Konan came out of his sleep to the tune of his phone buzzing. Sleepily, he patted the bed to find it. He cracked one eye open and picked it up. It was Ashley Wilkinson. “Come to the lab, I have something to show you.” Konan showered, dressed, and made him a cup of coffee in his favorite Yeti mug. At 0606, he boarded the bus and rode into town.
Ashley stood in the lab dressed in a black tee and a pair of khaki slacks. Her shoes were sensible, no stripper heels for her. She nodded hello to Konan and gave him a smile.
“Morning, you look rough this morning,” she said. Konan sipped his coffee, and said, “Morning, Ashley. Thanks, I think. I’ve been ridden hard and put away wet. What do you have for me?”
Ashley smiled proudly; she placed a knife on the countertop. Konan looked at it and sipped his coffee. Ashley pointed at the blade and said, “Me and Pop-pop figured out what kind of knife the killer has used.”
“What is that?”
“This is a taxidermist double-edged fleshing knife. One side is razor sharp; the other has a moderate sharpness. The razor edge is to cut through gristle and tough fur. That is the side the killer used.”
“Is that common for every fleshing knife, or does each one come differently? It would explain the depth of the cuts but look at it. It’s unwieldy. An amateur could not use this without practice.”
“No. The assumption would be that the killer has experience in using this tool. The killer might have some skill as a taxidermist or even possibly trained by the military. Although, I’d think a soldier would use a proper tool for the job.”
“Yeah, a soldier wouldn’t use a fleshing knife, but still, it’s something to consider. Finally, we have caught a break. Thanks, Ashley. Tell Pop-pop I said thanks for the data.”
“You bet.” Konan turned toward the door but turned back around. “Hey Ashley, do you have a moment?”
“Sure,” she replied as she pulled blue latex gloves onto her hands and shrugged on her white lab coat. “What’s up?”
“Do you drink coffee?”
She smiled, and Konan waited for the rejection he knew was coming. He took a deep breath to steel himself for the blow, but instead she smiled at him and nodded.
“I do. It gives me an edge, no pun intended. Why do you ask?”
She wrinkled her nose and grinned. Konan felt a small grin pull at the corner of his mouth, and soon it blossomed into a full smile.
“Maybe you would like to grab a cup of coffee with me someday. You know if you have time. Or if you’re interested in getting together on your downtime.”
“Sure, we could do that. I’d like that.”
Konan nodded and smiled a small smile, Ashley smiled and winked at him. Konan’s heart raced within his chest. Even now, at 51 years of age, a bright smile from a beautiful woman filled his being with warmth. Years had passed since he felt the rush of attraction to another human being.
“Okay. I will let you get to it.”
Konan turned and walked out the door. Ashley watched as he walked away. “He is so cute when he is awkward.”
Konan thought about the fleshing knife while he took the stairs to the second floor and the Murder Room. He walked into the squad room and found Tomas and Wiggins neck deep in their files. Lilly was in her office with the door closed. The detectives looked up when he approached.
“Have you guys found anything?”
“Nothing so far,” Wiggins wheezed.
Tomas shook his head no. Konan dragged a chair close to their desk and sat down. Both detectives watched him and waited for him to spill the beans.
“I received a text from Ashley this morning. She has figured out the murder weapon. It’s a double-edged fleshing knife. The razor-sharp edge was used to make the deep cuts on the victims’ faces.”
“Jesus,” Tomas muttered.
Konan didn’t think it was possible, but Wiggins grew even more pale. Konan had emptied his mug of coffee and walked over to where the pot sat on the counter. He poured himself another cup of coffee and walked back to the pair of detectives.
“Start a search for taxidermists that have a violent past. We need to get someone in here before Mayor Smith has a meltdown, or the killer takes another victim.”
“Roger that,” Wiggins wheezed.
Wiggins and Tomas located three taxidermist businesses inside of Fredericksburg, five outside of the city limits. “Surely, one of them has a dark past. Someone must know something about this.”
Wiggins showed up in the Records Cage after lunch. He snacked on a Snickers bar as he gave Konan the lowdown.
“Of the eight taxidermists, two have a checkered past. Adam Philter had several run-ins with the law when he was younger, things like protesting, minor scuffles at bars after having too many drinks, unpaid traffic citations, that sort of thing. He spent most of his teenaged years in a juvenile delinquent center. He was a scrapper. Adam was always in a fight somewhere.”
Konan listened and sipped some coffee. “Okay, I don’t know how promising he is as a suspect, but we’ll check him out. Who is the other one?”
“He’s named Brandon Watterson. He spent nine years in Parchman for assault with a deadly weapon, specifically a bladed weapon. To boot, his victim was a woman he met at a juke joint. He recently got out of prison.”
“Wow,” Konan muttered. “The guy sounds like a custom-made bad guy. Where is he?”
“He lives way out in the woods on the southeastern part of the town.”
“Okay, you and Tomas pick him up. I want to talk to him. Lilly and I will go see Adam after I stop by Big Tony’s Sporting Goods. Oh, and y’all be careful with this guy, yeah?”
“Alright, we’ll get on it. Maybe one of them is our guy, and we can put this case to bed.”
“We can only hope. We’ll see you back here when you return.”
Konan watched Wiggins walk out, and he thought of Adam Philter. He didn’t sound like a viable suspect, but it’d be a mistake to discount anything until they met and spoke with him.
Lilly waited for Konan in the building’s foyer. She wore jeans, boots, and a thin, green button down that tapered down to her waist and emphasized her hips. Her green eyes sparkled when she saw him.
“Hiya, partner. Where are we headed today?”
“We need to go by Big Tony’s Sporting Goods and see an Adam Philter.”
“Cool beans. Let’s get on the road and put an end to this psycho’s reign of terror.”
“Sure thing, Lilly. It sounds like a plan. You want to grab a box of donuts and coffee before we head out?”
“Absolutely, it’ll be like old times.”
Konan and Lilly laughed and walked over the skywalk to the parking garage. It seemed right, Konan thought. I’ve missed feeling as if I serve a higher purpose than myself.