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“I am,” Mason said reluctantly.

“You don’t have a suspect in his murder?”

“We have a couple of good leads, but I’m looking into every aspect of his life.”

The woman searched his eyes, disappointment on her face. “I’ve never had a customer complain or heard about someone having an issue with Reuben. The guys who work with him will tell you he keeps to himself.” She lifted one shoulder. “That’s not a bad thing.”

“Can you hunt down Joe Cooper for me?”

“Stay here.” She passed under the lights and fans, headed to the back of the store.

Mason spent the next few minutes absently studying light fixtures as he waited, wondering if Ria didn’t want to say anything bad about a dead employee. Many thought it was respectful of the dead, but it didn’t help solve a murder. People needed to be frank.

He remembered how Ava kept grumbling about the light fixture in the dining room, and a shiny rectangular fixture with hundreds of tiny hanging glass balls caught his attention.


A man appeared from the direction in which Ria had vanished. Mason judged him to be in his late twenties. Wide shoulders. Bearded. Huge hands. “You Detective Callahan?” he asked in a deep timbre.

“I am.” Mason shook his hand. “Sorry about Reuben. I understand you were friends.”

Joe scratched his beard. “Yeah. He was a good one. Pulled his weight, unlike some of the guys.”

“You hang out after work?”

Amusement sparked in Joe’s eyes. “After work is breakfast time. Yeah, we’d go to that pancake place over off Barbur Boulevard.”

“Good pancakes.”

“The best.”

“What kind of guy was Reuben?” Mason asked.

Joe lifted his chin, his gaze suddenly shuttered. “You know who killed him?”

Mason used his favorite line again. “The investigation is ongoing.”

“Cop speak for ‘We’re not telling you shit.’”

“Pretty much,” Mason answered evenly. “I assume you understand why. This is a murder investigation.”

The man looked away and ran a hand through his hair. “Reuben had ideas . . .”

“I know he wasn’t fond of law enforcement and government.”

Joe’s gaze flew back to Mason’s in surprise. “Yeah. He could get pretty fired up about it. I’d listen to him when he ranted, but it mostly went in one ear and out the other. I don’t see the point in complaining about something like that. It’s not going to change it.”

“He ever tell you someone was angry with him?”

“Nah. He didn’t care what people thought about him.”

“He pisses off people.”

“Not at work. He walked a straight line here.”

“But outside work . . . ?”

“Didn’t hang with him other than breakfast a few times. But he’d tell stories of how he’d get the cops mad at him.”

A small chill touched Mason’s neck. “Cops mad at him?”

“He liked to rile them up.”


Joe shrugged. “Dunno. He’d just come into work all happy and shit. Said he managed to ruin some government worker’s day. Wasn’t always cops.”

“Doesn’t sound like a nice guy.”

“Never said he was. We got along.”

Mason didn’t know what to think.

Could be as simple as harassing his mailman.

He gave Joe his card. “Let me know if you think of anything odd that Reuben did or said.”

Joe scoffed. “He was always saying odd shit.”

“You know what I mean.” Mason shook his hand and took his leave, wondering if stopping at Reuben’s workplace had been a waste of time.

Near the front of the store he stopped and stared at the cooler display. Swearing under his breath, he grabbed a huge red cooler and headed for the checkout line.

Ava checked the time again. The task force meeting had been scheduled to start at eight, and it was already a quarter after. She sighed impatiently and crossed her legs for the tenth time.

Why is Zander late?

Zander was never late, and he hadn’t answered her texts from the last fifteen minutes. She glanced around the room, willing the Clackamas County sheriff to get the meeting rolling so she could get her day started. The sheriff was nowhere in sight, but most of the chairs were full. Impatience flooded the room.

They’d managed to keep the discovery of the weapon in the dumpster out of the media. It had been sent to forensics last night. Ava doubted there were any fingerprints to detect, but it did have a serial number to trace, and there were rounds to analyze that were recovered at the courthouse scene.

She’d checked her email every time she’d woken up the night before, hoping to see a report on the weapon. The plan had been to process the gun overnight. The forensic technicians hadn’t complained about the extra hours. In fact, they had been eager to work on the weapon.

Everyone wanted to find the shooter.

Zander appeared and dropped into the chair next to her.

“You’re late.”

“I know. And yes, I saw all your texts. I was outside on the phone.”

His tone caught her attention. “With who?”

“The manager of a small motel down in Merlin.”

“Where is Merlin?” She’d never heard of it.

“A little north of Grants Pass. Off I-5 just a bit.” He raised a brow at her. “Looks like your sister spent the night there.”

“Jayne? When?” Ava glanced around, realizing her voice had been too loud.

“Seven days ago. She used the Camila Guerrero ID, which is how I tracked her. Two days before that she used it in Maxwell. It’s a small town south of Red Bluff in California.”

“She was working her way north.” Ava closed her eyes for a moment, wondering where Jayne had ended up. “I assume she paid cash at these places?”

“She did.”

“Must have been convenient to have some of Brady Shurr’s money. I wonder where her final destination is.”

“Maybe she’s coming for the wedding.” Zander didn’t sound pleased.

“She knows the date,” Ava admitted. “I mentioned the wedding twice in an email. She never asked any questions. I assumed she didn’t want to hear about it.”

Why did Jayne try to cancel my wedding?


Ava couldn’t think of any other reason. Even though Jayne had snared herself a rich boyfriend who was clearly wild about her, she had still gone out of her way to attempt to ruin Ava’s wedding.

“There is video of her at the motel’s front desk in Merlin. The manager found it while I was talking to him. He’s forwarding it to my email.”

“Did you get it yet?” Ava leaned close, peering at Zander’s phone.

“Not yet.”

“Dammit.” She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms, itching to get out of the room and hunt down her sister.

That’s not my priority right now.

Fine. Ava would get to work on the courthouse shooting. “They didn’t need a task force meeting this morning. We’ve got work to do.”

“Everyone has work to do, but the other teams need to be caught up.”

“Couldn’t they just send an email?” she grumbled. “I want to go check for cameras near the church. See if someone caught a clear image of his face.”

“There’s the weapon report,” said Zander, touching his phone’s screen.

Ava whipped out her phone, her heart racing as she opened the email, noting it had also been sent to the Clackamas County sheriff. She rapidly scanned the report.

“Oh, shit,” she said.

“I agree,” said Zander.

She took a deep breath and continued to read.

“The good news is the rounds match the weapon,” Zander said softly.

“But the serial number is a dead end.” Ava kept reading, her heart sinking. The report said the weapon was part of a stockpile of weapons that had been stolen from the ATF while in transit outside of Nevada. The theft had resulted in a big shoot-out, and two ATF agents had died. The weapons had disappeared.

“I remember when this happened a couple of months ago,” she said.

“We all do,” Zander said solemnly.

“How did our shooter get this gun?”

“Probably bought it off the street somewhere. Which is where the ATF got most of them in the first place.”

“Okay, folks. Let’s get started.” The sheriff strode to the front of the room, a stack of papers in his hands and two men following. The room quieted down, and everyone shifted in their seats, focused expectantly on the sheriff. He set the papers down, and the detective went to the open laptop on a table. The video from the church appeared on the big screen at the front of the room.

The sight made her breath catch. The video hadn’t started, but she knew it by heart. It was their biggest lead on the shooter.

The sheriff immediately launched into an explanation of what they were about to see. “And according to the lab report I just received, the weapon found in this church’s dumpster is a match to the rounds at the scene. This is our guy—or at least someone working with him.” He nodded at a detective, who started the video, and someone lowered the lights.