“That’s an awfully long-term plan,” said Eddie.

Jane turned faded-blue eyes his way. “He was nuts, but I found most of his theories quite entertaining.”

“I understand you didn’t see anyone leave when you arrived this morning,” said Mercy. “We think you might have scared him away.”

“You’d think Anders’s shooting at him would have scared him away,” said Jane. “I was happy to see he got off a few shots at his killer. Did you find any blood that didn’t belong to my brother? I hope the shooter’s bleeding out in the forest somewhere.”

“That would help us greatly,” agreed Mercy. “They’ll examine all the blood spatter, but I didn’t see a trail that left the kitchen. If the killer bled from a gunshot, it didn’t happen in the house.”

“He was expecting him, you know,” Jane said matter-of-factly, looking at Truman.

Truman stilled. “What do you mean?”

“When I talked to Anders yesterday about his appointment, he said he was expecting someone to try to come kill him in his sleep like the other preppers. He said, ‘I’m old, I’m alone, I prep, and I have a lot of guns. He’s probably already sniffing around my land.’”

Truman didn’t know what to say. “Did he have any evidence he was being watched? Was there something that led him to believe he was a target?”

“He fits the description of the other victims,” said Jane. “That was enough for him. They talk, you know . . . all these old guys with nothing better to do. Get a bunch of them together and they’re a bunch of hens. The latest rumor Anders told me was that there was a cave man who lived in the forest and targeted them, wanting their supplies.” Guilt crossed her face. “I told him no one wanted his crap. What would a cave man do with all his old cars?”

“Cave man,” Truman repeated. That’s three times I’ve heard that rumor this week. From three very different sources.

“Someone else mentioned a cave man in regard to another case,” Mercy said. “Had Anders ever mentioned it before yesterday?”

“Not a cave man. Little green men, yes. G-men in black suits with dark glasses, yes. You see why I don’t take his concerns too seriously.”

“Were there any other reasons Anders believed he’d be targeted by this cave man? Any strange encounters?” asked Eddie.

“He didn’t believe he would be specifically targeted,” Jane said in a schoolteacher voice. “He was being prepared. It’s what he does,” she added simply. “Just as he was prepared for the water supply to be poisoned. He was also prepared for a personal home-invasion-type attack.”

The agents looked at Truman. Anders’s preparation hadn’t been enough.

“Are there dozens of men in our area waiting for someone to break into their home?” Truman asked softly. Waiting on a cave man to attack?

“Wouldn’t you be?” Mercy asked. “If three women who lived my lifestyle had been targeted in my area, I’d be looking over my shoulder. I think that’s expected behavior.”

“We’re going to end up with a rash of people getting shot in the middle of the night,” muttered Truman.

“If someone’s breaking into my home in the middle of nowhere, they have it coming,” said Eddie.

The agent had a point.

TWENTY-FOUR

“A woman called in and says teens are racing up and down Old Foster Road again,” Lucas reported over the phone.

Truman was glad for the diversion. He’d spent a frustrating morning at Anders’s murder scene, and cracking a few teenage boys’ skulls together sounded good. “She recognize any of the cars?”

“No. But she says there are at least three of them. One of them plowed over a Slow Down sign she’d posted a few weeks ago.”

Kids.

Old Foster Road was great for racing. It had wide-open, straight stretches of pavement and little traffic. But the few residents who owned property along the road were tired of the noise, the danger, and the occasional accidents on one sharp curve.

“I’m two minutes away. I’ll check it out.”

Thursday. High school kids should be in school. But high schoolers weren’t the only ones who liked to race along the road. Truman suspected he’d find a few twentysomethings without regular jobs. Maybe even some thirtysomethings.

He took the next left and pressed on the accelerator, enjoying the rush of the souped-up engine under the vehicle’s hood. His morning hadn’t gotten off to the best start. On Monday, Anders had been sleeping off a drunk in the back seat of a police vehicle. Now he was dead and penciled in on a murdered list that included Truman’s uncle.

Who was killing the preppers?

Will there be more?

The thought made Truman’s stomach turn. The population of Eagle’s Nest wasn’t very big. What percentage of his town would die before they figured out the identity of the killer?

The FBI had sent some of the evidence collected in the other three cases to its own lab. The county had processed most of it without any good leads, but the FBI felt it could find some solid answers.

Truman didn’t care who did the work as long as it got done. The more eyes on the evidence the better. As a small-town police chief, he relied on the county and Oregon state police labs to handle any evidence he needed tested. Often their wait times were lengthy, but murders were usually pushed to the front of the priority line.

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