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Celebrity in Death

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

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

She stepped to the door. In the corridor outside the pretty blonde sat on the floor, head in her hands with the sturdily built, newly minted detective smirking beside her. And she stood, framed in the doorway with murder at her back.

“And cut! That’s the money shot.“

At the director’s signal, the area—dressed as the late Wilford B. Icove Junior’s home offi ce—became a hive of sound and movement. Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who’d once stood in that home office over a body that did not—as this one did—sit up and scratch his ass, felt the weird sense of déjà vu shatter.

“Is this iced or what?“ Beside her, Peabody did a restrained little dance by lifting and lowering the heels of her pink cowboy boots.

“We’re on an actual vid set watching ourselves. And we look good.“

“It’s weird.“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tromping around.

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

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


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


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

“What a treat.“ K.T. shook hands, gave Peabody the once–over.

“You’re letting your hair grow.“

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

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

“Aren’t you working?“

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

Eve stopped at the reproduction of her own bullpen. Desks—

cluttered—the case board that took her back to the previous fall, the

cubes, the scuffed floor.

The only thing missing was the cops—and the smell of processed

sugar, bad coffee, and sweat.

“Is it right?“

“Yeah—some bigger, I guess.“

“It won’t look it on–screen. They reproduced your offi ce, in the same

layout, so they can shoot me or one of the others going through this area

and in, or out. Would you like to see it?“

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

“They’ll CGI in the view—buildings, air traffic,“ Marlo said when

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

Surprised, mildly uncomfortable, Eve turned. “What you do, every day,“ Marlo continued, “is so important. I’m good at my work. I’m damn good at it, and I feel strongly what I do is important. It’s not uncovering–a–global–cloning–ring important, but without art, stories, and the people who bring those stories to life, the

world would be a sadder, smaller place.“

“Sure it would.“

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

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

Marlo’s smile exploded. And no, Eve thought, she absolutely did not smile that way.

“That’s good then.“

“And this.“ Eve did a turn around the offi ce set. “I feel like I need to sit down and knock out some paperwork.“

“Carmandy would be thrilled to hear that. She’s the head set designer.

Let’s get that coffee. They’ll need me back on set soon.“

Marlo gestured as they went out into the sun–blasted October of 2060. “If we go this way, you’ll see some of the Roarke/Dallas house set. It’s spectacular. Preston, our AD, told you they were going to want some publicity shots while you and Peabody are on set? Valerie Xaviar, that’s the publicist, is handling it. She’s on top of everything.“

“It was mentioned.“

Marlo smiled again, gave Eve’s arm a quick, light rub. “I know it’s not something you’d choose to do, but it’ll be great publicity for the vid—and it’ll make the cast and crew happy. You’re going to make the dinner tonight, I hope. You and Roarke.“

“We’re planning on it.“ Couldn’t get out of it, Eve thought.

Marlo let out a laugh, shot Eve a look. “And you’re wishing you had a hot case so you could skip it.“

“I guess you are good at your work.“

“It’ll be more fun than you think. Which won’t be hard because you think it’ll be torture.“

“Have you got my offi ce wired?“

“No, but I like to think I’m wired into you.“ Marlo tapped her

temple. “So I know you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more than you think. And you’ll love Julian. He’s nailed Roarke—the accent, the body language, that indefi nable sense of power and sex. Plus, he’s gorgeous, funny, charming. I’ve loved working with him. Are you on an investigation now?“

“We just closed one a few days ago.“

“The Whitwood Center case, at least that’s what the media calls it.

As I said, I’m steeped. Still, even when you’re not working something active, you’re supervising other investigations, testifying in court, consulting with the officers and detectives in your division. It’s a full plate. Dealing with—“

Marlo broke off when Eve’s communicator signaled.


Dispatch, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. See the offi cer at Twelve West Third.

Possible homicide.

