“Or it was random. High school jerks or someone who simply has a problem with law enforcement.”

He looked at her. His gaze said he didn’t believe it had been random.

Her gut didn’t believe it either.

“Someone’s definitely following you,” he said. “But to me, the slashed tires say he’s petty and immature. Angry. Probably has a bad temper. He strikes out at your vehicle instead of you.”

“Or he’s scared of me,” Mercy added.

“What do you mean?”

“Something I’ve done has scared him and he’s trying to stop me. Why would someone be afraid of me? The only thing I can come up with is that we’re possibly getting close to uncovering who killed your uncle and the other preppers.”

“Or they fear that you saw them fifteen years ago.”

“I would have gone to the police back then if I’d known exactly who it was,” she stated.

“Something you’ve done recently has lit a fire under someone.”

“We did find a big cache of weapons yesterday,” she added. “Maybe we’re closer than we realize.”

He drove in silence for a moment. “Are you nervous?”

Disbelief filled her. “Because someone slashed my tires? Hell no. I’m pissed.”

“Be cautious.”

“I’m always careful.”

“I don’t know how the security is at Sandy’s,” Truman added.

“She’s got heavy doors and good locks. Believe me, I checked.”

They parked behind the station. “Cooley’s here,” Truman said in surprise. “I guess he meant immediately when he said he’d review the files from the old murders.”

Mercy was relieved they’d beaten Eddie to the station. She wasn’t ready to answer his questions. Inside she met Ben Cooley, a big, jolly man with a perpetual smile, and she couldn’t help but like him. Truman lit up when he saw the officer, and vigorously shook his hand.

“You look good with a tan, Ben.”

“I was bored out of my mind.” He winked at Mercy. “I can’t stand sitting in a beach chair all day or standing in museums staring at art. Give my brain something to do, please.”

She understood. She could sit still for only a short time too.

Her phone rang, and she excused herself from the two men. Her caller was Natasha Lockhart, who came directly to the point.

“Anders Beebe had Rohypnol in his system. Same as the other three murdered men.”

Mercy wasn’t surprised.

“I heard Jefferson Biggs still had it in his stomach. Was Anders like that?”

“No. It was well into his system. I’d estimate he’d taken it within twelve hours.”

So he possibly had an evening visitor who drugged him.

But when that visitor returned, Anders was up and getting ready for his early day. Mercy wondered how strongly the drug had affected him. She knew he’d managed to get dressed, make coffee, and fire at the intruder. Maybe he hadn’t gotten as strong a dose as the other victims.

The ME didn’t have any other new information for her, and they ended the call.

She joined Truman and Ben and discovered Lucas had shown up, along with Eddie. They both had coffee in their hands and appeared to have walked over from her brother’s shop together. She updated them on Natasha’s call.

“I got a call from Darby Cowan this morning,” Eddie told her and Truman. “All the registered weapons that were missing from our preppers’ homes were in that bunch you found yesterday. Along with a lot of weapons that have been reported stolen over the years.”

Truman grinned and held up a palm to Mercy. She slapped it. “Yes!” she said. “I knew it.”

“It’s an amazing find,” said Eddie. “The Bend office is all over the weapons. Hopefully they can find some consistent fingerprints on them. That’ll help us nail someone.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ben Cooley said, looking from one agent to the other. Truman brought him up to date. “Well, I’ll be damned,” said Ben. “I haven’t made that hike in a few decades. Someone had to be really committed to haul all those weapons up there.”

Mercy agreed. “What about the stolen weapons from the fifteen-year-old cases?”

“Not there,” said Eddie.

Mercy twisted her lips, wishing they’d been included. She liked things to fit neatly. But when cases were fifteen years apart, there were going to be differences.

“I was able to look through the Sanders and Vargas case files this morning,” said Ben. “I’m really sorry, but I don’t have anything to add. The notes were as I remembered, and they didn’t trigger any memories that weren’t already written down.”

Truman’s shoulders slumped a bit, and he slapped Ben on the back. “I appreciate you taking a look.”

“Ben, do you have a daughter named Teresa?” Mercy asked bluntly.

His thick white brows rose. “I do. How’d you know that?”

“Pearl Kilpatrick is my sister,” Mercy said. “I think she went to high school with Teresa. Jennifer Sanders was Pearl’s best friend.”

He nodded thoughtfully, studying Mercy. “Could be.”

“Did Teresa know Jennifer or Gwen very well?”

Ben nodded. “I remember she was shook up real good when they died.”


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