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J D Robb

Celebrity in Death

From fame to infamy is a beaten road.

Thomas Fuller

The lust for power, for dominating others,

inflames the heart more than any other passion.

Tacitus

1

With frustration and some regret, she studied murder. It lay in the quiet room on a sofa the color of good merlot, with heart blood staining a pale gray shirt beneath the silver bolt of a scalpel. Her eyes, flat and grim, tracked the body, the room, the tray of artfully arranged fruit and cheese on the low table.

“In close again.” Her voice, like her eyes, was all cop as she straightened her long, lean frame. “He’s lying down. He’s deactivated the droid, leaving it and the house security programmed for DO NOT DISTURB. But he’s lying here and he doesn’t worry about somebody coming in, leaning over him. Tranqs maybe. We’ll check the tox screen but I don’t think so. He knew her. He didn’t fear for his life when she came into the room.”

She stepped to the door. In the corridor outside the pretty blonde sat on the floor, head in her hands with the sturdily built, newly minted detective smirking beside her.

And she stood, framed in the doorway with murder at her back.

“And cut! That’s the money shot.”

At the director’s signal, the area—dressed as the late Wilford B. Icove Junior’s home office—became a hive of sound and movement.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who’d once stood in that home office over a body that did not—as this one did—sit up and scratch his ass, felt the weird sense of déjà vu shatter.

“Is this iced or what?” Beside her, Peabody did a restrained little dance by lifting and lowering the heels of her pink cowboy boots. “We’re on an actual vid set watching ourselves. And we look good.”

“It’s weird.”

And weirder yet, Eve thought, to watch herself—or a reasonable facsimile—coming toward her with a big, happy smile.

She didn’t smile like that, did she? That would be yet another weird.

“Lieutenant Dallas. It’s so great you made it on set. I’ve been dying to meet you.” The actress held out a hand.

Eve had seen Marlo Durn before, but as a sun-kissed blonde with dark green eyes. The short, choppy brown hair, the brown eyes, even the shallow dent in the chin that matched her own gave Eve a little bit of the wigs.

“And Detective Peabody.” Marlo passed the long leather coat she’d worn for the scene—a twin of the one Eve’s husband had given her during the Icove investigation—to a wardrobe person.

“I’m a huge fan, Ms. Durn. I’ve seen everything you’ve been in.”

“Marlo,” she told Peabody. “We’re partners, after all. Well, what do you think?” She gestured at the set, and a twin of the wedding ring on Eve’s finger flashed on Marlo’s. “Are we close?”

“It looks good,” Eve said. Like a freaking crime scene still with people tromping around.

“Roundtree—the director—wants authentic.” Marlo nodded toward the burly man hunched over a monitor. “And what he wants, he gets. It’s just one of the reasons he insisted we shoot everything in New York. I hope you’ve had time to look around, really get a sense of things. I wanted this part the minute I heard about the project, even before I read Nadine Furst’s book. And you, both of you, lived it. Now I’m babbling.”

She let out a quick, easy laugh. “Talk about a huge fan. I’ve steeped myself in all things Eve Dallas for months now. I even did a few ride-alongs with a couple of detectives when even Roundtree couldn’t budge you or your commander to let me and K.T. ride with the two of you. And,” she continued before Eve could respond, “having steeped myself, I completely understand why you put up the block.”

“Okay.”

“And babbling again. K.T.! Come over and meet the real Detective Peabody.”

The actress, deep in discussion with Roundtree, glanced over. Annoyance showed in her eyes before she put on what Eve assumed was her meet-the-public smile.

“What a treat.” K.T. shook hands, gave Peabody the once-over. “You’re letting your hair grow.”

“Yeah. Kind of. I just saw you in Teardrop. You were totally mag.”

“I’m going to steal Dallas for a few minutes.” Marlo hooked an arm through Eve’s. “Let’s grab some coffee,” she said, drawing Eve out of the crime scene set and through the mock-up of the Icove home’s second story. “The producers arranged for me to have the brand you drink, and now I’m hooked. I asked my assistant to set us up in my trailer.”

“Aren’t you working?”

“A lot of the work is waiting. I guess that’s a similarity to police work.” Moving quickly in boots and rough trousers, her prop weapon—Eve assumed—in a shoulder harness, Marlo led the way through the studio, past sets, equipment, huddles of people.

Eve stopped at the reproduction of her own bullpen. Desks—cluttered—the case board that took her back to the previous fall, the cubes, the scuffed floor.

The only thing missing was the cops—and the smell of processed sugar, bad coffee, and sweat.

“Is it right?”

“Yeah—some bigger, I guess.”

“It won’t look it on-screen. They reproduced your office, in the same layout, so they can shoot me or one of the others going through this area and in, or out. Would you like to see it?”

They walked through, past the false wall and an open area Eve assumed wouldn’t show on-screen either, and into a near-perfect model of her office at Cop Central, right down to the narrow window. Though this one looked out on the studio instead of New York.

“They’ll CGI in the view—buildings, air traffic,” Marlo said when Eve walked over to look out. “I’ve already shot some scenes in here, and we did the conference room scene where you lay out the conspiracy—Icove, Unilab, Brookhollow Academy. That was intense. The dialogue was straight from the book, which we’re told stuck very close to the actual record. Nadine did a brilliant job of merging the reality with a page-turning story line. Though I guess the reality was page-turning. I admire you so much.”

Surprised, mildly uncomfortable, Eve turned.

“What you do, every day,” Marlo continued, “is so important. I’m good at my work. I’m damn good at it, and I feel strongly what I do is important. It’s not uncovering-a-global-cloning-ring important, but without art, stories, and the people who bring those stories to life, the world would be a sadder, smaller place.”

“Sure it would.”

“When I started researching this part, I realized I’ve never had another role I wanted so much to do justice to. Not just because of the Oscar potential—though the shiny gold man would look great on my mantel—but because it’s important. I know you only watched the one scene, but I hope if there was anything that didn’t ring true, didn’t feel right to you, you’ll tell me.”

“It seemed right to me.” Eve shrugged. “The thing is, it’s strange, I guess a little disorienting, to watch somebody being you doing what you did, saying what you said. So since it felt strange and disorienting, it must be

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