FATIMA’S BODY WAS found at 4:28 pm. She had been stuffed into a trunk and buried less than two feet under the patio.
It was a nice trunk. Probably a little too nice. It was so nice that it kept out water and air. This meant Fatima’s body hadn’t decomposed the way it would have if they had just thrown her in the ground. It also meant there was the possibility of physical evidence. DNA. Finger prints. Hairs.
I would say we were lucky, but we weren’t.
Nothing was lucky about this.
For some reason, Fatima’s passport had been tossed in with her body. I watched Will carefully bag it. “The girl’s name was Fatima Zaidi. Pakistani national. Twenty years old.”
“Nineteen,” I muttered. “She was nineteen.”
“What was that?” Will glanced at me.
“Nothing.” I moseyed over and watched the forensic team finish their work. “I’m still processing everything.”
“I’ll bet.” Will chucked me on the shoulder. “Have you put this place on the market yet? Hired a mover? Because I would.”
I saw Gwen sitting in the corner, an untouched cup of coffee in her hands. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
“Sell,” Will replied. “Sell now.”
A yellow finch came out of nowhere and landed on the kitchen window sill. It chirped a few times before flying off. “We’ll see,” I said.
Murder’s technically a state offense, meaning we didn’t have jurisdiction, but there were elements involved that made it a possible hate crime. Hate crimes fell under federal statute, which would give us jurisdiction.
Forensics came back with a ton of evidence. Tariq’s skin cells were found under her finger nails. Fatima had fought back. A couple strands of hair containing maternal DNA were found on her clothing and in the trunk. Her father’s fingerprints had been on the passport and on the trunk’s lock.
We had all three of them. Warrants were sworn out. We were good to go.
Will and I were to accompany Detective Ahmed Sidran to the Zaidis house for the arrest. Sidran was a local, a good detective with an excellent reputation. Will knew him well. They grew up together. I knew I liked him, and I don’t like many people.
It was a grey and rainy kind of day. I liked that. I don’t think I could have handled it if it had been sunny. This was not a day for sun.
Sidran was waiting for us a few houses down, so as not to give the Zaidis any reason to run. “Agents,” he greeted, his face grim. “I can’t even tell you how bad this is… an honor killing. An honor killing in my town… I can’t. I just can’t.”
Will said something, but I didn’t hear. I was too focused on the house. That’s where they lived. They murdered that beautiful girl, then they moved to this shiny house, in this shiny neighborhood and proceeded to forget all about her. I took a deep breath. Justice. Not revenge. Justice. Not revenge.
“You okay, Sam?” Will asked. “You seem… tense.”
I swallowed and shook my head. “I’m fine. I just want this over with.”
“Yeah.” Will put a hand on my shoulder. “It’ll be over soon.”
We marched up to the house. Sidran rang the doorbell.
A young man in traditional Pakistani clothing opened the door. This must be Tariq. He ignored Will and me and addressed Sidran. “Yes? What do you want?”
I flashed my badge and pushed my way in. It wasn’t hard. He was a good six inches shorter than me. “I’m Agent Samantha Donnelly, and that’s Agent Wilhelmina Bradford. FBI. I think you know Detective Sidran, right?” I felt Will’s eyes on me. Sidran was supposed to take point. I ignored her. “You’re Tariq, right?”
Tariq glared at me. “Cover your head. We are an observant house.”
I kept my smile pleasant. “This isn’t a social call, Mr. Zaidi. When you look at me, don’t see this – ” I gestured at my chest “- see my badge and the authority it grants me.”
His eyes narrowed, but Sidran stepped between us. “Tariq, we have some questions about Fatima.”
“Fatima?” He blinked, surprised. “She’s in Pakistan.”
“Is she?” I stepped around them and into the living room. The Zaidis were entertaining. On one side of the living room sat Fatima’s father, Ibrahaim and her mother, Amira. I recognized them from their immigration papers. Ibrahaim was dressed like Tariq, while Amira was covered in a long dress and hair covering. On the other side of the room was a younger couple, wearing Western clothes. The man looked to be somewhere between the father and Tariq in age. The woman wore western clothes. Her hair wasn’t covered. Huh.
While Ibrahaim and Amira glared at me with a death stare, the other couple looked merely curious. “Are you ICE?” the man asked. “If you are, I assure you, my uncle and his family are all perfectly legal.”
