Authors: Victor Methos
The ocean was far warmer than it appeared. The sun was just barely breaking through the clouds, and its beams danced around it like ashes dancing around the glowing embers of a fire. Stanton paddled far out from shore and drifted lightly on the waves before turning back. He’d caught his set almost half an hour ago and was through, but didn’t want to leave the sea just yet.
Some people did their best thinking in their sleep
, on the toilet, or in the quiet shade of a tree. Stanton did his on the ocean. He lost himself there amid something greater than himself. The ocean would exist long after man’s turn at ruling the earth was over. But being the ruler was man’s illusion. The ocean ruled the earth. However the oceans went, the earth would go, as well.
rode a weak wave into shore then stood in the hip-deep water. He straightened his board and trudged onto the beach. A small crowd of younger surfers was out there with him, and they were already drunk or splitting bowls of weed. They were missing the point. They couldn’t appreciate the grandeur if their senses were dulled.
Stanton showered on the beach and changed into
jeans and a red polo shirt. He had left a message for his kids to call him, but they hadn’t yet. Teenagers had their own lives to live.
As he climbed into the
Jeep, Stanton thought about Richard Miller. The day before, he had called and asked to see Richard’s house, just to see what Richard would say. He’d seemed apprehensive about it. Stanton let it go and decided to stop by the house a day later.
He drove down there before going to morning roll call at the precinct. The reports from
the previous night and updates to the detective commander and the captain could wait.
Stanton pulled to a stop in front of the home.
He never would have even guessed that a murder had taken place there not two days before. Some murder and suicide scenes healed immediately, without leaving behind evidence of the foul occurrence. But a handful retained… something. Stanton had heard it called energy, essence, ghosts, phantoms, demons, spirits, and everything in between.
He had once seen a home where the oldest son, a paranoid schizophrenic, had murdered his entire family.
Parents and three siblings. Six years later, in the same home, a husband murdered his wife. The couple had bought the home from a shady realtor who hadn’t revealed its past. Stanton didn’t believe in coincidences.
Stanton got out and ambled across the street to the sidewalk in front of the home
, where Adam Cummings had been killed. He closed his eyes.
I see your face. You’re looking at me
, and I know what you see. You see me, and I see you. And we both know we shouldn’t be here. I can’t let you live. I take out my gun and fire. I’m so close to you that I can’t miss. You fly off your feet and hit the pavement. I need to leave—a gunshot just went off in a quiet neighborhood, but I’m calm. I’m not rushed or panicked. I move or have the body moved into the bushes. I don’t care that you’re young. I don’t care that you’re just a boy. You’re nothing to me…
Stanton opened his eyes and turned to the bushes where
the body had been found. He stared at it a long time then sauntered across the lawn to the front porch of the Millers’ home. A fine microfiber couch and two matching chairs sat on the large porch. A side table had a book on it.
The Kite Runner
. Stanton opened it to the bookmark, which was about halfway through the book, and read parts of the page. He wondered if the book belonged to Richard or his wife. He set it back on the side table and entered the code on the door.
He didn’t know if Richard was still home. The man would be jumpy and probably armed. Stanton would have to be careful.
The atrium looked as though it belonged in a fancy office building rather than a private residence. Everything in the home matched the island theme. A designer had carefully selected everything to give one the impression that visitors were entering an oasis and leaving the humdrum of normal life. It was a very pleasant place to come home to. But Stanton didn’t think it was for the Millers.
home looked even more massive in the daylight than it had before. It was far too much house for a couple and one teenager. Either they were just trying to impress the outside world, or they had bought it with an expectation of many more children.
Though infidelity had many causes,
Stanton guessed he knew what had caused Sharon Miller to seek sex outside of her marriage. Despite the stereotype of the cheating, horny male, clinical research had proven without a doubt that women cheated as often as men did—in some contexts, even more. Stanton thought this was so hard for most people to accept simply because of the fragile male ego.
The motivations, however, did fall into the
conventional gender roles. The most extensive study ever done on infidelity examined a dating website that catered to married men and women looking for extramarital affairs. Roughly eighty percent of the women in the study said they felt emotional love for the objects of their affair, whereas only seven percent of men said they felt love for the objects of their affair. For men, it was purely physical, but women sought the emotional connection.
The primary reason the women reported for beginning the affair was feeling neglected or ignored by their husbands. This led to a lack of intimacy. Women who were also lonely tended to lean toward affairs if their husbands were gone for long periods of time or frequently
away overnight for work.
Stanton guessed Sharon Miller’s affairs had nothing to do with feeling neglected
. Richard struck him as passive. He would do anything to keep his wife happy.
ntimacy disorders were often diagnosed in adulterous women. Typically, they stemmed from early childhood trauma, particular sexual trauma. Such women sought emotional intensity rather than relational intimacy, which frequently led to sexual addiction or serial cheating. Sharon likely had deep underlying issues she wasn’t addressing, and their marriage had suffered as a result.
Stanton casually strolled through the living room.
Draped over a white sofa was the hide of a snow leopard, white with black spots. He ran his hand over the soft fur, entwining his fingers in the hair, before he stepped away and went into the study, which held shelves and shelves of books and a computer with two monitors. The desk was old mahogany, and gold and silver pens glimmered in the sunlight. Stanton took in the entire space before he walked through to the kitchen, looked in the fridge, then made his way upstairs to the master bedroom.
He stood still
, watching dust swirl in beams of light. The house was quiet and empty. Richard wasn’t here. In the bathroom, Stanton took a seat on the edge of the tub. Beginning in one corner, he ran his eyes along the baseboards and up the walls, all the way to the bathtub behind him.
