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Connections in Death

J. D. Robb

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  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

  —Martin Luther King, Jr.

  What atonement is there for blood spilt upon the earth?



  The legalized torture of socializing lined right up with premeditated murder when you added the requirement of fancy shoes.

  That was Lieutenant Eve Dallas’s stand on it, and she should know. She was a murder cop in fancy shoes about to socialize.

  Moreover …

  Whoever decreed that fancy shoes for females required sky-high skinny-ass heels rendering said shoes useless for any practical purpose—including walking—should be immediately subjected to every known manner of torture, legal or otherwise.

  Surely by the almost-spring of 2061, in the freaking United States of America, useless skinny-heeled shoes should be banned. Beat with hammers, set on fire, then banned.

  She walked in those damn shoes toward a swank penthouse, a tall, lanky woman in a slinky jade dress that shimmered with her movements while a fat, teardrop diamond shot fire from the chain around her neck.

  The short, choppy brown cap of her hair set off the diamonds winking none too quietly at her ears. Her long brown eyes narrowed with dark thoughts.

  Just who came up with the concept of the cocktail party? Eve wondered. Whoever did, by her decree, should join the originator of fancy shoes in the torture chamber. Who the hell decided it would be a freaking fantastic idea to create a custom where people stood around, usually at the end of a workday, making small talk while balancing a drink in one hand and a plate of tiny, often unidentifiable food in the other?

  And, oh yeah, whoever came up with small talk as a social imperative? Straight into the torture chamber.

  And while we’re at it, throw the sick bastard who added the requirement of a gift every freaking time you turned around right in there with the others.

  Because a sane person didn’t want to have to think about what the hell to buy somebody who invited them to a damn party. A sane person didn’t want to go to a party at the end of a workday and stand around in shoes with stupid skinny heels and balance weird food while making idiotic small talk.

  A sane person wanted to be home, wearing comfortable clothes and eating pizza.

  “Finished yet?”

  Eve glanced toward the ridiculously handsome face of her husband—the guy responsible for the slinky of a dress, the damn shoes, and all the diamonds. She noted the amusement in those killer blue eyes, in the easy smile on that perfectly sculpted mouth.

  It occurred to her that not only would Roarke enjoy the upcoming torture, but he could have deemed and decreed all the rules of it himself.

  He was lucky she didn’t pop him one.

  “Need a few more minutes for the internal monologue?” he asked, the Irish in his voice just adding more charm.

  “It’s probably the most sensible conversation I’ll have all night.”

  “Well now, what a thing to say. Nadine’s first party in her new home will be full of your friends. They, and she, are smart, interesting people.”

  “Smart people are home drinking a brew and watching the Knicks kick some Kings ass on-screen.”

  “There’ll be plenty of games yet to come.” He gave her butt an affectionate pat as they approached the outer doors of Nadine Furst’s penthouse. “And,” he added, “Nadine deserves a party.”

  Maybe, maybe she could concede that one. The ace on-screen reporter, bestselling author, and now freaking Oscar winner had earned a party. But she herself, murder cop, lieutenant murder cop, deserved maybe wishing a hot case had fallen in her lap at the last minute.

  As Nadine had earned her cred on the crime beat, she ought to understand.

  Eve turned to face him again—that carved-by-romantic-angel’s face framed with black silk. In her fancy shoes they stood pretty much eye-to-eye.

  “Why can’t a party be brew and pizza and the round ball game on-screen?”

  “It can.” He leaned over to brush his lips on hers. “Just not this one.”

  When the doors opened, the quiet, classy corridor filled with voices, music. Quilla, Nadine’s teenage intern, stood in a black dress with a silver buckle at the belted waist, short-heeled red booties. The purple streaks in her hair glittered.

  “Hey. I’m supposed to say good evening and welcome. And can I— May I,” she self-corrected with a roll of her eyes—“take your coats?”

  “How do you know we’re not crashing?”

  “Besides how I know you?”

