A Walk in Darkness…the complete writing (as of now)…unedited…

“So, you have no desire to get re-married?”

I sat in the small white office. It was as bland as the doctor I told my problems to. A diploma hung behind his metal desk. His desk was empty of clutter, the lone object on it was his desktop computer. Dr. Wilson Friskers peered over his glasses at me.

“No.”

“Why not? Do you find being single a better choice?”

“No,” I said as I shook my head. “I think that God put some of us on the planet to be alone. I’m one of them.”

“So, it’s God’s fault you’re not remarried?”

“No. It’s no one’s fault.”

“Then why not pursue love? Are you afraid to try again?”

“I’m not afraid. Why waste my time trying to find someone and going through all the trouble? People aren’t real with their feelings. Why go through all the effort, when they won’t stay? I’ve been in relationships before, they all end the same way.”

“How do they end?”

“Usually, the other party pulls up and leaves like a whimper in the night.”

“They just leave. Don’t you stay friends with them?”

“What sense does that make,” I asked. The doctor looked at me like I was nuts. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t made the leap to full-blown insanity. Part of me wanted to enjoy the full benefits of love. The other part was hell-bent to never experience anything to do with that dastardly emotion.

“You sound a bit jaded, son.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. You’re very bitter.”

“And that’s why I pay you 165 bucks an hour.”

“And now sarcasm…”

Dr. Friskers, I called him Doc, was a middle-aged man who looked like life had taken him behind the woodshed on numerous occasions. His gray hair was parted on the left side, his goatee was neatly trimmed. Doc looked professional. Tired. But professional.

He cleaned his glasses and looked at me. His eyes showed zero emotion. I was just a number to him. At this point in my life, I knew I meant nothing to most of the folks in my life.

Which pushed me to the point I am at today. It was time for a change. Doc looked at his watch and put his glasses back on. He smiled.

“Our time is drawing short, Fredericks. Is there anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

“No sir.”

“Well, I will see you next week. Does Thursday at 1300 fit in your schedule?”

“Sure.”

He reached for an ink pen and wrote down my appointment in his small ledger. I stood to my feet and turned to go to the door. Friskers stood and extended his hand to me.

“Thank you for your service to our country.”

“Sure. For all the good it did.”

I walked out and looked up at the sky. The sun sat high in the sky. People mowed their yards, the smell of fresh cut grass should have been strong, but I didn’t notice it.

My silver Dodge Ram 2500 sat by the curb. I bought it after things began to fall apart. It was the one thing I was proud of doing since I returned from war. Someone had keyed the entire truck in a fit of rage.

“Probably a jilted lover. Lord knows they’re a full-blown horror show when things go bad.”

Due to the scratches and other minor flaws, I got the truck at a drastically reduced price. I didn’t have a problem with the scratches on the truck, it reminded me of me. We’d both survived our experiences.

Large white flurries began to fall from the sky. I got in my truck and opened the large console. Yellow pill bottles littered the bottom. A bottle of whiskey lay in the floorboard. I poured a handful of pills and washed it down with whiskey.

“Time to go back to work.”

I drove through the snow to my new duty station. If you’ve seen one military posting, you’ve seen them all. I’d arrived at Colorado in December from Bayern. My transition from Germany back to the States had not been easy. Everywhere I looked, I saw signs of decay. The society I had fought to preserve was nowhere to be seen.

It was just another day in hell.

My soldiers were in the motorpool when I arrived back at work. Mondays was slotted as a day of maintenance. The rest of the week it was where I kept my squad; out of sight, out of mind was my creed.

For some reason or other, my soldiers respected my methods. I rewarded them time off when it was possible. In every situation, I proved I had their back. To top it off, I never asked them to do something I was unwilling to perform.

“Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and do what is necessary.” This had been true for the past several months in my life. With another deployment looming on the horizon, I was stressed beyond my limits. Weekly meetings with Friskers became my norm. I saw more of him than I did of my family.

Then, the marriage fell apart. Well, it fell apart years ago, we kept pretending everything was okay for a while. At the end of it, too much pain was spoken, and too little love was given.

We both conceded that continuing forward was futile. She moved out and took our children with her. I was alone with my bitterness. For a while, I had work to distract me from the pain in my heart.

Until that was taken from me to. Life happened all around me, but I was standing still. I was rooted to my personal ground zero. The ashes of the life I had built drifted lazily in the air. There was nothing more that I could do.

I had done more than my share of damage to my marriage. The trust we had started out with was nowhere to be found. My career had started with a bang and ended a quiet whisper. Three words sealed my fate:

Unfit for duty.

Those three little words, unfit for duty, destroyed whatever confidence I was left with given all that transpired. The house I bought for my family was repossessed. Everything seemed to fall apart at once.

I felt like Job in the Old Testament. My marriage was destroyed, my career lost, and to top it off, I had 90 seizures in seven months. Plus, I gained over 100 pounds in the same timeframe.

“Where’s my pile of ashes and sackcloth?”

Somewhere along my path in darkness, I came upon a spot where I gave up. The spontaneity I had lived my life with was gone. My humor changed. Somehow, I failed to notice the color of the leaves, the smell of fresh cut grass, the world had gone gray.

I would often quote Fiddler’s Green. It was something we said every Friday at the close of business.

Halfway down the trail to hell,

In a shady meadow green,

Are all the souls of dead troopers camped,

Near a good ole time canteen,

And this eternal resting place is known as Fiddlers Green.

Marching straight through to hell the infantry are seen,

Accompanied by artillery, engineers, and Marines,

For none but the shade of Cavalry men dismount at Fiddlers Green.

Though some go curving down the trail,

To seek a warmer scene,

No trooper ever’ gets to hell,

Ere he empties his canteen,

And so rides back to drink again with friends at Fiddlers Green.

So, when man and horse goes down,

Beneath a saber keen,

Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee,

He stops a bullet clean,

And the hostiles come to take his scalp,

Just empty your canteen,

And put your pistol to your head and go to Fiddlers Green.

For some reason the ending made sense to me. I had often considered suicide to be a coward’s way out of bad situations. Yet, every time I considered it as an option, I found more reasons to not go through with it. My family was almost twenty hours away in Mississippi, and I felt alone. Dark thoughts clouded my mind. I struggled to stay afloat, financially, but most importantly, in my mental health.

To combat the loneliness I felt, I went to McDonald’s every morning and had breakfast with a group of veterans. On most days it was enough to keep me on an even keel. The days it wasn’t enough, I had friends at the university that provided the balance I needed.

Still, the darkness persisted. I tried relationships, but they quickly lost their luster. The people I was involved with were great folks. It wasn’t their fault things didn’t work out. I’ve often heard that love is a matter of timing, if that’s the case, I have the worst timing in the history of ever.

Alone in the dark, I searched for hope. I found none. There was no light nowhere to be found.

I thought I had hit rock bottom, but I had no idea how wrong I was.

The cold winter air nipped at my neck, as the icy breeze blew through the pines. It didn’t help the concrete bench didn’t absorb heat. A small smile crept across my face.

“Mom was right, every day is not a bad day.”

I bounced between one horror and the next between 2013-2015. To combat my increasing weight, I joined a gym. It did little to alleviate the darkness in my mind. It was a distraction-nothing more.

Progress slowly came with the maximum effort I gave. My educational goals were losing their luster, I was going through the motions of having a life. In the loss of my house, funny isn’t it how a house is not a home without love in it, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. It was in the ghetto of Colorado Springs.

It didn’t take long for me to become discontented with the gym. Sure, I made progress, but it didn’t bring me peace. Of all the things I longed for, I wanted to be at peace.

“I’ve fought for over a decade, I’m done fighting. I just want to be a man of peace.”

And still, I struggled. I met many nice people during my studies, but few stuck around. Three people stuck it out with me. Today, I can say they are my friends, but only because they stuck by me when I was at my worst.

