The hammer made a thunk, thunk, thunk, as the killer dragged it across the floor of the mobile home. Bright red blood stained the gray linoleum. Charlie Whitlock watched as the killer walked toward him. He sobbed.
“I don’t have it, man. I don’t…”
The hammer crashed into his head, and silence filled the mobile home. The killer dropped the hammer next to Charlie’s corpse and withdrew like a shadow in the night.
It wasn’t until the next day that the grisly scene got discovered by some nosey kids in the trailer park. Allie Starbuckle, 13 going on 50, noticed the door was ajar. “I’ll just pull it too,” she thought as she walked toward the trailer. Half a dozen steps from the entrance, she stopped in her tracks.
“Help! Somebody call 911!”
Allie couldn’t remember the last time a Monday had sucked as bad as this one. It wasn’t even 0900, and the trailer park was lit up by flashing lights like the Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Sometimes you just can’t win for losing.
Thermopolis Konan sat in his mobile home; his reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose. A MacBook laptop with a small screen lay in his lap. Various tabs open, he searched for accessories for his tactical shotgun. He frowned. “These folks are insane. They want an arm and a leg for this.” The shotgun leaned against the propane heater. It was a Mossberg 590. He purchased it after his last case.
Things had escalated since the case was closed. Konan had received many death threats. Twice, someone placed explosives in his mailbox. The message couldn’t possibly be any clearer. He’d crossed someone, and they wanted him to suffer.
It was a matter of time before they moved from the mailbox to his home. “No mobile home needs this type of setup,” Konan thought. He had installed movement detection sensors around his property. He linked the detection sensors to four flood lights, two in the front and two in the back. Everything connected to a radio in his small sitting room. Konan put the radio on a station that inclusively played gangsta rap. He detested gangsta rap, thus it would wake him from a dead sleep should someone trespass.
He shut down his laptop, turned off his lamp, and made his way to his bedroom. His phone rang. It was his partner, Lt. Lilly Thompson.
“Hey, what’s going on Lilly.”
“You up for a fresh case?”
“Well, I suppose I could be. Can someone other than us can’t handle it? Are we the only detectives left in the Fredericksburg Police Department?”
“Oh, you know how it is, Konan. Besides, there’s a significant problem here.”
“The killer wrote your name in blood on the trailer wall.”
“Great,” Konan muttered. “Another fan.”
“So, you’ll bring donuts and coffee, eh?”
“Yeah. Send me the address.”
“2125 Watson Road. See you in a bit.”
Konan dressed in a greenish-grey tee, jeans, and a pair of Red Wing Irish Setter boots. He shut off the lights, shoved a Springfield Hellcat and three magazines into his jean pockets.
He stepped out the door and turned to lock it. When he turned back around, his mailbox disintegrated into a fiery blast.
“Come on, man! I’m tired of this crap.”
Konan shook his head in disgust as he walked toward his truck. “I’m gonna find this idiot as soon as I can catch my breath.” The clerk at the local hardware store wouldn’t mind if he purchased his third mailbox in as many weeks from him again. At least someone would benefit from his troubles.
2125 Watson Road was a dirt road that led to a small hill. The mobile home sat in the back corner of the lot. Konan could not see the trailer from the road. The grass was tall. Apparently, the owner had not cut it at all this summer.
There were no outside lights, booger lights the locals called them. The flash of red and blue lights announced that he’d arrived at the right place. Lilly stood next to a patrol car and watched as Konan walked up.
“I really hope you brought donuts and coffee,” she said in way of greeting.
“One large coffee, black. One box of mixed donuts. Who is the victim, and why am I here?”
“Victims. Charlie Whitlock, his brother, Jarrod, wife Sarah Jean, and his friend Luke Richards.”
“Four victims. Who discovered the bodies? Are any of them disabled?”
“No, all were fully functional adults. Allie Starbuckle, 14, she found the bodies.”
“Poor girl. Did the officer take her statement?”
“Then how did the killer get the drop on four people?”
“Come on, sugar britches. Follow me in,” Lilly said as she sipped her coffee. Konan followed Lilly. CSI techs stood in various locations of the trailer searching for evidence. Lilly handed him gloves.
