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Delusion in Death edahr-44, Page 2

J. D. Robb

  “Everybody wouldn’t have been eating or drinking the same thing.”

  “Enough of the same, or more than one thing was tampered with. We start with the vics—IDs, COD, TOD, relationships with each other. Where they work, where they live. And the scene, any trace. We get every glass, bottle, dish, the coolers, the AutoChefs, the grill—whatever—to the lab, or we bring the lab to the scene. We check the ventilation, the water, the cleaning supplies.”

  “If it’s something like that, it could still be in here. You’ve been in here.”

  “Yeah, I thought of that, after the first couple bodies. I tagged the hospital, talked to the medicals who treated the survivors. They’re fine. Whatever happened, happened fast. That twenty-minute window. I’m well past that.

  “Ingestion’s most likely,” she considered. “Even if only half of them were affected, they could’ve taken the rest by surprise.” Eve glanced down at her sealed hands, now smeared with cooling blood. “I don’t like it, but it’s a theory. Let’s work the bodies.”

  Even as she spoke, the door opened. She spotted Morris.

  As he wore jeans and some sort of silky crewneck shirt the color of ripe plums rather than one of his snazzy suits, she assumed he’d gone off shift. His hair, pulled back into one sleek tail, left his interesting, angular face unframed. She watched his eyes, dark as his hair, scan the room, and for an instant, both the shock and the pity lived in them.

  “You’ve brought me a crowd.”

  “Somebody did,” she began. “I—” She broke off as Roarke came in behind Morris.

  He still wore the suit he’d put on that morning in their bedroom: solid, business black, a perfect fit to his long, lean body. The thick, black mane of his hair skimmed above the professional shoulders, slightly mussed, as if the wind had danced through it.

  Where Morris’s face was interesting, oddly sexy, Roarke’s was—Roarke’s. Impossibly gorgeous, carved by the strong hand of some clever god and perfected by eyes of bold and brilliant blue.

  The two men stood together, and for an instant while it all stood still, she saw that same shock and pity cross Roarke’s face, followed by a quick, deadly rage.

  Those eyes met hers, and he said, “Lieutenant.” Even with the rage simmering under the word, the Irish sang through.

  She moved to him, not to greet, not to block the view—impossible in any case, and he’d seen more than his share of horror in his life. But she was the officer in charge, and this was no place for civilians or husbands.

  “You can’t be here.”

  “I can,” he corrected. “It’s mine.”

  She should’ve figured it. The man owned most of the world, and half the universe it lived in. Saying nothing, Eve turned a hard stare on Peabody.

  “Sorry. I forgot to tell you I hit on Roarke when I scanned for the owner.”

  “I’ll need to talk to you, but I need Morris first. You can wait outside.”

  The rage on his face had gone cold and hard. “I won’t be waiting outside.”

  She understood, and wished she didn’t. In the two and a half years they’d been together, he’d made her understand more than was always comfortable for a cop. She fought back the urge to touch him—so damned unprofessional—and lowered her voice.

  “Listen, this is a fucking mess.”

  “I can see that for myself well enough.”

  “I need you to stay out of the way.”

  “Then I will.” Obviously he didn’t see touching as unprofessional as he took her hand a moment, squeezed it despite the blood. “But I won’t wait outside while you wade through this nightmare inside a place I own.”

  “Wait.” She turned to Morris. “I’ve … labeled the DBs numerically, the ones we’ve ID’d and examined. Can you start with One, and I’ll be with you in a minute.”

  “Of course.”

  “I’ve got more men coming in, any minute now. We’ll have more hands and eyes to work the scene and the vics.”

  “Then I’ll get started.”

  “I’m going to turn you over to Peabody,” she said to Roarke. “You can walk her through security until EDD’s on scene.”

  “I can tell you there are no cams in here. People stop in for a drink in a place like this, they aren’t comfortable with cams.”

  No, he thought, they want to relax, perhaps share a private moment with someone. They don’t want to be recorded. They don’t expect to die a bloody death.

