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Weekend in Death

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WEEKEND IN DEATH

Prologue

Dane Dawson knocked on the door of the mid-town brownstone apartment he'd shared with his ex-wife, Ginny, until ten months before. The security had been changed and he could no longer palm himself in.

“At least you didn't cancel this week,” she said as she opened the door. “Meka's all ready for you.”

“No 'hello'? No 'how ya doin'?” He hadn't really expected a pleasant greeting but not the sour look on her face either.

“Daddy, you're here!” nine-year-old Meka skipped through the living room to the entryway, a big smile on her face that more than made up for her mother's greeting or lack thereof.

“Hi, Pumpkin!” Dane said, scooping her up in his arms. “Let's blow this joint!”

The girl giggled as she slipped her thin arms into the sleeves of the fluffy pink coat her mother held for her.

“I'll bring her back tomorrow afternoon,” Dane told Ginny before he and his daughter disappeared down the spiral stairs to the entry hallway.

“Are we going to see 'Smallfry'? Please! Please!” Meka begged, her blue eyes, so like her mother's, shining with excitement.

The G-Flick was all the talk of the under-twelve crowd, and Dane had known it would be the first thing they'd do together. “Sure!”

They stood in line, waiting to buy tickets at the nearest Plex. The smell of soy dogs from the street vendors engulfed them, but Dane told his daughter that they'd have lunch after seeing the flick. The line moved slowly, mostly moms and dads taking their own smallfry to see it. The person just behind Dane and Meka moved a little too close and Dane began to move away, pushing the girl in front of him.

Dane never heard it, neither did anyone else nearby, but he felt it as the bullet entered the back of his neck. He began to slump, alerting Meka that something was wrong. Before he hit the ground, the shooter had slipped away. It was only when the girl began shrieking, “Daddy! Daddy!” that others in the line knew that anything had happened.

 

 

Chapter 1.

Eve rarely worked on Saturdays if she didn't have a big case going. But this weekend, with Roarke Off-world on a business trip, there was nothing to keep her home in the mansion, certainly not Summerset, her husband's majordomo. She'd rather do paperwork than deal with Roarke's man on her own. By noon she'd run out of insults to trade with the gaunt man in his funereal black suit and left for her office without a word.

She was at her desk when the call came in that a man had been shot at point blank range in front of the midtown Plex, and the shooter had easily gotten away. Pulling on her blazer, Eve made sure her gun was in place, and called for transport.

“What've we got?” she asked the street cop who'd been first on the scene. He recognized her immediately--everyone knew Lieutenant Eve Dallas, at least everyone on the NYPSD and most of the citizens of the Big Apple.

He stood up straighter and quickly saluted. “Mr. Dane Dawson, standing in line with his nine-year-old daughter for the newest G-Flick, shot by someone else in line. No one heard or saw anything.”
Eve was sure the gun man used a silencer.

“What about the kid?”

“She's still hysterical.”

Eve looked over the scene. The ME had been and gone, and they were loading the body into an ambulance to take it to the morgue. A female officer was attempting to calm a child with long blond hair and a bright pink coat, but not getting anywhere. Eve strode over to them, deciding to take a hard line, even though she felt like wrapping her arms around the girl. “Kid, carrying on is not going to bring Daddy back!”

The kid was suddenly still.

“We've tried to reach the mother, but she's not answering,” the uniform said. “What do we do with her?”

Eve knew the kid would need to talk to someone and made a mental note to call Dr. Mira the first chance she got. Meka might be the only one who could tell them what happened, but not until the shock of the situation had worn off. Eve knew that would take a while. “I'll take her back to Cop Central,” she said. “Find someone to kidsit until we find the mother.”

“She's out with Gavin.” The girl's voice was faint but surprisingly calm now.

“Do you know where they were going?” Eve asked.

She shrugged. “My mother never tells me anything.”

“This Gavin, what's his full name?” Eve asked. Maybe if she kept the kid talking she wouldn't freak out again.

“Gavin Market.”

“Sounds like a food store,” Eve commented.

Meka giggled. “It does, doesn't it?”

“Do you know what he does?”

“He says he's an artist, but...”

“But you don't like his stuff?”

“There isn't much to it. I did better in first grade,” she said loftily.

“Did you really?”

“Well, maybe not. But you know what I'm saying, don't you? He's a loser!”

“Your mother never told you where they were going?”

Meka shook her head, making her hair swing. Then suddenly, she shut down again. “My daddy's really dead, isn't he?” Her face clouded over, and the light that had flashed in her eyes when she was slamming Gavin vanished completely.

“I'm afraid so.”

“Daddy was supposed to take me last weekend, but he had to work and Mom was so mad! I was just disappointed and now...”

“You liked your dad?”

“He was, like, the frostiest!”

They went directly to Central and up the glides to Eve's office. The kid's eyes took in everything on the way. Eve hoped the candy thief had left something in her newest hiding place in the closed case file drawer. Meka could use a sugar rush right now, and so could Eve. There was one bar left, so she broke it in two and held the larger piece out. The girl took it and crammed it into her mouth.

“Didn't you have lunch?” Eve asked.

Meka shook her head.

Eve could have gotten her a stale cheese sandwich from Vending or a tube of pepsi, or programmed the AutoChef in her office, but she had a better idea. With a sly smile, thinking about dumping the kid on Summerset, she said, “Let's get out of here.”

****

She didn't have to look at Meka's face to know that the kid's eyes widened as they drove through the gates and up the winding drive to the house. She remembered the first time she'd seen it, the towers and turrets, the sheer size of it.

“It's a castle!” Meka exclaimed.

“Not exactly.” Eve stopped in front of steps up to the front door and got out, knowing the car would be parked for her by an annoyed Summerset, and led Meka up to the double doors.

Summerset was lurking just inside as usual with the fat black cat, Galahad, at his ankles. “Feed the kid,” Eve ordered, “and then bring her up to me.” She walked to the elevator, feeling two sets of eyes boring through the back of her head. “Office,” she said as she got into the car, not knowing how it would get her there, but certain it would.

Summerset took the girl into his kitchen, a room Eve rarely visited. “I do not cook soy dogs,” he set the record straight as he studied her.

“That's OK. I don't really like them.” Meka wrinkled her freckled face. “I'm Meka. Who are you?” She might be hungry, but she wasn't sure she could eat anything. The image of her father on the sidewalk, the blood spreading onto the neck of his collarless shirt...

“The Lieutenant said you should eat,” the tall thin man in the black suit intoned, bringing her back to the present. “You may call me Summerset.” Eve would have been surprised by the smile on his face.

“You wouldn't happen to have any real meat would you?” she asked. “A real, honest-to-goodness hamburger would be really good.” She still wasn't sure she could eat it, but having it in front of her might tempt her enough that she could.

****

By the time Summerset appeared in Eve's office doorway, Meka at his side, Eve had completed some research and made some calls. Peabody was on her way over, reluctantly leaving her cohab, McNab on her day off, to come and help Eve kidsit. “I don't know what to do with a nine-year-old until we locate her mother,” Eve had admitted.

“You think I do?” her partner had replied. “But I'm game.”

Dr. Mira would see Meka first thing the next morning, even though it was a Sunday. She advised that they just keep her as calm as possible until then.

“How do I do that?” Eve had asked.

