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New York to Dallas edahr-41

J. D. Robb

  New York to Dallas

  ( Eve Dallas and husband Roarke - 41 )

  J. D. Robb

  When a monster named Isaac McQueen—taken down by Eve back in her uniform days—escapes from Rikers, he has two things in mind. One is to pick up where he left off, abducting young victims and leaving them scarred in both mind and body. The other is to get revenge on the woman who stopped him all those years ago.

  J. D. Robb

  New York to Dallas

  The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.

  Thomas Carlyle

  I wonder, by my troth, what thou, and I

  Did, till we lov’d.

  John Donne


  While a late-summer storm bashed against her single skinny window, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wished for murder.

  As far as she could see, a good, bloody killing was the only thing that would save her from the torture of paperwork stacked like the Alps on her desk at Cop Central. Her own fault, no question, but she’d been just a little too busy investigating and closing cases to hunker down with budgets and expense reports and the damn evaluation sheets.

  Telling herself it was part of the job didn’t help when she actually had to do it—in bulk—which was why she’d closed herself in her office with lots and lots of coffee and wondered why somebody didn’t just kill somebody else and save her from this nightmare.

  Not really, she told herself. Or not exactly. But since people consistently killed other people anyway, why not now?

  She stared at the numbers on her computer screen until her eyes throbbed. She cursed, sulked, steamed, then strapped on and squeezed, crunched, fudged, and manipulated until she could make the stingy departmental bottom line fit the needs of her division.

  They were murder cops, she thought with bitter resentment. Homicide didn’t run on blood alone.

  She got through it, moved on to the expense chits submitted by her officers and detectives.

  Did Baxter actually believe she’d bite on three-seventy-five for shoes because he’d fucked up his own chasing a suspect down a sewer? And why the hell had Reineke shelled out double the usual rate to a street-level licensed companion for information?

  She stopped, got more coffee, stared out at the brutality of the storm for a few minutes. At least she wasn’t out there, plugged like a wet cork into one of the shuddering airtrams, or shoving her way through the drowning hell of street traffic. She could be soaked, steaming like a clam in the endless stream of heat the summer of 2060 poured on New York.

  Stalling, she thought in disgust, and forced herself to sit again. She’d promised herself she’d finish before the afternoon ceremony. Both she and her partner would receive medals. Peabody had earned it and more, Eve thought, as the catalyst for taking down a ring of dirty cops.

  If paperwork was the drudgery of command, submitting Peabody’s name for the Meritorious Police Duty Honor for Integrity was a boon. All she had to do was finish the grunt work, then she could enjoy the moment with a clear head and guiltless conscience.

  She wished she had candy, but she hadn’t settled on a new hiding place to thwart the nefarious Candy Thief. She wished she could dump some of this crap on Peabody the way she had when Peabody had been her aide instead of her partner.

  Those days were over.

  Stalling again, she admitted, and raked her fingers through her short, choppy brown hair.

  “Task complete. Shut it down.”

  Unable to comply, the computer responded.

  “I finished.”

  Inaccurate statement. Previous command stipulated all listed reports and evaluations must be complete before system rest.

  This command by Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, priority basis, can only be countermanded at her order by fire, terrorist attack, alien invasion or an open and active case requiring her attention . . .

  Jesus, had she really programmed that? “I changed my mind.”

  Previous command specifies changes of mind, fatigue, boredom, and other lame excuses not acceptable for countermand . . .

  “Bite me,” Eve muttered.

  Unable to comply . . .

  She hacked her way through the expense reports, submitted them up the chain. Someone else’s problem now, she decided and felt almost righteous. No reason she couldn’t start the evals later.

  “Fine, fine, fine. Computer, display previous evals, in alpha order, for all officers under my command.”

  She worked her way through. She’d put the damn command in to keep herself in line—and because every single one of her men deserved the time and attention it took for a solid and judicious evaluation.

  She finished Baxter, both Carmichaels, and had slogged her way to Jenkinson when the knock sounded on her door.

