What are you up to, Jayne?
Ava closed her eyes.
The spark was still there; it wouldn’t go away. That damned spark simply wouldn’t die no matter how much Ava ignored it or suffered from the consequences of Jayne’s actions. A spark that made Ava give Jayne the benefit of the doubt. Every. Single. Time.
Call it a twin bond or sisterly bond or whatever. Ava hated that she couldn’t sever it, but at the same time she appreciated its tenacity. If she gave up on Jayne, whom would her sister have left?
Should I tell him I heard from Jayne?
Ava immediately decided against it. Brady didn’t need to hear that Jayne was worried someone would kill her.
Still in the kitchen, Zander spoke into his phone. Ava couldn’t make out the words but assumed he was talking with the sheriff or detective on David’s case.
Ava wanted to see the bakery video. Now.
Why would Jayne be with someone who killed David?
She couldn’t think of a reason.
David’s death resembled an assassination. Why? Who would want to kill the man? Ava had thoroughly investigated David last fall when he’d first entered her life. If there were skeletons in his closet, she’d seen no hint of them.
“Ava?” Zander called.
She took one last look at Jayne’s watercolor.
So much turmoil.
She joined Zander, who was opening his email. “I talked to the lead detective. He said he would immediately send the bakery video. He hadn’t found it to be of any value in his investigation yet, but he is very interested to find out what we think. I emailed him the motel footage and gave him the name she’s been traveling under.”
Zander opened a link.
Ava watched. The angle of the video’s view was high, looking down on the bakery’s front porch and sidewalk. A few empty tables and chairs could be seen on one side. An arguing couple strolled into view.
Ava had no doubt.
“There she is,” Zander said quietly. It was apparent to him too.
Ava wished there were sound. Jayne was using her hands and arms to make a point. The man’s back and jaw were stiff; he wasn’t happy.
“Fucking hat again,” said Zander.
The baseball cap hid most of the man’s face due to the camera’s angle. Jayne turned and walked backward, giving a clear view of her face. A gentle wind blew her sundress against her stomach.
“Still pregnant,” Ava said, feeling oddly detached. She might have a niece or nephew. Why wasn’t she more excited?
Because Jayne can’t be trusted.
“I don’t think I’ll believe she’s pregnant until I see a baby,” she told Zander.
“I hear you.”
The man halted. Jayne stopped, too, but continued with her hand gestures.
The blow was swift, and Ava gasped as Jayne dropped to her knees, shock in her face. But the man was immediately down and taking her hands in a pleading way, holding them to his heart.
His jaw moved, and Ava knew exactly what the asshole was saying. I didn’t mean it, baby. It was an accident. It won’t happen again.
He helped Jayne to her feet, but Jayne’s face was blank. The animation from earlier, gone.
She knows he’s trouble.
The man put an arm around her and pulled her to him. Jayne rested her head against his shoulder, and they continued to walk down the sidewalk and out of camera view.
“Wow.” Zander sounded stunned. “Even though I knew it was coming, that punch surprised me. He’s fast. What kind of asshole hits a pregnant woman?”
“The same kind of asshole that hits any woman.”
“This was before David was shot?” Ava asked.
“They believe so. They’re headed in the right direction to cross David’s path too.”
“Jayne would never shoot anyone.” I think. “Jayne would never shoot David,” she corrected. “She worshiped him.”
“I have no doubt that the jerk who hit her is our shooter.”
“She can’t have been involved.”
“I hope not,” Zander agreed. “But she has a bad track record of picking the wrong man.”
Ava couldn’t disagree. Jayne’s history proved she liked a bad boy. Many women did. But Jayne’s bad boys were often violent felons or desperate drug addicts. Or both.
“I’ll text the detective that we’ve identified her,” said Zander. “I told him about your phone call and her claim that she knew who killed David. It’s a start.”
“A much bigger start than they’ve had,” agreed Ava, checking her phone. Her heart skipped when she spotted an email from the agent she’d asked to find information on Jayne’s call. She opened it. “Jayne called from a disposable phone.”
“They traced the call to a cell tower near The Dalles.”
Rural Columbia River area.
“Just one tower? I thought calls were usually picked up by a few and then went with the strongest signal.”
“According to this, it only connected to one.”
“So wherever she is, it’s remote if there was only one tower within her phone’s reach. Probably why it was choppy: it had no stronger choice.”
Ava held Zander’s gaze. “Now what?” She felt overloaded on adrenaline, a subtle buzz in all her muscles. She needed to act.
“We need to get back to finding Shawn Braswell.” Sympathy lit his eyes. “I can tell you want to head to The Dalles, but that’s not our priority.”
“She claims she knows who killed David.”
“And we passed that information to the investigators. You need to send them the email you just received too.”
“I will.” Frustration simmered under her skin. “I’ll call Mercy. Maybe she can dig deeper.”
“Good idea.” He raised a brow at her. “Let her handle it,” he said.
Mercy Kilpatrick was an agent at the Bend FBI office, a couple of hours south of The Dalles. On a map, The Dalles was closer to Portland, but its geographical region and rural community placed it in the Bend office’s territory.
Mercy was one of Ava’s top picks to be her wedding attendant.
The wedding isn’t important now.
Ava touched Mercy’s number in her phone and waited for the other agent to answer.
Zander was right; they had work to do.
Jayne was not her problem.
Maybe if I keep repeating that, I’ll start believing it.
Mason paused in the doorway to Ray’s hospital room. Ray’s eyes were closed as he lay in a partially upright position. The room was very quiet. He’d called Ray an hour ago to let him know he’d be stopping by. Ray had said Jill and the kids would be running errands.
Ray looked thin, surprising Mason a bit. The man always had such a powerful physical presence, but now it was muted. He’d always had a bit of a Superman aura, seeming invincible. This week had proved that wrong.
He’s going to be fine, showing he’s still Superman.
But he looked a bit Clark Kent–ish at the moment.
Ray opened his eyes and a grin lit up his face. He pressed a button on the side of his bed and raised the head farther. Simply by smiling he lit up the room. He didn’t need to be physically built to project his charisma. Ray was more than his strength.
Entering the room, Mason smiled back and then clapped him on the shoulder. “Looking good.”
“I’ll look better once I’m out of here. This afternoon looks promising. I’m so tired of green Jell-O.”
“Green is the best flavor.”
“Wrong. Strawberry is the best. And green isn’t a flavor. Lime is the flavor.”
Ray sounded like his old self, making the knot in Mason’s chest ease.
“You could have waited and visited me at home,” the patient said.
“I knew I had time this morning. Who knows what I’ll be working on this afternoon?”
“True.” Interest lit up Ray’s eyes. “Catch me up.”
Ray pointed at a chair. “Sit. Talk. Everyone’s being vague when I ask questions about the case, as if information will slow my recovery. I’m hungry for details.”
“What’s this about a car wreck last night?” Ray asked.
“Who told you?”
Ray shrugged. “I hear things. Your truck okay?”
“It won’t be the same, but it’s repairable.”
“What the hell were you doing?”
Mason told him about the Mustang, the stolen plates, and the chase that had ended in his accident.
“No one saw the vehicle after that?”
“No. A skeleton crew was working last night because—” Mason stopped.
“Because of the memorial service,” Ray said bluntly. “I tried to finagle my way to it. Doctors wouldn’t let me out even for an hour.”
“Doing their job.”
“How was it? Jill couldn’t bring herself to go, and I know she feels guilty about not showing support.”
“Not showing support? She’s personally met with every spouse affected by the shooting. No one’s going to fault her for not making a ceremony.”
“You and I know that, but she still worries.”