“Acknowledged. Dallas and Peabody, Detective Delia, en route.“ She

clicked off, signaled Peabody. “We caught one. Meet me at the vehicle.“

Pocketing the communicator, she glanced at Marlo. “Sorry.“

“No, of course. You caught a case, right when we’re standing here. It’s

probably a stupid question, but how does it feel when you’re contacted,

told someone’s dead?“

“Like it’s time to go to work. Listen, thanks for showing me around.“

“There’s so much more. Big Bang Productions basically built Dallas World here at Chelsea Piers. We’ll be shooting for at least two more weeks—probably three. Maybe you can make it back.“

“Maybe. I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tonight, work permitting.“

“Good luck.“

Eve wound her way around to the VIP lot and her vehicle. She wasn’t happy somebody was dead—but if they were going to be dead anyway, she wasn’t unhappy to have picked up the case before the stupid photo shoot thing. She’d found Marlo Durn personable, maybe a little intense, but personable, smart, and not an asshole. But she had to admit it got to be a little unnerving to keep looking at somebody who looked so much like you. And to do it in surroundings that looked like your surroundings.

Dallas World.


“Wouldn’t you know we’d catch one.“ Peabody hustled up. “That was fun! And Preston—Preston Stykes, the assistant director—said I could do a cameo! They’re going to be shooting some street scenes next weekend, and I get to be a pedestrian—with a closeup, and maybe even a line. I bet I get a zit.“ She patted a hand around her face, checking.

“You always get a zit when you have a closeup.“

“Had many—closeups, not zits. I don’t want to know about your


“It’ll be my first.“ She settled into the passenger seat while Eve got behind the wheel. “And tonight we get to hob with the nob at dinner. I’m having dinner with vid stars, with celebrities, at the swank Park Avenue residence of the hottest director in Hollywood, meeting the most powerful and respected producer—and founder of Big Bang Productions.“Peabody stopped checking for potential zits to press her

hand to her belly. “I feel a little sick.“

“Then you can boot in the swank john of the hottest director in


“He was looking for you, Roundtree. He was about to send a gofer

to fi nd you.“

“I was having the surreal experience of having myself show myself

around my offi ce and bullpen.“

“Oh! My desk. I could’ve sat at my desk. I could’ve sat at your desk.“


“It’s a vid set.“

“Even then, no.“

“Mean. The other you is nice. I can call her Marlo. The other me is

kind of a bitch.“

“There you go. Typecasting.“

“Funny, ha ha. Really, she talked to me for about thirty seconds, then

brushed me off. And do you know what she said?“

“How can I know when I wasn’t there?“

“So, I’ll tell you.“ Scowling out the windshield, Peabody stuck on her rainbow–lensed sunshades. “She said if Nadine’s book was an accurate portrayal, she suggests I take an assertive course. Otherwise I’m never going to be anything but an underling, or a sidekick at best. But with my subservient attitude I’d never be in charge.“

Eve felt a claw of annoyance scrape down the back of her neck. Her partner had been assertive enough to springboard the investigation and downfall of an organization of dirty cops.

“She isn’t kind of a bitch. She’s essentially a bitch. And you’re not an


“That’s right. I’m your partner, and okay, you’re my lieutenant, but that doesn’t make me some kiss–ass underling with a subservient attitude.“

“Following orders in the line isn’t subservient, it’s being a good cop.

And you have a smart–ass attitude half the time.“

“Thanks. I didn’t like me very much.“

“I don’t like you a whole lot. Neither does the other me.“

“Now I’m confused.“

“Marlo and K.T. don’t like each other much. It shows when the camera’s not on them. Once the director called ’Cut,’ they went separate ways, didn’t speak or look at each other until Marlo called K.T. over to you.“

“I guess I had Hollywood stars in my eyes because I didn’t notice. But you’re right. It must be rough to work with somebody so closely, have to pretend you like and respect each other, and you really don’t.“

“That’s why they call it acting.“

“Still. Oh, and I think the other me has a bigger ass.“

“No question about it.“


“Peabody, I didn’t actually look at her ass, and I rarely have occasion to look at yours. But I’m willing to say her ass is bigger if it makes you happy and we can stop talking about the Hollywood people.“

“Okay, but just one more thing. The other me is also a lying sack.

