Read Cold Case at Carlton's Canyon Online

Authors: Rita Herron

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Suspense, #ROMANCE - - SUSPENSE

Cold Case at Carlton's Canyon (3 page)

BOOK: Cold Case at Carlton's Canyon
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Three different scenarios skittered through his head.

Kelly could have met with the old boyfriend, decided she’d made a mistake in agreeing to marry Fisher and run off with him.

Or Sumter could have tried to convince her to leave with him and either kidnapped or killed her when she’d refused.

Or Fisher could have discovered Kelly had feelings for her ex, and fought with her about it and killed her...either accidentally or in a fit of rage.

* * *

Kelly Lambert went up on the wall beside the other girls’.

All such pretty young women with their glossy hair, perfect lips and orthodontist-enhanced smiles.

All girls who were ugly on the inside and deserved to die.

One by one they would leave this world.

And everyone at Canyon High would know the reason why.

Chapter Three

Amanda knew dividing Lambert from Fisher was the best police approach. If one of them was lying or hiding something, separating them was the best way to get the truth. But she didn’t intend to let the Texas Ranger run her investigation or tell her what to do.

Lambert glanced back at the door, a nervous twitch to his eye. “What’s that Ranger talking to Raymond about?”

“Just asking routine questions, finding out background information,” Amanda said. “It helps us to get a full picture of Kelly. He’ll want to know who her girlfriends are, when Raymond last saw her, anything that might help us figure out what happened to her.”

“We have to find her,” Lambert said. “I lost my wife... I can’t lose Kelly. She’s everything to me.”

Sympathy for the man made Amanda squeeze his shoulder. “I promise you, Mr. Lambert, that Sergeant Thorpe and I will do everything we can to find Kelly and bring her back home to you.”

He glanced down and studied his knuckles. Amanda narrowed her eyes. He had scrapes on his left hand. A gash on his right.

She casually poured them both coffee, an image of Kelly at eighteen, when she’d won an award for most congenial, flitting through her head. “What happened to your hands?” she asked, sliding a cup of coffee in front of him.

He twisted his fingers in front of him, his expression odd as if he didn’t remember. “I...was nervous when Kelly didn’t call me back. Went outside and cut some wood. Guess I scraped my knuckles.”

His explanation was feasible. Still...his daughter was missing.

“We’ll need a current photograph of Kelly for the media and to spread around to other law enforcement agencies.”

Lambert reached inside his back pocket, removed his wallet and pulled out a picture of her. Amanda’s heart tugged. Kelly had always been pretty and had grown more so. She was dressed in a print dress, her long hair sweeping her shoulders.

“That was a couple of months ago,” Lambert said. “I took her to the club to discuss the wedding plans.”

Amanda studied the photo, thinking of her own father and how special their father/daughter dates had been.

Worry gnawed at her for Kelly’s sake.

If Kelly had been kidnapped by the same person who’d abducted the other girls, they might never find her.

Kelly could already be dead.

Or...she could be suffering now.

Which meant every minute counted.

Amanda claimed the chair across from Lambert. “You say your daughter was excited about the wedding. Does she have any enemies that you know of?”

Another wave of sadness washed over the man’s face. “No. Everyone loves her. In high school she was voted most congenial and most likely to succeed.”

Amanda had forgotten about the most-likely-to-succeed award.

“In college, she worked on the school newspaper,” her father continued, “then earned her degree in English and planned to teach high school. She’s been applying for jobs and hopes to start in the fall.”

Amanda cradled her own coffee cup, aiming for a casual tone. “You and Kelly get along?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Kelly means everything to me.” He coughed. “When we lost her mother, she was depressed, and at first I thought what the hell am I going to do with a teenage girl? But then...we both missed Janelle and...” His eyes flooded with tears as he looked up at her. “She’s a good girl, Sheriff. A good girl.”

“I know she is,” Amanda said, battling to keep her compassion at bay so she could ask the tough questions that needed to be asked. The first rule of police work was not to let your emotions get involved. Her father had taught her that, God rest his soul.

“How about her and Raymond?” she asked. “Do they have any problems?”

