"I hate rain." Lieutenant Eve Dallas muttered while looking outside of their bedroom windows.
She was holding her second mug of coffee as she leaned on the sill. Her husband Roarke, who was busy scanning on the stock reports and daily news on his monitor screen, glanced at her.
She was wearing a white tee and a black trouser that matches her leather belt and dark boots. Her weapon was already holstered on her shoulders as if she was ready for combat.
My beautiful warrior, he thought as he reclined his back and watched his wife's indifferent attitude towards the weather.
"And what did the rain do to make you hate it?"
"Well." she shrugged her shoulders, "Rain can make people gloomy. When they're gloomy, they will feel depressed. When they're depressed, they will think of whacky things. Once they began to think of whacky things, they will kill people. Now if they are going to kill, they might do it outside. Then what do you think will happen to the crime scene? Destroyed!"
"Darling Eve, I have no idea that desk-works made you this miserable enough to think of outdoor mass killings. I never thought that you would succumb to your boredom and jinx everything that you have maintained these past few weeks. You were the one to blame for your causes, you know." he mused.
Eve shot him a beady look. With his Celtic blue eyes and long mane hair, it was a miracle that she was able to control herself not to feel gooey all the time.
He was in his dark suit like always, probably cost more than her monthly cop's salary, which only added to his powerful and dangerous demeanor.
He's mine, she said proudly in her thoughts.
"Cops should be chasing criminals and throwing them to their miserable cages, not doing liquidations and filing documents! It's excruciating, painful and...boring!"
Roarke went near to her then ran his hands over her arms. After she solved her previous case, she was always moody. It was her fault, she admitted, why she has several file backlogs and crime reports that were piled on her desk unattended – thanks to her hot cases. But it was unexpected that the Records division could suspend her by filing a petition on her and forcing Commander Whitney to put her into 'drone work'. She was told that her punishment was a means of 'disciplinary action' from the Records and for her to be set as the best example for every cop in every division.
Thus, everybody in Central was suffering from Paper Epidemic.
"Even so, Eve, it's relaxing to know that you'll be avoiding some dangers for a while. Besides, consider it as a training ground in case you will advance your brass."
Eve only sighed as she leaned her head on Roarke's shoulder. Even though he didn't say it, she knew he was pissed when she declined the Captaincy. Not only him but also those people whom she shared about it.
They couldn't blame her, really. They knew that she needs time to think.
She didn't marry Roarke out of whim anyway.
"Don't forget Wednesday." Roarke reminded her.
"Huh? What – ah, yeah right. The consulate party." she said while rolling her eyes. This made Roarke bit her ear lightly.
"Don't ever make some reasons to ditch it out. We all know that your 'punishment' will not be lifted until you're done with your paperwork, and it will be a miracle if you're able to file them on Friday."
"Okay, okay I get it. All I need to do is to listen to their boring stories, right?"
"You will not be bored, I promise.", he said as he pecked a kiss on her lips. "Besides, I made a commitment to Harminian royalty that I'll be bringing the hero behind the Icove's Agenda."
"Ah, the princess you've been bragging about...", Eve trailed off then gave him a narrowed look.
"How many princesses have you banged in a lifetime?"
This time Roarke frowned and gave her a narrowed look.
"I find it inappropriate for you to interrogate me about my previous love life considering what we just did a few minutes ago. And to answer your question, it is no, as I never indulged in affairs that could lead to a national scandal or could tie me up to an obligation. I haven't banged this Harminian princess you believed I bragged as I haven't met her personally. And as to why I bragged her, it was the other way around. She was the one who was bragging me as the husband of the Icove's cop she idolized. What a cute turn of events, eh?"
"You're slick. You're slick as ever.", she grumbled.
"I'm just brutally honest with myself, Darling Eve. And don't worry.", he whispered as she deepened his kiss. "I don't do it with princesses. I only do it with a Queen, and that is you, Eve."
They both stayed nuzzling for a while until the rain began to dissipate. She pulled her leather jacket on then bid Roarke a kiss goodbye.
"Take care of my gazillionaire."
"Take care of my cop."
When she stepped outside the foyer, her DLE was already parked at the entrance with its muffled engine roared on.
She knew that their bony majordomo, Summerset, arranged it there before she went downstairs. Just before she could buckle her seat, her link' beeped. It was her Commander.
"Commander.", she answered.
"Lieutenant. Are you on your way to Central?"
"No sir, I'm about to leave the house at the moment."
"Good. Don't proceed to the Central. There's an incident at the Pearl Skyline Hotel, Fifty-eighth floor. You're the primary."
Hope bloomed in her chest but decided to feign her expression.
"Commander, I am under the jurisdiction of not accepting case orders unless I finished with the Records."
"That's why don't proceed to the Central. You have an override. Now proceed to the scene of the incident. This is Code Five."
"Yes, sir.", she said as his Commander's face flashed off the screen.
Code Five means Sensitive Case. Regretting that she won't be able to tag her partner Peabody or shared the information to Roarke, she drove to the opposite direction of her usual route where the crime scene is located.
Getting to the Pearl Skyline was too breezy for the DLE since the traffic was forming on the routes going to the downtown areas. Eve immediately pulled the vehicle over to the entrance of the hotel. It was nearly as decent as The Palace, she mused, a five-star hotel owned by Roarke.
As she swung and went outside, the bellboy immediately approached her.
"I'm sorry ma'am, but the Valet parking is on the other side – "
"Lieutenant Dallas.", Eve immediately flashed her badge to the bellboy's face. His face became serious in an instant recognition then gave a whistled signal to his companion.
"Park that official issue for me as I will lead the Lieutenant to the location," he said when his companion walked towards him, in which he obliged without any questions.
"Come with me, please." the bellboy gestured to Eve as they went inside.
The interiors were polished with white marbles and beige floorings, matching the oriental upholsteries and decors. Eve spotted some tourists and locals that come and go to the reception and hall areas, while others were being assisted by the hotel staffs upstairs.
"Still business as usual.", Eve commented.
"As long as the area will be preserved for the authorities, we can't compromise to close the operation.", the bellboy answered in a muffled tone.
Eve might not be wearing a uniform or tucking her badge outside, but the staffs could sense her as a cop through her flat serious eyes. She was able to notice their stiffed expressions as if they've been busted for illegals.
The bellboy led her to an employee-accessed elevator and punched the 58th button on the panels as they went inside. The glide upstairs was brief, and when it opened, a uniformed officer posted on the entrance greeted them. There was a recognition on the uniform's eyes but Eve still flashed her badge.
"Which way is the scene?", she asked the bellboy.
"On the right side, the last hall room door. You can ring us in the intercom for further assistance.", he answered then entered in the elevator again and went downstairs.
Very cooperative, Eve thought.
"Fill me in, Officer.", she prompted on her another companion as she marched towards the location and adjusted her recorder.
"Yes, sir. We received a dispatch call around 0530 as a homicide, and a Code Five mark just as we arrived here."
"Who gave you that information?"
"I have no idea, sir. But a transmit instruction from Central said to preserve the scene for Homicide. Whatever happened inside was kept there. Somebody was already waiting for you inside, sir.
It was a wide corridor with gray carpet floors and muted white wallpapers. She spotted the door that the bellboy mentioned due to the police compu-seal on the knobs, and used her master key to bypass.
"Stand back, Officer, and return to your post. Record on, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, entering the premises.", she recited as she entered the hall.
Everything was a mess. The glass chandelier was scattered on the floor, the wooden chairs were destroyed, the heavy curtains have slashes and spills of blood, and on the center of it was a gruesome corpse slumped on a long table with its arms wide-opened.
"Dallas.", a male voice greeted her.
When she turned around, she saw her old mentor and usual Captain pal Ryan Feeney, who led the EDD division.
"I've heard this one was tagged for Homicide. How come the honcho of the EDD geeks is here?"
"I've been asking that same question thirty minutes ago.", he said with a smile. He was kneeling on another corpse as he examined it with his droopy eyes. She went near to him and did the same observation.
"Her name's Mathilde Kenwood, fifty-eight, working in the Skyline as an attendant for two years. Widowed, with one child who died in an accident five years ago. TOD is 0450.", Feeney explained as she sealed her hands and examined the victim.
She was slumped on the corner with her back on the wall. A deep cut slashed from her right shoulder down to her lower torso that almost spilled her intestine was convincing enough as her COD. Of course, Eve was not cynical enough to stick to that theory.
When she moved on the other corpse, it has the same slash marks on Mathilde, only with an addition slash on his throat across to his left pelvis. His eyes were wide open, most likely due to the shock from his killer.
"He must have seen his killer and it scared him to death.", she commented.
"I agree. Name's Armir Howe, mixed race, forty-five, Consulate of the US for Harminian affairs. TOD 0448. It was a swift kill for a couple of seconds."
She cursed under her breath. "Shit, Feeney. Roarke knows this guy."
"Roarke? Oh, hell.", he empathized as he scratched his cheek.
"Dammit. He was so eager for the consulate party this Wednesday and it seems like I jinxed everything."
"You didn't wish this guy to be dead, did you? Then why are you blaming yourself?"
"Because I tend to jinx everything.", she huffed for her childish reasons. "It's all because of the Paper Epidemic."
Feeney just shrugged his shoulders.
"I have your sympathies there, Dallas. Without you, everybody in the Central will have an immediate suspension."
"Damn Records, I became their sacrificial cow for all of you."
"It should be the sacrificial lamb, but since it was a meek idiom for your streak, any animal is acceptable."
An intercom beeped. Feeney went to the corner and read the information that was transmitted. Eve went to the billowing curtains and observed the damaged window.
"You came from the outside, and then break the windows to surprise everybody here. You must be wearing some protective gear for the shards."
As she trailed the possible movement from the crashed windows from the inside, she noticed two iron balls rolled beneath the tumbled chair. She crept down, reached it, and then weighed in her hands
"Smoke bomb.", she commented as she sniffed the nozzles.
The perpetrator must have thrown these before he lounges himself inside. Why would he do that? Eve thought. Both the victims have clean cuts and quite defenseless to struggle, so attacking them head-on was enough. And triggering a smoke bomb could activate the sprinkler alarm, yet it did not happen.
