“IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ROBB, THIS IS A GREAT PLACE TO START.”—Stephen King
“A WITTY, DARK, PAGE-TURNING TALE OF FUTURISTIC CRIME FIGHTING. RAYMOND CHANDLER MEETS BLADE RUNNER MEETS SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.”—Jonathan Kellerman
New York City, 2060: Lieutenant Eve Dallas never forgets a corpse. Her new case will resurrect the memories of women she couldn’t save—and the killer who slipped out of her grasp...
When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city was on edge from a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days, courtesy of a man the media tagged “The Groom”—because he put silver rings on the fingers of his victims.
But this time, it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal. The young woman was employed by Eve’s billionaire husband, Roarke, washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet his company manufactures. Chances are, The Groom is working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career—abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.
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J. D. Robb is the pseudonym for a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including the bestselling In Death series. There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
For him, death was a vocation. Killing was not merely an act, or a means to an end. It certainly was not an impulse of the moment or a path to gain and glory.
Death was, in and of itself, the all.
He considered himself a late bloomer, and often bemoaned the years before he’d found his raison d’être. All that time lost, all those opportunities missed. But still, he had bloomed, and was forever grateful that he had finally looked inside himself and seen what he was. What he was meant for.
He was a maestro in the art of death. The keeper of time. The bringer of destiny.
It had taken time, of course, and experimentation. His mentor’s time had run out long before he himself had become the master. And even in his prime, his teacher had not envisioned the full scope, the full power. He was proud that he had learned, had not only honed his skills but had expanded them while perfecting his techniques.
He’d learned, and learned quickly, that he preferred women as his partners in the duet. In the grand opera he wrote, and rewrote, they outperformed the men.
His requirements were few, but very specific.
He didn’t rape them. He’d experimented there, as well, but had found rape distasteful and demeaning to both parties.
There was nothing elegant about rape.
As with any vocation, any art that required great skill and concentration, he’d learned he required holidays—what he thought of as his dormant periods.
During them he would entertain himself as anyone might on a holiday. He would travel, explore, eat fine meals. He might ski or scuba dive, or simply sit under an umbrella on a lovely beach and while away the time reading and drinking mai tais.
He would plan, he would prepare, he would make arrangements.
By the time he went back to work, he was refreshed and eager.
As he was now, he thought as he readied his tools. More, so much more ... with his latest dormant period had come the understanding of his own destiny. So he’d gone back to his roots. And there, where he had first seriously plied his trade, he would re-form and remake connections before the curtain came down.
It added so many interesting layers, he mused, as he tested the edge on an antique switchblade with a horn handle he’d purchased while touring Italy. He turned the steel blade to the light, admired it. Circa nineteen fifty-three, he thought.
It was a classic for a reason.
He enjoyed using tools from long ago, though he also employed more modern pieces. The laser, for instance—so very excellent for applying the element of heat.
There must be a variety—sharp, dull, cold, heat—a series of elements in various forms, in various cycles. It took a great deal of skill, and patience and concentration to spin those cycles out to the absolute zenith of his partner’s aptitude.
Then, and only then, would he complete the project and know he’d done his best work.
This one had been an excellent choice. He could congratulate himself on that. For three days and four nights, she’d survived—and there was life in her yet. It was so satisfying.
He’d started out slowly, naturally. It was vital, absolutely vital, to build and build and build to that ultimate crescendo.
He knew, as a master of his craft knew such things, that they were approaching that peak.
“Music on,” he ordered, then stood, eyes closed as he absorbed the opening strains of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
He understood the central character’s choice of death for love. Hadn’t it been that choice, so many years before, that had sent him on this path?
He slipped the protective cover over his tailored white suit.
He turned. He looked at her.
Such a lovely thing, he thought now. He remembered, as he always did, her precursor. Her mother, he supposed.
The Eve of all the others.
All that pretty white skin covered with burns and bruises, with narrow slices and meticulous little punctures. They showed his restraint, his patience, his thoroughness.
Her face was untouched—as yet. He always saved the face for last. Her eyes were fixed on his—wide, but yes, a bit dull. She had experienced nearly all she was capable of experiencing. Well, the timing worked well. Very well, because he’d anticipated, he’d prepared.
He’d already secured the next.
He glanced, almost absently, at the second woman across the room, peacefully sleeping under the drug he’d administered. Perhaps tomorrow, he thought, they could begin.
But for now...
He approached his partner.
He never gagged his partners, believing they should be free to scream, to beg, to weep, even to curse him. To express all emotion.
