Mystery and Crime Fiction posted August 25, 2013 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Cleve gets a big break

A chapter in the book Fatal Beauty

Discovery

by Mastery



Background
Private Investigator,Cleve Hawkins, tracks a serial killer.










Manny Dubiel wore an outfit that looked like it belonged to the street-person edition of GQ. Jeans with a rip in the knee, dusty shit-kicker boots, a T-shirt advertising Corona beer, a ratty gray unzipped sweatshirt over the shirt. Two days of beard. He had the beginnings of a beer belly hanging over his belt, and his nose was alcohol-red.

When he approached me in Ernie's, he had been surrounded by girls with low tooth counts. The one who had her arm draped over his shoulder, and didn't want him to leave, looked like Ernest Borgnine. I wondered if I was making a mistake trusting his reliability, but I figured it would be worth the gamble. I didn't want to lose this lead. For the price of a Miller draft, I convinced Manny to come with me to police headquarters for the purpose of looking at mug shots.

Maybe if I tugged on this thread hard enough, the whole thing would unravel.

I called Detective Kris Branoff who claimed he was fired up to go home, but would have his partner Phil Andrews stick around and wait for us.

Dubiel was a talker. We drove in my car and he never shut his mouth for the entire trip. He was well-versed in the rudimentary techniques of bullshitting, and trying to have a meaningful conversation with him was like petting a porcupine.

When he paused, taking the Camel cigarette out of his mouth, I noticed the end was all soggy and mulched. He lit up and found a comfortable spot for his elbows to rest on the back of the seat. "So--if I identify this guy, is there a reward?"

"I don't think so, Manny. There usually isn't. You're being a good citizen, that should be all that matters, guy."

"No shit? That doesn't seem right though, does it?"

I didn't reply. After a brief pause, he took off in a completely different direction, and I began to put this experience down to my usual bad luck of getting in a supermarket checkout line where the cashier was the village idiot.

He asked, "Do you know how to blind a redneck driver?"

"No."

"Put a windshield in front of his face. Ha! Ha!"

I had my fill of his mind-numbing jokes long before we got on Michigan Avenue, but his face lit with an idiot's grin as he continued to seek my acceptance of his talent.

"Hey, Dick Tracy, you hear the one about the dumb wop walks into a pizzeria and says to the guy, 'I want a whole pizza.' And the guy says, 'You want it cut into eight pieces or twelve?' And the dumb wop says, 'Let's make it twelve, I'm really hungry. Ha! Ha!"

"Dial it down, Manny," I finally said.

I was happy when we reached headquarters, parked, and went inside to the investigations division. Phil Andrews was seated at a desk, a cell phone stuck to his head. When he saw us, he clapped the phone shut and I introduced him to Dubiel. Then, Andrews took us in the back where access to the database was located.

"Have a seat, guys." He loosened his tie. "Now, Mr. Dubiel--I want to ..."

"Manny. My name is Manny--you can call me that. I like it better than that Mister stuff. You'll make me feel like you're getting ready to book me or something Ha! Ha!"

Andrews shrugged and glanced at me. "Okay--Manny--we have thousands of faces in our system. So I need some info to put in here first off, so we can narrow it down. Understand?"

"Yeah, I get that." He still looked as if he was waiting to be cuffed.

"So,tell me what you know about this individual you saw leaving Ernie's bar."

Manny looked like a kid that just discovered there was no Santa Claus. He stared at Andrews, his face knotted with disapproval. "I'm not going to get in any trouble doing this, am I?" Andrews looked my way and rolled his eyes.

"Of course not. Go ahead, Manny," I coaxed. "Tell Detective Andrews what the guy looked like."

"Yeah. Well, like I told Dick Tracy here, the guy that left with Chelsea had bright red hair--real shaggy, you know? Sort of like that Carrot Top guy you seen on TV, ya' know. And he had a lot of spots--like freckles all over his face."

"That's it?" Andrews said. "Anything else?"

"No. Not really. Oh, wait, he had a big-assed nose too."

"Okay. Anything else? How tall would you say he was?"

"I don't know. Maybe about as tall as you."

"So,a little over six foot?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Okay, anything else?"

"No, that's about it. I wasn't really checking the guy out or anything, ya' know? He was busy making Chelsea giggle. His back was turned to me--know what I mean?"

"Okay. Give me a few minutes here." Andrews did his thing on the computer, and soon we were looking at mug shots of some mighty ugly citizens. Manny studied the pictures as we looked over his shoulders. Andrews kept advancing the screens.

Forty-five minutes later, Manny Dubiel was still looking through the database when Phil Andrews stood up.

"Can I get you a cup of coffee, Cleve?"

"Yeah, I could use a cup. How about you, Manny?"

"Huh? I didn't hear you. What did you say?" He was picking at a pair of ripe pimples on the peak of his Adam's apple as he stared at the monitor.

"Coffee. You want a cup?"

"Okay, sure. But I'm getting' tired of this. I can't believe so damned many dudes have red hair and turd spots on their faces. I don't think the man is in your computer. I've been looking a long time, don't ya' think?"

"Okay, just a little longer, Manny, alright? We need to be sure."

