A Merciful Secret(12)

By: Kendra Elliot

“Did Natasha say that poison would be visible on the wounds?” Mercy asked Bolton.

“I didn’t ask.”

“The answer is, ‘It depends,’” said Natasha Lockhart as she stepped out of the home. Truman liked the small medical examiner. She was witty and generous with her smiles for a person who daily worked with death. She joined them in the snowy yard. “Hey, Truman,” she greeted him. “Did the two of you try that Thai place I recommended?”

“We did,” he answered. “We’ve been three times already. I don’t know how it stays in business. No one is ever eating in the restaurant.”

“I think most of their business is takeout. Did you try—”

“What were you going to tell us about the poison, Dr. Lockhart?” interrupted Bolton. Mild impatience shone in his eyes.

“Right,” she said. “Some poisons can cause cauterization at the edge of a wound, but it depends on their strength and type. Her wounds bled heavily, so I can’t see much on the tissues, but I’ll look for it and run some tests when I get her on the table.”

“It might be nothing.”

“It’s a start.” Natasha paused and looked over at the barn as Morrigan and the deputy disappeared inside. “It appears someone also tried to smother the woman. Clearly they weren’t successful, but she has petechiae present in her eyes.”

“The tiny red spots in the eyes?” asked Truman. “You think it happened before the stabbings?”

“Right now I think the attempted asphyxiation happened first. There was a pillow close by on the floor, so I asked the techs to bag it and check it for saliva. It looked clean, and I think it would have blood on it if they’d tried to smother her after the wounds.”

“Don’t most pillows get saliva on them?” asked Truman, thinking of nighttime drooling.

“Yes, but this was a decorative pillow. Usually people don’t sleep on them. A regular pillow was still under her head.”

“Was the pillow on the floor dark green?” Mercy asked. “The sofa has a dark-green throw pillow.”

“It was.” Natasha nodded. “Possibly someone brought it in from the living room.”

“With the intention to suffocate her,” added Truman, looking at Bolton. “What are your ideas on motive? Any sign of theft?”

“No indication of a break-in,” said Bolton. “And Morrigan’s mom is probably the only one who can tell if something is missing.”

“Who would want to murder an old woman?” asked Mercy. “I got the feeling from Morrigan that she rarely leaves the house.”

“Perhaps she wasn’t the target,” suggested Truman.

“All those cuts weren’t made by accident,” said Natasha.

“It would take a lot of rage to do the damage I saw,” Mercy said slowly. “Our suspect might have been angry that his intended victim wasn’t here. Perhaps the mother was the intended victim.”

“We plan to take a hard look at the mother,” said Bolton. “And neither you nor Chief Daly have any role in this case.” He pointed at Mercy. “You’re a witness, nothing else.”

Truman recognized the stubborn tilt of Mercy’s head and pitied Detective Bolton.


Mercy held the detective’s gaze. Like hell I’m stepping away from this case.

“Excuse me, Detective Bolton?” came a voice from behind them.

Mercy turned in unison with the detective.

It was the deputy who’d gone to look at Morrigan’s animals. The girl was nowhere in sight.

“Where’s Morrigan?” Mercy immediately asked.

“She’s feeding the goats. Cute little things.” The deputy gave a half smile. “I know the barn was initially searched for a suspect, but has anyone taken a close look at what’s in there?”

“What do you mean?” asked Bolton.

“There’s a room at the far end that I assumed was for supplies, but it’s packed full of . . . stuff. It looks like a miniature village in there. There’s another workbench like in the house with some knives and other sharp tools.”

“Morrigan said her mom has a craft room in the barn,” said Mercy.