J. D. Robb
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,

She had so many children she didn’t know what to do;

She gave them some broth without any bread;

She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

—NURSERY RHYME





Memory, the warder of the brain.

—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE





1


DEATH WAS NOT TAKING A HOLIDAY. NEW YORK may have been decked out in its glitter and glamour, madly festooned in December of 2059, but Santa Claus was dead. And a couple of his elves weren’t looking so good.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood on the sidewalk with the insanity of Times Square screaming around her and studied what was left of St. Nick. A couple of kids, still young enough to believe that a fat guy in a red suit would wiggle down the chimney to bring them presents instead of murdering them in their sleep, were shrieking at a decibel designed to puncture eardrums. She wondered why whoever was in charge of them didn’t haul them away.

Not her job, she thought. Thank God. She preferred the bloody mess at her feet.

She looked up, way up. Dropped down from the thirty-sixth floor of the Broadway View Hotel. So the first officer on-scene had reported. Shouting, “Ho, ho, ho”—according to witnesses—until he’d gone splat, and had taken out some hapless son of a bitch who’d been strolling through the endless party.

The task of separating the two smashed bodies would be an unpleasant one, she imagined.

Two other victims had escaped with minor injuries—one had simply dropped like a tree and cracked her head on the sidewalk in shock when the nasty spatter of blood, gore, and brain matter had splashed all over her. Dallas would leave them to the medical techs for the moment, and get statements when, hopefully, they were more coherent.

She already knew what had happened here. She could see it in the glassy eyes of Santa’s little helpers.

She started toward them in a boot-length black leather coat that swirled in the chilly air. Her hair was short and brown around a lean face. Her eyes were the color of good, aged whiskey and were long like the rest of her. And like the rest of her, they were all cop.

“Guy in the Santa gig’s your buddy?”

“Oh, man. Tubbs. Oh, man.”

One was black, one was white, but they were both faintly green at the moment. She couldn’t much blame them. She gauged them as late twenties, and their upscale partywear indicated they were probably junior execs at the firm that had had its holiday bash rudely interrupted.

“I’m going to arrange to have you both escorted downtown where you’ll give your statements. I’d like you to voluntarily agree to illegals testing. If you don’t . . .” She waited a beat, smiled thinly. “We’ll do it the hard way.”

“Oh, man, oh, shit. Tubbs. He’s dead. He’s dead, right?”

“That’s official,” Eve said and turned to signal to her partner.

Detective Peabody, her dark hair currently worn in sporty waves, straightened from her crouch by the tangle of body parts. She was mildly green herself, Eve noted, but holding steady.

“Got ID on both victims,” she announced. “Santa’s Lawrence, Max, age twenty-eight, Midtown address. Guy who—ha-ha—broke his fall’s Jacobs, Leo, age thirty-three. Queens.”

“I’m going to arrange to have these two taken into holding, get a test for illegals, get their statements when we finish here. I assume you want to go up, look at the scene, speak with the other witnesses.”

“I. . .”

“You’re primary on this one.”

“Right.” Peabody took a deep breath. “Did you talk to them at all?”

“Leaving that for you. You want to take a poke at them here?”

“Well . . .” Peabody searched Eve’s face, obviously looking for the right answer. Eve didn’t give it to her. “They’re pretty shaken up, and it’s chaos out here, but . . . We might get more out of them here and now, before they settle down and start thinking about how much trouble they might be in.”

“Which one do you want?”

“Um. I’ll take the black guy.”

Eve nodded, walked back. “You.” She pointed. “Name?”

“Steiner. Ron Steiner.”

“We’re going to take a little walk, Mr. Steiner.”

“I feel sick.”

“I bet.” She gestured for him to rise, took his arm, and walked a few paces away. “You and Tubbs worked together?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Tyro Communications. We—we hung out.”

“Big guy, huh?”

“Who, Tubbs? Yeah, yeah.” Steiner wiped sweat from his brow. “Came in about two-fifty, I guess. So we figured it’d be a gag to have him rent the Santa suit for the party.”

“What kind of toys and goodies did Tubbs have in his sack today, Ron?”

“Oh, man.” He covered his face with his hands. “Oh, Jesus.”

“We’re not on record yet, Ron. We will be, but right now just tell me what went down. Your friend’s dead, and so is some poor schmuck who was just walking on the sidewalk.”

He spoke through his hands. “Bosses set up this lunch buffet deal for the office party. Wouldn’t even spring for some brew, you know?” Ron shivered twice, hard, then dropped his arms to his sides. “So a bunch of us got together, and we pooled to rent the suite for the whole day. After the brass left, we brought out the booze and the . . . the recreational chemicals. So to speak.”

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