Both victims’ eyes were wide from shock. Amber and Lilly both had bruising on their faces. The only exception in the victims was Waterson and Crump raped Amber. “I need to know the type of knife used. Maybe it will give me a clue about the killer.” Konan dialed Ashley Wilkinson.
“Hello,” Ashley answered groggily.
“Hey, it’s Konan. Sorry for calling so late. I need to ask you something.”
“Do you know a blade expert? I need to know what kind of knife the killer used.”
“No, but you can ask my grandfather. He is a connoisseur of bladed weaponry.”
“Okay, where can I find him?”
“You can’t. Pawpaw is usually out of the house. I will shoot him a text and ask him to meet you tomorrow.”
“Okay. Thanks for your help.”
The night passed quickly, and Konan got little sleep. He was out of bed and dressed at 0530. He walked into the cage and switched on the light at 0624. Something bothered him about the cuts. There was little blood photographed in the images. “As deep as the cuts are, there should be some blood. There is little blood directly in the face. It’s like the killer wanted to erase the beauty of the victim. Who would do such a thing?”
The elevator doors opened a few minutes after seven. A soft ding resounded down the hallway. Heavy footsteps drew closer to the records cage, and Konan looked up. An old man with a long grey beard stood in the doorway.
“Howdy, son. I’m looking for a Thermos.”
Konan grinned and waved him in. “Are you Ashley’s grandfather?”
“I am. She said a Thermo-something another needed my help about a knife or something.”
“Well, I am your Thermos. I am Thermopolis Konan. I asked for your help.”
“That’s it. Ther-moplis.”
“You can call me Konan.”
“Thank you, son. I ain’t good with names. Now what’s this about a knife?”
Konan laid out the photos on his desk and handed Jim Wilkinson a magnifying glass. Jim stepped back.
“Those poor girls. Who would do such a thing?”
“That’s what I am trying to figure out. Do you recognize the wound?”
Jim leaned over the photo and looked again. “I can’t say for certain, but I think the killer used a fleshing knife.”
“A what knife?”
“A fleshing knife. Taxidermists use it for skinning animals and other taxidermy work.”
“Where would you find a knife like that?”
“Any sporting goods store, Walmart, or Amazon. They are fairly common.”
Konan let out a heavy sigh. “Of course they are. So much for identifying suspects by that method.”
“Sorry, son. I was hoping I could help you.”
“No, sir. I appreciate you coming in. You have been a great help. I just don’t know how the puzzle piece fits in yet.”
“I hope you catch ‘em, son. Make ‘em pay for what they did to those girls.”
“I will try.”
“Don’t try, son. The world has enough evil in it without men doing this type of thing to young women.”
Konan walked him to the elevator and went back to the cage.
He began an internet search on fleshing knives and their uses. Konan emptied his mind of anything not related to his case and the many threads that required searching. His search was going nowhere, so he called a local sporting goods store.
“Big Tony’s Sporting Goods, how can I help you?”
“Hi. Do you guys carry fleshing knives?”
“Great. what time do you close?”
Following the phone call to Big Tony’s Sporting Goods, Konan checked with Walmart and local pawn shops. They all carried fleshing knives. Disgruntled with his search, he went out to the main square and got some fresh air.
He walked through the square and took a seat on an empty bench. Konan watched as people went about their daily lives, unaware of his presence. “They’re gullible like sheep. So unaware, so killable.” A sharp buzz brought him out of his trance. It was his phone. While he drifted through his thoughts, he had received a message.
“Hello, Konan. Let’s play a game.” The message was from an unknown number. He would try to have Ashton crack it when he returned. Konan typed out a response and pressed send. It wouldn’t send.
Konan glanced around the town square. No one seemed out of place. People looked at their phones, or hustled to a second or third job. Nothing was out of place. His phone buzzed again.
“God, you are so dull. What happened to the sharp investigative mind you once possessed?”
Konan got up from the bench and started for the police department. He hurried back, taking the shortest way possible. His phone buzzed again.
“Do you need help with the case? Should I give you a hint?” Konan’s mind was abuzz with questions but no answers. The killer’s texts made the murders personal, as if the killer held a grudge against Konan. It was a mistake to make things personal. Surely the killer knew this. Still, Konan could not get his head around what was going on. His phone buzzed again.
“Come on, Konan. Think! Is there a connection that you don’t know about?” Konan stepped into the lobby and stopped. Connections. What are the connections? He walked to Wiggins and Tomas.
