Terry took Caroline and Cara down the front stairs and out onto the front porch. Terry’s friend, Detective McKenzie Dean, had arrived on the scene and was waiting on the porch. He’d called her when he got there, and Jenna Matthews was missing. McKenzie specialized in missing persons. Terry wanted her on this right away. If there was any hope of them finding Jenna, McKenzie was it.
“Hey, Terry,” McKenzie said.
“Thanks for coming out, McKenzie,” Terry said. “This is Cara and Caroline Marshall. Cara was with Jenna Matthews shortly before she went missing.” He turned to Cara. “I want you to tell Detective Dean about what happened. She’s going to write it all down.” Terry looked at Caroline. “After Cara finishes giving the information to Detective Dean, I want you to take her home. I’ll send an officer over with you to take an official statement that you and Cara will sign.”
“I want to stay here in case Jenna comes back,” Cara protested.
Putting his hand gently on Cara’s shoulder, “Hon, even if she shows up, she’s going to need medical attention most likely, plus she’ll have a lot of questions to answer. You wouldn’t get to talk to her. Go on home and rest. You’ll be the first people I call when Jenna turns up.”
Cara looked pleadingly at her mother, but Caroline agreed. “He’s right, Honey. There’s nothing more we can do here but be in the police’s way. Let’s go home and have some tea. Hopefully, Detective Howard will call us in a little while and tell us that they found Jenna.”
“Is there anywhere you can think of that she might have gone?” Detective Dean asked.
“We have a few friends who live close by, but they would have called me if she showed up at their house. I’ll call everyone I know and see if anyone has seen her or talked to her,” Cara said, her shoulders dropping and tears running down her face.
“That would be a big help, Cara,” Terry said.
Caroline put her arm around her daughter, who was almost the same height as her. “What about Darlene’s sister, Ann? I know Darlene and she don’t speak, but do you think Jenna might have gone to her?”
Cara shook her head. “I doubt it, but it’s worth a try. I don’t have her number, but I’m sure Jenna’s mom does.”
“Doesn’t she have any other family in town?” Detective Dean asked.
Terry shook his head. “No,” he answered for Cara. “Michael’s people are all in central Kentucky. Darlene’s parents are gone, and Ann is her only sibling.”
McKenzie sighed. “Okay. Let us know if your friends know anything.”
“I will,” Cara promised.
“Okay, let’s start from the beginning,” McKenzie said to Cara.
Terry went back to the house and talked with the crime scene techs while Cara talked to McKenzie.
After Cara had finished telling McKenzie what happened, Caroline led Cara off the property while McKenzie and Terry watched them go and then went back into the house. McKenzie turned to Terry. “So, what does Matthews say?”
“He said he walked in on the girls kissing and just slapped Jenna,” Terry said.
“Was there a lot of blood on the wall next to her bed?” McKenzie asked.
Terry grunted. “Yes. Matthews said her nose started bleeding, but I’m not buying that. I’ve seen some pretty bad nose bleeds, and I don’t think I’ve seen someone bleed that much. I’m pretty sure Caroline is probably going to file assault charges against Michael. Did you see the shiner Michael gave Cara?” Terry asked.
“Yes, and it corroborates her story,” McKenzie said.
“I agree,” Terry said. “I’m not buying his story. What I can’t figure out is what happened to Jenna? If he was beating her as badly as Cara described she couldn’t have gone too far and there should be a trail of blood.”
“Detective Howard!” called an officer from the front of the house. “You need to come out here sir.”
Terry turned and saw the urgent look on the man’s face and hurried toward him. In the front yard, Darren Parker, a friend of Michael Matthews from the sheriff’s department and one of the city police officers, were holding back Darlene Matthews as she screamed at her husband. Three city police officers were holding Michael Matthews back who was yelling obscenities at his wife.
“What’s going on?” Terry asked as he walked toward Darlene.
