Bones Don't Lie Page 1

Author: Melinda Leigh

Series: Morgan Dane #3

Genres: Mystery , Thriller

Chapter One

August 10, 1994

Bangs and muffled screams sounded from inside the trunk of the Buick. Standing in the weeds next to the vehicle, he stared at the closed lid.

Still alive.

Oh, well. A minor miscalculation. Didn’t matter. This would all be over soon.

“Let me out. Help!”

He scanned his surroundings. No one in sight. Inky black in the darkness, the murky water of Grey Lake stretched out for miles. The crescent moon cast a pale light on its rippling surface. Thick forest fringed its banks. There were no buildings nearby. But there was always a chance of someone camping in the forest. His gaze swept the bank of the lake, but he saw no flicker of campfires, no brightly colored tents. No sign of human activity.

The public park, beaches, and boat ramp were two miles to the south. The wilder north end of the lake saw little activity.

A mosquito landed on his arm, and he swatted it away. Three more took its place.

The warm August day had cooled in the evening, but the summer stickiness remained. Frogs croaked, and something small splashed. The tall grasses around the lake buzzed with insects. To the billion gnats and mosquitoes that lived here, his warm body was a free meal.

“You can’t do this!”

The pleas for help triggered no guilt. No remorse for the series of events that had led him to this moment. His only regrets were the risk and inconvenience he’d brought upon himself.

But then, his lack of a conscience was one of the reasons he was here in the middle of the night.

He’d done things tonight he couldn’t undo. Things that would ruin his life if anyone knew. His only option was to clean up the mess.

Besides, he’d be lying if he denied that killing a person wasn’t exciting. He wasn’t planning on doing it again. But there was a thrill, deep in his veins, over the control, the sense of power that came from extinguishing another human life.

More banging from the inside of the trunk. The vehicle creaked as weight shifted. Something metal struck the underside of the lid. Tire iron? Like that would do anything.

“Please. I’ll do anything. Please let me out.”

The plea was desperate.

Panicked.

And for good reason.

He ignored the cries, opening the driver’s side door and sliding behind the wheel. He started the engine, lowered the window, and stared at the lake ahead. The bank fell away on a steep grade. He knew the lake’s bottom sloped to match the rapid descent. The water grew deep quickly. Farther out, a tiny sliver of moon reflected on the surface.

The Buick idled, its ten-year-old engine knocking and pinging. With the car door still open, he hesitated, his foot on the brake.

He eyed the brick on the floor. It would hold the gas pedal down when he was ready.

Was he really going to do this?

This was another indelible moment, one that would leave a permanent mark, one from which there could be no return. Unlike his impulsive action earlier this evening, this decision was born of careful thought and consideration. This was a conscious act.

This was cold.

Calculated.

Murder.

But what were his options? Admit his guilt? Go to prison? Ruin his entire life?

Hell, no.

He had plans.

Which meant he really had no options at all.

Bending forward, he positioned the brick on the gas pedal, then sat up and shifted into “Drive.” When he eased his foot off the brake, the car rolled down the slope toward the lake. But the Buick wasn’t going fast enough for momentum to carry it fully into the water. He pressed on the brick with the ball of his foot, and the car leaped forward.

A muffled scream sounded from the trunk.

He pushed himself from the moving vehicle. As soon as his shoulders hit the damp ground, he rolled. Thick grass cushioned his impact. He tumbled over a few times and slid over a rock, a quick jolt of pain zinging through his elbow. He came to a stop, sat up, and took stock by moving his arms and legs. All good. He’d get through this night with no more than a few bruises.

Ahead, the Buick struck the water with a broad splash. Momentum carried the car a few yards into the lake. Then it appeared to float for a minute, bobbing on the waves of its own making.

The weight of the engine pulled the front end down. The car began to sink, diving into deeper water nose first, its ass in the air.

Once the interior filled with water, the car sank faster. He wasn’t sure if he actually heard more cries for help or if he imagined them. He was probably too far away. But they gave him a power-tripping hard-on all the same.

He climbed to his feet on the bank, watching. Water rose over the rear window, then the trunk. Finally, the rear bumper disappeared beneath the surface. He checked his watch and then brushed some dirt from his arms while he waited.

Ten minutes passed.

All was quiet, except for the sounds of the lake and forest. Frogs, bugs, owls. No human sounds at all.

It was over.

The aftermath felt anticlimactic in its silence. The only sign that the event had happened was a path of crushed weeds leading into the lake. Those would spring back up in no time. One good thunderstorm would wipe away any trace of tonight’s deed.

He turned away from the lake and hiked up the slope toward the road, a football field away. When he reached the top of the embankment, he paused to catch his breath. Despite the comfortable evening temperature, sweat gathered under his arms. It had been a night of errors, scrambling to cover mistakes, and discovery of his dark side.

Something he’d have to work to control. He couldn’t repeat tonight’s disaster. He’d been lucky in too many ways.

But now it was done. He took a deep breath, the first he’d managed in hours. The scents of summer night, pine, and lake water filled his lungs, cool, damp, and refreshing.

He turned back toward the lake.

The surface was smooth again, the ripples faded, with no sign of the earlier disturbance. No sign of what was hidden beneath the murky water.

Chapter Two

Twenty-three years later

Some secrets were better left hidden.

Lincoln Sharp stood on the shoulder of the road overlooking Grey Lake. He sucked in a hiss of air. The bitter cold pricked his lungs like a thousand icy pins. It was only the middle of November, but winter had hit New York State like a frozen sledgehammer.

Fifty feet from the shoreline, a sheriff’s department dive team boat bobbed on the quiet water. Around the vessel, the lake’s smooth surface reflected the leaden sky like a mirror, hiding everything within its murky depths.

The answer to a decades-old question lay just ahead of him, yet Sharp’s boots remained rooted in the snow-dusted weeds.

What was wrong with him? He’d been waiting for a break in this case for more than twenty years. Now that it was here, he almost wished it would sink back beneath the water and stay there forever.

The ripples of this discovery would spread in ever-widening circles, stirring up waters that had long ago stilled.

Waking voices time had silenced.

Disturbing lives that had finally found peace.

Unease stirred in his belly.

But there was nothing he could do to prevent the fallout. Maybe, just maybe, everything would work out, the case would be solved, and the family given closure. He exhaled, his breath pluming like smoke.

The high-pitched squeal of metal on metal carried across the open space, the harsh sound pricking his eardrums and lifting the hairs on the back of his neck. Sharp turned toward the activity on the shore. The winch on the back of a tow truck hauled the rusted carcass of a sedan farther up the bank, leaving a drag trail through the tall reeds. A group of law enforcement personnel swarmed the vehicle as soon as it stopped.

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