Home > Golden in Death (In Death #50)(5)

Golden in Death (In Death #50)(5)
Author: J.D. Robb


Back in the car, Peabody strapped in. “Maybe the killer’s looking for an easy mark. An older woman, distracted with a lot of other women. Maybe follow them awhile. Crowded shopping area, bump and snatch.”

“Most likely,” Eve agreed. “And with her being older, he might think if she can’t put her hands on her ’link at some point, she’ll just think she misplaced it. Maybe she doesn’t change codes right off. He only needs a few hours. Use it, toss it, move on.”

She muscled her way back across town. “It’s not going to connect to the family. Not that having a cop and a rabbi in there exempts them, but it’s sloppy and stupid.”

“Are you going to read Sergeant Coffman in?”

“Might as well. If there is any connection, he can dig into that angle. We’ll talk to the delivery girl—who’s not going to be connected, either, unless somebody has a grudge there, saw this as getting her in trouble.”

“That would be stupid, too.”

“Exactly, but we’ll talk to her. She works that route. Maybe she knows someone in the neighborhood who wasn’t a fan of Kent Abner’s.”

Lydia Merchant lived five floors up in a post-Urban building over a bodega that smelled like mystery tacos. Nobody had their windows open to the spring evening, and most had riot bars.

Despite the five floors, one glance at the pair of green-doored elevators—one with a sign stating OUT OF ORDER, with a handwritten AGAIN! in angry block letters—had Eve shoving open the stairwell door.

Peabody hissed out, “Loose pants,” and climbed with her through various scents—somebody’s Chinese takeout, someone’s very rank body odor, someone’s heavy dose of cheap cologne (possibly Mr. BO), and, oddly, what might have been fresh roses.

On the fifth floor, Eve scanned the apartment door. Strong security here, in the way of locks: three police locks rather than electronics.

Cheaper, she thought, but pretty effective.

She buzzed.

Moments later, through the static on the intercom, somebody demanded, “Who is it?”

“NYPSD.”

“Yeah, right.”

“NYPSD,” Eve repeated, and held her badge up to the Judas hole.

“I’m calling in to check that before I open the door.”

“Dallas, Lieutenant Eve; Peabody, Detective Delia, Cop Central.”

“Yeah, right again.”

Eve waited, waited. Actually heard a squeal from inside, then rising female voices before locks began to clunk. She heard the distinct metal slide of a riot bar before the door popped open.

The two women who stood gaping hit about the same age. One was tall, busty, blond, the other just hitting average height with a small build. A mixed-race brunette.

Both had big blue eyes.

“Holy shit,” they said in unison. “You look just like Marlo Durn did in the vid,” the blonde continued. “Or Marlo, I guess she looked like you. We saw it twice.”

“Great.” She should get used to it, Eve thought.

She’d never get used to it.

“Did somebody break in and kill somebody?” Lydia, the brunette, demanded. “Somebody’s always breaking into this dump, or trying to.”

“No. It’s about a package you delivered this morning, Ms. Merchant.”

“Really?” Big blue eyes got bigger. “Which one?”

“Can we come in?” Peabody added a quick smile.

“Oh, sure. You’re prettier than the actress in the vid,” the blonde told her. “I know she was killed and all that, but it’s just true.”

The roses from the stairway scent stood on the skinny bar that separated the crowded living area from a tiny kitchen. A bottle of wine stood open beside it.

“Have a seat, I guess. We were just going to have some wine. Can you have wine? We’re celebrating.”

“No, but thanks.”

“We both got raises.” The blonde, definitely bubbly, perched on the arm of the chair. “I got mine last week, and Lydia’s finally came through today. We’re moving out of this hellhole!”

“Congratulations. Ms. Merchant—”

“Just Lydia’s okay. It’s really so weird you’re both here, in our hellhole. I deliver a lot of packages. I work for GP&P, but I guess you know.”

“You delivered one to Kent Abner this morning.”

“Dr. Abner, sure. I deliver to him and to Dr. Rufty. They’re really nice—always give me a tip for Christmas. Not everybody does. Was something wrong with the package? I handed it right to Dr. Abner at the door.”

“Was there anything unusual in how the package came to you?”

“No. It’s mostly droids and automation at my distribution center. They load my van, upload the schedule—overnights with A.M. deliveries or special deliveries first and so on. It was—had to be because it was this morning—an overnight A.M. I don’t get what this is about.”

“We believe the package contained an as-yet-unidentified toxic substance.”

Lydia’s blue eyes went momentarily blank, then filled with alarm. “You mean like poison or something? Like terrorism or something?”

“We have no reason to believe, at this time, we’re dealing with any kind of terrorist attack.” Not altogether true, Eve thought.

“How do you know there was toxic stuff? Did Dr. Abner get sick?”

“Dr. Abner’s dead. He died shortly after receiving and opening the package.”

“Dead? He’s dead!” Those blue eyes filled. “But … Oh my God. Oh my God, Teela!”

Teela immediately slid off the arm, into the chair with Lydia, wrapped her arms around her. “Lydia touched it. Is she—”

“We believe the substance was released upon opening.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine. Dr. Abner. He’s such a nice man. He and Dr. Rufty are so sweet together. You can tell when people are sweet together. I really liked them. I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t know anything was wrong with the delivery. I never would have—”

“No one’s accusing you,” Peabody soothed. “Do you know of anyone, in their neighborhood, at your work, anywhere, who might have disliked Dr. Abner?”

“No. I know some of their neighbors because it’s my route. But nobody ever said anything mean, or much at all. Sometimes if a neighbor isn’t home and doesn’t have a delivery box, one of the others will take it for them—you have to have a waiver on file for that. Some of them do. The doctors will sometimes take deliveries for the people on either side of them, and they do that for the doctors, too. It’s a really nice, friendly street. But today, the only package on that block was for Dr. Abner.

“Oh God, is Dr. Rufty okay? I don’t think he was home. It looked like Dr. Abner was going out for a run. I sometimes see him running when I’m on my route, and see Dr. Rufty coming home if I have late-afternoon deliveries.”

“Dr. Rufty wasn’t home at the time.”

“I don’t know what to do. Is there something I should do? What should I do?” she asked Eve.

“If you think of anything, you can contact me or Detective Peabody.”

“You have to find out what happened. He was a really nice man. He looked so happy this morning. I remember that. He just looked happy, and said how it was going to be a beautiful day. You have to find out what happened.”

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