Home > Leverage in Death (In Death #47)(8)

Leverage in Death (In Death #47)(8)
Author: J.D. Robb

They stepped into the ICU lobby. The guard dog nurse at the desk shot them a hard and suspicious look. A scattering of people sat in chairs. All looked weary. One had the shine of burn gel down his left cheek, a walking cast on his right ankle, and his right arm in a sling.

Eve walked to the guard dog, palmed her badge. “What’s Willimina Karson’s condition?”

“I’m going to verify that ID.”

“Go ahead.”

The nurse scanned it. Her stony expression clicked down to stern. “I had some media types try to get past me before. Ms. Karson’s critical. If you want more, if you want specifics, you’ll have to speak to her doctor, and you’ll have to wait. It’s been a hell of a morning.”

“All around. I’d appreciate being informed about any change in her status.”

“I’ll note it down.”

“How many up here from this morning’s incident?”

“Two now, including Ms. Karson. There were three, but she didn’t make it.”

Twelve dead, Eve thought, turning her attention back to the man with the sling and cast.

Middle sixties, she thought, with a lean, distinguished look despite the sweatpants and the I F059 NEW YORK sweatshirt. Both of which looked fresh off the rack and incongruous with the black dress shoes.

“Let’s check him out,” she said to Peabody.

She crossed to him, showed her badge. “Do you have someone in ICU?”

He eyed her carefully, though the left eye was shot with blood. “I do. I’m legal counsel for EconoLift and Willimina Karson’s adviser.”

“You were in the meeting. I’m primary on the investigation. My partner, Detective Peabody.”

“I know who you are. An easy case for New York’s top murder cop, isn’t it, as you already have the killer. Or what’s left of the son of a bitch.” His good hand fisted on his knee, rapped twice. “I wish to God he’d lived through it so I could think of him rotting in a cell for the rest of his life.”

“Peabody, see if there’s a more comfortable, more private place we can talk to—Your name, sir?”

“Loren Able. I won’t leave Willimina.”

“No, sir, but I need to speak with you, and I need to give you some facts.”

Peabody managed to secure a small break room—a single table, four chairs, a pair of vending machines, and an AutoChef that looked older than Noah. And somehow, being Peabody, she’d come up with a small pillow.

“Mr. Able, the nurse told me you should have your foot elevated.” She set the pillow on the fourth chair, angled it.

He sighed. “That’s kind of you.” He lifted his leg with his hands, set his foot carefully on the pillow.

“Can I get you some water, some tea?”

“I would give you my first born, if I had one, for some decent black coffee.”

“Let me see what I can do.”

When Peabody went out, Able shut his eyes a moment. “I read the Icove book. Haven’t seen the vid, but I read the book. It appears Nadine Furst captured the detective very well. You’re fortunate in your partner, Lieutenant.”

“I am.”

“Facts, you said. I’d like to hear the facts.”

“Not all of this will filter through the media,” Eve said. “Not at all while the investigation’s active.”

“I’ve been a lawyer for thirty-nine years, Lieutenant. I know how to keep my mouth shut.”

“I’m going to tell you about Paul Rogan.”

As she spoke, he closed his eyes again so she couldn’t read them. But the burn on his face became an angrier red as she described the home invasion.

When she finished, he said nothing for a long moment. Then he opened his eyes. “You’re saying, essentially, he was told to make a choice. His life and those of us in that room this morning, or the lives of his wife and child?”

“All evidence points to that, yes.”

He drew in a deep breath. “I came out of that room with some broken bones, some bruises. A woman I’ve known since birth is fighting for her life. A woman who’s a daughter to me in all but blood. If I’d had even seconds of warning, I would have tried to shield her with my own body. I wouldn’t have hesitated. I may, eventually, be able to accept Paul Rogan made the only choice he could make as I may have done the same. If Willi dies, I’ll curse him with my last breath.”

“How well did you know him?”

“Not at all.” He looked over as Peabody came in with a to-go tray and three cups. “You’re resourceful, Detective, as that smells at least decent.”

“I don’t know it’ll hit much above that.”

“Thank you. I didn’t have any direct business with Rogan,” Able continued as he took the first sip. “I worked with Quantum’s in-house counsel. He’s in ICU along with Willi. I hope he makes it. I got to know Derrick Pearson well over the last few months. A very good man, shrewd and fair, from my standpoint. My priority was to help craft the best deal for Econo.”

