Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(20)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(20)
Author: Melinda Leigh

But he’d been cleared for a short jog only a few weeks ago, and strength training was limited to his twice-weekly supervised sessions with his physical therapist. At first, the restrictions had irritated him, but now he was more concerned that he couldn’t exceed them if he wanted to.

His strides slowed at the next intersection. From the corner, he could see Olivia Cruz’s little white bungalow at the end of the block. Olivia had provided a few key pieces of information in their last case. In turn, Morgan had granted her an interview for the true crime novel Olivia was writing about one of Morgan’s previous clients, with the client’s permission of course.

But the flow of information hadn’t been even, and Sharp was in Olivia’s debt.

Since he’d been given the go-ahead to jog, he’d jogged down her street every day. Before that, he’d driven past at every opportunity . . . like a teenager with a crush. He was a former cop. She was a reporter. The word rumbled through his head with the same distaste as demon.

There was something seriously wrong with him.

He put his perverse attraction aside and turned his feet in the opposite direction. Not because he didn’t want to see Olivia—because he was an idiot and totally did—but because he didn’t want her to see him in his current state of physical inadequacy.

By the time he’d slowed to a walk a block away from his place, sweat soaked his T-shirt and the humidity clogged his lungs. Two miles had seemed like seven. He climbed the steps to his second-story apartment and went inside, grateful for the air-conditioning. He filled a glass with water. A quick rush of fatigue hit him. Even alone, he was embarrassed that he had to sit down, drink the water, and wait for the weakness to pass.

Needing energy, he whipped up a high-calorie, nutrient-dense protein shake. He took the drink with him to the bathroom. Stripping off his wet clothes, he stepped under the spray. The ropey pink scar that wrapped around his belly itched when the water ran over it.

The calories in the shake gave him some pep, but he still wanted to take a nap more than go back to work. However, he dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, then filled a travel mug with green tea before heading out the door. He’d promised Lance he’d check on Jenny tonight. He’d be damned if he’d let Lance down. He’d been enough of a deadweight for the last three months. Lance had completely carried the business for the first two months, and even then, Sharp had returned part time for the next four weeks. The injury had kicked his ass much harder than he’d anticipated.

It was nine o’clock before Sharp knocked on Jenny Kruger’s door, much later than he’d intended. He waited, the evening heat wrapping around him like a wet wool blanket.

Mental illness had kept Jenny in the same one-story house outside of town for more than twenty-five years, even though moving to town would have made life much easier for her son after her husband had disappeared when Lance was ten. Jenny’s symptoms had worsened over the years. Now she left her home only for group therapy sessions and appointments with her psychiatrist.

Sharp waved at the security camera. A moment later, Jenny opened the door. She nervously glanced up and down the country road before stepping back and admitting Sharp to the house. She was thin and fragile looking, with shoulder-length white hair and a stooped posture that reflected her insecurities. Mental illness had worn on her, adding years to her physical age, and she looked much older than sixty.

He gave her a quick hug, noticing how her shoulder blades seemed more prominent. Then he handed her the strawberry shortcake he’d bought at the farm stand on the way to her house. Normally, he didn’t approve of added sugar. But her illness and medications affected her appetite. She was a picky eater and needed calories any way she could get them.

When Lance’s father had gone missing, Sharp had been the SFPD detective investigating the case. It hadn’t taken long before he’d learned that Jenny wasn’t capable of caring for her son without help. Sharp had looked after the boy, making sure he got to hockey practice and giving him a place to stay when Lance needed a break from his mother’s illness or when Jenny was incapacitated. The timing had been fortuitous. Sharp had been at a bad place in his own personal life. They’d all needed each other. Now Jenny and Lance were the closest thing to family in Sharp’s life.

“You look a little pale.” Jenny studied him. “Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m fine,” Sharp lied.

“I could make you some tea.” She stocked his favorite organic green.

“I just had some, but thanks.”

