Home > In Death #36 - Calculated in Death(9)

In Death #36 - Calculated in Death(9)
Author: J.D. Robb

“A short one, and no, not a fall. She didn’t fall. They put her there when they were done, tried to make it look like a mugging. It wasn’t.”

“She has some minor injuries. Facial bruise, the injured lip, both from a blow—a hand, not a fist—slight bruising around her mouth, bruising on her right wrist, slight bruising on both knees and her left elbow, the abrasion on the heel of her right hand.”

“Knees and hand. Like she skidded on some kind of rug or carpet?” Eve held up her hand, shoved the heel of it forward.

“That would be my conclusion. I found fibers in the hand abrasion, and sent them to the lab.”

“Blue fibers?”

“Yes, as your notes stated you found on her pants. You’d marked for Harpo, so I sent her the ones I removed.”


“I’ve barely started on her, and don’t have much.”

“Any stun marks? Any tox?”

“Very light marks from a stunner, just above her left shoulder blade.”

“I’d figured no on that,” Eve murmured, hooking her thumbs in her front pockets as she walked closer to the body. “If you want it to look like a mugging, leaving stun marks is seriously stupid. Your average mugger’s not going to have access to a stunner. They use stickers. Shoulder blade,” she continued. “He took her down from behind.”

“Yes, and I’d say a very low stun, just enough to incapacitate her, daze her for a moment or two. I’ll go over her very carefully. I’ve sent off a blood sample for tox screening. I can flag it.”

“Wouldn’t hurt.” Eve walked around the body, taking her own study. “Grab her when she comes out of the office building—not inside unless they could shut down security, and why do that, why leave bread crumbs? Slap a hand over her mouth, shove or toss her in a van, that’s quick. Stunning her—maybe the killer’s another woman, or small, worried she’d fight back, get away.”

“The slight lacerations on her knees and hand read like a fall on a carpet. In the apartment?”

“No rugs or carpeting there. Tarps—beige. No blue. But tossing her into a vehicle with carpeting on the interior floor, yeah. And she’s dazed from the stun and doesn’t catch herself, skids over it. She could’ve gotten the bruises on her knees, the fibers on her pants from the transpo. They didn’t walk her eight blocks to the murder scene, so he or they had transportation.”

“Harpo should be able to identify the carpet type, the manufacturer, the dye lot.”

“Or lose her crown, yeah. One person could do it,” Eve mused as she walked around the slab. “Stun her, push her in the back of a van or a car, but she’d come out of a light stun pretty quick. You have to keep her quiet and contained, drive, get her out, over, unlock the door. It’s likelier two people, one to drive, one to deal with her.”

“Big hands,” Morris said. “I don’t think whoever manhandled her was small. The pattern of the bruising indicates large hands.”

“Okay. Okay.” The need to stun Dickenson made less sense now, but facts were facts. “So, just taking no chances. Maybe the mugging gambit was last-minute. Either way, they took her to an empty apartment, lower level, direct access, no sign of break-in. They want her scared, scared enough to be cooperative, to give them what they want, tell them everything she knows. Backhand.” Eve swung her own through the air. “She goes down—face bruises, elbow knocks the floor. When they’re done, and it doesn’t take very long, one of them snaps her neck. Manually?”

“Yes, almost certainly, and left to right. From the angle, the bruising, the break, my conclusion is left to right, from behind.”

“Behind again. He’s right-handed. Strong, trained. It’s not that easy to snap a neck. Prepared, controlled enough not to mess her up too much, but not especially professional. Military maybe or para, used to kills on the field where you don’t have to clean things up before the cops get there. I found a little blood on a paint tarp bunched up on the floor. Apartment’s being rehabbed. It’s going to be her blood.”

“I found no defensive wounds.” Gently, Morris lifted the victim’s hand. “Nothing under her nails, in her teeth. So yes, I’d say it will be her blood.”

“It all went according to plan, except for the blood they missed, and the fact the owner hoped for some nookie and brought his date over so we found her quicker. But I wonder if they got what they were after. Did she have it? Did she know it?”

“I can’t tell you that, but the lack of any sign she fought back? No indication she was bound? No signs of torture, only relatively minor injuries . . . It reads as if she’d have given them what they wanted if she’d had it.”

Eve thought of the condo again, family-friendly. Photos of happy kids, the big dog.

Yes, she’d have given them what they wanted. If she’d had it.

“Rough her up first, scare her, hurt her just enough, then tell her if she tells them or gives them what they want, they won’t hurt her again. They killed her from behind. He didn’t need the rush of face-to-face. A job, a duty, a task. And he probably didn’t see the need to draw it out, give her more pain or fear.

“It wasn’t personal.”

Though Morris nodded, he touched a hand to Marta’s shoulder. “I imagine she feels differently about that.”


EVE PUSHED AND DODGED HER WAY THROUGH Central at change of shift. Cops going off tour, coming on, or those like her who’d caught something and were trying to get in or out to follow up.

She stopped by Vending to study her choices, decided they all sucked, and settled for something laughingly billed as a blueberry Danish.

She plugged in her code, her selection. And got nothing but a grinding hum and blinking lights.

“Come on, bitch.” She repeated the process, and this time received a few weak beeps. “Damn it, I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Her poor history with machines haunted her, and now she wanted that damn anemic-looking excuse for a breakfast pastry on a matter of principle.

She gave the machine a solid kick.

Vandalism or physical force on this machine or any others on the premises can result in termination of Vending privileges for a period of thirty to ninety days. Please insert coin, credit or authorized code, and your selection.

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