Red-faced, Adam spun and strode into his house, leaving the front door open. Stella and Brody followed him into his kitchen.
Adam poured himself a generous two fingers of whiskey from a bottle on the counter and dropped into a kitchen chair. “As I told you before, she fell down the stairs four years ago and broke a bone in her neck. Even after surgery and rehab, she was in constant pain. The doctor prescribed oxycodone. I knew she was taking too many, but what could I say? She was hurting all the time, and the doctors didn’t have any options for her.” He set his glass down. “I knew she was in trouble when I found a needle in the back of her car.”
Stella took the chair facing Adam. Brody backed up and leaned on the counter.
“She said she went to heroin because oxy wasn’t enough for her pain. She’d built up a tolerance.” Adam took a deep swallow of liquor. “The second I found out, I got her into rehab.” Was he trying to convince Stella or himself that he’d done his best?
“Was it an inpatient rehab center?” Stella asked.
“Yes.” He nodded.
He frowned. “It’s been years. It had a long name. New Life something.”
“The New Life Center for Hope?”
“That sounds right. Dena did well there. Everything seemed to be working out for us. She found her new physical therapist, who seemed to help her get some relief from the pain with diet, exercise, and meditation. She joined Narcotics Anonymous. She still goes to a meeting almost every night.”
“Do you know where she attended meetings?” Stella held her breath.
“The Catholic church. Our Lady of Sorrows.” He sipped his drink. “I can’t believe she went back to using, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
“I’m not suggesting anything.”
“Dena was moving forward. She didn’t have any interest in going back to being an addict. She told me once that she never wanted to feel that out of control again. It had been terrifying for her.” Adam wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Had your wife been tested for drug use lately?” Stella asked.
He hesitated. “Not officially.”
“What do you mean, officially?”
Staring at his glass, Adam spun the tumbler on the tabletop. “I administered tests to her here at home.”
“Yes. You can buy the kits at the drug store. It’s a simple urine test. Gives you the results in minutes.” He tossed back the remaining whiskey and slammed the glass onto the table. “I did it randomly for her own good. I had to make sure she stayed clean.”
“Did she ever test positive?” Stella couldn’t imagine her significant other forcing her to pee in a cup.
“I feel responsible for not getting her help sooner. How did I not know she was using heroin? What kind of husband pays that little attention to his wife? I couldn’t allow her to fail again.”
Stella shifted her weight forward. “Why didn’t you mention your wife’s former addiction before?”
Adam stiffened. “That was years ago. I doubt it’s relevant. I wanted to find my wife while she was still alive. But you let her die.” He pointed at Stella’s nose, his finger inches from her face.
Guilt was an anvil on Stella’s shoulders. He was right. She hadn’t found Dena and now the woman was dead.
“You need to back off, Mr. Miller,” Brody said quietly.
Adam dropped his hand, but his focus remained fixed on Stella. “Listen up, bitch. I’m through with you. Either arrest me or get the fuck out of my house. If you want to question me again, make an appointment to talk to me through my lawyer. I’ll have him call your boss.” He jumped to his feet and gestured to the hall. Brody and Stella left the house. The door slammed shut behind them, and the deadbolt shot home.
Stella stared at the house. Frustration pounded in her temple.
Brody steered her back into the car. “None of this is your fault. We’ll get him to the police station for an interview. It will just take a little longer than we’d planned.”
“What if he’s right?” Stella asked. “What if I’ve been wasting time investigating him when a stranger took his wife?”
“His behavior has been suspicious since the beginning,” Brody assured her. “And you haven’t neglected looking for other suspects. You even arrested one, but Adam’s name keeps coming up.”
“He has an alibi.” She moved toward the car, her stomach twisted and sick.
“His alibi is weak.” Brody’s voice rose. “Dena Miller’s death is not your fault.”
If she’d been a better detective, she could have saved Dena’s life. And if her aim had been truer last November, she could have prevented the deaths of two cops. But she’d come up short both times, and that knowledge would weigh on her forever.
But Stella didn’t admit that to Brody. “I guess I can’t get a roster of everyone in that NA group.”
“I think they take the anonymous seriously,” Brody said.
“Dena and Missy were also admitted to the same rehab center, although their stays were a year apart.” Stella reached for her car door handle. “I already ran background checks on Dr. Randolph and his assistant, Reilly Warren. They were both clean. Maybe I should dig deeper. I wish privacy laws didn’t prevent us from getting the medical records of the other patients.”
“I’ll check out the staff at Our Lady of Sorrows.” Brody got into his car. “Again.”
She drove back to the station while she checked her messages. Still no response from Gianna. Stella tried to call Mac, but the call went directly to voice mail. She headed to the chief’s office.
Horner stood in front of his open closet, straightening his uniform in the mirror that hung on the back of the door. His eyes met hers in the mirror. Frowning, he turned. “You snapped at a reporter this afternoon. That isn’t acceptable. The media can be your ally or your enemy. Trust me. You don’t want them as an enemy.”
“Yes, sir.” Stella shoved a stray hair behind her ear. “I want to bring Adam Miller in for more questioning.”
“No. Adam Miller’s attorney was on the news claiming we’re to blame for his wife’s death because we focused on him as a suspect while she was being murdered.” Horner tugged the creases from his sleeve. “You are to leave Mr. Miller alone.”
“But Brody thinks his alibi is weak.” Stella protested. “And he lied to us.”
“When I give an order, I expect you to follow it. Adam Miller is a publicity nightmare. Let it go. We have a perfectly good suspect. Prove he did it.”
“But what if he didn’t?” Stella wanted to reel her words in as they left her lips.
“That’s an order, Detective.” The chief stared. “You’ll be joining me at a press conference in thirty minutes. I expect you to be gracious. The media has been on your side since that shooting back in November. They love you. I want to keep it that way. We’ll focus on the fact that we have a person of interest, which refutes Mr. Miller’s claim, and that we’re pulling out all the stops on this investigation.”
“But we now know that Dena Miller had a drug addiction. She attended the same Narcotics Anonymous meetings as Missy Green.”
“All the better. Noah Spivak was seen outside those meetings. That places him in proximity to both victims. He’s our man. There will be no mention of serial killers running around town.”
“But it’s possible we have one.”
“Spivak is in custody. You should be proud. You caught the killer. Now you have to tighten the noose tightly around his neck. Build your case before the judge grants bail.”
“Yes, sir.” Stella’s teeth hurt from clenching her jaw.
Studying her, the chief wrinkled his nose. “Get cleaned up. Fix your hair. Put on some makeup, and give your jacket to my secretary to steam. And for God’s sake, put on your poker face. You look as if you want to strangle someone.”
Stella exited the office, anger a red haze in her vision. Handing her blazer over to the polished blond, Stella retreated to the ladies’ room. Humiliation burned the back of her neck. Two women were dead, and the chief wanted her to look pretty for TV. Arguing with Horner was no use. He wanted to use her as a PR tool for the department, and there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it. She wanted to be a detective. Unfortunately, this was part of the deal.
Frustrated, she jammed her hair back into place.
The chief’s secretary, Cecily, entered the bathroom and handed Stella her jacket. She also held out a small container of makeup. “Concealer. The chief wants you to cover up that bruise on your jaw.”
“I know.” Cecily smoothed her perfect blond chignon. “It seems ridiculous. But if you want to work for him, you must understand that your personal appearance matters.”
Stella dabbed concealer on her bruise.
With a frown, Cecily took over, her movements deft and efficient. She opened a compact. “The powder will make the concealer last longer.”
“Horner doesn’t care if Brody is wrinkled.” Stella winced as Cecily pressed the applicator on the bruise.
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