The six Slave Quarter victims have been identified. But before the police chief holds his press conference, the team goes over the grisly details surrounding their deaths. They have a suspect in mind, but as per usual, Cloud isn’t satisfied. He takes a moment to reflect.
artwork by Maju Bellucci
Chapter 9 – A Suspect
By Rock Kitaro
“So apparently, Griffin’s a racist. Who would’ve thunk it?”
“I knew it. That’s probably why he ain’t take me seriously when I told him Joe was the one who killed your mom!”
It’s closing in on six and I finally have a moment to myself. It’s outside the four-story police department in historic downtown Augusta. The pastel skies cleared up for a gorgeous golden sunset over the Savannah River. From my spot on the 2nd floor terrace, I can see clearly the shimmering waters and the Carolinian townhomes lining the banks of the other side.
This 2nd floor terrace was where ranking officers came to eat lunch or enjoy a smoke break. Since it’s after five, the picnic tables are vacant. I’m twenty feet away from the doors and there’s a rustling breeze brushing against the façade like a current. I have the floor to myself, thus I feel safe to give my one confidant a call and speak my mind at ease. Miranda hears the wind and thinks she has to shout to overcompensate.
“To be honest, the decision to put myself on this case was kind of spur of the moment. I suppose deep down, knowing Griffin still exists, potentially botching cases galore just didn’t sit well with me. And looks like my premonition isn’t far off. Seems he’s still a living, breathing miscarriage of justice. And to think I was so close to forgiving him.”
“Boy, please. You weren’t about to forgive nobody. Not over your mother. It’s the reason why you’ve been doing what you’ve doing. What exactly did the bastard say?”
“He said he doesn’t like black people. Pretty clear, cut, and dry about it. Although, you’ll forgive me if I hold back certain details.”
“NO! I want to know everything!” Miranda shouts.
I shake my head and chuckle. “No, Miranda. By the way, you better not be smoking.”
“You took my last pack, bubblehead! I don’t get paid till tomorrow.”
“I’m doing you a favor. You don’t want those good looks to go down the drain, do you? How else are you going to find a good man?”
“I got men chasin’ me. Don’t you worry ‘bout it. Anyways… How’s the case coming? Almost done?”
“I don’t know. I mean we’re on the right track. I think. We’re about to have a briefing to discuss a new suspect and everyone’s salivating to sink their teeth in him. The haste is alarming and I can hardly stomach such half-assed investigating. Not to mention, there’s still the business of KeNedra’s suicide. It’s so freakin weird.”
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone keeps talking about how strong-minded she was. Strong people simply don’t commit suicide. I can’t believe that. I don’t want to accept it. Dude, I…I don’t want to say it. Friggin Jimmy Coolidge planted this idea in my head. Maybe KeNedra was possessed,” I say whilst loosening up my collar.
“Well, that’s not unusual. Not in your world. Not sure what I can say over the phone, but didn’t you say that’s how Maggie got business done?”
“Maggie’s different. Besides, she only works on individuals who are already terrified to the state that their mental capacity is diminished. That’s when their realities can be manipulated and toyed with. Actually, we should probably stop talking about this over the phone,” I say with a careless chuckle.
“And you don’t want to believe she was possessed?” Miranda asks again. Her tone suggests that I’m refusing to believe the truth, like a child who doesn’t want to believe Santa Claus is a lie.
“This case. Feels like there’s something I’m overlooking. Something that’s staring me right in the face.”
“And how are you gonna handle Griffin?”
“I have to work with him. He’s not a bad person. He’s just…you know. Normal. He and Leanne have been texting each other all day like a couple of schoolgirls trying to be discreet but failing miserably. Anyways…as long as Leanne has her sights on him, I don’t have to worry about her watching me.”
“And your lovely dovie?” Miranda asks.
“It’s not like that. I might be wrong about Jessica. She’s proven herself to be nothing but courteous and professional, very insightful and dedicated. Five years is a long time. We’ve had a president come and go. I’ve grown up. I’d be silly to dismiss the idea that she has not.”
“So you’re just going to forgive, Griffin? Just like that. What if he came out and said he don’t like blond haired white people?” Miranda questions.
“Miranda…He’s not a killer. Just an idiot.”
“And how many Cloud Beaudrys has he created by letting his prejudice fuck up the case?”
“Wow, Miranda. If I didn’t know any better…”
“Hey, baby. You can lie to yourself all day, sugar. But you can’t lie to me. I don’t believe for a second that you get any satisfaction out of doing what you do.”
“I made a promise, Miranda. A man keep his word.”
“And I’m saying! If Griffin did his job in the first goddamn place you would’ve never had to make any promises to begin with.”
“Miranda! I hear what you’re saying. Honestly I do. But you talk about not lying to myself. I’m telling you, my world ended the day my mom died. Handling Griffin or anyone else will never change that. The least I can do is keep my fucking word!”
“To a ghost, Cloud! Do you know how crazy that sounds?”
“Alright, Miranda. I need to go.”
“Hang up on me if you want to.”
“I need to go!”
“Let me tell you one more thing. See, ya pissed off cause you know I’m right.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose. “Miranda, I had a conversation with KeNedra’s mother today. She could’ve given a paid exclusive worth thousands of dollars to any one of the top media outlets in the country. She could’ve cashed in her grief for fortune and fame but she’s wont. She’s exercising forgiveness. Forgiveness, Miranda. Her daughter was abducted and died in police custody. She’s not crying out for retribution.”
“AND?!” Miranda barks.
“And I’m saying, who the fuck am I? That I lash out and put everyone down who crosses me!?”
“Why are you comparing yourself everyone? This ain’t like you, Cloud.”
“I always question myself, Miranda. Just not out loud.” I say, hopelessly leaning over the rail.
Miranda sighs. “Cloud, you’re not happy. Even when you’ve come back from keeping ya fucked-up promise, I see you. You’re miserable. You know what I think you need to do? Help this family. I know you have all your secret agendas and Maggie crawling up your ass, but help this family. Griffin gon’ be Griffin. Flush out all that noise and focus on getting justice for the little girl’s family. Your justice.”
I didn’t expect this conversation to get so sentimental. She’s striking a nerve on so many levels. It’s been a long day and this is mentally draining. Miranda Burnette… She likes confrontation way too much. You won’t conquer her with compliments and confections. What she craves is conflict, as per usual. Maybe I’m the same way. I did volunteer for this case after all.
“Anyways! Let me get out of here. Meetin the girls at the gym for a spin class.” She brags.
“That sounds…like a lot of scraping. Hey, Miranda. Do me a favor. Download some gospel music for when I get back.”
“What kind of gospel music you want?”
“I don’t know. The kind that makes you feel good in this rotten world. I defer to your judgment.”
“Alright, boo. I got you.”