“What do you think? Do you think Rasheed committed the murder?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“He has the capacity to kill her. He held a gun to my head for God’s sake.”
“Yeah, but do you like him for it?”
“I don’t know. Let’s ride over and see Ally. She might have dug up something else.”
Konan drove to the morgue and pulled close to the door. Lilly and Konan walked in. The same security guard sat at his desk. He handed Lilly the clipboard and she signed them in.
Ally saw them coming and waved them into her office. She nodded to them and put on her glasses.
“I was just going to call you guys.”
“You found something,” Konan said.
“Yeah,” Ally replied. Lilly walked over and sat at the desk. Ally pulled up images of the cuts on Talia. She motioned for Konan to come over.
“You see this right here,” she said as she pointed at the cuts. These are normal for the garrote. “You see though how these cuts are different from these.”
“Yeah, they aren’t as deep as these,” Lilly answered. She leaned closer to look at the image.
“He let off the pressure,” Konan said. “The killer asked her something and when she wouldn’t answer he tightened the wire.”
“Exactly,” Ally said. “That’s why there are various degrees of cuts. Whoever did this was looking for something. The victim suffered tremendously.”
“Exactly how did she die,” Konan asked. Lilly leaned back and watched Ally.
“The garrote didn’t kill her,” Ally began. “When she began to struggle against the garrote, her arteries tore, and blood entered the arterial wall. Layers of the arterial wall splintered, and she had a stroke.”
“Jesus,” Lilly whispered. Her face turned pale, and she shook her head.
“I also found coagulated blood in esophagus. The oxygenated blood could not reach her brain, and a blood jam occurred. This woman suffered greatly before she died. She lost control of her bowels as well.”
Konan nodded and said ‘thanks’ to Ally. He tapped Lilly on the shoulder, and they walked out to the car. The humidity was thick enough to cut. Konan drove back to the abandoned factory.
“What are we doing here, Konan?”
“I want to ask Rasheed something to verify what I think I know.” Lilly nodded. They found Rasheed on the second floor staring out the large window. He had a foot on the desk. He looked up when Konan and Lilly drew near.
“You’re back,” Rasheed grunted. Konan forced a smile. “You’ve discovered something?”
“Not yet,” Konan said. He walked over to where Rasheed sat and pulled a metal bucket to him. Konan sat down. Rasheed watched him closely. Experience was a cruel teacher. One could never be too aware, especially when people did not appear dangerous.
“You carried out honor killings, right?”
“How did you carry out these executions?”
Rasheed stared out the window. Konan watched him; Rasheed seemed truly remorseful.
“Different ways. Some were shot, others were beheaded.”
“What is the preferred method?”
“Garrote.” Konan pulled out a picture of Talia’s wounds and laid it upon the table. He pointed at the wound.
Rasheed sobbed and put his forehead down on the picture. His tears wet the image. Konan leaned forward and touched Rasheed’s shoulder.
“Was it like this?”
“No. I made one smooth cut.” Rasheed’s words caught on his throat. He wiped at his tears with the back of his hand.
“Let me tell you what we think happened, Rasheed. My partner and I think Talia knew something she shouldn’t have known. Someone found out that she knew it and hired someone like you to end her. If they could not hire you, who would be next on the list?”
“I don’t know. I turned away from that life.”
“You see these cuts? The killer put so much pressure on her throat that the arteries tore. This has nothing to do with your religion. This brutality was caused by someone who enjoyed their work.”
“I don’t know,” Rasheed muttered. “I don’t know…”
Konan flung the bucket he had been sitting on at the wall. He jammed a finger in Rasheed’s chest and shouted, “I don’t believe you!”
Lilly pulled Konan back, shocked at his anger. Konan put his hands up and walked to the window. He punched through the glass.
“I wouldn’t be hiding in an abandoned factory if this had happened to my girl,” Konan yelled. He slammed his injured hand on the table. “I would be out there hunting the person who killed her. Who did she cross? Tell me you sack of goat dung!”
