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Authors: J. D. Robb

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #New York (N.Y.), #Women Sleuths, #Detective and mystery stories, #Police, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedural, #Political, #Policewomen, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - Police Procedural, #Mystery And Suspense Fiction, #Crime & Thriller, #Detectives, #Crime & mystery, #Police - New York (State) - New York, #Eve (Fictitious character), #Dallas, #Dallas; Eve (Fictitious Character)

Witness in Death

BOOK: Witness in Death
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Witness in Death

By J. D. Robb


There was always an audience for murder.

Whether it took its form in horror or glee, in dark humor or quiet grief, mankind's fascination with the ultimate crime made it a ripe subject for exploration in fact and in fiction.

At its bottom line, murder sold tickets and had packed theaters throughout history. Romans had pushed and shoved their way into the Coliseum to watch gladiators hack each other to bloody bits. Or, to alleviate the boredom of the day, by catching a matinee where a few hapless Christians were pitted against happy-to-oblige lions for the amusement of a cheering audience.

Since the outcome of these uneven matches was pretty much a sure bet, the crowd hadn't packed the stands to see if maybe this time the Christians would win the day. They wanted the results and all the blood and gore they offered.

People could go home pleased that they'd gotten their money's worth -- and more, that they themselves were alive and whole. Vicarious murder was a simple way of reassuring yourself that your personal problems weren't really so bad after all.

Human nature, and the need for such entertainment, hadn't changed very much in a millennium or two. Lions and Christians might have been passe, but in the last gasp of winter in the year 2059, murder still sold strong and bumped the ratings in the media.

In a more civilized way, of course.

Families, wooing couples, the sophisticated, and their country cousins continued to queue up and plunk down hard-earned credits to be entertained by the idea of murder.

Crime and punishment was Lieutenant Eve Dallas's business, and murder was her specialty. But tonight she sat in a comfortable seat in a packed house and watched the canny business of murder play out onstage.

"He did it."

"Hmm?" Roarke was every bit as interested in his wife's reaction to the play as he was the play itself. She leaned forward in her chair, her arms crossed on the gleaming rail of the owner's box. Her brandy-colored eyes scanned the stage, the players, even as the curtain came down for intermission.

"The Vole guy. He killed the woman. Bashed her head in for her money. Right?"

Roarke took the time to pour them each a glass of the champagne he had chilling. He hadn't been certain how she'd react to an evening with murder as the entertainment and was pleased she'd gotten into the spirit. "Perhaps."

"You don't have to tell me. I know." Eve took the flute glass, studied his face.

And a hell of a face it was, she thought. It seemed to have been carved by magic into a staggering male beauty that made a woman's glands hum a happy tune. The dark mane of hair framed it, those long, sculpted bones; the firm, full mouth that was curved now in the faintest of smiles as he watched her. He reached out, ever so casually, to skim those long fingers over the ends of her hair.

And those eyes, that brilliant, almost burning blue, could still make her heart stumble.

It was mortifying the way the man could turn her inside out with no more than a look.

"What are you staring at?"

"I like looking at you." The simple phrase, delivered with that musical hint of Ireland, was a power all its own.

"Yeah?" She angled her head. Relaxed by the idea of having the entire evening to do nothing but be with him, enjoy him, she let him nibble on her knuckles. "So, you want to fool around?"

Amused, he set his glass down and, watching her, ran his hand up the long line of her leg to where the slit in her narrow skirt ended at the hip.

"Pervert. Cut it out."

"You asked."

"You have no shame." But she laughed and handed him back his glass. "Half the people in this fancy joint of yours have their spyglasses on this box. Everybody wants a look at Roarke."

"They're looking at my very nifty wife, the homicide cop who brought me down."

She sneered at that, as he knew she would. It gave him the opening to lean over and sink his teeth lightly into her soft bottom lip. "Keep it up," she warned. "We'll have to sell tickets."

"We're still basically newlyweds. It's perfectly acceptable for newlyweds to neck in public places."

"Like you care about what's acceptable." She put a hand on his chest, nudged him back to a safe distance. "So, you've packed them in tonight. I guess you figured you would." She turned back to look out on the audience again.

She didn't know much about architecture or design, but the place dripped with class. She imagined Roarke had employed the best minds and talents available to rehab the old building into its former glory.