My disillusionment with life grated on my nerves. This non-caring, go through the motions husk was not who I am. I’d never been so low. At the end of 2015, I came home to find a notice on my door.

“Dear Resident,

In light of the recent repairs and upgrades to the apartments, there will be an increase in rent. Your payment, beginning 01 January 2016, will increase to 700 dollars a month. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.”

Questions were not in short supply. I had plenty of questions. “I can’t afford to live in this dump now, how will I make it come January?” There was only one option on the table, one lifeline left to me. I picked up my phone and called home.

“Hello,” my mother said on the other end of the line.

“Hey, mom. I’ve got a small problem.”

“What’s that?”

“My rent’s gone up again. There’s no way for me to stay here, can I move home?”

“You’ll have to ask your dad, hold on.”

Of course, my father told me to come home. In 2016, on a cold day in January, I moved home to Mississippi. Physically, I was home. Mentally though, I’d never left the blood-soaked sands of Iraq.

My mind was still a battlefield. Still, I was home.

Pawpaw always told me that things must get worse before they can get better. Things had gotten worse; would it ever get better?

Yeah, it would. Eventually. Every journey of recovery begins with a single step. Then another.

My first step toward recovery was moving home. I had spent a decade away from childhood friends and family. Time had slipped by. People who were children when I left, now had children of their own.

I was no longer the person they’d known. All around me were the whispers. “He’s changed,” they would mutter when I walked away. My personal favorite though was what they said when they thought I couldn’t hear them. “He knows better than to act like that.”

They were right. I did know better; I just didn’t care. My no-cares given attitude applied to my studies as well. The VA (Veterans Affairs) paid my tuition, and I should have cared. However, I was at the end of my rope with my math classes.

In a fit of frustration, I decided to call a local university to check for a tutor. They didn’t have one but put me in touch with a local teacher who assisted with all math-related chaos.

After speaking to the VA, I called the math teacher. She said she could meet me the following day. At noon, on a Tuesday if memory serves me correctly, I met her at a small trailer in an equally small town.

We became good friends rather quick, and with the same quickness, I brought my grades up with her help. My mom would drop me off at the trailer, and I would catch a ride home with my tutor. It was weird having someone I could depend on in my life after so much calamity ensued. Wonderful, but weird.

I came in to work on math and I sat at my usual spot at the end of the row. My chair was turned so I could face the door. I caught the tutor looking at me.

“What?”

“Nothing. Do you go to church?”

“Do I sound like someone who goes to church?”

“No.”

“Why do you ask?”

“I wondered if you would like to go with me.”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”

That was the whole conversation. For years I had wandered far from the way I was raised. Church was not something I did. My life had become a nightmare, and even with the horrors I lived with, I refused to acknowledge that church could help ease my burden.

My term ended, and I passed math. My tutor and I went our separate ways. Still, I could not shake the impact she had on my life. She made me want to be better than I was. I even broke down and went to church with her on a Wednesday night. I sat in the back and waited for the altar call. Then, I slipped out and went home.

Emotions I had not felt in years bubbled to the surface. I didn’t know what to do with them. So, I ignored them. Still, my mind drifted to the math tutor, and I often wondered what had become of her.

I stayed away from the math tutor and church. One day while I cruised social media, I came upon the math tutor’s picture. All those emotions I suppressed came back. “Quit it. You’re a train wreck, there’s no reason for you to destroy someone else.”

In a moment of pure spontaneity, I sent her a private message. It read something like this:

“Hey Sister,

Do you know of a good local church that I could attend? Hope you’re doing well.”

It took no time at all for me to get a response. She sent back:

“Yep. My church. Services are Wednesday night at 715, Sunday @ 1000 and 6. Hope to see you there.”

I started going to church, and the math tutor introduced me to her family. Everyone greeted me enthusiastically and made me feel welcome. Without even noticing it, I found peace. The more I went to church, the more peace I found. Sure, my life was still a train wreck, but with the mental clarity I found at church, I found the strength to pick up the pieces of my shattered life.

Now, if I could only do something about this rage I hid in my heart.

In my defense, or in the lack of it, my rage was brought on by my time at war. Well, it enhanced it at the very least. At war, everything moves quickly, and the tables can turn in a millisecond. I, along with many others, thought anger kept us sharp. “I’ve gotta keep my edge…” The problem with keeping an edge is that people who you should never hurt gets hurt because of the sharpness of said edge.

For someone who spent the bulk of his adult life fighting for one meaningless cause or another, it’s uncomfortable to allow your edge to dull.

If I was to be totally honest, anger didn’t help me during the war. It clouded my mind and kept me distant from people. “Trust no one but yourself,” was my mindset. War was like a big free-for-all, where the only rule was survival.

When I came home, I kept playing the game of life by the same rules. People I never meant to hurt, got injured by my mindset and the ensuing actions I took to stay alone.

I never meant to hurt anyone. Well, that’s not entirely true. I meant to hurt myself. When the quiet of night fell, I was all alone with my thoughts and all that transpired during my deployments. The long shadows of night were nothing compared to the shadows of my memories.

Church helped. I knew that God would forgive me, but I could not forgive myself for what I’d done. Blood stained my hands, and no amount of time would cleanse them.

Several years after moving home, I sought help. Granted, I was pushed to look for it. The nice thing about the VA is that there are good people that work there. I’ve been blessed to have people in my corner throughout my journey.

I still go to therapy, I’m better but far from perfect. Therapy helps. Church probably saved my life. I’m forever indebted to my math tutor. Her timely intervention was the shot in the arm that revealed that life was worth living. Of course, my story would not be complete without giving thanks to my family. You guys are always there, even when I am unworthy of your love and patience.

I’m not dumb enough to say I’ll never walk-through darkness again. If I must take that long walk, I know where to find my peace. It can be found at the feet of a man called Jesus.

A Walk in Darkness…new piece of writing, unedited and incomplete…

My first step toward recovery was moving home. I had spent a decade away from childhood friends and family. Time had slipped by. People who were children when I left, now had children of their own.

I was no longer the person they’d known. All around me were the whispers. “He’s changed,” they would mutter when I walked away. My personal favorite though was what they said when they thought I couldn’t hear them. “He knows better than to act like that.”

They were right. I did know better; I just didn’t care. My no-cares given attitude applied to my studies as well. The VA (Veterans Affairs) paid my tuition, and I should have cared. However, I was at the end of my rope with my math classes.

In a fit of frustration, I decided to call a local university to check for a tutor. They didn’t have one but put me in touch with a local teacher who assisted with all math-related chaos.

After speaking to the VA, I called the math teacher. She said she could meet me the following day. At noon, on a Tuesday if memory serves me correctly, I met her at a small trailer in an equally small town.

We became good friends rather quick, and with the same quickness, I brought my grades up with her help. My mom would drop me off at the trailer, and I would catch a ride home with my tutor. It was weird having someone I could depend on in my life after so much calamity ensued. Wonderful, but weird.

I came in to work on math and I sat at my usual spot at the end of the row. My chair was turned so I could face the door. I caught the tutor looking at me.

“What?”

“Nothing. Do you go to church?”

“Do I sound like someone who goes to church?”

“No.”

“Why do you ask?”

“I wondered if you would like to go with me.”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”

That was the whole conversation. For years I had wandered far from the way I was raised. Church was not something I did. My life had become a nightmare, and even with the horrors I lived with, I refused to acknowledge that church could help ease my burden.

My term ended, and I passed math. My tutor and I went our separate ways. Still, I could not shake the impact she had on my life. She made me want to be better than I was. I even broke down and went to church with her on a Wednesday night. I sat in the back and waited for the altar call. Then, I slipped out and went home.

Emotions I had not felt in years bubbled to the surface. I didn’t know what to do with them. So, I ignored them. Still, my mind would drift to the math tutor, and I often wondered what had become of her.

