Tomas and Wiggins sat at their desk. Wiggins looked up from his phone and lifted his chin to us in greeting. Tomas looked up from his computer and gave Lilly a smile.
“How’s it going?”
“Hey. It’s all good. Is chief in?”
“Yeah, but he walked down the hallway to the snack machine. Said he need sustenance.”
“Alright, thanks. Konan and I will wait in his office for now.”
Wiggins watched us without a word. His interest in whatever he was looking at had declined. After several seconds had ticked by he said, “is there anything we can help with?”
“Sure,” I responded. “See if you can a run up anything that connects Ana Marie Hendricks to Jasper Watkins.”
“Do you want the usual run down? Or are you hunting a specific connection?”
“For now, let’s focus on general connections. Associations, associates, doctors, what have you. If something turns up, we’ll broaden our scope.”
“Okay,” Wiggins said, as he put his phone in the desk drawer.
He flipped open the lid on his computer and typed in his password. He and Tomas seemed excited to have something to do. I was interested in seeing how Janko would implement them into our system.
The bell for the lift dinged, and we turned to see who stepped off the elevator. Janko had bags of snacks in his massive hands, a donut in his mouth, and a cup of coffee held between his index finger and thumb of his left hand.
I walked over and opened the door. He grunted at me and continued to his office. Lilly and I followed him in.
He was shoving the rest of the donut into his mouth when we walked in. Janko motioned to the seats in front of his desk. We sat down and waited for him to finish chewing.
“You have something?”
“Yeah, but it’s not pretty,” I said. “Tricky Rich is dead. He was found in a cabin off Trail 113. The media will have a field day with it.”
“There are several corpses in there. Tables, racks, surgical equipment, it’s a torture chamber. Tricky Rich was disemboweled, just like his cellmate Jasper Watkins.”
Janko said nothing. He cracked open a bag of chips and tossed one in his mouth and waited for me to continue.
“Furthermore, the killer cut him.”
Janko quit munching on the chips. He looked me in the eyes, we needed no words to describe what I meant, and he shook his head.
“Any idea what we are looking at?”
“Chief, I’ve got no idea. We keep trying to investigate Ana Marie’s death, but these pedophiles keep dying. Tammy is doing autopsies, the forensic team are doing their thing, and we have Tomas and Wiggins looking for connections.”
“So, what now?”
“I am going to grab lunch, after that, I figure we can ring up these pervs next of kin, shake some bushes and see what falls out.”
Lilly sighed and shrugged at Janko. “He’s got such a delicate touch and such a way with words, chief. We’ll try to not come off like pillaging Vikings or some other type of boor.”
“Talk to their victims while you’re out there ‘shaking the bushes.’ It’s possible one of them decided to even the score.”
“Of course, chief. Do you need anything else from us?”
“No, Detective Thompson. Thank you for the briefing. You’re dismissed. Konan, you stay.”
Lilly raised her eyebrows at me and walked out of Janko’s office. She pulled the door shut behind her. Janko stood and dropped the drapes to give us some privacy.
“Tell me, you and Lilly aren’t having a sexual relationship.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Son, she’s flushed like a blushing bride, she’s light on her feet, and is happier than I’ve seen her in years. Something is going on.”
“I’m old not stupid. I am happy for you both, God knows you kids deserve to be happy, but there are rules against this sort of thing for a reason.”
“One of us has to go.”
“It’s that or you find a better way to cover it up. I would suggest that while you’re at work you keep things professional.”
“That means no touching, no fondling, no pecks on the cheek, no long, lingering looks. Can you do that?”
“Yes, I can.”
“Then, you make sure your partner gets the memo.”
“Alright, then. Tell me what you think about this case, and I’m not talking about what you briefed. What do you feel?”
“I think the whole thing is connected and that it encompasses just a rape and murder.”
“I think Terry Rich took Ana Marie and had his way with her. Someone else found out about it and killed him for it. This same person, or persons, also harvested their organs.”
“There’s no simple crimes anymore are there? Every case gets darker and darker. I’m afraid you’re right.”
Lilly waited at our desk, her hands flew across the keyboard as she ran the addresses of our dead pedophiles next of kin. She tapped the screen with a well-manicured nail and said, “Tricky Rich’s mom lives in the Golden Lots, his sister Laura works at the Fredericksburg Credit Union as a manager. Which one do you want to hit first?”
“Let’s go see his mom.”
“Alright, let’s hit it. We can grab a burger on the way.”
“Sounds good,” I said, as we walked out of the room. We stopped by the Golden Arches and grabbed a couple of burgers and sweet tea to wash it down with, and then we went on to the Golden Lots.
“Trailer 47, it’s at the back of the lot,” Lilly said around a mouthful of genetically modified beef.
I drove until I saw the sign and pulled over next to the trailer. A woman sat out in a thin, aluminum lawn chair, chain smoking Pall Malls, her white hair rolled tightly in pink rollers. She said nothing as we got out, but her beady brown eyes tracked our every movement.
“Mrs. Dunnell, I’m Detective Thermopolis Konan.”
“So? You want a medal?”
“No ma’am. This is my partner Detective Lilly Thompson.”
“Yeah, I know who she is. She’s the broad that kicked Richie’s door in this morning.”
“I have bad news, ma’am.”
She took a long pull from her cigarette and let it out slowly, as she stomped the butt underfoot. “He’s dead, ain’t he?” She said it so matter-of-factly it took me a moment to respond.
“Yes, I’m afraid he is.”
“My Richie was always a tormented soul, you know? May he find peace now. How did it happen?”
Lilly stepped forward and said, “Ma’am you don’t want to hear that.”
“Don’t tell me what I don’t want to hear, you stupid broad. Tell me!”
“He was disemboweled,” I interjected. “Someone castrated him as well.”
Mrs. Dunnell grew quiet and wiped a hand over her mouth. She raised her eyebrows and cleared her throat. “I reckon it was only a matter of time,” she said, as she lit another cigarette. “Guess I can’t blame them for wanting him to pay.”
“Ma’am, who are you talking about?”
“Michael and Gracie Moore. Richie hurt their son. The Moores are wealthy, not like us trailer folk, and both threatened to cut Richie if he ever got out.”
I wrote down their names in my notepad, Lilly walked back to the car and called in for an address. Mrs. Dunnell looked at me through the grey smoke of her cancer stick and asked me, “Is there justice in this world for tormented souls?”
Her eyes seemed to bore into my own, and I nodded. “Yes ma’am, I think so. If I have anything to do with it, Richie won’t have suffered for nothing. I don’t agree with what he did to kids, or the trauma he subjected them to, but I will find the people who did this to your son.”
After a few more questions, I handed Mrs. Dunnell my card and walked back to our vehicle. Lilly handed me an address for the Moores. She lifted her chin in the direction of Mrs. Dunnell. “Is she okay?” I nodded yeah and started the car.
“She’ll be okay. I think she kind of expected this was how Tricky Rich’s life would end.”
Mrs. Dunnell was smoking another cigarette when we left, but her tears ran unashamed down her face. I’d seen the anguish behind her eyes. Yes, her son-her own flesh and blood-had become a monster that preyed on children, but his mother’s heart hadn’t given up on redemption for her son.
But now, it was too late for redemption; there was only time for grief.