“Trust your instincts,” Mira advised, but Eve didn't think she had any where kids were concerned.
Now she looked at the girl, whose eyes were scoping out the setup Rourke had installed for Eve, including the latest in comps and screens.

“Far out!” Meka said, particularly intrigued by the amount and variety of tech.

“The child is fed,” Summerset announced, and turned on his heels to leave them. The girl was now back in Eve's hands, but she wasn't certain what to do with her next.

Frowning, Eve reasoned most kids liked computers. “You like to play games?” Maybe if Meka lost herself in one of the idiotic programs, she'd 'stay calm'.

“Do you have Wicked Witch?” Meka asked. “That's one of my dad's games.”

Eve knew from her research that Dawson was a partner in a company that produced cutting edge graphics for computer games, especially VR. But she had no idea whether that was one of the games on her system. She dug out the controller and handed it to Meka. “The games are under 'Games'.”

Meka rolled her eyes, but quickly found the one she wanted and began to play.

Eve took a chance and asked, “Why didn't your father take you last weekend?”

Meka frowned. “He and Denny were working on a new game and they had a meeting to present it to an investor or something.” Suddenly her mood changed again. “I guess he'll never finish it...and I'm never going to see him again.”

“Did you see the man who did it?” Eve asked, knowing as she said it that it was probably too soon to ask, but they didn't have any other leads, no other wits.

The girl shook her head. “Daddy...” she sniffed back incipient tears, “...Daddy was standing behind me. I...I guess the man was behind him.”

“But you know it was a man,” Eve persisted. She'd gotten the kid to talk about it. Maybe she could get more out of her, at least her first impressions.

Meka's forehead scrunched up. She was really trying to remember. “When Daddy began to fall, I saw someone move away from the line. I...I think it was a man. Yes, I'm sure.” She was struggling to maintain her composure. Eve thought that was a good thing. “You don't know what it's like to see your own father lying on the ground in front of you like that. Dying!”

But Eve knew only too well what that was like. Except in her case, she'd been glad he was dead. Once more, she felt the urge to put her arms around the child. Awkwardly, this time she did. Strangely, it felt right. But of course, that was the moment Peabody chose to show up.

“Didn't think you had it in you, sir,” her partner said.

Eve immediately broke the hold. “Peabody, Detective Delia this is Meka Dawson, the vic's daughter.”

“Uh, hello,” Peabody said as the two of them scoped each other out. Finally, Peabody's eyes swiveled back to Eve. “Any leads?”

Eve shook her head. “Not even a complete description of the perp. But Meka's certain it was a man.”

“Well, that lets out half the population. What about motive?”

“Dane Dawson was a partner in a firm that created graphics for video games--”

“Frosty!” Peabody interrupted.

“--so there's the partner, some rivals, I guess, and the ex.”

“It wasn't my mother. And it definitely wasn't Gavin.” It was Meka's turn to interrupt.

“Who's that?”

“Mom's main squeeze,” Eve told her partner. “Meka's not particularly fond of him, so if she says he wasn't the one, he wasn't.”

“So where do we start?”

“We find Mom and Dawson's partner and work from there,” Eve decided.

Peabody nodded in agreement. It was the logical way to go, and she knew that Eve was logical to a fault. “Too bad Roarke's away,” she said. “He could probably give you all the background you need on the games business.”

“Yeah, well he is. I guess he was one of their rivals,” Eve mused.

“I forgot he had his fingers in gaming.”

“Among many other things.”

“Roarke?” Meka's ears had perked up at the name. “You mean the gazillionaire?”

“The one and only,” Peabody said with a big grin. “You didn't know that Dallas was Roarke's cop? That this is his place? I thought everyone knew that.”

Meka looked at Eve slightly differently, but before any of them could pursue that, Eve's 'link chirped.
“We've located the mother.” Even if they couldn't see his face, which they could, Baxter's voice was unmistakable. “You want us to bring her in to the precinct?”

“I've got the girl at the house. Bring her mom here.” Eve was counting on the vic's ex being as impressed by her digs as her daughter was. She'd found that it had a tongue-loosening effect.

It was Trueheart who delivered Ginny Dawson to Eve a half hour later.

“Meka! You're alright!” the woman cried.

“We told you she was,” Trueheart said, but then he left immediately, with further instructions to obtain Dawson's computers and file discs from his office and apartment.

Although Ginny obviously had to see her daughter with her own eyes, Eve noticed, that she didn't reach out for the girl, just looked her over from the doorway. Not much affection there.

“If you mean I wasn't killed like Daddy,” Meka said, showing a bitterness she'd kept hidden before.

“Oh, Meka. I'm so sorry!”

“No you're not. You didn't love him anymore.” To a child, you either loved someone or didn't care about them at all.

“But I didn't want him to die!” Ginny insisted.

Meka didn't look as if she believed that, but she kept quiet.

“Mrs. Dawson, perhaps you have some idea of who might have done this, or even paid someone else to,” Eve said.

Ginny hesitated, then shook her head. “I don't know anything about what was going on in Dane's life. He took Meka for a day or two when he could, mostly on weekends. Otherwise, I never saw him or heard from him.”

“Did he have any enemies? Any business rivals that you do know about?” Peabody asked.

“He wasn't the easiest person to get on with, but no one hated him, if that's what you mean. And his success wasn't so great that someone might be jealous.”

“How did he seem when he came for Meka earlier today?”

The woman shrugged. “OK, I guess. I didn't really notice. Look, can I take my daughter home now?” She started tapping her foot.

“Just a few more questions,” Eve said. “Would you happen to know how we can reach Dane's partner?”

“Denny? She's probably at her place on East Sixteenth. I'm surprised, really, that she wasn't with Dane and Meka.”

Neither Peabody nor Eve had realized the partner was a woman.“Why should she be?” Eve asked, hiding her surprise.

“They're...they were inseparable. One of the reasons I divorced him. I wouldn't be surprised if they were...” she glanced at her daughter, unwilling to say something that wasn't for nine-year-old ears “...you know.”

“Sleeping together, you mean,” Meka supplied. “I'm nine, not three, even though you sometimes treat me like I am.”

“Meka, that'll be quite enough!”

“So you're saying Dane and his partner were close.”

“Yes. It's also the reason Donny left the partnership.”

“Donny?” Peabody asked.

“The other founding member of Three D Graphics, Donny Doyle.”

“I always thought it was called that because the graphics were in 3-D!” Peabody said, as it finally clicked what Dane Dawson's company was. “You learn something new every day.”

“We'll need addresses for both Denny and Donny,” Eve said.

Ginnie sighed. “Sure, I'll try to dig 'em up for you. Now can we go?”

“For now. We should be able to get those addresses from Dawson's records, but if we can't we'll be calling. We may also have some further questions. Oh, and we'd like to speak to Gavin, too.”

“How can he possibly help you?” Ginny asked.

“We need to talk to everyone who knew the victim,” Peabody said.

“Get your coat,” the woman ordered her daughter.

“Can I come back again another time?” Meka asked Eve before complying.

“We'll see, kid,” she said.

“Thanks!”

Eve and Peabody watched the two of them go out the door. Belatedly, Eve realized that Ginny Dawson hadn't been very impressed with the house or her office. But that wasn't any stranger than her reaction to her ex's death or to seeing her daughter again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2.

