Konan got off the bus one stop from his usual drop off. He started for his house. Few lights stood along the path to his stoop. The quiet night air was humid, it hung about Konan like a wet blanket. This case caused him to fret. He had never been afraid to face human depravity, but this was something different.
He arrived at his door, deep in thought. An envelope jutted out from the door frame. Konan unlocked his door and went in. He flicked on his light and realized who the letter was from. It was from Doctor Judith Waters, his psychologist of many years.
He opened the letter. She had written it on old parchment. Judith had a fondness for antique stationery. Konan read.
“It has been some time since we last spoke. Time, like all things, passes ever quickly. I read in the paper that you had taken on a job as a consultant for the police department. Are you okay? Does this have anything to do with your last case? I worry for you. You have exhibited an unrelenting tenacity to uncover killers. It is unhealthy for you to fall back into the trap of obsession. I am here if you need a sounding board, or if you would like to renew our friendship.”
Konan sat the letter down on his desk. It had been years since he last saw Judith. Their friendship, if one could call the many ‘Netflix and chill’ hookups a friendship, had ended on a sour note. Judith wanted more out of their mini-adventures. Konan found her intellect to be frigid and unappealing. He had severed all ties with Judith over a voicemail.
This was the first time he had heard from her in eight years. Konan showered and dressed. He pulled bacon from his fridge, along with eggs, cheese, onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos. He took down one of his many Yeti mugs and made coffee. Then he constructed his omelet. Konan’s brain worked better when his stomach was full.
As he sat in his recliner and ate, he considered who would do the killings. It had to be someone who knew him or knew of him. During his time on the force, the local paper featured him on occasions. Over time, Konan developed a reputation for doing what was necessary to uphold the law, even if it meant breaking the law.
Because Konan refused to grant interviews to journalists, the ‘journalists’ crafted an image of a hard man out to right the wrongs of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Still, it had made him out to be a folk hero of sorts. “It could be someone who followed my career. It could be a doctor.”
His thoughts turned to Judith. After all the time that had passed, she still thought of him. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I should renew our friendship. Just the friendship. She is cold, calculating, and sordid, but she is a great sounding board, and provides adequate feedback. I’ll go see her tomorrow.”
Konan stretched out on his couch and turned his television on. Tom and Jerry were on. The last thing he saw was Tom plotting the destruction of Jerry as he drifted off into dreamless slumber.
Amber Wainwright haunted Konan’s sleep. In his dream, she smiled at him. He reached out his hand to save her, but she refused to accept his help. A figured clothed in darkness cut her face and drove long, rusty nails into her tiny body. Konan watched helplessly as the murderer killed her. The killer then sent a text message.
Konan came out of his sleep to the tune of his phone buzzing. Sleepily, he patted the bed to find it. He cracked one eye open and picked it up. It was Ashley Wilkinson. “Come to the lab, I have something to show you.” Konan showered, dressed and made him a cup of coffee in his favorite Yeti mug. At 0606, he boarded the bus and rode into town.
Ashley stood in the lab dressed in a black tee and a pair of khaki slacks. Her shoes were sensible, no stripper heels for her. She nodded to Konan.
“Morning, you look rough this morning,” she said. Konan sipped his coffee. He nodded.
“Yeah, I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. What do you have for me?”
Ashley smiled proudly; she placed a knife on the countertop.
“Me and Pop-pop figured out what kind of knife the killer has used.”
“What is that?”
“This is a taxidermist double-edged fleshing knife. One side is razor sharp; the other has a moderate sharpness. The razor edge is to cut through gristle and tough fur. That is the side the killer used. “
“It would explain the depth of the cuts, but look at it. It’s unwieldy. An amateur could not use this without practice.”
“No. The assumption would be that the killer has experience in using this tool.”
“Finally, we have caught a break. Thanks, Ashley. Tell Pop-pop I said thanks for the data.”
“You bet.” Konan turned toward the door but turned back around. “Hey Ashley, do you have a moment?”
“Sure,” she replied as she shrugged on her white lab coat. “What’s up?”
“Do you drink coffee?” She smiled, and Konan waited for the rejection he knew was coming.
“I do. It gives me an edge.” She wrinkled her nose and grinned. Konan felt a smile tug at his lips.
“Maybe you would like to grab one someday.”
“Sure, we could do that.” Konan nodded and smiled a small smile.
“Okay. I will let you get to it.”
Konan turned and walked out the door. Ashley watched as he walked away. “He is so cute when he is awkward.”
Konan thought about the fleshing knife. He walked into the squad room and found Tomas and Wiggins neck deep in their files. They looked up when he approached.
“You guys found anything?”
“Nothing so far,” Wiggins wheezed. Tomas shook his head no. Konan dragged a chair close to their desk and sat down.
“I received a text from Ashley this morning. She has figured out the weapon. It’s a double-edged fleshing knife. The razor-sharp edge was used to make the deep cuts on the victims’ faces. “
“Jesus,” Tomas muttered. Konan didn’t think was possible, but Wiggins grew even more pale.
