“So this is how it starts. A month here. Six weeks there. And what about us, Danny? What about our marriage?”
He’d done his best to explain to her. A crazed killer was on the loose. Lives were in danger. But her answer was always the same: “So let someone else save them. You can save other lives here, in Lyon, like you have been doing for the last five years. You can save us.” She hadn’t even gone to the airport to see him off.
Making a left on Highwood, Danny pushed his marital troubles out of his mind. He was on his way to see Matt Daley at Matt’s sister’s house and glean what evidence he could about Lisa Baring firsthand. Lisa’s disappearance was front-page news in Hong Kong and she was now openly spoken of in the Chinese media as a suspect in her husband’s murder. Danny McGuire was reserving judgment. All he knew right now was that Lisa Baring was a link—the link—to the Azrael killer. And that Matt Daley was a link to Lisa Baring.
“You must be McGuire. I guess you’d better come in.”
Claire Michaels answered the door with a distrustful look on her face. She was blond, like her brother, and had the same open, animated features, even though at this moment they were set into a scowl.
“Thanks for letting me stop by.”
She showed him into the living room. “Matt’s upstairs getting dressed. He’ll be down in a minute.” She started to leave, then apparently thought better of it. “Look,” she said to Danny, angry tears in her eyes, “this thing with the Baring woman has really taken it out of him, okay? He’s not himself. Ever since he got involved with this stupid documentary, he’s changed, but when he met Lisa Baring, it went to a whole new level. He’s already lost his marriage, his home and now his heart. I honestly don’t think he can take any more.”
“I understand, Ms. Daley.”
“Michaels. It’s Mrs. Michaels,” snapped Claire. “I’m married. And I don’t think you do understand, Mr. McGuire. Matt needs to forget all about this stupid case. He needs to rebuild his life. Why can’t you just leave him the hell alone?”
It was at that moment that Matt walked in. Danny hadn’t seen him in person since their meeting in Lyon last year. It was all he could do not to gasp. Stick thin, his once-merry eyes sunken in an ashen face and his blond hair graying aggressively at the temples, Matt looked like he’d aged twenty years. No wonder his sister was worried.
“Hello, Danny.” They shook hands. Despite his frail appearance, Matt looked delighted to see him.
Claire’s two children ran into the room, jumping up and down at Matt’s heels like puppies, trying to get their uncle’s attention.
Matt turned to Danny. “Let’s sit out in the gazebo. I’ve got most of my files out there anyway and it’s quieter. We won’t be disturbed.”
FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS, THE two men compared notes. Danny filled Matt in on all the latest developments at Interpol. The DNA evidence, the holes in the backgrounds of all the Azrael wives, and, most recently, the anonymous depositing of large amounts of cash into the bank accounts of two Hong Kong–based children’s charities. “We don’t know for sure that it was Baring’s money. We’re having a lot of trouble tracing the funds’ origins. But given the timing and the amounts involved, it’s looking likely.”
This last piece of news seemed to upset Matt immensely.
“Once the money’s in, he’ll have no reason to spare her. He’ll kill her, just like he killed the others!” His eyes welled up with tears. “How could I have fallen asleep? Why didn’t I hear something, feel something? He took her, Danny. He snatched her right from my bed. Oh Jesus.”
Danny did his best to calm Matt down. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we don’t know for sure that it was Lisa’s money that went to the charities. Second, we don’t know for sure that the other widows are, in fact, dead. We don’t have any bodies.” Matt raised an eyebrow, but Danny pressed on. “Third, you’re assuming Lisa was kidnapped. But it’s far more reasonable to assume that she left of her own accord.”
“No.” Matt shook his head.
“But, Matt,” Danny said reasonably, “your drink was drugged, right? That had to be her. She needed you unconscious so she could get away.”
“No!” Matt slammed his frail fist down on the coffee table. With his rational brain he knew McGuire was right. But his heart wouldn’t let him believe it, or at least wouldn’t let him acknowledge the truth out loud. “She loved me. She wouldn’t have gone willingly.”
“I’m not saying willingly, necessarily. Maybe it was under duress. Maybe this guy has some sort of hold over her.”
Matt was staring into the middle distance. “We were going to run away together. To Morocco.”
Danny looked dumbfounded. “You were what?”
“Liu was trying to frame her,” muttered Matt. “We had to get away. To disappear.”
“And what about me?” said Danny. “Were you going to disappear on me too? I’m not trying to frame anybody, Matt. All I want is the truth. To find out who’s been committing these savage murders, to know what happened to those women. What might be happening to Lisa Baring right now.”
“Don’t!” Matt clamped his hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut, rocking back and forth like an autistic child. “I can’t bear it.”
Maybe his sister’s right, thought Danny, concerned. Maybe he really has lost it. Then he remembered how far gone he himself had been in the dark days after Angela Jakes’s disappearance. For all Céline’s fears, Danny McGuire had never loved Angela Jakes the way that Matt Daley clearly loved Lisa Baring. But dark thoughts of Angela being tortured, abused or killed had still brought Danny to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Was it any wonder that Matt was so screwed up?
“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “We’ll find her. But we have to work together. And you have to promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
“Stupid? Like what?”
“Like taking off again. Like going to look for her yourself. The one thing we do know is that this guy, this killer, is extremely dangerous. Leave any showdowns to the professionals, for Lisa’s sake as much as your own.”
Matt put his head in his hands. “I can’t just do nothing. I can’t sit by while she…she…” His voice trailed off into an anguished moan.
Danny said, “I’m not asking you to do nothing. I’m asking you to help me. Help me to help her.”
“By talking.” Danny switched on his pocket tape recorder. “Tell me about Lisa Baring, Matt. Tell me everything you know.”
LATER THAT DAY, BACK IN HIS hotel room in Santa Monica, Danny McGuire lay on the bed, eating a big bag of Lay’s potato chips and inputting everything Matt Daley had told him into the Azrael files.
Later, he’d have Richard Sturi work on the data to see where it fit into his statistical patterns. Danny had enormous admiration for Sturi, for the way the German could take raw information and give it life and meaning, like a potter fashioning a sculpture out of a lump of clay. But Danny McGuire also respected something that Richard Sturi would have dismissed as superstitious nonsense. He respected instinct. Intuition. Especially his own.
What pieces of what Matt Daley had told him today were important? Of all the minute details, what leaped out at him?
Without thinking, Danny started typing.
New York. Morocco. Sister.
He’d come to L.A. primarily to do some more hands-on digging into the whereabouts of Lyle Renalto. But today’s meeting with Matt Daley had changed his mind. Lisa Baring was the key to all this. If he found out who Lisa was, he stood a chance of figuring out where she was. And if he found Lisa, Danny McGuire felt sure, he’d find the killer.
A FEW MILES ACROSS TOWN, MATT Daley was also in bed, staring at a computer screen.
But it wasn’t his computer. It was Lisa’s.
He’d thought briefly about handing it over to McGuire this morning. Maybe Danny’s crack team of Interpol experts would uncover something that he himself had missed. But the truth was, as much as he liked the man, Matt no longer fully trusted Danny McGuire. He was a good guy and his heart was in the right place. But he wasn’t convinced of Lisa’s innocence. He hadn’t said he suspected her in so many words. But Matt could just sense it, in his questions, his facial expressions, in all the things he didn’t say.
Danny McGuire’s job was to find the killer, to get a conviction. Matt Daley wanted that too, but it was no longer his primary focus. His primary focus was to save Lisa.