Jackson Titus sat under an emerald, green umbrella and sipped coffee from a teal-colored cup that had a clay stripe that wound its way around it. Steam rose from it, and he blew on the hot liquid. People rushed by their heads buried in the happenings, and non-happenings, of social media.
No one paid any attention to him. He counted on their disinterest in reality and knew people would rather watch a video showcasing the stupidity of modern man over an actual conversation with another human being.
Besides, the last time he was here, he served as a police officer. He’d kept his sandy-brown hair cut close to the scalp, was clean-shaven, and his mannerism was curt but professional.
Now, his hair was long and flowing, much like his beard, and dark sunglasses hid his eyes. Even if someone sat next to him on the bus or even at his table, no one would recognize him.
“Would you like some more coffee, sir?”
“No, thank you. Please bring my check.”
The waitress, a blonde named Alice, tried to meet his eyes, but Jackson ignored her. Alice, only days away from her nineteenth birthday, had a perky attitude, pale blue eyes, and full lips, and had never known a man she could not entice. She could not understand why this man resisted her charms. She slinked away and returned with his check.
“Have a nice day,” she said coldly.
Jackson gave her a smile and said, “you too.”
As he crossed the main square, he stopped by a paper stand and purchased one. The headline read: “Local police baffled by murders: Has Thermopolis Konan met his match?”
Yes, he has, he thought, as he shoved the newspaper under his left armpit. And this time, I won’t run away like a chased rat. Thermopolis Konan will pay with his life. He glanced at his watch; the digital numbers read 1530.
Phase two will soon commence, but first comes the orders.
As I drove Lilly and I back to the precinct, Lilly’s phone dinged. She checked it, smiled, and glanced over at me.
“Paddy sent us and address for the Titus family. They live out in the sticks. We should go out there tomorrow and rattle the bushes.”
“We can. You know he’s not going to look the same, right? He wouldn’t chance it. We should speak to a profiler and have them do a workup of his psych profile.”
“Do you know where we can find a profiler? Because the last time I checked, the Fredericksburg Police Department doesn’t have employ one.”
“The State Police may have one, if not there’s always the FBI.”
“I’d check with Janko before I called in the Feds.”
“I’m not going to call in the Feds, Lilly. I’ll call the staties in the morning.”
“I was just sayin’ before you call the Feds, talk to Janko. He deserves a heads up.”
“Okay. I got it, mom.”
Lilly laughed and smacked me in the chest. She wrinkled up her nose at me until I gave her a grin.
“It was good to see Paddy and Esther, eh?”
“Yeah. It was a nice visit.”
“Paddy seemed upset when we first got there, and he really didn’t seem to happy when you walked in.”
“Yeah. Apparently, it’s not good to disappear for whatever reason. Who knew people wanted to know you cared about them, even when bodies are piling up, the city is being burnt down, and racist cops are on the loose?”
“You could’ve called, Konan. That’s why you have a cell phone.”
“I don’t like cell phones, Lilly. The only reason I have one is because the job required me to carry one.”
“You’re a fossil, Konan. A cell phone is necessary in today’s life, it’s a staple of our society for God’s sake.”
“No, it’s not. While everyone is busy figuring out what kind of potato they are, the art of conversation is dying. While you murder your brain cells watching videos of stupid people doing stupid crap, actual knowledge is perishing.”
“You’re a fossil. What would you have us do? Burn our television sets? Go back to teletype? Or maybe do away with all new-fangled DNA crap?”
“I’m not saying good things didn’t happen, Lilly. DNA is a godsend, and it’s helped get innocent people out of jail, and the right ones put in it. Because of DNA testing, rape victims have a good chance of receiving justice. But the point remains, for every good thing, piles upon piles of bad has infiltrated our society. All you must do to educate yourself on this is look at issues facing our society today.”
“What? Like climate change? Abortion rights?”
“No. Look at the graduation rates, the murder rates in the 18–25-year-old bracket, the literacy rate, look at the power held by the teacher unions and academic strongholds, then look at how little power the parents have in shaping their own children’s lives.”
“Then take your college degree and compare it to a similar degree that came from any Asian country. You’ll see why our society is sinking underneath the self-inflicted wounds we imposed on ourselves to make us seem like everyone else.”
“Jesus, you’re such a sour puss, Konan. You’re a clean-shaven gloom and doom prophet.”
“The battle lines are drawn, Lilly. To withdraw now is cowardice.”