Strangers in Death:In Death 26

By: J. D. Robb


MURDER HARBORED NO BIGOTRY, NO BIAS. IT subscribed to no class system. In its gleeful, deadly, and terminally judicious way, murder turned a blind eye on race, creed, gender, and social stratum. As Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood in the sumptuous bedroom of the recently departed Thomas A. Anders, she considered that.

Only the night before she’d caught—and closed—a case dealing with the homicide of a twenty-year-old woman who’d been throttled, beaten, then chucked out the window of her nine-story flop.

The rent-by-the-week flop, Eve mused, where the victim’s boyfriend claimed to have slept through her demise, smelled of stale sex, stale zoner, and really bad Chinese food. Anders? His Park Avenue bedroom smelled of candy-colored tulips, cool, clean wealth, and dead body. Death had come to him on the luxurious sheets of his massive, silk-canopied bed. And to Tisha Brown it had come on the stained mattress tossed on the floor of a junkie’s flop. The header to the sidewalk had just been the flourish.

The point was, Eve supposed, no matter who you were—sex, race, tax bracket—death leveled it all out. As a murder cop going on a dozen years for the NYPSD, she’d seen it all before.

It was barely seven in the morning, and she was alone with the dead. She had the first officers on scene downstairs with the housekeeper who’d called in the nine-one-one. With her hands and boots sealed, she walked around the edges of the room while her recorder documented.

“Victim is identified as Anders, Thomas Aurelius, of this address. Male, Caucasian, age sixty-one. Vic is married. Spouse is reported to be out of town, and has been notified by Horowitz, Greta, domestic who discovered the body at approximately oh six hundred and placed the nine-one-one at oh six twelve.”

Eve cocked her head. Her hair was a short, somewhat shaggy brown around a face of angles and planes. Her eyes, a few shades lighter than her hair, were all cop—sharp, cynical, and cool as they studied the dead man in the big, fancy bed.

“Anders was reputed to be alone in the house. There are two domestic droids, both of which were shut down. On cursory exam, there are no signs of forced entry, no signs of burglary, no signs of struggle.”

On long legs, she crossed to the bed. Over her lean body she wore rough trousers, a plain cotton shirt, and a long coat of black leather. Behind her, over a gas fireplace where flames simmered gold and red, the view screen popped on.

Good morning, Mr. Anders!

Narrow-eyed, Eve turned to stare at the screen. The computerized female voice struck her as annoyingly perky, and the sunrise colors bleeding onto the screen wouldn’t have been her choice of wake-up call.

It’s now seven-fifteen on Tuesday, March eighteenth, twenty-sixty. You have a ten o’clock tee time at the club, with Edmond Luce.

As the computer chirpily reminded Anders what he’d ordered for breakfast, Eve thought: No egg-white omelette for you this morning, Tom.

Across the room in an ornate sitting area, a miniAutoChef with bright brass fittings beeped twice.

Your coffee’s ready! Enjoy your day!

“Not so much,” Eve murmured.

The screen flipped to the morning’s headline news, anchored by a woman only slightly less perky than the computer. Eve tuned her out.

The headboard gleamed brass, too—all of its sleek, shiny rungs. Black velvet ropes tied Anders’s wrists to two of them, while two more ropes bound his ankles by a length to the footboard. The four matching ropes were joined by the fifth that wrapped around Anders’s throat, pulling his head off the pillows. His eyes were wide, and his mouth hung open as if he was very surprised to find himself in his current position.

Several sex toys sat on the table beside the bed. Anal probe, vibrator, colorful cock rings, gliding and warming lotions, and lubricants. The usual suspects, Eve thought. Leaning down, she studied, sniffed Anders’s thin, bare chest. Kiwi, she thought, and angled her head to read labels on the lotions.

Definitely the kiwi. It took all kinds.

As she’d noticed something else, she lifted the duvet from where it pooled at Anders’s waist. Under it, three neon (possibly glow-in-the-dark) cock rings rode on an impressive erection.

“Not bad for a dead man.”

Eve eased open the drawer in the nightstand. Inside, as she’d suspected, was an economy pack of the top-selling erection enhancer, Stay-Up. “Hell of a product endorsement.”

She started to open her field kit, then stopped when she heard approaching footsteps. She recognized the clomp of boots as her partner’s shit-kickers. Whatever the calendar said about the approach of spring, in New York that was a big, fat lie. As if to prove the point, Detective Delia Peabody stepped through the door in an enormous—and puffy—purple coat, with a long, striped scarf that appeared to be wrapped around her neck three times. Between that and the cap pulled over her ears, only her eyes and the bridge of her nose were visible.