We spoke for several moments, and nothing more came from our conversation. The knowledge that we may face a team of trained killers did little to comfort us.
Janko was the first to leave. Tomas, his face still bruised from the punch from Watterson, sat across from Konan.
“Do you think there are more killers in this circle that we don’t know about,” he asked. Konan shook his head and shrugged.
“I don’t know, Tomas. I’m sure there is more to it than, “I wanna kill somebody.” Whatever it is, we need to find them before they kill again.”
“Yeah. I hear you.”
Both men sat in silence for a long while. Konan did some paperwork, Tomas sat in the corner and watched him work. When Konan finished, he walked out to the bus stop. Tomas was passed out on the couch in the break room.
The darkness seemed to encroach ever closer.
Konan sat in the middle of the bus, on the left-hand side near the aisle. Lights lit up the aisle. Konan stared at them until he came to his stop. When he disembarked, he noticed Ashley sitting on his steps.
His heart began to beat faster. Cool sweat dampened his neck. Konan cleared his throat and made his way to her. She smiled when he drew close, in her hand was two cups of coffee.
“Howdy, stranger.” Her smile was brilliant. Her eyes were clear as a sun-filled day. Her whole manner felt like summertime.
“Hey, Ashley. What brings you by?”
“I seemed to recall you asking me to coffee on a couple of occasions. I thought I would surprise you with one.”
“I am surprised. You do know it’s after midnight.”
“Yes, silly. I do know it’s after midnight. Still, we nocturnal creatures need our caffeine.”
“True enough. Come on in, Ashley.”
Konan unlocked the door and pushed it open. Ashley stepped into the dimly lit foyer. Konan flipped a switch and his floor lamp clicked on. He motioned to an over-sized chair, and Ashely took the coffee and sat down.
“Pop called and said you guys had some more questions for him today.”
“Yeah. I got caught in a downpour outside of the city hall. I ended up asking him to wait until I changed.” Ashley giggled.
“Yeah, he mentioned that. He said your shoes had an attitude. They went squish, squish, squish.”
Konan took the coffee from Ashley and blew on the hot liquid. Ashley sipped hers and watched Konan.
“Is Pop able to help you with your case?”
“He has been able to provide some answers to us.” Konan decided to redirect the conversation. “He mentioned that you had some taxidermy skills. I didn’t know that about you.”
Ashley rubbed her neck and sipped her coffee. She finally nodded and met Konan’s eyes.
“Yeah, he taught me the craft. He said a woman in today’s world needed to be able to stand on her own two feet. He felt I needed to know how to handle a blade.”
“I agree with him on that particular point. Although, I have always felt that a sidearm would beat a blade in a fight.” Ashley smirked.
“I guess it would depend on who had what weapon.” Ashley sipped more of her coffee; Konan put his down.
“Have you eaten, Ashely?”
“No, I stopped and got coffee but skipped dinner.”
“I haven’t eaten either. Let’s go in the kitchen.”
They walked into the kitchen. Ashley sat at the bar; Konan rummaged around in his nigh-empty fridge for something to eat. He pulled out tortillas, ham and a crate of eggs.
“How about a make-do sandwich?”
“You don’t have to cook for me, Konan.”
“Well, I don’t know about you but I’m hungry.”
“I could eat, but…”
“Then, that’s settled. We will have a sandwich.”
“Okay. Can I ask you something, Konan?”
“Why did you ask about my taxidermy skills?”
“Why not? You are a friend, and friends get to know each other, right?”
“Yes, but that’s not why, right?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Ashley, I have to do my job. It doesn’t matter who it may implicate. I want to know about you. Also, this case has me asking people questions. So, it is part professional curiosity and part wow, I want to know her.”
Ashley nodded. Konan buttered one side of the tortilla and placed it in a pan. In another pan he scrambled eggs and warmed up the ham. He stuffed the tortillas with ham and eggs and folded it in half. Konan pushed a plate to Ashley.
“Since I asked you a question and put you on the spot, it’s your turn to ask me. Hit me with your best shot.”
Ashley munched on her ‘make-do’ tortilla and looked in his eyes. She wiped her mouth with a paper towel and swallowed.
“Okay, Konan. Do you believe in love?”
Konan sipped his coffee and put down his sandwich. He met Ashley’s eyes and shook his head.
“Because no one wants to accept what love is, Ashley. Everyone thinks it’s this magical thing, like in fairy tales. In reality though, love is brutal. It’s work. Most people are unwilling to work their butts off to keep it. Therefore, they fail. It takes two to tango, but it takes a deeper commitment than people are willing to make.”
Ashley grinned and finished her sandwich. She giggled. Konan shook his head.
“So, love is dead to the great detective.”
“I knew better than to explain it. Love is out there, but it’s difficult to find someone willing to meet you halfway. Somedays they have to be your strength, other days you must be theirs. It’s dang near impossible to find that in another human being.”
“I agree. Ask your next question, Konan.”
“Okay. Did you enjoy taxidermy?”
“No. I wasn’t given a choice in the matter. I detested stuffing dead animals. Pop thought it was necessary, but I was a girly-girl. Blood, sinew, and muscle did not interest me. Barbie dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens were my thing.”
Konan nodded. “I can see why you didn’t enjoy it. Animals are our friends.”
“Yeah. I felt wrong while I did it. When I got older, I went to school and got my degree. Then, I got hired as the M.E.’s assistant. That brings us current.”
“Thanks for telling me, Ashley. Your turn. Make it a doozey, I am tired.”
“Okay. You were a soldier, yes?”
“Yeah. For over a decade.”
“What did you do?”
“I killed people for Uncle Sam.”
His answer caused her to pause. She sighed; Konan waited for what would come next.
“Do you regret it?”
Konan and Ashley sat in silence for a long moment. Together, they looked out the window at the moon. Its slivery rays drifted lazily to Earth, and everything seemed right in the world.
“See the moon, Ashley?”
“Over there, I’d never seen it as big as I did there. It literally was the most massive thing I had ever seen. I felt miniscule as I looked upon it. It was bright, full, and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Do I regret my service? Sometimes.” Ashley leaned against Konan and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Tell me of the moon…”