Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(7)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(7)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Where was Evan? Had he found shelter? Visions of the teenager, bleeding and shivering, the violent storm raging around him, flashed through Lance’s mind. Worry fueled his steps, and he plowed forward.

As long as the trail was passable, he would not give up. Neither Rogers nor Harvey showed any signs of wanting to stop either.

Lightning flashed, the thunder booming while the sky was still flickering. The trees swayed, branches whipping and waving as the wind thrashed around them, but they kept going, moving as quickly as the slippery ground and poor visibility would allow. A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. The thunder was deafening and felt like it was right over Lance’s head. The next gust of wind nearly took him off his feet.


The sound of wood splitting echoed over the noise of hail and wind. Lance caught movement in his peripheral vision—a tree, crashing toward them.

“Look out!” He reached out, grabbed Rogers’s and Harvey’s arms, and hauled them backward.

The three men fell onto their asses in the mud. A huge oak tree crashed to the earth a few feet in front of them. The ground shook with the impact.

Lance climbed to his feet and shone his flashlight on the felled tree. On either side of him, Rogers and Harvey stood. The mature oak lay over the trail. Its trunk was too wide for Lance’s arms to reach around it.

Heart hammering, Lance climbed over the downed tree. He checked his watch. They’d been on Evan’s trail for nearly two hours, but Lance estimated they’d covered barely a few miles. Evan had a significant lead on them, but maybe they could catch him if the boy had taken shelter from the storm.

Gradually, the wind and downpour eased, allowing the men to pick up the pace. The storm broke with the dawn. The rain tapered off, and the sky brightened. Lance and the two cops emerged from the forest at the abandoned campground at Deer Lake. A run-down, rickety dock extended out over the water. Broken branches, leaves, and other storm debris littered the ground and the sandy beach that edged the lake.

“Maybe he holed up in one of the buildings.” Harvey shook the water from his jacket and unzipped it.

Lance did the same. “We’ll have to search each building.”

Which would take time.

Rogers walked in circles, scanning the ground. “Any tracks the boy might have left are long gone.”

Lance surveyed the old campground. A campfire ring ten feet in diameter occupied the center of a large open space. A dented canoe lay in the middle of the ring, as if dropped there by the storm. Cabins surrounded the clearing. A few squat cinder block buildings were nestled in the trees. He spotted restrooms, shower facilities, and a main office. Closer to the water was a boathouse with a hole in its shingled roof.

“Let’s start clearing buildings,” Harvey said to Rogers, then pointed at Lance. “Stay behind us.”

Weapons drawn, the deputies moved toward the cabins, entering doorways and securing cabins as a well-drilled team. Lance drew his gun and watched their backs. Most of the wooden doors were broken or hanging on their hinges. The cabin interiors were in ruins. Beneath collapsed roofs, dead leaves and animal feces were piled in corners. They moved from the cabins to the bath facilities. More substantially constructed of cinder block and metal roofs, they stood intact, but all were empty. Hypodermic needles, empty cans, and other trash littered the concrete floors.

As they emerged from the final restroom, they approached the boathouse near the lakeshore. The door stood open, revealing a dented aluminum canoe and a fiberglass kayak with a hole in its hull.

“Looks like blood.” Harvey pointed to a few dark spots on the floor. “I’ll have the sheriff bring the K-9 team to the campground.” Harvey lifted his handheld radio. “Maybe the dog will be able to pick up the boy’s trail from here.” He turned and walked away.

The clouds broke apart, exposing the sunrise. Light poured over the treetops and onto the lake, its reflection flowing across the surface like spilled blood. Lance walked out onto the beach.

Where are you?

The lake was long and narrow. He could see the opposite shore a hundred yards away, but to the south, the lake doglegged to the right and disappeared behind thick forest. Beyond the bend, the lake fed the Deer River. Looking for a better view, he crossed the sand and walked onto the old dock. The weathered boards creaked under his weight.

He scanned the shoreline. Could Evan have found a boat in good enough condition to paddle away?

He walked to the end of the dock and stared out over the water. The southern end of the lake remained out of view, and no boats marred what he could see of the lake’s perfect surface.

