Our friends stayed with us until almost midnight, at which time, they slowly packed up their gear and headed to their homes. Manson was the last to leave.
As she shoved her rifle into her Pelican gun case, she looked at me and Lilly. “You know,” she said as she buckled the latches, “I understand what chief was saying about not seeking vengeance. There’s no wiggle room under the badge for ‘gangster’ takedowns, but I think sometimes you need to prove you’re not weak.”
“What do you mean?”
Manson hugged Lilly and Gareth and shrugged, “I don’t know, Lilly. Walters doesn’t strike me as one who cares if he does a long stretch in prison. Changing his location to a cage filled with other animals doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent.”
I didn’t say anything, for I had spent years tracking and killing bad people all over the world and had thought just like her. “You don’t leave your enemies alive so they can hurt you,” Billy had told me. I had used that to justify the horrible things I had done. Cartwright had a similar rule. “Dead men tell no tales, son. When in doubt, kill everyone.”
Manson hugged my neck and whispered, “Take care of your family, Konan. Do what you must to protect them.”
My family and I watched as she carried her gear out to her car. She gave us a wave, and we waved back. I waited until she left before I shut the door. Gareth took my hand, and I looked down at my stepson.
He stared at me not uttering a sound, his big brown eyes locked with mine. His eyes shined with trust, knowing I would take care of any dangers that sought to damage my family, but there was something else in his eyes, something that said I should make sure no one dared try to take from me what God had blessed me with.
When in doubt, kill everyone.
The following morning, Lilly and I dropped Gareth off at the daycare and continued on with our search of the florists. Our agenda for the day was full. We had six florists to check, and Tammy Bowen wanted to see us, but first I needed coffee.
I pulled into The Donut Hole and ordered a dozen mixed donuts and two hot coffees. A pockmarked teenaged female, complete with braces and an attitude, stood in the window and glared at me, while I reached for my wallet.
“Eleven dollars and fifty cents.”
“You’re kidding,” I said as I handed her a twenty.
“No, I’m not kidding, grandpa.”
Lilly snorted and covered her mouth, I glared at the teenager and slammed the shifter into park. The woman tossed my change into the bag and shoved it at me. “Here’s your coffee,” she snarled, as she pushed two large coffees at me.
Hot coffee leaked from the lids and fell upon my hands. I grimaced, not only from the pain of hot liquid burning my hands, but because her attitude was typical of many in the world today.
She was the female version of Scott Walters. A narcissistic nihilist, a thinly disguised vestige of anarchy, a waste of God-given oxygen. I put the car in drive and drove off without tipping her. Lilly grinned and opened the donuts.
“How about that, grandpa? Little Ms. Attitude didn’t put any napkins in here for us to clean off our fingers.”
“There’s some in the glove box.”
Lilly laughed and opened the box. Shoved in on top of individual packets of salt, pepper, sugar and cream, were brown napkins. “Wow,” Lilly said. “You’ve got an entire condiment shelf in your glove box.”
“Yeah, it’s the downside of eating out. No one seasons their food anymore, you’ve got to ask for it. Flavor costs extra nowadays.”
We munched on donuts until we arrived at Annie’s Florist on Third Street. As with the previous two, she had no wolfsbane, nor did she know of anyone who grew it.
“Of course, she didn’t know anything about it,” Lilly muttered as we pulled our seatbelts on. “I bet the next five won’t know anything about it either.”
She was right except for the last one. Out in the woods, next to an old Victorian house, partially hidden from the road and blocked from view by oak and pine trees, wolfsbane waved in the gentle breeze.
Rows of flowers lined the dirt road, orchards of pecan trees, plum trees, and other types of fruit filled the level ground. A white sign informed us we drew near to the agricultural labs of Southern U.
I came to a stop in a dirt parking lot in front of the Victorian home. Lilly and I got out and made our way inside the building. A young woman, her name tag informed us her name was Christy, sat behind the counter doing a cross word puzzle.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I hope so,” Lilly said. “I’m Detective Lilly Thompson, eh, Konan. Is that wolfsbane growing outside your building?”
“Yes, it is. You know your plants.”
“Not really,” Lilly said with a grin. “We’d like to speak to whomever is in charge, please.”
Christy smiled a thin, cold smile, her eyes reflected no warmth as she shoved her glasses onto her narrow nose. “May I ask why?”
“Sure you can, Christy. My partner and I need some information about wolfsbane because we’re investigating a series of murders.”
“Dr. Wynette Robbins and Dr. Silas Roberts oversee our day to day operations. I can take you to them.”
She led us into a long hallway and walked to the end of it. An expansive room, a library I’d assume given all the books, with tall windows filled with stained glass, housed two desks-one at each opposite end of the room-and Christy motioned for us to have a seat in front of the one to the left.
“Dr. Robbins will finish her lecture in just a few moments. You can wait here.”