"You must have known the interior of this room, to cage your prey without failure. But why doubling your precautionary measures?"
She roamed her eyes around the room and visibly noticed the damage was severe. The victims showed no struggles, but the area said differently.
"We have a missing third victim here, Feeney.", she declared.
She started to study the blood trails on the carpet. Sweepers would have an overnight study for this, with an addition to the several marks that she spotted on the walls. She would flag it as a top priority to Dickhead and the corpses for Morris.
All her thoughts began to focus when she noticed a spot near the door. One, two, three drops of blood trails and then vanished in the outside. She also noticed the scratches on the knobs inside.
"Whether you are the third victim or the killer himself, I'm going to find you.", Eve muttered as she stared at the new evidence.
Feeney went to her side.
"I have checked the surveillance camera. All disks were stolen."
"Unbelievable, but true. Not only this premise but also the other irrelevant areas as well. The surveillance guard was found to be conked by some tranqs, rushed to the Doctor's Hospital. That's how this area was discovered."
"Tells me our killer is a low-grade E-man but with a cunning personality."
Feeney was silent for a moment then continued.
"This conference hall was booked yesterday night. I have double verified it to make it sure, but it's still the same. Roarke did it."
Eve left the room to call the officer but paused when she saw a tall woman in sixties chatting audibly on him. Both of them stopped their conversation as she approached them.
"Lieutenant, this is Mrs. Dwight, the hotel manager.", the officer said.
"I want to know the timeframe of your investigations here, Lieutenant, to know as to when we are going to close this floor to the public."
"We'll get into that, Mrs. Dwight. Officer, did you contain the witness who discovered the bodies?"
"Bo - bodies?! Oh, my God, I didn't know – ", Mrs. Dwight trailed off and almost collapsed on the floor if not for the officer who immediately caught her.
"I only see one – "
"Mrs. Dwight, calm down. How did you discover the incident?", Eve interrogated as they sat on the floor.
"Di - discovered?! Ah, no, I just received a call from Afef about an emergency on this hall. My sleeping quarter was only five floors above this one so I was able to rush in here. I noticed the knobs were damaged and when I opened the door I saw – "
Mrs. Dwight shuddered as she wiped her tears with a handkerchief.
"Where is this Afef?"
"Afef? He's in the Royal Highness' suite. 88th floor. He's her butler."
"And how come this butler was here and has an access to you?", Eve asked. The word butler rang violently in her ears, good thing she was able to control her screams and managed it in her thoughts. What did the butler do in this area?
"Ah, the owner Mr. Ahmed instructed me to have a personal interaction with Afef, that if the Harminian royalty will have some concerns, they must contact me immediately."
Eve felt tightness in her chest. She was cynical enough to believe in coincidences.
"What did you do after discovering the incident?", she asked.
"I – I did not enter the room, I swear! I just saw the destruction of the chairs inside and a man sprawling on the table. So I ran away when my insides churned then called our security to contact the police."
"You did not call 911 immediately?"
"No, Lieutenant. If I did, there might be a commotion as to why there's a police visibility here. It's not because of public discretion but because I want professionalism to avoid panics. A similar incident happened in my previous employment before, so I learned it from experience."
"That was a good call, Mrs. Dwight.", the officer assured her.
"Thank you, lad. Anyways, we isolated this floor and since this one was for a smaller conference and function activities, no mass evacuatation was needed. But you said there are two persons inside..."
"How did you know Mathilde Kenwood?", Eve asked her again.
"Matty? She's...oh my God, oh my God! Not our Matty! No!"
Mrs. Dwight bawled upon her realization. Eve does not have enough patience to wait for an incoherent witness.
"Are there any kins of Mathilde here?"
"Oh, no, no Lieutenant. Matty is alone in this world now. Her husband died decades ago, and she's still on the healing process when her son died in a car crash five years ago. Her only family is us. She's ours."
And now she's mine too, Eve thought.
When she was contentedly done with Mrs. Dwight, she stood up to receive a message from the hotel intercom that Afef was waiting on her downstairs. Feeney just left the crime scene and went to Eve.
"Dallas – "
"Don't talk to me, Fenney. Don't you fucking talk to me or I'll slug you."
"You fucking listen to me, kid.", he snapped and gripped Eve's shoulder. It forced her to look at his bleary eyes.
"Nobody is accusing Roarke of murder here. His name appeared as the one who reserved that hall, that's all."
"That's not all, Feeney. I haven't dug yet into this mess, and God knows who's name might pop if I ask that goddamn butler. He's tightly alibied, you heard that? For the whole night, he was in the house and neither of us walked outside."
To be specific, none of them was incoherent and able to walk or even stood up for the whole night. Both of them were busy sprawling and banging each other mercilessly.
"Do what you EDD supposed to do and I'll do what a Homicide supposed to do.", she said then walked out. While entering the elevator, she opened her PPC to read some salients about Afef.
Spotting Afef was not difficult for Eve. He was sitting solemnly on the corner wearing a white chino and dark pants. The man slowly stood up as if acknowledging her presence, and that time she was able to analyze his dark eyes, white hair, and bony structured body.
Like somebody I used to know, she bemused.
He might be sensible and controlled but Eve saw the different emotions swirling in his eyes. At first, there was a shock, followed by amazement, until it flickered to indifference.
"Lieutenant Eve Dallas-Roarke.", he greeted with a very thick accent.
It was a bit rare for her to be called using her complete name. Since she deemed it useless to flash her badge to the man, she decided to sit on the chair facing him then placed her recorder visibly on the coffee table.
He gave it a side eye. "I am not obliged to follow your country rules here, Lieutenant."
"I never recited a Revised Miranda on you, and I am not dim-witted not to know some international laws, Afef."
His lips pursed when she went on a first-name basis. He knew it was her usual tactic of intimidation.
Eve was fuming that his pruned face reminded her of him.
"You are a witness to a crime in New York so no matter who you are or what planet you came from, you have to abide the rules for civil liability. Why are you on that floor, Afef?"
"Mr. Howe informed me that he will be on the premise for a short meeting. It was none in importance so I prioritized Royal Highness' necessities first before I addressed his request. When I walked in there, I immediately saw the grotesque scene. So I called Mrs. Dwight about it."
"Did you enter the room?"
"I don't think so. Possible. I forgot."
"You don't strike me as a forgetful type."
"I am only but a mere human, Lieutenant. I may be conserved but I do have flaws."
"I don't think you're here to discuss such mundane matters."
He was right.
"What did you see inside the room?" she asked, trying to gain the momentum of their conversation.
"Mr. Howe and the lady Mathilde. We stayed here for almost a week, just enough for me to have interactions with these pleasant attendants. I did not touch their bodies."
All of his answers were delivered in a calm and concise manner, and Eve didn't like it.
"So you didn't enter the room then."
"Perhaps yes. When they called the police, I retired to my bed and took a soother to ease my mind. I let myself open for communications in case there will be a need for my statement, which I believe, is what I am doing right now."
She stood up. "Okay then. I will need your Royal Highness' statement."
Before she could retrieve her recorder from the table, an ebony hand stopped her.
"I will never allow it!" he fumed. "You're an impertinent to our Royalty for accusing her of some blasphemy!"
"I never said that you did." she wrung her hand away as she grabbed the recorder. " Do you know what an alibi is, Afef? It is essential to know whether you are lying or not."
Eve moved closer until her face hovered over his. "You might pull some piece of shit you call sovereignty to me but I will do everything, anything to tear it off like a piece of junk. Two of New York's citizen have been killed with a missing one yet to be discovered, and it's an insult to my profession to allow that son of a bitch escape. I might be a lowly Homicide, but the red tapes on this? It can cause media and federal frenzy. You don't like that, do you?"
The fear was evident on his ashen face. "Is this - is this a tip-off?"
"Tip-off?" she scoffed indignantly. "Ha. I'm busy now so why don't you pull that stick out from your ass and use it to hit your head eh?"
She hastily left him for another prey.
Three middle-aged women were inside the security personnel area. They were visibly shaken when Eve showed up for an interview.
"Who among you here was assigned to the reception area yesterday around 1900?"
Woman One and Woman Two turned their heads to their left and pointed Woman Three who merely raised her trembling hand. She flinched when the Lieutenant gave her dead-set eyes.
"Did you book the reservation on the 58th via call?"
Woman Three shuddered and broke heavy tears. "I-I-I did not book it, Ma'am – er, Lieutenant! I-I-I don't have me-memory reten-retention bu-but I am familiar wi-with the-the things I-I have bo-booked!"
"Are you telling me that it popped like magic?!" Eve wasn't aware that she was snarling. "Your name was logged in the encoder system and God-forsaken knows if someone overwrites it externally."
"I-I swear to my father's grave I'm innocent!" Woman Three defended fervently, and when she eyed her companions for help they simply averted her gaze.
Feeney was hunching on the corner, furiously shaking his head while fiddling on the monitor screens and memory boxes. The Go-cup that the security personnel drank was still there untouched, so Eve bagged it immediately for possible fingerprints.
She patted the Captain's back. "You might grab those cameras on the crime scene, maybe we can retrieve some images as well as the surveillance within seventy-two hours."
"I know what to do," he grumbled without sparing her a glance.
"Get the blueprint of the hotel, especially their sprinkler system will you? Especially the units in the reception area - maybe there's a mild tampering."
"I said I know what to do!" he lashed out and met her burning rage.
Eve left him without saying a word.
She went to her vehicle that was parked in the VIP slot then poured her anger by kicking its rear several times. Though it took her a while to calm herself down, she was still not ready to deliver the bad news.
She pulled out the data of Amir Howe's next kin and felt like the whole world collapsed.
She immediately dialed Louise Dimatto, the best physician she knew. Her link suddenly filled with Louise's image as she answered her link'.
"What can I do to the city of New York, Dallas?" she greeted.
"Very much. You might be hailed as a hero and have your own bust in the Greenpeace Park after this. Listen, can you go to a certain location that I am going to transmit to you and be there in thirty? I'll be on my way to meet you there."
As Louise read the transmission, Eve told her about the situation.
"That's so horrible. Awful." was the doctor's reply.
"That's how I uphold my world-renowned title. Bitch cop."
