The Rainy Ripper…new writing…unedited and incomplete…

Ahmed waited for Konan to reply. The problem was that Konan had no answers. Silence filled the moment; it grew more awkward the longer the moment lasted. 

“I don’t know, Ahmed.”

“Of course, you don’t,” Ahmed muttered bitterly. “What do you know of my culture besides we are all extremists?”

“Did your sister have any enemies,” Konan pressed. Ahmed shook his head no. He scratched his beard before he answered.

“No, my sister was loved by all. To know her was to love her.”

“Was Talia married?”

“No. She was promised to someone, but the marriage hadn’t taken place yet.”

“Who was she promised to?”

“That’s not important…”

“It might be. We can’t find your sister’s killer if you handcuff our hands behind our backs.”

“She was promised to Rasheed Mohammed before he went to…”

“Before he went to what?”

“Are you a soldier?”

“I was. I am now a cop.”

“Did you fight?”

“Yes.”

“Rasheed is a soldier.”

“I see.”

“He turned away from the extremists. He became an informant. He moved back here for protection.”

“Okay. I need to know where to find him. I need to talk to him.”

“You will kill him.”

“Not if he complies. I bear no ill will. If he is decent, I will be decent.”

“Okay. I will have him meet you.”

“I need his address. In case he doesn’t show. Just in case something delays him.”

Ahmed shook his head and wrote the address on a sheet of paper. He handed it to Konan. 

“He will resist. His past is, murky.”

“I understand.”

Konan and Lilly thanked Ahmed for his help and walked out to the car. The weather was raging, the skies a dark, gruesome black. Konan got behind the wheel and started toward the last known location of Rasheed Mohammed. Lilly looked at Konan.

“You seemed genuinely emphatic back there. I’m impressed.”

Konan sighed. It was always the same thing. ‘You’re not emotional enough.’ What was the big deal about emotions anyway?

“Well, thank you.”

“Your lady friend must be thrilled with your profound emotional development.”

“I don’t have a lady friend.”

“You don’t. Wow. They must not know you’re available. Why don’t you have one? Don’t you believe in true love, Konan?”

“No.”

Lilly made a pouty face and pinched Konan on the cheek. He cut his eyes to her, and she winked at him.

“No wonder you’re such a curmudgeon.”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Lilly.”

“Come on, Konan. Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”

“Fine. I thought a woman cared for me once. I thought. She upped and left, and I tried to salvage the friendship. In the end, I should’ve burned the bridge and gone on about my life.”

“But you didn’t.”

“I wasn’t given a choice, Lilly. I thought we had something, but I was the only one who thought so. In the end, we couldn’t even be friends.”

“That’s sad, Konan.”

Konan bit down on his upper lip and shrugged. Lilly stayed quiet for a while and Konan focused on the road.

“You know, you could try again. Not everyone is hurting or recovering from a traumatic experience.”

“I would rather cut my throat with a dull knife. The problem isn’t that people are busy, or that life is hectic. The problem is that no one knows if the person you’re interested in is really what they show you. How do you know that they’re genuine? That they’re not wearing a mask?”

“You don’t. You take it on faith that they’re being genuine with you.”

“Yeah, that’s stupid. People can’t be honest with themselves, much less anyone else.”

Lilly tapped Konan on the shoulder until he glanced at her. She pointed her finger at him and said, “you’re a curmudgeon.”

Rainy Ripper…the story so far…unedited and incomplete…

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.”

“Get in.”

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.”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

“Okay.”

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 size with intelligence. Maybe I should reintroduce myself.”

“Sure thing, Conan.”

“I’m Chief Kick-A-Bitch from the Slapaho tribe. Get out of the way.”

 Lilly laughed as the young officer turned red in his cheeks. “That is rather good, Konan. Let us get in here and do our job.”

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. 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. 

“Likewise, Thermopolis.”

“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.”

“Yeah.”

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 waitedGod, if I die here, please dont 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?”

“Yes.”

“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. 

“Who’s this?”

“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?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Get out of my office.”

Konan walked out into the squad room and sat at his desk. Lilly pulled up a chair next to him.  Konan leaned back and waited for Lilly to spill the beans.

“Things didn’t go well with Tia, did it?”

“It was fine. I figured I would have to face it at some point. It’s better to get it out of the way.”

“Well, let’s get out of here and go to the morgue. Surely, they’ve found something by now.”

Lilly and Konan walked out to the parking garage. Konan walked to the driver’s side. Lilly tried to hide her smile.

“Would you like to drive, Konan?”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Lilly said.  Konan pulled the unmarked Crown Vic out of the garage and started for the morgue. Lilly yawned. Konan never exceeded the speed limit. Lilly kept glancing at the speedometer. 

“Wow. You’re a by-the-book kind of guy. Do you get in a hurry for anything?”

Konan laughed. “Sure, I get in a hurry sometimes. However, we are going to the morgue. Everyone there is dead, so why rush?”

“That’s horrible,” Lilly snickered. 

“Well, it’s not like they’re going anywhere.”

“I got it, Konan.”

Konan nodded. Lilly laughed at his attempts at humor. This partnership was off to a good start.

Konan guided the car into a parking place near the door to the morgue. It was really coming down. Hurricane Irma was causing all sorts of havoc in the Gulf. The wind whipped trash through the parking lot as Konan and Lilly rushed to the door. A security guard sat behind the desk and watched the weather report. He looked up when the pair approached the desk.

“Kinda bad out there, ain’t it?”

“Yep,” Lilly said. She and Konan flashed their badges at him. “Is Ally in?”

“Sure,” the guard replied. “She’s always in. Ain’t never met anybody as dedicated as that gal is to her work.  A nuke could go off and it would not budge her from her duties.”

He motioned for them to go on back. Lilly and Konan started around the desk. The guard put his hand up and stopped them.

“Y’all know where you’re going, right?”

“Yep,” Lilly said. Konan forced a grin. 

“I’m just following her, boss.”

“Alright, then. Be safe out there.”

“You too.”

