“How often do you ride dirt bikes?” Mercy asked, changing the subject.
Landon rubbed his hands on his thighs as he thought, pointy elbows poking the fabric of his plaid shirt. “More during the summer. We took them out tonight because Jason wanted to test the new brakes on his. Usually we have our trucks, but since the weather was clear it seemed like a good time.”
“I assume you take them off road usually?”
“Where do you like to go?”
He thought. “There’s good riding back of the old gravel pit place. And around the Smalls’s farm. They don’t care if we ride back there,” he added quickly.
“Do you always ride with friends?”
“Usually. Kinda boring by myself.”
“I understand you were target shooting when you were arrested the other night.” She jumped to another subject.
“Yeah.” The gaze darted to Truman again.
“You a good shot?”
“Better than your friends?”
“Lots better.” He grinned.
“You have contests with them?”
“All the time. I usually kick their butts.”
“Rifle or pistol?”
“Both,” he said with pride. “I’m better with the rifle. I have three-hundred-yard targets set up at my place, and I practice all the time.”
Mercy made a mental note to add the shells from Landon’s homemade firing range to the warrant that was currently being written up to search his home for his weapons. She slid a piece of paper across the table. “These are the weapons that are registered to you. Does this list everything you have?” The FBI was especially interested in one of the rifles.
He leaned forward and studied it, his head hanging over the document. It took forever for him to read it, and she wondered about his reading skills. It listed three rifles and two pistols. He should have been able to verify that with one glance.
“That’s everything.” He shoved the paper back at her.
“Nothing else? Maybe a gun a friend gave you or a relative passed on?”
“Nope. That first rifle on the list was a gift from my uncle. We did it by the book.” His smug look made her skin crawl.
Mercy nodded and changed the topic again. “Do you always carry gasoline with you?”
“The tank on my bike doesn’t hold much. Better to be safe than sorry.”
“So it was simply convenient to set the Cowler shed on fire.”
“I didn’t plan it, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Why did you light it?”
He shrugged again and looked away.
“Your friend says you have a thing for fire,” she lied. She hadn’t heard anything from the other interviews. But he’d sat alone in this room for nearly an hour before she’d entered. He’d had plenty of time to wonder what was being said in the other rooms.
Landon sat up straight. “He’s a liar.”
“Know anything about a fire on Clyde Jenkins’s property? Someone lit his burn pile in the middle of the night two weeks ago.” Mercy mentioned a fire that hadn’t been a source of gossip. Since Clyde had waited several days to report it, the only people who knew about it were the police, as far as she knew.
Landon ducked his head to the side, a sly grin on his face. “It was a burn pile. Nothing illegal about that. They’re supposed to be burned.”
One fire admitted. Two including tonight’s.
“Who was with you that night?”
The ceiling suddenly became very interesting to the young man. “Jason was there,” he said as he stared at the tiles in the ceiling. “The usual group. Finn. Cade.” He glanced behind her at Truman. “Same people as the other night.”
Mercy held her breath. The night Kaylie was with them?
“The night at the gravel pit?” Truman asked.
“The girl too? The one I took home?”
“Yeah, she was into it,” he sneered. “Don’t let her age fool you. She leads Cade around by the nose.”
All speech left Mercy’s brain. Kaylie? She couldn’t think of another question.
“Who was with you the night you lit up the dumpster?” Truman asked.
“Nothing happened with that,” Landon pointed out. “The fire was contained by the dumpster. It was perfectly safe to light.”
“Who?” repeated Truman.
Mercy’s brain came back online. “I don’t have Finn’s last name.” Three fires admitted.
“Gaylin,” said Truman.
Does he believe these fires are no big deal? She studied the young man. He seemed to thrive on the attention from her and Truman, and every time he admitted to having set a fire, his ego seemed to get a boost. He sat straighter, smiled more, exuded more confidence.
Reel him in slowly. Don’t think about Kaylie right now.
It was a giant effort to put the teen out of her mind. Mercy kept picturing Kaylie as one of the people described by Clyde Jenkins, a teen dashing through his orchard and laughing. Then she remembered the dirty footprints on her kitchen floor. Evidence the girl had been outside. If it’d happened once, it’d probably happened a few times.
She focused on the man in front of her. The cocky creeper. She smiled at him, and his returning smile made acid rise in the back of her throat. She shuffled through the small stack of papers in front of her until she found a police report. “What about the old car on Robinson Street?”
The smile broadened. “I did its owner a service. They shoulda got insurance money for that. The stupid thing hadn’t moved in months.”
“It wasn’t insured,” Truman said. Mercy heard the barely leashed anger in his tone. “The owner had to pay to have it hauled away after that. It cost them money.”
Landon’s face fell ever so slightly. “That’s a bummer.”
Does he think he’s some sort of Robin Hood?
“You know the Parkers lost a lot of supplies in their fire,” Mercy said. “They’d worked hard to prep and save. It might take them a few years to catch back up.”
“Stupid preppers,” Landon said. “They think they’re better than everyone else. All self-righteous like they’re the only ones living the correct way. Nothing wrong with shopping at Walmart.”
Mercy cocked her head. It wasn’t an admission, but Landon definitely held a grudge. “You know Steve Parker?” Her heart still hurt for the young family.
“No.” Landon looked away.
“Sounded like you did.”
“I know the type. They can squeeze blood out of a turnip.”
“And? Is there something wrong with being thrifty?”
“They’re not going to help anyone if it all goes to shit. It’s all about protecting themselves. Fucking elitists.”
I’ve never been called an elitist before.
“So you think they should share their supplies with others if we get decimated by a natural disaster.”
“Everyone should help each other,” Landon said piously.
“How are you prepared to help?”
“I can work. I can do whatever is needed. I’ll help out wherever someone needs me.”
I’d like to see you when you’re cold, wet, tired, and hungry. Take away your TV, beer, and fast food, and we’d see the real person underneath. Desperate, savage, and cruel.
Mercy leaned forward, resting her folded arms on the table. “How about you start preparing now and—”
“I think we’re going off topic,” Truman stated. “What do you know about the fire at the Parkers’, Landon?”
She sat back in her chair, biting her tongue, which wanted to lecture.
“I don’t know nothin’ about that one.”
“Do you know where you were the Wednesday before last?” Mercy threw out the question, ready to hear his excuses about the fire that Ben Cooley had put out. And the murder of Joshua Pence.
Landon thought. “On Wednesdays we usually go bowling.”
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