Darlene Matthews turned her tear streaked face to Terry. “Caroline Marshall just called me. She said Jenna is missing and that Michael was beating her. I knew I should have left him. Now my baby’s missing. Where is she, Terry?”
Terry motioned for Darren and the other man to let go of Darlene, who collapsed into Terry’s arms. “Where is she?” Darlene asked again.
“We don’t know, Darlene. We’ve got officers searching the woods right now. I’m going to call in the K-9 unit and have them try to track her. She couldn’t have gone far,” Terry said, holding Darlene’s shaking body.
“Get your fucking hands off my wife, Howard!” Michael shouted.
Darlene turned and charged toward Michael. “What did you do to her?” she screamed at him.
Michael slapped her, knocking her to the ground. “Don’t you fucking talk to me like that, bitch!”
“Somebody cuff him,” McKenzie yelled. “I’m charging him with domestic battery.”
The three officers that had been holding Matthews back earlier pushed him to the ground and put cuffs on him.
“Make sure you read him his rights,” McKenzie said as she turned toward Darlene.
Darren Parker rushed to Darlene’s side and helped her up. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be okay,” Darlene said, allowing Darren to help her up. “It’s not the first time he’s knocked me down, but it will be the last.”
“You know we can only hold him until he can get bonded out,” McKenzie explained to Darlene.
“Trust me,” Darlene said as she brushed herself off. “I’ve been around cops long enough to know what will be done.” She looked up at the house that was still swarming with police officers. “When will I be able to go inside?”
“Let me check with the crime scene sergeant,” Terry said. “Michael and Jenna were in Jenna’s room, so the bulk of the crime scene is in her room and going down the back stairs.”
“What really happened?” Darlene asked.
Terry and McKenzie exchanged glances. Terry sighed before saying, “Michael apparently walked in on Jenna and Cara kissing.”
Darlene put her hand to her mouth. “Oh no! Did he hurt Cara too? Caroline didn’t say anything about it. Of course, I didn’t give her a chance. I dropped my phone and rushed home.” She felt her pockets. “Oh my God! My phone is still at the hospital. Jenna might have tried to call me.”
“Cara is okay, but Michael hit her pretty hard. She’s going to have a stellar black eye tomorrow. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Marshall is going to press charges,” Terry said.
“Good,” Darlene said. “That sorry son of a bitch needs to be in jail.”
Darren said, “Darlene, why don’t you let me take you back to the hospital to get your phone so we can see if Jenna called you.”
“That’s a good idea,” McKenzie agreed. “By the time you get back, we’ll make sure the crime scene techs are done with your room so you can get some clothes. Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“I can stay with one of my friends from work,” Darlene assured them.
“Okay,” Terry said. “You go get your phone. McKenzie and I will see what the techs have learned and contact the search group. I sent a text to the K-9 unit’s sergeant. They are on their way over.” He put his hand on Darlene’s arm. “We’ll find Jenna, Darlene. I promise.”
Darlene shook her head sadly. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Terry. I’m sure you all promised those other girls’ families you’d find them too.”
“This is different, Darlene,” Terry said. “Those girls were drug addicts and runaways.”
“And you don’t think Jenna didn’t run away?” Darlene asked.
Terry dropped his head. “I don’t know.”
Darlene just shook her head and turned to Darren, who put his arm around her and led her away.
“She has to be around here,” Terry said looking around the neighborhood.
“Unless Michael wasn’t beating her as bad as Cara said, and they planned a getaway for her,” McKenzie reasoned.
Terry shook his head. “I don’t know. There’s an awful lot of blood, and I think Cara would tell us if they hid Jenna somewhere.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of love and fear,” McKenzie said. “Let’s get with everyone and see what the consensus is.”
Terry hung back for a few minutes still looking around. He wanted to believe Jenna was close by, but something in his gut said she was gone. He couldn’t imagine how Michael could have taken her if he moved her body and not left evidence. If she ran away, the dogs should be able to track her, but Terry had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that they weren’t going to find her, not tonight.