I walked back to my room after I finished conversing with the man. By the time I left the lobby the man was a sobbing mess of raw emotion, but I had a new understanding of evisceration and the gruesome methods employed. Lilly stirred when I pushed the door open.
“What time is it?”
“Just after 0500, Lilly. Go back to sleep, we don’t need to leave until 0800.”
She leaned over the bed looking for her pillow. Lilly was a pillow tosser. Whatever she dreamed off, I assumed it to consist of nightmarish creatures from horror movies new and old, received a pillow to the face. I was the recipient of her pillow rage a time or two in the past.
Lilly found one and shoved it under her head. I chuckled and she wiggled to get comfortable. She patted the mattress and said, “Come lie down by me. I need your warmth.”
I crawled on the bed and stretched out beside her. She draped an arm over me and nestled close. Soon, she was snoring again. In the cool darkness of the room, I thought about evisceration, organ removal, and how it all tied together in the case of Ana Marie.
None of it makes any sense. It is almost like we’re investigating two different cases, which would explain why we haven’t found a lead in Ana Marie’s case.
Lilly stirred again and smacked her lips. She flipped over onto her back, threw the pillow across the room, and went back to snoring. I got up and padded into the bathroom. As I undressed, my mind kept going back to Warden Eden, Dr. Robert Thomas, and the meeting yesterday.
This case had more turns and twists than a double constrictor knot. As I showered, I heard Lilly’s feet hit the floor. She banged on the bathroom door.
“Yeah,” I said, raising my voice slightly so she could hear me.
“How much longer are you going to be in there? I’ve gotta go!”
“Okay, I’m getting out.”
I shut the water off and wrapped a towel around my waist, and unlocked the door. Her eyes ran over my body and she gave me a grin. Then, she shoved me out of the bathroom and slammed the door.
“My clothes,” I began to say, not that Lilly cared, so I didn’t finish my sentence.
Instead, I sat on the bed and waited until she was done. I heard the toilet flush twice, and Lilly stepped out. She looked scrumptious. I looked her over and swallowed hard. Her night clothes was black pajama bottoms and an AC/DC t-shirt. She walked over and sat beside me, and leaned her head on my shoulder.
“You smell yummy,” she whispered.
“You look delicious,” I whispered back.
She giggled and raked her nails down my bare back. I sighed. As much as I loved Lilly, she was far too busy to have a relationship, and I was far too frightened to enter into another one. We flirted and was as close as two people could be without the trappings of a full-blown partnership.
Both she and I knew what we had was a bad case of love, but we both knew that between work, her son, and our personalities, love was a fleeting dream. One of us would need to change careers for it to work, and even then there were no guarantees.
We sat on the bed, her head resting on my shoulder, just two people madly in love with only their fears and anxieties separating them from each other.
At 0800, we departed the hotel. It was two hours back to Fredericksburg, and we’d arrive back to our town by ten-if traffic was light- and we needed to brief Janko on the most recent developments. Once we got on the highway, we made good time.
“I’m hungry, Konan. Pull off at the next convenience store.”
I did as directed. At the next exit, I eased off and stopped in front of an old mom-and-pop store. Lilly leapt out and strode to the door. She disappeared into the dark store, and I looked at my phone while she shopped. Five minutes later, she came out with three bags of snacks and two large coffees.
“Here, hold these while I get in,” Lilly said, shoving the two coffees in my direction. I took them and watched as she loaded in. Her bags held two biscuits, one link sausage, the other ham, a bag of Fritos, apple fritters, and lip moisturizer labeled Chicken Poop. The other bag held soft drinks and more snacks.
“Are you pregnant again,” I asked, pointing at the bags.
“Uh, no. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I bought several things.”
“Yeah, I see that,” I responded. She took one of the coffees from me and buckled her seatbelt.
“Well, let’s ride. Ana Marie’s killer is waiting for us to catch them. By the way, where did you go this morning?”
I pulled out into traffic and got us back on the highway before I answered her question. She munched on an apple fritter and waited. She was used to my methods, moods, and in these moments silence. After I got the vehicle to speed and set the cruise, I said, “I went and had a chat with the night guy about evisceration.”
“Why would you do that? Was he a Muslim?”
“Why would that matter? No, Lilly. I went to him because I needed to talk out what happened. The fact that he was a Muslim didn’t matter to me. I would have asked the same question of a Black person, or an Asian, Hispanic, color doesn’t matter to me. Catching people who cut the guts out of someone does interest me.”
“Okay, calm down. I was just asking. Did you learn anything?”
“Not really, although I did learn that his wife and daughter was eviscerated for talking to much. Disembowelment is a punishment, or at least that’s what I gathered from him.”
“Why remove the organs though,” Lilly said, as she tore into the Fritos with wild abandon. This conversation was about to take a turn into gruesomeness, but her appetite was going strong.
“Um, that’s what is throwing me. Organ harvesting is nothing new, and there people in the market for certain parts. It’s a high demand industry, but I don’t understand how it ties with Ana Marie or vice versa.”
Lilly smacked her lips and ran her tongue along her bottom lip. She took a deep breath and said, “It’s almost like we’re caught in two different cases.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too.”
She smiled at me and wrinkled up her nose. “When did you have that thought, hmm?” She tossed another Frito into her mouth and raised her eyebrows. I laughed and shook my head. I needed to focus on something else other than the sexiness of the woman sitting across from me.
“While you showered?”
“Well, when did you have the same thought I did?”
“When I crawled on the bed next to you.”
“Mmm, I see. We’re connected,” she said, as she motioned with her fingers between our heads. She giggled and gave me a wink.
“Yeah, something like that.”
“You know what I’m thinking right now?”
“That you’ve eaten enough, and you need me to pull over so you can empty your tank?”
“Nope,” she said, as she unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned over toward me. She slid her fingernail down my neck, and my heart thundered in my chest. “I think we should throw caution to the wind and turn this partnership into the real deal.”
“Oh yeah? What about…”
“Hush, Konan. Throw your inhibition to the side, unburden yourself from logic, and for once just say yes.”
We didn’t make it back to town in two hours. Lilly and I needed fresh clothes and a shirt that had a collar.