Konan scheduled to see the bodies of the victims the following day with Tammy Bowen. There was nothing more he could do at the scene. It would take time for forensics to draw any conclusions. Given the condition of this body, there would be minimal evidence gathered.
“It’s a Petri dish of animal saliva. I hope they can find something useful.”
Konan walked up the dirt road to his truck. There was too much to do, and too little time to do it. He was new to the ‘consultant detective’ business. But he was well-acquainted with the murder business. Konan wondered if the killer had displayed the other bodies in such grotesque manner. If so, the troubles were only beginning.
Chief Janko and Detective Tomas watched as Konan walked away.
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, does he Chief?”
“Konan? No. The man is half bloodhound I swear. If anyone can sniff out trouble, it’s him.”
“So, why fire him?”
“He made enemies with the wrong people…”
“He made enemies with people who should have been his friends. Tia Mathers was wrong for what she had done, but she was popular with many elected officials in town. He bagged Tia; her friends buried Konan. They made it impossible for him to stay.”
Mary had never ridden in the back of a truck before. This was her first time. The bright sunlight filtered through the tree branches in a kaleidoscope of colors. She had spent the bulk of her life sheltered by over-protective parents.
“Don’t do this, Mary. Don’t hang out with those thugs, Mary.” On and on it had went.
University had set her free from the oppressive demands of her folks. Now, she was free to live life the way she wanted.
She had chosen to live wild and free. Now, she was lay in the back bed of a truck, trussed up like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Her kidnapper transported to what may be her last destination. Mary yearned for the oppressive yoke of her parents.
At 0730 the following morning, Konan drove to the county morgue. Tammy Bowen sat at her desk; her head rested upon the corner. Eyes closed, mouth agape, she snored. Tammy was in the same clothes she wore at the crime scene yesterday.
“Tammy, it’s Konan.”
She cracked one eye open and stared at him. Tammy yawned.
“You’re early,” she grumbled.
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep. I need to see the bodies, and then I have drop by the department and drop off my rates.”
“You’re getting revenge for them firing you?”
“Nah. A poor man has to eat. That means a poor man has to work.”
“Well, let’s get to it.”
Tammy pulled out three bodies. She labeled them ‘1,2,3’. She walked to the first victim and pulled back the sheet.
“This is Isaac Wizen. He was 18, a freshman At Victory University. He disappeared two weeks after the start of his first term. Some claimed it was a hazing gone bad. The police found him a week later in the park.”
“Cause of death?”
“Isaac overdosed on Oxy. If he hadn’t disappeared for two weeks and then showed back up in the park dead… the police wouldn’t have called it murder.”
Tammy covered up #1 and pulled the sheet back from the second victim.
“This unfortunate lady is Tasha Wilkinson. She was a professor at Hendricks University over the state line. Tasha lived here and worked there. She disappeared for two weeks and reappeared outside of the local grocery.”
“Yeah. The owner found her on a bench next to the Coke machines. Poor guy about had a heart attack.”
“I bet. Cause of death?”
“Oxy overdose. Yep, same cause of death, same timeframe. Both victims one and two are exactly similar.”
“But victim number three is different, right?”
“Indeed. My preliminary finding is that the killer punished this victim. She has severe lacerations over her entire body, broken ribs, and a bruised esophagus.”
“She was also cut in half. I’ve ran tests but the results are pending. I’ll know if she was alive when the killer cut her in half, when the results are in.”
“Alright. I’ll let you get back to your nap, Tammy.”’
“Okay. Before you go, have you spoken to Lilly?”
“Not since I got dumped.”
“You should talk to her. She’s missed you.”
Konan nodded. He had missed Lilly, though it pained him to remember the times they had shared. Many times, he felt a strong tug of affection for Lilly. He suspected that she too felt that tug for him. They never acted upon their feelings because that would jeopardize their partnership.
There was nothing in the way of them following their heart now. Konan decided now was time to for him to follow the desire of his heart.
Outside of the Fredericksburg Daily News, Mary sat on the bench which also served as the ‘smoke area’. She was alone. No one came in before six a.m. Mary had sat on the bench since 0100.
At 0604, local celebrity Tina Walton walked toward Mary. She frowned. “What in the world?” Black plumes of smoke wafted from the bench.
Mary was on fire. Her eyes vacant, and her lips frozen in a weird smile that said, “I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t stop it.”
Tina Walton fell to her knees on the sidewalk and vomited. Konan was right. The trouble had only began.
