“Carrying a woman out of her house in broad daylight is still bold.”
“Yes,” she said. “Disturbingly so.”
Mac hung his sunglasses on the front of his T-shirt. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he assessed the scene. “He feels like he can’t be caught. Is he arrogant or self-righteous?”
Adam answered on the first knock. His face was puffy, his eyes bagged, and his breath smelled as if he’d drank whiskey for breakfast then gargled with coffee. Wrinkles creased the front of his tan slacks, and his hair was mussed.
Stella would have pitied him if he weren’t a liar.
“Come in.” He gave Mac a questioning look.
“This is Mr. Barrett. He’s offered his assistance. He helped me find several people last fall.” That was close enough to the truth that saying it didn’t give Stella hives.
Adam shook Mac’s hand and led them back to the kitchen.
Stella stood at the counter in front of a stack of posters emblazoned with “Missing” and Dena’s photo.
Scanning the rooms, Mac wandered into the adjoining living room. He stopped in front the shelving unit full of pictures and studied at each photo.
“Have you found any sign of my wife?” Adam asked, keeping one suspicious eye on Mac.
“Not yet,” Stella answered. “We’re retracing her movements yesterday. Her photo has been distributed in a statewide bulletin. Every state, county, and local law enforcement officer on duty is on the lookout for her.”
“I put up fliers all over town this morning.” Adam spun. His lips flattened into a white line. “What about forensics?”
Everybody was an expert on police work. Damn CSI.
“Our techs are still sorting through the evidence,” Stella said.
Adam’s frown deepened as he continued to pace back and forth across the tile floor. “You don’t have any clue where Dena is, do you?”
“Not yet,” Stella admitted. “But I have a few follow-up questions for you.”
He paused, turning to face her again. “Of course. I’d do anything to find her.” But his shuttered eyes contradicted his offer.
“You kept very close tabs on your wife.” Stella leaned a hip on the counter and relaxed her posture. She didn’t want Adam on the defensive. “We’ve talked to a few people who commented that you frequently checked up on your wife’s whereabouts.”
“I love my wife.” He smoothed his disheveled hair. “Since her fall, I worry about her constantly.”
Stella zeroed in on his guilt. “Did you call the spa yesterday while your wife was there?”
He glanced away. “I might have. I don’t remember.”
“How about her physical therapy office?” Stella pressed.
“I did call them,” he admitted. “But they wouldn’t tell me if she’d been there, so it hardly matters.” Anger tightened his eyes before he reined it in. He smoothed a wrinkle from the front of his slacks.
“Except that you lied in your statement,” Stella pointed out.
“I was upset when I spoke with you yesterday.” He enunciated each word distinctly. “I didn’t lie. I forgot.”
Stella did not buy that for one second. “How closely did you monitor Dena’s activities?”
“I like to know where she is.” Adam’s eyes narrowed with suspicion and his upper body tilted toward Stella. “What are you implying, Detective?”
He was playing the devoted spouse well, but Adam Miller set off Stella’s creep alarm. There was something about him that just wasn’t right, as if he straddled the line between love and obsession.
Stella met his aggressive posture with a small step forward. “Did you get angry with her? Did you hit her?”
Tension sharpened his tone. “Why would I hurt the woman I love?”
Not quite a denial. It happened all the time.
Stella watched his eyes as she delivered the next statement. “You said you left the restaurant at two-thirty yesterday, but the club says you paid your bill two hours before that.”
“I walked my client to his car. We talked for a while in the parking lot.” He waved off her comment as trivial, but his gaze held hers. Behind his anger, Stella saw arrogance.
“Can you give me your client’s name and number?” Stella asked.
“No.” Adam’s face darkened. At his side, his right hand curled into a tight fist. The knuckles whitened. “I won’t have you ruining my career. I didn’t have anything to do with my wife’s disappearance. I’m the one who called you to find her.” The veins in his neck protruded and his mouth went tight with fury. “What is wrong with you? Why don’t you understand how much I love my wife?”
