Home > Golden in Death (In Death #50)(2)

Golden in Death (In Death #50)(2)
Author: J.D. Robb

“Box cutter’s right here. He’s dead seven minutes after he takes the package. He brings it in here,” Eve said. “Opens it. Takes out this other box—cheap fake wood, little lock and key. Opens that. We’ve got broken bits of colored material and shards—shiny gold color maybe on the outside, white interior—on the floor. Maybe hard plastic. Something in the box. Open that and …

“Fuck.” She stepped back. “Call the hazmat unit.”

“Oh, shit.”

“The spouse isn’t dead, or the MTs, or the first on scene. Whatever it was must be dissipated enough, but call them in, let them know we have an unknown toxic substance.”

Eve eased around, read the return address on the box.

“All That Glitters.” She ran it. “Bogus name and address on the shipping box.”

“They’re on their way,” Peabody reported, “and advise us to evacuate the premises.”

“Too late for that. Seven minutes, Peabody. Subtract the couple minutes to walk back here, get the box cutter, open everything. He was basically dead when he opened the box over seven hours ago.” And still, she thought. “Get Uniform Carmichael and Officer Shelby over to Global Post and Packages, find out where this package was dropped off for shipping, who signed it in, if there’s any security feed. Then contact the morgue team, and tell them we may have a hot one.”

“Dallas, you touched him—”

“I was sealed,” Eve reminded her. “His spouse, the MTs touched him, too. Whatever killed him, it’s done its work. It’s finished.”

She stood a moment, a tall, lanky woman with a choppy cap of brown hair, brown cop’s eyes, wearing a bronze leather jacket, good brown boots.

Basic precautions, she told herself.

“I’m going to scrub up, just to cover protocol. When I have, we’ll talk to the spouse. We’re going to want whatever he was wearing when he touched the vic bagged for the hazmat team.”

She grabbed her field kit, started off to find a powder room or bathroom. “Contact the shipping company first. We need to talk to the delivery person.”

Going to be late, she thought as she used the scrub in her kit in a stylish powder room with maroon walls.

According to the Marriage Rules—self-written and -enforced—she needed to let her own spouse know. Roarke understood the job’s screwy hours, but you had to follow the rules.

Peabody stepped up to the door. “Carmichael and Shelby are on their way to GP&P, and I have the name of the delivery person for this route. Lydia Merchant. She clocked out at her usual time, but I have contact info on her.”

“Let’s run her in the meantime. Seems long odds she’d make the delivery if she decided to poison a customer, but people can be stupid.”

Eve waited for the special team, tolerated the scan to make certain she hadn’t contracted some toxicity from the body—wanted to balk when the lead tech insisted on drawing some blood to test on the spot. But figured not only better safe than sorry, but quicker to deal with it and move on.

Cleared, she and Peabody headed upstairs to talk to the spouse.

“Lydia Merchant, age twenty-seven,” Peabody began on the walk upstairs. “Employed by GP&P for six years. Clean employment record, clear on criminal.”

“We talk to her anyway.”

Rufty’s clothes had already been bagged and sealed. In gray sweatpants and a navy sweatshirt with TAG in gold across the chest, he sat, shocked and grieving, on a curvy love seat in a sitting area of a bedroom done in rusty reds and old gold.

He had a neat brown goatee streaked with blond to match a shaggy mop of hair. A tall, gangly man, he had a long, thin face, dark, currently watery brown eyes.

He wore, as the victim did, a white gold band on the third finger of his left hand. And his hands stayed clutched together as if they alone kept him from shattering into pieces.

Eve signaled to the uniform who sat with him.

“Start the canvass with your partner. Anyone who saw anything, I hear about it. If you touched the body or anything in or around the crime scene, the hazmat unit needs to clear you.”

“Yes, sir.” He glanced back at Rufty. “He wants to call their kids, but I’ve held him off. He for sure touched the body, sir.”

“We’ll get to that. Take the bagged clothes down with you, give them to hazmat. Have one of them come up to scan and clear him.”

She moved to Rufty, sat on the deep red chair facing him. “Dr. Rufty, I’m Lieutenant Dallas. This is Detective Peabody. We’re very sorry for your loss.”

“I—I need to talk to the kids. Our children. I need—”

“We’ll let you do that very soon. I know this is a difficult time for you, but we need to ask you some questions.”

“I—I came home. I called out: ‘Jesus, Kent, what a day. Let’s have a really big drink.’” He covered his long, thin face with his long, thin hands. “And I walked back to the kitchen, and—Kent. Kent. He was on the floor. He was … I tried to … I couldn’t. He was…”

Peabody leaned over, took his hand in hers. “We’re very sorry, Dr. Rufty. There was nothing you could do.”

“But…” He turned to her, and the look, Eve thought, said: Help me. Explain. Make it stop.

“I don’t understand. He’s so healthy. He’s always nagging me to exercise more, eat better. He’s so fit and strong. I don’t understand. He was going for a run this morning. He always goes for a run on his day off, and on his lunch hour if he can squeeze it in during office hours. He was going to finish the crossword and go for a run.”

“Dr. Rufty.” Eve waited until those shattered brown eyes focused on her. “Were you expecting a package today? A delivery?”

“I—I don’t know. I can’t think of anything.”

“Have you ever ordered from an outlet called All That Glitters?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You get deliveries from Global Post and Packages?”

“Yes. Yes, Lydia delivers. But I…” He pressed a hand to his temple. “I don’t think we ordered anything. I don’t remember.”

“That’s all right. Look at me, Dr. Rufty. Do you know of anyone who’d wish to harm your husband?”

“What?” He jerked. Fresh shock. “Hurt Kent? No, no. Everyone loved Kent. Everyone. I don’t understand.”

Eve countered the spikes in his voice with absolute calm. “Someone from his office, from his practice, from the neighborhood.”

“No, no. Kent has such a lovely practice. All those babies and little kids. It’s all so happy there. He worked so hard for his children, his patients. You can ask,” he said, his voice spiking again. “You can ask all of them, all of the people who work there. They love Kent!”

“All right. You’ve been married a long time. Were there any problems?”

“No. No. We love each other. We have our children. We have grandchildren. I need to call our children.”

When he started to weep, Peabody moved over to sit next to him. “I know this is hard. Did Kent mention anyone who worried him? Did he say anything about someone or an incident that upset him?”

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