Mystery and Crime Fiction posted August 11, 2013 Chapters:  ...5 6 -7- 8... 


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Cleve catches up with an old flame.

A chapter in the book Fatal Beauty

Maureen

by Mastery



Background
Former Chicago cop and Private Investigator, Cleve Hawkins, hunts for a missing girl and a serial killer.
I learned a long time ago that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission, but I was on edge.

I waited until I got back to my apartment before I called Maureen and we agreed to get together for a drink, and possibly dinner. I'm not sure why but I was nervous and assailed by doubt. It had been a long time since we'd been together.

I showered, shaved and brewed a pot of coffee, then dressed to impress in a black turtleneck, crisp dark Levi's and my tan sport jacket. Freshly caffeinated and smelling of after shave, I went to pick her up.

Her place is on the near-north side, an older, affluent area in the city, only a couple of miles from her work. I rang the doorbell, and a moment later I heard footfalls, and then the porch light flicked on. I heard a snatch of distant music as the door opened.

"Hello, stranger," she said.

"Hi, you look great."

"What did you expect?"

"Nothing less, believe me."

She wore a black sheath dress with sheer black stockings and high-heeled pumps. A chunky necklace of black onyx with small diamonds rested on her chest. I remember when I gave it to her for Christmas. I leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips. She smelled so damned good.

"You don't look half bad yourself." She looked at me as though she might be going to buy me.

"Thanks, it's the other half that's a real mess." She took my hand and I led her to the car.

"I'm glad you haven't lost your sense of humor, Cleve. Where are we going--not too far, I hope. I'm starving."

"I thought we'd go to Geja's Cafe on Armitage just for old times sake. You remember the fondue place?"

"The romantic place, you mean?" She grinned. We made small talk for the rest of the drive; it was stumble-and-awkward time for both of us, but more than cordial. We skirted along the lakeshore. In the early evening when the temperature drops, seniors come to watch the sunset and families come to feed the ducks and play children's games.

We didn't have to wait long for a table at Geja's and the waiter brought menus with our drinks. We toasted with a Grey Goose gimlet for her and Dewars scotch on the rocks for me. The drinks shimmered in the glow of the table's candle. Her eyes sparkled.

She leaned in and put her hand around mine and gripped it with amazing strength. "Thank you," she whispered.

"For . . . ?"

"Calling. I wondered if I'd see you again."

"You must know I could never let that happen. We've got history, right?"

"Yes. History is the story that survives." She paused. "How are you doing, Cleve? Really, I mean--I want facts, nothing but."

"Ah--I'm hanging in there, but I'm getting the feeling I'm going to be x-ed from the Citizen of the Year Award by the Chicago police."

"Something go wrong the other day in Branoff's office?"

"No, not at all. I'm working on a new missing person case, is all that was."

She looked quizzical. Her eyes narrowed and she let out a long breath, her lower lip protruding in a lovely pout. She moved her hand back. "Let's not talk business. Have fun with your life before you turn old and feeble." She couldn't hold back a slight giggle.

"I'm looking forward to my feebletude," I countered. "Okay--no business tonight." I picked up my scotch, drank most of it and rattled the ice in the glass. "Another round?"

"I've barely started mine." She squinted at me and took another dainty sip.

"And I knew I wouldn't get a real answer, you goof." She glanced at my glass. "Not having any problems with that stuff, are you?"

"Nah. I laid off pretty much after one shitty night that almost cost me everything."

"What happened--mind if I ask?"

"No big deal. A little tiff in a bar." I paused. "Maybe later, okay?"

"Sure." She paused and fiddled with her napkin. "You're a good man, Cleve. Good men don't need to say anything. But, you realize that you are a control freak." She had a half smile on her face as she spoke. "You get pissed off at people who don't toe your line, people who don't follow your script, people who ask questions you don't want to answer."

"Yeah, there's that," I said with a smirk. "Sometimes, I'm not thinking straight. Actually, telling people what I think of them is not difficult, because they already know it and are probably surprised I haven't said it sooner."

She nodded. "You just need a mental enema. A testosterone overflow is part of the problem, I think." She smiled at me, her eyes flickering over my face. "Do you know what a real man's example of group therapy is? Answer: World War Two."

