Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(4)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(4)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Deputy Harvey left the room and returned in a few minutes. He wrote the case and collection information on a white swab box. Then he put on a fresh pair of gloves and opened a prepackaged set of sterile swabs. He used swabs dampened with sterile water to sample the dried blood on Tina’s right hand. After he put those swabs in the labeled swab box, he changed his gloves and repeated the procedure on Tina’s left hand.

“I’m almost done.” Harvey changed his gloves again. He opened a GSR kit and swabbed Tina’s fingers and palms for gunshot residue. “I’ll let you know when the forensics team has finished with the bathroom. Then you can wash up. I’m sorry it’s taking so long.”

In Lance’s opinion, the GSR kit was a waste of time. Tina could have picked up gunshot residue if she had touched surfaces in the direct vicinity of where the firearm was discharged. GSR could be deposited onto any objects in close range. Morgan could invalidate the presence of residue on Tina’s hands in two minutes in a courtroom. But from the deputy’s perspective, prosecutors liked to dog-pile evidence on a suspect, and it was now or never to collect the samples. On the bright side, from the position of a defense attorney, a GSR residue test couldn’t hurt. The presence of residue could be easily dismissed, but its absence would support innocence.

Outside, lightning flashed and thunder cracked, the boom much louder than earlier.

“The storm is closer.” Lance paced the small room. “We need to look for Evan.”

“The sheriff will be here any minute.” Deputy Harvey cast a worried glance at the wide window that looked out onto the street. He turned and gave Lance a pointed look. “Please stay in this room. No wandering.”

Lance nodded, and the deputy withdrew, closing the door on his way out and leaving the younger deputy to watch over them.

Tina Knox perched on the edge of a sofa cushion, her elbows resting on her thighs, her hands clenched together. Her head remained bowed over her joined knuckles, as if she were praying. Morgan sat next to her, but neither she nor Lance assured her that they’d find Evan or that everything would be all right. Empty promises were worthless.

Fifteen minutes after the first deputy had arrived, Sheriff Henry Colgate walked into the den. His white hair was mussed and seemed even thinner than it had been the last time Lance had seen him. At sixty, Colgate had stepped into the position when the previous sheriff had died. He was ready to retire, though, and had made it very clear that he would not be running for the position in November. He was a decent man, albeit a reluctant and inflexible sheriff.

Colgate turned to Lance. “Why are you here?”

Lance explained.

Colgate accepted the story with a slightly skeptical twist of his mouth. He turned to Tina. “Now tell me about tonight, Mrs. Knox.”

“I was supposed to be off today, but there’s a stomach virus going around. The urgent care has been swamped with vomiting kids. I was called in to work the evening shift. I don’t like to turn down extra shifts, not with the new mortgage. When I came home, the house was dark. It shouldn’t have been dark. Paul always leaves a light on for me.” Her words stumbled over each other as she recalled finding Paul’s body in the den. “I wasn’t thinking. I’m a nurse. I knew Paul couldn’t be saved. As soon as I stopped trying to bring him back, I ran upstairs to find Evan, but his bed was empty. He’s supposed to be home by ten p.m. on school nights.”

“Where was your son when you left for work?” the sheriff asked.

“He was in his room,” Tina said. “Evan’s friend Jake was picking him up at seven. They were going to the talent show at Scarlet Falls High School.”

Sheriff Colgate took a small notepad and a pen from his chest pocket and made a few notes. “I’ll need the name and number of Evan’s friend.” The sheriff poised his pen over the paper. “A list of his other friends and their phone numbers would also be helpful. We’ll call them all and see if they’ve seen Evan tonight.”

Tina reached in her pocket and pulled out her phone. “His best friend is Jake O’Reilly. He had a few other friends in Scarlet Falls, but he hasn’t seen them much since we moved. I should have thought to call Jake.” After giving the sheriff the information, she pressed the heels of both hands to her forehead.

“Yes, ma’am.” The sheriff ripped the paper from his notepad and handed it to the deputy with the command, “Start with Jake.”

“Yes, sir.” The deputy left the room.

Tina chewed on her nails, and Morgan soothed her in a low voice. Unable to sit, Lance paced. He hated being on the sidelines. He wanted to be searching the house and looking for Evan. He kept one eye on the French doors, watching activity in the hallway through the glass panes.

The medical examiner arrived, along with the crime scene techs dressed in PPEs or personal protective equipment coveralls. Harvey appeared at the door and motioned to the sheriff through the glass. Colgate went into the hall, spoke with the deputy, and then returned to the living room.

Tina’s spine snapped straight. “What have you found?”

“Please sit down, Mrs. Knox.” The sheriff angled an overstuffed chair to face her and sat.

“What is it?” she asked, her eyes widening.

“Deputy Harvey just spoke with Jake O’Reilly. Jake said that he picked up Evan around seven o’clock last night and dropped him back home at approximately twelve thirty. He wasn’t sure of the exact time.”

“He was supposed to be home at ten.” Tina clasped her hands together in her lap.

The sheriff hesitated. “The medical examiner estimates that Paul was killed between midnight and one a.m.”

“So Evan was here when Paul was shot.” Tina pressed a hand to the base of her throat. Her breaths came faster, until she began to wheeze.

“We don’t know that for sure,” the sheriff said. But it seemed likely.

“You’re hyperventilating.” Morgan wrapped an arm around Tina’s shoulders. “Take a breath and hold it for a few seconds.”

“I’ll get a paper bag.” The sheriff ducked out of the room.

A few minutes later, he returned and handed Tina a brown paper bag. She put it over her nose and mouth for a minute.

“I know this news is upsetting,” the sheriff said. “We’re doing everything possible to find your son. Alerts have been sent out to every law enforcement agency in the area.”

Tina lowered the bag. Her breathing had returned to normal, though her face was still white as chalk. She clenched the paper bag in her lap.

Thunder boomed, and wind rattled the living room window.

Tina jumped. “Evan could be out there, and there’s a storm coming.”

“We’re not wasting any time. We’re going after him.” The sheriff paused. “But first, I have a few more questions for you.”

Tina’s nod was stiff.

“Do you know what kind of guns Paul owns?” the sheriff asked.

“He has a rifle for deer hunting, a shotgun, and a Glock handgun,” she said. “He kept his guns and ammunition locked in the safe in the master bedroom.”

The sheriff leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. “His gun-cleaning kit was on the table in the den.”

“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.

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