Vendetta in Death (In Death #49)

“No, Mrs. McEnroy. Your husband was murdered.”

“Murdered? Murdered? That’s insane!” Her voice pitched up, then she seemed to catch herself. She pressed a hand to her mouth. “How? Who? Why?”

“Ms. McEnroy, it might be best for you to return to New York. We’ve just begun our investigation. Is there anyone I can contact for you at this time?”

“I—No—I— Wait.”

The video blurred as Geena obviously ran from the bedroom with the ’link in hand. Eve saw pieces of a living area—bold, tropical colors, a hint of moonlight through glass, long, narrow feet with toes painted pastel pink.

“Francie!” The harsh whisper shook. Tears, Eve calculated, were coming. “Oh God, Francie, I need you.”

“I’m up, I’m up!” A light flashed on. “Are you sick, honey?”

To Eve’s best guess, Geena thrust the ’link at the woman in bed, sat, and burst into tears.

The screen filled with the outraged face of a mixed-race woman of about fifty, hazel eyes firing out of a dusky face. “Who is this?”

“This is Lieutenant Eve Dallas with the New York City—”

“Oh, bullshit! I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the vid. Dallas is …” Those hazel eyes blinked before she rubbed them clear. “Oh dear God. What happened? Who’s dead?”

She shifted as she spoke, showing a sturdy body in a pink—not pastel—sleep shirt with a unicorn prancing over it. “Here now, Geena, here now. I’m going to get you some water. I’m going to take care of this, all right? What happened?” she demanded again, obviously on the move.

“Nigel McEnroy is dead. He was killed early this morning.”

“Ah God. How— No don’t bother with that.”

From what Eve could see, the woman dumped ice and fizzy water in a glass in some sort of kitchen. “She needs me. The girls need me, so we’ll wait on that. They loved him. I’ll take care of things here. We’ll be on our way back to New York as soon as possible. Did it happen in the apartment?”

“No.”

“All right.

We’ll go there, as soon as I can arrange it.”

“Your name, ma’am.”

“Francie—Frances,” she corrected. “Frances Early. I teach the girls. I need to see to Geena.”

“Please contact me when you arrive in New York.”

“Geena will. She’ll have steadied up by then, for the girls. I have to see to her now.”

When the woman clicked off, Eve shifted modes, did a quick run on Frances Early.

“The tutor,” Eve began as she walked into what was a his-and-hers dressing room rather than a closet. “Frances Early, one marriage, one divorce, no children. Age fifty-six, educator, twenty-two years in the public school arena, New York, born and raised. Seven years with the McEnroys as tutor to first the older daughter, then both. Travels with the family when they travel. Lives here or with her sister when they’re in New York, has rooms in their London home, and is given accommodations in their other residences. One bump—assault charge brought by her ex, then dropped. She seems solid.”

“I’m not finding anything in here except really nice clothes, his and hers, and excellent products in the makeup and grooming area. But there is a safe.”

Eve eyed it, calculated she could open it—she’d been taught by the expert thief (former) who happened to be her husband. “It’s going to be jewelry,” she decided. “She’d likely have the codes, so he wouldn’t stash anything in there he didn’t want her to see. Shared space.

“Keep at it. I’ll hit his home office.”

Wandering through, she paused at a bedroom obviously shared by the two daughters. All pink and white and frilly, it said girlie girls. One section held a pair of facing desks, another toys and games.

She identified the third bedroom as the tutor’s. The bright floral spread indicated a fondness for color—added to when a glance in the closet showed a wardrobe in bright, cheerful hues.

One wall held a big frame, with various kid art on display, and on a table under the window sat a trio of photos—the girls, the tutor with the family.

She’d called the wife by her first name—called her honey when concerned. Kid art, photos. Part of the family, Eve concluded. And people who lived as part of a family knew things.

She’d want to talk to Frances Early.

She moved on, found what she figured served as the kids’ classroom/ playroom, a kind of gathering room, formal dining, and McEnroy’s office.

No office or separate space for his wife, she noted, but McEnroy’s work space hit upscale in every note. The view, the desk, the chair, the sofa, the art, the data and communication system.