Konan’s phone rang at 0300. Scowling, he looked at his phone. It was Lilly.
“Hey yourself. You weren’t asleep, were you?”
“Yeah. I was asleep. What’s up?”
“We have another victim. She’s well done. Meet me at Fredericksburg Daily News.”
Konan dressed in jeans, boots, and a blue denim shirt. He stared in his bathroom mirror. New lines had appeared at the corners of his eyes. “You’re too old for this crap. Between murder, psychopaths, and all forms of human evil, you’ve gotten old sport.”
He left his mobile home at 0320. Traffic was light. The only thing that was open besides convenience stores was the Donut House. Konan stopped and ordered a dozen donuts and a large coffee.
“Well done she said. That means a burned corpse. I better stop and grab something to throw down my neck. I’d hate to throw up on an empty stomach.”
Konan pulled up in front of the building. The smell of burned flesh was strong, even in the parking lot. A gaggle of officers, techs, and Konan assumed staff, stood near the main door outside of the yellow tape. Lilly turned and waved him over.
“Are you ready for this?”
“Yeah, Lilly. What happened here?”
“Our gal Crispy was on fire when the anchor for Fredericksburg Today found her this morning.”
“So, where is the body?”
“Tammy took her to the morgue. It was bad, Konan. The grass is going to die because of the sheer amount of vomit on it.”
“Jesus. Guess I will go to the morgue. Any clues on who is committing these acts?”
“No, but here is an interesting tidbit. The first two victims disappeared for two weeks and then killed and staged a week later, right? Then, the third was missing for a week and a half, killed a week later. Crispy was missing for four days, killed this morning. The violence is escalating.”
Konan sipped some coffee and opened the box of donuts. He took a bite and sipped some more coffee.
“The killer is devolving. He or she must kill more often to relive the thrill. There’ll be more bodies until we find him or her.”
“I better wake the mayor and Chief Janko. God knows, they need to build a story to spin for the media whores.”
“Alright. I’ll catch you later.”
“Um, before you go, Konan. We need to talk. Wanna grab lunch at O’Shea’s?”
“Sure. It’s been a while since I saw Paddy and Esther.”
“Okay. I’ll see you there at 1230.”
“Sounds good. See you then, Lilly.”
Tammy Bowen still had nothing from the lab results on the third victim. Konan rode around for a bit and thought about the victims. So far, nothing stood out to Konan.
“The killer mangled the last two victims. Why? What is significant about those two?”
At 1200, Konan drove to O’Shea’s. Paddy stood on the steps next to his large doorman, Paddy had nicknamed him Titan. Konan got out of his truck and started toward the pair. Lilly fell into step next to him.
Paddy O’Shea smiled when Konan and Lilly walked up. He hugged Lilly and shook Konan’s hand.
“Long time, no see. Where’ve you guys been?”
Lilly jerked her thumb toward Konan. Paddy nodded.
“This one got fired. I’ve been busy. Sorry it’s been so long, Paddy. It’s good to see you.”
Paddy led them into the back of the restaurant to their table. Lilly and Konan slid in.
“It’s great to see you to. Darling.” Paddy pointed at Konan. “He’s incomplete without you.”
Lilly blushed and smiled a shy smile. Konan rolled his eyes.
“What’s today’s special,” Konan asked trying to change the subject.
“It’s liver, onions, and gravy on a plate of mashed taters. You want it?”
Lilly shook her head in disgust. “None for me. I’ll have steak and taters.”
“Alright, I’ll get it to you. See you in a bit.”
Paddy walked into the back. Seconds later, a waitress brought two glasses of sweet tea to the table. She disappeared as quick as she had appeared.
“So, what did you want to talk about, Lilly?”
Lilly blushed and looked at the table. She sipped her tea and smiled a sad smile at Konan.
“I’m pregnant, Konan.”
Lilly took a sip of her tea. Konan stared into her eyes, and then at her tummy. He didn’t notice anything different.
“Um….it’s not mine.”
Lilly coughed and covered her mouth. She stared at him. Konan waited. “All this time we have been together, and now, we can’t even…”
“When you got fired, I was so angry at you. I went to a pub and had way too much to drink. One bad decision led to another.”
“The father wants me to get an abortion. He said, and I quote, “I am not the settling down kind of man.”
“Wow. You got you an English Major, huh?” Lilly snickered. She shook her head. Konan forced a grin, but his heart was breaking.
“No. He wasn’t Mr. Right, more of Mr. Right Now.”