They walked down the hallway it was white. Everything was white, and it smelled as if the staff had soaked everything in bleach. White walls, white floor, white tiles. Konan’s eyes hurt from the glare of the light on the all-white surfaces.

“I think they like white,” Lilly said. Konan chuckled. 

“Did I ever tell you about this Non-Commissioned Officer I had just before I got out of the Army?”

“No. We just met like six hours ago. This is my first time hearing it.”

“I had a Sergeant from the West Coast somewhere and she was a bit ditzy, I guess you would say. One of my buds, he was a basket case, but I loved him to death. He asked her what her favorite color was one day while we were in the motorpool.” Lilly giggled and stood outside of Ally’s office.

“What did she say,” Lilly asked.

“She said her favorite color was clear.”

“Clear?”

“Yeah, transparent, clear, you know, like a plastic bottle.”

Lilly’s brow furrowed and her worry lines showed. 

“That’s not a color.”

“I know. That’s what made it funny.”

“I don’t get it.”

“That’s okay, Lilly. I guess you had to be there.”

Lilly knocked on the door and waited. Down the hall a door slammed. Konan turned and stared down the hall. Ally stepped out of the cooler and walked toward them. She gave Lilly a nod and motioned for them to follow her.

“This is going to be nasty,” Ally said quietly. Her eyes were dark, her mouth a tight line. Dark circles were under her eyes. She sat down on a stool and looked at her notes. 

“First things first, all the victims were killed almost at the same time. Second, all were shot expect for the first victim. She was killed by a garotte. Most likely it was piano wire. Whoever killed her, they almost cut her head slam off.”

“Anything else,” Konan asked.

“Yeah,” Ally said. “Before they shot the other three victims, they were shoved to their knees and made to watch the execution of the woman. Then, they were shot in the back of the left ear with a .22-caliber handgun.”

“Jesus,” Lilly whispered. Konan said nothing. Ally put down her clipboard and motioned for them to follow her. She pulled out the bodies and showed them the wounds. 

“Look how neat this cut is with the garotte. There was no herky-jerky motion. It was one smooth cut. The wire slid right through the tender flesh.”

“Do you have a magnifying glass,” Konan asked. Ally handed him one. He studied the wound and shook his head.

“What is it,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged. 

“I saw a couple of decapitations while deployed but nothing like this.”

“Meaning,” Ally asked.

“The wounds were similar, but not that clean. The insurgents used fishing line.”

“How did they…”

“They put it under overpasses and used the vehicle’s momentum to kill the machine gunners.”

“Oh,” Ally said. “I doubt the killer used fishing line.”

“They didn’t. Like you said earlier, it’s too clean.”

[CHAPTER 2]

THERE ARE NO INNOCENTS IN WAR, THERE ARE ONLY LOSERS. WHAT DID THEY LOSE? THEIR HUMANITY.

 

The wind and rain were relentless. Ally’s briefing of her findings took the better part of an hour.  In that time the storm had worsened. 

Lilly and Konan raced to the car. Lilly’s umbrella did not help block the rain. Between the wind and the rain, they both ended up soaked. 

“This is nuts, Konan. So, we are looking for multiple assailants, a sadist, and. Lord knows what else.”

Konan sighed. Human depravity, viciousness, and violent nature was as old as time itself. Still, the brutal nature that had dispatched the woman was unusual.

“Tell me of your time in the service,” Lilly said. She didn’t phrase it delicately. His interest in the wound was not usual for a police detective. It hinted at something deeper and darker. 

“What do you want to know?”

“What was your job?”

“I hunted insurgents and killed them.”

“Okay. You saw a lot of action?”

“Yeah.”

“You mentioned decapitations when we were at the morgue. Can you tell me about it?”

“I could. I’m not going to. It’s not relevant to our investigation.”

“If you expect me to trust you, you need to tell me Konan. This is how we build trust.”

“Okay. Let’s do this, then.” Konan’s lips pulled back into a snarl, his eyes became cloudy. He stared out the passenger window at the black night.

“The first decapitation I saw was a small boy. His mother was a judge or something. They killed her straight off. Raped his sister. Made his dad watch as they cut off the boy’s head.”

Lilly turned and looked at Konan. He spoke in a calm voice, as if he was describing a dinner or a bad date. 

“The second one was an entire family. They helped our forces, provided intel, reported enemy movements, that type of thing. Anyway, the insurgents found out and decided to make an example. All fifteen members were killed. Their heads were thrown outside of our base. We found them the next morning. Wild dogs had got ahold of them. We could barely make out who was who.”

“Dear God, Konan.”

“Yeah, it was pretty bad.”

They rode in silence until they arrived at the police station. Lilly asked no more questions about decapitation. Apparently, Konan’s answers had satisfied her curiosity. 

Konan had nothing else to say about the subject. What he had seen and done served no purpose now. It was enough that he had lived it.

Lilly went back into the office to gather her belongings. Konan walked through the rain to the bus stop. Remembering what he had seen made him feel filthy. Its always the things we saw but could not change that haunts us the most.

The powerlessness of those moments weighed heavily upon Konan. He sat on the last seat of the bus next to the emergency exit. His clothes were soaked but his mind raced with possibilities. 

“What kind of person would make others watch as they cut the head off of a woman?”

 It reeked of a seriously deranged person. Someone who would have no sense of right or wrong. No conscience.  A sadistic heart and soul. 

Konan had seen some of the worst that humanity had to offer. He had seen evil up close. This was not something one would see in America, but in other parts of the world where an uncivilized nature could flourish. 

Yet, it happened here. Right here on Main Street in Small Town, USA.

Konan disembarked the bus at the bus stop and walked to his mobile home. The 14×70 trailer was often the bane of redneck jokes, but Konan loved his home. It had a walk-in shower. He used the shower and washed the day’s grime of him. “If only I could do the same with my mind,” he thought. 

He dried off and changed into his pajamas. They had dogs printed on them. He strode barefooted through the house and sat in his recliner. He reached for his Edgar Allan Poe collection and began to read, MS. Found in a Bottle.