Top-of-the-line, she mused, as would behoove a man of his position and wealth.

She found his memo book, passcoded; his work comp, passcoded; communications, passcoded.

A careful man, even in his own home.

Desk drawers locked and coded.

Even the closet required a swipe and code.

She started there.

Opening her field kit, she took out a tool—one Roarke had given her—and got to work.

She heard the sweepers come into the unit, heard Peabody talking to them. Ignored it.

She could do this, and she’d be damned if McEnroy put this kind of security on an office holding freaking memo cubes and work discs.

Ten minutes later, frustrated, she nearly gave in and just kicked the damn door down. But then she’d have to report herself.

She heard McNab’s cheery, “Hey, She-Body!” And doubled her efforts.

She’d also be damned if she’d work this long, then pass the stupid task to the EDD geek, have him show her up.

She set her teeth as she heard his airboot prance coming her way.

“Hey, LT.”

“Start on the electronics,” she ordered. “Open what you can here, do a quick pass, tag and transport. Shit, shit, shit! Open the hell up! Take what you can’t open back to EDD.”

“On it. Hey, that’s a mag code reader. Is that a TTS-5?”

“How the hell do I know? Stop breathing on me.”

“Looks like you’re through everything but—”

She made a sound deep in her throat even a rabid dog would have backed away from. McNab just leaned closer.

When the pad blinked green, he tapped a fist to her shoulder. “Nice.”

“Fucking A,” she said, and used the master to swipe through the rest.

She figured McNab could have done it in half the time she’d taken, and Roarke? He probably could have slid through by his damn Irish charm.

But she’d done it.

She opened the door, saw the memo cubes, the discs, the other organized office supply paraphernalia—and a case she judged would hold the camera in the bedroom.

And a locked cabinet. “Jesus Christ. Is he storing the crown freaking jewels?”

“Just a key lock this time,” McNab noted. “We can pry it.”

“No property damage.” From the field kit she took lock picks—again courtesy of Roarke. She had a better hand with key locks than e-locks, and had the cabinet open in under five.

When she opened the door, McNab let out a low whistle. “Wowzer. Kink City.”

“I knew it.”

“Dude could practically open his own sex shop.” McNab slipped his hands into two of the many pockets on his plutonium-infused purple baggies.

She couldn’t disagree as she scanned the padded cuffs, the vibrators, the oils and lotions, the cock rings, nipple clamps, ticklers, silk cords, blindfolds, the supply of condoms, of Stay Up, feathers, gels.

She gestured at a bottle clearly marked ROHYPNOL, another marked RABBIT, and a small one labeled WHORE.

“Son of a bitch. He’s got travel vials. Go clubbing, take a vial, pick your target. Get her back here, do what you want. Lady Justice’s poem wasn’t wrong.”

“Poem?”

“We’ll get to it. Electronics, McNab.”

“On it.” He stepped back, a skinny guy with a pretty face, a long tail of blond hair, an earlobe weighed down by silver hoops. “The toys, you know, that’s one thing. No harm, no foul if everybody’s having fun. But the chemicals, that’s fucked-up.”

“And now so’s he.”

And whatever he’d done, whatever he’d been, now he was hers.

She went out, spoke to the head sweeper, rounded up Peabody.

“Let’s take his New York admin. That’s the best chance of getting his habits, his schedule, his friends, and his side pieces if he had repeats.”

“Lance Po,” Peabody read from her PPC as they started out. “Thirty-eight, mixed-race male, married five years to Westley Schupp, worked the New York base for just under eleven years, the last four as the vic’s admin. The apartment was so classy,” Peabody added as they rode down.

“Yeah, that’s how it looked. Nice, quiet, upper-class class. He had photos of his wife and kids on his desk ten feet from a locked cabinet full of sex toys and bottles of roofies, Rabbit, Whore. Not so goddamn classy.”

“So he didn’t just cheat on his wife in her own damn bed. He used rape drugs.”

“Hard to believe he had them—and not all the bottles were full—and didn’t use them. Let’s see if the admin knows where he was heading last night, and who—if anyone—he headed out to meet.”

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