“Please,” she said. Only, “Please.”
“Good morning! I hope you rested well. We have a lot of work to do today.” He smiled as he laid the edge of the knife between her first and second ribs. “So let’s get started, shall we?”
Her screams were like music.
Every once in a while, Eve thought, life was really worth living. Here she was, stretched out in a double-wide sleep chair watching a vid. There was plenty of action in the vid—she liked watching stuff blow up—and the “plotline” meant she didn’t have to actually think.
She could just watch.
She had popcorn, drowned in butter and salt, the fat cat stretched across her feet keeping them nice and warm. She had the next day off, which meant she could sleep until she woke up, then veg until she grew mold.
Best of all, she had Roarke cozied up in the chair beside her. And since her husband had complained after one handful that the popcorn was disgusting, she had the whole bowl to herself.
Really, it didn’t get any better.
Then again, maybe it did—would—as she planned to nail her husband like an airjack when the vid was over. Her version of a double feature.
“Iced,” she said after a midair collision of a tourist tram and an ad blimp.
“I thought this storyline would appeal to you.”
“There is no storyline.” She took another handful of popcorn. “That’s what appeals to me. It’s just some dialogue stitching explosions together.”
“There was brief full-frontal nudity.”
“Yeah, but that was for you, and those of your ilk.” She flicked a glance up at him, as on screen pedestrians ran screaming from falling wreckage.
He was so damn gorgeous—in anyone’s ilk. A face sculpted by talented gods on a really good day. Strong bones laying the excellent foundation under that Irish white skin, the mouth that made her think of poets, until he used it on her so she couldn’t think at all. Those wild Celt’s eyes that saw just who she was.
Then you topped it off with all that black silky hair, added that long, lean body, the sexy Irish accent, tossed in brains, wit, temper, and street smarts and you had yourself a hell of a package.
And he was all hers.
She intended to make really good use of what was hers for the next thirty-six hours or so.
On screen a street battle erupted among the rubble with hurled miniboomers and whooshing blasters. The hero—distinguished by the fact he’d kicked the most ass thus far—burst through the mêlée on the back of a jet-bike.
Obviously caught up, Roarke dug into the popcorn. Then immediately pulled his hand out again and scowled at his own fingers. “Why don’t you just dump salt into melted butter and eat that?”
“The corn makes a nice vehicle for it. Aw, what’s the matter? You get your pretty hands messy?”
He wiped his fingers down her face, smiled. “Clean now.”
“Hey!” She laughed, set the bowl aside. It would be safe, she knew, as even Galahad, the cat, wouldn’t eat it her way. She poked a finger hard into Roarke’s ribs, rolled until she was on top of him.
Maybe they’d just have a sneak preview of tonight’s second feature.
“Going to pay for that one, pal.”
“It’s going to be the installment plan. I figure we’ll start with ...” She lowered her mouth to his, nipped that excellent bottom lip. She felt his hand move over her. Lifting her head, she narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you feeling my ass or wiping the rest of the butter and salt off your fingers?”
“Two birds, one ass. About that first payment.”
“The interest is going to be7mdash;ha-ha—stiff.” She went for the mouth again, started to sink in.
And her communicator signaled.
“Goddamn it.” She pulled up. “This is crap. I’m not on call.”
“Why is it in your pocket?”
“Habit. Stupid. Damn it,” she spurted as she dragged the communicator out, checked the display. “It’s Whitney.” Sighing, she shoved a hand through her hair. “I have to take it.”
“Pause vid,” Roarke ordered, then rubbed the butter off her cheek. “Lights on, seventy percent.”
“Thanks.” Eve clicked on. “Dallas.”
“Lieutenant, report to East River Park, at Second Street and Avenue D, as primary.”
“Commander—”“I understand you were neither on duty nor on call,” he interrupted. “Now you are.”
The word why went through her head, but she was too well-trained to verbalize it. “Yes, sir. I’ll contact Detective Peabody en route.”
“I’ll see you at Central.”
He clicked off.
“Unusual,” Roarke commented. He’d already turned off the vid. “For the commander to contact you personally, and to yank you in this way.”
“Something hot,” Eve replied and shoved the communicator back in her pocket.
“I’ve got nothing hot open. Not that it would have him tagging me directly when I’m not on the roll. Sorry.” She glanced over. “Screws vid night.”
“It’ll keep. But as my evening is now open, I believe I’ll go with you. I know how to keep out of the way,” he reminded her before she could object.
He did, she admitted. And since she knew he’d changed his own schedule, possibly postponing acquiring a small country or planetoid, it seemed only fair.
