The streets of New York City were clogged with snow. Last minute shoppers braved the winter storm while the billowing winds tried to steal the treasures held tightly in their gloved hands. A few of the braver (or crazier) glide-cart operators and street vendors tried to hawk their wares to limited customers. Even the air traffic was light – airbuses and sky trams fought less against each other trying to get their passengers to their destinations but more against Mother Nature and her pissy attitude.
It was Christmas Eve and Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPSD stood in her office watching all the winter madness below. Normally she enjoyed taking in all the chaos of the city from her tiny window; the horns squawking, bangs and rattles from the transit, shouts and curses from the Rapid Cab and transpo drivers and the wide eyed tourists taking everything in.
But the howl of the wind muted the city sounds and the whirling snow and overcast sky dulled her view. It was fitting. She’d left the noise of the Bullpen and gone into her office to decompress, finish filing her report to the Commander and brood a little. Eve had completed the first two items of her mental checklist almost 30 minutes ago. She knew she was stalling. She just didn’t want to take this case home with her. Not on Christmas Eve.
She sipped her almost cold cup of coffee and debated whom to root for. Typically she would have sided with the bitch of a storm – it was more relatable and she’d rather face down five junkies hopped up on Zeus than step into the Sky Mall during the holiday season. But since the killer weather had been a thorn in her side as well today she had a little sympathy for the idiots running around looking for last minute deals.
She placed the mug down on her battered desk and sighed. Maybe the drive home would improve her spirits. Seeing snow falling around the palace that Roarke built and the trees full of twinkling Christmas lights might jumpstart her holiday kick. Or at least give her enough time to fake one.
“You’re still here?" The voice was soothing, feminine and had an underlying concerned tone that made Eve both uncomfortable and grateful at the same time. “Eve, you should have gone home ages ago.” Dr. Charlotte Mira’s deep blue eyes took in the weariness on the woman she viewed as a surrogate daughter’s face. As the department’s in house psychiatrist Mira knew the signs when something was troubling Eve. No matter how much the flat look in her brown eyes tried to hide it.
Eve shrugged and picked up her long wool coat draped over her desk chair. “I was just finishing up my report to Commander Whitney on the E. Tyson murder,” she said as she buttoned the jacket up and slid her personal link into her pocket.
Mira sighed covetously. “That coat is lovely. Is it one of Leonardo’s design’s?”
Eve had no idea. “Sure. Could be. It appeared this morning in Summerset’s bony fingers as I was heading out.” Maybe she should have disinfected it first. She tried not to picture what Roarke’s man at arms did to her things when she was at work. “I’m sure Roarke’s clothing fairy whipped it up for Christmas.” He was always putting new stuff in her closet. Eve tried not to feel guilty since the leather trench he’d given her had been shredded in a fight with a chemi-head and a titanium sticker. God knows how much credit her husband had dumped on this one. At least the dark sable colour worked in her favour for covering the bloodstains and the thick merino wool couldn't have been as expensive as her custom trench with body armour lining.
She hoped, anyway.
Mira walked with Eve through the Bullpen nodding and smiling at the well wishes called out to them. There was a skeleton crew operating tonight as most of the men and women in her unit would be at home celebrating with their loved ones.
Too bad Everett Tyson was lying on a slab in the morgue instead.
They took the glide down to the lower levels of the building while Mira made small talk about her plans for the holidays. Eve nodded and interjected at the right moments, only half listening. She knew Mira’s stories were only meant to put her at ease and give her time to collect her thoughts about the day’s events. Shrink tactics. Two years ago that would have grated on her nerves. Now she understood and (mostly) appreciated the way Mira could get her to open up, even if she didn’t always think she needed to.
Eve waited until they were alone in the parking garage. “Sometimes, it just sticks with you. One victim more than others.” Dr. Mira said nothing, merely waited. “It’s just one of those fucked up things. Poor bastard gets a lead on the toy of the season, something that’s been sold out for ages. A doll that walks and talks and farts or whatever – and he knows his kid can’t live without it.”
