Then, I walked away. It was the last time I would see my father. He died two days after my visit.
According to the warden, Mad Michael passed away in front of the window. A small smile was on his face, as if Death had told him a joke before he removed him from the chessboard of life. My dad had no burial insurance. I hired a priest to say a few words and buried him in my back yard underneath the shade of a dogwood tree. Paddy, Esther, Lilly and I were the only ones at this makeshift service.
“You picked a nice spot for him to rest,” Esther said. “He would have liked it.”
None of us shed any tears. We all knew what my father was like when he lived. Still, I hoped that he found peace in his new life, and that God had not judged him to harshly.
Paddy patted me on the shoulder.
“Let’s go to the pub. I’ll whip us up some lunch.”
“Ok. I’ll meet you there.”
Lilly waited for Paddy and Esther to leave, then she leaned close and stared into my eyes.
“Talk to me, Thermie.”
“There’s nothing to say. How’s therapy and Dr. Walker?”
“Fine. Both are fine. What’s on your mind?”
“Just the last thing Michael said to me.”
“Well, what did he say?”
“That he was proud of me, and that I hadn’t followed in his footsteps.”
“Yeah. Are you going to the pub?”
“Of course. We need to catch up on the case.”
In the rush of life, I had forgotten to track any new developments of the case. Lab results were surely in. “Crap.” I drove us to the pub and we had lunch with Paddy and Esther. “Throw it down your neck and taste it later stupid. How could you forget to check on the lab results?”
Paddy and Esther made small talk with Lilly; I barely paid any attention to them. I stood up and walked to the bar and pulled out my cellphone. I dialed the morgue and got Tammy Bowen on the third ring.
“Fredericksburg Morgue. Tammy speaking.”
“About freaking time. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“No, I just left my father’s funeral.”
“Yeah, I know. The blood on the hammer is Figueroa’s, however, there are two sets of prints on the handle.”
“You’re missing a guy.”
I felt my temper rising and did my best to choke it down. “Five things you can see….my black watch…my grey shirt…”
“Then who’s the other set of prints on the murder weapon?”
I hung up the phone and dialed the front desk. It rang for several seconds before the desk sergeant answered the phone. When she finally answered it, her voice was gruff. She sounded like she was out of breath as well.
“Fredericksburg PD, Sergeant Winnie Smith speaking.”
“This is Detective Thermopolis Konan. Is Val Rankin around the front desk?”
“He was here. Rankin helped us take down this strung-out junkie hooker. After we got her under control, he left the building. Something about needing a coffee.”
I made my way back to the table and nodded at Lilly. Paddy and Esther looked at me. I forced a smile.
“I’m sorry, but we need to leave now. I’ll come back this evening and eat a meal with you guys.”
“Something going on, nephew?”
“Yeah. I can’t get into it right now.”
Lilly grabbed her purse and followed me out to the truck. I raced to the compound. There were no gate guards obstructing our way. I drove to the gate and hopped out. Lilly followed me wordlessly.
In the outer portion of the yard, there were no visible people. We searched the buildings. No one was there. Every staffing member was gone, including my dear friend Chuck.
I sat on the bottom step of the door stoop and sighed. Maxwell and Maximillian had played me for a fool. Lilly sat down beside me.
“So, there was a third person involved.”
“Yeah, and I have no idea where he is.”
“We will find him, Konan.”
“Probably not. This place is a ghost town.”
“Yeah, but Maxwell and Maximillian probably know where he would go.”
“Let’s go find out.”