They were overdue for an emergency dry run, and the snowstorm added an element of difficulty she couldn’t create on her own. Getting out of town in good weather had been a breeze. The important part was testing out the supplies at the cabin. Living there for a few days showed Mercy what was lacking and where she needed to improve. Last time Kaylie’s boredom had driven her slightly crazy, and she’d added more books and games to her stock. In a real situation, there would be nonstop chores to assign her niece.

As always, her stocked bug-out bag was in the back of the Tahoe. She had plenty of ammo in the bag, but no longer stored a weapon in it, not wanting it to fall into the wrong hands if someone broke into the vehicle. She had her service weapon and plenty of backups at the cabin. Her gas tank was full; neither of them ever let her vehicle’s gas level drop below half a tank. Mercy’s rule was to always have enough to get to the cabin. Kaylie’s vehicle was also ready with a week’s worth of supplies, and the cabin was stocked with a minimum of six months of food. For some nonfood items she had years of supplies, possibly decades.


No last-minute need to make an emergency trip to the grocery store or buy ammo.

Their priority was to get out of town as fast as possible.

Should I message Truman?

She decided to text him later. He wanted to go on one of her practice runs, but she knew he was on duty today and tomorrow.

She pulled a military-looking, handheld two-way radio out of her glove box. A backup measure in case the cell towers no longer worked. Kaylie had another in her vehicle. Turning out of the grocery parking lot, Mercy couldn’t hold back a grin. Her claustrophobia had lifted. Getting out of the city for the weekend was the right thing to do. Two birds with one stone. A practice run and a mental health weekend.

She was pumped.


“Ben got stuck in a snowdrift.” Lucas stuck his head through Truman’s doorway. “He helped dig a truck out of the snow out on the highway and then realized he was stuck too.”

Truman sighed. “Do I need to go get him?”

“I sent Royce. He wasn’t far from there.”

“You know the next call will be that both of them are stuck.”

Lucas grinned. “I hope so.”

“People need to stay home today,” Truman grumbled. “They’re making it worse for everyone else.”

“Most believe they can drive perfectly fine in the snow.”

“Do you know how many times I’ve heard that as I’m shoveling out their tires? I swear people take it as a challenge.”

“They get bored sitting at home.”

Truman’s gaze sharpened on Lucas. His athletic young office manager had a hard time sitting still. “Once you get home today, stay there. No four-wheeling.”

“My phone’s ringing.” Lucas vanished without answering Truman.

“Don’t call me if you get in a bind this weekend,” Truman muttered to his empty office. A glance out his window showed the next round of snow had started. It was still light and pretty, but it would intensify over the afternoon.

His cell phone rang and Mercy’s name popped up on his screen. “Hey, gorgeous. All morning I’ve been thinking about last night.”

“You’re on speaker, Truman. Kaylie is with me.”

“Hi, Truman.” Laughter infused Kaylie’s tone.

“Hi yourself. I heard all the schools let out early today.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Kaylie. “An extra-long weekend. Maybe they’ll cancel Monday too.”

Every student’s hope when it snows.

“We’re headed to the cabin,” Mercy stated.

“What?” Truman pressed his cell against his ear. “Don’t you know how crappy it is out there? And it’s going to get worse. Say, aren’t you supposed to be working?” He glanced at the time. It was nearly one.

“Jeff gave me the afternoon off because of the weather forecast. Oh! And he found out Antonio Ricci is still in prison.”

“You’re kidding me.” Truman’s heart sank. He’d hoped their discovery would crack open the case. “Now what?”

“I have a phone interview with Ricci on Monday. Until then, things are a bit stalled. Most of the evidence hasn’t been processed at the county lab because half the staff couldn’t make it to work this week.”

“I know how that goes.” Truman’s tiny department was at the mercy of lab schedules. “But why are you going to the cabin today? I could have gone up with you next weekend.”

“I’ve been itching to do a dry run. And the snowstorm is a great test.”

He understood. For peace of mind, Mercy needed to know she could get to her cabin under any condition. “I don’t like it. We’ve had call after call of people getting stuck.”

“I’ve got chains, and sitting next to me is a young, strong back to handle a shovel.”

“Hey!” Kaylie protested.

“I also want to check the photovoltaic system I installed last fall. I need to see if the snow is blocking the solar panels.”

“Your roof is pretty steep. The snow shouldn’t stick.”

“It is,” Mercy agreed. “But we’ve had a crazy amount of snow recently.”

“You got your emergency bag?” he asked.

“Of course. And the one from Kaylie’s car too. Did you really need to ask me that?”

“I need my own peace of mind, you know. Try to call me when you get there.” Truman fought not to grumble, knowing the cell service was iffy. The thought of the two women challenging the storm made him uncomfortable. But no one could take care of herself better than Mercy, and she wouldn’t have invited Kaylie if she didn’t feel secure in her abilities.

“I love you,” she told him.

“Awwww,” said Kaylie.

“I love you too. Please be careful.”

“Of course.” Her tone was breezy, confident.

He ended the call and stared at the clock. With the crappy conditions, it would be at least an hour before he heard from her.

How am I going to focus?

“Boss?” Lucas shouted down the hall. “Detective Bolton on line one for you.”

Glad for the distraction, Truman picked up the phone and greeted the county investigator. “Don’t tell me you’re stuck in a snowdrift somewhere,” he said.

“Your department too?”

“All morning. And I don’t expect it to let up.”

“Nope. At least the snow keeps down the big crimes,” replied Bolton.

“What can I do for you?” asked Truman.

“I wanted to run something by you. Do you know if the FBI ever made heads or tails out of the array of slashes on the first two bodies?”

“As far as I’ve heard, they haven’t. Mercy would have told me.”

“Well, I’ve been playing around with the patterns and I think I have an idea.” He paused. “It could be nothing. I’ve been staring at these marks for a few days and my tired eyes have seen everything from circus elephants to airplanes.”

“I doubt they’re elephants.”

“Do you have a copy of the patterns?”

“No.” Mercy had told him about the similarities and penciled out the slashes for him, but he’d been no help.

“Hang on. I’m going to email you some sketches from both bodies.”

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