She drove them to a small café that was on the corner down from the station. Konan got out and sat at a table near the largest window in the building.
“Here you go, partner. Some much needed brain juice to the rescue.”
Konan took the coffee and blew on it. Lilly sat across from him. She stared out the window at the puddles left by the storm.
“I’m sorry, Lilly. It wasn’t professional of me to put all my eggs in Khalid’s basket.”
“It’s okay. I haven’t grasped why you’re so angry. I’m sure you have your reasons, but we need to get the right guy for the crime.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Why are you so angry?”
Konan rubbed his temples and stared out the window. Tears wetted his eyes. He blinked them away.
“There was a third honor killing that I saw. Her name was Aida. She was born in the Middle East but grew up in America. When the war kicked off, she went back to her place of birth. She and her family moved back because they loved their country. They wanted to help make it a better place.”
Konan sipped his coffee and stared at a puddle of muddy water. A car passed by and splashed water on the window. He wiped at the tear that stained his cheek.
“They had two beautiful daughters. Aida was our interpreter. She went out on missions with us. One day, she didn’t show. Then, it was a week. Two weeks. Early one morning, we found their bodies in a drainage ditch on one of our patrols. “
Lilly covered her mouth and stayed quiet.
“The insurgents abused, tortured, and then killed Aida’s children. They made Aida and her husband watch. Or that was what we assumed. The husband received the same treatment. He just lasted longer.”
“We found only her head. The rest of her body had disappeared. We figured they fed her to the wild dogs.”
“Oh, my God. Did no one investigate?”
“Investigate? Who had time to investigate? Someone rumored that our side betrayed them, but horrors happened in that country daily. We fought the war. That was our entire purpose of being there. Evil happened so frequently no one could keep up. Sure, it got reported to headquarters. They assigned people to look into it, but the backlog of tragedies were astronomical.”
“Maybe we should work another case, something less…”
“No, Lilly. I’ll keep my emotions in check. Let’s get this solved.”
“Can you do that? Can you keep your emotions balanced?”
“Did they ever find out who killed Aida and her family? Did they discover who sold them out to the insurgency?”
“I don’t know. The last I heard was they suspected a Non-Commissioned Officer named Blankenship in our unit. Nothing ever came of it.”
“He was in your unit? Did you know him?”
“They assigned him to my unit to bolster our numbers. I knew of him, met him a time or two between missions. That was it.”
“Why was he suspected of betraying them?”
“Again, I don’t know. Something happened to his squad, I think. It was before he came over to us.”
“We need to find out what happened. We also need to see if he knew Rasheed or Khalid, and if they had any dealings with each other.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Konan said as he wiped at his eyes. “Maybe we can put both cases to bed with one swing of the bat.”
Konan and Lilly strode into the police station together. They now had a purpose and multiple leads to check out. Tia Mathers waited for them at the elevator.
“What do you have to say for yourselves?”
Lilly shrugged and stayed silent. Konan waited for the other shoe to drop. There’s always another shoe waiting to drop, he thought to himself.
“What part of your investigation led you to Khalid Mohammed? Do you know who he is?” Veins stretched across Tia’s forehead. Her eyes bulged and showed the rage that she barely contained.
“Yeah, we know who he is,” Konan said. “He is a person of interest in this murder we are investigating.”
Tia Mathers drew close to Konan, close enough he could smell the cheap vodka on her breath, and whispered, “I told you I would get you. You’re done.”
Lilly stepped to her partner’s side. She met Tia’s hateful glare with one of her own.
“He ain’t going nowhere, Tia. If you fire him, you fire me. Khalid is a person of interest; we will work to clear him as fast as we can. He answered our questions. We have leads that need following, if you’ll excuse us.”
Lilly pressed the button and motioned for Konan to come to her side. Tia licked her lips and glared at Lilly.
“I’d be careful who I hitched my wagon to, Lilly. If he goes down, so will you.”
The elevator dinged, and the doors opened. Lilly turned to face Tia. She locked eyes with her.
“I’ll remember that, boss. You should probably take your own advice.”
Lilly and Konan rode the elevator to the second floor. They walked into the murder room and sat down at their desk. Manson and Rankin came over.
“I heard y’all going over and bugging innocent people,” Manson said. She curled her lips at the sight of Konan. Rankin stood behind her with his arms crossed.
“You gotta understand, Manson. That’s the Thermopolis Konan method. Instead of looking for the killers, he goes off and looks for someone to blame for his inadequacies.”
Manson snorted. “Sounds about right,” she scoffed.
Konan smiled. Lilly never looked up.
“Speaking of inadequacies, Rankin, how’s your wife and my kids?”
Lilly giggled and looked away. Rankin flushed red and walked toward Konan with his fists clenched.
“Why you piece of…”
Konan leaned back in his chair and waited for Rankin to finish his sentence, but it never came. Manson stepped between Rankin and Konan.
“You know, Mason. When you curl your lips up in scorn, you look like you’re prepared to kiss a hog’s rear end. Or maybe just Rankin. Either way, it’s a bad look for you. Now that you know, do better.”
Manson’s veins protruded from her forehead as she dragged her partner from Konan. Lilly laughed and looked up.
“Are you through antagonizing the children?”
Konan smiled and nodded at his partner. He laughed and shook his head. “It’s always the same thing, no matter where you go. Someone has to be butthurt.”
“Yeah. You know Mason is so ugly you’d have to tie a pork chop bone around her neck to get the dogs to play with her.”
Lilly giggled and said, “she probably says the same thing about you.”
While Lilly dug into Khalid’s financial data and relationships, Konan placed a call to the Department of Defense. They answered on the third ring.
“Good afternoon, this is Tiffany. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi, Tiffany. I am Detective Sergeant Konan from the 117th. Could you connect me with Personnel Records, please?”
Three rings later, Tiffany transferred Konan to Personnel Records. A grumpy voiced person answered the phone.
“I’m Detective Sergeant Konan. I am trying to get a copy of Staff Sergeant William Blankenship’s records.”
“For what end?”
“He is a person of interest in a murder investigation.”
“You need to fill out several forms before I hand over a copy of a soldier’s record. Do you have the forms?”
“This is the first I’ve heard of needing forms. What forms do I….”
“You need the forms, period. There’s no way around it. Get the forms filled out and notarized. Send them in and it will take up to five weeks before we send them to you. IF your request is approved.”
“Maybe you miss…”
“GET THE FORMS FILLED…”
“STOP INTERRUPTING ME!”
Quiet filled the airwaves. Everyone in the murder room looked over at Konan. He cleared his throat.
“You’re about the rudest idiot I’ve dealt with today. This is a murder investigation. I’m not waiting five weeks for you incompetent people to remove your head from your butts. Send the records to this email.”
Konan rattled off his email and hung up the phone. Lilly stifled a smile and continued her search. Konan leaned back and stretched. ‘No wonder the world is in the shape it’s in. Between the bureaucrats and red tape, nothing gets done.’