Mercy straightened. “Wait a minute. I know Christian.”
Ava’s eyes lit up. “You do?”
“Yes. I worked at the same restaurant as him when I was eighteen . . . he was older, probably twenty-five. Nice guy, totally geeky, and we hit it off. I read he went on to start Lake Ski and Sports sporting goods stores.” She combed her brain for other facts. “I remember he came from a really rich family. The other employees used to tease him about working in a crappy steak house when his father was some big-time lawyer and drove nice cars. I never met or saw the father, Christian was living in his own place by then.”
“He owns Lake Ski and Sports?” Eddie blurted. “That’s the most exclusive sporting goods store in Oregon and Washington. Carries all top-of-the-line gear. The Bend store is fantastic. It has a great rock-climbing wall inside.”
“Did you interview Christian already?” Mercy asked Ava.
“Briefly. I told him I was heading to Bend and wanted to meet with him. Understandably he’s very upset about his father’s death.”
“I’ve been in a few of his stores,” said Mercy. “They’re gigantic.” She frowned. “I thought Christian moved to Portland. I’ve seen pictures of him at Portland-area fund-raisers and read about his support of various causes. He’s been touted as one of Oregon’s most eligible bachelors or some crap like that. But I was always pleased that someone from Eagle’s Nest went on to do something awesome.”
“Yes, he’s single and owns a condo in Portland’s South Waterfront area,” said Ava. “I gathered that he doesn’t use it much. He spends most of his time at his home outside of Bend. It appears to be quite the showpiece.”
“What about the other son?” asked Eddie.
“He heads up a law firm in Lake Oswego outside of Portland. He’s in California right now, but is trying to get back as soon as possible. I’ll meet with him when he gets to town.”
“What do you have so far?” asked Eddie.
“We’re investigating Judge Lake’s court cases, starting with the most recent, looking for anyone who might be out for some revenge. As you can imagine, it’s a giant task. He’s been a district judge for over twenty years.”
“Age?” asked Mercy.
“Sixty-two. Single since the divorce decades ago. His secretary says he hasn’t dated anyone in a few months, but he’s had several relationships in the past few years. We’re also looking at those.” A wry smile crossed her face. “An assistant DA has been identified as one of his past relationships.”
“Ouch,” said Mercy. “Did she try any cases in his court?”
“Luckily, no. But she wasn’t happy to talk to me and begged me to keep her name out of it. She didn’t want the press or her boss getting wind of it.”
“Speaking of press.” Mercy tipped her head toward the window. “I saw you with a reporter in the parking lot.”
Ava’s face brightened. “That’s Michael. He’s a good guy.”
“He approached me when I came in. He’s lucky he didn’t get a face full of pepper spray.” Mercy wasn’t convinced.
“He’s a bit intense, but he’s extremely smart and his intentions are always in the right place. He and Mason go back a few years. There’s a bit of a reluctant bromance there that I don’t understand.” Ava grinned. “I trust Michael implicitly, but I did chew him out for racing to Bend and lying in wait for me.”
“I thought he was waiting for me,” said Mercy. “He questioned me about my morning. I don’t know how he heard I was at the Sabin murder scene.”
“He seems to get information from thin air,” said Ava. “But trust me, you want him on your side.”
Mercy didn’t trust anyone without her own proof. “I’ll consider your recommendation,” she said sourly.
Ava went on. “We’ve pulled the judge’s phone records, his office visitors log, and gone through his social media. No red flags yet, but it’s early. Now tell me about Olivia Sabin. I don’t know how her death is related to the judge’s. So far the only connection is that the judge lived in this area long ago and it appears Olivia was here at the same time. The patterning of the gashes in both deaths is definitely similar. I’m glad your medical examiner had her ears open, otherwise we never would have made the connection.”
Eddie pointed at Mercy. “It’s my case as of five minutes ago; I know nothing. But your primary witness is right here. I was just about to interview her.”
“Start from the beginning,” Ava told Mercy.
For the fourth time that day, Mercy gave her version of events.
It wasn’t any easier after multiple recountings, and her voice cracked at times.
“I’m sorry,” Ava said, her blue eyes sympathetic. “That must have been horrible for you.”
“I won’t forget for a while,” agreed Mercy. I’ll never forget.
Eddie’s cell phone rang. He did a double take at the screen. “It’s Truman. Is he looking for you?” he asked Mercy as he answered the call.
Mercy checked her own phone. No missed calls or texts.
“You’re still seeing the police chief?” Ava whispered loudly, a wide grin on her face.
Mercy rolled her eyes at her nosy friend. “Yes.”
“Nice!” Ava sat back in her chair and nodded in approval.
“You don’t even know him,” Mercy pointed out.
“Oh, you can be certain I looked him up when I heard.” She winked.
Mercy’s face warmed; she was unused to discussing her love life.
“What’d he have to say?” Eddie asked into the phone. He made some more notes on his pad. “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Seriously? He sounds like a fruitcake.” He listened silently for a minute and then ended the call.
Mercy frowned. “Why did Truman call?”
“Well, he believes you’re at home sound asleep, and Jeff told him I caught the Sabin case. Truman met with a local resident today who claims that Olivia Sabin is a witch.”
Both women sighed. “And?” asked Ava.
“The local said to look at the daughter for the murder. He claims their relationship was extremely volatile, but of course he didn’t witness this for himself; it’s all hearsay.” One side of his mouth turned up. “And he swears that everyone knows the daughter was fathered by a demon and her young child by a fairy.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Ava threw up her hands. “Why did Truman talk to this guy?”
“There’s often some truth buried in rumor,” said Mercy. “I can see why the witch story is out there. Some of the things in the home and barn were definitely odd. Who was the source?” she asked Eddie.
He glanced at his pad. “Augustus McGee.”
“Wow. He lowered himself to talk to Truman?” Mercy was pleased that the sovereign citizen had enough trust in Truman to share the information, no matter how crazy it sounded. The relatively new police chief was winning over more people than he realized in his little town. As an outsider, Truman had struggled for acceptance from the locals even though he’d spent several summers in Eagle’s Nest while growing up.
“Augustus claims he had a fling with Olivia decades ago.”
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