  “Yeah, what?” She scowled over at Peabody as her partner opened the door. “Is it an alien invasion?”

  “Not that I’ve heard. There’s a guy out here, pretty shaky, claims he can only speak to you. He says it’s a matter of life and death.”

  “Yeah?” She perked up. “Computer, life-and-death countermand. Save and hold.”

  Verification required . . .

  “Peabody, tell this fucking machine there’s a human being requiring my attention on a matter of life and death.”

  “Ah, Computer, Peabody, Detective Delia, requests the lieutenant’s attention on an urgent matter.”

  Verification accepted. Saving data. On hold . . .

  Annoyed, Eve gave the computer a rap with the heel of her hand. “It’s pretty pitiful when your own comp won’t take your word.”

  “You put all that in there so you wouldn’t squirm out of the paperwork.”

  “Still. Send life and death back.”

  He came at a stumbling run, a skinny guy she judged as late twenties. He sported a tangle of messy dreads, baggy red shorts, gel-flips, a silver lip ring, and a dingy white tank that showed off his tattoo sleeves. Sweat ran down his thin, white face.

  “You’re Dallas. Lieutenant Eve Dallas, NYPSD. Homicide.”

  “That’s right. What’s the—”

  He burst into tears—loud, hiccupping tears. “He said—he said—I could only talk to you. Had to come to you. He’s got her. He’s got Julie. He’s gonna kill her if you don’t come back with me. He said an hour, and it took me half that to get here.”

  His words rolled on top of each other between sobs and shakes. Eve got out of her chair, shoved him into it.

  “Suck it up and slow down. What’s your name?”

  “I’m Tray. Tray Schuster.”

  “Who is he?”

  “I don’t know. He was just there, in my place. Our place. She just moved in last week. Just there when we woke up, and he tied us up. He ate breakfast, and he—doesn’t matter. You have to come or he’ll kill her. I forgot, I forgot. I’m supposed to say, ‘There’s the bell for round two.’ Please, he’s got a knife. He’s going to cut her. If you don’t come, if I got to anybody else, he said he’d kill her.”


  “My place. Our place, I mean.”

  “Where’s your place, Tray?”

  “Two-fifty-eight Murray Street.”

  The address clicked, and with the click came a twist in the guts. “Apartment three-oh-three?”

  “Yeah.” He swiped at his face. “How did you—”

  “Stay here, Tray.”



  She strode out, into the bullpen. “Peabody.” Scanned the desks and movement. “Baxter, Trueheart, Carmichael, Sanchez. Whatever you’re doing stop and suit up. Suspect is Isaac McQueen. He’s holding a woman hostage, two-fifty-eight Murray Street, apartment three-oh-three. Suspect is armed and extremely dan
gerous. Additional data en route as the suspect has given a time limit on response. Carmichael, Sanchez, get the wit from my office. Keep him locked in your vehicle. Peabody, with me. Let’s move!”

  “Isaac McQueen?” Peabody scrambled to keep up with Eve’s long legs. “The Collector? He’s in Rikers. Life sentence.”

  “Check that. He’s either out or somebody’s posing as him. That was his apartment. That’s where he kept . . .”

  All those young girls. So many young girls.

  “He’s got this guy’s cohab,” Eve continued, shoving her way onto the elevator. “He sent him to me, specifically. I took McQueen down, in that apartment.”

  “There’s no alert or notification . . . wait.” Peabody swiped at her PPC. “Internal alert buried here. They haven’t even informed command. McQueen escaped sometime yesterday. Killed one of the nurses in the infirmary and managed to walk out wearing his uniform and ID.” Peabody looked up from her PPC. “He just walked out.”

  “We’re damn well going to walk him back in.” She jogged across the lot to her vehicle. “Inform Commander Whitney. He can start knocking heads together at prison administration. He hasn’t killed her,” Eve murmured as she peeled out of the underground lot. “McQueen didn’t escape just to slice up some woman. He’s smart, organized, and he has an agenda. He has needs. He doesn’t kill them—unless they break or dissatisfy. He collects. He’s not interested in this Julie. She’s over his age limit.”

