A Merciful Secret(4)

By: Kendra Elliot

Now Deschutes County detective Evan Bolton waited for Mercy in the living room of Olivia’s home. The detective was young, probably younger than Mercy, but his eyes were old and cynical, as if they’d seen every horror in the world. When he’d arrived at the crack of dawn, he’d silently listened to Mercy’s brief story and asked minimal questions, but she’d had a gut feeling that he missed very little. Sympathy flashed in his brown eyes as she approached.

No doubt twenty-four hours without sleep showed in her face.

“Where’s Morrigan?” she asked him.

“Showing one of the deputies her chickens and goats.”

Mercy relaxed a fraction. She’d kept Morrigan close to her for the last four hours as they waited for Deschutes County to respond. She glanced out the window and saw the tech taking pictures inside her brand-new FBI Tahoe. It was bloody too. In her exhaustion Mercy had transferred Olivia’s blood to Morrigan’s coat and to her vehicle.

Rustling noises behind Mercy told her the techs were still collecting evidence in the tiny house. More than anything she wanted to leave the scene behind and sleep for a week, but the detective’s eyes indicated he had other plans. “You want to interview me now, don’t you?” she asked.

“I know you’ve been up a long time, but I want to hear the details again while they’re still fresh in your mind.”

She understood. “No one has reached Morrigan’s mother?”

“Not yet. The phone number she gave us goes straight to a full voice-mail box.”

“Did Morrigan say where she is?”

“She told us she went to town. When I asked how long ago she left, she said she didn’t know. It could be a week or a day.”

Mercy frowned. “When is child services getting here?” she asked.

The detective scowled. “We’re working on it.”

“Then I have plenty of time to talk, because I’m not going anywhere until Morrigan is taken care of. How long until the ME arrives?”

He raised both brows. “Within the hour. I thought I would be the one asking questions.”

“Where do you want to do this?” Mercy glanced around at the crowded living area. Now that some daylight was coming in the windows, she saw the room was very clean, but the furniture upholstery was patched and the scattered rugs were worn down to the backing in several areas. The cabinets in the kitchen were missing several doors, but the dishes were in perfect even stacks on the shelves.

“Let’s step outside,” he suggested.

The two of them moved out of the cramped house, and Mercy sucked in a deep breath of icy air. Looking up, she saw the snow-frosted pines against a clear blue sky. It must be less than twenty degrees. Three days earlier the area had been hit with a snowstorm that had rapidly dumped six inches of white fluff. Since then every day had been gloriously clear but bone-chillingly cold. Typical for a Central Oregon winter.

She loved it.

Pulling her gloves out of the pockets of her heavy jacket, she led the detective to a small wooden bench and brushed off the snow. She wore thermal pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and snow boots from her vehicle’s ever-ready stash. She sat, thankful for her thick pants, and he followed suit, removing a small recorder from his pocket along with a tiny notebook. The detective’s blue coat nearly matched the sky. An oddly cheery note in the somber morning. Mercy was in black from head to toe, her usual attire.

“You said you’d been driving back to town from your cabin,” Detective Bolton began. “Where exactly is it?”

Mercy gave him her address. “I’d driven about ten minutes before I saw Morrigan. So not too far.”

“Do you often drive around at three in the morning?”

“Actually yes.”

He held his pencil over his pad, looking at her expectantly. “Why?”

“I don’t sleep much. Coming out here relaxes me.”

“You live in Bend,” he stated. “It must take you a long time to get here.”

“It can. Depends on the road conditions.” She wasn’t in the mood to volunteer additional information about her nighttime habits.

“How long have you been with the Bend FBI office?”