|Red Farlow’s disdain for cold cases ran deep. They dredged up some long-ago, heinous murder when reopened, which haunted him at night and hovered like a black cloud all day. For months.
Unsolved crimes also reminded Red of his failures.
A triple murder from 1973 clobbered him with a phone call first thing that morning. He’d investigated a family slain at home. Neither the police nor Red found the killer.
Years later, surviving son Randolph Goings wanted to visit Red in Savannah.
The private investigator agreed to the meeting and set a time for the next afternoon.
* * *
Red felt the day’s heat after he got up the morning of his meeting with Goings, and the cold case burned inside his head.
The day broke as warm as the previous evening, and by seven that morning, the thermometer outside his office window read eighty-five degrees. But he couldn’t complain, as the sky was mostly clear, save for nimbostratus clouds gathering to the east. No doubt, they dumped rain miles offshore in the Atlanta Ocean.
He checked his phone weather app’s radar, and, sure enough, the rain clouds headed his way.
Red pictured Randy Goings at age eighteen in the early seventies. As a young GBI agent, Red investigated—with his boss, Matthew Bailey—the murders of three family members in Valdosta, Georgia. Randy was the son who discovered the bodies of his parents and young sister.
That was decades past. Red figured Randy would be in his sixties.
Red stepped out his front door. It was a good time to walk the sidewalks and squares of the old southern city. He had other things to attend to. Red picked up the morning newspaper and fondled its rubber band. Birds sang. Cars chugged around Chippewa Square behind the slow trot of a mule-drawn carriage filled with sight-seers. The trollies rattled past, always running behind schedule, and carried countless other visitors for their jump-off, jump-on adventures in the old city.
Soon, the day would boil up to around ninety-five. But right then, a tolerable one in the morning’s Atlantic breeze.
He stepped back into his house and opened up the paper as he walked into the kitchen for coffee.
After his brief phone conversation with Randy Goings, Red had doodled his memories of the triple murder. No suspects were arrested. No one held accountable. His hand and pen moved across a clean notebook sheet. A circle started out with a dot and moved into a spiral. He retraced the curved lines, keeping the drawing smooth in places and jagged in others. Blotches from the pen formed, and he moved his nib around in the tiny puddles, spreading the ink to fill in any gaps.
Soon he’d filled the page with near blackness.
A haunting image.
In the morning, Red went about his daily routine, following up on current cases. At one point before noon, he lapsed back into the old case with a productive intent. He thought about and wrote what he remembered about the family in Valdosta.
Picking up his notebook and pocketing the fountain pen, Red walked down the street for a ham and cheese baguette for lunch and returned to eat at his desk.
Thirty minutes later, the doorbell dinged.
Red walked downstairs and, on the way to answer the bell, admired a vase of fresh daisies that sat on a wood pedestal of unknown but stout vintage. His wife Leigh insisted on an array of blossoms in her psychotherapy practice’s waiting area.
He opened the door and greeted a tall, gray-haired man in blue slacks and a white shirt. A beautiful woman dressed in a pale peach suit stood beside him. The man carried what appeared to be a large aging briefcase, whose sides bulged against a brass latch.
“Mr. Farlow, I’m Randy Goings,” the man said.