Home > Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(11)

Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(11)
Author: Melinda Leigh

She climbed into the driver’s seat and shut the door. She inserted the key into the ignition and caught a heavy metallic odor. Cold wetness soaked into her jeans. What the . . . ?

Morgan put a hand under her butt. It came away covered in dark red.


Her heart kick-started, and she leaped from the van. The van interior was black, but she could see the stain now that she was looking for it. The entire seat was soaked in it.

And now, so was Morgan.

Had she locked the car? She always did, but herding three small kids through a parking lot could make anyone forget.

“Mommy! What’s wrong?” Ava called from inside the van.

“More car trouble, honey.” Morgan scanned the parking lot but saw no one. The lot was only a quarter full. The other cars appeared to be empty. “Let’s go back inside and call Mac.”

Morgan hustled the kids back inside. She whispered an explanation to the waitress, who occupied the girls with crayons and paper while Morgan called the police and Mac.

“Mac is on his way,” Morgan said to the kids. She kept one eye on the other patrons and another on the parking lot. She saw no sign of Tyler Green.

“Do you want to go clean up?” the waitress asked.

She would absolutely love nothing more than to peel her nasty jeans and sweater off and scrub her skin raw, but her own comfort took a back seat to her children’s safety.

“I’ll wait, thank you.” Morgan wasn’t leaving her girls alone for a second. She hadn’t imagined anything. She should have listened to her instincts. She’d bet that flat tire hadn’t been an accident either. Someone was doing much more than following her.

She was being stalked.

Chapter Eight

Lance parked his Jeep in front of the medical examiner’s office in the county municipal complex.

He had been to the ME’s suite in his days on the police force, but this time, his role was as a member of the victim’s family. It was a new part for Lance and about as comfortable as a suit made of poison ivy.

Inside, the smell of burned coffee in the waiting area didn’t help his nausea.

He gave his name to the receptionist. “Dr. Jenkins left a message on my phone asking me to stop by today.”

The call had come while Lance had been in the shower.

Stop by if you can. I have a few questions for you.

Did that mean Frank needed more information to ID his dad’s remains?

“Dr. Jenkins is in autopsy suite three,” she said. “He said you could go on in.”

Lance swallowed. He’d hoped the ME would be in his office.

He reminded himself that all he’d see would be bones. There would be no putrid smell. No rotting flesh. No bloated body. It couldn’t be that bad or Frank wouldn’t have invited him in. Right?


But Dr. Frank Jenkins was not known for his interpersonal skills.

Lance suited up in the antechamber. Gown, booties, gloves. He carried the plastic face shield. Damn things made his face sweat. He wouldn’t put it on until he had to.

He opened the door and hesitated at the threshold, sweating even without the shield. The other tables were empty. For once, there were no bodies in sight, but the scents of formalin and decomp were permanent fixtures. The smells lay heavy in the air, coating the back of his throat and threatening to gag him.

“Lance, come on back.” Frank waved him into the room. “I want to show you something.”

Lance held his breath and waded in.

Let’s get this done.

A sheet covered the stainless-steel autopsy table. On it, a skeleton had been loosely assembled.

Frank circled the table, his attention focused on the remains. “I had my assistant put the skeleton in order. Some of the small bones were missing, but we have a good number. Hopefully, enough to get a positive ID.”


Lance walked closer. “Then you haven’t formally identified my father?”

“No.” Frank looked up, his face confused. The light glinted off his face shield. “Didn’t Sheriff King call you?”

“He did not.”

Frank muttered something that sounded like asshole under his breath. “I’m so sorry, Lance. I should have called you last night after I called Sheriff King. This isn’t your father.”

Wait. What?

The blood left Lance’s head, leaving dizziness in its absence. “Excuse me?”

“It isn’t your father.”

Lance glanced at the skull. The jaw looked undamaged, most of the teeth present. He breathed through his mouth, but the taste of the autopsy suite only made him feel worse. “You have his dental records?”

“I don’t need dental records.” Frank gestured to the bones. “The skeleton is female.”

Shock hit Lance like a cold slap. “Are you sure?”

Frank arched an annoyed eyebrow. With a sigh of great patience, he motioned to the skeleton and shifted into lecture mode. “Number one, the overall size and thickness of the bones, especially the femur, humerus, and radius, suggest this is a female.” He moved down the table to the center of the skeleton. “Second, the female pelvis is wider than that of a male specimen. Lastly,” he pointed to the skull, “the skull and jawbone of this victim also suggest it is female.”

Lance stared at the bones, trying to take it all in. “Are you sure all of these bones belong to the same victim?”

Frank nodded. “We collected about eighty-five percent of the skeleton. Most of the missing ones are small: fingers, toes, vertebrae, etc. The bones are consistent in size, and there are no duplicates that would suggest a second individual was in the trunk of that car.”

The medical examiner stepped away from the table and lifted his face shield. “Bones don’t lie, Lance. This is not your father.”

A few seconds ticked by as Lance absorbed Frank’s words.

Not. My. Father.

Those were the last words he’d expected to hear from the medical examiner.

Now what?

Someone put a woman in the back of his father’s car and sent it into the lake.

Who? Why?


Where is my father?

His visit with Frank was supposed to answer questions, not generate a dozen new ones.

Pain thumped at Lance’s temples. He’d wanted to visit the ME on an empty stomach.

Obvious reasons.

But now his hollow gut churned.

“You don’t know who she is?” Lance asked. This unidentified woman was now the key to his father’s disappearance.

“No,” Frank said. “Not yet. We’ll start with any local girls who went missing in 1994 and work from there.”

Lance’s ears rang. His gaze swept over the skeleton, suddenly seeing its feminine slightness. “Can you tell me anything about her?”

Frank consulted a clipboard. “Measurement of the femur tells me she was approximately five feet, five inches tall, give or take an inch.”

“Any idea how old she was?”

Frank gestured toward a row of X-rays on a lightboard. “Impacted wisdom teeth. She was likely at least eighteen.”

“The fact that she didn’t have the teeth removed could also mean that she didn’t have access to dental care,” Lance added. “Or she couldn’t afford the procedure.”

“Right.” Frank waved a hand over the skeleton. “Some, but not all of her growth plates are closed. The clavicle, or collarbone, is the last bone to complete growth. The medial end is not fully fused, so she was under thirty.” Frank picked up a magnifying glass and examined a rib bone. “The ends of the ribs change as people age. Based on the smoothness I see here, I’d estimate that she was in her early twenties.”

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