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Big Jack

J. D. Robb

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15


  Teaser chapter

  Titles by J. D. Robb
































  (with Susan Plunkett, Dee Holmes, and Claire Cross)


  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Susan Krinard, and Maggie Shayne)


  (with Nora Roberts)


  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)


  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)


  SUITE 606

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)



  (with Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, and Ruth Ryan Langan)

  Turn to the back of this book for an excerpt from


  by #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Previously published in Remember When by Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author


  Berkley mass-market edition / March 2010

  Copyright © 2003 by Nora Roberts. Excerpt from Hot Rocks by Nora Roberts copyright © Nora Roberts.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-19580-2


  Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  All things change; nothing perishes.


  Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways.


  Chapter 1

  NEW YORK, 2059

  She was dying to get home. Knowing her own house, her own bed, her own things were waiting for her made even the filthy afternoon traffic from the airport a pleasure.

  There were small skirmishes, petty betrayals, outright treachery and bitter combat among the cabs, commuters and tanklike maxibuses. Overhead, the airtrams, blimps and minishuttles strafed the sky. But watching the traffic wars wage made her antsy enough to imagine herself leaping into the front seat to grab the wheel and plunge into the fray, with a great deal more viciousness and enthusiasm than her driver.

  God, she loved New York.

  While her driver crept along the FDR as one of the army of vehicles battling their way into the city, she entertained herself by watching the animated billboards. Some were little stories, and as a writer herself, and the lover of a good tale, Samantha Gannon appreciated that.

  Observe, she thought, the pretty woman lounging poolside at a resort, obviously alone and lonely while couples splash or stroll. She orders a drink, and with the first sip her eyes meet those of a gorgeous man just emerging from the water. Wet muscles, killer grin. An electric moment that dissolves into a moonlight scene where the now happy couple walk hand in hand along the beach.

  Moral? Drink Silby’s Rum and open your world to adventure, romance and really good sex.

  It should be so easy.

  But then, for some, it was. For her grandparents there’d been an electric moment. Rum hadn’t played a part, at least not in any of the versions she’d heard. But their eyes had met, and something had snapped and sizzled through the bloodstream of fate.

  Since they’d be married for fifty-six years this coming fall, whatever that something had been had done a solid job.

  And because of it, because fate had brought them together, she was sitting in the back of a big, black sedan, heading uptown, heading toward home, home, home, after two weeks traveling on the bumpy, endless roads of a national book tour.

  Without her grandparents, what they’d done, what they’d chosen, there would have been no book. No tour. No homecoming. She owed them all of it—well, not the tour, she amended. She could hardly blame them for that.

  She only hoped they were half as proud of her as she was of them.

  Samantha E. Gannon, national bestselling author of Hot Rocks.

  Was that iced or what?

  Hyping the book in fourteen cities—coast to coast—over fifteen days, the interviews, the appearances, the hotels and transport stati
ons had been exhausting.

  And, let’s be honest, she told herself, fabulous in its insane way.

  Every morning she’d dragged herself from a strange bed, propped open her bleary eyes and stared at the mirror just to be sure she’d see herself staring back. It was really happening, to her, Sam Gannon.

  She’d been writing it all of her life, she thought, every time she’d heard the family story, every time she’d begged her grandparents to tell it, wheedled for more details. She’d been honing her craft in every hour she’d spent lying in bed as a child, imagining the adventure.

  It had seemed so romantic to her, so exciting. And the best part was that it was her family, her blood.

  Her current project was coming along well. She was calling it just Big Jack, and she thought her great-grandfather would have gotten a very large charge out of it.

  She wanted to get back to it, to dive headlong into Jack O’Hara’s world of cons and scams and life on the lam. Between the tour and the pretour rounds, she hadn’t had a full hour to write. And she was due.

  But she wasn’t going straight to work. She wasn’t going to think about work for at least forty-eight blissful hours. She was going to dump her bags, and she might just burn everything in them. She was going to lock herself in her own wonderful, quiet house. She was going to run a bubble bath, open a bottle of champagne.

