“Well, no one knew guns were missing because Enoch lived alone and kept to himself. A cousin came to town a week after the death to sort through the effects. He’s the one that claims weapons are missing. The county sheriff knew Enoch had one missing registered gun, but the cousin swears Enoch had shown him at least twenty rifles and pistols on his last visit.”

“I’m noticing a theme here,” said Mercy. “All of these guys had a lot more weapons than were registered.” She tapped her pen on the table. “Did the thieves know they were stealing illegal weapons?” A facet to consider.

“Anything else missing?” Eddie asked.

“The cousin wasn’t certain. The rest of the home looked okay to him.”

Mercy eyed Darby. “And once you heard of the missing Finch weapons, you started to wonder if the first two cases were related.”

Darby nodded. “And when I got word that a cache of weapons was missing from the third murder, I approached Jeff and he decided we needed more agents. This has the potential to blow up into a domestic terrorism nightmare.”

“My office is spread too thin,” said Jeff. “I don’t have a domestic terrorism agent on staff. I rely on Darby to keep us informed, but there’s something to be said for DT experience.”

“You know I’m originally from cybercrimes, right?” said Eddie. “I’ve been on temporary loan to DT for only a few weeks.”

“So you’re saying you might be useless?” Darby asked with a glint in her eye.

“Try me.” He grinned back.

Mercy jumped in. “So back to my question about a single killer,” she said to Darby. “What’s your gut tell you? Outside of the hard evidence.”

“I don’t know. Logic tells me it can’t be coincidence that three men were killed within two weeks in a county that usually gets three murders a year, and each time the only thing missing is a large number of weapons,” said Darby. She shifted in her seat. “To me, it doesn’t sound like the work of one person, simply because of the number of weapons. What’s one person going to do with that many weapons?”

“Maybe it’s a small group working together,” suggested Eddie.

“Where’s the chatter?” asked Darby. “Where’s the leak? Like I said, someone always talks.”

“It’s only been two weeks,” said Mercy. “Maybe with more time someone will talk.”

“I feel like we’ve dropped the ball by not making the connection between the cases earlier,” said Jeff.

“You haven’t dropped the ball,” said Eddie. “You called us in once you had concerns. We’ll investigate from here and keep you in the loop.”

The SSRA winced. “I still feel like I’m slacking.”

“Slacking?” Darby snapped. “I know how many active cases this office has. Poor Melissa can’t keep up. We should have more support staff.”

“Not in the budget,” Jeff answered.

Supervisors everywhere use that line.

Mercy had worked with seven different supervisors during her time with the FBI. On the basis of her experience, she was positive they rehearsed that line in supervisor class.

“If we’re done here, we’ll head out to examine the scenes in the daylight,” said Mercy. “But first I have an interview scheduled with one of Ned Fahey’s neighbors. The sheriff said he’d give him a ride to the Eagle’s Nest police department to talk.”

Jeff scanned some papers in front of him until he found a name. “Toby Cox? Is that who you’re interviewing?”

“Yes, I guess he helped Ned out around the property. As far as the sheriff knows, Toby is the only one who’s been in the house in the last ten years.”

“This report from the sheriff says Toby Cox is simpleminded.” Jeff met Mercy’s gaze. “I don’t think that’s a diagnosis or even a politically correct way to put it, but I get the feeling that the sheriff doubts the quality of this witness’s information.”

“We’ll evaluate what Toby has to say and see if he’s credible. Anything else?”

The four of them exchanged glances around the table.

“No? Then we’re off.” Mercy stood.

Jeff shook her hand, his eyes kind. “Good luck.”

EIGHT

Mercy and Eddie parked in front of the tiny Eagle’s Nest police station.

It’d sat in the exact same location since Mercy was a kid. Even the outdoor paint was the same dull shade of khaki. She held her breath as she stepped inside, expecting to see white-haired Mrs. Smythe, who’d answered the phone and managed the police station since Mercy was born. Mercy had no doubt that the busybody would instantly recognize her. Instead a very young man the size of an offensive lineman sat at Mrs. Smythe’s desk.

A welcoming grin crossed his face as they entered. “Are you with the FBI? The chief is expecting you.” The nameplate on his desk said he was Lucas Ingram. His smile was contagious, and Mercy wondered if he was old enough to have finished high school.

Maybe he’s the son of an officer.

Eddie held out his hand. “You’re Lucas? Do you run the show around here?”

“I am. And welcome to my domain. You need anything, let me know.” Lucas stood to shake hands and he towered over Eddie, who wasn’t short.

“How old are you?” Eddie blurted.

“Nineteen. I’ve been working out front here for over a year, and I’m damned good at it.” Lucas’s wide face grew slightly defensive, and Mercy wondered how often he’d had to defend his holding a job that was typically filled by a woman.

***

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