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Ava sighed. It was easy to miss important details when they were buried under so much information.

“Channel 8 turned over the helicopter coverage. There were a couple video sweeps of the cliff area that are being analyzed second by second.” He paused. “Some bystanders filmed the shootings.”

A low mumble of disgust filled the room.

“Don’t complain. They might give us some answers.”

“They turn up on social media yet?” asked Nora in a sour tone.

“Yep. And we’ve got people hunting them down for removal. I haven’t heard of anything graphic being posted. Most of the social media platforms have algorithms in place to prevent that from happening now.”

“Most,” whispered Ava. The thought that Ray’s kids could find footage of his shooting enraged her.

“I’m hearing that police are nervous to respond to calls or gather in public,” said a man to Ava’s left. More mumbles rippled through the group.

Can you blame them?

“I’ve heard the same,” the sheriff said. “We’ll do what needs to be done. This threat isn’t new. It’s been a part of our lives from the moment we took the badge. Public safety is our priority. No one will ignore that.”

“Have they tracked the source of the bomb threat?” asked the same man.

Ava pressed her lips together and noticed the sheriff did the same as he pondered the question. Are they not sharing where the threat was discovered? Zander shifted in his chair as they waited for the sheriff’s answer.

The sheriff made eye contact with Ava and held it. She gave him a small nod. There was no point in hiding that her name was linked.

“You will all have access to copies of information that turned up at a murder investigation yesterday. Handwritten pages were found in the home of a fifty-two-year-old male victim, Reuben Braswell. These documents warned us of the bomb threat.”

“But there was no bomb,” a woman said from the back.


“So the rumor that the threat was created to pull dozens of law enforcement officers to one location could be true,” she said faintly.

“We haven’t disproven that,” said the sheriff. “We’re not crossing off any possibilities this early in the investigation, and I trust all of you know better than to talk to the media. If I find out you have, you’ll be off my task force immediately, and I won’t listen to excuses. Now, I’ve made assignments, and you’ll find them on the table at the back. We’re going to work nonstop on this until we catch our killer. Our family in blue deserves the best.”

He picked up his stack of papers, signaling that the briefing was over.

“Thought he was going to out you there for a moment,” Zander said in a low voice as they stood.

“It’s not a secret,” said Ava. “Everyone here will see my name in his notes sooner or later.”

Behind them Nora cleared her throat, and they turned around. “I’ve been assigned to dig into Braswell’s past,” she told them, eyeing Ava. “We’ll need to talk.”

“Definitely,” said Ava. “But honestly, I’ve racked my brain over my interactions with him and can’t come up with anything that helps.”

“Maybe I can prod your memory or see something you don’t.”

“True.” Ava knew it was important to use a fresh set of eyes and ears. “You know you’ll be working parallel to Mason’s murder investigation.”

“I do. I think the sheriff gave me this assignment since we’re both with OSP.” She shouldered her bag to leave. “I’ll see you two later.”

“Logical to give that to another OSP detective,” said Zander to Ava. “I checked our assignments before that detective got on your case. We’re to start with a 7-Eleven clerk who wasn’t around for interviews yesterday. He’d gone home before the shooting started but told his manager today that he has something to share. We’re also to hit the businesses in the area that were missed and review the canvassing notes.”

“A full day or two,” said Ava. She turned and nearly bumped into the sheriff.

“I’ve questioned whether you should be here, Agent McLane,” the sheriff said in a voice only she and Zander could hear.

“You and everyone else.”

“I don’t like politics when it comes to police work,” the sheriff said.

“No one does.”

“I believe having a bit of a personal stake in an investigation makes someone work harder.”

“I wish others thought like you do,” Ava said fervently.

“I know your record.”

Ava said nothing and simply held his gaze.

“You’ve successfully hunted a cop killer before,” he stated.

“I have,” she said stiffly. That case had also been personal. Mason’s supervisor and several other law enforcement members had been murdered last fall.

“Can you get ’em again this time?”


Ava had no doubts.

“Then get to work.” The sheriff gestured toward the door and walked away.

“Ready?” she asked Zander. She knew she’d just received a compliment and added not letting down the sheriff to her list of motivations for finding Ray’s shooter.

A good leader inspires.

Outside the room her phone rang.

It was David’s number. She had forgotten she’d texted to ask if Jayne was with him at the coast. “Dammit. Why didn’t he just text a yes or no?”

“Because he wants to talk with you.”

Ava gave Zander a side-eye. “I’m not in the mood for a family chat at the moment. We have work to do.” She answered her phone.

“Ava?” A low female voice like her own.

“Kacey?” Ava frowned as her half sister gasped for breath. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Dad.” More wet gasps for air came through the phone. “He went for a run on the beach this morning and someone attacked him.”

Ava stopped in the parking lot, her throat tightening, an image of the kind man in her mind. “Is he okay?”

Kacey sobbed. “He’s dead.”


At noon Mason sat in his SUV in front of the Braswell home, trying to decide what to do. He’d left a message on Ava’s voice mail, saying he was worried that her name in Braswell’s document could mean trouble for her. Since Braswell was dead, would someone target her too?

He didn’t know why it would happen, but he had to say something to feel he’d addressed it. And get it off his mind. Distractions were pulling him in a dozen directions.

Ray was number one, and Jill had been silent since that morning.

No news is good news.

He took a deep breath, fighting the urge to text Jill, and focused on the house.

Solving this could lead to Ray’s shooter.

Mason would go through the home more thoroughly, but he also needed to follow up on the notes from officers who’d canvassed the neighborhood. One neighbor hadn’t been home when they knocked on the door, but now there was a vehicle in that driveway. Mason knew he should go ask the usual “Did you see anything?” questions.

He didn’t feel like talking to people.

He’d already met with Brody. That was enough for anyone in one day.

According to the officers’ canvass, no homes on the street used a doorbell camera, and only one had an outdoor security camera, but an officer had checked the video and said it only picked up the outer edge of the street.

Maybe the house he needed to visit would have a security camera.

He would walk the Braswell home first and then talk to the neighbors. Decision made, he got out of his car and was slapped in the face by the heat. The high temperatures were very unusual. Typically June was quite wet. No doubt the local media would start worrying about a drought any day.

He let himself into the house, took off his hat, and stood just inside the door. He hadn’t paid much attention to the living room on his right yesterday. He’d gone straight to the body and then checked the kitchen and the “map room.” The living room was nondescript. Brown furniture. Oak coffee table and end tables. A framed poster of Mount Bachelor and another of the Columbia River Gorge. Couch cushions were slightly askew—they’d been searched. Black fingerprint powder on the tables. The crime scene techs had been thorough even though there didn’t appear to have been any violence in the room.

The kitchen was next. More black powder. Mason pulled up the photos he’d shot of the kitchen on his work phone yesterday and compared them to the scene in front of him. Except for the powder, nothing had changed. The pools of blood had dried and were now darker.

A vision of Ray’s blood in the gravel popped into his mind. His lungs suddenly tightened, and he wiped sweat off his forehead. The air in the home abruptly felt stagnant and thin.

I need to get out.

Mason strode back out front. Breathing deeply, he leaned against the same pole on the porch that he’d stood at for the Gillian Wood interview. His gaze fell on the neighbor’s car across the street, and he immediately moved in that direction. Now, talking to people sounded much better. The house could wait.

The home was a ranch nearly identical in shape and size to Braswell’s, and the vehicle was a little red Toyota pickup that had seen better days—probably over a decade ago. Mason rang the doorbell and stepped back a few feet, his business card in his hand and his badge visible on his belt.