A Blade in the Dark…unedited, incomplete, but new writing…

Everything stopped at once. The clerk behind the counter forgot about my paperwork and turned to look at Lilly, I stood there with a quizzical look upon my face, and even the people in the lobby looked up from whatever they were doing. 

“He’s dead?”

“As a doornail,” Lilly retorted. “What do we do now, Konan?”

“We go to the scene of the crime, and see if we can’t make heads or tails out of this. Who killed him?”

“According to the warden it was some random gangbanger. It was meal time, and the cellmate took a shank to the guts.”

The clerk handed me a copy of my receipt and my card. I took it and shoved it into my overstuffed wallet, and we headed out. It took us five minutes to get to the prison. Paramedics, sheriff deputies, and other pertinent persons crowded the gate. 

A guard walked down to our vehicle, and I rolled down our window. I flashed my badge, and Lilly hers, and the guard waved us on through. Rows of white cotton grew on both sides of the road, and Lilly looked out upon it in silence. I pulled off into a parking lot on the right side and shut off the engine. 

“Well, let’s go see what’s what, Lilly.”

Without a word, Lilly stepped from the vehicle and followed me inside. We’d traveled three hundred miles for nothing, and I felt every bit as frustrated as my partner. In the lobby sat two civilian contractors behind the desk, their eyes glued upon the row of monitors. 

I flashed my badge at one of them when they looked up. He motioned for me to insert my badge and sidearm into the tray. We complied. The man looked over our credentials and picked up a phone. After a few words, the man pressed a button and said, “A guard is on the way to escort you. It’ll be just a sec.”

I nodded and muttered, ‘thanks.’ 

Lilly and I walked over to the chairs and had a seat. She still hadn’t said a word. Hard diamonds had replaced her beautiful green eyes, her full lips replaced by a tight grimace. She brushed a curl from her forehead and took a deep breath. 

The door opened and a young black woman walked in. She walked over to us and gave us a nod. 

“I’m guard Josephine Abrams. Are you Detectives Thompson and Konan?”

“Yes,” Lilly said in a flat voice that carried zero emotion. 

“Follow me, please.”

Guard Abrams led us to the scene in the cafeteria. Blood soaked the tile floor. An old man with a white coat that had Medical Examiner embroidered  on the right side knelt next to the body. He looked up at Lilly and me, his bloodshot eyes indicating another night without rest. 

“You’re the detectives we waited for,” he said, exhaustion seeped from his voice. 

“Yes, sir,” Lilly responded. “Thank you for waiting.”

“No problem. It’s not like this one is going anywhere.”

“What happened here?”

Guard Abrams started to explain, when an tall, blonde woman held her hand up. Her icy blue eyes took in me and Lilly, and she gave us a smile that could chill the most hardened murderer. She stuck out her hand and said, “Let’s go into my office, detectives. We can discuss it there. Doc, bring us your findings when you’re done.”

“Yes, Warden Eden.”

“This way, detectives.”

Warden Eden led us into her office. Unlike some wardens, she had no secretary. She unlocked her door and flipped the lights on. Her office was tidy, and on the small side, but she motioned to two chairs and said, “Have a seat.”

Lilly and I sat down and waited for the warden to join us. Warden Eden sat behind the desk and gave us another smile. 

“I understand you came here hoping to interview Jasper Watkins concerning his former cellmate.”

“That’s right.”

“What is this concerning? Why the interest in Tricky Rich and his cellmate?”

“We’re looking into the rape and murder of Ana Marie Hendricks. Tricky Rich is missing, and my partner suggested we speak with his cellmate. See if he knew where Rich might hide out.”

“I see. Well, Jasper can’t help you now. “

Lilly kept her temper under control, and I watched the exchange between the two women. Warden Eden didn’t seem to mind that Jasper Watkins was dead on the floor of her cafeteria. Instead, she exhibited zero signs of stress concerning his death. The name Tricky Rich hadn’t fazed her at all. 

