Her Last Goodbye Page 40

“What time did you escape?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Chelsea said.

“Do have any idea how far you ran?” the sheriff pressed.

She shook her head. The night had been a blur of pain and exhaustion and terror. “I don’t know.”

Tim took his wife’s hand again. “Chelsea runs almost every day. She’s very fit.”

The ability to outrun her captor had no doubt saved her life.

Frustrated, the sheriff tapped a pen on his notepad. “How far do you usually run?”

Chelsea rested her head back against the pillows, spent.

Tim jumped in. “Anywhere from five to fifteen miles, and she’s fast too.”

Sheriff King exhaled hard. “And you didn’t follow a trail or stream?”

“I just ran. It was dark. Eventually, I had to walk, but everything looked the same in the woods.” Chelsea’s words and memories blended together, the pitch of her voice rising as exhaustion weighted her.

“Did you hear anything while you were in the container or while you were running away?” the sheriff asked. “Any little detail might help us locate him.”

“No. I don’t know.” Chelsea blinked. Tears spilled from her eyes, and her voice cracked in frustration. “I don’t remember.”

“Was there a road or could the container be seen from above?” the sheriff asked.

Chelsea pictured it in her mind. “I didn’t see a road, and there were tree branches overhead, so I don’t know. Maybe? I’m sorry. It was dark and I was more interested in getting away than remembering every detail.”

The doctor came into the room and frowned at the sheriff. “That’s enough. After she rests, she might be able to recall more information. But you’ve clearly pushed her far enough for now.”

The doctor held a syringe in her hand. “I know you didn’t want a sedative earlier, but you haven’t slept and you really need to. I think the rest will help.”

Since the emotions scurrying in Chelsea’s mind were overwhelming, she agreed. “All right.” She turned to Tim. “If you’ll stay?”

“I’ll be here when you wake up.” He stroked her forehead.

The doctor injected clear liquid into the IV.

Within seconds, the tension in Chelsea’s body eased. Her fingers relaxed in Tim’s hand and the room blurred. She barely noticed as the sheriff ducked out of the room.

The doctor’s voice floated to Chelsea. “As I mentioned earlier, I’m also going to order a psychiatric evaluation. There are techniques that might help her remember details, but right now, she’s been through enough.”

The sheriff’s voice followed, “I’ll put a deputy outside your wife’s door for tonight. We’ll reassess the situation tomorrow.”

Chelsea shivered. Her kidnapper had held her for almost a week. He’d tortured her.

He might not give her up so easily.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Lance and Morgan sat in the hospital waiting room. Morgan silently contemplated the dark-gray carpet. She hadn’t said a word since a nurse had come for Chelsea’s parents ten minutes before. Morgan’s eyes were dark and far away, and Lance wondered what difficult memory was playing in her mind.

Several hours had passed since they’d seen the video in Tim’s kitchen. A few phone calls had verified that Chelsea had been taken to the hospital. A neighbor had been called to watch the children so that Tim, Patricia, and Rand could go to the hospital.

Lance reached for Morgan’s hand, interlacing their fingers. Hers were cold. “Are you all right?”

“When the chaplain came to the house to tell me that John was dead, I was alone. The girls were there, but I was the only adult. Sophie was still a baby. I don’t even remember the next couple of hours. I don’t know who took care of the children. Maybe the chaplain. Maybe the army officer who came with him. Maybe me.” She paused for a slow breath. “Someone called Grandpa because he and Stella just showed up at the house. I have no memory of the rest of that day. Except for John’s funeral, the next few weeks are hazy.”

Lance squeezed her hand, the pain in her voice breaking his heart. “Maybe that’s for the best.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Chelsea is alive.”

“I know.” Morgan’s voice was soft. “I was just thinking how good it was for Tim to have support. To not be alone. Chelsea is alive, but we have no idea what happened to her. What she went through.”

Lance was betting it had been pretty horrific. Even without seeing her in person, he’d seen her face on that recording. She’d been filthy and battered, her bruised face the color of a raw steak, her features swollen. It had taken Tim a few seconds to recognize her, and he’d been blown away.

A shadow darkened the doorway.

“There you are.” The sheriff walked in. He went to the portable coffeemaker on a table in the corner and brewed himself a cup. He took a chair across from Morgan and Lance. His eyes were troubled, and he held the cup in both hands, but Lance could see the ends of his fingers trembling.

Sheriff King wasn’t easily disturbed. He’d undoubtedly seen many terrible things in his decades in law enforcement. But Chelsea had gotten to him. Discomfort stirred in Lance’s chest. What had Chelsea told the sheriff?

“How is she?” Morgan asked.

“She’s in rough shape, but she’s alive.” The sheriff paused to drink his coffee. “Unfortunately, her captor wore a ski mask, so she can’t describe him other than to say he was six feet tall, maybe a little more, and strong. She didn’t recognize an accent, so maybe he’s from the general area.”

“That description fits Harold Burns,” Lance said.

The sheriff shrugged. “Her description fits a good percentage of the male residents of Randolph County.”

“Do you have men out searching the woods for the place where she was held?” Morgan asked.

The sheriff nodded. “We do, but we have no idea how long or how far she ran. From the injuries to her feet, we think she covered some ground. Miles. It might have been a house or cabin in the woods, and she was held in a shipping container. It’ll be hard to narrow down the search unless we can get more information from her. We’re looking at satellite photos of the area to see if we can see the container, but Chelsea said there are branches that might conceal it.” His big chest rose and fell. He stared into his coffee. The attempted interview had troubled him. “I wish she remembered more details.”

“She’s traumatized.”

“Yes.” He composed his face back into its usual stony mask. “We sent the blanket and the dress she was wearing to forensics. They’ll try and find trace evidence or DNA, but given how far she ran in the woods, I’m not sure how much help anything the techs find will be. When you talk to her, please take notes. Any small piece of information could help us find this guy.”

“Thanks for the update,” Lance said.

The sheriff tossed his empty cup in the trash on his way out.

“What now?” Morgan stood and stretched.

“I don’t know.” Lance got to his feet. “Sharp and I were hired to find Chelsea, and she’s no longer missing.”

“I’m not sure Tim will be needing a lawyer at this point. I don’t know where I stand either.” Morgan paced the room. “Let’s give Tim a little more time.”

They didn’t have to wait long. Tim walked into the room; his eyes looked as if he’d been traumatized. “I only have a few minutes. I want to get back to Chelsea.”

“Of course you do,” Morgan said. “Don’t feel like you need to give us a report. Go back to your wife.”

“She’s . . .” He glanced away, then turned and eased into a chair. Resting his elbows on his knees, he dropped his head into his hands and shoved both hands into his hair.

Morgan moved to take the chair next to him. Without speaking, she put a hand on his back. Tim’s shoulders shook as he cried silently. He lifted his head a few minutes later, his eyes still shocked.

“She was shaking when I went in to see her. So hard.” Anger glittered in his tear-filled eyes. “But she’s strong. Stronger than I ever realized.” Tim leaned back and wiped his sleeve across his face. His eyes were bleak as he said, “He branded her.”

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel