Lilly and I made it back to the precinct and reported in. Chief Janko was nowhere in sight, but two men sat in the murder room. One was short, blocky, and dressed to the nines. He was a Hispanic man, his skin darkened by the sun, his brown eyes alert.
“My name is Tomas. I’m not sure Chief Janko mentioned our arrival…”
“You’re one of the new detectives, aren’t you?”
Tomas looked at me and nodded. The other man, a pale, thinner version of Tomas sat quietly in the chair and feigned indifference. I walked over and nodded at him, he lifted his chin in response.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Wiggins. Tomas and I came from the 115th down in Biloxi.”
“Y’all are a long way from home.”
“Yeah. Where’s the chief?”
“I don’t know,” I responded. Lilly tapped me on the shoulder, and we all watched as Janko walked toward us.
“Oh, good. You’ve already met Tomas and Wiggins.”
“We just got here, chief. I haven’t introduced myself or Lilly.”
Lilly smiled at the pair of detectives and motioned to herself and then me. She gave me a tight grin and continued with the introductions.
“I’m Detective Lilly Thompson, and this uncivilized Neanderthal is my partner Detective Thermopolis Konan.”
Tomas and Wiggins nodded at us. Lilly nodded back. Janko motioned for me and Lilly to join him in his office. We walked in and sat down in front of his desk.
Janko sat down in his chair and said, “tell me you’ve got something.” Lilly shook her head no and responded, “not a thing, chief. We went to Tricky Rich’s job and trailer, we’ve got nothing. He’s in the wind.”
“That’s not good,” Janko muttered. “The mayor wants a press conference and something to give the people. Get out there and do whatever you need to, but get us a lead.”
He looked at me and sighed. “Lilly, you do what you have to. Konan, you follow the book, by-the-numbers.”
Lilly stood, and I followed her example. We walked out together, Manson and Rankin had met the new guys and was getting them squared away with a desk.
“Y’all be careful out there,” Rankin yelled. I threw my hand up and boarded the lift. Lilly looked at me as the doors closed and said, “now what?”
We rode the lift up to the top floor and stepped out onto the roof. As we walked across the skywalk, I turned to Lilly and said, “let’s head out to the prison. Tricky Rich had a cellmate. With any luck, he’s still in prison and might have something to go on.”
“Or, and in the most likely scenario, it’s a complete waste of time,” Lilly shot back. I shrugged and said okay. We got to the car, and I opened the driver door and stepped in. Lilly climbed into the passenger seat and sighed.
“Let’s go to the prison,” she said, as she buckled her seat belt. “At a minimum we can say we pursued every lead.”
I started the vehicle and drove to Parchman State Prison. It was a couple of hours away, so Lilly called ahead and touched base with the warden. As I drove, I thought of Ana Marie Hendricks, of the fear she must have felt, of the pain of her rape and the sudden but fleeting feeling of mortality as life drained from her tiny body.
Then, my thoughts turned to Tricky Rich and hoped he had felt as helpless as tiny Ana Marie Hendricks. It was the least the child rapist deserved.
Lilly’s voice cut through my thoughts like a laser through sheet metal. I turned and looked at her. She had her eyebrows raised.
“I’m sorry, Lilly. Say again?”
“I said we will arrive late. If you’d rather find us a hotel close to the prison, we can spend the night and interview the cellmate in the morning.”
“Okay, that sounds good.”
“What is on your mind,” she said, as she turned to face me. I shook my head and said, “not much. I forgot to bring my happy pills.”
“Oh joy,” Lilly retorted. “Are you okay without them?”
“It’ll be fine. Call and let the warden know about our change in plans.”
“Okay, “ Lilly groused. “You find us somewhere to stay.”
A familiar motel with a blue sign and a number on it stood next to the roadside as we entered the township. It had an accessible parking lot, and two restaurants next to it. The prison sat on the other side of the town, but was only five minutes away. I wheeled in there.
“Look,” I said, as I parked near the entrance. “They really do leave the lights on for you.” Lilly giggled and nodded. I got out and went in to get us a room.
Before I could pay for the room and finish the business, Lilly walked in. Her eyes were narrowed, her nostrils flared, and I turned to speak to her. She held up a hand and said, “the cellmate is dead. Someone murdered him tonight.”