Konan left Judith’s office and started his walk back to the station. As he made his way across the town square, he thought of his visit. “All these years have passed, and Judith still looks the same.” He thought of her perfect face, her relaxed posture, and her child named Konan.
“It’s too bad she is married now. Things may have been different this time around.”Student protestors had gathered outside of the courthouse/city hall. It’s nothing new here in Fredericksburg. Today they protested against the new poultry plant that would bring new jobs to the area. Tomorrow they would be back protesting something else.
Konan shook his head.
“There are so many angry young people in the world today. Where did all this anger come from? They’re angry about nothing.”
Konan focus was all over the place. Try as he might, Konan could not focus his attention on the case. He wanted to go back and convince Judith to try again. “You’re an idiot,” Konan chided himself. “It didn’t work the first time, why would you go back?”
Still, he wanted Judith.
Dark clouds had rolled in, and large drops of rain fell to the earth. Konan hurried toward his destination. By the time he made it to the station, he was soaked.
Tomas waited for him on the steps. He waved Konan over to a bench that was underneath an overhang.
“What’s up, Tomas?”
“Ashley’s grandfather is waiting for you in Room #1.”
“Dude, do none of you know how to use a phone?”
“He just got here.”
“How did he react? Does he seem stressed?”
“No. He walked in, sat down, and asked for a cup of coffee.”
“Did he bring in a lawyer.”
“Alright. Let me go talk to him.”
“Okay. I’ll be behind the glass.”
Konan peeled off the button-down shirt he had worn and walked into the room wearing a soaked white t-shirt and his slacks. His shoes made a squish, squish, sound when he walked to the table.
Pop-pop watched him with an amused smirk on his face. His lips pulled back into a wolfish grin.
“Hey, Konan. Looks like you ran into some rain.” The old man chuckled. Konan nodded his head north and south.
“Yeah, it came down a few minutes ago.” He sat down across from Pop-pop. The old man kept grinning, and Konan watched him. “He doesn’t look like a killer.”
“Ashley said you had some questions?”
“Yeah. Do you know a taxidermist named Watterson?”
“Know him? Yeah, I know him. I trained him.”
“Did you know he was a criminal?” The old man guffawed. Konan watched him for any signs of deceit, but the old man never wavered.
“Son, you’re better than that. Everyone makes mistakes, Konan. Should our mistakes be held against for the rest of our lives?”
“I don’t know,” Konan answered truthfully. “It probably depends on the type of mistake you made.”
“So, you don’t forgive and forget?”
“No, I’m more discover and arrest.”
The old man smiled and ran a hand through his white beard. His eyes locked on to Konan’s in some bizarre type of challenge.
“Was Watterson a good student?”
“Yeah, he picked the blade work up pretty well.”
“He said you were exemplary with the blade yourself.”
“I should be,” the old man retorted. “I’ve done the work for five decades. I’ve trained probably hundreds in the craft as well. If you haven’t learned anything about your craft in five decades, you suck. No offense meant to anyone.”
Konan leaned back in his chair and squirmed uncomfortably in his wet clothing. Unable to stand it anymore, he stood up.
“Pop, I hate to ask you to stick around, but I have more questions. These clothes are driving me nuts. Do you mind if I change right quick?”
“No, knock yourself out.”
Konan walked out of the room, his shoes went squish, squish, squish. Tomas and Janko stepped out of the room behind the glass. “What do you think,” Janko asked.
“I don’t know, yet. He is a cool customer. Let him stew while I change.”
“You got it,” Tomas responded.
Konan decided that a bird bath was in order. A bird bath was a quick wipe down of everything that stinks on the human body. Konan always carried a backpack with extra clothing and baby wipes. He pulled out his pack and pulled out three baby wipes. He wiped down his body and applied fresh deodorant. He changed into a pair of Wrangler Jeans, Red Wing boots, and a Carhartt tee. He felt like a new man. He made his way back to Room #1.
Pop-pop looked up when he walked in. Konan nodded at him.
“Thanks for letting me change, I needed to get out of those wet clothes.”
“Does Ashley know the taxidermy trade by chance?”
Pop forced a smile and laced his fingers. He nodded his head, but his eyes locked onto Konan’s.
“She does. As a matter of fact, she was the first one I taught the skill to. Ashley is all sorts of handy with a blade.”
“Yeah, you would expect her to be handy with one. After all, she is our medical examiner.”
“Do you have a list of the people you trained? I need to speak to these folks to get them off my list.”
“Or put them on one…”
“I’m just doing my job, Pop.”
“Yeah, I know. I do not have a list, but I could generate one for you if you would like.”
“Great, that would be a huge help.”
“I’ll run it by in the morning.”
“Sure. One last thing, who taught you the craft.”
“I learned it from my old man. He learned to use a blade in the service, I learned from him and Uncle Sam. I have passed my knowledge on to others, so the craft doesn’t die.”
“I understand, sir. Thank you for coming in and answering my questions.”
“Sure, Thermos. No problem.”
Janko and Tomas stopped by after Ashley’s grandfather left and sat across from him. Janko’s face was tighter than poor Dick’s hatband. His eyes were narrowed, his mouth a tight line, and his breathing was shallow. Tomas looked at the floor.
“What do we have, Konan?”
“I don’t know yet. However, the suspect pool expanded.”
“We need the suspect pool narrowed,” Janko shouted. “I gave you a badge, I have given you resources, and you have not delivered on any front!”
Tomas sat still as to not draw any attention toward himself. Konan waited for Janko to take a breath. Janko pounded on the table, his face red with fury. Finally, he calmed down enough to sit back down. Konan waited for another outburst, but nothing came.
“Ashley has the skill; her grandfather and great-grandfather has the skill. It’s passed on to people to maintain the craft. What if…”
Tomas and Janko leaned toward Konan. Both seemed apprehensive but enthralled to hear what would come next.
“What,” they shouted in unison.
“What if we aren’t looking for a single murderer? What if there are multiple murderers?”
“Like an organization of killers,” Tomas asked. Konan nodded.
“Yeah. They all use the same M.O. to keep the organization secret. It would explain why no one has caught anyone in the past decade. We think we’re hunting one killer, instead of however many there are.”
“We need that list.”
“Yeah. Start looking for links to fraternities, club and gym memberships. Leave no stone unturned. When we have the list, we need to sort through it quickly,” Janko said. He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. Konan nodded.
“There’s one other thing to mention.”
“What’s that,” Tomas said.
Konan looked at him. He took a deep breath and then said, “if we are correct in our guesswork, that means some of these people work here with us. We must keep our lips sealed; information is only shared between us. There can’t be another Tia Mather’s situation.”
Janko nodded his head. “I don’t disagree. What Tia did was wrong on many levels. That’s not to say I condone your breaking her jaw, but I can understand why you did it.”
“I have a question,” Tomas began. “How did you come to the conclusion that there was an organization of killers? I didn’t hear anything that would have led me to make that assumption.”
“Pop-Pop led me to the conclusion. He hid nothing from me. I asked about Ashley, and he laced his fingers. The rest of the time his hands were on the table. He stroked his beard. All are signs that you’re on the right track.”
“He basically outlined the whole thing. I know it, I taught it to 100 or so others, the craft can’t die.”
Tomas nodded and muttered, “I got it.”
“How are we going to figure out who killed who?”
Konan smiled and said, “every chain has a weak link. We just have to find ours.”