Say You're Sorry Page 44

“Well, shit.” Sharp got up and began to pace the room.

“What’s the WSA?” Morgan looked up from her file.

“The White Survival Alliance,” Lance said. Now he really didn’t want Morgan anywhere near the Barone place. “A local white supremacist group, a quasi-militia. They’re preparing for the apocalypse.”

Sharp rubbed his bald head. “A few months ago, the SFPD raided a barn behind a member’s house. It was full of raw materials for making explosives. It was also booby-trapped. Thankfully, no one was killed when it blew up.”

“Mrs. Kruger?” Morgan leaned over the speaker. “Do you know Dwayne Barone’s position in the organization?”

“Please call me Jennifer, and no,” Mom said. “I moved from the Deep Web to the Dark. There’s very little information about the WSA. They stay off the radar.”

Which explained the lack of data on the family. The Deep Web included Internet pages that couldn’t be found through search engines. Most of these existed for ordinary reasons: databases, web forums that required registration, or pages behind paywalls. Online bank accounts that required logins and passwords were an example. But the Dark Web went further. Sites on the Dark Web hid their identities and spoofed their locations using an encryption tool. Some sites hid their IP addresses behind multiple layers of encryption.

Lance got up and walked to the window. Talking about the homegrown militia group made him edgy. “The thing about the WSA is that they are very secretive about their roster. They keep their resources spread out. So if any one member is compromised, the rest of the group remain anonymous.”

“WSA aside.” Morgan tapped her pen on her notebook. “Do we really have reason to believe Robby killed Tessa? Why?”

“Unrequited love?” Sharp suggested. “What if it wasn’t Robby? What if Dwayne killed Tessa? The WSA isn’t just a white supremacist organization. They have a patriarchal, barefoot-and-pregnant philosophy toward women.”

“That explains the way Dwayne treats his wife and daughters, but we still have no link between Dwayne and Tessa. We need to find out if Tessa spent any time at the Barone house.”

“Can you keep digging, Mom?” Lance asked.

“Of course.” She sounded pleased.

“Without putting yourself in danger.” Lance worried about the WSA tracking her online inquiries.

“I know how to hide my tracks.” She chuckled. “Don’t you worry.”

But he would. The WSA was nothing to mess around with.

“One more thing,” Lance said to the phone. “Have you turned up anything else on Jamie Lewis’s family or her mother’s fiancé?”

“No,” his mom said. “Nothing unusual on the Lewises or Kevin Murdoch yet. I’ll send you the details as soon as I can. Later today or in the morning. I’m waiting on one more source.”

“Talk to you later, Mom. Love you.”

“I love you too.” She ended the call.

Lance picked up his phone. “I was really hoping for some dirt on Kevin.”

“Me too.” Morgan made more notes in her files. “I suppose there’s always the chance that he’s just a nervous person or he has some sort of medical condition that causes him to sweat excessively.”

Lance shook his head. “Kevin’s body language all but screamed pants-on-fire.”

“I know. Let’s wait until your mom is finished with her report. Then we’ll pay Kevin a visit.” She finished her paragraph. “Do you want to start with the Barones or Dean Voss today?”

“I guess we can drive by the Barones’ first.” Hopefully, Dwayne would be at work. The family had set off all Lance’s alarms since the first time he’d set foot on the property. The last thing he wanted to do was put Morgan on the WSA’s radar. “Then we can drop by Dean Voss’s apartment, peek in the windows, and talk to his neighbors. He’s safely tucked away in the psych ward, so it seems like a good day for it.”

She stood, stretched, and reached for her blazer. “I’m ready.”

“See ya, Sharp.” Lance headed for the door.

“You kids be careful.” Sharp waved them off. “I’m going to work on Jamie Lewis’s case for the morning. I plan to talk to Jamie’s best friend, Tony, and put some pressure on him. Let me know if you need me.”

“Will do.” Lance followed Morgan outside. Autumn had hit Scarlet Falls overnight. The air had turned cool, and leaves clogged the gutter.

They climbed into the Jeep.

Morgan set her giant purse at her feet. “I have a legal visit set up with Nick for tomorrow morning. He deserves an update, and I’d like to make sure he’s all right. He might have some insight on what we’ve discovered so far, especially Tessa’s pregnancy. I need to confirm that Nick didn’t know about the baby.”

They drove away from the business district. On their way, they passed Scarlet Lake. The crisp morning air sent mist rising from the water. It floated over the beach and swirled through the cattails like smoke. He and Morgan both went quiet as they drove past, but the visual was a reminder to Lance of the seriousness of the case. A young girl had been violated and murdered, and her killer still ran loose. If they didn’t find Tessa’s murderer, an innocent man could spend the rest of his life in prison.

And a killer would be free to strike again.

Neither he nor Morgan spoke until they reached the Barone place. Then Lance drew the Jeep to a stop on the shoulder of the road, his gaze fixed on the farm.

“Do you see what I see?” he asked.

It couldn’t be.

What the hell?

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Lance blinked hard, but it didn’t change the sight. The farm looked deserted.

Morgan lowered her window. She tilted her head to the opening. “It’s too quiet.”

He turned past the mailbox into the driveway. There were no vehicles parked near the house. The chicken enclosure and pigpen were empty. No cows grazed in the pasture. The stock trailer and school bus that had been parked alongside the barn were gone.

They got out of the car. Lance led the way to the front door. Who knew what kind of surprises Dwayne Barone, with all of his WSA paranoia, would leave behind? Standing to the side of the doorway, he tucked Morgan behind him and knocked on the door. Nothing but eerie silence greeted them.

Lance walked to the window and peered inside. “The furniture is still here, but they took everything else.”

Wire hung from holes in the wall where the TV and other electronic devices had been installed. Lance went back down the steps. Backing away from the house, he scanned the roofline. “The satellite dish is missing.”

He headed for the barn, already knowing what he was going to see.

“This is creepy.” Morgan followed him.

Watching their step, they checked the outbuildings. Lance took care to inspect every door before approaching and opening it. But nothing happened. Nothing at all.

The entire farm was eerie and silent and empty.

They returned to the car, turning to stare at the vacant buildings.

“Any thoughts?” Lance asked.

“No one takes their pigs on vacation,” Morgan said. “Dwayne likes to live off the radar. Maybe he wasn’t comfortable with our questions.”

“We didn’t accuse Dwayne or his son of anything.”

Morgan’s eyes drifted back to the house. “Maybe one of them did something really bad, and he was afraid we’d find out.”

“Like commit murder. Do you like Robby or Dwayne for the crime?”

“Robby seems awfully small, not much bigger than Tessa,” Morgan said.

“That boy is holding onto a lot of anger, though,” Lance pointed out. “Rage can make someone stronger than he looks.”

“Yes,” Morgan agreed.

“And Tessa wouldn’t know how to defend herself. She was just a kid.” It killed Lance to think of the violence, the pain, the terror that had filled the young girl’s final moments.

Morgan walked toward the back door. “But Dwayne would have no difficulty overpowering a young girl.”

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