Home > Dark in Death (In Death #46)(15)

Dark in Death (In Death #46)(15)
Author: J.D. Robb

“Give me a second.” Mira pulled out her pocket ’link, said, “Dennis.” A moment later Eve heard his voice—warm, distracted.

“Charlie.”

“I know you’re on your way to class, but I have a quick question. In the Dark series, are the murder victims primarily female?”

“It’s her specialty, you could say. You see, after her friend’s sister was killed in Dark Falls, and Deann becomes embittered by the restrictions on police work, she devotes herself to female victims. There are male victims throughout, of course, but—”

“The primary victims are female.”

“That’s the framework of the series. This becomes her mission, her raison d’être. You must read them, Charlie. They’re very cleverly done.”

“I will. In fact, I’m going to reread Dark Falls tonight.”

“We’ll snuggle up together. You look so pretty.”

“Dennis, I adore you. I’ll see you later. Have a good day.”

Still smiling, Mira slipped the ’link back in her jacket pocket. “It’s nice when the man you’ve been married to for decades still thinks you’re pretty.”

“You are pretty.”

“Thank you. It takes considerably more work than it once did. I know you have to get back, and I have another consult, but I think this is another key factor. Female victims. It may be yet another reason the killer focused on this series—and one written by a female. Women may be seen as weak or competition. He may be impotent. She, if it’s a she, may be jealous of what she sees as female power. But female victims, female protagonist, female creator. I doubt that’s insignificant.”

“It won’t be. I appreciate the time. And I’d appreciate hearing about it if Mr. Mira has any more insights.”

“He’ll be thrilled.” Mira rose, walked Eve to the door. “Good luck. I’ll send you a formal profile.” Then she turned to her admin as Eve left. “Would you download the novel Dark Falls by Blaine DeLano? And the book that follows in the series. To my tablet, please.”

Eve contacted Peabody. “Grab my coat and stuff, meet me in the garage. We’ll take the victim’s residence, then the theater.”

She aimed for an elevator, jabbed the call button as she calculated working in a visit to DeLano’s ex, work or home. The door opened to reveal a pair of uniforms struggling with a guy with mad tufts of hair, unlaced knee boots, and a flapping topcoat covered in what appeared to be weird symbols drawn on with some sort of metallic marker.

He actually had tinfoil capped and peaked on his head.

“They’re coming!” He screamed it, eyes bulging in Eve’s direction. “They eat your brains while you sleep. They look like us, but they’re not. Only the Sign of Umberto can protect you. Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!”

Eve opted for the stairs.

She still beat Peabody and had time to lean against her car, check the victim’s address, the theater’s, check Craig Jefferson’s home and work on his official ID.

She took a minute to study him. What most would call good-looking—a good head of styled hair, a smooth face. And a smug look in his eyes she’d have noticed even without knowing he was an asshole.

A marketing executive for some company that made health food, vitamins, supplements.

For the hell of it, she looked up his current wife. Younger than DeLano, she noted, by six years, but the man had a type. Same coloring as wife number one, same build. First marriage for her, and a listing as professional mother.

She put her PPC away when she heard Peabody’s boots.

Eve swung on her coat, stuffed the scarf and hat in pockets for later, and got behind the wheel. “Diaz?”

“Was happy to help. She comes off genuinely fond of DeLano, and rates the ex as low on the murdering bastard list. She pegs him as more of a sniveling, abusive coward with a massive ego and a hard-on—in the nonsexual way—for women. Unless they’re, in Diaz’s term, of the Breed and Bake category. Outside that, they’re bitches. She’s happy to put the word in with her former LT, ask him to share her case file on the Jefferson arrest. She says he broke pretty fast once they put him in the box—hence the sniveling. But coated it with badass attitude.”

“I lean toward her take, but we’ll look at him because the killer likely has that same hard-on for women.”

She filled Peabody in on the consult with Mira as they shoved their way to the victim’s theater district apartment.

“I should’ve flipped to it,” Peabody said. “The female angle. The writer, the central character, the primary vics throughout the series. I think it’s a solid angle. And you can take it further. The writer lives in a female household. Her mother and two daughters.”

Peabody glanced over. “You’ve already gone there.”

“It’s in the mix. We can look at it two ways: either the killer’s male with that hard-on for women, or the killer’s female to keep it consistent. That doesn’t narrow it down.”

