J. D. Robb
Loyalty in Death
Eve Dallas and husband Roarke #10
We are Cassandra.
It has begun.
All we have worked for, all we have trained for, all we have sacrificed for is in place. A dawn after so long a twilight. The goals set over thirty years ago will be achieved. The promises made will be kept. And the martyr's blood that was shed avenged at long last.
We know you are concerned. We know you are cautious. This is what makes you a wise general. Believe that we have taken your counsel and your warnings to heart. We do not break the moratorium on this righteous and bitter war with a battle we intend to lose. We are well-equipped, our cause well-financed, and all steps and options have been considered.
We send this transmission to you, dear friend and Comrade, as we joyfully prepare to continue our mission. Already, first blood has been spilled, and we rejoice. Circumstances have put an opponent in our path you would find worthy. We have attached to this transmission a dossier on Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the so-called New York City Police and Security Department so that you might familiarize yourself with this adversary.
Through the defeat of this enemy, our victory will be all the sweeter. She is, after all, another symbol of the corrupt and oppressive system we will destroy.
Your wise counsel directed us to this place. We have lived among these pitiful pawns of a weak-kneed society, wearing our smiling mask as we scorn their city and their system of repression and decay. We have to their blind eyes become one of them. No one questions us as we move about these immoral and filthy streets. We are invisible, a shadow among shadows as you, and the one we both loved, taught us the canniest soldier must be.
And when we have destroyed, one by one, the symbols of this overfed society, demonstrating our power and our clean-minded plan for the new realm, they will tremble. They will see us, and they will remember him. The first symbol of our glorious victory will be a monument to him. In his image.
We are loyal, and our memory is long.
You will hear the first rumble of battle tomorrow.
Speak of us to all the patriots, to all the loyal.
We are Cassandra.
On this particular night, a beggar died unnoticed under a bench in Greenpeace Park. A history professor fell bloodied, his throat slashed three feet from his front door for the twelve credits in his pocket. A woman choked out one last scream as she crumpled under her lover's pounding fists.
And not yet done, death circled its bony finger, then jabbed it gleefully between the eyes of one J. Clarence Branson, the fifty-year-old co-president of Branson Tools and Toys.
He'd been rich, single, and successful, a jolly man with reason to be as co-owner of a major interplanetary corporation. A second son and the third generation of Bransons to provide the world and its satellites with implements and amusements, he'd lived lavishly.
And had died the same way.
J. Clarence's heart had been skewered with one of his own multi-power porta drills by his steely-eyed mistress, who'd bolted him to the wall with it, reported the incident to the police, then had calmly sat sipping claret until the first officers arrived on the scene.
She continued to sip her drink, settled cozily in a high-backed chair in front of a computer-generated fire while Lieutenant Eve Dallas examined the body.
"He's absolutely dead," she coolly informed Eve. Her name was Lisbeth Cooke, and she made her living as an advertising executive in her deceased lover's company. She was forty, sleekly attractive, and very good at her job. "The Branson 8000 is an excellent product – designed to satisfy both the professional and the hobbyist. It's very powerful and accurate."
"Uh-huh." Eve scanned the victim's face. Pampered and handsome, even though death had etched a look of stunned and sorrowful surprise on his face. Blood soaked through the breast of his blue velvet dressing gown and puddled glossily on the floor. "Sure did the job here. Read Ms. Cooke her rights, Peabody."
While her aide attended to the matter, Eve verified time and cause of death for the record. Even with the voluntary confession, the business of murder would follow routine. The weapon would be taken into evidence, the body transported and autopsied, the scene secured.
Gesturing to the crime scene team to take over, Eve crossed the royal red carpet, sat across from Lisbeth in front of the chirpy fire that blew out lush heat and light. She said nothing for a moment, waiting several beats to see what reaction she might get from the fashionable brunette with fresh blood splattered somehow gaily on her yellow silk jumpsuit.
She got nothing but a politely inquiring stare. "So… you want to tell me about it?"
"He was cheating on me," Lisbeth said flatly. "I killed him."
Eve studied the steady green eyes, saw anger but no shock or remorse. "Did you argue?"
"We had a few words." Lisbeth lifted her claret to full lips painted the same rich tone as the wine. "Most of them mine. J. C. was weak-minded." She shrugged her shoulders and silk rustled. "I accepted that, even found it endearing in many ways. But we had an arrangement. I gave him three years of my life."
Now she leaned forward, eyes snapping with the temper behind the chill. "Three years, during which time I could have pursued other interests, other arrangements, other relationships. But I was faithful. He was not."
She drew in a breath, leaned back again, very nearly smiled. "Now he's dead."
"Yeah, we got that part." Eve heard the ugly suck and scrape as the team struggled to remove the long steel spike from flesh and bone. "Did you bring the drill with you, Ms. Cooke, with the intention of using it as a weapon?"
"No, it's J. C.'s. He putters occasionally. He must have been puttering," she mused with a casual glance toward the body the crime scene team was now removing from the wall in a ghastly ballet of movements. "I saw it there, on the table, and thought, well, that's just perfect, isn't it? So I picked it up, flicked it on. And used it."
It didn't get much simpler, Eve mused, and rose. "Ms. Cooke, these officers will take you down to Cop Central. I'll have some more questions for you."
Obligingly, Lisbeth swallowed the last of the claret, then set the glass aside. "I'll just get my coat."
Peabody shook her head as Lisbeth tossed a full-length black mink over her bloody silks and swept out between two uniforms with all the panache of a woman heading out to the next heady social engagement.
"Man, it takes all kinds. She drills the guy, then hands us the case on a platter."
Eve shrugged into her leather jacket, picked up her field kit. Thoughtfully, she used solvent to clean the blood and Seal-It from her hands. The sweepers would finish up, then secure the scene. "We'll never get her on murder one. That's just what it was, but I'll lay odds it's pleaded down to manslaughter within forty-eight hours."
"Manslaughter?" Genuinely shocked, Peabody gaped at Eve as they stepped into the tiled elevator for the trip down to the lobby level. "Come on, Dallas. No way."
"Here's the way." Eve looked into Peabody 's dark, earnest eyes, studied her square, no-nonsense face under its bowl-cut hair and police-issue hat. And was nearly sorry to cut into that unswerving belief in the system. "If the drill proves to be the victim's, she didn't bring a weapon with her. That cuts down on premeditation. Pride's got her now, and a good dose of mad, but after a few hours in a cell, if not before, survival instinct will kick in, and she'll lawyer up. She's smart, so she'll lawyer smart."
"Yeah, but we've got intent. We've got malice. She just made a statement for the record."
That was the book. As much as Eve believed in the book, she knew the pages often became blurred. "And she doesn't have to renege on it, just embellish it. They argued. She was devastated, upset. Maybe he threatened her. In a moment of passion – or possibly fear – she grabbed the drill."