Lance’s mind’s eye returned to another lake, another missing teen—and the body he and Morgan had found lying in the reeds the previous autumn. He could see her clearly, but his imagination replaced her face with Evan’s.

He pivoted to return to the beach. Something scraped under his boot. He looked down. A silver key chain lay on the dock at his feet. Lance used the sleeve of his jacket to pick it up. He dangled it in front of his face. A silver wolf’s head shone with the reflection of the bloody sunrise.

Chapter Five

In the Knoxes’ living room, Morgan balanced a notepad on her knee. Next to her, Tina perched on the couch, her posture rigid, her phone open in her hand.

Morgan jotted down Evan’s email accounts and passwords. There were only two—one issued by the school, the other personal. “He doesn’t have any other accounts?”

“Not that I know of.” Tina turned grief-stricken eyes on her. “Do you think they’ll find him?”

“They’re doing everything possible,” Morgan reassured her. “Are you working on the family timeline?” She had asked Tina to list everything she could remember happening during the previous week.

“Yes.” Tina kept a family calendar on her phone. The sheriff had already taken a copy of the last week’s agenda. But now Tina was interpreting abbreviations, adding notes, and listing phone numbers. She’d also given the sheriff access to Evan’s cell phone records.

“When you’re finished, we’ll work on a list of Evan’s social media account information,” Morgan said.

“OK.” Tina coped better when she was kept busy.

Morgan closed her eyes and rested her head against the back of the sofa, willing Lance to call with an update. Her gaze strayed to the window, bright with dawn. The storm had raged for nearly three hours. She prayed that he was all right, and that he’d found Evan.


Morgan crept through the darkness, the reeds surrounding the lake waving in the night. Her feet splashed in the shallow water at the shore’s edge. The reeds parted, and a flashlight beam fell on the body of a dead teenage girl. Horror filled Morgan. Her stomach rolled into a tight ball.

Morgan’s body jerked. She glanced around, disoriented. She must have dozed off, only to have a nightmare about her first case as a defense attorney. They hadn’t found the victim in time. Sickening dread gathered behind her sternum.

The sheriff walked in. “Mrs. Knox?”

Tina’s eyes filled with fear.

The sheriff held up a hand. “I’m sorry. We didn’t find him, but I need you to look at a picture.” He pulled a chair to face her, sat down, and showed her his phone screen. “Do you recognize this?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “That’s Evan’s house key.”

“Kruger found it at the Deer Lake Campground.” The sheriff pocketed his phone. “We’re sending a K-9 unit to see if the dog can pick up Evan’s trail there.”

Tina exhaled. She blinked rapidly, as if light-headed. “But he was alive when he reached the campground. Why isn’t he coming home? Could the person who shot Paul—” She stifled a sob behind her fist, then took a deep, shaky breath and pulled herself together. “Could whoever shot my husband be holding Evan captive?”

The sheriff hesitated. A full thirty seconds ticked by before he finally said, “We don’t have enough information at this point to answer those questions.”

He knew more than he was saying.

“Have you determined how the intruder gained entry into the house?” Morgan asked.

“No, but the crime scene unit isn’t finished with the house yet.” The sheriff turned back to Tina. “We have the list of Evan’s friends that you gave us earlier. I’ll send a deputy around to talk to them.”

Tina frowned. “I thought you already called his friends.”

“We did.” The sheriff stood. “But maybe seeing a deputy in uniform on their doorstep or being brought down to the station might encourage them to cooperate more fully with us.”

Morgan thought the opposite was more likely. Kids with previous legal problems did not rat out their friends to the cops.

“Do you have any reason to believe these kids are not being forthright?” she asked.

“Nothing specific.” Sheriff Colgate shrugged. “But you know how these kids are.”

Morgan didn’t. “What do you mean by these kids?”

The sheriff met her gaze. His face hardened. “None of these kids are honor students,” he said, as if that one statement was explanation enough.

Morgan didn’t let it go. Did the sheriff know that Evan wasn’t an honor student either? And more importantly, did that make him less important? “I don’t understand.”

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