I stayed away from the math tutor and church. One day while I cruised social media, I came upon the math tutor’s picture. All those emotions I suppressed came back. “Quit it. You’re a train wreck, there’s no reason for you to destroy someone else.”

In a moment of pure spontaneity, I sent her a private message. It read something like this:

“Hey Sister,

Do you know of a good local church that I could attend? Hope you’re doing well.”

It took no time at all for me to get a response. She sent back:

“Yep. My church. Services are Wednesday night at 715, Sunday @ 1000 and 6. Hope to see you there.”

I started going to church, and the math tutor introduced me to her family. Everyone greeted me enthusiastically and made me feel welcome. Without even noticing it, I found peace. The more I went to church, the more peace I found. Sure, my life was still a train wreck, but with the mental clarity I found at church, I found the strength to pick up the pieces of my shattered life.

Now, if I could only do something about this rage I hid in my heart.

A Walk in Darkness…unedited, incomplete…

The cold winter air nipped at my neck, as the icy breeze blew through the pines. It didn’t help the concrete bench didn’t absorb heat. A small smile crept across my face.

“Mom was right, every day is not a bad day.”

I bounced between one horror and the next between 2013-2015. To combat my increasing weight, I joined a gym. It did little to alleviate the darkness in my mind. It was a distraction-nothing more.

Progress slowly came with the maximum effort I gave. My educational goals were losing their luster, I was going through the motions of having a life. In the loss of my house, funny isn’t it how a house is not a home without love in it, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. It was in the ghetto of Colorado Springs.

It didn’t take long for me to become discontented with the gym. Sure, I made progress, but it didn’t bring me peace. Of all the things I longed for, I wanted to be at peace.

“I’ve fought for over a decade, I’m done fighting. I just want to be a man of peace.”

And still, I struggled. I met many nice people during my studies, but few stuck around. Three people stuck it out with me. Today, I can say they are my friends, but only because they stuck by me when I was at my worst.

My disillusionment with life grated on my nerves. This non-caring, go through the motions husk was not who I am. I’d never been so low. At the end of 2015, I came home to find a notice on my door.

“Dear Resident,

In light of the recent repairs and upgrades to the apartments there will be an increase in rent. Your payment, beginning 01 January 2016, will increase to 700 dollars a month. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.”

Questions were not in short supply. I had plenty of questions. “I can’t afford to live in this dump now, how will I make it come January?” There was only one option on the table, one lifeline left to me. I picked up my phone and called home.

“Hello,” my mother said on the other end of the line.

“Hey, mom. I’ve got a small problem.”

“What’s that?”

“My rent’s gone up again. There’s no way for me to stay here, can I move home?”

“You’ll have to ask your dad, hold on.”

Of course, my father told me to come home. In 2016, on a cold day in January, I moved home to Mississippi. Physically, I was home. Mentally though, I’d never left the blood-soaked sands of Iraq.

My mind was still a battlefield. Still, I was home.

Pawpaw always told me that things must get worse before they can get better. Things had gotten worse; would it ever get better?

Yeah, it would. Eventually. Every journey of recovery begins with a single step. Then another.

A Walk in Darkness…new writing, unedited, incomplete…

Those three little words, unfit for duty, destroyed whatever confidence I was left with given all that transpired. The house I bought for my family was repossessed. Everything seemed to fall apart at once.

I felt like Job in the Old Testament. My marriage was destroyed, my career lost, and to top it off, I had 90 seizures in seven months. Plus, I gained over 100 pounds in the same timeframe.

“Where’s my pile of ashes and sackcloth?”

Somewhere along my path in darkness, I came upon a spot where I gave up. The spontaneity I had lived my life with was gone. My humor changed. Somehow, I failed to notice the color of the leaves, the smell of fresh cut grass, the world had gone gray.

I would often quote Fiddler’s Green. It was something we said every Friday at the close of business.

Halfway down the trail to hell,

In a shady meadow green,

Are all the souls of dead troopers camped,

Near a good ole time canteen,

And this eternal resting place is known as Fiddlers Green.

Though some go curving down the trail,

To seek a warmer scene,

No trooper ever’ gets to hell,

Ere he empties his canteen,

And so rides back to drink again with friends at Fiddlers Green.

So, when man and horse goes down,

Beneath a saber keen,

Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee,

You stop a bullet clean,

And the hostiles come to take your scalp,

Just empty your canteen,

And put your pistol to your head and go to Fiddlers Green.

For some reason the ending made sense to me. I had often considered suicide to be a coward’s way out of bad situations. Yet, every time I considered it as an option, I found more reasons to not go through with it. My family was almost twenty hours away in Mississippi, and I felt alone. Dark thoughts clouded my mind. I struggled to stay afloat, financially, but most importantly, in my mental health.

To combat the loneliness I felt, I went to McDonald’s every morning and had breakfast with a group of veterans. On most days it was enough to keep me on an even keel. The days it wasn’t enough, I had friends at the university that provided the balance I needed.

Still, the darkness persisted. I tried relationships, but they quickly lost their luster. The people I was involved with were great folks. It wasn’t their fault things didn’t work out. I’ve often heard that love is a matter of timing, if that’s the case, I have the worst timing in the history of ever.

Alone in the dark, I searched for hope. I found none. There was no light nowhere to be found.

I thought I had hit rock bottom, but I had no idea how wrong I was.

A Walk in Darkness…unedited, incomplete…

My soldiers were in the motorpool when I arrived back at work. Mondays was slotted as a day of maintenance. The rest of the week it was where I kept my squad; out of sight, out of mind was my creed.

For some reason or other, my soldiers respected my methods. I rewarded them time off when it was possible. In every situation, I proved I had their back. To top it off, I never asked them to do something I was unwilling to perform.

“Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and do what is necessary.” This had been true for the past several months in my life. With another deployment looming on the horizon, I was stressed beyond my limits. Weekly meetings with Friskers became my norm. I saw more of him than I did of my family.

Then, the marriage fell apart. Well, it fell apart years ago, we kept pretending everything was okay for a while. At the end of it, too much pain was spoken, and too little love was given.

We both conceded that continuing forward was futile. She moved out and took our children with her. I was alone with my bitterness. For a while, I had work to distract me from the pain in my heart.

Until that was taken from me to. Life happened all around me, but I was standing still. I was rooted to my personal ground zero. The ashes of the life I had built drifted lazily in the air. There was nothing more that I could do.

I had done more than my share of damage to my marriage. The trust we had started out with was nowhere to be found. My career had started with a bang and ended a quiet whisper. Three words sealed my fate:

Unfit for duty.

A Walk in Darkness…a new writing…unedited…

“So, you have no desire to get re-married?”

I sat in the small white office. It was as bland as the doctor I told my problems to. A diploma hung behind his metal desk. His desk was empty of clutter, the lone object on it was his desktop computer. Dr. Wilson Friskers peered over his glasses at me.

“No.”

“Why not? Do you find being single a better choice?”

“No,” I said as I shook my head. “I think that God put some of us on the planet to be alone. I’m one of them.”

“So, it’s God’s fault you’re not remarried?”

“No. It’s no one’s fault.”

“Then why not pursue love? Are you afraid to try again?”

“I’m not afraid. Why waste my time trying to find someone and going through all the trouble? People aren’t real with their feelings. Why go through all the effort, when they won’t stay? I’ve been in relationships before, they all end the same way.”

“How do they end?”

“Usually, the other party pulls up and leaves like a whimper in the night.”

“They just leave. Don’t you stay friends with them?”

“What sense does that make,” I asked. The doctor looked at me like I was nuts. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t made the leap to full-blown insanity. Part of me wanted to enjoy the full benefits of love. The other part was hell-bent to never experience anything to do with that dastardly emotion.

