Lilly drove us across town to the morgue. Like every other road in Mississippi, pot holes big enough to swallow cars waited for an unsuspecting driver to fill its maw with the front end of their vehicle. Apparently, Lilly had never met a pothole she didn’t like, Konan thought, as he braced himself with his left hand on the roof, and his right hand clasped around the handle above the door.
“We’re almost there, Konan. It’s not that bad.”
“I rode on better roads in Iraq,” Konan complained. Lilly rolled her eyes and plowed head first into another pothole. “I’m driving home,” Konan snapped.
“Whatever,” Lilly said. “If you think you can do better, you should drive.”
The road smoothed out for a bit, and Lilly pulled into an empty parking lot, save for two vehicles. The police cruiser made three. The sun was setting in the west, and Lilly tossed the keys to Konan. He caught them and shoved them into his left pants pocket. Together, the pair walked into the morgue. Ashley stood at the security desk speaking with the security guard.
“Thanks, Abe. I appreciate it.”
“Don’t think nothin’ about it, Ms. Ashley.”
“Okay then. Tell your mama I said hello. Hey guys, follow me on back to my office, and we’ll get started.”
Konan stopped and signed the clipboard, Lilly walked with Ashley down the hall. Konan could hear the women chitchatting about some new singer and the latest, most fashionable shoes to wear in autumn. He followed their voices and came to a small office not far from the autopsy room.
“Come on in, Konan. Shut the door behind you. Abe’s mom is a voodoo priestess, and he claims the dead can hear the words we speak and judge the tone, or some such. ‘Ms. Ashley,’ he says, ‘if you anger the spirits, I’d like to not get involved. Please shut your door.’ So, I try to show respect to Abe by shutting the door.”
Lilly scoffed and asked, “You don’t buy that nonsense do you, Ashley?” Ashley shook her head no, but added, “No, Lilly. I don’t think the spirits are listening to us. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions.”
“Next time, we’ll bring salt.”
Ashley cocked her head to the right and stared at Konan. Her gaze wasn’t unfriendly, instead it was curiousity that caused her to ask, “The great Detective Konan doesn’t believe in spirits?”
“Oh, I believe in spirits; I meant it as humor.”
“There’s no need to mock Abe’s belief. I’m sure you have long treasured beliefs he might find ‘humorous.’ You wouldn’t happen claim no Christianity as a ‘belief’, would you?”
“Okay,” Konan said, holding his hands up in mock surrender. “I meant no harm, Ashley. Let me try again. Have the tests came back? Do you have anything you can tell us about the bodies?”
“It’s going to take some time to get the results back. Amber Wainwright was raped. There’s bruising and tears in the genitalia, but as for how many assailants, I don’t know. The moment I know something, I will let you guys know.”
“Thanks, Ashley. We’ll stay in touch,” Lilly said, as she stood. Konan gave Ashley a nod and followed his partner out. “Y’all have a nice evening,” Abe said, tossing a wave in our directions.
“You too,” Lilly said.
Lilly waited for me to unlock the car, and then sat in the passenger seat with her arms crossed. Konan climbed into the passenger seat and started the car. “Um, you wanna put your seatbelt on?”
“No, I want to talk about what you did in there.”
“What did I do?”
Lilly turned and looked at Konan. “Holy crap, she’s really angry at me.” Lilly stared at Konan, and she kept biting down on her bottom lip. She took a deep breath and let it out of her nose, and then said, “It’s never cool to knock someone’s personal beliefs. Regardless of how off the wall they are. You’re lucky Abe didn’t hear your remarks.”
This is ridiculous. What in the name of all things holy is going on? Konan shrugged and looked out the window. Things had changed, and Konan was behind the power curve. Konan shrugged again and said, “Fine, Lilly. I apologize for diminishing the man’s belief about Casper and his family. Okay. Of all the things we need to investigate, let’s drop it and analyze what was meant as a joke.”
Lilly shook her head and scoffed. “I knew it the minute you said it you were kidding. But Ashley didn’t, and Abe wouldn’t have taken it as a joke either.”
“Then, they need to have those sticks shoved up their cabooses surgically removed, because I’m not tiptoeing around their feelings. There’s a killer nailing people to the freaking floors, and I don’t have time to coddle ‘grown ups.’ They can either help or get lost.”