She told me she had to go prep for her next scene, but when I cut across where the trailers are to get to the VIP lot, I saw her—and boy, I heard her. Banging on one of the trailer doors, yelling, ’I know you’re in there, you bastard, and open the fucking door.’ Like that.“

“Whose trailer?“

“I don’t know, but she was pissed, and didn’t care who heard because there was crew milling around.“

“It’s like I’ve always said. You’re a bitch with a nasty temper and

no class.“

Peabody sighed, smiled. “But not an underling.“

“With that settled,“ Eve said as she pulled behind a black–and–white,

“maybe we can check out this DB.“

“A visit to a vid set, a DB, and dinner with celebrities. It’s a really

good day.“

Not for Cecil Silcock.

His day had ended early on the leopard–print tiles of his elaborate kitchen. He lay there, blood from the head wound running river to lake over the black–spotted gold. It made the fl oor look a little too much like a terminally wounded animal, in Eve’s opinion.

Cecil was defi nitely terminally wounded. Blood also soaked into the tissue–thin white cashmere robe he’d put on sometime before his head had made contact with a blunt object of some weight, then the unfortunately patterned tiles. From the gash down his forehead, Eve figured Cecil also made contact with the edge of the gold–topped black cooking island.

The rest of the kitchen, the dining and living areas, master bedroom, guest bed and bath were as spotless, accessorized and arranged as an upscale home decor showroom.

“No sign of forced entry,“ the offi cer on the door told Eve. “We got the vic’s spouse in the bedroom there. He says he was out of town the last two days, got home—early, wasn’t supposed to come in until this afternoon—and found the body.“

“Where’s his suitcase?“

“In the bedroom.“

“Let’s get the security discs.“

“The spouse said the security was off when he arrived. He claims the

vic often forgot to set it.“

“Find their security station, check anyway.“ Eve tossed her Seal–It back in her fi eld kit and crouched by the body. “Let’s confi rm ID, get TOD, Peabody. He took a hard blow here, left side of the head, across the temple, eye socket. Something wide, heavy, and flat.“

“Vic is confirmed as Cecil Silcock, age fifty–six, of this address. Married to Paul Havertoe, four years. He’s the owner/operator of Good Times—party planning company.“

“No more good times for him.“ Sitting back on her heels, Eve looked around. “No forced entry. And the place looks like it’s been cleaned and fluffed by magic fairies. He’s wearing a—bet it’s platinum—wedding band with a big fat diamond. Robbery unlikely as a motive here. The jewelry, plus I can see plenty of easily carried top–scale electronics.“

“TOD ten–thirty–six. Dressed like this, no forced entry, he had to know the killer. He let the killer in, walked back here, maybe to make coffee or something. Whack, and Good Times Cecil is no more.“

“Could be just like that. Or could be, dressed like this, Cecil had company while his spouse was out of town, which out–of–towning we will confirm. Comes out to make a nice breakfast, company whacks him. Or spouse returns, realizes Cecil has not been a good boy, whacks him.“

The uniform came back in. “The security’s been off for twenty–eight hours, Lieutenant. We’ve got nothing for last night or this morning.“

“Okay. Start the knock–on–doors. Let’s see if anyone saw anything.“

Fitting on microgoggles, Eve took a careful study of the body. “Cecil’s as clean as the house. Smells like lemons.“ She leaned her face to the face of the dead, took another sniff. “But there’s a little coffee here, too. Had himself a shower and a cup before the whack. No visible defensive wounds, or other trauma. Takes the hit, goes down, smacking the edge of the island here, then takes another hit, other temple, on the tiles. It’s odd, isn’t it?“

“It is?“

“Everything’s so clean, so tidy.“

“The vic was neat?“

“Maybe. Probably.“ Eve took off the goggles, stood. “There’s no AutoChef. What kind of place is this?“ She poked in the fridge. “Everything very fresh here, and also sparkly clean.“ She began opening cupboards, drawers. “Lots of pots, pans, gadgets, matching dishes, wineglasses, blah, blah.“ She pulled out a large, heavy skillet. Wide and fl atbottomed.

“Got weight.“

“Oh, my gran’s got one of those. Cast iron. She swears by it, came down from her gran.“

Eve studied the skillet, crouched again, goggles on, to study the wound on the side of Cecil’s head. Pulling out another tool from the kit, she took a quick measure. Nodded.

