Unformatted text preview: PROLOGUE
In my hands is power. The power to heal or to destroy. To grant life or to cause death.
I revere this gift, have honed it over time to an art as magnificent and awesome as any
painting in the Louvre.
I am art, I am science. In all the ways that matter, I am God.
God must be ruthless and far-sighted. God studies his creations and selects. The best
of these creations must be cherished, protected, sustained. Greatness rewards perfection.
Yet even the flawed have purpose.
A wise God experiments, considers, uses what comes into His hands and forges
wonders. Yes, often without mercy, often with a violence the ordinary condemn.
We who hold power cannot be distracted by the condemnations of the ordinary, by
the petty and pitiful laws of simple men. The y are blind, their minds are closed with fear -fear of pain, fear of death. They are too limited to comprehend that death can be conquered.
I have nearly done so.
If my work was discovered, they, with their foolish laws and attitudes, would damn
When my work is complete, they will worship me. CHAPTER ONE
For some, death wasn't the enemy. Life was a much less merciful opponent. For the
ghosts who drifted through the nights like shadows, the funky-junkies with their pale pink
eyes, the chemi- heads with their jittery hands, life was simply a mindless trip that circled
from one fix to the next with the arcs between a misery.
The trip itself was most often full of pain and despair, and occasionally terror.
For the poor and displaced in the bowels of New Yo rk City in the icy dawn of 2059,
the pain, the despair, the terror were constant companions. For the mental defectives and
physically flawed who slipped through society's cracks, the city was simply another kind of
There were social programs, of course. It was, after all, an enlightened time. So the
politicians claimed, with the Liberal Party shouting for elaborate new shelters, educational
and medical facilities, training and rehabilitation centers, without actually detailing a plan for
how such programs would be funded. The Conservative Party gleefully cut the budgets of
what programs were already in place, then made staunch speeches on the quality of life and
Still, shelters were available for those who qualified and could stomach the thin and
sticky hand of charity. Training and assistance programs were offered for those who could
keep sane long enough to wind their way through the endless tangled miles of bureaucratic
red tape that all too often strangled the intended recipients before saving them.
And as always, children went hungry, women sold their bodies, and men killed for a
handful of credits.
However enlightened the times, human nature remained as predictable as death.
For the sidewalk sleepers, January in New York brought vicious nights with a cold
that could rarely be fought back with a bottle of brew or a few scavenged illegals. Some gave
in and shuffled into the shelters to snore on lumpy cots under thin blankets or eat the watery
soup and tasteless soy loaves served by bright-eyed sociology students. Others held out, too
lost or too stubborn to give up their square of turf.
And many slipped from life to death during those bitter nights.
The city had killed them, but no one called it homicide.
-=O=-***-=O=As Lieutenant Eve Dallas drove downtown in the shivering dawn, she tapped her
fingers restlessly on the wheel. The routine death of a sidewalk sleeper in the Bowery
shouldn't have been her problem. It was a matter for what the department often called
Homicide-Lite -- the stiff scoopers who patrolled known areas of homeless villages to
separate living from dead and take the used-up bodies to the morgue for examination,
identification, and disposal.
It was a mundane and ugly little job most usually done by those who either still had
hopes of joining the more elite Homicide unit or those who had given up on such a miracle. Homicide was called to the scene only when the death was clearly suspicious or violent.
And, Eve thought, if she hadn't been on top of the rotation for such calls on this
miserable morning, she'd still be in her nice warm bed with her nice warm husband.
"Probably some jittery rookie hoping for a serial killer," she muttered.
Beside her, Peabody yawned hugely. "I'm really just extra weight here." From under
her ruler-straight dark bangs, she sent Eve a hopeful look. "You could just drop me off at the
closest transpo stop and I can be back home and in bed in ten minutes."
"If I suffer, you suffer."
"That makes me feel so ... loved, Dallas."
Eve snorted and shot Peabody a grin. No one, she thought, was sturdier, no one was
more dependable, than her aide. Even with the rudely early call, Peabody was pressed and
polished in her winter-weight uniform, the buttons gleaming, the hard black cop shoes shined.
In her square face framed by her dark bowl-cut hair, her eyes might have been a little sleepy,
but they would see what Eve needed her to see.