It was not long before he fell asleep. He dreamed of war and the horrors that humankind inflicted upon each other. 

[CHAPTER 3] — [ENTER CHAPTER TITLE HERE]

Konan tossed and turned on his couch. Sleep was a cruel mistress tonight. When he fell asleep, the storm had raged for hours. It was quiet now, his home dark. A limb would scrape his metal roof when the wind blew. It was eerily silent. 

He got up and walked to the coffee pot. He poured water in and put a K-cup in the chute. Konan yawned as he waited for the magical fluid to make. He glanced at his clock. The red digital lens reflected 0230. He had slept a total of three hours. 

No wonder he felt like hammered crap.

The hot, frothy liquid filled his cup, and he spooned in sugar. He sipped it. It wasn’t sweet enough, so he added some hot water to the cup. Ah, nothing would ever compare to the first sip of coffee. 

He carried his coffee into his makeshift library. Konan sat amid the room and powered on his computer. In the search box, he typed in decapitation. 

‘Holy crap,’ Konan muttered. His search history pulled up a wealth of information regarding beheadings. Many were penned by ‘academics’ and they apparently considered the use of decapitation as a good thing. It seemed to Konan that everyone had, at some point, used decapitation as a method of punishment. The English and French had used it as the final stroke (literally) after disemboweling and hanging those they decapitated. There was even a modern article asking if beheadings were more humane than lethal injection.

Yall come on down to the fairgrounds, we gonna chop the head off this ole boy!

Konan shivered and shook his head. People had lost their minds. Konan sipped his coffee and scrolled through the rest of the article. No one seemed to have written one as to why decapitation was used. 

While he read up on the extremism of decapitation, his phone rang. 

“Hello?”

Lilly’s voice came over the receiver. “Hey, you’re up.”

“Yep.”

“You want some company?”

“Um, sure. Come on over. I’ll put on some coffee.”

“Sounds good. I’ll bring snacks.”

Thirty minutes later, Lilly knocked on the door of Konan’s home. He peeked through the peephole. Satisfied that she was alone, Konan opened the door. Lilly walked in holding two boxes of donuts. 

“Sorry to barge in at 3 in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep,” Lilly said. Konan shrugged and led her to the library.

“It’s alright, Lilly. I was up.”

“We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”

“No doubt. Why couldn’t you sleep?”

“I dreamt of decapitations.”

“Yeah, I did too. I have researched them since I’ve been up.” Lilly wrinkled up her nose.

“Why?”

“I thought it might give an insight into why people decapitate others.”

“Learn anything,” Lilly asked between a mouthful of a chocolate covered donut. 

“Yeah. It’s brutal. Everyone talks about the ‘cleanliness’ of it as an execution method. You know, ‘one swift stroke and it’s over.’ What they don’t tell you is that the government would only kill noble and poor alike after disemboweling and hanging them. So, it’s not a ‘nice’ way to kill anyone.”

“Jesus,” Lilly whispered. Her face was pale. “So, it’s a method of punishment?”

“Yeah.”

“So, the woman…”

“Yeah. The killer probably knew her and wanted her to suffer for some reason.”

“Oh God. Is there any place that still uses decapitation as a punishment for crime?”

“Yeah. Saudi Arabia is the only place where it is still used. In their culture, the family member of a murdered person has the right to carry out the execution. It is at times very….messy.”

Lilly said nothing to his response. She put down her donut and stared in her coffee. She wiped at her mouth and shook her head. She seemed visibly shaken. 

“She was punished.”

“Yeah, Lilly. She was punished.”

At 0500, Konan and Lilly hopped a bus and rode into town. They walked into the squad room and pulled out the information they had so far.

It wasn’t much, but they had to start somewhere.

The victims were identified as Tamara Watson, Jayce Watson, Kylee Watson, and Talia Omar. The three Watson’s were shot. Talia had her throat cut. 

Their respective families lived within a three-block radius of each other. Upon discovery, officers identified their families of the gruesomeness. 

It was the worst part of the job for Konan. Going back and asking questions of people who had their world upended seemed unnecessarily cruel. But it was the job. At 0800, they set out for the Watson family home.

Jim Watson, father of Kylee and Jayce, husband of Tamara, sat outside of his home working on a lawnmower. He looked up when Konan and Lilly walked up. He wiped his hands on a red, greasy rag. 

  “Can I help you, folk?”

“Yes, sir. I’m Detective Sergeant Lilly Thompson, this is Detective Thermopolis Konan. We need to ask you some questions.”

Jim nodded his head. He became teary-eyed. Konan looked away.  Lilly sat on a overturned bucket. 

“We’re sorry to have ask, but it may give us a clue as to who killed your family, sir.”

“I understand.” Jim said. “Ask your questions, ma’am”

“Tamara and your children went to the store. Why were they there?”

“They went to see Talia. They loved her. Tamara and Talia became good friends. She refused to go to the grocery stores when she could buy from Talia.”

“Did your family have any enemies?”

“No. We stayed to ourselves.”

Lilly nodded. Konan watched her question the man. Lilly struggled with her emotions. Her voice cracked every time she asked a question. Shes kind. Look at her, Jim couldnt wait to tell her whatever she wanted to know. Lilly patted Jim on the knee and stood up. 

“Thank you for talking to us, Jim. Call us if you remember anything that might help us, okay?”

Konan started for the car. Lilly ran to catch up. 

“How do you do that, Konan?” He looked over his shoulder at Lilly.

“Do what exactly?”

“Remain emotionless. Jim cried; I was emotional. You stood there like a statue. Don’t you feel anything?”

Konan stared at Lilly. His lips peeled back and revealed his teeth. He wiped at the corner of his eye and scrunched up his nose. 

“What?”

“You seemed disconnected when it came to Jim’s grief.”

“Why? Because I didn’t beat my chest? Because I didn’t punch the walls and scream at the sky?”

“No, I just…you didn’t shed a tear, didn’t get misty-eyed, you just waited for me to finish asking questions.”

