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Festive in Death

J. D. Robb


  Naked in Death

  Glory in Death

  Immortal in Death

  Rapture in Death

  Ceremony in Death

  Vengeance in Death

  Holiday in Death

  Conspiracy in Death

  Loyalty in Death

  Witness in Death

  Judgment in Death

  Betrayal in Death

  Seduction in Death

  Reunion in Death

  Purity in Death

  Portrait in Death

  Imitation in Death

  Divided in Death

  Visions in Death

  Survivor in Death

  Origin in Death

  Memory in Death

  Born in Death

  Innocent in Death

  Creation in Death

  Strangers in Death

  Salvation in Death

  Promises in Death

  Kindred in Death

  Fantasy in Death

  Indulgence in Death

  Treachery in Death

  New York to Dallas

  Celebrity in Death

  Delusion in Death

  Calculated in Death

  Thankless in Death

  Concealed in Death

  Festive in Death


  Publishers Since 1838

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  A Penguin Random House Company

  Copyright © 2014 by Nora Roberts

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Robb, J. D., date.

  Festive in death / J. D. Robb.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 978-1-101-61727-4

  1. Dallas, Eve (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Policewomen—New York State—New York—Fiction. 3. Personal trainers—Crimes against—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3568.O243F47 2014 2014003754


  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, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



  Titles by J. D. Robb

  Title 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

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22


  Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.


  At Christmas play and make good cheer,

  For Christmas comes but once a year.


  Men, Sima thought, can’t live with them, can’t beat them to death with a nine iron.

  But a girl could exact some revenge, and she was a girl bent on just that.

  Nobody deserved a good dose of revenge—or a beating with a nine iron—as much as Trey Ziegler. The fuckball had booted her out of the apartment they’d shared, even though she had the same territorial rights to the place as he did.

  In the seven and a half weeks of their unofficial cohabitation, she’d paid half the rent, half the expenses, including food and beverage. She’d done all the cleaning (lazy bastard), all the marketing. And in that seven and a half weeks had given him the best years of her life.

  Plus sex.

  After considerable thought, in-depth conversations with close friends and confidants, two ten-minute sessions of meditation and six tequila shots, she’d outlined precisely how, where, and when to exact her revenge.

  The how involved that nine iron, an extensive collection of cashmere socks, and itching powder. The where was that one-bedroom apartment over Little Mike’s Tattoo and Piercing Parlor in the West Village.

  The when was right fucking now.

  He wouldn’t have changed the locks—cheap bastard—and didn’t know she’d given a copy of her swipe to one of those friends and confidants, who also happened to be her boss, right after they’d moved in together.

  And if he had changed the lock, her friend said she knew people who knew people, would tag one up, and it would be done.

  Sima wasn’t sure she wanted to know the people who knew people or how they would gain access to the apartment. But she knew she wanted in.

  So with her friend beside her for moral support, she pulled out her swipe key to open the main door to the apartments over the tat parlor.

  Her tequila-fueled grin spread wider when the locks clicked open.

  “I knew it! He’d never bother springing for the money to have me deactivated.”

  “Maybe not on this door. We still have to see about the apartment.” Her friend gave her a long, hard look. “You’re abso-poso he’s not in there?”

  “Totally. His supervisor sprang for the weekend seminar, been in the works for weeks. No way he’d blow it off. Free hotel room, free food, and a chance to show off for two days.”

  Sima turned toward the skinny elevator, started to take off her gloves.

  “We’ll walk up. Leave your gloves on, remember? No fingerprints.”

  “Right, right. It’s my first break-in.” With a nervous giggle Sima started up the stairs.

  “It’s not a break-in. You have a key, and you paid the rent.”


  “He said it was half. Did you ever check for sure how much the rent was?”

  “Well, no, but—”

  “Sima, you’ve got to stop letting yourself get pushed around. What you were paying for the squeeze box up here probably covered the whole cha-cha.”

  “I know. I know.”

  “You’re going to feel a lot better after you cut out the toes in his socks. Remember the plan—one sock from each pair, a little nip so it starts to unravel. You start on that while I put the itching powder in his moisturizer. Then we replace the golf club with the toy one, and we book. We don’t touch anything else. In and out.”

  “And he won’t know what the hell. He’s not going to golf until he gets somebody to pay the indoor fee, so that can’t come back on me. The socks will make him crazy.”

  “He’ll figure it happened at the dry cleaners. He deserves it. A guy who has his socks dry-cleaned deserves it.”

“Yeah. And the itching powder? He’ll go screaming to the doctor, figuring he’s got a new allergy. Fuckball.”

  “Fuckball,” her friend agreed, righteously, as they finally reached the fourth floor. “Moment of truth, Sima.”

