The road was a killer, hardly wider than a decent stream of spit and snaking like a cobra between giant bushes loaded with strange flowers that resembled drops of blood.
She had to remind herself that the trip had been her idea—love was another killer—but how could she have known driving in western Ireland meant risking life and limb at every curve?
Rural Ireland, she thought, holding her breath as they zipped around the next turn on the Journey of Death. Where the towns were barely a hiccup on the landscape, and where she was pretty damn sure the cows outnumbered the people. And the sheep outnumbered the cows.
And why didn't that cause anyone concern? she wondered. Didn't people consider what could happen if armies of farm animals united in revolt?
When Murder Road finally carved its way out of the blood-drop bushes, the world opened up into fields and hills, green, green, eerily green against a sky stacked with clouds that couldn't decide if they wanted to rain or just sit there ominously. And she knew those dots all over the green were sheep and cows.
Probably discussing war strategy.
She'd actually seen them hanging around those weird—and okay, a little bit fascinating—stone ruins. Towering, tumbling places that had maybe been castles or forts. A good place for armies of farm animals to plot their revolt.
Maybe it was beautiful in a hang-the-painting-on-your-wall kind of way, but it just wasn't natural. No, it was too natural, she corrected. That was the deal, too much nature, too much open. Even the houses scattered over the endless landscape insisted on decking themselves out with flowers. Everything blooming, colors smashed against colors, shapes against shapes.
She'd even seen clothes hanging on lines like executed prisoners. It was 2060, for God's sake. Didn't people out here own drying units?
And speaking of that—yeah, speaking of that—where was all the air traffic? She'd barely spotted a handful of airtrams, and not a single ad blimp lumbered overhead blasting out its hype on sales.
No subway, no glide carts, no tourists blissfully providing marks for street thieves, no maxibuses farting, no Rapid Cab drivers cursing.
God, she missed New York.
She couldn't even risk driving to take her mind off it, as for some cruel, inexplicable reason people over here insisted on driving on the wrong side of the road.
She was a cop, sworn to protect and serve, so she could hardly get behind the wheel on these death-trap roads where she'd probably end up mowing down innocent civilians. And maybe some farm animals while she was at it.
She wondered if they'd ever get where they were going, and what the odds were of getting there in one piece.
Maybe she should run some probabilities.
The road narrowed again, boxed in again, and Lieutenant Eve Dallas, veteran murder cop, pursuer of psychopaths, serial killers, homicidal deviants, fought to hold back a squeal as her side of the car lightly kissed the hedges.
Her husband of two years—and the reason she'd suggested this leg of their vacation—took his hand off the wheel to pat her thigh. "Relax, Lieutenant."
"Watch the road! Don't look at me, look at the road. Except it's not really a road. It's a track. What are these damn bushes, and why are they here?"
"It's fuchsia. Lovely, aren't they?"
They made her think of blood spatter, possibly resulting from a massacre by a battalion of farm animals.
"They ought to move them away from the stupid road."
"I imagine they were here first."
Ireland wound through his voice a lot more appealingly than the road wound through the countryside.
She risked a glance in his direction. He looked happy, she realized. Relaxed, happy, at ease in a thin leather jacket and T-shirt, his black hair swept back from that amazing face (another killer), his eyes so rich a blue it made the heart ache.
She remembered they'd nearly died together a few weeks before, and he'd been badly wounded. She'd thought—she could still remember that breathless instant when she'd thought she'd lost him.
And here he was, alive and whole. So maybe she'd forgive him for being amused at her expense.
From Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb. Published by arrangement with Putnam, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) J.D. Robb,2012
New York to Dallas
While a late-summer storm bashed against her single skinny window, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wished for murder. As far as she could see, a good, bloody killing was the only thing that would save her from the torture of paperwork stacked like the Alps on her desk at Cop Central. Her own fault, no question, but she’d been just a little too busy investigating and closing cases to hunker down with budgets and expense reports and the damn evaluation sheets.
Telling herself it was part of the job didn’t help when she actually had to do it—in bulk—which was why she’d closed herself in her office with lots and lots of coffee and wondered why somebody didn’t just kill somebody else and save her from this nightmare.
Not really, she told herself. Or not exactly. But since people consistently killed other people anyway, why not now?
She stared at the numbers on her computer screen until her eyes throbbed. She cursed, sulked, steamed, then strapped on and squeezed, crunched, fudged, and manipulated until she could make the stingy departmental bottom line fit the needs of her division.
They were murder cops, she thought with bitter resentment.
Homicide didn’t run on blood alone.
She got through it, moved on to the expense chits submitted by her officers and detectives.
Did Baxter actually believe she’d bite on three-seventy-five for shoes because he’d fucked up his own chasing a suspect down a sewer? And why the hell had Reineke shelled out double the usual rate to a street-level licensed companion for information?
She stopped, got more coffee, stared out at the brutality of the storm for a few minutes. At least she wasn’t out there, plugged like a wet cork into one of the shuddering airtrams, or shoving her way through the drowning hell of street traffic. She could be soaked, steaming like a clam in the endless stream of heat the summer of 2060 poured on New York.
Stalling, she thought in disgust, and forced herself to sit again. She’d promised herself she’d finish before the afternoon ceremony. Both she and her partner would receive medals. Peabody had earned it and more, Eve thought, as the catalyst for taking down a ring of dirty cops.
If paperwork was the drudgery of command, submitting Peabody’s name for the Meritorious Police Duty Honor for Integrity was a boon. All she had to do was fi nish the grunt work, then she could enjoy the moment with a clear head and guiltless conscience. She wished she had candy, but she hadn’t settled on a new hiding place to thwart the nefarious Candy Thief. She wished she could dump some of this crap on Peabody the way she had when Peabody had been her aide instead of her partner.
Those days were over. Stalling again, she admitted, and raked her fingers through her short, choppy brown hair.
She hacked her way through the expense reports, submitted them up the chain. Someone else’s problem now, she decided and felt almost righteous. No reason she couldn’t start the evals later.
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