When Eve and Peabody returned to Cop Central, Baxter greeted them with the news, “We got Dawson's PPC from his office and the one he had at home. The guy must have been paranoid, because both were protected up the wazoo. Feeney and McNab are working on getting in right now. There were also some discs, all heavily encoded.”

“Did he have any paper records?”

“Just an address book. It's on your desk, but Trueheart and I were just leaving to talk to the partner, Denise Palmer.”

Eve nodded in dismissal and turned to her partner. “Let's go see who else we should be grilling.”

“Right, sir,” Peabody agreed, trying to match her shorter strides to Eve's longer ones.

The address book was a standard one with a black cover and tabs for every two letters of the alphabet, but there weren't many entries inside. Presumably, Dawson kept more info on his computers. Still, this would give them a start.

Eve found two addresses and three phone numbers for the former partner, Donny Doyle. Taking the direct approach, she read out the first number into her 'link, but there was no answer. She tried the second.

“Doyle here,” a man answered. He had video blocked.

“Mr. Doyle, this is Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPSD. I'd like to have a word with you either here or at your office.”

“Huh? I didn't do anything!”

“That's to be determined. When was the last time you spoke with Dane Dawson?”

“Listen, I don't know what this is about, but anything Dawson is accusing me of is phooey!”

“Dane Dawson is dead,” Eve told him.

There was silence at the other end of the line. Finally, a strained voice asked, “Did you say he's dead?”

“Now, answer my question. When did you speak to him last?”

“Uh, maybe a month ago.” Donny sounded subdued. “He's really dead?” He couldn't seem to put his mind around the concept. “What...what happened?”

“That's still classified. What did the two of you talk about when you spoke?”

“We didn't actually speak. He called and ranted at me for stealing an idea he was working on. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. He's really dead?” he repeated.

“What kind of idea?”

“For a game, of course. A new way of doing the background graphics. I didn't know anything about it. Have you talked to Denny?”

“Two of my officers are on their way to see her now.”

“She'd know,” Danny said. “They were close.”

“So we've heard.”

“Does Meka know?” he asked.

“She was there when it happened,” Eve said. It was a piece of information that she felt she could share.

“Poor kid! She idolized him! She was really broken up over the divorce, but this...” His voice trailed off.

“I still have some questions for you, Mr. Doyle.”

“I've told you everything I know,” he insisted.

“It'll be more background info,” Eve said. “Will you be at your office the rest of the day?”

“Yeah, until six or seven tonight. I've got some tweaking to do on a game for Megamax.”

“You do work for them?” Eve knew that was the name of Roarke's video game publishing arm.

“On spec, but this one was approved. I just have to get the bugs out.”

“OK. We'll see you either later today or tomorrow.” She hung up and turned to Peabody. “What do you think?”

“Me? I think he was genuinely shocked about Dawson's death, really shook up. Isn't Megamax Roarke's company?”

“Yes. Give them a call and see what they'll tell you about Doyle, but I think he was telling the truth.”

“If I run into any stonewalling from them, I'll mention your name.”

“Do that.” Once her partner was gone, Eve sat in her office chair, flipping through the address book. Even hers had more names in it than this one. But she supposed he wouldn't keep any business contacts in writing, considering how secretive he was about his work.

She looked up at the light knock on her door, and broke into a grin. The first one of the day. “You're back!”

“Happy to see you too!” Roarke said, his Irish eyes flashing and his tall body relaxed against the door frame.

Eve took one quick glance at the items on her desk, set the address book down with the rest, then stood and approached her husband. “I think I'll have to wait until later to give you a proper welcome home.”

“Are you in the midst of a case? Then don't mind me. I'll just sit here and wait. And admire my gorgeous wife.”

“Actually, Feeney and McNab might need your help.”

“It must be a tricky one if you're bringing in the civilian so soon. Or is it? Soon I mean?”

“Do you know a Dane Dawson?” She could see the rolodex turning in his brain.

“Graphics man, methinks. Aye. What's he done then?”

“Gotten himself murdered.” She waiting the seconds needed for that to sink in, then asked, “What about Donny Doyle?”

“He's a two-bit graphic artist. Rode Dawson's coat-tails for a while and has been pitching his work to several game publishers lately, including mine.”

“He claims he's working on something for Megamax right now.”

“On spec, maybe. Is he a suspect?”

“Could be. Also, the ex-wife, her lover, and the current partner.”

“Denise Palmer.”

“You know her?”

He flashed his lazy smile, the one that always hit her right in the stomach. “I know all the gorgeous women in this town. You'll also be considering any of 3D's rivals, including Megamax, which means yours truly.”

“Yes we will,” she admitted. “But we're going to concentrate on those closer to him first.”

“And meanwhile, besides helping your estimable Electronic Detectives, I might be able to unearth some intel on Dawson's dealings lately,” he offered.

It was Eve's turn to smile. “That could be very useful. More important is getting more information about his contacts.” She indicated the address book. “There were only a handful of people in here, so I expect the information we need is on his comps.”

“Then I'll be on my way to aid and assist in the plundering.”

She knew he only acted like he thought this was a game, a challenge. He was well aware that what she and her detectives did was serious business. “I think I'll go pay Mrs. Dawson a call on her home turf,” she said. “And I'll see you later.”

“Don't forget that welcome home you promised,” he said, brushing his lips across her cheek and thumbing the indentation in her chin.

“Let's see what you can do for my case now that you're here.”

****
She found Peabody in the bullpen, talking to some uniforms. “Time to tackle the wife and her lover.”

“Do you think she can tell you more than she did earlier?” Peabody said, rushing to catch up with her.

“That's to be seen, isn't it? And I'm curious about her boyfriend.”

They took Eve's car. She'd gotten used to all the gadgets and bells-and-whistles of the DLE Urban her husband had given her, and finally accepted that it was practical besides being luxurious. Street-level traffic wasn't as bad as usual, so it only took ten minutes to get to the apartment on East Thirty-third. It was in an old brownstone, a walk-up, built before the Urban Wars as homage to the brownstones of the previous two centuries. After the wars it had been divided into flats, one per floor.

Ginny and Meka lived on the second floor. Reluctantly, Ginny deactivated the security for them to enter the building and they walked up the spiral staircase from the tiled entryway. There were no competing cooking odors that were so common in most apartment blocks, no sounds of voices of occupants or emanating from screens. The places must have cost several large a month, although Eve hadn't found a source of income for Ginny other than a small trust fund, and wondered how she could afford it.

She stood in the doorway off the second floor landing. “Did you find the killer already?” she asked, leading the way into a living room with spare furniture and hardwood floors, chilled by a well-operating AC. Some might call it stylish, but Eve thought it was cold, like Ginny.

“We're good, but not that good,” Peabody replied for them both.

“Lieutenant Dallas! Detective Peabody!” At least Meka was glad to see them.

“Hi, Meka!” Peabody smiled at her.

“Go to your room,” Ginny ordered, and the girl walked off with a frown.

Once she was gone, Eve told Ginny, “We found the addresses we needed, so you won't have to provide them for us. And I neglected to tell you that our staff psychiatrist, Dr. Charlotte Mira, will be available to see Meka tomorrow morning.”

“She doesn't need one,” the girl's mother stated.