“Not ICE.” I flashed my badge. “We’re here about Fatima.” I fixed my gaze on Amira. “Where is she?”
Her face reddened. “Fatima’s… in Pakistan. She’s married to a fine man there.” She raised her chin and added, “She’s expecting her first child next month.”
I burst out laughing. Wow. Now that’s a lie. “Is she? Wow. That’s… that’s something. Hey, Will, did you hear that? Fatima’s having a baby?”
“Really.” Will’s voice was flat. “Amazing.”
“A miracle, I’d call it.” I walked over to the fireplace. There were all sorts of pictures, but none of Fatima. “Why don’t you have any pictures of Fatima?”
“We’ve only just moved here,” Amira replied, her voice shaking. “We’re still unpacking.”
I headed back to Will and Sidran. “When did Fatima leave for Pakistan?”
“I… I don’t know – ”
“What airline did she take?”
“It was a long time ago – ”
“How many bags did she have?”
“I don’t remember!” She pushed herself up. “I am an old woman! I will not be disrespected in my house!”
The father focused on Sidran, his face a chiseled mask of contempt. “Detective. Remove these sinful women from my presence.”
Before Sidran could reply, I said, “Sinful woman or not, I am an agent of the FBI. I will ask you one more time. Where is Fatima?”
“I will not talk to this whore.” His eyes blazed with hatred. “Get out.”
“Uncle, let’s not be rude to the federal agents.” The younger man stood up, wringing his hands, a nervous smile on his face. “Please, accept my apology. My uncle is still working out the differences between his new country and his homeland. I assure you, he is… we are all willing to answer any questions you have about Fatima.”
“Have you spoken to Fatima since she allegedly left the country?”
He shook his head. “No.” He turned to the woman next to him. “Have you?”
Her eyes widened. “No, but maybe our daughter has.”
“There.” Ibrahaim pointed at me. “Their daughter has spoken to her. Now get out.”
“That’s not what he said,” I replied. “Why did you send her back, anyway?”
“She was a bad girl!” her mother said at the same time her father said, “We didn’t send her back. She left.”
I turned to the mother. “What do you mean, she was a bad girl?”
She sat back down and crossed her arms. “She was running around with a boy behind our backs… it was embarrassing. She was embarrassing. How would it look if anyone found out?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “How would it look?”
“Agent.” The younger man sighed. “I know these things don’t make sense, but it’s our way. Now, we’ve answered your questions. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” He stood up. “If you need further information, please contact our attorney.”
I pulled out the warrant. “Ibrahaim, Amira, and Tariq Zaidi, the body of Fatima Zaidi was found buried in the yard of your previous residence. This is a warrant for your arrest. All of your are under arrest for the murder of Fatima Zaidi.”
Sidran pulled out his cuffs and walked over to Ibrahaim. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you.”
“You killed her?” The younger man fell back into his chair. “Uncle, how could you?”
Amira threw back her head and made this shrill kind of sound. “She was bad! She was bad! She was dirty and bad! She would shame us all! We had no choice!”
“You killed her? You killed her? What kind of mother are you?!” The younger man’s wife stood up, her face pale, one eye twitching. “She was not bad! She was beautiful and kind, and all you ever did was torment her! You are a horrible woman. A horrible mother!” She pointed at her, tears welling up. “I curse you, Amira Zaidi. I curse you for what you did to that child!” She spit at her. “I curse you!”
Amira leaped out of her chair, but Will grabbed her. “None of that, old lady. You might break a hip.”
Sidran had Ibrahaim; Will had Amira. That left Tariq. I headed for him, hand cuffs ready.
“You foul, unnatural bitch!” He took a swing at me, which I easily blocked. I twisted his arm and forced him on the ground.
“Tariq. That’s assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. Let’s tack that on to the murder charge.” I cuffed him and hauled him to his feet. “Tariq Zaidi, you’re under arrest for the murder of Fatima Zaidi. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney.”
As I shoved him out the door and to the squad car, the press was already here. “Is it true you killed your sister because she was dating a Christian?” A reporter stuck a microphone in Tariq’s face. “Did you kill your sister, Mr. Zaidi?”
A crack of lightening split the sky. Thunder boomed.
We were in for a storm.
_____ * _____ * _____ * _____ * _____
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