"I feel so sorry for this, Dallas. I'll meet you there.", Louise said then hang up.
Both arrived on time. When Eve pushed the buzzer, an old lady slightly opened the door.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm Lieutenant Dallas and this is my consultant, Dr. Louise Dimatto. We are here for Mrs. Howe.", Eve introduced as she showed her the badge. After scanning and verifying it, they were admitted inside and led to an anteroom filled with pastel-colored decors.
Eve gulped loudly when Lianna Howe went downstairs. Her right hand was on her back while the other was on her basketball-sized stomach.
"You're Roarke's cop! Oh my, it's my pleasure to meet you finally!"
Before Eve could react, Lianna cupped her head and kissed both of her cheeks. She wasn't aware how the cop stilled when her stomach brushed her torso.
"Isn't it funny that our husbands are having their early meeting today? My Amir told me proudly how he conned Roarke to abide his biddings, and of course, your husband had to treat his sore spot. He can easily get his losses with a snap so there's no reason for him to be pissed off. Besides, it's a win-win dealing! Oh, and they have a 'secret' agenda for the approval! Did Roarke tell you about that?"
"Erm, Mrs. Howe, I –"
Eve was about to say something but Lianna bombarded her again.
"Oh gosh, you never told me you have a companion! Risa, Risa! Could you prepare some refreshments for us here?"
"It's fine, Mrs. Howe," Louise interjected with a smile. "The Lieutenant has something to say for you."
Eve was used to having Peabody fill that role so she was very thankful that the doctor fits the bill.
Lianna gaped and stared at them in disbelief when Eve told her about Amir's death. She didn't believe them at first, but when she confirmed the information and received a deafening silence, the pregnant widow wailed and cried like an injured animal.
Eve almost fainted on the spot and felt queasy when Risa rushed to her mistress' side. The maid whispered sweet nothings on her while Louise injected something that calmed Lianna down.
The last thing Eve wanted to see that day was a popping baby.
She remained on the couch unmoved when Risa and Louise ushered Lianna to her room. It was then that prompted her to bolt out and emptied her stomach on a nearby sink.
"Premature labor shook you terribly, Eve. Are you alright? You're white as a sheet."
"Nah, I'm fine. Just a little dizzy but it'll pass."
She turned around with her butt rested on the sink tile and her hands supported her body. Louise offered her some blockers but she obligingly took it after knowing that it was safe.
"It slapped me really hard to give that kind of news to a fellow...wife.", Eve was about to say something but stopped herself. She might run a test first before she could ask some professional help.
"Do all knock-ups have some episodes of hyperactivity like they just took up Zoner?"
"It depends on their hormones. Others tend to have temper tantrums. You don't have any plans to tell me about what happened."
Eve sighed exasperatedly. "Code Five, Louise, and in a few hours the media will sniff on this."
She bet that her other friend, Nadine would hunt her on this. She was looking forward to the kind of bribe she would offer in exchange for a scoop.
Louise chose to stay on Howe's and called Lianna's ob/gyn on her personal link'. When everything was settled, Eve decided to leave the house. She was just outside the gate when her link' beeped.
"Lieutenant. Be here at Central and report to my office 1200 immediately for a briefing.", Commander Whitney's image filled in her screen.
"Sir, I appealed to make it 1300 instead. I have to conduct one interview before I can swing there."
"Will it make a difference if you skip that one?"
The question hovered in the air for a while before Eve could answer.
"Well then, I'll inform them of the changes." he prompted before he disconnected the call.
When Eve curbed her way towards the intimidating skyline of Roarke Industries' headquarters, a beaming smile from the security greeted her.
"Good morning, Lieutenant. I'll park your vehicle in the slot and return it here when you're about to leave.", the security said as she gave her codes to him.
"Uh, thanks.", she said then went inside. The receptionist showed the same level of enthusiasm as she led her to the glides going to the top floor. She wanted to stall for a while, so she struck a conversation.
"How long have you been working with Roarke?"
"Almost three years now, Lieutenant.", the receptionist answered with confidence.
"I see. Any complications on the job?"
"None at all, Lieutenant. Roarke gave us higher incentives and benefits than any regular jobs out there. I really enjoyed working here"
"Good to hear that. I'll let him know about you."
When the glide doors swung open, Caro, Roarke's loyal secretary, was waiting for her.
"It's a pleasure to see you here, Lieutenant.", Caro said as Eve went outside the car. She might be looking ahead of her but the Lieutenant saw the gleaming tears from the young receptionist's eyes as the glide's door closed.
"Likewise, Caro. Is Roarke available?"
"Just finished another set of meeting and on his lunch break. Would like me to prepare something for you, Lieutenant?"
"Don't bother. I'll let Roarke know."
Ever since Eve solved her daughter Reva's case, her relationship with Caro turned warmer. The secretary left her when she reached the door to Roarke's office.
"Eve, it's a pleasure to see you here.", Roarke said as he swiveled his chair and looked at his wife.
"You're the fourth person who told me that.", she answered as she walked towards him.
He knew her quite well, not only her gestures but also her tone of her voice.
"Have you eaten yet, Darling? I'll send some of your favorites."
"No, Roarke, I did not come here to have some lunch.", she quipped. Hell, she had lost all of her appetites and no doubt, his might follow afterward.
She set her recorder on the table between them. His eyes hovered there for a moment then flickered towards her dangerously.
"Don't say a word, Roarke. I am here to read your rights."
Roarke reclined his back. "What's the meaning of this Eve? Am I a suspect?"
"I have to Mirandized you before I – "
"Answer my bloody question before I break that recorder of yours and shove it outside." he snapped coolly. "Now, am I a suspect?"
His whiplashed anger lanced her heart yet she couldn't blame him for that. Fisting her hand, she stared at him with her straight cop-like eyes. "Do I look like I have some choice here? I'm just following the procedures."
"Fuck your procedures, Eve."
The last time they had this tension was during DeBlass' case.
Back then, they barely knew each other, and unbeknownst to him, she was struggling her best to clear his name. He felt remorse how he hurt her afterward. And with their current state, despite the similarities, was a vital difference – and that was time.
For Roarke, no matter how time had passed, Eve will always be Eve.
So he relaxed on his chair with a resigned thought that this time, he would trust her.
Seeing her husband's cooperation, she activated her recorder and began to recite a Revised Miranda.
"Do you understand your rights and obligation?"
"Yes." was his prompt reply.
Eve successfully battled her emotions when he showed no resistance. "How well do you know Armir Howe?"
"A good associate, and as a US consul to Harmin, a good investor. Eve...", he trailed off upon his realization. "Did Lianna know?"
Eve gave a nod. This made Roarke cursed under his breath.
"When was the last time you talked to him?"
"Yesterday afternoon, around 1500, here in the office. The security will give you the surveillance discs later."
"Appreciate that. What did you talk about?"
"An investment of sorts. There were plans for developing the nation's international airport to accommodate more airline investors and have various direct flights instead of connecting across the borders. He wanted Roarke Airlines to be one of them, and since it was just a plan with no solid activities, I considered it as a bad move. But Armir kept pestering me for a year now, so I resigned and decided to accept his proposal."
So this was what Lianna meant of Roarke being conned, she thought. She never thought that there was someone who could bend Roarke to follow their rules. It was unfortunate that the person died.
"Did you two have scheduled appointments today?"
"No, and it should be tomorrow noon here, and another on Wednesday for the consulate party. From the looks of it, I believe I'm going to cancel them," he answered sadly.
"Did you make a reservation in Pearl Skyline yesterday around 1900 for a small conference today at 0400?"
His brows rose up. "Why would I schedule a conference room in a second-rate hotel if I can set it on my Palace, which is the best?"
Eve thought of that too. It was unusual for him but she wanted to hear him declare it by himself – that he was innocent enough and unaware of what happened. She wanted to clear his name before she indulged herself in the case more.
Roarke was no fool; he has been a cop's spouse for years and participated in several ops enough to read between the lines.
"You mentioned that you don't want Roarke Airlines to be invested, but you did. Why is that?" she asked.
"Well, Armir told me that there's a new discovery of amber mines in the place, and since he had heard my upcoming line of perfumery in the market, he proposed for a tie-up with Harmin. Not only that it could lead to more work opportunities for the citizens there, it would also grant me few legal paper immunities in case I wanted to indulge myself for another investment."
Her husband might have explained it with his cool, business-like tone, but only Eve could see the slight stumbles.
There was something in there, she thought.
"If you would like to know if I have a motive to kill him, my obvious answer is no. My perfume project was barely in its first phase and there are still legal discussions on my airline, so his loss could lead to some jeopardy on my end."
"But in the game of business, there will always be a replacement."
"I agree, but only I could hope that the next one would be as accommodating and wise as his predecessor. Oh, Eve, that's not what I meant.", he said then reached her hands when he saw how her emotions shifted drastically. "I am a businessman and I hate to lose my investment, especially my perfumery since I already released a lot of it."
"Why is that investment so important to you?"
He was stunned. By God, his hands started to get clammy. Roarke never gets scared but this was the only exception. Eve was the last person he wanted to know about it. But after seeing her fighting her emotions for his sake was very painful so much that he would do a suicide gamble.
"It will be a top of the line perfume, hypoallergenic with all-natural ingredients and medicinal benefits. The target for its launch will be next year, the same date as my wedding anniversary, as a gift for my wife." He made an audible gulp. "The brand name is Eve."
If eyeballs could pop, Eve's certainly did. She was beyond shock that her mind was uncharacteristically gone blank.
Roarke, on the other hand, dipped his hands into his pocket. He was blushing profusely he could almost feel his blood spilling on his ears.
The couple went to a dead silence for a minute.
And by God help him, his wife broke a fit of laughter.
"Oh Roarke, I really have no idea what to do to you, whether to punch you because of embarrassment or punch you because of anger. Either way, you deserved it and...and...Oh, shit." she stuttered then pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes.
Roarke immediately moved and cradled her.
"I'm so sorry." she croaked as tears began to leak on her lashes.
"Hush baby, I understand. You're just doing your job.", he said then kissed her brows as he wiped the wetness. "You know, your recorder is still on."
"Interview end. Record off.", she recited then emptied her feelings on his warm embrace.
