Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(3)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(3)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Morgan lowered her phone to her lap. The country road leading out of the neighborhood was dark and empty.

Lance rolled through a stop sign. “I can’t believe Paul is dead.”

“It’s horrible.” As a mother, Morgan’s thoughts immediately shifted to worrying about the missing teenager. “Poor Evan.”

“I don’t know how he’s going to react. He’s a good kid, but he’s already had his share of troubles. A few years ago, his father went to prison on an assault charge, and his parents divorced. Evan lashed out. He was arrested for underage drinking, vandalism, mostly stupid stuff.” Lance turned left. “He was becoming a frequent flier at the station, but he settled down over the next year. His grades started to recover. I expected even more improvement when his mother married Paul Knox last fall. I thought Paul’s presence in Evan’s life would be a good thing.”

But Morgan sensed the situation hadn’t panned out the way Lance had expected. “It wasn’t?”

“I don’t know,” Lance said. “Evan has seemed extra moody the last couple of months, but he won’t talk to me.”

Tina and Paul lived in the neighboring town of Grey’s Hollow, near the border with Scarlet Falls. At 1:53 a.m., Lance turned into a residential neighborhood of older homes built on large lots.

“Looks like we beat the sheriff’s department.” Lance pulled to the curb a half block away from Tina’s house. No doubt he didn’t want the Jeep to block access to the street for first responder vehicles. He and Morgan climbed out of the SUV.

Morgan’s house was closer to the Knox residence than the Randolph County Sheriff’s Station was, so being the first to arrive wasn’t a surprise. But that left one major question wide open.

Is the shooter still in the house?

They jogged along the sidewalk. Morgan had a long stride, but she worked hard to keep up with Lance. They approached a quaint two-story home at the end of the street. A white vinyl fence enclosed the backyard. The Knox residence was on the periphery of the development and abutted the woods.

Lance drew his weapon. “If I asked you to wait in the Jeep until I cleared the house, would I be wasting my breath?”

“Yes.”

They turned and ran up the driveway.

Morgan pulled her Glock and followed him to the front stoop. “You’re not going in there without someone to watch your back.”

The death of Morgan’s first husband had left her in a very dark place, one she’d climbed out of less than a year ago. Her daughters had already lost their father. Now that she and the girls had been blessed with Lance in their lives, Morgan would not allow him to take an unnecessary risk.

Her pulse accelerated as adrenaline surged through her. The door was closed but unlocked. She positioned herself at Lance’s left flank as they went into the house. It appeared as if every light in the house was on.

Lance glanced into the dining room on their right. An archway opened to the kitchen as well. “Clear.”

They withdrew back into the hall and approached a set of French doors on the left side of the foyer. Lance opened one door. He swept his weapon from corner to corner. Morgan covered the hall at their backs.

“Clear,” he said.

They continued down the corridor. Morgan’s heart thumped against her ribs. Her lungs burned as she fought to quiet her breathing. They emerged in the kitchen. Broken glass and shattered plates littered the floor. They detoured around the shards. Lance led the way through the room to another doorway. They stepped into a short hallway.

Lance hesitated for a few seconds as they passed a half bath and laundry room. “Clear.”

The next door was open.

Lance crossed the hall to stand behind the doorframe and peer around it. He lowered his gun. “Tina?”

Morgan followed him into a den. Paul lay in front of a square wooden table, his legs sprawled out. His shirt was soaked in blood. His hands clutched his abdomen, where he’d clearly sustained at least one devastating wound. A bullet hole pierced the center of his forehead.

Morgan pulled her gaze from the body. Tina knelt on the floor at her husband’s side. Blood streaked her hands and smeared the side of her face, as if she’d forgotten her hands were wet and brushed her hair away from her cheek.

Tina turned stunned eyes to Morgan and Lance. “I can’t find Evan.”

“Stay with her while I check the rest of the house.” Lance turned and disappeared.

“I tried to save him,” Tina said in a detached voice.

One glance at Paul told Morgan he’d died quickly. Her gut twisted as she pictured Tina desperately attempting to resuscitate her dead husband.

Morgan angled her position until she could see down the hallway. She kept watch, gun raised, sweat trickling down her back, listening to the squeaks of floorboards overhead. As much as Lance would like to find Paul’s killer, Morgan hoped the murderer was not in the house.