I couldn't help but grin. "Is that right?"

The waiter came back with another scotch and I started to wave him off.

"No, no, Cleve. Let's order, do you mind? I'm hungry," she said, as she glanced at me and the menu at the same time.

"Sure. Okay, let's do it. Fondue is the name of the game here, remember?"

"Oh, I know. I just want to look. It's been a while." She put her hand over mine and looked at the menu a moment longer. "Why don't we just get a Premium Fondue Dinner for two?"

I shrugged. "Sounds great." I nodded an okay to the waiter who was still there.

There was a pregnant lull, and for a moment I found myself studying the colorful pattern of the booze bottles stacked behind the bar. I listened to the soft human sound of the half-full bar and thought about my evenings alone.

Suddenly, there was loud applause and we turned to see a young guy on bended knee at the far end of the bar. A beautiful young girl sat on one of the barstools,with her hands over her mouth. The guy had evidently just proposed and she had accepted. This was not an uncommon sighting at Geja's Cafe. Maureen and I looked into each other's eyes for a split-second and then quietly laughed. She closed her hand over mine.

We caught up with each other's lives for a while as we had dinner, and I must admit, I felt more comfortable as the night wore on. I actually had thoughts of what may be in store for us later on.

Later, while we stood outside on the sidewalk, in front of her place, I watched the blinking light of an airplane passing overhead. The nighttime view was spectacular. There were broken clouds high in the sky, and a bright moon, and starlight. Perfect.

Then the stars and the moon seemed to disappear, replaced by the darkness of my silhouette, and I was kissing her, my hand cradling the back of her head, then her neck. I felt raindrops, but didn't give a damn.

My heart jumped when Maureen wrapped her arms around my neck. She smelled of lavender and good soap. Our movements were so easy, I thought. Our heads turning at just the right angle, our arms going around each other with no wasted motion, like pieces in a puzzle someone was sliding together.

"Know how long I've wanted to hold you like this?" she whispered. She was kissing me then, clinging, working at it and I went along, letting it happen again, letting her brush her mouth over my cheek and lay her head on my shoulder.

"I didn't know if I'd have to hit you over the head and jump on you or what, in order to get you to hold me," she whispered.

"I wanted you too. Why couldn't you know that?" I murmured.

"You could have called me anytime, Mister Hawkins."

"Yeah, but . . ." She placed her fingertips on my lips. "Let's get together again, sometime soon," she said. Her beautiful blue eyes were wide open. I felt my heart sink as she turned, blew me a kiss, and disappeared into her house. Even with heavy heart, I studied her backside until she was gone.

I sighed, walked back to my Explorer, and drove ten minutes in a light rain to my apartment. The night enveloped me, the darkness broken only by the lights on the dash. When I turned off the ignition, I sat in the car for a moment to get my bearings.

I finally went inside and up the stairs to my place, an apartment in an older brick house on Surf Street. I've got four rooms, and a bath, with a compact kitchen at one end of my living room. An oversized leather chair faces my flat screen television.

I went to the fridge where I knew I still had about four bottles of Old Style. I cracked open a bottle and took a long pull. It felt good going down, burning the back of my throat with its cold bite.

I couldn't help but focus on the evening's events, and compared them to my outings in the past, before Maureen: Dating, seeing women, I discovered they had more euphemisms for lovemaking than Eskimos have words for snow. And they rarely use masculine nouns or pronouns when describing their love life. "I'm dating someone, I'm seeing someone, I've met someone, I'm involved with someone, I'm serious about someone, I'm not serious about the person I'm seeing, and I date other people," and on and on. Whereas a guy will just ask another guy, "You fuckin' anybody?"

I had dozed off watching TV, when the phone rang. I checked my watch. It was three in the morning. I watched it like a cobra, before I picked it up.





Recognized


Characters: Cleve Hawkins . . . Detective (Ex cop)
Deckle . . .A homeless friend.
Maureen . . .Cleve's ex-girlfriend
Kris branoff . . . Detective active with Chicago Police.
Florence Rhorman . . .Mother of Missing girl.
Bart . . . A serial killer
Lewis Lisecki . . . A serial killer

Thanks again to Lilac Collas for the art work.
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