Raised off the grid by survivalists, Mercy Kilpatrick believed in no greater safeguard than the backwoods of Oregon. Unforgiven by her father for abandoning the fold for the FBI, Mercy still holds to her past convictions. They’re in her blood. They’re her secrets—as guarded as her private survival retreat hidden away in the foothills.
In a cabin near her hideaway, Mercy encounters a young girl whose grandmother is dying from multiple knife wounds. Hundreds of miles away, a body is discovered slashed to death in a similar way. The victims—a city judge and an old woman living in the woods—couldn’t be more different. With the help of police chief Truman Daly, Mercy must find the killer before the body count rises. Mercy knows that the past has an edge on her. So does her family. How can she keep her secrets now…when they’re the only things that can save her?
Truman Daly checked his phone for the twentieth time as he strode toward the police station.
Mercy still hadn’t replied to his good-morning text.
It was their routine. After the nights they didn’t spend together, they texted each other in the morning. She should have been up by now. He knew she had planned to spend a few hours in the evening at her cabin, and that those visits often went past midnight, but she never overslept.
A subtle uneasiness stirred in his belly.
He kicked a clump of dirty packed snow off the sidewalk and pulled open his department’s door, a small sense of pride shooting through him at the sight of his name below the Eagle’s Nest Police Department logo. Police Chief Truman Daly. He loved his job and considered it an honor to help the people of his tiny town. He’d given big-city police departments a try; it wasn’t for him. He enjoyed the closeness of the community and had learned nearly every resident’s name over the last year.
“Morning, boss,” Lucas said, his big bulk squeezed behind his desk. “Nothing urgent yet this morning.”
“Thanks, Lucas.” Truman eyed the bright-red reindeer on his office manager’s sweater as he took off his cowboy hat. “You know Christmas has been over for a month, right?”
The nineteen-year-old man glanced down. “I like this sweater. It’s cold, so I wore it. Makes more people smile now than when I wore it in December.”
“Good point. Who’s here?”
“Royce went out to a car accident, and Ben should be in any minute.”
The uneasiness in his belly grew. “Any injuries in the car accident?”
“Nah, a fender bender and then one slid into a ditch. Both men are fine.”
His tension loosened. Not her. Mercy had been in a horrible car accident last November, and her silence this morning was deafening to him.
He headed down the hall to his office, texting Mercy’s niece Kaylie as he walked.
Tell Mercy to check her phone.
The response was immediate.
She’s not here.
Where is she?
His phone buzzed in his hand as Kaylie called.
“She wasn’t here when I got up this morning,” the teenager told him.
“What time did she leave last night?”
“Around seven. Right after we ate. She said she’d be back after midnight.”
“Did she come home and then leave early this morning?” Truman’s uneasiness blossomed.
“I don’t think so. There’s no coffee in the pot. She always makes coffee.”
Kaylie didn’t sound concerned. “She probably slept at the cabin. She does that sometimes. I assume you tried to call her?”
“Cell service out there is spotty. Drives me crazy,” she said with teenage disgust.
“Tell her to call me if you hear from her.”
Truman stared at his unanswered texts. I have to go out there.
Mercy’s cabin was her lifeline. Her center. Her balance. An upbringing in a family of preppers had left her with a soul-deep need to always be prepared in case of TEOTWAWKI. The end of the world as we know it. Truman understood the logic behind having a supply of water and rations in case of an emergency, but Mercy took it to a whole other level. She could live at her cabin indefinitely if the world drastically changed. Truman admired her dedication and didn’t say a word when she spent hours chopping wood in the middle of the night or combed antique stores searching for old tools to replace electric or gas-powered ones.
She could have sliced an artery with her ax.
“Shit.” He turned around, crammed his hat back on, and marched out to the reception area. “Lucas? I’m heading out. Call me if you need me.”
“Hey, wait. This just came in. Elsie Jenkins can’t get off her property because the highway snowplow left a huge pile at the end of her drive.”
Truman pictured her rural farmhouse. “We only got six inches.”
“Yeah, she said somehow the plows left all the snow to kingdom come blocking her drive. Her words, not mine.”
“She’s been stuck there for three days?”
“She waited to see if it’d melt down. But now she’s low on Scotch and Triscuits. Again, her words.”
Her old farm was in the general direction of Mercy’s cabin. “I’m on it. Tell her I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Got a good snow shovel?” Lucas asked.
About the Author
Kendra Elliot has landed on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list multiple times and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series and the Mercy Kilpatrick novels. Kendra is a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls. She was born, raised, and still lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters but looks forward to the day she can live in flip-flops. Visit her at www.kendraelliot.com.