  Eve nodded. “Besides.”

  “Because lobby security has the guest list and all, and you had to clear through it to get up here. And if you’re some doof who slipped by or lives here or whatever, Nadine would have you booted. The place is full of cops.”

  “Good enough,” Eve decided as Roarke handed over their coats.

  “You look lovely tonight, Quilla.”

  She flushed a little. “Thanks. Um, now I’m supposed to tell you to go right in, have a wonderful evening. There’s a bar and buffet in the dining area as well as waitstaff passing food and beverages.”

  Roarke smiled at her. “You did that very well.”

  “I’ve done it about a million times already. Nadine knows a shitload—I mean, a lot of people.”

  “‘Shitload’ covers it,” Eve said. And as they moved through the foyer, through the open doors, was just a little horrified to see she knew most of them herself.

  How did that happen?

  “Dig the dress, Dallas. The color’s, like, bang.”

  “It’s green.”

  “Jade,” Quilla qualified.

  “Exactly.” Roarke sent Quilla a wink.

  “So anyway, I can take the gift, too, unless you want to give it to her, like, personally. We’ve got a gift table in the morning room.”

  “‘Morning room’?”

  “I don’t know why it’s called that,” Quilla said to Eve. “But we’re putting the hostess gifts in there.”

  “Great.” She shoved the fancy bag at Quilla.

  “Chill. Okay, hope you have a kick.”

  “A kick at what?” Eve wondered as Quilla headed off.

  “I think it means have a good time. Which should speak to you,” Roarke added, “as you enjoy kicking things.” He trailed his fingers down her back. “Let’s get you a drink.”

  “Let’s get me several.”

  The passage to the bar, however, proved fraught with obstacles: people she knew. And those people had something to say, which cornered her into saying something back.

  She was spared cold-sober small talk by passing waitstaff and Roarke’s quick hands.

  His quick thinking and smooth moves also saved her from the chatty chat of one of Nadine’s researchers. “Darling, there’s Nadine. We need to say hello. Excuse us.”

  With a hand on the small o
f Eve’s back, he steered her away.

  Nadine stepped in from the terrace. Eve deduced the party do—lots of tumbling curls—as Trina’s handiwork. Though far from Nadine’s usual polished, professional style, Eve supposed the streaky blond curls suited the dress. Strapless, short, snug, in hot-tamale red.

  Those cat-green eyes scanned, landed on Eve and Roarke. She met them halfway, rose to the toes of her skyscraper red heels, and kissed Roarke enthusiastically.

  “I’d say this proves our place is perfect for entertaining.”

  “‘Our place’?”

  Nadine smiled at Eve. “Well, it is Roarke’s building. A lot of your crew’s out on the terrace. It’s heated, and there’s a small bar setup, another buffet.”

  Despite the fact that friendship often baffled her, Eve knew her job. “So where is it?”

  Nadine fluffed her hair, batted her cat-green eyes. “Where’s what?”

  “Well, if you don’t want to show it off—”

  “I do. Yes, I do.” Laughing, Nadine grabbed Eve’s hand. With the skill of a running back, she snaked through people, wove around furniture, bolted up the curve of stairs and into her pretty damn swank home office. It held a couple of sofas in classy blue, chairs that picked up the classy blue in a swirly pattern on white, tables in slate gray that matched the T-shaped workstation in front of a killer view of New York City.

  A square, recessed fireplace flickered in the left wall. The gold statue stood on the mantel above it. Eve moved closer, studied it. Weird-looking dickless gold dude, she thought, but the nameplate read NADINE FURST, and that’s what counted.

  But if they weren’t going to give him a dick, why didn’t they give him pants?

  “Nice.” Curious, she lifted, it, glanced over her shoulder. “It’s got weight. Blunt-force trauma waiting to happen.”

  “Only you.” Nadine slid an arm around Eve’s waist. “I meant what I said in my acceptance speech.”

  “Oh, did you say something?”

