Her Last Goodbye Page 50

“How about sounds?”

“I heard a dog barking.”

“No traffic sounds?” Lance asked.

“No.” Chelsea drew her knees up under her chin. She curled her body into a defensive ball. “I wish I could tell you more. I feel useless.”

“Don’t. You did exactly the right thing. You got away,” Morgan said. “Can you tell us anything about your captor?”

Chelsea stared down at her knees. “He wanted to train me. To teach me to be submissive. If I obeyed, he fed me. If I didn’t, he punished me.”

“What did he look like?” Morgan asked.

“He wore a mask, so I didn’t see his face,” Chelsea’s brows lowered. She gave them a very basic description of an average-size, white male. No distinguishing accent. “He was strong.”

“So probably not too old,” Lance said. “How about visible tattoos or scars?”

Chelsea shook her head.

“Did he wear cologne?” Lance asked.

“I was so scared; I wasn’t paying attention.” Chelsea froze. “Wait. There was a smell. Something . . . sharp. Almost oily.”

“Was it motor oil?” Lance asked.

“No. It wasn’t that strong.” She shuddered. “I’m sorry. I just can’t.” She pressed a fist over her mouth, clearly fighting for control.

Morgan changed the topic. “Your boss said you wanted to talk to him about something. What was it?”

“One of my clients has statements that don’t reconcile.” Chelsea tilted her head. “I can’t give you his name, but he can’t possibly be connected to this. It’s a tax issue, and he would have no way of knowing that I’m aware of it.”

And this was obviously not the crime of a tax evader.

“But it was important enough that you didn’t want to e-mail your boss or explain the problem over the phone?” Lance asked.

“I don’t have a secure server at home, and the baby was always crying. The last time I talked to Curtis over the phone, I could barely hear him,” she explained. “I thought it would be easier to discuss the problem in his office.”

Morgan stood. “If you remember anything else, please call us right away. It doesn’t matter how small of a detail it is. You never know where it might lead.”

“I will.” Chelsea rested her chin on her knees. “Thank you. For everything.”

Tim showed them to the door. “I hope she sleeps tonight. Last night, in the hospital, she was up all night. Every noise . . .”

“It’s going to take time,” Morgan said.

Tim nodded and opened the door for them.

“What does the brand look like?” Lance asked in a low voice.

Tim paled. “It’s an infinity symbol.”

Forever . . .

Morgan and Lance went back to the Jeep and climbed inside.

“Well, that was disappointing,” Lance said. “Though we confirmed that it’s unlikely the kidnapping is related to her client files.”

“He drugged her, so that likely affected her recall.” Morgan couldn’t imagine. Not only did Chelsea have to deal with the horrifying events she remembered, but she would no doubt wonder and fear what she’d forgotten. Would other memories continue to return? And for how long?

Lance started the engine. “This feels like a personal crime. No one tortures and psychologically conditions a woman to avoid being caught cheating on his taxes.”

“No,” Morgan agreed. “This was personal, sick, and twisted. Now what?”

He pulled out of the driveway. “Can you call Sharp and let him know what we found out? He and my mom can stop reviewing financial statements and concentrate on getting background info on Chelsea’s clients. It’s still possible one of them fixated on her.”

“Someone did.” Morgan made the call. Sharp was relieved to give up the financial statement review.

“Where do you want to go? No matter what we do, we need to get some food in you.” Lance declared after she’d put her phone away.

“You’re going to think this is nuts.”

And he wasn’t going to like it one bit.

“What?” His voice turned suspicious as he drove away from the Clarks’ house.

“I want to snoop around Harold Burns’s house.”

Lance frowned. “Not nuts, risky.”

“All our other leads have run dry. Burns is all we have left. And Chelsea mentioned that oily smell, though she said it didn’t smell like motor oil.”

Lance shrugged. “Mechanics use different kinds of oil.”

Morgan stared through the windshield. Despite her exhaustion, seeing what Chelsea had endured made her more determined to catch the man responsible. “What if he has that girl, and no one can save her? What if he wants more time to kill her and dispose of her body?”

“That’s a lot of speculation.”

“It is,” Morgan said. “But hear me out. The police think that the woman found in the state park had been held captive for eight months. She’d have to be kept somewhere that no one would hear her scream. Burns’s house is in the middle of nowhere.”

“So is the auto shop.”

“Yes, but the auto shop has too much foot traffic to hold a woman captive.”

“It’s a big piece of property, and there were outbuildings. It would be a great place to hide a storage container,” Lance said. “The woods behind the junkyard connect to the state park.”

“True,” Morgan agreed. “But the police did a compliance check on Burns’s house three months ago. If he was holding a woman in his house, they would have heard or seen something.”

“Probably. His house is small,” Lance said. “We don’t know that she was kept in the same place for the entire eight months.”

Morgan pictured Harold Burns’s property. “Remember that huge detached garage behind Burns’s house?”

“I do.” Lance turned on the heat. “That was big enough to house all sorts of illegal activity.”

Morgan spread her fingers in front of the vents. “If we find anything, we’ll make an anonymous phone call to the police and report that we heard a woman screaming.”

“We’ll need to wait until later. We want Burns to be asleep.” Lance turned onto the main road. “We’ll need to gear up too. We should call Stella or Brody and let them know what we’re planning.”

“No.” Morgan wouldn’t ruin her sister’s career over a hunch. “That wouldn’t be fair to them. What we’re going to do is completely illegal.”

Not to mention dangerous.

Chapter Thirty-Six

A few minutes before midnight, Lance drove past Harold Burns’s one-story house. A quarter mile down the road, he steered the Jeep off the side of the road and parked behind a few evergreens. If Burns had slipped out of his house while the SFPD was watching him, he would have gone through the woods to the auto shop. What was good for the goose, in this case, could also be used for the goose hunters.

“You ready?”

In the passenger seat, Morgan checked the weapon in her holster and zipped her black jacket closed over it. “Yes.”

Lance slid some extra ammunition into the thick pocket of his dark cargos. Though he wasn’t cold, he tugged a black knit cap over his bright-blond hair. Morgan’s hat was for warmth. She tucked a flashlight into her pocket. He did the same, then loaded the rest of his equipment, including a pair of night vision binoculars, into a small backpack.

They got out of the Jeep and walked along the edge of the woods so they could duck into the trees if a car approached. Thick clouds drifted overhead, and snow flurries floated in the chilled air. His breath fogged in front of him. The ground was dark, but he wanted to preserve his natural night vision and didn’t want to risk using a flashlight. There wasn’t much out here. Burns would be able to see a light from far away.

Next to him, Morgan tripped.

Lance steadied her by the elbow. “You OK?”

“Just a rock. I’m fine.” She got her feet back under herself. “I don’t know how Chelsea went miles and miles through the dark woods.”

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