Home > In Death #28 - Promises in Death(8)

In Death #28 - Promises in Death(8)
Author: J.D. Robb

Eve let Peabody have her moment. Easier, she knew, to think about crazy sex than the murder of another cop, than the grief of a colleague and friend.

The moment passed soon enough. Once they arrived at the morgue, started down the long white-tiled tunnel, the mood shifted. It wasn’t just death, it wasn’t just murder. Nipping and gnawing at objectivity were the keen teeth of personal loss.

They crossed paths with a tech who stopped, slid her hands into the pockets of her long, white coat. “Ah, Clipper’s using Morris’s suite. I don’t know if he—if Morris is going to check in or anything, so maybe when you talk to him you could tell him . . . We’re all here.”

“Okay.”

“Whatever we can do.” The tech shrugged helplessly, said, “Hell,” and strode away.

Eve moved on to the autopsy room where Morris habitually did his work. In his place stood ME Ty Clipper, a solid six feet with a muscular body clad in a pale blue shirt and khaki pants. He’d rolled up his sleeves neatly to the elbow, donned a clear cape.

He wore his hair in a close-cropped skullcap. A short, neat goatee added a hint of edge to his conservative attire, and interest to his angular face. But with Clipper it was all about the eyes. Huge, heavy-lidded, they were the color of crystallized amber and a jolt of contrast to his dark skin.

“I haven’t finished. I’m sorry.” His voice held a hint of his native Cuba.

“What can you tell me?”

“She wasn’t raped. There’s no evidence of sexual assault, or sexual activity. That would matter to Morris.”

“Yes, it will.” Like a murmur in the background a man sang a plea to someone named Layla. “Is that Eric Clapton?”

“Yes.”

“That’ll matter to him, too.” Eve set it aside, stepped forward.

Coltraine lay on the slab. “No defensive wounds.” Eve studied the body now as she would any piece of evidence. “No signs of violence other than the throat burns.”

“There are minor bruises on her shoulder blades, and the back of her head.” Clipper gestured to the comp screen, called up the scan. “Of the sort you’d incur by knocking back against a wall.”

“She was shoved, pushed.”

“Possibly. Death ensued soon after. The burns on the throat are consistent with a stunner pressed to the area. Contact burns. Have you found her weapon?”

“No.”

“Until you do, I can’t confirm it was the murder weapon, or if another was used. Only that the wounds are consistent with contact burns from a police-issue.”

“If her own weapon was used, how the hell did he disarm her? Shoves her back, she hits the wall. It’s not enough, not for a cop. There aren’t any cuts, no evidence of restraints.” Because he didn’t offer, as Morris would have, Eve picked up a pair of microgoggles herself, leaned over Coltraine to examine. “No abrasions on her wrists, her ankles. Here. Right here. On her biceps. Pressure syringe?”

“I believe so.”

“How did he get close enough to her, without her putting up a fight, to drug her?”

“I have the tox screen flagged priority. You’re right that there are no signs of violence outside the body. But there are, in.”

Eve glanced up at Clipper, then shifted to study what the precise Y-cut revealed. “What am I looking for?”

“Her internal organs show signs of distress.”

“Dying will do that.” But she followed him, looked closer. “She took a hit?”

“I need to complete more tests before I can be sure. I understand you want quick answers,” he added at Eve’s hiss of impatience. “But—”

She shook her head, willed herself to throttle back. “Morris wanted you because, I’d say, you’re thorough and you’re precise. Give me best guess. I won’t hold you to it.”

“A high-range stun, frontal assault. No more than three- to five-feet distance. A body shot.”

“Which would have taken her down, down and out. She takes a hit, it knocks her back against the wall—in the stairwell, and she goes down. He has to get her down to the basement. No signs she was dragged. So he has to carry her. Or there could have been more than one assailant. Carry her down. Why not just finish her off in the stairwell and be done with it?

“Because there was something they wanted, something to say, something they needed her to say, to tell them,” Eve continued. “So he/they cart her down, and they bring her back with a jolt—a hit of amphetamine, adrenaline.” Pain, Eve thought, they’d brought her back to pain. Helpless. Body paralyzed from the stun, mind aware. “To tell her something, to ask her something. And when they finished, they shut her down. She’d have known it was coming. When they pressed the stunner to her throat, she’d have known.”

She pulled off the goggles, tossed them aside. “They used her weapon. They used it to kill her because it’s more insulting, more demeaning. Ambushed her in the stairway, dropped her. Carried her down, jolted her back, took her out. In somewhere around twenty minutes. That’s quick. Took her weapon, ID, badge, ’link, jewelry. Why the jewelry? The rest makes sense. It’s professional, but the jewelry’s amatuer hour. So why? Just because you can? Just because you want? Souveniers, mementos?”

“Because it left her with nothing?” Peabody voiced the question. “It strips her. They leave her dressed, maybe because it’s not about that kind of power or violence, even that kind of humiliation. But they take what’s important to her, and leave her on the floor. With nothing.”

“Maybe.” Eve nodded. “Maybe so. I don’t think Morris will come in today,” Eve said to Clipper. “But if he does, do whatever you have to do, whatever it takes, to keep him away from her until she’s . . .”

“I will.”

3

EVE MOVED QUICKLY THROUGH CENTRAL. SHE took the glides rather than the elevator to avoid getting into a box with other cops. She passed enough of them—uniforms, softclothes, detectives, brass—to know word had spread.

When she turned into her own bullpen, all movement, all chatter ceased. And, she knew, it had to be addressed.

“At twenty-three forty last night, Detective Amaryllis Coltraine was murdered by person or persons unknown. Every member of this division is hereby notified, or will be notified, that any scheduled leave may, and likely will, be cancelled until this case is closed. I will clear overtime for any and all who are tapped to join the investigative team. Any of you who require personal or hardship leave in the interim will have to clear it with me, and will have to make it damn good.

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