J. D. Robb
Survivor in Death
No affairs. No criminal connections. No DNA. No clues. Eve Dallas may be the best cop in the city-not to mention having the lavish resources of her husband, Roarke, at her disposal-but the Swisher case has her baffled. The family members were murdered in their beds with brutal, military precision. The state-of-the-art security was breached, and the killers used night vision equipment to find their way through the upper middle-class house. Clearly, Dallas is dealing with pros. The only mistake they made was to overlook the nine-year-old girl cowering in the dark kitchen…
Now Nixie Swisher is an orphan-and the sole eyewitness to a seemingly inexplicable crime. Kids are not Dallas 's strong suit. But Nixie needs a safe place to stay, and Dallas needs to solve this case. Not only because of the promise she made to Nixie. Not only for the cause of justice. But also to put to rest some of her own darkest memories-and deepest fears. With her partner, Peabody, on the job, and watching her back-and with Roarke providing the kind of help that only he can give-Lieutenant Eve Dallas is running after shadows, and dead set on finding out who's behind them.
Eve Dallas and husband Roarke #23
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy Family is unhappy in its own way.
LEO NIKOLAEVICH TOLSTOI
A LATE-NIGHT URGE FOR AN ORANGE FIZZY SAVED NIXIE'S life. When she woke, she could see by the luminous dial of the jelly-roll wrist unit she was never without that it was after two in the morning.
She wasn't allowed to snack between meals, except for items on he mother's approved list. And two in the morning was way between.
But she was dying for an Orange Fizzy.
She rolled over and whispered to her best friend in the entire galaxy Linnie Dyson. They were having a school-night sleepover because Linnie's mom and dad were celebrating their anniversary in some fancy hotel.
So they could have sex. Mom and Mrs. Dyson said it was so the could have a fancy dinner and go dancing and crap-o, but it was for sex. Jee-zus, she and Linnie were nine, not two. They knew what was what-o.
Besides, like they gave a woo. The whole deal meant Mom-the Rule Monster-bent the rules about school nights. Even if they'd had to turn the lights out at nine-thirty-were they two?-she and Linnie had the most magolicious time.
And school was still hours away, and she was thirsty. So she poked Linnie and whispered again.
“Nuh. Not morning. Still dark.”
“It is morning. It's two in the morning.” That's why it was so frosty. “I want an Orange Fizzy. Let's go down and get one. We can split it.”
Linnie only made grunting, mumbling noises, rolled away, and tugged the covers nearly over her head.
“Well, I'm going,” Nixie said in the same hissy whisper.
It wasn't as much fun on her own, but she'd never get back to sleep now, thinking of the Fizzy. She had to go all the way down to the kitchen because her mother wouldn't allow her to have an AutoChef in her room. Might as well be in prison, Nixie thought, as she scooted out of bed. Might as well be in prison in 1950 or something instead of her own house in 2059.
Mom had even put child codes on all the household AutoChefs so the only thing Nixie or her brother, Coyle, could program was health sludge.
Might as well eat mud.
Her father said, “Rules is rules.” He liked to say that a lot. But sometimes he'd wink at her or Coyle when their mother was out and order up some ice cream or potato crispies.
Nixie sort of thought her mom knew and pretended she didn't.
She tiptoed out of her room, a pretty little girl, just going gangly, with a wavy mass of platinum blonde hair. Her eyes, a pale, pale blue, were already adjusted to the dark.
Still, her parents always kept a low light on in the bathroom at the end of the hall, in case anybody had to get up and pee or whatever.
She held her breath as she walked by her brother's room. If he woke, he might tell. He could be a complete butt-pain. Then again, sometimes he could be pretty chilly. For a moment, she hesitated, considered sneaking in, waking him, and talking him into keeping her company for the adventure.
Nah. It was sort of juicy to be creeping around the house by herself. She held her breath again as she eased by her parents' room, hoping she could stay-for once-under her mother's radar.
Nothing and no one stirred as she crept down the stairs.
But even when she got downstairs, she was mouse quiet. She still had to get by Inga, their housekeeper, who had rooms right off the kitchen. Right off the target. Inga was mostly okay, but she'd never let her get away with an Orange Fizzy in the middle of the night.
Rules is rules.
So she didn't turn on any lights, and snuck through the rooms, into the big kitchen like a thief. It only added to the thrill. No Orange Fizzy would ever taste as frigid as this one, she thought.
She eased open the refrigerator. It occurred to her, suddenly, that maybe her mother counted stuff like this. Maybe she kept a kind of tally of soft drinks and snack food.
But she was past the point of no return. If she had to pay a price for the prize, she'd worry about paying it later.
With the goal in hand, she shuffled to the far end of the kitchen where she could keep an eye on the door to Inga's rooms and duck behind the island counter if she had to.
In the shadows, she broke the seal on the tube, took the first forbidden sip.
It pleased her so much, she slipped onto the bench in what her mother called the breakfast area, and prepared to enjoy every drop.
She was just settling in when she heard a noise and dived down to lie on the bench. From beneath it, she saw a movement and thought: Busted!
But the shadow slipped along the far counter, to the door of Inga's room, and inside.
A man. Nixie had to slap a hand on her mouth to stifle a giggle. Inga had a boogie buddy! And she was so old-had to be at least forty. It looked like Mr. and Mrs. Dyson weren't the only ones having sex tonight.
Unable to resist, she left the Orange Fizzy on the bench and slid out. She just had to look, just had to see. So she crept over to the open door, eased inside Inga's little parlor, and toward the open bedroom door. She squatted down on all fours, poked her head in the opening.
Wait until she told Linnie! Linnie would be so jealous.
With her hand over her mouth again, her eyes bright with laughter, Nixie scooted, angled her head.
And saw the man slit Inga's throat.
She saw the blood, a wild gush of it. Heard a horrible, gurgling grunt. Eyes glazed now, she reared back, her breath hissing and hitching into her palm. Unable to move, she sat, her back pressed to the wall and her heart booming inside her chest.
He came out, walked right by her, and out the open door.
Tears spilled out of her eyes, down her spread fingers. Every part of her shook as she crawled over, using a chair as a shield, and reached up to the table for Inga's pocket link.
She hissed for emergency.
“He's killed her, he's killed her. You have to come.” She whispered the words, ignoring the questions the voice recited. “Right now. Come right now.” And gave the address.
She left the 'link on the floor, continued to crawl until she'd reached the narrow steps that led from Inga's parlor to the second level.
She wanted her mommy.
She didn't run, didn't dare. She didn't stand. Her legs felt funny, empty, like the bones in them had melted. She started to belly crawl across the hall, sobs stuck in her throat. And to her horror, she saw the shadow-two shadows now. One went into her room, the other into Coyle's.