Just how violent was Adam Miller? There was one way to find out. Stella let her voice rise. “You’re missing two hours yesterday afternoon. Did you and Dena have a fight? Did you hurt her and call us to cover your tracks?”
“How dare you!” Adam exploded. Two rapid strides brought him across the six feet of space that separated them.
Balanced on the balls of her feet, Stella prepared to counter if he actually struck out at her. But a fast-moving body collided with Adam and knocked him out of the way. Adam careened sideways and landed in a sprawl on the tile. Mac had been so quiet, she’d forgotten he was in the next room, but obviously he’d been paying close attention. He’d knocked Adam on his butt.
“What the fuck?” Rolling onto his back, Adam rubbed his hip.
Stella tugged on Mac’s arm, but she might as well have been trying to move an oak tree. He glared down at Adam. “I could ask you the same thing. Assaulting an officer will get you arrested.”
“I didn’t touch her.” Adam scrambled to his feet. Leaning around Mac, he jabbed a finger at Stella. “I’m calling my lawyer. Your boss is going to hear about this. Next time you want to interrogate me, make an appointment.”
Stella ignored the threat. With Mac impossible to budge, she walked around him to confront Adam. “You came right home after you left the golf course yesterday?”
Fuming, Adam leaned closer. Then with a quick glance at Mac, he backed off. “You’re wasting your time questioning me while my wife is in danger.”
“In that case, the faster I rule you out as a suspect, the faster I can pursue other lines of investigation,” Stella said in a quiet voice. “Lying to me complicates the process.”
“My wife is missing, and you’re fucking around investigating me instead of looking for her.” Despite his protest, Adam scrawled the name and number of his client on a business card. “Find my wife.” He thrust it into Stella’s hand as she and Mac turned toward the door.
“Why didn’t you bring him in?” Mac asked when they were settled in the car. “Questioning him at the station might take away his arrogance.”
“Because thanks to you, he’s already screaming for his lawyer.” Stella turned to face him. “I don’t have any evidence that he had anything to do with his wife’s disappearance.”
“He’s lying.” Mac’s voice flattened.
“The two discrepancies in his original statement are explicable,” Stella reasoned. “Or at least that is what an attorney will say.”
Mac snorted. “He’s hiding something.”
“Thanks to your reflexes, I can’t arrest him for assaulting an officer. You body-blocked him before he touched me.”
“Sorry.” But Mac’s tone didn’t sound apologetic. “Instinct.”
“I appreciate the gesture, but you can’t feel as if you have to protect me. I provoked him intentionally. I wanted to see if he’s a violent man. If he had taken a swing at me with you standing a few feet away, that would have told me he was impulsive and doesn’t have a good handle on his temper. I would have known he was capable of hitting a woman. I would have taken him to the station. A possible assault charge would have given me leverage.”
“I didn’t want him to hit you.”
“I understand that, but you have to trust me to do my job. I was ready for him. If he’d tried to strike me, he would have found himself facedown and in handcuffs before he could blink.” But frankly, Stella would have taken the blow if it helped her find Dena Miller.
“Antagonizing him wasn’t necessary.”
Anger heated Stella’s face. “Adam Miller is controlling and arrogant, and I know he’s hiding something. But I’m not concerned with him. I want to find Dena. She’s been missing twenty-four hours. Time is running out. I need to know if Adam hurt her or some other man took her.” Stella jammed the key into the ignition. “Every minute that passes decreases the chances of finding her alive.”
Mac rubbed his face. “I’m sorry.”
Stella turned to face him. “Look, if we’re going to continue this . . .” she gestured between them, “arrangement, then you have to trust my training. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m defenseless.”
“I grew up with Hannah.” Mac snorted. “I have the utmost respect for a woman’s ability to kick ass. Trust me. I don’t think of women as defenseless.”
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