Home > In Death #22.5 - Haunted in Death

In Death #22.5 - Haunted in Death
Author: J.D. Robb

J.D. Robb - In Death #22.5 - Haunted in Death

Haunted in Death (In Death #22.5)
J.D. Robb





Winter could be murderous. The slick streets and icy sidewalks broke bones and cracked skulls with gleeful regularity. Plummeting temperatures froze the blood and stopped the hearts of a select few every night in the frigid misery of Sidewalk City.

Even those lucky enough to have warm, cozy homes were trapped inside by the bitter winds and icy rains. In the first two weeks of January 2060 – post-holiday – bitch winter was a contributing factor to the sharp rise in domestic disturbance calls to the New York City Police and Security Department.

Even reasonably happy couples got twitchy when they were bound together long enough by the cold ropes of winter.

For Lieutenant Eve Dallas, double d’s weren’t on her plate. Unless some stir-crazy couple killed each other out of sheer boredom.

She was Homicide.

On this miserable, bone-chilling morning, she stood over the dead. It wasn’t the cold or the ice that had killed Radcliff C. Hopkins III. She couldn’t say, as yet, if the blue-tipped fingers of winter had been a contributing factor. But it was clear someone had put numerous nasty holes in Radcliff C.’s chest. And another, neatly centered on his wide forehead.

Beside her, Eve’s partner Detective Delia Peabody crouched for a closer look. “I’ve never seen these kinds of wounds before, outside of training vids.“

“I have. Once.“

It had been winter then, too, Eve remembered, when she’d stood over the first victim in a series of rape/murders. The gun ban had all but eliminated death by firearm, so gunshot wounds were rare. Not that people didn’t continue to kill each other habitually. But the remote violence and simplicity of a bullet into flesh and bone wasn’t often the method of choice these days.

Radcliff C. might have been done in by an antiquated method, but it didn’t make him any less dead.

“Lab boys will rub their hands together over this one,“ Eve murmured. “They don’t get much call to play with ballistics.“

She was a tall woman, with a lean build inside a long black leather coat. Her face was sharp with angles, her eyes long and brown and observant. As a rare concession to the cold, she’d yanked a black watch cap over her short, usually untidy brown hair. But she’d lost her gloves again.

She continued to stand, let her partner run the gauge for time of death.

“Six wounds visible,“ Eve said. “Four in the body, one in the right leg, one to the head. From the blood spatter, blood trail, it looks like he was hit first there.“ She gestured a few feet away. “Force knocks him back, down, so he tries to crawl. Big guy, fleshy, with a strong look to him. He maybe had enough in him to crawl some, maybe to try to get up again.“

“Time of death, oh-two-twenty.“ Peabody, her dark hair in a short, sassy flip at the base of her neck, looked up. Her square, sturdy face was cop solemn, but there was a gleam in her eye, dark as her hair. “ID confirmed. You know who he is, right?“

“Hopkins, Radcliff C. With the fussy Roman numerals after.“

“Your lack of interest in culture trivia’s showing again. His grandfather was Hop Hopkins, and made a couple of fortunes in the swinging Sixties. Nineteen-sixties. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Night clubs, music venues. L.A.-based, mostly, before the big one hit California, but he had a hot spot here in New York.“

Peabody shifted her weight. “Ran hot for a couple of decades, then hit a serious patch of bad luck. The even more legendary Bobbie Bray – she was – “

“I know who Bobbie Bray was.“ Eve hooked her thumbs in her pockets, rocking back on her heels as she continued to study the body, the scene. “I’m not completely oblivious to popular culture. Rock star, junkie, and a cult figure now. Vanished without a trace.“

“Yeah, well, she was his wife – third or fourth – when she poofed. Rumor and gossip figured maybe he offed her or had her done, but the cops couldn’t find enough evidence to indict. He went spooky, did the hermit thing, lost big fat piles of dough, and ended up OD’ing on his drug of choice – can’t remember what it was – right here in New York.“

Peabody pushed to her feet. “From there it’s urban legend time. Place where he OD’d was upstairs from the club, that’s where he’d holed himself up. In the luxury apartment he’d put in on the top floor. Building passed from hand to hand, but nobody could ever make a go of it. Because…“

Peabody paused now, for effect. “It’s haunted. And cursed. Anyone who’s ever tried to live there, or put a business in, suffers personal and/or physical misfortunes.“

“Number Twelve. Yeah, I’ve heard of it. Interesting.“

Hands still in her pockets, Eve scanned the large, dilapidated room. “Haunted and cursed. Seems redundant. Guess maybe Radcliff C. figured on bucking that.“

“What do you mean?“ Then Peabody’s jaw dropped. “This is the place? This? Oh boy. Jeez.“

“Anonymous tip does the nine-one-one. Gonna want to review that transmission, because it’s likely it was the killer. What I’ve got is the vic owned the building, was having it rehabbed, redesigned. Maybe looking for some of his grandfather’s glory days. But what’s our boy doing hanging around in a cursed, haunted building at two in the morning?“

“This is the place,“ Peabody repeated, reverently now. “Number Twelve.“

“Since the addy’s Twelve East Twelfth, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, yeah. Let’s turn him.“

“Oh, right.“

When they rolled the body, Eve pursed her lips. “Somebody really wanted this guy dead. Three more entry wounds on the back. Lab will confirm, but I’m thinking…“

She crossed the room toward a set of old circular iron stairs. “Standing about here, facing the attacker. Pow, pow. Takes it in the chest.“ She slapped a hand on her own. “Stumbles back, goes down. The smeared blood trail tells me the vic tried crawling away, probably toward the doors.“

“Doors were locked from the inside. First on scene said,“ Peabody added.

“Yeah. So he’s crawling, and the killer moves in. Pow, pow, into the back.“ The sound of the shots must have blasted the air in here, Eve thought. Must have set the ears ringing. “But it’s not enough. No, we’re not finished yet. Body falls, has to be dead or dying, but it’s not enough. Turns the body over, puts the barrel of the gun to the forehead. See the burn marks around the forehead wound? Contact. I did a lot of studying up on firearms during the DeBlass case a couple years ago. Puts the barrel right against the head and pow.Coup de grace.“

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