“I need to go,” she said softly. People were waiting. This wasn’t the phone call she’d expected to have.

“Be careful, Mercy.” Levi told her. “And call me . . . if . . . you know.”

If they find a body.

“I will.” She ended the call, composed her face, and walked back to the others. Truman was already there.

“Ina doesn’t remember hearing of someone hurt in some sort of explosion,” he said.

“Levi doesn’t either. And he remembers the cave being shallow the way I did. He said he hasn’t been back up here or at least checked out the cave since he was twenty.” Her voice sounded normal.

Jeff twisted his lips. “Hopefully we can find some evidence with all those weapons that’ll give us a direction to investigate.” He looked at the scenery around him. “I want to expand the search area. Not just outside the cave. Go at least twenty meters in each direction from the cave. And I want the parking area at the lake searched too.”

“What about the path?” Truman asked. “It’s at least a half mile from the parking area to up here.”

“Five feet off each side of the path.”

Mercy’s knees went fluid. Surely Levi had stashed the body a lot farther off the path than five feet. But someone could still stumble across something to make them look farther.

“You feeling okay, Mercy?” Jeff asked. “You look exhausted.”

“I missed lunch,” she said, wondering how pale she looked. “And I’ve been staying up later than I should.”

Jeff checked the time. “Go eat. This is going to take hours. I’ll keep Eddie here for a while longer. There’s no point in all of us standing around to watch.” He looked from Truman to Mercy. “What’s next on our agenda?”

Mercy tried to remember; her brain felt like mush. “It’s too early for lab results on Anders Beebe. I’d like to talk to the parents of Jennifer Sanders or Gwen Vargas.”

“I’m going to call Ben Cooley,” said Truman. “He was one of the investigators on the Jennifer Sanders case. He still works for me, but he’s out of town.”

“Cooley?” Mercy asked. The name rang a bell, and she searched for where she’d recently heard it.

Pearl. Pearl talked about Teresa Cooley having a problem with Jennifer.

“Does he have a daughter, Teresa?” she asked.

“I think he has a daughter. I don’t remember her name.”

“Pearl told me yesterday that a Teresa Cooley had a problem with Jennifer Sanders in the weeks before she was murdered.”

“What kind of problem?” Truman asked.

“Pearl described it as mean-girl stuff. Boyfriend jealousy or something like that.” Mercy drew a breath, still trying to calm her nerves from Levi’s words. “I don’t believe it’s a woman who’s done all this.”

“Based on what?” Jeff asked. “I don’t want to hear gut feelings; I need facts.”

It was a man who attacked me back then.

“It’s a gut feeling,” she admitted. I can’t tell them what happened back then without turning my life, Levi’s, and Rose’s upside down. Guilt cramped her stomach. Am I slowing down the investigation by not admitting what I know?

Between the shock from Levi and the guilt, she wanted to go crawl in bed.

Telling them a man attacked me offers no insight on the murders of today. He’s dead. His partner might be alive, but I know nothing helpful about him.

Truman’s stare seemed to penetrate her brain and read her thoughts.

She focused on the rock mountain behind him.

“I’ll walk out with you,” he said. “I’d like to come when you talk to Jennifer Sanders’s parents. I checked and they now live in Bend.”

Mercy nodded, wanting desperately to be alone, but her spongy brain couldn’t come up with a reasonable refusal.

“Let’s go.”

TWENTY-SIX

Mercy had promised to meet him at the Eagle’s Nest police station at six.

Truman glanced at the clock on the wall for the tenth time. He still had ten minutes, so he shuffled the papers on his desk again, prioritizing what he’d tackle in the morning. He’d sent Lucas on an errand a minute ago and hoped he’d be back before Mercy appeared.

When they’d left the lookout an hour ago, she’d refused Truman’s offer of a bite to eat together, stating she needed to make some phone calls and do some computer work before they interviewed Jennifer Sanders’s parents.

She’d barely looked him in the eye.

The entire walk back to the Owlie Lake parking lot had been silent. The companionable atmosphere from earlier in the day had vanished. She seemed preoccupied and tired and couldn’t keep her focus on the path. She kept scanning the woods and slopes as if expecting the cave man to appear. Truman had wanted to make a joke about it, but she didn’t seem to be in a joking mood, so he kept his mouth shut. Instead he got a number for Jennifer’s parents and set up a meeting.

Mercy had been ecstatic after she found the rifles, and she’d still been energized when law enforcement had joined them on the lookout. Her attitude had deflated after she talked to her brother.

Was Levi angry with her? Had they fought?

He knew she was estranged from her family and had been mildly surprised when she offered to call her brother, but it appeared the call hadn’t gone well.

It was on his mental to-do list: find out what the hell had happened between Mercy and the rest of the Kilpatricks.

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