“Maybe not, but it will help us to learn if Meka knows anything more she hasn't yet remembered.”

“And you came all the way over to tell me this?”

“As I said earlier, I'd like a word with Gavin.”

“Well, he's not here,” Ginny said, crossing her arms in a defiant pose.

“Where can we find him, then?” Eve asked.

“He's probably at his studio. He's an artist.”

“So I've heard. And where is this studio?” Eve knew, of course, but she wanted to see how cooperative Ginny would be.

“In the Village, on East Tenth.” Ginny sighed. “I'll get you the address and his numbers.”

“You do that.” Eve and Peabody watched her go through the same doorway that Meka had passed through earlier.

The minute she was gone, Meka returned. It looked like she'd been crying, a good sign to Eve. The girl needed the release, “Do you really think I need to see a shrink?” she asked. She'd obviously been listening to their conversation with her mother.

“Dr. Mira is a very sweet woman. You'll feel a lot better after you talk to her,” Peabody replied.

“OK.”

“And after you talk to her, I'll want to talk to you again,” Eve suddenly decided. The kid was observant. There was a lot she could tell them besides what had happened that afternoon.

Meka nodded, then disappeared again before her mother came back.

“Here's Gavin's information,” Ginny said. “I hope I don't hear from you again until after you've found the man who murdered my husband.”

“Ex-husband, and who said it was a man?”

“Well, I just assumed...”

“We'll let ourselves out, and don't go warning Gavin we're on the way,” Eve said. If Ginny hadn't already thought of doing that, Eve wanted to put the idea in her head just to see whether she'd call him. “And don't forget, Meka's appointment with Dr. Mira is at ten tomorrow morning.”

Once they were back in Eve's car, Peabody said, “I don't understand their behavior.”

“What's to understand? Ginny doesn't give a fig for her ex, and Meka is nine, she's not sure how she's supposed to act, sad, brave, frightened. She probably doesn't know what's going to happen to her or how she'll be able to cope with the loss of the parent she loved.”

“And how did you suddenly become such an expert on what a kid like that could be thinking?”

Eve shook her head. “I don't know. Our situations are very different, but somehow I can relate to her. I just hope Mira can help her. A lot of it is still shock, the images stuck in her head, the sense that nothing will ever be the same.”

“She seems like a strong kid.”

“That's what she wants you to think.”

There was silence as they dodged traffic that had built up since earlier by going vertical, both of them thinking through what they'd learned so far. “How much further to Gavin's?” Peabody asked.

“It should be the next block,” Eve replied, spotting an empty second-level street slot for the car. They went the rest of the way on foot.

“How do we play this?” Peabody asked.

“We'll start with straightforward.”

Chapter Text

The studio was in an old loft building, the kind artists preferred because of the amount of light the windows provided. Security wasn't as new as at Ginny's, but they still had to be let in, and Gavin hesitated until Eve used her status to force the issue. She'd been surprised when her master didn't work because it almost always did.

“I don't let just anyone up here,” he said when he slid open the steel door to his place.

It was a walk-up and while Peabody struggled to catch her breath, Eve wondered what he was trying to hide. She looked around at the half-finished paintings, too unfocused to be classified as minimalist or avant garde, but there were no clues in them.

“Whaddya looking for?” Gavin was a man of average height with mocha colored skin, his dyed red hair pulled back in a thick tail. “I'm not trying to hide anything. I didn't even know you were coming.” Eve knew that wasn't true. Belatedly he asked, “Why are you here?”

“You knew Dane Dawson,” Peabody shot over her shoulder as she walked around the room, examining the canvases on the easels, the paints and brushes.

“What are you afraid we'll find? Illegals? Unregistered firearms?” Eve demanded.

“Why...why would I have any of those?”

“You tell me. We're here to ask what you might know about the murder of Dane Dawson. But we'll have to report any other illegal activity we find. And I have a feeling we'll find something.”

“There's nothing going on here!” Gavin insisted.

“Except art, right? How many of these do you sell in a year?” Eve asked, her suspicions aroused by his behavior.

“What?”

“How much did you take in over the past month?” she continued.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“How can you afford this place if you're not making money on your paintings?” She'd been wondering whether money was the motive for Dane's death. He probably hadn't left his to Ginny, but if he left it to Meka, she'd have access to it, giving her a prime motive, and Gavin as well.

“Sir.” Peabody had discovered something. She held up a can of what looked like dark green paint. “This is printer's ink, not acrylics or oils.”

“Well, well, well. And what have you been printing, Mr. Market?” She watched the man's face go from cafe au lait to white. “Keep looking, Peabody.”

“Don't you need a warrant?”

“Not in a murder case when we've already found something suspicious.” Of course the ink probably had nothing to do with Dane's death, but that was just a quibble.

It took a while for Peabody to turn up the plates. When she did, she whistled. “He's not penny ante. These are plates for five and ten large!”

“So now we know where you get your money. Read him his rights, Peabody. We're taking him in to the precinct.”

Peabody recited the Revised Miranda, advising Gavin of his rights, then collected the ink and plates in the evidence bags she always had with her, while Eve cuffed the artist. He'd stopped talking and there was no way they'd be able to get more out of him.

They walked single file down the stairs, Gavin sandwiched between Peabody in the lead and Eve bringing up the rear. With Gavin stuffed in the back of the car, they drove back to Central. Peabody moved him through processing while Eve returned to her office. It was time for her to start her case board with all she knew so far, and find out what Baxter and Trueheart had learned from Denise Palmer.

As she wrote out what they now knew about the people closest to Dane Dawson, Eve wondered whether Ginny was aware of Gavin's source of funds and how she was involved in the counterfeiting operation. She worried, however, what would happen to Meka if Ginny was sent to jail.

Baxter and Trueheart appeared in her doorway. “We're back, LT.”

“What did the partner say?” Eve asked.

“She was all broken up about Dawson's death, of course. When she could speak she went on and on about how the company couldn't go on without him. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose from his death.”

Eve nodded. She'd probably charmed them. Trueheart's grin said that he'd found her gorgeous. “Did she say anything about the project they were working on? Whom they met with last week?”

“She was too upset.”

“Well, we'll see what Dawson's comps tell us. Meanwhile it's time to see a man about a body.”

She left them and took the elevator down to the morgue. Cold and sterile, with the whoosh of the exhaust fans in the background and the only light shining on Morris, who was still working on Dane's body, his almond-shaped eyes squinting at what his Y cut had revealed. He looked up when Eve entered, and indicated a tray next to the body. “I removed the slug. Twenty-two caliber. The entry wound showed that it was shot through a silencer, very close to the vic's neck,” he confirmed.

“Did you find anything else? Any notes in his pockets?”

“Nothing but his wallet containing credit cards, some cash and credits, and a picture of a blond kid.”

“The daughter.”

“He'd had his last meal about three hours before his death. Powdered eggs, soy bacon but, get this, real coffee. At least I think so. I'll have to run the contents through analysis to confirm.”

“Maybe he needed the hit of the coffee before he went to face the ex and pick-up his daughter,” Eve speculated, but she knew you couldn't make assumptions. The fact that he could afford real coffee was telling. “If you find anything else, you know how to reach me.”

“Will do.”

