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“Add Idaho and California,” suggested Ava. “Everyone look and see if you can find a parent name somewhere. Maybe there’re mentions in the other ledgers that aren’t about the mentoring program?”

Nora picked up a notebook, flipped through it, and gave a small moan. “This is going to take forever.”

“Nothing when I add the two states,” stated Zander.

“Try females in the age range of forty and sixty-five with that last name,” said Ava. “Let’s see if we can find his mother. Start with just Oregon and the Vancouver area.” She held her breath and watched Zander’s expression.

“Shit. I get seventeen names just in our state. I’ll look at it by county.” He glared at the screen.

Mason, where are you? She dialed again. Voice mail. She punched in a text. CALL ME.

Keith moved to look over Zander’s shoulder. “I’ll see what I can find on the three names in Washington County. You take the four from Multnomah. Then we can look at Clackamas and Clark County.” He sat at the computer terminal next to Zander and tapped on the keys.

Ava went back to her ledger. The names and dates blurred on the pages.

I can’t just sit here.

She focused on the pages and made herself search for Nickle.


The pain radiating through his body felt like a baseball bat blow to his funny bone that had been multiplied ten thousand times.

Mason’s head hit the porch as he fell, and his nose crunched on impact.

His body no longer worked, his brain unable to send commands to his muscles. But out of the corner of his eye, he recognized a face.

Scott Heuser knelt beside him, his stun gun still pressed to the back of Mason’s neck.

Agonizing bites of electrical pain reverberated through his muscles and bones. Heuser removed the stun gun, but Mason’s body continued to rebel, and he fought to breathe through the blood clogging his nose. One thought echoed through his mind.

I’m in deep shit.


“Heidi Nickle,” stated Zander. “Age fifty-six. Unmarried. Lives in unincorporated Washington County. I can’t find any employment history on her in the last five years, but there are utility records in her name that go back twenty years.”

Ava studied the woman’s driver’s license picture. “Her driver’s license has been out of date for two years.”

“I noticed that,” said Zander.

“Then why do you like her?”

“Because I’ve got an old newspaper article that quotes her and her son as they enjoyed the Rose Festival twelve years ago.” He clicked and pulled up the record.

Standing next to Ava, Nora leaned closer and read the account on the screen. “They refer to her son as a high school student,” Nora said. “But they don’t use his name. Why would they leave it out?”

“Either the reporter was lazy or he was asked not to use it,” said Ava.

“I’ve got a Desiree Nickle in Clark County who’s a year younger and lives a quarter mile from Vance Weldon’s home,” said Keith. “I don’t know if she has kids.”

Crap. “Those are both pretty good leads,” said Ava. “But why can’t we find Scott Nickle?”

“He may have changed his name. Or moved to another state.” Nora rubbed her temples. “Is this a wild goose chase?”

“Anyone have any other leads to immediately follow?” asked Ava.


“I think we need to go to both of these homes and talk to these women,” said Nora, looking from Zander to Ava. “You two want to choose who goes where?”

“Washington County,” said Ava immediately. She raised an eyebrow at Zander, who shrugged.

“I’ll take the home near Vance Weldon’s place,” he replied.

“Go,” ordered Nora. “I’m going to see what’s taking so long on our boot print analysis. Keith, thank you for your help. You can head back to the lab now.”

Ava grabbed her purse and followed Zander out of the building.

“Why’d you pick the first one?” Zander asked her.

“Because of the fact that she had a son.”

Her phone vibrated in her bag. Disappointment struck as she saw Ray’s name instead of Mason’s on the screen. “Mason told Duff Morales that he was working on the Molalla River park case today,” Ray said. “If he went to the state park, I know the cell service is spotty out there. That could be why he’s not returning calls.”

“But aren’t you working that case together?” asked Ava. “Wouldn’t he have told you?”

“Yeah, he would,” Ray admitted. “Dammit. I don’t know where he could be.”

“I have to follow up on a lead. Can you check the park?” she asked. “And keep trying to reach him?”

“It’s going to take me nearly an hour to get to the park at this time of day,” Ray said. “I’ll request a trooper to check the park and look for his vehicle. There’s probably one within a few miles.” He ended the call.

“No Mason?” Zander asked.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” said Ava. “Seeing his name along with Denny’s and the other victims in those records made it hit too close to home for a few minutes.”

“Don’t get worked up until you know something’s wrong. His phone could be in a dead spot or he’s too tied up to answer.”