Origin in Death:In Death 21

By: J. D. Robb


DEATH SMILED AT HER, AND KISSED HER GENTLY ON THE cheek. He had nice eyes. She knew they were blue, but not like the blue in her box of crayons. She was allowed to draw with them for one hour every day. She liked coloring best of all.

She could speak three languages, but she was having trouble with the Cantonese. She could draw the figures, and loved to make the lines and shapes. But it was hard for her to see them as words.

She couldn’t read very well in any of the languages, and knew the man she and her sisters called Father was concerned.

She forgot things she was supposed to remember, but he never punished her—not like others did when he wasn’t there. She thought of them as The Others, who helped the father teach her and care for her. But when he wasn’t there, and she made a mistake, they did something that hurt her, and made her body jump.

She wasn’t allowed to tell the father.

The father was always nice, just like he was now, when he sat beside her, holding her hand.

It was time for another test. She and her sisters took a lot of tests, and sometimes the man she called Father got wrinkles in his forehead, or a sad look in his eyes when she couldn’t do all the steps. In some of the tests he had to stick her with a needle, or hook machines to her head. She didn’t like those tests very much, but she pretended she was drawing with her crayons until they were over.

She was happy, but sometimes she wished they could go outside instead of pretending to go outside. The hologram programs were fun, and she liked the picnic with the puppy best of all. But whenever she asked if she could have a real puppy, the man she called Father just smiled and said, “Some day.”

She had to study a lot. It was important to learn all that could be learned, and to know how to speak and dress and play music, and discuss everything she’d learned or read or seen on-screen during her lessons.

She knew her sisters were smarter, faster, but they never teased her. They were allowed to play together for an hour in the morning and an hour before bed, every day.

That was even better than the picnic with the puppy.

She didn’t understand loneliness, or might have known she was lonely.

When Death took her hand, she lay quietly and prepared to do her best.

“This will make you feel sleepy,” he told her in his kind voice.

He’d brought the boy today. She liked when he brought the boy, though it made her feel shy. He was older, and had eyes the same color blue as the man she called Father. He never played with her or her sisters, but she always hoped he would.

“Are you comfortable, sweetheart?”

“Yes, Father.” She smiled shyly at the boy who stood beside her bed. Sometimes she pretended the little room where she slept was a chamber, like the ones in the castles she sometimes read about or saw on-screen. And she was the princess of the castle, under a spell. The boy would be the prince who came to save her.

But from what, she wasn’t sure.

She hardly felt the needle stick. He was so gentle.

There was a screen in the ceiling over her bed, and today the man she called Father had programmed it with famous paintings. Hoping to please him, she began to name them as they slid on, then off.

“Garden at Giverny 1902, Claude Monet. Fleurs et Mains, Pablo Picasso. Figure at a Window, Salvador Da . . . Salvador . . .”

“Dalí,” he prompted.

“Dalí. Olive Trees, Victor van Gogh.”


“I’m sorry.” Her voice began to slur. “Vincent van Gogh. My eyes are tired, Father. My head feels heavy.”

“That’s all right, sweetheart. You can close your eyes, you can rest.”

He took her hand while she drifted off. He held it tenderly in his while she died.

She left the world five years, three months, twelve days, and six hours after she’d come into it.


WHEN ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS FACES ON OR off planet was beaten to a bloody, splintered pulp, it was news. Even in New York City. When the owner of that famous face punctured several vital organs of the batterer with a fillet knife, it was not only news, it was work.

Getting an interview with the woman who owned the face that had launched a thousand consumer products was a goddamn battle.

Cooling her heels in the plush-to-the-point-of-squishy waiting area of the Wilfred B. Icove Center for Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery, Lieutenant Eve Dallas was fully prepared to go to war.

She’d had just about enough.

“If they think they can turn me out a third time, they’re ignorant of the greatness of my wrath.”

“She was unconscious the first time.” Content to lounge in one of the luxurious, overstuffed chairs and sip some complimentary tea, Detective Delia Peabody crossed her legs. “And heading into surgery.”