Home > Dark in Death (In Death #46)

Dark in Death (In Death #46)
Author: J.D. Robb

1

On the mega screen bloody murder played out in classic black and white for an audience of one hundred and seven. With the sharp screech of violins, violas, and cellos that number dropped by one.

Unlike the character of Marion Crane, Chanel Rylan didn’t scream or flail at the shock of violent death. In row twenty-seven in theater three of Vid Galaxy in New York City’s Times Square, she let out little more than a mouse squeak as the ice pick plunged into the back of her neck.

Her body gave one quick jerk; her hands batted at the air and up-ended the mini bucket of popcorn in her lap. Her last breath escaped like a long sigh.

She died in the dark as blood circled black down the drain on the screen.

No one noticed. With all eyes, all attention riveted to the screen, no one noticed the killer slip into the aisle and walk away from dark deeds.

When Lola Kawaski hurried back in, dropping into her aisle seat, she cursed in a whisper, “Damn it, I can’t believe I missed the big, classic scene. And I’m going to have to miss the rest. I’m kicking myself for agreeing to be on call tonight, but we’ve got an emergency coming in, so—”

In apology, she patted Chanel’s arm. The movement caused her dead friend’s body to shift, slumping against Lola. Lola’s initial amusement—leave it to an actor to go all dramatic—flipped to alarm.

Then the screaming started.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood over the body. Someone had dragged said body into the aisle in a useless attempt at first—or more accurately last—aid. Now the scene was totally fucked.

So was her evening at home. She’d actually walked in the door on time for once, out of the claw swipe of late February wind and into the warmth of a Summerset-free house, as Roarke’s majordomo was off on his winter vacation.

She’d even beaten Roarke home and experienced the odd and rare sensation of having the big-ass fancy house all to herself. And the cat.

She’d considered squeezing in a workout—contemplated just jogging from room to room; if she managed to hit them all that would equal a pretty damn serious workout.

Instead, she wandered into the big front parlor with its art, antiques, and rich colors. She decided she deserved a big red circle around the day on the 2061 calendar, and she put on the fire, poured a glass of wine, sat in one of the butt-cuddling chairs.

The cat sat at her feet, eyed her suspiciously.

“I know, weird, right? I’m just sitting here.” Kicking out her legs, she crossed her booted feet at the ankles. “Maybe I could get used to it,” she said, lifting the wine for the first sip.

Her communicator signaled.

“Or maybe not.”

Two minutes later, she grabbed her coat from the newel post where she’d tossed it. And Roarke walked in.

The wind followed him, tossing his black-as-midnight hair around that remarkable warrior-poet face. His perfectly sculpted mouth curved, those wild blue eyes smiled at her.

Then he noted she shot her arms into the coat rather than stripping it off.

He said, “Uh-oh.”

“Sorry. Five damn minutes home, and I caught one. DB at a vid palace in Times Square.”

“An unhappy ending for the DB.” Ireland cruised through his voice. And as she wrapped her scarf around her neck, he left the door open to the cold. “Opening scene for my cop.”

He caught her face in his hands, kissed her—taking his time with it, despite the cold wind and the call of duty.

“I’ll see you later,” she told him. “Maybe even sooner. There’s a glass of wine in the parlor. I’d just poured it.”

He gave her another, briefer kiss. “I’ll think of you when I drink it.”

Less than ten minutes after she’d walked in, she started out. “Don’t forget to feed the cat.”

“As if he’d let me.”

Now Eve imagined Galahad’s belly was full, and Roarke had enjoyed her wine while she studied a woman identified as Chanel Rylan by her vid-watching friend.

Eve stood alone in the theater, having already taken the report of the first officer on scene. She studied the blood on the back of the chair—first in from the aisle—and the smeared drops helpful civilians had stepped in when moving the body.

Eve opened her field kit and, with her hands and boots sealed, crouched down to do her job.

She pressed the victim’s right thumb to her Identi-pad.

“Victim is identified as Chanel Rylan, mixed-race female, age thirty-two. No marriages, no offspring, no current cohab.”

She took out her gauges for time of death.

“TOD eighteen-thirty-one. No defensive wounds visible. ME to confirm.”

Prepared to turn the body, Eve looked up and over at the familiar clomp, and watched her partner start down the slanted aisle.

Pink, fuzzy-topped boots, pink magic coat, and today’s scarf a long snake of variegated blues. Peabody wore a matching cap over a flip of dark hair.

“So much for the night off.” Peabody studied the victim. “Then again, she’s got nothing but nights off now.”