When Eve spotted a street slot within a block of her target, she considered it her lucky day. She hit vertical, ignored Peabody’s muffled squeal, zipped over traffic, and dropped between a bunged-up rattle-trap and a filthy sedan, with a couple inches to spare.

“I would’ve been all right with walking,” Peabody managed. “I would’ve been all right with it.”

“Good, because you score a slot like this, you keep it. We’ll hike it to the theater from here after we check out the apartment.”

“It’s because I bought that Danish on the way into Central. I wasn’t going to, I told myself not to. But it was right there, all glossy and full of the gooey yumness. McNab ate two, but does his skinny ass care? No, it does not.”

“I thought you had loose pants.”

“I took them in as an incentive.” Peabody checked her waistband as they hoofed to the building. “Maybe I should’ve left them loose as a reminder.”

“Your ass is smaller.”

Peabody stopped dead, jaw dropping. “What did you say?”

“I’ve got eyes.” Eve kept walking, forcing Peabody to jog to catch up. “They don’t latch themselves onto your ass, but I’ve got eyes.”

“I want to kiss you on the mouth. With tongue.”

“Try it and your marginally smaller ass will have my boot marks imprinted thereon.”

“It could be worth it.”

Eve pressed the buzzer on the narrow door between a store called Center Stage and a tat and piercing parlor.

Lola’s voice came tinny through the speaker. “Yes?”

“Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody.”

“Okay.” The door buzzed, clicked.

Eve took one look at the skinny elevator with its dented door in the tiny lobby and took the stairs.

“Fourth floor.” Peabody sighed. “It’s definitely the fault of the Danish.”

“We play the angles with her. She’s had some time to settle. Did she notice anybody she saw repeatedly at the vids, especially over the last couple of months? Somebody she saw in the neighborhood, somebody Rylan commented on. You talk to her while I take a look at the vic’s bedroom.”

“Got it.”

Lola stood in the doorway, nibbling on a thumbnail. She’d had time to settle, Eve thought, and had spent a lot of it weeping.

“Chanel. Do you know who …”

“Not yet, but finding who is our top priority. Can we come in?”

“Yeah, sure. Ah, this is DeVon.”

The tall, skinny black man with wild, red-tipped dreads appeared to have done some weeping of his own. He offered a hand.

“I live across the hall. I can go. I just didn’t want Lola to be alone.”

“Can he stay? Please? Is that all right?”

“You know Chanel, Mr. …?”

“It’s Monrow, but it’s just DeVon. I knew our Chanel. I’m a costume designer. Chanel and I worked on the same play a couple of times.”

His huge dark eyes teared up, but when Lola let out a broken sob, he put an arm around her shoulders, blinked away threatening tears. “Come on now, my baby girl, you sit down. I’m going to make you some more tea. Can I make some for both of you?”

“I’m good, thanks. I’d like to see Chanel’s room.”

“I’ll show you. No, you sit down, baby.” He nudged her into a chair with a colorful print, tucked a bright blue throw around her legs. “I’ll be right back. It’s just over here, ma’am.”

“Lieutenant,” Eve said, and followed him to the right.

DeVon stepped into the room with Eve, lowered his voice. “She hasn’t slept all night. She came home early this morning after trying to settle herself down with this guy she’s seeing. Just needed to come home, and came over to get me. I didn’t want to leave her alone. I can step out until you’re done, if you’d rather.”

“She’d tell you everything we did or said anyway, and it’s clear she needs someone. You make her the tea. But let me ask you if you noticed anyone in the neighborhood, anyone who looked like they might be watching the building, anyone hanging around the theater, the market Chanel used, the vids—if you ever went with them.”

“I’d go sometimes, but I don’t remember anybody who stood out. We haven’t—hadn’t—worked at the same theater in about seven months. I do the market more than Chanel did. Lola’d do most of that, I guess. I wish I’d noticed somebody. Anybody. She was just a sweetheart. When the man I thought was the love of my life dumped me eight weeks and three days ago? Chanel and Lola were right there, right there for me. I don’t want Lola to be alone.”

“Go ahead and be with her.”

He nodded, took a damp-eyed look around the room, managed a smile. “She liked happy, Chanel did. She liked pretty, bright, and happy.”

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