“You sound a bit jaded, son.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. You’re very bitter.”

“And that’s why I pay you 165 bucks an hour.”

“And now sarcasm…”

Dr. Friskers, I called him Doc, was a middle-aged man who looked like life had taken him behind the woodshed on numerous occasions. His gray hair was parted on the left side, his goatee was neatly trimmed. Doc looked professional. Tired. But professional.

He cleaned his glasses and looked at me. His eyes showed zero emotion. I was just a number to him. At this point in my life, I knew I meant nothing to most of the folks in my life.

Which pushed me to the point I am at today. It was time for a change. Doc looked at his watch and put his glasses back on. He smiled.

“Our time is drawing short, Fredericks. Is there anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

“No sir.”

“Well, I will see you next week. Does Thursday at 1300 fit in your schedule?”

“Sure.”

He reached for an ink pen and wrote down my appointment in his small ledger. I stood to my feet and turned to go to the door. Friskers stood and extended his hand to me.

“Thank you for your service to our country.”

“Sure. For all the good it did.”

I walked out and looked up at the sky. The sun sat high in the sky. The brightness of the sun should have been blinding, but I didn’t notice it.

My silver Dodge Ram 2500 sat by the curb. I bought it after things began to fall apart. It was the one thing I was proud of doing since I returned from war. Someone had keyed the entire truck in a fit of rage.

“Probably a jilted lover. Lord knows they’re a full-blown horror show when things go bad.”

Due to the scratches and other minor flaws, I got the truck at a drastically reduced price. I didn’t have a problem with the scratches on the truck, it reminded me of me. We’d both survived our experiences.

Large white flurries began to fall from the sky. I got in my truck and opened the large console. Yellow pill bottles littered the bottom. A bottle of whiskey lay in the floorboard. I poured a handful of pills and washed it down with whiskey.

“Time to go back to work.”

I drove through the snow to my new duty station. If you’ve seen one military posting, you’ve seen them all. I’d arrived to Colorado in December from Bayern. My transition from Germany back to the States had not been easy. Everywhere I looked, I saw signs of decay. The society I had fought to preserve was nowhere to be seen.

It was just another day in hell.

The Missing…

The flash of blue lights reflected in the window of the mobile home. Thermopolis Konan sat in his recliner and sipped his coffee. Heavy footsteps clamored across his porch. At three in the morning, no one should be on his porch or knocking at his door. The knocking continued until Konan finally answered the door.

“Good morning,” he said grumpily. The officer nodded and backed up a bit for Konan to walk out on his porch. Konan waited for the officer to fill him in.

“Um, are you Thermopolis Konan? The former detective?”

“You’re not sure you are at the right place, officer?”

“Um, hold on a second…”

The officer pulled out his notepad and checked his notes. He stared at Konan, Konan sipped his coffee and waited. The cop closed his notebook.

“Sir, I’m at the right place. Your presence is requested at the waterway.”

“Look, it’s three in the morning. I’m tired, I want to get some sleep. So, tell whoever requested my presence to get bent.”

“Sir, a murder has occurred. You are needed.”

“Listen, Junior. I am not a cop. Okay? Do you get it? I don’t do that anymore. Go away.”

Konan walked back into his trailer and shut the door. The cop shut off the blue lights and drove back down his dirt driveway. Konan leaned back in his recliner and shut his eyes. Sleep slipped over him like a warm blanket, and in seconds he was sound asleep.

It didn’t last. Less than an hour later, another knock sounded at the door. Konan stirred in the recliner. He cracked an eye open and stared at the door.

“Thermopolis, open the freaking door.”

Konan leaped out of the recliner and stumbled to the door. He stared out the peephole. Detective David Tomas of the Fredericksburg Police Department continued to hammer the door. Konan threw the door open and stepped out on the porch.

“What in the name of Almighty God do you people want,” Konan shouted. “It’s not even five o’clock in the freaking morning. What?”

Tomas stared at Konan for several moments before he spoke. In all the time he had known Konan, he had never seen him lose his cool.

“I’m sorry, we’ve bothered you Konan. Chief Janko would like to see you at the waterway.”

Konan stepped close to Tomas and stared into his eyes. The flash of teeth reminded Tomas of a hungry shark.

“You tell Janko I said to get screwed. Okay? I was fired for arresting his friend, I don’t work for the city or him anymore. You got that? Good day.”

Konan walked back into his trailer, for the second time this morning, and fell back into his recliner. He shut off his lamp and fell asleep once again.

#

Tomas returned to the waterway. He had to park at the gate and walk to the crime scene. Chief Janko stood outside of the ticker tape and watched the forensic team search the scene. Janko looked like a walrus. His head was cartoonishly big, his mustache was long and bushy. So were his eyebrows.

“No luck with Konan,” he asked Tomas nonchalantly. Tomas shook his head no. Janko waited for Tomas to speak. He pulled out a beef stick and bit of one end.

“Uh, no Chief. He told me and you to get screwed. He said he doesn’t work for us any longer.”

“Well, that part is true. He was fired. Did you tell him what happened here?”

“No, sir. He didn’t let me get a word in edgewise.”

Janko nibbled at the beef stick and shook his head. He chewed loudly and wiped at the sweat dripping off his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Alright. I’ll go talk to him.” Tomas wasn’t sure what Janko thought he could do when two other people had failed, but he shrugged and said, “okay.”

The first paragraph of each new scene or chapter should begin with the style “Normal.”

Somehow during the early morning hours, Konan left his recliner and got on the couch. He tossed and turned and finally got up at 0745. He opened a crate of eggs and placed eight in his Instant Pot. After setting the timer, he brewed some coffee. A knock came at the door.

Konan shook his head and walked to the door. He peeped out and scowled when he saw it was Janko.

“What do you people want,” he said through the door.

‘I need to talk to you, Thermopolis.”

“You’ve got five minutes to make your case. Come in.”

Janko walked in and looked around the mobile home. Various pieces of art hung on the walls, along with a shadow box that held an American flag and his medals from his days in the Army.

“Nice place you have here,” Janko said. Konan glared at him.

“What do you want?”

Janko sat at the bar and watched Konan peel boiled eggs in the sink. Konan said nothing, and Janko wiped at his mustache.

“People have disappeared recently. They were kidnapped, but then they have begun to reappear.”

“So? Call the cops.”

Janko rolled his eyes and wiped his mustache again. Konan continued to peel eggs.

“They’re showing up dead, Konan. Then, they are staged in full view of the public. We could use your help.”

Konan shook his head and muttered, “no.” Janko got up from the bar and stretched his arms to the ceiling. He could tell by the gleam in Konan’s eye that he was interested but was turning him down out of spite.

“It won’t be like last time, Konan. I promise.”

“Is Lilly involved with the case?”

“She can be, IF you return. She was recently promoted to Lieutenant, but I can put her in the field with you. Heck, you solve this, and I will give you your badge back.”

“I don’t want it back.”

Janko sighed and shook his head. Konan took out three boiled eggs and covered them with salsa.

“You’re being spiteful. Do this for us, and you can request anything you want.”

“I don’t want the badge back. I don’t want to work for you either. I’ll make a go of it as a consultant. You want my help; you pay me to help. To top it all off, I choose the cases I work.”

Janko stuck out his hand, Konan shook it.

“Deal. Set your rates and give me a copy of it. I only ask that you help with this case first.”

“Deal. Now get out of my house.”

[Chapter 2] — The Missing

Mary Mathieu, M&M to her friends, was your typical college student. She was a hedonist. Her great love was pleasure, and she sought it wherever she could find it. Even in the woods hiking along the waterway.

Mary attended a prestigious law school in Mississippi. Originally from the Mid-West, she had fallen in love with the people and scenery of her new home. She spent most of her weekends hiking various parts of the state.

“Hiking does the body good,” she told her friends. At 25, she was worried about clocking out before she had fully enjoyed her time on Planet Earth.