"Didn't you have some big deal last night?" Peabody asked her.
"Yeah, in East Washington. Roarke had this dinner / dance thing for some fancy
charity. Save the moles or something. Enough food to feed every sidewalk sleeper on the
Lower East Side for a year."
"Gee, that's tough on you. I bet you had to get all dressed up in some beautiful gown,
shuttle down on Roarke's private transpo, and choke down champagne."
Eve only lifted a brow at Peabody's dust-dry tone. "Yeah, that's about it." They both
knew the glamorous side of Eve's life since Roarke had come into it was both a puzzlement
and a frustration to her. "And then I had to dance with Roarke. A lot."
"Was he wearing a tux?" Peabody had seen Roarke in a tux. The image of it was
etched in her mind like acid on glass.
"Oh yeah." Until, Eve mused, they'd gotten home and she'd ripped it off of him. He
looked every bit as good out of a tux as in one.
"Man." Peabody closed her eyes, indulged herself with a visualization technique
she'd learned at her Free-Ager parents' knees. "Man," she repeated.
"You know, a lot of women would get pissed off at having their husband star in their
aide's purient little fantasies."
"But you're bigger than that, Lieutenant. I like that about you."
Eve grunted, rolled her stiff shoulders. It was her own fault that lust had gotten the
better of her and she'd only managed three hours of sleep. Duty was duty, and she was on it.
Now she scanned the crumbling buildings, the littered streets. The scars, the warts,
the tumors that sliced or bulged over concrete and steel. Steam whooshed up from a grate, shot out from the busy half- life of movement and
commerce under the streets. Driving through it was like slicing through fog on a dirty river.
Her home, since Roarke, was a world apart from this. She lived with polished wood,
gleaming crystal, the scent of candles and hothouse flowers. Of wealth.
But she knew what it was to come from such places as this. Knew how much the same
they were -- city by city -- in smells, in routines, in hopelessness.
The streets were nearly empty. Few of the residents of this nasty little sector ventured
out early. The dealers and street whores would have finished the night's business, would have
crawled back into their flops before sunrise. Merchants brave enough to run the shops and
stores had yet to uncode their riot bars from the doors and windows. Glide-cart vendors
desperate enough to hawk this turf would carry hand zappers and work in pairs.
She spotted the black and white patrol car, scowled at the half-assed job the officers
on scene had done with securing the area.
"Why the hell didn't they finish running the sensors, for Christ's sake? Get me out of
bed at five in the damn morning, and they don't even have the scene secured? No wonder
they're scoopers. Idiots."
Peabody said nothing as Eve braked hard behind the black and white and slammed
out of the vehicle. The idiots, she thought with some sympathy, were in for an expert dressing
By the time Peabody climbed out of the car, Eve had already crossed the sidewalk,
with long, purposeful strides, heading for the two uniforms who huddled miserably in the
She watched the two officers' shoulders snap straight. The lieutenant had that effect
on other cops, Peabody mused as she retrieved the field kit from the vehicle. She brought you
It wasn't just the way she looked, Peabody decided, with that long, rangy body, the
simple and often disordered cap of brown hair that showed hints of blonde, hints of red, hints,
Peabody thought, of everything. There were the eyes, all cop, and the color of good Irish
whiskey, the little dent in the firm chin below a full mouth that could go hard as stone.
Peabody found it a strong and arresting face, partially, she decided, because Eve had
no vanity whatsoever.
Although the way she looked might gain a uniform's attention, it was what she so
clearly was that had them snapping straight.
She was the best damn cop Peabody had ever known. Pure cop, the kind you'd go
through a door with without hesitation. The kind you knew would stand for the dead and for
And the kind, Peabody mused as she walked close enough to hear the end of Eve's
blistering lecture, who kicked whatever ass needed kicking.
"Now to review," Eve said coolly. "You call in a homicide, you drag my butt out of bed, you damn well have the scene secured and have your report ready for me when I get here.
You don't stand here like a couple of morons sucking your thumbs. You're cops, for God's
sake. Act like cops."
"Yes, sir, Lieutenant." This came in a wavery voice from the youngest of the team. He
was hardly more than a boy, and the only reason Eve had pulled her verbal punch. His partner,
however, wasn't a rookie, and she earned one of Eve's frigid stares.