“Betcha. Seal and tag for the sweepers. Let’s see if there’s any of Cecil on here. So, Cecil has company—or gets it—then they come in here, behind the cooking island. But there’s no sign of cooking—and since there’s no AutoChef like any other civilized kitchen in the known world, he’d have to use a pan, tools. And what about coffee?“

“That’s an espresso–type machine there. You put the whole beans in, water, and it grinds and brews.“

“But it’s clean and empty.“

“Maybe he didn’t have time before the whack to prep.“

“Uh–uh. He’s got a touch of coffee breath. He didn’t just come in here with the killer, and get smacked with a heavy object. I’m betting the cast–iron deal is the murder weapon. If he got that out, where’s the other stuff, whatever he was going to put in it to cook? If he’s arguing with somebody, is he thinking about making breakfast? Why doesn’t the killer leave the murder weapon out or take it with him? Instead he cleans it up, stores it—and in what appears to be its proper place.

“If you’re getting breakfast, what’s the fi rst thing you do?“

“Get the coffee,“ Peabody said.

“Everybody gets the coffee, and Cecil tells me he did just that. But there’s no coffee made, no cup or mug.“

Lips pursed, eyes scanning, Peabody tried to see it as Eve did. “Maybe he or they had already eaten, cleaned up. Then had the argument.“

“Could be, but if so, was this pan still out handy for the whack? Everything’s put away all perfect, but this is within handy reach. Because this?“ She lifted the now–sealed skillet. “It’s a weapon of opportunity. Get pissed, grab, whack. You wouldn’t open the drawer, take it out of the stack, select the weapon, then whack.“

Peabody followed the dots. “You think the spouse did it, then cleaned up, then called the cops.“

“I wonder how Havertoe got home. It’s time to have a chat.“

Eve released the uniform sitting with Havertoe to join the canvass.

Like the kitchen, the master bedroom could have stood as an ad for Stylish Urban Home. From the sleek silver posts and zebra–print spread—with its carefully arranged mound of black and white pillows—the mirror gleam of bureaus, the strange angled lines of the art to the sinuous vase holding a single, spiky red fl ower that looked to Eve’s eye as if it might hide sharp, needle–thin teeth under its petals.

In the sitting area in front of the wide terrace doors, Paul Havertoe huddled on a silver–backed sofa with red cushions, and clutched a soggy handkerchief.

Eve judged him about twenty years his dead spouse’s junior. His smooth, handsome face carried a pale gold tan that showed off well against the luxurious sweep of his caramel–colored hair. He wore trim, pressed jeans and a spotless white shirt over a body that Eve assumed put in solid health–club time.

His eyes when they lifted to Eve’s were the color of plums and puffy

from weeping.

“I’m Lieutenant Dallas, and this is Detective Peabody. I’m very sorry

for your loss, Mr. Havertoe.“

“Cecil’s dead.“

Under the rawness of the tears, Eve caught hints of molasses and


“I know this is a diffi cult time, but we need to ask you some questions.“

“Because Cecil’s dead.“

“Yes. We’re recording this, Mr. Havertoe, for your protection. And

I’m going to read you your rights so you’re clear on everything. Okay?“

“Do you have to?“

“It’s better if I do. We’ll make this as quick as we can. Is there anyone

you’d like us to contact for you—a friend, family member—before

we start?“

“I . . . I can’t think.“

“Well, if you think of someone you want with you, we’ll arrange it.“

She sat across from him, read off the Revised Miranda. “Do you understand your rights and obligations?“


“Okay, good. You were out of town?“

“Chicago. A client. We’re event creators. I got back this morning,

and . . .“

“You returned from Chicago this morning. At what time?“

“I think, about eleven. I wasn’t due until four, but I was able to fi nish

early. I wanted to surprise Cecil.“

“So you switched your fl ight and your car service?“

“Yes, yes, that’s right. I was able to take an earlier shuttle, arrange an earlier pickup. To surprise Cecil.“ Choking on a sob, he pressed the damp handkerchief to his face.