“My God, Konan. You’re like everyone else. ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ Would it kill you to have an open mind, or better yet, to let people believe what they want about whatever they want?”
“I can’t believe I’m having this argument with you, Lilly. We’ve been friends for years, partners for years. You know me probably as well as I know myself. This entire premise, ‘I’m offended and you must bend over and take it or you’re not a nice person, or a racist, or whatever derogatory term they want to slander you with, ain’t worth a crap. I’m tired of talking about it. They can get mad, and then they can get over it.”
Lilly sighed, shook her head and stared out the window. Konan backed up and began the drive back to the precinct. Neither said anything on the way back. Lilly crossed her arms and stared out at the darkness. Konan drove and tried to empty his mind of everything but the case.
Amber Wainwright and Lt. Daniels deserved justice. It was on Konan and Lilly to deliver it, with the assistance of their fellow officers. Konan prayed the rest of the department wasn’t as riddled with the political correction on display tonight, but he feared he was the lone person left uninfected.
If that was the case, he’d not be employed long.
He’s the same stubborn man I knew all those years ago. Why can’t he go along and not fight every freaking battle. Konan acts as if this case is personal, but it will kill him if he doesn’t learn to relax, Lilly thought. We need these test results back so we can pound the pavement. Konan does us no good cooped up in the office or playing politically correct games.
Lilly got her wish on Tuesday morning. At 0715, her phone rang. She stepped from the shower and threw her bathrobe on and padded into her bedroom. “Hello,” she said, as she wrapped the beige towel around her wet hair.
“Lilly, it’s Ashley. The results are in. You and Konan need to come by.”
“Okay, I’ll let him know.”
She tied her bathrobe and dialed Konan’s number. It went to voice mail, and Lilly sighed. “Hey, it’s me. I just got a call from Ashley. The results are in. I’ll meet you at the shop, and we can ride over from there.”
Lilly finished dressing, and slid her Gucci black leather blazer over her white blouse, jeans and Rockport boots. Konan waited for her in the Murder Room. It was empty except for them. “I couldn’t reach you this morning. Did you get my message?”
“Yeah, I got it. I’m ready to go see Ashley when you are, Lilly.”
“I hope you left the salt at home,” she joked, hoping Konan had realized the error of his ways without the tension and awkwardness that often came after such conversations. Konan frowned but said nothing. Instead, he wrote something down in his notepad and waited for Lilly to put the ball in motion.
“Okay, let’s head out. I need some coffee before we meet with Ashley.”
“Yeah,” Konan said. “You can drive.”
“Konan, stop. Wait. Look, I wasn’t trying to put you down the other night. Okay, I understand you were joking.”
“It’s fine, Lilly. Things have changed. I’ll catch up, and I’ll start by taking a step back and learning. Okay? Part of that comes from watching you and learning from you. You drive, I’ll watch and learn.”
Lilly shook her head and started to say something more, but Konan walked past her and out of the room. Men are such sullen children. I swear, you’d thought I appropriated his culture or something.
Konan waited for her at the elevator. They rode the lift down and signed out a vehicle. Konan sat quietly in the passenger seat, his eyes firmly focused out the window, notepad and pen in hand. Lilly started the car, put it in drive and floored the accelerator.
I have no time to deal with a petulant child. This is retarded. How am I supposed to work with someone who refuses to speak or pitch in with their thoughts and ideas? It’s gonna be a long freaking day.
The drive thru was empty at The Donut Hole, and Lilly whipped in. At the speaker, Konan called them squawk boxes, she said, “Yeah, I want a large coffee and a dozen mixed donuts. Thanks.”
Lilly took the coffee and donuts and handed a twenty through the window to the clerk. “Keep it,” she snapped, flooring the accelerator and tearing the parking lot. “You know, part of being partners requires us to talk and share ideas, Konan. Are you planning on doing that, or do you plan to continue acting like a punk kid?”
“Let me get this straight, Lilly. You want me to speculate and opine about the case without any facts to back up my supposition?”
“I want us to go back to being what we were before,” Lilly snapped, as she slammed down her coffee. “Jesus,” Lilly shouted, as the lid shot off the cup and hot liquid filled the air. The airborne liquid landed on Konan’s left arm and lap. Konan wiped at his sleeve and took a deep breath.