“Then let’s get moving.”
He knew how to stay out of the way when it suited him. He also knew how to observe. What Roarke saw when they arrived at the park were a number of black-and-whites, a small army of uniforms and crime scene techs.
The media people who had a nose for this sort of thing were there, firmly blocked by part of that army. The barricades had been erected, and like the media and the civilian gawkers, he would have to make his observations from behind them.
“If you get bored,” Eve told him, “just take off. I’ll make my own way back.”
“I’m not easily bored.”
He watched her now, observed her now. His cop. The wind kicked at her long black coat, one she’d need as this first day of March was proving as brutal as the rest of 2060 had been. She hooked her badge on her belt, though he wondered how anyone could mistake her for anything other than a cop, and one with authority.
Tall and rangy, she moved to the barricades in strong strides. Her hair, short and brown, fluttered a little in that same wind—a wind that carried the scent of the river.
He watched her face, the way those whiskey-colored eyes tracked, the way her mouth—that had been so soft and warm on his—firmed. The lights played over her face, shifting those angles and planes.
She looked back at him, very briefly. Then she moved on, moved through the barricades to do what, he supposed, she’d been born to do.
She strode through the uniforms and techs. Some recognized her; some simply recognized what Roarke had. Authority. When she was approached by one of the uniforms, she stopped, brushed her coat back to tap her badge.
“Sir. I was ordered to look out for you, to escort you. My partner and I were first on scene.”
“Okay.” She gave him a quick once-over. On the young side, cut as clean as a military band. His cheeks were pink from the cold. His voice said native New Yorker, heading toward Brooklyn. “What have we got?”
“Sir. I was ordered to let you see for yourself.”
“That so?” She scanned the badge on his thick uniform coat. “All right, Newkirk, let’s go see for myself.”
She gauged the ground covered, studied the line of trees and shrubs. It appeared the scene was well secured, locked tight. Not only from the land side, she noted as she glimpsed the river. The water cops were out, barricading the riverbank.
She felt a cold line of anticipation up her spine. Whatever this was, it was major.
The lights the techs had set up washed white over the shadows. Through them, she saw Morris coming toward her. Major, she thought again, for the chief medical examiner to be called on scene. And she saw it in his face, the tightness of concern.
“Dallas. They said you were on scene.”
“They didn’t say you were.”
“I was nearby, out with friends. A little blues club over on Bleecker.”
Which explained the boots, she supposed. The black and silver pattern she assumed had once belonged to some reptile wasn’t the sort of thing a man would normally sport on a crime scene. Not even the stylish Morris.
His long black coat blew back to reveal a cherry-red lining. Under it, he wore black pants, black turtleneck—extreme casual wear for him. His long, dark hair was slicked back into a tail, bound top and tip with silver bands.
“The commander called you in,” she said.
“He did. I haven’t touched the body yet—visual only. I was waiting for you.”
She didn’t ask why. She understood she was meant to form her own conclusions without any outside data. “With us, Newkirk,” she ordered, and walked toward the lights.
It might have been a sheet of ice or snow. From a distance, it might appear to be. And from a distance, the body arranged on it might appear to be artful—a model for some edgy shoot.
But she knew what it was, even from a distance, and the line of cold up her spine took on teeth.
Her eyes met Morris’s. But they said nothing.
It wasn’t ice, or snow. She wasn’t a model or a piece of art.
Eve took a can of Seal-It from her kit, set the kit down.
“You’re still wearing your gloves,” Morris told her. “That stuff’s hell on gloves.”
“Right.” With her gaze steady on the body, she pulled the gloves off, stuffed them in her pocket. Sealed up. She hooked her recorder to her coat. “Record on.” The techs would be running one, as would Morris. She’d have her own.
“Victim is female, Caucasian. Did you ID her?” she asked Morris.
“As yet unidentified. Mid- to late twenties, brown and blue. Small tat of a blue and yellow butterfly on left hip. The body is naked, posed on a white cloth, arms spread, palms up. There’s a silver ring on the third finger of her left hand. Various visible wounds indicating torture. Lacerations, bruising, punctures, burns. Crosshatch of slash wounds on both wrists, probable cause of death.” She looked at Morris.
“There’s carving in the torso, reading eighty-five hours, twelve minutes, thirty-eight seconds.”
Eve let out a long, long breath. “He’s back.”
“Yes,” Morris agreed. “Yes, he is.”
“Let’s get an ID, TOD.” She glanced around. “Could have brought her in through the park, or by water. Ground’s rock hard, ...
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