“You’ve had a terrible shock, I know. What car service was that, Mr. Havertoe? Just for the record.“

“We always use Delux.“

“Okay. And when you got home,“ Eve continued as Peabody stepped quietly out of the room, “what happened?“

“I came in, and I brought my bag in here, but Cecil wasn’t in the


“Should he have been home at that time of the day?“

“He was scheduled to work from home today. He has a client coming in this afternoon. I should contact them.“ He looked blankly around the room with streaming eyes. “I should—“

“We’ll help you with that. What did you do next?“

“I . . . I called out for him—um—the way you do. And I thought he must be in his offi ce. It’s off the kitchen, with a view of the courtyard, because he likes looking out at our little garden when he works. And I saw him on the fl oor. I saw him, and he was dead.“

“Did you touch anything? Anything in the kitchen?“

“I touched Cecil. I took his hand. He was dead.“

“Do you know anyone who’d want to hurt Cecil?“

“No. No. Everybody loves Cecil.“ With some drama, he pressed the soggy handkerchief to his heart. “I love Cecil.“

“Who do you suppose he’d let in, while he was wearing only his robe?“

“I . . .“ Havertoe struggled to fi rm his trembling lips. “I think Cecil was having an affair. I think he’d been seeing someone.“

“Why do you think that?“

“He’d been late getting home a few times, and—there were signs.“

“Did you confront him about it?“

“He denied it.“

“You argued?“

“Every couple argues. We were happy. We made each other happy.“

“But he was having an affair.“

“A fling.“ Havertoe dabbed at his eyes. “It wouldn’t last. Whoever

he was seeing must have killed him.“

“Who do you think he was seeing?“

“I don’t know. A client? Someone he met at one of our events? We meet so many people. There’s a constant temptation to stray.“

“You have an impressive home, Mr. Havertoe.“

“We’re very proud of it. We often entertain. It’s what we do. It’s good promotion for the business.“

“I guess that’s why you cleaned up the kitchen,“ Eve said conversationally as Peabody came back in. “You didn’t want people to see the mess.“

“I . . . what?“

“Was Cecil fi xing breakfast when you got in—earlier than he expected? Or had he fi nished? Were there signs he hadn’t been alone? Cheating on you when you were away. He was a very bad boy.“

“He’s dead. You shouldn’t talk about him that way.“

“What time did you get home again?“

“I said—I think—about eleven.“

“That’s odd, Mr. Havertoe,“ Peabody said. “Because your shuttle landed at eight–forty–fi ve.“

“I—I had some errands—“

“And the driver from Delux dropped you off at the door here at


“I . . . took a walk.“

“With your luggage?“ Eve angled her head. “No, you didn’t. You came in at nine–ten, and you and Cecil got into it while you—one of you or both—made coffee, fixed breakfast. You wanted to know who he’d been with while you were in Chicago. You wanted him to stop cheating on you. You argued, and you picked up the cast–iron skillet, swung out. You were so mad. All you’ve done for him and he can’t be

faithful. Who could blame you for losing your temper. You didn’t mean

to kill him, did you, Paul? You just lashed out—hurt and angry.“

“I didn’t. You have the time wrong. That’s all.“

“No, you got it wrong. You got home early. Did you think you might

catch him with someone?“

“No, no, it wasn’t like that. I wanted to surprise him. I wanted things to be the way they were. I fixed him his favorite brunch! Mandarin orange juice mimosas and hazelnut coffee, eggs Benedict with raspberry French toast.“

“You went to a lot of trouble.“

“Everything made by hand, and I set the table with his favorite china.“

“And he didn’t appreciate it. All the time and effort you went to, just to do something special for him, and he didn’t appreciate it.“

“I . . . then I went for a walk. I went for a walk, and when I came

back he was dead.“

“No, Paul. You argued, you hit him. It was like a refl ex. You were so mad, so hurt, you just grabbed the skillet and swung out. And then it was too late. So you cleaned up the kitchen, put everything away.“

While he lay there, dead on the fl oor, Eve thought. “You scrubbed the cast–iron skillet.“ With his blood staining the bottom. “You made everything neat and tidy again, just the way he liked it.“

“I didn’t mean to do it! It was an accident.“


“He said he wanted a divorce. I did everything for him. I took care of him. He said I was smothering him, and he was tired of me looking through his things, going through his schedule and calling him all the time. He was tired of it. Of me. I made him brunch, and he wanted a divorce.“

“Harsh,“ Eve commented.

Celebrity in Death
by by J. D. Robb