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One of Those Days

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Max glanced around the room at the couple's dining before coming back to the table. Miranda was laughing at something Ivy had said and her wide smile nearly made his knees buckle. What would it be like to be on the receiving end of one of those genuine, unadulterated smiles? He took the liberty to take a second and appreciate her in her element. She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and he had the temptation to walk over and do it himself-just to be able to feel the silkiness himself. Memories of their day flickered through his brain. The attraction that he couldn’t possibly have been making up, and their ...kiss. He could have kicked himself for his stupidity. In the rush of events tonight they hadn’t had time to bring it up yet, but he was sure that Miranda hadn’t appreciated it. She was such a stickler for the rules and protocol, and he hadn’t been thinking of that at that moment. He had only been thinking of how beautiful, how attractive she had been in that moment and the only thing he had wanted was her body pressed flush against his and her lips on his.

 

Max was about to step forward to their table but then turned back to get a drink when someone ran into him.

“Hey you better look where you’re going,” the man said under his breath before scurrying away, not before setting down an empty glass on one of the empty tables.

Warning bells flashed in Max’s head. That man had sounded so familiar, but where had he heard him before? Under the window! It was one of the men they had heard arguing and he was getting away!

Max grabbed a shot glass off the nearby table and took large strides towards the man. “Man, I am so sorry! I didn’t see you at all!” The man turned around and Max had his first good look at him. He was dressed in a catering outfit, and was a few inches shorter than Max’s 6’2 frame.

Please don’t let me get punched out for this…

In one smooth movement Max dragged his foot behind the other and fell forward, as the mystery liquor- whiskey maybe? met its target.

“Damn it! That was a new shirt!” The man grabbed the closest napkin and started dabbing.

“My apologies. I am so sorry. I was just a bit clumsy,” Max set his now empty glass down on the table, and leaned forward with a napkin to help.

“Get your hands off me! I don’t need your help.”

The man looked absolutely infuriated and Max didn’t miss the stares that they were starting to get. The tension in the room seemed to ratchet up, and that was Max’s cue to end this little charade.

“Of course, man. What was I thinking? Here, just go clean yourself up. Send me the dry cleaning bill and we’ll sort it all out, Si?” At this, Max leaned against the table, to block the view and slid the glasses around, until the man’s empty glass was resting in the napkin behind Max’s back.

The man grumbled and took off towards the back door, probably used by the staff. Miranda had excused herself and was now striding across the room to meet him, her eyes wide and a myriad of questions on her face.

Max leaned down and whispered in her ear. “It was one of our mystery men. I got his prints, but I need you to see where he goes while I get this back to our room.”

Her eyes widened even more as she stared back at him. “Good work Max. I’m on it.”

She was about to leave when he grabbed onto her elbow. “Just be careful. You’re not armed, and he might be dangerous.”

Miranda nodded and glanced around before reaching into her bag to grab the key card and handing it to him. She then walked surely and confidently towards the door, going after the mystery man. People had gone back to their dinners and the music was starting up again.

Max carefully pocketed the glass in his jacket before looking around. He wanted nothing more than to hurry back up to their room and lift those prints, but he should probably pass on his apologies to Peter and Ivy for hijacking dinner.

He passed by several catering staff back to their table and leaned over his chair. “Thank you for being such good company tonight Mr. and Mrs. Steele. I am very sorry to leave you like this, but I’m feeling a bit tired and might head to bed.”

Ivy patted Max’s hand, “No apologies needed young man. I hope to see you around this week.”

“Same to you.”

“And pass our best wishes on to Alexandra. She’s such a lovely lady. Very beautiful too.”

Don’t I know it...

