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Home > In Death #7 - Holiday in Death(3)

In Death #7 - Holiday in Death(3)
Author: J.D. Robb

When her radio sounded, she tuned in with half an ear. She wasn’t even on call for another three hours.

Any units in the vicinity, a 1222 reported at 6843 Seventh Avenue, apartment 18B. No confirmation available. See the man in apartment 2A. Any units in the vicinity…

Eve clicked on before Dispatch could repeat the signal. “Dispatch, this is Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. I’m two minutes from the Seventh Avenue location. Am responding.”

Received, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. Please report status upon arrival.

“Affirmative. Dallas out.”

She glided to the curb, flicked a glance up at the steel-gray building. A few lights glimmered through windows, but she saw only darkness on the eighteenth floor. A 1222 meant there’d been an anonymous call reporting a domestic dispute.

Eve stepped out of her vehicle, and slid an absent hand over her side where her weapon sat snug. She didn’t mind starting out the day with trouble, but there wasn’t a cop alive or dead who didn’t dread a domestic.

There seemed to be nothing a husband, wife, or same sex spouse enjoyed more than turning on the poor bastard who tried to keep them from killing each other over the rent money.

The fact that she’d volunteered to take it was a reflection of her dissatisfaction with her current assignments.

Eve jogged up the short flight of stairs and looked up the man in 2A.

She flashed her badge when he spoke through the security peep, shoved it into his beady little eyes when he opened the door a stingy crack. “You got trouble here?”

“I dunno. Cops called me. I’m the manager. I don’t know anything.”

“I can see that.” He smelled of stale sheets and, inexplicably, of cheese. “You want to let me into 18B?”

“You got a master, don’t you?”

“Yeah, fine.” She sized him up quickly: short, skinny, smelly, and scared. “How about filling me in on the occupants before I go in?”

“Only one. Woman, single woman. Divorced or something. Keeps to herself.”

“Don’t they all,” Eve muttered. “You got a name on her?”

“Hawley. Marianna. About thirty, thirty-five. Nice looker. Been here about six years. No trouble. Look, I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t see anything. I don’t know anything. It’s five-fucking-thirty in the morning. She’s done any damage to the unit, I want to know about it. Otherwise, it’s none of my never-mind.”

“Fine,” Eve said as the door clicked shut in her face. “Go back to your hole, you little weasel.” She rolled her shoulders once, then walked across the corridor to the elevator. As she stepped inside, she pulled out her communicator. “Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. I’m at the Seventh Avenue location. Building manager is a wash. I’ll report back after interviewing Hawley, Marianna, resident of 18B.”

Do you require backup?

“Not at this time. Dallas out.”

She slipped the communicator back into her pocket as she stepped out into the hallway on eighteen. A quick glimpse up showed her security cameras in place. The hall was church quiet. From the building’s location and style, she pegged most of the residents as white collar, middle income. Most wouldn’t stir from their beds until after seven. They’d grab their morning coffee, dash out to the airbus or subway stop. More fortunate ones would just plug into the office from their home station.

Some would have children to see off to school. Others would kiss their spouses good-bye and wait for their lovers.

Ordinary lives in an ordinary place.

It flipped through her mind to wonder if Roarke owned the damn building, but she pushed the idea aside and stepped up to 18B.

The security light was blinking green. Deactivated. Instinctively she stepped to the side of the door as she pushed the buzzer. She couldn’t hear its muffled echo and decided the unit was soundproofed. Whatever went on inside, stayed inside. Vaguely annoyed, she took out her master code and bypassed the locks.

Before entering, she called out. Nothing worse, she mused, than scaring some sleeping civilian into coming at you with a homemade stunner or a kitchen knife.

“Ms. Hawley? Police. We have a report of trouble in your unit. Lights,” she ordered, and the overheads in the living area flashed on.

It was pretty enough in a quiet way. Soft colors, simple lines. The view screen was programmed to an old video. Two impossibly attractive people were rolling around naked on a bed scattered with rose petals. They moaned theatrically.

There was a candy dish on the table in front of the long misty-green sofa. It was filled to brimming with sugar-dashed gumdrops. Silver and red candle pillars were grouped beside it, burned artistically down to varying heights.

The entire room smelled of cranberry and pine.

She saw where the pine scent originated. A small, perfectly formed tree lay on its side in front of a window. Its festive lights and sweet-faced angel ornaments were smashed, its boughs snapped.

At least a dozen festively wrapped boxes were crushed under it.

She reached for her weapon, drew it, and circled the room.

There was no other obvious sign of violence, not there. The couple on the view screen reached simultaneous climax with throaty, animal moans. Eve sidestepped past it. Listened, listened.

Heard music. Quiet, cheerful, monotonous. She didn’t know the tune, but recognized it as one of the insidious Christmas ditties that played everywhere for weeks during the season.

She swept her weapon over a short corridor. Two doors, both open. In one she could see a sink, a toilet, the edge of a tub, all in gleaming white. Keeping her back to the wall, she slid toward the second door, where the music played on and on.

She smelled it, fresh death. Both metallic and fruity. Easing the door all the way open, she found it.

She moved into the room, swinging right, then left, eyes sharp, ears alert. But she knew she was alone with what had been Marianna Hawley. Still she checked the closet, behind the drapes, then left the room to search the rest of the apartment before she relaxed her guard.

Only then did she approach the bed.

2A had been right, she thought. The woman had been a looker. Not stunning, not an eye-popper, but a pretty woman with soft brown hair and deep green eyes. Death hadn’t robbed her of that, not yet.

Her eyes were wide and startled, as the dead’s often were. Against the dull pallor of her cheeks careful and subtle color had been applied. Her lashes were darkened, her lips painted a festive cherry red. An ornament had been pinned to her hair just above the right ear — a small glittery tree with a plump gilded bird on one of its silver branches.

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