Mystery and Crime Fiction posted October 6, 2013 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 16... 

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Cleve needs Manny for the line up at headquarters.

A chapter in the book Fatal Beauty


by Mastery

Book of the Month Contest Winner 

Cleve is anxious to have Manny Dubiel ID Bart in the police line up.

I was trying to give up donuts so I stopped at the diner after my workout at the gym, and had biscuits and gravy with a side of three over easy and hash-browns. I chased it all with three cups of coffee then headed back to the apartment.

After my shower, I donned my brown blazer, straightened my tie, and brushed the chips off my shoulders--a well-balanced detective has one on both shoulders. Feeling pretty good about nailing Bart Hodgkins, I was on my way out the door when the phone rang. It was Detective Branoff.

He said he was sending two uniforms out in a blue and white and I should accompany them to Manny Dubiel's apartment. It seems Manny hadn't answered his phone when the people at headquarters tried numerous calls. The whole idea of course, was to have Manny attend the police line-up and ID Bart Hodgkins as the man last seen with Chelsea Rohrman.

I hoped for a decent day without rain, but when Branoff called, the sky had the color and texture of green gas and the trees throbbed with birds. In the west, the sun was a tiny red spark inside rain clouds.

The cops rode in the front, while I hunched over from the back seat and spoke through the screen. I knew one of the officers, a veteran sergeant, who never made detective. His name was Al Schneider. I had worked with him on a homicide case in which he made an on-the-spot contributing arrest. He was a short, barrel-chested man who spent his spare time doing bench presses. He had a square, dry prairie face, thinning sandy hair, a short nose under glassy blue eyes, and a brush-cut mustache. His cheeks were hollowed out, his eyes plump with fatigue.

The other guy was a tall and lanky rookie named Rumple. He was doing the driving.

"So Branoff couldn't get hold of Dubiel, eh?" I said.

"No," said Schneider. "His assistant says she kept getting the answering machine--tried six different times-no luck. This guy's pretty important to your case, I understand."

"Yeah. He's a prime witness, you might say. Actually, all we've got right now."

"You ever been to his place?" Rumple asked as he looked at me in the rearview.

"No, but it shouldn't be too hard to find. Just take Belmont Avenue all the way out. We got his phone number and address when he was down at the station looking at mug shots. Hasn't been that long ago--should be right. I wouldn't think he moved."

"Yeah, we heard your guy might ID the bastard they figure is good for the killing of those women that were dug up out in the country."

"Word sure gets around down there, doesn't it? Television, telephone and tell a cop." I had to chuckle a bit. "Yeah, this guy, Dubiel, is key alright."

"Yes, but the fact is, most of these assholes never pay for their shit. In Chicago around two percent are punished," said Schneider. "I hope your man helps us nail this guy." He took his hat off when we were underway and turned sideways, facing me. "Way we used to handle it, bury your fist in their guts, leave them puking on their knees-- click off their light switch with a slapjack if they still wanted to play."

"Nah," said Rumple. "Just put a .45 slug in the forehead--save the state a bunch of money, I say."

"Yeah, in the old days, when they talked law and order, it meant Wyatt Earp leaving hair on the walls," said Schneider. "And speaking of .45s, I saw a thing on the Biography channel the other day--you heard of Audie Murphy, right, Hawkins?"

"Yeah--most decorated soldier of all time--short little shit--movie star, too--right?"

"Uh huh." Schneider twisted around a little more to get comfortable and continued: "According to his friends, Audie Murphy fashioned a bedroom out of his garage in the hills overlooking Los Angeles and slept separately from his wife, a loaded army-issue .45 under his pillow. After the war he became convinced that, before he could sleep a full night again, he would have to spend five days in peacetime for every day he had spent on the firing line. For him it meant twenty years of sleeplessness. Poor bastard."

"No shit?" said Rumple.

"Yeah-- I heard that a long time ago," I said.

"I'll bet any money, that guy Murphy was snortin' cocaine in order to stay up, though," said Rumple.