  Peabody finished the text to their commander’s office before looking over at Eve. “She’s a lure. For you.”

  “Yeah, but it doesn’t make sense. He’d just end up boxed in, the way he was before.”

  Didn’t make sense, Eve thought again, but ordered Peabody to request uniforms for backup.

  She used the wrist unit her husband had given her, engaged its communicator. “Carmichael, I want you and Sanchez to cover the rear of the building. Uniforms on the way for backup. Baxter, you and Trueheart will go in with me and Peabody. Body armor. He’ll be expecting us.”

  She shook her head, ripped through the narrow opening between two Rapid Cabs. “He won’t be there. No way he’s going to trap himself. He knows I’ll come, and won’t come alone.”

  “Maybe that’s what he wants you to think, and it’s a trap.”

  “We’re about to find out.”

  She studied the building, one of the cavernous homes that had survived the Urban Wars, and had been converted into apartments. It had seen better days—its better days had passed a century before—but it held up with its faded pink bricks and ornately grilled windows.

  Its main entrance opened directly onto the sidewalk and had minimum security. Working-class neighborhood, Eve thought, as it had been during McQueen’s reign. Most of the residents came home at the end of the day, settled back with a brew and some screen, and minded their own business.

  So McQueen had been able to mind his for nearly three years. And the lives of twenty-six girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen had been forever scarred.

  “He’s got the privacy screen up,” Eve said. “If he’s up there, he knows we’re here. He’d have made contacts, friends, in prison. He’s charming, engaging, sly. It’s possible he got his hands on something more long-range than a knife. Keep down. Move fast.”

  She checked in with Carmichael, gave the go.

  Blanking out memories, she moved, taking point up the stairs, weapon drawn. Throat dry, mind cold.

  “Let me scan the door.” Peabody pulled out her PPC. “He might’ve rigged it.”

  “It opens on a living area, kitchen behind, eating area to the right. Two bedrooms, one right, one left. Bathroom attached to the one on the right. Half-bath left of the kitchen. It’s a big unit, about five hundred square feet.”

  “Scan reads clear,” Peabody told her.

  “Baxter, straight back. Trueheart, Peabody, go left. I’m right.” She nodded to Trueheart and the battering ram. Counted from three down with her fingers.

  The door crashed on its hinges, locks snapping. Eve went in low and fast, focused on the now, not the then. She heard the rush of feet as her team poured into the room.

  She shoved open the bedroom door, swept with her weapon. She saw the figure on the bed, but continued to clear—left, right, closet, bath as she heard her team members call, “Clear!”

  “In here,” Eve shouted, and now moved to the bed.

  “You’re okay. It’s okay. We’re the police.”

  She loosened the gag around the woman’s bloody, swollen mouth. The sounds she made were incoherent moans and whispers.

  He’d stripped her; his pattern there hadn’t changed. Before Eve could give the order, Trueheart, his young, handsome face radiating compassion, lifted the thin bedspread from the floor to cover her shaking body.

  “You’re going to be all right now,” he said gently. “You’re safe now.”

  “He hurt me. He hurt me.”

  Peabody moved in, pulling the knotted sheet McQueen had used to bind the woman’s hands from the hook screwed into the wall. “He can’t hurt you now.” Then she sat, drawing Julie against her to let her weep.

  “He swore he wouldn’t hurt me if Tray did what he said, but he did. He did. He raped me, and he hurt me. And he did this to me.”

  Eve had already seen it, tattooed in bloody red over Julie’s left breast, caged in a perfect heart.

  “Bus is on the way,” Baxter told Eve. He angled away from the woman sobbing in Peabody’s arms, spoke quietly. “They’ll have a rape counselor on the other end. Do you want me to call the sweepers to go through the place?”