  She’d soak and she’d drink, then she’d soak and drink some more. If she was hungry, she’d buzz something up in the AutoChef. She didn’t care what it was because it would be her food, in her kitchen.

  Then she was going to sleep for ten hours.

  She wasn’t going to answer the telelink. She’d contacted her parents, her brother, her sister, her grandparents from the air, and told them all she was going under for a couple of days. Her friends and business associates could wait a day or two. Since she’d ended what had passed for a relationship over a month before, there wasn’t any man waiting for her.

  That was probably just as well.

  She sat up when the car veered toward the curb. Home! She’d been drifting, she realized, lost in her own thoughts, as usual, and hadn’t realized she was home.

  She gathered her notebook, her travel bag. Riding on delight, she overtipped the driver when he hauled her suitcase and carry-on to the door for her. She was so happy to see him go, so thrilled that he’d be the last person she’d have to speak to until she decided to surface again, she nearly kissed him on the mouth.

  Instead, she resisted, waved him off, then dragged her things into the tiny foyer of what her grandmother liked to call Sam’s Urban Doll House.

  “I’m back!” She leaned against the door, breathed deep, then did a hip-shaking, shoulder-rolling dance across the floor. “Mine, mine, mine. It’s all mine. Baby, I’m back!”

  She stopped short, arms still flung out in her dance of delight, and gaped at her living area. Tables and chairs were overturned, and her lovely little settee was lying on its back like a turtle on its shell. Her screen was off the wall and lay smashed in the middle of the floor, along with her collection of framed family photos and holograms. The walls had been stripped of paintings and prints.

  Sam slapped both hands to her head, fisted her fingers in her short red hair and let out a bellow. “For God’s sake, Andrea! House-sitting doesn’t mean you actually sit on the goddamn house.”

  Having a party was one thing, but this was . . . just beyond. She was going to kick some serious ass.

  She yanked her pocket ’link out of her jacket and snapped out the name. “Andrea Jacobs. Former friend,” she added on a mutter as the transmission went through. Gritting her teeth, she spun on her heel and headed out of the room, started up the stairs as she listened to Andrea’s recorded message.

  “What the hell did you do?” she barked into the ’link, “set off a bomb? How could you do this, Andrea? How could you destroy my things and leave this mess for me to come home to? Where the hell are you? You’d better be running for your life, because when I get my hands . . . Jesus Christ, what is that smell! I’m going to kill you for this, Andrea.”

  The stench was so strong, she was forced to cover her mouth with her hand as she booted open the bedroom door. “It reeks in here, and, oh God, oh God, my bedroom. I’m never going to forgive you. I swear to God, Andrea, you’re dead. Lights!” she snapped out.

  And when they flashed on, when she blinked her eyes clear, she saw Andrea sprawled on the floor on a heap of stained bedclothes.

  She saw she was right. Andrea was dead.

  She’d nearly been out the door. Five more minutes and she’d have been off shift and heading home. Odds were someone else would have caught the case. Someone else would be spending a steaming summer night dealing with a bloater.

  She’d barely closed the last case and that had been a horror.

  But Andrea Jacobs was hers now. For better, for worse.

  Lieutenant Eve Dallas breathed through a filtered mask. They didn’t really work and looked, in her opinion, ridiculous, but it helped cut down on the worst of the smell when you were dealing with the very ripe dead.

  Though the temperature controls of the room were set at a pleasant seventy-three degrees, the body had, essentially, cooked for five days. It was bloated with gases, had voided its wastes. Whoever had slit Andrea Jacobs’s throat hadn’t just killed her. He’d left her to rot.

  “Victim’s identification verified. Jacobs, Andrea. Twenty-nine-year-old mixed-race female. The throat’s been slashed in what appears to be a left-to-right downward motion. Indications are the killer attacked from behind. The deterioration of the body makes it difficult to ascertain if there are other injuries, defensive wounds, through visual exam on scene. Victim is dressed in street clothes.”