  On a long breath, Sima steadied herself. Climbing three flights, dressed in her winter coat, scarf, boots, hat—December 2060 was as bitter as her heart—she had worked up a little sweat.

  She pulled out the key again, crossed the fingers of her free hand, swiped.

  Locks thumped open.

  Sima gave a triumphant hoot, and was immediately shushed.

  “You want the neighbors poking out?”

  “No, but—” Before she could finish, Sima found herself pushed inside with the door quietly, firmly closed behind her.

  “Turn on the lights, Sim.”

  “Right.” She hit the switch, then hissed, “Look at this mess! I haven’t been gone a week, and he’s already got crap tossed everywhere. Look in there!” She walked toward the kitchen bump as she pointed. “Dirty dishes, takeout boxes. I bet there’re bugs. Ew, I bet there’re bugs in here.”

  “What do you care? You don’t live here, so you don’t have to pick up his mess or worry about bugs.”

  “But still. And look at the living room. Clothes tossed all over, shoes just— Hey!” She marched over, picked up a scarlet-red high heel, then scooped up a bra with yellow polka dots over purple lace.

  “I never noticed any trany tendencies.”

  “Because he doesn’t have any!”

  “I know, Sim. It’s like we all told you. He only booted you because he sniffed up a new skirt. And jeez, it’s been like a week since he did the booting, so you have to figure . . . Don’t blubber,” she ordered as Sima started to do just that. “Get even! Come on.”

  Focused on the task at hand, she pulled the shoe, the bra away, tossed them down again, took Sima’s arm. “I’ll get you started on the socks.”

  “I sort of loved him.”

  “Sort of is sort of. He treated you like crap, so you pay him back, then you can move on. Trust me.”

  Sima’s tears-and-tequila-blurred eyes tracked back to the bra. “I want to bust something up.”

  “You’re not going to. You’re going to be smart and hit him where it hurts. Vanity and wallet, then we’re going to go do some more shots.”

  “Lots of them.”

  “Bunches of lots of them.”

  Sima squared her shoulders and nodded. With her hand in her friend’s—moral support—they started toward the bedroom she’d shared for seven and a half weeks with her cheap, cheating, callous boyfriend.

  “He didn’t even put up any Christmas decorations. He has a cold heart.”

  She couldn’t have been more right.

  Trey Ziegler sat propped on the bed, the long chestnut-and-gold-streaked hair he was so proud of matted with blood. His eyes—most recently tinted emerald green—staring.

  The kitchen knife jammed in his cold heart pinned a cardboard sign to his well-toned chest. It read:

  Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!!

  Ho. Ho. Ho!

  As Sima peeled off screams, her friend slapped a hand over her mouth, dragged her away.

  “Trey! Trey!”

  “Shut it down, Sima. Just shut it down a minute. Jesus, what a mess.”

  “He’s dead. There’s blood. He’s dead.”

  “I got that. Holy shit.”

  “Whattawedo? Oh God! Whattawedo?”

  Running away would be awesome but . . . Even buildings as lousy as this probably have some security. Or somebody might have seen them come in. Or heard them work out the plan over tequila shots. Or something.

  “You’ve got to calm down some—and don’t touch anything. Not anything. I’ve got to tag up somebody.”

  “You’re going to have somebody come get rid of the body?” Sima dragged her fingers down her throat as if she were being strangled. “Oh my God!”

  “Grip reality, Sima. I’m tagging a cop.”

  • • •

  Two in the morning, two in the freaking morning in the frozen bowels of December, and she had to roll out of a warm bed beside a hot husband and deal with what might be a dead body—or a drunken prank by a woman who drove her crazy on the best of days.

  In moments like this, being a cop sucked.

  But Lieutenant Eve Dallas was a cop, so she pulled up in front of the dingy box of a building in the West Village, grabbed her field kit—if there was an actual DB, it would save her coming back out for it—and stomped across the icy sidewalk.

  She’d have used her master to swipe in, but the door clicked and buzzed as she reached for it.

  She didn’t much like the look of the elevator in the skinny, smelly lobby, but opted for it. The sooner to get this over.

  She jammed her cold hands—she hadn’t thought of gloves—in the pockets of her long leather coat and scowled with golden brown eyes at the numbers creeping from one to two to three, and finally to four on the dented panel.

  When the doors opened, she strode out, a tall, lean, pretty pissed-off woman with a shaggy cap of hair nearly the same color as her eyes.

  Before she could bang a fist on the door, it opened. There stood the woman who cut her hair—often whether Eve wanted the service or not. Who’d seen her naked—and that Eve never wanted.