Chapter Three

Lance crept up the stairs. His heart galloped in his chest as he went into the master bedroom. Crouching, he swept the beam of his flashlight under the bed. Nothing. He opened the door to the walk-in closet. Tina’s clothes hung in a neat row on one side, Paul’s on the other. Shoes were lined up on shelves. The floor was clean. He checked the en suite bath and backtracked to the upstairs landing to poke his head into the hall bath. Clear. Then he moved into the home office and ended in what was clearly the bedroom of a teenage boy.

When he was certain the house was secure, he paused on the landing and listened. The faint sound of sirens approached. He didn’t have much time. The police would be here in a few minutes, and Lance’s opportunity to search would be over.

He went back into Evan’s room. Dirty clothes spilled out of the hamper and were strewn across the floor. Empty cups and plates covered the dresser, and his sheets and blanket were pulled half off the bed to pool on the floor. An electric guitar stood in the corner, and posters covered the walls: Guns N’ Roses, Rush, Jimi Hendrix. A Game of Thrones banner for House Stark hung above the bed.

Lance scanned the tops of the furniture. He searched the floor for the black Converse sneakers that Evan always wore but didn’t see them. He used a pencil to open the top nightstand drawer. No wallet or phone in sight.

The sirens drew closer. Lance closed the drawer and hustled his butt down the stairs. Grey’s Hollow was the territory of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, and Sheriff Colgate would not be pleased to catch him snooping. He made his way to the back of the house. At the doorway to the den, he hesitated, his gaze locked on the back door—and the bloody handprint on the white paint just above the doorknob.

He returned to the den. When he and Morgan had entered the room, he’d been focused on the body and the potential for danger. On this second look, Lance absorbed the details. Paul had been shot at least twice. One bullet had hit him in the lower torso. That injury had bled heavily. A second bullet wound, to the center of his forehead, had not.

Tina knelt next to her husband, her face dazed.

Lance scanned the room. Besides the blood and the body, there were signs of a struggle in this room as well, though they were subtler than the broken glass and dishes in the kitchen. A remote control lay in the middle of the room, as if flung there. Next to it, a ceramic cup rested on its side. Its dark contents had spilled on the carpet. The brownish stain suggested coffee.

The low table was covered with newspaper. On it, a black case filled with gun-cleaning supplies lay open. The room smelled faintly of solvent and lubricating oil. But there was no gun in sight.

He heard the front door open. Someone yelled, “Police!” Footsteps sounded in the hall. The deputies were here.

Morgan slid her gun into its holster and lifted her hands away from her body. Lance did the same. It was understood that the deputies’ duty was to neutralize all threats until they had secured the situation.

A sheriff’s deputy rushed into the room, gun drawn. “Let me see your hands!”

Lance recognized Deputy Todd Harvey. When he’d been a cop with the SFPD, Lance had worked with Harvey a few times. In addition to his duties as deputy, Harvey volunteered with the local search and rescue.

The deputy’s eyes lit with recognition. “Kruger, what are you doing here?”

“This is Mrs. Knox.” Lance pointed. “She found her husband’s body and called us. We’re friends of the family.”

Harvey stopped short at the sight of the body. “Oh, my God. It’s Paul.”

“You need to find my son,” Tina begged, emotion edging into her voice as the shock began to fade. “He’s missing.”

“Yes, ma’am. First, I need to make sure you don’t have any weapons on you,” Harvey said. “Please extend your arms to the sides.”

When she complied, he patted down her pockets. “How old is your son?”

“Sixteen,” she answered in a strained voice.

Harvey stepped back and holstered his weapon. “I’ll need a description and a recent photo.”

“He’s six feet, three inches tall and a hundred ninety pounds. I have a photo on my phone.” Tina lifted her phone. Harvey gave her his number, and she texted the photo to him. “His name is Evan Meade.”

“When was the last time you saw Evan?” Harvey checked his own phone, nodding when he received the text.

“Right before I left for work at two thirty this afternoon.” Tina raised a hand as if to touch her forehead but then stopped and stared at the crusty blood on her fingers. “I’d like to wash my hands.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m going to have to ask you to wait for just a few minutes,” Deputy Harvey said with sympathy.

Footsteps sounded in the hall. A few minutes later, thumps overhead indicated more deputies were searching the upstairs. Morgan listened as men’s voices called out as they cleared rooms, just as Lance had done.

A young deputy strode into the den. “The house is secure.”

With a nod, Harvey escorted Morgan, Lance, and Tina into the formal living room, instructing the young deputy to stay with them. A soft-looking sofa and two overstuffed chairs faced an old-fashioned brick fireplace.

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