Clearly, his detachment posed an issue with Lilly. Konan had no idea how to fix it. He shrugged. 

“I’m sorry, Lilly.”

“It’s okay. I thought you might have a reaction from you. I guess I expected too much.”

They rode in silence to the home of Talia Omar. The Muslim community had settled in the southeastern part of the city. Talia lived in a small house near the bustling part of the community. The mosque stood in the center of the busy neighborhood. It stood separate from the businesses and homes. 

Konan turned on the radio as Lilly drove. The local news came on, the regular programming was interrupted by the announcement of ‘breaking news’.

“Councilman Ted Wright Jr. stepped down as Councilman for District 2. He departed today under the suspicion of corruption. Meaning that he issued building permits based on the amount of money the purchaser offered. Many minority groups tried to build within District 2 but was denied for one reason or the other. Stay tuned for further developments, we will update as details are released.”

The regular programming returned, and Konan listened to it and stared out the window. Two announcers debated and compares some modern basketball player turned activist to the greats of yesteryear. Konan soon lost interest in it and shut off the radio.

“Do you think that the new guy is as good as the old ones,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged. 

“I don’t think it matters. The game has evolved and not for the better.”

“I didn’t know you kept up with sports, Konan. I figured you for a bookworm.”

“I am. I’m a bookworm that keeps up with sports.”

Lilly laughed. She nodded to the market. 

“Wanna grab a bite to eat and then hit Talia’s home?”

“No. Let’s go there first. Then, we can eat and not have to rush through it.”

“Okay. You take lead. I struggled with the last one.”

“No problem.”

Lilly pulled the sedan into the driveway. She shut off the engine and sat behind the wheel for a moment. Konan waited until she opened the door and then got out. Konan walked with her to the door. He knocked. 

An elderly woman opened the door. She stared at Konan, he gave her a small smile and showed his badge.  She turned from the door and said something in Arabic.  A tall slender man came to the door.  He had a black beard and wore the traditional garb of his culture. He nodded to Konan.

“Hello. Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

Konan touched his heart with his right hand and said hello. He showed his badge to him.

“I’m Detective Thermopolis Konan, this is my partner Detective Lilly Thompson. We are investigating the death of Talia Omar. I have some questions if you do not mind.”

“Certainly. Please come in. Talia was my sister. I am Ahmed.” He led Konan and Lilly to the living room. Ahmed motioned for them to sit. The elderly lady brought in a tea pot and poured each a cup of tea. 

Lilly blew on her cup and sipped it. She sighed and smiled. Konan smiled at the elderly lady and thanked her. Ahmed whispered to the woman, whom Konan decided must be his mother, and she disappeared into another room. 

“Thank you for the tea.” Ahmed smiled and nodded. 

“You were in the service, yes?”

“I was,” Konan said. He sipped his tea. “It’s been a while since I had Black Tea and mint.”

“You will be honest with me,” Ahmed asked quietly. Konan nodded yes.

“As far as I can be, yes.”

“Do you think my sister was an ‘honor killing?”

The Rainy Ripper…unedited, incomplete…new writing…

Konan tossed and turned on his couch. Sleep was a cruel mistress tonight. When he fell asleep, the storm had raged for hours. It was quiet now, his home dark. A limb would scrape his metal roof when the wind blew. It was eerily silent. 

He got up and walked to the coffee pot. He poured water in and put a K-cup in the chute. Konan yawned as he waited for the magical fluid to make. He glanced at his clock. The red digital lens reflected 0230. He had slept a total of three hours. 

No wonder he felt like hammered crap.

The hot, frothy liquid filled his cup, and he spooned in sugar. He sipped it. It wasn’t sweet enough, so he added some hot water to the cup. Ah, nothing would ever compare to the first sip of coffee. 

He carried his coffee into his makeshift library. Konan sat amid the room and powered on his computer. In the search box, he typed in decapitation. 

‘Holy crap,’ Konan muttered. His search history pulled up a wealth of information regarding beheadings. Many were penned by ‘academics’ and they apparently considered the use of decapitation as a good thing. It seemed to Konan that everyone had, at some point, used decapitation as a method of punishment. The English and French had used it as the final stroke (literally) after disemboweling and hanging those they decapitated. There was even a modern article asking if beheadings were more humane than lethal injection.

“Y’all come on down to the fairgrounds, we gonna chop the head off this ole boy!”

Konan shivered and shook his head. People had lost their minds. Konan sipped his coffee and scrolled through the rest of the article. No one seemed to have written one as to why decapitation was still used. 

While he read up on the extremism of decapitation, his phone rang. 

“Hello?”

Lilly’s voice came over the receiver. “Hey, you’re up.”

“Yep.”

“You want some company?”

“Um, sure. Come on over. I’ll put on some coffee.”

“Sounds good. I’ll bring snacks.”

Thirty minutes later, Lilly knocked on the door of Konan’s home. He peeked through the peephole. Satisfied that she was alone, Konan opened the door. Lilly walked in holding two boxes of donuts. 

“Sorry to barge in at 3 in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep,” Lilly said. Konan shrugged and led her to the library.

“It’s alright, Lilly. I was up.”

“We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”

“No doubt. Why couldn’t you sleep?”

“I dreamt of decapitations.”

“Yeah, I did too. I have researched them since I’ve been up.” Lilly wrinkled up her nose.

“Why?”

“I thought it might give an insight into why people decapitate others.”

“Learn anything,” Lilly asked between a mouthful of a chocolate covered donut. 

“Yeah. It’s brutal. Everyone talks about the ‘cleanliness’ of it as an execution method. You know, ‘one swift stroke and it’s over.’ What they don’t tell you is that the government would only kill noble and poor alike after disemboweling and hanging them. So, it’s not a ‘nice’ way to kill anyone.”

“Jesus,” Lilly whispered. Her face was pale. “So, it’s a method of punishment?”

“Yeah.”

“So, the woman…”

“Yeah. The killer probably knew her and wanted her to suffer for some reason.”

“Oh God. Is there any place that still uses decapitation as a punishment for crime?”