“Pull over,” he said in a low tone. “I’ll drive.”
Lilly pulled over and shoved the shifter into park. Hot tears wet her eyes as she shook her head. Konan stepped from the car and dabbed at his lap with a napkin. “I’m sorry,” Lilly said, her emotions made it hard for her to get the words out. “I’m sorry for everything.”
Konan walked around the vehicle and opened the driver door. He put his hand on Lilly’s shoulder, and she sobbed. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s only coffee, man. Come on, you eat and I’ll drive. It’ll be like old times.” Lilly slid over to the passenger seat and buckled in. Konan handed her the box of donuts. Then, he started the vehicle and continued the drive to the morgue. Konan drove to the parking lot and parked, and stepped out. Lilly slid behind the drivers seat and gripped the wheel. Lilly began to cry again, and Konan turned toward her. What is going on with her today?
Lilly’s knuckles whitened as she clenched the steering wheel tighter, her tears streamed down her cheeks like large drops of pain. She flenched when Konan touched her, so he removed his hand and said, “I’ll go in and get the report, and then we can go,” Konan muttered.
He turned and walked into the morgue. Abe lifted his chin in greeting, Konan gave him a nod back and signed in quietly. “Everything okay, detective?” Konan forced a grin and grunted, “Yeah, everything is peachy.” Abe jerked his head toward the hallway and said, “Ashley’s in the autopsy room.”
Konan walked back to the autopsy room. Ashley stood next to two cadavers. Konan pushed through the doors and cleared his throat.
“Hey, Konan. You’re on your own today?”
“Nah, Lilly’s outside. Something came up, and she’s dealing with it.”
“Ah, okay. Shall we get started?”
“Okay,” Ashley said, as she motioned to the first cadaver. “On the table, we have Amber Wainwright, fifteen, the cause of death was a deep cut into the trachea. She and Lt. Daniels had that in common. The mechanism of death was blood loss. It was a homicide. Both victims were nailed to the floor and had their throats cut. Time of death for Amber Wainwright was somewhere between 0300-0500. She was raped by multiple assailants, and we have the report back.”
“Do you know who the seed belongs to?”
“We do, the men who did this are named Joe Waterson and Billy Crumpet.”
“What about Lt. Daniels?”
“Basically same details with the exception of the rape, same time of death, same cause. Um, I forgot to mention, both had long cuts on their faces. It’s purely cosmetic, as if the killer wanted to remove beauty from them.”
“Okay, Ashley. Thanks for everything.”
“You bet. Come with me to the office, I have the paperwork ready for you.”
Ashley led Konan out, and he followed behind her. Lilly stood at the desk speaking with Abe, Ashley gave her a smile. Lilly waved at her, but frowned when she saw Konan.
“Here you go, Konan. You know, Lt. Daniels was a huge fan of yours.”
“Yeah, someone mentioned that to me. I can’t say I rightly remember her.”
“Oh, she was a sweetheart. Some would say she was naive, but she could see the good in just about everyone. I think that helped her as a police officer, you know? She wouldn’t hear that you were wrong about what happened in your case.”
“She did realize I got canned for slugging Tia Mathers, right?”
Ashley laughed and nodded, “Yeah, she knew. That didn’t stop her from believing in you though. She said you had a strong sense of justice and that the ends justified the means. Even when the rumors started flying, she believed you had your reasons.”
“…Had it coming? Yeah, pretty much everyone else thought she did too. You were the only one who acted on it.”
Konan sighed. His punch out with Tia Mathers would never get laid to rest it seemed. Ashley gave him a soft smile.
“It’s all ancient history now,” Konan said.
“You know nothing ever goes away that easily, Konan. Tia leaked details about the case you and Lilly was working, right? That’s why you slugged her.”
“Yes,” Lilly said from the doorway. “We had the guy in custody, and Tia released details to a journalist who told the defending attorney our case was thin. They put him back on the street, and he killed three more people.”
Ashley nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s right. You killed him though.”
“I defended myself,” Konan said.
“Yeah, self-defense by killing him,” Ashley retorted.
“I didn’t have a choice, Ashley. He came after me, and I had to choose between my life and his. Anyone in my situation would do the same exact thing.”
“Well, that’s all I’ve got for you, detectives. Y’all have a good day.”
