A chill shot through her limbs. Does he act creepy on purpose?
Cade stepped aside and fired the rifle. Three-quarters of his shots found the head.
I could have hit all of them from this distance. Easy.
Kaylie smiled when he was done. “Nice job!”
“Want a turn?” He held the weapon toward her.
“No, thanks. Not my thing.”
“Come on, Kaylie,” Finn said. “You won’t get hurt.”
“Scared, Kaylie?” Landon asked. He pulled a weed out of the gravel and lit it, watching it wilt and burn.
She didn’t like the glint in his eye. “I’ll pass.”
“My turn.” Finn grabbed the rifle from Cade, and he tripped as he went to line up his shot.
Kaylie looked back at Cade’s truck and desperately tried to think of an excuse to leave. I’m tired? I don’t feel good?
Cade slung an arm around her shoulders as he watched Finn shoot. “Hey, Jason,” Cade said. “I changed my mind about that beer.”
The headlights of Truman’s Tahoe caught the battered sign for the gravel pit. He yawned and took the turn, proceeding slowly through the dark, not bothering to turn on his light bar. He’d received a call about a gunfire complaint. Usually locals would roll over and ignore the sounds of gunfire in the middle of the night, but since the shooting, people had been overly cautious. Truman knew what a call about gunfire near the gravel pit meant: a couple of guys blowing off steam. He’d tell them to go to the shooting range. During daylight hours.
His vehicle reached the bottom, and he spotted four vehicles lined up with their lights on. Five figures stood in the headlights, a rifle in the hands of one man and silver cans in the hands of a few others. There was a rapid shuffle as they spotted the silhouette of his Tahoe with the light bar on top and tried to set aside the cans. The man with the rifle leaned it against the tire of a truck and took a few steps away from it.
Crap. Alcohol and shooting.
He scanned the vehicles and recognized one as Jason Eckham’s old pickup. At least one minor is here, and judging by how they ditched their cans, there’s more. He stopped behind the other vehicles and called in support from Deschutes County. If he had a few minors with alcohol, he couldn’t let them drive. He eyed the rifle, wondering if there were other weapons. The group appeared nonthreatening in their stances, and he appreciated the guy who’d set the rifle aside, but he trusted no one.
If there’s one weapon, assume there’s more.
He’d caught Jason drag racing a few weeks ago. He sighed. The kid had a mouth and no respect for law enforcement. Truman studied the other figures in the lights of the vehicles. They held up their hands in front of their eyes to block his headlights, but were trying to get a look at who had arrived. They all looked about Jason’s age—
Is that a girl?
He wasn’t too surprised.
His backup was three minutes away.
Truman got out of his vehicle and walked toward the group, resting his hand on his weapon at his hip. “Evening guys. And gal—Kaylie?” His heart dropped. Mercy’s suspicions about Kaylie’s nighttime activities were correct.
Kaylie leaned into a tall guy who had his arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders. “Hi, Chief,” she said quietly. Jason and one of the other guys shot her an irritated look for acknowledging the enemy.
Determined to not single her out—any more than he just had—he refrained from asking if Mercy knew what her niece was up to. He gave a pointed glance to the silver beer cans on the ground. “Jason, I know how old you are. Let’s see IDs from everyone else.”
“You can’t charge us unless the beers are in our hands,” said the skinniest of the bunch.
Great. A teenage lawyer. “I don’t know where you got your information, but that’s not true for minors in possession in Oregon.” He met the gazes of the other three guys. “You know this is private property, right?”
“No one cares if we come here,” Jason said quickly. “Everyone does it.”
The ultimate defense.
“I assume you’re all underage?”
“I’m twenty-one,” said skinny. “But I don’t have my driver’s license with me.” He smirked at Truman.
“What’s your name?” asked Truman.
“Landon, I count four vehicles behind us, and I happen to know that none of them belong to Kaylie Kilpatrick. That means you drove one here . . . Are you stating that you drove here without a license?”
While the young man struggled with his answer, Truman stared at the other men. “Let’s see them.”
All reached for their wallets in their back pockets. He collected the IDs and watched Landon reluctantly dig in his pocket. All four men were under twenty-one. Landon had the decency to keep his eyes lowered as Truman handed back his license without saying a word about the fact that he’d lied about being twenty-one. Kaylie hadn’t moved. The expression on her face said she wished the gravel pit would open and swallow her. He knew it wasn’t him she was nervous about; it was her aunt. Mercy was going to flip.
He took a long look at the ID of the young man with Kaylie. Cade Pruitt. Truman hadn’t met any other Pruitts, but he knew there were a few on the far east side of town. At least the young man looked him in the eye and seemed respectful. Jason and Landon were surly and full of attitude. Finn had pulled out his license first, and Truman had seen his hand shake as he held it out for inspection.
“Did Cade drive you here?” he asked Kaylie.
“Yes.” She kept her gaze on the ground.
Your aunt is going to explode.
Truman met Cade’s gaze, taking his measure. He wasn’t mouthy and didn’t look away. “You have anything to drink this evening, Cade?”
“That’s my first.” Cade pointed at a silver can a few feet away. “I didn’t even get through a third of it.”
“It really is his first,” Kaylie interjected. “We just got here.”
“And you?” Truman asked Kaylie.
“I didn’t drink anything. I have to work in a few hours.” Her shoulders slumped.
“She didn’t,” Cade added. He glared at the other three men, and they gave a weak chorus of agreement.
Truman had already figured that out. Alcohol wafted from the men as from a brew house, but not from Kaylie. He’d purposefully stepped closer to her and inhaled as he took Cade’s license.
Truman stepped over to where the men had rigged up a small table with sawhorses to shoot from. Cans littered the ground around the stand. Truman counted the cans out loud. Thirteen.
“If Cade’s only had one beer, that means the three of you have split twelve.”
Lights flashed from the gravel pit entrance. Two Deschutes County sheriff’s cruisers entered, their light bars flashing, but their sirens silent.
“I called you some rides. I’m going to let them process the four of you while I take Kaylie home.”
Landon stepped forward. “But we didn’t—”
“Shut up.” Cade cut him off and put out a hand to stop him from advancing toward Truman.
Two deputies joined Truman, big grins on their faces. “You catch some young ones tonight, Truman?”
“Yep, I’m going to drive the juvenile home.” He gestured at Kaylie, who seemed to shrink two inches. “The other four are minors and reek of alcohol.”
“We’re happy to help. Turn around,” the first deputy ordered Landon.
Truman took Kaylie’s arm and tugged her away. “We’re leaving.” She resisted, digging in her heels.
“I need to say—”
“Call him later,” Truman ordered. “If Mercy lets you keep your phone.” He gave her a don’t-mess-with-me glare and she followed meekly after giving a quick wave to Cade.
They were both silent as he drove out of the gravel pit. Kaylie crossed her arms on her chest and stared out her window into the dark nothingness, her nose piercing glittering in the lights from his dashboard. She was a pretty girl—she looked a lot like Mercy, and he felt a need to protect her. For her own sake and her aunt’s.
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