Mystery and Crime Fiction posted September 29, 2013 Chapters:  ...12 13 -14- 15... 


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A chapter in the book Fatal Beauty

Grilling

by Mastery



Background
Cleve sits in while the suspect is questioned.









Whoever said no news is good news was full of shit. Two days had passed and I still hadn't heard anything from downtown about Chelsea's car. I told Branoff I wanted permission to be on hand when they took it to the pound. I needed to look around inside, even though I knew the cops would get first dibs on the search.

I knew I should forget about the whole thing for that matter; I really had no stake in it anymore, now that we knew Chelsea was dead. But, I couldn't just walk away. I never have and never will.

I got back from the gym Thursday morning and found Deckle waiting on the steps. His expression was extra hangdog.

"Hey, Deck--what's going on?"

He stumbled getting up, then ambled in behind me after I opened the office door.

"Hi, Cleve. You know there ought'a be a law against those fuckin' big street-sweeper machine things."

I went about making a pot of coffee and said, "Oh--why's that, Deck?"

"One of the damned things almost ran over me."

I poured the water in the reservoir and glanced at his face. He was serious.

"Almost ran over you? How did that happen?"

"Assholes. There I was checking the gutter for loose change--minding my own business, ya know? And I hear that sweeping machine coming up behind me. So I kept walking cuz' he wasn't that close and then--and then, I saw a coupla dimes, ya know?"

"Yeah."

"So, I bend down to pick them up and see more coin just a few feet ahead, ya know?"

"Yeah." I knew what was coming, but I let him ramble on.

"Next thing I know, the asshole driving that thing comes right up on me. He would'a bumped me in the ass if I hadn't jumped up on the curb."

"Boy--close call, huh? I don't blame you for being pissed,
Deck."

"Yeah, I'm lucky, I guess--I sure am."

"Hey, why don't you go to the bakery and get some donuts to go with this coffee? Here's a ten. Get me half-dozen mixed and keep the change."

"Sure thing, Cleve." He grinned. "Thanks, buddy, be right back."

A few minutes later, the phone jingled.

"Hawk?"

"Yeah?"

"Branoff. I've got good news and bad news, pal."

"Hey--it's just good to hear from you, Kris. What've you got?"

"Bad news is, I still don't have a release on that Rohrman car. Seems the mother is holding it up for some reason. And, that APB hasn't turned up shit, but--and this is a big but, my friend . . . the good news is we got a guy in custody that looks a lot like the mug shot Manny Dubiel fingered. We think he's your guy."

"No shit!"

"I kid you not. This guy is bald--looks like he recently shaved his head, and he fits the rest of the bill-- freckles and all. Still has red eyebrows, dumb shit. The deputies tell me he seems to be a couple of smokes short of a pack."

"What did they pick him up for?"

"DUI. He was shit-faced when the state boys pulled him over, outside Lombard. He was speeding, twenty miles over and they found him stoned on his ass. Blew a eight and they brought him in. Car's in the pound. They didn't find any open booze or pot. Had some xanax in the glove box though. Not his. Plus, there was a warrant out on him anyway, as you know, for violating probation. I guess he gave the cops a real hard time. It took both of them to get him down and put the cuffs on."

"Damned right. He didn't want to be pinched. He knows. That mother-fucker knows he's wanted for more than breaking probation."

"Yeah, we're running his prints right now. I don't know why that took so damned long either. Anyway, I talked to the Captain and he agrees--we're gonna give you a little Carte Blanche on this case . . . you can sit in while we question this asshole."

"Thanks, Kris. I owe you big time, buddy. You don't know, he might pop like a grenade with its pin pulled."

Deckle was back and I was glad.

"Yeah, I agree," Branoff continued. "Could be something here. Dangle easy, Cleve. We'll see you in a while then?"

"Damned right. I'm on my way." I looked over at Deck as I hung up and slipped into my bomber jacket. I grabbed my Cubs cap and said, "Deck, I have to lock up." Grabbing a couple of napkins off the filing cabinet, I added, "Give me a couple of the jelly--you take the rest. I'm in a hurry."