  “We have the standard on the entrance,” he continued, “and standard again for security once the place is closed. But you won’t have anything for inside, nothing that would show you what happened here or how.”

  Since she hadn’t spotted any interior cams, she’d suspected as much, but rubbed her eyes to clear her head again. “We need a list of employees, and a schedule.”

  “I’ve got it. When I got the tag, I put that together.” He looked around again, trying to understand what couldn’t be imagined, to accept what shouldn’t be real.

  “I’ve only had the place a few months, but didn’t make much in the way of changes. It runs—ran—smooth as far as I know. But I’ll know more before it’s done.”

  “All right. Give what you have to Peabody. I need to work with Morris.”

  “Eve.” Again, he took her hand, and this time when he looked in her eyes there was more sorrow than rage. “Give me an assignment, for God’s sake. Set me at something to do. I don’t know these people any more than you, even those who worked for me, but I have to do something.”

  “With Peabody,” she said. “Start on the vics’ ’links. See if any transmissions went out after this started—we’ve got the time frame. See if there’s any video, any audio during the twenty-minute window.”

  “Twenty? This happened in twenty bloody minutes?”

  “Less than that, that’s the outside. Send Peabody back to me once EDD gets here. You can work with them. I’ve got to get on this.”

  Even as she started to Morris, Jenkinson and Reineke stepped in. She swung to them, filled them in, did the same when Baxter and Trueheart arrived.

  By the time she got to Morris, he was on the third victim.

  “I need to get them in, Dallas. There’s defensive wounds, offensive wounds, a variety of both, and of CODs. TODs are, for the first three, within minutes.”

  “It all happened fast. In under twenty. One of the vics tagged a friend who was running late, and everything was fine and normal. The friend got here about twenty minutes later, and found this.”

  “They did this to each other. From what I can see at this point, they attacked and killed each other.”

  “That’s my take. Some sort of poison, hallucinogenic, some fucking new rage drug. In the drinks? The bar food? In the ventilation system? There’s over eighty dead, Morris, and a handful who survived—so far—in the hospital.”

  “They used what was handy—broken glass, forks, knives, furniture, their own hands.”

  “There are more downstairs—bathroom area—and back in the kitchen, so it wasn’t confined to this space. But I’ve got nothing to indicate anyone got out, no signs of violence outside.”

  “Consider it a blessing. I’ll have a team transport bodies as I examine them here, and we’ll rush the tox screens.”

  “I’ll be in when I finish here, after I talk to any survivors.”

  “We all have a long night ahead of us.”

  “And the media’s going to be all over it. I’m going to request a Code Blue, but I don’t think a media block’s going to stop leaks, not on this. Let’s get some answers.”

  She pushed to her feet.

  Too many people, she thought. Too many dead, and too many cops working in one space. She could trust the team she’d pulled in, but still, so many hands made it too easy for one to make a mistake.

  She saw Feeney, EDD captain, former partner, his wiry ginger hair an explosion over his hangdog face, huddled with Roarke. They’d find whatever could be found.

  She sta
rted down the steps just as McNab—EDD ace and the love of Peabody’s life, started up. His bright blue pants, heavy with silverstudded pockets, stood in harsh contrast to the horror. He might’ve had a half a million shiny rings riding along his ear, but his pretty face was hard, and all cop.

  “I’ve got something.” He held out a ’link, held sealed bags of others in his other hand. “Vic down in the ladies’ room, Trueheart did the ID. Wendy McMahon, age twenty-three.”

  “She used her ’link.”

  “Yeah. At seventeen-thirty-two, she tagged her sister, started off telling her about some guy she met upstairs—Chip—all giddy and happy for the first thirty seconds. Then she says how she’s getting a damn headache, and by seventeen-thirty-three, she’s bitching at the sister, calling her a whore. The sister cuts her off, but she keeps bitching. It’s crazy talk, Dallas, and when another woman comes in screaming, you can hear them going at each other, you can see bits of them fighting when this McMahon drops the ’link. I don’t see the second woman down there, so either she killed McMahon and moved on, or got away. The ’link shut off after thirty seconds of no transmission—that’s usual.”