"Yes, sir," she said between her teeth. And the lively resentment in the tone had Eve
angling her head.
"Do you have a problem, Officer... Bowers?"
Her face was the color of aged cherry wood, with her eyes a striking contrast of pale,
pale blue. She kept her dark hair short under her regulation cap. There was a button missing
on her standard-issue coat and her shoes were dull and scuffed. Eve could have poked her
about it but decided being stuck in a miserable job was some excuse not to buff up for the
"Good." Eve merely nodded, but the warning in her eyes was clear. She shifted her
gaze to the partner and felt a little stir of sympathy. He was pale as a sheet, shaky, and so
fresh from the academy she could all but smell it on him.
"Officer Trueheart, my aide will show you the proper way to secure a scene. See that
you pay attention."
"Peabody." At the single word, her field kit was in her hand. "Show me what we've
got here, Bowers."
"Indigent. Male Caucasian. Goes by the name of Snooks. This is his crib."
She gestured to a rather cleverly rigged shelter comprised of a packing crate
cheerfully painted with stars and flowers and topped by the dented lid of an old recycling bin.
There was a moth-eaten blanket across the entrance and a hand-drawn sign that simply said
Snooks strung over it.
"Yeah, part of the beat is to give a quick eye check on the cribs looking for stiffs to
scoop. Snooks is pretty stiff," she said at what Eve realized after a moment was an attempt at
"I bet. My, what a pleasant aroma," she muttered as she moved closer and the wind
could no longer blow the stench aside.
"That's what tipped me. It always stinks. All the se people smell like sweat and
garbage and worse, but a stiff has another layer."
Eve knew the layer all too well. Sweet, sickly. And here, sneaking under the miasma of urine and sour flesh was the smell of death, and she noted with a faint frown, the bright
metallic hint of blood.
"Somebody stick him?" She nearly sighed as she opened her kit to take out the can of
Seal-It. "What the hell for? These sleepers don't have anything worth stealing."
For the first time, Bowers allowed a thin smile to curve her lips. But her eyes were
cold and hard, with bitterness riding in them. "Somebody stole something from him, all
right." Pleased with herself, she stepped back. She hoped to God the tight-assed lieutenant
got a nice hard shock at what she'd see behind the tattered curtain.
"You call the ME?" Eve asked as she clear-coated her hands and boots.
"First on scene's discretion," Bowers said primly, with the malice still bright in her
eyes. "I opted to leave that decision to Homicide."
"For God's sake, is he dead or no t?" Disgusted, Eve moved forward, bending a bit to
sweep back the curtain.
It was always a shock, not the hard one Bowers had hoped for. Eve had seen too much
too often for that. But what one human could do to another was never routine for her. And the
pity that stirred underneath and through the cop was something the woman beside her would
never feel and never understand.
"Poor bastard," she said quietly and crouched to do a visual exam.
Bowers had been right about one thing. Snooks was very, very dead. He was hardly
more than a sack of bones and wild, straggly hair. Both his eyes and his mouth gaped, and she
could see he hadn't kept more than half of his teeth. His type rarely took advantage of the
health and dental programs.
His eyes had already filmed over and were a dull mud brown. She judged him to be
somewhere around the century mark, and even without murder, he'd never have attained the
average twenty more years decent nutrition and medical science could have given him.
She noted, too, that his boots, while cracked and scarred, had plenty of wear left in
them, as did the blanket that had been tossed to the side of the box. He had some trinkets as
well. A wide-eyed doll's head, a penlight in the shape of a frog, a broken cup he'd filled with
carefully made paper flowers. And the walls were covered with more paper shapes. Trees,
dogs, angels, and his favored stars and flowers.
She could see no signs of struggle, no fresh bruising or superfluous cuts. Whoever
had killed the old man had done so efficiently.
No, she thought, studying the fist-sized hole in his chest. Surgically. Whoever had
taken Snook's heart had very likely used a laser scalpel.
"You got your homicide, Bowers."
Eve eased back, let the curtain fall. She felt her blood rise and her fist clenc h when
she saw the self-satisfied smirk on the uniform's face.
