Dark in Death

By: J.D. Robb

1



On the mega screen bloody murder played out in classic black and white for an audience of one hundred and seven. With the sharp screech of violins, violas, and cellos that number dropped by one.

Unlike the character of Marion Crane, Chanel Rylan didn’t scream or flail at the shock of violent death. In row twenty-seven in theater three of Vid Galaxy in New York City’s Times Square, she let out little more than a mouse squeak as the ice pick plunged into the back of her neck.

Her body gave one quick jerk; her hands batted at the air and upended the mini bucket of popcorn in her lap. Her last breath escaped like a long sigh.

She died in the dark as blood circled black down the drain on the screen.

No one noticed. With all eyes, all attention riveted to the screen, no one noticed the killer slip into the aisle and walk away from dark deeds.

When Lola Kawaski hurried back in, dropping into her aisle seat, she cursed in a whisper, “Damn it, I can’t believe I missed the big, classic scene. And I’m going to have to miss the rest. I’m kicking myself for agreeing to be on call tonight, but we’ve got an emergency coming in, so—”

In apology, she patted Chanel’s arm. The movement caused her dead friend’s body to shift, slumping against Lola. Lola’s initial amusement—leave it to an actor to go all dramatic—flipped to alarm.

Then the screaming started.

* * *

Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood over the body. Someone had dragged said body into the aisle in a useless attempt at first—or more accurately last—aid. Now the scene was totally fucked.

So was her evening at home. She’d actually walked in the door on time for once, out of the claw swipe of late February wind and into the warmth of a Summerset-free house, as Roarke’s majordomo was off on his winter vacation.

She’d even beaten Roarke home and experienced the odd and rare sensation of having the big-ass fancy house all to herself. And the cat.

She’d considered squeezing in a workout—contemplated just jogging from room to room; if she managed to hit them all that would equal a pretty damn serious workout.

Instead, she wandered into the big front parlor with its art, antiques, and rich colors. She decided she deserved a big red circle around the day on the 2061 calendar, and she put on the fire, poured a glass of wine, sat in one of the butt-cuddling chairs.

The cat sat at her feet, eyed her suspiciously.

“I know, weird, right? I’m just sitting here.” Kicking out her legs, she crossed her booted feet at the ankles. “Maybe I could get used to it,” she said, lifting the wine for the first sip.

Her communicator signaled.

“Or maybe not.”

Two minutes later, she grabbed her coat from the newel post where she’d tossed it. And Roarke walked in.

The wind followed him, tossing his black-as-midnight hair around that remarkable warrior-poet face. His perfectly sculpted mouth curved, those wild blue eyes smiled at her.

Then he noted she shot her arms into the coat rather than stripping it off.

He said, “Uh-oh.”

“Sorry. Five damn minutes home, and I caught one. DB at a vid palace in Times Square.”

“An unhappy ending for the DB.” Ireland cruised through his voice. And as she wrapped her scarf around her neck, he left the door open to the cold. “Opening scene for my cop.”

He caught her face in his hands, kissed her—taking his time with it, despite the cold wind and the call of duty.

“I’ll see you later,” she told him. “Maybe even sooner. There’s a glass of wine in the parlor. I’d just poured it.”

He gave her another, briefer kiss. “I’ll think of you when I drink it.”

Less than ten minutes after she’d walked in, she started out. “Don’t forget to feed the cat.”

“As if he’d let me.”

Now Eve imagined Galahad’s belly was full, and Roarke had enjoyed her wine while she studied a woman identified as Chanel Rylan by her vid-watching friend.

Eve stood alone in the theater, having already taken the report of the first officer on scene. She studied the blood on the back of the chair—first in from the aisle—and the smeared drops helpful civilians had stepped in when moving the body.

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