“Start a search for taxidermists that have a violent past. We need to get someone in here before Mayor Smith has a meltdown, or the killer takes another victim.”
“Roger that,” Wiggins wheezed.
There were three taxidermist businesses located inside of Fredericksburg, five outside of the city limits. “Surely, one of them has a dark past. Someone has to know something about this.”
Wiggins showed up in the Records Cage after lunch. He snacked on a Snickers bar as he gave Konan the lowdown.
“Of the eight taxidermists, two have a checkered past. Adam Philter had several run-ins with the law when he was younger. He spent most of his teenaged years in a juvenile delinquent center. He is a scrapper. Adam was always in a fight somewhere.”
Konan listened and sipped some coffee. “Okay. Who is the other?”
“Brandon Watterson. He spent nine years in Parchman for assault with a deadly weapon, specifically a bladed weapon. To boot, his victim was a woman he met at a juke joint.”
“Where is he?”
“He lives way out in the woods.”
“Okay, you and Tomas pick him up. I want to talk to him. Lilly and I will go see Adam.”
“Alright. Maybe one of them is our guy.”
Lilly waited for Konan in the building’s foyer. She wore jeans, boots, and a thin, green button down. Her green eyes sparkled when she saw him.
“Hiya. Where are we headed today, partner?”
“We need to go see an Adam Philter.”
“Cool. Let’s get on the road and put an end to this psycho’s reign of terror.”
“Maybe. Tomas and Wiggins are going to visit the other one. We can hope that one of these two will fit the crime.”
Tomas and Wiggins left the station a little after 1300. It was an hour and a half before they got close to where Brandon Watterson lived. Tomas nodded out the window at the black water that pooled up on both sides of the road.
“What are those called?”
“What? The swamp?”
“Swamp. Yeah, that’s what they’re called. I heard someone call it a slough one time though.”
“Yeah,” Wiggins wheezed. “It’s the same thing.”
“You think gators are out there?”
“Probably. I would imagine there are all sorts of evil things lurking in it.”
“It’d be an evil place to die.”
“That’s why the water is so black, Tomas.” Wiggins wheezed for several moments. The humidity made it almost unbearable for him to breathe. “All my life I’ve heard that black water covers the dirty deeds done out here.”
Tomas pulled the car in front of a rickety shack. Heavy swamp moss hung from the branches of the old cedar trees. The front porch stretched in front of the shack; it was in a state of brokenness. Wiggins took point. A shop was parallel to the house. A noise came from the shop. It sounded like a grinder running over metal. They walked to it and pushed an old wooden door open. A figure leaned over a metal table; a blacked out helmet covered the face of the figure. Sparks flew in every direction as the blade cut through.
Tomas looked around. Knives of various sizes hung from rusty nails. Animal heads hung from the walls. The grinder switched off. Tomas turned his attention back to the figure. Wiggins wheezed.
“What are you doing in my shop?” A large hand lifted the mask. A pair of angry eyes stared at the two Detectives.
“I’m Detective Wiggins. This is my partner, Detective Tomas. We’re looking for Brandon Watterson.”
“Why? I ain’t done nothin’.”
“You’re a taxidermist?”
Brandon gestured at the mounted heads on the wall. “Did ‘em all myself. Killed ‘em too.”
“That’s great,” Tomas muttered.
“Look, Brandon. We need your help with something. A killer has used one of these things,” he gestured to the knives on the wall, “to kill. We need your expertise to bring them to justice.”
“What do you mean no,” Wiggins wheezed.
“I ain’t helping no cop.”
“Okay. Then you’re under arrest for suspicion of murder,” Tomas said. “Place your hands behind your back.”
“No,” Brandon growled.
Brandon Watterson stood 6’8 and weighed every bit of three hundred pounds. His weight was not fat but muscle. A long, jagged scar ran down the left side of his face as a testimony of his violent nature. He ripped off the helmet and threw it in the dirt.
Upon hearing no, Tomas and Wiggins backed up. Tomas was a solid 225. Wiggins weighed in at a buck fifty, if he wore concrete shoes. Watterson charged Tomas and swung a wild haymaker that collided with Tomas’s temple. Tomas crumpled to the ground.
“You’re next, little man.”
Wiggins dropped into a defensive position. Watterson charged him like a wild bull. He threw his arms wide to bear hug Wiggins. At the last moment, Wiggins deftly sidestepped the attack. He rabbit punched Watterson in the throat. The big man hit the ground. Wiggins took two steps and soccer-kicked him in the jaw. Watterson crumpled to the ground.
“You okay, Tomas?”
“Yeah, I guess. It felt like Thor’s hammer had hit me.”
“Well, we got him.”
“Where did you learn those moves? I always thought you were a bookworm.”
“Just because I’m a bookworm doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to defend myself.”
“Huh,” Tomas grunted.
Wiggins handcuffed Watterson, and with Tomas’s help, they got Watterson in the back of the car. After another hour and a half drive back to Fredericksburg, they placed Watterson in the interrogation room #3. Tomas informed Konan via phone and explained what happened.