Khalid Abbas lived in the richest neighborhood of Fredericksburg. The elite of the town lived in Briar-Stone. Metal fences protected the backyards. Every house had a driveway. The driveway had a gate at the entrance.
Compared to the luxury homes built throughout Briar-Stone, Khalid’s home seemed paltry.
The five-bedroom home sat hidden from the main road. The drive snaked around into a hidden corner surrounded by tall pine and white oak trees. Khalid, an avid collector of old cars, had spared no expense on his garage. Ten cars could fit within it. He was proud of his home, but desired more of everything. More wealth, more power, a bigger house. Nothing was off limits to him.
Lilly pulled the unmarked squad car up to the intercom by the gate. Konan got out and pressed the button. It was mere seconds when Khalid’s voice came through the speaker.
“Can I help you?” Konan nodded at the security camera hoisted above the gate. He flashed his badge at the camera.
“Yep, I’m Detective Konan. We have some questions about Talia Omar.”
“Okay. Follow the driveway down.”
The gate buzzed and opened. Konan got into the car and sighed. Lilly pulled through the gate.
Lilly looked at her partner from the corner of her eye and said, “how did he sound?” Konan shrugged and cracked his neck.
“He sounded like he expected us to show up. You question him, Lilly.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I need to get my hand taken care of. I will be in when I’ve bandaged it.”
Lilly pulled up short of the house. She got out and whistled. It was a beautiful home. Konan got out and pulled out a first aid kit from behind the seat. He cleaned his wound and ripped open the bandage with his teeth.
Khalid met Lilly at the door. He smiled at Lilly; she smiled back. Lilly waved her hand at his home.
“You have a beautiful place here,” she said. He nodded and said, “it will do for now. Please, come in.”
Lilly smiled and pointed at the car. Khalid looked in the direction she pointed.
“My partner injured his hand. He’s cleaning it. If you don’t mind, I would rather wait for him.”
Khalid snapped his finger and a small woman, no younger than 75, conversed with Khalid in their native tongue. She started for the car.
“Your partner will join us in a moment. Grandmother will bring him in when she has bandaged his wound.”
Lilly nodded okay and followed Khalid into the house.
“So, you have questions about Talia Omar? I heard they found her dead, such a horrible place the world has become.”
“Yes, it is sad.”
Khalid led Lilly to an expansive sitting room. He motioned for Lilly to have a seat, and he sat across from her. Footsteps sounded down the hall as Konan and Grandmother made their way into the room.
Konan nodded to Khalid; Khalid nodded back. Konan took a seat next to Lilly.
“How did you hurt your hand, Detective?” Konan forced a smile.
“A flash of temper and reaction, I’m afraid.” Konan feigned embarrassment. Khalid smiled.
“How did you know Talia?”
Khalid smiled at Lilly’s question. She smiled back and waited for the politician to respond.
“She is a member of our community. She helped many during tough times. I sought her help once.”
“Did she help you?”
“She did not have the means to help me.”
“What did you seek help with?”
“I asked her to join my campaign as a financial advisor. She refused. We disagreed on several issues. We went our separate ways.”
“So, you did not have any issues with her refusal,” Lilly said.
Konan watched Khalid. He showed no outward signs of stress. “He’s a cool customer,” Konan thought.
“No. I had no problem with her refusal. America’s greatness comes from accepting those we disagree with. We can disagree and not worry that some person is going to behead us for it.”
“Was that the last time you saw her?”
“Yes. I have hired people who do my shopping for me, so I have spent little time in the markets.”
“Okay. I have no further questions, unless my partner thought up some.”
“I have one question, sir.”
Khalid forced a smile, Konan smiled back.
“Did you know the killer made Talia’s death look like an honor killing?”
Khalid said nothing for a moment. He stared at Konan. Then he flashed a quick smile and shook his head.
“No, I did not know that.”
“Ah. I thought you might have some information since you brought up beheadings.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Many have said you lost your first run because of the extremeness of your views. Do you agree with beheading those who turned on your faith? It’s just between us.”
“I believe those who turned need punishment. Those who make these decisions decided whatever punishment is righteous.”
“That’s not a yes or a no,” Konan said. Khalid smiled.
“No, it is not. It is best to leave the punishment for walking away from the faith to those in charge.”
“If you were going to have someone killed, for honorable reasons, of course, who would you call?”
Khalid laughed. It sounded as fake as the answers he gave. He made a show of it. Khalid wiped at his eyes and put a hand on his belly.
“Oh, Detective, there’s no list of executioners you call to handle such business. Even if there were, I would have no use for it.”
Konan stood; Lilly joined him. Khalid led them to the door. Konan turned and smiled at Khalid.
“Thanks for answering our questions. You’ve been a great help to us.”
“You’re welcome, Detectives. I wish you good fortune in finding Talia’s killer.”
Konan and Lilly walked to the car. Lilly waited. This case seemed clumpy to her, like unformed dough.
“Do you think he did it, Konan?”
“I think he hired someone to do it.”
“He was very calm about the whole thing,” Lilly said. “The only thing that stood out to me was his reaction when you asked him about honor killings.”
“Yeah, he was too calm. It seemed like he expected us and knew what questions were coming.”
“Khalid doesn’t seem like the person who is used to being rejected,” Lilly said as she guided the car through the gate.
“I waited for him to crack a joke. You know, something like: This dude on a bicycle fell off and broke his neck. A group of people gathered around, and someone yelled, Please call a doctor!”
A guy runs up and said, “I’m a doctor!”
“What kind of doctor?”
“A doctor of mathematics!”
“This guy fell and broke his neck!”
The doctor looked at the body and said, “Minus one.”
Konan waited for Lilly to laugh, but it never came. Lilly shook her head and said, “that’s terrible.”
They rode back to the station. While Lilly drove, Konan thought of Khalid. ‘The guy is too smooth. He’s like a greasy hog. You can’t hold him.’
“Konan. Hello, Earth to Konan.”
“Sorry, Lilly. What’s up?”
“How do you think we should proceed?”
“We need a list of his campaign workers, house staff, and any involved with him on any level, personal or professional.”
“You’re putting all your chips on Khalid?”
“Yeah, I’m going all in.”
Lilly cocked her head and stared at Konan. She wondered why her partner was so angry about this case. This case, their first, seemed to have grown into a personal conquest. It would not satisfy Konan until someone paid for the crime in blood.
“You are target locked, Konan.”
“What do you mean, Lilly? I felt Khalid was our guy from jump street.”
“That’s what I am talking about. You didn’t ‘feel’ this way about Rasheed, and he committed heinous acts just like the one perpetrated on Talia.”
“Rasheed was remorseful. Khalid is too smooth. I’m telling you…”
“Remorse is not a symptom of innocence, Konan. Why are you willing to believe that Rasheed is innocent? Where is your evidence that he is guiltless of this crime?”
Konan rubbed his forehead and temples. He shook his head in disgust.
“I have nothing, just what I feel in my guts.”
“It’s entirely possible that both men can commit the deed. Sure, Rasheed seemed remorseful, but he also put a gun to my head. Don’t forget that minor detail.”
“Yeah,” Konan said.
This case was moving too fast, or he was moving too slow. Leads were few, and Konan battled his past and this case.