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I didn’t know how Shawn thinks; I know how Reuben thinks.

And it wasn’t good for Jayne.

“I’m going to head your way,” Mason said. “The fact that we’re now looking for Reuben Braswell, who might be fixated on you, makes it more likely that he is the man holding Jayne.”

“Okay.” Mason is right.

“I’ll call when I’m nearly to The Dalles.”

“I’ll let Mercy know you’re coming.”

“I love you. Be safe.”

“I love you too. And the same goes for you.”

Ava ended the call with a numb finger, stunned that Reuben was now her quarry.

Did I not take him seriously enough?

“He was wasting my time,” she said out loud. It was true. She’d taken too long to decide that he had been playing with her and the FBI. She couldn’t have guessed that part of the reason he’d met with her was personal. She’d believed he was just another guy who felt the need to hit on her. She’d believed it didn’t mean anything; it happened all the time.

But this time it meant something.

Assuming Reuben was behind the murders.

It rang true in her gut, but she would keep her mind open to other possibilities. She’d been wrong before.

Her phone buzzed again. Mercy.

“I’m almost there,” Ava said as a greeting.

“Ava, I’m already in The Dalles and was just notified that there is a man holding a woman hostage with a knife to her neck here.”

Fear lit up her brain like a firework. “What?”

“Does this sound like something he’d do?”

Jayne collapsing to her knees flashed in Ava’s memory. “Yes. He can be violent. And we know Jayne has been the recipient of that violence.”

“That was my conclusion as well. We don’t have any names yet. According to the officer I talked to, they’re at an RV park across the river. Take the 197 bridge and it’s on the west side, not far into Washington. I’ll meet you there.”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” Ava pressed the accelerator. “Sooner than that.”

Eleven minutes later, Ava spotted a tall bridge with tan trusses. She took the exit and headed north toward Washington, crossing over the blue water. The lush landscape had turned a summer-toasted brown as she got closer to The Dalles. Now, as she drove on the Washington side, green trees were few and far between. Everything looked very, very dry.

Within a minute she saw flashing lights ahead on her left. A half dozen police cars were at the entrance to the RV park. As she pulled closer, she spotted Mercy. The tall, dark-haired woman in jeans and boots looked out of place among the uniformed deputies. She wore a ballistic vest with FBI emblazoned on the back and front.

Is this her day off?

Ava parked and grabbed her own vest as Mercy approached, a deputy walking beside her. She introduced him to Ava.

“Do you have an identification yet?” Ava asked, strapping on the vest. It was tight against her pounding heart.

“Not yet,” said the deputy. “The manager says he doesn’t recognize them and assumed they were visiting a friend. He called it in as a domestic dispute because the man was beating on the woman. By the time our first car arrived, he had a knife at her throat and yelled at them to leave.”

“Where are they?” asked Ava, following the two toward the huddle of vehicles. A woman shouted in the distance, but Ava couldn’t see her.

“Behind that second RV,” Mercy said, pointing beyond the police vehicles. “I got a glimpse of him a few minutes ago. Tall. Dark hair. I couldn’t see her.”

“She’s dark-haired too,” the deputy added. “She’s been screaming up a storm, calling him every name in the book. I don’t think he’s hurt her yet.”

Ava didn’t agree with the deputy’s assessment. The woman had been hurt; it just hadn’t stopped her shouts.

I can’t tell if that’s Jayne’s voice.

“Has anyone communicated with him?” asked Ava. She eyed the group of officers, wondering if they’d had hostage-negotiation training.

“No. We’ve tried, but he’s not responding. We’ve got two deputies around back with beanbag rounds and Tasers.”

“Keep trying to talk to him before going that route.”

“You okay?” Mercy asked in a low voice. “You look exhausted.”

“It’s been a long couple of days.” Ava kept her gaze on the second trailer. “Mason called me with an interesting update.” She told Mercy the details about Reuben Braswell not being dead.