Deckle looked lost and confused as I left him standing outside my door with the open box of donuts.

*********

By the time I got to the Cook County lock-up, they had a man sitting by himself in an interrogation room. Still in street clothes, he was slouched down in a straight-backed chair with one leg extended out and up on the desk-sized table in front of him. His wrists were cuffed.

Besides myself, Branoff, his partner, Andrews and the assistant district attorney, Carl Schneider, were on hand. Three straight-back chairs were available and I dumped myself on one before Andrews could. He looked a little pissed as he strolled out to get another chair.

Branoff and the assistant DA sat across from the suspect who had a face like an Irish wolfhound: long and homely with fiercely intent eyes. A lot of cons had rabbit eyes, but not this one, I thought. He leered at us.

Branoff shoved the guy's leg off the table. "Get your fucking leg off my table and sit up, asshole."

The man smirked and took his time adjusting his position.

Over the years, I had interviewed enough witnesses to know when one was winging it. His body language and attitude weren't going to help him, but he didn't seem to care, one way or the other. Killers come in all sizes and shapes, rich and poor, humble and arrogant, regretful and cold to the bone. Usually they will just try to cover their own asses, a practice also favored by law enforcement professionals.

Branoff read him his rights, and said, "So, you're Bartholomew Hodgkins--that right?"

"What about it?"

"Nothing. Just verifying that a piece of shit like you has a name, is all. You understand your rights as I've read them to you, Hodgkins?"

There was silence for a moment before he answered. "Yeah--I get it."

Branoff looked at his file and continued: "So,I see here that you don't believe in reporting to your probation officer, eh? He hasn't heard from you in damn near six months. Mind you, I'm just ball-parking here, Bart, but I'd say you are in a world of hurt. You're going back to Menard Correctional where, I think you'll be a little jailhouse bitch."

"Fuck that and fuck you."

Branoff slowly perused the folder laying open in front of him. He glanced up at the man.

"You know why most criminals are criminals, Bart? It's because most of them majored in dumb. You fit right in--driving drunk for starters, but we got you for a lot more than that this time, big shot."

"That's the biggest bunch of bullshit I ever heard . .I ain't done nothing since I got out." He stared at the ceiling. "I'm clean."

"Of course you are. You've been mister squeaky clean," said Branoff. "Probably just your usual everyday crazy-with-a-gun sort of thing--right?"

"I got no gun. You can't pin nothing on me. Try again, pig."

Kris paused and flipped a page in his file, then looked back at the suspect.

"You've got crazy eyes, my friend."

"Fuck you," he said. "You got a lying mouth too."

I studied him carefully and had a feeling this guy would definitely qualify as a killer. His smile was confident, challenging and mysterious. His eyes didn't come off their distant focus, until he finally leaned in on the table and said, "Look, I was speedn' and had a few drinks is all. I'm gonna bail out of this motherfucker and you all can kiss my ass. By the way, I want my lawyer."

"You broke probation, asshole. You're not leaving here with or without a mouthpiece. By the way, what's this lawyer's name?"

Bart swallowed twice, his Adam's apple bobbing. "I ain't got one yet. You guys have to give me that defender guy. So, he's my lawyer. Get him in here." He waved his hands like a bad actor in a TV drama.

"Not so fast, Bartholomew," I said. "We need to talk about a young lady you were seen with. Name's Chelsea Rohrman. Name ring any bells for you?"

I watched Bart's face-- it twitched like a plumber's helper . . . Then he grinned and I wanted to knock his teeth down his throat..

"I don't know any Chelsea . . . Chelsea--whoever you just said."

"Yeah and you don't know any girls, do you, Bart?" Andrews injected.

"Maybe you're a fudge packer," I said as I glanced at the assistant D A.

"I bet this prick was in the bridal suite every night while he was in Menard."

"Yeah, maybe he really is a shirt lifter," said Branoff. "Probably can't even get it up unless you're whacking on a helpless woman, right? Is it because you're so short?"

