Home > In Death #36 - Calculated in Death

In Death #36 - Calculated in Death
Author: J.D. Robb


J.D. Robb - In Death #36 - Calculated in Death

Calculated in Death (In Death #36)
J.D. Robb

mystery/romance/sf/thriller/fantasy

 

1

A KILLER WIND HURLED BITTER NOVEMBER air, toothy little knives to gnaw at the bones. She’d forgotten her gloves, but that was just as well as she’d have ruined yet another overpriced pair once she’d sealed up.

For now, Lieutenant Eve Dallas stuck her frozen hands in the warm pockets of her coat and looked down at death.

The woman lay at the bottom of the short stairway leading down to what appeared to be a lower-level apartment. From the angle of the head, Eve didn’t need the medical examiner to tell her the neck was broken.

Eve judged her as middle forties. Not wearing a coat, Eve mused, though the vicious wind wouldn’t trouble her now. Dressed for business—suit jacket, turtleneck, pants, good boots with low heels. Probably fashionable, but Eve would leave that call to her partner when Detective Peabody arrived on scene.

No jewelry, at least not visible. Not even a wrist unit.

No handbag, no briefcase or file bag.

No litter, no graffiti in the stairwell. Nothing but the body, slumped against the wall.

At length she turned to the uniformed officer who’d responded to the 911. “What’s the story?”

“The call came in at two-twelve. My partner and I were only two blocks away, hitting a twenty-four/seven. We arrived at two-fourteen. The owner of the unit, Bradley Whitestone, and an Alva Moonie were on the sidewalk. Whitestone stated they hadn’t entered the unit, which is being rehabbed—and is unoccupied. They found the body when he brought Moonie to see the apartment.”

“At two in the morning.”

“Yes, sir. They stated they’d been out this evening, dinner, then a bar. They’d had a few, Lieutenant.”

“Okay.”

“My partner has them in the car.”

“I’ll talk to them later.”

“We determined the victim was deceased. No ID on her. No bag, no jewelry, no coat. Pretty clear her neck’s broken. Visually, there’s some other marks on her—bruised cheek, split lip. Looks like a mugging gone south. But . . .” The uniform flushed slightly. “It doesn’t feel like it.”

Interested, Eve gave a go-ahead nod. “Because?”

“It sure wasn’t a snatch and run, figuring the coat. That takes a little time. And if she fell or got pushed down the stairs, why is she over against the side there instead of at the bottom of the steps? Out of sight from the sidewalk. It feels more like a dump. Sir.”

“Are you angling for a slot in Homicide, Officer Turney?”

“No disrespect intended, Lieutenant.”

“None taken. She could’ve taken a bad fall down the steps, landed wrong, broke her neck. Mugger goes down after her, hauls her over out of sight, takes the coat, and the rest.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It doesn’t feel like it. But we need more than how it feels. Stand by, Officer. Detective Peabody’s en route.” As she spoke, Eve opened her field kit, took out her Seal-It.

She coated her hands, her boots as she surveyed the area.

This sector of New York’s East Side held quiet—at least at this hour. Most apartment windows and storefronts were dark, businesses closed, even the bars. There would be some after-hours establishments still rolling, but not close enough for witnesses.

They’d do a canvass, but odds were slim someone would pop out who’d seen what happened here. Add in the bitter cold, as 2060 seemed determined to go out clinging with its icy fingers, most people would be tucked up inside, in the warm.

Just as she’d been, curled up against Roarke, before the call.

That’s what you get for being a cop, she thought, or in Roarke’s case, for marrying one.

Sealed, she went down the stairs, studied the door to the unit first, then moved in to crouch beside the body.

Yeah, middle forties, light brown hair clipped back from her face. A little bruising on the right cheekbone, some dried blood on the split lip. Both ears pierced, so if she’d been wearing earrings, the killer had taken the time to remove them rather than rip them off.

Lifting the hand, Eve noted abraded flesh on the heel. Like a rug burn, she mused before she pressed the right thumb to her ID pad.

Dickenson, Marta, she read. Mixed-race female, age forty-six. Married Dickenson, Denzel, two offspring, and an Upper East Side address. Employed Brewer, Kyle, and Martini, an accounting firm with an office eight blocks away.

As she took out her gauges, her short brown hair fluttered in the wind. She hadn’t thought to yank on a hat. Her eyes, nearly the same gilded brown as her hair, remained cool and flat. She didn’t think about the husband, the kids, the friends, the family—not yet. She thought of the body, the position, the area, the time of death—twenty-two-fifty.

What were you doing, Marta, blocks from work, from home on a frigid November night?

She shined her light over the pants, noted traces of blue fiber on the black cloth. Carefully, she tweezed off two, bagged them, marked the pants for the sweepers.

She heard Peabody’s voice over her head, and the uniform’s answer. Eve straightened. Her leather coat billowed at the hem around her long, lean frame as she turned to watch Peabody—or what she could see of her partner—clomp down the steps.

Peabody had thought of a hat, had remembered her gloves. The pink—Jesus pink—ski hat with its sassy little pom-pom covered her dark hair and the top of her face right down to the eyes. A multicolored scarf wound around and around just above the plum-colored puffy coat. The hat matched the pink cowboy boots Eve had begun to suspect Peabody wore even in bed.

“How can you walk with all that on?”

“I hiked to the subway, then from the subway, but I stayed warm. Jeez.” One quick gleam of sympathy flicked across Peabody’s face. “She doesn’t even have a coat.”

“She’s not complaining. Marta Dickenson,” Eve began, and gave Peabody the salients.

“It’s a ways from her office and her place. Maybe she was walking from one to the other, but why wouldn’t she take the subway, especially on a night like this?”

“That’s a question. This unit’s being rehabbed. It’s empty. That’s handy, isn’t it? The way she’s in the corner there? She shouldn’t have been spotted until morning.”

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