Mystery and Crime Fiction posted January 20, 2014 Chapters:  ...28 29 -30- 31 

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A chapter in the book Fatal Beauty


by Mastery

I was pissed off to say the least when Branoff ordered me to lay my Glock on Lisecki's desk.

He glared at me; his eyes looked like dark tunnels, the color of bruises on bananas. I had seen the same eyes on other cops cruising the edge of a burnout. My ex-partner was in the zone; amped up, wrung out, and surging forward like the Terminator with mission lock. When you get in the zone, your thinking grows fuzzy. It's a good way to get killed.

It didn't look like that mattered to him. I knew he could handle himself, but so could I. He had always stayed in shape and had the physique of a linebacker: about five-eleven, maybe two-hundred pounds, chest like a drum, arms like cable. I had to catch him off guard.

He stood less than ten feet away, and I didn't move. Holding myself absolutely still, my heart hammered, but I barely let myself breathe. The thought that a rogue cop had been monitoring my moves froze the adrenaline into tiny icicles in my veins.

I looked down. Blood was splattered everywhere. Lisecki's head was thrown back, mouth agape, and his eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling. His arms dangled like shoelaces over the arms of the chair.

My mind was in a whirl as I stared at Branoff. Why in the hell did he kill Lisecki?

"Now take that jacket off," he ordered. His attempt at confidence came across as cockiness. I realized Lisecki's .38 was still inside one of the pockets. However, I had no choice but to hand it over. As I did, Branoff backed up another four or five paces, putting plenty of space between us. He kept his Glock pointed at me while he searched the jacket. My notebook tumbled out onto the floor in front of him, and, at the same time, he discovered the other gun. He ignored my book and tossed my jacket off to the side.

"What have we got here?" he said. "This Lisecki's piece?"

I nodded as he slowly checked the gun. "Loaded, too." He sighed and shook his head from side to side as he holstered his Glock and kept the .38 pointed at me. "We have a problem," he said as he moved in and grabbed my Glock off the desk. He shoved it in his belt.

"Ha! No shit, Kris. Ya' think? Why are you pointing that thing at me? I don't get it. What in the hell is going on?" I nodded toward Lisecki's body. "Why did you kill him?"

"He dealt it."

"So, he did. Him and his red-headed buddy did the killings, but now you've fucked it up and we'll never get the whole story. Where's the warrant and where's the lab guys? You gotta see the basement."

"No. I think we've got the story alright, and the two perps are history now. You and I both know they were guilty. I just spared the taxpayers a lot of money."

"Well, fine. Now, quit pointing that thing at me and give me back my piece." I took a step towards him.

He held the .38 with both hands and aimed. "Hold it right there, smart guy."

I froze. "What the hell? You're losing it, Buddy. Come on, give me the gun."

"Shut the fuck up!" he yelled, as he waved the .38 and began to pace back and forth. He stopped and studied me before he went on. "It's a long story, Hawk--something you would never understand." There was a long pause before he continued: "You just couldn't stay away from Lisecki, could you? I warned you in every way I could to leave his ass alone. But no--you couldn't do that. Not Detective Hawkins. You had to go snooping until you stepped right in this pile of shit."

"I don't believe this. What the hell's wrong with you?" I said as I started moving towards him again.

"I said stay back and I mean it, Hawk." He paced some more as he said, "You always thought you were the smart one. Sherlock Hawkins, a killer cop--more clever than the rest of us, right, Hawk? You're a sneaky fuck. So smart, but you couldn't keep your badge, could you? Yeah, that's smart."

"I don't get it, what's going on, Kris? You've got everything ass backwards here. We're supposed to be on the same team, we . . . "

"Knock it off," he said. "If I want to listen to bullshit, I'll go to a city council meeting." His eyes fluttered like two trapped moths and his mouth hung loose. Beads of sweat began to cover his forehead and his face was drawn and pale.

"What in the hell are you going to do?" I said. "You want me to go along with this murdering of Lisecki?"