As she walked the trails along the waterway, she would stop and listen. Further up the trail she heard a branch break. She stopped and knelt. She pulled out her phone and waited. A doe walked out onto the trail with her fawn. Mary shot a photo and smiled. The deer blew at her, and they bounded back into the woods.

Mary stood up and sighed. She was overcome with a sense of dread and turned around. A black clad figure waved at her, and a massive right hand crashed into her jaw. Her world went black as she fell into unconsciousness.

Mary came to in a room full of darkness. It was damp, somewhere in the inky blackness of her prison, water dripped to the floor. Silent tears wet her cheeks. The air smelled of mildew, her breath caught in her throat.

“Where am I? What do they want?”

She wanted to scream, but she fought the urge to do so. Defiantly, she decided she would not give her captors the pleasure of hearing her beg.

“I may be kidnapped and held in a damp prison, but I am not going to give up hope. Someone will find me[A1] .”

In the damp dark room, Mary kept hope alive. What else could she do? As a psychology major, she knew that defeat began in the mind.

“Everything will work out. I have to stay strong until it does.”

Jacob Walter Wanton, 28, sat in the café and waited for his company to arrive. His coffee was cold. He’d ordered it ten minutes ago, and when the waitress brought it out it was lukewarm. Jacob didn’t complain. He wasn’t that kind of person. Still, it stirred his inner demons to know that his cold coffee was probably done intentionally.

It was the downside to being a bully in high school. People couldn’t remember what they did five minutes ago, but twenty years later they could tell you what you did to them in high school.

Movement at the door caught his attention. His company had arrived.

“Hello, Jacob. I trust everything has gone according to schedule?”

“Yes sir. Everything is on point.”

The man sat down across from Jacob. He wore a black fedora, a black shirt, khakis, and mirrored sunglasses. His round face was unshaven. The man never smiled, or at least, Jacob had never seen him smile. One time he had grinned. His company’s teeth were immaculate.

“I trust that you took all the necessary precautions?”

“Yes sir. I followed your instructions to the letter.”

“Good. You know what’s at stake. Do not disappoint me.”

Jacob nodded. He knew the consequences of failure. “There can’t be any disruption to the plan. I can’t afford for anything to go wrong.”

The man waved for the waitress to come over. He ordered coffee. Moments later, the waitress brought back his coffee. He took a sip. A dark look crossed his face. The man spit the coffee back into the cup and waved the waitress back over.

“Yes, sir. Do you need something.”

“Yes. I ordered coffee; this is not coffee.”

“I beg your pardon. It is coffee. I poured it myself.”

“Coffee is hot. This is not hot, ergo it’s not coffee.”

“I’ll bring you some more…”

“Don’t bother. We are leaving.”

“You must pay, sir.”

“For what? I didn’t enjoy my beverage; my company has been here the entire time and hasn’t touched his. I assume because it is cold. Thus, we owe you nothing. Good day.”

The man stood and walked out. Jacob and the waitress watched as he left. Jacob stood and walked out a few moments later in wonder of what had transpired.

“The nerve of some people.”

Trapped in the dark, Mary lost track of time. She strained her ears for any sound that would signal she wasn’t alone. There was nothing but the drip of water.

It was enough to drive her mad.

Konan finished his breakfast and changed into jeans, a tee, and his boots. He lived mere moments from the waterway. Per his normal routine, he started his day with 25 pushups. Then, he walked out to his red Dodge flatbed truck and drove to the waterway.

A dirt road led to the banks of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. It appeared as if the entire Fredericksburg Police Department, and Sheriff’s Department had deployed to the crime scene. Konan pulled off the road and walked to the large gaggle gathered on the banks of the river.

Janko, Tia Mather’s replacement, watched as Konan walked toward them. After his visit he returned to the crime scene.

“Nice of you to join us,” Janko said.

“Where’s the body?”

“What’s left is strapped to the rocks down there,” Janko said. He lifted his chin in the direction of the body.

Without a word, Konan walked toward the body. It didn’t take long to find it. The torso was strapped to the rocks. What was left of the head hung down by a strand of flesh.

“Animals feasted on the body,” Tammy Bowen said.

“Yeah, looks like it. What exactly tore into her?”

“Gators most like, some coyotes, Lord only knows what else.”

“Any idea how long she was dead?”

“She was reported missing three weeks ago. A rough estimate of T.O.D. is two weeks ago.”

Konan frowned and scratched his beard. “Why wait until now to pose the body?”

Tammy Bowen watched Konan. It was apparent that he was deep in thought. Konan looked around. The body wasn’t underneath the bridge, but it couldn’t be seen from the bridge.

“They brought the body in at night. Whoever did it is local. The only other logical explanation was that they took a chance on the location and got lucky. That doesn’t compute though.”

Konan sipped his coffee. There were too many questions that begged for answers. Right now, though Konan needed a refill and a look at the other bodies.

Preferably, one that hadn’t been a Snak-Pak for Mother Nature’s beasties.

Hank Calder III walked down the street of Fredericksburg from his meeting with Jacob. He smiled at everyone he passed, often waving to people he did not know. As far as he was concerned, the world was not a nice place. The planet was run by people who though the apex of society was those with money. Thus, the earth was filled with jerks. He wished there were more nice people in the world. For this reason, his work was vital. Hank thought of Jacob and the next phase of his plan. Everything was coming together, in fact, things had gone so well that he would be able to move up his timetable even earlier than he hoped.

Mary came to in the dark. The drip, drip, drip of the water was somehow soothing to her. It wasn’t the water that had woken her, it was the rattle of the key in the door. The door swung open and for a moment she felt the elation of hope.

Then, it was over.

[Chapter 2] — [Enter Chapter Title Here]

 

Konan scheduled to see the bodies of the victims the following day with Tammy Bowen. There was nothing more he could do at the scene. It would take time for forensics to draw any conclusions. Given the condition of this body, there would be minimal evidence gathered.

“It’s a Petri dish of animal saliva. Maybe they can find something useful. Maybe.”

Konan walked up the dirt road to his truck. There was too much to be done, and too little time to do it. He was new to the ‘consultant detective’ business, but he was well-acquainted with the murder business. If the rest of the bodies were displayed in such grotesque manner, the troubles were just beginning.

Chief Janko and Detective Tomas watched as Konan walked away.

“He doesn’t say a whole lot, does he Chief?”

“Konan? No. The man is half bloodhound I swear. If anyone can sniff out trouble, it’s him.”

“So, why fire him?”

“He made enemies with the wrong people…”

“Meaning?”

“He made enemies with people who should have been his friends. Tia Mathers was wrong for what she had done, but she was popular with many elected officials in town. He bagged Tia; her friends buried Konan. They made it impossible for him to stay.”

 

Mary had never ridden in the back of a truck before. This was her first time. The bright sunlight filtered through the tree branches in a kaleidoscope of colors. She had spent the bulk of her life sheltered by over-protective parents.

“Don’t do this, Mary. Don’t hangout with those thugs, Mary.” On and on it had went. University had set her free from the oppressive demands of her folks. Now, she was free to live life the way she wanted.

Except now, she was trussed up like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day and was transported to what may be her last destination. She yearned for the oppressive yoke of her parents.

At 0730 the following morning, Konan drove to the county morgue. Tammy Bowen sat at her desk; her head rested upon the corner. Eyes closed, mouth agape, she snored lightly. Tammy was in the same clothes she wore yesterday at the crime scene.

“Tammy, it’s Konan.”

She cracked one eye open and stared at him. Tammy yawned.

“You’re early,” she grumbled.

“Yeah, that whole ‘early bird gets the worm crap.’ I need to see the bodies, and then I have drop by the department and drop off my rates.”

“You’re getting revenge for them firing you?”

“Nah. A poor man has to eat. That means a poor man has to work.”

