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In Death - 24.50 - Dead of Night, Page 2

J. D. Robb

  “No, no. Yes. Biddy. I grabbed Biddy. I don’t know why exactly, I just grabbed little Biddy and I ran out. She was dead—the blood, her face, her eyes, everything. She couldn’t be anything but dead. I ran out screaming, and I called security. Mr. Tripps came right up. Right away, and he went upstairs. He was only a minute, then he came down to contact the police.”

  “Could you tell if anything’s missing?”

  “I know her things. I didn’t notice…” Distressed again, she glanced around the room. “I didn’t look.”

  “I’m going to have you look through her jewelry first. You know her jewelry?”

  “I do. Every piece. I clean it for Miss Tiara because she doesn’t trust—”

  “Okay. We’ll start there.”

  She sent Estella to the dressing area with two cops and a recorder. She was scribbling a few notes, adding time lines when Peabody tracked her down.

  “Tripps reports that the maid contacted Security at eight-oh-two to report the system was down. She contacted them again at eight-oh-nine, hysterical. He came up personally, went upstairs, verified the death, contacted the police. Times jibe.”

  “Yeah, they do. What did he say about the system being down?”

  “He said—and documented—that Kent told him she would be shutting it down internally near midnight, and would re-engage it when she wanted. He advised against, she told him to mind his own. She did the same every night for the last eight days, though the time of shutdown varied. She’d re-engage before dawn.”

  Thoughtfully, Eve tapped her fingers on her own notes. “So the boyfriend didn’t want to be on the security tapes. Got her to shut it down, came in her private entrance, left the same way. She must’ve been monumentally stupid.”

  “Well, she wasn’t known for her brains.”

  Eve slanted Peabody a look. If it was gossip or popular culture, Peabody usually had her finger on the pulse. “What was she known for?”

  “Clubbing, shuttle-hopping, shopping, scandals. The usual, I guess, for a fourth-generation—I think it’s fourth—megarich kid. She got engaged a lot, broke up a lot—usually publicly and with a lot of passion. Went to premieres, shuttled off to wherever the current hot spot might be. Hobbed and nobbed. Usually something on her in the tabs or one of the gossip or society channels every day.”

  “Who was she running with these days, and why did I feel I had to interview the maid about her lifestyle when I’ve got you?”

  “Well, she’s tight with Daffy Wheats, and Caramel Lipton, recently disengaged to Roman Gramaldi, of Zurich. But she hangs with the sparkles of the young, rich, and looking-for-trouble club.”

  “Trouble she found,” Eve commented, then glanced up when Estella came rushing in.

  “Her pendant, her blue diamond pendant, and the cuffs, her peacock earrings. Gone, all gone.” Her voice pitched up sharply enough to cut glass. “He robbed my poor little girl, robbed her and killed her.”

  Eve held up a finger to stop the tirade. “Do you have photo documentation of the missing items?”

  “Of course, of course. Insurance—”

  “I’ll need those. You get me the insurance information of whatever’s missing. Go ahead.” She waited until Estella hurried out again, smiled grimly. “That was a mistake. Sooner or later some big, fat blue diamond’s going to show up. We’ll get the details, then inform next of kin. After that, I want to have a chat with Daffy.”


  As Tiara’s mother was living with her fourth husband in Rome, and her father was currently vacationing on the Olympus Resort with his newest fiancée, notification was done via ’link.

  Eve left the sweepers to finish processing the scene, and headed out with Peabody to interview Daffodil Wheats.

  Another penthouse, Eve thought, another absurdly rich, young blonde. She badged and bullied her way past the doorman, past security, and finally past the housekeeper who might have been a clone of Estella Cruz. It turned out to be her sister.

  The apartment was slightly smaller than Tiara’s, a bit more tastefully furnished. They waited in a living area done in bold, vibrant colors while Martine Cruz went upstairs to wake her mistress and inform her the police wished to speak with her.

  “What’s the dish on this one, Peabody?”

  “Um, third-generation rich, I think. Not as mega as the vic, but not worried about the grocery bill either. I think the fam made it big in textiles or something back in the day. Anyhow, she’s another party girl and gossip channel regular.”

  “Who’d want to live like that?” Eve wondered.

