And in the hands of a killer.
He opened his phone and called Stella to give her the bad news.
“Oh no.” She quickly masked the distress in her voice. “I’ll send a forensic team to her apartment. Maybe they’ll turn up some prints.”
But they both knew they wouldn’t find any.
“The kitchen window was locked when I got here,” Mac said. “I’m going to the dialysis center to see if I can sweet talk any information out of them.”
“I’ll trace Gianna’s phone, and we’ll put out an alert on her,” Stella said.
But who would see the girl if she was being held by a madman?
Mac picked up a picture of Stella and Gianna from the table. “I’m stealing that photo of you and her to show around.”
“Good idea. Would you bring it to the station?” Her voice caught. “I remember that day. I brought Gianna back to the house for a barbecue for her birthday. She loved hanging out with my family. Why didn’t I do that more often?”
Mac tucked the photo into his pocket. “We’ll find her.”
“We’d better. If she didn’t make it to dialysis today, she’s going to get sick fast. He won’t have to kill her. Without treatment, she’s just days from death.”
“I’ll start looking for her in the neighborhood.” He ended the call, left the apartment, and drove the few blocks to the dialysis center.
He walked into the dialysis center and flashed a wide smile at the woman in her fifties wearing maroon scrubs behind the reception desk. “I’m looking for Gianna Leone.”
She gave him a tired stare. “Privacy regulations prevent me from giving you any information.”
Mac sobered. “Gianna is missing. I need to know if she showed up for dialysis today, and if she didn’t, then how quickly she’s going to deteriorate.”
“Hold on.” The woman disappeared for a few seconds. When she returned, she showed him to a private office.
A tall woman in gray slacks and a white blouse rose behind the desk. “You said Gianna is missing?”
“Yes. Did she show up for dialysis today or not?” Mac couldn’t get the images of dead bodies out of his head. He couldn’t let that happen to Gianna. He had to find her. “I don’t want to look at her medical files, I just need to know how long she’s been gone and how much time we have to find her.”
“I could lose my job for this, but I’m worried about her, too.” The woman sighed. “She didn’t come today. We called her, but she didn’t answer her phone.”
The anxiety in Mac’s belly flip-flopped. “How much time does she have?”
“Some of our patients have partial kidney function, but not Gianna. She has practically no kidney function at all. Her last treatment was Thursday. Without dialysis to filter the toxins and fluid from her body, she won’t last long.”
At the station, Stella slipped into the conference room. On the other side of the table, Lance stood, studying the crime scene photos, notes, and pictures of evidence that were tacked to their murder board. Stella’s case notes were spread out on the table. Pinned to the left side of the board were pictures of Dena and Missy before and after death. On the opposite side, photos of Adam Miller and Noah Spivak stared back at Stella.
“I’ve heard you’ve been busy.” Lance turned and regarded her with serious eyes. “Are you all right?”
“Yes.” Stella sank into a chair, fear for Gianna a cold, queasy lump in her belly. Where was she? Stella’s trace on her phone had turned up nothing. Her phone was either off or the battery was dead.
“Is your house secure?”
“There’s a unit there, and Grandpa and Morgan are both armed.” Her sister might be depressed, but she was a soldier’s wife, a cop’s daughter, and a very protective mother.
“Let me know if you want me to spend the night there for a while.” Lance said. “I live alone. It’s not like anyone will miss me.”
Stella smiled. “Thanks.”
The conference room door opened and Chief Horner strode in. He picked up a remote control, turned on the TV that sat on a side table, and tuned to a local news station. On the screen, Adam Miller sat in a newsroom. “Detective Dane focused her investigation into my wife’s disappearance on me, while my wife was being murdered.”
The picture shifted to the interviewer. “Two women have been found dead this week in Scarlet Falls. Is a serial killer stalking women in the New York suburbs?”
“I read your report.” Chief Horner pointed the remote control again, muting the TV. “You should have come to me or Brody instead of letting this investigation get out of hand. What the hell were you doing meeting with a drug dealer this morning?”
