Her Last Goodbye Page 53

Jerry lay on the ground, a bloodstain spreading across his shoulder. Behind him stood Sheriff King and two deputies. The gun in the sheriff’s hand was still pointed at Jerry.

Her gaze found Lance, still kneeling on the ground, his hand on his weapon holster as if prepared to draw his gun. Obviously, the sheriff had beaten him to it.

“Get handcuffs on this scumbag.” The sheriff stepped around Jerry and started toward Morgan.

Relief and surprise rolled through Morgan. There was no way he could have responded to her call that quickly. But she didn’t have time to question the sheriff’s presence. The traumatized woman sobbed in the darkness behind her. Morgan glanced at Lance once more, verified that he was whole and alive, then scrambled to her feet and turned to the victim.

She picked up the bolt cutters.

“I’m going to free you now.” Not wanting to frighten her any further, Morgan approached her slowly.

The woman continued to cry, her words unrecognizable, her voice as rusty as her prison.

Behind her, the trailer creaked as the sheriff stepped inside. “Oh, my God.”

Morgan severed the chain with the bolt cutters. The woman stumbled forward, sobbing, into Morgan’s arms. She slid off her jacket and put it around the woman’s shoulders.

“There’s an ambulance on the way.” The sheriff stood back, his face drawn, as he scanned the interior of the trailer.

“Out.” The woman pushed to her feet, her words desperate. “Get me out. Please. I have to get out of here.”

Who wouldn’t?

Morgan wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steadied her balance.

Lance peered through the doorway. “I’ll get a blanket.”

Morgan helped the woman limp toward the door. The sheriff stepped aside, allowing them to pass.

“What’s your name?” Morgan asked.

“Karen. Karen Mitchell,” she said, her voice growing stronger with each step toward freedom.

The missing woman.

They stepped through the opening. The trailer, while not cozy, had been warmer than the air outside. Karen shivered, her body quaking from head to toe. A frigid wind kicked up. Morgan blocked it with her body as best she could.

Lance appeared with an outspread blanket. As he enveloped Karen in it, her legs gave out. Lance caught her and swept her off the ground, and Morgan tucked the blanket around the woman’s bare feet.

Two sheriff’s deputy cars drove through the salvage yard, their headlights illuminating the trailer. The cars parked, and the deputies got out of their vehicles.

“This is Karen Mitchell,” Lance said.

“I’ve got her.” One of the deputies retrieved a first aid kit and another blanket from his trunk. “Put her in the car. It’s warm. The ambulance will be here soon.”

Lance put her in the back seat of the police car “You’re safe now.”

Talking in a calm voice, the deputy squatted in the door opening, covered her with the second blanket, and lifted the lid of his first aid kit.

Morgan’s face felt hot in the cold air. She was simultaneously freezing and sweating as her heart rate dropped back to normal. Nausea rose in throat. She bent over, resting her hands on her thighs. She sucked in some cool night air.

Lance turned back to her. “If you need to puke, move away from the scene.”

“I think I’m OK. It’s an irritating reaction to the rush of adrenaline.”

He walked over and handed her a bottle of water. “You get the job done first. That’s what matters.”

“I guess.” Morgan took an experimental sip. The cold water soothed her stomach.

Lance put a hand between her shoulder blades. “We saved that woman’s life. That’s worth a little puking.”

“Says the guy who doesn’t get sick.”

“It’ll catch up with me,” Lance said.

“Kruger and Dane. Over here. Now.” Sheriff King pointed at Lance and Morgan and jerked his thumb away from the growing crowd of law enforcement. Morgan’s legs felt like rubber bands as she and Lance joined the sheriff.

Sheriff King propped his hands on his hips. “Let’s get this straight. I am pissed as hell at both of you. You were trespassing on private property.” The sheriff stabbed an angry finger at Lance. “I expect you to risk your own life, but endangering a woman?” He pointed at Morgan.

“It was her idea.” Lance crossed his arms over his chest. “She’s a lot tougher than she looks.”

The sheriff threw his hands into the air. “You could have both been killed. I should have known you’d pull a stunt like this.”

“But we weren’t killed,” Lance said. “And Karen Mitchell is alive because we pulled this stunt.”

The sheriff glowered at Lance, then redirected his anger at Morgan. “And you, Counselor, you should know better. The very first thing the Burnses’ defense attorney is going to do is claim all the evidence in that trailer could have been planted and is therefore inadmissible against them in court.”

Morgan cut him off. She’d had enough. She and Lance had taken over the situation and saved Karen Mitchell. The sheriff’s misdirected anger was not her problem. “We both know that isn’t going to happen. Karen Mitchell will provide testimony. There will be physical evidence on her body, and as a previously convicted sex offender, Harold Burns and his brother will be hated by any jury they are put in front of. Nor do I know any judge who will give them any leeway. If my suspicion is correct, the very large bloodstain on that mattress is from victim number one, Sarah Bernard. The Burns brothers will be charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of murder, along with as many lesser charges as possible.”

The sheriff huffed. “I could charge you both with trespassing.”

Morgan didn’t care about a ridiculous trespassing charge. Exhaustion and her adrenaline crash were catching up to her with the speed of a freight train. “Are you going to arrest us?”

“Not at this time.” The sheriff frowned at her. “I need statements from you both. Now.”

“When we talked with Chelsea earlier, she mentioned an oily odor.”

“And you didn’t call me?” The sheriff chewed his molars.

“She specifically said it didn’t smell like motor oil, but it made us think hard about Burns.” With a glance at Lance, Morgan gave a very abbreviated version of their search of the property. She didn’t mention their trip through Harold’s garage. If asked, she wouldn’t lie. But there was no point in volunteering the information. When she was finished, she asked, “How did you get here so quickly?”

“We’ve been watching Harold and Jerry all night,” the sheriff said. “Chief Horner called me to tell me the DA forced him to cease his surveillance. Considering that we’ve been searching for Ms. Mitchell, I decided we should focus on this area. But we had no good reason to search the property until you called in that scream.”

“You’re welcome,” Lance said drily.

The sheriff glared.

Lance finished describing the events of the night. The sheriff released them with a threat of arrest if they didn’t report to his office first thing in the morning to cross t’s and dot i’s. The walk back to the Jeep was only a few hundred yards, but it seemed like miles.

“I don’t like it.” Morgan crawled into the passenger seat.


“I can’t explain it. Something feels unfinished.”

“We still have to deal with the sheriff again tomorrow.” Lance started the engine. “I’m tired of his controlling bullshit.”

“He didn’t arrest us for trespassing.”

“But he wanted to. He wishes he was the one who found Karen Mitchell.” Lance drove out onto the road. “He’s been chomping at the bit all night, wanting to search the property but without enough evidence for a warrant.”

“The laws exist for a reason.” Morgan pressed her head to the back of the seat.

“We saved that woman’s life tonight,” Lance said. “Who knows if she would have still been alive in the morning? The Burnses could have killed her and buried her out in the woods before the sheriff accumulated enough evidence to satisfy a judge that there was probable cause. Would you rather Karen Mitchell have spent the night in that trailer? I would rather go to jail.”

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