By: S.J. Harper

“Secure building,” I note.

“Maybe not secure enough.”

The elevator opens and we realize there are only two residences on the floor. Amy’s is to the left. Zack unlocks the door. We pause for a moment to don gloves, then step inside.

My first impression is that Amy must make a good living with her art. The layout of her apartment is open, airy, with windows overlooking the city and the bay beyond. I take mental inventory. There’s a small kitchen and a dining area just to the left of the entryway. There are no dishes in the sink, nothing on the table or on the counters. I open one after another of the cupboards. A few cups and glasses. A set of dishes. No food. Not even crackers or a box of cereal. The refrigerator contains bottled water.

Zack is looking over my shoulder. “She must order in a lot.”

Like me, I think.

I look for and find a trash can under the sink. It’s empty with a fresh liner.

“Someone tidied up.”

“Haskell?” Zack asks. “She said she hadn’t touched anything.”

I move on to the living room. Amy’s furniture is plain, functional. A couch and a love seat arranged to take advantage of the views. No television or other electronics. I wander over to the windows. There are no curtains or screens. The bay sparkles in the distance and I watch a plane dip into position to land at the airport just visible to the right. The streets below are dotted with houses and other apartment buildings. The city lights must be spectacular at night.

Zack joins me, follows my line of sight across the street.

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” I ask him.

Zack nods. “There is one building across the way that looks into this apartment. Maybe someone saw something the day Amy disappeared.”

There’s a remote lying on a small table near the windows. It seems out of place since there’s no television or stereo in the room. I pick it up, press a button. The window brightens, as if a shield had been lifted.

“So much for interviewing the neighbors,” Zack says. “I’ve heard of these windows. Highly energy-efficient. And impossible to see in from the outside. Appears Amy really did value her privacy.”

I step toward a closed set of doors. They open onto a bedroom. There’s a queen-sized bed, dresser, walk-in closet. The top of the dresser is bare except for three pictures in silver frames. I recognize Amy in one of them—the one the police copied for her missing person’s report. It’s an outdoor shot, probably professional, judging from the way the background has been blurred to emphasize a pretty thirtysomething redhead with laughing green eyes and an impish smile.

The second is a picture of an older couple taken on what looks like the front porch of a comfortable suburban home. I hold the picture up to Zack. “Her parents?”

“Probably. And this one.” He points to the third picture. It’s an informal shot of Haskell and Patterson. They have their arms around each other’s waists and are grinning into the camera. In the foreground is a birthday cake, ablaze with dozens of candles. “Seems to lend credence to what Haskell told us about the two of them being friends.”

I cross the room to peek into the bathroom. Towels are hung neatly, cosmetics lined up in orderly fashion next to a toothbrush holder.

“What woman goes on a trip without her makeup or a toothbrush?” Zack asks. He’s rejoined me and is looking over my shoulder into the bathroom.

From the way she looked this morning, certainly not his ex, I want to say. Instead I keep my mouth shut and shake my head.

There’s one room left and we check it out together.

Amy’s office is the only room that reflects more personality than orderliness. This is the room where she undoubtedly spends the bulk of her time. In it are two computers, a laptop and a desktop. Her desk is covered with unopened mail and stacks of magazines. The nearby floor-to-ceiling bookshelves contain everything from Nora Roberts to Nietzsche.

“A woman of eclectic tastes,” Zack says.

There are double doors at the back of the room that I assume is a closet. When I pull the doors open, however, I reassess my opinion that her office is where she spends her time.

This is the heart of Amy Patterson’s home.

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