Home > In Death #36 - Calculated in Death(4)

In Death #36 - Calculated in Death(4)
Author: J.D. Robb


Eve held up her badge with one hand, slapped her other on the palm plate. “Clear the locks. Now.”

Identification is verified. Access granted.

Eve shoved through the door, strode across the black marble lobby floor to the glossy white elevator doors flanked by two man-sized urns exploding with red spiky flowers.

Please wait here until Mr. and/or Mrs. Dickenson is notified of your arrival.

“Can it, compu-jerk.” She walked straight into the elevator, Peabody scurrying after her. “Penthouse B,” she ordered. “Give me any shit, I swear to God I’ll stun your motherboard.”

As the elevator began its smooth climb, Peabody let out a sigh of pleasure. “That was fun.”

“I hate getting dicked around by electronics.”

“Well, actually you’re getting dicked around by the programmer.”

“You’re right.” Eve’s eyes narrowed. “You’re f**king-A right. Make a note to do a search and scan. I want to find out who programmed that officious bastard.”

“That could be even more fun.” Peabody’s cheerful smile faded when the elevator stopped. “This won’t be.”

They walked to Penthouse B. More security, Eve noted, and damn good at that. Palm plate, peep, camera. She pressed the buzzer to alert the system.

Hi!

A kid, Eve thought, momentarily confused.

We’re the Dickensons. Voices changed—male, female, young girl, young boy as they sounded off roll call. Denzel, Marta, Annabelle, Zack. Then a dog barked.

And that’s Cody, the boy’s voice continued. Who are you?

“Ah . . .” At a loss, Eve held up her badge to the camera.

She watched the red line scan. A beat later a more traditional computerized voice answered.

Identification scanned and verified. One moment please.

It took hardly more than that before Eve saw the security light blink from red to green.

The man who wrenched open the door wore navy sweatpants with a gray sweatshirt and well-worn running shoes. His close-cropped hair showed a hint of curl above a dark, exhausted face. His eyes, the color of bitter chocolate, widened for one heartbeat, then filled with fear. Before Eve could speak, grief buried even the fear.

“No. No. No.” He went straight down to his knees, clutching at his belly as if she’d kicked it.

Peabody immediately lowered to him. “Mr. Dickenson.”

“No,” he repeated as a dog the size of a Shetland pony trotted in. The dog looked at Eve. Eve considered her stunner. But the dog only whined and bellied over to Dickenson.

“Mr. Dickenson,” Peabody all but crooned. “Let me help you up. Let me help you to a chair.”

“Marta. No. I know who you are. I know you. Dallas. Murder cop. No.”

Because pity outweighed her distrust of a giant dog, Eve crouched down. “Mr. Dickenson, we need to talk.”

“Don’t say it. Don’t.” He lifted his head, looked desperately into Eve’s eyes. “Please don’t say it.”

“I’m sorry.”

He wept. Wrapping his arms around the dog, swaying and rocking on his knees, he wept.

It had to be said. Even when it was known, it had to be said, for the record, and Eve knew, for the man.

“Mr. Dickenson, I regret to inform you your wife was killed. We’re very sorry for your loss.”

“Marta. Marta. Marta.” He said it like a chant, like a prayer.

“Can we call someone for you?” Peabody asked gently. “Your sister? A neighbor?”

“How? How?”

“Let’s go sit down,” Eve told him, and offered her hand.

He stared at it, then put his, trembling, into it. He was a tall man, well-built. It took both of them to pull him to his feet where he swayed like a drunk.

“I can’t . . . What?”

“We’re going to go sit down.” As she spoke, Peabody guided him into a spacious living area full of color, of comfort and the clutter of family with kids and a monster dog. “I’m going to get you some water, all right?” Peabody continued. “Do you want me to contact your sister?”

“Genny? Yes. Genny.”

“All right. Sit right here.”

He eased down, and the dog immediately planted its massive paws on his legs, laid its enormous head in his lap. As Peabody went off to find the kitchen, Dickenson turned to Eve. Tears continued to stream out of his eyes but they’d cleared of the initial shock.

“Marta. Where’s Marta?”

“She’s with the medical examiner.” She saw Dickenson jerk, but pushed on. “He’ll take care of her. We’ll take care of her. I know this is difficult, Mr. Dickenson, but I have to ask you some questions.”

“Tell me how. You have to tell me what happened. She didn’t come home. Why didn’t she come home?”

“That’s what we need to find out. When was your last contact with your wife?”

“We spoke at about ten. She was working late, and she called as she was leaving the office. I said, get a car, Marta, get the car service, and she called me a worrywart, but I didn’t want her walking to the subway or trying to hail a cab. It’s so cold tonight.”

“Did she arrange for a car service?”

“No. She just laughed. She said the walk to the subway would do her good. She’d been chained to her computer most of the day, and she—she—she wanted to lose five pounds. Oh my God. Oh God. What happened? Was there an accident? No,” he said with a shake of his head. “Murder cop. You’re Homicide. Somebody killed Marta. Somebody killed my wife, my Marta. Why? Why?”

“Do you know of anyone who’d want to harm her?”

“No. Absolutely not. No one. No. She doesn’t have an enemy in the world.”

Peabody came back in with a glass of water. “Your sister and her husband are on their way.”

“Thank you. Was it a mugging? I don’t understand. If someone had wanted her bag, her jewelry, she’d have given it to them. We made a promise to each other when we decided to stay in the city. We wouldn’t take stupid chances. We have children.” The hand holding the water began to shake again. “The children. What am I going to tell our kids? How can I tell our kids?”

“Are your children home?” Eve asked him.

“Yes, of course. They’re sleeping. They’ll expect her to be here when they get up for school. She’s always here when they get up for school.”

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