Say You're Sorry Page 43

She got up and walked closer, stopping him with a hand on his forearm. “You weren’t. I’m the one who should apologize to you. I know I’m sending you mixed signals. The fact is I am attracted to you, but I don’t know when or if I’ll be ready to do anything about it. I don’t know what I want. I’m sorry. Until this case is over . . .”

“It’s probably best if we stick to friendship. I like you. I don’t want to ruin what we have.” But even as he said it, his brain latched onto I am attracted to you.

She smiled. “I like you too.”

Well, shit. That didn’t help.

“Grief isn’t something you can rush or make happen on cue,” he said. “But maybe you should consider therapy.”

Morgan frowned. “I’ve tried. It didn’t feel right.”

“Mom had to work her way through a few therapists before she found the right one. Personality and style have to be a good fit. I can give you a number.”

“I’ll think about it.” She squeezed his arm. “Thanks for understanding.”

He was the one who didn’t know what the hell he wanted. Yes, he did. He wanted her. He just couldn’t have her.

For instance, right now he was loving her hand on his arm. He wanted to return the touch. He wanted to drag her against him and kiss her senseless. The more they worked together, the closer he felt to her. When the case was over, he’d have to back off until he straightened out his head.

“Did you run across anything interesting yesterday?” he asked.

“Yes. I found a fascinating piece of information buried in one of the police reports.” Morgan returned to her chair and removed a stack of files from her tote. “The Palmers told everyone that Tessa’s parents died when Tessa was twelve. That isn’t entirely true. Tessa’s mother died in the car accident, but her father survived. He was responsible. He’s currently serving a twenty-three-year sentence in state prison for aggravated vehicular homicide.”

“Twenty-three years?” Lance whistled.

“Steep sentence, right?” Morgan tapped a finger on the table. “After Tessa’s death Chief Horner interviewed the Palmers personally, and he didn’t press them for details. It was mentioned quietly in the background information and never highlighted. Tessa’s father has been incarcerated for six years. It was a multi-vehicle crash, his blood alcohol well beyond the legal limit, and he’d previously lost his license for driving while intoxicated. Three people died, and he was found guilty on multiple counts. There were definitely aggravating factors, but he isn’t a cold-blooded killer. And he’s behind bars, so maybe Horner was right to let it go.”

“So why did the Palmers lie?” Lance asked.

“I suppose they didn’t want people to know their son was in prison,” Morgan said. “Tessa was old enough to understand the details when it happened. I wonder how she felt about pretending her father was dead.” She shook her head. “Though I honestly don’t see how it could be related to Tessa’s case. The Palmers might have told their neighbors a lie, but they were truthful to the police, and it was so long ago.”

The front door banged open, and Sharp shouted down the hall, “Anybody home?”

“We’re back here,” Lance called.

Sharp unzipped his gray hoodie on his way into the room. He carried a cardboard tray containing three cups. “Green tea for everybody.”

Lance took a cup. Sharp offered one to Morgan.

She smiled, lifting her cup. “Thanks anyway, but I brought my own.”

“That stuff will kill you.” Sharp frowned.

“But I’ll be awake when I go,” she said.

Sharp winked. “I’ll convert you yet.”

Morgan wrapped both hands around her mug. “I have three kids under the age of seven. You’ll pry the coffee from my cold, dead hands.”

He laughed. “What did everyone accomplish yesterday?”

Morgan repeated the information about Tessa’s father.

“From the beginning, I wasn’t happy with the way the case was being handled.” Sharp turned to the murder board. “I spent some time last night at The Pub. The boys were there and gossiping like a bunch of old ladies.”

In Lance’s experience, Sharp’s retired and almost-retired cop buddies gossiped more than any women. Many of them were divorced and lonely. It was hard for a marriage to survive twenty-five years on the force. Some cops were closer to their partners than their spouses.

“I agree. I expect more from Brody.” Lance pulled out a chair and sat across from Morgan.

Sharp took the seat next to him. “Now I know why Brody is out of touch with the case.”

“Why?” Lance asked.

“Because Horner is hoarding this case like a possessive dog. He won’t let Brody do anything.” Sharp’s eyes brightened. “He and the DA have tied Brody’s hands.”

“That explains why Brody was so abrupt on Saturday,” Lance said. “Sounds like he’s as frustrated as we are.”

“No doubt,” Sharp agreed. “What’s on our plate for today?”

Morgan drained her coffee. “I’m talking to Felicity as soon as she gets home from school.”

“Lance?” Sharp asked.

“Waiting for a call from my mom about background data on Dean Voss and the deeper digs on the Barones and Kevin Murdoch.” His phone buzzed. “And that’s her now.” He answered the call. “Hi, Mom. Can I put you on speaker? Morgan and Sharp are here.”

“Yes,” she said.

Lance turned on the speaker and set his phone on the table. “OK. We’re all listening.”

“I’ll email you the full report, but I wanted to give you the highlights,” Mom began. “Let’s start with Dean Voss. Mr. Voss is a veteran. He served in the army for eight years after college, including three tours in Iraq. He’s married, no kids. He was wounded twice. Four years ago, at age 30, he received an honorable discharge. He got his teaching certificate and took a job teaching history at Scarlet Falls High School. Last year, he resigned in the middle of the year.”

“Let me guess,” Sharp said. “Inappropriate relations with a student.”

“How did you know?” Mom asked.

“Because it just figures,” Sharp said in a wry voice.

Lance’s mom continued. “There were no charges filed. I had to work to get the details. The girl, Ally Somers, denied it, and apparently there wasn’t any physical evidence, just a statement from another student, Kimmie Blake, who claimed to see them kissing. But Voss resigned anyway.”

“Is there any connection between Kimmie Blake, Ally Somers, Jamie, and Tessa?” Morgan asked.

“That I don’t know,” Lance’s mom said.

“Even if the accusations were a complete fabrication, there’s no coming back from that in teaching.” Morgan shook her head. “Do we know if Voss ever had Tessa in one of his classes?”

“I can’t legally access student records,” his mom answered. “But I did find out that Voss taught American History and World Cultures to sophomores and juniors, so it’s very possible.”

“Putting that on my list of questions for the Palmers.” Morgan made a notation. “I hope they’ll talk to me without me having to subpoena them to give a deposition. I don’t want to look like a monster. I’ll ask Felicity first. She might know who Tessa’s teachers were last year.”

“She might have more info on Voss as well.” Lance nodded. “Kids know everything.”

Lance’s mom gave them Dean Voss’s last known address. “He’s only been living there since last May, and his wife filed for divorce two weeks ago.”

Could that have sent him over the edge?

“We’ll drop by Voss’s place and talk to the neighbors today,” Lance said. “What else do you have for us, Mom?”

“You asked for more information on the Barone family.” She cleared her throat. “This took some digging, but I believe Dwayne Barone is involved with a group called the WSA.”

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