She left his office after she recovered her bearings without telling Roarke about the case. If during DeBlass' case she was able to spill some to Roarke, this time will be different. She was not the same Eve back then.
When she marched through her bullpen and headed to her commander's office, all cops on her division, including Peabody, darted her some beady looks.
It was obvious that the news about the only two cops in Central that received Paper Epidemic immunity was spreading around.
Feeney was already in Commander Whitney's office, as well as Chief Tibble accompanied by a dark-suited man.
"Dallas, this is Mr. Balam Peters, acting secretary for Harminian consular affairs." Tibble introduced.
Mr. Peters was a small man, almost frail-looking with his puffy red eyes. She was baffled when the secretary moved and hugged her after they shook hands.
"I am so thankful that Armir was under Roarke's cop. I will personally request you if ever the police handed it to somebody else."
"I am everybody's cop, same as all cops in New York, but thank you for the confidence."
When everyone has settled on their seats, Eve remained standing to report her progress.
"Armir Howe, a hotel attendant named Mathilde Kenwood, and an anonymous person have been assaulted between 0430 to 0510 which led to their murder. Before that timeframe, the suspect slipped a heavy dosage of tranquilizers to Lewis Remington, a security personnel assigned in the surveillance room, stole all discs and disabled all sprinkler system, then locked the room from the outside. The Harminian butler named Afef who knows about Howe's agenda went to the said floor and witnessed the aftermath. He called the hotel manager Alice Dwight who then took an action to call the security. When they discovered Remington, they immediately rushed him to the hospital. All bodies were tagged for autopsies to Morris and the crime evidence to Dickie that will be flagged as a top priority."
She took a deep breath then continued.
"Howe has a mid-morning conference with the third victim on the Skyline's conference that was booked under Roarke's name. I have conducted an interview with Roarke today, and he said that he knew the victim personally but he was innocent about the reservations. He has a tight alibi during the assault, Sir."
"How did he take it?" Whitney asked.
"Roarke understood and followed the rules of the law."
When Eve was finished, Feeney stood up to report his findings. All of it was reflected on her timeframe, and with the investigations of the booking, it was revealed that there was no external tapping but internal. The unit was now forwarded to the crime lab for fingerprint scans.
"Thank you for the progress. Both of you are the best under my command, that's why I entrusted you two with this mess. The reason why I called you both is because, in a few hours time, this mess will be sniffed. I want you to prepare yourselves for the worst."
"Feds, spooks or red tape?" Feeney bemused.
"Probably a combination of those three now that the royalty is concerned," Tibble explained. "In seven days, a wedding between the 35th Harminian princess Petun and the magnate Stefanos Levinski will take place here in New York, and with the murder of a Harminian consul in the hotel where the royalty resides, we'll be dealing not only the international media frenzy but also the diplomatic ones."
"Permission to speak, Sir," Dallas asked Whitney
"Permission granted, Dallas."
"The hell with them.", she scoffed indignantly. "Just because we're city cops these people have the right to steal this case. I don't care if I have to butt heads with the President or a King, I will stand as a Primary on this and nobody will ever take it away from me. Armir Howe is mine. Mathilde Kenwood is mine. And the third victim, whoever he or she is, is mine."
"Amen to that." Feeney placed a hand on Eve's shoulder.
Whitney looked at his two subordinates with pride then glanced at Tibble and Peters who happened to share the same impression.
"In behalf of the consulate affairs, you have my whole cooperation. All I want is a full disclosure, and if possible, I want to avoid some troubles on the upcoming celebration." Peters said then looked at Eve. "I'll be replacing Armir's place in introducing the royalty, and I believe Roarke got the invitation."
"Yes, and he's quite excited.", she confessed. She wasn't sure if Roarke's enthusiasm didn't dwindle down after the event.
Whitney folded his hands. "It's a favor on our side, Dallas."
"I have some request, Commander."
"I want to form a task force for this." she went on. "With its sensitivity, we have to cover several bases. We also have a missing person, still undetermined whether alive or dead. This person might be the answer to our motive."
"What if there's no third victim here?" Tibble asked.
"It would conflict with our crime scene, Chief. Two victims showed no struggles, and I believe the autopsy will favor my DOS theory."
"It will be granted.", the commander said as he began to brainstorm some briberies that he could use to the Records Division. If he was able to pull the root out, then why not the branches?
"Thank you, Commander. My partner, Detective Peabody will be on this sir, same with Detective Baxter and his partner Detective Trueheart. Feeney might need some aid as well such as Detective McNab and our Expert, Civilian Consultant. I'll be tagging Dr. Mira as well for profiling our perpetrator once I got the result."
"So be it. Now that our meeting has adjourned, both of you are dismissed."
The beady eyes were still there as Eve returned to her bullpen.
"Peabody, Baxter, and Trueheart, to my office!", she bellowed.
The three followed her as she entered her small office. It was Trueheart who closed the door, making the three of them compressed with each other.
"What's the status of your case files?", Eve asked.
"15 percent.", said Peabody
"30 percent.", said Baxter.
"5 percent.", said Trueheart.
The three looked at the young detective with jealousy. Eve glanced at the piled papers on her table. 40 percent.
"LT, you must be lucky to be vaccinated against Epidemic.", Baxter snickered.
"I don't think so, Baxter. Maybe I'll feel luckier if these papers will go away."
"Oh, no Dallas. Our hands are full to handle your crap.", Peabody groaned.
Eve raised her brow. "Want to do my papers?"
"No.", her subordinates answered in unison.
"Then shut up and listen."
Eve began to tell them about the case. She was fascinated how the three showed hopeful expressions while she explained some grotesque details.
"Does that mean we're included in the case?" Trueheart probed like a schoolboy.
"Can I casually tell you a Code Five case if it's not?" the Lieutenant retorted.
Peabody squealed happily.
"I am your servant, LT. My savior!", Baxter swore and pumped his fist in the air.
"Everybody, calm down or the whole cops in Central will make a stampede towards my office. Now, I want you Peabody to come with me to visit Morris. You, Trueheart, will visit Dickhead for the evidence while you Baxter will go to the Skyline and interview the staffs involved, maybe we'll get a possible clue of our third victim or the perpetrator itself. Connect it with the testaments from the consulate staffs as well. If you have to work it with Yancy, tag me first."
"No problem, your highness."
Trueheart raised his hand. "How about me, Lieutenant, in case Dickie won't do it without a bribe?"
"Use your charm, Trueheart. If not, use your body. Maybe Dickie might bite it.", Eve joked, which made Trueheart shuddered at the mere thought.
"Be at my house office at 0800 for collation and briefing. Don't be late. Scram."
When the three went to their respective desks, adjusted their holsters and picked their links', everybody knew that they were saved from 'Paper Epidemic'. With the news about the Lieutenant's 'special power' passed around, all cops in Central started to brew a plan for their own 'redemption'.
"Erm Dallas, you've been consuming several pints of peanut brittles for a week now.", Peabody commented as she looked at Eve who was munching one while driving.
"They were tasty, I tell you, and quite a good stash than my chocolates. Ever since I regulated my chocolate and replaced it with this, the Candy Thief never entered my office anymore. I even left a jar of it on my table and not a single crumb was taken. I wondered why.", Eve speculated.
"Maybe your Candy Thief was allergic to peanuts, or knew that too much peanut consumption can give you pimples or makes you fat."
"Really? I never knew that you can read the mind of my Candy Thief."
It all started when she passed around the SoHo and spotted the kid, Tiko with his grandmother. The old lady still remembered Eve's actions, so the two dragged her to their apartment. The reward this time it was a jar full of crispy peanut brittle. It hooked her and starting to wonder if she will be rewarded by another jar of treats if she passes there again.
Their conversation ended when they arrived at the morgue. Eve spotted Morris slicing a corpse that was settled in a slab. His hair was tied in a ponytail and wore a casual gray polo shirt with dark trousers.
"You looked refreshing, Morris.", Eve greeted.
Morris glanced at her and said, "I filed an off-set for today, but when I received your tag as top-priority, who am I not to accept it?"
"Sorry for the bad timing, but you know I won't entrust my victims to anybody else but you."
"How flattering. No wonder you are my favorite customer. Anyways, you would like to meet them, wouldn't you?"
They went to the next slab where Howe lies. There was no Y-incision, as it was unnecessary due to his wounds.
"Your man here has consumed some garlic bread with oregano herbs, an orange juice, and some curry," he explained. "The wounds he incurred came from a very sharp object, approximately 24 to 40 inches its blade's height. The cut here around his neck was his COD, hit his carteroid artery. Your killer was ambidextrous and wielded a two-handed weapon."
Eve slipped her microgoggles then Morris pointed the meeting spot at Howe's lower torso.
"See the flop here – there was no overlapping when the weapon contacted the skin. Even for a professional one-handed user, this cut is nearly impossible to be executed."
"And this one is not an amateur two-handed user, I presume."
"I agree, very clean and precise cut. Now if you are going to trace the wounds, there's an unevenness on it. The blade slashed thinly at first, then went deeper as it goes to the center and back to its thinnest cut at the bottom. If we are going to picture it out, it was likely to be a curved sword."
Like Morris did, Eve traced the wounds with her hands.
"Like a cutlass?", she probed. She handled a case with a sword as a weapon once, so she had a background study about it. Besides, Roarke has a massive collection of it.
"It might be saifs or sabers that is curvy and thick enough to have this end result. Wipe it with some neurotoxins and we have our murder weapon."
It was a double kill, Eve thought, just like the smoke bombs and the surveillance discs. When they moved to Kenwood, it has the same theory, only with a darkened spot on her rib.
"The killer slashed her first then kicked her. Why would he do that? She did not struggle – unless around that time somebody distracted him. She has a single infliction, so it goes my theory that there's a loss of a single weapon. The third victim knows."
She could see that after the killer slashed Howe, he went to the attendant one-handed. His other hand must have blocked something with it, probably the third victim must have fought and able to steal the other weapon to the killer. Sword combat.
"If you ever apply for ME, you might replace me.", Morris said casually.
"No thanks, but Homicide is my passion."
When they went outside, Eve's link' beeped. It was Baxter.
"Dallas. What's your status?"
