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

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

“He does—did—little chores like that if he couldn’t sleep,” Tina said.

The sheriff hesitated. “The safe is open. The long guns are in it. We haven’t found the Glock.”

Lance tried a scenario in his head. Paul was up late. He confronted an intruder. The intruder shot him first. Evan walked in on the shooting. Maybe Evan ran away. The boy was fit and fast. He would be a difficult target in the dark. But where was he? Why hadn’t he come home or gotten help?

“What time did Paul usually go to bed?” the sheriff asked. “We’re trying to piece the timeline together.”

“He had insomnia,” Tina said. “He often stayed up late or got up in the middle of the night.”

Deputy Harvey opened the door. “Sheriff, I need to speak with you.”

The sheriff went out into the hall, closed the door behind him, and conferred with Harvey again. When Colgate returned, his face was grim. “We’ve found a cell phone on the other side of the back fence. Does this look familiar?” He held up a plastic bag. Inside was a cell phone in a black case with a wolf on the back.

“Yes!” Tina perked up. “That’s Evan’s phone.”

“Do you know your son’s password?” the sheriff asked.

Tina’s voice shook. “3-3-0-3.”

The sheriff wrote the code down and shoved his notepad and pen back into his chest pocket.

“So maybe Evan got away?” Tina searched the sheriff’s face, clearly looking for hope.

“It’s too early to draw conclusions, ma’am, but we hope so,” the sheriff said vaguely. “How well does he know the woods behind the house?”

Lance had worked with the sheriff enough to recognize his holding back tone.

“A few weeks ago, Paul took him camping out there.” Tina pointed in the general direction of the back of the house. “They’ve gone fishing a few times too. Paul was teaching Evan to shoot.”

“Can you tell me what kind of shoes and clothes he was likely wearing tonight?” the sheriff asked.

“He has a brand-new pair of black Converse sneakers,” Tina said. “When I left for work, he was dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt with a direwolf’s head on the front. It says WINTER IS COMING.” She closed her eyes for a second. “Evan is a huge Game of Thrones fan. We binged six seasons when he had an emergency appendectomy over the winter.” A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away, the gesture almost angry.

The sheriff nodded. “You hang tight, Mrs. Knox. We’re going to do everything possible to find Evan.”

But on his way out of the room, the sheriff avoided eye contact with Morgan and Lance. Behind Colgate’s carefully schooled expression, his eyes were worried.

The cops had found something they didn’t want to share with Tina.

Chapter Four

Lance followed the sheriff into the hall. He closed the door behind him. “What aren’t you telling her?”

Colgate grimaced. “This is an active investigation. You know I can’t divulge the details.”

“I’m going to find out.” Lance crossed his arms over his chest. “I will not stop until I find Evan.”

Colgate’s jaw sawed back and forth. Some cops worked with PIs. Others refused. Colgate shared only if it suited his case.

The sheriff sighed. “We would like to keep some details from the media.”


“We found blood on the back of Evan’s phone. We also found a bloody handprint on the top of the fence in the backyard, just above where we found the phone. There are footprints in the dirt at the base of the fence as well.”

“Where someone landed after climbing the fence.”

“Yes.” Colgate frowned. “The soil is soft back there from the recent rains. The impressions are very clear. The tread has Converse written across the sole.” The sheriff brushed his hand through the wispy white hairs on his head. “We’re trying to process the outside of the house first, before the rain starts. The tech was able to pull prints from the fence. But matching them will take time, as will getting a DNA analysis on the blood.”

“And until the DNA test comes in,” Lance said, “we won’t know if Evan touched Paul and transferred his blood to the doorframe and fence, or if Evan is bleeding.”

The boy could be injured. Maybe even shot like Paul.

He was well enough to run and scale a fence, Lance reminded himself. To the sheriff, he said, “We also don’t know if the shooter went after Evan.”

“That’s right,” the sheriff agreed. “We’re going to work with the worst-case scenario—that Evan is hurt and whoever killed Paul is after him.”

