Pappy lived under a bridge on the northwestern part of town that led from the abandoned warehouse district. He and the other homeless had used cardboard boxes to block off one end of their home to retard the wind that came from the waterway. No one knew how many homeless lived under the bridge. Some guessed that as many as fifty lived under the small barricaded off section, others liberally guessed somewhere near 100.
Konan and Lilly parked on the side of the road and walked under the bridge. They stopped short of entering the encampment. Lilly took out her flashlight and shined it around the makeshift home.
“Pappy, are you there? It’s Konan, we spoke earlier. Do you mind if I enter your home?”
No one answered so Konan and Lilly ventured a bit further. Vacant eyes tracked their movements. A burn barrel stood in the center of the camp, many people sat near it and whispered quietly among themselves. Both detectives could only make out part of what they whispered, “white devils.”
A dirty haired blonde staggered toward them; Lilly moved her free hand to her sidearm.
“You’re looking for Pappy?”
“Yes, ma’am. I spoke to him earlier and need to see if he recognized anyone in these photos.”
“He ain’t here.”
“Okay. Do you know when he will return?”
“He’s gone, and he won’t come back. The white devils got him.”
“White devils? You mean white people, right? Why would anyone take him?”
“You don’t cross them and live to talk about it. If you fight, they give you a shot to calm you. Then you’re gone, never to come back.”
“How did Pappy cross them?”
“We don’t talk about that. They hear everything.”
Konan leaned forward and whispered, “can you tell me what they drive? They can’t hear us if we whisper, right?”
The woman leaned close; her pungent breath nearly took Konan’s breath away.
“They drove a blue van. One white devil was tall, the other short. A woman was with them.”
“Did you see the license plate?”
“F-871. That’s all I saw.”
“Thank you. If I find Pappy, I’ll make sure he gets home.”
“You won’t find him. They leave no trace.”
Konan and Lilly departed the encampment and walked to their vehicle. Lilly didn’t remove her hand from her sidearm until they left the warehouse district.
“Did you understand any of that,” she asked.
“No, but it’s apparent someone sacred the crap out of her. Of course, she could have been high or delusional.”
“An amateur defense attorney would eat her alive on the stand. I’m not sure how the first guy would do either. The homeless make unreliable witnesses, Konan.”
“Well, none of that matters now. Pappy is gone, where no one knows. As you said, the woman seemed unstable. We have nothing.”
“There’s always tomorrow. Um, I’m sorry I bit your head off. This type of case gets my blood boiling.”
“I understand, Lilly. I care, but I don’t see a point in jumping to a conclusion right off the bat. We will find who did this.”
“And how are we going to do that?”
“We will call Internal Affairs in the morning and ask for the files of every cop that has excessive force in their records.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Yeah, but first thing we need to brief Janko. I’ll meet you at his office at nine.”
Konan pulled the vehicle into the appropriate parking spot. Lilly gave him a small wave and walked toward her car. Konan watched until she started it up and pulled away. Then, he walked to the bust station and caught his bus.
His stop was the last stop of the night. He walked down the narrow aisle and said good night to the driver. Then, he walked down the curvy drive to his mobile home.
An unmarked sedan sat in front of his house. Lt. Ashley Davis got out when she saw him draw near.
“Good,” she looked at her watch and then at Konan, “morning, Konan.”
“Well, how about that. What brings my favorite Internal Affairs officer to my door this early in the morning?”
“I heard you’re investigating this supposed hate crime. Also, I heard you think two white officers are involved.”
“You’re hearing a lot of stuff that hasn’t been briefed yet.”
“A high-profile case like this and you don’t think there are leaks in the department? Come on, Konan. You know better.”
“Well, a guy could hope. So, you’re here to talk shop.”
“No, I came to give you the names of two officers who fit that profile. We haven’t found anything solid, but maybe with your help we can kill two birds with one stone.”
“Well, come on in. Let’s see if some of our comrades graduated to murder.”