Leverage in Death (In Death, Book 47)(2)

By: J. D. Robb

“There needs to be another way.”

At Rogan’s murmur, Sandy Plank—senior VP, accounting—gave him a quizzical glance.

But Rogan only heard the voice in his head.

At nine sharp, the doors opened again. Derrick Pearson, Quantum’s president and CEO, stood for a moment surveying the room. His black and silver mane flowing, he entered along with Willimina Karson.

In heeled boots, Karson—Econo’s president—stood six foot one inch. They made an imposing pair, Pearson in his severe black suit and silver tie, Karson in her straight-line red dress and short jacket.

Everyone around the table stood.

“Good morning, everyone,” Pearson said in his lion’s roar of a voice. “Let’s bring in Chicago, New L.A., Atlanta, London, Rome.”

As he rattled off cities, the screen flashed into sections, those sections flashed with other conference rooms or offices, more people in suits.

The voice in Rogan’s head spoke incessantly, sharper and sharper. Then added screams.

Rogan took two staggering steps forward, interrupting Derrick’s opening greeting.

“Paul.” More surprised than annoyed, Pearson touched a hand to Karson’s arm. “Willimina, you’ve met Paul. Paul Rogan, our VP of marketing.”

“Derrick . . . I don’t have a choice. I’m sorry.”

Something in his voice, something in his eyes, had Karson stepping back even as Pearson stepped forward.

“Are you all right, Paul?” he asked, gripping Rogan’s arm.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Rudy, dashing toward the conference room with the tablet Rogan had left on his desk, got within three strides of the doors before they blew.

* * *

Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood amid the carnage. The air stank of blood, charred flesh, piss, and vomit. Water from the sprinkler system soaked into the carpet so it squished underfoot. With her boots and hands already sealed, she studied the room.

The blast had blown off the doors, shattered most of the mega screen, blown chunks off the table, sent chairs and people flying—and some burning.

The thick carpet now bore a wide, blackened hole, and the walls as well as the floor carried spatter—blood, brains, other bodily fluids.

Lieutenant Lisbeth Salazar, heading up the Explosives and Bombs Unit, stood with her.

“Eleven dead, nine injured. The dead include the bomber. We’re picking up the pieces there . . .”

Both women watched the sweepers in their protective white suits, the boomer hounds in their thick gray, comb the room.

“But we’ve got some wits from the other side of the room, more shaken than stirred, who state Paul Rogan, VP of marketing, revealed a suicide vest seconds before he detonated it. I can tell you from the extent of damage, it was either designed for short-range effect, or it piffed and that’s all he got. I’m estimating a range of twelve to fifteen feet.”

“You’re saying it could’ve been worse.”

“Oh, a whole hell of a bunch worse.” Salazar—an imposing woman with skin the color of well-steeped tea, eyes of flaming green—gestured. “He was facing away from the table, angled toward the door—toward Derrick Pearson, CEO. He blew Pearson with him, and the people at the front section of the table. It looks like some of the DBs took chunks of the table and the shrapnel as COD rather than the actual explosion.

“We’ve swept,” Salazar added. “And we’re sweeping again—the entire building. But I’m saying this was the only device, this was the only bomber.”

Eve noted the spears of wood and metal impaled in the walls, the webbing cracks on the wall of glass. But the bulk of the damage, the radius of the blast? Yeah, around twelve feet.

“How’d he get it in the building?”

“Briefcase—lead-lined. He breezed right through the standards, and he’s worked here nearly a dozen years. Security had no reason to wand or ray him. I did a run, the guy’s got no record. Married going on fourteen years. An eight-year-old daughter.”

“Where are they, the wife and kid?”

“I sent some uniforms to pick them up. You and the ME make the call, Dallas, but this looks like homicide to me. It’s not terrorism, domestic or otherwise, on the face of it. Maybe the guy flipped out, who knows? Some big deal supposed to go down today—here. Maybe he didn’t want it to go down. We’ll pick up the pieces, and we’ll tell you what kind of boomer.”