Lilly stepped between Rasheed and Konan. She put her hand on Konan’s chest. “You need to calm down,” she whispered. Konan waved his hands dismissively and walked back to the window.
“Talia knew everybody. She helped everyone. One day she had a visit from one of the local men. He wanted her to do something for him. She refused. I don’t know nothing more than that.”
“What was his name,” Lilly pressed. Rasheed sighed.
“Khalid. His name is Khalid Abbas.”
Lilly squinted at Rasheed. “Khalid Abbas why does that sound familiar,” she muttered.
“Khalid ran for governor a couple of years ago, and narrowly lost,” Rasheed responded. Lilly snapped her fingers and shook her head.
“That’s right. People said his views were too extreme,” Lilly said. Konan continued to stare out the window. He’d found a dirty rag and wrapped it around his injured hand.
Lilly walked over to Konan. “Come on,” she said quietly. “Let’s go ring Khalid’s doorbell.”
Khalid Abbas lived in the richest neighborhood of Fredericksburg. The elite of the town resided in Briar-Stone. Metal fences protected the backyards. Every house had a driveway. The driveway had a gate at the entrance.
Compared to the luxury homes built throughout Briar-Stone, Khalid’s home seemed paltry.
The five-bedroom home was hidden from the main road. The drive snaked around into a hidden corner surrounded by tall pine and White Oak trees. Khalid, an avid collector of old cars, had spared no expense on his garage. Ten vehicles could be parked within it. He was proud of his home, but desired more of everything. More wealth, more power, a bigger house, nothing was off limits to him.
Lilly pulled the unmarked squad car up to the intercom by the gate. Konan got out and pressed the button. It was mere seconds when Khalid’s voice came through the speaker.
“Can I help you,” he said in a curt manner. Konan nodded at the security camera hoisted above the gate.
“Yep, I’m Detective Konan. We have some questions about Talia Omar.”
“Okay. Follow the driveway down.”
The gate buzzed and began to open. Konan got in the car and sighed. Lilly pulled through the gate.
“How did he sound,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged and cracked his neck.
“He sounded like he expected us to show up. You question him, Lilly.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I need get my hand taken care of. I will be in when it’s took care of.”
Lilly pulled up short of the house. She got out and whistled. It was a beautiful house. Konan got out and pulled out a first aid kit from behind the seat. He cleaned his wound and ripped open the bandage with his teeth.
Lilly was met at the door by Khalid. He smiled at Lilly, she smiled back. Lilly waved her hand at his home.
“You have a beautiful place here,” she said. He nodded and said, “it will do for now. Please, come in.”
Lilly smiled and pointed at the car. Khalid looked in the direction she pointed.
“My partner injured his hand. He’s cleaning it. If you don’t mind, I would rather wait for him.”
Khalid snapped his finger and a small woman, no younger than 75, conversed with Khalid in their native tongue. She started for the car.
“Your partner will join us in a moment. Grandmother will bring him in when she has bandaged his wound.”
Lilly said okay and followed Khalid into the house.
“So, you have questions about Talia Omar. I heard she was found dead, such a horrible place the world has become.”
“Yes, it is sad.”
Khalid led Lilly to an expansive sitting room. He motioned for Lilly to have a seat, and he sat across from her. Footsteps sounded down the hall as Konan and Grandmother made their way into the room.
Konan nodded to Khalid, Khalid nodded back. He sat next to Lilly.
“How did you hurt your hand, Detective,” Khalid asked. Konan forced a smile.
“A flash of temper and reaction, I’m afraid.” Konan feigned embarrassment. Khalid smiled.
“How did you know Talia,” Lilly asked.
“She is a member of our community. She helped many during tough times. I sought her help once.”
“Did she help you?”
“She did not have the means to help me.”
“What did you seek help with?”