“Why? So they can arrest Mercy and me? Do you want to testify in court about what you just went through?”

“But they need to stop the other guy before he hurts another woman.”

Levi’s laugh was empty. “He’s long gone. They’ll never find him. We shook him up. I bet he doesn’t try it again.”

“But I’ve heard the other guy’s voice before,” Rose insisted.

Mercy spun around. “Where?”

Rose’s pale face went a shade paler. “At the Bevinses’ ranch.”

Mercy couldn’t breathe. “Rose, are you sure? How do you know?”

“I just know,” she said, but her face was uncertain.

“Who is it?” Levi asked. “One of the family? One of the hands?”

“I don’t know,” Rose cried. “I just know I heard it when we were there for the Saint Patrick’s Day barbecue two weeks ago.”

“So it could have been anyone,” Mercy said. “Nearly the entire town was there for that party.”

Rose’s face crumpled. “I’m no help.”

Mercy pulled off her plaid overshirt as she moved to her sister, and used it to wipe the blood and tears off her sister’s face. “You’re shook up. That would rattle anyone.”

“But I know what I heard,” Rose insisted. Mercy exchanged a look with Levi.

“We can’t tell Mom and Dad,” said Levi slowly. “We especially can’t tell them that you heard the voice at the Bevinses’ ranch. Dad will declare war.”

Mercy stared at him as Rose sucked in a breath. “We have to tell them.”

“No. No, we don’t,” said Levi.

Mercy’s mind raced through the possibilities. Dad would stop at nothing until he found who’d attacked his girls. If he thought that person was from the Bevinses’ ranch, the town would be more divided than it already was. The police would know she and Levi had shot an unarmed man in the back.

The bare walls of a prison cell flashed in her head. “Levi’s right. We clean it up and don’t tell anyone.”

“I’m getting a tarp.” Levi dashed out the back door.

“We can’t let him hide that we killed someone, Mercy.” Rose’s fingers went to Mercy’s shoulders and then gently touched her sister’s jawline and cheeks. A gesture that meant she needed comfort. Mercy put her hands over Rose’s, pressing them into her face, also needing to feel her touch.

“I think it’s for the best,” Mercy whispered. “I can clean this up. Levi’s right. Who’s going to come back and accuse us of murder while they were trying to kill us first? He doesn’t know this guy is dead. He’d already left.”

“But I’m sure he heard the shots.”

“Probably, but he can’t assume his friend is dead. Most likely he’ll think he got away. What exactly happened?”

Rose took a deep breath. “I was cleaning in the den when someone came in through the front door, and I assumed it was Levi because of the heavy boot tread, but I realized there were two sets of boots. Then I heard the mirror in the powder room shatter.”

“What?” Mercy dashed to the half bath near the front door. Rose was right. Someone had pulled the small mirror off the wall and thrown it to the floor. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Rose answered from right behind her. “One of them laughed as it happened. That’s when I got scared. I tried to shut the door to the den, but they beat me to it.”

Rose started to shake, and Mercy guided her back to the living room and into a chair. She wrapped her big overshirt over Rose’s cardigan. “I’ll get you something hot to drink. And then I’ll tackle this mess.” A small dark circle caught her eye. “Crap. There’s a bullet hole in the wall.”

“We can patch it,” Rose said firmly.

Determination washed over Mercy. “Yes, we can.”

In her bed in the dark motel room, tears washed over her cheeks. Is he back? Did we let a killer go free back then and now he’s killing again?

How could she tell Truman her suspicions without implicating herself?

I could lose my job.

She shuddered. Her job was her life, her pride, her proof that she’d been born for more than living on a ranch and waiting for the world to go to hell.

Did we screw up?

SEVENTEEN

“The broken mirrors at my uncle’s made you think of these old murder cases?” Truman asked the next morning.

Mercy raised her chin, feeling slightly ridiculous after telling Truman about the two old Eagle’s Nest cases. Her chair in Truman’s office was quite low, and he stood with his arms crossed, looking down at her. His expression was bland, but his tone said he was struggling to process the connection between the cases she’d shared and their newly murdered preppers. She was exhausted, operating on three hours of sleep, but she wasn’t about to let the chief know it. “Yes. The broken mirrors stuck with me. The second victim was my sister Pearl’s best friend.”

“What year was it?”

Mercy told him, and he called Lucas into his office. The cheery young man immediately appeared at the door. “Whatcha need, boss?”

“I need the file on two cases from fifteen years ago. I assume nothing was computerized back then?”

Lucas shook his head. “No, but everything should be neatly boxed up back in the storage room. If you give me a name, I can find the file number easy enough. That part’s computerized.”

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