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

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


“How did you meet?”

“Through Personally Yours. It’s a dating service.”

“You use a dating service?” This from Peabody with more than a little surprise.

He hunched his shoulders, sighed. “It was an impulse. I spend most of my time on work and wasn’t getting out much. I was divorced a couple years ago, and I guess it made me nervous with women. Anyway, none of the women I met… Nothing clicked. I saw an ad on screen one night, and I thought, what the hell. Couldn’t hurt.”

He did drink now, one small sip that had his throat working visibly as he swallowed. “Marianna was the third of the first five matches. I went out with the first two — drinks, just drinks. There was nothing there. But when I met Marianna, everything was there.”

He closed his eyes, struggled for composure. “She’s so… wonderful. So much energy, enthusiasm. She loved her job, her apartment, she got a kick out of her theater group. She does community theater sometimes.”

Eve noted the way he switched back and forth, past and present tense. His mind was trying to accustom itself to what was, but it wasn’t quite ready yet.

“You started dating,” she prompted.

“Yes. We’d agreed to meet for drinks. Just drinks — to scope each other out. We ended up going to dinner, then going for coffee. Talking for hours. Neither one of us saw anyone else after that night. It was just it, for both of us.”

“She felt the same way?”

“Yeah. We took it slow. A few dinners, the theater. We both love the theater. We started spending Saturday afternoons together. A matinee, a museum, or just a walk. We went back to her hometown so I could meet her family. The Fourth of July. I took her to meet mine. My mother made dinner.”

His eyes unfocused as he stared at something only he could see.

“She wasn’t seeing anyone else during this period?”

“No. We’d made a commitment.”

“Do you know if anyone was bothering her — an old boyfriend, a former lover? Her ex-husband?”

“No, I’m sure she would have told me. We talked all the time. We told each other everything.” His eyes cleared, the brown hardening like crystal. “Why do you ask that? Was she — Marianna… Did he… Oh God.” On his knee his hand balled into a fist. “He raped her first, didn’t he? The f**king bastard raped her. I should have been with her.” He heaved the cup across the room, sending water splashing as he lurched to his feet. “I should have been with her. It would never have happened if I’d been with her.”

“Where were you, Jerry?”

“What?”

“Where were you last night, between nine-thirty and midnight?”

“You think I — ” He stopped himself, holding up a hand, closing his eyes. Three times he inhaled, exhaled. Then he opened his eyes again, and they remained clear. “It’s all right. You need to make sure it wasn’t me so you can find him. It’s all right. It’s for her.”

“That’s right.” And studying him Eve felt a new well of pity. “It’s for her.”

“I was home, my apartment. I did some work, made some calls, did a little Christmas shopping via computer. I reconfirmed the dinner reservations for tonight because I was nervous. I wanted — ” He cleared his throat. “I wanted it to be perfect. Then I called my mother.” He lifted his hands, rubbed them hard over his face. “I had to tell somebody. She was thrilled, excited. She was crazy about Marianna. I think that was about ten-thirty. You can check my ‘link records, my computer, anything you need to do.”

“Okay, Jerry.”

“Have you — Her family, do they know?”

“Yes, I spoke with her parents.”

“I need to call them. They’ll want her to come home.” His eyes filled again, and he continued to look at Eve as tears streamed down his cheeks. “I’ll take her back home.”

“I’ll see that she’s released as soon as possible. Is there someone we can call for you?”

“No. I need to go tell my parents. I need to go.” He turned toward the door, and spoke without looking back. “You find who did this. You find who hurt her.”

“I will. Jerry, one last thing.”

He rubbed his face dry and turned back. “What is it?”

“Did Marianna have a tattoo?”

He laughed, a short, harsh sound that seemed to scrape out of his throat. “Marianna? No. She was old-fashioned, wouldn’t even go for temporaries.”

“You’re sure of that.”

“We were lovers, Lieutenant. We were in love. I knew her body, I knew her mind and her heart.”

“Okay. Thank you.” She waited until he’d gone out, until the door clicked quietly closed behind him. “Impressions, Peabody?”

“Guy’s heart’s ripped right out of his chest.”

“Agreed. But people often kill the ones they love. Even with ‘link records, his alibi’s going to be shaky.”

“He doesn’t look a thing like Santa Claus.”

Eve smiled a little. “I guarantee the person who killed her won’t either. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been so happy to pose for the camera. Padding, change the eye color, makeup, beard, and wig. Any damn body can look like Santa.”

But for now, she had to go with the gut. “It’s not him. Let’s check out where she worked, find her friends and enemies.”

Friends, Eve thought later, Marianna appeared to have in volume. Enemies, she seemed to have none.

The picture that was being painted was one of a happy, outgoing woman who liked her work, was close to her family but enjoyed the pace and excitement of the city.

She had a tightly knit group of female friends, a weakness for shopping, a deep love of theater, and according to all sources had been in an exclusive and happy relationship with Jeremy Vandoren.

She was dancing on air.

Everyone who knew her loved her.

She had an open, trusting heart.

As she drove home, Eve let the statements made by friends and associates play back in her mind. No one found fault with Marianna. Not once had she heard one of those sly, often self-congratulatory remarks the living made of the dead.

But there was someone who thought differently, someone who had killed her with calculation, with care, and, if the look in those eyes was any indication, with a kind of glee.

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