Vendetta in Death (In Death #49)

“We’ll be taking all Mr. McEnroy’s electronics in for analysis.”

“I think he keeps—kept—a ’link, a second, private one, locked in his top left-hand desk drawer. I didn’t have access, but I did see him speaking on another ’link several times in his office. And, ah, he kept some clothes there, too. I would sometimes be asked to have the ones he’d worn the day before sent to the cleaners. So I’d know he’d changed at work, after hours.”

“Would you know if he brought women there?”

“I really don’t think so. There’s security, and the cleaning service. I would, occasionally, send an invoice for a hotel room to our accountants. They would pop up now and again, when Mrs. McEnroy was with him in New York.

“I knew what he was.” Po stared into his tea. “But he was the boss.”

“Mr. Po, why don’t we give you a ride into work? It’s our next stop.”

He looked at Eve, then at Schupp. “Is that what I should do? Should I go in?”

“Actually, Mr. Po,” Peabody said, “you could help us out if you went in, showed us the office.”

The relief of being given direction, a task, streamed over his face. “Okay, then I’ll do that.”

“I’m going with you.” Schupp gave Eve a steady look. “I not only know the people Lance works with, a lot of them are friends. I can help.”

Since she’d found him as steady as the look, she nodded. “That’s fine. Are you ready now?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess.” Po walked over, picked up the satchel by the door, put it on cross-body. “Thanks, Wes.”

“No problem.”

Once they were down and in the car, Schupp let out a sigh. “I know I shouldn’t say this, under the circumstances, but it’s pretty damn frosty riding with Dallas and Peabody.”

“In the DLE.” Po managed a wan smile. “Even if I feel a little sick—not boot-it-up sick, but—”

“It’s okay.” Peabody shifted to smile back at him. “You’ve had a shock, it’s natural. And since you are riding in the DLE, you should probably hold on.”

Even as she said it, Eve punched out into traffic, swung around a lumbering crosstown maxibus, and zipped through the light at the corner seconds before it went red.

Several pedestrians already trying to surge across the intersection aimed vicious looks.

“Whee,” Schupp said under his breath, and took Po’s hand.

Eve skinned between a couple of Rapid Cabs, whizzed past a bike messenger with an obvious death wish, and barreled into the underground parking of the steel tower of Roarke’s headquarters.

The security scanner beeped her through, droned out the parking level and space under reserve for the DLE.

She pulled into the slot minutes after she’d pulled away from the curb.

Po said, “Wow,” and actually let out a quick laugh. “Better than the vid.”

“Welcome to my world,” Peabody told him.

“Um. We’re on the twenty-second floor. I can swipe us right up.”

So could she, Eve thought, but nodded. “Good enough. We’ll need to see Mr. McEnroy’s office, and speak to Ms. Brant. I also need the names of the two women you mentioned. The ones you know were ha rassed by Mr. McEnroy.”

“Oh man. I guess I knew that, but it feels … I didn’t know Jasmine—that’s Jasmine Quirk—very well. She wasn’t here very long. She quit about three weeks after she started. And Leah Lester didn’t last a lot longer, maybe three months. She didn’t go quietly, and that’s how Sylvia got wind of what was going on. Allegedly, I guess. Leah and Jasmine left about the same time.”

He swiped into the elevator. “I don’t really know where they are now, but Sylvia might.”

“Okay.”

The ride up was smooth, as one expected of a Roarke property, and since she added her own swipe to Po’s, they went express.

The doors opened into the small, tasteful lobby of Perfect Placement.

Rich brown chairs in the waiting area contrasted richly with pale gold walls. The company logo arched on the wall behind reception where a man and woman, both in black, manned the echoing curved counter.

“Good morning, Lance.” The female offered a smile as she tapped her earpiece. “Hey, Westley, nice to see you.”

“Ah, is Sylvia in?”

“Isn’t she always?” The woman’s smile faltered as she skimmed her gaze over Eve and Peabody. “Is something wrong?”

“We need to speak with her,” Eve said.

