Home > Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(6)

Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(6)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“Do she and her boss get along? Any disagreements with coworkers?” Sharp asked. “Any unusual calls or e-mails on Friday?”

“Not that I know of.” A defeated sigh rolled through Tim. “Frankly, I don’t know what she did on Friday. I came home from work late, and Chelsea was mad at me. She didn’t have much time to get ready. Bella was already at a neighbor’s house. I took the baby. Chelsea changed her clothes and left. We haven’t talked much lately. She was exhausted from being up every night.” Tim looked away, guilt tightening the corners of his mouth. “I could be a better husband. Having William 24/7 these last few days has made me appreciate what Chelsea has been going through. I should have done more from the beginning. I know I work too much, but I don’t know what else to do. My job isn’t nine-to-five.”

“Do you fight often?” Morgan asked.

“No. It’s rare. Most of the time Chelsea just does what needs to be done,” Tim said with a sigh of remorse. “But I should have been home on time. Chelsea usually rolls with my schedule. I should have made her a priority for once.”

Chelsea sounded strong and resourceful. She dealt with her stress by strapping her two kids into a jog stroller and going running every day.

Maybe running had gotten addictive. Maybe she’d run farther away.

But Lance didn’t believe his own father had abandoned his family. He had an equally hard time envisioning the young mother leaving her kids behind, even though he knew some women did just that. Either way, they needed to find her.

And if they didn’t, Tim would have to live with regret for the rest of his life.

Sharp asked the question on everyone’s mind. “Is there any chance your wife simply needed a break and left?”

Tim studied his son’s face for a few seconds. “I’ve asked myself that same question over and over again. Even if she was really mad at me, she’d never leave her kids. She had it all planned out. She nursed him right before she left. She’d have one glass of wine at eight thirty. It would clear her breast milk in two to three hours, and she’d be OK to nurse him by eleven thirty.” He lifted his gaze to meet each one of theirs. “She planned to be home. Something happened to my wife last Friday night.”

The baby began to squirm and squall, and Tim stood, jiggling his son. “We need her.”

“We’ll do everything we can.” Sharp got to his feet.

After Tim left, Morgan went to the kitchen to nuke a cup of leftover coffee. For a major case, they’d use her office as a war room. The whiteboard had hung on her office wall long before it was her office.

“I’m making green tea. Are you sure you want to drink that?” Behind her, Sharp nodded at the microwave. “That stuff will kill you.”

“I’ll risk it for fully functioning brain cells,” Morgan said on the way back to her office.

Lance was already staring at the whiteboard. He’d made copies of Chelsea’s picture and used a magnet to fasten the original to the center of the board. He’d started a timeline on one side, noting the time Chelsea left home and when Tim realized she was missing.

Sharp walked into the office, mug in hand. “Where do we start?”

Lance taped up an aerial photo of the place where Chelsea had disappeared. “How did her car get here?”

“Either she drove it or someone else did.” Morgan leaned on her desk and sipped her coffee. It was past lunchtime, and her stomach gurgled audibly.

“Or someone forced her to,” Sharp added. “One thing we know, if Chelsea had walked away from the car, the dog would have picked up a scent.”

“Agreed. It’s all but impossible to fool a K-9.” Lance made a note on the board with a dry erase marker. “So she left the area in another vehicle.”

“She wasn’t alone,” Morgan said. “Either Chelsea asked someone to leave a car for her, or she was abducted and the kidnapper had a car waiting.”

Sharp crossed his arms over his chest. “We need to find out what the sheriff has discovered.”

“I doubt he’ll talk to either one of us.” Lance gestured between him and Sharp. “We both worked for his arch enemy, Horner.”

Scarlet Falls Police Chief Dave Horner was a controversial figure. More politician than policeman, Horner had alienated other branches of local law enforcement with his quests to stay in the limelight and to kiss up to the mayor. His focus on good publicity over good policing had angered many of the officers who worked for him.

“I’ll go talk to the sheriff,” Morgan volunteered. “He might still feel grateful he isn’t facing a civil suit for the injuries our previous client sustained on his watch. Besides, I need to put him on notice that I’m representing Tim now.”

The sheriff was in charge of the county jail, where their last client had been injured.

Sharp snorted. “The sheriff isn’t the grateful type. He’s more likely to be suspicious of you for being an attorney.”

“Even though we proved the charges were bogus?” Morgan drained her coffee, then shook the cup as if it hadn’t been enough.

“Even then,” Sharp said.

“She still has a better chance than either of us,” Lance pointed out. “She isn’t tainted by an association with Horner.”

“True,” Sharp agreed. “And she’s pretty.”

Morgan shot him an exasperated look, and he held up a hand. “I know that’s a sexist thing to say, but the sheriff is a Neanderthal.”

“Wonderful. Is there anything I need to know about him?” Morgan asked. “I’ve never met him in person. I don’t have a good read on him.”

“He’s hardheaded and short-tempered.” Sharp rubbed his chin. “He’s a smart cop but a terrible politician, hence the constant head-butting with Horner. My best advice is to avoid a direct confrontation. I’ve never seen that work for anyone. Sheriff King will just dig in his heels.”

“All right.” Morgan nodded.

“A missing person’s case can require a ton of man-hours. His entire department is overworked and overextended,” Lance said. “You might commiserate with him, then try and convince him our help will be an asset.”

His dad had disappeared from Scarlet Falls, a town with its own small police force. Even with Sharp working diligently on Lance’s dad’s case, Victor Kruger had never been found. But twenty-three years ago, the world had been less monitored. Nowadays, it was much more difficult to stay off the radar. Between surveillance cameras and financial records, there had to be a lead if one looked hard enough.

“Good idea,” Sharp continued. “If Morgan takes the sheriff, we can dig in to Chelsea’s social media accounts and phone and financial records. We also need to scrounge through the recent local news and see if there have been any stories on other missing women.”

Lance nodded. “And follow up with Tim about his wife’s laptop and phone. I’ll let my mom know that we need her help again.”

His mother’s anxiety issues made her a shut-in. She lived online and was brilliant with computers.

“We need to investigate Tim as well.” Sharp drained his mug. “The sheriff isn’t wrong. If Chelsea is dead, Tim is the most likely suspect.”

“If he killed his wife, why would he come to us to find her?” Morgan asked.

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