“That’s a big screwup on someone’s part,” Mercy said.

“Mason’s blaming himself, but it does lend more strength to the idea that he’s the one with Jayne.”

Mercy narrowed her eyes. “Why?”

Ava explained about her dealings with Reuben.

“What an ass.”

“Hold on, hold on!” Several shouts went up from the group of officers. The dark-haired man had stumbled out from behind the RV and bent over in pain. He dropped a knife into the dust.

Who shot him?

His hands clasped his crotch, and he retched repeatedly.

He wasn’t shot. She nailed him in the groin.

“Ouch,” Mercy said as the deputy beside them flinched and looked away.

A woman appeared. Her T-shirt was torn, and red marks showed on her legs, but she stood tall, her gaze fastened on the man in pain.

Not Jayne.

The woman strode forward and shoved the man, pushing him to his knees. “Fucking asshole,” she shrieked at him. Six deputies immediately surrounded them.

Ava’s heart dropped, glad that it wasn’t Jayne who had been assaulted but also disappointed it wasn’t her. “That’s not her,” she whispered to Mercy.

Ava turned away, frustration burning in her veins. Now what?

Back to their original plan. Starting with showing Jayne’s photo at motels in the area.

How long will this take?

“I’m sorry, Ava,” said Mercy. “We’ll find her.” The two women walked to their vehicles. “Let’s get some food and regroup. There’s a good place east of town. We can map out our strategy there.”

Ava forced a smile. The letdown of the last minutes had obliterated any hunger. “You’re on.”


At the diner, Ava paid the check. She’d snatched it out from under Mercy’s hand as the server set it on the table.

“You’re right,” she said to Mercy. “I needed that.”

“Comfort food.”

The women had divided up a list of local hotels. They had flyers featuring Jayne’s pregnant image from one of the videos and the picture from her driver’s license—revoked driver’s license. Jayne had lost it years ago for drunk driving. The photo was older, but at least her hair was the right color. Ava had suggested a photo of herself, but Mercy said that the driver’s license photo would do. Ava didn’t have photos of Jayne on her phone.

When would I have taken a picture?

Her sister had been always in motion, moving from one town to the next, one boyfriend to the next. They didn’t have family get-togethers where everyone posed on the stairs. No birthday parties with goofy selfies and big smiles.

That had never been Ava’s life.

The two women were leaving the diner when Ava’s phone rang. She halted. “It’s Jayne.” Ava stared at the screen. The call was from Jayne’s phone. The one Ava had checked on her locator app multiple times since she first knew Jayne was missing. The app had never been able to locate her, and Ava’s calls went to voice mail.

Jayne had turned her phone back on.

“Jayne?” Ava answered, her heart in her throat. “Where are you?”

“Ava?” Jayne whispered. “I don’t know where I am.” Her voice quivered.

“Hang on a second.” Ava put the call on speaker and opened the locator app. She held her breath as it searched for Jayne.

It found her. Six miles away.

Ava showed the screen to Mercy, who nodded and gestured to her car. Both women broke into a run. “Are you okay?” Ava asked.

“I’m scared,” Jayne whispered. “He’s furious right now—but not with me this time.”

“Jayne, I’m coming to get you. I’m only a couple miles away. Are you in a house?” Ava slid into the passenger seat of Mercy’s SUV. Gravel scattered as Mercy flew out of the parking lot.

“Yes, it’s a house.”

Ava zoomed in on her screen. The satellite imagery showed only trees where Jayne was located. Shit. Is it wrong? She tapped her screen to give directions to Jayne’s location.

“Can you get outside?” Ava asked.

“No. One of my hands is tied to a post inside.”


“He’s yelling at another guy. I think he hit him.”

“If you can get out, is there another home you can run to?”

“No. There’s nothing else here but trees. It’s more like a cabin.”

That made sense, given the trees Ava had seen on the map. “Take the next right,” she told Mercy. “Jayne, who tied you up?”

“Cliff did.”