Her Last Goodbye Page 15

“It’s a shame she and Tim were going through a rough patch,” Morgan empathized.

“It wasn’t just a rough patch.” Fiona shook her head. “They were having problems long before now.”

Morgan tilted her head. “What kind of problems?”

“Tim worked too much. Last year, Chelsea told me she felt like they were growing apart.” Fiona’s mouth twisted. “Then she did something really stupid. She got pregnant. I told her another baby would only make their problems worse, but she thought it would bring them together again.”

“But it didn’t,” Lance said.

“No.” Fiona sniffed.

“When was the last time you saw her?” Lance asked.

“I stopped by their house on Wednesday,” Fiona said.

“Was anything odd about her appearance or behavior?” he pressed.

“She was tired.” Fiona tossed her tissue in a wastebasket. “She’d just gotten back from a run. I watched the kids so she could take a quick shower.”

“How was William?”

“I tried to do a puzzle with Bella, but I ended up just walking in circles with the baby instead. He cried the whole time she was out of his sight.” Fiona picked at a fingernail. “But that’s normal for him.”

“The crying didn’t bother you?” Morgan asked. “My youngest was colicky. The screaming can get to you after hours and hours of it.”

Fiona shuddered. “It was nerve-racking, but I wanted to help. I don’t know how Chelsea stands listening to him bawl day and night.”

Lance added, “But other than the crying baby, nothing seemed abnormal?”

“No.” Fiona used her fingertips to swipe a tear from under one eye.

“Were you surprised when she didn’t show up on Friday night?” Morgan asked.

Fiona shook her head. “No. We were supposed to meet two weeks ago, but Chelsea was a no-show. I called her and she didn’t answer. I worried all night. The next morning, she sent me a text apologizing for blowing me off, saying William had had a bad night. God forbid Tim handle the baby for one evening.”

“So Friday night, you assumed the same thing had happened,” Morgan said. “When did you talk to Chelsea last?”

“Around seven. She was really excited to see me.” Fiona ignored a second tear. Her eyes were bright with tears as she lifted her gaze to Morgan and then Lance. “So where is she?”

“We’re going to do everything we can to find her.” Morgan asked a few more personal questions about Chelsea, but all of Fiona’s answers matched Tim’s.

“Please call me if you have any more questions,” Fiona said as she escorted them to the door. “I’ll do anything to help find Chelsea.”

Back in the Jeep, Lance started the engine. “What do you think? Is she being too hard on Tim or is he a self-absorbed jerk?”

“Hard to say.” Morgan set her bag on the floor. “Keep in mind, Fiona isn’t married and doesn’t have kids. From the outside, it may have appeared as if Chelsea was on her own. Who knew what it was really like? When Tim was in our office, he might not have seemed completely comfortable with the baby, but he was hardly incompetent. Clearly, he’s handled a baby in the past.”

“You’re probably right. Their little girl acted very comfortable with him this afternoon.” Lance drove toward the office. “What do you want to do for dinner?”

Morgan checked the time on her phone. “We don’t have much time before our meeting with Tim’s boss at Speed Net.”

“You hate to miss dinner with your girls.”

“It can’t be helped tonight. Gianna will feed them. Maybe I can make it home for bedtime.” Morgan had a family friend who insisted on performing live-in nanny duties in return for her keep.

“I know you want to find Chelsea, but we have to eat.”

Morgan skipped way too many meals.

“You’re right,” she said. “I just want to find her. I’ll take the Clarks’ financial records home with me tonight. I can go through them after the kids go to bed.”

“Sharp said he’d work on the phone records. I guess that leaves me with social media accounts.” Lance drove toward a deli.

Neither Morgan nor Sharp nor Lance would ever be the kind of professionals who could leave a case like Chelsea’s at the office at five o’clock. But on the other side of the equation, they couldn’t neglect the loved ones who depended on them. It was going to be a long night—the first of many until they found Chelsea Clark.

Alive or dead.

Chapter Eleven

The lobby of Speed Net reminded Lance of a trendy loft—sleek, industrial, and slightly cold. Building security rivaled that of a bank vault. Instead of glass, the front door was made of steel. Lance and Morgan had been buzzed into the building after speaking to the receptionist via a video intercom.

Lance had expected the start-up tech firm to employ a young, hip receptionist, but the woman sitting at the modern desk was middle-aged and dressed in comfortable navy-blue slacks and a white cardigan. She rounded the desk to greet them, and Lance suspected her heavy-soled black shoes were orthopedic.

The nameplate on the desk read BARBARA PAGANO.

Speed Net was founded by Elliot Pagano. Could this be his mother?

Morgan introduced them and handed the receptionist a business card.

“Hello. I’m Barbara. Elliot is waiting for you.” Her smile was a thousand times warmer than the metal-and-glass space around her. Lance half expected her to offer him a cookie.

Barbara stepped in front of a number pad and entered a code. Then she pressed her thumb to a small glass plate. The door unlocked with a soft snick, and she opened it. “This way, please.”

Lance and Morgan followed Barbara into a large, open industrial-looking room filled with long tables, desks, and computer equipment. At the far end of the room, a few couches and overstuffed chairs were grouped around a large screen TV. Video-game controllers and soda cans littered the sleek coffee table. The ceiling was at least thirty feet high. The people milling around in their jeans and T-shirts and sneakers could have passed for the cast of American Pie. They crossed the polished concrete floor to a glassed-in conference room.

Morgan set her tote on the floor and sat in a gray leather chair at the table.

“You’re Elliot’s mom?” Lance asked.

“I am.” Barbara smiled. Her eyes shone with pride. “He doesn’t just let me work here; Elliot employs the whole family. There’s his dad and brother, Derek.” She pointed through the glass. At the far side of the cavernous outer room, two men were installing some sort of conduit along the base of the brick wall. “He’d be furious if he heard me say this, but Elliot is such a good boy. He takes care of all of us. Here he is now.”

The door opened and a young man walked in. Elliot wore jeans, sneakers, and a gray Doctor Who T-shirt emblazoned with a spinning TARDIS. His hair was short but in need of a trim. A thick chunk fell over his brow. According to their preliminary information, Elliot was a twenty-seven-year-old, self-made multimillionaire. He might be young, but he had the self-assured bearing of a more experienced man.

“Thanks, Mom,” Elliot said to Barbara as she bowed out of the room.

Lance held out a hand. “Thanks for meeting with us.”

“I’ll do anything to help. I can’t believe Chelsea is missing.” Elliot shook their hands and sat across from Morgan. Lance took the chair beside her. Tim had provided basic information about his employer. Elliot had built the company from the ground up after selling his previous start-up for a huge chunk of change. Not bad for a guy who had dropped out of college at the age of twenty.

“Nice that you let your parents work here,” Lance said.

“I tried to give them money, but my father practically burst a vein at the thought of taking money he hadn’t earned.” Elliot sighed.

“Hard to fault him for having a good work ethic,” Lance pointed out.

“This is true,” Elliot agreed. “Most of my employees got here by being smart and working hard. Of all of them, I have the most respect for Tim. I grew up poor, but I had the support and love of my parents. Family is everything to me. I don’t know how I would have handled my wife’s death without my family. Tim didn’t have that support network growing up, but I’m glad Chelsea’s family is here with him now.”

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