The flash of blue lights reflected in the window of the mobile home. Thermopolis Konan sat in his recliner and sipped his coffee from a flawed yellow mug. Heavy footsteps clamored across his porch. At three in the morning, no one should be on his porch or knocking at his door. The knocking continued until Konan finally answered the door.
“Good morning,” he said grumpily.
The officer nodded and backed up a bit for Konan to walk out on his porch. Konan waited for the officer to fill him in.
“Um, are you Thermopolis Konan? The former detective?”
“You’re not sure you are at the right place, officer?”
“Um, hold on a second…”
The officer pulled out his notepad and checked his notes. He stared at Konan, Konan sipped his coffee and waited. The cop closed his notebook.
“Sir, I’m at the right place. My superior sent me to bring you to the waterway.”
“Look, it’s three in the morning. I’m tired, I want to get some sleep. So, tell whoever requested my presence to get bent.”
“Sir, a murder has occurred. They requested your help.”
“Listen, Junior. I am not a cop. Okay? Do you get it? I don’t do that anymore. Go away.”
Konan walked back into his trailer and shut the door. The cop shut off the blue lights and drove back down his dirt driveway. Konan leaned back in his recliner and shut his eyes. Sleep slipped over him like a warm blanket, and in seconds he was sound asleep.
It didn’t last. Less than an hour later, another knock sounded at the door. Konan stirred in the recliner. He cracked an eye open and stared at the door.
“Thermopolis, open the freaking door.”
Konan leaped out of the recliner and stumbled to the door. He stared out the peephole. Detective David Tomas continued to bang on the door. Konan threw the door open and stepped out on the porch.
“What in the name of Almighty God do you people want,” Konan shouted. “It’s not even five o’clock in the freaking morning. What?”
Tomas stared at Konan for several moments before he spoke. In all the time he had known Konan, he had never seen him lose his cool.
“I’m sorry, we’ve bothered you Konan. Chief Janko would like to see you at the waterway.”
Konan stepped close to Tomas and stared into his eyes. The flash of teeth reminded Tomas of a hungry shark.
“Go tell Janko I said to get screwed. Okay? The FPD fired me for arresting his friend. I don’t work for the city or him anymore. You got that? Good day.”
Konan walked back into his trailer, for the second time this morning, and fell back into his recliner. He shut off his lamp and fell asleep once again.
Tomas returned to the waterway. He had to park at the gate and walk to the crime scene. Chief Janko stood outside of the ticker tape and watched the forensic team search the scene. Janko looked like a walrus. His head was big and coneshaped, his mustache was long and bushy. So were his eyebrows.
“No luck with Konan,” he asked Tomas. Tomas shook his head no. Janko waited for Tomas to speak. He pulled out a beef stick and bit of one end.
“Uh, no Chief. He told me and you to get screwed. He said he doesn’t work for us any longer.”
“Well, that part is true. They fired him. Did you tell him what happened here?”
“No, sir. He didn’t let me get a word in edgewise.”
Janko nibbled at the beef stick and shook his head. He chewed and wiped at the sweat dripping off his forehead with the back of his hand.
“Alright. I’ll go talk to him.”
Tomas wasn’t sure what Janko thought he could do when two other people had failed, but he shrugged and said, “okay.”
Somehow during the early morning hours, Konan left his recliner and got on the couch. He tossed and turned and finally got up at 0745. He opened a crate of eggs and placed eight in his Instant Pot. After setting the timer, he brewed some coffee. A knock came at the door.
Konan shook his head and walked to the door. He peeped out and scowled when he saw it was Janko.
“What do you people want,” he said through the door.
‘I need to talk to you, Thermopolis.”
“You’ve got five minutes to make your case. Come in.”
Janko walked in and looked around the mobile home. Various pieces of art hung on the walls. A shadow box filled with his various medals and an American flag hung over the couch.
“Nice place you have here,” Janko said. Konan glared at him.
“What do you want?”
Janko sat at the bar and watched Konan peel boiled eggs in the sink. Konan said nothing, and Janko wiped at his mustache.
“People have disappeared recently. We suspected kidnapping, but then they have begun to reappear.”
“So? Call the cops.”
Janko rolled his eyes and wiped his mustache again. Konan continued to peel eggs.
“They’re showing up dead, Konan. The killer, or killers, staged them in full view of the public. We could use your help.”
Konan shook his head and muttered, “no.” Janko got up from the bar and stretched his arms to the ceiling. He could tell by the gleam in Konan’s eye that he wanted in but was turning him down out of spite.
“It won’t be like last time, Konan. I promise.”
“Is Lilly involved with the case?”
“She can be, IF you return. She was recently promoted to Lieutenant, but I can put her in the field with you. Heck, you solve this, and I will give you your badge back.”
“I don’t want it back.”
Janko sighed and shook his head. Konan took out three boiled eggs and covered them with salsa.
“You’re being spiteful. Do this for us, and you can request anything you want.”
“I don’t want the badge back. I don’t want to work for you either. I’ll make a go of it as a consultant. You want my help; you pay me to help. To top it all off, I choose the cases I work.”
Janko stuck out his hand, Konan shook it.
“Deal. Set your rates and give me a copy of it. I only ask that you help with this case first.”
“Deal. Now get out of my house.”
Mary Mathieu, M&M to her friends, was your typical college student. She was a hedonist. Her great love was pleasure, and she sought it wherever she could find it. Even in the woods hiking along the waterway.
Mary attended a prestigious law school in Mississippi. She hailed from the Mid-West, but she had fallen in love with the people and scenery of her new home. She spent most of her weekends hiking various parts of the state.
