“I’ll survive.” Mac was definitely a survivor.
“He can borrow my car.” Grandpa offered Mac a set of keys. “You might not mind a motorcycle in the rain, but that sick girl would.”
Mac took the keys. “Thank you.”
Morgan came back up the steps. “Stella, is this yours?”
Stella’s gaze dropped to her sister’s hands. The pale blue scarf sent fear rippling cold across her skin. “Where did you get that?”
He knew where she lived. He’d been to her home.
Near her family.
Morgan held it out. “The girls found it outside tied to a tree.”
“What’s wrong?” Grandpa stepped forward, his eyes sharpening.
Stella lowered her voice. “We’ve held back this fact from the media, but both dead women wore pale blue scarves.”
“No.” Morgan’s gaze darted between the scarf and her girls.
“I’m getting my gun,” Grandpa said.
Panic bloomed hot in Stella’s chest as she took the scarf and held it by the corner. She reached for her phone to call the chief and Brody. “It looks like you’re going to get that surveillance camera.”
Fighting the urge to stay and protect her family, Stella drove to the ME’s office. She’d left forensics at her house, but they wouldn’t be there long. The scarf had been left outside so it was unlikely that fingerprints, tracks, or trace evidence had survived the storm. The chief had sent a patrol car to sit in the driveway. Still, Stella didn’t want to leave, but she knew the only way to neutralize the threat was to find the killer.
She wavered between terror and fury. How dare this creep violate her home, threaten her family. She wasn’t going to rest until she’d stopped him.
She went inside the ME’s office. At the secretary’s direction, she headed for the locker room. She checked her phone for messages even though she knew it was too soon for Mac to have found Gianna. Shoving her purse into a locker, she donned a protective gown, booties, and face shield and pushed through the doors into the autopsy suite.
Dena Miller was on the table, her nude body icy white against the stainless steel. Large ugly stitches across her torso said Frank had been busy.
He motioned Stella to the lightboard and pointed at rows of X-rays. “This is the victim’s right hand. As you saw at the scene, all of her fingers were broken. With the damage to the skin and the way the bone is impacted, I suspect he used a hammer.”
Stella felt sick.
The next X-ray showed Dena’s skull and neck. “I found the vertebrae fracture her husband told you about.” He waved at the board, where images of Dena’s bones were displayed. “I found four more recently broken and healed bones: one wrist, an elbow, and several ribs. The Scarlet Falls hospital only has records showing Dena’s neck injury, so I had my assistant check with the three other hospitals in the area. Dena had records at all of them. Each emergency room treated her once. Each time she claimed to have fallen down the stairs.”
“Classic abuse history.”
“Repeat visits to the same ER would spark suspicion,” Frank agreed. “She was careful not to use hospitals in the same network to avoid the possibility of digital records automatically cross-referencing.”
Stella put aside her anger and sadness. Justice was all she could offer Dena now. “What else did you find?”
“She’d been recently washed and her fingernails were clipped.” Frank tossed the file back on his desk. “There was no sign of sexual assault. Tox screens are being rushed. The lab has promised to get Missy Green’s done by Monday morning as well.”
Stella left the medical examiner and hurried across the lot to the forensics lab. She still didn’t have enough to convince anyone that Adam Miller was a killer. The fact that his wife had multiple broken bones didn’t prove he murdered her.
Darcy Stevens, the county latent fingerprint analyst, leaned over her desk. Her coffee-colored skin looked too smooth for her to be a grandmother.
“How’s your grandson?” Stella picked up a framed snapshot of a two-toothed baby.
“Perfect.” Darcy smiled, then sobered. “I have something for you.”
“Is it going to make me happy?”
“I think so,” Darcy said in her rich, deep voice.
Stella dropped into a chair facing her desk.
“I found several sets of fingerprints on the envelope of cash you found in Missy Green’s apartment.” Darcy opened a file on her computer. She pointed to the envelope, encased in a protective plastic sleeve. “Missy Green’s matched right away. That was easy. But then I had an idea, and I pulled Dena Miller’s prints. Perfect match.”
“You matched prints from Dena Miller and Missy Green?”
