“Well, that makes him a star witness,” muttered Ava. “Who is this daughter of a demon?”
“Salome Sabin,” said Mercy. “I told you her daughter, Morrigan, said she’d been gone for a few days.”
“Right.” Ava wrote something on her notepad. “Interesting name. What have you done to try to find her?”
Mercy looked to Eddie, who said, “I’ll check with Detective Evan Bolton at county and see what his investigation has turned up. And let him know he now has us as a federal partner on the case.”
“If she’s missing, is it possible Salome could have been in Portland when the judge was murdered?” Ava asked.
Mercy sucked in her breath as she followed her friend’s train of thought. “She could be in Cancún for all we know. All we can say is that she wasn’t at the house when I was there.”
“Well, let’s find out,” stated Ava. “Introduce me to the county detective so we can get this case rolling.”
Two hours later Mercy dragged herself up the stairs to her apartment. It was seven o’clock and her body achingly nagged about every single hour of sleep she had missed. She’d lowered her vehicle’s window on the drive home, using the icy breeze to keep her awake. The shock of the freezing air had cleared the cobwebs out of her brain for the drive, but they were quickly returning.
Sliding her key into the lock, she heard laughter inside. The sound of Rose’s voice warmed her heart, and she thrust the door open, ready to see her sister who’d been blind since birth. She was greeted by heavenly scents of toasted coconut, chocolate, and vanilla. And a messy kitchen. Her niece Kaylie had every baking appliance, measuring cup, and mixing bowl out on the counter, and the room was warm and welcoming from the heat of a busy oven.
“Mercy!” Rose had been facing the door as she entered, no doubt having recognized Mercy’s steps on the stairs. Mercy hugged her sister and planted a kiss on her soft cheek, her lips feeling the faint groove of a fading scar from when Rose had been kidnapped and a killer had viciously sliced up her face.
“What are the two of you doing?” Mercy asked, aware the obvious answer was, “Baking.”
“Kaylie asked me for Mom’s coconut cake recipe. She said Mom refused to share it.”
“She’s protected that recipe as long as I can remember,” said Mercy. “She claims we’ll find it in a safe-deposit box when she dies.”
“Well, I’ve watched her enough to know what was in it,” said Rose, with a grin at her word choice. “I’m a little fuzzy on the measurements, but Kaylie is guesstimating. So far the first two haven’t been quite right.”
“Mmmm.” Mercy spotted two rejected cakes on the counter, multiple bites missing from each. She found a fork and tasted one. “You’re right. This isn’t quite right.” She tried the second. “This tastes nearly right. Did you add the vanilla pudding mix?”
“Ohhh!” exclaimed Rose, clapping her hands together. “I forgot about that!”
“The mix is the one ingredient I remember,” admitted Mercy. “That and how she insisted on toasting her own fresh coconut.”
“Instant pudding mix?” asked Kaylie skeptically. “The dry stuff in a box?”
“Yes, I don’t have any, but I can buy some tomorrow.”
Kaylie turned up her nose, and its tiny blue piercing sparkled. “I don’t use that sort of thing.” Mercy’s niece was picky about her baking ingredients.
“Then it will never be quite right,” said Rose with an understanding smile. “Do you want to replicate the recipe or come up with your own?”
The teen’s shoulders drooped. “I associate that cake with every special occasion in my life. You bet I want to master it. If I can get it right, I’ll add it to the bakery case at the coffee shop.” She gave Mercy a curious glance. “Do you think Grandma will mind?”
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” said Mercy. “But Pearl will notice. You’ll have to tell her.” Mercy’s oldest sister ran the Coffee Café, which Kaylie had inherited when her father, Levi, was murdered by the same man who’d attacked Rose.
Kaylie eyed the giant mess on the counters and in the sink. “I guess I’m done for the night if we don’t have the pudding mix. Thanks for your help, Aunt Rose. Do you want me to drive you home now?”
“I’ll take her,” said Mercy, ignoring her exhaustion. “You clean up. Is your homework done?”
It was said in jest, but Mercy liked the title. In the four months since she’d met her niece, Kaylie had become the closest thing to a daughter she’d ever had. Levi’s dying plea had been for Mercy to raise his daughter, who’d been abandoned by her mother when she was an infant.
It had been a steep learning curve to raise a teenager, but Mercy believed she’d done pretty darn well so far. Kaylie wasn’t missing any limbs, nothing new had been pierced, and her last report card had been all As. Mercy approved of her boyfriend, Cade, although Kaylie recently admitted some of the shiny excitement of the relationship had faded. Cade’s new construction job was at a housing development nearly an hour away. Making time to see each other had become work.
Welcome to real life. It’s not like the movies.
Mercy placed Rose’s hand on her arm and guided her to the door, noticing that Rose’s pregnancy had finally started to show. The bump was small, but for four months her beautiful face had been enhanced with a pregnancy glow. Their sister, Pearl, complained that her pregnancies had given her acne, not a glow.
“I’ll be back in about forty minutes,” she told Kaylie. Rose tapped the door frame with her cane and they moved to the top of the familiar outdoor stairs, which she took as confidently as Mercy.
“Thanks for the ride,” said Rose as Mercy led her to her vehicle.
“Thanks for entertaining Kaylie.”
“I adore her,” said her sister. “She reminds me a lot of you at that age.”
Mercy took that as a compliment. “She looks like me too.”
“I heard you’ve had a long day,” Rose said.
Mercy gave her a brief account of her day as they drove toward the farm where Rose lived with their parents.
“Olivia Sabin,” Rose murmured to herself. “I can’t quite place the name. It sounds familiar.”
“She has a daughter named Salome who we haven’t found yet.”
“I know of her . . . by reputation only.”
Mercy sighed. “Don’t tell me you heard she’s a witch fathered by a demon.”
Rose turned in Mercy’s direction. “Yes, I have heard that. Now I remember the stories I’ve heard about Olivia and her daughter.” She shook her head in disgust. “And you can believe I told the gossiper what I thought of her spreading such bullshit about women.”
Rose rarely swore.
“What else did you hear?”
“Mostly a lot of suspicious muttering. I know people in town used to go to Olivia and now to Salome for help with their love lives or health. People may whisper that they’re witches, but they visit them first when they want help.”
“What kind of help do they give?”
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