J. D. Robb
New York to Dallas
The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.
I wonder, by my troth, what thou, and I
Did, till we lov’d.
While a late-summer storm bashed against her single skinny window, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wished for murder.
As far as she could see, a good, bloody killing was the only thing that would save her from the torture of paperwork stacked like the Alps on her desk at Cop Central. Her own fault, no question, but she’d been just a little too busy investigating and closing cases to hunker down with budgets and expense reports and the damn evaluation sheets.
Telling herself it was part of the job didn’t help when she actually had to do it—in bulk—which was why she’d closed herself in her office with lots and lots of coffee and wondered why somebody didn’t just kill somebody else and save her from this nightmare.
Not really, she told herself. Or not exactly. But since people consistently killed other people anyway, why not
She stared at the numbers on her computer screen until her eyes throbbed. She cursed, sulked, steamed, then strapped on and squeezed, crunched, fudged, and manipulated until she could make the stingy departmental bottom line fit the needs of her division.
They were murder cops, she thought with bitter resentment. Homicide didn’t run on blood alone.
She got through it, moved on to the expense chits submitted by her officers and detectives.
Did Baxter actually believe she’d bite on three-seventy-five for shoes because he’d fucked up his own chasing a suspect down a sewer? And why the hell had Reineke shelled out double the usual rate to a street-level licensed companion for information?
She stopped, got more coffee, stared out at the brutality of the storm for a few minutes. At least she wasn’t out there, plugged like a wet cork into one of the shuddering airtrams, or shoving her way through the drowning hell of street traffic. She could be soaked, steaming like a clam in the endless stream of heat the summer of 2060 poured on New York.
Stalling, she thought in disgust, and forced herself to sit again. She’d promised herself she’d finish before the afternoon ceremony. Both she and her partner would receive medals. Peabody had earned it and more, Eve thought, as the catalyst for taking down a ring of dirty cops.
If paperwork was the drudgery of command, submitting Peabody’s name for the Meritorious Police Duty Honor for Integrity was a boon. All she had to do was finish the grunt work, then she could enjoy the moment with a clear head and guiltless conscience.
She wished she had candy, but she hadn’t settled on a new hiding place to thwart the nefarious Candy Thief. She wished she could dump some of this crap on Peabody the way she had when Peabody had been her aide instead of her partner.
Those days were over.
Stalling again, she admitted, and raked her fingers through her short, choppy brown hair.
“Task complete. Shut it down.”
Unable to comply, the computer responded.
Jesus, had she really programmed that? “I changed my mind.”
“Bite me,” Eve muttered.
She hacked her way through the expense reports, submitted them up the chain. Someone else’s problem now, she decided and felt almost righteous. No reason she couldn’t start the evals later.
“Fine, fine, fine. Computer, display previous evals, in alpha order, for all officers under my command.”
She worked her way through. She’d put the damn command in to keep herself in line—and because every single one of her men deserved the time and attention it took for a solid and judicious evaluation.
She finished Baxter, both Carmichaels, and had slogged her way to Jenkinson when the knock sounded on her door.
“Yeah, what?” She scowled over at Peabody as her partner opened the door. “Is it an alien invasion?”
“Not that I’ve heard. There’s a guy out here, pretty shaky, claims he can only speak to you. He says it’s a matter of life and death.”
“Yeah?” She perked up. “Computer, life-and-death countermand. Save and hold.”
“Peabody, tell this fucking machine there’s a human being requiring my attention on a matter of life and death.”
“Ah, Computer, Peabody, Detective Delia, requests the lieutenant’s attention on an urgent matter.”
Annoyed, Eve gave the computer a rap with the heel of her hand. “It’s pretty pitiful when your own comp won’t take your word.”
“You put all that in there so you wouldn’t squirm out of the paperwork.”
“Still. Send life and death back.”
He came at a stumbling run, a skinny guy she judged as late twenties. He sported a tangle of messy dreads, baggy red shorts, gel-flips, a silver lip ring, and a dingy white tank that showed off his tattoo sleeves. Sweat ran down his thin, white face.
“You’re Dallas. Lieutenant Eve Dallas, NYPSD. Homicide.”
“That’s right. What’s the—”
He burst into tears—loud, hiccupping tears. “He said—he said—I could only talk to you. Had to come to you. He’s got her. He’s got Julie. He’s gonna kill her if you don’t come back with me. He said an hour, and it took me half that to get here.”
His words rolled on top of each other between sobs and shakes. Eve got out of her chair, shoved him into it.
“Suck it up and slow down. What’s your name?”
“I’m Tray. Tray Schuster.”
“Who is he?”