She left Li Morris to his work, and returned to her office where three people waited for her. There was a smile on Feeney's hangdog old face and McNab was bobbing up and down with excitement, which was easy with his gel boots. His tail of blond hair bounced against the back of his day-glow orange shirt.

“We got through Dawson's security,” Roarke reported, grinning as broadly as the other two. “You did know that some of his equipment was unregistered? It was also shielded from CompuGuard.”

“But you got in. So, don't just stand there. What did you find?”

“He and Denny were working to develop a new line of games with Vigo. They're a major player in VR games. It would seem that Dawson had developed a new way of generating 3D graphics for the background of the games.”

“Far out stuff!” McNab said. “Totally iced!”

“They were already working on a campaign with ad blimps and pop-ups. It could have been the next big thing,” Feeney said.

“But if it was ready to go, why would Palmer be so upset about whether the company could continue?” Eve asked. “They were already past the point where his work was vital to success.”

“She's worried about the future of 3D Graphics?” Roarke asked.

“That's what she told Baxter and Trueheart, that without Dane the company could go belly up.” She thought a minute and then asked, “Who else knew about the deal with Vigo?”

“It wasn't common knowledge, not even in the games industry, if that's what you're asking,” Roarke said. “The plan was to unveil just after Halloween, capture the Christmas market.”

Eve nodded. It was hard for her to think about the winter holidays, especially in the middle of the summer, but she knew manufacturers were already gearing up. “Is anyone else developing anything similar?” she asked, thinking about Dawson's suspicions of espionage.

“They wish they could, but no,” Roarke replied.

“And the graphics Donny's doing for Megamax?”

“I couldn't find anyone who'd talked to him, let alone approved anything,” Roarke said.

“So he was lying. I guess we'll be seeing Mr. Doyle in the morning, but not until after I talk to Meka again. She has an appointment with Dr. Mira, and then I want to see her.”

“I think we're through here for today.” Roarke looked from his wife to the two members of the Electronic Detectives Department. “Always a pleasure to work with the two of you.”

“Always a pleasure to crack a well-secured comp,” McNab said with a grin.

“I'll leave you my notes on what we found,” Feeney said. He was always good about documenting his work. The two of them left Eve with her husband.

Once they were gone, Roarke moved closer and ran his hands over her shoulders. “What you need now is an hour in the pool, a hot shower and some time alone with your husband. We might even throw in some dinner with that.”

“How did you guess I was going to suggest all of those things?”

“I know my cop.”

A half hour later, stripped down, Eve was swimming laps in the pool in the home gym that filled the lowest level of the mansion. She'd gone five times the length of the pool when Roarke joined her, matching stroke for stroke. With his long body, arms and legs, she knew he could be going much faster, but he chose to swim at her side.

As a stress reliever, it was even better than sparring with droids or running the indoor track. They continued for forty-five more minutes, then by mutual consent, pulled themselves out of the water and padded to the shower. Setting the water temperature to one they both could stand, they soaped each other, with special attention to preferred spots, then rinsed off.

“Jets off,” Roarke commanded before they entered the drying tube together. It was a tight fit, but that was fine. Their still-damp bodies made contact, her breasts rubbing against his chest. His hands slid along her slim hips, while her fingers combed through his long, black hair. His mouth found hers and engulfed it, his teeth nipping at her lower lip.

His lips moved along her jaw line and down her neck, sending chills through her even in the heat of the drying tube. She let herself respond to the touch of Roarke's hands and lips. She inhaled his scent and lost herself in those blue eyes. She loved times like this when she could bury herself in his arms, push all of her thoughts into a corner of her mind where they could simmer for a while. It brought her pleasure, and recharged her batteries.

She felt his heat, heard the slight intake of breath as she reached down between his legs. His eyes flashed with desire, mirroring hers. And that desire continued to build as their hands roamed freely over each other and they stumbled out of the tube.

His face buried momentarily in her choppy brown hair. “Your hair smells of strawberries,” he said.
She found his lips again and tasted them with her tongue. “Your lips taste of coffee with a little cream and two sugars.”

“Your voice is like angel song,” he whispered.

“You don't believe in angels.”

“I believe in you,” he murmured. “And your face--” He was stuck for only a moment. “Your face puts Helen of Troy to shame.”

She blushed but kissed his eyelids, then those lips again. God, she couldn’t get enough of those lips, then continued down the center of his chest. His heartbeat was elevated, the pounding speaking directly to her. Was it really saying “Love Me, Love Me”?

The sensations she felt continued to reach new levels until they joined and soared to the highest heights.

****

Later, wrapped in each other's arms, when the afterglow had dimmed a bit, Eve said, “I think I need another shower.”

Chuckling Roarke joined her again, but this time, except for a few well-placed kisses, they made it through the drying tube.

“I'm famished. I'll have Summerset lay on a bit of supper for us,” Roarke said, pulling on a shirt and pair of jeans.

By the time they'd reached their quarters, a table had been set. For once, Roarke hadn't relied on the AutoChef. When Eve lifted the lid on her plate she found a steak, baked potato and asparagus with hollandaise, surely Roarke's idea of a bit of supper. It couldn't be Summerset's. She hadn't realized how hungry she was. There were rolls, too, and honest-to-goodness butter for them. But when she tasted her coffee, it brought the case back to the forefront of her mind. “Dawson had real coffee for breakfast this morning.”

An eyebrow went up, but all Roarke said was, “Three-D had been paid a sizable amount up-front for their work on the Vigo games.”

Eve nodded and went back to demolishing her steak.

Chapter Text

Eve should have expected it. Before she reached her office the next morning, she was confronted by Nadine Furst, full of questions that Eve wasn't ready to answer. “Nadine, the media corps was given a statement yesterday.” Nadine might be a friend, but she was also a newscaster and reporter, and Eve wasn't ready to give the media more than she already had.

Nadine fixed her with her clever green eyes. “All it said was that Dane Dawson was killed on a busy street in mid-town around noon yesterday and the police, which I assume means you, are investigating all leads. C'mon, Dallas. Be a pal!”

Eve knew that if she hedged and said they didn't have anything more, the reporter would twist that to mean they hadn't made any progress. On the other hand, she didn't want to tell the public anything that would interfere with their apprehension of the shooter, and whoever paid him. Because it was looking more and more as if this was a professional job, ordered by someone who had something to gain from Dawson's death.

She had to give Nadine something. It would keep her out of Eve's hair for a while at least. “He was shot. His nine-year-old daughter was with him.” That should get the kid some sympathy if nothing else, and give Nadine a human interest story, the kind she thrived on. Then she had a thought of how she could also use Nadine to force the hand of the instigator. “We're working on his computers and discs, getting all the data we can on what he'd been doing.”

“You mean his work? He was a partner in Three D Graphics, wasn't he? Do you suspect his partner? How about the ex?” Nadine's questions came fast and furious.

“I've given you all I can for now,” Eve told her. “It's more than anyone else in the media has.”

Nadine knew when to stop. She nodded and with a quick smile said, “Thanks, Dallas.”

Eve made it to her office with no further delays, but she'd just programmed the AutoChef for coffee when Ginny Dawson burst through her door.

“What have you done with Gavin? I can't get him on his 'link. You went to see him yesterday afternoon after you left me, didn't you? What did you do?”

“Have a seat,” Eve told her.

“Not until you tell me where he is.”

“He's in lock-up.”