"I can believe that," said Schneider. "But, things were different back then. The ruling class does not make alcohol or nicotine, illegal. It makes cocaine illegal. It makes marijuana illegal. It makes legal the drugs of the powerless. The drugs it doesn't use, or is not addicted to." He paused. "It's the Golden Rule--whoever has the gold makes the rules."

We drove about fifteen minutes to the northwest side. In certain sections there were shuttered houses, trashed buildings, and cannibalized cars on blocks. At night on virtually every corner something bad was going down and gunfire was as common as mosquitoes.

In other areas, the houses were modest. Cars were economy models. And like much of that part of Chicago, Manny Dubiel lived in an emerging immigrant neighborhood of multigenerational families. Lots of Italians, blacks and Eastern European cultures.

Dubiel's apartment building was four stories tall, and probably two or three small apartments on each floor. Ground-level brick was covered with gang graffiti. Windows were dark. No street traffic. Wind-blown trash banked against curbs and collected in doorways. Weeds flourished on the side of the building where a few cars were parked.

There were no old men loitering on front stoops, a few children playing on the sidewalk. We saw a cluster of young black men, crew cuts so severe they looked bald, pants pushed down to the crotch, boxers showing, puffy gang jackets, bulky tennis shoes with no laces.

"They're bums. They come out of the womb looking to hurt people. They oughta start building baby prisons before the bastards can really hurt anybody," said Schneider.

We parked on the street, and Officer Rumple stayed behind the wheel while Schneider and I got out. A dog barked as we approached the front door. By the sound of it, he was a large breed.

The landlady answered the doorbell. She looked at Schneider, then me and said, "Police? Oh, my. Can I help you?" The dog, part German Shepard, I thought, was just behind her and kept barking.

She smacked the dog's snout. "Shhh. Quiet, Samson!"

The dog endured our presence for a beat and then turned tail and hurled himself back inside, galloping from one end of her apartment to the other with ears flapping and tongue flopping. The woman closed an inner door and blocked him off. She said her name was Caroline Mesa and she owned the building.

I inched forward and handed her my card. She studied it through some pink-rimmed glasses with rhinestones on them, which hung around her neck on what appeared to be a cut-down shoelace. Her eyes strayed to feast on Schneider.

"Why are you here? What do you want?"

The woman was seventy if she was a day. She had skin like an alligator and bleached blond hair teased into a rat's nest. If it was a wig, she got swindled no matter what she paid. She wore orthopedic shoes, fishnet stockings, a tight spandex miniskirt, and a skimpy tank top that showed a lot of wrinkled cleavage. I was guessing she smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and slept in a tanning bed.

"Ma'am we need to go up and speak to one of your tenants, Mr. Dubiel-- Manuel Dubiel."

Her facial expression was tuned to not happy. "Okay, I suppose . . . go ahead--it's number 204-- but I don't think he's home." She oozed unpleasantness.

"Why do you say that?" Schneider asked.

She put her hand on her hip, striking an indignant pose. "Cuz, I see who comes and goes here, pretty much. Make it my business to. Besides, his rent was due five days ago, and he always pays on time. Nope. I don't think he made it home this time," she croaked. Then, placing a brown-spotted hand on my wrist, she whispered, "He has a problem with alkeehall." Her breathing was raspy, excited.

"Mind if we go up and check," said Schneider.

"Sure. You won't believe me, come on," she said, and tottered away. We followed her up to the second floor and she pointed to apartment number 204. The hall smelled of beer and cigarette smoke and disinfectant, with outdoor carpet hard underfoot.

Schneider knocked. No answer. He knocked again and I stepped forward. "Manny--this is Cleve Hawkins. We need to speak to you, Manny--open up."

No answer.

"See?" said, Caroline. "He's not there. And I can't let you in without a warrant, neither. I know my rights. I woulda' known if he came home, believe you me. What did he do, anyhow?"

"Sorry, Ma'am, we're not free to discuss that," said Schneider. "We'll check elsewhere. Thanks for your time."