“Well, let’s get to it.”

Tammy pulled out three bodies, they were labeled ‘1,2,3’. She walked to the first victim and pulled back the sheet.

“This is Isaac Wizen. He was 18, a freshman At Victory University. He disappeared two weeks after the start of his first term. Some claimed it was a hazing gone bad. He was found a week later in the park.”

“Cause of death?”

“Oxy overdose, if he hadn’t disappeared for two weeks and then showed back up in the park, foul play would’ve never been considered.”

“Victim #2?”

Tammy covered up #1 and pulled the sheet back from the second victim.

“This unfortunate lady is Tasha Wilkinson. She was a professor at Hendricks University just over the state line. Tasha lived here and worked there. She disappeared for two weeks and reappeared outside of the local grocery.”

“Say again?”

“Yeah. The owner found her on a bench next to the Coke machines. Poor guy about had a heart attack.”

“I bet. Cause of death?”

“Oxy overdose. Yep, same cause of death, same timeframe. Both victims one and two are exactly similar.”

“But victim number three is different, right?”

“Indeed. My preliminary finding is that the woman was punished. She has severe lacerations over her entire body, broken ribs, and a bruised esophagus.”

“Jesus.”

“She was also cut in half. I’ve ran tests but the results are pending. I’ll know if she was alive when whoever sawed her in had when the results are in.”

“Alright. I’ll let you get back to your nap, Tammy.”’

“Okay. Before you go, have you spoken to Lilly?”

“Not since I got unceremoniously dumped.”

“You should talk to her. She’s missed you.”

Konan nodded. He had missed Lilly, though it pained him to remember the times they had shared. Many times, he felt a strong tug of affection for Lilly. He suspected that she too felt that tug for him. However, they never acted upon their feelings because that would jeopardize their partnership.

There was nothing in the way of them following their heart now. It was time to for them to follow the desire of their hearts.

Outside of the Fredericksburg Daily News, Mary sat on the bench which also served as the ‘smoke area’. She was alone. The lone journalistic hack was in prior to six a.m. Mary had been on the bench since 0100.

At 0604, local celebrity Tina Walton walked toward Mary. She frowned. “What in the world?” Black plumes of smoke wafted from the bench.

Mary was on fire. Her eyes vacant, and her lips were frozen in a weird smile that said, “I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t stop it.”

Tina Walton fell to her knees on the sidewalk and emptied the contents of her stomach on the dew-kissed grass.

Konan was right. The trouble was just beginning.

[Chapter 3] — [Enter Chapter Title Here]

Konan’s phone rang at 0300. Angrily, he looked at his phone. It was Lilly.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself. You weren’t asleep, were you?”

“Yeah. I was asleep. What’s up?”

“We have another person. She’s well done. Meet me at Fredericksburg Daily News.”

“Alright.”

Konan dressed in jeans, boots, and a blue denim shirt. He stared in his bathroom mirror. New lines were at the corners of his eyes. “You’re too old for this crap. Between murder, psychopaths, and all forms of human evil, you’ve gotten old sport.”

He left his mobile home at 0320. Traffic was light. The only thing that was open besides convenience stores was the Donut House. Konan stopped and ordered a dozen donuts and a large coffee.

“Well done she said. That means a burned corpse. I better stop and grab something to throw down my neck.  I’d hate to throw up on an empty stomach.”

Konan pulled up in front of the building. The smell of burned flesh was strong, even in the parking lot. A gaggle of officers, techs, and Konan assumed staff, stood near the main door. Lilly turned and waved him over.

“Are you ready for this?”

“Yeah, Lilly. What happened here?”

“Our gal Crispy was on fire when the anchor for Fredericksburg Today found her this morning.”

“So, where is the body?”

“Tammy took her to the morgue. It was bad, Konan. The grass is going to die because of the sheer amount of vomit on it.”

“Jesus. Guess I will go to the morgue. Any clues as to who is committing these acts?”

“No, but here is an interesting tidbit. The first two victims disappeared for two weeks and then was killed and staged a week later, right? Then, the third was missing for a week and a half, killed a week later. Crispy was missing for four days, killed this morning. The violence is escalating. “

Konan sipped some coffee and opened the box of donuts. He took a bite and sipped some more coffee.

“The killer is devolving. He or she must kill more often to relive the thrill. There’ll be more bodies until we find him or her.”

“I better wake the mayor and Chief Janko. God knows, they need to build a story to spin for the media whores.”

“Alright. I’ll catch ya later.”

“Um, before you go, Konan. We need to talk. Wanna grab lunch at O’Shea’s?”

“Sure. It’s been a while since I saw Paddy and Esther.”

“Okay. I’ll see you there at 1230.”

“Sounds good. See you then, Lilly.”

Paddy O’Shea smiled when Konan and Lilly walked in. He hugged Lilly and shook Konan’s hand.

“Long time, no see. Where’ve you guys been?”

Lilly jerked her thumb toward Konan. Paddy nodded knowingly.

“This one got fired. I’ve been busy. Sorry it’s been so long, Paddy. It’s good to see you.”

Paddy led them into the back of the restaurant to their table. Lilly and Konan slid in.

“It’s great to see you to. Darling.” Paddy pointed at Konan. “He’s incomplete without you.”

Lilly blushed and smiled shyly. Konan rolled his eyes.

“What’s today’s special,” Konan asked trying to change the subject.

“It’s liver, onions, and gravy on a plate of mashed taters. You want it?”

“Sounds good.”

Lilly shook her head in disgust. “None for me. I’ll have steak and taters.”

“Alright, I’ll get it to you. See you in a bit.” Paddy walked into the back. Seconds later, a waitress brought two glasses of sweet tea to the table. She disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

“So, what did you want to talk about, Lilly?”

Lilly blushed and looked at the table. She sipped her tea and smiled a sad smile at Konan.

“I’m pregnant, Konan.” Lilly took a sip of her tea.

“Um….it’s not mine.”

Lilly coughed and covered her mouth. She stared at him. Konan waited. “All this time we have been together, and now, we can’t even…”

“When you got fired, I was so angry at you. I went to a pub and had way too much to drink. One bad decision led to another.”

“Okay.”

“The father wants me to get an abortion. He said, and I quote, “I ain’t the settling down kind of man.”

“Wow. You got you an English Major, huh?” Lilly snickered. She shook her head.

“No. He wasn’t Mr. Right, more of Mr. Right Now.”

“So….”

“I’m not killing my child, Konan. Why would I take my bad decision making out on an innocent life?”

Konan shrugged. What could he say? All his hopes for a future lay dashed at his feet.

“You know, all the time that I felt such affection for you, I…”

“I felt it too, Konan.”

“I guess that’s that then. It was my hope since we no longer are partners…”

Lilly nodded and tears welled up in her eyes. Being a mother was not in her bailiwick, but her maternal instinct would kick in. Konan had no doubts she would make a wonderful mother.

Silence grew between them. Konan watched as the server brought out their food.

“At least this has gone right today.”

While Konan and Lilly ate their lunch, Lilly tried to think of a way to tell Konan that she still felt the same way she did the first time she’d met him. “Just because I am pregnant doesn’t mean that we can’t love each other. Why does this crap emotion have to be so complicated?”

Anything she said concerning her love for Konan now would only cheapen the moment. She wondered if he still felt the same about her. He was focused on his liver and gravy. Lilly cut into her steak.

Love is a wonderful thing, but it is also a train wreck of emotions that overpower commonsense. Maybe things were better this way.

Time would tell if love was in the cards for the two of them. Or if the threads of their fate was intertwined together.

They could figure it out, after they solved this murder mystery.

Paddy waited for Konan to finish his meal. He stood at the counter when Konan and Lilly came up to pay. He hugged Lilly.

“Can I have a word with you, nephew?”

“Sure.”