“Not that I know of,” Lambert said. “She adores him. I wanted them to take it slower, not marry till they had more money in the bank, but they insisted on going ahead, said they’d survive on love.”

Amanda grimaced. She’d never been that naive. Maybe because she didn’t believe in love. Her mother and father sure as hell hadn’t loved each other.

“Mr. Lambert, what about you? Do
have any enemies?”

His eyes widened. “You think this might be about me?”

“I don’t know, but we have to look at all the possibilities.”

He stood and paced across the room. “No, I mean I own the bank and a few people got angry at me because I turned down loans. Filed a couple of foreclosures. But that’s business.”

Money was a powerful motivator. “I’ll need their names.”

He paused in his pacing, smoothing his hands down his suit jacket. “All right.”

“Tell me about your financial situation,” she said. “Do you have a large portfolio of investments? A big savings account?”

“You mean in case we receive a ransom call?”

“Yes,” Amanda said. “That’s a possibility.” In fact, it would be preferable to the alternative. If someone called with a ransom request, they might have a chance of saving Kelly and catching the kidnapper.

“I have some money,” he admitted. “Enough.”

“Enough that someone might take your daughter to force you to pay them off?”

He paled. “If this is about money, I’ll pay whatever they ask.”

“Just make me a list of all of the people who might have a grievance against you,” Amanda said. “We’ll also need a list of all of Kelly’s friends so we can talk to them.”

“Of course.”

He headed back to the chair but paused by the whiteboard in the corner. Amanda tensed. On the back of that board she’d tacked photos of all the missing women from the past ten years. She didn’t want him to see them. “Mr. Lambert, sit down and—”

But a strangled sound escaped Lambert as he flipped it over. He staggered back, shaking his head in denial.

Anger hardened his voice when he spoke. “You haven’t found any of those girls, have you? And you’re not going to find my Kelly either.”

Fear mingled with anger in Amanda’s chest. She’d inherited the ongoing case from Sheriff Lager, but Kelly had gone missing on her watch. An image of the pretty woman’s face taunted her. Kelly was her age, vibrant, planning her wedding. Looking forward to having a family and a long life ahead of her.

But her life might already have been cut off because some crazy maniac had targeted her.

And Amanda didn’t have a clue as to who it was.

What if Lambert was right? What if she couldn’t save Kelly in time?

* * *

notepad in front of Fisher. “Make a list of the groomsmen in the wedding and their contact information for me.”

Anger blazed in Fisher’s eyes as he realized the implication. “What the hell? Kelly’s father and I came here for help, and now you’re treating me like a suspect. You think I had something to do with Kelly’s disappearance?”

Justin forced his voice to remain level. The majority of missing-persons cases wound back to the family members or close friends. The fact that a string of females around the same age had gone missing was suspicious, but he couldn’t discount anything at this point.

“I didn’t say that. But it’s important for us to talk to everyone who knew Kelly,” Justin said. “Female and male friends included. Maybe one of them saw or heard something that could be helpful.”

Fisher shot up, glaring at Justin. “That’s bull. You want to ask them how Kelly and I got along. If I was jealous enough of an old boyfriend to hurt her.”

“I will ask that, but it’s routine,” Justin said. “The first thing we do in an investigation is to clear family members and friends. Oftentimes, someone may tell us some detail to help us—it might be something small that you don’t even think is important.”

He motioned to the chair. “Now, if you want us to find Kelly, sit down and make that list. You’re wasting valuable time.”

Fisher’s gaze met his, his eyes stormy with emotions and red rimmed from crying or lack of sleep. Maybe both.

Finally he released a heavy sigh and dropped back into the chair. “All right. But I love Kelly, and I’d never do anything to hurt her.”

Justin studied him, wondering how he’d react if he was in this man’s shoes. He’d be tearing apart the office, demanding answers, pushing for the police to comb the streets.

Ready to kill the person who’d stolen his fiancé.

That is, if that was what had happened.

Fisher took the pen and began to scribble names and phone numbers.

Sheriff Blair and Lambert appeared in the doorway, Lambert’s face ashen.