“I didn’t meet with him. I was purely there for backup. Mac has connections—”
“I don’t want to hear another word about Mac Barrett.” Horner pointed a rigid finger at her. “You’ve been spending too much time with him. The Barretts’ rogue tendencies are rubbing off on you.”
Angry thoughts popped into Stella’s head like cartoon captions. She bit the inside of her mouth to keep them from slipping out, but worry about Gianna and her family taxed her control. Mouthing off to Horner would get her suspended. All she’d wanted was to be a detective. She wasn’t a political person. She didn’t want to deal with Horner or the media. She wanted to solve two murders and find Gianna.
Horner dropped his hand and paced between the table and the wall. “Do you know how this looks? You’re the only female in the department. It’s going to appear as if I promoted you because you’re female even though you’re incompetent. You’ve devoted half of this investigation to investigating Miller when he has an alibi.”
Stella kept her voice level. She would not let him get to her. “Sir, we have two dead women who knew each other, and now another girl is missing. Adam’s alibi is weak; his associate refuses to give a specific time he left the club.”
“He was being honest. He didn’t know the exact time.” Horner huffed, then shook his head. “Wait. What do you mean another girl is missing?”
“Gianna Leone. Another member of the same Narcotics Anonymous group that Missy and Dena belonged to.” Stella’s spine snapped straight. “She was supposed to come in this morning and sign a statement that she saw Adam Miller outside the church the night Missy disappeared. Adam Miller hasn’t been straight with us since the very beginning of this investigation.”
“Why would Adam report his wife missing and call us to find her if he killed her?” Horner paced the room.
“The ME suspects Dena was a victim of domestic abuse.” Stella filled him in on the ME’s findings.
Horner shook his head. “There’s no way to prove that Adam inflicted that damage on his wife. I still like Noah Spivak for the murders. He was hanging out at the church, and he has priors. Adam Miller’s record is clean.”
“But Gianna saw Adam outside the church the night Missy disappeared,” Stella insisted.
Horner’s face reddened. “The word of a junkie doesn’t mean much. You and Lance saw Spivak outside a meeting. That’s a better link.”
“Gianna Leone is a former addict,” Stella said.
“She was a drug addict and prostitute. A jury wouldn’t take her word over Adam Miller’s.” Horner didn’t care, but Stella knew he was right. No one would believe Gianna.
“I want to bring Adam Miller in for questioning.”
“No.” Horner straightened his tie.
“But I have another member of his wife’s Narcotics Anonymous group who says she saw him hanging around outside the meetings, and two additional people claimed he constantly checked up on his wife. I think he was stalking her.”
“Why would he have to stalk his own wife? They lived together.”
“Because he was controlling,” Stella reasoned. “He checked her phone. Called her dozens of times a day. He made her submit to home urine tests for drug use, and it’s likely he beat her as well. He didn’t like her to have friends. Maybe he saw her with Gianna and Missy and got jealous.”
“Adam Miller’s attorney isn’t going to let him be dragged in here repeatedly.” Horner jabbed a finger in the air at Stella. “You have no actual evidence he did anything to his wife. I want you to focus on building a case against Spivak. We need a search warrant for his vehicle and parents’ house. That is your job today. We have a few hundred tips that came in on the hotline. Maybe one of Spivak’s low-life friends will turn on him for the cash.”
“But if Gianna was kidnapped this morning, Spivak couldn’t have done it. He’s in custody,” Stella said. “And Dena wasn’t killed until six p.m. at the earliest on Thursday. Spivak was in custody a little after nine. That leaves six to nine p.m. as the window of time for him to have placed her body in the park. It wouldn’t have been dark yet.”
“It’s still possible. Kidnapping her in broad daylight was bold, too.” Horner’s phone rang. He answered it, his face darkening as he listened. Hanging up, he stood. “Spivak is out on bail.”
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