Jim Watson, father of Kylie and Jayce, husband of Tamara, sat outside of his home working on a lawnmower. He looked up when Konan and Lilly walked up. He wiped his hands on a red, greasy rag.
“Can I help you, folk?”
“Yes, sir. I’m Detective Sergeant Lilly Thompson, this is Detective Thermopolis Konan. We need to ask you some questions.”
Jim nodded his head. He became teary-eyed. Konan looked away. Lilly sat on an overturned bucket.
“We’re sorry to have to ask, but it may give us a clue who killed your family, sir.”
“I understand.” Jim said. “Ask your questions, ma’am.”
“Tamara and your children went to the store. Why were they there?”
“They went to see Talia. They loved her. Tamara and Talia became good friends. She refused to go to the grocery stores when she could buy from Talia.”
“Did your family have any enemies?”
“No. We stayed to ourselves.”
Lilly nodded. Konan watched her question the man. Lilly struggled with her emotions. Her voice cracked every time she asked a question. “She’s kind. Look at her, Jim couldn’t wait to tell her whatever she wanted to know.” Lilly patted Jim on the knee and stood up.
“Thank you for talking to us, Jim. Call us if you remember anything that might help us, okay?”
Konan started for the car. Lilly ran to catch up.
“How do you do that, Konan?” He looked over his shoulder at Lilly.
“Do what exactly?”
“Remain emotionless. Jim cried; I was emotional. You stood there like a statue. Don’t you feel anything?”
Konan stared at Lilly. His lips peeled back and revealed his teeth. He wiped at the corner of his eye and scrunched up his nose.
“You seemed disconnected from Jim’s grief.”
“Why? Because I didn’t beat my chest? Because I didn’t punch the walls and scream at the sky?”
“No, I just… you didn’t shed a tear, didn’t get misty-eyed, you just waited for me to finish asking questions.”
Clearly, his detachment posed an issue with Lilly. Konan did not know how to fix it. He shrugged.
“I’m sorry, Lilly.”
“It’s okay. I thought you might have a reaction from you. I guess I expected too much.”
They rode in silence to the home of Talia Omar. The Muslim community had settled in the southeastern part of the city. Talia lived in a small house near the bustling part of the community. The mosque stood in the center of the busy neighborhood. It stood separate from the businesses and homes.
Konan turned on the radio as Lilly drove. The local news came on, the announcement of ‘breaking news’ interrupted the regular programming.
“Councilman Ted Wright Jr. stepped down as Councilman for District 2. He departed today under the suspicion of corruption. He stands accused of issuing building permits based on the who offered the most money. Many minority groups tried to build within District 2 but never received a permit for one reason or the other. Stay tuned for further developments. We will update this breaking story as details come in.”
The regular programming returned, and Konan listened to it and stared out the window. Two announcers debated and compared some modern basketball player turned activist to the greats of yesteryear. Konan soon lost interest in it and shut off the radio.
“Do you think that the new guy is as good as the old players?” Konan shrugged.
“I don’t think it matters. The game has changed and not for the better.”
“I didn’t know you kept up with sports, Konan. I figured you for a bookworm.”
“I am. I’m a bookworm that keeps up with sports.”
Lilly laughed. She nodded to the market.
“Wanna grab a bite to eat and then hit Talia’s home?”
“No. Let’s go there first. Then we can eat and not have to rush through it.”
“Okay. You take lead. I struggled with the last one.”
Lilly pulled the sedan into the driveway. She shut off the engine and sat behind the wheel for a moment. Konan waited until she opened the door and then got out. Konan walked with her to the door. He knocked.
An elderly woman opened the door. She stared at Konan; he gave her a small smile and showed his badge. She turned from the door and said something in Arabic.
A tall, slender man came to the door. He had a black beard and wore the traditional garb of his culture. He nodded to Konan.
“Hello. Good afternoon. How may I help you?”
Konan touched his heart with his right hand and said hello. He showed his badge to him.
“I’m Detective Thermopolis Konan. This is my partner, Detective Lilly Thompson. We are investigating the death of Talia Omar. I have some questions, if you do not mind.”
“Certainly. Please come in. Talia was my sister. I am Ahmed.”
He led Konan and Lilly to the living room. Ahmed motioned for them to sit. The elderly lady brought in a teapot and poured each a cup of tea.