“Did you?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“What happens to the deal now?”

“With Derrick gone, and Willi . . . The ground’s shaky. The paperwork, the legalities would have been cemented today, after the meeting, the marketing reveal, and so on. The deal was done in spirit last week.”

“But unsigned.”

“Yes. There may be some board members, on both sides, who balk now. But Derrick’s children will push for the deal, because that’s what he wanted. And it’s a good one for Quantum.”

“And Econo? I’m sorry, if Ms. Karson is unable to speak for Econo.”

“I would be majority stockholder. Her shares of Econo would be divided among me, her half brother, and her closest friend, one she’s had since childhood.”

“Where are the brother and the friend?”

“Javier—her mother’s son with husband three—lives in Barcelona, where he’s studying medicine. Both he and Willimina’s mother are arranging travel. They should be here by tomorrow, latest. Juliette is on her way here already. She lives in Santa Fe with her husband and daughter. She’s pregnant with her second child. I told her to wait, not to travel, but she’s coming.”

“If you’d died in the blast? Who gets your shares?”

“Interesting. Willi, but if she predeceased me, they’re to be divided between my brother and sister.”

“Could you give me the names and contact information for all the beneficiaries?” Peabody asked.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to contact my office—and I’ll clear that. I lost my ’link, memo book, and everything else in the blast. I had to beg an orderly to get me something to wear. Except for the shoes.” He frowned at his elevated foot. “They made it through.”

Once Peabody had helped Able back to the waiting area, Eve decided she’d done enough in the field, enough interviews, enough impressions.

She needed to get back to Central, needed to set up her murder board, her book. And she needed to think.

“Let’s grab a conference room, coordinate with Baxter and Trueheart. I need time to write this out, report to the commander.”

“Could we maybe get food—any food whatsoever—from the go place off the hospital lobby?”

“You want hospital food?”

“So hangs my desperation.”

“Fine.” Eve pulled out a handful of credits. “Get desperation food, meet me at the car.”

It would give her time to start reviewing her notes.

A lot of players, she thought, as she walked outside. Deals and the wheels inside them. Shares of this, shares of that.

Somebody, she concluded, had wanted more than their fair share.


Peabody hopped in the car, handed Eve a go-cup.

“Soup. Vegetable Beef.”

Eve took a sniff then a swallow before she started winding out of the underground lot. It smelled like pepper and tasted like spicy, liquified cardboard, heated to cautiously approach lukewarm. “Beef of what?”

“They didn’t say, and I thought it wiser not to ask.” Peabody took a gulp, coughed a little. “It’s bad, it’s bad. I should’ve gone for the mini berry pies.”

“They had mini berry pies and you went for liquid mystery meat?”

“And veg.” Peabody choked down another swallow. “I told myself to be an adult, to think of loose pants. Is it gamey? There’s a little bit of gamey aftertaste. Gak.”

“It could be rat. Liquefied, peppered rat.” Eve shoved her cup into Peabody’s hand.

“It’s a hospital! Hospitals don’t serve rat.”

As she wound, Eve swung toward a recycler, stopped. Pointed. “Dispose of the rat soup.”

“It’s not rat. I didn’t drink rat.” But Peabody fumbled the door open, juggling go-cups. She hotfooted it to the recycler, dumped the cups. She slid back into the car, downtrodden. “Can I get a diet fizzy from the AC?”

“What flavor washes away the taint of rat soup?”

“It wasn’t rat, but any.” She ordered up cherry, and a tube of Pepsi for Eve. “The lawyer came off on the level,” she began. “Still, if both he and Karson went down in the explosion, that’s the big bulk of shares in Econo. And with Pearson gone, that’s the majority of Quantum.”

“We’ll take a look at all beneficiaries. It’s a weird-ass way to inherit. Risky and overly complicated. What if Rogan loses his nerve, doesn’t hit the button? What if the main shareholders survive the blast? And Karson may.”

“Why explosives?” Peabody picked up. “Killing multiples rather than homing in on specifics—if inheritance is the motive?”

“Point,” Eve agreed. “More probable someone with a grievance against one or both of the companies. More probable someone who benefits from—ha ha—blowing up the deal. You toss both companies into chaos, postpone or kill the merger, while the new leadership comes in to deal with the fallout.”

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