Home > Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(2)

Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(2)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Sharp’s breath froze in his chest.

A mid-1980s Buick Century sedan.

The same make and model car Victor Kruger had been driving twenty-three years ago when he went out for groceries and vanished, leaving a wife and ten-year-old son behind. Sharp, then a detective for the Scarlet Falls PD, had been the lead investigator. He’d worked and reworked the case right up until he’d retired from the police force five years ago and opened his own private investigation firm. There had been no sign of Victor.

Until today.

Sharp trudged past a pair of news vans. Just outside the ribbon of crime scene tape strung around a handful of isolated pine trees, two reporters talked into microphones. The sheriff’s department activity behind them provided a dramatic backdrop for their stories.

A young deputy stood as sentinel.

“Lincoln Sharp,” Sharp said. “I need to talk to the sheriff.”

The deputy shook his head. “The sheriff said not to let anyone through.”

“He’s going to want to talk to me.” Sharp crossed his arms over his chest. He wasn’t budging. This case was too important. “I’ll wait here.”

The deputy thought about it for a second, then walked back to talk to his boss.

Sheriff Paul King stood literally head and shoulders above the rest of the men, and his charcoal-gray cowboy hat added some height to his six-foot, three-inch stature. He bowed his head to listen to the shorter deputy, then the sheriff’s gaze snapped around to focus on Sharp. The sheriff frowned, irritation dragging his face down like the jowls on a bad-tempered basset hound.

The deputy trudged back to his post. He cleared his throat. “The sheriff said you can go on through, but don’t fuck up his scene.”

No doubt the last few words were a direct quote.

“Thanks.” Sharp ducked under the yellow tape and walked through the thick weeds.

Thin patches of ice and snow crunched under his boots. He approached the recovered vehicle. Rust coated the surfaces it hadn’t eaten. Although heavily corroded, the Buick was in surprisingly good condition considering how long it had likely been sitting at the bottom of the lake.

The sheriff leveled an accusatory look at him. “Who called you, Sharp?”

“Word is out all over town.” Sharp nodded toward the reporters, implying that’s where he’d gotten the information rather than outright lying. He wasn’t giving up his buddy in the sheriff’s department who’d called him with the news. Twenty-five years on the force had given Sharp loyal contacts in every law enforcement agency within a twenty-mile radius.

“Did you call your partner?” The sheriff turned back to the Buick.

“Working on it.” Sharp glanced at his phone, but his young partner, Lance Kruger, hadn’t replied to his message.

“So he doesn’t know we found his father’s car?”

Where are you, Lance?

“No.” Sharp scanned the clearing. He didn’t want Lance to see this story on the news. “How did you verify it’s Victor Kruger’s car?”

“The diver brought up a license plate before we even pulled the car out.” The sheriff pointed to the license plate on the ground next to the rusted car, the letters and numbers still legible on the corroded metal. “I recognized the name and looked up the case. Wasn’t surprised to see you listed as lead detective. It wasn’t the sheriff department’s investigation, but I vaguely remember when it happened.” The sheriff had been chief deputy at the time.

“Not so much crime around here back then.”

“No, there wasn’t.” The sheriff straightened. “How old was Lance when his father disappeared?”


Lance’s mother, Jenny, had suffered from mental illnesses exacerbated by her husband’s disappearance. When the missing person case had gone glacier cold, and it had become clear that Jenny Kruger couldn’t cope, Sharp hadn’t been able to walk away from the kid. He hadn’t found Victor. The least he could do was look after his boy, who’d had no one else in his life capable of doing the job. No doubt affected by Sharp’s mentoring, Lance had become a cop with the SFPD. After being shot in the line of duty the previous summer, he’d left the force and joined Sharp Investigations.

“Some cases stick with you,” Sharp said.

A deputy to his right gave him a solemn nod. Every cop had at least one case that burrowed deep into his soul. A crime—and its victims—that stayed with him forever. For Sharp, Victor’s disappearance was that case.

Sharp turned back to the Buick. “Who found the car?”

“The state police SAR team was testing out their new sonar equipment. When they spotted the vehicle, they called us, and we brought the divers in.” The sheriff pointed to the boat bobbing out on the water. “I’ll request the official file from the Scarlet Falls PD, but since you’re here, what do you remember about the case?”

Every. Damned. Thing.

Sharp shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “At approximately nine p.m. on Wednesday, August 10, 1994, thirty-five-year-old Victor Kruger, known as Vic to his friends, left his house to go to the grocery store. He never came home.”

“Signs of foul play?”

“None.” Sharp had never even found a solid lead. The man had truly vanished into the thick summer air.

“Suicide?” The sheriff pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket and put them on.

“No evidence of depression or other mental illness,” Sharp said.

Not with Victor, anyway. Lance’s mother was a different story.

The sheriff walked around the front of the vehicle and scanned the hood and bumper. “Any chance he was having an affair or was just fed up with his life and split?”

“I don’t think so. According to everyone we interviewed, Victor was a family man who wouldn’t have abandoned his wife and kid.” Sharp moved closer to the vehicle. The sheriff didn’t complain.

“If there’s one thing this job teaches you, it’s that everybody has secrets,” the sheriff said.

As much as Sharp knew that was true, he hadn’t uncovered any skeletons in Victor Kruger’s closet.

Sharp leaned over to peer into the passenger seat. The interior was full of mud, weeds, and other lake debris. He spotted a plastic Coke bottle on the floor of the back seat.

But what Sharp didn’t see were bones.

“Any sign of remains?” he asked.

Freshwater didn’t waste any time reducing a body to bones, especially in the summer heat. Victor Kruger had disappeared in August. The water had been warm. Bacteria, aquatic insects, and other lake inhabitants would have gone to work on the flesh.

“Not yet.” The sheriff rounded the vehicle, peering into all the windows.

“If he was in the vehicle, there should be bones,” Sharp said.

“Who knows? The driver’s window was down. The door was open. The current could have pulled the body from the vehicle. We’ve had some wicked floods in the past two decades that could have shifted the car.”


“We don’t even know that he was in the car when it went into the lake.” The sheriff stuck his head in the open driver’s door and then pulled it out again. “There’s nothing in here but lake debris and some trash.”

A deputy walked around to the rear bumper. “OK to pop the trunk?”

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