  Party clothes, Eve thought, noting the soiled sparkle on the hem of the dress, the ice-pick heels kicked across the room.

  “She came in, after a date, maybe trolling the clubs. Could’ve brought somebody back with her, but it doesn’t look like that.”

  She gazed around the room while she put the pictures in her head. She wished, briefly, for Peabody. But she’d sent her former aide and very new partner home early. There wasn’t any point in dragging her back and spoiling what Eve knew was a celebration dinner with Peabody’s main squeeze.

  “She came back alone. If she’d come back with someone, even if he was going to kill her, he’d have gone for the sex first. Why waste it? And this isn’t a struggle. This isn’t a fight. One clean swipe. No other stab wounds.”

  She looked back at the body and brought Andrea Jacobs to life in her mind. “She comes back from her date, her night out. Had a few drinks. Starts upstairs. Does she hear something? Probably not. Maybe she’s stupid and she comes upstairs after she hears somebody up here. We’ll find out if she was stupid, but I bet he hears her. Hears her come in.”

  Eve walked out into the hall, stood there a moment, picturing it, and ignoring the movements of the crime-scene team working in the house.

  She walked back, imagined kicking off those sky-high heels. Your arches would just weep with relief. Maybe she lifted one foot, bent over a little, rubbed it.

  And when she straightened, he was on her.

  Came from behind the door, Eve thought, or out of the closet on the wall beside the door. Stepped right up behind her, yanked her head back by the hair, then sliced.

  Lips pursed, she studied the pattern of blood spatter.

  Spurted out of the jugular, she thought, onto the bed. She’s facing the bed, he’s behind. He doesn’t get messy. Just slices down quick, gives her a little shove forward. She’s still spurting as she falls.

  She glanced toward the windows. Drapes were drawn. Moving over, she eased them back, noted the privacy screen was engaged as well. He’d have done that. Wouldn’t want anyone to notice the light, or movement.

  She stepped out again, tossed the mask into her field kit.

  Crime scene and the sweepers were already crawling around the place in
their safe suits. She nodded toward a uniform. “Tell the ME’s team she’s cleared to be bagged, tagged and transported. Where’s the witness?”

  “Got her down in the kitchen, Lieutenant.”

  She checked her wrist unit. “Take your partner, start a neighborhood canvass. You’re first on scene, right?”

  He straightened a little. “Yes, sir.”

  She waited a beat. “And?”

  She had a rep. You didn’t want to screw up with Dallas. She was tall, lean and dressed now in summer-weight pants, T-shirt and jacket. He’d seen her seal up before she went into the bedroom, and her right hand had a smear of blood on the thumb.

  He wasn’t sure if he should mention it.

  Her hair was brown and chopped short. Her eyes were the same color and all cop.

  He’d heard it said she chewed up lazy cops for breakfast and spit them out at lunch.

  He wanted to make it through the day.

  “Dispatch came through at sixteen-forty, report of a break-in and possible death at this address.”

  Eve looked back toward the bedroom. “Yeah, extremely possible.”

  “My partner and I responded, arrived on scene at sixteen-fifty-two. The witness, identified as Samantha Gannon, resident, met us at the door. She was in extreme distress.”

  “Cut through it. Lopkre,” she added, reading his name tag.

  “She was hysterical, Lieutenant. She’d already vomited, just outside the front door.”

  “Yeah, I noticed that.”

  He relaxed a little, since she didn’t seem inclined to take a bite out of him. “Tossed it again, same spot, right after she opened the door for us. Sort of folded in on herself there in the foyer, crying. She kept saying, ‘Andrea’s dead, upstairs.’ My partner stayed with her while I went up to check it out. Didn’t have to get far.”

  He grimaced, nodded toward the bedroom. “The smell. Looked into the bedroom, saw the body. Ah, as I could verify death from the visual from the doorway, I did not enter the scene and risk contaminating same. I conducted a brief search of the second floor to confirm no one else, alive or dead, was on the premises, then called it in.”