Vendetta in Death (In Death #49)

“I bet. And you had other men to deal with.”

“Of course, but that’s for tomorrow. I’m an interior designer meeting a man with a wife, and a mistress, who also found it necessary to exploit yet another woman, take her misplaced love before destroying her career. He has a property he wants redone. I’ll be Roweena Carson, and I have a marvelous costume for the scene.”

“You do realize this isn’t a vid?” Peabody asked.

With all the masks stripped away, her eyes were crazed.

Direct, Eve noted, but crazed.

“Of course, but I play the parts, dress the part these men expect before I reveal who I really am.”

“Lady Justice.”

Darla beamed at Eve. “Yes, exactly. Now that we’ve cleared this up, and you understand, I really have to get home and check on Grand.”

“Donnalou’s with her.”

“Oh.” Darla frowned. “That’s all right then. But—”

“We’re going to need you to stay. You can get some sleep, and tomorrow Dr. Mira will talk to you.”

“Oh, I’d love to meet her. I just adored her in the vid. But Grand—”

“Donnalou’s going to stay with her,” Peabody said and rose. “She’ll take care of her.”

“She’s a wonderful nurse. Still—”

“Grand’s sleeping now.” Peabody walked around the table to release the chain, help Darla to her feet. “She’s safe, and sleeping. We could all use some sleep.”

“You’re right. I’m just exhausted. I’m glad we straightened this all out. I was angry with you at first,” she said as Peabody led her out of the room. “But then I realized, we women have to stick together. Women for women.”

Eve let out a long breath as the door closed behind them. “Peabody, Detective Delia, exiting with Pettigrew, Darla.

“Interview end.”

She sat where she was, continued to sit when Mira and Reo came in, when they sat with her at the table.

Mira spoke first. “I’ll interview and evaluate her formally tomorrow, but from my observations she doesn’t meet the threshold of legal sanity, and is unfit mentally and emotionally for trial.”

“I’m forced to agree,” Reo said. “If that wasn’t an act—”

“It’s all an act,” Eve interrupted, “but that was as real as she gets. She thinks we’ll let her go, seeing as we’re all in this big sisterhood, so she can go out and keep doing what these silly rules prevent us from doing. I guess you could say she found the role of her lifetime in Lady Justice.”

“You stopped her, very likely saved more lives, including her own. She couldn’t have maintained this facade for much longer. You can leave her to me, and to Reo now.”

Reaching across the table, Mira touched Eve’s hand. “You and Peabody should take some time off. Get some rest, soak up a little spring.”

“Yeah. Good idea.” She stood. “I’m going to write this up, and get the hell out before the brass decides I need to do a media conference.” Reo let out a little laugh. “Run, because that’ll be coming.”

She didn’t run, but she moved fast. By the time she finished her report, signed off, her head pounded. But Roarke came in.

“Done then?”

“Yeah, it’s done.”

“We got a rundown, basically, in EDD. A trial’s unlikely, it seems.”

“Very. She’s not right, Roarke, and that’s that. Mira will take it from here.”

“And you’re all right with that?”

“It’s the way it is,” she began, then shook her head. “I’m all right with it. It’s … it’s justice, the real kind of justice. Are you still playing in EDD?”

“I’m with you, Lieutenant.”

“Great. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

He pulled out a pill case. “Take a blocker for that headache.”

“Let’s get out of here for five minutes. If I still need one, I’ll take it. Deal?”

“Deal.” He took her hand, kissed it. “You’re going to have some soup, some wine, some sleep.”

“I could live with that.” She walked out with him, too tired to object to the crowded elevator. “I’ll need to check on the status off and on. I guess you have lots of toys you want to play with, or maybe you have to make up time in your quest to own the known universe.”

“I can do both. I enjoy multitasking.”

“You’re good at it.” She got in the passenger side, kicked the seat back. “We talked about taking a few days.”

“We did.”

“So I put in for the time.”

“Did you now? Starting when?”

“Starting now.”

He glanced at her as he drove out of the garage. “Is that so?”

“I gave Peabody tomorrow, the next day if she wants it. I was thinking maybe we could go home, throw some stuff in a bag, and take off for Italy. I could bang you on the shuttle—multitasking, because banging would distract me from being up there.”

“Give me a half hour and I can make that happen.”

“I want to wake up somewhere else. Just somewhere else for a couple days and not think about sick, sad women who think killing men is not only necessary but heroic. You’ve probably got all sorts of things to do, but—”

“The villa hotel project in Italy’s important to me, and could use my attention on-site. And I’d like a few days to pay attention to my wife when she’s not working herself into the ground.”

“It’s no use telling you not to worry about me, but I’m going to take this moment to say I appreciate that you do. Even when it irritates the crap out of me, I appreciate it.”

“Your headache’s gone.”

“See? That’s irritating and appreciated—the way you just know that. So … I love you. I love the crap out of you, and I would never want you replaced by a droid-human hybrid.”

“That’s very appreciated as well.”

“I’m not naive,” she murmured. “I know what I’ve got, who I’ve got. Anyway, can we switch the soup for spaghetti and meatballs? Like a jump start to Italy. Wine, spaghetti, banging, sleep. Or banging, then the rest. Or—”

He took her hand again, kissed her hand again as they drove through the gates.

“Let’s just play that by ear.”

“Works for me.”

They had it all, in their own order of preference. And she woke to spring sunshine, Italian style, snuggled into him.

And had one particular item on the list again.