“That makes two of us. All I know is that whoever broke in was searching for something specific during these months.”
“Possibly. I want to know what she was searching for. If it was her, logic says it’s related to her mother’s death. Why else would she risk breaking into buildings at a time like this? I don’t think she was looking for recipes.”
Truman pulled out the tray below the huge monitor and threaded the local paper’s film across the viewing area, then wound the blank end around another roller. He pushed the tray back in, fast-forwarded to the first sideways image, and then turned a knob to rotate it to right-side up.
“For a second I thought we would have to tilt our heads and read it sideways.” Mercy peered at the buttons. “No zoom?”
“Here.” He rotated another dial and the old front page was suddenly legible. The forty-year-old lead story was a feature on the high school’s valedictorian. “Know him?”
“I don’t recognize his name. Probably was smart and moved away.”
He chuckled. “I like Eagle’s Nest.”
“Trust me, as a teen all anyone wanted to do was get out.” She forwarded to the next story. “I don’t mind it now.”
They sped through stories on livestock, county fairs, and drownings. Typical summer stories. National news was in a small column on the far right of the front page, almost as an afterthought. Local stories took precedence.
Truman hit the FORWARD button each time Mercy nodded to show that she had finished reading. Together they skimmed every page, and she frequently pointed out names she recognized. Truman pressed the button again, and his heart stopped as a photo of Jefferson Biggs filled the monitor’s screen. His uncle. The man was in his twenties and grinning in a way Truman had never seen. Jefferson had won the top prize at the county rodeo.
“How cool is that?” Mercy exclaimed.
“I never knew he did rodeo.” He stared at the photo. What else do I not know?
She turned to him, her gaze concerned. “Are you okay seeing this picture?”
Four months earlier he’d discovered his uncle dead, brutally murdered by a local serial killer. Truman mentally poked at the sad spot where his uncle’s death lived in his brain; it didn’t hurt the way it used to. “Yeah, I am. I’ve just never seen it before.” The initial shock had vanished, and he wished he had a copy of the picture.
“There’s a print option,” Mercy pointed out, reading his mind. After a few missteps with the printer, Truman had his copy.
“Are you sorry you sold his home?” she asked.
“No. I’m glad you took a lot of his supplies, and I like the young family who bought it.”
“It was too much house for you.” She continued to skim, leaning closer to the monitor, reading each headline.
“Are you looking for a house to buy?” he asked bluntly. The question erupted out of his mouth as if it’d been bottled under pressure.
She sat back from the monitor and turned to him, her eyes cautious. “I’ve been thinking about it. The apartment was fine for me, but I’d like Kaylie to have a home. If she goes away to school, I want her to feel she always has a place to return to.”
Something Mercy never had.
He carefully phrased his next statement, not wanting to sound as if he’d made assumptions. “I’d hoped one day to live with you.”
Her expression softened. “I know.”
“I don’t see how my house shopping interferes with those plans.”
She was right. But his stomach still twisted and churned. “I wanted to shop with you. Do it together.”
“That’s a good idea. Kaylie isn’t interested in looking at all. She says it’s boring.”
It didn’t sound boring to Truman. It sounded awesome. He was slightly stunned that she’d immediately welcomed his help. The subject had been churning in his stomach for two days. Why did I wait to ask?
“You told me you have another year on your lease, right?” Mercy asked.
“Then there’s no rush.” She turned back to the monitor.
Yes, there is. A grumpy mood settled over him. He was tired of sleeping alone and making phone calls to schedule their time together. He wanted to share a home with her. Blend their lives together. See her every day. “I can break the lease.”
This time she turned her chair to face him. “What are you trying to tell me?”
Isn’t it obvious? “I want to buy a house with you.” Do I need to make a sign?
Caution appeared in her eyes. “You do?”
“You didn’t pick up on that?”
“But we aren’t even . . .”
If she wouldn’t say it, he would. “Married? Engaged?”
“But we will be.”
“Both.” He took her hands. “I’ve known for a long time that I need you in my life. Permanently. But I also know you like to take things slower.” She opened her mouth, and he quickly added, “And there’s Kaylie to consider. But frankly, I think if you told her, she’d be excited and happy for us.”
Waves of different emotions crossed her face. Usually Mercy was a master of keeping her thoughts to herself. But at the moment all her walls were down, and Truman liked what he saw.
She wants it too.
He leaned forward and kissed her, his doubts of the last few days gone. “You don’t have to say anything right now. There’s no rush. I just wanted to be certain we’re moving in the same direction.”
She exhaled. “We are. But you’re sprinting and I’m pacing myself.”
She calls this a sprint? “I’ll wait patiently for you at the finish line.”
“Good. Now, keep reading. I don’t have much time.”
Back to business. He respected that. She was one of the most driven people he’d ever met. She set goals and smashed the hell out of them.
College on her own? She graduated at the top of her class.
Get accepted to the FBI? Again, she graduated at the top of her class.
Give her orphaned niece a home? Boom . . . done.
Find a killer? She didn’t hold back.
Truman scooted his chair closer to hers and kissed her temple. “Whatever you say.” He focused on the screen, and they fell back into their rhythm of skimming and advancing. “Was Rose okay after the fireworks with your father the other night?”
Mercy kept her gaze on the screen. “She is. Her ultrasound appointment for today was canceled because of the weather, so she’s disappointed.”
“Does she know if she wants a boy or girl?”
“I don’t think she cares. She’s got names lined up for both. Iris Joy if it’s a girl and Henry James if it’s a boy.”
Truman’s breath caught. “Henry James?”
“It’s the name of a baby my parents lost. He was stillborn a year after Owen.”
Mercy did know. “I’m so sorry. You never mentioned that before.”
She nodded at his condolence. Her gaze was still on the screen, but there’d been a hitch in her voice as she spoke of the baby. “It was a long time ago. I wasn’t even born. But my parents knew the baby was dead. His heartbeat had stopped early in the third trimester, and she carried him to term.”
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