"Jesus! Yeah. Okay, I guess." He leaned back, his hands folded over his beer belly, stretching his sweatshirt into a tight mound. He was a somber Manny now--much different than his earlier mouthy demeanor.

Another twenty minutes or so passed and I had just finished my coffee when I saw it. Jolt! A small one--the smallest of tells on Manny's face. It was there though, a slight widening in the eyes. He recovered in less than a second and shouted, "There! There he is! That's the guy, alright."

He tap, tap, tapped on the monitor screen. Andrews and I both leaned in to get a closer look. The man had a long, horse-like face, splotches of freckles and red hair. An obligatory diamond earring sparkled from his left lobe.

"That's the guy, huh?" said Andrews.

Manny rolled his chair back. "Yup, that's the dude that left with her."

Andrews slid his chair over, in front of the computer. "Hmmm. Charles Bartholomew Hodgkins. You sure that's him, eh?" Andrews asked. "I need you to check him out real close now, Manny."

"Yup. I'd bet my mother's gold teeth on it." He jabbed his finger at the screen. "This is the guy I told you about. Trust me. See them spots all over his face. His hair is shorter in this picture, but it don't snow me. It's him alright." He threw his hands in the air. "Yes!"

"Okay, Manny. Why don't you go with Mister Hawkins here to the waiting area out front? Take Manny out, then come back, okay, Hawk?"

"Hawk? Is that what they call you? Hawk? Ha! Ha! I like that." He nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. "Better than Dick Tracy, ain't it?"

I walked him out to the lobby. "You wait right here, Manny. Have a seat on that bench over there, I'll be right back."

"Yeah, okay. I done good, didn't I, huh?"

"Yeah, Manny, you did real good."

I started to walk away and he yelled, "This is gonna cost you another beer, Hawk."

"Yeah. You just wait right here, okay?"

"Yeah . . . and I'm getting hungry, too," he mumbled. I went back and Andrews buzzed me in.

"So what do we have on this guy, Phil?"

He typed something into the computer before he answered.

"I don't know but it looks like you've got yourself a real prize here. Quite a sheet on Red. He was charged with assault in 1999, petty theft 2001, assault again--this time with a deadly weapon in 2003, indecent exposure same year. He spent three years of a five year stretch in Menard Correctional for armed robbery and broke parole. Ha!" He looked at Cleve and smirked. "Judge Philbin spanked his hands for being in a bar. That'll teach him, eh? Let's see--then, he was pulled in as a rape suspect in 2009. It says he beat that one because the victim recanted. He's not registered as a sex offender. I guess that's it."

"Jesus! That's quite a sheet. Maybe I'll get lucky with this asshole."

"Maybe," said Andrews. "But, look here--his last known address was an apartment in Cabrini housing, that was back in 2003, for chrissakes, while he was still on parole."

"Evil doesn't have a zip code, we know that Phil.."

Yeah, well, evidently after that he went off the grid. Seems like this guy leaves shit prints on everything he touches. Watch your back and good fucking luck, pal. We'll let you know if we find anymore on him."

"Okay, tell Kris I appreciate the help. Thanks, Phil."

I gathered up Manny and left. I was going to tell him he should get something to eat and go home, but on further consideration, I realized that would be like trying to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig. So, I dropped Manny off at Ernie's and gave him ten bucks for his beer, then headed for my place. On the way I ran through an Arby's and got three roast beef sandwiches and some curly fries. I held off eating until I got home in order to wash everything down with a cold Old Style, from the fridge.

I turned on the TV, sat on the couch, kicked off my shoes and thought about Chelsea in the hands of the red-headed guy. I hoped he was the key, but worried that I would be way too late.

Tomorrow I would talk to Branoff about an All Points Bulletin. I had to find the guy. As I ate the sandwiches, I thought about calling Maureen, but that's all it was--a thought. I went to bed, it felt a lot better than the couch, but it took me a long time to find sleep.

********************

Next morning, I called Branoff,but he had left word that he couldn't see me until one o'clock in the afternoon. Meanwhile, I'd sent Deckle out to pick up sliders and fries for lunch. We had just polished them off when Kris Branoff called:

"I took care of the APB on your suspect, but I think you'll want to get in on something else that came up this morning."

"Oh--what's that?"

"Another possible lead on your missing girl, what's her name . . . Rohrman?"

"Yes. Chelsea Rohrman."

"It's a beautiful day, I thought you might like to take a drive in the country."

"What? Why?"

"Out in Aladdin, two teen boys went off the beaten path, exploring the forest for adventure and God knows what the hell, when they heard horseflies buzzing and seen them clustering on the ground and rising suddenly in the air. One of the boys found a long stick, and began pushing shit around. Long story short-- we've got bodies in shallow graves out there in the woods.

"Oh, shit!" It felt like my heart dropped out of my ass.

"Yeah. I got a call about an hour ago, and the proverbial shit has hit the fan here as you can imagine."

"You said bodies...how many?"

"I don't know, two so far, and forensics is still digging. I figured you might like to ride with me. I hope I'm wrong about your girl, but--well-- are you with me?"

"Hell, yes. Give me ten minutes. I'll be there before you get your coat on."

"Good. Andrews will be riding with us. See ya', and oh--the media has already got this shit on the wire. Don't drag ass, Hawk."


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 Artwork
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