A Merciful Secret(6)

By: Kendra Elliot

This was no ordinary spice cabinet.

The counter was spotless and extremely neat. A canister held a variety of kitchen utensils, and she noticed four different mortar-and-pestle sets along with two perfectly folded piles of clean rags. Precise stacks of glass bowls and small glasses. Mercy remembered the neatness of the open cabinets in the kitchen. Was Olivia the organizer or Morrigan’s mom?

“What do you think?” asked the deputy.

Bolton and Mercy exchanged a glance. “I think someone enjoys their hobbies,” stated Bolton. “Unusual hobbies in our eyes.”

“It’s definitely interesting,” agreed Mercy, wondering if Olivia dabbled in old-fashioned healing arts. Spells. Or maybe something else. She eyed the dried beetles and assorted other bugs as fairy tales of witchcraft buzzed in her head. Ridiculous.

“I don’t see blood on any of the blades, but I’ll have the techs take a closer look,” said Bolton. “I don’t think our murder weapon is here . . . although it could have come from here.” He pointed at a jar. “Are those chicken feet?”

Mercy smiled. Clearly Bolton wasn’t a farm boy. “Yes.”

He sighed. “I’ll find out how the techs want to handle this room.” He motioned for Mercy to leave ahead of him. In the hallway she spotted Natasha Lockhart, the medical examiner, with her black bag in hand. Her face lit up at the sight of Mercy. “Were you the FBI agent that I heard found the body?” she asked after a greeting.

“That was me. She was still alive when I got here.”

“Oh, good. You’ll make my job easier.” The tiny ME gestured for Mercy to follow her into the room where Olivia’s body waited. Detective Bolton stood silently in the doorway, his eyes missing nothing, and the deputy who’d found the knife room stayed solemnly behind him. Inside, the ME stopped and took a slow scan of the scene. The tech who had photographed Mercy waited in the room, his camera ready to shoot any photos requested by the ME.

Mercy swallowed and looked at Olivia. The crime scene team had rigged up a light, and its bright glare cast harsh shadows on the peaceful face of the dead woman. Mercy’s multiple field dressings still lay on the woman’s body, their edges turning brown as they dried. The woman had been slashed at least a dozen times. Deliberate torture or just rage? The quilt covering her legs had a wedding ring pattern, its lovely pale-blue and lavender pieces forever stained.

“What’s her name?” Natasha asked as she slipped on her gloves.

“Olivia,” Mercy said and then looked at Bolton. I never knew her last name.

“Olivia Sabin,” he answered.

The last name was faintly familiar to Mercy, which didn’t surprise her. She’d lived in the nearby tiny community of Eagle’s Nest until she was eighteen and had personally known a large percentage of the surrounding population. Her world had been much smaller back then.

“Is that your work?” Natasha gestured to the bandages.

Mercy nodded, unable to speak.

Natasha lifted the bandages and towels from the woman’s chest and stomach, softly clucking her tongue in sympathy. With gloved hands she probed at the deep slash in the abdomen. “Was she conscious?”

“For a few moments.”

“I suspect I’ll find a nicked artery. Just enough for her to slowly bleed out. Or possibly the trauma was too much for her heart.” She looked over her shoulder at Mercy, her gaze direct and firm. “I don’t think there was anything you could have done to change the outcome,” she stated, continuing to hold Mercy’s gaze.

Message received. The knot in her stomach loosened at the ME’s statement but didn’t fully unravel. She’d always have a sliver of doubt.

“Could she have cut herself?” asked the deputy.

“Only if the knife walked away on its own,” replied Bolton.

“The girl could have hid it,” suggested the deputy.

Mercy doubted it. Morrigan would have mentioned it.

Wouldn’t she?

Natasha’s hands moved deftly across the woman’s body, pressing here and there and bending the woman’s fingers, testing the range of movement.

“What time did she die?”