The 112th Files…Thermopolis Konan…unedited…

Larry never called during the day, unless you count early morning part of the day, and his phone calls always brought bad news. He was the patron saint of bad tidings.

Was.

I got a call last night, if you consider early morning part of the night, and I had to run out into the rain. Flashing blue lights lit the way to Larry.

He’d have hated that. The sheriff out this way is Lonnie Rowell. Sheriff Rowell stood outside of Larry’s mobile home with a brown paper bag up to his mouth.

“What’s going on, Sheriff Rowell? Why did y’all call me out here this morning?”

“Cut the hokey redneck crap, Thermopolis.”

“Okay, Sheriff Rowell. Why don’t you tell me what is going on out here in the swamp?”

He scowled at me and pushed the trailer door open. Larry sat naked on a five-gallon bucket, with duct tape over his mouth and the back of his head blown open.

“Huh,” I said. “That’s not good.”

Rowell rolled his eyes and said, “whomever killed Larry called it in. Weren’t you and Larry running buddies back in high school?”

‘Yep. There for a while, we were good friends.”

“Something come between y’all?”

“Yep. A woman.”

Rowell laughed and nodded his head and said, “it always comes down to a woman. What was her name?”

“Her name was Gilly.”

“Gilly?”

“Yeah. All three of us were good friends until Larry and I noticed her beauty, and both of us wanted her for our own.”

“So, did you kill Larry?”

“Nope. I didn’t know about it until you called me.”

“Are you the kind of man who does his own dirty work, or did you make mention of it in polite conversation to someone who took care of it for you?”

“I’ve been a cop long enough to know how to hide the bodies and limit the amount of evidence left at the scene. If I wanted Larry dead, which I didn’t, but if I did, you wouldn’t find anything to hang me with.”

“Well, I’d appreciate it if you would go in and have a look around.”

“Sure, Sheriff Rowell. I’ll do that.”

I walked in and stayed out of the way of the busy white wearing forensic types. The kitchen had no one in it, so that’s where I started.

“Don’t touch nothing,” one of the techies growled at me.

“Was the sink full of dishes when you got here?”

My question received a scowl from the forensic technician. He shook his head yes. His identification badge listed his name as Denny.

“Yeah,” Denny said, “how did you now?”

“We were friends once, and Larry was horrible at housekeeping.”

“If you are friends with the deceased, why did Rowell bring you in?”

“You don’t listen well, Denny. No longer friends, was once.”

I opened the fridge, it was empty. Same for the cupboards. On the small circular table was a plate, a glass, fork, and knife, with one white napkin. The glass was empty.

Denny looked over at me and said, “this wasn’t his primary residence.”

I looked up from the table and stared at Denny. He was in his early twenties, fresh-faced, and eager. I hated him.

“What gives you that impression?”

“There’s only one of each item.”

“And?”

“That’s not normal,” Denny said waving his hand around the room, “none of this is.”

“Maybe,” I said as I walked into the living room. No one had discovered a weapon in the trailer, one wasn’t left at the staged suicide, and there was no note.

“So, it’s a homicide,” Denny said. “Why even stage it as a suicide?”

“Because it’s all part of the game, Denny. It’s no fun for the killer if the players don’t know they’re playing.”

Denny stared at me, his mouth agape at what he heard. I walked over to Larry and looked at his feet. He wore heavy boots, caked in mud and something I didn’t recognize, a blue tee and jeans. Normally, he’d wear an Ole Miss hat, but it’d be kind of hard to get it over the gaping hole in the back of his head.

And no one would miss the large caliber hole between his eyes, hat, or no hat. Larry had done good things in his life. He hadn’t deserved this end.

“Call me when you guys finish here, Denny. Let me know if anything stands out to you.”

“Sure, Detective Konan. I’ll let you know what we find.”

I walked out into the rain, past Rowell and the news crews that rushed toward the trailer, and climbed into my big, red Dodge flatbed.

Someone needed to tell Gilly that her husband was dead, and it would be better if the news came from an old friend.

Or at least that’s the lie I told myself.

Gilly Winters, 36, sat on the front porch of the log cabin Larry had built for her. After their high school graduation, she and Larry had married and began fulfilling God’s command to Noah: Go forth and multiply.

She and Larry had three children by the time they’d turned 21, and another on the way. By 25 they had six children. Hard times had fell upon the burgeoning family. Larry took matters in his own hands, and soon the funds were flush again.

Gilly thought of this as the rumble of the familiar sound of the Dodge cut through the still morning air.

“Here comes trouble.”

Gilly watched as the truck drew close. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Nothing good ever comes from a visit from Thermopolis. He’s the patron saint of bad tidings.”

I stopped short of the porch and put the truck in park. Gilly sat on the porch and stared at me. After a moment, she waved for me to get out.

“Come on, Konan. Get out of the rain and tell me what happened.”

I sat in a rocker next to her, and we watched the rain fall for a bit. Gilly never said a word.

“I’ve got some bad news, Gilly.”

“Larry’s dead, isn’t he?”

“Yeah.”

Gilly sighed. From inside the house, a child whimpered. I turned and stared at the screen door. A sandy-haired boy whimpered again and rubbed his eyes.

“Come here, Bobby.”

Bobby pushed the door open and walked out to his mother. I shut up and watched the rain fall.

“Thermopolis, this is my youngest son, Bobby.”

I nodded at the boy and muttered ‘hello’. Bobby stared at me and said nothing. He ran his right index finger into his left nostril and wiggled his remaining ‘booger free’ fingers at me.

“How did Larry die, Thermopolis?”

“Uh, badly? Do you want me to go into details in front of your son?”

“Bobby, go inside. I’ll be right in.”

He leapt from his mother’s lap and ran inside, not even taking the time to remove his finger from his nose.

“Freaking kid’s gonna jam his finger into his brain if he’s not careful.”

The screen door slammed shut as Bobby rushed through. Gilly turned to me and raised her eyebrows. She gestured for me to continue.

“Sheriff Rowell and his deputies found Larry naked on a five-gallon bucket with the back of his head blown off, Gilly. Did Larry have any enemies?”

“Apparently. He wasn’t suicidal.”

“Who’d he work for?”

“Who knows? We landed on some hard times a few years back, but he took control, and then we were flush again.”

“You didn’t think it strange for Larry to take control?”

Gilly glared at me and said, “what’s that supposed to mean?”

I shrugged; I hadn’t come out here to fight with her. The grief made her defensive.

“I never meant it the way it came out. I’m sorry, Gilly. Larry never took charge back when we were in high school.”

“This ain’t high school, Thermopolis. We had six kids by the time we turned 25. You do what you must to survive.”

“True enough. Who’d shove a weapon in his mouth and pull the trigger, Gilly.”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay. I’ll let it go. Once again, I’m sorry for your loss. Here’s my card, if you need anything or remember anything, reach out to me at that number.”

She took the card and waved it dismissively. I stood and walked off the porch into the non-ending deluge. Gilly waited until I started down her drive before she walked into the cabin.

The clock in my truck read 0930, my day was just beginning. I drove to the police precinct and pulled into an empty parking space. Mine was filled with Sheriff Rowell’s pickup truck.

Rowell and my partner, Franco Rama, stood in the foyer and watched me walk toward the building. Franco said something and Rowell laughed.

I opened the door, and Franco tossed me a small towel.

“Dry yourself off, Thermopolis. Let’s go discuss this case we caught. Rowell was just bringing me up to speed.”

“Yeah, okay. I need food. Let’s ride to Fredericksburg and get something to eat. I’ll fill you in on the way.”

“Sure, Konan. Let me grab my coat.”

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