Defensiveness rose in his chest. A need to stick up for his department even though he’d been in charge only six months. Instead he shrugged. “Few man-hours. Other investigations. Turnover.”

“Unacceptable,” muttered Mercy, looking back at the senior picture of Jennifer Sanders. “Someone should be fired.”

“Ben Cooley is the only one left from that era. Hell if I’m firing him. He’s been invaluable to me.” An image of the older officer’s kind smile popped into Truman’s head. “He’s not one to take initiative, but he’s incredibly solid and excellent at following orders. Very thorough.”

“The first thing we need to do is follow up with the people who were close to these girls,” stated Mercy.

“You’re here to focus on the three current murders,” Truman pointed out. “Outside of the broken mirrors, I don’t see anything to connect these to your current cases.” His internal fire to solve his uncle’s murder was driving him to keep the FBI on track. So far Mercy appeared to be a solid investigator, but she was getting distracted by history.

Maybe I should be dealing with her partner.

He studied the woman at the table. Was she too close to the old cases? She’d been here two days and already looked exhausted. Had the FBI sent the right person to help solve these crimes?

“I know,” she said. “Eddie is going over the Enoch Finch case with Deschutes County today. I’m currently waiting to hear more from the medical examiner about Ned Fahey, and one of our analysts is searching places where the stolen weapons might have been sold.”

Truman didn’t tell her he’d already gone through the Finch investigation with a fine-tooth comb. Once he’d seen the connection between his uncle and Enoch Finch, he’d immediately contacted Deschutes County to share notes. He hadn’t spotted any new leads or possible avenues that the county investigators had missed. Hopefully, Special Agent Peterson would spot something new.

“Are the two of you moving into the bed-and-breakfast?” he asked.

“Yes. We need to be out of the motel before eleven.” She didn’t look up from her pages.

“That motel is horrible.”

“It’s not so bad.”

He raised one brow. His sister and mother wouldn’t have spent one night in that place. Granted, his sister was a diva and insisted everything she owned be the best available, but even a woman with lower standards should show some interest in leaving the slum. Maybe Mercy didn’t need comforts. He remembered Mercy’s awe at his uncle’s supplies. What he’d seen as an embarrassment, she’d admired.

The Kilpatricks are preppers.

But Mercy lived in Portland and had a high-status job with the federal government. In law enforcement.

Clearly she’d left her heritage behind.

Has she?

Roots can run deep. She might imply she was estranged from her family, but he’d glimpsed her face as she’d studied the old photo of her sister. Pain. Longing. Regret. She’d shown them all.

When Joziah Bevins had stopped by their table, fear had flashed across her face. It’d vanished immediately, replaced by confidence. Real confidence? Forced? Truman mulled it over. Joziah was intimidating, and Truman knew he avoided Karl, the Kilpatrick patriarch, and suspected there was old bad blood there. Did it extend to the daughter?

None of my business.

As long as they didn’t start shooting at each other.

“Truman, look at this.” Mercy slid over her notebook and tapped a page with one finger.

He took the notebook, reading the header on the page: “Items missing from the Sanders home.”

A box of inexpensive jewelry.

Two rifles and a handgun.

$550 in cash.

Holding his breath, Truman flipped the pages of Gwen Vargas’s murder book.

Missing items: jewelry, cash, photo album, two handguns.

Truman looked up, meeting Mercy’s gaze. “The weapons?”

“Yes. It’s not the big hauls from the recent murders, but it’s something.”

“They—or he—took the easiest items to sell for the most money,” he argued.

“I know.”

“The Vargas murder included a photo album.”

Her brows came together. “That’s odd. I haven’t seen anything personal taken in the other cases.”

“We don’t know what else could be missing from the recent cases. There was no one to ask.”

“Men who live alone and are isolated. Easy pickings.”

“Nothing about my uncle was easy,” corrected Truman.

“You’re right. And from what I saw at Ned Fahey’s house, he made everything as difficult as possible.”

“I’m not sure these old cases can be connected,” Truman said slowly. “The motivations appear totally different.”

“They’re fifteen years apart,” said Mercy. “Motivations change. I’ll get some searches going through ViCAP and see if anything similar has happened in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe he hasn’t been inactive all this time.”

Truman nodded.

Or has someone been biding their time in Eagle’s Nest?

EIGHTEEN

Mercy hauled her small suitcase up the wooden stairs of Sandy’s Bed & Breakfast. No ADA ramp in sight. To Mercy this would always be the old Norwood house. A house she’d avoided while growing up because old man Norwood and his wife were seriously creepy. The huge house had been straight out of a horror film with its three stories, turrets, peeling paint, and failing gingerbread trim. Now it shone with cheerful colors in the style of a Victorian painted lady, and the architectural details had been lovingly restored.

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