Vendetta in Death (In Death #49)

She took out microgoggles, took a closer look at the cuts and bruises on the wrists. “From the angle, I’d say his arms were bound over his head, carried the weight of his body. ME to confirm. The genitals have been severed.”

She bent close, lifted the bottom edge of the sign for a clearer angle.

“No visible hesitation marks, looks almost surgical. Possible medical knowledge or experience?”

She took out her gauges. “TOD oh-three-twelve. COD, possible blood loss from castration, possible cardiac incident from electric shocks. Maybe a combo.”

She sat back on her heels. “So he was bound, tortured, killed elsewhere—need some privacy for that—placed here. Not dumped so much as arranged, basically on his own doorstep. And with this handy, poetic note.

“Lady Justice. Somebody was really pissed at you, Nigel.”

She took small pliers, a couple of evidence bags from her kit. As she pulled out the first tack, she heard the familiar clomp of her partner’s pink cowboy boots trotting up the sidewalk.

Peabody badged the beat droids, moved through the barricades. She took a look at the body, said, “Harsh.”

“It’s all that.”

Eve remembered a time, not so long before, when Peabody would have taken that look and gone green. A couple years as a murder cop brought out the sterner stuff.

“When I get this love note detached—there. Peabody, call the morgue team, the sweepers. Let’s get him bagged and tagged before people in this nice, quiet neighborhood start walking their dogs or taking a morning jog. Officer, help me turn him to finish the on-site.”

She found scores of burns, many that had seeped open during the torture, on the back, the buttocks, the hamstrings, the calves.

“Had to take some time,” she murmured. “Couldn’t do all this without taking time. And what do you suppose Lady Justice did with the cock and balls?”

Rising, Eve turned to her partner. Peabody wore her pink coat with a thin blue scarf with—jeez!—pink flowers scattered over it. She had her dark hair in a bouncy little tail.

“Wits inside. Hold the scene, Officer. What’s Feinstein’s apartment?”

“Six-oh-three, sir.”

With Peabody she started toward the entrance of a nicely rehabbed brownstone of about fifteen floors of dignity. No night man on the door, Eve noted, but good, solid security.

She badged her way through the beat droid on the door.

The lobby continued the dignity with navy and cream tiles for the floor, navy walls with cream trim, a discreet security desk—currently unmanned—a couple of curved padded benches, and fresh, springy-looking flowers in tall, slim vases.

Eve called for an elevator while she filled in Peabody.

“Wit’s coming home from a girl party, sees McEnroy on the sidewalk, runs in, gets Vance, her fiancé. He goes out, verifies, calls it in. Nine-one-one logged at four-thirty-eight, first on scene arrived in two minutes. Vic’s also a resident of this building—or has a residence here. He’s a Brit, owns, with partners, some sort of international, interplanetary headhunter firm. Married, two offspring.”

“Wife,” Peabody said.

“Yeah.” She stepped into the elevator. “We’ll see if she’s in residence after we talk to the wits.”

“Didn’t keep his marriage vows,” Peabody said. “If she did it, she left a really big clue with that note.”

“Yeah, well, people do the weird when they’re pissed, and Lady Justice was seriously pissed. But … unless the wife’s a moron, she’s going to have a damn good alibi.”

Eve stepped off, started down the quiet corridor on long legs. She noted security cams. “Let’s get the security feed for the vic’s floor, for the elevators, the lobby, the exterior.”

She rang the bell at 603, flashed her badge for the uniform—young, male, fresh of face—who answered the door. “I’ve got this, Officer Rigby. Contact the building security or supervisor. We want the feed for the cams on the victim’s floor, the elevators, the lobby, and the exterior.”

“For what period of time, sir?”

“Forty-eight hours if they have it. Then start the knock-on-doors.”

“Yes, sir.”

She let him go, gave the couple huddled together on a long, shimmery green gel sofa a quick study.

The female—late twenties—had long, curly, coppery hair. Eyes nearly the same color showed signs of weeping and shock in a face pale and scrubbed clean of the enhancements she’d surely have worn for the night out.

She wore simple gray cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and house skids as she clung to the buff, mixed-race male of about the same age.

He cast soulful brown eyes at Eve. “I hope this won’t take long. Tish needs to sleep.”

“I’m afraid to close my eyes. I know I’ll see …” She pressed her face into Vance’s broad shoulder.

“I know this is difficult, Ms. Feinstein, and we’ll keep this as brief as possible. I’m Lieutenant Dallas, this is Detective Peabody. We’re Homicide.”

“I guess I know. My friend Lydia’s brother’s a cop in Queens. I almost called him. We sort of dated when we were in high school, but …”

“Why don’t you just tell us what happened? Start with where you were tonight.”

“We were all over,” Feinstein began.

“I’m sorry,” Vance interrupted. “Please sit down. Do you want coffee or anything?”

“That’d be great.” And would give him something to do, Eve thought. “Black for me, coffee regular for my partner.”

“How about some more tea, cutes?”

Feinstein smiled. “Thanks, Clip. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Never have to find out. Just take me a minute.”

He rose, moved quietly from the room. Feinstein curled up defensively.

“So, your evening?”

“We were all over. It was my stag party. We’re getting married next Friday. The limo picked me up about nine. There were fourteen of us, and we club hopped, you know? Clip’s deal is tomorrow night. So anyway, we finished up with the all-male revue at Spinner’s downtown. I know it sounds like—”

“A fun time with girlfriends,” Peabody finished with a smile.

“It was.” Feinstein’s eyes filled. “It really was. Some of us have been friends since forever, and I’m the first of our group to get married. So we did it big, and we drank a lot and laughed a lot, and the limo started dropping us off. I was the last one, and I had him drop me on the corner. I just wanted some air, to walk a little. I felt so happy, so silly, so good. I didn’t want it to end. Then …”

She broke off when Vance came back with mugs on a tray.

“Clip.”

“It’s okay, come on now, cutes. It’s okay.”

He set the tray down, put an arm around her. Eve took the mug of black coffee from the tray. From the smell, she knew she’d had worse. She’d had better, God knows, but she’d had worse.

“If I’d just had Shelly—that was the driver—drop me out front, she’d have seen it first. It’s terrible, but I wish she had. He was just lying there. For a second I thought it was just some awful joke, but then I saw …I think I screamed. I don’t know for sure, but I ran, and I could hardly use my swipe and code to get in I was shaking so bad, and I came right up to Clip.”

“I thought there’d been an accident. She could hardly tell me. Then I thought, well, she’s pretty lit, she imagined it, but she was so upset.” He kept that protective arm around her as he spoke, his fingers stroking up and down her arm. “I threw on some clothes, went out. And I saw she didn’t imagine it. I called nine-one-one, and the police came.”

“Did you recognize the victim?”

“No.” Vance looked at Feinstein, who shook her head.

“I didn’t really look,” Feinstein added. “I know he was right under the streetlight, but I didn’t really look at his face. He was all, I don’t know, burned. I saw the sign, the note, and that right below it, he’d—”

“So did I,” Vance added when she broke off. “Someone castrated him.”

“Could I ask how long you’ve lived in this building?”

“Two and a half months.” Feinstein managed a ghost of a smile as she took Vance’s hand. “We wanted to have our own place before the wedding. Our first place together.”





2


“Vic’s top floor,” Eve told Peabody as they walked back to the elevator. “Unlikely those two knew him or his wife. A couple of months in the building, eight floors away, twenty-odd years younger.”

“And this is only one of the vic’s residences,” Peabody added. “So he’s not always here.”

“He was here long enough to get dead. Let’s see if his family’s in the building.”

They rode up.

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