“Me too. This is a work call. Sort of.”
“What do you need?”
Ava explained about Jayne’s phone call and the cell tower location. “She claimed the man she is with killed another man on the coast.”
“What’s the victim’s name?” Mercy was immediately all business.
The line went silent. “Isn’t that your father’s name?” Mercy finally asked.
“It is.” Ava swallowed hard. “He was shot the day before yesterday. Clatsop County sheriff has the case.”
“Oh, Ava, I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you. I’m okay.” Ava glanced at Zander, who was listening carefully to her side of the phone call with sympathy in his eyes.
“Let me figure out exactly where this cell tower is. I should be able to plot its reach and see where no other tower’s reach intersects. Maybe I’ll be able to narrow down a location. Will you send me a picture of her? I’ll send it to motels in the area.”
“I’ll email you video we have from a motel. It shows the man she’s with, but only from the back.”
“Ava . . .” Mercy seemed to be at a loss for words.
“You’ve told me several stories about your sister, and I got the impression that you don’t trust her that much. Is it—”
“I don’t trust her at all,” Ava said. “Not one bit.”
“That’s what I thought. Is it possible that the phone call was some sort of attention seeking?” Mercy asked delicately.
“It is. I don’t want you sinking a lot of time into this. It could turn out to be nothing.” Ava forced a laugh. “It probably will be nothing.”
“You think she’s lying.”
Ava didn’t know how to answer. “Yes and no and maybe.”
“I understand,” Mercy said. “I’ll contact the sheriff and keep you updated on anything I find.”
“One more thing.” Nervous, she met Zander’s gaze. “I don’t have an attendant for my wedding yet.”
Mercy was quiet.
Ava held her breath.
“Are you asking me?” Mercy finally said.
“But Ava, it should be your sister.”
“I know it should be, but my relationship with my sister isn’t . . . normal.”
“You waited until the last minute to ask me,” Mercy said. “Is that because you hoped Jayne would come through for you?”
“She’s supposed to be in Costa Rica.” Ava didn’t answer Mercy’s question.
“Right. And now she might be in trouble. Tell you what. If Jayne is unable to do it, I will step in since I’ll already be there. I’d love to be a part of your wedding.”
A knot released in Ava’s chest. “Thank you.” She meant it. The question had been a burden for weeks.
“What color dress should I wear?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does,” Mercy said firmly. “I’m fully aware of how long you’ve waited to get married. What color?”
“Really? It’s summer.”
“I guess white would also work.”
“Even I know better than to wear that. Black it is. I’ll find something that works. It’s a black-and-white wedding?”
“No. I didn’t pick a color scheme,” Ava said.
“I’ve met Cheryl. She probably let you think that. I have no doubt she’s planned something lovely.”
“She did say she’d take care of the flower choices.”
“I can’t wait to be there. In the meantime, I’ll make some stills from the video to send out and see if I can find a lead on your sister.”
“Thank you.” Ava hung up.
“Feel better?” Zander asked.
“Yes, she’s got a plan to look for Jayne.”
“You need to tell Mason about Jayne’s call.”
“That was next on my list, but we need to go to the church and interview Pat Arthur again. I can call while you drive.”
She grabbed her bag and followed Zander out of her house.
Minutes later she had Mason on the phone, updating him on her conversation with Jayne.
“You understand why I’m cautious about taking her seriously,” Mason said.
“I do. I feel the same way. But I can’t not do anything.”
“You were right to call Mercy. She knows that area, even though it’s closer to Portland than Bend.”
“She was the first person I thought of when I saw the call originated near The Dalles.”
“I’ve got another call,” said Mason. “It’s the crime lab.”
“Go. I’ll talk to you later.”
Ava ended the call and looked at Zander, intent on his driving. “I feel better now that I talked to Mercy. I don’t know why I waited so long to ask her to be my attendant.”
“Yes, you do. We all know.”
“Mercy said if Jayne can’t do it, then she will. She understood how I felt about wanting Jayne to be there if possible.”
Ava pictured her twin standing beside her on one of the biggest days of her life. Pregnant. “It’s got to be Brady Shurr’s baby. Jayne hasn’t been gone long enough for it to be anyone else’s, judging by her size.” Ava grimaced. “Assuming she was faithful to Brady.” Jayne didn’t know the meaning of the word.
“If there is a baby,” Zander reminded her.
Ava’s phone rang. Mason was calling her back. “That was fast,” she answered.
“The call from the crime lab was about the ammunition used in Kaden Schroeder’s murder.” He sounded breathless.
“Are you all right?” Ava asked.
“The firearm examiner retrieving the ballistics information followed a hunch because the results felt familiar. He’d recently processed the bullets from another murder, and when he compared them to Kaden’s, he discovered they matched.”
“That’s great. Do they have a suspect in the other murder?” Ava was thrilled for him. The bullets would have eventually been linked through a database, but the examiner had saved a lot of time.
“No suspect. But Ava.” Mason paused. “The bullets he compared them to are from David’s murder. The weapon used on Kaden Schroeder matches the one used on your father.”
Ava went still.
“What does that mean?” she whispered into the phone as her mind raced.
“Your sister just told you she is with the man who killed David. If she’s telling the truth about that, then he also killed Kaden or is connected in some way with the weapon that killed Kaden.”
“How else would she know David was murdered unless she was there? It didn’t make the news,” Ava said, trying to keep her thoughts straight. “She must be telling the truth.”
“You have to agree that we never know when Jayne is telling the truth. But either way, it was the same weapon.”
Ava didn’t know what to say.
“I’d like to know if this is tied to Reuben Braswell’s murder,” Mason said. “There’s a strong possibility that Reuben’s murder is related to Kaden’s since they were across the street from one another.”
“Are you saying Jayne could be with Shawn Braswell? The man we suspect killed law enforcement at the courthouse?” Nausea burned up her esophagus. “Jayne is connected to those deaths?”
Oh, Jayne. What have you done?
She faintly registered that Zander had pulled the vehicle to the side of the road and was watching her with concern.
“Shawn Braswell is a prime suspect for Reuben’s death and those officers,” said Mason. “I suspect he’s involved in Kaden’s death, and now that means he could have killed David too.”
Ava’s brain continued to spin, grasping at straws. “What about Tony Schroeder? He’s a suspect in Kaden’s death, right?”
“He could be with Jayne and have shot David.” Ava fought to keep the four incidents straight in her head. “But the stolen weapons found in Kaden’s home are from the same theft as the weapon used at the courthouse. No matter how we look at it, Jayne is tied to the courthouse murders.” Ava couldn’t see a way Jayne wasn’t indirectly involved. Unless she had lied about who had killed David.
“Ava . . . your name was in Reuben’s notes about the bomb.”
“Right. Your point?” Ava asked.
“That means that both you and Jayne are linked in some way to the courthouse deaths.”
“Why?” she breathed. “I don’t understand. Jayne’s supposed to be out of the country.” She kept returning to that fact as if it proved Jayne couldn’t be involved.
“She’s here. Somewhere,” Mason said.
“I need to go to The Dalles,” Ava said. “I’ll take this information to the task force and make them send me.”
Zander cleared his throat.
“Me and Zander,” Ava corrected.
“The lab is calling again. I cut our earlier conversation short because I wanted to tell you.”