“Seal up. I want to turn her. First on scene reports the wound’s at the base of her neck.”

Peabody stripped off her outdoor gear, sealed up. “I’d just ordered a bowl of minestrone. McNab offered to come with, but I told him to eat, and take mine to go. I figured if you wanted EDD, we’d just tag him.”

Since Eve considered Peabody’s skinny, wildly fashionable main man an e-ace, if she did, she would.

Together, they turned the body. Eve parted the victim’s blood-matted blond hair.

“Single puncture wound, base of the skull. Not a flat blade. Stiletto maybe, or an ice pick. Hand me microgoggles.”

Eve fit them on, her eyes huge and whiskey brown behind the lenses as she leaned over. “Smooth, small, and deep. Looks about three inches deep. No hesitation marks visible.”

She rocked back on her heels, still crouched on long legs as she studied the chair.

“The killer had to be sitting right behind her. I can’t see any angle to the wound. The theater’s dark, people are watching the screen. All he has to do is lean up a little and jam it into her. In and out. A couple of seconds. If this hit the brain stem, she wouldn’t even have time to say ouch.”

She stood now, hooked her thumbs in the front pockets of her trousers. A tall woman and lean with it, she took a penlight from the kit to examine the aisle, the seat directly behind the victim’s.

“You can call in the sweepers. Long shot he left any trace on the seat—or that we’ll be able to separate it from the hundreds of other asses who’ve sat in it—but maybe we’ll get lucky.”

She scanned the space, raking her fingers through her short chop of brown hair. “No cams in the theater. I’ve got a uniform getting security discs from the lobby, the concession area, anywhere there are cams. A place this size …”

“Ten theaters, two floors, with the two mega screens upstairs,” Peabody supplied. “This is one of the smaller theaters in here, mostly for classic vids. Looks like, what, it holds maybe three hundred.”

“Two seventy-five.” Eve had already checked. “Uniforms have over a hundred people holding in the theater next door. The friend of the vic and three potential wits holding in another. Call the dead wagon, Peabody, and let’s get a uniform to sit with her until she’s bagged and tagged.”

“She was really pretty.”

“Yeah, I bet that’s a comfort to her now.”

She retrieved her coat, scanning, thinking, assessing as she put it on. “It’s cold. Cold and precise. And cowardly. A stab in the back, in the dark. Didn’t need to see her face, to watch her die, so some emotional detachment.”

Eve took one last look at the body—objective, but not detached. Chanel Rylan was hers now, and that was as attached as it could get.

“Start with the big group,” she told Peabody as they walked out. “Hold on to anyone sitting in the vic’s section, or directly across the aisle. Anyone who touched the body.”

“The killer could be one of them. Could still be here.”

“Could be,” Eve agreed. “That would be ballsy. Stab in the back in the dark, not ballsy. But killing in public, even in the dark, takes some balls. We need a search for the weapon. All bins and recyclers, all areas. If the killer hung in, he had to ditch the weapon.”

Eve paused a moment in the wide, dimly lit corridor that led to the various theaters. “Me? I’d do the jab, stick the weapon back in my pocket, and slip out.”

Hands on hips, she studied the setup. “Who’s going to notice? Somebody needs a pit stop, wants more popcorn. He wouldn’t even have to leave the building. He could just walk into one of the other theaters down here, take a seat in the back.

“We need to check and see what time the other vids let out, which ones ended before the body was discovered. If any did, he could have just walked out like the rest.”

Eve signaled to a uniform. “Nobody touches or uses any trash bin or recycler. I want the sweepers to do a full search. That includes bathrooms. Which theater houses the audience from the crime scene?”

“That’s number one, Lieutenant. A Dog and His Day. Kid-friendly early show. It let out at eighteen-thirty-five, so it was between shows when first on scene arrived to secure the scene.”

“That answers that,” Eve murmured. “Peabody, start in theater one. Where’s the friend of the victim?”

“We’ve got her and three others in separate areas in number five. The three jumped in to try to assist, compromised the body and the scene. All three were seated in the proximity of the victim.”

“Okay. Peabody, go ahead and pull in McNab. We’re going to need more hands anyway, and he’s likely to get here and review the security feed before either of us finish with the wits.”

“Will do. Dallas, some of the wits are probably going to need to use the bathroom before we’re done.”

“Hell, you’re right. Officer, have a team clear the unisex facilities on the second level. Odds are slim the killer went up there to ditch the weapon, if he did ditch it. But clear it first—sealed up and on record. Anyone who needs to go needs to be accompanied by an officer. One at a time, and the facility is subsequently recleared before the next. Got that?”

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