Konan’s sleep was haunted by Amber Wainwright. In his dream she smiled at him. He reached forth his hand to save her, but she refused to accept his help. A figured clothed in darkness cut her face and drove long, rusty nails into her tiny body. Konan watched helplessly as she was killed. The killer then sent a text message.
Konan came out of his sleep to the tune of his phone buzzing. Sleepily, he patted the bed to find it. He cracked one eye open and picked it up. It was Ashley Wilkinson. “Come to the lab, I have something to show you.” Konan showered, dressed and made him a cup of coffee in his favorite Yeti mug. At 0606, he boarded the bus and rode into town.
Ashley stood in the lab dressed in a black tee and a pair of khaki slacks. Her shoes were sensible, no stripper heels for her. She nodded to Konan.
“Morning, you look rough this morning,” she said. Konan sipped his coffee. He nodded.
“Yeah, I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. What do you have for me?”
Ashley smiled proudly; she placed a knife on the countertop. “Me and Pop-pop figured out what kind of knife the killer has used.”
“What is that?”
“This is a taxidermist double-edged fleshing knife. One side is razor sharp; the other is only moderate sharp. The razor edge is to cut through gristle and tough fur. That is the side the killer used. “
“It would explain the depth of the cuts but look at it. It’s unwieldy. An amateur would not be able to use this.”
“No. The assumption would be that the killer is experienced in the use of this tool.”
“Finally, we have caught a break. Thanks, Ashley. Tell Pop-pop I said thanks for the data.”
“You bet.” Konan turned toward the door but turned back around. “Hey, Ashley, do you have a moment?”
“Sure,” she replied as she shrugged on her white lab coat. “What’s up?”
“Do you drink coffee?” She smiled, and Konan waited for the rejection he knew was coming.
“I do. It gives me an edge.” She wrinkled her nose and grinned. Konan felt a smile tug at his lips.
“Maybe you would like to grab one someday.”
“Sure, we could do that.” Konan nodded and smiled a small smile.
“Okay. I will let you get to it.”
Konan turned and walked out the door. Ashley watched as he walked away. “He is so cute when he is awkward.”
Konan thought about the fleshing knife. He walked into the squad room and found Tomas and Wiggins neck deep in their files. They looked up when he approached.
“You guys found anything?”
“Nothing so far,” Wiggins wheezed. Tomas shook his head no. Konan dragged a chair close to their desk and sat down.
“I received a text from Ashley this morning. She has figured out the weapon. It’s a double-edged fleshing knife. The razor-sharp edge was used to make the deep cuts on the victims’ faces. “
“Jesus,” Tomas muttered. Konan didn’t think was possible, but Wiggins grew even more pale.
“Start a search for taxidermists that have a violent past. We need to get someone in here before Mayor Smith has a meltdown or the killer takes another victim.”
“Roger that,” Wiggins wheezed. There were three taxidermist businesses located inside of Fredericksburg, five outside of the city limits. “Surely, one of them has a dark past. Someone has to know something about this.”
Wiggins showed up in the Records Cage after lunch. He snacked on a Snickers bar as he gave Konan the lowdown.
“Of the eight taxidermists, two have a checkered past. Adam Philter had numerous run-ins with the law when he was younger. He spent most of his teenaged years in juvie. He is a scrapper. Adam was always in a fight somewhere.”
Konan listened and sipped some coffee. “Okay. Who is the other?”
“Brandon Watterson. He spent nine years in Parchman for assault with a deadly weapon, specifically a bladed weapon. To boot, his victim was a woman he met in a juke joint.”
“Where is he?”
“He lives way out in the woods.”
“Okay, you and Tomas pick him up. I want to talk to him.”
“Alright. Maybe this is the guy.”
Tomas and Wiggins left the station a little after 1300. It was an hour and a half before they got close to where Brandon Watterson lived. Tomas nodded out the window at the black water that pooled up on both sides of the road.
“What are those called?”
“What? The swamp?”
“Swamp. Yeah, that’s what they’re called. I heard someone call it a slough one time though.”
“Yeah,” Wiggins wheezed. “It’s the same thing.”
“You think there’s gators out there?”
“Probably. Among other things.”
“It’d be a bad place to die.”
“That’s why the water is so black, Tomas.” Wiggins wheezed for several moments. The humidity made it almost unbearable for him to breathe. “All my life I’ve heard that black water covers the dirty deeds done out here.”
Tomas pulled the car in front of a rickety shack. Heavy swamp moss hung from the branches of the old cedar trees. The front porch stretched in front of the shack; it was in a state of brokenness. Wiggins took point. A shop was parallel from the house. Grinding could be heard coming from the shop. They walked to it and pushed an old wooden door open. A figure leaned over a metal table; their face was covered with a blacked-out helmet. Sparks flew in every direction as the blade cut through.
Tomas looked around. Knives of various sizes hung from rusty nails. Animal heads hung from the walls. The grinder switched off. Tomas turned his attention back to the figure. Wiggins wheezed.
“What are you doing in my shop,” the figure asked. A large hand lifted the mask. A pair of angry eyes stared at the two Detectives.
“I’m Detective Wiggins, this is Detective Tomas. We’re looking for Brandon Watterson.”
“Why? I ain’t done nothin’.”
“You’re a taxidermist?”
Brandon gestured at the mounted heads on the wall. “Did ‘em all myself. Killed ‘em too.”
“That’s great,” Tomas muttered.
“Look, Brandon. We need your help with something. A killer has used one of these things,” he gestured to the knives on the wall, “to kill. We need your expertise to bring them to justice.”
“What do you mean no,” Wiggins wheezed.
“I ain’t helping no cop.”
“Okay. Then you’re under arrest for suspicion of murder,” Tomas said. “Place your hands behind your back.”
“No,” Brandon growled.