He nodded once more at the couple and headed towards the door. If he hurried, he could circle back and meet up with Miranda. He just hoped that she hadn’t run into security or into any danger that she couldn’t handle.
____________________________________________________________________________

 

Miranda squeezed through the door their mystery man had gone through, but she had another problem on her hands. It wouldn’t be long before someone recognized she wasn’t part of the staff and would send her packing. She needed cover, and fast. She breezed down the dimly lit hallway, she passed by utility and storage rooms, but always made sure to hear her suspect’s footsteps. She glanced around corners and looked out for cameras but didn’t see many. Finally, she saw a wire rack holding clothes and staff outfits probably being sent to laundry. Perfect! Without stalling too long she snatched up a white dress shirt and apron and ran to keep up with her tail. She struggled with buttoning up the dress shirt and the apron, and realized she hadn’t picked up any pants, but this would have to do for now. The suspect’s footsteps picked up and she followed suit. Her strappy heels made way too much noise for her liking but she just hoped they would keep her upright.

The hallway continued but she heard the suspect turn and head down the flight of stairs, probably down to a basement or a cellar of some sort. She backed against the cold wall, and waited until a safe distance had passed between them, before she could continue following him. He had reached the bottom of the stairs before she pressed herself off the wall and made her way down the stairs. She watched him as the door lock buzzed and clicked open before he walked through. Not wanting to let him go, Miranda waited a second before running to squeeze through the door. Pushing past the double swinging doors, she came to a room full of resort staff bustling around, completing their different tasks. Where was her tail? Standing on her tiptoes she craned her neck to see around the crowd. No trace of him at all. Her heart began to sink along with her decreasing adrenaline levels.

Great. Now what, Blake? Did you actually think he was going to take you to Miguel and Elena?

She paused for a second and then took a deep breath. She didn’t stick out too much, and as long as she avoided any security cameras, what could stop her from snooping around a bit? She watched as members of the catering staff rolled trollies of dishes towards another room. Probably to be washed or something. Others were rolling trolleys of laundry.

A woman passed her and Miranda reached out. “Sorry, I’m new here. I was told to uh… pick up some more bottles of wine. I’ve just forgotten where the cellar is.”

The woman frowned. “You were told, huh? Strange that I never heard about this order.”

“Yeah, he just said they were in a hurry.”

The grey haired woman with a hard face nodded. “Fine, come with me and I’ll show you to the cellar.”
Perfect.

The grey haired woman took off at a fast clip and Miranda had to nearly run to keep up. They left the common area and headed down a cold, tight hallway. Down here, the walls were entirely made up of stone and although many parts of the resort looked relatively new, it was probably built on an existing foundation.

Finally they made it down to a wooden door and Miranda’s older companion pushed her way through. “Just grab what they need and come back up.”

Miranda nodded and the other lady turned to leave. Miranda waited until she could hear receding footsteps before she closed the wine cellar door. Don’t want to get trapped in there, Blake. They’ll never hear you scream.

She walked down the hallways passing more utility rooms with closed doors, checking some of the door handles. All locked. Damn.

“Okay, think this through Blake,” she muttered. I doubt that they could hold 2 people down here for the last 4 days. Even if they were bound and gagged, there’s too much traffic on the premises. Someone has had to run into them so far. So if they aren’t in the main building, where could they be? Unless they’re dead, which makes it so much easier to dispose of.

The thought sent shivers down her back, and Miranda continued her task of checking door handles. Finally, she came to another utility room labelled Utility Room 3C . Glancing in both directions before checking the door, she was surprised that it opened. Switching on the light, the room was lit by a single, dim bulb. The room was full of stacks of chairs and tables and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, so Miranda wondered how long it had been since anyone had been in this room.

She glanced around and saw nothing suspicious so she was just about to turn and leave when something in the corner caught her eye. A suitcase? Could it be Miguel and Elena? Excitement and trepidation filled her as she ran over and pulled out one of the bags.
She could almost imagine Ines yelling at her for disturbing evidence, but right now the protocol could go to hell. This was a matter of life and death.

She opened a pocket and looked around. Bingo. Her fingers clasped around a phone and she pulled it out. Thankfully it still had some charge left, and she powered it on and gasped.

