“I never met Rebecca,” I say, and I swear my heart has moved to my throat. “The reason I had a job was to fill in for her.”

“So if Rebecca returned, you would have lost a dream job, right?” he says.

“What? No.” I pull my suddenly trembling hand from the table to my lap. “I could have kept my job. I talked to Mark about that.”

“Rebecca’s return date was before Sara started at the gallery,” David reminds him. “So game over and move on. Stop taunting her.”

“Actually,” Detective Miller says, “we aren’t prepared to disclose Rebecca’s specific travel dates at this point.”

David eyes her for several seconds and makes that snorting noise. “Let me get this straight. You’ve now decided Rebecca Mason came to the city, left again, and came back?”

“What I’m saying, Counselor,” she replies tartly, “is nothing. We aren’t prepared to release what we know about her travel at this point.”

“Of course you aren’t,” David says with acidic sarcasm. “How else would you victimize the victim?” He sighs heavily and motions with his hand. “Move on to another subject, or this interview is over.”

“Gladly.” Her attention lands on me. “Back to the club, then. Ms. McMillan—”

“I’ll spare us all some time,” Chris interrupts, leaning forward. “Sara was not, and is not, a part of the club.”

“Let her tell me,” she insists.

I repeat Chris’s words. “I have not been, and am not, a part of the club.”

Chris continues, “I took Sara to the club for one reason only: to show her what I’d been involved with, and why I didn’t want her to be a part of what I considered my past. We didn’t have sex while we were there. We didn’t go to the public areas. I didn’t even allow her to talk to anyone on the way in.”

“You didn’t allow her?” Detective Miller asks, sounding appalled.

“To protect her,” Chris explains.

Detective Grant scoffs. “We’ve heard that before.”

“What does that mean?” I ask, my defenses flaring for Chris.

David intervenes, demanding, “How is any of this related to Ava trying to kill my client?”

Again Detective Miller answers. “There’s a personal relationship between the defendant and the witnesses. We need to understand that dynamic.”

“Not for the bail hearing,” David counters.

Detective Grant replies, “You know as well as we do that we have to be prepared for anything.”

“Furthermore,” Detective Miller adds, “if Ms. Perez is awarded a lower bond and she’s released, it’s in everyone’s best interest that the DA feels comfortable putting his neck on the line to even take it to the grand jury to indict her.”

David’s brow wrinkles and his lips twist. “I smell a bad fish and it stinks to high heaven. I don’t like it when things stink. So fair warning. I gave you five minutes; you have about two left.”

Detective Miller instigates a back and forth with Chris. “You don’t want Sara at the club because you think it’s what? Dangerous?”

“Far from it. Mark Compton takes his responsibility to protect the members of the club seriously, or I would never have stepped foot inside. It’s simply not right for me or Sara.”

“Meaning BDSM, or the lifestyle, or . . . ?”

“There’s nothing wrong with the lifestyle, if that’s what you’re getting at. BDSM is like anything else. It’s right for some and not for others. It can be a way people cope with things they might not otherwise deal with. It can be a simple escape from everyday pressures. It has many healthy, pleasurable purposes, but like anything, it can be taken to unhealthy extremes.”

Her lips curl. “Did you take it to an unhealthy extreme, Mr. Merit?”

I dig my fingernails into my leg, worried about where this is going, but Chris doesn’t miss a beat. “A couple of pieces of chocolate every day is safe for one person, but for a diabetic, it’s life threatening. Unhealthy is defined by the person.”

“That’s a nonanswer,” Detective Grant says, sounding more than a little displeased. “But if you don’t want to talk about you, let’s talk about Mark Compton. Does he take this BDSM thing to an unhealthy extreme?”

“Asked and answered,” David interjects. “He said extreme is defined by the individual.”

“And I said it’s a nonanswer,” Detective Grant snaps, focusing on me again. “Ms. McMillan, when you were reading the journals did you find Mr. Compton’s behavior to be extreme?”

“She’s not answering,” David says. “That would be opinion, which is nonadmissible in court, and we all know the journals don’t even mention Mark Compton’s name.”

Detective Grant cuts him a look. “Since when are you Compton’s attorney?”

“I didn’t like your question.” David motions with his hand again. “Move on.”

Lips thinning, Grant removes two journals from his accordion folder. “Did you read all of the journals you turned in to us, Ms. McMillan?”

“Yes. I was trying to find clues that would tell me how to find her.”

“Did you read the entry where Mr. Compton used a knife to taunt Rebecca during sex?”

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