Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(8)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(8)
Author: Melinda Leigh

The sheriff’s jaw tightened. “Kids with prior arrests are less likely to be honest with us.”

Morgan didn’t respond, but her mind was busy. Evan had prior arrests. Was the sheriff making similar assumptions about him?

Sheriff Colgate scratched his head. “Do you have Evan’s email account information?”

“Yes.” Morgan handed the sheriff the paper, glad that she’d made a copy for herself. The stubborn set to the sheriff’s shoulders gave her an uneasy feeling that she and Lance could be shut out of his investigation. Paul had been a deputy. His retirement was recent, and the sheriff’s department still considered him one of their own. All of these factors might make the sheriff want to keep the case details to himself.

“What are you doing to find my son?” Tina’s voice had toughened. She was no longer begging, and her tone was more defensive. Clearly, she had also noticed the sheriff’s change of attitude.

“Law enforcement has been notified statewide.” The sheriff looked up from the list he was scanning. “Officers are trolling the teenage hangout spots in Randolph County. The Scarlet Falls PD is looking for him there in case he went back to visit his old friends. I’ve put out a press release with his photo. We’re reviewing his phone history, and we’ll go through his social media accounts to see if he had any new or strange contacts.” Colgate paused, his mouth flattening into a grim line. “We won’t stop looking for him, Mrs. Knox.”

Tina studied the sheriff with an intense expression. “What about an AMBER Alert?”

“We can’t issue an AMBER Alert unless we confirm that Evan was abducted,” he explained.

“Have you talked to the neighbors?” Morgan asked. “Surely someone heard the gunshots.”

“We have. The neighbor over there”—the sheriff gestured toward one side of the house—“is away on vacation. The neighbor on the other side is deaf and was in bed without her hearing aids. No one else heard anything except thunder, which could have masked the sound of the gunshots.”

“Paul was a deputy for a long time,” Morgan said. “He must have put away some nasty criminals. Have any violent offenders been let out of prison recently?”

“We’re looking at Paul’s old cases.” The sheriff nodded. “Mrs. Knox, did Paul say anything recently about being threatened? Was he getting unexplained calls or texts? Was he acting strangely, or did he seem particularly worried about anything?”

“Paul is—was serious about home security. He changed all the locks when we bought the house, and he was going to install a security system. We didn’t have the money for a professional company. Paul was going to do it himself. He was worried about my ex-husband. Kirk was in prison for assault for the last couple of years. He was released on parole a few months ago.”

“Has your ex-husband ever threatened you or Paul?” Colgate asked.

“No, but he hated Paul.” Tina’s fingers worried the seam of the sofa cushion. “Paul was the deputy who arrested Kirk for assault. It’s how we met. Although we didn’t actually get together until months later when Paul came into the urgent care. Kirk blames Paul for the divorce. Kirk had zero interest in Evan when we lived together, but the minute Kirk was paroled, he sued for visitation. He just wants to get even with me. Can you believe he even tried to get alimony? Thank goodness the judge turned around and asked me if I wanted to countersue for child support.”

Did Tina’s bitter ex kill Paul?

Tina paused for a breath. “Kirk lives in a group home. Visits with Evan are supposed to be in a public place. We agreed that they would have dinner every Sunday night, but I still can’t believe the judge granted him visitation, even community supervised. Anyway, two months ago was Evan’s first scheduled meeting with Kirk. Evan isn’t happy about it, but he goes.”

A sixteen-year-old did not have the authority to refuse a court order, and the custodial parent was obligated to foster a relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent. A strained relationship was not enough justification to refuse visitation. Generally, the court’s opinion was that the relationship could not improve if the child and parent did not see each other, and that it was in the best interest of the child to know both his parents. Since the visitation was community supervised, in a public place, Tina could not argue that Evan was in any physical danger. In short, she had no grounds to petition the court. Judges did not like to terminate parental rights.

“But to your knowledge, your ex-husband never communicated directly with Paul,” the sheriff clarified.

Tina shook her head. “Not that I know of. Kirk called me or texted Evan if he needed to cancel.”

