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Mason raised a brow at her. “Aren’t bad decisions a given with her?”

“You’re right. They are. When her hole gets too deep, she’ll turn up, needing something from me.”

Please stay away from drugs, Jayne. I can’t help you there.

Her phone rang. Ava didn’t recognize the number.

“I’m going to check in with Nora,” said Mason as she looked at her phone. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He strode out of the room.

“Special Agent McLane.”

“This is Mercy Kilpatrick, Zander suggested I call you.”

Relief swept over Ava. “Of course, Mercy. What did you the two of you find out about Vance Weldon?” She held back the information about Regina Zuch, wanting to hear Special Agent Kilpatrick’s information first.

“I took a close look at who Weldon had crossed paths with in his domestic terrorism cases and to see if any of the other officers who’d been murdered had been involved in the investigations in some way. I haven’t been able to find anything. Most of Weldon’s work involved suspects in Central and Eastern Oregon, and our outside support came from officers in those regions.”

“Did you find anything that might be useful in our case?” Ava asked, getting to the heart of their conversation.

“Not really.” Mercy sighed. “Vance hadn’t reported any issues with suspects or been worried about his safety in any way.”

Ava told her about Regina Zuch’s affair with Weldon.

“Well now. Isn’t that interesting?” Ava heard her tap on computer keys in the background. “Let me see what we have on her.”

“Micah Zuch still hasn’t told us how he knows all this accurate information. We’re guessing that he’s protecting someone. We considered his mother, but I can’t see it,” Ava said, hoping she wasn’t wrong. She let her brain travel down that path again. Could Regina be involved and her son is trying to keep her out of jail?

The long hair found on two of the bodies.

The hair was dark, but Regina clearly colored her hair a bright blonde.

“I don’t have anything on Regina Zuch,” Mercy said in a disappointed voice. “Her name doesn’t come up in any of Vance’s cases or otherwise.”

“Ask what Zander thinks of her affair with Weldon,” suggested Ava.

“He’s not here.”

“Oh. I thought he told you to call.”

“He did when he asked me to dig into Vance Weldon’s cases. He wanted you to immediately have any information I found. I’m sorry I haven’t—”

“Wait.” Ava froze. “He isn’t with you? I thought the two of you were working together this evening.”

“No, I haven’t seen Zander since this afternoon. I’ve left messages for him to call me, but I assumed he was tied up with the task force.”

Ava’s brain spun in confusion. “I’ll go to his house. It’s five minutes away. Maybe he’s working on something from there, and I misunderstood where he’d said he’d be.”

“This doesn’t sound like him.”

“I agree. But he looked exhausted this morning. He said he didn’t sleep last night,” Ava said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s simply crashed.”

“I’ll meet you there,” said Mercy. “The two of you are working a case where cops are being murdered. I’m sure Zander is fine, but you shouldn’t go alone. I’ll leave in two minutes.”

Ava ended the call with the concerned agent and glanced at the time. She could get over to Zander’s home and back in less than fifteen minutes at this time of night. No one would even notice she’d left.

Ava parked at the curb and looked at the dark house. Zander’s car was in the driveway, and she let out a relieved sigh. I was right. He’s just exhausted. She fumed a bit because he hadn’t checked in with her or Mercy, but she knew that Mason could sleep eighteen hours straight when he’d worn himself out on a case. A fire alarm wouldn’t disturb him, let alone the ringing of his phone.

She’d told Mason and Nora that she was dropping by Zander’s home. Mason had offered to come with her, but she’d refused. “I’ll be back soon and Mercy Kilpatrick will be there, too.”

She waited a few minutes for Mercy, but impatience got the best of her and she decided to knock on the door. She walked carefully up the dark path to his front door. No Halloween decorations. Unlike at all the other homes on his street, whose residents seemed to view decor as a competition. The neighborhood was flat and easy to walk, and the homes were close together. It probably swarmed with kids during Halloween. It was an ideal trick-or-treating neighborhood because a lot of houses could be covered in a short time. Prime real estate for a large candy haul, every kid’s priority on Halloween. When she was a kid, it was exactly what she’d have wanted when she chose a neighborhood for trick-or-treating. She’d always lived in an apartment with her mother and sister, so they’d gone to subdivisions to trick-or-treat. Ava had memorized which ones were the best. No hills, no long stairs to the front doors, and tons of kids.

Zander’s neighborhood rated a high score in her book. She wondered if he was the only single guy on the street.

Does he turn off his porch light on Halloween? Warning kids not to knock?

She hoped not. Those houses contained lonely, cranky people.

Noticing it was eleven P.M., she cringed as she pushed the doorbell.