Truman stopped and turned toward her. She halted, meeting the chief’s brown gaze. A subtle challenge shone in his eyes. “Now, if you want to find out what’s going on around here, one of the best things you can do is be seen. Let people know the FBI is searching for a murderer. And I think it’s important for this town to see that the FBI isn’t a stiff fed hiding behind a pair of sunglasses and a dark suit. I think putting a personal face on the FBI will go a long way in getting some cooperation. You look approachable. You’re polite, and most of the men will think you’re harmless.”
“Harmless?” Mercy snapped.
“I didn’t say they’d be right.” Truman flashed another showstopping grin. “I know you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t the best at what you do, but getting people to lower their defenses can only help us. If you’d rather sit in your vehicle and eat one of those high-protein bars made of powdered meat and daisies, go ahead.”
The challenge still glinted in his eyes.
Dammit. He was right.
Who would recognize her next?
Truman picked the busiest restaurant for lunch.
If Special Agent Kilpatrick wanted to keep secrets from him, he’d make her squirm a bit. Her pride had flashed when he’d said the men in town would see her as harmless, but it was true and it’d work in her favor. He saw her waver for a moment, fighting her need to stay anonymous and wanting to do the best thing for her investigation. He’d known he’d win. In less than a day, he’d learned she was dedicated to her job.
He held open the diner door for her and removed his hat. Mercy stepped in and immediately moved to one side as she scanned the restaurant. Her hood was still up.
The diner was nearly empty.
Disappointment washed over Truman. One of these times someone was going to recognize Mercy Kilpatrick and he wanted to be there when it happened. If only to see her scramble. He grinned. Why am I so looking forward to it?
Usually he didn’t relish another person’s discomfort, but Mercy was playing a game with him, and he was due for a score. She slowly lowered her hood as he pointed at the last booth. “Have a seat. I need to say hello to a few people first.” She nodded and strode away. Truman took his time greeting two old-timers who were nursing their bottomless cups of coffee. Neither of them asked about the woman who’d come in with him. He stopped and greeted a mother he didn’t recognize with two small children. He gave each of the boys a police badge sticker and learned the mother lived on Oak Street. She was flirty, with big smiles and artificial laughter. He saw her gaze shoot to his left hand. He checked hers. No ring. He silently sighed, tousled the boys’ heads, and politely broke away.
Mercy studied the menu, her profile to him as he walked down the aisle. Even though he couldn’t see her eyes, she was still quite striking. Her jawline was sharp and her nose turned up the slightest bit. Nothing about her said FBI agent.
Until she turned her questioning stare on you.
Her mind seemed to be constantly analyzing and processing data. She didn’t waste words, Truman had happily noted. He hated nothing worse than people who spoke to hear themselves talk or people who tried to cover up that they were slackers by using an avalanche of words. More words did not mean more intelligence.
He slid into the booth. “The burger is excellent. Mushrooms and Swiss.”
Mercy nodded, not lifting her gaze from the menu. “Not much of a burger fan, but thanks. How’s the enchilada salad?”
“I have no idea.”
“How you doing, Chief?” Their waitress appeared.
“Great. Thanks, Sara. Your kids staying out of trouble?”
“So far they’ve only broken the refrigerator door this week, but we’re barely through Tuesday. You want the usual?”
Mercy looked at the waitress. “Coffee with heavy cream and the enchilada salad, please. No cheese.”
“The toppings are mostly cheese,” said Sara. “You want extra olives and salsa?”
Sara vanished, and he swore Mercy exhaled in relief. Or maybe he imagined it. A vibration came from her purse on the booth bench. She grabbed her phone out of her bag and studied the screen. “Autopsy results on Ned Fahey.”
“What’s it say?” He waited impatiently while she opened the e-mail and scrolled. A narrow groove appeared between her eyebrows as she focused on the tiny print.
“Know that, know that, know that . . . ,” she muttered.
“Here we go. Time of death is estimated to be between midnight Saturday and six a.m. Sunday.” Her face softened. “He had some of the worst arthritis in his back and knees that Dr. Lockhart has ever seen. Poor guy. No wonder everyone said he was crabby. He was in constant pain.”
“The gunshot wound is still the cause of death, right?”
“Yes. Have we heard if they found the bullet? The county evidence team was supposed to search.”
“No one’s told me.”
“I’ll e-mail Jeff and ask.”
“The SSRA in Bend.”
Her temporary boss.
Mercy looked up from her phone, satisfaction in her gaze. “Now we can focus on that time period. That’s a big help.”
“Hello, Chief Daly, I hope you’re having a good day.”
Truman looked up to find Barbara Johnson’s round face beaming at him. The retired high school teacher was one of his favorite residents. Probably because she was always positive and upbeat. Being around her always lifted his spirits. “I am, Barbara. Can I intro—”
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