People wandered in and out of the enormous, multilevel theater during the break, and the sound of their voices rose in a low roar of humanity. Some were dressed to kill, so to speak. Others were decked out in the casual wear of airboots and oversized, retro flak jackets that were all the rage that winter.

With its soaring, muraled ceilings, its miles of red carpet and acres of gilt, the theater itself had been redone to Roarke's exacting specifications. Everything he owned was done to his specifications -- and, Eve thought, he owned damn near everything that could be owned in the known universe.

It was something she still wasn't used to, something she doubted she'd ever be fully comfortable with. But that was Roarke, and they'd taken each other for better or worse.

In the year since they'd met, they'd had more than their share of both.

"It's a hell of a place you've got here, pal. I didn't get the full punch of it from the holo-models."

"Models only provide the structure and elements of ambiance. A theater needs people, the smell and sound of them, to have impact."

"I'll take your word for it. What made you pick this play for the opening?"

"It's a compelling story, and, I think, has timeless themes as the best stories do. Love, betrayal, murder, all in a layered and untidy package. And it's a stellar cast."

"And it all has your stamp on it. Still, Leonard Vole's guilty." She narrowed her eyes at the shimmering red-and-gold drawn curtain as if she could see through it to measure and judge. "His wife's a very cool customer, with some trick up her sleeve. The lawyer guy's good."

"Barrister," Roarke corrected. "The play takes place in London, mid-twentieth century. Barristers plead criminal cases in that particular system."

"Whatever. The costumes are cool."

"And authentic, circa 1952. When Witness for the Prosecution came out on film, it was a huge hit, and it's proven an enduring one. They had a stellar cast then, too." He had it on disc, of course. Roarke had a particular fondness for the black-and-white films of the early -- and mid-twentieth century.

Some saw black-and-white as simple and clear cut. He saw shadows. That, he thought, his wife would understand very well.

"They've done a good job casting actors who reflect the original players while maintaining their own style," he told her. "We'll have to watch the movie sometime, so you can judge for yourself."

He, too, scanned the theater. However much he enjoyed an evening out with his wife, he was a businessman. The play was an investment. "I think we're in for a good, long run with this."

"Hey, there's Mira." Eve leaned forward as she spotted the police psychologist, elegant as always, in a winter-white sheath. "She's with her husband, and it looks like a couple of other people."

"Would you like me to get a message down to her? We could invite them for a drink after curtain."

Eve opened her mouth, then slid her gaze to Roarke's profile. "No, not tonight. I've got other plans."

"Do you?"

"Yeah. Got a problem with that?"

"None whatsoever." He topped off their wine. "Now, we have a few minutes before the next act. Why don't you tell me why you're so sure Leonard Vole is guilty."

"Too slick not to be. Not slick like you," she added and made Roarke grin. "His is a -- what do you call it -- a veneer. Your slick goes down to the bone."

"Darling, you flatter me."

"Anyway, this guy's an operator, and he does a good job with the honest, innocent act of a hopeful, trusting man who's down on his luck. But great-looking guys with beautiful wives don't piddle time away with older, much less attractive women unless they have an agenda. And his goes a lot deeper than selling some goofy kitchen tool he invented."

She sipped her champagne, settling back as the house-lights flickered to signal the end of intermission. "The wife knows he did it. She's the key, not him. She's the study. If I were investigating, she's the one I'd be looking into. Yeah, I'd have myself a nice long talk with Christine Vole."

"Then the play's working for you."

"It's pretty clever."

When the curtain rose, Roarke watched Eve instead of the courtroom drama.

She was, he thought, the most fascinating of women. A few hours before, she'd come home with blood on her shirt. Fortunately, not her own. The case that caused it had opened and closed almost immediately with the dead she stood for and a confession she'd drawn out within an hour of the crime itself.

It wasn't always that simplistic. He supposed that was the word. He'd seen her drive herself to exhaustion, risk her life, to bring justice to the dead.

It was only one of the myriad facets of her he admired.

Now she was here, for him, dressed in sleek and elegant black, her only jewelry the diamond he'd once given her, dripping like a tear between her breasts, and her wedding ring. Her hair was short, a careless cap of dozens of shades of brown.