An intimate picture of a couple embracing was the picture on the lockscreen, but it was undoubtedly a picture of Miguel and Elena Ruez on their wedding. Question is, why was their luggage hidden all the way down here, and where could they be? They couldn’t possibly have left on their own terms, so a certain resort manager had definitely lied to them.

She had to show this to Max, fast.
____________________________________________________________________________

Max paced back and forth across their room. Where was Miranda? He had half a mind to go after her, but he had to remind himself that she was a capable detective. She could handle this. But what if she was in danger? He was tempted to go off half-cocked after her, but he reminded himself that Miranda had worked more undercover investigations than him. She was more than qualified for this.

He turned back to the desk where he had been working at. Using a concoction of broken pencil lead, clear tape and one of Miranda’s makeup brushes (he made a mental note to pay her back later), he had lifted a decently clear set of prints off the glass. And then he ran into his next problem. How in the world was he going to get a hit on them? It wasn’t like they had the usual police resources at their fingertips. Besides, with the weird security in this place, it wasn’t like he could send off a text or phone like he usually did.

An idea struck him. He went to the computer in the corner, logged on and opened the internet to send off an encrypted email. He attached a picture of the prints and added a request to Rico to do a deep dive into Carl Bancroft and Gregory, their security guard friend. He felt a moment of guilt for waking up his friend, but he figured that since lives were at stake here, Rico wouldn’t be too upset. Before sending off the message, he added a request to look into the Ruez’s reasons as to why they were here. Could Miguel have been here for more than leisure?

Max opened up his email again and added a note to Rico.

Can you also do a deep-dive into Carl Bancroft’s finances for me?

Just as he closed the computer, a knock came from the door. “Max, let me in. It’s me.”
He breathed a sigh of relief and all the tension escaped his body before opening the door and ushering Miranda in. Before she said a word, he gathered her up into his arms and held her tight.

“...Max, this is really nice and all, but I need to show you something.”

Begrudgingly, he let her go but didn’t miss the whiff of her floral shampoo that was way too appealing. And distracting.

“Me too. I think it would be a good time to recap what we know.”
____________________________________________________________________________

After some quick thinking on Miranda’s part by holding up a picture of Miguel to the camera to unlock the phone, Max was scrolling through his texts and emails.

“Miguel sent his last text days before they left, so that’s a dead end. I’m reading through some of them, but they just seem to be about work, a few conversations with his lawyer and…” his voice trailed off.

Miranda looked up from the computer screen. “What is it?”

“It’s an email from their doctor that says test results.” Max took a second to read through and his eyes widened in surprise. “Okay. This explains a few things.”

“What is it? Tell me!”

“It looks like Elena was pregnant and it says they were having a boy. This text was sent a few days after they arrived.”

“Wow. I didn’t expect that. I guess it explains why they were so giddy, and why Elena missed out on breakfast.”

“Yeah, definitely.” Max continued scrolling but didn’t find anything too interesting.

“My question is, what is the connection here? What are the motives? What reason could Carl have for abducting and possibly killing Miguel and Elena?” Miranda asked.

Max nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose Gregory or even those 2 men we heard arguing could be on his payroll and he used them, but I can’t figure out a motive either. Hopefully Rico can tell us something.”

Miranda glanced at the computer. It was just past 2, and she grimaced. “We better get some sleep. We have a pretty packed schedule tomorrow and they’ll expect us to attend everything.”

Max groaned. “I almost forgot we’re Mark and Alexandra, and not Max and Miranda.”

Miranda nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I know from experience that it’s hard to keep a hold on your identities when you’re under. The lines tend to cross.”

Suddenly the tension was back and it was thick enough to slice through. The reality of their one bed, and the memory of their kiss flashed in their minds. Max cleared his throat and offered, “How about we just take a side of the bed. We’re adults, right?”

Miranda gulped and nodded. “Right. We’re just friends. It’s a very platonic situation.”

