Home > In Death #7.5 - Midnight in Death

In Death #7.5 - Midnight in Death
Author: J.D. Robb

J.D. Robb - In Death #7.5 - Midnight in Death

Midnight in Death (In Death #7.5)
J.D. Robb




Chapter One

Murder respects no traditions. It ignores sentiment. It takes no holidays.

Because murder was her business, Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood in the predawn freeze of Christmas morning coating the deerskin gloves her husband had given her only hours before with Seal-It.

The call had come in less than an hour before and less than six hours since she’d closed a case that had left her shaky and exhausted. Her first Christmas with Roarke wasn’t getting off to a rousing start.

Then again, it had taken a much nastier turn for Judge Harold Wainger.

His body had been dumped dead center in the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Face up, so his glazed eyes could stare at the huge celebrational tree that was New York’s symbol of goodwill toward men.

His body was naked and already a deep shade of blue. The thick mane of silver hair that had been his trademark had been roughly chopped off. And though his face was severely battered, she had no trouble recognizing him.

She’d sat in his courtroom dozens of times in her ten years on the force. He had been, she thought, a solid and steady man, with as much understanding of the slippery channels of the law as respect for the heart of it.

She crouched down to get a closer look at the words that had been burned deeply into his chest.


She hoped the burns had been inflicted postmortem, but she doubted it.

He had been mercilessly beaten, the fingers of both hands broken. Deep wounds around his wrists and ankles indicated that he’d been bound. But it hadn’t been the beating or the burns that killed him.

The rope used to hang him was still around his neck, digging deep into flesh. Even that wouldn’t have been quick, she decided. It didn’t appear that his neck had been broken, and the burst vessels in his eyes and face signaled slow strangulation.

“He wanted you alive as long as possible,” she murmured. “He wanted you to feel it all.”

Kneeling now, she studied the handwritten note that was flapping gaily in the wind. It had been fixed over the judge’s groin like an obscene loincloth. The list of names had been printed in careful square block letters.







“Saving me for last, Dave?”

She recognized the style: gleeful infliction of pain followed by a slow, torturous death. David Palmer enjoyed his work. His experiments, as he’d called them when Eve had finally hunted him down three years before.

By the time she’d gotten him into a cage, he had eight victims to his credit, and with them an extensive file of discs recording his work. Since then he’d been serving the eight life-term sentences that Wainger had given him in a maximum-security ward for mental defectives.

“But you got out, didn’t you, Dave? This is your handiwork. The torture, the humiliations, the burns. Public dumping spot for the body. No copycat here. Bag him,” she ordered and got wearily to her feet.

It didn’t look as though the last days of December 2058 were going to be much of a party.

The minute she was back in her vehicle, Eve ordered the heat on full blast. She stripped off her gloves and rubbed her hands over her face. She would have to go in and file her report, but the first order of business couldn’t wait for her to drive to her home office. Damn if she was going to spend Christmas Day at Cop Central.

She used the in-dash ‘link to contact Dispatch and arrange to have each name on the list notified of possible jeopardy. Christmas or not, she was ordering uniformed guards on each one.

As she drove, she engaged her computer. “Computer, status on David Palmer, mental-defective inmate on Rexal penal facility.”

Working…. David Palmer, sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in off-planet facility Rexal reported escaped during transport to prison infirmary, December nineteen. Man-hunt ongoing.

“I guess Dave decided to come home for the holidays.” She glanced up, scowling, as a blimp cruised over, blasting Christmas tunes as dawn broke over the city. Screw the herald angels, she thought, and called her commander.

“Sir,” she said when Whitney’s face filled her screen. “I’m sorry to disturb your Christmas.”

“I’ve already been notified about Judge Wainger. He was a good man.”

“Yes, sir, he was.” She noted that Whitney was wearing a robe—a thick, rich burgundy that she imagined had been a gift from his wife. Roarke was always giving her fancy presents. She wondered if Whitney was as baffled by them as she usually was. “His body’s being transferred to the morgue. I have the evidence sealed and am en route to my home office now.”

“I would have preferred another primary on this, Lieutenant.” He saw her tired eyes flash, the golden brown darkening. Still, her face, with its sharp angles, the firm chin with its shallow dent, the full, unsmiling mouth, stayed cool and controlled.

“Do you intend to remove me from the case?”

“You’ve just come off a difficult and demanding investigation. Your aide was attacked.”

“I’m not calling Peabody in,” Eve said quickly. “She’s had enough.”

“And you haven’t?”

She opened her mouth, closed it again. Tricky ground, she acknowledged. “Commander, my name’s on the list.”

“Exactly. One more reason for you to take a pass here.”

Part of her wanted to—the part that wanted, badly, to put it all aside for the day, to go home and have the kind of normal Christmas she’d never experienced. But she thought of Wainger, stripped of all life and all dignity.

“I tracked David Palmer, and I broke him. He was my collar, and no one knows the inside of his mind the way I do.”

“Palmer?” Whitney’s wide brow furrowed. “Palmer’s in prison.”

“Not anymore. He escaped on the nineteenth. And he’s back, Commander. You could say I recognized his signature. The names on the list,” she continued, pressing her point. “They’re all connected to him. Wainger was the judge during his trial. Stephanie Ring was APA. Cicely Towers prosecuted the case, but she’s dead. Ring assisted. Carl Neissan was his court-appointed attorney when Palmer refused to hire his own counsel, Justine Polinksy served as jury foreman. Dr. Mira tested him and testified against him at trial. I brought him in.”

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