After concluding our visit with Paddy and Esther, Lilly drove us to the Fredericks Building to speak with the board members for the Fredericksburg Hunting and Country Club.
Winston T. Smith III, along with the rest of the board members waited for us in the conference room. Smith stood at the head of the table and gave us a reptilian grin.
“Detectives Konan and Thompson, I presume?”
“Yes,” Lilly responded feigning politeness. “I’m Detective Thompson, this is my partner Konan. You are?”
“I’m Winston T. Smith, the chairman of the board. Most people just call me Mr. Smith.”
Mr. Smith wore a fashionable black suit, a crisp white shirt, and a lime green bowtie. The other members of the board were similarly dressed. It all spoke of the wealth and affluence of the club and its members.
Lilly kept the smile on her face and said, “we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but a security guard for the railroad discovered the body of Travis Franks this morning.”
A couple of gasps escaped from various members, most notably a middle-aged woman and a young male at the opposite end of the table.
The woman covered her mouth with her left hand and tears wet her hazel eyes. The male at the end looked away. Other members looked at the floor or at their phones.
Winston T. Smith seemed unruffled by the news and asked, “are you certain of the identity?”
“Yes, we’re certain.”
“I hate to hear that,” Smith said as he sat in his seat. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the plush leather.
“You hate to hear that? Are you for real?” I stood behind Lilly, but I could sense the smile on her face.
“Yes, I am saddened by the loss of Travis Franks.”
“Where are the other two members?”
Mr. Smith gave me a weak smile and motioned toward the window.
“We, that’s the board members, placed the Trinity on leave while we investigated a rumor of murder and corruption. You could say we’re doing our due diligence.”
“So, you know where they are?”
“Of course,” Smith chuckled, “we wouldn’t accomplish much if we misplaced our primaries.”
“We need to speak to them,” Lilly said, “I’m sure you can understand why.”
Smith grinned and said, “no, I’m afraid we don’t understand. If you desire to speak with them, you will need a warrant to force us to comply with you. The last time I checked, no judge will issue a warrant without evidence of a crime and probable cause. We will wait until you come back with the warrant. Good day to you both.”
“Thank you for your time and help,” I said.
Lilly turned and glared at me, but I turned and walked out of the room. She trailed behind me. In the hall she walked up next to me and hissed, “that’s it? We’re done?”
I walked down the hall, back toward the receptionist. Pictures of the board members adorned the wall. Underneath the pictures the names of each member were etched into a bronze placard. I scribbled down the names of the two that had seemed shocked at the news of Travis Franks demise.
“No,” I responded, as I wrote down the names Jane Franks and Terry Whitestone. “I’m just gathering some information.”
“Who are they?”
“They acted shocked to hear of Travis’s death. Everyone else seemed apathetic.”
“Winston Smith sure seemed confident he didn’t need to give us any assistance, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did. I can’t wait to break his smirk when we hand him a warrant. First though, we need to grab some lunch.”
We exited the building and walked out to the car. It was still raining. As we got into our vehicle Lilly asked, “what do you think happened to the remaining Trinity members?”
I started the car and flipped on the wipers. The rain continued to beat down on the windshield. I turned and looked at my partner.
“I think they’re dead.”
“Say again, Konan. Why would you think that?”
“Look at how everything has happened Lilly. Travis Franks body was discovered during a monsoon. Someone called the security guard and told him ‘Something is amiss.’ Plus, this non-stop rain makes it hard to gather evidence.”
“So what, Konan? Plenty of murders happen in the rain.”
“Yes, I know that, Lilly. However, I think the killer is playing with us. They’ve revealed the first piece already.”
“Yes, but I think more bodies are on their way.”
“How do you know that Konan?”
“It’s a working theory. I don’t have evidence to back it up yet, but look at how Travis Franks was killed.”
“His head was bashed in, and he was thrown across the tracks.”
“During a particularly nasty bit of weather that has destroyed most of the evidence.”
“Which would allow the killer to walk away free.”
“Yes, if my theory is correct.”
Lilly rubbed her face and yawned. I seconded the yawn with one of my own. It’d been a long day to this point.
“It makes a sick sort of sense, Konan. Here’s a question: Why would Smith demand a warrant if they couldn’t produce the Trinity members? Why would he claim to know where they are?”