“So some nice clerk at a store gets a last minute shipment in and tags the vic, Tyson.” Eve and her partner, Detective Delia Peabody, had gotten all this info from the link records and witness testimonies from Christmas shoppers and the nice and now broken-hearted toy store associate. “He races down on his lunch break ‘cause he’s so excited. The store was willing to hold it until he was finished work for the day, but Tyson couldn’t wait.”
Eve could see him; a tall mixed race male in his late thirties, solid build and topping out just over 6 feet. Not a pushover – Tyson kept in shape, took care of his body. Great smile, friendly eyes. Just a normal good father type, hoping to score the toy of the year to give to the daughter he called ‘Princess’.
“This was all going on when you and Det. Peabody were working with the team searching for Brower?” Mira referred to the suspect Eve was looking at over a drug deal gone sour that ended with the dealer’s insides on his outside.
“Yeah.” Distracted by her cold fingers in the poorly heated parking garage, Eve rifled through her pockets for her gloves. Christ, she must have lost another pair. Again. Annoyed at herself, she jammed her hands into her pockets.
“So there’s Tyson.” Eve continued. “Happy, even with all this shitty weather. He tips the clerk for his help and heads out the door of the toy store. Starts the walk back to his job to finish up for the day when he’s held up at knife point by one Marcus T. Brower.”
“Brower’s not much to look at,” Eve said, “Jittery, skinny and a full head shorter than the vic. But with a citywide manhunt on his ass, he’s desperate. Plus, he’s jonesing for a fix. Needs credits quick. Something to take the edge off so he can figure out what his next move is.”
“The only thing on his side right now is that the weather has slowed everything down. Response time is way behind since we got civilian traffic issues all over the place. He’s making better time on foot. So he sees the nicely dressed guy carrying Christmas packages and puts a blade in his face. Tyson is smart enough to recognize the signs of a user and hands over his wallet, loose credits and a decent wrist unit.”
Eve shook her head sadly. “But he hesitates on the damn doll. And Brower thinks Tyson is holding out on him, that there must be something valuable in that shiny pink bag. He yanks on it, tries to wrench it from Tyson’s hands. They struggle and Brower sticks the knife in, and runs off.”
Mira placed a reassuring hand at Eve’s waist and waited for her to finish.
“Tyson bled out on the way to the hospital. And we found that damn doll in an alley a few blocks south.”
Mira pulled back and watched Eve find her cop face again. Frustrated emotion was pushed down and controlled. Wide mouth pressed into a thin line, her rich brown eyes sharp and cool. “There was nothing you could have done to prevent that Eve. Nothing.”
Eve let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
“Yeah, well. Fucking Christmas.”
“Was Brower apprehended?” Mira asked.
Eve nodded. “Baxter and Trueheart got a tip from one of the weasel’s they use. They found him holed up in a flop house not far from the crime scene. Stupid asshole still had Tyson’s wrist unit on him when they secured him.”
“You know that finding the man who killed Tyson and making sure he pays for his crime will be of some comfort to his family.” Mira told Eve.
“Yeah, still doesn’t make him less dead.” Eve remembered how devastated Tyson’s widow had been when they’d notified her of her husband’s demise. And how his daughter just stood there, pleading with her father’s eyes to make this nightmare go away.
“The house was done up like Macy’s.” Eve said quietly. “Tree, lights, stockings - everything. And I walked into that wonderland and ruined it.”
She ran her fingers through her short cap of messy hair. ‘You don’t have to say it. I know. I need let it go.”
Mira smiled. “Go home to your wonderful husband.” She leaned in and softly kissed Eve’s cheek. “Give him one of those for me.” The sentiment baffled Eve and the bewildered expression she gave Mira made her laugh. “As your departmental doctor I advise you to go home and try to enjoy the holidays, Lieutenant.”
Eve opened the door to the Dr’s car for her. Mira manoeuvred behind the wheel and tucked her shapely legs in. Eve noted her pink ice pick heels that matched her suit. “How the hell do you drive in those things?”
Mira’s laughter echoed in the garage around them. She squeezed Eve’s hand before closing the car door. “You’ll be fine Eve. Merry Christmas to you and Roarke.”