“Let’s go outside for a moment.”

Paddy and Konan walked outside. It was raining. As is typical in Mississippi, rain showed up whenever it wanted. No season was exempt. Konan leaned against a post of the back porch; Paddy shoved an unlit cigar into his mouth.

“What’s going on, uncle?”

Paddy sighed.

 “Ah, boy. Here it comes,” Konan thought. He grimaced.

“Your dad wanted me to ask what you are doing for work. He wanted me to offer you a job here at the pub, I told him you wouldn’t accept my help. Your father insisted I ask, so, do you want a job here at O’Shea’s?”

“I have a job, Paddy. Although, it was kind of you to offer me one. If this whole ‘consultant’ gig doesn’t pay off, I’ll be back to take you up on it.”

“It ain’t no thang.”

Paddy chewed on the cigar. Konan watched the rain come down.

“Kid, it’s no business of mine, but does Lilly seem kind of peekish to you?”

“Peakish?”

Paddy pointed his finger at his stomach. Konan nodded.

“Yeah.”

“You’re going to be a dad? Oh man, your father will flip out!”

“It’s not mine, Paddy.”

Paddy’s face fell. He shook his hand and muttered, “of course not. There’s no end to our rotten luck.”

They stood silent on the back porch. Esther came out and joined them.

“You’re partner is sitting in the foyer, Konan. She’s not looking too hot. You need to check on her.”

“Thanks, Esther. I better go.”

“Don’t be so long between visit’s, nephew.”

“Okay.”

Konan walked through the restaurant. The ‘who’s who’ of Fredericksburg had turned out for lunch. On his way out, he saw Mayor Smith, and other notable figures from the state.

Mayor Tim Smith nodded at Konan. “I would rather die than shake hands with that oxygen thief,” Konan sighed. His firing was only a few months ago, but bitterness had crept in Konan’s heart.

He had no intention of being rude or spiteful to anyone, but he refused to acknowledge those who had thrown him under the bus. He walked by Mayor Smith and stopped in the foyer. Lilly sat on the bench. Her face had a gray tint to it.

“Are you okay?”

“I don’t know, I’ve got to puke.”

Konan helped Lilly to her feet and walked her to the ladies’ bathroom. He leaned against the wall and waited on her to do her business. An old man sat on the bench.

“What are y’all having,” he asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Your wife, she’s pregnant, isn’t she?”

“Oh. Um, not sure what she’s having. I just found out she’s with child.”

Lilly walked out and the old man smiled. He gave Lilly a nod, she nodded back.

“Y’all make a beautiful couple,” the old man said. “I wish you both lots of happiness. There’s nothing like being a parent. It’s an important job. Good luck.”

“Um, thank you,” the detectives said in unison. The old man smiled.

Konan was glad when he and Lilly departed O’Shea’s. His mind was out of sorts. Everything he had planned for his future lay at his feet in a pile of rubble.

“Sometimes you’re the bug, other days you’re the windshield. Guess it’s my turn to be the bug…”

Hank Calder watched the news. The body of Mary was being reported as an isolated incident. He frowned. This was not what he wanted things to happen. “All my plans have gone through without a hitch. Still, my work is not recognized.”

Like all great artisans his genius would probably go undervalued until he passed. He had no plans to die anytime soon. Thus, he would need to make his work the focal point of every conversation, his methods would be discussed by every media corporation, his intricate patterns would be the envy of the whole world.

And if people still ignored it, he would unleash his demons upon the unsuspecting populace and carve his name in their corpses.

Konan dropped Lilly off at her apartment. He’d stopped three times in the ten-minute drive to let her vomit. He walked her to her door. She hugged his neck tightly.

“Thanks for listening, Konan. And for bringing me home.”

“Of course. Feel better, sooner rather than later.”

“I will. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to pay a visit to our local drug peddlers. Two of three murders involve Oxycodone. Medical professionals don’t usually jeopardize their medical licenses by haphazardly handing out free candy.”

“That’s true. Take backup, Konan. Some of these guys are habitual users of their own product, and they won’t hesitate to gun you down.”

“Will do.”

Konan left Lilly standing in the door and drove back to O’Shea’s. Paddy watched as he pulled in.

It was time to pay a visit to Mad Michael, and for his sake, Konan hoped he had answers. Lilly’s pregnancy made his blood boil. He wanted a target for his anger.

A drug dealer that sold Oxycodone to a mass murder would make a great target.

Paddy stood outside the pub talking to Brutus when Konan walked up.

“You’re back. It’s like you never left nephew.”

“I need to see Mad Michael, but maybe you can help me.”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“I’m looking for someone who sells Oxy through illegal means. Someone who doesn’t care who he would sell to. You know anyone like that, Paddy?”

Brutus watched Konan. He frowned. The wrinkles on his large forehead made Konan think of a Pug-nosed dog.

“Can’t say I do. I stay busy with the operation of the pub; I don’t have time to consort with drug dealers.”

“What about you, Brutus?”

“I don’t talk to cops.”

“Okay, then consider us friends. Talk to your friend.”

“You’re not my friend, pig.”

“You know, Brutus, I could take you downtown for questioning. Your silence makes me think you know something.”

Paddy stepped between them. Brutus glared at Konan, and Konan smiled.

“Come on, boys. There’s no need for all this. Let’s go inside and have a drink.”

“I’m not sure Brutus agrees with you Paddy.”

“How about I throw you a beating, pig?”

“Come to daddy, Brutus.”

Brutus, the 6’8 mountain of muscle, snarled at Konan in response. His balled-up fist was the size of a sledgehammer head. Paddy stepped out of the way and gave Konan a look that said: “You’ve stepped in it now.”

“I’m gonna beat you bad, pig. Nobody talks to me like that.”

Konan said nothing. He waited for the haymaker he knew was coming. Brutus took two steps toward him and unleashed his Sunday punch.

The massive fist had serious momentum behind it. Konan mistimed his sidestep, the edge of the fist clipped his chin. He grunted and took a step back. Brutus followed that haymaker with another. This time, Konan deftly stepped to the side and up. He lashed a side kick that connected with Brutus’s knee. The crack of the knee breaking caused Paddy to grimace. Brutus cried out. Konan gave him a soccer kick to the head that silenced him.

“Jesus,” Paddy said. “You broke him. He was the best doorman I had.”

“Get some cold water.”

Paddy shook his head and went inside. He came back with a mop bucket of cold water. Konan took it from him and threw it on Brutus.

“I’m gonna call an ambulance.”

“Not yet.”

Brutus stirred and grasped his knee. Konan walked over to him and placed a knee on his throat. He pressed down. Brutus began to rasp. Konan some of the pressure off.

“Give me a name, Brutus. Or I’m going to hurt you.”

“Screw you, pig.”

Konan punched him in the throat. Brutus gasped for air. Konan hit him again, and again. Paddy watched as his nephew rained blow after blow onto Brutus’s throat and face.

“We call him Richie Rich. He’s some rich white boy from the nice part of town. He’s got the hook up for Oxy.”

“What’s he drive, and I want a description. Don’t leave anything out.”

“I want an ambulance….”

“You can have one right after you give me what I want.”

Brutus described Richie Rich, and Konan stood to his feet. Konan cut his eyes to Paddy.

“Who is he, Paddy?”

“You need to talk to your dad. He knows who he is, I guarantee it.”

Konan walked out to his truck. “Figures,” he thought bitterly. “If you’re a scumbag, my dad knows you. He wonders why I don’t visit more often.” The big diesel engine rumbled to life, and Konan drove to Parchman State Prison to interrogate the father he despised so much.

Mad Michael sat in the interview room when Konan walked in. Konan looked at Michael, his father returned his stared. Esther sat next to Michael.

“Well, if it’s not my long estranged son. What do you want now, officer?”

“It’s detective.”