  “They do.” Peabody gave a shrug. “You’ve got as much ready as they do, you can buy some privacy if you want it.”

  Eve thought back to the acres of mirrors and reflective surfaces at the crime scene. “The type who like to see themselves.”

  “Yeah, and unless Daffy and the vic were having one of their periodic fallings-out, they were pretty much joined at the hip. Played together, traveled together, and rumor has it shared some of the same men, maybe at the same time. Been tight since they were kids. Vic’s father was married to Daffy’s mother—or cohabbed, can’t remember—for a couple of years.”

  “Small, incestuous little world.”

  Eve glanced up. Daffodil Wheats had a short, streaky crop of blonde hair, sleepy blue eyes, and a sulky mouth. She wore a black silk robe that hit her midthigh and gaped open at the breasts so the full white mounds of them played peek-a-boo as she walked down the swirl of silver steps.

  “What’s the deal?” she said in a blurry voice, then plopped down on the bright red sofa and yawned.

  “Daffodil Wheats?” Eve demanded.

  “Yeah, yeah. God, it’s barely dawn. Martine! I’m desperado for that mocha! I was out ’til four,” she explained with a long, feline stretch. “I didn’t do anything illegal, so what’s what with the badges?”

  “You know Tiara Kent?”

  “Hell, what’s Tee done now?” She slumped, obviously already bored. “Look, I’ll bail her, even if she has been a bitch lately. But I have to have my fix first. Mocha, mocha, mocha!” she shouted like an Arena Ball cheer.

  “I’m sorry to tell you that Tiara Kent is dead.”

  The sleepy eyes narrowed a little, then rolled dramatically. “Oh, get off. You tell Princess Bitch that dragging me out of bed to lay it on didn’t get a chuckle. Thank God! Thanks, Martine. Life saved.” She made kissy noises at the maid as she grabbed the tall white cup of steaming liquid.

  “Listen up, Daffy.” Eve’s tone had the blue eyes blinking in surprise. “Your pal was murdered last night, in her bed. So you’re going to want to straighten your ass up—and cover your tits, for God’s sake—or we’re going to take the rest of this downtown.”

  “That’s not funny.” Slowly now, Daffy lowered the cup. “That’s seriously un.” The hand holding the cup shook as Daffy reached out for Martine with the other. “Martine, call Estella. Call her right now and have her put Tiara on the ’link.”

  “She can’t come to the ’link.” Peabody spoke now, more gently. “Ms. Kent was killed last night in her apartment.”

  “My sister,” Martine said even as she gripped Daffy’s hand.

  “Your sister’s fine,” Peabody told her. “You can go ahead and contact her.”

  “Miss Daffy.”

  “Go on,” Daffy said stiffly, and the bored young party girl was gone. In her place was a stunned young woman clutching her robe together at her throat with a trembling hand. “Go on, go on. This isn’t a joke, this isn’t Tee taking a slap at me? She’s dead?”


  “But…I don’t see how that can be. She’s only twenty-three. You’re not supposed to be dead at twenty-three, and we’re fighting. We can’t be fighting when she’s dead. How…Killed? Did you say somebody killed Tee?”

  Now Eve sat, choosing the glossy white table in front of the sofa so she and Daffy were on a level. “She’s been seeing someone recently.”

? Yeah. But…” Daffy looked around blankly. “What?”

  Reaching out, Eve took the cup of mocha from Daffy’s limp fingers, set it aside. “Do you know the name of the man she’s been seeing recently?”

  “I…She called him her prince. Lots of times she had names for her men. This one was Prince. Dark Prince, sometimes.” Daffy pressed her hands to her eyes, then dragged them up over her face, through her hair. “She’s only been into him for a week or so. Maybe two. I can’t think.” She put her hand to her head, rubbed her temple as if she couldn’t keep her fingers still. “I can’t think.”

  “Can you describe him?”

  “I never met him. I was supposed to, but I didn’t. We’ve been fighting,” she repeated as tears spilled down her cheeks.

  “Tell me what you know about him.”

  “Did he hurt her?” Her voice broke on the question as the tears started to gush. “Did he kill Tee?”

  “We’re going to want to talk to him. Tell me what you know about him.”

