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Mason glanced at his watch. Two o’clock. He should go pack, too. He couldn’t be a liaison from his home; he planned to set up camp at the Fairbankses’. Better to be prepared now than have to borrow something from Lucas later.

Wells made a few more rapid notes as McLane and Lilian stood. ASAC Duncan approached.

“You’re getting some things from home?” Duncan asked Lilian, who nodded. Duncan’s gaze swept the table. “Having you all in one place will make it easier for us. We’re setting up operations in a church not far from here, so most of the agents will be out from under your feet. We still have some forensics people in the home, and I’m assigning someone to stay here around the clock. They’ll basically be moving in. Is that going to be a problem?” He eyed Robin and Lucas.

The couple exchanged a glance, and Robin shrugged. “We have a guest room, and my mother will keep the younger girls, freeing up their rooms. As long as your person doesn’t mind Hello Kitty sheets.”

“I don’t think Agent McLane will mind,” answered Duncan.

“What?” Agent McLane spun around to her boss. “Me? What about Christine?”

“Her maternity leave kicked in last week. Her doctor put her on bed rest for the final two months. You hadn’t heard?”

“No. I hadn’t,” McLane said slowly. She turned back to the mothers and Lucas, an apologetic look on her face. “Christine is our victim specialist. She’s usually the one who stays with families during times like this. Her role would be to offer support and help you with whatever you need.”

“I think you’ll mesh nicely,” replied the ASAC.

Mason bit his cheek. The FBI agent hadn’t seen that one coming. McLane blinked rapidly, trying to process the apparent curveball the case agent had thrown at her. Would that change her role in this case? Mason wondered how McLane felt about being thrust deep into the family dynamics.

Judging by the look on Robin’s face, she was pleased, and Lilian nodded emphatically.

“You’re very welcome to stay here,” Robin said. “I’m glad they picked you instead of the first agent who spoke with us.”

Lilian snorted.

Mason saw Agent Wells’s lips twitch as he continued to write on his notepad, and Agent McLane abruptly wiped her face clear of emotion. Mason wondered what he’d missed with the first agent; the man must have been a prince.



Ava gaped as she drove past the condo building Lilian indicated and wished she owned a unit. Lilian lived in a fresh new building with Roman-looking architecture. It had a quaint coffee shop and art gallery on the bottom level. The city had decorated for the holidays; wreaths and red bunting hung from the antique-looking street lamps, and tasteful Christmas trees spotted the storefronts. Ava wondered how much Lake Oswego’s décor budget was, since they hadn’t hung the tacky metal sparkly garland like some cities. It looked like they’d hired a professional designer to get the residents in the holiday mood.

Ava pulled around to the back of the building and got out. Glancing to the south, she realized the upper levels of the building probably had beautiful views of the lake and surrounding hills.

“Nice,” Ava muttered under her breath, thinking of her tiny house and its yard with never-ending maintenance.

“I love it,” Lilian replied, stopping on the sidewalk. “People always ask why I didn’t get a house for Henley, but we aren’t yard people. We love to walk the city and visit the shops. The salespeople all know her by name, and there’s a great park a few blocks away.”

Ava sniffed the air. “Does it always smell like coffee here?”

“Yes! And that scent never gets old.”

Ava followed her through a security gate, approving of the keypad and card swipe to enter the condo area. “No vagrants wandering around?”

“In Lake Oswego?”

The woman had a good point. The city in Oregon with the highest per capita income didn’t attract bums. If one did decide to visit, there was no doubt they were sent quickly on their way.

An elevator took them up three levels. They moved down a hallway, stopped, and Lilian started to unlock her door.

“Just knock,” suggested Ava. Duncan had sent several agents to the condo earlier, and at least one was expected to house-sit for a while.

Lilian stared blankly at her, then nodded and knocked. Ava saw the flicker of sadness that crossed her face, no doubt from having to knock on her own front door. Ava hoped the search inside had been done neatly. Her protective mama bear would emerge if the police had left a mess. She’d taken these two terrified mothers to heart and was determined to keep their days as pain free as possible.

Ava didn’t recognize the young male agent who opened the door. They exchanged identification. Special Agent Parek stood back and let the women in. It wasn’t unusual for Ava to not know someone from the Portland office. They had nearly a hundred agents, and agents frequently transferred between offices. She’d been in Portland for five years and liked it. She’d hated her previous posting in Los Angeles. She’d missed the changing seasons, and there was simply too much city. Too many people. And too many cars.

She followed Lilian through the luxury condo, spotting a fantastic view of the lake from the formal living room. So far the home didn’t look disturbed. Either the police had been exceedingly neat or someone had spent some time picking up. Lilian moved down a hall and stepped inside a bright bedroom. Ava squinted. Three of the walls were neon lime green, and one was hot pink. It was all girl. Lilian slowly turned in a circle, studying everything.