dragging her back and spoiling what Eve knew was a celebration dinner with Peabody’s main squeeze.

“She came back alone. If she’d come back with someone, even if he was going to kill her, he’d have gone for the sex first. Why waste it? And this isn’t a struggle. This isn’t a fight. One clean swipe. No other stab wounds.”

She looked back at the body and brought Andrea Jacobs to life in her mind. “She comes back from her date, her night out. Had a few drinks. Starts upstairs. Does she hear something? Probably not. Maybe she’s stupid and she comes upstairs after she hears somebody up here. We’ll find out if she was stupid, but I bet he hears her. Hears her come in.”

Eve walked out into the hall, stood there a moment, picturing it, and ignoring the movements of the crime-scene team working in the house.

She walked back, imagined kicking off those sky-high heels. Your arches would just weep with relief. Maybe she lifted one foot, bent over a little, rubbed it.

And when she straightened, he was on her.

Came from behind the door, Eve thought, or out of the closet on the wall beside the door. Stepped right up behind her, yanked her head back by the hair, then sliced.

Lips pursed, she studied the pattern of blood spatter.

Spurted out of the jugular, she thought, onto the bed. She’s facing the bed, he’s behind. He doesn’t get messy. Just slices down quick, gives her a little shove forward. She’s still spurting as she falls.

She glanced toward the windows. Drapes were drawn. Moving over, she eased them back, noted the privacy screen was engaged as well. He’d have done that. Wouldn’t want anyone to notice the light, or movement.

She stepped out again, tossed the mask into her field kit.

Crime scene and the sweepers were already crawling around the place in their safe suits. She nodded toward a uniform. “Tell the ME’s team she’s cleared to be bagged, tagged and transported. Where’s the witness?”

“Got her down in the kitchen, Lieutenant.”

She checked her wrist unit. “Take your partner, start a neighborhood canvass. You’re first on scene, right?”

He straightened a little. “Yes, sir.”

She waited a beat. “And?”

She had a rep. You didn’t want to screw up with Dallas. She was tall, lean and dressed now in summer-weight pants, T-shirt and jacket. He’d seen her seal up before she went into the bedroom, and her right hand had a smear of blood on the thumb.

He wasn’t sure if he should mention it.

Her hair was brown and chopped short. Her eyes were the same color and all cop.

He’d heard it said she chewed up lazy cops for breakfast and spit them out at lunch.

He wanted to make it through the day.

“Dispatch came through at sixteen-forty, report of a break-in and possible death at this address.”

Eve looked back toward the bedroom. “Yeah, extremely possible.”

“My partner and I responded, arrived on scene at sixteen-fifty-two. The witness, identified as Samantha Gannon, resident, met us at the door. She was in extreme distress.”

“Cut through it. Lopkre,” she added, reading his name tag.

“She was hysterical, Lieutenant. She’d already vomited, just outside the front door.”

“Yeah, I noticed that.”

He relaxed a little, since she didn’t seem inclined to take a bite out of him. “Tossed it again, same spot, right after she opened the door for us. Sort of folded in on herself there in the foyer, crying. She kept saying, ‘Andrea’s dead, upstairs.’ My partner stayed with her while I went up to check it out. Didn’t have to get far.”

He grimaced, nodded toward the bedroom. “The smell. Looked into the bedroom, saw the body. Ah, as I could verify death from the visual from the doorway, I did not enter the scene and risk contaminating same. I conducted a brief search of the second floor to confirm no one else, alive or dead, was on the premises, then called it in.”

“And your partner?”

“My partner’s stayed with the witness throughout. She-Officer Ricky-she’s got a soothing way with victims and witnesses. She’s calmed her down considerably.”

“All right. I’ll send Ricky out. Start the canvass.”

She started downstairs. She noted the suitcase just inside the door, the notebook case, the big-ass purse some women couldn’t seem to make a move without.

The living area looked as if it had been hit by a high wind, as did the small media room off the central hallway. In the kitchen, it looked more like a crew of mad cooks-a redundancy in Eve’s mind-had been hard at work.

The uniform sat at a small eating nook in the corner, across a dark blue table from a redhead Eve pegged as middle twenties. She was so pale the freckles that sprinkled over her nose and cheekbones stood out like cinnamon dashed over milk. Her eyes were a strong and bright blue, glassy from shock and tears and rimmed in red.

Her hair was clipped short, even shorter than Eve wore her own, and followed the shape of her head with a little fringe over the brow. She wore enormous silver hoops in her ears, and New York black in pants, shirt, jacket.

Traveling clothes, Eve assumed, thinking of the cases in the foyer.

The uniform-Ricky, Eve remembered-had been speaking in a low, soothing voice. She broke off now, looked toward Eve. The look they exchanged was brief: cop to cop. “You call that number I gave you, Samantha.”

“I will. Thank you. Thanks for staying with me.”