Lilly blew on her cup and sipped it. She sighed and smiled. Konan smiled at the elderly lady and thanked her. Ahmed whispered to the woman, whom Konan decided must be his mother, and she disappeared into another room.
“Thank you for the tea.”
Ahmed smiled and nodded. Konan sipped his tea and waited to ask his questions.
“You were in the service, yes?”
“I was,” Konan said. He sipped his tea. “It’s been a while since I had Black Tea and mint.”
“You will be honest with me,” Ahmed asked quietly. Konan nodded yes.
“As far as I can be, yes.”
“Do you think my sister was an honor killing?”
Ahmed waited for Konan to reply. The problem was that Konan had no answers. Silence filled the moment; it grew more awkward the longer the moment lasted.
“I don’t know, Ahmed.”
“Of course, you don’t,” Ahmed muttered bitterly. “What do you know of my culture? Besides, we are all extremists?”
“Did your sister have any enemies?”
Ahmed shook his head no. He scratched his beard before he answered.
“No, everyone loved my sister. To know her was to love her.”
“Was Talia married?”
“No. My parents promised her to someone, but the marriage hadn’t taken place yet.”
“Who was she promised to?”
“That’s not important…”
“It might be. We can’t find your sister’s killer if you handcuff our hands behind our backs.”
“They promised her to Rasheed Mohammed before he went to—”
“Before he went to what?”
“Are you a soldier?”
“I was. I am now a cop.”
“Did you fight?”
“Rasheed is a soldier.”
“He turned away from the extremists. He became an informant. Then he moved back here for protection.”
“Okay. I need to know where to find him. I need to talk to him.”
“You will kill him.”
“Not if he complies. I bear no ill will. If he is decent, I will be decent.”
“Okay. I will have him meet you.”
“I need his address. In case he doesn’t show. Just in case something delays him.”
Ahmed shook his head and wrote the address on a sheet of paper. He handed it to Konan.
“He will resist. His past is murky.”
Konan and Lilly thanked Ahmed for his help and walked out to the car. The weather was raging, the skies a dark, gruesome black. Konan got behind the wheel and started toward the last known location of Rasheed Mohammed. Lilly looked at Konan.
“You seemed genuinely emphatic back there. I’m impressed.”
Konan sighed. It was always the same thing. ‘You’re not emotional enough.’ What was the big deal about emotions, anyway?
“Well, thank you.”
“Your profound emotional development should impress your lady friend.”
“I don’t have a lady friend.”
“You don’t. Wow! They must not know you’re available. Why don’t you have one? Don’t you believe in true love, Konan?”
Lilly made a pouty face and pinched Konan on the cheek. He cut his eyes to her, and she winked at him.
“No wonder you’re such a curmudgeon.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Lilly.”
“Come on, Konan. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
“Fine. I thought a woman cared for me once. I thought. She upped and left, and I tried to salvage the friendship. In the end, I should’ve burned the bridge and gone on about my life.”
“But you didn’t.”
“They did not give me a choice, Lilly. I thought we had something, but I was the only one who thought so. In the end, we couldn’t even be friends.”
“That’s sad, Konan.”
Konan bit down on his upper lip and shrugged. Lilly stayed quiet for a while and Konan focused on the road.
“You know, you could try again. Not everyone is hurting or recovering from a traumatic experience.”
“I would rather cut my throat with a dull knife. The problem isn’t that people are busy, or that life is hectic. The problem is that no one knows if the person you’re interested in is really what they show you. How do you know that they’re genuine? That they’re not wearing a mask?”
“You don’t. You take it on faith that they’re being genuine with you.”
“Yeah, that’s stupid. People can’t be honest with themselves, much less anyone else.”
Lilly tapped Konan on the shoulder until he glanced at her. She pointed her finger at him and said, “you’re a curmudgeon.”
“Your turn, Lilly. Are you married, dating, or single?”
“I was married. Now, divorced. We had a good thing until it soured.”
“I see. Did you have children?”
“We did not. It’s one of my biggest regrets.”
Konan guided the vehicle in front of a ramshackle factory. It had long been closed, but squatters used the place.
“Because having children is a privilege not everyone gets to have. If I have children, my memory lives on in them.”
“You want to be remembered?”
“Yes. You don’t?”
“Nah. I’m good with passing like a whisper in the night.”
“Of course you are.”