“. . . shooting yesterday.”
Ava blinked as she realized she’d let her mind wander. “I’m sorry. What’d you say about the shooting?”
“It’s just horrible. How can anyone feel safe in public?” Jayne asked with an appropriate amount of concern, in contrast to her out-of-control emotions from six months earlier. “That’s the second shooting this summer.”
Ava didn’t mention she’d been at the mall. There were a lot of things she didn’t tell her twin—like her new address. Jayne and her drugged-up ex-boyfriend had broken into Mason’s old home and stolen personal property.
Ava no longer revealed anything personal in conversations with Jayne. She’d mastered the art of being “specifically vague.” Jayne didn’t know Ava was on vacation, she didn’t know she’d bought a new house, and she didn’t know Ava had dreams of marrying Mason on a beach someday.
Theirs wasn’t the typical twin relationship; Jayne had crushed Ava’s trust over and over. Now Ava operated under a new rule: Share as little information as possible.
But she’d discovered she still loved to idly chat with her twin. Lately the conversations had been blessedly calm and rational, and they only seemed to improve. Ava’s brain took a rest as her twin carried 90 percent of the conversation.
Has Jayne finally harnessed her demons?
Wait and see. Don’t trust her. Hard lessons learned from her wombmate, Jayne McLane.
“You can’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from your regular life,” Ava advised. “Yes, the shootings are horrible and they severely traumatize our population. But we can’t let them win.”
“Our shop has a plan of what to do if someone is shooting.”
“Every business should.”
Jayne was silent for a moment and then changed the topic to describe a watercolor painting she’d recently admired. Ava relaxed and pretended she was a normal woman with a mentally healthy twin.
Much better than watching an autopsy on a gunshot wound to the head.
“Traffic,” Mason muttered in excuse for his lateness as he entered the autopsy suite. “The 205 freeway was a parking lot.”
Ray rocked back on his heels and grinned. “Shoulda left home earlier.”
Mason glared at him. Ray knew he was anal about being on time. He was going to hear about this for the next six months.
Dr. Seth Rutledge was speaking into the microphone over the autopsy table. He held a hand up at Mason, but didn’t pause in his recitation. Glancing at the white body on the table, Mason realized he’d missed the whole thing. That was fine with him. An autopsy wasn’t a surgery of tiny, delicate incisions. It was strong, long gashes and skin ripped from half the face. There was no need to be careful around arteries or worry about causing harm to the patient.
An assistant was stitching closed the big Y on the shooter’s chest, and the corpse’s scalp had clearly been folded back into place after Rutledge finished with the subject’s brain, except the hair didn’t look right. The young man’s hair and scalp dipped in concavities where hard skull should have provided support. Part of Mason wanted to walk over and straighten it. The rest of him wanted to turn around and go back to his car. The odor of burned bone from the skull saw lingered with other odors he didn’t want to think about.
“Anyone else make it in time?” Mason asked Ray.
“Two investigators from Washington County just left.”
Shit. No doubt the Washington County sheriff would hear that he’d missed the autopsy.
“We’ve got a good lead on an ID,” Ray said eagerly.
“Whatcha got?” Mason asked.
Ray pulled his notebook out of his shirt pocket. “Justin Yoder. Age twenty. His mom called in after hearing about the tattoo this morning. She says he didn’t come home from work yesterday, but his work claims he never showed up. Lives in Beaverton.”
“Only twenty? Did he look that young?” He looked back at the body. “What’s Rutledge think?”
“Says it’s possible.”
“What about dental comparisons?”
“His mother gave me the name of his dentist and they were open at seven this morning. They immediately emailed over current X-rays. Lacey is looking at them in her office and doing a comparison to the films she took earlier.”
Mason nodded, knowing Dr. Lacey Campbell was the odontologist for the medical examiner’s office. “Let’s go find her.” He glanced back at Dr. Rutledge, who was still recording his findings. “Anything else I should know about right away?”
Ray jerked his head toward the doors and they walked out of the suite. “Healthy kid. Fit. Had eggs and hash browns for breakfast along with orange juice.”
“Jesus Christ. You make it sound like he had an ordinary day planned.”
“Maybe he did.”
“You don’t walk into a mall and start shooting on a regular day.”
“So he should have done it on an empty stomach?”
Mason rolled his eyes. “Tell me something else Dr. Rutledge found out about the shooter.”
“He blew a big hole in his brain and out the back of his skull.” Ray looked down at the floor as they strode down the hall, his usual vigor subdued.
Mason glanced sideways at him and mentally searched for the age of Ray’s son. He couldn’t be over fifteen . . . probably closer to twelve. He shoved all thoughts of his own son, Jake, out of his head. If anyone’s kid was close to the age of the kid on the table, it was Mason’s. “What kind of tattoo was on his upper arm?”