“We’re running out of time if we want to follow his trail.” Lance glanced out the window at the end of the hall. Outside, tree branches swayed violently in the wind. “That storm will wash away all the tracks.”

“As much as I don’t want to, I agree.” The sheriff rubbed a hand down his face. “I called for a K-9 team from the state, but they can’t get here for two hours.”

“That’s too long to wait,” Lance insisted.

“Yes.” The sheriff propped a hand on his belt.

“Sheriff?” a young deputy called from the entryway. “There’s a man named Sharp here. He wants to talk to you.”

“Have him wait outside,” Colgate answered, then turned back to Lance. “Tell your boss that no one else gets into this scene.”

Lance nodded. “Will do.”

If Lance and Morgan hadn’t arrived before the cops, they’d both be out on the sidewalk too.

“I’d like to go on the search.” Lance held up a hand. “Before you say no, let me sum up why you should let me. First, Evan might run from your deputies. He’s been arrested before. He does not have a positive association with the police in general. Evan and I have a relationship. He trusts me. Second, Mother Nature is about to dump a ton of water on your outdoor crime scene areas. You need every available person combing the grass. Third, you can’t send SAR volunteers into those woods if there’s a possibility they will encounter an armed shooter.”

The sheriff nodded. “All right.”

The quick agreement was the last thing Lance expected.

“I want this boy brought home safe,” the sheriff said. “I don’t particularly care who finds him or how. His mother has already lost her husband. I do not want her to lose her son too. I’m fine with you going along, as long as you’re ready when the team goes in and you follow orders.”

“I’ve participated in plenty of searches.” Lance didn’t mention that he wasn’t as skilled in following orders.

The sheriff lifted a hand. “Be ready in fifteen minutes, and don’t get yourself shot or struck by lightning. The department can’t afford to get sued. If you can’t keep up, my men will not wait for you.” The sheriff walked away.

Lance wasn’t worried about keeping up. Coaching hockey—on skates—had strengthened his bad leg. He went back in the living room and relayed the situation to Morgan and Tina. “I have to run out to my Jeep for my gear.”

“Thank you,” Tina said. “I knew you’d help.”

Morgan followed him to the door. She cast a worried look out the window, where lightning flashed. A boom of thunder shook the glass panes. “You’ll be careful?”

“I will. You’ll stay with Tina?” Lance and Morgan shared a pointed look. Tina would need more than emotional support. As Paul’s spouse, she would automatically be a suspect in his death. Evan would also be on that initial list. Hopefully, early evidence would eliminate them both, but having Morgan there to protect Tina’s interests eased Lance’s mind.

“Of course.” Morgan touched the center of his chest and said in a low voice, “I love you.”

“Back atcha.” Lance gave her a quick kiss, then hurried from the room. On the way out of the house, he passed a fingerprint tech crouched next to the front door, swirling black powder onto the doorknob with a small brush.

Lance went outside. The property had been transformed into a crime scene. A young deputy stood at the bottom of the driveway. He held a clipboard on which he would be recording the name of every person who entered and exited the crime scene. A tech was setting up floodlights. The portable generator that powered them hummed. Randolph County Sheriff’s Department SUVs, the medical examiner’s van, and a county crime scene unit clogged the suburban street. Crime scene tape had been strung around the perimeter of the property. News vans lined up farther down the road.

Sharp was standing on the sidewalk. In jeans and a T-shirt, he tapped the toe of one running shoe impatiently on the concrete. Lightning flashed across the sky, blinking like a strobe light. The boom of thunder that followed was close enough to rattle Lance’s teeth.

“Follow me,” Lance called to Sharp. Then he turned and jogged toward the place he’d parked his vehicle. He threaded his way through clusters of neighborhood gawkers, dodging an older couple huddling on the sidewalk in their bathrobes. When they had broken free of the crowd, Lance filled Sharp in on the case so far.

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