"Okay, Bowers, we don't like each other. Just one of those things. But you'd be smart to remember I can make it a hell of a lot harder on you than you can on me." She took a step
closer, bumping the toe of her boots to the toe of Bowers's shoes. Just to be sure her point was
taken. "So be smart, Bowers, and wipe that fucking sneer off your face and keep out of my
The sneer dropped away, but Bowers's eyes shot out little bullet points of animosity.
"It's against departmental code for a superior officer to use offensive language to a uniform."
"No kidding? Well, you be sure to put that in your report, Bowers. And you have that
report done, in triplicate, and on my desk by oh ten hundred. Stand back," she added, very
It took ten humming seconds with their eyes warring before Bowers dropped her gaze
and shifted aside.
Dismissing her, Eve turned her back and pulled out her communicator. "Dallas,
Lieutenant Eve. I've got a homicide."
-=O=-***-=O=Now why, Eve wondered, as she hunkered inside the crate to examine the body,
would someone steal a so obviously used-up heart? She remembered that for a period after
the Urban Wars, stolen organs had been a prize commodity on the black market. Very often,
dealers hadn't been patient enough to wait until a donor was actually dead to make the
transfer, but that had been decades ago, before man- made organs had been fully perfected.
Organ donating and brokering were still popular. And she thought there was
something about organ building as well, though she paid little attention to medical news and
She distrusted doctors.
Some of the very rich didn't care for the idea of a manufactured implant, she assumed.
A human heart or kidney from a yo ung accident victim could command top prices, but it had
to be in prime condition. Nothing about Snooks was prime.
She wrinkled her nose against the stench, but leaned closer. When a woman detested
hospitals and health centers as much as she did, the faint ly sick smell of antiseptic sent the
She caught it here, just a trace, then frowning, sat back on her heels.
Her prelim exam told her the victim had died at 0:2:10, given the outside temperature
through the night. She'd need the blood work and tox reports to know if there'd been drugs in
his system, but she could already see that he'd been a brew guzzler.
The typical brown refillable bottle used to transport home brew was tucked in the
corner, nearly empty. She found a small, almost pitiful stash of illegals. One thin, hand-rolled
joint of Zoner, a couple of pink capsules that were probably Jags, and a small, filthy bag of
white powder she assumed after a sniff was Grin laced with a whiff of Zeus.
There were telltale spiderwebs of broken blood vessels over his dented face, obvious
signs of malnutrition, and the scabs of what was likely some unattractive skin disease. The man had been a guzzler, smoked, ate garbage, and had been nearly ready to die in his sleep.
Why kill him?
"Sir?" Eve did n't glance back as Peabody drew back the curtain. "ME's on scene."
"Why take his heart?" Eve muttered. "Why surgically remove it? If it was a straight
murder, wouldn't they have roughed him up, kicked him around? If they were into mutilation,
why didn't they mutilate? This is textbook work."
Peabody scanned the body, grimaced. "I haven't seen any heart ops, but I'll take your
word on that."
"Look at the wound," Eve said impatiently. "He should have bled out, shouldn't he? A
fist-sized hole in the chest, for Christ's sake. But they -- whatever it is -- clamped, closed off,
the bleeders, just like they would in surgery. This one didn't want the mess, didn't see the
point in it. No, he's proud of his work," she added, crab walking back through the opening,
then standing to take a deep gulp of the much fresher air outside.
"He's skilled. Had to have had some training. And I don't think one person could have
managed this alone. You send the scoopers out to canvass for witnesses?"
"Yeah." Peabody scanned the deserted street, the broken windows, the huddle of
boxes and crates deep in the alleyway across the street. "Good luck to them."
"Morris." Eve lifted a brow as she noted she'd hooked the top medical examiner for an
on-scene. "I didn't expect to get the cream on a sidewalk sleeper."
Pleased, he smiled, and his lively eyes danced. He wore his hair slicked back and
braided with a siren red ski cap snugged over it. His long, matching coat flapped madly in the
breeze. Morris, Eve knew, was quite the snazzy dresser.
"I was available, and your sleeper sounded quite interesting. No heart?"
"Well, I didn't find one."
He chuckled and approached the crate. "Let's have a look-see."
She shivered, envying him his long, obviously warm coat. She had one -- Roarke had
given her a beauty for Christmas -- but she resisted wearing it on the job. No way in hell was
she going to get blood and assorted body fluids all over that fabulous br...
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- Fall '19
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