Home > What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(11)

What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(11)
Author: Melinda Leigh

And Lance couldn’t even begin to describe what Morgan had done for him. Nor could he consider how he would have gotten through his mother’s mental health crisis back in November without her support.

“Just remember, you’re only one person. You can’t save everyone.” He dropped his hand from her shoulder and gave her forearm a quick squeeze.

Nodding, Morgan closed her eyes for a few seconds. When she opened them, her resolve was back in full force. “But I want to help Haley, and she needs me to be on my game.”

No one would work harder. Morgan would identify with Eliza too. They’d both lost their husbands and been left to raise their kids alone.

Morgan walked to the coffee machine in the corner. She brewed a cup and lifted it to her nose, inhaling the scent as if it were oxygen. Sipping the coffee, she glanced down the hall. Twenty feet away from the deputy on guard duty, Eliza sat in a plastic chair against the wall, hugging a bag of fresh clothes she’d brought for her daughter. Sharp stood next to her chair, his hands shoved in the front pockets of his pants, as if he were having difficulty keeping himself from reaching out to touch Eliza.

After a testing sip, Morgan downed the coffee like a shot of tequila. Then she tossed the empty cup in the garbage can. She pulled out the pack of M&M’s she’d bought earlier and tore off the top.

Lance opened his mouth to point out that healthy food would help her heal faster than would giving in to her sugar addiction. Then he thought better of it. Today was probably not the day.

Morgan turned to him, her expression thoughtful. “Does it bother you to work for the defendant?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted. “But we all have a job to do. The legal system isn’t perfect. The PI business isn’t exactly all unicorns and rainbows.”

“McFarland has made me second-guess my career change.” She ate another piece of candy.

“It shouldn’t. You’ve kept several innocent people out of jail,” Lance reminded her. “Don’t let one bad client undermine your efforts. Look what you’ve already done for Haley. She wouldn’t be here getting a medical evaluation if it wasn’t for you.”

“I know.” But she was still frowning. Or maybe that was just her headache. He hated the pain lines creased around her mouth and eyes.

Morgan ate more M&M’s. “Don’t look at me like that. As soon as it gets warm, I’m going to start working out.”

“OK.” Lance had heard that more than a few times. “I hate to echo Sharp, but regular exercise would give you more energy than candy.”

A breaking news report banner on the TV in the corner caught Lance’s attention. He pointed toward the television. “The state police found a body.”

Morgan walked closer to the television. Reaching up, she increased the volume. A reporter stood on the side of a road, a forest at his back. Behind him, police vehicles lined the gravel shoulder. Grim-faced officers gathered in clusters.

The newscaster looked equally serious as he held his microphone out for a deputy.

The deputy said, “The body of a female in her midtwenties was found this morning by hikers in a section of woods near the state park. We suspect foul play is involved in her death. Identification of the victim is pending notification of her next of kin. The sheriff’s office is investigating. That’s all for now. No questions.” With a nod and a lift of a hand, the detective stepped away from the mic.

“Could be Shannon Yates,” Lance suggested.

“Yes,” Morgan agreed. “She’s the right age.”

“The same age as Haley.”

Morgan sighed. “Young women are prime targets.” She nodded toward the other end of the hallway. “Do you know Eliza or Haley?”

“No.” Lance hadn’t even recognized their names, and he’d been close to Sharp for twenty-three years, ever since Sharp, then a police detective, had investigated the disappearance of Lance’s father. When Vic Kruger’s missing-persons case had gone cold, and Lance’s mother had spiraled into mental illness, Sharp had recognized that young Lance had needed someone to look out for him and had stepped up.

Morgan tilted her head. “Her appearance seems to have shaken him.”

“You noticed that too?” Lance glanced down the hall. Sharp had moved closer to Eliza, but his posture was stiff, as if he didn’t know where he stood with her. “You talked to Haley. Do you think she could have killed that boy?”

Morgan rubbed the back of her neck. “I don’t know. I don’t want to think so. She’s so young and frail-looking, but she was also distant . . . almost out of it. According to Colgate, she was found alone with the body, covered in blood. Her fingerprints were the only ones on the weapon, she’d been seen leaving the club with the victim the night before, and forensics recovered a used condom at the scene. The first thing she said to the responding deputy was ‘What have I done?’ None of these things make her look innocent.”

“But they don’t mean she wasn’t drugged and/or sexually assaulted.”

“No. They don’t.” Morgan frowned. “But that will be damned hard to prove without a positive drug screen or some physical evidence that she was raped, restrained, struck . . .” She paused, her fingertips squeezing the bridge of her nose. “It’s hard enough to get a rape conviction with physical evidence.”

“I know.”

She checked her watch, then took two more Tylenol from the bottle in her bag.

Rape cases were notoriously hard to prosecute. Evidence might be insufficient or could be interpreted in multiple ways. The brain needed time to process a traumatic event. Victims often got confused and then were accused of lying.

The door down the hall opened, and a nurse stepped out. Morgan and Lance hurried back. Morgan went into the room with Eliza.

The deputy took a call on his cell phone, backing away from the group but keeping his eyes on them.

Sharp tapped a foot. The crow’s feet around his eyes were more pronounced. Morgan was right. He was shaken, a rare occurrence.

“So how long has it been since you’ve seen Eliza?” Lance asked.

Sharp sighed. “Almost twenty-five years.”

“How old is Haley?”

“Twenty-five.” Lifting a hand, he added, “No. She’s not mine. Her father was my best friend back in the day. Ted died when Haley was just a baby.”

“Killed on the job?” Lance assumed.

Sharp looked away. “Yes.”

The faraway pain in Sharp’s eyes said there was much more to the story. “I’ll tell you all about it later, OK?”

“OK,” Lance agreed.

The door opened. Morgan and Eliza walked out. Haley followed, looking small and fragile as a baby bird. She could have passed for a teenager. Yoga pants, a loose sweater, and sneakers emphasized her slight frame. Her long red hair was pulled back into a pony tail. Morgan might have been the one with the bruised face, but Haley looked beaten. A true ginger, she had freckled skin so pale it seemed nearly translucent.

It might be sexist, but Lance had trouble picturing this slender young woman committing an act as violent as a stabbing.

Haley turned giant blue eyes on them. “What do I do now?” she asked in a timid voice.

The deputy stepped forward. He’d put his phone away. “Haley Powell, you are under arrest for the murder of Noah Carter.”

Lance had expected Haley to be arrested, but to have her handcuffed moments after the rape kit had been collected was a tough break.

“Turn around and extend your arms out at your sides,” the deputy instructed. “Turn your palms to me.”

Haley stood stock-still for a minute, trembling. Then she complied, her movements slow and halting. A single tear rolled down her cheek as the deputy handcuffed her. The look in her eyes was complete devastation. Though the deputy was professional, even gentle, as he took her into official custody, Lance couldn’t help but feel like the girl was being violated.

“It’ll be OK,” Morgan said. “You should be arraigned tomorrow morning. I’ll be there. You just have to get through the night. Do not talk to anyone about your case, not the jail personnel or other inmates. Other prisoners might try to use anything you tell them as bargaining chips in their own cases.”

   
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