A Merciful Secret(5)

By: Kendra Elliot

The detective looked up from his pad, surprise in his eyes. “That’s a new one. I want to talk to Morrigan, but I don’t want to question her without a relative or CPS present.” He looked at his watch. “CPS couldn’t tell me when someone would get here, and I hate to let much time pass. She’s young. Her story might change.” Frustration crossed the detective’s face.

“I can sit in,” said Mercy. “I believe she trusts me, and considering the gravity of the situation, I think I qualify as an acceptable advocate.”

The detective gave her a measuring look, weighing his options.

“Detective?” A deputy stood in the open door to the house. “I think you should take a look at this.”

Detective Bolton immediately stood, shoved his notepad and recorder in his pocket, and strode to the house.

Mercy followed.

As they moved down the narrow hallway, Detective Bolton glanced over his shoulder at Mercy. She met his gaze head-on.

I know this is your investigation. But I’m coming anyway.

The deputy led them to an open door near the back of the house and then stepped aside. “We didn’t know this room was here until a minute ago. The door was made to blend in with the hallway’s wood paneling. I noticed a slight gap at the bottom where the paneling didn’t quite line up with the carpet and gave the wall a push. I’ve never found a secret room before.” Excitement danced in his eyes.

“Nice job.” Bolton slapped him on the shoulder.

“It’s tight in there,” the deputy warned them. Bolton stepped through the doorway and halted. Mercy looked over his shoulder, thankful for her above-average height, and caught her breath. The windowless room had a rough wood counter on one side, with open shelves filling the wall above. On the opposite wall were knives. Hundreds of them. Their blades stuck to a dozen magnetic strips that went the length of the room.

“Someone is a collector,” muttered Bolton.

Mercy silently agreed, her gaze scanning knife after knife. “This is incredible.” Knives the size of her pinkie, knives as long as her arm, military-grade knives, knives that looked forged by hand, elaborate carved handles of wood, metal, and ivory, etched blades and curved blades. She looked for blank spots in the collection, wondering if the murder weapon had been removed from the wall. As far as she could tell, all were present. Would anyone know if one was missing?

“No murder weapon has been found yet, right?” she asked.

“No,” said the deputy.

There was barely enough room between the counter and knife wall for two people to stand, but she and Bolton crowded into the space.

“Check out the jars,” suggested the deputy.

Dozens of glass jars of all sizes filled the open shelves in perfect rows. Looking closer, Mercy saw powders, dried leaves, and rather crispy-looking dried bugs. She wrinkled her nose and leaned closer, spying a jar full of tiny translucent scorpions. None of the mismatched bottles were labeled. Mercy could recognize most fresh herbs, but the dried ones were difficult to her unpracticed eye. She couldn’t guess the names of the powders. Rough yellow grains, fine white dust, chunky brown crumbs, fine gray grit. Jar after jar after jar.

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.

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