I thought it was back-up when the front door blew open with the sound of a Cadillac hitting a picket fence. Instead, we heard high heels clicking in the foyer, just before Maureen barged into the den.

She saw me and moved quickly toward me as though we were lovers meeting for a tryst. I turned towards her, but she saw Branoff holding the gun and Lisecki in the chair. She covered her face with both hands for a moment.

I turned back around to face Branoff. "Mo!" I backed up slowly and stood in front of her, my arms extended in a half-assed protective mode.

"Jesus Christ, Maureen! What the hell are you doing here?" Branoff yelled. "Get the hell out of here. This is police business. You have nothing to do with this; stay out of it." He waved the pistol. "Go! Now!"

"He's right, Mo. Get out of here," I said over my shoulder.

Mo had lowered her hands, but didn't budge. She said, "I followed you out here, Kris. I hoped what I suspected wouldn't be true, but obviously it is. You're a dirty cop. You were on a pad with Lewis Lisecki, weren't you? He was paying you a ton of money to stay away from him in the investigation."

I couldn't believe what she said. Glaring at Branoff, I said, "Is that true?"

"I know you told him to get a warrant and bring back up, Cleve. But he ignored all of that, didn't you, Kris? I saw him tear out of the office and I followed him."

Branoff held up his hand to silence her. His brow furrowed as he concentrated. "Shut up, Maureen!" he yelled and looked at me. "Your lover here is quite a gal, wears pinstripe suits, silk ties and sometimes has an enormous chip on her shoulder." His eyes shifted to her. "But, many of us suspect she also wears a jockstrap."

Mo moved closer and squeezed my arm. "We've got everything we need to hang him, Cleve."

I was in shock. "So, that's the deal, Kris? You turned over on us? That's what Lisecki meant when he said he'd pay you more and told you to kill me? You had to shut him up, didn't you?"

I've never understood our collective unwillingness to question the authority of a predator who manages to acquire a badge or insignia or a clerical collar or who carries a whistle on a lanyard around his neck. Without our permission, these pitiful excuses for human beings would wither and die like amphibians gasping for oxygen and water on the surface of Mars.

Branoff's hands were shaking, and now, tears were visible in his eyes. "It's a long story, Hawk. Something you would never understand."

"Try me."

He dramatically chopped the air with his hand. "They don't pay us enough to deal with this shit. You know that, I bust my ass to get these animals off the street and get peanuts for all the hassles and mental bullshit. If I fuck up in my position, I could be handed a cardboard box and told to clear my desk within twenty minutes. The bottom line with these people is respect. Appearances. Balls. Yet,some fat-assed judge smacks them on the hand, then goes home at night to read The Wall Street Journal.

I clutched Mo's hand and made a calming gesture with my free hand. "Money was never what it was about, Kris, you know that. It's a job. Hell yes--it's a tough one, but still a job. I didn't quit because it was tough, you know that."

"I said you wouldn't understand, and you don't. You don't have a dying wife to go home to everyday, do you? Hell no. My Lori's MS is incurable. You haven't got the slightest idea of how it feels to see the woman you love shrivel up and die before your fucking eyes."

Tears streamed down his cheeks as he paused and went on. He wasn't aiming the gun at us any longer. It was pointed towards the floor. I could have jumped him, but I couldn't. Not just then.

"Who do you think pays to keep her alive, smart guy? The insurance company? No--not nearly enough. She's dying. I got fed up with it and did what I had to do."

He raked tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand and shook his head back and forth. "It's all fucked up, can't you see that?"

"You used to be a good cop, Kris," said Mo.

He looked at both of us and his face became a portrait of wonder.

"Used to be," he said. "This is what it adds up to. I want you to wipe down this .38 and put it in Lisecki's hand. I don't want to go down as a coward."

Before I could move, Branoff raised the .38, pointed it at his heart, and fired.

The noise, the incredible ringing so close in the room-- sounded like a bomb had exploded. Mo grabbed hold of me and screamed.

Branoff dropped.


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
Clyde Nowack...Joan's live-in boyfriend

Thanks again to Dean Kuch for the Artwork
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