Faithless in Death (In Death #52) by J. D. Robb



“Correct.”

“I wouldn’t have heard you coming up. I only knew you were here because I looked down and saw you with Miller.”

Not ear-blasting loud, Eve thought, but loud enough to mask footsteps.

“Thank you, Officer. We’ve got the scene.”

Standing where she was, studying that scene, Eve opened her field kit. She sealed her hands, her boots as Peabody did.

“Music off.”

In the silence she looked at the victim, a small-statured female in sweatpants cut off at the knees, a sweatshirt cut off at the armpits.

Blood matted her hair, short, ink black with streaks of bright blue. “From the position of the wound, it looks like it hit slightly to the right—and she went down to the left. Came up behind her, that’s clear enough,” Eve commented. “She’s standing there at that worktable, facing it, the window, working on that hunk of stone.”

“It’s marble, I think.”

“Okay. She’s got tools right there. A chisel, a hammer, there’s bits of stone on the table, on the floor. Got the music going, the lights on. It’d be hard to see her from the street because the worktable’s too far back. But she can see out if she wants.”

“No sign of struggle. The coffee sack …” Peabody frowned at it. “Somebody starts up—most likely the nine-one-one caller, right? Sees the body, drops the bag. Splat.”

“That’s how it looks. No obvious signs of burglary or theft up here, either. A lot of statues—finished, half-finished. A lot of stone and wood and tools. The killer comes in—we’ll take a good look at the door for tampering—comes up the steps. Picks up that mallet—plenty of that sort of thing right there on that other bench. Wham”.

She held up a finger, circled the body. “Or possibly she’s had some wine and sex with someone. And he comes up with her. They argue—or started to argue downstairs. She’s done, calls for the music, picks up her tools. And in that moment when people just lose their fucking minds, he grabs the mallet and crushes her skull. Probably bashes her a couple times. Then it’s: Oh shit. Or: She deserved it. And he gets the hell out.”

“Her neighbor might know if she was seeing anyone.”

“Yeah, we’ll check on that.” With her field kit, Eve crouched down, doing what she could to avoid the pool of blood. Using her Identi-pad to confirm ID, she read it into the record.

“Victim is officially identified as Ariel Byrd of this address, mixed-race female, age twenty-seven. I’ve got the body, Peabody. Start downstairs, start with the bedroom. Let’s see if we can lift some prints or DNA off the wineglasses.”

She didn’t need the microgoggles to examine the wound. “At least two blows from the shape, the width. And since the killer left the weapon right here, easily identified. Bagging for evidence.”

She bagged it, sealed it, labeled it, set it aside. “Vic’s wearing work gloves and boots and protective goggles.”

Eve leaned in, angled her head to look through the goggles to the dark eyes—filmed now—that stared back at her. Then took out her gauges to confirm time of death.

“TOD, twenty-two-forty-eight. COD, blunt force trauma to the back of the skull. ME to confirm.”

Since the victim was about five-three and maybe a hundred pounds, Eve didn’t call Peabody to help her turn the body.

“Yeah, she tipped to the left, damage to right cheekbone where it slammed against the floor. Hard fall.” She lifted the sweatshirt. “Rammed the table first, bet we’ve got a broken rib here. Couple of strong, hard blows from behind. The victim slams forward—but this table’s bolted down so it doesn’t move. Then she goes down to the left. I’m saying that’s when the killer follows up with the next hit, and that turns her head so she hits the floor with the right side of her face. She’s dead before she hits the floor.”

Eve duckwalked back, mindful of the blood. She straightened, took out her ’link to call for a wagon and the sweepers.

Crouching again, she examined the take-out bag, used a finger to press on one of the muffins.

Still fresh, she noted, so from this morning.

She flagged the bag and contents for the sweepers.

She took a tour around the space, a dedicated work space. Tools, tarps, a mini-AutoChef, and a tiny friggie that held water and a couple of energy drinks. An easel stood in the corner holding a series of sketches.