Home > What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(14)

What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(14)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Someone had made a GIF from the video clip of McFarland’s attack. She watched in horror as McFarland punched over and over on a continuous loop.

She checked a few other web pages. The video was going viral on social media.

Lance glanced over, his face reddening with anger. “Son of a—”

“It’s OK. I should have expected it.” But Morgan had been preoccupied with her client’s troubles—and her own. “Everything ends up on social media these days.”

“But the message is a threat.”

“Not technically. I’ll contact the social media site and report it, but when something goes viral like this, there will be no stopping it.”

The clip would be posted everywhere.

Social media swayed public opinion, and part of Morgan’s job was to use her own reputation to defend her client. It was nearly impossible to find an unbiased jury pool. The internet spread real and false news across the globe far too quickly. Changes of venue had become moot, at least in regard to big cases.

Morgan’s colleagues considered her a tough lawyer. McFarland had damaged her reputation. She viewed the video again, stopping it just as McFarland raised his boot over her head. There she was, cowering on the floor. Her hands were in front of her head to block the blow, her face turned away.

She looked weak and helpless.

In her brain, she knew that wasn’t the case. She hadn’t had any time to react. But the video clip left her looking fragile and less than competent.

She ripped her eyes off the screen. “This isn’t going to help the case.”

“Did someone post this because they have a sick sense of humor?” Lance asked.

“Could be revenge on McFarland’s part.” Morgan watched the clip again. “Though he’s in jail and didn’t have access to a computer.”

“And he doesn’t have any friends that we could find. We tried for days to locate a single person who would testify in his behalf. Maybe someone wants to interfere with Haley’s case,” Lance suggested.

“But who would want to do that?” Morgan drummed her fingers on the desk. “Even if Noah’s family is convinced that Haley killed him, would they want to jeopardize the trial? Biased pretrial media coverage provides grounds for mistrial and appeal.”

“We won’t know until we investigate.” Lance shook his head. “Maybe my mom can trace the origin of that video or GIF.”

Lance’s mother was an online computer science teacher with her own business in website design, maintenance, and security. Unfortunately, she also suffered from agoraphobia and severe anxiety. She worked out of her home and sometimes helped with any computer forensics necessary in their investigations.

“Are you sure she’s ready for the extra work?” Morgan asked.

Last fall, his mother had been attacked, and the incident had exacerbated her mental illness.

“I hope so,” Lance said. “We managed without her over the winter because we didn’t have any big cases. But we’re stretched thin on Haley’s investigation. Background checks take time, and my mother is the best.”

Morgan sighed. “Maybe it’s a friend or relation of the victim.”

“Wonderful. There’s nothing like vengeance for motivation.”

Chapter Nine

Anger burned a slow path down to Lance’s gut as he watched the clip of McFarland hitting Morgan. Taking her phone, he turned off the display. “You don’t need to keep watching it.”

She sighed.

Lance studied her face. If he could have changed anything about that day, he would have stayed next to her in the courthouse hallway. McFarland wouldn’t have done what he’d done if Lance had been there. McFarland had surprised him too. “I didn’t see it coming either.”

But Lance should have been prepared for McFarland to lash out, especially if events weren’t going his way. McFarland had demonstrated his violent nature in the bar. He’d attacked his ex’s boyfriend in full view of dozens of witnesses too. He’d exhibited no remorse. No regret. No conscience.

And being a psychopath made him an excellent liar.

“I shouldn’t have left you alone with him,” Lance said.

Morgan shook her head. “I was hardly alone. I was in the middle of the courthouse. I should have been safe. You can’t possibly stand next to me 24/7. I have a job to do.”

But she hadn’t been safe. McFarland’s actions had been crazy and unpredictable.

Her small smile was lopsided. “I do appreciate the thought, though.”

“You need some rest if you’re going to be alert tomorrow for the hearing,” he said. “Let me take you home.”

“You’re right.” She rose, pushing off the desk with both hands. “I can review the paperwork again after the kids are in bed. I’ll get my things.”

She kept one palm flat on the blotter for a few seconds, as if she were testing her balance.

Sharp stuck his head into the office. “There’s a crowd of reporters outside.”

“Really?” Morgan asked. “Reporters here? That’s unusual.”

In previous cases, the press hadn’t gathered outside the office. The courthouse provided a more dramatic backdrop.

Lance went to the window. Using one finger to separate the slats of the blinds, he peered out. News vans were unloading at the curb.

“I’ll occupy the reporters,” Morgan said to Sharp. “You can take Eliza out the back door, circle around the building, and get her to her car quietly.”

“That should work,” Sharp said. “I’m going to follow her home too. If Haley is released tomorrow, I want to address any security concerns in case the press decides to camp in front of the house.” He stepped farther into the room and closed the door behind him. “I want to thank you for doing this, Morgan. I know you aren’t feeling well. You should really be home in bed. I feel guilty for asking, but I don’t trust anyone else.” Sharp paused for a breath. “Ted and I went to the academy together. We started in patrol with the SFPD the same day. I was the best man at his wedding. I was at the hospital when Haley was born. One day, we were both on patrol when we stumbled into a convenience store robbery. Ted took a bullet in the neck.” Sharp stopped, swallowing hard. When he continued speaking, his voice was harsh, barely recognizable. “The bullet severed Ted’s carotid artery. Even if there had been a surgeon on-site, his chances of surviving that shot would have been slim. He bled out in minutes.” Sharp looked up.

“Did the robber die?” Lance had been shot in the thigh in the line of duty. He’d nearly died. The injury had ended his police career, but he was very lucky that he’d survived. His memories of the event were as fragmented as a broken mirror. He occasionally had nightmares, but he wondered if it would have been even harder to watch your partner bleed out.

“No.” Uncharacteristic bitterness tightened Sharp’s lips, the resulting lines around his mouth aging him. “Ted took one unlucky bullet to the neck, while the meth head survived five bullet wounds. I shot him four times. I only remember pulling the trigger once.” Sharp swallowed. “I promised Ted that I’d always look after his family.”

Lance’s heart bled for him. He could imagine the responsibility, regret, and grief all too well.

Morgan came out from behind the desk and put a hand on Sharp’s arm. “You don’t owe me any explanations, not after everything you have done for me over the past six months. I will do everything in my power to help Haley.”

“Thank you.” Sharp seemed to choke on the words.

“Now, get Eliza out of here.” Morgan went to her own office to collect her coat and bag.

Lance grabbed his leather jacket and put it on. “Ready?”

She straightened her shoulders. “Yes.”

Sharp and Eliza headed for the back of the office as Lance opened the door. Reporters swarmed them as soon as they hit the sidewalk. They were all yelling at once. Lance couldn’t tell who was asking which question.

“Ms. Dane! Did Haley Powell kill Noah Carter?”

“How will your client plead tomorrow?”

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