“So, Luke Richards answered the door. The killer shot him point blank twice. Killer charged in and pied the hard corner. Charlie’s wife got popped next, one to the throat, the other to the chest. Jarrod fired a slug and missed. Killer fired three rounds, two in the chest, the other in the head. Then the killer fired one round into Charlie’s guts and finished him with a blow from that sledgehammer.”
“Are we talking about a professional?”
“Maybe. From the looks of it, I would say so. However, that would bring up another question: why would a professional killer use a ten-pound sledge to send Charlie into the afterlife?”
“Whatever is going on, it’s personal. The killer killed three people with multiple gunshots. Yet Charlie got hammered. That would lead me to believe that the victim either knew something he shouldn’t or had something that he shouldn’t. Either way, the kill was personal.”
“Personal? I don’t know if I agree with your assessment, but it seems a touch dramatic.”
Konan walked over to the other victims and stared at them. Lilly watched from where she stood and sipped her coffee. Konan opened the shirt of Luke Richards and frowned.
“What is it, Konan?”
“Look at the grouping of the killer’s shots. The bullets almost went through the same hole. Same thing goes for Jarrod over there.”
“Do you have any idea how much practice it takes to keep the same sight picture, especially when you’re moving? An amateur would not have this kind of skill. ”
“So, the killer is a pro.”
“Yeah. No one is that lucky. It’s possible to make that kind of shot on one victim, but not two. The killer never hesitated. As soon as Richards opened the door, the killer didn’t stop until everyone was dead.”
“How do you know that, Konan?”
“Because it’s what I would have done. Besides, how much luck do you think you would need to breach a house where you’re outnumbered, kill them all, and leave unscratched?”
“I don’t know. I’m curious about what this bunch of rednecks got involved in that required all of them to die?”
Konan shrugged his thin shoulders. Lilly looked at him. He’d never been a huge guy, but he had lost a lot of weight. His face was thinner than she’d ever seen. His eyes showed weariness, and not from a lack of sleep. “Poor guy. He’s burnt out.” Lilly knew exactly how he felt. Life as a homicide detective carried a soul-crushing weariness that sprung from witnessing the worst of human behavior.
“Who knows, Lilly? In today’s world, there is no way of knowing until the investigation turns up something. It might be drugs, sex trafficking, or God only knows what else. Maybe they all hated one another, and did the world a favor.”
While the techs finished up their duties, Konan walked out into the yard. “Who would write my name in blood on the walls?” Lilly walked out with him into the yard. She elbowed him in the ribs and lifted her chin toward the trailer.
“You didn’t kill these folks, did you?”
Konan turned and met her eyes. He shook his head no. He knew she had to ask, but it still irritated him.
“Are you for real? No, Lilly, I didn’t kill them.”
“I didn’t figure you did, but I’ve gotta ask.”
“Yeah, I know.”
The medical personnel loaded the dead into the ambulance and took them to the county morgue. The new medical examiner was waiting for the bodies, and he would perform autopsies on each one.
“What happened to Tammy Bowen,” Konan asked.
“She took a job in Jackson. More money, more benefits, more job security.”
“Yeah, I get it. Who took her place?”
“The new medical examiner is John ‘Bennie’ Walker. He’s worked in the medical field for over thirty years. Everyone has said he is one of the more experienced morticians in the system.”
“Ain’t that something.”
“Yep,” Lilly muttered. “Are you going to follow me to the morgue, or should I meet you at the department?”
“I’ll meet you at the morgue.”
“Alright, I’ll see you there.”
Konan walked back to his large red Dodge flatbed truck. He fired it up. The diesel engine rumbled loudly as he pulled out of the yard. Lilly watched him disappear into the night and then walked to her unmarked sedan. Konan had seemed nonplussed by horror show in the trailer. “It’s got to be the side effect of one horrific case after another. How much can one guy see before he melts down?”
The county morgue sat right outside the city limits of Fredericksburg. Beside the morgue was a large cemetery. If the engineers designed it with that purpose in mind, no one knew. It gave the morgue a sense of horror, and according to Konan, that horror bled into the personality of the Chief Medical Examiner.
