While Lilly tuned up Tia Mathers, Konan drove to Khalid’s house. Luckily, Khalid was home. Grandmother watched as Konan pulled in behind the used Mercedes that Khalid drove. It was spic-an-span clean inside and out. Thermopolis got out of the unmarked sedan and walked to the door. Grandmother led him to the living room. She came back with a cup of coffee. Khalid came down the stairs from the upper floor. His face was tight, his mouth a tight line. He strode across the room and gave Konan his best fake smile.
“Detective, how may I help you now?”
Khalid motioned for Konan to sit. Konan sat in a Queen Anne chair. The two men stared at each other. It was apparent to Konan that Khalid was on edge.
“I know you’ve had a tough day today,” Konan said. “I have just a few other questions if you don’t mind.”
“I called my lawyer when I saw you come up. Let’s wait for her, and then you may ask your questions.”
“Okay. “Konan pointed at the coffee cup. “This is fantastic coffee. What is it?”
“I don’t know,” Khalid said. He called for the woman he called Grandmother and said something to her. She rattled off something back. Khalid nodded and said, “it’s an American coffee. Community Café Especial.”
“Never heard of it. It’s delicious.”
Khalid nodded. The doorbell rang. Grandmother departed the room to answer the door. She led the lawyer to the den. She glared at Konan; he gave her a smile.
“Well, I’m here. Let’s get on with it, shall we?”
“We shall,” Konan responded. “Sir, I need to know if the name William Blankenship means anything to you.”
“I know of a man named that,” Khalid said. His admission caused Konan to frown. Konan nodded.
“How do you know him?”
“I met him through my wife. Her father had him do odd jobs for him.”
“You mean contract killings?”
Khalid shrugged indifferent to the accusation. “I was not privy to the nature of the jobs he carried out.”
“How did your wife know Mr. Blankenship?”
“I told you. She knew him through her father.”
“Okay, moving on. Did your wife ever hire Mr. Blankenship?”
“I don’t know. She never used him after we wed. Before that, I have no idea. Do you think he killed my wife?”
“We are investigating leads, sir. His name came up during our investigation. Do you have his number or email? I would like to ask him a few questions.”
“No. I met the man once. We didn’t swap numbers. I have no need to contact him.”
“Did your wife work?”
“No. She was my wife. I took care of her needs.”
“Would she handle business without you knowing of it?”
“No. All business was conducted by me. She was submissive to my demands. Any other questions? I arrangements to make and business to handle.”
“Nope, I am out of questions. Thank you for taking the time to answer them.”
His lawyer, Lucy Smith, handed Konan her business card. She glared at him when he put it in his wallet.
“The next time you have ‘questions’ call me.”
“Do you mind if I call you for dinner sometime?”
“Yes, I mind.”
“Well, that’s too bad. I hoped we could be friends.”
“I have plenty of friends. My dance card is full up.”
Konan smiled and met her eyes. “Sure, you’re a pretty lady. I don’t reckon you have any need for more friends. Take care of yourself.”
Lucy snorted and stuck her nose in the air. She huffed away without another glance at him. Konan watched her go and chuckled.
“Bless her heart. She’s all kind of pretty, but pretty doesn’t equate out to brains.”
Konan followed Grandmother to the door. The old woman patted him on the back when he left. He turned back and nodded to her. She smiled and closed the door.
He drove back to the station. Lilly sat their desk. She met Konan’s eyes when he sat down.
“How did it go,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged and rolled his eyes.
“He knows of Blankenship. Claimed to have met him through his wife’s father. Also claimed that he never used him to do any jobs for him. I asked if it were possible that his wife hired him, and he said no. How did you do?”
Lilly clenched her right hand and released it. She smiled and shrugged.
“And? Is that why Tia’s blinds are down?”
Manson walked by and glared at Lilly. She leaned close and whispered, “you better watch your back girlie. Bad things happen to good people.” Lilly smiled. She leaned back in her chair and said, “come on with it then, Manson. I’ve got time to handle whatever you think you’ve got lined up.”
Manson turned and stormed away. She and her partner stormed out of the squad room. Konan watched them leave.
“What’s that all about?”
“I’ll tell you in the car. Let’s get out of here for a bit.” Konan nodded and they walked out of the squad room. As they walked out, Konan caught Tia peeking through the slits in the blinds.
Konan and Lilly got in the unmarked sedan and drove to the nameless park. They sat on the picnic table and watched the barges float by. He didn’t pressure her to tell him, she would tell him when she found the words. After some time, she looked at him. There were tears in her eyes.
“I beat her butt red,” she blurted out. Konan looked at her and grinned.
“What did you use? Brass knuckles? A two-by-four?”
“I used this,” she said as she balled up her right hand into a fist. “I caught her napping, so I knew I had to make the first blow count. It buckled her knees. I let it rip after that.”
“That’s impressive, Lilly. I don’t understand why you aren’t suspended or fired though.”
“Tia didn’t expect to get whooped. She hated the beating but would hate it more to have to explain it to her bosses.”
“I see. Well, besides kicking her Viking Princess butt all over the office, did you learn anything?”
“Yeah. Tia claimed that there is a group of politicians, all of them to be exact, that wanted to direct the direction of our state. She also claimed that she was just brought into the fold.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“What doesn’t make sense? You don’t think that there is a shadow government in play?”
“In Mississippi? At the local level? No.”
Lilly shrugged her shoulders and sat quietly on the bench. It was bad enough she’d beat her boss up, now her partner scoffed at what she’d learned. ‘It’s just a bad day,” she thought to herself.
Konan tapped her on the shoulder, Lilly looked at him. He put his arm around her and pulled her into a hug.
“I am sure there is something to it, but I’ve no idea how it all fits together.”
“Me either. I think I broke my hand on Tia’s hard head.”
Konan laughed. “You must have whacked her good to buckle those knees,” he said. Lilly snorted.
“I should have handled it better.”
“Well, it’s too late for that now. We will deal with the consequences later. Our focus should be on finding Blankenship.”
“I agree. We need answers. Khalid didn’t know anything that would help us?”
“No. He said he did not know his number or contact information. Someone must know it. Personnel Records doesn’t keep up with that type of information. Blankenship is not assigned to any particular base neither.”
“But he would have to be near one though, right? To report in and get assignments?”
Konan scratched at his forehead. ‘How could I have missed that?’ He shook his head in disbelief.
“Yeah, he would have to make a physical appearance every now and then. No chain of command would let you report in only by electronic means.”
“Are there any bases near here?”
“There are two within driving distance.”
“How far is ‘driving distance’, Konan?”
“Four to eight hours. Fort Belton and Fort Derris are in Alabama.”
“We should call them and find out if they’re in the know about Blankenship.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Konan said. “You call one and I will call the other. If there’s anything to be found there, we will go check it out.”
“After we contact the local authorities and alert them to our presence.”
“Sure. After we do that.”