“But why?”

“We found incriminating evidence at his loft,” Eve told her, watching her face carefully for a reaction. “Printer's ink.” Nothing. “Printing plates.” Still nothing. Ginny was either a terrific actress or she didn't know anything about the counterfeiting.

“What was he printing?” she asked, still not understanding.

“Five and ten thousand dollar bills.”

“Huh?” Ginny seemed even more surprised than she had been about her ex-husband's death.

“Gavin has been counterfeiting money.”

“Damn!” She frowned. “Wait, you don't think I had anything to do with that, do you?”

“I don't know. Did you?”

“No!”

“The thing is, we don't know where Gavin got the plates. And we're still looking for the bills. Did he ever give you any of that denomination?”

“No! I don't need money, you know. Between my trust fund and the child support Dane pays, I'm fine.” Her face clouded over. “I'll still get the child support, won't I?” It was obviously more than the records said.

“We haven't found a will yet, but I would imagine that besides his partner, Dane left everything to Meka.”

“Oh!”

Eve couldn't believe she hadn't thought about any of this before, but maybe she was that clueless.

“I still can't believe Gavin would do something like that! He's a dedicated artist.”

But Eve thought he would have needed a better artist to produce the plates they found at his place.

“I guess you never know anyone,” Ginny lamented, but she perked up when Mira brought Meka in.

“Thank you, Meka. I enjoyed our little talk,” Mira told the girl.

“You're welcome, Dr. Mira,” Meka said politely looking up at the psychiatrist, in one of her elegant suits, this one a rosy pink. The girl seemed calmer, more in control of herself.

Eve wanted to ask what they'd talked about, but knew she couldn't. Meka would have to volunteer the information herself.

“Mrs. Dawson, a word?” Mira requested, leading Ginny out of the office and leaving Eve alone with the girl.

“She's really nice, isn't she?” Meka said, watching them go. “Dr. Mira, I mean.”

“Yes she is. She's helped me through some rough patches.”

“She did? She told me it wasn't my fault.”

“Your fault?”

“That Daddy got shot. I mean, I thought that maybe if he hadn't taken me to the Plex, it wouldn't have happened, you know?”

“The person who shot him would have done it wherever he was. It had nothing to do with him being with you.”

Meka nodded. “Yeah, that's what Dr. Mira said.”

“Do you remember any more about what happened?” Eve asked, trying not to push too hard.

“Not really. But it was a man, and he was wearing those air boots that everyone likes.”

“Was he as tall as you father?”

“Taller, I think.” Meka's forehead wrinkled and her eyes narrowed. “And he had blond hair.”

“OK, so you do remember more.” Eve smiled at her.

“I guess so.”

“Meka, what do you know about your father's partner, Denny Palmer?”

The girl shrugged her narrow shoulders. “She's pretty nice to me. Sometimes she has dinner with me and Daddy when I'm with him.” Every time she realized that things wouldn't be the same ever again, a shadow fell over her face.

“What about Donny Doyle?”

She scrunched up her nose. “He's a loser. Daddy always says that. He has no imagination.”

“And you need that in their business, don't you?”

“Yeah. Um, Mom said you did something to Gavin. Did you arrest him?” It sounded as if she hoped so.

“As a matter of fact, we did. He had ink and plates in his loft to make counterfeit money.”

“Gavin?” Meka was as incredulous as her mother had been.”Wow!”

Peabody knocked at the slightly open door and walked in, followed by McNab. “They found more on the PPCs and office discs,” she reported.

“My dad's comps?” Meka asked. She was studying the young E-geek in his brightly colored clothes.

Ginny returned at that moment, without Mira. “May I take my daughter home now?” she asked. There was still hostility in her voice but it was less than it had been the day before.

“I want to stay and hear what they found on Dad's computers!”

“Maybe you'd better go with your mother now,” Eve said gently. “I'll come by later today and let you know whether we found anything significant.”

Meka frowned but she didn't argue. She slipped on the pink coat that her mother held for her and the two of them left.

“OK. Now, what've you got?”

“She-body was saying that the person who did this had to know where Dawson would be, so I checked to see whether he'd noted it in his e-calendar,” McNab said.

“Whether the shooter was someone who knew him personally, or was hired by one of them, he had to be in the right place at the right time,” Peabody explained.

“And?” Eve urged.

“It wasn't there.” McNab shook his head. “But there was a notation on the Sunday before that he wanted to make it up to Meka for missing their Saturday together. He was going to check whether anyone knew what the hottest G-Flick was.”

“So he talked to someone about taking Meka to the Plex.”

“It seems that way.”

“But who would he ask?” Eve wondered aloud.

“None of the other players have kids,” Peabody reasoned.

“Unless there's someone involved here that we don't know about. Have we found out yet who Dawson and Palmer met with at Vigo last Saturday?”

“One of the vice presidents, name of,” McNab consulted the notes on his wrist unit, “Mason. Jared Mason.”

“Do a run on Mason,” Eve ordered Peabody. “We'll leave in fifteen to pay a call on Denny Palmer, and see what she'll tell us about him.”

Chapter Text

Given how little time she had, Peabody hadn't been able to find anything suspicious in Jared Mason's background. As she and Eve drove to see Dawson's partner, she said, “He seems to be on the up and up. And the company is solid.”

“Let's see what Denny has to say.” Eve wondered if Denise Palmer was the type of woman who didn't bother to put on an act for other women, just for the men in her life. It would make Eve's interview with her easier if it was true.

They reached her building just before lunch time. This time Eve was able to use her master to get in, but they needed Denny to unlock the elevator and let them up to the seventh floor. The apartment was small with just two rooms.

“I usually work at the office.” Three D's offices were in a mid-town block. “I just couldn't handle being there without Dane.” She'd been crying, her red-rimmed blue eyes and the wads of wet issues that cluttered the top of her desk were clear indications of it. I never looked that good when I've been on a crying jag, Eve thought.

“Ms. Palmer, I know it's hard to talk about, but we need some information about the deal your company had with Vigo,” Peabody said.

“How'd you know about that?” Denny was suddenly alert.

“From Dane's computers.”

Denny shook her head. “You shouldn't have been able to get into them! That was all confidential information!”

“We never know what information, confidential or otherwise, will help us solve a case,” Eve explained. “We won't divulge any of what we found, unless it's pertinent, but we're working on a murder investigation. You have to understand.”

Denny closed her eyes and took a breath. When she let it out and opened them again, she nodded. “How's Meka taking all of this?”

“About like you,” Eve replied. “Oh, she's trying to be brave, to act like an adult, but she doesn't know how. She seemed to think that if Dawson hadn't been with her, he wouldn't have been killed.”

“That's absurd! But I can see how she might believe it. Poor kid!”

“Ms. Palmer, you told my detectives that without Dawson, the company might fold. But you've got a deal with Vigo, so how is that possible?”

“It's true we have an agreement with them, but without Dane, who'll come up with the next great game graphics? I was always the idea person. He was the one who turned my ideas into reality. He had a gift that no one I know could match. What'll I do without him?” Her eyes filled with tears. “I'm sorry. I can't seem to stop for more than a few minutes at a time.”

“You and Dawson had a close personal relationship, didn't you?” Peabody asked gently.

