Home > Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(14)

Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(14)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Sharp nodded. “I am.”

Lance drank. Lowering the glass, he swallowed and seemed to brace himself. “Let’s get started. I want to get more information before I tell my mother. I don’t want to keep throwing conflicting reports at her. The ME isn’t in a rush to release any information to the press. He wants to identify the remains and notify the family first. His assistant was pulling missing person reports when I left.”

Sharp bowed his head and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck. “Now what?”

There was only one thing that would help Lance: an answer. Morgan opened the file on her desk. “Now we start at the beginning.”

Chapter Ten

Lance turned to the whiteboard mounted on the wall. The board was empty, but what would they find when they dug in to the case?

Whatever it was, it was high time he faced the truth.

Morgan offered Sharp the file, but he clearly didn’t need it. He leaned back in his chair and started talking. “We know that Vic left his house at approximately nine p.m. to go to the grocery store. When he hadn’t returned at eleven o’clock, your mother called his closest friends, Stan Adams and Brian Leed, hoping one of them would help. Neither was at home. So she drove the route between the store and house in case Vic’s car had broken down. When she didn’t find him, she drove to PJ’s Sports Bar, where he sometimes hung out with Brian and Stan. She didn’t see Brian or Stan there. No one had seen Vic.”

Restless, Sharp got up and paced in front of the whiteboard. “Jenny called the police a little before midnight. A uniform drove out to the house and took the initial report. Victor had no concerning health conditions or mental limitations. There was no evidence that he was especially at risk, though staying out this late was out of character. The uniform filled out a missing person report and issued a BOLO alert for Victor Kruger and his 1984 Buick Century.”

Sharp stopped pacing and faced the board. Picking up a marker, he began a timeline. “The patrol officer had hoped, reasonably, that Victor had simply stopped somewhere or taken a different route. Maybe his car had broken down. Those were the days before everyone had a cell phone attached to his or her body. People still used cash for transactions. There was no E-ZPass. It wasn’t so unusual for someone to slip off the radar for an evening.”

Sharp used magnets to affix an old photo of Victor Kruger and two other men onto the whiteboard. The three men stood in front of a baseball field. They wore amateur baseball uniforms, with the logo for a local appliance store on their chests. Lance’s heart squeezed as he stared at the wide grin on his father’s face.

“That picture must have been taken at a game.” Lance remembered sitting in the stands watching games. Memories of his dad teaching him to play flickered through his mind like a slideshow. “My dad loved baseball.”

“Who are the other men?” Morgan asked.

Lance pointed to the men in turn. “Brian Leed and Stan Adams, my dad’s best friends.”

After a short pause, Sharp continued. “I took over the case in the morning. The first thing I did was go to the grocery store and view the surveillance tapes. Vic never entered the store that night. His car never pulled into the lot. I made the rounds of gas stations and convenience stores, flashed a picture of Vic around, and checked security videos where available. No sign of him.”

“Normally, an unexplained adult missing person case doesn’t get a ton of manpower. But Mrs. Kruger was highly agitated. My caseload was relatively light, and I thought the disappearance warranted an investigation. Over the next few days, I visited locations Vic frequented. I called hospitals, morgues, police and sheriff stations, checked bus and train stations, the airport. I interviewed his boss, coworkers, and close friends. All the notes are in the file, but everyone agreed that Vic would never have just left his family. The more people I talked to, the more I became convinced that Vic Kruger hadn’t left town on his own. I searched the house and his office. It didn’t appear that he had taken anything with him except his wallet and car keys. I’d investigated people who walked, ran—and were taken—from their families, but in all my twenty-five years on the force, Victor was the only person to actually vanish without a trace. This isn’t the city. People usually return from a trip to the grocery store.”

Lance studied the board, trying to remain objective. So far, none of the case details were shocking. Sharp’s initial investigation had been by the book. But still . . . when the missing person was your dad, seeing his case laid out should have disturbed him.

But Lance felt as distant as he had been in 1994. It hadn’t felt real then either. But then, his mother had used up all the emotions. Mentally, she’d crumbled quickly, leaving Lance to pick up the pieces. His life had felt like reassembling a shattered vase when you didn’t have all the shards. No amount of glue could ever make it whole again. What else could he have done except bury his own reactions?

“So where do we start?” Morgan asked.

Sharp shrugged. “I updated the file and missing person database over the years, but not since I retired. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to the NCIC, but I’ll have to assume that the sheriff will utilize that system to look for like crimes.”

The National Crime Information Center was an FBI database, only available to law enforcement agencies, not private investigators.

“It seems to me that you covered Vic’s disappearance, Sharp.” Morgan scanned the board. “So we should focus on the new piece of information.”

“The dead woman.” Lance got up and went into his office. He returned a minute later with his laptop. “We can start with NamUs. If she was a local and a missing person report was filed, her information should have been entered into the system.”

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System was a Department of Justice database accessible to law enforcement and the general public. It cross-referenced unidentified remains and outstanding missing persons across the country.

Lance tried not to think about the odds of actually finding his father. More than forty thousand sets of remains were unidentified in the United States, scattered in a patchwork of over two thousand coroner’s and medical examiner’s offices across the country. Even with his father’s DNA on file, it was possible his body had been found years ago. NamUs didn’t exist until 2009. Vic Kruger’s remains could be sitting in a vault anywhere in the country, or they could have been buried or cremated long ago without being identified.

Focus on the task.

Lance typed. “In NamUs, there are 236 females missing in the state of New York.”

Sharp leaned on the board and crossed his arms. “They’ll be listed in order of date last seen. Start with July through September 1994. Then we’ll whittle the list down by region.”

“Four women were reported missing at that time.” Lance scrolled. “Two were local girls. Laura Dennis, from Albany, was twenty-two years old when she disappeared. She was last seen August 1, 1994. Mary Fox went missing from Grey’s Hollow. Her description says she was sixty-four inches tall and weighed one hundred fifteen pounds.”

“Local girl, close enough in height to Frank’s estimate for the skeleton,” Sharp said.

Lance continued. “She was reported missing August 25, but the file notes say she was last seen a week or two before. Though she lived with her mother and stepfather, her mother wasn’t sure of the exact date she’d left. They’d had an argument, and it wasn’t unusual for Mary to stay with a friend for a few days.”

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