Home > Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(14)

Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)(14)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“Of course.” The sheriff turned to face Morgan head-on. “And the seat was in an expected position for a woman of Chelsea’s height.”

“Do you really think she was taken or she went willingly?”

“We don’t know for certain. There was no blood in the vehicle, and her purse was gone.”

“So no sign of a struggle,” Morgan said. “What did you find out about the husband?”

“We found nothing suspicious in his background, and his cell phone records indicate his phone was where he said he was last Friday night.” King eased a hip onto the side of his desk. “We checked out the friend Chelsea was supposed to meet, and Chelsea’s boss. They both have clean records as well. Both seemed upset by Chelsea’s disappearance.”

“What about the area around her car?”

“We walked a grid. Came up empty. My deputies knocked on doors down the road. Nobody saw anything. According to the surveillance video at the train station, only two people got on the train at the station that night. Neither of them was a young blonde woman.”

“Could we have a copy?”


Morgan opened her mouth to protest, but the sheriff raised a hand to silence her.

“But I will let you view it here,” he said.

“Thank you,” Morgan said.

If Tim had been arrested and charged in the disappearance of his wife, Morgan would have been entitled to all the sheriff’s evidence via the discovery process. But without any formal charges, Morgan would have to accept whatever crumbs the sheriff was willing to toss her way.

“I assume you entered Chelsea in the NCIC?” Morgan asked.

The National Crime Information Center was an FBI database of criminal justice information that included details on everything from fugitives to stolen property to missing persons. If a body or incapacitated person meeting Chelsea’s description turned up anywhere in the country, law enforcement would be aware that she was missing.

“I did.”

“Did you run a check on similar crimes?”

The sheriff held up a hand. “Of course I did, but there weren’t many details to enter. We have no proof a crime was even committed.”

“Tim said you brought in a dog.”

“Yes. But the dog didn’t pick up a scent either, so if she was at the scene, we assume she left by vehicle.”

“But you don’t know that she was ever there. If someone abducted her, he could have taken her somewhere else and then dumped the car near the train station.”

“Or Chelsea had someone pick her up,” King added. “It isn’t a crime to walk away from your family.”

“Why would you think Chelsea walked away from her family? She has two children.” Even as Morgan said the words, she knew the weakness in her argument. People did unexpected things all the time.

Terrible, cruel things a normal person couldn’t fathom.

“The husband admitted his wife was having a rough time with the second baby, and that he didn’t give her much help. I spoke with her parents out in Colorado. Both said how tired their daughter has been, how often she cried over the phone. And her best friend, Fiona West, painted a less rosy picture of Tim and Chelsea’s marriage than Tim did.”

Morgan put Fiona at the top of her interview list, and doubts about Tim’s innocence nagged at her.

“I know it must be hard for you as a devoted mother to think about a woman abandoning her children.” The sheriff’s tone softened. “But it happens.”

Morgan had no difficulty imagining women doing far worse things to their children. She’d prosecuted enough monster mothers. A shudder rippled through her as she remembered a few horrific cases. “You’re right. Not all women were born with maternal instincts.”

King continued. “Chelsea was feeling neglected and exhausted. Maybe she needed a break and wanted to teach Tim a lesson.”

“Let’s hope that’s the case.” Morgan finished the water, tossed the empty bottle in the trash, and stood. “Because I’d like nothing more than to have her show up safe and sound.”

“I’ll have someone pull up the train station surveillance video so you can watch it before you leave. It won’t take long. There’s so little activity, you can fast-forward through most of it.” Leaning forward, the sheriff tugged the scarf away from Morgan’s neck. His eyebrows shot up as the corners of his mouth went down. “Are those from this morning?”

“They look worse than they feel.” Morgan turned toward the door. “Thank you for your help. I’ll call you if we learn anything.”

“Same here.” King nodded. “You should be more careful. It would be a damned shame if someone wrung that pretty neck.”

Chapter Ten

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Lance rounded the desk in his mother’s home office and kissed her on the cheek.

“Of course.” His mom tapped her keyboard, blackening her computer screen, then she swiveled her chair to face him. “I like to feel useful.”

What had she been doing that she felt necessary to hide?

File in hand, Lance hesitated. Would the case be too much stress for her? The smile on her face didn’t resonate in her eyes. She tucked a lock of shoulder-length gray hair behind one ear. Had she lost weight? Her fragile-thin frame couldn’t spare an ounce. But since Lance saw her every day, he didn’t always notice slight changes, and he couldn’t quite quantify what was wrong today.

She wouldn’t meet his gaze. Her blue eyes seemed paler, her skin flushed, and her attempt to smile more transparent.

He scanned the tidy room. “No boxes today?”

The modern world of online shopping was an agoraphobic hoarder’s dream come true. Lance and his mom had an agreement. She ordered things she didn’t need every day. If she wanted to keep a purchase, she had to dispose of an item of equal size. Lance returned or donated the rest. The system was bizarre, but it kept Jennifer Kruger’s home relatively sane and safe. Lance would not allow her to live in a firetrap ever again.

“No.” She took the file from his hand and spun away from him.


But maybe be was being paranoid. With good reason, he was hyperaware of her behavior.

Clutching the edges of her thick cardigan together, she set the folder on the blotter. “Tell me about the case.”

Again, Lance hesitated. Chelsea’s disappearance had brought back painful memories for him. How would his mother handle the parallels? Over the years that followed his father’s disappearance, she’d retreated into an eggshell of an existence. Her world was self-contained, easily shattered, and impossible to make whole.

“We’re looking for someone,” he said vaguely. “We need thorough background checks for the people on this list, and we need you to review the missing woman’s computer and phone files.” He set Tim’s USB drive on the desk.

She scanned the first few pages of their suspect list. “This is about that young mother who went missing, isn’t it?”


“You know about her?” Lance asked.

His mother turned a page. “It was on the news.”

His shut-in mother taught online computer science courses and designed and maintained websites. Since she only left her house to go to therapy, she literally lived online. Coverage of Chelsea’s case had been limited, but his mom hadn’t missed the story.

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