  “She…she met him at some underground club. I was supposed to go, but I got hung up, and I forgot. I was supposed to meet her there.”

  “Where?” Eve prompted.

  “Um…a cult club, underground, near Times Square, I think. I can’t remember. There are so many.” When Peabody offered tissues, Daffy sent her a pathetically grateful look. “Thanks. Thanks. She—Tee, she tagged me about eleven when I didn’t show, and we got into it because I’d forgotten, and this guy I hooked up with and I decided to zip down to South Beach for the night. I was already down there when she tagged me.”

  On a long breath, she bent forward to retrieve the cup of mocha, and now sipped slowly. “Okay. Okay.” She breathed in and out. “It was my screwup, about the club, so I mea culpa’d the next day. She was all about this guy, this Prince. But she looked out of it, so I knew she’d been using.”

  Daffy pressed her lips together. “I’m clean, and I’ve got to stay clean. My father still holds some of the purse strings on me, you know? If I get in any trouble like that again, he said he’d cut me off. He means it, so…Shit, you’re cops. I’m not going to impress you, so the straight deal is this: Besides the edict from my dad, I’ve had enough of chems.”

  “But Tiara hadn’t,” Eve said.

  “Tee’s always going to go over the top, it’s just her way. Always going to push the limits, then look for the next big thing.” As Daffy mopped tears, she managed a wan smile. “But she knows I’ve got to stay clean. She’d been using, and she’d sworn off six months ago, like a solidarity deal? We took an oath, so I was pissed.”

  “What was she on?” Eve asked.

  “I don’t know, but she was strung. We scratched at each other about that, but it was mostly her telling me how I had to go with her to this club, meet this guy and his friends. She said he was complete, the absolute. That they’d banged all night, and it was the best she’d ever had. She nagged me brainless about it until I said I’d go.”

  Shaking her head, Daffy drank again. “Then later I started thinking how even if I didn’t use, she would, and I’d get busted. So I tagged her back and told her I wasn’t going, and why didn’t we hook up with this guy somewhere else. No go. His club or nowhere.”

  “His club?”

  “Not like he owned it. Or maybe he does. She never said; I never asked. But she got stewed because I wouldn’t go, and Carm’s in New L.A. until next month, so she couldn’t pull her instead of me.”

  Eve waited while Daffy brooded into the mocha she’d so desperately wanted. “Do you know if anyone else went with her to this club? Any of your other mutual friends?”

  “I don’t think so. I never heard any buzz about it, not from anyone but Tee. Anyway, we didn’t talk for a couple days, then yesterday she came by here, earlier than this even. Like just after sunrise. She looked bottomed. Pale and glassy-eyed. Using again, and she hadn’t been using before this run for that whole six months. She was still hyped, talking wild. Going to live forever, that’s what she said. Laughing and busting around. She and her prince were going to live forever, and screw me for flipping her off. I tried to get her to stay, but she wouldn’t, just told me I’d be sorry, I’d had my chance. Now he was only taking her.”

  “Taking her where?” Eve asked.

  “I don’t know. She wasn’t making any sense. I’m telling you, she was over. I got pissy right back at her, and we yelled at each other, then she stormed out. And now she’s dead.”

  “That’s the last time you saw or spoke with her?”

  “Yeah. Did he hurt her? I mean…you didn’t say how she, she died. Did he hurt her?”

  “I can’t tell you that yet, I’m sorry.”

  “She’s such a baby about pain.” Daffy swiped the back of her hand over her cheek. “I hope he didn’t hurt her. I should’ve gone to the club that night. If I’d gone to the club instead of South Beach, maybe…Is it my fault? I should’ve looked after her better. She got sucked into stuff so easy. Is it my fault?”

  “No, it’s not your fault.”

  “She was almost a year older, but I was the one who looked after her—mostly. I could pull her back from the edge when she went too far. But I didn’t, you know? I just told her she was being an idiot or whatever. Only Tee would actually believe in vampires.”

  “Vampires?” Eve repeated as Peabody sucked in her breath.