"I have talked to a staff here; she said she saw one who suspiciously went out in the kitchen with a go-cup similar to what you bagged. Should I send her to Yancy?"
"Yes – ah, no wait.", Eve paused then looked at her wrist unit, "Tag Yancy, tell him to meet you at the Doctor's Hospital, men's ward. Look for Lewis Remington, he was the security personnel who got tranqued. He should be coherent by now. Two hits in one stone."
"I say two birds with one stone, LT.", he corrected, then hang up. After a second, her link' beeped again.
"Hey, kid. Seems like I caught you on a bad timing.", Feeney said.
"No, Feeney. Peabody and I are about to leave the morgue. What's your status?"
"My boy here is digging the memory circuits of the surveillance around that floor. They were seriously deep-fried."
"That's another over-kill.", she commented.
"But there is something you might look into. I checked the previous surveillance discs and found something. I'll transmit you the clip."
The timestamp was yesterday around 1900. Eve saw it, made her mouth grew firm and her expression hardened.
"Seems like we got the clumsy one. Thanks, Feeney.", she said then ended the transmission.
Peabody was about to say something about what they've watched but stopped, almost swallowed her tongue as she looked on Eve.
"Replace Baxter's place in interviewing the consulate staffs. Also, ask a list of names of Harminian citizens under the royalty, those who have arrived and will be going to the US. I have to deal something. Alone."
She went to the Pearl Skyline again and parked her vehicle on the same spot. The bellboy did not stop her this time; instead, he meekly parked the DLE in the same space that morning.
Mrs. Dwight immediately approached her when she entered and walked towards the reception.
"I have to speak to Afef. Now."
"I'll get him, Lieutenant. You may sit in our lounge for a coffee.", the hotel manager offered, then walked away to fetch Afef.
Eve could bust Afef in her own way by marching to the royalty suite and hassle him, but the hotel staffs were very cooperative and probably under mourning for Kenwood, so she held back. The coffee that was offered to her was not bad either.
Afef was led by Mrs. Dwight to her. Eve knew he has an idea what was going on from the gaze he gave to her.
"I have to conduct another interview, Afef, and you can call your lawyer for this. If you don't have one, we can provide a lawyer for you.", she said.
"I'll waive my right for lawyers, as I don't have something to hide from you. As much as I want to stay here, it would be deemed appropriate if you choose your own location to conduct my interview."
Weird, she thought, that he doesn't want to be on his turf. It's either he wanted to play innocent, or he was avoiding something.
"Then we'll be at Central, then.", she said.
Afef followed her. She found her DLE parked in the same spot, and when she went to the passenger side for him, she did not open the door.
She swung her fist downward, hitting his abdomen in brute force that made him wheezed in pain. By reflex, he curled towards her but she held his nape, making him twirled around then slammed his body into the car. She pulled her holster and held the stunner on his lower rib.
"This is a police brutality!", he hissed.
"Police brutality, my ass. You are under arrest for the murders of Armir Howe and Mathilde Kenwood, some charges will follow later."
"Mu-murder?! I did not kill them!"
She used her knee to press his body more on her vehicle.
"You can deny anything but you're caught red-handed, Afef. Your face was in the surveillance disc, encoding the reservation for that hall. Bet your fingerprints will also appear in the unit keyboards."
"Yes, I admit I did that, but I am simply following the orders of the princess."
"Now you're using your Highness to save your ass, eh? Then why not I arrest her as well to see then?"
Afef stiffed under her hands.
"I have disappointed you then, Lieutenant. The princess is not here anymore."
"What do you mean by that, Afef?"
She waited for a beat before he answered.
"The reason why I am on the said premises around the time of the murder is that I am attending the Royal Highness. She made an appointment with Mr. Howe. She's also a victim, too."
"We have a tail.", Eve declared as she adjusted the mirror. Toggling the minicams installed behind the DLE, she ran the plate number. It was owned by Levinski.
"Does her fiancé know?", Eve asked Afef.
"No - as far as I know, since the disappearance was kept between us attendants. We didn't inform the royal family either."
He was sitting on the passenger seat observing Eve's navigation to the GPS while swiveling with a maxibus and a large truck.
"Levinski's dowry has been accepted by our king already, and a delay on the marriage can cause national scandals to the royal family. We, as a monarchical government, rely on our citizen's loyalty and support from the UN. If something like this wigs out, those country borders might launch some black propaganda and cause some upheavals. Levinski might light the candle to blow us into proportions."
A rapid cab honked her when it almost hit the gliding carts on the road.
"What's with this Levinski? Is he a big man in your country?"
"He can be considered as one, financially, since he owns three major oil depots in the region. He employs 40 percent of our nation's workforce, can oust them with a snap of his finger and replace them with those on our borders. Try to imagine what would happen to our economy."
Eve tried to, but unsure if she saw the picture. Economics is Roarke's forte, not hers.
"That's why you sent your princess here for what, political marriage?"
He snorted, "Lieutenant, whoever the Royal Highness' opted for marriage will always be political. You will never understand that."
She wanted to bicker, but she knew this would only lead to a nonsense argument. Who cares anybody wishing who to marry with anyway?
She glanced at him briefly when their tail was gone. "Now that we've lost them, where are we going next?"
Afef pointed the coordinates on the GPS system, and let her drove to the said location.
She was fuming when she realized that it was just four blocks away from the Skyline. She could have made the DLE maneuver in a different route instead of roving two miles for the tail.
An old man opened a door for them. He looked at Afef first, then Eve. The two were speaking in their own language she couldn't decipher, so she let Afef take the lead.
They took the stairs and entered a room. It was full of machines she usually sees in a hospital, and at the center was a large bed with thin draped curtains. There was a bandaged woman with an IV drip pinned on her hand.
Afef motioned towards the bed and checked the rested woman. Her face has been skin-casted, with some scratches and discolorations on her exposed copper skin.
He whispered something to the woman in a foreign language. Her eyes squinted, fluttered then looked at Eve's face. They have the same eye color, like an amber stone in an old Irish whiskey, though only hers was in pain and confusion. It was difficult for her to speak or even move her head, so she just squeezed Afef's hand as he explained something.
"Lieutenant, the Royal Highness Princess Petun, the 35th Harminian Princess.", he introduced.
Eve didn't know what to do, whether to bow or kiss her hand. Either way, she was not planning to do that, so she just simply nod for acknowledgment. Princess Petun batted her eyes twice, as a sign of acceptance then closed them for rest.
"If you would like to engage your recorder for an interview, we have to do it outside the room, out of respect to the Royal Highness. I will confess everything, but please don't tell anyone about her whereabouts. The household believes she has been kidnapped, and apart from that, the rest assumes that she's well."
Eve looked at the bed and knew what the Princess has suffered. Smoke bombs in a closed room and murder swords slicked with poison. She'd be dead by now if she didn't fight for her life.
"How's her recovery?", Eve asked.
"With Dr. Berin's devices, the poison will be extracted completely from her body within 12 hours. The deep wounds can be treated in a day, and the remaining scars can be covered by makeup. However, her nerve receptors worry us, as she couldn't move her legs. She might not make it until her wedding.", the butler explained.
"Is that why you're telling me this? That she must disappear and then use me to divert the world's attention to my investigation?"
Afef loomed her with his dark, serious eyes. He knew there was something special in the Lieutenant, an air that was very nostalgic, potent, and overwhelming. And inside her, he could sense something greater.
"You're special, Lieutenant, and I could see the intense aura swirling around you. You have a gift from the Goddess, the wisdom, and judgment. Yes, I am sensitive.", he said when she balked then continued, "Your track records are the reasons. I don't trust strangers, especially if it's about the royalty's welfare, but you're an exception. That's why I'm willing to cooperate."
I'll be damned if he's lying, she sighed then shoved her recorder in her bag. They sat on the couch near the door.
"Tell me what happened."
"That day, the Royal Highness and Mr. Howe were talking about something important, something personal. I was tasked to reserve a conference room, in which I used your husband's name under her Highness' orders. I never pried about it. I didn't join them inside. Around four, Miss Mathilde came to deliver their meals, so I opened the door for her. Then I heard a loud crash. I knocked on the door several times and realized that the door was locked inside, so I used a knife to open it. And that's how I found Her Highness bloodied, fighting a masked person in a black suit. I was able to wound the person, I believe, and might have pursued him if it's not for Her Highness."
That explained the scratches she found on the knobs, the spots on the door, and the destruction of the room.
"Were you able to identify the killer?"
"I might have if I'm not pressed, given the situation. But I can tell that the attacker was a tall and well-built person, unsure if it was a man or a woman, and quite good with Hussars. Using it as a two-handed combat was untypical in some cultures, however, it was a common practice in our country.", he said. "The target must be the Royal Highness."
She has to spend hours with Afef in order to gather some data for her hunt.
Driving towards home was the best part of her day.
As usual, she left her vehicle parked in front of the foyer, threw her jacket in the newel post then bashed some creative words to another butler.
"It's a shame to have engagements with a pure-blood royalty when you're an ill-bred city employee.", Summerset snorted.
"It was enjoyable. We made plans on how to kill a bony, tight-ass butler without any blood spill. Oh wait, that's you."
Both were contented on that encounter.
When she was about to take the stairs, with Galahad sprawling on her feet, she heard Summerset's call "Roarke is in the library."
She found him lying on a sofa with a hardbound book and a glass of wine. She sat beside him then rested her head on his chest.
"Arabian Nights?" she uttered, peering the title on the cover.
"Hmm...want me to tell you the story?", he asked. He flipped the book close then slipped his other hand on Eve's shirt, thumbing her nipples.
"Then what, the ending will be told the next day?"
She was digging her hands on his shirt to contact with skin, so she yanked his trousers down to feel the hardened length on her hands.
"If you want to," he said as he nipped kisses on her throat, "We can have a never-ending story.", then slipped a finger inside her.
It was overwhelming to him how insatiable he was to Eve, how much in love he was to her that his heart would burst. Her smell, her touch, and her voice thrilled him, especially when she surrendered to her passionate desires.
These were the times they tend to forget everything as if they were alone in the world.
"Want to play as a civilian consultant, Ace?"
"Huh?" Roarke managed to say while recovering from their previous orgasms. She was lying on top of him, trying to regulate her breathing.