“Dig up every case that is like our current case. I don’t care how trivial it seems. Let me know when you have them.”
“Why,” Wiggins wheezed.
“The killer has made it personal. I have messages and a hint from them. Let’s get to work.”
Konan took the elevator to the basement. He hurried to the IT department; Ashton sat behind the counter.
“How’s it going with the recovery of the hard drive?”
“It’s 18% complete.”
“I received some messages today from an unknown number. Can you crack it and tell me who sent it?”
“Let me see it.”
Ashton put the phone down on the counter without looking at it. Konan fought off the urge to punch the acne ridden kid in the face. Repeatedly. With a hammer.
“You didn’t even look at it!”
“It’s an unknown number and if it is your bad guy, they used a burner phone.”
“You could have said that without the freaking show.”
“See ya later, Konan.”
Thermopolis scooped up the phone and stormed out. He went to the cage and began pulling out files. Stacks of boxes, row upon row, held unsolved murders from every decade since the founding of Fredericksburg. Wiggins and Tomas entered the cage. They began helping him cross reference the murders that had similarities with the new murders. The hours passed in silence.
“Tomas, did Daisy wake up?”
“Oh yeah. She wasn’t happy.”
“Did you forget how to use a phone?”
“Uh, no. Sorry, I forgot to call you.”
“Okay. Did she have anything to say about who may have murdered her daughter?”
“Um, I don’t think anyone questioned her, Konan.”
“Why not? Does no one think she might have an idea who would kill her child? What is going on here?”
“Stay here. I’ll interview her. At least then, we will know for certain.”
Konan left Tomas and Wiggins going through the cold cases, searching for links to their investigation. He walked to the elevator and took the lift to the holding cells.
The doors opened, and Konan stepped off the lift. Down the hall, he could hear Daisy screaming. Police officers stood next to the holding cage, watching. Konan walked up and tapped the desk sergeant on the shoulder.
“Take her to one of the interview rooms. I’ll be along in a moment.”
Daisy continued to scream. The desk sergeant and two other officers entered the cage. Konan walked to the coffeepot and poured him a cup. Daisy’s screaming died down as the three officers led her to an empty room.
Konan started down the hall and met the three officers on their way back. The desk sergeant held up three fingers. Konan nodded and said, thanks.
He walked into the room and shut the door. Daisy looked at him and wiped at her tears. Konan sat across from her and sipped his coffee.
“You want something to drink, Daisy?”
Konan walked to the door and stuck his head out. A few moments later, a rookie patrol officer brought in a cup of black coffee. Daisy sipped it, Konan watched her. Once she had drained the contents of her cup, Konan leaned forward, closing the gap between them.
“Daisy, who would want to kill your daughter? Do you know of anyone who would want to hurt her to get to you?”
“Daisy, someone came by after Waterson and Crump had their way with Amber. This guy didn’t rape her. He nailed her to the floor and gave her some fresh scars.”
“Oh God,” Daisy sobbed. “My baby…”
“Are you sure you don’t know of anyone who would hurt Amber.”
“Okay. If you think of anything, let us know.”
Konan stuck his head out in the hallway and waved down an officer. She escorted Daisy back to the holding cells. Daisy sobbed and called on Almighty God for mercy. “How horrible it must be to know that your daughter is dead, and you might have played a role in it.”
He walked down the hall to the elevator and boarded the lift. Konan pressed the button for the sub-basement and leaned back against the wall. “I hope Tomas and Wiggins found other cases that linked with ours. Maybe we can get a picture of who this killer is.”
Tomas and Wiggins were on the last box when Konan walked in. They had found 19 files with similarities to their case. Wiggins and Tomas leaned back and sighed.
“Dang, man. You guys got on it. How many files are there?”
“19,” Wiggins wheezed.
“You two take six files a piece. Lilly and I will take the other seven. If anything stands out to you, I want to know.”
Tomas and Wiggins nodded. They grabbed their files and left. Konan had just cracked his first file when the phone rang.
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“This is Mayor Smith. I thought I would check in and see how the investigation is going.”
“We are pursuing a few leads. At the moment we have nothing solid, sir.”
“You’re going to have to do better. If more murders occur, the entire town will panic.”
“Yes, sir. We know. We are working on it.”
Mayor Smith slammed down the landline and Konan grimaced. “It’s hard enough to solve a murder without a politician breathing down your neck.”