  It wouldn’t matter, she thought. He wouldn’t have left anything behind he hadn’t intended to. But she nodded. “Let the boyfriend know she’s safe. He can go with her to the hospital. You and Trueheart step out, please. Peabody, get Julie some clothes. You can’t put them on yet.” She stood at the foot of the bed, waited until Julie met her eyes. “They’ll have to examine you first, and we’re going to have to ask you questions. I know it’s hard. You should know Tray did everything he could to get to me as fast as possible, to get me back here.”

  “He didn’t want to leave. He begged him to let me go instead. He didn’t want to leave me.”

  “I know. His name is Isaac McQueen. He told you something, Julie, something he wanted you to pass on to me.”

  “He said I wasn’t right, wasn’t . . . fresh, but he’d make an exception. I couldn’t stop him. He hurt me, he tied my hands.” Quivering still, she held her arms out to show the raw bruising on her wrists. “I couldn’t stop him.”

  “I know. Julie, I’m Lieutenant Dallas. Eve Dallas. What did Isaac want you to tell me?”

  “Dallas? You’re Dallas?”

  “Yes. What did he want you to tell me?”

  “He said to tell you that you owe it all to him. It’s time to pay up. I want my mom.” She covered her face with her hands. “I want my mom.”

  It was foolish to feel useless. She could have done nothing to prevent what Julie Kopeski and Tray Schuster had endured. She could do nothing to change how that trauma would change them.

  She knew Isaac McQueen’s pathology, his particular style of torture. He was adept at instilling a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in his victims, at convincing them to do exactly what they were told, how they were told, when they were told.

  She hadn’t been one of his, but she understood the victimology as well.

  She’d been someone else’s.

  It did no good to remember that, or to think about the girls she’d saved. Or the ones who’d been lost before, twelve years before, when she’d looked into the eyes of a monster and had known him.

  Instead, she drew Tray aside at the hospital.

  “They need to examine her, and Julie needs to talk to the rape counselor.”

  “Oh God. God. I shouldn’t have left her.”

  “If you hadn’t, she’d be dead, and so would you. She’s alive. She’s hurt and she’s b
een violated, but she’s alive. You’re going to want to remember that, both of you, because alive’s better. You said he was there when you woke up.”


  “Tell me about that.”

  “We overslept, or I thought . . .”

  “What time did you wake up?”

  “I don’t know exactly. I think it was about eight. I rolled over thinking, ‘Holy shit, we’re both going to be late for work.’ I felt off, strung out, like we’d partied hard the night before. But we didn’t,” he said quickly. “I swear. Julie doesn’t even toke zoner.”

  “We’re going to need to screen both of you,” Eve began.

  “I swear, we didn’t use anything. I’d tell you. He gave Julie something, he said, but—”

  “It’s probable he drugged you both. We’ll screen to see what he used. Nobody’s going to hassle you about illegals, Tray.”

  “Okay. Okay. Sorry.” He scrubbed hard at his face. “I’m just screwed up. Can’t think straight.”

  “What did you do when you woke up?”

  “I . . . I told Julie to get moving, gave her a nudge, you know. She was really out. I kind of rolled her over, and I saw tape over her mouth. I thought she was pulling a joke, started to laugh. He was just there, man, that’s all I know. He grabbed me by the hair, yanked my head back, and put a knife to my throat. He asked if I wanted to live. If I wanted Julie to live. He said there wasn’t any need for anybody to get hurt. I just had to do what he told me. I should’ve fought back.”

  “McQueen has a good seventy pounds on you, maybe more. He had a knife to your throat. If he’d killed you, do you think Julie would be alive?”

  “I don’t know.” Tears kept leaking out of his eyes, faster than he could swipe at them. “I guess maybe not. I was scared. I told him we didn’t have much money, but he could take whatever he wanted. He thanked me, real polite. That was scarier. He had some of those plastic restraints and told me to put them on, and to sit on the floor at the foot of the bed. So I did, and Julie’s still out. He told me he’d given her something to make her sleep while the two of us got acquainted. He told me to hook the restraints to the leg of the bed, and handed me another set to put on my ankles. He put tape over my mouth. He said to sit and be quiet, and he’d be back in a minute.”