As Mira headed home to her family, Eve headed home to hers.
The journey uptown was tedious and the damn storm showed no mercy. Eve’s caffeine high was almost gone. She gave in and engaged the autodrive and leaned back into her leather seat to watch the city go by. The falling show was hypnotic and Eve fought to keep her drowsy eyes open.
The car link beeped and she shook the fog away. “Dallas.”
‘DALLAS? Hey Dallas!” Peabody’s face filled the vid screen. The normally stalwart and dependable officer of the law had tagged Eve from her bedroom. Her brown hair was mussed, and there was an empty bottle of wine on the nightstand and a very happy smile on her square face. It didn’t take a detective to figure out what activities Peabody and her cohab Ian McNabb had been up to.
“Oh my sweet, blushing Jesus. Tell me you didn’t just call to inform me that you and McNabb had sex.”
The wine had given Peabody’s cheeks a healthy glow but she still managed to redden a little. “How’d you know?” Turning away from the camera she hollered for her boyfriend. “McNabb, Dallas KNEW we did it. And I didn’t say anything!”
A shirtless man appeared on screen next to her partner. Lanky with a long blond ponytail and a pretty face he raised a wine glass in toast. “Merry Christmas LT!” Using his free hand he cupped it around his mouth and stage whispered, “Of course she knows, she’s Dallas. She knows all.”
Eve closed her eyes and counted to three in her head. “Detective Peabody, please have McNabb put on a shirt or leave my line of sight before I have you writing every report for the next six months. In triplicate.”
"Okay, okay.” She could almost hear Peabody pouting. “He’s gone. Dallas, you can open your eyes now.”
“Thank merciful Christ.” Eve muttered. “What do you want, Peabody?”
“I just wanted to tell you something.” Peabody squinted her eyes and tried to look less drunk. “We missed you tonight. Trueheart, Baxter, McNabb – all of us”
Eve knew she was referring to the traditional end of shift on Christmas Eve drink most of her cops had gone on. This also explained why Peabody needed some Sober Up – one shared bottle of wine plus whatever she’d had at the pub had made her a little goofy.
“It was a crappy day. And a crappy thing happened to a good man.” She stopped to sniffle. At the look of horror in Eve’s eyes she continued. “No, no, there’s no crying, I swear.”
“I just wanted to tell you that, do you remember that Sheriff’s star I gave you for Christmas that time?” Eve nodded but stayed quiet. “I still see you that way. Strong, fierce. You stand for every victim on every crime scene I’ve ever worked with you. You never forget their faces and you never give up until you find justice for them.”
Eve didn’t know how to respond. Uncomfortable, she tried to cut Peabody’s speech short.
“Nope, gotta let me finish. It’s a rule. A Christmas law.”
Eve scowled. “Christmas will be over by the time you finish.”
“Bah humbug, Scrooge.” Eve’s scowl deepened. It didn’t help she didn’t get the reference. “Anyway,” Peabody rushed, “I just mean we stand with you now. You don’t have to carry it all alone.”
“I’m honoured to have a badge. And I have it mainly because of you. So, I’m here. Anytime you need me. S’what partners do.”
Incredibly touched and equally as embarrassed Eve was reminded again of how she well she had done with picking this cop to become her aide and eventually her partner. She cleared her throat and composed her face.
“Merry Christmas Peabody.”
“Merry Christmas Dallas.”
Exhausted, Eve wanted her bed. Maybe - a glass of wine first. And then some pizza.
Or, in her best fantasies a glass of wine in bed with some pizza.
The car came to a stop in front of the entrance of magnificent home she shared with Roarke. Eve, in a moment of weakness, debated putting her ride away in the garage instead of leaving it in her usual spot of right in front of the house. As much as she enjoyed irritating Summerset this weather was terrible. If he happened to slip and fall while putting her car away… fuck it. He’d survive.
Inside was sinfully warm. She glanced around the empty foyer as she kicked the snow off her boots. Didn’t matter if it was Christmas – the bony bastard never missed an opportunity to remark about her tardiness. She narrowed her eyes. Summerset liked to melt out of the shadows like a dark suit wearing ghoul.
