Her Last Goodbye Page 27

“I know.” But she still felt guilty. Morgan took responsibilities seriously. “It was just bad timing.”

“You can say that again.” Lance went to the closet for clean clothes. He exited wearing cargo pants and pulling a T-shirt over his head. Morgan put her phone on the bed and unzipped her garment bag while she used voice commands to dial Tim’s number.

Lance swallowed with regret as she dressed—stepping into a maroon skirt, tugging a white shirt over her head, and then flipping her hair out of the neck.

“Hello,” Tim answered. More than one child cried in the background. The sound set Lance’s nerves on edge.

Something major must have happened if the sheriff wanted Tim at the station.

Chapter Eighteen

“What’s going on, Tim?” Morgan zipped her skirt.

Still flushed and hot from Lance’s touch, she bottled up her irritation. But really, why couldn’t the sheriff just work and play well with others? Dressed, she picked up the phone and turned off the speaker.

“I don’t know what to do.” Desperation raised the pitch of Tim’s voice.

“Slow down, Tim,” Morgan said in a firm voice. Her client wasn’t thinking straight. He needed direction. “What’s going on?”

“The sheriff wants me at the station. He refuses to say why.” Tim’s words were nearly drowned out by crying, too much crying to be made by one baby.

“Who’s crying?” Morgan asked.

“Both the kids,” Tim answered. “The deputy scared Bella. She thinks he wants to take me away.”

Temper heated the back of Morgan’s neck. “Where is he now?”

“In the foyer. I’m in the living room, trying to calm down the kids. My in-laws went out to have more flyers printed. They’re not answering their cell phones. I told him I needed to wait until they came home, but he said he could call child services to take care of the kids. What am I going to do? Can they really take my kids away?”

Morgan blew a hard breath through her nostrils.

“I want you to ask the deputy if you are under arrest.” She seethed. Either the sheriff was holding back a giant piece of information or he was merely trying to intimidate the harried father. Either way, she was done playing nice.

“What?” Tim sounded shocked.

Morgan repeated her instructions in a louder voice. “Trust me. Do it now.”

Over the connection, a little girl wailed, “Don’t take my daddy!”

Morgan assumed Tim had joined the deputy in the foyer. The baby’s cries intensified, each child feeding on the other’s hysteria. She barely heard Tim shouting the question. The deputy’s reply was drowned out.

“He says no,” Tim yelled into the phone.

“Tell him you will meet him at the station as soon as your in-laws come home. Then tell him to leave your house. Be polite but firm.”

“Are you sure?” Tim asked.

Morgan answered, “Completely sure.”

A few seconds later, a door slammed, the little girl’s wails quieted to whimpers, and the baby’s cries diminished.

“Thank you.” Tim sounded stunned. “I didn’t know I could do that.”

“Most people don’t.”

In Morgan’s experience, law-abiding citizens didn’t know their rights. Criminals, however, were well versed in the legal process.

Morgan said, “I’m on my way over. Don’t talk to anyone or do anything without me.”

She ended the call. After slipping her feet into her heels, she grabbed her tote bag and headed for the laundry room. “Can I collect my wet shoes when they’re dry?”

Fully dressed, Lance was right behind her. “Of course.”

She turned. “I wish . . .”

“Yeah. Me too.” He leaned down and kissed her softly on the mouth. “At some point, we will have an hour to ourselves. I promise.”

“I know.” The sigh rolled through her. “But I really wanted it to be today.”

The corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile. “Me too.”

She snagged her trench coat from the peg, then slid her arms into the sleeves.

Lance grabbed a jacket from a peg. He was wearing his gun again. “Are we going straight to Tim’s?”

“Yes.” In the car, she flipped down the mirror in the visor. Her hair was a disaster. She finger-combed it and wound it into a quick twist, digging a few hairpins from the bottom of her bag. She applied fresh lipstick and flipped the mirror closed. “Ready.”

“You certainly are.” Lance drove to Tim’s house.

Tim’s in-laws had returned and were in the kitchen with the children when Tim let Morgan and Lance into the house. Chelsea’s parents looked shell-shocked.

Patricia shifted the baby over her shoulder. “What’s going on?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” Morgan said.

Bella cried when Tim said goodbye.

He crouched down and hugged her. “I’ll be back soon.”

“Promise?” She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve.

“Promise.” Tim kissed his daughter on the head then straightened. “Let’s go.”

He kept his eyes forward until they were outside. They got into the Jeep, and Tim stared at his house from the back seat. “Why would he treat me like this?”

“I don’t know.” In the passenger seat, Morgan turned to face him. “Here are the rules. If I tell you not to answer a question, don’t. You not only cooperated in the sheriff’s investigation; you initiated it. In fact, you are the one who is unsatisfied with the way he is handling your wife’s disappearance. You’ve hired a private firm because he hasn’t made satisfactory progress on the case.”

“OK,” Tim said. “But I don’t understand. All I want to do is find my wife. Why won’t he look for her?”

“I’m sure he is.” Morgan tapped a finger on her leg. The sheriff should be sharing more of his investigation with the family, but she suspected something had happened to initiate the sheriff’s call to Tim.

Once at the sheriff’s station, Morgan, Lance, and Tim were escorted to an interview room by a deputy.

“The sheriff will be back soon,” the deputy said.

Sheriff King isn’t even here?

Seeing the deputy’s grim face as he closed the door sent a chill rippling up Morgan’s arms.

What had happened?

Had they found Chelsea?

“I’ll get us some coffee.” Lance left the room for a few minutes, returning with three Styrofoam cups.

Tim didn’t drink his, but he held it between his palms and stared into the cup, barely moving, while they waited. Ten minutes later, the sheriff opened the door and walked in. Tim jumped, the feet of his plastic chair squeaking on the floor with the jerk of his body. His coffee sloshed over the rim of the cup, and he set it down on the table.

The sheriff’s boots were muddy, and his hair mussed, as if he’d been outside. The grim set of his face put Morgan on alert.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” He settled his bulk in the chair across from Tim. Though his eyes flickered at Morgan with annoyance—no doubt he didn’t appreciate her challenging his authority—when his gaze settled on Tim, it was with empathy. “Thank you for coming in, Mr. Clark.” He sighed, his big chest expanding and deflating. “I want you to brace yourself.”

Morgan stiffened. Next to her, Tim’s hands curled around the arms of his chair.

The sheriff continued. “This afternoon, the body of a woman was found by a pair of hikers.”

Oh, no.

Morgan’s mind spun. Keeping her ears tuned to the sheriff, she turned to her client. Tim blinked. His head shook slightly, as if he didn’t believe what he was hearing.

“The first thing you need to know is that we have not identified her yet. We do not know for certain if this woman is your wife,” the sheriff continued.

Tim’s features were frozen, the color draining from his face until he was the pale gray of day-old snow. When he finally opened his mouth, his voice was a tight rasp. “But it could be?”

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