“Shit.” He eyed the young cop. “Can you try to track down the story? Start with the bartenders and waiters. Maybe Sandy at the B&B. Try to find someone who remembers hearing it from the hunters’ actual mouths . . . not their drinking buddies. Try to pinpoint some sort of location too. Surely you guys who went to high school together know one section of the forest that everyone avoids, right? Sometimes rumors evolve from facts. Let’s figure out what’s what.”
The cop nodded eagerly. “I’ll get right on it.” He gave a minisalute and strode down the hallway with a sense of purpose.
Did I just send an officer to chase a figment of an alcohol-fueled imagination?
It didn’t matter. Any bit of information needed to be taken seriously, and this wasn’t the first time he’d heard of the cave man. Truman wasn’t above following up on rumors of a cave man with a cache of weapons.
His phone rang.
“Chief? This is Natasha Lockhart from the ME’s office.”
Truman pictured the petite medical examiner. His uncle’s death had been his first encounter with her. She’d come across as highly competent and driven. Good qualities to have in her job.
“Yes, Dr. Lockhart, what can I do for you?”
“I’ve sent you an e-mail along with the FBI and Deschutes County, but I wanted to talk to you because I know this is personal.”
His stomach-acid level suddenly tripled.
“Some of the lab work on Enoch Finch and your uncle came back. You know certain tests can take a few weeks, right? I analyze some tissues at our office, but I typically send out for more in-depth testing.”
“Right.” Get on with it.
“Enoch Finch had traces of Rohypnol in his blood work. Your uncle had the same in his system.”
Truman was silent. Jefferson Biggs had preached against all prescription medications. He believed the pharmaceutical companies brainwashed people to believe they needed chemicals. A conspiracy to take Americans’ money and keep them addicted to their products. Had his uncle lied to him? Preached against medications while popping pills in his bathroom? He wouldn’t be the first hypocrite Truman had encountered.
But this was his uncle. He firmly believed the man had never lied to him.
“I’m here. You’re checking Ned Fahey for the same medication?”
“I am.” She paused. “Your uncle’s meds actually turned up in his stomach contents. He’d just taken it.”
Truman remembered the two glasses on his uncle’s kitchen counter. He knew there’d been Scotch in both glasses, an indication Jefferson had shared a drink with someone that evening. The glasses had been printed, but only his uncle’s prints had been found. One of the glasses had no prints.
Had the killer been close enough to Jefferson to share a drink first?
And then coolly wipe down his glass before he left?
“I have an idea of how the drug might have gotten in his system,” Truman said slowly. “He wasn’t one to take medication.”
“Wherever it came from, it’s odd that both men had it.”
“Agreed.” Truman chatted with the ME for another minute and then ended the call. He headed down the hall to the evidence locker, to the stack of evidence boxes from his uncle’s murder. After a few moments of searching, he found the bag with the two glasses. He slipped on a pair of vinyl gloves and broke the seal to examine the glasses. Fine black fingerprint powder still coated them.
He held one to his nose and sniffed. The odor of Scotch still lingered.
Could they find the medication in the dried residue on the glasses?
It was worth a shot.
His uncle wasn’t a liar. Someone would have had to trick him to get drugs into his body.
Someone he was willing to share a drink with.
Mercy zipped up her black jacket and shoved her gloves in her pockets as she looked longingly at the B&B’s comfy bed. Exhaustion and nerves made her want to crawl under the covers, but she knew she’d never get to sleep. Only one thing helped her calm her nerves when she was stressed. Her late-night jaunt from the hotel two nights ago had soothed her brain and made her feel as if she wasn’t spinning her wheels. She needed that sense of accomplishment before she had the right to relax.
Someone knocked on her door.
Eddie? She’d told him good night an hour ago, at nine o’clock.
She looked through the peephole and caught her breath.
Kaylie Kilpatrick. Her niece.
The hall light made the teen’s nose stud sparkle as she glanced to the right and left. Impatience crossed her face and she knocked again.
Does she know who I am?
Why would she be here if she didn’t?
Mercy realized she wouldn’t be leaving the B&B tonight. She flipped both the locks and opened the door.
Kaylie stood still, studying Mercy’s face. Mercy let her stare as she did her own examination.
Mercy had a good four inches on the teen, and Kaylie’s hair was lighter, but the eyes were the same.
“You’re my aunt,” the girl stated.
“My name’s Kaylie.”
“I know,” said Mercy, unable to think of a better reply.
Kaylie glanced to the right and left again. “Can I come in for a minute? I’d like to talk to you.”
Against her better judgment, Mercy stepped back and let her enter. Kaylie glanced around the room and then sat on the chair by a tiny desk. Her eyes widened as she focused on Mercy’s jacket. “Oh. Were you leaving?”
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