She ate another piece. “I’ve never tasted it before. It’s fine.”
“What about the tempura?” He kept his eyes on the screen as it skipped to show a young male who slid an envelope beneath Chan’s door before returning to the elevator.
“I recognize him—Ryan Asquith,” she said. “He’s the same intern who later found the body. And tempura is quite . . . enjoyable.” Never before had she considered food anything more than nourishment that kept her alive—like most Psy, she’d been conditioned against falling victim to the inherent sensuality of taste and pleasure.
“We’ll try something else next time.”
“There’s Marsha again.” The woman walked over to Chan’s with a briefcase in hand, exiting two minutes later to re-enter her own room.
“Quick visit.” He froze as the screen skipped forward and stopped on another individual. “Hell.”
Sophia looked up. The female onscreen was tall, with black hair that spilled past her shoulders in soft curls, and skin that was dusted a golden brown. Unlike the others, she wasn’t wearing a suit, but a shapeless coat in royal blue that swamped her frame.
But no matter the ill-fitting clothing, even Sophia knew who that was. “I thought,” she said, “that Sascha was estranged from Nikita?”
“There are the business ties DarkRiver has with Nikita. But what was she doing on a private floor?” He went silent as Sascha knocked on Marsha Langholm’s door, was admitted.
The screen skipped forward.
Two more men appeared a short time apart, neither of whom they could immediately identify. The first—a slender black male who looked to be in his thirties—spent approximately ten minutes with the victim before leaving. The second—an aristocratic man with prematurely silver hair—stayed five minutes longer than that before being shown out, and the victim was alive at that stage. They saw him step out into the corridor, walk his colleague to the elevator while they apparently finished up their conversation.
The next piece of movement showed Sascha exiting Marsha’s apartment with the other woman by her side.
“Wait.” Max paused the screen, rewound it to the image of Edward Chan disappearing into his apartment. “Look at the time stamp.”
“Ten fifteen a.m.”
“I’m resetting it to playback continuously from this point.” But when he pushed Play, they saw Sascha leaving Marsha’s apartment.
Sophia blinked, staring at the time stamp. “It’s over an hour and a half later.”
“From the looks of the file data,” Max said, bringing it up on the side of the comm screen, “someone input a ‘do not record’ order for that period.” He restarted playback.
The next movement came barely five minutes after Sascha’s departure, when the same intern who’d left the envelope returned—eventually entering the apartment to discover Chan’s body. “Why was Asquith given not only permission, but the code to override Chan’s security?” Max asked Sophia, stopping the playback.
“He must’ve gone into the Net to contact Edward, found him gone.” Sophia had seen J minds blink out like that, known that death had claimed one more of her own. “Psy who drop out of the Net without explanation are always tracked down to verify the reason for their disappearance.” For Sophia, that reason would only ever be death, her mind too deeply integrated into the Net to survive any separation. “How long it takes depends on the circumstances, but here it was obviously very close to the time of the murder.”
When Max didn’t say anything in response to her statement, she glanced over to find him pinching the bridge of his nose in an uncharacteristic gesture of frustration. “Max?”
A low, hard word as he dropped his hand. “I’m about to piss off the few friends I have in this city.”
Sophia went to reach out, touch him. But Max thrust both hands through his hair and got up from the sofa before she could transform thought into action. Her fingers curled into the sofa cushions—just as something walked across her feet. She jerked back in response, making Morpheus yowl. “Oh, my apologies, Morpheus.”
The cat gave her a baleful glare before hopping up to sit on the sofa beside her.
“He wants you to pet him,” Max said distractedly, pulling out his cell phone. “I’ll give Clay a call, set up a meet.”
“What about Marsha Langholm?”
“We’ll talk to her after Sascha.”
Morpheus put a clawed paw on Sophia’s thigh, insistent. Taking the hint, she ran her fingers through his fur. It was far softer than she’d imagined, the living warmth of him making the experience nothing akin to touching a faux-fur coat, as she’d once done in a department store.
When Morpheus spread out over her thigh, eyes closed in feline bliss, she knew she’d passed muster. However, her attention was no longer on the temperamental cat, but on his master. Max stood by the window, cell phone to his ear. He moved, she thought, with the same grace as the feline under her hand—with a muscled ease that told her he was in full and total control of his body, his strength.
What would it be like to stroke him?
He turned, met her eyes. She wondered what he saw, because his expression changed to a look she knew instinctively she’d only ever see in a sexual context. Closing the phone, he walked over and brushed back her hair, stroking his finger along the very tip of her ear. “Sascha’s at the city office.”
It was the lightest of touches, but she shivered. “That is not an erotic zone.”