She watched the play with those cool cop's eyes, dissecting, he imagined, evidence, motive, and character, just as she would a case that landed in her lap. Her mouth was unpainted -- she rarely remembered or thought of lip dye. Her strong face with its take-me-on chin and its shallow cleft didn't need it.

He watched that mouth thin and those eyes narrow and gleam as the character of Christine Vole took the stand and betrayed the man she'd called her husband.

"She's up to something. I told you she was up to something."

Roarke danced his fingers over the back of Eve's neck. "So you did."

"She's lying," Eve murmured. "Not all the way. Pieces of lies. Where does the knife come into it? So he cut himself with it. It's not a vital point. The knife's a red herring. Not the murder weapon, which, by the way, they haven't introduced into evidence. That's a flaw. But if he cut himself slicing bread with the knife -- and everyone agrees he did -- why do they need it?"

"He either cut himself on purpose to explain the blood on his sleeves or by accident as he claims."

"Doesn't matter. It's smoke." Her brow furrowed. "Oh, he's good." Her voice lowered, vibrated with the intense dislike she'd developed for Leonard Vole. "Look at him standing in the... what is it?"

"The dock."

"Yeah, standing in the dock looking all shocked and devastated by her testimony."

"Isn't he?"

"Something's off. I'll figure it out."

She liked putting her mind to it, looking for the angles and the twists. Before her involvement with Roarke, she'd never seen an actual live play. She'd passed some time in front of the screen, had let her friend Mavis drag her to a couple of holograph acts over the years. But she had to admit watching live performers act out the scenes, deliver the lines, and make the moves took the whole entertainment aspect to a higher level.

There was something about sitting in the dark, looking down on the action that made you a part of it, while separating you just enough that you didn't have a real stake in the outcome.

It removed responsibility, Eve thought. The foolish and wealthy widow who'd gotten her skull bashed in wasn't looking to Lieutenant Eve Dallas to find the answers. That made looking for those answers an interesting game.

If Roarke had his way -- and it was rarely otherwise -- that rich widow would die six nights a week, and during two matinees, for a very, very long time for the amusement and entertainment of an audience of armchair detectives.

"He's not worth it," she muttered, drawn in by the action enough to be annoyed by the characters. "She's sacrificing herself, performing for the jury so they look at her as an opportunist, a user, a cold-hearted bitch. Because she loves him. And he's not worth a damn."

"One would assume," Roarke commented, "that she's just betrayed him and hung him out to dry."

"Uh-uh. She's turned the case on its ear, shifted it so that she's the villain. Who's the jury looking at now? She's the center, and he's just a sap. Damn smart thinking, if he was worth it, but he's not. Does she figure that out?"

"Watch and see."

"Just tell me if I'm right."

He leaned over, kissed her cheek. "No."

"No, I'm not right?"

"No, I'm not telling, and if you keep talking, you'll miss the subtleties and the dialogue."

She scowled at him but fell silent to watch the rest of the drama unfold. She rolled her eyes when the not guilty verdict was read. Juries, she thought. You couldn't depend on them in fiction or in real life. A panel of twelve decent cops would have convicted the bastard. She started to say so, then watched Christine Vole fight her way through a crowd of spectators, who wanted her blood, into the nearly empty courtroom.

Eve nodded, pleased when the character confessed her lies and deceptions to Vole's barrister. "She knew he was guilty. She knew it, and she lied to save him. Idiot. He'll brush himself off and dump her now. You watch."

Eve turned her head at Roarke's laugh. "What's so funny?"

"I have a feeling Dame Christie would have liked you."

"Who the hell is that? Ssh! Here he comes. Watch him gloat."

Leonard Vole crossed the courtroom set, flaunting his acquittal and the slinky brunette on his arm. Another woman, Eve thought. Big surprise. She felt both pity and frustration for Christine as she threw herself into Vole's arms, tried to cling.

She watched his arrogance, Christine's shock and disbelief, Sir Wilfred's anger. It was no less, no more than she expected, however well played. And then, she came straight up out of her chair.

"Son of a bitch!"

"Down girl." Delighted, Roarke dragged Eve back into her seat while onstage, Christine Vole plunged the knife she'd snatched from the evidence table into her husband's black heart.

BOOK: Witness in Death
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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