“Call me when you’re done,” Ava told Mason. She ended the call and stared out the windshield, feeling dizzy.
Jayne. David. Kaden. Reuben. Shawn.
She said the names out loud. “They’re all connected,” she told Zander.
“I gathered that.”
“What is going on? How can Jayne be caught up in this?”
“You’re asking me?”
She wasn’t. “I’m thinking out loud.”
“We both know Jayne has ended up in some insane situations,” Zander said. “Several illegal. If Reuben Braswell was your informant and Jayne has a way of weaseling into every aspect of your life, then I’m not completely shocked to find out she might be with his brother.”
“How could she possibly know about an informant of mine?”
“Maybe she followed you to a meeting. Maybe it was the other way around . . . Reuben or Shawn searched her out.”
Ava gasped as the air left her lungs. “Reuben . . . he was attracted to me. He was upset when he saw my engagement ring. Tried to warn me that women can be physically hurt in marriage but said he would never do that to me.”
“Jesus. Why didn’t you say that before?”
“Because it wasn’t relevant!”
“He could find all sorts of information about you on the internet. Especially with the trouble that Jayne has gotten into. It’s possible he discovered you had a twin and went looking for her. And now she’s with his brother somehow.”
“That’s ridiculous. We’re making connections that don’t make sense and jumping to conclusions.” The car seemed to spin.
This can’t be true.
“I’m not saying this is what happened, but it’s possible.” Zander restarted the car. “The task force will be very interested to know we’ve got a possible lead on Shawn Braswell’s location. I have no doubt they’ll send us to The Dalles.”
Zander was wrong.
The sheriff wasn’t impressed with Ava’s report on Jayne’s phone call. Especially when an officer standing nearby asked if Jayne was the same crazy sister who had stolen Ava’s car and crashed it while drunk.
Ava stared daggers at the officer, stunned that the story was gossip among law enforcement. The officer got a concerned look on his face instead of crumbling under Ava’s white rage. “Isn’t she the one that tried to commit suicide?” he asked.
Zander placed a firm hand on Ava’s arm. Her vision had tunneled on the officer, and she didn’t know why he wasn’t melting into the floor.
“That true?” asked the sheriff.
“What does it matter?” asked Zander in a rare tone that Ava recognized as a precursor to a high level of anger. “Do those stories mean her sister can’t be in danger? That she isn’t being held by a man who committed murder on the coast? It’s very likely that she’s talking about Shawn Braswell.”
“Your evidence is a single phone call traced to somewhere in the gorge,” said the sheriff. “You think this person killed David Dressler on the coast the day before yesterday, shot Kaden Schroeder yesterday, and now is in the Columbia Gorge somewhere with Agent McLane’s sister.”
“That’s exactly what I think,” said Ava. “At the very least, the man she is with did the shooting on the coast. The same weapon was used on Kaden Schroeder, but there’s a chance it was in someone else’s hands at that time. Either way we need someone in the area. I’ve already asked the Bend FBI office to get involved.”
The sheriff looked at her for a long moment and then addressed Zander. “You go check in with the Clatsop County sheriff at the coast. Give them whatever help they need with the Dressler murder. Find out if Shawn Braswell has been in the area.” His gaze went to Ava. “You go to The Dalles. Work with your counterparts. I want to know immediately if you find more leads on your sister or Braswell.”
“Thank you, sir.” Ava spun and headed toward the door before he could change his mind, Zander a step behind her. She sent a text to Mercy as she walked, informing her she would be on her way to The Dalles soon.
“At least I’ll be working with Sheriff Greer again,” said Zander when they stepped out into the late-morning sun.
“He likes you,” Ava agreed. “Fewer hurdles to jump through.” She reached her vehicle and opened the door. “I’ll keep in touch.”
“You’re leaving now?” Zander asked.
“I need to go home and pack a bag in case I’m there a few days. Once I do, it’ll take me about an hour and a half to get there. I want to get moving.”
Her phone vibrated. Mercy replied that she was already on her way to The Dalles.
“Don’t speed,” said Zander.
“Hilarious.” Ava sat in the driver’s seat and slammed her door. Her nerves had been on edge since Jayne’s phone call and now urged her to get to The Dalles as quickly as possible.
This is the right move.
She wasn’t certain how she knew, but she’d never been more positive about anything in her life. Something was pulling her east.
Is that you, Jayne?
Back at the department, Mason sorted through his email on his computer. He wanted to thoroughly read the report from the firearms examiner and look at the photos on a decent-size screen instead of squinting at his phone.
The striations on the bullets found at David Dressler’s murder and Kaden Schroeder’s murder matched. The minuscule grooves were as specific to a gun as fingerprints were to a person.
Why these two men? What do David and Kaden have in common?
The questions had echoed in Mason’s head during the entire drive back to work from the hospital. He didn’t understand how Jayne fit in either. But no one understood anything Jayne did.
Her motivations were always self-centered; Mason was fully aware of that. But what would make her leave a cushy life in Costa Rica to come back to Oregon and stay under the radar?
She has something to hide.
Mason pushed a pencil into his electric sharpener and then examined the sharp tip as his thoughts wandered. Jayne’s phone call to Ava was an enigma. Had her panic been real? Had she been attention seeking? Did Jayne really know who’d killed David? Why hadn’t she given Ava a name?
He sharpened another pencil that didn’t need it. All his pencils had perfect points, and he liked it that way. He didn’t think he had OCD, but for some reason the sight of the perfect tips soothed him, and the sound and smell of the sharpener never failed to help him focus.
Ray hated the sound, but he knew that Mason was thinking hard when the sharpener started to grind. But today the answers weren’t coming to him. Pieces of the puzzle were missing.
He abruptly remembered he needed to ask Gillian Wood about her timeline for the morning of Reuben’s murder. Something had interrupted the abuse of Reuben’s body, and it had to have been Gillian. But how had the killer left without her seeing him?
Mason looked up her number in his notes and dialed, hoping she’d made it safely to her sister’s in Seattle. He opened the file of photos from the original crime scene. Specifically, Reuben Braswell’s body in the bloody tub.
“Detective Callahan?” she answered.
He was pleased she’d entered his number in her contacts. “Yes, Gillian. Are you in Seattle?”
“Is everything all right?” Her voice went up an octave.
“Everything is fine,” he soothed. “I have some follow-up questions for you.” He clicked on a close-up of Reuben’s damaged right hand.
Reuben isn’t fine.
“Oh.” She exhaled heavily. “I’m at my sister’s house.”
“Good. What I’m specifically calling about is how long you think you banged on the back door that morning after seeing the blood.”
Gillian was quiet for a long second. “Why?”
“We’re trying to tighten up the sequence of events that morning,” Mason said smoothly. “When we first talked, you estimated you called his name and banged on the back door for thirty seconds.”
“I think so.”
“And then you did the same on some of the back windows.”
“Yes. I couldn’t see in any of them. The blinds were closed.”
“What did you do after trying to get his attention through the windows?”
“I went around front and rang the bell.”
“So maybe another thirty seconds between the windows and running out front?”
Gillian paused. “Was something wrong with that?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. Like I said, we’re working on a timeline.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Would you guess it was longer than thirty seconds?” Mason asked. “Shorter?”
“I didn’t think it made any difference,” she whispered.
Crap. What did she do?
“What difference?” he asked calmly.
“I ran back home first.”
Mason briefly closed his eyes. “You didn’t mention that.” He continued to sound calm, though he wanted to reach through the line and shake her. “Why did you go home?”
No wonder she didn’t see the killer leave.