"Is this your bribery? Now I feel used."
"You're too good for my plaything, pal," she answered with a smug.
After they dressed, they went to her office for some dinner, and there she told him everything.
"So to summarize, our princess has threats unreported upon her arrival and escalated when the consul died on the same hotel that she stayed. You want my take if it sounds like a total bluff? No, it's not.", he said, then took a bite of his steak.
"Harmin made its independence a decade ago, still on the shaky ground, has a left and right wings, and barely holding its position as a Third World country. With some remnants from the Urban Wars, political assassinations are quite rampant around Asia and Pacific regions. And for a fragile country to survive from its borders, America is your greatest ally. But sometimes, a treaty is not enough."
"And that's how the marriage entered.", she concluded, "Who's this Stephanos Levinski, by the way?"
"Ah, a pompous third-generation moniker born with a pea-sized brain and a fucked-up attitude."
"You sound like you don't like this guy, Roarke."
"I bloody well don't."
Eve raised her brow on that comment. She has seen different sides of him – the Scary Roarke, the Serious Roarke, the Playful Roarke – and this one was the rarest.
"What did Levinski do? Did he conned you – hey!", she gawked when he left the table, only to retrieve his PPC and punched something on the keys before handing it to her. As she flipped the details, she paused and stared at the visual image.
"Holy shit! Is this the Levinski who will marry the princess?"
According to the data, his grandfather was a senator while his father was a governor, a Harvard graduate with flying colors, made a name in the business world, and similar as Roarke, he was a billionaire with properties on and off-planet. These were just salient anyways, so nothing popped out, and probably she would grasp a bigger picture if she will run it using the Central's database.
But what surprised her the most were his unattractive looks. She was not very particular about it, but his features were quite alarming. He looked like twice as his age, with deformed teeth, crooked nose, creased forehead, and saggy eye bags. She verified his medical records twice for abnormalities, but all test results showed as normal.
"It's now clear as the sun why she's marrying him, but for a man with the same stature as you, he could've done some enhancement on his face. Geez, even a sidewalk-sleeper is more handsome than him. No cosmetic surgeries, no trauma or accidents. What does he have, a huge ego?"
"I could have divorced you for associating his name with mine, but you're right, he has a very huge ego and he's proud of it. He doesn't know what respect means, even he foul-mouthed his own parents and colleagues alike."
"And something happened between the two of you"
He made a non-committal hum "His face was all over the screens lately, attaching the news of his upcoming marriage."
"You know that I'm not fond of watching entertainment news."
He's stalling, she thought, that he never answered her question. Something did happen between him and Levinski, but she didn't probe further.
"He was jealous on us.", he concluded.
"You heard me, Darling, he was jealous of our relationship. He made a lot of public announcements recently, wanted to have a wedding of the year, and probably a sensational one like ours. How fascinating it sounded to others back then that a two completely opposite person met in a scandalous investigation, became an item, and after a few months, they got married and still in love until now?"
She reminded her again of DeBlass case years ago. It baffled her how she lured herself to Roarke, even accepted his marriage proposal in an untimely fashion, and now they shared everything that they have locked inside their consciousness.
Two lost souls, he said, and now...
"That reminds me of our anniversary next week.", Roarke said as he arranged the dishes as Eve programmed a coffee for two.
"Just so you know, I'm not that sorry that I busted your surprise for next year." she bemused.
"Ouch, that hurts. Then I'll just name it for our future child. Of course, it's not yet, Eve.", he went to her side when she froze on his comment, "We're both on our recovery stage from our inner wounds, and on our way of understanding a child's life. We must not force ourselves, alright?"
"You know what Roarke, I think I must give you one hell of a gift enough to whack your brains out this anniversary.", she stated with a wink.
"I love competitions, Darling. Let's see who will win this time."
The couple went to their respective office tables – him for money trails, hers for relationships. She first ran Levinski's and compared it from Roarke's salient. She also pulled some data about Howe and crossed his to Roarke's as well.
"Computer, show all the data connected to Howe and Levinski on the first screen. Second screen, the connection of Howe and Levinski to Roarke."
Data running. On screen.
Eve suddenly felt dizzy as she read the information. Her head swayed a bit; good thing she was able to hold herself not to slump on the desk. Maybe she was wired with caffeine, and probably her body was commanding her brain to rest, but she wasn't a type to leave her work unfinished especially that she knew she was missing something.
"Computer, run all the data about Princess Petun of Harmin."
While waiting, she decided to close her eyes for a moment, trying to settle her nausea. She had this withdrawal symptom since the end of her last case, and because her body was used to do legwork every day, being forced in a desk all of a sudden and eat normal meals that she normally skips, her body clock was still recuperating from the routine.
Data on screen.
She was surprised how little the information was.
The princess was the second child from the current king's tenth wife, making her the 35th heir of the royalty. Eve tried to remember the princess from their first meeting – quite tall, slim, with long bushy hair, and brown eyes. Her face was bandaged so she was not able to see her face fully.
"Visual profile, on screen.", she commanded.
Visual profile not found.
She slammed her hands on the table "What?"
If only she could walk straight without stumbling, she will make her husband find it.
She remembered asking him once if he saw the princess up close. No, he told her, since it was part of their tradition to hide the face of an unwed female unless there was a blessing from the royal court.
In short, nobody outside the family has seen Princess Petun except Levinski. Eve was lucky to be the second.
She started to dig some profiles from the royal family and noticed the similarities of all women consorts to Petun. Their profiles were available after their marriage – some with other royal princes that exercised polygamy; others with political and business icons. The only uniqueness to Petun was that her betrothal came from a different continent.
She also focused on her male half-siblings and found some discrepancies, starting from the past five generations. With her limited e-skills, she was able to retrieve old case files of accidents and murders within the royal family.
Eve didn't realize she spent a full hour of reading about Harmin. It gave her the same sickness with the Red Horse cult during the Urbans, hitting her gut after seeing the innocent eyes of the children from pain and famine. Nausea became excruciating after she read the Bukot system, wherein the royal females were locked in a room since birth until they reached a marriageable age.
It brought her back again when she was eight in that dark, smelly room, and the blinking red light from the window.
Unable to control her building sickness, Eve ran to her office kitchen to vomit. Roarke was able to rush beside her, sliding his hand slowly to her back as she poured all of the food that she consumed.
"Eve, your body is rejecting the caffeine that you've taken. You need to get some rest now."
She agreed immediately, which increased the worries that Roarke felt, especially when she took a tranqued soother willingly. She cried in his arms after he stripped her off and laid on their bed.
"They were born for political slavery, Roarke, like a commodity sold by their parents. Just like me."
"Hush, baby, you've never been a commodity. You're my beloved Lieutenant Eve Dallas who stands for the dead." Roarke whispered lovingly "You make yourself, Eve, and you always have me."
When she calmed down and fell asleep, he followed her. She did not even miss telling him to search for Petun's picture.
Everybody arrived at Eve's home office before eight with a single thing on their minds – breakfast. Much to Eve's annoyance, Summerset has no problem serving them bacon and eggs, and the reason why she lost the control of food indulgence he and Roarke did to her division.
"Before you all die from indigestion, let me hear your reports. Trueheart, you're first."
"Yes, sir." the fresh-looking cop replied, sliding a disk on the projector.
"The smoke bombs were examined first, with a component of potassium nitrate, sugar, and baking soda, favoring the theory as a homemade. Dickie gave a list of the ingredients and its brands as well, indicating that the suspect used some of our local products. The sweepers found four types of hair strands on the floor, two from the victims, while the other one from the unknown person. We ran the DNA to the last one and hit a Harminian citizen."
The image was projected on the screen. It was Afef.
"He looked like Summerset.", Peabody muttered absentmindedly.
Trueheart went on "Sweepers found some blood smears on the carpet other than the two victims, and they were not in our database. The first sample matched the hair strand of our unsub."
"Which means that one of them is our third victim," Feeney interjected.
"I agree, Captain. Also, the scratches found on the scene were tagged as a curvy weapon with an approximate blade length of eighteen centimeters. It appears to be a sabre sir, a Hussar."
"That's a szabla, I believe, and inspired from Polish weaponry. You can check my collections later.", Roarke suggested.
"It will be much delighted.", Trueheart beamed then focused again on his report. "We ran some fingerprints around the crime scene, and one of it matched the fingerprints that we found on the computer keys from the reception. It appears to be from Afef."
Baxter whistled. "Seems like my boy already answered the missing questions in the puzzle, LT."
Eve was somehow shocked, not on Afef's involvement but on the young cop's efficiency "Wait, Trueheart. You manage to purge all of these data to Dickhead alone in just, what, half a day?"
"Ah, well, sir, I just followed your advice of using my anatomy, so I used one aspect of mine." he explained shyly, "I told him that the Lieutenant will stop her briberies since she didn't want to tolerate sloppiness and maybe, she found someone way better than him."
Well, brain is also part of the body.
She studied the blushing young cop as he received a friendly pat from Baxter. It seems that Baxter taught Trueheart well, she thought, not only by shedding his greenness but also developing some shrewdness.
She was hoping that some of his trainer's habits will not stick to his trainee.
"It only concludes that Dickhead is a masochist. Anyway, good job Trueheart. Let's see if your maestro will have the same ability. Baxter, your report."
Baxter stood up and slipped a disc, projecting two cartographic sketches from Yancy. The first one was a spiky-haired person, with sharp-looking stares, good cheekbones, and a firm mouth. The second one shared the same, only with tufty locks and a cheek mole.
"The first one was from Andrea Cali, a cleaning staff who happened to pass along the kitchen. The other one was from Lewis Remington, the security officer. Andrea sighted him around the same time Lewis received his go-cup from the suspect. I interviewed the kitchen staffs if they spotted the same person that Andrea described, and it was negative. Same as all the hotel staffs for the two sketches. I also run visual recognition from our database and outside the borders, only to receive a negative result as well. They might be in disguise, LT."
"Ah, on the matched hair and blood DNA from the unsub, we got it as female, same with the sample number 2 blood DNA.", Trueheart added.
"That means we have two female unsubs, and one of them is a suspect that bears one of Yancy's sketches?"
