Leverage in Death (In Death, Book 47)

By: J. D. Robb





1

Thou shalt not kill.

Paul Rogan didn’t consider himself a religious man, but that commandment played over and over in his head as he stepped into the lobby. As his wing tips clicked on the polished marble floor, those four words beat inside him.

As he’d done every weekday morning for eleven years—minus holidays, sick days, and vacations—he swiped his company ID at check-in.

Stu, manning security, gave him a nod. “Monday again, huh, Mr. Rogan.”

“Monday,” Rogan muttered and turned, as he did every Monday morning, to the elevator banks.

Behind his back, Stu smirked a little. It looked like Mr. Rogan had himself a big-ass Monday morning hangover.

Rogan stepped into an elevator along with a handful of other execs, some admins, a couple of assistants. He wore a dark, pinstriped suit over an athletic frame, a crisp white shirt, and a blue-and-red chevron-pattern tie in a single Windsor knot.

Despite his cashmere topcoat, the cold seeped into his bones as he listened to the voice in his head.

Cecily. Melody.

The voice spoke the names, again and again even as four words pounded out a rhythm.

Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill.

And yet.

He stepped out on the thirty-second floor—executive level, Quantum Air. The logo, the silver whoosh of it streaked over the wall behind the curve of the reception counter. Already the ’links and comps beeped and hummed. The waiting area, empty at this hour, sat quiet and plush. Another wall, all tinted glass, opened the room to New York, its sky and skyline.

Blue today that sky, so blue, he thought as he stared a moment. How could it be so blue, so clear?

He turned from it and, without his usual words for the trio at reception, walked to the double glass doors.

They opened, splitting the logo’s whoosh in two. He understood what it meant to be split in two.

Cecily. Melody.

Thou shalt not kill.

He passed assistants, admin stations, offices. Though it was still just shy of nine, men and women in sharp suits sat at desks, opened briefcases, sipped their fancy coffees while studying reports.

His own admin jumped up. So young, so bright, so earnest, Rogan thought. He’d been the same, just the same, once upon a time.

“Good morning, Mr. Rogan. I updated your tablet for the nine o’clock conference. It’s on your desk. If you’re ready to go over some of the updates—”

“Not necessary. No calls, Rudy.”

Rudy opened his mouth to speak, but Rogan closed the door to his office. Though he frowned when he heard the click of the lock, Rudy decided his boss just needed a few before the big meeting.

Inside his office, Rogan begged, bargained, pleaded. The voice inside his head never changed in tone. Utterly calm, utterly cold. When another voice came through, desperate and terrified, he wept.

He trembled as he removed his topcoat. Once again he stared through a glass wall at the blue sky, as he stood in an office he’d worked diligently to earn.

It all ended today, as February dribbled into March 2061. Eleven years since he’d come aboard Quantum as a junior exec.

The voice gave him only two choices, so he had no choice at all.

Surrendering, he followed the instructions inside his head and opened his briefcase.

* * *

At eight-fifty-six, he stepped out of his office. Rudy popped up again.

“Mr. Rogan, I wanted to tell you I added a few more notes, some personal data on Ms. Karson. Just chat points.”

“All right, Rudy.” He paused a moment, looking into that young, earnest face. “You do good work. You’ve been an asset to me, and to Quantum Air.”

“Thanks.” Rudy brightened. “It’s a big day.”

“Yes, a big day.”

Feeling the weight of it, Rogan walked to the conference room. “Please stop,” he murmured as his heart beat like a brutal fist inside his chest.

Inside the conference room, the blue sky, the sweep of downtown Manhattan, the glint of the river gleamed through the tinted glass. On the wall, the screen held steady and silent with the silver logo.

On the long, polished table, silver trays held glossy pastries, perfectly ripened fruit, pitchers of water—sparkling or still. China cups waited for assistants to fill them with tea or coffee.

Reps from EconoLift—one male, one female—sat studying tablets with cups and glasses at their elbows. Two of Rogan’s associates did the same. Lawyers and accountants from each company filled more seats.