“You are a genius.”
Darcy rubbed her fingernails on her black suit jacket. “I know.”
Dena was keeping cash at Missy’s house.
“Do you know if Vinnie’s in?” Stella asked.
“He was. I saw him at the coffeepot an hour ago.” Crime didn’t adhere to a weekday schedule, and Saturday was often a time for playing catch-up.
Stella’s steps were quick as she went down the hall to Vinnie’s office. The swarthy forensic tech looked like a Godfather extra.
Vinnie was holding a paper evidence envelope. “You’re just in time. The tech just came back from your house.”
“Did he find anything besides the scarf?”
“Nothing interesting. The rain destroyed the scene.” With gloved hands Vinnie opened the envelope and looked inside. “This scarf looks like the ones found on the dead girls.”
“What do you know about them?”
“Polyester. The tags were removed.”
“Not Hermes?” Something high end would be easier to trace.
“No. Sorry. These are fairly generic.” Vinnie set the envelope on the desk. “I don’t like that he left this at your house.”
“That makes all of us,” Stella said. “What about Dena Miller’s crime scene?”
“Opposite problem. The scope of the scene gave us a lot of evidence to sort through. My team barely got the evidence bagged, tagged, and locked up yesterday. I called in two techs to work overtime, but it’s still going to take a while.”
Spivak was in jail, but Stella had no idea when the scarf had been tied to the tree, so that didn’t eliminate him. The tree wasn’t visible from the driveway, mailbox, or front windows. It could have been there for a few days. Could everyone else be right and Spivak be the killer? It felt too easy, and Frank’s suspicion that Dena Miller was a victim of domestic abuse made Stella doubt Adam Miller’s alibi further. She knew he was violent—and lying.
Mac parked Art’s silver Lincoln Town Car in front of Gianna’s apartment, then he banged on her door. No one answered. The windows were dark. He cupped his hands over his eyes and peered into the kitchen. No Gianna. Mac knocked on the doors to the left and right of Gianna’s. Silence was his answer.
Where was she?
Except for the apartment complex, the neighborhood was mostly businesses. No nosy old women sitting on porches or watchful young mothers pushing strollers.
Mac leaned close to the lock. Tiny scratches marred the brass, but the lock was old. Hard to say which scratches were new.
A neighbor came out of the apartment next door. A brittle blond, she was probably in her forties but a deep tan had aged her skin twenty years. She sucked deeply on a cigarette, giving Mac a serious once over. Her eyes lit with appreciation. “Never mind. You can bang on anything you like.”
Mac grinned wide and stepped out into the light. If a little charm got him answers, he saw no harm in trying. “I’m looking for Gianna. Have you seen her?”
She shook her head. “Not since yesterday.”
“You wouldn’t by any chance have a key to her apartment?” he asked.
“No, sorry.” She stepped back into her own unit. “This isn’t that kind of neighborhood.”
The door closed before he could ask any other questions.
Mac sized up the entry. He didn’t want to pick the lock in case the police needed to dust it for prints. He went to the kitchen window. Pulling out his knife, he popped the window lock and slid open the sash.
The apartment complex clearly didn’t spend much on security.
He sheathed his knife and hoisted himself through the window. He swung his legs around and slid off the tiny kitchen counter next to the sink.
The apartment looked much the same as when they’d visited on Thursday. One glance verified that the kitchen and adjoining living area were empty. He headed for the short hall that led to the bedroom and bath.
He stopped in the middle of the corridor. A ceramic lamp lay in broken pieces on the carpet, and a framed poster had been knocked from the wall. Under the fractured glass, script over a photo of a mountain read: Dream. Believe. Hope. Mac’s gaze tracked to six spots of red that dotted the beige carpet. Blood.
Being careful not to step on any evidence, he quickly checked the bedroom and bath. Empty. There were no signs of a disturbance anywhere else in the apartment. Standing in the hallway, he imagined a man watching Gianna through the kitchen window, then picking the lock while she was in the bedroom. Whoever had taken her had waited in the hall for her to emerge from the bedroom, then overpowered her. It wouldn’t have been hard. The girl was sick and weak.
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