“It’s okay.” Ricky slid out from the table, walked to where Eve waited just inside the doorway. “Sir. She’s pretty shaky, but she’ll hold a bit longer. She’s going to break again, though, ’cause she’s holding by her fingernails.”

“What number did you give her?”

“Victim’s Aid.”

“Good. You record your conversation with her?”

“With her permission, yes, sir.”

“See it lands on my desk.” Eve hesitated a moment. Peabody also had a soothing way, and Peabody wasn’t here. “I told your partner to take you and do the knock-on-doors. Find him, tell him I’ve requested you remain on scene for now, and to take another uniform for the canvass. If she breaks, it might be better if we have somebody she relates to nearby.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Give me some space with her now.” Eve moved into the kitchen, stopped by the table. “Ms. Gannon? I’m Lieutenant Dallas. I need to ask you some questions.”

“Yes, Beth, Officer Ricky, explained that someone would… I’m sorry, what was your name?”

“Dallas. Lieutenant Dallas.” Eve sat. “I understand this is difficult for you. I’d like to record this, if that’s all right? Why don’t you just tell me what happened.”

“I don’t know what happened.” Her eyes glimmered, her voice thickened dangerously. But she stared down at her hands, breathed in and out several times. It was a struggle for control Eve appreciated. “I came home. I came home from the airport. I’ve been out of town. I’ve been away for two weeks.”

“Where were you?”

“Um. Boston, Cleveland, East Washington, Lexington, Dallas, Denver, New L.A., Portland, Seattle. I think I forgot one. Or two.” She smiled weakly. “I was on a book tour. I wrote a book. They published it-e, audio and paper forms. I’m really lucky.”

Her lips trembled, and she sucked in a sob. “It’s doing very well, and they sent-the publisher-they sent me on a tour to promote it. I’ve been bouncing around for a couple weeks. I just got home. I just got here.”

Eve could see by the way Samantha’s gaze flickered around the room that she was moving toward another breakdown. “Do you live here alone? Ms. Gannon?”

“What? Alone? Yes, I live by myself. Andrea doesn’t-didn’t-Oh God… ”

Her breath began to hitch, and from the way her knuckles whitened as she gripped her hands together, Eve knew this time the struggle was a full-out war. “I want to help Andrea. I need you to help me understand so I can start helping her. So I need you to try to hold on until I do.”

“I’m not a weak woman.” She rubbed the heels of her hands over her face, violently. “I’m not. I’m good in a crisis. I don’t fall apart like this. I just don’t.”

Bet you don’t, Eve thought. “Everybody has a threshold. You came home. Tell me what happened. Was the door locked?”

“Yes. I uncoded the locks, the alarm. I stepped in, dumped my stuff. I was so happy to be in my own space again. I was tired, so happy. I wanted a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Then I saw the living room. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry. Just furious and outraged. I grabbed my ’link from my pocket and called Andrea.”

“Because?”

“Oh. Oh. Andrea, she was house-sitting. I didn’t want to leave the house empty for two weeks, and she wanted to have her apartment painted, so it worked out. She could stay here, water my plants, feed the fish… Oh Jesus, my fish!” She started to slide out, but Eve grabbed her arm.

“Hold on.”

“My fish. I have two goldfish. Live fish, in my office. I didn’t even look in there.”

“Sit.” Eve held up a finger to hold Samantha in place, then got up, stepped to the door and signaled to one of the sweepers. “Check out the home office, get me the status on a couple of goldfish.”

“Huh?”

“Just do it.” She went back to the table. A tear was tracking down Samantha’s cheek, and the delicate redhead’s skin was blotchy. But she hadn’t broken yet. “Andrea was staying here while you were gone. Just Andrea?”

“Yes. She probably had someone over now and again. She’s sociable. She likes to party. That’s what I thought when I saw the living area. That she’d had some insane party and trashed my place. I was yelling at her machine through the ’link when I started upstairs. I said terrible things.” She dropped her head into her hands.

“Terrible things,” she murmured. “Then there was that horrible smell. I was even more furious. I slammed into the bedroom, and… she was there. She was there, lying on the floor by the bed. All the blood, that didn’t even look like blood anymore, but, you know, somehow, you know. I think I screamed. Maybe I blacked out. I don’t know.”

She looked up again, and her eyes were shattered. “I don’t remember. I just remember seeing her, then running down the stairs again. I called nine-one-one. And I was sick. I ran outside and got sick. And then I was stupid.”

“How were you stupid?”

“I went back in the house. I know better. I should’ve stayed outside, waited for the police outside or gone to a neighbor’s. But I wasn’t thinking straight, and I came back in and just stood in the foyer, shaking.”

“You weren’t stupid, you were in shock. There’s a difference. When’s the last time you talked to Andrea?”

“I’m not sure. Early in the tour. From East Washington, I think. Just a quick check.” She dashed a second tear away as if irritated to find it there. “I was awfully busy, and I didn’t have a lot of free

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