“Yeah, and I just got out of a breakup. It’s crazy to think otherwise...”

“Right. And I’m not a relationship person...”

“Right.”

Their bedtime routine was more than awkward as they tried not to make eye contact, or to touch each other. Anything but talk about their current situation, or whatever the hell was developing between them. Finally, they got into bed as far away as humanly possible.

“Goodnight Max,” Miranda whispered.

“Goodnight.”

She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself down so she could fall asleep.

“Schatz,” he said softly after a minute.

She didn’t answer because she didn’t know what he had said.
____________________________________________________________________________

Light filtered through the curtains directly onto Miranda’s face and she scrunched up her face in protest. She shifted and then twisted her head into a better position. Right onto a solid chest.
Miranda quickly sat up and saw the disaster unfold. The sheets were twisted around her and Max’s legs and she had been nestled right up to his side, her arm resting on his chest and her head on his strong shoulder. Somehow during the night, the distance that had separated them had become a lot smaller. Whatever the reason, it was not a very platonic position to be in.

“Cachu hwch…” she muttered.

She took a second to wake up and glanced at the clock. Half an hour until breakfast, just her luck. She glanced up at Max, still sleeping. His beard was a bit scruffier, but he looked peaceful, and well… handsome. Miranda couldn’t deny that the man was good looking, but she could never have the liberty of saying it out loud. They were only destined to be friends, and that was okay, right? She was fine with that, but why didn’t it feel like it?

Max groaned and she twisted to the side to get out of bed. She would let him sleep for a little while. It was going to be another long day.

She changed into a more suitable day outfit, put on a bit of makeup and headed down to breakfast. She would be a bit early but that was ok. Before she left, she left Max a note telling her where she was, closed the door behind her and left him alone.
____________________________________________________________________________

Breakfast was delicious, and Miranda was halfway through her conversation with Ivy when Max met her. He placed a warm hand on her shoulder and she wanted so badly for him to keep it there. Nothing notable occurred, but when breakfast was done and they headed towards group therapy, the tension between them was back.

Max leaned down to whisper, “This is a big waste of time..”

Miranda didn’t respond. She agreed, but didn’t want to be overheard.

They all filed into a room, and the psychologist introduced himself as Dr. Carpenter. The man certainly didn’t follow traditional methods, and soon they were involved in their first activity which involved the couples facing each other in silence and then saying the first thing that came to mind.

Max stared into Miranda’s eyes. She was obviously tense and he could tell she badly wanted to look away. Color began to creep into her cheeks slowly and it made her look a bit more agitated. He could relate. Miranda was biting her bottom lip now. He wondered what she was thinking about. After what seemed like an eternity Carpenter spoke up. “Okay your minute is over. Say what you think.”

“Ocean.” “Brave”

They both said it at the same time, and both looked confused. Miranda offered to explain first. “Your eyes. They’re the same color as the oceans back home in Wales. Every summer my Ma and Da would take me to the seaside and I would swim in the ocean. It’s one of my favorite memories as a child.” As she continued Miranda’s face grew hot with color.

Max cleared his throat and spoke low as to not be overheard,” Whenever I see you Miranda, I see bravery. You overcome any challenge that comes your way and since I’ve met you, I’m proud of the steps you’ve taken to meet your fears head on.”

They continued with exercises like this that promoted intimacy and communication and Miranda was honestly surprised with some of the other couples. Some stormed out halfway through, others started arguing. She supposed for some of them, this was their last hope of saving their marriages. They ended the session with an exercise that had them back to back, arms linked and trying to balance, which ended up in some good laughs.

Finally, after what seemed like event after event flew by, they could have 5 minutes to themselves. Max stretched his back and flopped onto the bed dramatically after they let themselves into the room.

“We’ve got to solve this quickly. I can’t bullshit anymore about Mark’s life. I don’t even know anything about computers.”

