“Rain. Why not? I have always wanted to investigate a murder in the middle of a freaking hurricane.” Thermopolis Konan lifted his collar to shield his neck from the deluge, his ride was supposed to have been here ten minutes ago. “Typical crap, make the new guy wait.”
An unmarked Crown Vic pulled up next to the curb. The driver rolled down the passenger window about an inch. A curly haired brunette sat behind the wheel.
“Are you Detective Konan?”
“Yeah, the wet version.”
Konan got in and the brunette extended her hand. Konan shook her hand.
“I’m Lilly. We have been paired up for partners. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, you to.”
“Sorry I am late. I stopped to get us coffee, and the bottom fell out while I was inside.” She handed him a lukewarm cup of coffee. “You do drink coffee, right?”
“I do. Thanks for making the gesture.” She handed him sugar and cream. “I didn’t know what you took in it, so I brought everything.”
“Just sugar. A lot of sugar.”
They mixed their coffees and Lilly made small talk. She would glance at Konan from time to time to see if he was following the conversation. He never seemed to be lost. So far, so good.
“So, you came to us from 112th.”
“I heard that it’s a great department.”
“No, you haven’t. They are tore up from the floor up.”
“Yeah, that’s what we heard in the 117th. I was trying to tiptoe around it, but you’re like a bulldozer in a trailer park.”
“Let me guess, you were told I betrayed my last partner, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the rumor that’s going around.”
Konan nodded his head. “Figures.” Lilly started the car and began to drive. The rain had not let up any. Heavy raindrops crashed into the windshield; the wipers slapped it away. Konan listened to the rhythm of the wipers for a while.
“So, did you betray your partner?”
“No. I turned him in for corruption. He took bribes from politicians, abused his authority, broke the rules, and tried to set me up to take the fall for all of it.”
“Why did they send you to us?”
“Who’s the victim?”
“I don’t know.”
Lilly guided the car into an all-night convenience store, and the pair walked into the store. Broken liquor bottles were scattered on the floor, the strong smell of whiskey saturated the air.
A young officer stopped them short of the ticker tape. Lilly forced a smile at him. “I’m Detective Lilly Thompson,” she said. “This is Detective Konan.” The officer broke into a laugh.
“Conan, you said. If he hit a side pose, he would disappear.” A small giggle escaped from Lilly, and Konan sighed.
“Wonderful. Another Neanderthal who has confused intelligence with size. Don’t you ever get tired of being so stupid?”
The young officer’s cheeks flushed red when Lilly giggled. Konan forced a smile at the officer. He glared back in response.
“Y’all can go on in,” he said.
Lilly led Konan through the mess. According to what he was told, Lilly was the highest ranking, therefore, she would do the talking. Konan was there to watch and learn. Even at the 112th Lilly was considered one of the best detectives around. Konan would sit back and observe.
A row of coolers ran down the back wall and left side of the store. A long hallway led to the entrance to the entrance of the coolers, and a back door led to the alleyway. The hallway was well lit, blood covered the floor and walls. Four bodies, Konan assumed they were employees and owner, were lying on the floor.
Forensics were taking photographs and measuring the scene. Ally Smith, the lead forensic tech, looked up and gave Lilly a nod. Lilly nodded back.
“Have you guys found anything, Ally?”
“Yeah. We have some bloody footprints leading to the back door. We have fingerprinted everything. Plus, there are tire tracks that lead away from the scene. Who’s your shadow?”
Lilly turned and waved a hand at Konan. Ally walked over and pulled off her gloves. She stuck her hand out and Konan grasped it.
“Ally, this is Thermopolis Konan. He came to us from the 112th.”
“Ah,” Ally said. “You’re him.” Konan raised his eyebrows.
“Him? Him who?”
“You’re the guy that burned his last partner. You were transferred here because you betra-, did the right thing.”
Konan took a deep breath and forced a smile. Lilly grimaced. ‘Definitely not a good impression,’ she thought to herself. It is bad enough that Konan’s actions were known throughout local law enforcement. To have it thrown into his face was something else.
“Nice to meet you, Ally.”
She seemed happy to ignore her blunder. Ally smiled and nodded.
“Just call me Konan.”
“Sure thing, Konan.”
“Has anyone checked the cooler,” Konan asked. Ally shook her head no. “The crime is out here. None of us checked the cooler. We started with the bodies.”
“Okay. I’ll check it out.”
Konan pulled the latch on the metal door and stepped inside. The refrigeration unit kicked on. Cases of beer, milk, eggs, and cheese were stacked up in the aisles. Konan pulled out a light and shined it on the floor. Bloody footprints led deeper into the cooler. The footprints were tiny, like a child’s footprint.
A noise sounded at the back of the cooler. Konan moved quietly through the cooler. He turned off his light and came up to the side of cases of soda. Old fashioned glass bottles rattled in their cases.