“Hiking does the body good,” she told her friends. At 25, she feared about clocking out before she had enjoyed her time on Planet Earth.
As she walked the trails along the waterway, she would stop and listen. Further up the trail she heard a branch break. She stopped and knelt. She pulled out her phone and waited. A doe walked out onto the trail with her fawn. Mary shot a photo and smiled. The deer blew at her, and they bounded back into the woods.
Mary stood up and sighed. She was overcome with a sense of dread and turned around. A black clad figure waved at her, and a massive right hand crashed into her jaw. Her world went black as she fell into unconsciousness.
Mary came to in a room full of darkness. It was damp, somewhere in the inky blackness of her prison, water dripped to the floor. Silent tears wet her cheeks. The air smelled of mildew, her breath caught in her throat.
“Where am I? What do they want?”
She wanted to scream, but she fought the urge to do so. Mary decided she would not give her captors the pleasure of hearing her beg.
“They kidnapped me and held in a damp prison, but I am not going to give up hope. Someone will find me .”
In the damp dark room, Mary kept hope alive. What else could she do? As a psychology major, she knew that defeat began in the mind.
“Everything will work out. I have to stay strong until it does.”
Jacob Walter Wanton, 28, sat in the café and waited for his company to arrive. His coffee was cold. He’d ordered it ten minutes ago, and when the waitress brought it out it was lukewarm. Jacob didn’t complain. He wasn’t that kind of person.
Movement at the door caught his attention. His company had arrived.
“Hello, Jacob. I trust everything has gone according to schedule?”
“Yes sir. Everything is on point.”
The man sat down across from Jacob. He wore a black fedora, a black shirt, khakis, and mirrored sunglasses. His round face was unshaven. His skin was pale white, his beard a sickly grey. The man never smiled, or at least, Jacob had never seen him smile. One time he had grinned. His company’s teeth were immaculate.
“I trust that you took all the necessary precautions?”
“Yes sir. I followed your instructions to the letter.”
“Good. You know what’s at stake. Do not disappoint me.”
Jacob nodded. He knew the consequences of failure. “There can’t be any disruption to the plan. I can’t afford for anything to go wrong.”
The man waved for the waitress to come over. He ordered coffee. Moments later, the waitress brought back his coffee. He took a sip. A dark look crossed his face. The man spit the coffee back into the cup and waved the waitress back over.
“Yes, sir. Do you need something.”
“Yes. I ordered coffee; this is not coffee.”
“I beg your pardon. It is coffee. I poured it myself.”
“Coffee is hot. This is not hot, ergo it’s not coffee.”
“I’ll bring you some more…”
“Don’t bother. We are leaving.”
“You must pay, sir.”
“For what? I didn’t enjoy my beverage; my company has been here the entire time and hasn’t touched his. I assume because it is cold. Thus, we owe you nothing. Good day.”
The man stood and walked out. Jacob and the waitress watched as he left. Jacob stood and walked out a few moments later in wonder of what had transpired.
“The nerve of some people.”
Trapped in the dark, Mary lost track of time. She strained her ears for any sound that would signal she wasn’t alone. There was nothing but the dripping of water.
It was enough to drive her mad.
Konan finished his breakfast and changed into jeans, a tee, and his boots. He lived mere moments from the waterway. Per his normal routine, he started his day with 25 pushups. Then, he walked out to his red Dodge flatbed truck and drove to the waterway.
A dirt road led to the banks of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Six police cars, their lights flashing non-stop, waited below. Konan pulled off the road and walked to the large gaggle gathered on the banks of the river.
Janko, Tia Mather’s replacement, watched as Konan walked toward them. After his visit he returned to the crime scene.
“Nice of you to join us,” Janko said.
“Where’s the body?”
“What’s left of it, rests on the rocks down there,” Janko said. He lifted his chin in the direction of the body.
Without a word, Konan walked toward the body. It didn’t take long to find it. The killer strapped the body to a large rock. Half of the head hung by a fleshy tendril of skin.
“Animals feasted on the body,” Tammy Bowen said.
“Yeah, looks like it. What exactly tore into her?”
“Gators most like, some coyotes, Lord only knows what else.”
“Any idea how long she was dead?”
“Her parents reported her missing three weeks ago. A rough estimate of T.O.D. is two weeks ago.”
Konan frowned and scratched his beard. “Why wait until now to pose the body?”
Tammy Bowen watched Konan. She knew that he was deep in thought. Konan looked around. The body wasn’t underneath the bridge, but it went unnoticed from the bridge.
“They brought the body in at night. Whoever did it is a local. The only other logical explanation was that they took a chance on the location and got lucky. That doesn’t compute though.”
Konan sipped his coffee. There were too many questions that begged for answers. Right now, though Konan needed a refill and a look at the other bodies.
He would prefer one that hadn’t been a Snak-Pak for Mother Nature’s beasties.
Hank Calder III walked down the street of Fredericksburg from his meeting with Jacob. He smiled at everyone he passed, often waving to people he did not know. Calder considered the world a training ground for an eternity in hell. The affluent governed the world, which explained the current state of affairs. Money, or the love of money, did not produce good people.
He wished there were more nice people in the world. For this reason, his work was vital. Hank thought of Jacob and the next phase of his plan. Calder’s plan had worked so well, he pushed his timetable up. He rubbed his hands together and grinned evilly.
Mary came to in the dark. The drip, drip, drip of the water was somehow soothing to her. It wasn’t the water that had woken her, it was the rattle of the key in the door. The door swung open and for a moment she felt the elation of hope.
Then, her hope vanished like a flickering candle in a hurricane.