Saying nothing, Eve lifted the lid of the bakery box on her desk, took out a fat chocolate chip. “What do you want?”
“A man of amazing sexual prowess, great sensitivity, stupendous abs, and the face of an angel. Toss in a wicked sense of humor and stupendous wealth, who adores the very ground I walk on. Oh wait, you already have him.”
Eve bit into the cookie.
Nadine fluffed back her streaky blond hair, smiled her feline smile with her cat’s eyes glinting. “I heard you caught a messy one.”
“That’s right. I don’t have anything to give you. I haven’t put it together yet.”
“Three victims, beaten, stabbed, and strangled, recovering addicts with a connection to the Whitwood Group—killed, in fact, on property owned by same. The Whitwoods are always a strong story.”
“The victims are the story.”
“I know.” Nadine’s smile faded. “They were young, trying to turn things around. Are you looking at gang and/or illegalsrelated murders?”
“I’m looking at everything, everyone.”
“Including the Whitwoods, and the very dreamy Justin Rosenthall.”
“Including.” Nadine, Eve calculated, was always a good source. “What do you know about Eton Billingsly?”
“He’s a dick.”
“I got that much.”
“Is he a suspect?”
“Nadine, it’s too early.”
“Well, I hope he is, because he’s, as I said, a dick. Comes from money. Not quite on the Whitwood level, but he’s got a fat portfolio. He also seriously courted the lovely Arianna, who fell head over skirt for Rosenthall—who is not a dick. I don’t know much about him, but I can find out.”
“I’m working on it.” Eve took another bite of cookie. Damn fine cookie. “What else do you want?”
“You’re just back from closing a big one in Dallas. Isaac McQueen—the second time you took him down. It’s a hot story, Dallas. Him coming after you, abducting one of his former victims. I want you to come on Now and talk about it.”
Eve set the cookie aside. Damn fine or not, her appetite dried up. “I’m not going to do that.”
Before she could say anything else, Nadine held up a hand. “And I’m not going to press you. I had to ask.”
“It’s not like you to give up so easy.”
Nadine recrossed her legs. “A couple of years ago when you and I hooked up over the DeBlass case, I did a little research. I like to know who I’m working with.”
Eve said nothing.
“It’s not easy getting much background on you, but I know you were found in Dallas when you were a child, and you’d been . . . hurt. The reporter wants an interview, Dallas, but the friend won’t push. Friendship’s stronger than a story.”
“Okay.” And it was.
“When you get something on this new case, maybe you can give me a heads-up.”
“Maybe I could. You should contact Bree and Melinda Jones,” Eve said as Nadine rose. “You should go to Dallas, where it happened, talk to them there.”
“I intended to contact them.” Nadine angled her head. “An on-location special? That’s not bad. Some of it in the apartment where he kept Melinda Jones and the girl, some in the hotel suite where he came after you. No, that’s not half-bad. I’ve got to go.”
At the door, Nadine paused, glanced back. “Dallas, anytime you want to talk to the friend, about any of it, the reporter will step back.”
“I appreciate it.”
Alone, Eve turned to her ’link and contacted another friend. She was shuffled directly to Dr. Louise Dimatto’s v-mail, left a message asking for a meeting.
Rising, she programmed coffee, then began to set up her board. She’d work better with the visuals.
When she finished, she started her report.
“That’s particularly gruesome,” Roarke said from her doorway.
Nadine had been right, Eve thought, in her summary of him. Oh, she’d left a few things out, but all in all. He did have the face of an angel, a fallen one, with the wings well-singed, but that only made him more compelling. That and those wildly blue eyes, the silky black hair. He wore one of his sharp business suits, but there was no asshole vibe here as with Billingsly.
This was power, success, sex, and danger all rolled into one streamlined package with Ireland gilding his voice.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I had business nearby, and took a chance I’d see my wife. And here she is. This is new,” he said, looking at her board again.
“Caught it this morning. Oh, Justin Rosenthall and Arianna Whitwood say hi.”
“Is that so?” He shifted his gaze back to her. “What would they have to do with this?”
“That’s a question. How well do you know them?”
“Not that well.” He ran a hand absently over Eve’s shoulder as he moved closer to the board. “Surface, socially, charitable foundation events sort of knowing. He’s intense without being preachy, and she’s dedicated without being tiresome. And they both put their time and effort into their particular cause.”
“Git,” Roarke said, using his childhood slang in insult.
“Maybe you can elaborate on that later, but right now I have to—” She broke off, answered her ’link.
“I’ve got the sketch, Lieutenant,” Yancy told her. “I think you’re going to want to see it.”
“On my way.”
She clicked off, rose.
“Why not have it sent to your comp?”
“Because he’s going to want to explain it to me.” She thought of the description. “You can tag along.”
“Why not, since it’s unlikely I can talk you into a late lunch or early dinner.” He flipped open the bakery box, helped himself to a cookie. “This will have to do. I haven’t had time to monitor the police reports,” he added as they walked. “Tell me about the case.”
She did as they used the glides to get to Yancy’s level.
“A strong Whitwood-Rosenthall connection,” he commented. “As I said, I don’t know them well, but I can’t see them involved in that. Unfortunately, I can’t see Billingsly involved either. Certainly he wouldn’t stoop to getting his hands dirty.”
“People who work with addicts, day in, day out, sometimes end up using themselves. Maybe one, or more than one of them, gets in too deep. Newly recoverings can be like converts. Fervent. One of them finds out, threatens to spill it. Reputation’s ruined, the Center blackened, blah, blah.
“Whoever did it had some medical training,” she added. “Morris confirms the amputations weren’t the work of an amateur.”
“Any number of people at the Center and Get Straight would have medical training.”
“Yeah, and I’m going to look at all of them.”
She moved through Yancy’s division, straight to the glass cube where she saw him and a woman in her early thirties with a baby on her lap.
Yancy gave Eve a nod.
“Cynthia, this is Lieutenant Dallas. LT, Cynthia Kopel—and Lilian.”
“Thanks for coming in Ms. Kopel.”
“I’m happy to. I only wish I’d contacted the police last night, when I saw him. But I just thought it was some crazy. I didn’t know about those people until Officer Slovic knocked on the door today.”
As she spoke, the baby sucked heroically on one of the plugs parents used to keep babies from screaming—as far as Eve knew.
“We appreciate your cooperation and information. Can I see the sketch?”
Yancy exchanged a look with the witness, and Cynthia sighed. “It’s what I saw. I know how it looks, but it’s what I saw.”
Eve held out a hand for the printout. And when Yancy gave it to her, looked at the face of a monster.
The crooked jaw accented a twisted mouth with teeth long, sharp, and prominent. A thin nose hooked over it. The eyes bulged and gleamed red against skin of pale, sickly green. Hair fell in oily twists over a wide forehead, over ears with a defined point, nearly to the shoulders of a swirled black cape.
“I know how it looks,” Cynthia repeated, bouncing the baby on her knee either out of nerves or habit. “I know I sound like a nutcase, but I’m not. I got a good look because he was dancing around in the streetlight, like it was a spotlight on a stage. Just weird. Well, I thought—after it scared the hell out of me for a second—just some weird guy. But then when the police came and said those three people had been murdered right across the street . . .”