Christian laughed. “She got you, Gabriel. This is the first step and you know it.”

Gabriel took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You’re right.” He opened his eyes and a contrite gaze met Mercy’s. “I’m being a jerk. I haven’t slept in three days and my patience is wire thin. I know you’re just doing your job.”

She agreed he looked exhausted. His eyes were bloodshot and his shirt limp and wrinkled. He didn’t seem like the type of man who would let himself appear so disheveled.

“Can we start over? I’ll cooperate.”

She raised a brow at him, slightly skeptical.

“Truly. The FBI was involved in a case of mine a few months ago. You could say I got my ass handed to me. When you said you were with the FBI, every defense I had shot up.”

Christian nodded. “I’m surprised Gabriel had any ass left after that trial.”

“Don’t fight us,” Mercy said. “We’re trying to find your father’s murderer.”

“I know.” He straightened his back, his gaze clear. “Everything I’ve told you is accurate. And again, I apologize for the attitude.”

“Do you know Olivia Sabin?”

Gabriel’s gaze intensified. “Christian told me you think her murder might be related to our father’s. Who is she? What’s their connection?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

He was silent as he held her gaze, and she could almost see the wheels turning behind his eyes. Being a lawyer, he wouldn’t jump to conclusions—which she appreciated. He’d want to know all the facts once the FBI had them.

“Do you have a service planned for your father?” Mercy asked.

The brothers exchanged a glance. “We’re hoping to hold it three days from now in Portland. We haven’t made a formal announcement because we’re watching the weather.”

Mercy felt an affinity flow between Malcolm Lake’s sons. They grieved in different ways, but they were still sons of a murdered man. She suspected this was the first thing in a long time that had brought them together.

Time lost.

Her own strained relationship with her family popped into her mind.

I’m glad I’m not wasting any more time.

TWENTY-FIVE

“Tell no one.”

The detective’s warning raced through Truman’s head as he sped to the hospital in Bend. Last night Michael Brody had been shot in a Bend park. No one had known who he was until he woke up today. His wallet was missing and his vehicle gone. If some late-night snowstorm partiers hadn’t stumbled across him in their drunken wanderings, he would be dead.

A Bend detective had called Truman because Michael requested it. He told Truman that Michael had first asked for his wife to be called and then ordered that his shooting stay out of the media. His third request was for the detective to call Truman.

“What happened? Is he okay?” Truman had asked the detective.

“He’s gonna live. He’ll have a scar to show off near his collarbone and he lost the top part of an ear and some of his scalp when the guy tried to shoot him in the head.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“The guy shot him while he was down in the snow and I suspect he believed he’d put one in his brain.” The detective paused. “Brody wouldn’t tell me why he wanted to see you, but he kept emphasizing for you to tell no one.”

Truman didn’t understand either. It would have been more logical for Michael to make a call to Ava or Jeff. But Truman believed Michael’s message of silence was an order for him not to notify the Bend agents. Including Mercy. He’d respect Michael’s wish until he heard the reason.

The reporter did things his own way.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” Truman told the detective. “But I plan to find out. I just met the guy this week.”

“Hmmph. Did you know this guy is the son of Maxwell Brody?”

Truman searched his memory for the familiar name. “The former governor—No, he was the United States senator. That’s news to me.” Brody was full of surprises.

“His uncle was the governor. Now he’s sitting in prison.”

A jumble of old news reports flashed through Truman’s brain. Something about the death of the senator’s other son and the governor being behind it. The Brodys weren’t your everyday family.

“I’ll have to ask him about it,” said Truman.

“I don’t recommend it,” said the detective. “He nearly bit my head off when I asked about his uncle. For a guy who was shot twice and nearly bled to death, he’s still got a mouth on him.”

“Noted.” Truman wasn’t surprised.

At the hospital, Truman showed ID twice to get to Michael Brody’s floor. Then he showed it a third time to the Bend officer at Michael’s door, who looked seriously disgruntled to be standing guard in a hospital hallway.

Inside, Michael’s green gaze immediately locked on to Truman. His head was covered in bandages, as were half of his chest and left shoulder.

“Did you tell Mercy?”

“Nice to see you too, Brody.”

Annoyance flashed in his eyes. “This is an opportunity, and I didn’t want to risk any leaks reaching the media from the Bend FBI office.”

“No one at the FBI office would leak something.”

“I don’t know everyone there. They have support staff that might talk,” asserted Michael. “If the media doesn’t get any information about my shooting, then the shooter will probably assume I’m dead.”

Truman didn’t understand the reporter’s thinking. Maybe it’s the head injury? “And?”

“I was making him nervous.”

“Who?” He wondered how much medication the reporter was on.

“The only thing I’m working on is the Lake and Sabin shootings. Someone didn’t like me nosing around.”

“And so they shot you? You think whoever killed those two decided to shoot you too?”

“I find it logical.”

“Knives were the murder weapons in both,” Truman pointed out. “And did you know one of Christian Lake’s employees, Rob Murray, was found murdered yesterday morning? Guess what the weapon was? It wasn’t as orchestrated as the other two deaths, but there are enough similarities that it can’t be ignored.”

The reporter’s eyes widened. “No one told me.” His brows came together in deep concentration.

“Now he decides to change it up and shoot you? What other kind of trouble did you stir up around here?”

“I want him to think I’m dead. It’ll make him comfortable, and perhaps he’ll screw up or get cocky. The detective asked the hospital to notify them if anyone calls and asks about a shooting victim from the park. And the Bend Police Department is keeping it quiet. There’s still an investigation at the scene, but the cops have been ordered to share no information with curious gawkers. Not even to say if someone died or survived.”

Brody closed his eyes, suddenly looking pale. “Fucking room is spinning.”

Truman cast around for . . . anything and grabbed an empty water pitcher. “I’ve got you covered if you’re gonna puke.”

Brody took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and attempted to focus on Truman. “I made a dozen phone calls in the hours before I was shot. I gave a list of the calls to the Bend detectives this morning. You can get the numbers from my phone—fuck. I keep forgetting that my phone was stolen.”

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