Through the open double doors, I saw roses first they were everywhere. Then I spotted Jacobi.
"Watch your heels, Inspector," he called loudly across the room.
My partner was forty-seven, but he looked ten years older. His hair was white, and he was beginning to bald. His face always seemed on the verge of a smirk over some tasteless wisecrack. He and I had worked together for two and a half years. I was senior, inspector-sergeant, though he had seven years on me in the department. He reported to me.
Stepping into the suite, I almost tripped across the legs of body number one, the groom. He was lying just inside the front door, crumpled in a heap, in an open tuxedo shirt and pants. Blood matted the hair on his chest. I took a deep breath.
"May I present Mr. David Brandt," Jacobi intoned with a crooked smile. "Mrs. David Brandt's in there." He gestured toward the bedroom. "Guess things went downhill for them quicker than most."
I knelt down and took a long, hard look at the dead groom. He was handsome, with short, dark, tousled hair and a soft jaw; but the wide, apoplectic eyes locked open and the rivulet of dried blood on his chin marred the features. Behind him, his tuxedo jacket lay on the floor.
"Who found them?" I asked, checking his pocket for a wallet.
"Assistant manager. They were supposed to fly to Bali this morning. The island, not the casino, Boxer. For these two, assistant managers do wake-up calls."
I opened the wallet: a New York driver's license with the groom's smiling face. Platinum cards, several hundred-dollar bills.
I got up and looked around the suite. It opened up into a stylish museum of Oriental art: celadon dragons, chairs and couches decorated with imperial court scenes. The roses, of course. I was more the cozy bed-and-breakfast type, but if you were into making a statement, this was about as substantial a statement as you could make.
"Let's meet the bride," Jacobi said.
I followed through a set of open double doors into the master bedroom and stopped. The bride lay on her back on a large canopy bed.
I'd been to a hundred homicides and could radar in on the body as quick as anyone, but this I wasn't prepared for. It sent a wave of compassion racing down my spine.
The bride was still in her wedding dress.
YOU NEVER SEE so many murder victims that it stops making you hurt, but this one was especially hard to look at.
She was so young and beautiful: calm, tranquil, and undisturbed except for the three crimson flowers of blood spread on her white chest. She looked as if she were a sleeping princess awaiting her prince, but her prince was in the other room, his guts spilled all over the floor.
"Whaddaya want for thirty-five hundred bucks a night?" Jacobi shrugged. "The whole fairy tale?"
It was taking everything I had just to keep my grip on what I had to do. I glared, as if a single, venomous look could shut Jacobi down.
"Jeez, Boxer, what's goin' on?" His face sagged. "It was just a joke."
Whatever it was, his childlike, remorseful expression brought me back. The bride was wearing a large diamond on her right hand and fancy earrings. Whatever the killer's motive, it wasn't robbery.
A tech from the medical examiner's office was about to begin his initial examination. "Looks like three stab wounds," he said. "She must've showed a lot of heart. He got the groom with one."
What flashed through my mind was that fully 90 percent of all homicides were about money or sex. This one didn't seem to be about money.
"When's the last time anyone saw them?" I asked.
"A little after ten last night. That's when the humongous reception ended downstairs."
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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