A conclusion to A Blade in the Dark…the draft is complete…Chapter Seventeen…unedited…

When Lilly and I finished searching the house, and each other, we returned to the precinct. Manson and Rankin stood at their desk, each held a cup of coffee in hand, and both seemed beleaguered. 

“Did you guys have any luck?”

I nodded at Manson, as she came toward me. She licked her fingers and wiped a smudge off my cheek. “We did,” she responded. “Preacher said he wanted to talk to only you two. He refused to answer any questions until you got back.”

“Well, let’s not keep him waiting,” Lilly growled. There was no doubt in my mind that Lilly was part wildcat. I had the proof on my back. 

Manson stopped me and leaned close to my ear and whispered, “You two need to be more careful from here on in. Eyes are watching you.”

“I understand. Thanks, Manson.”

“Go get ‘em, lover boy.”

Reverend Caster sat at the table, still handcuffed to it, and his attorney kept looking at his Rolex. We walked in and pulled out our chairs. I dropped the journal on the desk. He glanced at it, and then at me. 

“I want a deal before I say anything,” he started. I stopped him by putting my right hand up.

“There’s no deal to be made. Get your attorney to go meet with the district attorney. They cut a deal with you, that’s on them. I’m here to question you.”

The attorney looked at Caster and said, “I told you already. The D.A. said no deal. The best we can do is talk to these guys, and hope they want what you’re offering.”

“Which is what exactly?”

“I’ll tell you who killed the girl, who’s running the ‘chop shop’, but you gotta protect me.”

A knock came at the door, and Lilly answered it. She and Janko conversed quietly, while the rest of us looked on. She came and sat back down next to me. 

“Beth Hendricks just walked in and confessed to killing her daughter.”

Caster slammed both hands down on the table and snarled, “That stupid broad! She was my get out of jail free card.”

“Well, that didn’t go as planned,” I retorted. I turned to Lilly and said, “Did she say why?”

“I don’t know. They’re taking it down now.”

“Go check it out. I will deal with this.”

I waited until Lilly left the room, and then I turned my attention to Caster. He snarled at me, and even his lawyer backed up. 

“It’s you and me, reverend. Who’s running the organ trafficking?”

The door opened, and Special Agent Robinson came in and took Lilly’s place. He motioned for me to continue. I raised my eyebrows at Caster and waited.

He ran his tongue over his lips and lifted his chin at the journal. “Everything is in there, but it’s protected by a tridigital cipher. Every shipment, every boss, everything is in the journal.”

“That’s fine, Caster. I want to hear you verbalize who’s in charge of this mess.” Robinson shook his head in agreement and added, “Any hope you have concerning cutting a deal, no pun intended, lies in you telling us.”

Caster looked at his lawyer. “Tell them,” the lawyer whispered. Caster nodded and began to spill his guts. “We’ve trafficked organs for four years now. My boss, Warden Eden at Parchman, oversees organ donation. That’s what she calls it. When prisoners gets killed, their organs are harvested. At the church, when people pass away, we harvest organs from them as well. At the very top of the scheme is Dr. Livingstone. He was Ana Marie’s doctor.”

Robinson and I sat there and listened to this preacher talk like harvesting organs was the most natural thing in the world. All I could think was how bad I needed a shower. 

“Dr. Livingstone told Michael and Beth both that their daughter would never have a healthy, normal life. Beth killed her.”

“On the altar,” I snapped. “Like a sacrificial lamb.”

“Yes, just so.”

Robinson stood and walked out of the room. He dispatched agents to pick up Dr. Livingstone. Caster continued unburdening his heart. 

“Why do this? Why Ana Marie?”

“You don’t get it, do you? We had the organs, we set the prices. Ana Marie was sick, and her parents could not afford the treatments. I fleeced them, and they killed her-all in the name of seeking a cleansing.”

“Yeah, I get it. You’re a conman. You ran your scam, trafficked organs, watched as a defenseless girl was raped and murdered, and turned a church into a slaughterhouse. Does that sum it up?”

“Just so. I didn’t even have to repeat it.”

I stood and left Caster handcuffed to the table. His lawyer had paled as their client listed of the evil deeds he had done to further his own wealth. 

Robinson, Lilly and Janko were behind the two-way glass. They gave me a nod, and I nodded back. A wave of tiredness washed over me, and I felt much older than my 49 years. The news was on in the Murder Room. Warden Eden and Dr. Livingstone was being pushed into the back seat of police vehicles. 

Our case was closed. I sat at my desk, Lilly came over and joined me. Special Agent Robinson extended a hand to Janko, and he shook it. The SAC gave Lilly and me a nod and then walked out. Janko walked over to our desk and sat down in a chair. 

“You guys did it. Congratulations, but we have a problem.”

“What’s that, chief?”

“Your love has caught the attention of the Third Floor. They’re not pleased.”

Lilly sighed and shook her head. She was so cute when she grew exasperated. I knew what was coming next, so I stood and said, “Suspend me. Lilly’s done no wrong. This whole affair was my idea.”

Janko shook his head and chuckled. “It’s not that easy, Konan. Both of you are suspended, with pay of course. Hand over your badges and sidearms. An investigation will get launched, and once it’s done a decision will get rendered. I will let you know how it goes.”

I placed my badge and sidearm on the desk. Lilly did the same. Lilly reached for my hand, and I took hers into mine. Together we walked out of the Murder Room and into a future that was not yet known.

All I knew for certain was that I could go for a good steak and fries.

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