  Nadine added a solid hip bump and, with a laugh, Eve set the award down again.

  “It’s all yours, pal.”

  “Not nearly, but—I get to look at it every freaking day. So.” Turning, she reached out a hand for Roarke’s. “Let’s go down and drink lots of champagne.”

  Jake Kincade stepped into the doorway. The rock star, and Nadine’s heartthrob, said, “Hey.”

  His dark hair spilled and swept around a strong face currently sporting a three-day scruff. He wore black—not a suit, but black jeans with a studded belt, black shirt, and black boots Eve admired because they looked sturdy and comfortable.

  How come, she wondered, he got to dress like a real person?

  “How’s it going?” he said to Roarke as they shook hands. “Looking prime, Dallas. Got to gander the gold guy? He’s shiny, but you gotta wonder. If they weren’t going to suit him up, why not give him his works? One or the other.”

  “Good God,” Roarke murmured.

  Jake flicked him a glance. “Sorry.”

  “No, not at all. It’s only, I know my wife and have no doubt she thought exactly the same.”

  “Maybe. More or less. It’s a reasonable question.”

  “At least Jake didn’t look at it and see a murder weapon.”

  The creases in his cheeks deepening, Jake grinned down at Nadine. “Maybe. More or less. Anyway, you got another wave coming in, Lois. How does anybody know so many people?”

  Now Roarke laughed, took Eve’s hand. “I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing I saw her first.”

  “Lots of cops,” Jake said as they started out. “Other than that trip to Central, I haven’t seen so many cops since…” He looked at Eve. “I probably shouldn’t mention the time I was sixteen and used fake ID to get a gig in this club that got raided.”

  “Did you kill anybody?”


  “We’ll let it pass.”

  “Speaking of cops, did you know Santiago can rock a keyboard?”

  “Ah … he plays piano?”

  “Wicked,” Jake confirmed. “Renn brought his keys—the whole band’s here—and the chick cop pushed Santiago into getting down. Chick cop’s got pipes.”

  “She can sing,” Nadine interpreted for Eve. “And that’s Detective Carmichael, Jake. I asked Morris to bring his sax,” Nadine added.

  “Let me tell you, the dead doc can smoke that sax. Hey, there’s one of my breed.”

  Looking down as Jake did, Eve saw Mavis, a fountain of pale, pale blue hair, a frothy pink dress with a short, flippy skirt, blue shoes with towering heels fashioned out of a trio of shining silver balls.

  Beside her, Leonardo resembled some sort of ancient pagan priest in a flowing vest shades deeper than his copper skin. His hair showered down to his shoulders in what looked like hundreds of thin braids. At the moment, Mavis talked to—bubbled over, more like—a tight little group.

  Feeney—the captain of the Electronic Detectives Division—wore the same rumpled, shit-brown suit he’d worn to work. Beside him stood Bebe Hewitt, Nadine’s big boss, in shimmery silver pants and a long red jacket, looking fascinated. Then big-eyed teenage Quilla, towered over by Crack. The sex-club owner also wore a vest. His stopped at his waist with lethal-looking studs on the shoulders, leaving his chest and torso bare except for muscles and tattoos.

  Beside him, a woman—unknown—smiled easily. She wore classic New York black and had a face made exotic by knife-edged cheekbones and heavy-lidded eyes.

  “The kid’s a little young for a cocktail party,” Eve commented.

  “You’re never too young to learn how to host an event, or how to behave at one,” Nadine countered. She glided down the rest of the steps and over to greet Mavis.

  “The kid’s all right,” Jake said to Eve. “Giving Nadine a run.”

  “Is she?”

  He grinned with it. “Big-time. Campaigned to come tonight, and tossed out how she could do a three-minute vid report on the party—soft-news clip. The Quill’s got it going.” He tapped his temple. “I got a couple earsful of your An Didean project, Roarke. She’s keeping her own ear to the ground there. I’d like to talk to you about that sometime.”

