Mercy exchanged a glance with Truman. “This murder might be related to Olivia Sabin’s,” she said.

Truman admired the way Bolton’s countenance didn’t flicker.

“Explain,” the detective ordered.

“It’s complicated,” Mercy hedged.

That’s putting it mildly.

“I’m not in a hurry.” The detective’s gaze darted from Truman to Mercy. “Will I also be handing this case off to the FBI?”

“It’s very possible.”

Bolton finally showed an emotion: resignation. “Spill it.”

Mercy gave an abridged version, tracing the connections from Olivia Sabin to Malcolm Lake to Christian Lake and then to Rob Murray.

Realization dawned in the detective’s eyes, and Truman jumped on it. “What? You’re thinking of something.”

The detective took a deep breath. “It’s not quite the same, but Murray was killed with a blade of some sort. I don’t see the deliberate pattern of cuts that I saw on Olivia Sabin, but I can’t ignore the similarities.” Bolton turned a pensive gaze on Truman. “You’ve turned up at two of the murder sites.”

“So have I,” Mercy interjected.

“Not before this guy was killed,” Bolton pointed out.

Truman said nothing. He wouldn’t let the detective get under his skin.

“Tell me again what brought you to see Rob Murray earlier this morning?” the detective asked.

Truman explained his curiosity about the abandoned vehicle after learning Murray worked for the murdered judge’s son.

“How did Murray seem?” asked Bolton.

“Mellow. He was about to leave for a painting job and wasn’t concerned that he’d left his boss’s expensive vehicle on the side of the road. I would have been more contrite about an SUV that probably cost three times my salary.” A thought struck him, and Truman turned to the parking lot. “I take it that’s Rob’s truck?” He pointed at a beat-up Chevy being photographed by a crime scene tech on the far side of the lot.

“You’re sharp.”

Truman ignored the dig. “It was parked right next to the stairs this morning. I had to walk around it. I remember because of the obnoxious hitch cover.”

“What’s the hitch cover have on it?” Mercy asked.

“A dangling pair of balls.”

“What’s obnox—oh. Never mind,” she finished.

“My point is that he moved the truck at some point after I left,” stated Truman, knowing he had no way to prove that the truck had been parked near the stairs. “Who reported the murder?”

“That doesn’t mean Murray was the one to move the truck,” said Bolton. “His painter friend called it in. The guy was pissed that Murray was a no-show and came over to chew him out. He said the door was slightly open when he arrived.”

“And?” Mercy asked.

She’s itching to see inside.

Bolton was silent, a struggle in his gaze, and Truman saw the moment he gave in. “Bootie up,” he ordered. “This is against my better judgment, but since you saw the Sabin scene, I’d appreciate any insight.”

Truman and Mercy accepted booties and gloves from an officer. Apprehension rolled off Mercy, and he wondered if she was second-guessing her desire to see the scene. He knew finding Olivia Sabin’s killer was a personal goal of hers, but he doubted she wanted to see another murder scene.

Unsurprisingly, the inside of Murray’s apartment reeked of cigarette smoke. An overflowing ashtray sat on the coffee table in front of a sofa that had bits of stuffing peeking out of its cushion holes. A flat-screen TV nearly twice the size of Truman’s hung on the wall.


The two of them glanced into the minuscule kitchen, and Mercy’s nose wrinkled at the mess. Bolton led them down a short hallway and past a small bathroom where Truman glimpsed black scum growing in the shower.

“Sheesh,” muttered Mercy. “Men.”

“Hey.” Bolton looked over his shoulder. “I scrub my shower every week. With bleach. Don’t lump us all together.”


Bolton stepped aside and gestured to the doorway of the sole bedroom. Truman swallowed and halted at the door, Mercy beside him. She caught her breath.

“There’s never a way to prepare for this,” she said softly.

Rob Murray lay on his back on the floor, and his sightless eyes stared directly at Truman. Bolton had been right about the use of a blade. Murray had multiple slashes across his face and torso, but the death stroke had to have come from the knife left in his neck. His white painter’s uniform was soaked with darkening blood.

Mercy pressed the back of her hand against her nostrils; the odor in the room was reminiscent of sewage.

“He left the weapon,” she stated.

“He or she,” corrected Bolton.

“It has quite the ornate handle,” Mercy pointed out.

“Possibly stolen from the Sabin house?” Truman suggested, looking back at Bolton.

Bolton nodded. “I’d wondered the same. Maybe even the same weapon used on Olivia Sabin.”

Truman took a careful step forward and squatted, taking a closer look and breathing through his mouth. He didn’t see the distinctive patterning Mercy had described to him from the bodies of Malcolm Lake and Olivia Sabin. The slashes in Rob’s clothing looked random. Brutal. Angry. Multiple cuts covered his hands and arms. Rob Murray had tried to protect himself.

“I take it the ME hasn’t been here yet?” Truman asked.

“Not yet.”

Truman noticed Mercy examining the room and did the same. Grimy bare walls, a bed with no bottom sheet, dirty clothes left on the floor. The open closet was nearly empty, a few wire hangers dangling. It appeared Rob left most of his clothes on the floor or in the overflowing laundry basket. Mercy peered at a crime novel next to another full ashtray on the nightstand.

She turned in a circle, frowning. “I don’t see anything that reminds me of the other murders except for the use of the knife. It looks like he put up a fight. No neighbors heard anything?”

“We’re still checking. Anything else?”

Truman noted the hopeful tone in Bolton’s voice. He needed a lead.

“I don’t see anything,” Mercy said. “Can we get out now?”

I don’t blame her.

Truman was done too. Leaving, he noted a crime scene tech rooting under Rob’s bathroom sink with a wrench, removing the trap to search for evidence the killer might have left behind. Outside he took a breath of clean icy air and removed his gloves and booties, dropping them in an evidence bag.

“I heard Morrigan’s mother returned,” said Bolton.

“She did,” answered Mercy. “Morrigan only spent one night in temporary care.”

“That’s good. Hate to see kids kept away from their parents.” His eyes were questioning, and Truman heard the unspoken question about Salome Sabin.

“Salome wasn’t arrested,” he stated.

“Good. I didn’t want to think that Morrigan’s mother would leave her behind after that murder. She must have been cleared?” Another leading question.

Truman looked to Mercy. Do we tell him?

She nodded, but she wasn’t happy about it. No law enforcement wanted to admit a suspect had slipped away. “She hasn’t been fully cleared.” Mercy cleared her throat. “She disappeared with Morrigan last night.”

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