Imitation in Death
matters to him as much, maybe even a little more, than the ratings. That won't last," she added cheerfully. "But you might as well get him while he's fresh."
    "I'll keep it in mind."
    Alone, Eve refined her official statement, then ran it through channels. Carting the bakery box back into the bull pen,; she dropped it on the communal AutoChef.
    All movement stopped. Silence fell.
    "Peabody," she said into the breathless hush, "with me." She'd barely hit the doorway when the riot of rushing feet and clamor of voices erupted behind her.
    Cops and doughnuts, she thought A well-honored tradition that almost brought a sentimental tear to the eye.
    "I bet there were jelly-filled. I bet there were," Peabody muttered as they muscled onto an elevator.
    "Some of them had those little colored sprinkle things on top. Like edible confetti."
    Peabody's square and sturdy jaw wobbled with emotion.
    "All I had time for this morning was reconstituted banana slices on a stale bagel."
    "You're breaking my heart." At garage level, Eve strolled off the elevator. "Carmichael's first stop. We're catching him between his. morning aqua therapy and daily skin treatment."
    "You could've saved me one. One little doughnut."
    "I could have," Eve agreed as they climbed in her vehicle. "I could have done that. In fact..." She rummaged around in her pocket, pulled out an evidence bag. Inside was a jelly doughnut "I believe I did."
    "For me?" Overjoyed, Peabody snatched it, sniffed through the bag. "You. saved me a doughnut. You're so good to me. I take back everything-I was thinking-you know, how you're a cold, selfish, doughnut-hogging bitch and all that. Thanks, Dallas."
    "Don't mention it."
    "I really shouldn't eat it though." Peabody caught her bottom lip between her teeth, stroking the bag as Eve backed out of the slot. "I really shouldn't. I'm on a diet. I've just got to lose some of the square footage of my ass, so I-"
    "Oh, for Christ's sake. Give it back they"
    But when Eve reached out, Peabody cringed back, doughnut bag clutched at her breasts, face screwed into dangerous lines 'Mine."
    "Peabody, you continue to be a fascination to me."
    "Thanks." Slowly, savoring the moment, Peabody unsealed the bag. "Anyway, I deserve it. I'm using up lots of calories studying for the detective's exam, and stressing about it. Stress sucks up calories like a vacuum. That's why you're so thin."
    "I'm not thin, I'm not stressed."
    "If you've got an excess ounce of body fat, I'll eat it. Respectfully, sir," Peabody added with a mouthful of jelly doughnut. "But I've really been hitting the discs and the simulators. McNab's helping me out. He's hardly even being an asshole right now."
    "Wonder of wonders."
    "It's coming up really soon. I was wondering if you could tell me where you think my weak areas are so I could work on them."
    "You question yourself. Even when your gut tells you you're right, you don't trust it enough. You've got good instincts, but you tend to be afraid to go with them without confirmation from a superior. You often question your own competence, and when you question yours, you're questioning mine."
    She glanced over,, unsurprised to see Peabody keying her comments into her notebook between bites of doughnut. "You're writing this down."
    "It helps to see it, you know. Then to do these affirmations in the mirror. I'm a confident, competent officer of the law, and like that." She flushed a little. "It's just a method."
    "Whatever."
    Eve nosed into a narrow space at the ,curb. "Let's confidently and competently see where Carmichael Smith was night before last."
    "Yes, sir, but I also have to stress and obsess about having eaten that jelly doughnut. That'll work off the calories and even it out. It'll be like I never ate it at all."
    `Then you might want to wipe the jelly off your lip."
    Eve stepped out of the car, studied the building. It had been, she supposed, a small three-level apartment building at one time.
    Now it was a single residence on a

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