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

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

The cops had found something they didn’t want to share with Tina.

Chapter Four

Lance followed the sheriff into the hall. He closed the door behind him. “What aren’t you telling her?”

Colgate grimaced. “This is an active investigation. You know I can’t divulge the details.”

“I’m going to find out.” Lance crossed his arms over his chest. “I will not stop until I find Evan.”

Colgate’s jaw sawed back and forth. Some cops worked with PIs. Others refused. Colgate shared only if it suited his case.

The sheriff sighed. “We would like to keep some details from the media.”

“Understood.”

“We found blood on the back of Evan’s phone. We also found a bloody handprint on the top of the fence in the backyard, just above where we found the phone. There are footprints in the dirt at the base of the fence as well.”

“Where someone landed after climbing the fence.”

“Yes.” Colgate frowned. “The soil is soft back there from the recent rains. The impressions are very clear. The tread has Converse written across the sole.” The sheriff brushed his hand through the wispy white hairs on his head. “We’re trying to process the outside of the house first, before the rain starts. The tech was able to pull prints from the fence. But matching them will take time, as will getting a DNA analysis on the blood.”

“And until the DNA test comes in,” Lance said, “we won’t know if Evan touched Paul and transferred his blood to the doorframe and fence, or if Evan is bleeding.”

The boy could be injured. Maybe even shot like Paul.

He was well enough to run and scale a fence, Lance reminded himself. To the sheriff, he said, “We also don’t know if the shooter went after Evan.”

“That’s right,” the sheriff agreed. “We’re going to work with the worst-case scenario—that Evan is hurt and whoever killed Paul is after him.”

“We’re running out of time if we want to follow his trail.” Lance glanced out the window at the end of the hall. Outside, tree branches swayed violently in the wind. “That storm will wash away all the tracks.”

“As much as I don’t want to, I agree.” The sheriff rubbed a hand down his face. “I called for a K-9 team from the state, but they can’t get here for two hours.”

“That’s too long to wait,” Lance insisted.

“Yes.” The sheriff propped a hand on his belt.

“Sheriff?” a young deputy called from the entryway. “There’s a man named Sharp here. He wants to talk to you.”

“Have him wait outside,” Colgate answered, then turned back to Lance. “Tell your boss that no one else gets into this scene.”

Lance nodded. “Will do.”

If Lance and Morgan hadn’t arrived before the cops, they’d both be out on the sidewalk too.

“I’d like to go on the search.” Lance held up a hand. “Before you say no, let me sum up why you should let me. First, Evan might run from your deputies. He’s been arrested before. He does not have a positive association with the police in general. Evan and I have a relationship. He trusts me. Second, Mother Nature is about to dump a ton of water on your outdoor crime scene areas. You need every available person combing the grass. Third, you can’t send SAR volunteers into those woods if there’s a possibility they will encounter an armed shooter.”

The sheriff nodded. “All right.”

The quick agreement was the last thing Lance expected.

“I want this boy brought home safe,” the sheriff said. “I don’t particularly care who finds him or how. His mother has already lost her husband. I do not want her to lose her son too. I’m fine with you going along, as long as you’re ready when the team goes in and you follow orders.”

“I’ve participated in plenty of searches.” Lance didn’t mention that he wasn’t as skilled in following orders.

The sheriff lifted a hand. “Be ready in fifteen minutes, and don’t get yourself shot or struck by lightning. The department can’t afford to get sued. If you can’t keep up, my men will not wait for you.” The sheriff walked away.

Lance wasn’t worried about keeping up. Coaching hockey—on skates—had strengthened his bad leg. He went back in the living room and relayed the situation to Morgan and Tina. “I have to run out to my Jeep for my gear.”

“Thank you,” Tina said. “I knew you’d help.”

Morgan followed him to the door. She cast a worried look out the window, where lightning flashed. A boom of thunder shook the glass panes. “You’ll be careful?”

“I will. You’ll stay with Tina?” Lance and Morgan shared a pointed look. Tina would need more than emotional support. As Paul’s spouse, she would automatically be a suspect in his death. Evan would also be on that initial list. Hopefully, early evidence would eliminate them both, but having Morgan there to protect Tina’s interests eased Lance’s mind.

“Of course.” Morgan touched the center of his chest and said in a low voice, “I love you.”

