Ritual in Death:In Death 27.50(4)

By: J. D. Robb


She needed to move fast. The amount of blood on her naked guy made it doubtful she’d find anyone alive—if she found anyone at all—so she couldn’t putz around. While she didn’t much like leaving her suspect with hotel security, even once she’d clapped on the restraints from her field kit, she couldn’t afford to wait for her uniformed backup, or her partner.

For lack of better, she set her suspect on the floor of the maid’s room, ran his prints.

“Jackson Pike.” She crouched down on his level, looked into the glazed brown eyes. “Jack?”

“What?”

“What happened, Jack?”

“I don’t . . .” He looked around the room, dazed and stoned. “I don’t . . .” Then he moaned in pain and clutched his head.

“Uniformed officers are on their way,” she said to the pair from security as she straightened. “I want him exactly where I’ve left him, and those people upstairs contained until I get back. Nobody comes in except NYPSD officials. Nobody goes out. Let’s move,” she said to Roarke.

“Guy’s a doctor,” she continued as they started out the door. “Thirty-three years old. Single.”

“He didn’t walk in off the street like that.”

“No. Your hotel. Find out if a Jackson Pike, or anyone with a variation of that name’s registered. How’s this floor set up?”

Roarke pulled out his ’link as he gestured. “Four triplexes, one on each corner. One minute.”

While he spoke to the hotel manager, Eve turned left. “Well, he left a trail. That’s handy.” Moving quickly, she followed bloody footprints over the lush carpet.

“No Jackson Pike, or any Pikes for that matter,” Roarke told her. “There’s a Jackson, Carl, on thirty-two. They’re checking. On this floor Maxia has 600. Six-oh-two is occupied by Domingo Fellini—actor—I saw him at the party.”

“Pike didn’t come from there, trail’s down this way.” She picked up the pace as they started down the long corridor. “It’s the sixtieth floor. Why isn’t it 6002?”

“The sixth floor is the health club, the pool, and so on. No guest rooms. The triplexes cater to those who can afford the freight, and we bill them as penthouses, or apartments. So it’s Suite 600. Perception.”

“Yeah, your perception’s pretty screwed with all this blood on your carpet. Anyone in 604?”

“Not tonight.”

“Empty suite’s a nice spot for bloody murder, but the trail heads off.” She kept moving, her weapon in her hand, her eyes scanning. “Does every suite have the private elevator like Suite 600?”

“They do, yes. Those elevators in the center of the floor are also private, in that you need a key card or clearance for the trip up.”

Emergency exits, all four corners, she noted, via stairs. But Jackson Pike hadn’t used them. His trail led straight to the carved double doors of Suite 606.

Eve saw the faint smear of blood over the ornate zero.

Suite 666, she thought. Wasn’t that just perfect?

She signaled for Roarke to stay back, then tried the knob.

“Locked. I don’t have my master.”

“Lucky for you, you have me.” He drew a slim tool out of his pocket.

“Handy, but have you ever considered how a cop’s supposed to explain—should it come up—why her husband’s got burglary tools in his pockets?”

“For bloody emergencies?” He straightened. “Lock’s off.”

“I don’t suppose you’re carrying.”

He flicked her a look, his eyes very cool. “While I didn’t think it necessary to bring a weapon to a cocktail party, I got this from security.” He drew out a stunner. “Civilian issue. Perfectly legal.”

“Hmm. On three.”

It wasn’t their first time through a door. She went low, he went high into a large living area lit by hundreds of candles. In the flickering light blood gleamed as it pooled over the black pentagram drawn on the polished marble floor.

A body floated on that pool, the arms and legs spread to form an X at the center of the sign.

Gone, Eve thought, bled out. Throat slashed, multiple body wounds. She shook her head at Roarke, gestured to the left.

She moved right, in a suite the mirror image of Maxia’s. Sweeping her weapon, she cleared a dining room, a short hallway, a kitchen, a powder room, making the circle that brought her back to Roarke.

“Bed and bath clear, this level,” he told her. “Both were used. There’s considerable blood—smears not spatters. Hers, I expect.”

He wasn’t a cop, she mused, but he could think like one. “We’re going up.” She did a chin point toward the elevator and tried to ignore the stench—not just death, but a kind of burning on the air. “Can you block that? Shut it down?”