The door opened and the medical examiner came in. Warden Eden nodded and motioned for him to come in.

“You must pardon my manners, detectives. This is Dr. Robert Thomas. He’s our local M.E. Do you have something to tell us, Dr. Thomas?”

“Yes ma’am. In the process of the riot, Jasper Watkins was disemboweled. Um, he is missing his heart, liver, and some other organs.”

“What riot?”

Everyone turned and looked at me, I could see my frustration in Lilly’s eyes. Warden Eden gave me another smile, but I glared at her. I wanted to punch her teeth out of her smug mouth. 

“We had a disturbance earlier, detective. It’s nothing unusual here. Continue your report please, Dr. Roberts.”

“That’s all there is to it really, Warden Eden.”

“Where are the organs?”

“Excuse me, son?”

“Where are the organs that are missing? Don’t tell me, let me guess, they’ve not been discovered yet?”

“That’s the definition of missing,” Warden Eden snapped.

I stood to my feet and knife-handed Warden Eden. “Fine, Warden Eden,” I snapped back. “Explain how inmates got weaponry sharp enough to disembowel a man into your prison. How did this happen if you and your guards are competent and fit to do your duty?”

Dr. Roberts backed up against the wall, his eyes wide, and his mouth hung open. Warden Eden stood but said nothing. She didn’t need to. The veins in her neck grew taut, her nostrils flared, and her breaths came bursts, it communicated everything she might have said. 

“I want a detailed report of this incident. Dr. Thomas, you send the body to our medical examiner. I expect it delivered tomorrow, without delay. Failure to comply will result in me burning up my phone until I find someone willing to replace this administration.”

Lilly gave Warden Eden a chilly smile, and I turned and followed her out the door. We stopped and picked up our badges and sidearms, and walked out to our vehicle.

“Do you feel better now that you got that off your chest, Konan?”

“I can’t stand stupid people who treat me like I’m stupid. This wasn’t random or haphazard, whoever did this is in on it.”

“You mean they helped with Ana Marie?”

“Yeah, but don’t ask me to prove it.”

“I think you’re right, Konan. We need to find out how long Jasper Watkins was at the prison prior to his ‘unfortunate’ disemboweling.”

I pulled up at the hotel, and Lilly and I walked to our room. After we both showered, I stretched out on the couch and watched Tom and Jerry, while Lilly called and checked on her son Gareth. Before she finished her conversation, I fell into a deep slumber. 

No dreams haunted me, and I slept for four hours. Lilly was passed out across the bed with her mouth open. A snore escaped from her more than once. I slipped on my boots, took the room key, and slipped form the room. The night was warm and humid. I ignored it and walked down to the lobby. 

A tall, thin Muslim man sat behind the counter sipping tea. He looked up when I walked in, his eyebrows furrowed up at my appearance. He nodded and said, “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” I responded, as I flashed my badge at him. “Could I ask you a question?”

He nodded and pointed at the Health Inspector’s letter grade. The document had an ‘A’ on it. I nodded and said, “I’m not the Health Inspector, sir. My room is nice and clean. It’s about something else.”

“Okay,” he muttered. “Ask your question.”

“Disembowelment takes a while doesn’t it? The person that gets eviscerated doesn’t die right away, right?”

The man paled and shook his head. I put both hands up and said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. I’m investigating a case where someone…had that done to them.”

He nodded, tears wet his eyes as he patted his chest. “Missing,” he said in a low voice, still patting his shirt.

“Yes,” I responded. “Organs are missing.”

“Torture,” the man whispered. “They cut you to find your true colors.”

“I think it was torture,” I said, as I handed the man my handkerchief. He took it and wiped his eyes. When he was done, he shoved a picture of a beautiful woman and a young girl.

“My wife and daughter,” he said, as he drew his finger slowing across his lower abdomen. “Punishment for talking too much.”

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