Her Last Goodbye Page 48

“Are you all right?” Lance asked in a concerned voice.

“I am.” Morgan reached for a bottle of water on her credenza. She chased the antacids down with two ibuprofen tablets from her desk drawer. “Let’s go find this bastard before he hurts anyone else.”

Sharp reappeared in the doorway. “Too late.”

Morgan’s belly clenched.

“A woman named Karen Mitchell was reported missing this morning. She left her parents’ house to go for a run in the state park. She never came home. She’s young. And she’s blonde.”

Chapter Thirty-Four

“So, what have you been up to, Kirk?” Lance asked.

Inside the fish-bowl conference room at Speed Net, Morgan sat at Lance’s left. Kirk Armani and Elliot Pagano, who insisted on being present, had taken seats across from them.

Lance leaned back in his chair and tried to act casual.

But apparently, he wasn’t a very good actor.

Kirk Armani held his upturned skateboard in his lap and spun the wheels with trembling fingers. The kid looked like hell. His clothes were wrinkled. He refused to make any eye contact at all.

He and Morgan had knocked on Kirk’s apartment door. When no one answered, they’d driven over to Speed Net to talk to him.

Lance scanned the main room through the glass. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, Speed Net was humming with activity.

Elliot crossed his arms over his chest. “What is this all about? I thought Chelsea had been found.”

“We are not law enforcement officers. Kirk is under no obligation to talk to us,” Lance said. “But another woman went missing.”

Elliot straightened. “That’s terrible, but I’m still confused as to why you are here this morning. Are you still working for Tim?”

“We are. Tim and Chelsea want to know who kidnapped her,” Morgan said. “And last night someone broke in to my home and threatened me and my family. We think it might have been the same person who kidnapped Chelsea.”

“I’m sorry,” Elliot said. “That must have been terrifying.”

“Yes. It was.” Morgan interlaced her fingers on the table. “Kirk, we know about the restraining order that was filed against you.”

Kirk paled. “I didn’t mean to harass her. I wasn’t stalking her. I promise.”

Sweat broke out on his forehead. He stopped spinning the skateboard wheels and gripped the edges of the board with both hands.

“It’s OK, Kirk,” Elliot soothed. “This is old news. Kirk didn’t mean any harm.”

Kirk shook his head almost violently. “She never asked me to stop talking to her. I didn’t know.”

“He was working here at the time?” Lance asked.

“Yes. He was really upset. I helped him sort it all out.” Elliot’s mouth tightened. “The young woman gave Kirk hints that she wasn’t interested in him. Kirk didn’t read those hints. When he asked her out on a date, and she turned him down by saying she had to clip her cat’s toenails, he took her at her word.”

“I didn’t know.” Kirk’s breaths came harder and faster.

“Calm down, Kirk. It’s fine.” Elliot leveled a hard glare at Lance and Morgan in turn. “Kirk has trouble with social cues. If the young woman had just told him she didn’t like him, he would have backed down. But she didn’t. She was snarky and sarcastic—two things Kirk has trouble interpreting well. He kept asking her out, thinking eventually her schedule would clear.”

Disappointment flashed through Lance. Not that he wanted this kid to be guilty. He felt bad for Kirk. But he wanted to find the man responsible.

“We’re so sorry we brought this all up, Kirk,” Morgan apologized. “I’m frightened for my children. I’m just trying to keep them safe.”

“I’d never hurt a kid. I like kids.” Kirk sniffed and wiped the back of his hand under his nose. “Kids are nice to me.”

As opposed to adults . . .

And Lance felt like he’d just kicked a kitten.

He rubbed his sternum, where frustration burned like a bad case of heartburn. Another dead end.

“Besides, I was here all night.” Kirk finally lifted his gaze and briefly let it connect with Lance’s, like a moth bouncing off a hot light bulb. “Me and the team worked late. We ordered pizza and played Overlook most of the night. I fell asleep on the couch.”

“You’ve been here all night?” Lance clarified. “With your team members?”

Kirk nodded.

“I’m so sorry we bothered you.” Morgan stood. “Thank you for clearing that up for us.”

Elliot escorted them to the lobby. “Next time you want to talk to me or one of my employees on corporate property, you’ll have to go through my attorney.”

He watched them exit. The door closed behind them with a solid and final thud. Lance and Morgan stepped out into the parking lot. The temperature had dropped since they’d gone inside.

“Well, I feel like a total bully.” Lance unlocked the Jeep.

“Me too.” Morgan climbed into the passenger seat. After he settled behind the wheel, she said. “This case has me feeling all sorts of terrible. Since when am I willing to harass law-abiding citizens or ignore the law?”

“Since the threat became personal.” Lance started the engine and drove out of the lot. “That kid will be OK. You did what you had to do. Surely, you were hard on witnesses and defendants when you were a prosecutor?”

“When necessary, yes.” She pushed her hair off her face. “But their involvement in the case was always established beforehand. For the most part, I already knew what they were going to tell me.”

“The police sorted through the witnesses for you. This is what it’s like when you’re chasing down leads.”

“Yes. You’re right. As an ADA, I didn’t get involved in cases until arrests were made.” She pressed her fingertips to her temples. “This is frustrating.”

“You haven’t slept. You haven’t taken a break. You didn’t even finish that protein shake Sharp made you, and now it’s lunchtime.” Lance glanced over, worried. The circles under Morgan’s eyes were dark enough to match the bruises around her throat. Her home had been invaded, her family threatened, and then she’d spent the night in the hospital waiting room.

Lack of sleep was making him punchy, she must feel ten times worse.

“Have you checked in on your grandfather?” he asked.

She pulled her phone out of her enormous bag. “I haven’t heard from Stella for a while. I’ll call her.”

She pressed the phone to her ear and conferred in a low, anxious tone for a few minutes before lowering the cell to her lap. “There’s no change in his condition. He hasn’t woken up yet.”

“Do you want to stop by and see him?”

Morgan nodded. “Yes. We’re at an impasse with this investigation. The SFPD is watching Harold Burns. I haven’t heard from Tim, but there’s a county sheriff’s deputy assigned to protect Chelsea. I don’t know what else to do at this point.” Her voice broke. “And I think I should see him, just in case.”

The break in her voice implied “in case it’s my last chance.”

Lance drove toward the hospital. He dropped Morgan at the door, then parked the Jeep. When he caught up with her in the ICU waiting area, she was talking to her worn-out and wrinkled sister.

Stella’s eyes were red-rimmed, and her nose was red, as if she’d been crying. She handed Morgan a book, a popular crime fiction paperback. “I don’t know if he can hear me, but I’ve been reading to him.”

Morgan took the paperback and smiled sadly. “He loves to criticize police procedurals.”

“I was hoping he’d wake up and rant about all the errors.” Stella hugged her sister. “I’m going to have a shower and a nap. Then I’ll be back.”

“Still nothing from Ian?” Morgan asked.

“No.” Stella took her keys from her pocket. “But Peyton got on a flight a few hours ago. She should be here by dinnertime. So maybe she can take over the night shift.”

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