Her Last Goodbye Page 11

“You don’t have to convince me. I worry about her more than you do for rational and irrational reasons.”

“Glad we’re on the same page.” Sharp fastened his seat belt. “So whose computer were you copying in the bedroom?”

Once again, Sharp earned his name. He didn’t miss a trick.

“It belongs to Chelsea’s accounting firm,” Lance admitted.

“You know that copying those files was illegal.”

Lance started the engine. “Only if I get caught. The operating system’s auditing capability wasn’t enabled. So there’s no record of my activity. No one will know the files were copied.”

“Sloppy data security for an accounting firm,” Sharp said.

“Definitely,” Lance agreed. “If there’s nothing suspicious in the files, no one will ever know.”

“And if there is?”

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Lance drove toward the office. “But I’ll go through the computer files myself. I don’t want to bring my mom into anything . . . unscrupulous.”

“Illegal,” Sharp clarified.

“Technicality.” Lance felt Sharp’s laser gaze on his face.

“This case must bring back painful memories, but you can’t let your personal history affect your actions. You’ve come a long way since your dad disappeared. Don’t do something stupid because you can’t be objective.”

Lance glanced at his boss. “Good thing we have an excellent attorney in the building.”

“I mean it.”

“OK. OK.” Lance held up a hand.

“I will not bail your ass out of jail.” Sharp’s mouth went tight.

But Lance knew his boss would bail him out in a second. Sharp would be pissed, but he’d be there. As always.

“I’ll be careful.” To Lance this could never be just a case. A woman’s life—and the future of her two children—depended on this investigation.

He would not wish his own life upon those kids. All the years of not knowing. Of wondering if their missing parent was a victim of violence or if they’d been abandoned. Neither option was optimal, but both were better than no closure at all.

He wouldn’t be able to live with himself unless he did everything within his power to find Chelsea Clark, no matter how many rules he had to break.

Chapter Nine

The sheriff’s office was located near the county jail and municipal complex. After verifying that the sheriff’s car was parked behind the building, Morgan opened the glass door and stepped into the lobby. Inside, the ugly brown brick building was old, worn, and thoroughly unattractive, from the scraped linoleum floor to the stained dropped ceiling tiles. The sheriff didn’t waste money on decor.

She went to the reception counter. At a desk a few feet away, a woman glanced up from a computer. She looked like a grandma, about sixty years old, soft all over, with dark-brown dyed hair.

But when she crossed the floor to address Morgan, Grandma’s voice was sugarcoated steel. “Can I help you?”

Morgan’s smile didn’t earn her one in return. “I’m Morgan Dane. I’m here to see Sheriff King.”

“Is he expecting you?”

“No.” Considering their last phone interaction hadn’t been entirely pleasant, Morgan had opted not to warn him. Showing up unannounced seemed like her best option. It was harder to ignore someone in person. “But he knows who I am.”

Behind her reading glasses, Grandma raised her penciled-on eyebrows. “I’ll need to see some ID.”

Morgan fished her wallet out of the depths of her tote bag.

Grandma considered Morgan’s driver’s license for a few seconds before handing it back. “Wait here.”

She turned away and disappeared down a hallway. Two additional administrative employees bustled behind the counter, answering phones and working on computers. The sheriff’s office of a rural county was always busy.

In addition to regular policing, the sheriff was responsible for the county jail, prisoner transport, and serving warrants. As an elected official, he was also forced to be part politician or face not being reelected.

At least most sheriffs did. King seemed immune to bad press. Last year, his office had been accused of roughing up a prisoner. The sheriff’s popularity had soared.

Grandma’s soft but firm voice floated back to the lobby. “I will not tell her you left. Your car is parked out back, and she can probably hear your voice.”

Morgan couldn’t make out the sheriff’s words, but the deep grumble that answered didn’t sound promising. It sounded more like profanity.

“I know you’re busy, but you have an election coming up in a few weeks,” Grandma said.

More grumbling followed.

But Grandma wasn’t fazed. “I’m bringing her back. Be nice.”

She returned. “You can go on in.” She gestured toward the hallway.

Morgan rounded the counter and went through the doorway. A short corridor opened into a larger room filled with desks and computers. A deputy fielded a phone call and typed on his keyboard.

On the other side of the room, a door opened and a uniformed deputy marched a handcuffed man through a side entrance. The front of his worn jeans and white undershirt were stained with dried blood.

Of all the luck . . .

She had to run into Tyler Green.

His previously handsome face had been transformed by her elbow. Both eyes were blackening. Cotton rolls protruded from his nostrils, and a bandage was taped over the bridge of his swollen nose.

He spied Morgan across the room. A nasty gleam lit his eyes. Morgan’s pulse spiked, and her empty stomach cartwheeled as adrenaline flooded her system.

I’m going to get you, he mouthed, his gaze locked on hers. The deputy gave him a not-so-gentle push into a chair.

A tall, broad-shouldered man tossed a file onto the deputy’s desk.

Sheriff King.

He was at least six feet three inches tall and could have stepped out of an old Western. He wore jeans, a tan uniform shirt, and cowboy boots. Though she knew he was only in his midfifties, he looked older, his skin as weathered and worn as an unpainted fence.

“Hey, Green,” the sheriff said in a curt tone. “Shut it.” His scowl landed on Morgan, and he gestured toward an open door on the other side of the room. “Come this way.”

As they entered his office, she caught sight of a uniform Stetson-style hat hanging on a coat-tree in the corner. Seriously, all the man needed was a horse.

He motioned to a guest chair and left the room.

Morgan slipped out of her trench coat, folded it over the adjacent chair, and smoothed her skirt, grateful that she’d started leaving several changes of clothes and shoes in her office closet. These days, she never knew if she’d have to interview a witness or traipse through a muddy field.

The sheriff returned a minute later with two bottles of water. He perched on the edge of his desk, offered her a bottle, and stared down at her. “So, you’re Morgan Dane?”

“Yes.” Morgan accepted the water. “Thank you.”

She’d seen the sheriff on television, and his reputation had preceded him. He was a hard man, and he looked the part. The tanned skin around his eyes and mouth was deeply lined, as if he squinted and frowned most of the time. His nose was crooked, and a scar bisected one eyebrow. She wasn’t surprised at his rough appearance, but his eyes flickered with surprise as they swept over her from head to foot and back again, which was odd. She’d conducted several press conferences during her last case and had no doubt he would have watched them.

“Your appearance is deceiving.” He looked at her as if he didn’t know quite what to do with her. “Tyler Green obviously underestimated you as well.”

Remembering the morning’s incident, Morgan flushed.

“Green’s nose is broken. He’s complaining about headaches and back pain. My deputy was tied up all morning at the ER, and I’ve been fielding calls from Green’s lawyer.” King’s mouth twisted as he said lawyer. “What a pain in my ass.”

Me or Tyler?

King’s jaw tightened. His tone was all you-don’t-belong-here. “You got lucky this morning. He could have hurt you.”

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