“Do you think she’d agree to be interviewed to get some insight into the girls’ lives back then?”

Truman’s lips twitched at her tactful, nonthreatening way of suggesting they interview Teresa.

The old cop shoved his hands in his pockets. “Well, that might help, but you’ll have to do it by phone. She’s got a one-month-old baby, and they live in Florida now.”

That certainly crosses out any involvement from Teresa in the current crimes. But not in the old.

“We’ll keep it in mind,” she said with a smile. “Thanks for the help.”

“Anytime.” Ben looked to Truman and said in a lower voice, “What’s this I hear about Joziah’s health?”

Mercy’s ears perked up. She and Truman exchanged a look.

“I haven’t heard anything, Ben. What did you hear?”

Ben looked flustered. “Now, I don’t hold with rumors, but I heard it from my wife who heard it from Ina’s son that Joziah’s cancer is back something fierce.”

Truman winced. “I’m sorry to hear that, but let’s not spread that around until we hear it from Joziah himself.”

“They’re saying Mike doesn’t want to take over the business.” Clearly Ben wasn’t done with not spreading rumors.

“Mike might have his own plans for his life,” said Truman.

“Joziah’s death would create a giant hole in this community,” Ben continued.

“I agree.”

Mercy’s brain spun. If Mike didn’t want to take over the business, did that mean Joziah’s community of preppers would be without a leader? Or would someone step up to fill the void?

Or was she getting caught up in gossip and rumor that had no basis in fact?

“Hey, boss?” Lucas called from his desk. “Tom from the garage says he’s at your house. He’s loaded Mercy’s Tahoe up on his truck and he’s taking it to the shop right now.”

Every set of eyes in the office looked at Mercy.

She met Eddie’s curious gaze. “It’s not what you’re thinking.”

“I’m just wondering what happened to your truck,” answered Eddie. A devilish light came into his eyes.

“Flat tire.”

Eddie grinned at Truman. “Her tire went flat at your place?”

“It did. All four of them, actually.”

“What?” Ben and Eddie spoke together.

Mercy threw up her hands. “You tell them,” she ordered Truman as she marched to the small room he’d loaned to her and Eddie.

Eddie had silently turned to Truman for an explanation after Lucas made his announcement about Mercy’s Tahoe.

He’d explained Mercy had stayed at his house after late working hours and exhaustion on her part. Without being specific, he said she’d suspected someone had been following her. He could tell Eddie knew he was holding back, but the FBI agent wouldn’t press with questions in front of Ben and Lucas.

Truman had later told her that the other men knew her virtue was still intact, and he’d received a sour look in return.

Four hours later Mercy’s restlessness was driving Truman crazy.

They’d been poring over the files of the four recent murders and occasionally dipping into the files of the women when something caught their eye. So far he felt as if they’d been spinning their wheels. Mercy was quiet but kept tapping her fingers, and he’d noticed the small half-moons her nails had left in her palms from clenching her fists.

He understood. They both felt as if they were incredibly close to their killer, and that the answer was right in front of them but they couldn’t see it.

Mercy didn’t look like a woman who’d slept in unexpected quarters last night. She looked refreshed and ready to work. He hadn’t been surprised when she grabbed a duffel bag containing clean clothes from her Tahoe last night. The woman was always prepared.

He liked that. He liked a lot of things about Mercy Kilpatrick.

Tell her.

He couldn’t. It would break every professional code he knew. He’d wanted to say something last night in his house, but it seemed wrong to bring it up when she was thoroughly rattled. He’d have to stick it out until this case was over.

Then she’ll leave.

Maybe she’ll work at the Bend office.

In his mind she was packing up, transferring jobs, and moving to Bend because he was interested in her.

And he hadn’t said a word.

Idiot.

He slammed Enoch Finch’s notebook shut. Mercy jumped and did a double take at the expression on his face, and he wondered what she saw. Determination? Infatuation?

“What is it?” She sat straight in her chair, her hands immobile on the papers she’d been flipping through. “Is everything okay?” Concern flooded her gaze.

Apparently I look sick, not determined.

He looked into her green eyes and chickened out. “We need to step away for an hour. It’s lunchtime and I’ve read the same page three times and still can’t tell you what it said.”

“I can always eat.”

“Let’s go. I need a change of scenery.”

Thirty minutes later Truman pulled into an angled parking space in front of a restaurant in Bend’s Old Mill District. The area was beautiful. Shops, restaurants, clean walkways, and footbridges over the Deschutes River. The district had been overhauled during the last few decades to provide a heart to the city and charm the tourists. Two women jogged by with strollers, couples roamed with cups of coffee, and Truman spotted exactly what he’d been craving. An outdoor table with a view of the water, right next to a heat lamp. The sky was clear blue, but there was a chill in the air. Mercy had protested when they drove out of Eagle’s Nest for food, but he’d noticed she relaxed into her seat and focused on the sights as he drove.

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