“That makes two of us,” Truman replied. Two rifles sat in the rear window gun rack of the Ford’s cab, but Anders didn’t have anything smaller on his body. Truman cuffed him, put him in the back seat, and went back to check the Ford. He removed the weapons, cranked up the window, grabbed the keys from the ignition, and locked it up.

He returned to his vehicle and found Anders snoring in the back seat.

All the better. Sovereign citizens preferred to do their battles with words. Their statements were a lot of nonsense to Truman’s ears, but he knew they fully believed that they could avoid commonplace legal charges by making various oral declarations. They could talk their twisted legalese for hours, and the nonstop confrontations were exhausting.

He considered it a blessing to listen to Anders snore on the drive back to town.

Truman walked Anders through the small police department and was getting him settled in one of the three holding cells when Officer Royce Gibson stuck his head in the room and wrinkled his nose.

“Jesus, what’s that smell?”

“The usual cocktail of alcohol and body odor,” Truman answered. He stepped out of the cell and locked the door.

“Hey, Anders,” said Royce. “When’d you last shower?”

Truman sent him a look, and the young officer had the decency to look abashed.

“I am liberated from the government and not subject to US laws,” slurred Anders.

“In that case, consider this a safe place to wait until you can walk without help,” offered Truman. The older man nodded, lay down on his cot, and started snoring again.

“No joinder,” Truman said in an amused voice.

“I have no idea what the hell he means when he says that,” said Royce. “I ignore it.”

“He believes it keeps him from being subject to our laws. Something about there not being a legal agreement between him and us.” Truman shook his head. “Keep an eye on him. I’m headed home for the evening.”

“Wait a minute. I was coming to tell you that the FBI in Bend called; they’ve got two agents from Portland going to . . . the . . . Biggs murder scene. They want someone to walk them through it since it’s over two weeks old . . . and the door is locked.”

The steak-and-baked-potato dinner Truman had been thinking about all day suddenly got pushed back an hour. Or two. His stomach grumbled in protest. “Does it have to be tonight?”

“My understanding is they’re waiting outside the house already.”

Truman gave a short nod and strode toward the door, grabbing the cowboy hat he’d hung up when he arrived with Anders. He shoved it on his head. No one was poking around Jefferson Biggs’s home unless he was watching their every move.

Five minutes later Truman pulled up behind another black Tahoe in front of the two-week-old murder scene.

Two people stepped out of the vehicle, and he was briefly surprised to see a woman.

Have I been in Eagle’s Nest too long? He’d worked with plenty of women at his old law enforcement job and in the army. Six months in this isolated part of the country was turning him into a redneck. He didn’t have any women officers on his force, but according to the other guys, none had ever applied.

The man wore glasses and a heavy wool coat. No hat. He strode toward Truman, holding out his hand. “Special Agent Eddie Peterson. We appreciate you letting us in the house.” His handshake was strong, his eye contact solid.

The woman stepped forward, and Truman stopped himself from touching the brim of his hat when he realized her hand was out to shake. “Special Agent Mercy Kilpatrick.” Her handshake wasn’t as strong, but her green eyes were probing and intelligent. Truman felt as if she’d examined him inside and out, and learned all his secrets in one long glance. She was as tall as her partner, but had smartly worn a waterproof coat with a hood. And rubber boots.

“Truman Daly. I’m the police chief of Eagle’s Nest. A little more notice next time would be nice.” He couldn’t stop the small reprimand; they were taking his time, and he was hungry.

“Our apologies,” said Special Agent Peterson. “We just left the Fahey scene and wanted to get a look at the previous two scenes while the first was fresh in our minds.”

Truman scowled. “I heard Ned Fahey was murdered. You think it’s related to this one?” Mentally he swore at Deschutes County’s Sheriff Rhodes. The sheriff had kept all the details about Fahey’s death under his hat, and now Truman looked like an uninformed idiot. Granted, Fahey’s property was on county land, but Truman had considered the odd man an honorary resident of Eagle’s Nest since he liked to hang out occasionally at the John Deere dealership and shoot the breeze with the other locals who assembled there at the crack of dawn every weekday morning for bad coffee and gossip.

Special Agent Kilpatrick turned away to look at the house. “It’s possible,” she said from under her hood. He couldn’t see her lips move, just the rain sparkling on a few escaped black curls that wouldn’t stay under her coat.

In the last minutes of daylight, the home and outbuildings looked lonely. As if they were waiting for their owner to return. The emptiness settled over Truman and threatened to bury him in memories. Jefferson Biggs would never return to his home. Truman had recently moved to Eagle’s Nest to be closer to Uncle Jefferson, and now he was gone. What’s keeping me here? Truman’s roots hadn’t grown very deep in six months.

“Is the power still on in the home?” Kilpatrick asked. “It looks dark.”


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