Home > Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(13)

Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(13)
Author: Melinda Leigh

He motioned to a guest chair and left the room.

Morgan slipped out of her trench coat, folded it over the adjacent chair, and smoothed her skirt, grateful that she’d started leaving several changes of clothes and shoes in her office closet. These days, she never knew if she’d have to interview a witness or traipse through a muddy field.

The sheriff returned a minute later with two bottles of water. He perched on the edge of his desk, offered her a bottle, and stared down at her. “So, you’re Morgan Dane?”

“Yes.” Morgan accepted the water. “Thank you.”

She’d seen the sheriff on television, and his reputation had preceded him. He was a hard man, and he looked the part. The tanned skin around his eyes and mouth was deeply lined, as if he squinted and frowned most of the time. His nose was crooked, and a scar bisected one eyebrow. She wasn’t surprised at his rough appearance, but his eyes flickered with surprise as they swept over her from head to foot and back again, which was odd. She’d conducted several press conferences during her last case and had no doubt he would have watched them.

“Your appearance is deceiving.” He looked at her as if he didn’t know quite what to do with her. “Tyler Green obviously underestimated you as well.”

Remembering the morning’s incident, Morgan flushed.

“Green’s nose is broken. He’s complaining about headaches and back pain. My deputy was tied up all morning at the ER, and I’ve been fielding calls from Green’s lawyer.” King’s mouth twisted as he said lawyer. “What a pain in my ass.”

Me or Tyler?

King’s jaw tightened. His tone was all you-don’t-belong-here. “You got lucky this morning. He could have hurt you.”

Morgan swallowed the retorts on her lips about him being sexist and minding his own business. She needed his cooperation. Butting heads with him wouldn’t get it. “I wasn’t alone.”

“I should hope not.”

“And I assure you, my breaking Green’s nose wasn’t an accident.”

Another quick flash of surprise flickered in his eyes, then resignation, and just a little respect. He pushed off the desk and moved behind it. His chair squeaked as he settled his heavy body into it. “So, I hear you officially hung out your shingle. Did you decide criminal defense was more lucrative than working for the prosecutor’s office?”

“It isn’t about money.” Morgan paused. “I come from a family of cops. My brother is NYPD SWAT. My sister is a detective with the SFPD. My grandfather is a retired homicide detective, and my father died in the line of duty. I believe in justice, and I’ll fight for it. But I’m afraid my chance to work for the DA has passed.”

The sheriff coughed. Was that a grin he was trying to hide with his hand? “Sweetheart, you blew by that chance like Richard Petty.”

Morgan’s brain stuttered. Did he just call her sweetheart?

“So why are you here today?” he asked.

“I’m representing Tim Clark.”

The sheriff shifted his weight forward. His forearms landed on his desk. “Tim hasn’t been charged with a crime. Why does he need a lawyer?”

“After the publicity of last month’s false arrest, he’s concerned with your focus on him as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance.”

King scraped a hand down his battered face. “I assume Sharp and Kruger are on board?”

Morgan nodded. “Yes. Tim wants his wife found.”

“We’re doing everything we can to find his wife. Since you’re from a family of cops, you know I can’t talk about an active case.” King could share information. He was choosing not to.

“We’re both on the same side,” Morgan said. “All we want to do is find Chelsea Clark and bring her back to her family.”

And protect Tim’s legal interests.

“And we are in the middle of our official investigation into her disappearance,” King said in an end-of-discussion tone.

“Anything you can tell me would help. I know you’re swamped here. You can’t possibly give Chelsea’s case a hundred percent of your attention. Sharp and Kruger are experienced investigators who can focus solely on finding Chelsea. You don’t have the manpower or the budget.”

King studied her without responding. Despite his reputation as a good lawman, he was also stubborn and arrogant. Morgan could not force him to cooperate. She needed a new approach, but King wouldn’t fall for any bullshit. Her argument would have to be sincere, and something he couldn’t argue with. And something that had nothing to do with his department’s ability. She needed to throw him off balance, to appeal to him in a human way.

She chose the one thing many men, particularly manly men, weren’t comfortable handling: emotion.

“My youngest was an infant when my husband was killed in Iraq.”

King blinked. “I’m sorry.”

Morgan let her true emotions show on her face. “I know what it’s like to be left alone to raise young children. I know what it’s like to wish your kids remembered their father. I know what it’s like to have to explain, over and over, why Daddy won’t ever be coming home. Unless someone finds his wife, Tim Clark won’t even have an explanation for his children. Grief is hard enough to survive. I don’t want them to have to live with not knowing what happened to their mother.”

She had lived under a dark cloud for two long, exhausting years. She was just recently emerging from her depression, blinking at the sunlight, almost as if she’d just discovered that she deserved to have a life. She still missed and loved John but knew that he would have been angry if she wasted the rest of her life being sad.

That she shouldn’t feel guilty for allowing herself to be happy.

King glanced away, his expression conflicted, his movements awkward. He got up abruptly and paced the floor behind his desk. His long legs ate up the space with two strides in each direction. He looked like a frustrated predator trapped in a too-small cage. “I don’t want to jeopardize our investigation.”

“How many leads has your department turned up?”

He stopped. His face hardened. “We both know that most missing adults leave because they want to, and they eventually turn up on their own.”

“And you have limited resources. I understand.” Morgan used his argument against him.

“I assure you that Chelsea Clark’s case is a priority for this department.”

“Look, Sheriff, I don’t want to step on any toes.” But she would if she had to. “I understand your position completely.” She shifted her weight, as if ready to leave. “I can always put Tim Clark and his two babies on the news and appeal to the public for help. I’ll leave it up to you to explain where you are in your investigation to the press.”

Which would publicly highlight his department’s lack of progress on a case he’d managed to keep relatively low-key up until this point.

He hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans and sighed. “We have found no sign of foul play at this time.”

“Fingerprints in the car?” Morgan settled back into the chair.

“Sure. Mrs. Clark’s and others, but no criminal matches yet.”

“You’re submitting the prints to local, state, and federal databases?” she asked. In addition to the FBI’s national IAFIS system, state and local agencies kept their own records. Typically, it was most efficient to begin with a local search and expand geographically.

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