The missing message board said the town had lost faith.
The mill was a victim of poor economics, federal policies on tree harvests, and increased conservation measures. Now it looked like a good location to create a Halloween haunted house.
She kept driving. Suddenly one- and two-story buildings lined both sides of the street. She scanned their signs. Several were new to her, but some hadn’t changed. Eagle’s Nest Police Department, Eagle’s Nest City Hall, Grand Movie Theater, Post Office, John Deere Dealership. She noticed a church had been converted to a senior center. The old Norwood home now called itself “Sandy’s Bed & Breakfast.”
Eddie pointed at a tiny shop. “Hey, that looks promising. I need caffeine. Pull over.”
Mercy pulled into a slanted parking space, remembering how she’d had to learn to parallel park when she moved to Portland. It wasn’t a skill needed in tiny towns. The Coffee Café occupied a building where she’d once spent hours as a teen browsing used books. It looked fresh and updated, and the Illy brand coffee sign in the window suggested the owners took their coffee seriously. The store was a small, bright flower in the depressing gray of the streets and tired buildings. She glanced up and down the street. A few trucks drove past, but no one strolled the sidewalks.
The bell jangled as they pulled open the door. Mercy unzipped her jacket, appreciating the rush of heat and coffee scents.
“Hi there.” A teenage girl popped out of a doorway behind the counter. “What can I get for you?”
She was cute and smiley, with a perky ponytail. She regarded them with faint curiosity, but she was polite and kept her questions to herself. Mercy studied the chalkboard menu just inside the door as Eddie stepped forward and ordered something with a triple shot. The girl started his espresso, and Eddie looked over his shoulder at Mercy. “She could be you twenty years ago,” he said in a low voice, a question in his eyes.
Mercy moved to get a better look at their barista. The girl’s hair was lighter, but the eyes and the shape of her face were spot-on. Pearl’s daughter? Owen’s? She admired the small gemstone stud in the girl’s nose. Whoever she was, she had a rebellious streak. Mercy’s parents would have ripped the stud out every time they saw it.
“I’ll take an Americano. Do you have heavy cream instead of half-and-half?” Mercy asked as she stepped closer. The barista met her gaze, nodded enthusiastically, and went back to creating heaven in a cup.
Whoever she was, the sight of Mercy meant nothing to her.
Mercy breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Do you live in town?” Eddie asked the barista as Mercy silently cursed him. The agent liked people and enjoyed hearing their stories. He’d start up a conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store.
The girl smiled. “Just outside of town.”
“You aren’t working here alone, are you?”
At the flash of alarm in the barista’s eyes, Mercy punched him in the arm.
“I mean . . . I’m not a weirdo. I’m wondering about your safety,” Eddie said lamely.
“Ignore him,” Mercy said with a smile meant to calm the startled girl. “He means well and he’s harmless.”
“My father’s in back,” she said tentatively. The sunshine drained out of her face, and she eyed Eddie with caution.
“That’s good,” admitted Eddie. “Didn’t mean to freak you out.”
The barista held up their cups. Mercy reached for both, and watched the girl’s gaze shoot to Mercy’s left side under her jacket. “You’re law enforcement,” the girl said as she nodded toward the weapon.
“Doesn’t everyone around here carry?” asked Eddie in a joking tone.
“Usually revolvers, not Glocks.” Interest lit up her eyes. “Is this because of the men that were murdered recently? I heard Ned Fahey was found dead this morning.”
The gossip chain was in full swing.
“Kaylie? Everything okay?” a tall man asked sharply as he stepped into the doorway behind the barista, his broad shoulders filling the space.
Mercy’s heart stopped as she locked eyes with the man. Shock swept his face.
“Holy shit!” he muttered.
He was big and dark haired, with a thick beard that hadn’t grayed. Mercy had never seen him with a beard, but she recognized her brother instantly. She didn’t speak, letting Levi decide what to do. He looked from her to his daughter and then back again, taking in Eddie in the same glance.
“You from out of town to investigate the murders?” he asked Eddie. “I didn’t realize the FBI was involved. That seems odd.”
Mercy swallowed. Her brother had ignored her. But he knew they were FBI. That meant he knew what she did for a living. He hadn’t abandoned her completely.
“We come when our help is requested,” Eddie replied noncommittally.
“Didn’t know anyone had asked,” said Levi. He looked at Mercy, all recognition gone from his eyes. “Coffee’s on the house today.”
“We appreciate it, but we’ll pay,” said Eddie. He pulled cash out of his wallet and gave Mercy a side-eyed questioning glance. What the fuck is going on?
She couldn’t move. Or speak. Her fingers had frozen to the hot cups in her hands.
“Have a good day,” Kaylie said automatically as she handed Eddie his change.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com