As we walked back downstairs, I said, "Listen, Mrs. Mesa, you have my card, if he shows up, would you please call. Or, you can call the police department, too. Ask for Detective Branoff."

Outside, I looked at my watch. It was almost two. I told Schneider, "Just drop me back at my place, Al. When you go back, tell Branoff I'm checking a couple of Manny's hangouts. I'll call him. Tell him not to cancel the lineup just yet. I think I know where I can get a line on Dubiel."

"Want me and Rumple to come with?"

"Nah, these people see cops, they'll freeze up--you know how it is."


They dropped me off at my place and I jumped in my car and headed for Ernie's bar on Halstead.

I strolled inside and sidled up to the end of the bar where I'd first met Manny. I looked at the row of men drinking at the bar, slumped on their stools, their silhouettes like warped clothespins on a line.

"Well, if it isn't Fearless Fosdick."

I turned to find one of the women I talked with last time I was in, nearly two weeks earlier. Her name was Samantha. Today, she wore a pair of gold hoops that went nicely with her threadbare blue sweatshirt, well-worn knockoff designer jeans, and dirty Nikes. A good-looking woman, I thought, who probably had been much more attractive before the drinking got out of hand.

"Hi there, Samantha, isn't it?"

"That's right--well, Sam, anyway. So what are you doing back here, Detective Bullshit?"

I smiled. "Looking for a friend of mine, actually. You know that guy--Manny Dubiel?"

Before she could answer, the bartender suddenly appeared in front of me. I realized he wasn't the same guy working the bar last time--that was for damned sure.

"Hell are you?" he said. His voice matched his bulk. It was deep, and the words were half swallowed by a heavy chest. He looked the part of a career criminal--long ponytail, studs in his ears, all manner of facial hair, massive biceps, and a collection of cheap tattoos a prison artist had most likely sold him for cigarettes. His eyeballs were bloodshot and his hair appeared to have been groomed with salad tongs.

Methodically he clenched and unclenched his fists as if he were practicing isometrics, and I wondered what his beef was. Everyone sat up a little straighter at the bar and leaned forward ever so slightly, waiting for my reply.

"Name's Hawkins. Cleve Hawkins." I flashed my ID. "You got a problem with that?"

Another woman stepped in. "Hey, Pete . . . this guy's okay. He's a friend of Chelsea's . . . and Manny, too--right, Mister?"

"Yeah--right." I remembered her. She had been waitressing when I was at Ernie's last time and first spoke to Manny. The young woman was slim and toned and spray-tanned to something resembling orange mud. She had big boobs, lots of curly auburn hair tipped with blond and her lips looked like they had been inflated with an air hose. She wasn't bad looking if you like the looks of say, Scarlett Johansson. Her lank, uncombed hair flopped in wet tangles around her face.

"You were my waitress, last time I was here." I smiled. "Barb--right? We talked before Manny got involved."

"Yeah--pretty good memory, detective. I still do wait tables sometimes. Just slow right now, as you can see, so I'm just relaxing." She suddenly paused and glared at me as if I was a maggot on a wedding cake. She edged closer and lowered her voice. "You are bad luck, my friend."

Meanwhile, realizing he may have been a prick, Pete shrugged and adopted the pose of a confused old man even though his eyes were as sharp as black marbles in snow. He put out his hand and gripped mine like it was the last cold beer in hell. "Okay, so, do you want a drink or not?" he said.

I waved him off. "No-- not today." I turned back to Barb.

"Bad luck, you say? Why's that?"

"Ha! First you come looking for Chelsea, and she ends up buried out in the woods in some Godforsaken fuckin' place. Now you come around checking on Manny and he's in Lutheran General Hospital in a coma."

"Coma?" I felt my jaw drop. "Why? I mean, what happened?"

"Accident. Pickup truck T-boned his car over on Wells and Division about eight days ago. He's lucky to be alive, from what I heard. His head was caved in like a rotten pumpkin."

The silence that followed was as dark as the inside of a coffin. My coffin.

Book of the Month
Contest Winner


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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