Home > Golden in Death (In Death #50)(3)

Golden in Death (In Death #50)(3)
Author: J.D. Robb

“No. Nothing I remember. No. I don’t understand. What happened? What happened? Did someone hurt Kent?”

“Dr. Rufty.” With no choice, Eve gave it straight. “We believe Dr. Abner received a package this morning, and that package contained a toxin, which caused his death.”

Tears fell still, but Rufty’s body straightened. “What? What? Are you saying someone killed Kent? Someone sent something into the house, into our home that killed him?”

Eve rose at the knock on the door, let in the white-suited sweeper. “We need to take precautions. We need to ask you to submit to a scan, to allow us to test your blood, as you touched Dr. Abner. It’s possible the package he opened this morning contained a toxic substance.”

“It’s not possible.” He dismissed it outright, and with the ring of certainty. “No one would do that. No one who knew Kent would do that.”

“We need to take precautions.” Eve sat again, looked directly into Rufty’s eyes. “We’re going to do everything we can to find out what happened to your husband.”

“You loved him,” Peabody said gently. “You want to do whatever needs to be done to find out what happened.”

“Yes. Do whatever you have to do. Then please, God, please, let me call our children. I need to talk to our children.”

Eve waited while Rufty was scanned, tested, cleared. Whatever had killed Kent Abner had dissipated before anyone else had come in contact with the body.

“You can contact your children,” Eve told Rufty. “Is there somewhere you can go, stay for a few days? It would be best if you didn’t stay here.”

“I can stay with our daughter. She’s closer. Our son lives in Connecticut, but Tori and her family live just a few blocks away. I can stay with Tori.”

“We’ll arrange to take you there, as soon as you’re ready.”

Rufty closed his eyes. When he opened them, the tears had burned away to reveal the steel. “I need to know what happened to my husband. To the father of my children. To the man I loved for forty years. If someone did this, someone hurt him, I need to know who. I need to know why.”

“It’s our job to get those answers for you, Dr. Rufty. If you think of anything,” Eve added, “anything at all, you can contact me.”

“He was such a good man. I need you to understand that. Such a good man. A loving man. He never hurt anyone in his life. Everyone loved Kent. They loved him.”

Someone didn’t, Eve thought.

“I believe him,” Peabody said as they finally left the crime scene. “That guy was cut off at the knees, and he honestly didn’t know anything or anyone that put Abner in the crosshairs.”

“Agreed, but a spouse doesn’t always know everything. We need to dig into Abner, his work, his habits, his hobbies. Any extramarital relationships.”

As she nodded, Peabody glanced back at the pretty brownstone with tulips blooming in its little front garden. “It’d be worse if, you know, it was just bad luck of the draw. If this was random.”

“A hell of a lot worse. The package was addressed specifically so we’ll look specifically. Let’s talk to the delivery person asap.”

Peabody programmed the address on the in-dash. “You feel okay, right?”

“I’m fine. Didn’t the vampires draw my blood and clear me?”

“Yeah, but I’ll feel better when they ID the toxin.” Peabody frowned out the window of the car. “He laid there for hours. The good of that is whatever it was dissipated, so we’re all not dead. The bad is he laid there for hours.”

“Yeah, and think about that. Have the delivery in the morning, knowing nobody’s going to go in there until late afternoon. It makes it look like a specific kill. Just Abner.”

As she pushed through traffic, Eve took a contact from Officer Shelby on her wrist unit. “What’ve you got, Shelby?”

“They tracked the package to a drop-off kiosk on West Houston, sir. It was logged in through the after-hours depository—that’s self-serve—at twenty-two hundred hours.”

“Security cam?”

“Yes, sir. And the cam had a glitch at twenty-one-fifty-eight until twenty-three-oh-two.”

“An idiot would call that a coincidence.”

“Yes, sir. Officer Carmichael, who is not an idiot, has requested EDD examine the security camera and feed at this depository. However, if the killer proves to be an idiot, she used her credit account, via her ’link, to pay for the overnight shipping. Said payment was charged to the account of a Brendina A. Coffman, age eighty-one, apartment 1A, 38 Bleecker Street.”

“We’ll check her out now. Good work, Shelby.”

Peabody didn’t have time to grab the chicken stick before Eve wheeled sharp around a corner to change direction.

“Get a warrant,” Eve ordered Peabody. “We need to look at Coffman’s credit history.”

“Brendina Coffman.” Peabody read off her PPC as Eve fought her way to Bleecker. “Married to Roscoe Coffman for fifty-eight years, lived at the current address for thirty-one years. A retired bookkeeper who worked for Loames and Gardner for—wow—fifty-nine years. No criminal in the last half century or so, but a couple of dings in her twenties. Disorderly conduct and simple assault. They have three offspring—male, female, male, ages fifty-six, fifty-three, and forty-eight. Six grandchildren from ages twenty-one to ten.”

“Start running the rest of them,” Eve ordered. “It’s not going to be an idiot,” she muttered. “We don’t have that kind of luck. But run them.”

“Okay, well, the oldest offspring is Rabbi Miles Coffman of Shalom Temple, married to Rebekka Greene Coffman for twenty-one years—and she teaches at the Hebrew school attached to the temple. They have three of the kids—twenty, eighteen, and sixteen, female, male, and male, respectively—nothing flagged on the kids, no criminal on the parents.”

With no available parking in sight, Eve double-parked, causing much annoyance on Bleecker. Ignoring it, she flipped up her On Duty light.

“Keep going,” Eve said as she got out, studied the sturdy old residential building. A triple-decker of faded brick, no graffiti, clean windows, some of them open to the cool spring evening.

“Marion Coffman Black, married to Francis Xavior Black, twenty-three years—no, twenty-four as of today; happy anniversary—is currently employed, as she has been for twenty years, as bookkeeper in the same firm as her mother was. Couple dings in her twenties for illegal protests, nothing since. Son, twenty-one, a student at Notre Dame, daughter, age nineteen, also at Notre Dame.”

“Hold that thought,” Eve advised as they approached the gray door of the entrance to 1A.

Decent security, she noted, but nothing fancy. She pressed the buzzer.

The woman who answered looked pretty good for eighty-one. She had a bubble of ink-black hair Eve figured wouldn’t move in a hurricane, lips freshly dyed stop-sign red, rosy cheeks, and eyes heavily shadowed and lashed.

She wore a deep blue cocktail dress with a high neck, long sleeves, and gave Eve and Peabody a frowning once-over from nut-brown eyes.

“We’re not buying.”

“Not selling,” Eve said, and held up her badge.

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