Eve waited. When the only one to greet her was their fat, lump of a cat Galahad, she shrugged and draped her coat over the newel post. She leaned down and scratched under his chin. “Come on you. Let’s find Roarke.”
Galahad (who often associated Roarke with food) led the way. They found him, casual in a pair of dark jeans and fitted shirt in the study with an open book in his lap. The fireplace was lit and in the cozy glow his thick black hair shone. Eve took a moment to drink in the beauty of his face: the strong, sharp lines and poet’s mouth. The heat in his impossibly blue eyes when he noticed her standing in the doorway caused her heart to jump, just a little.
“Lieutenant.” He smiled and rose to greet her, placing the book face down on the leather cushion behind him. “I was starting to wonder if you’d caught another case.”
“Sorry. I should have called.” She never got sick of looking at him. Still couldn’t believe how he could make her melt in mere seconds of being in his presence.
“It’s fine.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips. “My darling Eve. Are you ready for some dinner? I had Summerset cook us a traditional Christmas Eve meal before he retired for the evening.”
"Damn it.” Eve pouted. “I was hoping his absence meant you’d given me the best gift ever and shipped his skinny ass back to the mother country.”
Roarke ignored her comment and offered her some wine instead. Eve accepted the glass and sipped at the cool, fragrant liquid. “As for dinner, can we just hang in here for a bit?” she asked.
“Of course.” Knowing his wife’s moods he gestured to the couch. The sat together, a unit, Eve with her long legs stretched out before her, feet resting on the coffee table. She sighed and sipped her wine again. Roarke turned so his elegant and graceful hands could get at the knot he knew was in her neck. Eve moaned in delight and closed her eyes.
Eve pushed the book aside to make room for Galahad who had given up on getting a treat from the study’s autochef. He circled twice and flopped down, content with washing.
“What were you reading when I came in?” Eve asked.
“Dickens.” he replied, "Seemed apt, considering the date.” At her blank look he sighed. “The novel’s titled ‘A Christmas Carol’, Lieutenant. Your state sponsored education was sorely lacking in the classic literature department.”
She grunted at him and leaned her head forward so he could get to work on her stiff shoulders. “I read stuff in school.”
He replaced his hands with his mouth and softly pressed a trail of kisses down the nape of her neck. “I’m afraid case studies on the mass murderers of the 20th century don’t count.”
Those magic hands left her shoulders and skimmed the side of breasts coming to a rest at her waist. When they stayed still Eve tried not to sound disappointed. “So what’s so great about this Dickens guy?”
“Oh, nothing extraordinary. He wrote a handful of novels, a few short stories. Kind of obscure really.”
She knew when he was screwing with her. “So he’s kind of a big deal then?”
Roarke smiled. “Exactly.”
Galahad, finished with his nightly bath, curled up against Eve and let out a low rumble of a purr. Eve rubbed his forehead and the cat slowly blinked his bi coloured eyes at her. He rested his chin on his paws and was snoring within minutes.
“Since it seems we’re stuck here for a bit, would you like to watch one of the film adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’?” Roarke asked. “I think you would enjoy it.”
When his wife didn’t protest, Roarke ordered the computer to list the versions of the movie in their possession. He skimmed the records and decided on his favourite version, one he saw as a boy in a rundown movie house in Dublin.
Eve scrunched up her face. “There are that many vids based on one book?”
Roarke settled back and placed an arm around Eve’s shoulders. “In the late twentieth century there was even a movie made mainly with puppets filling the roles of the majority of the characters.”
Eve shivered. “Oh man, puppets. Those fuckers are evil.”
Roarke nearly choked on his wine. “Eve, you never cease to amaze me.”
She grinned and planted a loud kiss on his lips, fisting her hands into his thick hair.
“Don’t you forget it Ace.”
Eve ordered the lights to thirty percent and waited for the movie to start. She was thankful for both the furry cat’s body beside her with his claws digging into her thigh and for the weight of her husband’s arm draped around her.