“Do you think Evan might go to his father for help?” the sheriff asked.

“I doubt it,” Tina said.

“We’ll pay him a visit anyway. Can I have your ex’s full name and contact information?” The sheriff clicked his pen over a tiny notepad.

“Kirk Meade.” Tina also provided a phone number and the address of the group home.

“Thank you, Mrs. Knox.” The sheriff stuffed his notepad into his pocket, rose, and walked out the door.

Morgan followed him into the hall. “Are you looking at Paul’s phone records too?”

“We’re looking at everything.” Sheriff Colgate pointed at Morgan. “I know Kruger wants to find the boy, but you will stay away from the murder investigation. Paul was one of ours. We do not need you and your partners muddying up this case.”

Morgan met his gaze without yielding. The sheriff blinked away. He had been the one who’d muddied the last case they’d simultaneously worked, and he knew it. He’d followed the physical evidence to a suspect and had been unwilling to accept any other theories.

“Mrs. Knox will need a place to stay.” Morgan did not want Tina alone in the house where her husband had been murdered. Also, since the sheriff personally knew the victim, he would be in no rush to release the scene.

“It would probably be best if she stayed with family or friends,” the sheriff agreed.

“She’ll need to pack some things,” Morgan said.

“Make a list of what she needs,” the sheriff said. “I’ll have a deputy pack a bag for her. Also, before she leaves, I need her to walk through the house and see if any valuables are missing.”

Robbery gone wrong would be the simplest explanation for the murder. Without waiting for a response, Colgate walked away.

Morgan returned to the living room and relayed the information to Tina.

“I’m not leaving my house.” Tina’s chin lifted, and her jaw tightened.

“You don’t have a choice,” Morgan said. “Your house is a crime scene. It might not be released for a few days.”

The forensic unit would need to sift through the evidence they’d recovered from the scene and decide if any experts needed to be called in. At the very least, Morgan would assume they’d request a blood spatter analysis. A rural county did not have every expert on staff the way a large city might. Colgate would have to utilize state police resources or cooperate with neighboring counties. All of these requests took time, though all agencies would prioritize a case involving a missing child and the murder of a former deputy.

“A few days?” Tina’s voice rose. “But how will Evan find me? He doesn’t have his phone. He won’t know where I am.”

Morgan’s heart bled for her. The mere thought of one of her daughters going missing made her physically ill. She touched Tina’s forearm. “I doubt very much that Evan would come back here, not after what happened.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Tina covered her mouth with her hand, stifling a sob. She fought for control for a few seconds, then lowered her hand to her lap. “Then what can I do?”

“Try to think of anywhere Evan might go to hide. Does he have any favorite places? Where does he hang out with his friends?”

Tina clenched her hands together. “There are only a few places. Most of them are in Scarlet Falls. He hasn’t made any new friends since we moved to Grey’s Hollow.”

“I’m sure Evan knows your cell phone number, and we’ll reach out to his friends and make sure they have it as well in case Evan contacts any of them.” Morgan didn’t know a single teenager who trusted adults over friends.

“You’re probably right.” Tina frowned. “Evan did miss his friends when we moved here, but frankly, those old friends were part of the reason I wanted to leave the apartment in Scarlet Falls. I thought he could start fresh in a school where the principal didn’t automatically suspect him for every act of vandalism and every new spot of graffiti that showed up on school grounds. I wanted him to make new friends, ones without juvenile records. I have worked my ass off to give him a better life than I had, but I can’t make him want it.” Bitterness pursed her lips. “But right now, I would give up this house and everything in it just to have him back.” She lifted her gaze. Her eyes were filled with grief and desperation. “All I want is to get my son back safe.” Fresh tears welled, and her hand clenched into a frustrated fist. “How far could he have gotten in last night’s storm?”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)
» What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)
» When August Ends
» I'm Fine and Neither Are You
» What the Wind Knows
» Tumble (Dogwood Lane #1)
» Motion (Laws of Physics #1)
» The Last Letter