Her Last Goodbye Page 12

Morgan swallowed the retorts on her lips about him being sexist and minding his own business. She needed his cooperation. Butting heads with him wouldn’t get it. “I wasn’t alone.”

“I should hope not.”

“And I assure you, my breaking Green’s nose wasn’t an accident.”

Another quick flash of surprise flickered in his eyes, then resignation, and just a little respect. He pushed off the desk and moved behind it. His chair squeaked as he settled his heavy body into it. “So, I hear you officially hung out your shingle. Did you decide criminal defense was more lucrative than working for the prosecutor’s office?”

“It isn’t about money.” Morgan paused. “I come from a family of cops. My brother is NYPD SWAT. My sister is a detective with the SFPD. My grandfather is a retired homicide detective, and my father died in the line of duty. I believe in justice, and I’ll fight for it. But I’m afraid my chance to work for the DA has passed.”

The sheriff coughed. Was that a grin he was trying to hide with his hand? “Sweetheart, you blew by that chance like Richard Petty.”

Morgan’s brain stuttered. Did he just call her sweetheart?

“So why are you here today?” he asked.

“I’m representing Tim Clark.”

The sheriff shifted his weight forward. His forearms landed on his desk. “Tim hasn’t been charged with a crime. Why does he need a lawyer?”

“After the publicity of last month’s false arrest, he’s concerned with your focus on him as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance.”

King scraped a hand down his battered face. “I assume Sharp and Kruger are on board?”

Morgan nodded. “Yes. Tim wants his wife found.”

“We’re doing everything we can to find his wife. Since you’re from a family of cops, you know I can’t talk about an active case.” King could share information. He was choosing not to.

“We’re both on the same side,” Morgan said. “All we want to do is find Chelsea Clark and bring her back to her family.”

And protect Tim’s legal interests.

“And we are in the middle of our official investigation into her disappearance,” King said in an end-of-discussion tone.

“Anything you can tell me would help. I know you’re swamped here. You can’t possibly give Chelsea’s case a hundred percent of your attention. Sharp and Kruger are experienced investigators who can focus solely on finding Chelsea. You don’t have the manpower or the budget.”

King studied her without responding. Despite his reputation as a good lawman, he was also stubborn and arrogant. Morgan could not force him to cooperate. She needed a new approach, but King wouldn’t fall for any bullshit. Her argument would have to be sincere, and something he couldn’t argue with. And something that had nothing to do with his department’s ability. She needed to throw him off balance, to appeal to him in a human way.

She chose the one thing many men, particularly manly men, weren’t comfortable handling: emotion.

“My youngest was an infant when my husband was killed in Iraq.”

King blinked. “I’m sorry.”

Morgan let her true emotions show on her face. “I know what it’s like to be left alone to raise young children. I know what it’s like to wish your kids remembered their father. I know what it’s like to have to explain, over and over, why Daddy won’t ever be coming home. Unless someone finds his wife, Tim Clark won’t even have an explanation for his children. Grief is hard enough to survive. I don’t want them to have to live with not knowing what happened to their mother.”

She had lived under a dark cloud for two long, exhausting years. She was just recently emerging from her depression, blinking at the sunlight, almost as if she’d just discovered that she deserved to have a life. She still missed and loved John but knew that he would have been angry if she wasted the rest of her life being sad.

That she shouldn’t feel guilty for allowing herself to be happy.

King glanced away, his expression conflicted, his movements awkward. He got up abruptly and paced the floor behind his desk. His long legs ate up the space with two strides in each direction. He looked like a frustrated predator trapped in a too-small cage. “I don’t want to jeopardize our investigation.”

“How many leads has your department turned up?”

He stopped. His face hardened. “We both know that most missing adults leave because they want to, and they eventually turn up on their own.”

“And you have limited resources. I understand.” Morgan used his argument against him.

“I assure you that Chelsea Clark’s case is a priority for this department.”

“Look, Sheriff, I don’t want to step on any toes.” But she would if she had to. “I understand your position completely.” She shifted her weight, as if ready to leave. “I can always put Tim Clark and his two babies on the news and appeal to the public for help. I’ll leave it up to you to explain where you are in your investigation to the press.”

Which would publicly highlight his department’s lack of progress on a case he’d managed to keep relatively low-key up until this point.

He hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans and sighed. “We have found no sign of foul play at this time.”

“Fingerprints in the car?” Morgan settled back into the chair.

“Sure. Mrs. Clark’s and others, but no criminal matches yet.”

“You’re submitting the prints to local, state, and federal databases?” she asked. In addition to the FBI’s national IAFIS system, state and local agencies kept their own records. Typically, it was most efficient to begin with a local search and expand geographically.

“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?”

“No.”

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.”

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