Konan and Lilly walked out toward the car. Dark clouds hid the sun, and the humidity had soared. Looks like rain might blow in. I could use a good cleansing, Konan thought as he pressed the button to unlock the vehicle.
Lilly slid into the passenger seat, and Konan climbed behind the wheel. She turned and looked at him and put her hand up to stop him. Konan looked at the steering wheel and waited.
“Look, if we’re going to work as an effective unit, we’ve got to get a few things straightened out,” she began. “You’re entitled to your opinions, Konan. As am I. We’ve never had a problem until now. Many things have changed since you retired. I’m glad you came back, I’m thrilled you are my partner, and I would never want to diminish you or hinder you in any way. But you’ve got to learn to work in this new system, okay?”
Konan stayed quiet for several long moments. “I’ll try,” he muttered, as he started the vehicle. He backed the car up and pulled out onto the main road. “Cause of death was blood loss,” he said, as he tried to avoid hitting the potholes. “We’ve got names to go with the rapists donations, Joe Waterson and Billy Crumpet.” Lilly nodded and dialed Tomas.
“Hey, it’s Lilly. Run two names for me. One is Joe Waterson, the other is Billy Crumpet. We’re on our way in from the morgue.”
“Okay, Lilly. Who are these bozos?”
“They’re the rapists of our first victim.”
In the background, Lilly could hear Wiggins wheezing. “It’s Wiggins,” he gasped into the phone. “Waterson knocked over a couple of convenience stores. He’s a punk and a wannabe,” he wheezed. “Crumpet though, he’s a different animal. He’s connected with The Brotherhood, and he’s a white supremacist. Plus, he’s done time for rape.”
“Shoot me the address to Waterson. Konan and I will pick him up. You guys take Crumpet.”
“We’re on it,” Tomas said. Wiggins continued to wheeze. Lilly disconnected the call, and her phone chirped. She opened up her map app and pressed Go!
“Let’s go get this scumbag,” she snarled. Konan floored the accelerator and sped off toward Waterson’s residence. Things weren’t well between him and Lilly, but putting the clamps on a suspect would help alleviate some of the tension. At a minimum, it would make Konan feel better.
Especially, if the suspect resisted.
Happy Horizons RV and Trailer Park sat near the river on the southeastern portion of Fredericksburg. The faded sign that advertised the trailer park hung from a rusted metal pole by one bolt, the two board fence had collapsed from rot and neglect, and few trailers remained in the grown over lot.
“It looks nothing like the name implies,” Lilly said as they pulled up to what appeared to be the office. “It looks like the place where happiness gets mugged, raped, and its throat cut.”
Konan put the vehicle in park and shut off the engine. He stepped out of the vehicle and said, “I’ll go in and see which camper belongs to Waterson, unless you’d rather do it.”
“No, go ahead. I’ll keep an eye out for Waterson.”
Konan walked into the small office. An old woman with greasy white hair, peered at Konan through her bifocals that appeared to have not been cleaned since the sixties, and snapped, “What do you want?” Konan tapped his badge and said, “Hello. I’m Detective Sergeant Thermopolis Konan. I’m looking for Joe Waterson.”
“What he do now?”
“Um, that’s between us and him, ma’am. I can’t give you the details…”
Out in the car, Lilly scrolled through Waterson’s rap sheet. She looked up in time to see a figure walk past the car and toward the office. “Jesus, that was him!” Lilly yanked on the door handle and shouldered the door open. Konan stepped out of the office and stopped. Waterson saw Konan’s badge and sprinted away from him.
“Hold up, Waterson!”
The suspect fled back toward the car, his head turned back toward Konan, and he never saw Lilly stepping around the front of the car. Waterson whooped and turned back around in time to get clotheslined by Lilly. She put her boot on Waterson’s chest and pulled her sidearm.
“Don’t move, scumbag. You’re under arrest for the rape and murder of Amber Wainwright, and anything else I can add to it.”
“Shut up,” Konan growled, as he grabbed Waterson by the collar and snatched him to his feet. He shoved the rapist against the car and handcuffed him. Then, he patted him down and found a switchblade on his person. Konan shoved him into the back seat and slammed the door.
“Nice takedown,” Konan said to Lilly as she climbed in the passenger seat.
“Thanks, I needed that.”