Manson, Rankin and a slew of other officers came in as I was leaving. The nearest bus stop was three blocks away. Firetrucks and ambulance sirens still split the night air. I dialed the cab company and waited.
When my cab arrived, I climbed into the back.
“The police precinct.”
The cabbie pulled out and headed for the station. While he drove, I considered the facts of the case. Bronowski was still in custody, and I needed answers. Jackson Titus was still in the wind, and I needed to get this case finished.
The cabbie pulled up to the front steps of the precinct, and I handed him a 20. “Keep the change,” I said as I stepped out. A sleepy eyed desk sergeant nodded when I walked in.
“You’re in early, detective.”
“Yeah,” I muttered. “Call down to holding for me, and tell them to bring Bronowski and his attorney to an interview room. I’m gonna wash up.”
I took the lift to the second floor and walked into the latrine. A soap container hung from the wall. I hit the button and lathered up, and rinsed off the suds with hot water. Then, I walked into the murder room. There was no one here but myself.
Bronowski glared at me when they brought him in. “This is cruel and unusual, detective,” he yelled as the officers pushed him in. Annabelle Aramis walked in and followed Bronowski’s glare with one of her own.
She stormed past me and sat at the table with her client. I walked in and shut the door.
“Where’s Jackson Titus?”
“I’m gonna lay all my cards on the table, Bronowski. People in Fredericksburg are scared. The town is on fire, people are rioting-searching for someone to blame, and anyone will do. My partner is in the hospital, brained by some idiot who threw a brick into the side of her head.”
Bronowski scoffed and muttered, “good, that stupid broad deserved that and more.”
“See, it’s that kind of talk that makes me want to drag you out of this precinct, and hand you over to the Jackson family and let them sort you out.”
“You can’t do that,” Annabelle snapped. “The law would stop you.”
“I didn’t say I would do that, counselor. I said it made me want to. However, given all that’s transpired here these past few days, I wonder how long it will be before someone leaks that your client ran over Bradley Freeman?”
“You’re threatening my client?”
“No ma’am. We all know how this works. It’s only a matter of time before it happens.”
“What are you offering, detective?”
“I’m not, but I’m sure your client doesn’t want to go down alone for this horrible crime, right?”
“If he comes clean about his role in the crime, certain things have to come off the table.”
“You can take that up with the District Attorney. I’m not in charge of cutting deals. I will say he cooperated and gave us Titus.”
“Fine. Tell him what he wants to know.”
“Jackson’s family has a small cabin by Lake Bulgaria. It’s on the east side, and it stands alone. When we got separated that’s where he said to meet him.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t make the meeting. Why would he still be there?”
“Because he doesn’t have any options. The riots have him run to ground.”
“Who’s the woman?”
Bronowski grew silent, Annabelle raised her eyebrows. Bronowski cleared his throat.
“She didn’t have anything to do with it, detective.”
“See, Bronowski, I want to believe you. The problem is this: I have a witness that saw you and Titus make her beat Bradley Freeman. ‘You wanted someone to pay,’ remember?”
“Her name is Elsa Winters. Some punk killed her son. We found the nearest black guy and went at him.”
“You killed a cop, Bronowski. One of your fellow officers, you killed him.”
“Titus killed him…”
“Who ran over him?”
“I did,” Bronowski muttered.
“According to the M.E.’s report, the car crushed Bradley Freeman’s chest and ruptured his heart. YOU killed him. Titus is also guilty, so is Elsa Winters. Where can I find her?”
Bronowski said nothing, just sat in his chair stunned into silence. Annabelle sat quietly next to him. The silence angered me. I leapt to my feet and shouted: “WHERE IS SHE?”
“She goes to the Catholic church on Main Street everyday to pray for her son. It’s where we picked her up.”
“At nine before her shift at Sparky’s.”
I looked at my watch, it was just after 6. Annabelle whispered to Bronowski, but I didn’t care. I wanted my partner back, my town back. Annabelle looked at me and tilted her chin back.
“There’s something else we were saving for later, but you need to know about it.”
“And what’s that?”
“The murder wasn’t just revenge, it was a cover for another crime.”
I rubbed my face and eyes and yawned. I needed a cup of coffee bad.
“I don’t know the details, detective. Tell him what you know, Bronowski.”
“Jackson knew the details. Something about a robbery on the night the town burned. He said he’d bring me in when the time was right, and said we’d be rich men.”
“That’s it? That’s all you know?”
“Yeah. You catch Titus, you can ask him about it.”
The door opened and Janko walked in, followed by Lilly. She handed me a cup of coffee.
“See Chief, I told you he came back to work.”
“I see that. What have we got?”
“Bronowski just laid out several leads for me to check out. His attorney needs to coordinate with the D.A. She wants some things moved off the table for his cooperation.”
“Okay. What are you starting with?”
“I’m gonna pick up Elsa Winters, first.”
Lilly gave me a small grin and wink. She sat across from Bronowski and sipped her coffee. After a sip she looked at me and said: “I’m going with you.”