“Where'd you hear that? No, I can guess. Ginny. She was jealous of the time he spent with me, but honestly, I wished there was more between us besides our work and a friendship.”

“Was there someone else?” Eve asked. She knew they were getting away from the subject of the Vigo deal but this could prove important. “Was he seeing someone?”

“Dane didn't have time for anything but his work, except maybe Meka. They adored each other.”

“What about Donny Doyle?” Eve asked, switching topics.

“What about him? The man has no talent to speak of. Oh, he's an OK copyist, but coming up with anything new or exciting?” She shrugged. “It was a good move to cut him out of the partnership.”

“Whose idea was that?” Peabody asked.

“I don't really remember. I think it was a mutual decision. One day Dane and I realized Donny wasn't pulling his weight and then it took a couple of days for us to decide how to handle it. Have you spoken to him?”

“Only briefly by 'link. We'll be seeing him later today. He gave us a story about being busy creating graphics for Megamax, but we know it's not true.”

She chuckled, a dry sound with no mirth in it. “That's Donny. Always talking bigger than he can deliver.”

“He did admit that Dawson approached him some time back about stealing something that 3D was working on. Did your partner tell you anything about that?”

“Before we signed the deal with Vigo, we had evidence that someone broke into our offices and took two discs and some data off the computers there, preliminary thoughts on how we were going to get the effects we wanted. They wouldn't have done the thief any good because they were incomplete, but Dane was so angry with himself for not protecting the data better that he went on the warpath. He thought Donny had something to do with it, but he couldn't prove anything.”

They tried a few more questions, without Denny revealing anything new, and realized they'd gotten all they could from her. “If you think of anything else, tag me,” Eve said, handing Denny her card.

“Thanks Lieutenant. I hope you find out who did this, not that it'll bring Dane back, but...” She was on the verge of breaking into tears again, so Eve and Peabody left quickly.

“Can we stop for some eats on the way to Donny's?” Peabody asked as they got back in the car.

Eve realized she was hungry herself, but she said, “Let's wait until after this interview. I don't think we should put it off any longer, and I don't want a full stomach to dull my thinking process.”

Reluctantly Peabody agreed. She knew her partner had a habit of forgetting to eat when she was working a case.

They arrived at Donny's place just before noon. He wasn't expecting them, and made them wait before he unlocked his door. “I told you I'm on a schedule. Have to finish this ASAP.”

“Does anyone say that anymore?” Peabody said, but her eyes were wide as she took in all the equipment that filled the small apartment. “Utterly iced!”

“Why did you lie to us?” Eve asked him. “You don't have an agreement with Megamax. You had to know we'd check your story.”

He looked at her and then back at the credentials she'd shown him. “Wait. You're Dallas, Roarke's cop aren't you? Yeah. OK, well, I guess I wasn't thinking.”

“Are you used to lying when you're not thinking?”

“What? No!”

“Mr. Doyle, what do you know about the murder of your former partner, Dane Dawson?” she demanded. She didn't know whether he was always so scattered. Maybe he was on something, either legal or illegal, but before he gathered his wits about him, she was going to get some answers.

“What? I don't know anything!”

“Should I tag McNab to come take a look at all these comps?” Peabody asked, continuing to look around the room.

“You can't do that!” Donny exclaimed. He looked as if he wanted to throw tarps over everything to keep it all away from prying eyes.

Eve had the same sense she had with Gavin. Donny was obviously hiding something. Whether it had something to do with Dawson's death or not, she was going to get to the bottom of it. “What are you afraid we'll find? Did you steal any of Dawson's files?”

“No!” Donny was protesting way too much.

Something Denny said had been swirling around in her mind, trying to connect with something else she knew. Her eyes narrowed as she said, “Gavin's in custody, you know.”

“Gavin?”

“Don't play games with me. You're not very good at it. Denny mentioned that the only thing you were good at was copying other people's work.” To confirm what she was beginning to think, Eve spotted a bottle of the same ink they'd found at Gavin's, sitting next to the metal used in printing plates.

“I didn't copy anything they were doing.”

“No, because they weren't making plates to print counterfeit money.”

Peabody's head snapped up and she smiled.

“You were working with Gavin Market, weren't you?”

“Prove it!” Donny said.

“Oh, I intend to.” Eve turned to her partner. “I think we have enough suspicion here to get a warrant and have Mr. Doyle's place searched.”

“Yes, sir,” Peabody said enthusiastically. “Getting right on it.” She pulled out her 'link.

“I had nothing to do with Dane's death! We'd been friends for years. Why would I want him dead?” Donny knew they were onto his illegal activities, but he wasn't going to confess to something that heinous.

“Maybe he found out about your counterfeiting activities and was going to report you,” Eve guessed.

“He wasn't interested in what I was doing, or even how I was getting along,” Donny said. “But don't get me wrong. I didn't resent him for it, or for his success.”

“Peabody, how are we coming on that warrant?” Eve called to her partner who'd moved off to a corner of the room.

“It's a go, sir,” she replied. “And Feeney and McNab are on their way.”

“What's going to happen now?” Donny asked. “I'm not under arrest or anything, am I?”

“What do you think?” Eve asked him. She didn't even have to ask. For the second time in two days, Peabody was reciting the Revised Miranda. When she finished Eve told Donny, “We'll take you to Central for custodial interrogation, and meanwhile our Electronic Detectives will be combing through your equipment.”

“Tell 'em to be careful, OK? It's all I have.”

They waited for Feeney and McNab to arrive before leaving to take Donny in. Meka had said that Dawson called Donny a loser. Eve just thought him pathetic. And she really didn't think he was involved in Dawson's death. So if not Donny, who did that leave?

****

Back in her office, Eve added everything they'd learned to her board. She knew she was forgetting something, and the feeling was reinforced when Peabody appeared in her doorway with an expectant look on her square face. “Lunch, sir.”

That was it! “I know I promised, but I can't leave this now to go stuff my face.”

“I could go get,” Peabody said hopefully. “Maybe from Central eatery.”

The food wasn't very good, but it indicated how hungry Peabody was that she'd even consider it.
“I think they have pasta today,” Peabody added, knowing Eve's fondness for a steaming plate, with fake tomato sauce to mask the bad taste.

“Alright,” Eve agreed.

The grin on Peabody's lips told her all she needed to know. While Eve waited for her partner to return, she sipped a cup of coffee from the AutoChef in her office and stared at the board. She still wasn't convinced that the counterfeiting that Donny and Gavin were doing was connected in any way with Dawson's death.

The door to her office opened and she turned towards it, expecting to see Peabody with food. Instead, it was her husband.

“I've taken a gander at Jared Mason. He's squeaky clean, but I think you may profit from a visit to his office,” Roarke said.

“I'll set up an appointment for later this afternoon. You don't happen to know him, do you?” she asked. She wanted to know more about the man personally, besides what was on record.

“Sorry, no. I do know his boss and a couple of other VPs at Vigo, but not Mason. I could have a chat with the folks I know, if you'd like.”

She nodded. “I'll let you know after I talk to him.”

Chapter Text

Mason's office on the top floor of the block where Vigo was headquartered was very masculine, real wood with heavy fabrics on the arm chairs that faced his desk. The floor-to-ceiling windows had security screens that were turned off so the view of the city through them was unobstructed.