“Yeah. Saudi Arabia is the only place where it is still used. In their culture, the family member of a murdered person has the right to carry out the execution of the killer. It is at times very….messy.”

Lilly said nothing to his response. She put down her donut and stared in her coffee. She wiped at her mouth and shook her head. She seemed visibly shaken. 

“She was punished.”

“Yeah, Lilly. She was punished.”

A Rainy Ripper…Part III, unedited and incomplete…

THERE ARE NO INNOCENTS IN WAR, THERE ARE ONLY LOSERS. WHAT DID THEY LOSE? THEIR HUMANITY.

 

The wind and rain were relentless. Ally’s briefing of her findings took the better part of an hour.  In that time the storm had worsened. 

Lilly and Konan raced to the car. Lilly’s umbrella did not help block the rain. Between the wind and the rain, they both ended up soaked. 

“This is nuts, Konan. So, we are looking for multiple assailants, a sadist, and Lord knows what else.”

Konan sighed. Human depravity, viciousness, and violent nature was as old as time itself. Still, the brutal nature that had dispatched the woman was unusual.

“Tell me of your time in the service,” Lilly said. She didn’t phrase it delicately. His interest in the wound was not usual for a police detective. It hinted at something deeper and darker. 

“What do you want to know?”

“What was your job?”

“I hunted insurgents and killed them.”

“Okay. You saw a lot of action?”

“Yeah.”

“You mentioned decapitations when we were at the morgue. Can you tell me about it?”

“I could. I’m not going to. It’s not relevant to our investigation.”

“If you expect me to trust you, you need to tell me Konan. This is how we build trust.”

“Okay. Let’s do this, then.” Konan’s lips pulled back into a snarl, his eyes became cloudy. He stared out the passenger window at the black night.

“The first decapitation I saw was a small boy. His mother was a judge or something. They killed her straight off. Raped his sister. Made his dad watch as they cut off the boy’s head.”

Lilly turned and looked at Konan. He spoke in a calm voice, as if he was describing a dinner or a bad date. 

“The second one was an entire family. They helped our forces, provided intel, reported enemy movements, that type of thing. Anyway, the insurgents found out and decided to make an example. All fifteen members were killed. Their heads were thrown outside of our base. We found them the next morning. Wild dogs had got ahold of them. We could barely make out who was who.”

“Dear God, Konan.”

“Yeah, it was pretty bad.”

They rode in silence until they arrived at the police station. Lilly asked no more questions about decapitation. Apparently, Konan’s answers had satisfied her curiosity. 

Konan had nothing else to say about the subject. What he had seen and done served no purpose now. It was enough that he had lived it.

Lilly went back into the office to gather her belongings. Konan walked through the rain to the bus stop. Remembering what he had seen made him feel filthy. “It’s always the things we saw but could not change that haunts us the most.”

The powerlessness of those moments weighed heavily upon Konan. He sat on the last seat of the bus next to the emergency exit. His clothes were soaked but his mind raced with possibilities. 

“What kind of person would make others watch as they cut the head off of a woman?”

 It reeked of a seriously deranged person. Someone who would have no sense of right or wrong. No conscience.  A sadistic heart and soul. 

Konan had seen some of the worst that humanity had to offer. He had seen evil up close. This was not something one would see in America, but in other parts of the world where an uncivilized nature could flourish. 

Yet, it happened here. Right here on Main Street in Small Town, USA.

Konan disembarked the bus at the bus stop and walked to his mobile home. The 14×70 trailer was often the bane of redneck jokes, but Konan loved his home. It had a walk-in shower. He used the shower and washed the day’s grime of him. “If only I could do the same with my mind,” he thought. 

He dried off and changed into his pajamas. They had dogs printed on them. He strode barefoot through the house and sat in his recliner. He reached for his Edgar Allan Poe collection and began to read, MS. Found in a Bottle.

It was not long before he fell asleep. He dreamed of war and the horrors that humankind inflicted upon each other. 

The Rainy Ripper…Part II…unedited, incomplete…

Konan walked out into the squad room and sat at his desk. Lilly pulled up a chair next to him.  Konan leaned back and waited for Lilly to spill the beans.

“Things didn’t go well with Tia, did it?”

“It was fine. I figured I would have to face it at some point. It was better to get it out of the way.”

“Well, let’s get out of here and go to the morgue. Surely, they’ve found something by now.”

Lilly and Konan walked out to the parking garage. Konan walked to the driver’s side. Lilly tried to hide her smile.

“Would you like to drive, Konan?”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Lilly said.  Konan pulled the unmarked Crown Vic out of the garage and started for the morgue. Lilly yawned. Konan never exceeded the speed limit. Lilly kept glancing at the speedometer. 

“Wow. You’re a by-the-book kind of guy. Do you get in a hurry for anything?”

Konan laughed. “Sure, I get in a hurry sometimes. However, we are going to the morgue. Everyone there is dead, so why rush?”

“That’s horrible,” Lilly snickered. 

“Well, it’s not like they’re going anywhere.”

“I got it, Konan.”

Konan nodded. Lilly laughed at his attempts at humor. This partnership was off to a good start.

Konan guided the car into a parking place near the door to the morgue. It was really coming down. Hurricane Irma was causing all sorts of havoc in the Gulf. The wind whipped trash through the parking lot as Konan and Lilly rushed to the door. A security guard sat behind the desk and watched the weather report. He looked up when the pair approached the desk.

“Kinda bad out there, ain’t it?”

“Yep,” Lilly said. She and Konan flashed their badges at him. “Is Ally in?”

“Sure,” the guard replied. “She’s always in. Ain’t never met anybody as dedicated as that gal is to her work.  A nuke could go off and it would not budge her from her duties.”

He motioned for them to go on back. Lilly and Konan started around the desk. The guard put his hand up and stopped them.

“Y’all know where you’re going, right?”

“Yep,” Lilly said. Konan forced a grin. 

“I’m just following her, boss.”

“Alright, then. Be safe out there.”

“You too.”