Konan knelt beside a small girl. She had blood on her hands and face. Tears stained her cheeks.
“Hi,” Konan said. “I’m Konan. What’s your name?”
The child would not look at him, she continued to cry silently. Konan reached for her. His badge came into view and the child screamed.
“Bad man! Bad man!”
Konan backed up. The door of the cooler opened, police began to pour in. Konan waved them off. Lilly stood in the doorway.
“What’s going on, Konan?”
“Call child services, we have a witness.”
Konan took a seat on a milk crate until child services arrived. They rushed into the cooler and spoke to the child in a calm, kind manner. Konan walked out. Lilly waited for him behind the ticker tape.
“Is she okay,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged.
“I don’t know. She went bananas when she noticed my badge. She kept screaming bad man! Bad man!”
Lilly rubbed her forehead. ‘Poor Konan, this is not what he needs. He just got here.’ Konan and Lilly walked out into the rain. They sat in their car and watched the deluge.
“Konan, do you think a dirty cop killed those folks?”
“It would seem so given her reaction to the badge. However, that does not necessarily mean anything. A lot of folks today do not trust cops. Maybe her parents told her to stay away from police.”
“Maybe, but you don’t believe that do you?”
“I just got here, Lilly. I am not trying to make waves, and I am not trying to point a finger at a cop. I will follow the evidence and if it points at a dirty cop, I will arrest him or her. Until then…”
Lilly patted Konan’s leg. She winked at him. Konan shook his head in disgust.
“I understand, Konan. We must brief Chief Mathers. She will want to know what we have found.”
Lilly started the car and pulled out into traffic. Konan gripped the door handle and breathed deeply. Lilly swerved in and out of traffic, often times blowing the horn to let the other drivers know she was coming through.
“Relax, Konan. I got this.”
Konan said nothing. He closed his eyes and waited. “God, if I die here, please don’t let me suffer,” Konan prayed silently.
“Are you religious, Konan?”
Lilly hit the horn and jammed on the brakes before Konan could answer. “You moron,” she shouted. The vehicle that had pulled out in front of them moved over in the other lane. Lilly craned her neck to see if the driver was as stupid as the way they drove.
An old lady lifted her middle finger and shoved it out her open window. Konan grinned, Lilly busted out laughing.
“You go, Granny.”
Lilly whipped the car into the motorpool and jammed the brakes. Konan released the breath he had held in since the near collision with the old lady.
“You didn’t answer me. Are you religious?”
“How can you believe in God, when you see what we see day in and day out?”
“How can you not?” Lilly shrugged her thin shoulders and smiled.
“I never said I didn’t. I just want to get to know you.”
“Just because we see the worst of human nature doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. There are plenty of good people in the world.”
“Yeah, I reckon.”
They entered the elevator and rode it to the second floor. They got off and made a right. A long narrow hallway ran east and west through the floor. The second door on the right was the office for homicide. It was known as ‘the murder room.’ They walked in. A pair of detectives waited for them.
“Y’all catch a bad one,” the thin one asked. Her name was Manson. She was tall and thin. Her blond hair was straight, her eyes a cold grey. Her lips were thin, just like the rest of her.
“Yeah,” Lilly said. Manson nodded to Konan.
“This is my partner, Thermopolis Konan.”
“I don’t like him,” Manson said. She waved over a short, barrel-chested behemoth. Manson pointed at Konan. “You know him, right?”
Val Rankin stared at Konan. He scrunched his nose up in disgust.
“Yeah. I know this traitor. Thermopolis Konan. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t get rid of you.”
“Funny stuff, Val. I was just thinking the same thing. Then again, trash goes whichever the wind blows.”
Val stepped toward Konan and clenched his fist. Konan smiled at him. Lilly stepped between them. “Okay, boys. That’s enough. Come on, Konan. We have to report in.”
She led Konan away from Manson and Rankin. Captain Tia Mathers office was at the back of the murder room. She looked up from her desk and waved them in. Her eyes followed Konan’s movements. When they got to her desk, she told them to sit down.
“What is it, Lilly?”
“It’s ugly, Captain. Four dead in the hallway, a witness left alive in the cooler.”
“Okay. Y’all get on it. Keep me informed.”
Lilly nodded her head and stood to her feet. Konan stood as well. Mathers looked at him.
“No one said you could leave, Konan.”
Konan sat back down and waited. Lilly turned back but Mathers nodded to the door. Lilly exited the room, and Mathers locked eyes with Konan.
“Let’s get something straight right off the bat, Konan. I don’t like you. I don’t like the fact that you turned on your own. I was not given a choice about you coming here, but make no mistake, I won’t hesitate to throw you out of here if you betray us. You dig?”
“Good. Get out of my office.”