“Please have a seat, Lieutenant, Detective,” Mason said, sitting himself only after they did. An office droid brought in afternoon tea in a real silver teapot with a platter of crust-off sandwiches and another of white-iced cookies. “We were greatly saddened to hear of Mr. Dawson's death.”

“I'm sure you were.” Eve watched the droid pour the tea into fine china cups she'd be afraid to pick up, let alone drink from. “I know the work he was doing for Vigo was confidential, at least until after the new games are completed and released to the public, but perhaps you could tell me something about what the terms were.”

“Surely you don't think his death had anything to do with his work for us!”

“There's always an outside chance.” Roarke's inquiries had confirmed that Mason was on the up-and-up but she had to be sure for herself.

“Well, what can I tell you?”

“We understand that his company was creating the graphics for the games and that Dawson had come up with a new way to do them in 3D.”

“Yes, that's right. It was truly revolutionary.”

“You were paying them a hefty amount for their ideas, weren't you?” Peabody asked.

“And well worth it. We expect the games to be the biggest thing this coming holiday with young and old alike,” he said. “And then Dane Dawson was coming to work for us.”

Eve and Peabody exchanged a startled look. This was the first they'd heard about that. “So 3D was folding?” Eve asked. “What about Denise Palmer?”

“Oh, we weren't sure yet how she'd fit in here, but Dawson insisted that we hire her, as well,” he said. “She has some good ideas. Not the talent that Dawson had, of course.”

“And now? Will you still hire her without Dawson?” Eve asked.

“I suppose we'll have to. The documents were ready to be e-signed.”

There'd been no trace of any documents on Dawson's PPCs or any discs they'd found. Nothing in his inbox. “Had you sent the documents to Dawson yet?” Eve probed.

Mason shook his head. “He and I discussed the details on Friday. The only reason I'm here today was to check on whether they'd gone through our legal department.”

So it wasn't a done deal. “Do you know whether Dawson had discussed this with Denise Palmer?” Eve needed to know whether Denny knew anything about this.

“I expect he did. They were partners and she'd have to sign any agreements we came to, especially the sale of the company and its assets.”

None of this jibed with what she'd said, though.

“Well, thank you for your time,” Eve told Mason as she rose to leave, her tea untouched.

Peabody snagged one of the cookies, and a sandwich, too, before they left.

****

Back at Central, they were both still trying to make sense out of what they'd learned from Jared Mason. “We can confront Denny with what we know and see how she reacts,” Peabody proposed. “Find out how much Dawson told her.”

But before they could do that, Baxter was at Eve's door. “We got the report from ballistics on the bullet Morris dug out of the vic.”

Eve motioned for him to come in.

“It came from the same gun that was used to kill the Mayor of Cleveland, and also that actor, Matt Mahaffey.”

“Neither of those crimes was ever solved,” Eve remembered.

“They were thought to be professional hits, each ordered by a different person, but no one ever proved who those persons were.”

“Let's hope we can do better by our vic,” Eve said.

“Are we going to visit Denny again?” Peabody persisted.

“I think this time I want to talk to her here. Baxter, go ask Ms. Palmer to accompany you to my office so I might have a word with her.”

“You're not arresting her, are you?” he asked, tucking his shirt into his pants and smoothing back his hair before he left.

“Not yet. It will depend on how well she can satisfy my curiosity. Take Reineke with you. I have another job for Trueheart.”

He didn't question her orders, just took off again.

“What do you need Trueheart to do?” Peabody asked.

“I'd like him to go with you to the 3D offices and search for any indication of Dawson's discussion with Mason about selling the company to Vigo. He had to have some record of it even though we didn't find anything on his PPCs.”

“Got it!” Peabody said.

Left alone again, Eve stared at her board one more time, and then began to rearrange the data. Maybe they were looking at this all wrong. She was still working on it when Baxter and Reineke returned forty minutes later and ushered Denny Palmer into the office.

“What's this about?” Denny asked.

“We just need some clarification,” Eve told her. She thought about dismissing the two men, but decided it might be better if they stayed. “After speaking with Jared Mason, I was a little confused. I thought you said that without Dawson, your company couldn't survive, but isn't it true that Vigo was essentially buying 3D? And Dane and you along with the company?”

“What are you talking about? Vigo wasn't buying 3D!”

“Dane didn't tell you about his conversation with Mason on Friday?” Eve asked.

Denny shook her head. “I haven't spoken to Dane since Thursday afternoon when he said he'd be busy with Meka all weekend. I know Vigo wanted to hire Dane but...”

“And you thought he was going to leave you behind?” If she thought Dawson was selling 3D and moving on to Vigo without her, she'd have motive for wanting Dawson dead. But would it be enough? And where would she get the cash to hire a hitman to do the job? “How much was your share of the initial deal with Vigo?” Eve questioned.

“That's none of your business!”

“Enough to hire someone to shoot your partner, the partner you thought was selling you out?”

Denny laughed, a hollow sound. “It was hardly enough to pay my rent for three months! Certainly not enough for that!”

“And how much do you think it costs to hire someone? Just a rough guess.”

“How would I know?” Her voice was pitched a little too high.

Peabody and Trueheart came bursting through the door. “No record of a conversation with Mason, but we did find this,” Peabody said, holding out two discs. Eve's raised brows prompted her to go on. “We think they're the discs that Dawson thought had been stolen.”

“Where were they?”

Peabody looked at Denny and took great pleasure in saying, “In a drawer in Ms. Palmer's desk. They were in this envelope.”

It was a manila envelope with Denny's name on it.

“And this was stuck on them.” The last thing Peabody handed Eve was an old-fashioned yellow post-it note with 'thanks for your help' scrawled across it.

Eve looked from the note to Denny. “Can you explain this?”

“I don't know how that got into my desk!” she said.

“You didn't put it there?”

“No!”

“The desk was coded shut,” Peabody said. “The only way we were able to get into it was with McNab's help. He told us what to do.”

“And we can test the discs, the note and the envelope for prints. Who did you sell this data to, Denny?” Eve persisted.

“I...I...” Denny didn't know what to say.

“So it wasn't only Dawson's deal with Vigo that motivated you, was it? He found out, or at least suspected that you were the one who took the discs. And you used the money you got for what was on them to hire the shooter.”

Denny seemed to crumble.

“Who did you sell the data to? More important, who did you hire to kill your partner?”

“I'm not saying another word!” she said.

“Baxter, read her her rights,” Eve said. She felt that she'd just won a battle, but she was sad about it.

****

As Eve disassembled her murder board, she wondered why Denny could have been so ruthless. How could she orchestrate her partner's death, a partner she seemed to care for so much? But mostly Eve felt sorry for Meka. What would the child think when she heard that it was someone she liked who'd taken her father from her? She'd need at least one more session with Dr. Mira.

Roarke saw the sadness on her face when he walked into Eve's office. “I hear you have your culprit.”

“She may not have pulled the trigger, but she's as guilty as the man who did.”

“Do you think she'll give him up?”

Eve shrugged. “I doubt it.”

“You're not happy with the outcome?” he asked.

“I'm not unhappy. We know why Dane Dawson was killed. If we don't ever find the man who did the deed, at least someone will pay. Maybe that's enough.”

“Well, let's go home. You've had a busy weekend and I think you deserve a night off.”

She entwined her fingers in his as they walked out together.

THE END