“One of these days forgiveness will heal their wounds.”
“Don’t tell me Karl was here to talk about Mercy.” Maybe he’s finally coming around.
“Our conversations are confidential.”
Truman winced. There was that pious tone David sank into at random.
“What can I do for you?” asked David in his normal voice. “Do you have a lead on the break-in?”
“Yes and no. What I have is a theory I’m exploring. What kind of records do you keep here at the church?”
“You mean our financials? There’s—”
“No. For the town residents. Like deaths or marriages.”
David’s face cleared. “Oh. It’s a tradition to keep a written record of ceremonies performed here at the church. Like you said, funerals and marriages, but also baptisms.”
“What about births?”
“No, just the baptism. Same with the deaths. We only record them if the funeral is held here. Back in the early nineteen hundreds, nearly every event happened here and was recorded. Those old records are quite interesting, but they’re being stored in a facility that has the right temperature and humidity to protect that sort of written record. In the last half of the twentieth century, people began to get married in other venues, and our baptisms are down.”
“I didn’t know the church kept track of those things.”
“Most small-town churches do. We use handwritten ledgers.” He smiled. “It sounds old-fashioned in these days of digital everything, but there’s something about seeing the events recorded on a page for history.”
“So you don’t have more recent records?”
“We have the last fifty years or so. I should send in the older ledgers for proper preservation.”
“Can I see some?” He told David the months from the microfiche film rolls.
Back in a dusty room, David opened a file cabinet drawer. Inside was a pile of about a dozen ledgers—the type that reminded Truman of old-fashioned hardback grading books. “As you can see, this isn’t optimal storage for paper records.”
“I’d expected a lot more books than that.”
David shrugged. “Eagle’s Nest isn’t that big. Dozens of entries can fit on one page. Most take one line.” He dug out a ledger that corresponded to Truman’s requested months. He laid it on a desk and gently flipped through the pages. Truman was impressed by the impeccable lines of script. It matched the perfect cursive in the handwriting instruction books from his grade school years. Someone’s beautiful writing had recorded the town’s history. A few pages later the handwriting changed. Not so perfect, but still neater than Truman’s.
“Back then there was a church secretary who handled this sort of thing,” David said. “Not enough work now to justify a secretary.”
Truman wondered if the recorder with the perfect cursive had died or simply moved on. The change in handwriting was another historical notation. One without an attached name.
“Here are your dates.”
There was less than a page of records. Truman ran his finger down the page, pausing at familiar last names that drove home that he was truly an outsider in Eagle’s Nest. His townspeople had deep roots; his own were barely planted.
His finger stopped on a name. Kilpatrick.
Henry James Kilpatrick. The baby had been one day old at his death. Parents Karl and Deborah.
“Did you know about this?” Truman asked David. Mercy had never said a word.
“I didn’t. What a burden they must carry.”
Truman’s sympathy flared for Mercy’s parents. “I think this baby was born between Owen and Pearl.”
Does Mercy even know? Her parents were the type to push past a tragedy in their lives and never look back.
His finger slid down the rest of the page, and he struggled to focus on the names, his mind occupied. Do I ask her about it? He didn’t want to be the jerk who exposed a painful event from her parents’ past. It was their place to share the information, not his. I could check with Deborah first.
No other names jumped out at him. He checked the page before and the page after his months.
It would help if I knew what the hell I was looking for. He snapped pictures of the records with his phone in case he needed to refer back to them. Or show them to Mercy.
Out of curiosity he opened the ledger for the current year. David’s handwriting was atrocious. A cramped scramble of printed letters and italics.
He thanked David and left, his brain spinning. His next step was to read through the films from the library. He remembered Mercy’s offer to help him go through the film.
A baby boy. One day old.
Can I sit next to her and keep my mouth shut?
The text from Rose came through as Mercy was leaving her office. She hurried to her Tahoe, brushed off the new inch of snow, and called her sister as she pulled out of the parking lot.
“I suggested lunch like you said.” Rose didn’t bother with a greeting. “Nick said he couldn’t.”
Her sister’s hurt tone tore at Mercy’s heart.
“Did he say why?” She drove slowly; the road hadn’t been plowed for a few hours and the new inch of snow had already compacted into a slick surface. The sun had set, and she was thankful few cars were on the road as she drove to the Eagle’s Nest library to meet Truman.
“He blamed the snow.”
“Well, that’s logical. No doubt some of his employees can’t get to work, leaving him shorthanded. And he has to be concerned about you out on the roads.”
“He didn’t mention either of those things.”
“What did he say then?”
“He didn’t give any explanation except that the snow made it a bad idea.”
Nick’s longing face as he watched Rose touch the cradle flashed in Mercy’s mind. I’m not wrong about how he feels.
“You know he’s a man of few words. To him that was probably sufficient.”
“Do you think it’s the scars on my face?” Rose whispered.
Mercy’s chest split wide open. “No, honey. I don’t think it’s that at all. And truly . . . they’ve healed so well. The scarring grows more faint every week.” Truth.
Anger flared at the killer who’d held her sister hostage and cut her. Physically and emotionally. I hope he’s rotting in hell.
“I can feel them. They’re huge.”
“I’m sure they feel that way to your fingertips. I’m not lying to make you feel better, Rose. To the eye they’re not that obvious.”
Her sister exhaled. “Maybe I was wrong about him. I should just enjoy the cradle and focus on the baby.”
“Are you going to your ultrasound?” Mercy asked.
“It was canceled because of the weather.”
“I’m so sorry! Did you decide whether or not to find out the sex?”
“My mind changes every day.”
Mercy was dying to know but refused to influence Rose’s decision. “Pink ruffles or blue sailboats.”
“Right?” said Rose, her voice taking on a dreamy tone. “I keep dressing the child in my mind. One day it’s tutus and ribbons, and the next day it’s rain boots with puppy faces.”
“Girls can wear both,” Mercy pointed out.
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