They walked down the hallway. It was white. Everything was white, and it smelled as if the staff had soaked everything in bleach. White walls, white floor, white tiles. Konan’s eyes hurt from the glare of the light on the all-white surfaces.

“I think they like white,” Lilly said. Konan chuckled. 

“Did I ever tell you about this Non-Commissioned Officer I had just before I got out of the Army?”

“No. We just met like six hours ago. This is my first time hearing it.”

“I had a Sergeant from the West Coast somewhere and she was a bit ditzy, I guess you would say. One of my buds, he was a basket case, but I loved him to death. He asked her what her favorite color was one day while we were in the motorpool.” Lilly giggled and stood outside of Ally’s office.

“What did she say,” Lilly asked.

“She said her favorite color was clear.”

“Clear?”

“Yeah, transparent, clear, you know, like a plastic bottle.”

Lilly’s brow furrowed and her worry lines showed. 

“That’s not a color.”

“I know. That’s what made it funny.”

“I don’t get it.”

“That’s okay, Lilly. I guess you had to be there.”

Lilly knocked on the door and waited. Down the hall a door slammed. Konan turned and stared down the hall. Ally stepped out of the cooler and walked toward them. She gave Lilly a nod and motioned for them to follow her.

“This is going to be nasty,” Ally said quietly. Her eyes were dark, her mouth a tight line. Dark circles were under her eyes. She sat down on a stool and looked at her notes. 

“First things first, all the victims were killed almost at the same time. Second, all were shot expect for the first victim. She was killed by a garotte. Most likely it was piano wire. Whoever killed her, they almost cut her head slam off.”

“Anything else,” Konan asked. 

“Yeah,” Ally said. “Before they shot the other three victims, they were shoved to their knees and made to watch the execution of the woman. Then, they were shot in the back of the left ear with a .22-caliber handgun.”

“Jesus,” Lilly whispered. Konan said nothing. Ally put down her clipboard and motioned for them to follow her. She pulled out the bodies and showed them the wounds. 

“Look how neat this cut is with the garotte. There was no herky-jerky motion. It was one smooth cut. The wire slid right through the tender flesh of her throat.”

“Do you have a magnifying glass,” Konan asked. Ally handed him one. He studied the wound and shook his head.

“What is it,” Lilly asked. Konan shrugged.

“I saw a couple of decapitations while deployed but nothing like this.”

“Meaning,” Ally asked.

“The wounds were similar, but not that clean. The insurgents used fishing line.”

“How did they…”

“They put it under overpasses and used the vehicle’s momentum to kill the machine gunners.”

“Oh,” Ally said. “I doubt the killer used fishing line.”

“They didn’t. Like you said earlier, it’s too clean.”

Town Killer…new writing, unedited and incomplete…

Sunshine drifted in through the cracked blinds in Hanson’s tiny one bedroom apartment. Once again, he was up before his alarm sounded. Hanson slid from his bed, his knees and ankles popped loudly. “I don’t bounce the way I used to,” he muttered grumpily.  He half-walked, half-stumbled into his bathroom.

Hanson stared into the mirror. New lines were evident around the corners of his eyes. He stifled a yawn with the back of his hand, and turned on the cold water. To accelerate his process, Hanson splashed cold water on his face. He wiped down his neck.

“Today is the day,” he thought to himself. “People need to recognize the danger…”

After he showered and dressed, he grabbed his sign and backpack and walked out to his truck. Hanson put his sign in the back seat and drove to the site. A crowd had gathered to protest the Mayor’s ceremony which celebrated the full-time operation of the nuclear plant.

“We don’t want your poison,” some screeched. Other’s held up signs depicting radiation sickness. Others screamed, “Don’t Chernobyl our town!” Hanson picked up his sign and joined his fellow protestors.

Mayor Ted and delegates from Reid Nuclear Energy would make a speech today at noon. It was supposed to be a doozy of a speech. Mayor Ted would also present the delegates with a symbolic gift to seal their relationship publicly.

No one knew what the gift was, only that Mayor Ted would present it after the speech. Hanson had brought his own gift.

Hanson and his fellow ramble rousers continued to march and shout. If they could persuade one person to look at the dangers their efforts would not be in vain.

April 7, 1999: Noon

Mayor Ted and the delegates arrived fifteen minutes early to the site in a black limousine.  Protestors gathered around them in an angry throng, but security pushed them back. 

Hanson stood back and watched. The lectern was set up around 1100 hours. Mayor Ted walked to it and tapped the mic. He cleared his throat and gave his best practiced smile. 

“Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to say what an honor it is to stand before you on this glorious day in Dixie. Today is a good day, a special day. I would like to welcome to the stage the delegates of Reid Nuclear Energy. These folks have come all this way to be with us for this opening ceremony.”

Hanson shook his head in disgust. “Look at this babbling fool. He is signing the death warrant of this town and all the idiot can do is smile.”

“Boo,” the protestors shouted. They cupped their hand and shouted louder still, “Don’t Chernobyl Fredericksburg! Take your poison and go!”

Mayor Ted continued, “And where would we be without this lovely group of demonstrators? Regardless of how many town meetings we have had, they have never failed to show up. So, thank you for being here. I would say a great big thank you to Reid Nuclear Energy for investing in our town. Thank you for adding to our economy. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with you.”

Dianne Willby, supervisor for District 1, stepped forward with a pair of scissors. Mayor Ted and Macy Winters cut the ceremonial ribbon and smiled for the cameras. Bulbs flashed, people cheered, and Hanson moved closer to the stage.

Mayor Ted moved back to the lectern. He tapped the mic again to make sure it was still on and gave the crowd another smile.

“Before we get out of this hot sun, there is one other matter I would like to take care of. It is traditional to give a gift for services rendered, or for an accomplishment. Today, I would like to present a gift to these lovely delegates for breathing new life into our town.” He motioned for Dianne to come back to the stage. In her hands she held a pillow. All eyes were focused on Mayor Ted and the delegates.

