Her Last Goodbye Page 10

The way she’d seemed to fade away over the following months and years.

Patricia sniffed and wiped a fingertip under her eye. “She’s had a rough time since the baby was born.”

“It didn’t have to be that tough. Tim could have been more useful.” Randall scowled.

“So Tim isn’t a good husband?” Lance asked.

“That’s not fair, Rand.” Patricia’s knuckles whitened around her husband’s. “Tim loves Chelsea. He’s a hard worker who’s trying to build a future for his family. And he’s a nice boy.”

“As smart as he is, that’s exactly what he is—a boy.” Randall didn’t look convinced. “He needs to grow the hell up.”

“Anyway, we’re so glad Tim agreed to hire a private firm,” Patricia said. “After speaking to the sheriff over the phone, we didn’t have much confidence in his investigation.”

“You asked Tim to hire us?” Lance asked.

Patricia’s forehead wrinkled. “Not exactly. We were discussing our frustration with the sheriff. No matter how many times I told him Chelsea would never leave her babies, he seemed convinced that she was depressed and left on her own. Tim said he wished he could afford to hire his own investigator, but he didn’t have the cash. So we gave him the money.”

“Does Chelsea have an agenda book, a calendar, a place where she leaves notes for herself?” Lance asked.

Patricia slid a USB drive across the table. “Tim said he copied everything from her computer and phone onto this. As far as I know, she keeps her calendar and address book on her phone.”

Lance pocketed the USB drive.

Of course, having all the information filtered through Tim had its downsides. Tim was skilled with computers. He could have purged any damaging tidbits before he handed the information over. But such was the challenge of working in the private sector. Lance couldn’t go to a judge and get a subpoena for Tim’s records.

“How about friends?” Sharp asked. “Do you know of any besides Fiona? Someone from back home?”

Patricia shook her head. “She lost touch with everyone back home when they moved here. Young children take up so much time. She has her coworkers, though she never mentioned being especially close to any of them. Randall, did she ever mention anyone to you?”

“Just her boss. What’s his name?” Randall tilted his head, thinking. “MacDonald. Curtis MacDonald. She seemed to have a pretty good relationship with him.”

“In what way?” Lance asked.

Randall shifted his weight as if suddenly uncomfortable. “Nothing inappropriate. She mentioned he was letting her work a little from home. She was supposed to go back to the office weeks ago, but William hasn’t been cooperative.”

“Is it all right if we take a look around?” Lance asked.

“Please do.” Patricia wiped a teary eye. Randall put an arm around his wife’s shoulders, pulled her closer, and kissed her temple. She closed her eyes and leaned into his shoulder.

Lance led Sharp from the room, giving Chelsea’s parents privacy. But he glanced back at them over his shoulder. What would it be like to be that close to someone for thirty years? It would be amazing to have that level of comfort and support and love no matter what life threw at him.

Then he imagined having that partner ripped away, which is exactly what had happened to both his mother and Morgan. His mother had never recovered, and it had taken Morgan two years to come out from under her grief.

Everything had a price.

Even love.

Especially love.

In the foyer, Sharp poked him in the arm, breaking his depressing train of thought. “Earth to Lance.”

“Sorry.” Lance shook off the sad memories. “Where are we starting?”

Sharp opened the hall closet. “I’ll go through coat pockets. You want to check out the bedroom?”

Lance turned toward the stairs. “On it.”

At the top landing, he glanced in each doorway. One bedroom was an explosion of pink and purple with a clear princess theme. Primary colors and trains decorated the nursery. Lance stopped in the doorway of the master bedroom. A man’s watch on the nightstand told him that Tim slept on the right side of the bed.

Lance went to the left side and opened the single drawer. ChapStick. Moisturizer. Pens. Normal stuff. Nothing interesting. The bottom shelf held a few mystery and romance novels, plus a reference book on infant care. Lance picked each book up and made sure nothing was stashed between the pages. The dresser was piled high with clean, folded laundry. Next to the laundry sat a laptop.

Tim’s?

No. Patricia said that the computer downstairs was used by both Tim and Chelsea.

Curiosity pulled Lance toward the dresser. He paused and listened for voices. Patricia and Randall were still in the kitchen. Tim hadn’t come back yet. Lance raised the lid and turned on the computer.

A few minutes later, he’d determined the laptop was owned by Skyver and MacDonald, the firm Chelsea worked for. Lance tried to poke around, but the files were password-protected. He took his flash drive from his pocket and plugged it in to the USB port. A few keystrokes later, the computer hummed as it copied files.

Had the police looked at the work computer? Probably not. They would need permission or a search warrant, given the confidential nature of accounting. Lance doubted Chelsea’s boss would have been able to give access without consulting each and every client whose files were on the computer. And a search warrant wasn’t likely to be granted with no link to Chelsea’s employer. Hell, the police didn’t even have any evidence that foul play of any sort had occurred in Chelsea’s disappearance.

Lance left the computer chugging away and searched the dresser and closet. Chelsea and Tim owned mostly casual wardrobes. Lance checked jacket pockets, then sifted through the garbage can for any important notes. He found nothing unusual.

Chelsea and Tim seemed perfectly ordinary, at least on the surface.

“Lance?” Sharp called from the hallway.

Lance relaxed. “In here.”

“I’ve checked most of downstairs,” Sharp said from the hallway. “I found two iPads. One must belong to Chelsea.” Walking into the bedroom, Sharp glanced at the computer on the dresser and raised his brows. Lance shook his head and put a finger to his pursed lips.

Sharp’s mouth flattened with suspicion. “Did you search the bathroom?”

“Not yet.”

Sharp went into the adjoining bath. Lance heard cabinets opening and closing.

Ten minutes later, Lance disconnected the hard drive, shut down the laptop, and slid the flash drive back into his pocket just as Sharp emerged from the bathroom.

“Nothing unusual,” he said. “Her travel makeup bag is still in there. No interesting prescriptions.”

The front door slammed, a baby cried, and a little girl chattered. Lance and Sharp went back downstairs.

In the foyer, Patricia took the baby from Tim, and Randall helped Bella take off her jacket while Tim hung his own in the hall closet. With a quick glance between them, Randall and Patricia led the children toward the stairway.

“Let’s read a story.” Randall took his granddaughter’s hand.

Lance waited until they disappeared at the top of the steps. “Tim, there’s another laptop upstairs. Is it yours?”

Tim shook his head. “No. That’s Chelsea’s work computer. In fact, I have to return it to her office today. I was supposed to do it yesterday, but I got hung up with the kids.”

“I don’t suppose the police had a look at it?” Lance asked.

“No. They said they couldn’t. I don’t know why it would matter. There’s nothing personal on it. It’s all spreadsheets. Chelsea was trying to catch up with her clients’ books.”

“Then I think we have everything we need for now,” Sharp said.

Lance and Sharp left the house and returned to the Jeep.

Sharp slid into the passenger seat. “Drop me at the office before you take Tim’s data to your mom.”

“We could just drive out there now.”

“No,” Sharp said. “Morgan is safe enough at the sheriff’s department, but if she beats us back to the office, she’s liable to head off on her own if the sheriff gave her a lead.” Sharp lifted a hand. “Don’t give me a bullshit argument about her being able to defend herself. I have enormous respect for her. I don’t want you looking for a potential kidnapper on your own either.”

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