They walked down the hall into the kitchen. She stopped to reset the alarm system on the panel in the pantry. A short hallway led to the three bedrooms, one of which had been converted to an office. An L-shaped desk held a bank of monitors.

“I’m glad you stopped by.” Jenny sat behind her desk.

Sharp settled into one of the two chairs facing her desk. “How’s Kevin?”

“Very well, thank you.” She clicked on her keyboard. She was currently engaged in a relationship with a man she’d met in group therapy. They saw each other once a week in person but video-conferenced every day. The relationship might seem odd to an outsider, but it made her happy.

Sharp had nothing but respect for Jenny. She’d been handed a raw deal, but she lived her life as best she could. In recent years, she’d worked hard to lessen her dependence on Lance.

“I was just about to call you,” she said. “I verified Tina Knox’s story and uncovered some additional information.”

“I knew you would.”

She smiled. “Before Tina’s father was arrested for the murder, a young member of his organization confessed to the killing. At the trial, Tina stated that the boy had been instructed to take the hit for her father. The boy was thirteen. He would be tried as a juvenile. His penalty would be less. The murder weapon had been placed in his hand, so his fingerprints were on it. The boy was present at the execution, so he could describe the scene in detail. The organization promised to look after the boy’s mother and younger siblings until he got out. Plus, if he refused, they would have killed him. They planned the false confession right after the murder. But Tina was a witness. She heard it all, and her testimony put her father in prison.”

“Where did you get all this information?”

“Once I had Joe Martin’s name, the details were easy to find. The case was big news at the time.” Jenny’s fingers flew across her keyboard. “There were numerous articles, but the best source was a New York Times piece with interviews of unnamed former drug dealers in Newark. I’ll email you a copy. The New York Times’s website makes articles available as far back as 1851. It’s fascinating.”

Jenny’s mental illness often took center stage. It was easy to forget that she was an unusually intelligent woman. She managed to make a good living without leaving her house. She taught online computer classes and ran her own business in website design, maintenance, and security. She also did much of the virtual legwork on their big cases. Sometimes Sharp forgot how much she needed to be useful.

She continued. “Joe Martin is linked to multiple businesses. Some seem legitimate. He owns a flooring company, a chain of pizza parlors, and a clothing manufacturer. There’s a real estate holding company and at least a dozen shell companies through which he likely launders some of his drug money. Some of these businesses are now being run by Joe’s son, Aaron Martin.”

Jenny clicked her mouse. “Tina has kept a low profile since she moved to Grey’s Hollow. She has no criminal record in New York State. She has been employed at the hospital for eleven years. Before that, she worked in a surgical center.”

“What about her ex, Kirk Meade?”

“He’s a piece of work.” Jenny opened a new document. “Paroled a few months ago after serving three years for assault. Before that, he had a string of misdemeanors. Even before his incarceration, his employment history is spotty, with more gaps than actual working time. He currently works as a forklift operator for ABC Furniture.”

“He’s a lazy bum,” Sharp muttered. “No wonder he’s angry that Tina divorced him. He has to earn his own keep now.”

“Next up, Paul Knox.” Jenny’s voice softened. “I found nothing. He lived in Grey’s Hollow all his life. His twenty-five-year record with the sheriff’s department is spotless. Paul was as clean as a bar of soap.”

“But someone killed him. They must have had a reason.”

“But that reason might not have been something Paul did,” Jenny pointed out.

Did Paul have dirt on someone else?

“I have one more thing I want you to look into.” Sharp pulled out his notes on Brian Springer and told Jenny what he needed. “The neighbor said the property is owned by a brother or brother-in-law and is on a lake. I know it seems like a needle-in-a-haystack situation, but it’s all I have.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Jenny made a copy of his notes on the copier behind her desk. She handed the original back to him.

Jenny took her hands from the keyboard and leaned back in her chair. “I haven’t started on Steve Duncan yet, but I’ll tackle his records tomorrow morning after Brian Springer.”

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