Home > In Death #33.5 - Chaos in Death(4)

In Death #33.5 - Chaos in Death(4)
Author: J.D. Robb


On the second floor they walked by several doors, all discreetly shut, with their purposes or a doctor’s name on a plaque.

They passed people in lab coats, in street wear, in sharp suits, and in tattered pants. Eve noted the security cameras, and the card slots and palm plates on some of the doors. They passed a nurse’s station and the waiting area across from it.

Then they came to the garden breezeway. Below, through treated glass, a central fountain gurgled in a fantasy of flowering plants, shrubs, trees in riotous bloom. White stone benches offered seating, bricked paths wound in an invitation to stroll.

“That says, ‘We’re really rich philanthropists,’ ” Eve commented.

“But in a really pretty way.”

They made the left into a small blue and cream reception area. The woman behind the counter tapped her earpiece, turned away from the smart screen where, it looked to Eve, she’d been working on updating a complex schedule.

“Can I help you?”

“Lieutenant Dallas and Detective Peabody.” Eve held up her badge. “We need to speak with Dr. Rosenthall.”

“Is there a problem?”

“There almost always is.”

The woman didn’t look pleased by the answer, and reminded Eve of Dr. Mira’s admin. The dragon at the gates of the NYPSD’s shrink and top profiler.

“Dr. Rosenthall’s in his lab this morning.”

“Where’s his lab?”

“I really must insist you tell me your business before I disturb the doctor.”

“I really must insist you take us to his lab.” Eve tapped her badge. “And this has a lot more insistence than you because it can arrest you for interfering with a police investigation.”

“I’ll check with the doctor.” The words sounded as sour as the woman’s face looked. She tapped her earpiece again. “Yes, Pach, would you tell Dr. Rosenthall two police officers are here and insist on speaking with him. Yes. No, they won’t say. Thank you.” She waited a moment, staring holes through Eve. Then scowled. “Very well.”

After another tap, she spoke to Eve. “The doctor’s lab assistant will come out and take you back. The doctor will see you.”

She aimed her nose in the air before turning back to her screen.

Moments later a side door opened. The man who came out had deep brown skin and large, heavy-lidded eyes nearly as black as his crown of curly hair. He wore a standard white lab coat over jeans and a red T-shirt that asked, “My petri dish or yours?”

“Officers?”

“Lieutenant Dallas and Detective Peabody.”

“Oh. Um…” He flashed a very white smile. “If you’ll come this way?”

Through the door was a maze, a rabbit warren of rooms off angled corridors. The lab assistant negotiated them on flapping gel sandals. He paused at double steel doors, swiped his card, spoke his name. “Pachai Gupta.”

The security blinked green in acceptance, and the doors slid open into a large lab. Eve felt a weird juxtaposition as her friend Mavis’s voice wailed out about love on the wild side over the pristine red and white room. Strange equations and symbols held frozen on one of the wall screens while something bubbled blue in a heated beaker. A woman with short, sleek red hair hunched over a microscope while her foot tapped to Mavis’s grinding beat. Another lab coat diligently worked two comps at a long white counter. He sported a short stub of a ponytail and ragged skids.

In the center of it, amid the coils of tubing, the sparkling electronics, the busy screens, and the forest of test tubes, beakers, and specimen dishes, stood Justin Rosenthall.

He wore a lab coat like other men wore a tux, perfectly fitted and somehow elegant. His gilded mane of hair gleamed under the bright lights. Vid-star handsome, poetically pale, he removed a beaker from its heater with tongs and set it in a bath of water. Steam hissed and curled.

Through the thin curtain of it, Eve saw his eyes, tawny as a lion’s, fix intently on some sort of gauge.

“What’s he working on?” she asked their guide.

“An antidote.”

“To what?”

“To evil.” At her raised eyebrows, Pachai flushed, shrugged.

Eve heard a low beep. Justin lifted the beaker again, slid it into a container, sealed it, set another gauge.

Only then did he step back, look over.

“Sorry.” There was an absent charm in his smile, in his movements as he crossed to them. “The timing’s crucial. You’re the police?”

“Lieutenant Dallas, Detective Peabody, NYPSD.”

“Dallas. Of course, you’re Roarke’s wife.” His smile warmed as he extended a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you. How is Roarke? I haven’t seen him in… it’s probably been a year. More.”

“He’s good. This isn’t a social call, Dr. Rosenthall.”

“Justin. No, of course not. Sorry. How can I help you?”

“You know Jennifer Darnell, Coby Vix, Wilson Bickford.”

“Yes.” His smile faded. “Are they in trouble? I can assure you they’ve been working very hard against their addictions. It’s a hard road, and there will be stumbles, but—”

“They were murdered early this morning.”

Behind her, Pachai let out a strangled gasp as Justin just stared at her. “What? Sorry, what?”

“They were murdered between two and two-forty this morning in the building where they were squatting.”

“Dead? Murdered? All?”

“How?” Pachai took Eve’s arm, then quickly released it. His eyes were liquid onyx swimming under inky lashes. They only shimmered more intensely when Justin laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Pach, let’s sit down.”

“No. No. I’m sorry, but how can they be murdered? I saw them only yesterday.”

“When?”

“Pach,” Justin repeated, gently. “Music off,” he ordered. The redhead called out a protest when Mavis stopped wailing.

“Not now, Marti.” Justin rubbed his temple. “There’s no mistake?”

“No. When did you see them last?” she asked Pachai.

His lips trembled, and tears continued to swarm those heavy-lidded eyes. “Before Jen and Coby went to work, after Wil got off. We had coffee. We have coffee almost every day.”

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