Stella and Lance retreated to the hallway. Stella paced the length of the corridor and back. “Hopefully this kid hasn’t returned because she’s angry, but Janelle went missing the night after we found Dena.”
“You know how many people go missing,” Lance said. “Chances are, this kid’s case isn’t related. She’s probably pissed at her mother.”
“You’re right.” But Stella hated to think of another young girl out on the street while a predator hunted.
“Same thing with your informant. Are you sure Gianna is missing?” Lance asked. “Maybe she knocked over a lamp by accident. Maybe she’s avoiding you.”
Stella chewed on her lip “But not showing up for dialysis would be suicide.”
“You’ve said before that the kid has it rough.”
Stella didn’t doubt that Gianna was depressed. Her life was out of her control and full of physical misery. As much as she hated to admit it, she couldn’t rule out the possibility that Gianna was suicidal. They didn’t even know for certain that the killer had taken another woman.
“I have to catch up with Brody.”
Lance nodded. “I’ll get the paperwork started with Ms. Hall.”
“Thanks,” Stella headed for her cubicle where her blazer lay draped over the back of her chair. A yellow clasp envelope sat in her inbox. Her name and the station’s address were printed on the front.
She knew it was from him. Donning gloves, she used a letter opener to slit the top.
A sheet of paper slid out. A single sentence was typed in the center of the eight by ten white sheet.
I HAVE NUMBER 3.
“What is the purpose of the notes?” Stella climbed the Spivaks’ front stoop.
Next to her, Brody scanned the street. “He’s taunting you like he did in the interview.”
She pictured Spivak’s smug leer and shivered.
“God, I hope they know where to find him.” Stella rang the doorbell. Another girl’s life depended on it. But did he have Gianna or Janelle?
“Even if they do, they might not be willing to share.” Brody said. “We’re trying to put their son in prison.”
The senior Mr. Spivak was a tall and tidy man. He wore his plaid, short-sleeved shirt tucked in, and a sharp crease bisected the exact center of his jeans. The shriveled woman who stood next to him was colorless, gray from her hair to her eyes to her washed-out housedress.
Stella and Brody showed their badges.
“We already said we’re not talking to the police.” Mrs. Spivak clenched her fingers in front of her sternum. The only parts of her body that moved were her fingers, which worked in a nervous repetition from church to steeple and back again. “Noah’s a grown man. He’s not our responsibility anymore. You can’t hold us accountable for his doings.”
“No one is holding you responsible, ma’am.” Stella peered around their bodies but saw no one behind them. “We just want to ask you a few questions. Are you aware that we’re looking for Noah?”
Mrs. Spivak’s frown sank into the folds of her neck. “I thought you had him in custody?”
“We did,” Stella said. “Someone bailed him out.”
Mrs. Spivak’s open palm pressed just below the hollow of her throat. “Wasn’t us. He belongs in jail. We kicked him out because he threatened to kill us when we wouldn’t give him money to support his cause. We don’t have much. We barely get by, but Noah is obsessed.”
“Does Noah have any other friends who would have bail money?” Stella asked.
Mr. Spivak folded his arms across his chest and ground his molars. “All his friends are crazy bastards with shaved heads and Nazi tattoos.”
“It would help if you could give us a list,” Brody added. “The sooner we get him off the street, the safer you’ll be.”
“I guess you’re right. We’re just afraid he’ll come after us if we turn him in, but I guess he’s probably going to come after us anyway.” Mrs. Spivak moved back, clearing the threshold. “Come in.”
Her husband ushered them into a paneled living room. The decor was stark. No family pictures adorned the walls. No knickknacks cluttered the surfaces. No shoes lined up at the door. Decades of regimented cleaning had scrubbed the house of all signs of life.
Mr. Spivak took a piece of paper from a desk drawer and started writing.
“Did your son leave anything behind in his room?” Stella asked the missus.
“Not really, but you’re welcome to have a look.” Mr. Spivak handed her a list of six names. Three only had first names. “The first few he went to high school with. The others he picked up since. They’re all just as crazy as he is.”