The spatters of blood were still on the carpet. SIS had determined that someone was backing out of the closet after
being injured. But injured with what? No weapon had been found. He rose and went through the closest, checking anything that could cause a person’s nose to bleed from impact. Shoes, belts, and even a heavy watch could do it. But nothing seemed out of place. He stepped into the bathroom again.
Stanton looked up
at the ceiling and down the shower to the rod. On the corner farthest away from him was a blemish. Balancing on the edge of the tub, he inspected the blemish on the curtain rod. A black stain over a dent. He took out his cell phone, focused the camera on the dent, then enhanced the image five times.
The shower rod had a nick in it
, as though it had made an impact with something. The rod itself was just a little off center on the corners. A bit of mildew poked out as if the rod had been taken off and replaced in not quite the exact spot it’d been in before.
He twisted the rod slowly but didn’t see any blood. Lifting it up, he could see the indentation and nick clearly from the top. But who would replace it? An intruder
who’d been struck hard enough to bleed certainly wouldn’t take the time to replace the rod. Someone did it after.
He took a few photos of the rod
then put it back. Someone had replaced the rod after coming upon the scene but hadn’t cleaned up the blood. This person had wanted the police to find the blood and the ski mask but not the misplaced rod. Or perhaps someone had simply put the rod back in its place without thinking it was part of the crime scene because the dent was small enough to miss.
Stanton had a guess as to who that person was.
Stanton arrived at the offices of Strain,
Klep & Barnum a little after one o’clock. On the way, he’d grabbed a puka dog—a hot dog drowning in various fruit juices—and a Diet Coke for lunch. He was sipping his drink as he approached the receptionist and smiled.
“Hi, Richard Miller
“May I tell him who’s here to see him?”
“Jon Stanton.” He took a seat in the waiting area. The office was all glass, chrome, and white carpets—the type of place corporations came to hire an attorney. Few individuals, he figured, could afford the hourly rate the place charged. And the name seemed familiar… Klep. That was Sharon Miller’s maiden name. Sharon Klep.
Richard came out to meet
him, dressed in what Stanton guessed was a suit and watch that cost more than his Jeep. Richard’s hair was perfectly neat, and his nails appeared freshly manicured.
“Did you get a manicure?” Stanton asked.
“Your nails are glossy. Did you get a manicure?”
He cleared his throat. “No. Who would do that when his wife and child are missing?”
“Some people would surprise you.”
“Yeah, I guess they would. What can I do for you, Detective? I’m a very busy man.”
I didn’t want to take up much of your time. I just wanted to ask you if you moved anything in your home before calling the police.”
“A shower rod, for example.”
Richard hesitated. “No. I saw the blood and called you guys immediately.”
“Did anyone else move the rod?”
“No, and what the hell is this about? You should be out there looking for who kidnapped my wife
, and instead, you’re here asking me about shower rods.”
Stanton grinned as if
he were embarrassed. “Of course. I shouldn’t waste your time with such trivial things.”
“Thank you. Now please let me know if there
are any updates.”
“I will.” Stanton turned away. “Oh, one thing
—you never mentioned that one of your wife’s parents was a founding partner of this firm.”
Her father. Does it matter?”
“No, not unless you two were to divorce, right? Because I don’t think any
father-in-law would keep around an ex-husband. But if something that wasn’t your fault happened to your wife, that might be a different story.”
hadn’t initially wanted to reveal his hand by letting Richard know that he was the target of his investigation. But Richard was so anxious, so on edge and ready to explode, that Stanton needed to push him over that edge. Anger and panic were the two worst emotions human beings could feel. They crowded out all other emotions, and people who were angry or panicked made mistakes. Their rational thinking couldn’t function properly.
“Just what the hell are you saying?” Richard said loudly. “That I had something to do with my wife’s disappearance?”
Richard’s face flushed red. “I think it’s time for you to get the hell outta my office. And don’t come back here.”
Stanton nodded. “Of course, I meant no insult. I’ll call you with any updates, Mr. Miller.”
Stanton marched to the elevator and took out his cell phone. He marked the time: 1:27 p.m. He called Laka.
“Hey, I was just going to call you,” she said.
“We need a warrant on Richard Miller’s phone.”
“Wow, that was quick. What’s the PC?”
Stanton hesitated. He wondered if he was crossing a line, but a young girl was out there in the hands of people who clearly didn’t value human life. He didn’t see that he had a choice. “That’s the thing. I don’t think I have probable cause, not really. We need a judge that is happy with ambiguous.”
“I think I know the judge from my days in Vice. Text me over the probable cause statement
, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Stanton sat at the bullpen until the evening, catching up on paperwork from several other cases he had been neglecting. One
involved the body of a man found in a swimming pool one morning by the occupants of the home after a party the night before. The autopsy report had just come back. The man had enormously high levels of opiates in his system. He had likely stumbled into the pool and drowned.
It was well past six o’clock when
Laka stepped into the precinct detectives’ offices. She strode straight over to Stanton and laid a document across his keyboard. It was a warrant for Richard Miller’s phone records.
“Wow,” he said. “I’m impressed.”
“I’m impressed you wanted to get his records with so little.”
He shrugged. “He had something to do with this. But he’s in over his head and doesn’t know what to do next. I get the impression of a rat lost in a maze when I see him.”
“What’re you looking for in the phone records?”
“I want to see who he called after I left. I pushed him, and I bet he panicked.
Just a guess. I could be wrong, so I hope you didn’t burn any bridges getting this warrant.”
“Not at all. Judge Anderson loves me.”
“Well,” Stanton said, stretching his arms over his head, “let’s get this to the phone company.”