“Oooh pardon me, Detective. What do you want?”

“Richie Rich, a drug peddler. I want a name and any background you can give me.”

Esther laughed, and Michael forced a smile. His smile was cold, the look in his eyes promised violence.

“You come in here all the time barking, snarling, acting like a tough guy. Why don’t you try again, this time with more respect?”

“I don’t get paid to kiss your butt, Michael.”

“And I don’t have to help you. You’re a prissy prima-donna, a no-good, worthless, sack of human excrement. Good day.”

Michael got up from the table and banged on the door. A guard came and took him to his cell. Esther shook her head.

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

“I don’t have time to coddle him. He doesn’t want to help; he doesn’t have to.”

“He’s right you know. You come in here demanding answers to questions like he owes you money or something. You never say hello, you never ask how he’s doing. You’ve slammed the door on any hope or redemption he may seek. Now, you’re here yelling about some junkie kid. It never ends with you.”

“That junkie kid, Esther, could be supplying a serial killer with Oxy. Now, I know that pales in comparison to the ‘family reunion’ Michael dreams of at night. I still need to catch him, before he or she decides to kill another victim.”

Esther nodded and sighed. She slid a piece of paper over to Konan. Written on the parchment was a name: Ric Villers.

“Your father wrote it down before you came in here like a lunatic. He also wanted to tell you something important. That doesn’t matter now, so I’ll tell you. He has cancer, Konan. It’s terminal. The doctor said he would not live through the month.”

Esther waited for a response. Konan scooped up the name and stood.

“I’ve got to run this lead down, Esther. Tell him…I’ll be back, and we’ll talk. I’m sure he has some things he needs to say. It won’t take long for me to handle this.”

Esther nodded. “I’ll let him know.”


The Missing…new writing, unedited…

“Sometimes you’re the bug, other days you’re the windshield. Guess it’s my turn to be the bug…”

Hank Calder watched the news. The body of Mary was being reported as an isolated incident. He frowned. This was not how he wanted things to happen. “All my plans have gone through without a hitch. Still, my work is not recognized.”

Like all great artisans, his genius would probably go undervalued until he passed away. He had no plans to die anytime soon. Thus, he would need to make his work the focal point of every conversation, his methods needed to be discussed by every media corporation, his intricate patterns would be the envy of the whole world.

And if people still ignored it, he would unleash his demons upon the unsuspecting populace and carve his name in their corpses.

Konan dropped Lilly off at her apartment. He’d stopped three times in the ten-minute drive to let her vomit. He walked her to her door. She hugged his neck tightly.

“Thanks for listening, Konan. And for bringing me home.”

“Of course. Feel better, sooner rather than later.”

“I will. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to pay a visit to our local drug peddlers. Two of three murders involve Oxycodone. Medical professionals don’t usually jeopardize their medical licenses by haphazardly handing out free candy.”

“That’s true. Take backup, Konan. Some of these guys are habitual users of their own product, and they won’t hesitate to gun you down.”

“Will do.”

Konan left Lilly standing in the door and drove back to O’Shea’s. Paddy watched as he pulled in.

It was time to pay a visit to Mad Michael, and for his sake, Konan hoped he had answers. Lilly’s pregnancy made his blood boil. He wanted a target for his anger.

A drug dealer that sold Oxycodone to a mass murder would make a great target.

Paddy stood outside the pub talking to Brutus when Konan walked up.

“You’re back. It’s like you never left nephew.”

“I need to see Mad Michael, but maybe you can help me.”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“I’m looking for someone who sells Oxy through illegal means. Someone who doesn’t care who he would sell to. You know anyone like that, Paddy?”

Brutus watched Konan. He frowned. The wrinkles on his large forehead made Konan think of a Pug-nosed dog.

“Can’t say I do. I stay busy with the operation of the pub; I don’t have time to consort with drug dealers.”

“What about you, Brutus?”

“I don’t talk to cops.”

“Okay, then consider us friends. Talk to your friend.”

“You’re not my friend, pig.”

“You know, Brutus, I could take you downtown for questioning. Your silence makes me think you know something.”

Paddy stepped between them. Brutus glared at Konan, and Konan smiled.

“Come on, boys. There’s no need for all this. Let’s go inside and have a drink.”

“I’m not sure Brutus agrees with you Paddy.”

“How about I throw you a beating, pig?”

“Come to daddy, Brutus.”

Rainy weather.

Good afternoon.

It’s rainy here. I got up this morning and helped roll 50 dozen tamales for my church. I am a bit tired.

Unfortunately, I have nothing written today-other than this smidgen of a post. Recently, I have been intrigued by nature. Human nature.

I am rolling it over in my mind, maybe I will make a fictional story about someone struggling with their nature.

Lord knows I struggle with mine.

Well, the rain has stopped. This guy is tired. I’ll catch you guys later.

Another part of The Missing…unedited and incomplete…

Paddy waited for Konan to finish his meal. He stood at the counter when Konan and Lilly came up to pay. He hugged Lilly.

“Can I have a word with you, nephew?”

“Sure.”

“Let’s go outside for a moment.”

Paddy and Konan walked outside. It was raining. As is typical in Mississippi, rain showed up whenever it wanted. No season was exempt. Konan leaned against a post of the back porch; Paddy shoved an unlit cigar into his mouth.

“What’s going on, uncle?”

Paddy sighed.

 “Ah, boy. Here it comes,” Konan thought. He grimaced.

“Your dad wanted me to ask what you are doing for work. He wanted me to offer you a job here at the pub, I told him you wouldn’t accept my help. Your father insisted I ask, so, do you want a job here at O’Shea’s?”

“I have a job, Paddy. Although, it was kind of you to offer me one. If this whole ‘consultant’ gig doesn’t pay off, I’ll be back to take you up on it.”

“It ain’t no thang.”

Paddy chewed on the cigar. Konan watched the rain come down.

“Kid, it’s no business of mine, but does Lilly seem kind of sickly to you?”

“Sick?”

Paddy pointed his finger at his stomach. Konan nodded.

“Yeah.”

“You’re going to be a dad? Oh man, your father will flip out!”

“It’s not mine, Paddy.”

Paddy’s face fell. He shook his head and muttered, “of course not. There’s no end to our rotten luck.”

They stood silent on the back porch. Esther came out and joined them.

“You’re partner is sitting in the foyer, Konan. She’s not looking too hot. You need to check on her.”

“Thanks, Esther. I better go.”

“Don’t be so long between visit’s, nephew.”

“Okay.”

Konan walked through the restaurant. The ‘who’s who’ of Fredericksburg had turned up for lunch. On his way out, he saw Mayor Smith, and other notable figures from the state.

Mayor Tim Smith nodded at Konan. “I would rather die than shake hands with that oxygen thief,” Konan sighed. His firing was only a few months ago, but bitterness had crept in Konan’s heart.

He had no intention of being rude or spiteful to anyone, but he refused to acknowledge those who had thrown him under the bus. He walked by Mayor Smith and stopped in the foyer. Lilly sat on the bench. Her face had a bluish- gray tint to it.

“Are you okay?”

“I don’t know, I’ve got to puke.”

Konan helped Lilly to her feet and walked her to the ladies’ bathroom. He leaned against the wall and waited on her to do her business. An old man sat on the bench.

“What are y’all having,” he asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Your wife, she’s pregnant, isn’t she?”

“Oh. Um, not sure what she’s having. I just found out she’s with child.”

Lilly walked out and the old man smiled. He gave Lilly a nod, she nodded back.

“Y’all make a beautiful couple,” the old man said. “I wish you both lots of happiness. There’s nothing like being a parent. It’s an important job. Good luck.”

“Um, thank you,” the detectives said in unison. The old man smiled.

Konan had never been so glad to leave the pub. There was no time to focus on his pregnant friend. He was billing the city to solve these homicides.

It was time to work.