Mike’s father didn’t support his dream; he wanted his son to take over his legacy.
Considering Mike was inching close to forty, Truman wondered if he’d ever jump ship.
“What are you going to do?” Truman asked, knowing Mike needed to vent.
“Dunno.” Mike focused on downing a third of his beer. “I’ll know when the time is right. I heard the FBI shipped in some agents from Portland to work on the murders.”
Truman didn’t mind the subject change. “They did, and I’m glad. We need all the help we can get on the prepper murders.”
“You don’t see them as elbowing you out and taking over?”
“Heck no. Do you know how limited my resources are in Eagle’s Nest? I rely on Deschutes County and the state police for almost everything. I’m used to playing nicely with others.”
Mike looked into his beer. “I’m sorry about Jefferson. I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t imagine how bad it sucks for you.”
A companionable silence stretched for a few seconds. He never felt the need for useless small talk with Mike.
“How many FBI agents?”
“That’s it?” Mike raised his brows. “Is that really going to make a difference?”
Truman thought of Mercy Kilpatrick and the intense focus he’d seen on her face and heard in her questions. “I think so. It’ll be their sole assignment while they’re here. I’m constantly pulled in a half-dozen directions, and so is the county sheriff and the Bend FBI office. These two agents’ primary assignment is to find the murderers.”
“More than one killer?” Mike leaned closer, his eyes narrowing. He smelled of fresh-cut wood, and Truman noticed the faint powder of sawdust on his heavy dark jacket.
“Don’t know. Don’t quote me on that.”
Mike slowly nodded, weighing Truman’s words.
“Seriously,” Truman said. “We don’t know if there’s more than one guy.”
“I heard there’s a shitload of weapons missing from Ned Fahey’s place. That sounds like more than one person to me. Were you up there this morning?”
“No. It fell under county jurisdiction, but I’ll take a look at some point since they think it’s related to Jefferson’s death.” He heard his voice catch on his uncle’s name. It’s so hard to say.
“That has to be frustrating,” said Mike. “Since the last city you worked in was so big, I bet you aren’t used to dealing with so many different jurisdictions.”
“In a way,” admitted Truman. “My boundaries are much more narrow here, but I have a better handle on the people. I don’t feel like I’m constantly in a new situation with new faces. The faces here grew familiar over a few months.”
“After a while you’ll know within minutes who did each crime. People around here aren’t very original.”
“Can’t say I appreciate original crimes,” admitted Truman. A memory flashed, and he shut it down as he wiped away the small beads of moisture on his upper lip.
Or is that beer foam?
“I bet you’ve seen some weird shit.”
Under his arms, sweat blossomed. “Not really.” He took another big drink of his beer and scrambled for a change of topic. Sports. Cars. Women.
“What’s the most unusual thing you’ve come across?” Mike asked before Truman could form a coherent question. “I once read about a cop who found a hand in a suspect’s backpack. A whole fucking hand. Rings and everything.”
“Nothing like that. Excuse me a moment.” Truman headed toward the bathroom, needing space between Mike and himself and the caustic memory that’d barged into his brain. He slammed the heel of his hand against the men’s room door and strode in as the memory broke free.
Thick clouds of pale gray smoke billowed from under the hood of the burning abandoned car when Truman discovered it on the dead-end street. Officer Selena Madero pulled up as he called in his arrival. Nearly a dozen people milled around, watching the car burn, some taking videos, some talking on their cell phones.
“Back up!” Truman hollered at the crowd. “Everyone get away from the car. What happened?” he asked the closest woman, who balanced a toddler on one hip. She clutched her daughter with one hand; her other hand gripped an amulet at her neck.
She answered in Spanish too rapid for him to follow, her eyes wide.
“She doesn’t know,” answered Officer Madero. “She says she heard people yelling and then smelled the smoke.”
“Is someone in the car?” Truman asked.
The woman gave him a terrified look and shrugged, shaking her head.
“Does anyone know if someone is in there?” he shouted at the other observers. Flames licked at the wheel wells and burst out of the grille. The voluminous smoke turned black.
No one spoke up. Some held up their hands in an I-don’t-know gesture.
“Crap,” Truman mumbled. He glanced at Officer Madero. She was young, one of the newest recruits on the force, and she had her focus on him, looking for guidance.
“What do we do?” she asked in a low voice.
“Get everyone farther away from the car. Our priority is to keep everyone safe.”
An ear-piercing shriek made him spin around. A gray-haired woman ran full steam at the car, screaming in Spanish. A man grabbed her around the waist as she tore by. She beat him with her fists, but he didn’t let go.
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