All the time the medical examiner spent surrounded by the dead had to influence their relationship with the officers that depended on their findings to bring justice to the families that were victimized. Of course, this was only Konan’s opinion.
He pulled up in the gravel parking lot of the morgue and shut off his truck. Lilly was already inside. Konan got out and stretched his arms overhead. At 48, Konan was not old, but he felt older than his 48 years. “It’s not the years, but the mileage that gets you,” he was fond of saying.
Konan opened the door and walked in. He walked down the long hallway to Tammy Bowen’s old office. Lilly stood in the doorframe and watched him make his way toward her.
“Come on down here, Konan. I want you to meet Dr. Walker.”
Dr. Bennie Walker was a short bald man, with a solid white Santa Claus beard and a massive beer belly. “He’d pass for an Oompa-Loompa, or maybe a Hobbit,” Konan thought as he drew close to the pair. The doctor’s cheeks were flushed red, his eyes bloodshot.
“Howdy, son. You must be Detective Konan. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Oh? Well, don’t believe everything you’ve heard. It’s nice to make your acquaintance, doctor.”
“We need a rush on these autopsies, doctor,” Lilly said.
“I told you, detective, there’s an order of precedence. You’re not the only detectives that need an autopsy.”
Lilly sighed and sipped her coffee. Dr. Walker looked from her to Konan and back to Lilly.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, detectives. Other people were here before you. If the mayor would hire some people to assist me, then…”
“Just promise me you’ll get on it as soon as possible.”
“I will,” Walker grunted.
“Yeah, well, there’s nothing we can do about that, doctor. Maybe the next mayor will prioritize hiring more personnel to shore up the M.E.’s office.”
Konan and Lilly’s pursuit of the killer would have to wait for a little longer. The pair bid the doctor a good day and walked out to their vehicles. Lilly slammed her hand on the hood of the sedan.
“Politics. It’s always the politicians that screw up everything. You know what bugs me the most about this, Konan?”
“That it happened to some poor white trash, and nobody gives a crap. But let it happen to some rich jerk, or some politician’s trash kid, and the entire world gets turned upside down to find the killer.”
“I understand, Lilly. But that’s life. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The day had started with a bang, four dead, Konan’s name written on the wall in blood, and a smashed head. All that on an empty stomach did not bode well for Konan. He tapped Lilly on the shoulder. She turned and looked at him.
“I’m headed to Hardee’s. Do you want anything?”
“No. I have a box of donuts in my car. Do you want one of them?”
“No. I brought them for you. I’ll grab a biscuit and then head to the station.”
Dr. Walker stepped out to smoke a cigarette. He gave the detectives a small wave. Konan gave him a wave back.
“Have a good one, doc. “
“You too, son.”
Konan made a quick trip to Hardees and then drove to the police department. Instead of parking in the garage, he parked in front of the public library and walked to the station.
Lilly sat at their desk in the murder room. A large white board stood next to the desk as she wrote the names of each victim upon it. Four files lay on the desk as well.
Konan sat next to her and opened Charlie’s file. It read like a crime novel.
“Charlie Whitlock, born and raised in Mississippi. His father, Tommy, is a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan. Charlie committed his first crime at 13, and got arrested nine times before his 30th birthday. His crimes included burglary and assault. Well, Charlie was a waste of oxygen.”
“Sounds like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in his case,” Lilly whispered.
“It usually doesn’t. Let’s see what his brother was like.”
Konan picked up Jarrod’s file and read his sheet. He shook his head in disgust.
“Another genius. He followed in dear old dad and older brother’s footsteps. Plus, he was an active member of the local Klan chapter. His crimes are as plentiful as his brother’s. He got arrested for grand theft, assault, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, and selling illegal arms.”
Konan let out a heavy sigh. It was hard to see a bright future for humanity, when all you ever saw was the worst that humanity offered. Konan rubbed his head, Lilly patted him on the shoulder and sat next to him.
“Why would anyone beat someone to death with a hammer, Konan?”
“I don’t know, man. There are more efficient ways to kill someone, but it sent a message.”
“Yeah, but what kind of person wanted to send a message?
“Someone who hasn’t found what they’re searching for. That’s why Charlie got rung up.”