Sheriff Rowell and Rama led me to an empty interview room and motioned for me to sit at the small metal table. I sat down and waited to see who would take lead.
Rowell sat down across from me and fixed his eyes upon me, like a fisherman sizing up his prize catch.
He pulled out a small tape recorder and placed it in the middle of the table.
“Sheriff Jonathon P. Rowell and Detective Franco Rama interviewing Detective Thermopolis Konan regarding the murder of Larry [inaudible].”
“Detective Thermopolis Konan, have you received your Miranda rights read to you?”
“No, Sheriff Rowell. I have not been made aware of my rights.”
Rowell and Rama looked at each other, and Rowell shut off the recorder.
“You know the reading of your rights is only a formality, right?”
“I haven’t even been arrested yet. Neither of you clowns have arrested me. You’ve jacked up the whole process.”
“We’re gonna nail you to your cross, sleazeball!”
Rama put his hand on Rowell’s chest and shook his head. Rowell leaned back in the chair and wiped at his mouth. I smiled.
“If I’m not under arrest, I’m gonna leave. Make sure you boys get your act together before you try to come for me. I’d hate to sue the police department for libel, and you two idiots for slander.”
I stood and walked out the room, running almost into Chief Rogers who seemed startled to see me.
“What are you doing in here, Thermopolis? I thought you took a few days off.”
“I’m on leave, Chief. I came in because Gilly said that Rama and Sheriff Rowell considered me the primary suspect in Larry’s murder.”
Rogers frowned at me, shook his head, and said, “I ain’t heard nothing about it. Sounds like I need to get a briefing.”
“Okay, Chief. I’ll see you later.”
“Later, Konan. Try not to stress about this mess too much.”
I gave him a wave, and the last I saw, Chief Rogers had Rama and Rowell in the hall giving them the what-for. Normally, I’d walk to the parking garage, but this time I rode the elevator down.
My truck sat at the end of the lot. I started for it and bumped the unlock button. It chirped, and Ashley stepped from behind the other side of the vehicle.
“Hey,” she said as I drew near. “You got a minute?”
“Sure. You hungry?”
“I could eat. What do you have in mind?”
She giggled, and I gave her a small grin. I got in and started the truck, and Ashley climbed in. She clutched a brown folder tightly to her chest.
I drove through a drive in and ordered us some dinner, and then drove to a small picnic area out by the public lake. A small clearing was on the other side, invisible from the lake, and I pulled up short of the small metal gate.
“We’re trespassing, Konan.”
“Nah, I own it.”
“This is yours? When did you buy this?”
“I bought it when I first came back home. Ginger McCullum is my mother’s maiden name. That’s the name it’s under.”
“I’ll be danged. Look at you being all sneaky.”
“Yep. Come on, it’s just a small piece down here.”
“I know. Um, it’s a pretty busy spot for lovers at night.”
“So, I’ve heard.”
I carried the food down to the clearing and spread out a blanket. Ashley watched as I spread it out and put the food out.
“So, do you own the whole lake or just this clearing?”
“I own all of it. The lake, clearing, both boat ramps, and from that post over there,” I said pointing at a barely visible post on the other side of the lake, “to mile marker 391, on both sides of the road, is mine.”
“My God. How many acres is that?”
“Good God. Yet, you live in a trailer on the outskirts of Fredericksburg.”
“I don’t understand your question, Ashley. Why what?”
“Clearly, you’re wealthy, Konan. Yet, you don’t wear suits, you don’t drive a fancy car, and you don’t live in a mansion. Where does your money go?”
“Why does it matter? I make enough to live off.”
“My point is this: You don’t have to work. Why are you doing this?”
“Because I like catching bad guys? I find the work fulfilling?”
I handed Ashley a catfish platter, and I opened the other. Ashley shook her head and nibbled on a fry.
“Is this what you needed to see me about, Ashley? To do some forensic accounting?”
“No. I came across something strange about Larry’s death.”
“Besides the big gaping hole in the back of his head?”
“Yeah, smartie. Your friend Larry, died of a heart attack. The bullet to the head was to cover it up.”
“Larry was an athlete. Was it some type of genetic thing, or was it unnatural?”
“It came from mercury poisoning.”
“How? There were no needles found at the scene.”
“No, but there were cans of tuna, salmon and other fish that is high in mercury.”
“So, you’re saying he did himself in with his ‘high tuna/salmon diet’. I thought it was murder.”
“Well, it is. The gunshot to the head? Remember?”
“Ok, stop. Just, don’t move.” Konan took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You said it was murder. When I asked you how, you said a heart attack. How did someone kill Larry with a heart attack, Ashley?”
“With mercury poisoning.”
“How did they strap a grown, athletic man to a five-gallon bucket naked, and poison him? Furthermore, why did they shoot him in the head?”
“Mercury can effect the digestive system-hence the makeshift toilet. Why they strapped him on it, I don’t know. Why did someone shoot him in the head? That’s for you to figure out. I don’t know why. I just know what the reports say.”
“Okay. I need to head to the library. I’ll take you back to work on the way. Thanks for briefing me.”
“You’re welcome, Richie-rich boy.”
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
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