“Have you found anything, Lilly?”
“Yeah, check this out.” She handed a slip of paper to him. Konan put his glasses on and read it.
“Well, how about that?”
“Wanna go see what Rasheed has to say now?”
“Yep. Let’s ride.”
The sun had shined briefly after the rain ceased. Between the wet asphalt and the blazing sun, the humidity rose quickly. It felt as a wet blanket had descended upon them and weighed about their necks. The sun was out only for a moment. It disappeared behind the darkened firmament.
Lilly drove them to the abandoned factory. She darted masterfully between her opponents, who shared the road with her. Konan put his hand on the roof to brace himself. Between her sudden lane changes and tailgating, Konan was having a hard time remaining upright.
They finally arrived. Konan exited the vehicle and bent at the waist. Lilly grinned.
“You can’t hack it, eh?”
“I can hack it,” Konan muttered. Lilly giggled and scrunched up her nose.
“No, you can’t.”
She’s right, Konan thought. He wanted to admit his defeat, but he wasn’t a quitter. ‘I’ll power through.’
They walked into the abandoned factory. Long, dark shadows lurked in the building. Konan pulled out his light. They made their way to the top floor. The mannequins appeared sinister in the low light.
Rasheed sat in the open, his handgun was to his left. He stared out the window. He never moved. Lilly approached him from the side.
Rasheed was dead, the whole back of his head was an open wound. His color was gray and showed signs of rigor mortis.
A blood-stained piece of paper was on the desk. There were no empty casings from the pistol. There were no wounds on his body, and someone had crossed his hands.
It was the prettiest ‘suicide’ scene Konan ever saw. He called it in. While they waited, he and Lilly observed the scene.
“Konan, listen to this.”
“The police came today and told me that my one true love had died in the fashion of an honor killing. I was powerless to stop it. There is no way I can bear the thought of her suffering; I can’t bear the shame of my failure to protect her.”
Konan took the letter from Lilly. The copperish smell of blood was strong on the letter. The handwriting was neat. It was too tidy.
“He knew the killer,” Lilly said. Konan nodded.
“Rasheed knew how and when the murder would occur. He lied to us, and I never saw it.”
“Khalid must have known we would discover that he, Talia, and Rasheed came to the States together. There is no other explanation.”
“Maybe, but it is all too convenient, dontcha think?”
Lilly shrugged and sat down next to the body. The wail of the ambulance announced its arrival. Allie brought her bag with her, two men shoved/carried the gurney up the stairs.
Allie stared at Lilly and Konan and then at the stiff. She knelt beside Rasheed and tested his temperature. She glanced up at Lilly and said, “y’all visit the nicest places.”
“It’s not by design, Allie. Do you have a time of death?”
“About two or three hours ago. Did you guys find him like this?”
“Yep,” Lilly said. Allie nodded. Konan stared at the desk. Everything had a place and nothing seemed disturbed.
“How soon before you can tell if it was a suicide or murder?” Allie squinted at him.
“Do you think it’s a murder?”
“I’m not sure, Allie. He was a person of interest in our investigation and suddenly he is dead. It makes a guy wonder.”
Allie shook her head and sighed. It seemed she would never catch up with the backlog of cases she already had on the table.
“Everybody wants to be first,” she muttered. Konan’s eyes grew narrow and his mouth tightened into a hard line. Lilly put her hand on his shoulder.
“We don’t mean to add to your workload, Allie,” Lilly said. “It’s important that we know if it is a suicide or not.”
“Give me some time and I’ll run up a full battery of tests. You’ll know something tomorrow.”
Konan and Lilly departed from the factory after they ensured that all potential evidence got gathered. He still carried the note in his hand. Konan pointed at it.
“You see the blood, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Lilly said. “I see it. What about it?”
“There is blood on the paper, but none on Rasheed. So, if it’s not Rasheed’s blood, whose is it?”
“The killer’s,” Lilly gasped. “It’s not a suicide.”
“Yeah. Someone had Rasheed suicided. By whom remains to be seen. His weapon and the blood need testing. We need to know what killed Rasheed.”
“They staged the entire scene.”
“Like cheap theater,” Konan said.
Rain fell on them as they started for their vehicle. Konan turned and looked at the abandoned factory. It looked like something from an old black-an-white film. “What a horrible place to die in. It’s like being discarded, like some unwanted thing.”
He knew a thing or two about unwanted things.
Lilly drove them back to the station. They said goodbye to each other, and Konan walked to the bus stop. It was a quiet night. Per usual, the rain brought out lots of drivers. The bus pulled up to the stop, Konan boarded it. He walked to the back and took a seat in the last row. Few people were on the bus. An elderly woman sat up front. A man wearing a hoodie, with the hood up, sat midway on the right.
Konan leaned back against the seat and shut his eyes. The day had tired him out. Air hissed when the driver tapped on the brakes. Konan opened his eyes. The old lady had got off the bus. Only he and the hooded man remained.
The driver started toward the next stop. A few moments later, the brakes hissed again. Konan stood and made his way down the aisle. As he passed the hooded man, he spoke.
“Have a nice evening, Konan.”
Konan muttered, ‘you too,’ and got off the bus. He started down the dirt road that led to his house. Long shadows cast by hanging branches played out on the road.
He made it to his mobile home and unlocked the door. Konan stepped in, shut the door, and reached for the light.