Cartwright. Konan hadn’t thought of him in a long time. When he left the group, he tried to forget everything and everyone associated with the clandestine organization. It was punishment enough to remember what he’d done. He had tried to avoid any remembrances of Cartwright and Billy. He really did.
“You can’t escape your past. Now that piece of garbage is here in Fredericksburg. He and Billy are here. Scheming. Planning. Wreaking havoc on an unsuspected populace.”
It was enough to give him nightmares.
Konan went home. His mind raced with thoughts. He showered and changed into pajamas and house shoes, and stretched out on his couch. A Tom and Jerry movie was on, he half-watched it. Sleep refused to visit, so he took two Tylenol P.M. to make him drowsy. An uneasy sleep fell over him.
Somewhere in the Middle East, 2005:
The sun’s rays scorched the back of Konan. He and his team were in search of predators. Raw sewage soaked the boots of the men as they walked through the neighborhood. Random kids ran up. “Chocolate, mister! Chocolate!” Konan waved them off with a dismissive gesture. One of the new guys, he insisted that the team members called him Hillbilly, handed a small boy a bag of M&Ms.
“Here, kid. Run on now. We’re hunting monsters.”
The kid trailed along behind the men chattering away. He bounced a soccer ball between his feet, every now and then he would kick it at the squad. Hillbilly tried to shush him, but the kid got louder and louder. As the men made the turn, Hillbilly shouted.
Konan dove for cover, the squad separated as the grenade exploded. Ears ringing, Konan peeked from behind the vehicle where he took cover. The boy turned the corner and pulled the pin on another grenade when he saw Konan. He cocked his arm back to throw it. Konan fired.
Konan leapt to his feet. Sweat soaked his couch and his body. He looked around, he was alone. “Holy Jesus…you’re not there. Breathe. Relax. You’re not there.”
The urge to vomit built up in his throat. He leaned over the sink, and the only thing that came out was blood and phlegm. His phone rang.
“Who is this?”
“I hear you’re looking for me.”
“That’s the name for this rotation. Why are you interested in me?”
“You seem like an interesting guy. Considering that you’re dead and all. Did you kill Judge Traylor?”
“I’m just giving you a call to let you know that I’m not dead, and you should quit looking while you’re ahead.”
“So, you called to threaten me.”
“Ah, I don’t make threats. Especially, to one of our own. Quit looking.”
“I’m not one of you…”
“Sure you are, Konan. We’re wolves among the sheep.”
Then he hung up.
Konan washed his face and made a cup of coffee. He sat in the dark and sipped his coffee. Ric Terrace’s words bothered him. “You’re one of us. A wolf among the sheep.” A lone tear slid down his face in the dark. “I no longer want to be a wolf.”
At 0430, Konan’s phone rang again.
“Hello,” he grunted as he tried to get comfortable in his recliner.
“Hey, partner. Are you awake?”
“I am now.”
“Okay. I’m in your yard, and I brought company.”
Konan unlocked the door. Lilly, Manson, and Rankin stood at the bottom of his steps.
“Y’all come on in. I’ll start coffee.”
“I brought donuts,” Manson said as she wiggled the box. Konan nodded.
Lilly and Rankin sat on his couch. Manson put the donuts on the counter, while Konan started the coffee.
“What’s got y’all out and about so early,” he asked as he poured coffee.
“Alderman Winston had a car wreck last night,” Rankin said. “Brakes failed going down Jacob’s Hill. Went right off the side of the cliff.”
“Tia was real quick to call it an accident,” Manson said.
“I bet. Well, I received a call from Ric Terrace this morning. He said he wanted to let me know he wasn’t dead. That we should quit looking for him.”
“Is that why you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Lilly said.
“It’s been a rough night.”
Konan put sugar and creamer on the counter. Manson and Rankin fixed their coffee and took a donut. Lilly fixed her coffee and sat at the counter.
No one said anything for a long moment.
“Good donuts,” Konan said as he polished off a chocolate covered donut. Manson giggled.
“My mom works at Bowman’s Bakery on Wilkins Avenue. She made them just for us.”
“Well, tell her thanks.”
Lilly looked at Konan. She looked tired too, Konan realized. All of them were on the verge of exhaustion.
“Nobody has said anything about this yet,” Lilly said between sips of coffee. “What are we going to do about Tia?”
“I say we shoot her,” Konan said.
Everyone laughed. Lilly shook her head no. “You don’t get a vote,” she teased. Rankin and Manson laughed into their coffee cups.
“We’re probably going to have to,” Rankin said. Lilly and Manson shook their heads no.
“Nah, man. Just kidding about shooting her. We’re going to have to confront her at some point. I think we should wait until we know more,” Konan said.
“Besides the unfired bullet, we have nothing to bring to the court. What’s our next move,” Lilly asked.
“We shake things up,” Konan said. Everyone looked at him. “We find Ric Terrace, and take down Billy.”
“How do we do that,” Rankin asked.
“Me and Lilly take the bullet and confront, Tia. You guys go follow up on Alderman Winston’s ‘accident.’ Then, we’ll see what falls out of the tree.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Rankin said.
Everyone finished their coffee and donuts. Daybreak was not far away now. Konan walked into his room and dressed into comfortable jeans, a green Carhartt tee, and steel-toed Red Wing boots. If things went south when they confronted Tia, he wanted to be ready.