“Mr. Lambert, Mr. Fisher, I’d like your permission to put a trace on your phones,” Sheriff Blair said. “Just in case Kelly calls, or you receive a ransom call. We’ll also need to look at Kelly’s computer and phone records.”

“Of course, whatever you need,” Fisher said.

“Yes, check the phone records and computer.” Lambert’s eyes cut toward her. “Do whatever you have to do. Just find my daughter.”

Sheriff Blair nodded, but she looked worried. “I’ll get Kelly’s picture in the missing-persons database and on the news right away. Hopefully someone saw something and we’ll get a lead.”

Fisher shoved the paper into Justin’s hands. “Call us if you find her.”

Fisher huffed, then strode out the door. Lambert glanced at Justin. “I saw the pictures of those other young women back there. I don’t want Kelly’s picture up there. I want you to find this bastard.”

Justin shook the man’s hand. “Yes, sir. We’ll do everything we can.”

“Do more than that,” Lambert said sharply. Heaving a labored breath, he followed Fisher out the door.

Justin couldn’t blame the man for being angry and frustrated. He didn’t even know Kelly Lambert, and he felt like kicking something.

“I didn’t mean for him to see the wall of photos,” Sheriff Blair said.

“He’s scared,” Justin said. “Do you believe him?”

Sheriff Blair winced and gestured toward the notepad in her hand. “I think he loves her. I want to look at his financials. He turned down some folks for loans this year, had to foreclose on a couple of people.”

Justin arched a brow. “So this could be about money?”

“We’ll see if he receives a ransom call,” Sheriff Blair said. “Maybe someone he angered decided to get their loan money from him after all.”

“Revenge is a powerful motivator,” Justin agreed.

“What about the fiancé?” she asked.

“He seems sincerely distraught, but it could be an act. Apparently a former boyfriend contacted Kelly recently and wanted to see her before the wedding. He or Fisher could have had a jealous streak.”

Sheriff Blair nodded. “I’ll have my deputy pull financials and talk to the folks at the bank.” She made the call while he finished his coffee.

“I have a list of Fisher’s friends and the ex’s name and phone number,” he said as she turned back to him. “I’ll request Kelly’s phone records and access to her computer as well as Fisher’s and the ex’s.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sheriff Blair said. “At least a beginning.”

“Maybe we’ll find something at Kelly’s place.”

“Let’s go,” Sheriff Blair said. “You can make the phone calls in the car.”

Justin followed her outside, then climbed in the passenger seat as he removed his phone from the clip on his belt. “Sheriff, if we’re going to work together on this case, let’s start by getting on a first-name basis.”

An almost panicked look flickered in her eyes, making him wonder why she was so wary. Was it him personally or his badge that she didn’t like?

“All right,” she said tightly. “But just so you know, I don’t mix business with pleasure.”

He hadn’t asked her to.

She shot him a fiery look. “I may be a woman, but I can do my job.”

“I never said you couldn’t,” Justin said. Although her statement told him far more about her and her past than she probably realized.

Amanda chewed her bottom lip as she started the engine. “Good, I’m glad we got that out of the way.”

He had to admit he was intrigued at her spunk. Obviously she’d battled her way up against men in her field who probably thought she was incompetent based on her sex.

Either that or they were sidetracked by her good looks.

He wouldn’t make that mistake.

And he certainly couldn’t or
allow her pretty little face to distract him. He was here to find Kelly Lambert and to solve the case of the missing girls.

Nothing else mattered.

Especially the little zing of lightning that had sizzled between them when he’d brushed her hand earlier.

* * *

the tenth reunion had been posted on the marquis in front of the high school. The members of that graduating class were returning to town to celebrate their accomplishments.

They would be partying and drinking and rehashing their fun times. The pep rallies. The football game wins. The dances. The bonfires by the canyon.

Graduation night.

They’d all be happy and laughing, bragging about their accomplishments and careers and awards. Showing off their wives and husbands, and their children.

Back together for the first time in years.

Which would make it easier to find the next ones who had to die.

BOOK: Cold Case at Carlton's Canyon
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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