A Memphis summer dripped outside. Inside, a dusty, yellowed glowpatch affixed to the ceiling provided light. The windowless room had grimy, flattened cardboard boxes that covered most of the dirt floor. A spade rested in a pile next to a hole in the corner.
Four leather wallets, caked in long-dried mud, rested on a card table awaiting dissection. As was the style of the times for their profession, each had their owners’ names affixed to them in small, raised metal lettering.
Francis Xavier. Douglass Sawyer. Phillip Hakes. Nathaniel Torpson.
All killers. All cops.
“You were right. Here they are.” Wendall said flatly.
Jake felt a delicious anticipation. Years of research had brought him to this time.
“I once heard of a cop that was running a shakedown from behind bars. Were these guys like that?”
“Sort of,” Jake replied quietly.
Wendall was immediately disinterested and unrolled his leaf to browse.
Before Wendall had arrived to open the gate, Jake had sought out the very spot in the exterior stucco walls where the Third Civil War had begun.
He had run his hand over the concave divot left behind from the bullet that had started it all. The mark was in one of the hundreds of niches that were in the archival complex’s walls. Few knew that this was the place and fewer still knew where to look for the telltale sign. Successive additions over the years to the structure had obfuscated the spot and short memories had hidden it further.
Jake hoped that the wallets on the table were about to explain how those four came to be here and which one of them had fired the fateful shot.
He carefully removed an antique scanner from his leather satchel, took it from its case, and powered it on. Holding it close to the wallets, the telemetry data embedded in the metal letters began to flow.