"We can't assume that, Baxter. As what you've said, they might be in disguise." Eve sneered "Feeney and I discussed it as a serious overkill, but having an accomplice? Why not."
After Baxter finished his findings, Peabody began hers, mumbling about using Trueheart's tactics the next time she handled the crime lab.
"Screen one is the list of royal family who has arrived here a week ago. Screen two is the list of the royal family who has declared plans of attending the wedding. Screen three is the guest list of the wedding. Those names on screens one and two are on the screen three list, making them thirty-five. As of the moment, only fifteen persons are in the city. Afef is one of them."
Eve raised her hand to silence Baxter. Everybody in the room looked at her with curious eyes, except Roarke who knows the answer.
The room went into silence as Eve shared the data that she found out last night.
"Is the princess sexy?", asked Mcnab, which immediately earned an elbow jab from Peabody.
"If you want me to describe her just to indulge you men from your sexual fantasies, then better start your report."
McNab stood up as he cleared his throat "The cams, except the room, were not seriously fried. Thus, I was able to get a one-minute surveillance cut from the time the recording was killed. Well, praised to be that they were using Roarke's with an internal memory recorder, with a similar approach to UPS. All of them stopped at 0420. Flat."
Eve squeezed her eyes shut.
"Please tell me you have the hallways, with someone standing at the door."
McNab played the recovered surveillance of the hallway. After the one-minute playback, Eve made a satisfied grin.
"Over-verification can give sloppy results. Roarke, what have you got there?"
Taking as a cue, the screen flashed several numbers, account statements divided into several screens.
"Here's the data from Levinski, with a cross-reference to Howe's account and the Royal Treasury of Harmin. Below is another data from Levinski, with a cross-reference to the master list of his withdrawals. Highlighted are the lists of persons that have accounts with Levinski's previous and current properties for the past ten years."
As they read other pieces of pieces of evidence, Eve's gut began to churn.
"Dammit, Roarke. I told you not to use – "
"Use what, Darling? Your source is my source as well. Besides, that man was very willing to help me. And as I recalled last night, you told me to follow the money. Now here I am.", he announced proudly with a lopsided grin.
When she saw some political names locally and internationally, she immediately knew that Roarke used the unregistered. Accessing their hidden accounts could alert several flags, yet Roarke didn't mind it at all.
If nothing really happened, then why would he go all means to destroy Levinski?
"Fuck Dallas, this is not a stinky shit. This is a sceptic tank!", Feeney groaned.
"Care to explain what Graft and Corruption is, boy?", Baxter asked Trueheart.
"Hold on, guys. We're all going inside this shit so don't you ever complain.", Eve said when the murmurs increased. "The unsub has been named, and if we check that DNA you've got Trueheart, it will tell you that it's from Petun. And for the other unsub and Baxter's two friends, that gives us another aspect for a possible two perpetrators. What you have, Roarke, is our peace offering to Feds in case they got winded with our case. This is a Homicide folks, so we have to deal with the dead. What we need to focus now is the remaining days until the wedding."
A computer beep sounded, making Roarke excuse himself to retrieve it.
"Since the royal family believes that the princess has been kidnapped, it will be an easy entrance for us to infiltrate. And with the butler as our mole, we have to find a double for the princess – not only for the bait but to give the princess an ample time to recover. The only people who know her condition besides us are Afef and the killer."
Roarke was pale-faced as he entered the room pale-faced, waving a slim drive to Eve.
"I have the bloody image of the princess.", he blurted out before she could even ask. Abandoning the thought, she took it from his hand then slipped the drive to the projector.
The picture was taken inside a room, with patterned tapestries hung on the walls. Sitting on the center was a beautiful woman in a traditional gown, with long tawny hair and amber-colored eyes. Despite her innocent looks, there was wisdom radiating in her eyes. She was slim, with good facial structure, and a little dent on her chin.
Baxter gasped as he stood up from his seat "Holy Mary, mother of God, I think I have seen her before!"
"Amen," Trueheart respond.
Everybody looked at the stupefied lieutenant who just gulped audibly "She looks like me."
While he was preparing to leave, Roarke spotted Summerset updating Eve's Autochef.
"The Lieutenant is back to her routine now. No wonder she's quite energetic," said Summerset.
It was quite funny on Roarke's end how his wife and his foster father bickered with nonsense things only to catch one of them doing something sweet behind each other's back. Just like now.
He pulled a bar stool while observing how meticulous Summerset arranged Eve's things, and probably have waited for her and the whole team to leave before he climbed upstairs.
"Everything will be busy for a while, now that she's dealing with an unusual case."
"Since when did the Lieutenant handle a 'normal' case?" the butler sneered "But then, it will be a relief that someone can look out for her."
Roarke smiled at that comment then frowned when he remembered the person that he had to be dealt with.
Summerset knew all of the quirks of his adopted son, and with his momentary silence and scowling expression, he laughed much to Roarke's chagrin.
"Oh boy, when are you going to forget about Levinski? That was several years ago yet you're still holding that grudge?"
With the media announcing of Eve as primary of the Harminian consul's case, it was not difficult for Summerset to connect it with the upcoming marriage of his nemesis.
"That bollock never worry me at all. Besides, I have toppled him down in Wallstreet and took most of his prospect investments as a payback for what he did here. And with his name tangled in the case, I am willing to fry his balls and give it to the hounds."
"Yet you're still affected. I wonder what would be the Lieutenant's reaction if she knew", Summerset mused that earned a narrowed glare from Roarke.
"What if I told Eve that you have a soft spot for her?"
"She won't buy that.", Summerset scoffed.
Roarke walked towards him and snatched a piece of a peanut brittle he was about to add on the autochef's menu.
Ever since he overheard Eve's praise on a gift several days ago, he was making peanut brittles in various flavors. Last time he served several meringue pies after she brought home one from the same grandmother, making Roarke assumed they were celebrating Pie Month. There were also chocolate chip cookies against Nadine's bribery and pastries against Ariel's cakes.
Summerset always competes for Eve without them knowing it.
"Oh yeah, before I forgot.", Roarke paused a bit to grab his suitcase, "I've heard that crullers in Harmin are world-class, especially their buttermilk flavor. I bet the Lieutenant will like it."
He couldn't wipe the smirk on his face when he saw Summerset's stunned realization as he exited the house.
After settling inside the limo, Roarke pulled out his link' and dialed a number. A woman immediately appeared on his screen.
"Good morning, Roarke. What's up?", the female greeted.
"Good morning, Reva. I need you to do something for me."
"And Roarke is okay with it?", Peabody meekly asked Eve who was currently driving towards their assigned location. They were trying to engage a conversation while observing some tails behind, which happened to be the same vehicle that Levinski used last night.
"We have talked about it, and he knows that we don't have much time to look for a perfect bait as I do. He'll do hands-on in this op, so no worries.", Eve replied as she swiveled towards the Skyline.
Peabody pulled her communicator as it beeped. "McNab messaged me that they have a tail now going to Central. Trueheart sends one as well, but they were able to lose it and now they're currently going to Levinski's residence."
"Playing a prince to his damsel in distress, huh?", Eve mused, trying to hide her irritation of Levinski's stupidity of taking cops like an amateur.
"Do you think Levinski did it?", Peabody asked again.
"Let's see how Mira would say about it."
Instead of leaving the DLE again at the hotel's entrance, she parked it in the proper slot.
"Is that the reason why you left the interrogation to Baxter?"
"Regardless if Baxter or I handled it, Levinski is already convicted for accepting bribes and will be convicted sooner or later. And revealing these shreds of evidence, Feds or even the HSO, or worse the Harmin officials, will dip their hands to our platters."
Eve might be telling her partner the truth, but that was not all. She wanted Levinski to be dealt with no preferential treatment since Roarke happened to have some past with him. With the upcoming consul party, she'll be able to evaluate Levinski up close, together with Roarke.
"Just remember, you have to interview some of the Harminian staffs, get their sympathy - you're good with that - and study the interiors. If you got stalled, try the hotel staff and the owner. Wait for my message before you return here."
"Yes, sir.", Peabody replied then went outside the car.
They were walking on the thin wire now that the Lieutenant and the Impostor must exist at the same time, and it so happened that these two were a single person.
Five minutes after Peabody left, Afef emerged from the lot and slipped inside the passenger seat.
"Greetings, Lieutenant. I would like to thank you personally for helping our Royal Highness' causes.", he said.
"Thank Roarke. He's the one who arranged everything.", replied Eve.
She heard a disappointment grunt when she mentioned Roarke's name.
"So, how can you leave using your vehicle without them knowing?"
"I can pull some tricks.", she said, pushing some buttons on the DLE. She just recently learned that not only it has stealth, it has a camouflage-holo duplicate; and depending on her moods, she can alter her gray-colored DLE with a striking red exterior in a matter of seconds.
"I see that your husband doted you so well.", he jeered.
"Do you have a bad blood with Roarke?", Eve asked as they left the premises.
The butler scoffed.
"None as I can remember, as we met only once during a luncheon for the Royal family. I admit he was better than Mr. Levinski even with his murky past, but I'm glad he did not end up as one of our royal consorts."
"I think Roarke mentioned to me before that one of your princesses was offered to him for marriage. Was it insulting that he rejected the proposal?"
"As I've mentioned earlier, I'm glad he did not become one of us. And speaking with that princess you mentioned, she's now a mother of five and living happily with her husband.", he stared at Eve with warmth. "But it seems that he was more fortunate than anyone of us to marry you, and with your state..."
She almost forgot that she was dealing with a sensitive, so she tried to return the topic back to its pace.
"Levinski owns some villas here in New York, yet a bunch of you stayed here in the hotel. Why is that?", she asked.
"It is forbidden for a woman in our culture to stay in her soon-to-be husband's property before marriage. Also, the Skyline is a property of our brethren. We only trust ours."
"Yeah, right. And one of your brethren attempted to kill your Princess."
The butler remained silent.
"I take it as a yes, then.", she concluded. She waited for a few beats before continuing "I read all about your murky past, same as all the royalties who lived and died. I don't really care about your traditions and stuff, but I know how to empathize. Life has never been fair."