"Fuck you!" Bart growled. Beads of moisture covered his forehead. He was sweating like a monk in a whorehouse. "I want my lawyer right fuckin' now!"

"I bet my left-hand pinkie is bigger. I held it out, halfway curled into my palm." Bart glared at me with those insane-looking eyes.

Branoff took charge again, while the assistant District Attorney took notes. "How about Joan Vidross? She a friend of yours?"

"Who?"

"Vidross . . . Joan's the first name."

"Never heard of her," Bart mumbled.

"That's strange you say that, Bart--because her name's on the bottle of Xanax we found in the glove box of that piece of shit you were driving. That's a controlled substance, and it isn't yours. How do you explain that?"

Bart cleared his throat and slammed his cuffed wrists on the table. "I said I want my fuckin' lawyer. I ain't sayin' no more 'till I get him in here, neither."

"Sure, but meanwhile, what would you say if I told you we have a witness puts you with this Rohrman girl?"

"Bullshit! I found that shit in a bar, and I don't even know who you're talking about--neither one of those broads. You got nothing."

"Really?" Branoff paused. "You ever been to a bar over on Halstead, called Ernie's?"

Bart stared at him. "I said, I want my fuckin' lawyer. Get the shit outa your ears."

"Yeah, we'll get him right in here. Detective Andrews . . . Would you please go find Max Berman. Tell him Mr. Hodgkins needs him as soon as possible."

"Yeah--right now!" said Bart. The cords stood out in his neck. His face was as red as his eyebrows, and his dark eyes were narrow and filled with venom.
A uniformed cop tapped on the door and came in. He handed Branoff some papers. "Just got them back," he said.

"Okay, thanks, Joe." Branoff studied the papers for a moment before he spoke again.

"Oh, by the way--you ever hear of the AFIS, Bart?"

"No, and I don't care." He appeared to be shell-shocked, suddenly--glazed eyes, vapid stare, weak voice.

"Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. It's the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS. A miracle of technology. A latent fingerprint can be faxed to a computer at a regional office and within two hours be matched with your print that's already on file." Branoff looked over the papers and shook his head: "It's pretty common....."

"Bullshit! You can roll up them papers, put a coat of grease on 'em and shove 'em up your ass. I don't give a fuck--okay."

Branoff shook his head. "Loud, arrogant, stupid, foulmouthed," he said.

"You think he's foulmouthed?" Andrews asked.

"Fucking A," Branoff said.

The Public defender entered the room. Max Berman was short and wide. Hamburgers four times a week had pushed him off the edge. His facial flesh was loose and pink, and his hair looked recently cut-- short and brushed to the side like a schoolboy's. His dark blue suit was long in the arms, small in the waist, and loose in the shoulders. He was a baby-fat man in his early forties with more chins than a Chinese phone book. He was known to be a first class prick, and I'd had my problems with him in the past when I was still in uniform.

Branoff and the DA stood up when he came in. "He's all yours, counselor," said Branoff. "Just so you know, we have a lineup scheduled for later this afternoon. We think your boy here can be identified-- no problem whatsoever."

"Just be sure you get your shit together, detectives. You come to conclusions without looking at the evidence. Then you find reasons to justify your shoddy conclusions. It's most likely shit and you know it, You guys spend your time fucking your fist, then blame us when they walk."

"We just have to be willing to chip away the bullshit," Branoff said. "Me, I'm knee-deep in it half of the time. I don't even mind the smell anymore."

"The truth shall set you free," said Berman.

"Jesus! Let me write that down," I said.

I had enough. The whole thing stank--and the whiff of trouble was only about to get more fragrant. I had a hunch, Manny Dubiel would finger this guy, Bart Hodgkins, in the lineup. But, meanwhile, I decided to try and find out about Joan Vidross. Why did Bart Hodgkins have her prescription bottle in his car the other night. Who was she?


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
Joan Vidross...ex-girlfriend of Lisecki's

Thanks again to Lilac Collas for the Artwork
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