  “If you’re fucking with me, I’m hauling your ass in for filing a false report.”

  “Hand to God.” Trina shot up a hand—fingers tipped in swirls of holiday red and green—then used the other to yank Eve inside. “His name’s Trey Ziegler, and he’s really dead in the bedroom.”

  “Who’s that?” Eve demanded, jerking a head toward the woman with an explosion of red curls smashed under a black watch cap who was currently holding some sort of red-and-blue plastic golf club and blubbering.

  “That’s Sima. His ex. She lived here.”

  “You live here?” Eve asked Sima.

  “Yes. No. I did, but he—then he . . . He’s . . . he’s . . . he’s . . .”

  When Sima dissolved, Eve turned back to Trina. “Stay here, don’t touch anything. Don’t let her touch anything.”

  She took the short five steps to the bedroom door, looked in.

  Okay, that was a dead man.

  She set down her field kit to pull out her ’link. She called it in, arranged for her partner to be notified.

  “You.” She pointed at Sima. “Sit over there. Don’t touch anything.” Then she gestured Trina over to the kitchen bump. “If she doesn’t live here, how did you get in?”

  “She still has her swipe. Or the copy she made for me when she hooked into the place with him. He only kicked her out a week ago.”

  “Why did the two of you come here—and you’re both lit. I can see it, hear it, smell it.”

  “About half lit,” Trina corrected with the faintest smirk. Eve’s flat, narrow gaze had her shifting side to side, giving her tower of hair—swirled in the same color and pattern as her nails—a little toss.

  “Okay, look, full disclosure, right? Trey dumped her. She came home from work and he’d packed her stuff, said they were done and to get out.”

  “They had a fight.”

  “Hell no. She’s got the spine of a worm—can’t help it—so even though she’s been paying the rent, he said half but I know what this dump should go for and it was plenty more than half. And she paid for December, so she paid this month’s rent, and she has rights. Right?”

  “Just keep going,” Eve ordered.

  “Okay. So she just starts crying, takes her stuff and goes. Anyhow, she got a flop for about a week, doesn’t tell me or any of us ’cause she said she was all embarrassed, then finally spills it. I have her at my place, on the pullout until she can get it together.”



  “Let us wind around to tonight and the dead man.”

  “Right. Well, tonight, a bunch of us were hanging after work, and there was tequila. And we got this idea about payback. He’s supposed to be in Atlantic City for a couple days, so we bought the toy golf club and some itching powder. We were going to unravel the toes of his socks, put the powder in his face cream, replace one of his clubs with the toy, then book. That’s it. We came in, headed back there, saw him. I pulled her out, tagged you.”

  “Itching powder?”

  “Serious shit.” Trina nodded wisely. “He’d’ve wanted to scratch his face down to the bone. He deserved it. Look at her.”

  Sima sat, head bowed, tears dripping.

  “Jesus Christ. Did you know this guy?”

  “Yeah, some. Massage therapist, personal trainer. He worked at Buff Bodies, the fitness place near my salon. Most of the staff there use my salon. Sima works for me. That’s how they met.”

  “Did you ever roll with him?”

  “Shit no.” Trina’s eyes—a bold Christmas green lidded with gold glitter—reflected both insult and disgust. “Guy was a prick and a player. I can do better. Sim didn’t think she could. Self-esteem issues, you know?”

  “Whose red shoes, whose underwear?”

  “No clue. Not Sim’s.”

  “Stay here.”

  “Hey, Dallas, go easy on her. She’s a real sweetie, and I talked her into this. I thought giving him a punch would make her feel, you know, empowered. Otherwise, somebody else would’ve found him, and she wouldn’t have that in her head.”

  “For all I know the two of you did him, and pulled me in to cover it up.”

  Trina snorted out a laugh, sobered instantly at Eve’s stony stare. “Shit. Really? Come on!”

  “Stay here.”

  She walked back over to where Sima sat quietly hiccuping through tears.

  “Tell me what happened.”

  “Trey’s dead. Somebody killed him.”

  “Before that. How did you and Trina end up here?”

  “Oh, well, after work we—me and Trina and Carlos and Vivi and Ace—we all went to Clooney’s.”


  “It’s a bar. We hang there sometimes. Their twisted onions are pretty good, so we got some and some cheesy bits and some margaritas. Then we did some shots because I was feeling bad about Trey dumping me. So Ace said—I think it was Ace, or maybe Vivi, how I should get some of my own back, then somebody said I should come over and toss his stuff out the window, but Trina said no. She said that was too obvious, and I could get in trouble. I should do something more subtle-like. Then we went and bought the trick club and the powder, and we came here, and—and—Trey!”