  “Anytime at all.”

  “Hey, Dallas.” Mavis did a little dance on her silver balls, grabbed Eve in a hug. “This party is whipping it.” She added a squeeze for Roarke, for Jake. “All my fave people, add food and adult beverage, and it’s going on. I heard there’s jamming on the terrace. Am I going to get in on that?”

  “Counting on it,” Jake told her. “How about we check out the venue?”

  “I’m in.”

  “I’ll get the drinks,” Leonardo said.

  After Leonardo kissed the top of her fountain of hair, Mavis beamed up at him. “Thanks, Honey Bear. Check you all later.”

  “I’m heading to the music.” Feeney shot a finger at Eve. “Did you know Santiago can burn up the keys?”

  “I heard that.”

  “Light under a bushel.” With a shake of his head, Feeney took his rumpled suit out to the terrace.

  “Bushel of what?” Eve wondered.

  “I’ll explain later. It’s lovely to see you, Bebe.”

  “And both of you. I’m grateful, Lieutenant, for the work you and your detectives did in the Larinda Mars investigation.”

  “That’s the job.”

  Bebe nodded, looked down into her drink. “We all have one. Excuse me.”

  “She’s taking on too much of the blame.” Nadine looked after her as Bebe slipped away.

  “It wasn’t on her.”

  “No.” Nadine nodded at Eve. “But she’s the boss. I’m just going to smooth that out. And send somebody with another round of drinks.”

  Crack shot his eyebrows up. “Cops do bring a party down.”

  The woman beside him gave him a sharp elbow. “Wilson!”

  He only laughed. “You looking fine for a skinny white girl cop.”

  “You don’t look half bad for
a big black man dive owner.”

  “Down and Dirty ain’t no dive. It’s a joint. Yo, Roarke. I want you to meet my beautiful lady. This is Rochelle Pickering.”

  Rochelle extended a hand to Eve, then to Roarke. “I’m so happy to meet both of you. I’ve followed your work, Lieutenant, and yours, Roarke. Especially in regard to Dochas and An Didean.”

  “She’s a shrink,” Quilla announced, and Crack grinned at her.

  “Kid shrink. Watch those steps, shortie, or she could come for you.”

  “As if,” Quilla muttered, but melted away into the crowd.

  “Wilson.” Rochelle rolled her eyes. “I’m a psychologist, specializing in children. I’ve actually consulted at Dochas.”

  “I’m aware,” Roarke told her, which had her blinking at him.

  “That’s … unexpected.”

  “Our head counselor speaks highly of you.”

  “She’s a marvel.”

  As promised, another tray of drinks arrived.

  “I just have to take a moment,” Rochelle continued. “It hardly seems real I’m standing in this amazing space. That I’m meeting both of you. I met Nadine Furst and Jake Kincade, God, Mavis Freestone—who’s exactly, just exactly, as delightful as I’d hoped she would be. And Leonardo, someone whose work I drool over. And I’m drinking champagne.”

  “Stick with me,” Crack told her. “The sky’s got no limits.”

  Eve had questions, a lot of questions. Such as, she’d never known anyone to call Crack by his given name. What made this woman different? And how did a kid shrink hook up with the streetwise owner of the D&D? And when did Crack go all—what was the word? Smitten, she decided, the word was smitten. When did he go all smitten?

  She could see the appeal. The woman was built and beautiful, but … just who was she anyway?

  Thinking, she made her way to Mira. It took a shrink, she considered, to shrink a shrink. And nobody beat the NYPSD’s top profiler.

  Mira rose from the arm of a sofa where she’d perched, kissed Eve’s cheek. As usual, she looked perfect. The dress, the color of the deep red wine being passed around, floated down to her knees and ended in a thin border of some fancy lacework that matched the elbow-length sleeves. She’d swept back her mink-colored hair—now highlighted with subtle copper streaks courtesy of Trina (whom Eve, so far, had managed to avoid).