Her Last Goodbye Page 33

Sharp’s marker hovered over the board. “How tight was his alibi?”

“Vacuum sealed,” said Lance.

“Damn.” Sharp moved Elliot’s name down the suspect list.

Lance continued. “Elliot became a multimillionaire when he sold his interest in TechKing, the company he started with Levi Gold.” Lance skimmed the report, pulling out the information his mother had highlighted. “But it’s interesting that Speed Net’s main competition is Levi Gold’s new company, Gold Stream.”

“And Elliot mentioned that Levi had a grudge against him.” Morgan tapped a pen on her legal pad. “They had a falling-out over the sale of TechKing.”

“Did Gold get screwed on the sale?” Sharp asked hopefully.

“No,” Lance said. “They both made a hefty profit.”

“Crap.” Sharp made a note between Elliot and Levi’s names and connected it to both men with arrows. “What do we know about Levi Gold?”

Lance clicked on the photo in the file and turned the laptop to face Sharp then Morgan.

Levi Gold was a paraplegic.

“So Levi Gold didn’t personally kidnap Chelsea,” Morgan said.

Sharp’s mouth flattened. “No, but he’s rich. He could hire someone to do his dirty work. Where is his company based?”

“New Jersey.” Lance rubbed his eyes. He’d worked late and had gotten up well before the sun rose. He eyed Morgan’s coffeemaker but decided it wouldn’t be worth the argument with Sharp. “My mom is working her way through the list of Speed Net employees, but so far she hasn’t found any red flags.”

“Do we keep Tim on the list?” Lance asked. “His alibi is a three-year-old.”

“Unless he was willing to leave his daughter alone, I don’t see how he could have managed it.” Morgan shook her head, then stopped suddenly. “Is there any possibility that Chelsea actually disappeared earlier? We only have Tim’s word that she left the house at eight.”

Lance sifted through Chelsea’s phone records. “Fiona talked to Chelsea at seven. The call is verified right here.”

“Hold on.” Sharp came to stand in front of Morgan’s desk. “Can you hand me the report on my canvas of Tim’s neighborhood.”

“Here.” Morgan handed it over.

Sharp flipped to the second page. “Bill Hanks lives two doors down from Tim and Chelsea. Bill was just coming home from bowling when he saw Tim putting the kids in the car. He remembered because he thought it was strange for Tim to be taking the kids out when it was nearly midnight. According to Tim, Chelsea had said she’d be home around ten. There were multiple, verified texts and calls from Tim to Chelsea between ten and eleven. Tim left audible messages. His call to Fiona was also verified. There was no activity on Chelsea’s phone, but phone records show that Tim made those calls from home. Some of the location services were disabled on both phones, so we can’t determine where they were when they weren’t in use.”

“So the sheriff was right when he said that Tim was where he said he was Friday night.” Morgan finished her coffee and set the mug aside.

“We verified that Chelsea didn’t leave her house before seven p.m., that Tim was at home to Skype with his in-laws at eight thirty, that Tim’s phone was at home between eleven and twelve, and that Tim left the house close to midnight,” Sharp said. “The hours in between eight thirty and eleven are still murky. Can we think of a motivation for Tim to make his wife disappear?”

“It’s not money,” Lance said. “They don’t have much, and her life insurance is minimal.”

“What if their marital problems are worse than anyone thought?” Sharp suggested. “Maybe Chelsea was going to leave Tim and take the kids back to Colorado.”

“There would be legal issues with her taking the kids to another state,” Morgan said.

“But her parents have more money than Tim and can afford better lawyers.” Sharp wrote DIVORCE? in black marker under Tim’s name on the whiteboard.

“The reports on Tim’s family are interesting.” Lance scanned a report his mom had flagged. “Both Tim’s father and brother have served time in state prison. His mom’s drug-dealing charge was pleaded down. She served a year in a county facility for women. Tim’s brother missed his last meeting with his parole officer.”

Sharp marked their names with an asterisk. “They’ve asked Tim for money in the past. Maybe they decided he needed to share his newfound success.”

Morgan tapped her pen. “Tim hasn’t received a ransom demand.”

“Maybe they’re waiting for the publicity to die down,” Lance suggested.

“Or for us to go away,” Sharp added. “I know a PI in Colorado. I’ll give him a call. I want eyes on Tim’s family.”

Lance leaned over his laptop and opened another computer file. “Next up is Chelsea’s boss, Curtis MacDonald.”

“Chelsea wanted to talk to him about something important. We have no indication of what that was.” Morgan turned to Lance. “What about the data on Chelsea’s computer and smartphone?”

“Nothing unusual,” Lance said. “Mostly she was interested in mom-type topics. Colic, infant development, sibling relationships, etc.”

“Assuming the dead woman isn’t Chelsea, do we still think there’s any chance that Chelsea left on her own?” Sharp asked.

Morgan shook her head. “In my opinion, no.”

Lance thought of the pretty blonde woman. Was Sheriff King right? Was she hiding out somewhere, depressed, suicidal, angry with her husband and determined to teach him a lesson? “My gut agrees with Morgan. Everyone we asked says Chelsea would never leave her kids.”

“The pendant’s broken chain and the hairs ripped out by the root support her being forcibly taken,” Morgan said.

Sharp nodded, his eyes grim. “Then we’re all in agreement on that. Unless Chelsea had some kind of psychotic breakdown, she wouldn’t intentionally abandon her family.”

Lance returned to his list. “I saved the best for last. Harold Burns?”

Sharp crossed his arms across his chest. “Level-three violent sex offenders aren’t magically cured. They’re a public threat as long as they’re loose.”

“Studies are mixed,” Morgan argued. “We can’t assume he’s guilty because he was confrontational.”

Sharp widened his stance. “He didn’t peep in windows. He committed a violent rape. He used a gun. He threatened and choked his victim.”

“I agree. I saw too many repeat offenders of all types to believe any violent criminals should be out on the street. But anyone on the sex offender registry is going to react when an investigator comes calling to talk about a missing woman.”

Lance paced, picturing the way Burns had intimidated Morgan. “Even if Burns is likely guilty of something, we can’t assume Burns is guilty of this crime.”

“How far from Burns’s home address and the auto shop was the body found?” Sharp asked. “I’m going to get a map.”

“I have one right here.” Lance clicked through and pulled up a map of the area. He placed a pin on the location near the state park where the body was found. Then, he marked the other two addresses. “The body was found less than two miles from the auto shop. If you went through the woods behind the salvage yard, eventually you’d end up in the state park.”

Morgan’s phone buzzed. “It’s the sheriff.”

Lance stopped. Had the ME identified the body?

Chapter Twenty-Three

Holding her breath, Morgan pressed the phone to her ear. “Morgan Dane.”

“King here,” the sheriff said in a deep grumble.

“Have you heard from the ME?” Morgan asked.

“No. That’s not what this is about.” The sheriff actually huffed. “I got a call from Harold Burns’s lawyer. You and your investigators will stay away from him. Consider this your official warning.”

“You know he’s a level-three violent offender and the woman’s body was found less than two miles from Burns Auto Shop?” Morgan’s voice was as cold as the icy shiver that slipped through her insides. Burns had gone on the offensive after their visit to the auto shop. She’d expected him to lay low.

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