  “Yeah. The prince deal? The Dark Prince. Living forever. Get it?” Daffy gave a harsh laugh that choked on a sob. “She thought this guy was a frigging vampire, like for real, and he was going to make her one so she’d be immortal. That’s what the club was—a wannabe vampire club. Bloodbath! I remember now. It’s called Bloodbath. Who the hell wants to go to some club with a name like that?” She swiped at tears again. “Only Tee.”

  “Didn’t I say vampire? I said vampire right off.” Peabody gave a smug nod as they exited the building.

  “And our vic’s going to be deeply disappointed when she just stays dead. Track down this club. I’d love a little chat with the Dark Prince.”

  “It’s not like I believe in the undead or anything.” Peabody slid into the passenger seat. “But it wouldn’t hurt, once we find this guy, to interview him during the day. In a room with good natural lighting.”

  “Sure. And requisition some garlic and some wooden stakes while you’re at it.”


  “No.” Eve swung out into traffic. “Reach down inside yourself, Peabody, and get a grip on reality, however slippery. Find the club. Right now we’re going to visit somebody who knows all about what’s dead.”

  Chief Medical Examiner Morris sent Eve an easy smile as he stood over the naked body of Tiara Kent. He wore a snappy suit the color of good claret with a matching tie thin as straw. His dark hair was intricately braided, and curled into a loop at the nape of his neck.

  Eve often thought Morris’s sharp fashion sense was wasted on his clientele.

  “Running a bit behind today,” he told them. “Sent off for tox as you’d flagged that. Shouldn’t take long.”

  She glanced down at the body. Morris hadn’t yet made his Y cut. “What can you tell me just from the visual?”

  “Lieutenant, this woman is dead.”

  “Peabody, note that down. We’ve got a dead woman.”

  “With excellent breast work,” Morris added. “And some very first-class sculpting, belly and butt.”

  “Jesus, she was twenty-three. Who needs sculpting and new tits at twenty-three?”

  Peabody raised her hand, and got a bland look from Eve.

  “You’re not twenty-three.”

  “Okay, I’ve got a couple years on her, but if they’re handing out butt sculpting, I’m first in line.”

  “You have a very nice butt, Detective,” Morris assured her, and made Peabody beam.

  “Aw, thanks.”

  “And now, back to our regularly scheduled program?” Eve suggested. “The dead woman on the slab.”

  “Tiara Ken
t, party princess. Live fast, die young.” Morris tapped his comp screen to magnify the neck wounds. “These are the only injuries or insults to the body. The victim was exsanguinated through these two punctures in the carotid. No visible signs of physical restraint or struggle. Apparently, she lay there and let him suck her dry.”

  “Suck.” Peabody drew a righteous breath through her nose. “See? Vampire bite.”

  Morris’s smile spread to a grin. “Impossible not to have a little play with that, isn’t it? The beautiful young blonde, seduced by the Prince of Darkness—or one of his minions—drained of her life’s blood while in his thrall. Cue fog and shadows.”

  “Don’t forget the creepy music,” Eve added.

  “Of course. Mostly, however, I suspect she was drugged to the eyeballs, and was punctured by an appliance during sex.”

  He lifted his eyebrows as he looked down at Tiara. “Of course, I could be wrong, and she’ll pop up shortly after sundown and terrify the night staff.”

  “Let’s go with number one,” Eve decided. “If he actually bit her, appliance or not, there’s going to be saliva. Same if he didn’t use a cloak for sex. I bet even vampires have DNA.”

  “I’ll send samples to the lab.”

  “Guy had her convinced he could give her eternity.” Eve took one last look at Tiara Kent. “Now she gets a steel box in a cold room.”


  “Got the club.” Peabody studied the readout on her PPC as they drove toward Cop Central. “Daffy had it right about Times Square, it’s under Broadway. Got the hours, too. Sunset to sunrise.” Peabody tracked her eyes toward Eve’s profile. “Vampire hours.”


  “Eternity Corporation, no owner or manager listed in this data.”

  “Dig,” Eve suggested.

  “Digging. Are we going by the club now?”

  “If the guy frequents the place, works in the place, or owns the place, he’s not going to be there when the joint’s closed. We’ll go after dark.”

  “I knew you were going to say that. Aren’t you just a little bit creeped? I mean, at the very least this guy slurps blood.”