Hanson unslung his backpack and took out the container of ooze. Several more demonstrators followed suit. Together they rushed the stage and flung ooze on the mayor and the delegates. People shouted and moved out of the way. Security stepped in, and this minor act of rebellion was quickly quelled but not before the Mayor and the delegates were pelted with the slimy green ooze. 

Mayor Ted was livid.

“Drag them out of here,” he shouted. “Arrest everyone of those thugs!” Hanson was slammed to the ground and handcuffed. The delegates and the Mayor was rushed off the stage and to the hospital.

Hanson laughed. “I bet he doesn’t think that eyesore of a reactor is such a good idea now, does he?”

The Rainy Ripper…new writing, unedited and incomplete…

“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.”

“Get in.”

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.”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

“Okay.”

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.

“Likewise, Thermopolis.”

“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.”

“Yeah.”

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

“Who’s this?”

“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?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Get out of my office.”

Town Killer…new writing, incomplete and unedited…

The Town-Killer Incident happened on a night like every other night. At least, that’s what the survivors had said. 

Everyone around these parts thought a nuclear reactor would bring cutting edge jobs into the community. Grocery stores were built, promises were made, and the cost of living went up in the small town of Fredericksburg. 

Few in the town thought of the downside of having a nuclear plant within the city limits. Hanson Greene was one of the few who saw the downside. 

Hanson was no spring chicken, but he knew that if one was to see the big picture, they must look at both sides. At 48, he had walked the metaphorical block a time or two. After serving twenty years in the military as a Hazmat specialist, he knew a thing or two about hazardous material. 

Hanson had formed a group of people who wanted nothing to do with the nuclear reactor and the promise of ‘growth.’ All Mayor Ted Winger and his Aldermen saw was money. The Board of Supervisors were no better. ‘You have to spend money to make money,’ they cried too everyone who would listen. 

They spent money. Cash was dumped into the schools, grocery stores, car dealerships, whatever they thought would influence Reid Nuclear Energy to invest in their town. 

March 25,1997:

Tia Walker, Macy Winters, and Travis Franks arrived at Fredericksburg to finalize the plans for the construction of the nuclear power plant. Mayor Ted Winger met them at the site. 

He stepped from the Suburban and smiled his best politician smile.

“Good morning. It’s a glorious morning here in Dixie.”

“If you say so, Mayor,” Travis Franks said. Tia and Macy swatted at the mosquitoes that buzzed about their heads. 

“I can’t wait to get out of this dump,” Tia said quietly. Macy nodded in agreement. “Me neither,” she whispered.  It was hot and humid at 0800.  The Mississippi summer was brutal on everybody.  

“So, Mayor Winger this reactor will operate independently and produce 1 gigawatt of power,” Macy Winters said. Mayor Ted nodded his head eagerly.

“Exactly how much power is that?”

Macy forced a smile. “Well, if you had Corvette ZO6 engine, you would need 2,000 to generate 1 gigawatt of electricity. Or 100 million LED light bulbs.  Suffice to say it generates a lot of electricity.”

“Well, this community is glad to have you and the reactor.  We are excited to welcome you. When is the ground breaking ceremony?”

“Soon. We have a few things to clear up on our end, and then we will get started.”

Mayor Ted nodded and rubbed his hands together.  Things were coming together for the small town.  He had promised to change the fortunes of those in the town during his campaign, and here he was on the cusp of greatness.

The Recluse…the rewrite continues…unedited and incomplete…

If only life remained simple instead of becoming a complicated, steaming heap of mess. 

Billy and Belle spent the remainder of the day at the waterway. They skipped stones and played in the water. Billy and Belle made their way home with the setting sun. Billy walked his friend to the front gate of her ramshackle home. 

The lights were off, and her mom’s car was gone from the driveway. Belle smiled at Billy. 

“I better get inside,” she said. Billy nodded. 

“Yeah, I have to get home myself.”

Belle leaned close and gave Billy a peck on the cheek. Billy’s heart raced; his face blushed a bright red. Belle giggled at his obvious discomfort. 

“Maybe tomorrow we could go back to see the hermit.”

“I don’t know about that, Belle. He acted like he wanted to be left alone.”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?”

Billy nodded his head, but he was not in a hurry to revisit the cabin in the woods. He watched Belle walk into the house and waited until her room lamp clicked on. Then, he walked back to his house.

Davy watched the sun go down from his sub-basement window. He had spent the day pecking on the keyboard. For every word he chose, another five got deleted. Writing had become a source of frustration for him this afternoon.

He dug out a box filled with books of movies he collected throughout his multiple deployments. It mattered not where he deployed, someone was selling movies. Davy had thousands of movies that he bought from various markets. He flicked on his television and slid a movie into the PlayStation’s disc tray. 

The disc whirred and spun. It finally came on. He leaned back in his recliner and watched the film. The quality of the movie was shoddy at best, and Davy quickly lost interest in it. 

He went back to his computer and stared at the blank screen. ‘Come on, think of something to write…’

Davy pecked out a sentence and looked at what he had written. “The brown sand of the desert soaked up the blood like a sponge. Life had no value here. It was just another day in hell.

It wasn’t much but it was a start.

Mondays’ suck. Everybody said so. 

For Belle it sucked, for Wilma and Jocko too she suspected. Everyone hated when the weekend disappeared. Belle waited for the bus and saw Billy walking up. She smiled, and he smiled back. 

“Hey,” Billy said. 

“Hey.”

“I hate Mondays.”

“Me too.”

They waited for the bus in silence. Neither Belle nor Billy were morning people. They needed at least another four hours of sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a power nap before they could start their day. Standing at a bus stop and waiting was cruel and unusual punishment in their minds. 

The bus pulled up and stopped. The brakes made a psssh sound. They boarded the bus and rode silently to the school.

For some reason Mondays dragged by. Maybe it had to do with it being the first workday of the week. Either way, the day passed slowly. 

At the first break of the day, Billy and Belle decided to sit outside on the steps and talk. Other kids hung out with their phones and friends. They all conversed in low tones, like they were discussing national secrets or what have you. 

Gavin Benson, the school bully, plopped down between Belle and Billy. He scrunched up his nose and sniffed Belle.

