Her Last Goodbye Page 62

Lance came out of the house, where he’d been walking the responding officer through the events of the evening. He held a gauze pad over the cut on his eyebrow.

Morgan reached up and lifted the corner of the gauze. “You need a couple of stitches.”

“Probably.” He shrugged.

Morgan took his arm. “I’ll drive you.”

He opened his mouth to protest, but she shook her head and shot him a look. Morgan wanted to give her sister some time to cool off. She steered Lance toward the Jeep and held out her hand for the keys.

“I can drive,” he protested.

“Seriously? You’ll get blood all over your vehicle.”

He handed her the keys and cursed under his breath as he stared over her shoulder. “It’s the sheriff. Quick. Get in. We can pretend we didn’t see him.”

“Kruger! Dane!” Sheriff King’s voice boomed over all the other law enforcement activity.

Morgan turned to face King. “Can I help you, Sheriff?”

The sheriff’s face was red enough that she thought he might need to go to the ER. He led Lance and Morgan away from the other officers.

King folded his arms over his chest. “I sent a car to Derek Pagano’s address, but there was no driveway or mailbox. We found a back entrance to the property. Derek has an old cabin back in the woods. The deputy took a walk around the property looking for Derek. Behind the cabin, he found a rusty old shipping container. Someone had busted a hole right through the roof.”

“That’s where Chelsea was kept,” Morgan said.

“Forensics will have to do its thing, but I think it’s reasonable to theorize that Derek kidnapped Chelsea. I’ll be heading over there when I’m finished here. I’ll let you know what we discover.” The sheriff coughed into his fist and looked away. “Thank you for your help. If you two hadn’t been so persistent, tonight would have turned out very different for Chelsea and her family.”

“You’re welcome,” Morgan said. “Keeping the Clark family safe was our only goal. You’re going to pick up Elliot too, right? He gave his brother an alibi for the night Chelsea went missing. He also left Derek’s name off the list of Speed Net employees.”

“I already sent a deputy to his house,” the sheriff confirmed.

“Now that I think about our first visit there, we saw Derek by chance,” Morgan said. “It was their mother, Barbara, who pointed Derek out to us. If she hadn’t done that, we would never have known that Derek worked at Speed Net.”

Morgan shivered. Lance put an arm around her shoulders.

“I’ll need you both in my office tomorrow to sign formal statements.” With a nod, the sheriff backed away.

Morgan drove Lance to the hospital and walked him to the ER waiting room.

“Would you mind if I snuck upstairs to see my grandfather?” she asked.

“Or course not, but it’s one a.m. Do you think you can get in?”

“They have a twenty-four-hour visitation policy for critical patients.” She rose on her toes and kissed him on the mouth. “Later, we’ll process what happened tonight. Right now, I’m just very, very happy that we’re both in one piece, and that Chelsea, Tim, and their kids are safe.”

“Go check on Grandpa.” Lance gestured toward the four people sitting in the waiting room. “I’m going to be here for a while.”

Morgan made her way to the ICU ward. She stopped in the hallway and glanced through the doorway. A monitor beeped in a low, steady rhythm. A nurse stood next to the bed, checking the machines and recording information on a clipboard. She spotted Morgan and crossed the room to join her in the corridor.

“He’s doing really well,” the nurse said. “We’re moving him to a regular floor in the morning. And he’s awake. Go on in.”

“Thank you.” Morgan went into the room.

Grandpa opened his eyes and smiled at her. His hand slipped out from under the white blanket. His fingers curled in a beckoning gesture.

“Hey.” Morgan took his hand, her chest tightening with gratitude and relief.

“I told you I wasn’t dead yet.” Grandpa’s skin was pale, and his focus appeared fuzzy. “You need to have faith.”

“You’re right.” She squeezed his fingers. “Are you in pain?”

“A little, but don’t worry. The nurses are taking good care of me,” he said. “Did you solve your case?”

“We did.” Morgan gave him a condensed rundown of the last two days.

“Atta girl.” He gave her hand a weak shake. “I knew you’d figure it out. It’s in your genes.” His eyelids drooped.

“I have to go collect Lance in the ER.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Ian and Peyton are in town too.” His voice slurred. He’d protested calling them, but his sleepy smile said he was pleased that they’d come.

“I love you.”

“Love you more.” Grandpa’s eyes closed.

Despite Morgan’s exhaustion, her step was light as she left the room. Grandpa wasn’t getting any younger, but he was still with her. She was going to enjoy every day he was in her life and try not to worry about the future.

She returned to the ER. A nurse directed her to Lance’s ER bed, where a young doctor was finishing stitching his cut. When the wound was closed and bandaged, Lance checked out.

“It’s too late to pick up the kids,” she said.

“Stay with me the rest of the night?”

“Yes.” She wanted to spend the night with him without any major trauma.

Ignoring his complaints that he was perfectly fine, she drove back to his house. A short while later, she stripped off her clothes and climbed into his big bed.

Lance lay down next to her. He opened his arms. “Come here.”

She was too exhausted for sex, but his body was warm beside her, and she curled up against him.

“I know I didn’t love your plan,” he said. “But we did good tonight.”

“We’re a great team.” She nestled into his shoulder.

“We are.”

No matter what happened, it was easier to handle with him at her side.

Chapter Forty-Five

Monday morning dawned brightly—too brightly for someone who’d slept only a few hours. Morgan squinted through her sunglasses and clutched her extralarge coffee like a security blanket as Lance escorted her across the parking lot of the sheriff’s station.

“I owe Mac’s brother a favor or ten,” Morgan said. Grant Barrett had volunteered to drive the girls to school and drop Gianna at dialysis that morning. “I’m not sure how I’ll ever repay them.”

“I doubt he’s looking for repayment. Mac said they just wanted your kids to be safe.”

“Well, I’m eternally grateful.”

Everyone in the sheriff’s department looked ragged. The deep bags under Sheriff King’s eyes said he’d been up all night, but he’d shaved and his clothes were fresh.

She probably didn’t look much better.

“Come this way.” Sheriff King waved Morgan and Lance into a conference room. “Elliot Pagano was here most of the night. He gave a full confession. Do you want to watch his interview?”

“Yes.” Morgan concealed her surprise at the offer.

A monitor had been set up on the table. The sheriff sat down in front of it and typed on the keyboard. He gestured to the chairs opposite him, and Morgan and Lance sat.

The sheriff turned the monitor to face them. A picture on the screen appeared to be the same room. Sitting at the table, Elliot Pagano looked like he’d aged ten years in a few days. He waived his right to an attorney. His eyes looked lost. Beaten.

Almost dead.

On the video, the sheriff sat across from Elliot. Another officer sat to his left. The fourth man, who sat next to Elliot, had “lawyer” written all over him from his Hermès tie to his David Yurman cuff links.

“We know your brother kidnapped Chelsea Clark and that he killed your wife,” the sheriff said.

Elliot folded his hands on the table. “He did it for me.”

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