Bruce Greenwood | Season 8 Episode 21 The Communication Deterioration | Damon Wayans Jr.
Home > In Death #7 - Holiday in Death(6)

In Death #7 - Holiday in Death(6)
Author: J.D. Robb

He barely glanced up when Eve stepped inside; he held up a hand to hold her off and continued to work the keyboard of his computer manually while talking rapidly into a headset.

“Comstat’s at five and an eighth, Kenmart’s down three and three-quarters. No, Roarke Industries just took a leap up six points. Our analysts look for it to go up another two by end of day.”

Eve raised a brow and tucked her hands in the pockets of her trousers. She was standing here waiting to talk murder, and Roarke was making millions.

It was just weird.

“Done.” Vandoren hit another key and had a tangle of mysterious figures and symbols swimming onto the screen. She let him fiddle another thirty seconds, then pulled her badge out of her pocket and held it in front of his face.

He blinked twice, then turned and focused on her. “I’ve got that. You’re set. Absolutely. Thanks.” With a puzzled smile — slightly nervous around the edges — Vandoren swiveled the mike of his headset to the side. “Um, Lieutenant, what can I do for you?”

“Jeremy Vandoren?”

“Yeah.” His deep brown eyes slid past her, brushed over Peabody, then slid back. “Am I in trouble?”

“Have you done something illegal, Mr. Vandoren?”

“Not that I can remember.” He tried a smile again, bringing a small dimple to life at the corner of his mouth. “Not unless that candy bar I stole when I was eight’s come back to haunt me.”

“Do you know Marianna Hawley?”

“Marianna, sure. Don’t tell me Mari’s nicked a candy bar.” Then abruptly, like a light winking off, the smile disappeared. “What is it? Has something happened? Is she all right?”

He was out of his chair, his eyes scanning over the top of the cubicle as if he expected to see her.

“Mr. Vandoren, I’m sorry.” Eve had never found a good way to relay the news, so she settled on relaying it quickly. “Ms. Hawley is dead.”

“No, she’s not. No,” he said again, turning those dark eyes back to Eve. “She’s not. That’s ridiculous. I just talked to her last night. We’re meeting for dinner at seven. She’s fine. You’ve made a mistake.”

“There’s no mistake. I’m sorry,” she repeated as he only continued to stare at her. “Marianna Hawley was murdered last night in her apartment.”

“Marianna? Murdered?” He continued to shake his head slowly, as if the two words were foreign. “That’s definitely wrong. That’s just wrong.” He whirled around, fumbled to his desk ‘link. “I’ll call her right now. She’s at work.”

“Mr. Vandoren.” Eve put a firm hand on his shoulder and nudged him into his chair. There was no place for her to sit, so she eased a hip on the desk so their faces could be more on level. “She’s been identified through fingerprints and DNA. If you can manage it, I’d like you to come with me and do a visual confirmation.”

“A visual…” He sprang up again, his elbow rapping Eve’s shoulder and causing the still healing wound to sing. “Yeah, I’ll come with you. Damn right I will. Because it’s not her. It’s not Marianna.”

The morgue was never a cheerful place. The fact that someone in either an optimistic or macabre frame of mind had hung red and green balls from the ceiling and draped ugly gold tinsel around the doorways only succeeded in added a kind of smirking grin over death.

Eve stood at the viewing window as she had stood too many times before. And she felt, as she had felt too many times before, the hard jerk of shock punch through the man beside her as he saw Marianna Hawley lying on the other side of the glass.

The sheet that covered her to the chin would have been hastily draped. To hide from friends, family, and loved ones the pitiful nakedness of the dead, the slices in the flesh left by the Y incision, the temporary stamp on the instep that gave that body a name and number.

“No.” In a helpless gesture, Vandoren pressed both hands to the barrier. “No, no, no, this can’t be right. Marianna.”

Gently now, Eve laid a hand on his arm. He was shaking badly, and the hands on the glass had balled into fists and were pounding in short, light beats. “Just nod if you can identify her as Marianna Hawley.”

He nodded. Then he began to weep.

“Peabody, find us an empty office. Get him some water.” Even as Eve spoke, she found herself engulfed by him, his arms coming around her, his face pressed into her shoulder. His body bowed down to her by the weight of his grief.

She let him hang on, signaling the tech behind the glass to raise the privacy shield.

“Come on, Jerry, come with me now.” She kept a supporting arm around him, thinking she’d rather face a stunner on full than a grieving survivor. There was no help for those left behind. No magic, no cure. But she murmured to him as she led him down the tiled hall to the doorway where Peabody stood.

“We can use this one,” Peabody said quietly. “I’ll get the water.”

“Let’s sit down.” After helping him to a chair, Eve pulled the handkerchief out of the pocket of his suit coat and pressed it into his hand. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said, as she always did. And felt the inadequacy of it, as she always did.

“Marianna. Who would hurt Marianna? Why?”

“It’s my job to find out. I will find out.”

Something in the way she said it had him looking over at her. His eyes were red and desolate. With an obvious effort he drew in a deep breath. “I — She was so special.” He groped in his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. “I was going to give this to her tonight. I’d planned to wait until Christmas Eve — Marianna loved Christmas — but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t wait.”

His hands trembled as he opened the box to show Eve the bright flash of diamond on the engagement ring. “I was going to ask her to marry me tonight. She would have said yes. We loved each other. Was it…” Carefully he closed the box again, slipped it back in his pocket. “Was it a robbery?”

“We don’t think so. How long have you known her?”

“Six months, almost seven.” He stared at Peabody as she came in and held out a cup of water. “Thank you.” He took it, but didn’t drink. “The happiest six months of my life.”

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