Miranda nodded in agreement. “Yeah, some of the others kept asking to see pictures from my photoshoots. I don’t even know what I made up, but it wasn’t very convincing. Since we have a few minutes alone I’m going to check to see if Rico responded.”

Max groaned and rubbed his face with a hand. “Read it out to me, will you? I don’t want to move.”

He didn’t miss the eye roll that Miranda tried to hide from him, and he smirked.

Miranda logged on and brought up the page. “Bingo. Rico’s gotten back to us. Good ol’ Rico.”

Max felt a flash of jealousy at Miranda’s words but he comforted himself in the fact that she had no feelings towards the pathologist. Max stood up from the bed and walked over to the computer to read the message himself.

 

I’m glad you remember my existence Max! You also owe me lunch for risking Ines’s anger...

Prints belong to Damon Sanchez, the guy has a rap sheet longer than your arm with a history of burglary, breaking and entering, and assault. AKA, your very own hired thug. I couldn’t find much about Miguel’s personal life except public information. Widower who married a beautiful, young actress, that they’re the hot, new power couple, etc and a lot about his charity work.

Gregory Aguero looks pretty clean as far as I can tell. He’s worked at the same security company for 12 years, and hasn’t received a single complaint.

I asked a friend in forensic finances to look into Carl Bancroft. On the surface, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Bancroft’s making his payments, and there’s no problems there. But we kept on digging and my friend found something particularly interesting. Over the last 6 months, Bancroft had been making large weekly withdrawals from an account totalling 300,000 €. There hasn’t been any activity since last month. The strange thing is that the account is owned by a company called East Coast properties, based in the Cayman Islands.
That’s all I have for you. Hope this helps.

Max leaned back and slowly let air out. Wow. Miranda turned towards him. “It looks like our manager friend has a shell company. Question is, why is he making such huge withdrawals, and why has he stopped?”

“Maybe he’s making a payment? For another resort possibly?”

“Yes, but why would he do it through a shell company and not through legitimate means? He’s definitely buying something he doesn’t want anyone to know about.”

“At least we’ve pretty much confirmed that Damon Sanchez and his partner are hired thugs. There’s no way they could be working here legitimately.”

Miranda nibbled on the corner of her lip. “I just wish we had more leads. We have a lot of information but nothing to connect it.”

Max looked down at his watch. “We should probably go. We wouldn’t want to miss the couple's exercise class. Sounds like torture.”

Miranda scrunched up her face and her nose crinkled in the most adorable way. “Yeah, that’s one word for it.”

Max didn’t have time to admire her when she stood up, turned on her heel and walked to the closet. “I’m going to get changed.” Once she was safely in the bathroom he leaned back onto the bed. Maybe being in tight quarters with the woman he loved wasn’t the best idea ever.
____________________________________________________________________________

Miranda rubbed a towel on the back of her neck and sighed. She had spent the entire hour thinking about the case and hadn’t made any progress. She looked back over her shoulder and sighed.

“Max, you okay? Need me to call an ambulance?”

“Ha ha. You’re a funny one. I just need a ...minute to catch my breath.” Poor Max was on the floor, head tilted back against the wall.

“Well, you did say you wanted to lose 5 pounds,” she said, hardly keeping a smirk off her face.

“Just because you have a higher metabolism than me.”

“Among other things... Let’s go, I was thinking we could go down to the tennis courts and see if we can track down some more guests to talk to.”

They made their way down to their room for showers when they passed Ivy and Peter heading back up to their room. Ivy’s usual good mood was dampened down, and Peter was scowling in such a menacing way that it made Miranda stop in her tracks. She so badly wanted to mind her own business, but the curiosity won out in the end.

“You both look upset? What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s those damn developers, that’s wrong. Think they can put a price on anything”

“Peter! It’s rude to curse in front of friends,” She shook her head and turned to them. “I apologize for him. He’s just a bit frustrated. We just got some bad news, you see.”

“What happened?”

