After a few more questions, all which Rasheed answered without reservation, Konan and Lilly had no more insight into the murders than when they first arrived. “Don’t leave town,” Lilly snapped at Rasheed as they departed. The detectives walked out into a warm blanket of humidity left in the wake of the storm.
Across town, Khalid Abbas sat outside of the trendy café known as The Rooster’s Crow, underneath a black and white striped umbrella as he waited for his guest. Khalid smiled smugly at those who passed by his table. A sense of elation washed over him every time he heard the news of Ted Wright Jr’s resignation. The removal of the councilman opened a plethora of new opportunities for Khalid and his political ambitions. “Things are coming together, just as I envisioned it.”
Deep in thought, Khalid missed the figure that stood behind him, until a hand touched his shoulder. Khalid turned around to face the person who dared lay a hand on him, but no one was there. Frustrated, Khalid turned back toward the table, and his guest sat across from him.
“Good afternoon,” Khalid’s guest said, in a deep, smooth voice, reminiscent of blues singers from the Delta. Except this voice belonged to a formidable man of ebony skin, a thick, trimmed goatee, dark piercing eyes that could scorch the roughest of souls, and enough muscle to rival the fiercest heroes of any myth. “I trust you are satisfied with today’s news?”
“Yes,” Khalid stammered clumsily, “I am thrilled with today’s events. None of this would’ve been possible without your efforts.”
Khalid’s guest gave him a grim smile, and his gaze rested upon Khalid for several moments, until Khalid squirmed in his chair. “It’s all about the money,” the man said.
“Right,” Khalid responded. “The check is made out to William Blankenship, as you requested, and I stowed it in Locker 17 at the bus terminal, as instructed.”
“The key?” Blankenship asked, his voice low and sharp. Khalid pointed at the placemat, and answered, “it’s under your placemat, left side.” Blankenship lifted the corner and pulled out the key, then pocketed it.
“Enjoy your meal, Khalid. I have things to do.” Khalid nodded and watched as Blankenship disappeared into the lunch crowd.
Sweat dampened the thick black hair and forehead of Khalid, and he wiped it from his brow with his napkin. “I hate dealing with Blankenship and his organization, but they came with a sterling reputation for getting the job done, and they delivered.”
Khalid’s master plan was underway, and nothing could stop his ascension to the heights of political power now.
Konan and Lilly sat in the squad car outside of the police station, but neither had said much on the ride across town. Lilly had cooled down some since having the gun pressed to her head, but she remained irate in how Konan had chosen to respond to the situation. “Konan should’ve blown Rasheed’s head off, but no, he chose to talk him to death!”
After a few moments of silence, Lilly turned to Konan and asked, “What do you think? Did Rasheed kill our victims?”
“I don’t know what to think, Lilly. Do you think he did it?” Lilly glared at him, and snapped, “He has the capacity to kill her. I mean, he held a gun to my head, for God’s sake. Furthermore, he went as far as to say he had performed honor killings prior to this crime. I don’t know about you, but in my book, 1+1=2.”
Konan nodded and let out an exasperated sigh, but then asked, “So, do you think he committed our murders?” Lilly frowned, then shrugged and answered, “I don’t know. Let’s go see Tammy tomorrow morning. Maybe, she’ll have something new for us.”
“Okay,” Konan grunted, as he stepped out of the vehicle. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 0730.” Lilly nodded, and said, “Yeah, see you tomorrow. Good night.”
The following morning, Konan and Lilly drove across town back to the morgue. Abe sat at the security desk and pushed the roster to Konan to sign. “You’re back,” Abe said to the detectives, “Same case or a different one?”
“Same case,” Konan responded, as he signed the paper. “Looking for a fresh perspective.” Abe picked up the roster, and said, “Good luck to you, then. The dead have no perspective to offer.”
Tammy stood outside her office and watched the detectives at the front desk. Lilly saw her and waved. Tammy grinned and waved them back to her office. “You two have impeccable timing,” she said as the detectives drew near. “I was just about to call you.”
“Have you found something new?” Konan asked, and Tammy nodded her head excitedly. “Yeah, I went back after you left and re-examined the wounds.” She handed Lilly a magnifying glass and tapped the wound. “Look here,” she instructed Lilly. “Do you notice how these cuts here differ from the others.”
Lilly looked at the wounds and said, “Yeah, these wounds aren’t as deep as the others.” Konan cringed and closed his eyes tightly, then remarked, “The killer would lessen the pressure and then tighten it back up.”
“Exactly,” Tammy said. “That’s why there are a variety of degrees of cuts throughout the soft tissue.”
“Okay,” Lilly remarked softly, “but what does that mean?”
“It means that the killer asked Talia questions and would loosen the wire so she could answer. When she refused, the killer applied more pressure. I think, the killer was looking for something specific,” Konan said, a sharp edge creeping into his voice. He looked at Tammy, and asked, “How did she die?”
Tammy sat down behind her desk and raised her eyebrows, then said, “Talia struggled against the garotte, and when she did, her arteries tore, and blood entered the arterial wall of her heart. Layers of the wall splintered, and Talia had a stroke.”
“Jesus,” Lilly whispered, her face paled as Tammy described the final moments of their victim. Tammy continued, “I found coagulated blood in her esophagus. The oxygenated blood couldn’t reach the brain, and a blood jam occurred. This woman suffered tremendously before she expired.”
Throughout Tammy’s briefing of Talia’s final moments, Lilly observed Konan and his reaction. Konan clenched and unclenched his fists, his face grew beet red, his eyes narrowed, and his breathing became shallow. “Oh boy,” Lilly muttered, but Konan kept his cool and did not interrupt Tammy. After she finished the report, Konan snatched the images from the board and walked out of the office and toward the front of the building.
“Thanks,” Lilly spat out, as she rushed after her partner. She caught up with Konan in the parking lot, and asked, “Where are we headed?” Konan yanked the door open and climbed in behind the wheel, and snapped, “I’m going to see Rasheed. I want him to verify what I think I know for a fact.”
“I’m going with you,” Lilly remarked. “Our victim deserves justice, and we’re just the people to get it for her.”
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