Franco Rama, 28, was one of the bright young detectives in the 112th. He had graduated top of his class at the academy and had proven himself capable in all regards. Some of the other detectives hated him for his quick rise, but I didn’t mind it.
“Sheriff Rowell said you and the victim have a history. Is there anything you want to tell me, pard?”
“There isn’t anything to tell, Franco. Larry, Gilly, and I all went to high school together. Larry and I both loved Gilly. She chose Larry over me. That’s it.”
Franco looked over at me, his dark eyes never betrayed anything he might have thought, and this time was no different.
“Did you kill him, Thermopolis?”
“No. I was home.”
“Was anyone with you?”
“So, you have no witnesses to back up your story. You can see how this may look to the powers that be.”
“What do you suggest, Franco? Should I go home and wait for you and the others to generate a list of suspects that doesn’t involve me?”
“Hey, don’t blame me. It’s the rules. You should recuse yourself from investigating the murder. Based off your prior history with the victim, it would seem wrong for you to lead.”
My cell rang, and I answered it with my free hand. Franco hated driving, he claimed it traffic affected his mojo. “I need my brain clear, so I don’t miss anything once we’re at the scene.” It sounded like a load of bull to me, but to each their own.
“Detective Thermopolis Konan, how can I help you?”
“This is Chief Rogers. Where are you?”
“I’m headed to Fredericksburg for breakfast, Chief. Is something wrong?”
“Meet me at Sparky’s. We need to talk.”
“Okay, Chief. I’m five minutes out.”
“Ten, the way you drive,” Franco said. I pressed ‘end call’ and cut my eyes to him. Franco stared out the passenger window and took in the scenery.
We rode in silence until we reached Sparky’s Restaurant. Franco and I stepped out in the rain and ran across the parking lot. As we entered the door, I noticed Chief Rogers sat alone in the back booth.
He nodded at me when Franco and I walked in. I gave Franco a nod toward the counter.
“Go ahead and order, I need to see the Chief for a moment.”
“Yeah, alright. I’ll have a coffee sent over to you.”
I walked over and sat across from Chief Rogers. He looked up from his omelet.
“What are you doing, detective?”
“You have a history with the victim. Your partner called and said he didn’t think you should get involved in the investigation.”
“Franco called you?”
“Yes. He and Sheriff Rowell both called and said it appeared unprofessional for you to take lead in this investigation.”
“Rowell called me this morning.”
“Look, Thermopolis, I don’t care. Okay? This hick got himself killed. I don’t care who solves the murder, but you’re to step aside and let Franco take lead. As a matter of fact, why don’t you take a few days off?”
I feigned surrender by lifting my hands, and muttered, “sure.” Chief Rogers gave me a small smile.
“May I ask a favor, Chief?”
“Sure, detective. What’s on your mind?”
“Can you give my two-faced partner a ride back to the office?”
“Yeah, I can do that. Franco is only protecting the legitimacy of the case, Konan. You can’t fault him for that.”
“I don’t, sir. I fault him for not confiding with me. He and Rowell both crossed the line as far as I’m concerned, but I’ll step aside and take a few days.”
“I think that’d be best.”
I walked past Franco and up to the counter. A tall, skinny brunette stood behind the counter. Acne dotted her narrow face, and she avoided looking directly at me.
“Can I help you?”
“I’d like your mega-omelet with everything except mushrooms, extra cheese and extra bacon, and a large cup of your coffee.”
I handed the young lady a ten and told her to keep the change. She nodded and I walked over to the table where Franco sat.
“Everything alright, pard?”
“Sure. I found out that my ‘partner’ didn’t have the guts to confront me. Instead, like a coward he called Chief Rogers.”
“To boot, Sheriff Rowell, who called me to the scene this morning, also called and complained to the Chief.”
Franco put his hand up to stop me, but I wasn’t stopping for anyone.
“So, to appease the two-faced, I’m taking a few days off so you and Rowell can get this solved. Let me know when I can return to work.”
The brunette brought my food to the table, but I’d lost my appetite. I gave her a small smile and asked for a to-go box. She came back with one, and I scrapped my breakfast into it.
“You can catch a ride back with Chief Rogers.”
Then, I stood and walked out to the unmarked sedan. I had had about as much as I was going to take today. If Franco and Rowell had it under control, far be if from me to interfere with their mojo.
I could use the days off.