“Ina Smythe too,” Truman said as he pulled out his phone. “I’ll give her a call.” He stepped away and Mercy did the same thing as she dialed Levi.
It felt foreign to call her brother. They’d exchanged numbers yesterday, and at the time she’d wondered if she’d ever use his. She and Levi weren’t at the stage where she could text him a casual “Hey, what’s up?” or a selfie.
How many times over the years have I wished I had his number in my phone?
She’d wanted someone to share her successes with. Her college graduation. Her FBI acceptance. Her posting in Portland. She’d celebrated with friends, but she’d always been painfully aware her family was out of reach. Now her brother was available at the touch of a button. Rose and Pearl too.
Slowly she was making progress.
“Mercy?” her brother answered.
“Yes, it’s me. I have a question for you.” There was no coffee bar noise in the background, and she wondered where he was.
“Do you remember the spot up behind Owlie Lake where you guys used to drink and bring girls?”
“The lookout? The one you have to hike up to?”
“Yes. Do you remember the cave that was off the path?”
“Why are you asking?” His voice was cautious.
“Because I’m up here right now and it doesn’t look like I remember. The cave is pretty deep, and there’s a low tunnel that runs even deeper from the back.”
“That’s not right. You must be somewhere else. It wasn’t deep at all.”
“I’m positive I’m in the right spot. I don’t know of any other caves up here, do you?”
“Mercy, what’s going on?” Levi sounded deadly serious.
“I’m trying to figure out when someone made this cave deeper.”
“Why are you poking around up there?”
Frustration rolled over her. Why did her brother care—
She gripped her phone tighter. “What is up here, Levi?”
He was silent.
“Oh God. Are you saying you . . . is this where . . .” She couldn’t breathe. She took several more steps to put more distance between her and the group of investigators.
“Mercy, where exactly are you?”
Her mind spun. Did Levi stash a corpse up here? Is the crime scene team about to find a pile of bones?
“At the lookout. The flat area where you can see forever.”
He exhaled loudly over the phone.
“Levi, we found a bunch of guns stashed in that cave. I know it’s the same cave; someone made it bigger.”
“Are you saying that area is crawling with FBI now?” His voice rose an octave.
“Something like that. But just near the cave for now.”
“Have they gone down the steep slope off the trail at all?”
“No.” Mercy wondered if they would. It had sharp drops in several areas. A wrongly placed foot could send someone sliding through rocks and shrubs for a good fifty feet. “Why would you pick such a popular spot?” she hissed into the phone.
Oh my God.
“I panicked. I didn’t know where to go where no one would see me, and I knew I didn’t have time to dig a hole.” His words tumbled out of his mouth. “And only part of that trail was popular back then. No one goes down the slope; it’s too dangerous. People stay on the trails.”
“What if someone had been here that night? Levi, how were you going to explain a dead body?” Adrenaline pooled in her stomach. How had her brother managed to get a corpse up the hill? He’d been a big, strong twenty-year-old back then . . . but still.
“Nothing happened. It was a pain in the ass, but I got it done.”
“What if they find something now? I’m supposed to pretend I don’t know what happened?”
“Dammit.” She wiped the sweat off her temples. The sun had long gone behind the ridge, and there was no reason for her to be sweating. She felt as if she had a huge sign on her back for every investigator to read: Murderer.
“Everything’s going to be fine. No one is going to think you have anything to do with an ancient murder victim.”
“Is it buried?”
“Sort of. The rain keeps washing the dirt away because it’s on a slope. The last time I was up there I managed to cover it with rocks pretty well. Someone would have to be paying very close attention to spot it.”
Or have a dog with them.
The sweat started again as she wondered if Jeff would request a dog to search the area.
“Look,” she said. “You don’t know anything about the cave being blasted somehow to make it deeper, right?”
“Right. I haven’t checked the cave since we were kids. I remember it as pretty shallow.”
“Do you remember hearing of anyone who’d been hurt by explosives? A prank gone awry? An idiot playing with fireworks and got hurt? Something like that?”
Levi was silent for a long moment. “No. I can’t remember anything like that.”
Mercy closed her eyes. Her world had tilted the slightest bit. As if it hadn’t been off kilter enough. He’s right. No one can connect a dead body up here with me. Or him.
Unless Levi accidentally left something behind.
“We don’t have any idea who he was, right?” she whispered.
“No. He didn’t have a wallet.” He paused. “I’ve paid attention over the years, and no missing person reports have sounded like him. He wasn’t from around here. Or else no one around here gave a rip about him.”
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