Home > In Death #11 - Judgment in Death

In Death #11 - Judgment in Death
Author: J.D. Robb


J.D. Robb - In Death #11 - Judgment in Death

Judgment in Death (In Death #11)
J.D. Robb

mystery/romance/sf/thriller/fantasy

In_Death_11/index

 

CHAPTER ONE

She stood in Purgatory and studied death. The blood and the gore of it, the ferocity of its glee. It had come to this place with the willful temper of a child, full of heat and passion and careless brutality.

Murder was rarely a tidy business. Whether it was craftily calculated or wildly impulsive, it tended to leave a mess for others to clean up.

It was her job to wade through the debris of murder, to pick up the pieces, see where they fit, and put together a picture of the life that had been stolen. And through that picture to find the image of a killer.

Now, in the early hours of morning, in the hesitant spring of 2059, her boots crunched over a jagged sea of broken glass. Her eyes, brown and cool, scanned the scene: shattered mirrors, broken bottles, splintered wood. Wall screens were smashed, privacy booths scarred and dented. Pricey leather and cloth that had covered stools or the plusher seating areas had been ripped to colorful shreds.

What had once been an upscale strip club was now a jumbled pile of expensive garbage.

What had once been a man lay behind the wide curve of the bar. Now a victim, sprawled in his own blood.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas crouched beside him. She was a cop, and that made him hers.

"Male. Black. Late thirties. Massive trauma, head and body. Multiple broken bones." She took a gauge from her field kit to take the body and ambient temperatures. "Looks like the fractured skull would have done the job, but it didn't stop there."

"He was beaten to pieces."

Eve acknowledged her aide's comment with a grunt. She was looking at what was left of a well-built man in his prime, a good six-two and two hundred and thirty pounds of what had been toned muscle.

"What do you see, Peabody?"

Automatically, Peabody shifted her stance, focused her vision. "The victim... well, it appears the victim was struck from behind. The first blow probably took him down, or at least dazed him. The killer followed through, with repeated strikes. From the pattern of the blood splatter, and brain matter, he was taken out with head shots, then beaten while down, likely unconscious. Some of the injuries were certainly delivered postmortem. The metal bat is the probable murder weapon and was used by someone of considerable strength, possibly chemically induced, as the scene indicates excessive violence often demonstrated by users of Zeus."

"Time of death, oh four hundred," Eve stated, then turned her head to look up at Peabody.

Her aide was starched and pressed and as official as they came, with her uniform cap set precisely on her dark chin-length hair. She had good eyes, Eve thought, clear and dark. And though the sheer vileness of the scene had leached some of the color from her cheeks, she was holding.

"Motive?" Eve asked.

"It appears to be robbery, Lieutenant."

"Why?"

"The cash drawer's open and empty. The credit machine's broken."

"Mmm-hmm. Snazzy place like this would be heavier in credits, but they'd do some cash business."

"Zeus addicts kill for spare change."

"True enough. But what would our victim have been doing alone, in a closed club, with an addict? Why would he let anyone hopped on Zeus behind the bar? And..." With her sealed fingers she picked up a small silver credit chip from the river of blood. "Why would our addict leave these behind? A number of them are scattered here around the body."

"He could have dropped them." But Peabody began to think she wasn't seeing something Eve did.

"Could have."

She counted the coins as she picked them up, thirty in all, sealed them in an evidence bag, and handed it to Peabody. Then she picked up the bat. It was fouled with blood and brain. About two feet in length, she judged, and weighted to mean business.

Mean business.

"It's good, solid metal, not something an addict would pick up in some abandoned building. We're going to find this belonged here, behind the bar. We're going to find, Peabody, that our victim knew his killer. Maybe they were having an after-hours drink."

Her eyes narrowed as she pictured it. "Maybe they had words, and the words escalated. More likely, our killer already had an edge on. He knew where the bat was. Came behind the bar. Something he'd done before, so our friend here doesn't think anything of it. He's not concerned, doesn't worry about turning his back."

She did so herself, measuring the position of the body, of the splatter. "The first blow rams him face first into the glass on the back wall. Look at the cuts on his face. Those aren't nicks from flying glass. They're too long, too deep. He manages to turn, and that's where the killer takes the next swing here, across the jaw. That spins him around again. He grabs the shelves there, brings them down. Bottles crashing. That's when he took the killing blow. This one that cracked his skull like an egg."

She crouched again, sat back on her heels. "After that, the killer just beat the hell out of him, then wrecked the place. Maybe in temper, maybe as cover. But he had enough control to come back here, to look at his handiwork before he left. He dropped the bat here when he was done."

"He wanted it to look like a robbery? Like an illegals overkill?"

"Yeah. Or our victim was a moron and I'm giving him too much credit. You got the body and immediate scene recorded? All angles?"

"Yes, sir."

"Let's turn him over."

The shattered bones shifted like a sack of broken crockery as Eve turned the body. "Goddamn it. Oh, goddamn it."

She reached down to lift the smeared ID from the cool, congealing pool of blood. With her sealed thumb, she wiped at the photo and the shield. "He was on the job."

"He was a cop?" Peabody stepped forward. She heard the sudden silence. The crime scene team and the sweepers working on the other side of the bar stopped talking. Stopped moving.

A half dozen faces turned. Waited.

"Kohli, Detective Taj." Eve's face was grim as she got to her feet. "He was one of us."

Peabody crossed the littered floor to where Eve stood watching the remains of Detective Taj Kohli being bagged for transferal to the morgue. "I got his basics, Dallas. He's out of the One twenty-eight, assigned to Illegals. Been on the job for eight years. Came out of the military. He was thirty-seven. Married. Two kids."

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