“Don’t get up,” Chris says. “We know how much you two like your food.”

Blake settles back into his seat and winks at me. “Empty stomach, empty mind,” he jokes, as Chris and I take off our coats.


David, who’s already busy buttering his bread again, adds, “Being a calculating asshole burns calories. But Sara already knows that about me.” He grins. “Right, sugar?”

Glowering at him, I slide into the booth across from Blake, who chokes on his bread.

“Sorry,” he says, reaching for his drink. “The women in the Walker family would have his balls if he called them ‘sugar.’” He motions to David. “I think he has a death wish.”

Chris sits down and slips his arm over my shoulder. “He does. And full warning, David, Sara had fantasies about pouring a pitcher of beer over your head the last time you called her that.”

“Coke’s better,” Blake offers. “It’s stickier. Ask my wife. She once dumped a pitcher over my brother Royce’s head.”

I laugh. “For what?”

“I’m pretty sure he told her his gun was bigger than hers.”

The entire table bursts into laughter, and I downright get the giggles. “Thank you, Blake. I needed that.”

The waitress appears, and we order promptly due to David’s deadline. “So,” he says the instant the waitress departs. “What happened today that I need to know about? Aside from the search warrant, which was bound to happen.”

Jumping on the topic most on my mind, I say, “Ryan told the police that Ava told him that she took Rebecca to Mark, the night Rebecca arrived.”

David snorts. “He told them, and she told him, and who’s on first? That’s just hearsay, which never holds water.”

“Besides,” Blake adds, “Mark never talked to Ryan, Ava, or Rebecca the night Rebecca returned. I have the phone records to back it up. And the timeline is clear, too. He flew in from New York six hours after Rebecca arrived. I tapped the database for Mark’s home security company, and viewed the taped footage. Based on the time stamps, he went straight home from the airport and no one was with him, nor did anyone visit him. Conclusion? Ava didn’t take Rebecca to Mark that night. And believe me, if I know this, so do the police.”

“Translation?” David adds. “Ava’s a lying bitch. But we knew that already.”

“What about Ryan?” I ask. “Did he talk to Ava the night Rebecca arrived?”

“Yes,” Blake answers. “It was a ten minute call and again, if I know this, so do the police. The security footage of his apartment says he was at home at the time. He didn’t leave home again until his normal morning departure, nine hours later.”

“But she could have told him she took Rebecca to Mark’s,” I press.

“She also could have told him she just baked apple pie,” David says. “There won’t be a recording of the call. It could have been her way of covering her ass in case she got caught.”

“That’s exactly what I suggested when I heard,” Chris reminds me.

“I know,” I say. “I just have a bad feeling about Ryan.”

“He’s on the police radar,” David assures me.

“What about Rebecca’s travel dates?” Chris asks. “Any update there?”

“They’re just using that bullshit to scare you into talking,” Blake replies. “We did that crap all the time when I was ATF. Rebecca used her cell phone the day we know she arrived here in the city, and she hasn’t used it since. It hasn’t pinged, but that’s not surprising considering how long she’s been missing.”

This punches me in the gut. No one missed her for far too long and I have a jab of anger at Mark for letting his big-ass ego get in the way. He wrote her off, engaging in his typical game of denial. She didn’t exist, so her rejection didn’t exist.

“And just to be thorough,” Blake adds, “I checked with the boyfriend she was traveling with before her return. She didn’t have any other phone than the one we had on file. Not that he knew of.”

“I forgot about him,” I say, glancing at David. “Are they investigating him?”

“They’re looking at everyone,” he confirms, “but Detective Miller says he’s been ruled out.”

“Rebecca returned to San Francisco,” Blake inserts. “He didn’t. That’s a pretty solid alibi.”

“What about the past boyfriend Rebecca wrote about occasionally?” I ask. “She met him at a bar and he turned a bit obsessive with her.”

“Moved out of state before Rebecca went missing,” Blake replies, evidently with an answer to everything.

“None of this proves Ava killed Rebecca,” I say, my concern about Ava being set free growing. “Is it possible Ava’s silly accusations could sway a bail jury, or judge, however that works, into discounting four witnesses to her attack on me?”

“I won’t let that happen,” David replies, intending to give me confidence but failing.

“So it could happen,” I challenge.

“I’ve never lost a case,” is his rebuttal.

“You are walking around my question, and it doesn’t make me feel better.”

“We build a case against her,” Blake says. “Piece by piece, we complete the puzzle.”

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