“Smell that boys? Smells like whore up in here,” he shouted. His pals gathered around and laughed. Belle said nothing, Billy did nothing. 

“Oh, that’s right, Belle. Your mom is a whore. Is she still shacked up with that drug dealer? Yeah, like mother, like daughter. You’re a whore by association.”

Billy stood up and the bullies crowded in closer. Gavin grinned. 

“That’s enough, Gavin. Leave us alone.”

Gavin laughed and shrugged. “Sure, no problem, Billy.” Billy nodded and Gavin punched him in the solar plexus. Billy doubled over, and Gavin grabbed him by the hair.

“It’s over when I say it’s over. Now, there are two whores out here.” The bullies howled with laughter and started up the steps. Belle knelt down by her friend. 

“You shouldn’t have said anything, Billy. My mom is….”

Billy coughed and shook his head. He put his hand on Belle’s shoulder. “You’re not your mother, Belle.”

The Recluse…the rewrite continues…new writing, unedited and incomplete…

I know, Billy. Besides, I get to go to church tomorrow. You wanna come with me?”

Billy shook his head no. “I’ll pass, Belle. You go on and go. I’ll see you after church, okay?”

“Okay.”

Davy Ford watched the children from afar. He walked through his house and pulled his drapes shut. He shut off the lights and made sure his doors were locked. Satisfied that his home was secure, he went down to the sub-basement and began to work on his latest project. 

 Stupid kids, Davy thought as he sat at his laptop. He opened his word processor and stared at the blank screen. His cursor flashed but never moved. 

All this time back, and my home has never been invaded. Leave it to two kids to breach it. Davy typed the title of his new piece of writing titled, Just Another Day in Hell. For a moment he considered adding ‘based on true events,’ but he didn’t. 

His phone buzzed and distracted him from the screen. He stared at the phone. It was a notice from the local church that his group would meet on Tuesday at 1500. 

Davy hated going to the meetings. However, his doctor thought it would do him some good to get out and meet new people. She’s wrong, Davy thought, but he had to go. She checked on his attendance and they spoke about it at his appointments.

The pastor of the church would sometimes sit in and tell her story. She had been a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. She had never walked the blood-soaked sands of the desert. Her closest encounter with danger had been on a search and rescue mission in the mountains during a wildfire. 

It was a good story, but it wasn’t war. 

Davy placed the phone down and focused on his screen. This story wasn’t going to write itself. 

While Davy tapped out words on his keyboard, Belle had walked home. Her momma, Wilma, had a nasty reputation. Wilma’s boyfriend Jocko had a nasty one too. Wilma watched Belle enter the yard. Her image of her daughter was hazy from the heroin she shot into her veins. 

“Hiya, dah-ling,” she muttered. Belle looked at her mom and shook her head. The needle was still stuck in Wilma’s vein. Belle pulled it out and leaned her mom’s head back against the chair. Wilma began to snore. 

Jocko walked out on the porch bare chested and smacked his lips. ‘A few more years and that fruit will be worth picking, just got to tough it out with her junkie momma until then.’

“You want a hit,” Jocko asked Belle. She shook her head no and went to move around him. He smacked her on the rump. “One day, you will want some, and then I’ll give you all you can handle.” He smiled at Belle, his yellow teeth flashing menacingly.

“No thanks,” she said as she went to her room. Cockroaches scattered when she flipped on the light. The hot night air was suffocating. Belle opened the window and turned on a lamp. She checked her bed for bugs and roaches. There were none on the bed. 

She opened up a book and leaned against the corner. Belle read until her eyes grew heavy. 

During the night she woke up several times. Jocko and Wilma would laugh raucously about something they saw on television, or they would argue, and Jocko would slap Wilma around. 

At 0900, she slipped from the house and stood on the corner until the van from Mountain Top Faith Center arrived. She boarded the bus and stared from the window. Children’s laughter carried through the bus, and for once, Belle felt at home.

Davy stood in front of his window and peeked from the curtain. No one was near his gate, no one had crossed his perimeter. He sipped coffee from his steel to-go cup and kept watch. People drove by and always slowed down to look at the cabin.

“Keep moving,” he chided them in his mind. “Nothing to see here.” Satisfied that his home was secured, he sat in his recliner and flicked on the local news. 

It was all bad news. 

Wars were being fought, drugs were rampant within the city, prostitution and various other facets of perversion was being normalized. Davy shut off the television. 

It wasn’t worth it,” he thought not for the first time. “All the blood and the guts, all the destruction, it was all for naught.”

Davy sat in the dark. He had never felt so alone as he did at this moment.

Billy waited at the bus stop for Belle. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and saw the van coming down the road. Belle saw him from her seat in the bus and waved. Billy waved back. The bus stopped and the driver opened the door. Belle leaped out and almost tackled Billy. 

“Hey, Billy. We had awesome church!”

“Well, that’s good. You seem wound up; did you get converted?”

“No, I just feel…light. You know, like a feather.”

Billy laughed. “Light, huh. Bet you can’t beat me in a race to Old Man Washington’s place.”

“You’re on, Billy.”

They lined up side by side. Belle looked at Billy and told him to count to three. 

“One…two…two and a half…three!” 

Both took off like racehorses at the track, Billy and Belle were neck to neck. Belle reached out and pushed Billy, he stumbled and slowed down to regain his balance. Belle finished first and bent at the waist to catch her breath. Billy came up and punched her in the shoulder.

“You cheated,” he said. She shook her head no. Both of them were panting hard. 

“No, I did not. I took advantage of you being too focused. That’s not cheating, that is being smart.”

“Whatever,” Billy snapped.

“Suck it up, Billy. You lost to a girl.”

Billy and Belle walked to the shade of an old oak tree. They leaned against it and caught their breath. 

“What do you want to do now”, Belle asked. Billy shrugged. 

“Let’s go to the waterway. I have some money; we can get a Coke to share.”

“Sounds good.”

Together, the two friends walked off toward the store to grab a Coke and make memories.