A Merciful Secret (Page 32)

Mercy halted her slow escape. “You just got here.” If Ava and Eddie left, she’d be out of the loop.

“I’ve seen the scene and talked to Christian Lake. The warrant will take a little time, and the tire treads need to be taken by a crime scene tech, not us. I don’t see what else there is for us to do right now. Any other evidence results can be emailed to me, and I don’t want to sit around waiting for it. What I want to do is meet with the judge’s assistant, check the video footage, and see if there is any truth to the mystery visitor. I also want to talk with the judge’s ex-wife again. Christian painted a different picture of Brenda Lake compared to what I picked up during my first interview with her.” She looked at Eddie. “You’ll go with me.”

Eddie glanced at Mercy, and she spotted the sympathy in his eyes. He knew she was personally invested in the case and wanted to be close to the investigation. “Just for a few days,” he agreed.

“Then you need to go today,” said Mercy reluctantly. “The next round of storms is supposed to start tonight, and the passes will get hammered with snow.”

Ava checked the clock on the wall. “Good idea. Can you be ready in a half hour?” she asked Eddie, who blanched.

“Give me an hour.”

“Seriously?” Ava asked. “Clothes, toothbrush, and toothpaste. What else do men pack?”

Mercy coughed. She’d seen Eddie spend twenty minutes on his hair and iron three different shirts before he was satisfied with how he looked. Packing with urgency wasn’t something he knew how to do.

“I need an hour,” he confirmed.

“Fine. Meet back here. One hour.”

Mercy told them both good-bye and called to see if Truman could meet her for lunch. She got in her vehicle and decided to get a big dessert to soothe her disappointment about being left behind as the investigation moved to Portland. She walked into her favorite farm-to-table café and spotted that damned reporter at a window table, sinking a fork into the exact gooey chocolate bread pudding she’d planned to order. Michael Brody spotted her and waved her over.

Not who I want to talk to.

But she went anyway and even sat down when he stood and gestured at an empty seat directly across from him.

What am I doing?

“You’re looking at me as if you suspect I stole your car.” He took an enormous bite of the dessert and her stomach growled.

“Ava confirmed she knows you.”

“I don’t lie. Not too much, anyway.” Another bite disappeared into his mouth.

The waitress stopped at the table, her hands full of dishes. “The usual, Mercy?”


“Is Truman coming too?” she asked.

“He’s trying to. Don’t put his order in yet.”

She nodded and took her load into the kitchen.

Michael raised a brow at her. “That confirms my impression that the food here is really good. My sandwich wasn’t a fluke.” He looked at his dessert. “And this makes me consider moving to Bend.”

“When are you leaving?” Mercy asked. The reporter made her want to scratch her neck. She couldn’t relax around him.

Amusement lit his green eyes. “Ready to get rid of me so soon?”

Mercy said nothing.

He took a sip of coffee and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “I still need to interview Christian Lake. I’m doing a big article on his father’s legacy. I can’t do it justice without talking to the sons, but he’s not taking my phone calls.” He held her gaze.

There’s no way he found out that I know Christian.

“Maybe you should start with the other son,” she suggested.

“I plan to talk to Gabriel after I talk to Christian. Brenda Lake too. She’s already agreed to meet with me to talk about her ex.” His big smile told her he’d charmed the judge’s ex-wife into an interview. “I’ve done all my research about Malcolm Lake’s role in the D’Angelo case. Of course, I remember a lot of it from when it happened. It was hard to miss.”

Mercy agreed. The notorious movie star Beau D’Angelo had murdered his wife during a visit to Portland. Malcolm Lake had shot to fame as the trial judge who told D’Angelo to shut the fuck up when he complained during a witness’s testimony. The national press had already blanketed the trial with coverage, and D’Angelo’s marriage and career were daily news staples. But once the judge’s curse caught the media’s attention, their repetitious reporting created a new celebrity. Eventually D’Angelo walked on a technicality and the public uproar was deafening. For a brief time Judge Malcolm Lake was a household name. In Portland he became the most wanted guest for every elite dinner party and fund-raiser. He fed on the attention, and lawyers whispered that the coverage had inflated his ego.

Mercy faintly remembered reading about Christian in some articles during the trial, usually as one of the judge’s successful sons. She wondered how he had felt about the publicity. Now it was back again, and she’d heard the judge’s murder was the top news story every evening. National media had descended on Portland and filled its airtime with flashbacks of the famous Beau D’Angelo trial. Before the trial the movie star had backed out of a signed contract because he would be stuck in a courtroom for a month. His career tanked. A few years later he popped up on a reality TV show, stranded on an island with other minor celebrities. D’Angelo was the first one kicked off the island, hated by the other contestants on the show. Last night Mercy had watched an online interview clip in which D’Angelo had shared kind words about the judge, stating his thoughts and prayers were with the judge’s family.

Thoughts and prayers.

Mercy tried not to snort.

Not a word had been said in the news about the death of Olivia Sabin. So far the reporter across the table appeared to be the only member of the media who had connected the two cases. Mercy crossed her fingers that time would stay on their side, keeping the media out of this aspect of the investigation.

The waitress set down a spinach salad topped with a few slices of medium-rare steak in front of Mercy. Michael eyed it. “I should have known you were a salad person.”

Then her own serving of chocolate bread pudding appeared.

He grinned. “That’s more like it.” His gaze shot over her shoulder, and Mercy knew Truman had arrived.

Truman squeezed her shoulder and leaned down to kiss her before shaking Michael’s hand. Mercy spotted the same caution in Truman’s gaze that she felt around the reporter. He wouldn’t let his guard down either. He took the chair next to her and raised a finger at their waitress across the restaurant, who nodded and winked at him.

Truman always gets the female winks.

Or the lingering stares and the second glances. Especially when he wore his coat and badge. He naturally exuded stability, integrity, and honor. He was crack for women. Single or married.

“Are you getting a salad too?” Michael asked.

“Not today. It’s a BLT for me,” answered Truman. He picked up a fork and took a bite of Mercy’s dessert. “Sweet baby cheeses, that’s as incredible as always.”

Truman had not had a sweet tooth until he met her. Sugar was one of Mercy’s primary vices. One she’d been unable to shake. That and caffeine. She’d laid in a huge store of the luxury items at her cabin.

Her father wouldn’t have approved.