“Thank you. We have a search warrant for his room. Did you want to see it?” Brody reached for the folded paper in his suit jacket.
Mr. Spivak waved the offer away. “No need. If there’s any evidence in his room, you’re welcome to it. I’m sorry to say we’d feel safer if Noah was behind bars.”
Stella and Brody went down the hall and took a quick turn around Noah’s room. The twin bed, dresser, and desk in heavy grained oak were likely the same he used in childhood. A braided rug occupied the center of the oak floor.
Stella put on gloves and checked the drawers. All empty. Then she pulled each one out and inspected the outside and bottom. Nothing. “He cleaned this place out pretty well.”
Brody opened the closet door and took down a box of trophies. “Everything he left behind is from his childhood. Nothing current.”
“He wasn’t always a bad kid, but he always took up with the wrong sort.” Mr. Spivak hunched in the doorway. His gaze settled on the box, his frown turning bittersweet. “He was a smart kid in high school. Went away to college on a scholarship. Then he hooked up with these skinhead types. Nothing but trouble since.”
“Is there anything else you can tell us?” Brody returned the box to the closet.
“No.” Mr. Spivak exhaled, and his body deflated. “I know we seem harsh, but we’re at our wits’ end. Noah is out of control. The best thing for everyone is if he gets put away where he can’t hurt anyone.”
Stella scanned the room one last time but saw nothing left to search.
“I think we’re done here,” she said. “Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Spivak.”
He walked them to the door and let them out. “I hope you find him before he hurts someone.”
“So do we.” Stella followed Brody out to the car. Her stomach churned. “How many hotline tips do we have?”
“There were eighty-seven calls to the hotline, but most were useless.” Brody pulled out a sheet of paper. “We have six.”
“Six?” Stella climbed into the car, numb. “This will take all afternoon. He killed Dena within the first day. We don’t even know how long he’s had the new girl or whether it’s Gianna or Janelle or someone else. All we know is that he has a girl and she doesn’t have long to live.”
Brody and Stella spent a fruitless afternoon hoping for a break, but as the afternoon stretched into evening and the whereabouts of Gianna and Janelle remained a mystery, Stella’s patience frayed.
“Brody, what if we don’t find them?” Stella’s voice cracked.
“We can’t think like that. We just have to keep going. What’s the next address?” Brody slowed the car while Stella read the list under the dome light.
“Forty-two Sycamore Street.”
The two drove in silence until Brody turned onto Sycamore.
She focused on a passing mailbox. “There’s thirty-six.”
Brody eased off the gas as they passed three more houses in the encroaching gloom. The lots and houses were large in this section of Scarlet Falls.
Stella searched for house numbers in the dimness. “Here it is.” She pointed to a yellow Victorian across the street from a pharmacy. “Big houses like this must cost a fortune to maintain.”
Brody owned an old beauty near the center of town. “They do, which is why so many of them get broken down into smaller units like this one.”
He parked at the curb. Originally a large house, the home had been divided into four smaller apartments. White gingerbread trim cried for repairs and a fresh coat of paint. Overgrown shrubs brushed the faded asbestos siding. From the street, the backyard looked like a rhododendron jungle.
“Your house is gorgeous,” Stella said. This one was decidedly not. She tugged her blazer over her handgun and stared at the building.
Brody got out of the driver’s seat. “Is this the right address?”
“Yes.” She checked her list. “We’re looking for Jim Crawley in apartment four.”
“What does Mr. Crawley claim to know?” Brody straightened his tie. He’d loosened the knot in the car.
“He claims to have seen a woman taken from the church parking lot last Thursday night. Says she appeared to be incapacitated. He thought her male companion was helping her, but now he thinks maybe he got that wrong.”
“So he might have seen Missy’s abduction?” Brody asked.
“Right.” Stella pulled a piece of hair off her sweaty neck and tucked it into her bun. “Let’s see what he has to say.”
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