“Back atcha.” Lance gave her a quick kiss, then hurried from the room. On the way out of the house, he passed a fingerprint tech crouched next to the front door, swirling black powder onto the doorknob with a small brush.

Lance went outside. The property had been transformed into a crime scene. A young deputy stood at the bottom of the driveway. He held a clipboard on which he would be recording the name of every person who entered and exited the crime scene. A tech was setting up floodlights. The portable generator that powered them hummed. Randolph County Sheriff’s Department SUVs, the medical examiner’s van, and a county crime scene unit clogged the suburban street. Crime scene tape had been strung around the perimeter of the property. News vans lined up farther down the road.

Sharp was standing on the sidewalk. In jeans and a T-shirt, he tapped the toe of one running shoe impatiently on the concrete. Lightning flashed across the sky, blinking like a strobe light. The boom of thunder that followed was close enough to rattle Lance’s teeth.

“Follow me,” Lance called to Sharp. Then he turned and jogged toward the place he’d parked his vehicle. He threaded his way through clusters of neighborhood gawkers, dodging an older couple huddling on the sidewalk in their bathrobes. When they had broken free of the crowd, Lance filled Sharp in on the case so far.

At the back of his Jeep, Lance opened the cargo hatch and grabbed a waterproof jacket and his Go Bag, a small backpack he kept filled with emergency supplies, including protein bars, water, a first aid kit, a Mylar emergency blanket, a flashlight, and spare batteries.

A spare magazine and extra ammunition.

He grabbed his Kevlar vest. After their last case, they’d invested in body armor.

Sharp frowned. “I’d like to go on the search with you, but I don’t want to hold the team back.”

The admission had clearly hurt him. On their last big case, Sharp had suffered a serious abdominal wound. Before he’d been hurt, Sharp had been one of the fittest people Lance knew. Thanks to a green, crunchy lifestyle, his fifty-three-year-old boss had been in better shape than most twentysomethings. Given the seriousness of his injuries, his three-month recovery had been astonishing, but he wasn’t in marathon-running condition just yet, which irritated the hell out of him.

“Tonight’s search is going to be ugly,” Lance said. Lightning, thunder, and a blast of wind punctuated his statement.

“I know.”

Lance slung his backpack over one shoulder and turned back toward the house. “You’ll be running half marathons again by fall.”

“But I’m not there yet.” Sharp looked miserable, but he would never jeopardize the search. “I’ll see if I can be useful to Morgan.”

“Send her a text or call her. The sheriff doesn’t want you on scene.”

“I understand.” Sharp nodded, obviously depressed. “Text me if there are any major updates.”

“Will do.”

They separated at the bottom of the driveway. Lance headed for the sheriff’s vehicle, where the sheriff and two deputies gathered around an electronic tablet. Both deputies wore rain gear.

The sheriff motioned to Lance. “Kruger, you already know Todd Harvey.” Colgate gestured toward the other deputy, a wiry man in his late thirties. “This is Jim Rogers. Rogers is a hell of a hunter and tracker.”

“Glad to have you on board. I hear you know the boy.” Rogers extended a hand.

Lance shook it. “I do.”

The sheriff nodded at Harvey. “Todd’s in charge.”

Harvey pointed toward a satellite image of their general location displayed on the electronic tablet in his hand. Forest dominated the screen.

Lance glanced at the image. “What’s on the other side of those woods?”

“A couple of roads. More woods.” Harvey moved the image. “There’s an abandoned campground to the south, at Deer Lake. To the north are farms, individual homes, and a residential development. It’s three thirty. Evan could have as much as a three-hour lead on us. Is the boy familiar with the woods?” Harvey looked to Lance.

“He’s been out there a couple of times, and he’s damned fit. Unless he’s badly injured, he’s going to be able to move faster than the average person.” Lance believed in conditioning drills on top of conditioning drills. Hockey was an exhausting sport. Fit players made a better team—and tired teenagers got into less trouble.

“We’re coordinating with patrol vehicles from the state police and neighboring townships. Normally, I’d limit the search to a six-mile radius, but I’ll expand to nine. It’s easier to tighten the scope of the search than expand it later.”

“Seems you all know what to do,” Colgate said. “Keep me updated.” The sheriff walked away.

Rogers tapped the screen and shifted the map image. “I’m worried about the Deer River. It’s already high from the rains we had last week.”

   
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