  Twelve minutes, she thought. Twelve minutes from the first sign of trouble to Vic One’s TOD.

  “I want that and any others like it back at Central.”

  “I’ve got a couple more. We should be able to put them together for you so you don’t have to view them on the individual ’links. It won’t take long to do it, and it’ll save time. I’ve got a lot of them to check out first.”

  “Keep hunting.”

  Eve stepped over the body at the base of the stairs, saw he’d been ID’d and tagged. Trueheart continued to work the area. She imagined Baxter had given him the assignment so the young officer had less misery to pack into his psyche.

  Back upstairs, she moved to Roarke. “Stick with EDD.”

  “We’re finding some snatches on ’links.”

  “McNab reported. I’ll be at Central after I talk to survivors. The team can finish here, for now. We’re closing you down, Roarke, for the foreseeable.”


  “Peabody,” she called out. “With me. The rest of you ID and log every body, every ’link, every weapon, any and all of the DBs’ personal items. Baxter, see to it I have a list of all vics on my desk asap. We’ll be making notifications tonight. I want the security discs from the door. Jenkinson, widen the canvass, four-block perimeter. Morris, have all the vics’ clothing sent to the lab and request Harpo on the fibers. All food and drink needs to be transported to the lab, and marked possible biohazard.”

  She paused a moment, scanned. Yes, she could trust every one of them. “Full team briefing at Central.” She checked the time, calculated. “Twenty-two-thirty. I’m requesting Code Blue, so no chatter. Consider yourselves on this case until I say different.”

  She gave Roarke one last glance before she walked out—into cooling air, and the blessed roar of the city.

  “The hospital,” she told Peabody. “Let’s see if any of the survivors can talk to us. You drive.”

  She slid into the passenger seat, took a breath. Then drew out her communicator and contacted her commander.


  She hated hospitals, always had. Even knowing the paranoia stretched back to waking in one in Dallas as a child, beaten, raped, broken, didn’t solve the problem. For her, hospitals, health centers, clinics, even mobile urgent care outfits all smelled the same. The smell was pain with underlying fear.

  Eve lived with the intense dislike, and the fact that her job so often took her into medical facilities one way or the other.

  She imagined an urban ER never hit the notes of pleasant, but considered it a sure bet tonight might be a little worse than usual as the doctors and medicals had been slammed with ten violently injured people at once.

  She moved through the moans and misery, the glazed, exhausted eyes, the stench of fever sweat and sickness to grab a nurse. The smiley faces covering the uniform top grinned in direct opposition to the woman’s grim snarl.

  “You need to stay in chairs. We’ll get to you as soon as we can.”

  Eve held up her badge. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a bone-skinny man trembling for a fix slide out of his chair and jitter his way to the door.

  “You had ten injured brought in about ninety minutes ago. I need to see them, talk to them.”

  “Wait,” the nurse ordered, and stalked away with her shirt grinning dozens of weirdly perky grins.

  Moments later Eve faced a man nearly as skinny as the departed junkie. He wore a lab coat and a look of profound fatigue.

  “Doctor Tribido.” His faint musical lilt didn’t offset the fatigue.

  “Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody. I need to see my vics.”

  “Ten came in. One was DOA, two died of their injuries. We got three in surgery now, another in pre-op, and one in a coma.”

  “Where are the other two?”

  “Holding in Exam Three and Four.”

  “I’ll start with them.”

  “This way. Exam Three’s a broken tibia, three broken fingers, a concussion, facial injuries, multiple stab wounds, which the MTs treated on site. Most of the stab wounds were minor, considering. She’s one of the lucky ones.”

  “Do you have a name?”

  “CiCi Way. She’s fairly lucid, was able to give us her name, her address, the date, but not how she was injured. We haven’t gotten any details on this, Lieutenant. What the hell happened?”

  “That’s what I’m going to find out.”

  She moved through the double swinging doors with him where a nurse checked one of the IVs plugged into CiCi Way.