“An area we were working with the government to protect was just sold under us for development. We tried to repeal it but our lawyer just got back to us and says there’s no way we can fight it. They must have paid out a government agent somehow.” She shook her head and looked disgusted. “It borders Donana National Park and it was in the process of being added in, so it’s home to many endangered plant and animal species. Such a shame.”

Max nodded solemnly and Miranda was just about to agree when she had a thought.

“Do you know when the transaction occurred?”

“Last Thursday. It all happened so quickly though.”

Miranda felt her eyes widen in surprise and her heart started to pound. She could feel Max tense up beside her.

Max spoke up. “This may sound crazy but do you happen to know who bought it out?”

Ivy shook her head but Peter butted in. “A company called E.C Properties. Bunch of dirty rats.”

There it was. Miranda would stake it on her life that E.C Properties was in fact East Coast Properties owned by one Carl Bancroft. Her mouth became dry and her excitement spiked.

Ivy tsked and shook her head. “I’m sorry for being so down in the mouth. I should be asking you how your day was? Have you made any progress in finding your friends?”

“Actually, I think you just helped us. A lot. Thank you.” Miranda grabbed Max’s arm. “We have to go meet someone but thank you again.”

She pulled him along until they rounded the corner where they broke into a sprint towards one of the elevators. Miranda pressed the button and thankfully it wasn’t in use. Once the doors closed she turned to Max.

“It was Carl! The withdrawals, the shell company, the connection to Miguel, it all makes sense now. He bought the land through the company-”

“Because although legal, it wouldn’t have been a popular move. His business would have tanked if the general public knew,” Max cut in.

“Right. But what’s the connection to Miguel?”

Come on Blake, think. The pieces are all here but what connects them all together? Politics? Land? Miguel’s work? The l-

Miguel’s work- that’s it! Miranda whipped her phone out of her pocket and opened the internet.

Come on, come on, come on. Where is it? She opened a Wikipedia page and scrolled through. Finally at the end of a paragraph, she found it.

“The lynx!”

Max looked confused. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Ivy said the land bordered Donana National Park. Peter said that during his conversation with Miguel, he mentioned that his conservation work mostly focussed on protecting the Iberian lynx. I just found here that Donana and the surrounding area is one of the only places left in the world where the lynx is found.”

Max’s eyes rounded and he rubbed his chin. “So Miguel would have known about this. He finds out about the sale going through, somehow tracks it back to Carl, and confronts him about it.”

“They could have argued and Carl doesn’t want this getting out, so he snaps and then tries to cover up his tracks…”

“We have to find Carl and confront him, or at least see what he has to say for himself.”
____________________________________________________________________________

The elevator doors shifted open at the first floor and they rushed out. Miranda ran towards the front counter where the secretary, Rosa, sat looking disinterested.

“I need to know where Carl is. Right now.”

Rosa slowly looked up at her. “If you want to speak to Mr. Bancroft, you need to make an appointment. Would you like me to make you one?”

“No! I don’t need an appointment. Just tell me where he is.”

“Mrs. Becker. This seems very out of the ordinary. Is there something wrong?” Rosa asked with a slow smile.

Blake, you’ll get nowhere if you resort to violence.

“This is a matter of great importance.” Irritation pumped through her veins and she could even feel the ever-easygoing Max tense up behind her. Before she could open her mouth and give this woman a piece of her mind, he spoke up.

“We need to speak to your boss right now. If we don’t see him in the next 3 minutes, we will be on the phone to our lawyers and attorneys bringing a lawsuit against this place, large enough to make your head spin. If you don’t get him here now, we will be sure to mention your name a few times in the complaint for good measure.”

That seemed to do the trick, as the irritating little smirk on the corner of Rosa’s face quickly fled and wide eyes replaced it.

“I..I’ll call him down. If you could take a seat please.”

