Выбрать главу

J. D. Robb

Big Jack

A book in the In Death series, 2010

All things change; nothing perishes.


Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways.


Chapter 1

NEW YORK, 2059

She was dying to get home. Knowing her own house, her own bed, her own things were waiting for her made even the filthy afternoon traffic from the airport a pleasure.

There were small skirmishes, petty betrayals, outright treachery and bitter combat among the cabs, commuters and tanklike maxibuses. Overhead, the airtrams, blimps and minishuttles strafed the sky. But watching the traffic wars wage made her antsy enough to imagine herself leaping into the front seat to grab the wheel and plunge into the fray, with a great deal more viciousness and enthusiasm than her driver.

God, she loved New York.

While her driver crept along the FDR as one of the army of vehicles battling their way into the city, she entertained herself by watching the animated billboards. Some were little stories, and as a writer herself, and the lover of a good tale, Samantha Gannon appreciated that.

Observe, she thought, the pretty woman lounging poolside at a resort, obviously alone and lonely while couples splash or stroll. She orders a drink, and with the first sip her eyes meet those of a gorgeous man just emerging from the water. Wet muscles, killer grin. An electric moment that dissolves into a moonlight scene where the now happy couple walk hand in hand along the beach.

Moral? Drink Silby’s Rum and open your world to adventure, romance and really good sex.

It should be so easy.

But then, for some, it was. For her grandparents there’d been an electric moment. Rum hadn’t played a part, at least not in any of the versions she’d heard. But their eyes had met, and something had snapped and sizzled through the bloodstream of fate.

Since they’d be married for fifty-six years this coming fall, whatever that something had been had done a solid job.

And because of it, because fate had brought them together, she was sitting in the back of a big, black sedan, heading uptown, heading toward home, home, home, after two weeks traveling on the bumpy, endless roads of a national book tour.

Without her grandparents, what they’d done, what they’d chosen, there would have been no book. No tour. No homecoming. She owed them all of it-well, not the tour, she amended. She could hardly blame them for that.

She only hoped they were half as proud of her as she was of them.

Samantha E. Gannon, national bestselling author of Hot Rocks.

Was that iced or what?

Hyping the book in fourteen cities-coast to coast-over fifteen days, the interviews, the appearances, the hotels and transport stations had been exhausting.

And, let’s be honest, she told herself, fabulous in its insane way.

Every morning she’d dragged herself from a strange bed, propped open her bleary eyes and stared at the mirror just to be sure she’d see herself staring back. It was really happening, to her, Sam Gannon.

She’d been writing it all of her life, she thought, every time she’d heard the family story, every time she’d begged her grandparents to tell it, wheedled for more details. She’d been honing her craft in every hour she’d spent lying in bed as a child, imagining the adventure.

It had seemed so romantic to her, so exciting. And the best part was that it was her family, her blood.

Her current project was coming along well. She was calling it just Big Jack, and she thought her great-grandfather would have gotten a very large charge out of it.

She wanted to get back to it, to dive headlong into Jack O’Hara’s world of cons and scams and life on the lam. Between the tour and the pretour rounds, she hadn’t had a full hour to write. And she was due.

But she wasn’t going straight to work. She wasn’t going to think about work for at least forty-eight blissful hours. She was going to dump her bags, and she might just burn everything in them. She was going to lock herself in her own wonderful, quiet house. She was going to run a bubble bath, open a bottle of champagne.

She’d soak and she’d drink, then she’d soak and drink some more. If she was hungry, she’d buzz something up in the AutoChef. She didn’t care what it was because it would be her food, in her kitchen.

Then she was going to sleep for ten hours.

She wasn’t going to answer the telelink. She’d contacted her parents, her brother, her sister, her grandparents from the air, and told them all she was going under for a couple of days. Her friends and business associates could wait a day or two. Since she’d ended what had passed for a relationship over a month before, there wasn’t any man waiting for her.

That was probably just as well.

She sat up when the car veered toward the curb. Home! She’d been drifting, she realized, lost in her own thoughts, as usual, and hadn’t realized she was home.

She gathered her notebook, her travel bag. Riding on delight, she overtipped the driver when he hauled her suitcase and carry-on to the door for her. She was so happy to see him go, so thrilled that he’d be the last person she’d have to speak to until she decided to surface again, she nearly kissed him on the mouth.

Instead, she resisted, waved him off, then dragged her things into the tiny foyer of what her grandmother liked to call Sam’s Urban Doll House.

“I’m back!” She leaned against the door, breathed deep, then did a hip-shaking, shoulder-rolling dance across the floor. “Mine, mine, mine. It’s all mine. Baby, I’m back!”

She stopped short, arms still flung out in her dance of delight, and gaped at her living area. Tables and chairs were overturned, and her lovely little settee was lying on its back like a turtle on its shell. Her screen was off the wall and lay smashed in the middle of the floor, along with her collection of framed family photos and holograms. The walls had been stripped of paintings and prints.

Sam slapped both hands to her head, fisted her fingers in her short red hair and let out a bellow. “For God’s sake, Andrea! House-sitting doesn’t mean you actually sit on the goddamn house.”

Having a party was one thing, but this was… just beyond. She was going to kick some serious ass.

She yanked her pocket ’link out of her jacket and snapped out the name. “Andrea Jacobs. Former friend,” she added on a mutter as the transmission went through. Gritting her teeth, she spun on her heel and headed out of the room, started up the stairs as she listened to Andrea’s recorded message.

“What the hell did you do?” she barked into the ’link, “set off a bomb? How could you do this, Andrea? How could you destroy my things and leave this mess for me to come home to? Where the hell are you? You’d better be running for your life, because when I get my hands… Jesus Christ, what is that smell! I’m going to kill you for this, Andrea.”

The stench was so strong, she was forced to cover her mouth with her hand as she booted open the bedroom door. “It reeks in here, and, oh God, oh God, my bedroom. I’m never going to forgive you. I swear to God, Andrea, you’re dead. Lights!” she snapped out.

And when they flashed on, when she blinked her eyes clear, she saw Andrea sprawled on the floor on a heap of stained bedclothes.

She saw she was right. Andrea was dead.

She’d nearly been out the door. Five more minutes and she’d have been off shift and heading home. Odds were someone else would have caught the case. Someone else would be spending a steaming summer night dealing with a bloater.

She’d barely closed the last case and that had been a horror.

But Andrea Jacobs was hers now. For better, for worse.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas breathed through a filtered mask. They didn’t really work and looked, in her opinion, ridiculous, but it helped cut down on the worst of the smell when you were dealing with the very ripe dead.