  The woman on the table kept her eyes closed. Probably couldn’t open the left in any case, Eve thought. Not with that vicious swelling. They’d coated her face with gel and patches of Nu Skin so it shone like an oiled mask.

  It only made her look more victimized.

  Thin casting encased her right arm and hand. Angry scratches and freshly treated wounds showed above her sadly floral hospital gown and along her unbroken arm.

  Tribido signaled the nurse as he stepped toward his patient. “CiCi? It’s Dr. Tribido. Do you remember me?”

  “I …” Her right eye slitted open, tracked nervously back and forth under its purpled lid. “Yes. I think. Hospital? I’m in the hospital.”

  “That’s right, and you’re doing fine.”

  “Macie? Is Macie here?”

  “I’m going to check on that.” His voice, edged with exhaustion, managed to convey a soft, steady gentleness. “There’s a police officer here to talk to you. Are you okay with that?”

  “Police? The police? Because of the accident? The police came, or maybe I dreamed it. The policeman said I was going to be okay.”

  “That’s right. You’re going to be okay. I’ll be right outside if you need me.”

  “Macie.” Her voice pitched up, sounded strangled. “Is Macie going to be okay? And, and Travis. And—I can’t remember.”

  “It’s all right. You just take it easy.” Tribido turned to Eve, spoke quietly. “She’s asked for Macie every time she’s come around. And she’s mentioned Travis and sometimes someone called Bren. She came out screaming a couple times. We’ve got her on a mild sedative for the pain, and to keep her as calm as possible. She’s lucid, as I said, but she’s spotty on everything that happened after she went in that bar. She’d feel better if we could locate this Macie.”

  No, Eve thought, she doubted the woman would feel better knowing Macie Snyder was on her way to the morgue. “We’ll take it easy on her” was all Eve said.

  She stepped to one side of the elevated table. “I’m Lieutenant Dallas, and this is my partner Detective Peabody. What happened to you, CiCi?”

  “I got hurt.”

  “I know. Who hurt you?”

  That single eye began its fearful tracking. “I don’t know. You have to find Macie.”

  “She’s yo
ur friend,” Peabody said in her soothing way.

  “Yeah. We work together at Stuben-Barnes. And we hang.”

  “You went to On the Rocks with Macie,” Eve asked, “after work?”

  “Um.” Her good eye wheeled again, then focused on Eve. “Yes. That’s right. We work together, and we hang. Me and Macie. She’s going out with Travis. They’re tight. Macie thinks she might move in with him.”

  “So you and Macie went to have a drink after work. Hang.”

  “I think so. Yes. Me and Macie, for a drink. It’s a nice bar, and they have a mag happy hour. I like the nachos especially. You have to use a fork because they’re so …”

  Her voice shook, and something like terror gleamed in her eye. “It’s close to work. Is Macie okay?”

  “It’s nice to have a friend to hang with,” Peabody commented.

  “She’s fun. Macie. Sometimes we go shopping on our day off.”

  “But tonight you went for a drink at On the Rocks,” Eve prompted.

  “Travis met us there, with his friend. It was kind of a blind date for me.”

  “Can you give us Macie’s and Travis’s last names?”

  “Oh. Oh. I didn’t think. You need to have their whole names to find them. Macie Snyder and Travis Greenspan. I have pictures on my ’link! I can show you pictures. I don’t know where my ’link is.”

  “Don’t worry about that right now. So the four of you hung for a while, had a couple drinks.”

  “A second round. Bren’s really cute. Bren!” Her eye widened then closed, and a single thin tear leaked out of the corner. “I remember now. Brendon Wang. He works with Travis, and Travis and Macie were kind of setting us up. I can’t see him very well in my head now.” She gave Eve a weary, pitiful look. “I’m sorry. My head hurts. I feel sick.” She closed her eye again.

  Eve leaned in. “CiCi, look at me. Look at me now. What are you afraid of?”

  “I don’t know. I’m hurt.”

  “Who hurt you?”

  “I don’t know! Did we go for dinner?” Her fingers tried to pluck at the sheets, twist them. “We were going for dinner. Macie wanted Nino’s, but … Did we go for dinner?”