“We’ll go straight back, okay?”

Without waiting, Po turned toward the glass doors. They whispered open even as the receptionist said, “I’ll let her know.”

Cubes first, Eve noted, with worker bees already at it, and the smell of street coffee and economy pastries rising through the air.

Around a corner to a handful of offices, some open, some closed. Another corner, bigger offices, snazzier views, the sound of keyboarding, of ’link calls.

Po paused outside of one of the snazzies.

An athletically built woman with strong shoulders sat behind a desk working a keyboard with a blur of fingers. She didn’t look up from the work.

“Hold there a minute, Lance. I need to get this sent asap.”

“Sylvia—”

“Ten seconds,” she muttered, fingers still flying. She paused, her bird-bright black eyes skimming the screen. “Send,” she ordered, then sat back, glanced up. “Hi, Wes. Now, what’s all this?”

Eve held up her badge. “I’m going to close the door.”

Sylvia sat straight again. “That sounds ominous. Could I have a closer look at your identification?”

Obliging, Eve stepped closer, offered the badge. Sylvia, her short, dark hair artfully streaked with silver, studied it. “Holy crap. Somebody killed Nigel.”

“That’s quite a guess, Ms. Brant.”

“I have two murder cops in my office, along with Nigel’s admin and Lance’s husband. I don’t think you’re here to pass the time of day. And in fact, I tried to tag Nigel five minutes ago, and got nothing, not even v-mail. Sit down, Lance.”

She rose as she spoke, went to him, gave him a one-armed hug as she pointed him toward a chair. “You look pale. Everybody sit down. Give me a second to process.”

“You’re processing pretty well,” Eve commented.

“It’s what I do. What happened? When? Why? Though the why’s not hard for me to process—unless it was an accident or a mugging.”

“Tell me why,” Eve suggested.

“Nigel, a man with a lovely, intelligent wife and two beautiful children, a successful business that afforded him the opportunity to live well, travel well, couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. If a husband, boyfriend, brother, father didn’t eventually bash his head in, one of the women he used and abused would—and so I told him not fully a year ago.”

“And you, Ms. Brant? Did he use and abuse you?”

Sylvia let out a barking laugh. “Take a closer look.” She spread her arms—strong and muscled like the rest of her. “I’m sixty-three, tough, not curvy. I’m a handsome woman, some might say. Sexy, young, naive—no one would say.”

“I think you’re beautiful,” Schupp told her, and made her smile.

“And didn’t I tell Lance to snap you up for good reason? No, Lieutenant, Nigel wasn’t interested in me in that way. Plus, I’m far too valuable to the company. He hunted the younger, curvier, and often the powerless. Not quite a year ago when it became clear he’d been bobbing in the office pool, I threatened him with lawsuits, my resignation, and a conversation with his wife, someone I like quite a lot.”

“You didn’t follow through.”

She showed the first sign of tension by rubbing two fingers between her eyebrows. “No, I didn’t, because he stopped hunting in this particular forest, agreed to pay the two women I’d learned of a generous private settlement. He could have fired me—it wouldn’t have been easy, as he had no cause—but I’m valuable to the bottom line here, and I’d have made one hell of a stink. He knew it.”

She paused, sighed, rose. “I’m breaking into the VIP coffee. I need it, and I expect so do we all.”

She walked to an alcove, programmed an AutoChef. “Before I answer the questions I expect, I’m giving you full disclosure. I respected Nigel’s business sense, tremendously. He was a driving part in building a damn good company, with skill, determination, creativity, foresight. I admired that part of him, and the part who had a seer’s sense of placing the right person in the right position.”

She passed around coffee, brought over a tray of creamers and sugar substitutes. “He was an excellent father from what I could tell, and his children adored him—clearly and genuinely. Geena, his wife …It’s hard for me to believe a woman as generous and intelligent as Geena didn’t know what he was doing, but then I didn’t know until a year ago, and I’m no idiot. I believe she genuinely loves—loved—him. I admire a man who can generate that kind of love.

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