For a natural observer, it gave Eve some level of difficulty to know what Afef was thinking. He was overwhelmingly cooperating and trusting, to the point of having doubts on possible traps. She tested him when she showed the cartographic sketches that Baxter provided.
Unbelievably, he was gravely shaken as he began to tell her the names of those persons.
The first time she stepped in Dochas, it gave her some traumatic flashbacks. But after dealing with McQueen's case in Dallas, she started to recover from her childhood and come to terms with it, which includes developing some attachments to her fellow survivors.
Now she was in the said shelter again to check out another survivor.
Petun was sitting on a stone bench at the dome garden, wearing a peach-colored turban that covered her whole face and a column-style dress. She was holding a piece of a flower which she was twirling it with her fingers.
Both similar eyes met. Taking as a cue, Petun removed the turban to reveal her face. She looked exactly on the picture, only with horizontal slash above her nose that was covered by a bandage.
"They told me you looked like me."
"Mine told me otherwise.", Eve replied as she strode towards Petun. She sat beside her, looking at the white petunia flower in her hand.
"I never expect to see a beautiful garden like this full of petunias. Only petunias. Did you know that I was named after this flower?", Petun said as she held the flower to Eve. "It was a significant flower to me."
"It was significant to me as well, as that was my wedding flower."
The princess smiled at Eve's response, then moved closer to her space.
"I don't know why you trust me enough to record our conversation, despite the fact that this act is forbidden in your culture. You did not seek any counsel for this, even to your butler."
"We are in a foreign land, Lieutenant, and we don't have any power over it, so we have to obey the laws here."
"Why?", Eve could only ask, waiting for Petun to explain her side.
"When I first read the Icove's Agenda, I started to admire Lt. Eve Dallas - you - and grew stronger when I watched the movie. I couldn't believe that everything in that book was real. You were real. You don't know our cultures exactly, but us females do not have an equal status as what you have here in this country. I'm not allowed to go outside or choose the things that I want. Even the books that I read or the screens I watched. All my life I was raised with make-believe ideals, but you are my only "fantasy" that is real. I wanted to be like you, and now that you're here in front of me, everything feels like a dream."
"But this is a reality now, your Highness. You are a witness of two murders, and the perpetrator made an attempt to you. In a few days, you'll be marrying one of America's moguls, making you as one of us. You'll have your own freedom."
"But in exchange of my freedom will be a lifetime sacrifice of emotions? Of love? Have you ever fall in love?"
"Then you know how it feels when you spent your life with someone you never loved!"
Both of them were silent for a while. Then the princess continued.
"Only two people know my secret, and you will be the third one."
Eve made a nod.
"I summoned Mr. Howe for a meeting to discuss something about myself. Lieutenant, I'm in love with somebody else."
Petun told her everything - how her lover visited her every night, and when she received a message that she'll be prepared for marriage, they made plans for elopement. He promised that he will save her and that they will live in a faraway land as a normal couple.
Eve felt her eyes twitched as she listened to the story. She used to have this ill-feeling whenever Peabody shares her weird stories about her cohab McNab.
She pinched the bridge of her nose "Are you telling me that your lover will snag you on the day of your wedding, so both of you can go for elopement?"
"Yes, that's right."
"And this alleged lover of yours serenated you secretly for three years, and you haven't seen his face at all?"
"You have understood me well."
"Are you dimwit crazy?!" Eve revolted "How sure are you that there was no foul play there, or it wasn't a poser all along? What if he was not even existed? Or if he did, and for some unknown reasons made an access to your so-called chamber, why not made an elopement when you two were still in Harmin?"
"My father is the king. He controls everything, including the entrances and exits of every community. Even if we luckily escaped the country, we'll still be trapped on the borders. But unlike this country, which is not one of our borders and quite far for my father's influence, we have an existing treaty of peace here."
The lover made a really well-devised plan, Eve though, but was he able to foresee a sudden variable?
"You have an assassination attempt here since your arrival, and currently involved in my murder investigation. Was this a plan all along?"
"If you think we'll go all means to kill just for diversion, the answer is no. And to correct you, Lieutenant, I received several blackmails and murder attempts since I was young. My brother was shot and died in front of me, and I was luckily saved because he cushioned his body in order to receive all the blows that were intended for me. I will never kill anyone to save myself."
She might be slightly distracted how they looked alike, but she could sense the honesty behind her words. It reminded her how she dealt with Marlo Durn, the actress who played her in the movie, and just like Petun, she looked exactly like her.
"I told Mr. Howe about my plans, believing that he might find some legal ways to save me, but before he could continue, a loud crash and a smoke engulfed us. I saw a tall person clad in black clothes slashed Mr. Howe and the server lady. I tried to save her by hitting the black person with a chair. I have basics in sabres, so I was able to defend myself. Then Afef saved me."
"If we established that the perpetrator was skilled in Harminian sword-fighting and was tasked to kill you, will your government interfere ours?"
Petun closed her eyes for a few seconds, as if thinking, then stared at Eve with a determined glare.
"You're the one who taught me about "protect and serve" belief, and sadly, our county lack some passions like yours. Whoever desires to end my life, I want you to be my avenger.", she took Eve's hand and kissed its back much to the cop's bafflement.
"Us Royals have a notion that only our brethren can save us. Afef was a firm believer to that creed, that's why I'm surprised how you were able to persuade him."
"I threatened him to jail."
The princess chuckled. "I don't think that threat was enough for him to obey someone. He told me he knows you, in another life, and that you still have the same nostalgic scent as before. He said he was your attendant."
"Then I must be some rich spoiled brat in my previous life."
"I understand you're cynical to these things, but if you'll try to look for it, you might find some memory fragments with him. Who knows, you might be one of our reincarnated ancestors."
Petun wore her turban again as Eve left the garden. She spotted Moira O'Bannion, the head counselor, talking with Afef, strangely, in Gaelic.
"I have no idea you're linguistic," she commented.
"I've stayed in Ireland for quite some time, and knows some basic words.", Afef replied casually then excused himself to attend the princess.
"He told me a few bits about her niece, like her favorite foods and drinks.", Moira told her. Only Eve, Roarke and Afef knew about Petun's identity and her whereabouts.
"I see. I bet she's picky. How's her recovery?"
"The poison has been stabilized and removed from her system, so we're expecting that her muscles will be responding on the therapy. Four days tops if there will be some drastic changes. We've stitched her facial wound, but it might take weeks for the scar to vanish."
Eve made a mental calculation of Petun's recovery to her public appearances. Not a chance.
"Lieutenant, as one of her counselors, I would like to know how she ended up with that condition."
"Attempted murder using a poisoned sword, and apparently the sole witness of my murder investigation."
"She needs to recover immediately to give her and the two murdered victims some justice.", Eve added. She looked at the exteriors of the dome garden.
"Most patients here visited the dome garden for devotion, sometimes meditation. Others stayed there to pray due to its relaxing ambiance. Roarke took the inspiration from your wedding, hence named this place as Eve's Garden.", Moira told her, unable to hide her grin when she noticed a perplexed expression.
"He's stupid with gifts."
"You can't blame the person who's stupidly in love. I know you might be hostile with me.", the counselor went on "But I would like to apologize on what I had caused to your husband. I'm glad he grew up in contrast with his father, and he deserves to know the other side of his family. He's a bit shaken, but it seems that he was able to come to terms with it."
"You have nothing to apologize, Moira. In fact, I am grateful for what you have done - making Roarke met his bunch of family he never knew before. We are happy to meet those people."
Eve did not expect a tear from Moira's eyes. She wasn't good at consoling people, but she moved and patted her back. It horrified her when Moira hugged her and cried on her shoulders.
They only spent one and a half hour in Dochas - without flagging their spies.
"We'll do some de-briefings here tonight together with the team. Pass that to all of the attendants.", Eve told Afef as she parked the DLE again to the same spot, reverting it to its default mode.
"You have my word - NYPSD will be protecting the princess, in exchange, you handle the outside party. I want the cooperation of the household, even if it requires you to lie with them."
"I want nothing but the Royal Highness' safety.", Afef only said.
"And I want nothing but to catch the killer.", she interjected "I don't care if you're seeking some refuge here to protect her; that's not part of my scope. But the two people killed are mine, and whether you like me or not, the Princess is mine too."
She wasn't used on smooth-sailing negotiations, and always prefer brute words for intimidation - well, she was a legendary kick-ass cop in the city.
After giving the butler five minutes to leave the parking lot and slipped in the hotel somewhere, Eve went outside the DLE and walked into the hotel's back entrance as if nothing had happened.
She spotted Peabody in the lounge with the hotel owner, Ahmed. He was a broad man, with a thick beard and bald head. Before Peabody could introduce him to Eve, the man shook the Lieutenant's hands.
"It was a pleasure to meet Roarke's cop, despite this unfortunate situation."
"I am but a mere homicide cop, but it will be a pleasure if we can have your cooperation."
"It is a certain, Lieutenant."
He led them to the topmost floor that was made exclusive for the royalty. It was a majestic place, almost filled with colorful ambiance with several touches of Western and Oriental decorations.
"I can't believe I am standing on a place where the kings and queens lived! Oh gosh, this is like a dream come true!" Peabody said giddily.
"I could kick your ass to snap you out from reality. Do you have no shame? You're a fucking cop and you're squealing like a girl!"
"Hey, I am a girl, and you're a girl too. It's an all-girls' dream to be a princess someday."
"It was never on my wishlist. Ever."
"But you'll be living as a princess," Peabody reasoned out. "Oh wait - you've been living as a princess for quite some time now, and currently married to a blue-eyed prince."
"Oh, and by the way, I called Trina. You couldn't contain her overloading happiness when I tagged her to this. She wanted me to tell you 'See you soon!'"
Eve felt as if all of her blood drained out from her body as she pictured herself being 'tortured' by her so-called stylist. She tried to consider it as a sacrifice for honor and duty, just to console herself.
Afef appeared at the parlor where the two cops stayed, carrying a refreshment. Behind him was a group of Harminian servants who were ogling curiously at Eve.
"These are all of our Highness' attendants.", Afef introduced.
Prompting the butler to do some translations for her, Eve stood up like some warrior prepared for a battle. All eyes immediately looked at her.
"Starting today, all of you will call me your Royal Highness."