A Merciful Secret(9)

By: Kendra Elliot


Instant relief left a throbbing ache in Truman’s head.

“Pretty crazy situation. No phone service or vehicles present,” continued the deputy. “Her ten-year-old granddaughter flagged down a passing vehicle in the middle of the night.”

“Let me guess. An FBI agent was driving that vehicle.”

Surprise filled the deputy’s face. “You already heard?”

“Lucky guess.” Truman blew out a huge breath. “Is the agent still here?”

“Yeah, she is.”





FOUR

Mercy sat next to Morrigan on the bench, the child’s tiny hand clenching hers.

In the morning light, Mercy saw the girl was much thinner than her first impression. She didn’t look malnourished, she looked wiry. Childish energy radiated from her, and she frequently squirmed on the hard seat. Detective Bolton had suggested they conduct the interview indoors, but Mercy had argued for the fresh air. And distance from Morrigan’s grandmother’s body. Now they were outside, the detective sitting across from them on a low stool he’d found in the house. He introduced himself and explained who Mercy was.

Morrigan drew back slightly and studied Mercy from head to toe. “You’re a government agent?”

There was a touch of scorn in her voice, and Mercy wondered what antigovernment stories Morrigan had grown up with. They weren’t uncommon out here.

“I’m an investigator for the United States,” she simplified. “Just as Detective Bolton works for the people who live in Deschutes County, I work for all the people who live in the United States. Including your grandmother and you.” She smiled, hoping to set the girl’s suspicious mind at ease.

A small crease appeared between her brows, and after a moment her shoulders sank in acceptance. “I guess it’s okay if I talk to you. You tried to help my grandmother.” She blinked rapidly.

“I did. I wish I could have saved her.” Who told her not to talk to government agents?

“There was a lot of blood,” Morrigan said slowly. “I don’t think anyone could have helped her.”

“Morrigan,” said Bolton in a kind voice, “do you know what happened to your grandmother?”

“She got cut.”

“But how did she get cut?”

The girl leaned into Mercy’s side, turning her face away from the questioning detective.

“I don’t know,” she whispered into the sleeve of Mercy’s coat.

“Was there anyone else in the house last night?” Bolton asked.

Morrigan shook her head, her hair rustling against Mercy’s coat.

“Did you hear anything? Did your grandmother call out to you?

The girl sniffed and ran her forearm under her nose, risking a glance at Bolton. “No. I used the bathroom and went in her room because I heard her chanting and it didn’t sound right. It sounded like she couldn’t breathe.”

“Did you ask her what happened at that point?”

“I don’t think so. I could see the cuts, but I didn’t know what to do.”

“Wasn’t it dark? How could you see?”

“She sleeps with a tiny lamp on all night. She says it keeps away the bad spirits.”

Mercy remembered the hurricane lamp and how she hadn’t been able to turn on the lights. “How come the lights in the home don’t work, Morrigan?”

“Some of them do. We just need to buy more bulbs. Mom keeps forgetting.”

“You said your mother was out of town,” said Bolton. “But you don’t know when she’s coming back, right?”

The girl nodded.

“Where do you go to school, Morrigan?” asked Mercy.

“I’m homeschooled. My grandmother teaches me . . . taught me.” Her face crinkled up and fresh tears flowed.

“Do you have other relatives close by?” Bolton asked.

Morrigan shook her head. “There’s just us.”

“But you have cousins or aunts and uncles that live somewhere else, right?” suggested Mercy.

“No, it’s just us.”

Mercy met Bolton’s gaze. None? She filed the question away to ask Morrigan’s mother when she showed up. If she showed up. Mercy was having her doubts about a woman who left no way for her daughter to reach her. She knew Bolton had tried the cell number several more times and sent texts to the number. No response.

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