They certainly didn’t sit down and instead paced the area. Finally, the elevator dinged and Carl Bancroft stepped off the elevator. For once, his perfectly pressed suit was wrinkled and his ever-present smile had wavered. Good, maybe this would make it easier.

“Mr, and Mrs. Becker! So good to see you! How-”

“Cut the crap Bancroft,” Max growled.

“Excuse me?”

“We know what you did. Or did Donana go over your head already?” Miranda asked, a small smirk settling on her lips.

“Follow me to my office. We can talk there.” He turned on his heel, and walked quickly, requiring the two detectives to run to catch up.

Finally, they reached the office and Carl led them in. The door had barely closed when Miranda spoke up, breaking the silence.

“Miguel came to you, didn’t he? He wanted to talk about your recent purchase of Donana, right?”

A beat of silence passed and Bancroft didn’t turn around. His palm rested against the cherry wood door, and he was leaning against it. Almost as if the guilt was making him physically weary.

Max cleared his throat and spoke up, “He came to you last Thursday, didn’t he? After the purchase had gone through, and you felt everything was going your way. Then Miguel Ruez showed up, and begged you to reconsider.”

“...It would have been fine. Everything would have been fine if that environmental nut-job hadn’t shown up.”

Carl stood up and walked around to his desk, pulled his chair out and plopped down.

“He had connections. He would have made sure that I would have been ridiculed. My name, my business would have been ruined. You have to understand. I’m sure you two didn’t make it to the top without a few sacrifices and this was mine”

Miranda and Max risked a glance at each other and a sort of understanding passed between them. Miranda then delivered the final blow. This was it. “That must have made you angry. Angry enough that you killed him.”

Carl sat up with a start, and Miranda could see any remnants of his cocky facade completely shatter. His eyes widened and the beads of sweat that had broken out on his forehead now ran down his face. “No! I didn’t kill him, I swear.”

At the incredulous stare he received from the pair, his hands shot up. “I swear to God, I didn’t kill him.”

“Fine, then you had one of your henchmen kill him and dump his body,” Max said.

“No, I-I I didn’t,” Bancroft’s hands had started shaking and his eyes flashed with fear.

Max had quickly tired of the man’s lies, and slammed his hands down on the desk. The noise reverberated around the office, and Bancroft flinched. Maybe now that the coward knew that they meant business, he would start talking.

“Then tell us what happened.” Max spoke the words low and slowly, trying to intimidate the man.

“He-he came to talk to me. Tried to tell me that if I developed, I would decimate some lynx species. I tried to reason with him. Told him that we could come to some sort of agreement. That it wasn’t too late to get in on the action, and he could possibly make a tidy profit from it all.”

“But Miguel wouldn’t budge, would he? His morals were too strong,” Miranda added, deciding to pull back on the intensity.

“The fool wouldn’t change his mind,” Carl muttered. At the stare of the 2 detectives, he quickly added, “but I promise you that I didn’t kill him. We argued sure, but all I told him was to get out of my resort or else I would call my security. He said that he would gladly, and then stormed out. That was the last I saw of him, I swear.” Bancroft’s hands wavered as he put them up in the surrendering motion.

Max turned to her, “Could I speak to you outside Blake?”

Bancroft’s eyes widened. “Blake? I thought you were-.” His head shook. “Come to think about it, who are you? What’s with all the questions... are you cops?”

“It doesn’t matter who we are Mr. Bancroft. Just know that if we find out you’re lying to us, we’ll make your life a living hell.” Miranda nodded to Max and they stepped outside the office, closing the door behind her.

“What’s your take on him?” Max leaned in to whisper.

She shook her head. “I never thought I’d say this but I think he’s telling the truth. His reactions were too genuine. Either that or our Mr. Bancroft is a very good actor.”

“Okay, so say he’s telling the truth. Where does that lead us? And more importantly, where are Miguel and Elena?”

“I don’t know.” Those 3 words chilled Miranda to her innermost being. Not knowing while lives were on the line was never a good thing. Never.