“I’m not killing my child, Konan. Why would I take my bad decision making out on an innocent life?”
Konan shrugged. What could he say? All his hopes for a future lay dashed at his feet.
“You know, all the time that I felt such affection for you, I…”
“I felt it too, Konan.”
“I guess that’s that then. It was my hope since we no longer are partners…”
Lilly nodded and tears welled up in her eyes. Being a mother was not in her bailiwick, but her maternal instinct would kick in. Konan had no doubts she would make a wonderful mother.
Silence grew between them. Konan watched as the server brought out their food. The food was hot judging by the steam that wafted into the air.
“At least this has gone right today.”
Konan and Lilly ate their lunch in silence. Lilly searched for the words to let Konan know she still felt the same way she did before her pregnancy. “Just because I am pregnant doesn’t mean that we can’t love each other. Why does this crap emotion have to be so complicated?”
Anything she said about her love for Konan now would only cheapen the moment. She wondered if he still felt the same about her. He focused on his liver and gravy. Lilly cut into her steak.
Love is a wonderful thing, but it is also a train wreck of emotions that overpowered commonsense. Things were better this way, Lilly decided. “Konan would not embrace being a father to someone else’s kid.”
Time would tell if love was in the cards for the two of them. Or if the threads of their fate intertwined together. They could figure it out, after they solved this murder mystery.
Paddy waited for Konan to finish his meal. He stood at the counter when Konan and Lilly came up to pay. He hugged Lilly.
“Can I have a word with you, nephew?”
“Let’s go outside for a moment.”
Paddy and Konan walked outside. It was raining. As is typical in Mississippi, rain showed up whenever it wanted. No season was exempt. Konan leaned against a post of the back porch; Paddy shoved an unlit cigar into his mouth.
“What’s going on, uncle?”
“Ah, boy. Here it comes,” Konan thought. He grimaced.
“Your dad wanted me to ask what you are doing for work. He wanted me to offer you a job here at the pub, I told him you wouldn’t accept my help. Your father insisted I ask, so, do you want a job here at O’Shea’s?”
“I have a job, Paddy. Although, it was kind of you to offer me one. If this whole ‘consultant’ gig doesn’t pay off, I’ll be back to take you up on it.”
“It’s no thing, son. I hope this consultant business pays off for you.”
Paddy chewed on the cigar. Konan watched the rain come down.
“Kid, it’s no business of mine, but does Lilly seem kind of sick to you?”
Paddy pointed his finger at his stomach. Konan nodded.
“You’re going to be a dad? Oh man, your father will flip out!”
“It’s not mine, Paddy.”
Paddy’s face fell. He shook his hand and muttered, “of course not. There’s no end to our rotten luck.”
They stood silent on the back porch. Esther came out and joined them.
“Your partner is sitting in the foyer, Konan. She’s not looking too hot. You need to check on her.”
“Thanks, Esther. I better go.”
“Don’t be so long between visit’s, nephew.”
Konan walked through the restaurant. The ‘who’s who’ of Fredericksburg had turned out for lunch. On his way out, he saw Mayor Smith, and other notable figures from the state.
Mayor Tim Smith nodded at Konan. “I would rather die than shake hands with that oxygen thief,” Konan sighed. His firing was only a few months ago, but bitterness ate at Konan’s heart.
He had no intention of being rude or spiteful to anyone. Still, he refused to acknowledge those who had thrown him under the bus. He walked by Mayor Smith and stopped in the foyer. Lilly sat on the bench. Her face had a gray tint to it.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know, I’ve got to puke.”
Konan helped Lilly to her feet and walked her to the ladies’ bathroom. He leaned against the wall and waited on her to do her business. An old man sat on the bench.
“What are y’all having,” he asked.
“Your wife, she’s pregnant, isn’t she?”
“Oh. Um, I’m not sure what she’s having. I found out a few moments ago she’s with child.”
Lilly walked out and the old man smiled. He gave Lilly a nod, she nodded back.
“Y’all make a beautiful couple,” the old man said. “I wish you both lots of happiness. There’s nothing like being a parent. It’s an important job. Good luck.”
“Um, thank you,” the detectives said in unison. The old man smiled.
Konan was glad when he and Lilly departed O’Shea’s. His mind was out of sorts. Everything he had planned for his future lay at his feet in a pile of rubble.
“Sometimes you’re the bug, other days you’re the windshield. Guess it’s my turn to be the bug…”