“I think he’s bluffing, and it’s not even a good one to begin with.”
“Well, I think your theory is on point, but there’s only one way to prove it.”
“Yeah, we need enough evidence to get the warrant.”
“So, let’s get to it.”
Meanwhile at the precinct, Janko sat at Konan and Lilly’s desk with his feet propped up on top of it. He rubbed at his bushy mustache and groaned.
I swear these two idiots are always stirring the pot. I should fire both of these knuckleheads.
Manson and Val Rankin watched him from across the room.
“Everything okay, chief?”
“Yeah, Manson. I’m waiting for Thermopolis and Lilly to come in.”
“Are they up to their usual hi-jinks this morning, chief?”
“Yes, they’re making me old before my time,” Janko grumbled. “Would it kill them to not start every day with some new calamity?”
“Ah chief, it’s just part of their process.”
“I know. Still, I get tired of getting my butt chewed on because of their process.”
“That’s why they pay you the big money chief.”
Thermopolis and Lilly had solved many crimes throughout the years, and Mason couldn’t remember a single case where the pair hadn’t made life difficult on their superiors.
Still, the pair of detectives complemented each other. Fredericksburg and their superiors needed them, even if they always acted as if they didn’t.
Lilly and I didn’t head straight back to the precinct as Janko hoped, instead, we went out to where the security guard said the homeless lived.
The bridge that spanned the waterway had makeshift tents underneath it. Many homeless wandered from one burn barrel to another, never staying in one spot for long.
I got out and walked toward them. Eyes followed every step I took, and some walked away as I drew near. Unlike some of my fellow officers, I didn’t look down on the homeless.
“Excuse me,” I asked a dirty faced old man. His beard was thick and gray, his eyes cold and a deep blue-almost violet.
“Did you hear about the dead body at the abandoned train yard?”
“I don’t know nothing.”
“Yeah, that’s not what I asked. Do you know of anybody here that might know something?”
“No, even if I did I wouldn’t say anything.”
“Yeah, okay. I guess I’ll drag all of you downtown. Call in some more cops and tear down your huts and what not. Or you can help me, and we will avoid that-your choice.”
The old man sighed. He nodded in the direction of some scruffy looking teenagers. “They might know something about it,” he whispered.
“Oh yeah? Why do you think that?”
“They’re always over there when it rains. I heard them talking about a viking or some such.”
“Okay, I appreciate it.”
“You’re not tearing down my home, are you?”
“No sir, your home is safe for now.”
Lilly walked next to me as we moved toward the teenagers. All of them, five of them stood in a half circle next to a pillar, had dirty, matted hair that resembled something like dreadlocks. The alpha male stood in the middle and watched us approach.
“Looking for someone who saw what happened in the abandoned train yard,” Lilly snapped.
It was unusual for Lilly to exhibit such hostility. I frowned but let her continue.
“We don’t know anything,” the leader growled. His brown eyes bored into Lilly’s, and I thought of the story Where the Wild Things Are.
“A body was discovered over there, and the security guard said you guys sometimes hang out there when it rains.”
“So,” one of the young women snapped. “Don’t nobody work there anymore. We ain’t bothering no one.”
“He didn’t say you were,” Lilly snapped back. “Screw this, Konan. We can take them all downtown and sweat ’em. I’m tired of this…”
The five teens looked as if they would bolt at any time. I put my hand up and said, “No, Lilly. We’re not dragging them downtown like common criminals. Please, if you know something, it might save a life.”
“Is there a reward?”
I stared at the snappish young woman, and I chuckled. It always circled back to money, those who had plenty of money wanted more, and those who had none wished they did.
“Depends on the information. If it leads to a suspect, we can talk turkey. What do you have?”
“Depends on what you have.”
“It was a Viking, man. He wasn’t tall, just 5’7 or so, but he was muscled up.”
“What do you mean a Viking?”
“You know, he had the beard and long hair, it was blond. Had long scars on his face, and he carried a big stick. It made a sick whacking sound when he smashed his head in.”
“Did you notice anything else?”
“The dude seemed to know him. He kept hollering about Jackson.”
Lilly grew agitated and walked away. She pulled out her phone and called into the precinct. I sighed.
Jackson Titus was back, but why would he kill a member of the Trinity?