Gary Brahl

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					Gary Brahl

17011 Village Lane
Dallas, Texas 75248
702-290-8781
garybrahl@gmail.com




                           BLOODLINES

                      a novel by Gary Brahl
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 1




                               PROLOGUE

January 2, 1930
Chicago, Illinois



     The meeting in the private chamber of the powerful

Mob boss was quietly surreal. His trusted financial associate

and only true friend had been summoned on a frigid Sunday

afternoon, without preamble.

     “No, don’t bring no ledgers. This is personal shit. Come

around back. And don’t let nobody see your ass.”

     Sundays were relatively tranquil in the South Chicago

neighborhood. The customary raucous comings and goings of

henchmen and politicos, the eruptions of gunfire and bloodshed

were traditionally banished on the seventh day.

     Dressed casually in a cream soft silk shirt, gray slacks,

and loafers, the man behind the huge mahogany desk looked

uncommonly uncomfortable. His eyes, notoriously cold and dead,

were tinged with sadness as he searched the face of his small,

portly visitor.   What was he seeking there?    Sympathy?

Acceptance?   What crushing circumstances led this man, so
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 2

familiar with demanding, so unaccustomed to asking, to cry out

for help?

     Even more curiously, what precipitated the agreement by the

small, formally attired man to shoulder the extraordinary burden

asked of him?   Was it an order?   A threat?   Or was the request a

bizarre plea for mercy from a famously cold-blooded killer who

disdained mercy in any form?

     When their clandestine business was concluded on that

placid frozen Sunday in South Chicago, a verbal contract was

made. A solemn transfer agreed upon.   Not of wealth or power.

But of responsibility for a tiny life.
                                                    Brahl / Bloodlines / 3




ancestry|ˈanˌsestrē|
one's family or ethnic descent : his dark eyes came from his Jewish ancestry. the
evolutionary or genetic line of descent of an animal or plant.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 4




                           CHAPTER 1




     The email squatted on his computer screen like a nasty

scar.   A rock shattering a window with malicious note attached.

Michael Edward Janaseck, Senior Management Supervisor with DB&R

Advertising, received hundreds of daily communications from

colleagues and clients in his office on the 32nd floor of the

John Hancock Center high above Michigan Avenue.      But this was

different.

     They know who you are.    Let me help you.

     Michael wasn’t particularly disturbed when he first saw the

cryptic note.    More curious than frightened.    A little pissed-

off maybe.   He wondered what kind of sick spam artist would come

up with a stunt like this.    More likely somebody he knew, he

figured.    Somebody’s idea of a bad joke.   He searched his mental

database trying to imagine who might have taste rotten enough

for this kind of sophomoric bullshit. “Probably one of the wing

nuts in the Creative Department,” he thought to himself, shaking

his head.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 5

        Michael had to admit it shook him up a little.   He forced a

laugh at the Hollywood absurdity of such a thing.    But his black

humor quickly turned to anger at whoever would dare to invade

his privacy with such an off-color prank.

        “I don’t know who you are, but this is not funny.    Whatever

you’re selling, I’m not buying.”

     He hit REPLY and glanced up as Maggie poked her head into

his office.

     “Staff meeting in five minutes, Slick.”

     “OK.”

     Michael would not tell anyone about the message.       For some

reason it embarrassed him.    Made him feel oddly violated.     Like

someone had been in his house when he wasn’t home. Veiled

threats from mysterious messengers were not part of his

vocabulary.    The only violence he was even remotely exposed to

came uninvited on the evening news.    Michael had complained to

his wife on more than one occasion about the murders, rapes and

gruesome deaths that seemed to be the bread and butter of the

local TV programming.    Trash that had nothing to do with his

life.    Garbage to mindlessly wade through on the way to sports

and the weather.

     They know who you are.    Let me help you.

     “Go fuck yourself,” he muttered as he headed out the door

to his first meeting of the day.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 6

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



     On the commute from his downtown office to his modest but

comfortable home in suburban Arlington Heights, Michael lost

himself in the backlog of newspapers and magazines that made the

45-minute journey almost a pleasure. The mysterious email from

earlier in the day all but faded from his mind.   His reply, as

expected, was never acknowledged. He chalked it up to some jerk

getting his jollies.   Maybe even the wrong address.   Michael

Janaseck was a successful advertising guy.   Fifty-three years

old, in the prime of his working life.   He knew exactly who he

was, and didn’t need any help from some whack job email author,

thank you very much.

     The short stroll from the train station in Arlington

Heights to his home on Fairchild Avenue was a pure pleasure on

days like this. The same walk could be frozen torture during the

endless winter months. But today was a spectacular day, and

Michael smiled as he rounded the corner into the home stretch

onto Fairchild.

     Approaching his front door, he spied a red tricycle with

yellow and pink streamers flowing from its handlebars parked

illegally in the entryway.   Recognizing it as a vehicle

belonging to Alison Grisshoffer, one of the tribe of Grisshoffer

children who lived three houses down the street, Michael stooped
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 7

to set the trike aside, making a mental note to return it to its

owner after dinner.   His cheery mood was dented momentarily when

the toy brought to mind unbidden reminders of the childless

state of his marriage.   He and his wife, Vanessa, had been

trying to make a baby for over a year, with no luck.    This was

one of the few disappointments shared by the couple, otherwise

supremely satisfied with their relationship.    Michael sighed,

shook off the challenge to his upbeat state of mind, set the

Grisshoffermobile aside, unlocked the front door and stepped

into the cool comfort of his home.

     Bounding up the stairs to his bedroom, he shed his work

clothes on the ascent, happy to slide into faded Northwestern T-

shirt, shorts and running shoes for an evening jog.    Vanessa

wasn’t home yet.   Probably stretching her way through yoga

class.   Michael never got yoga.   He tried it once, but too much

chanting, not enough sweating.

     The Chicago weather presented a crisp spring evening, just

before the disappearing sun painted the air a comfortable shade

of chill.   This was rare Chicago weather that would make anyone

lucky enough to be outdoors happy to be alive.

     Michael Janaseck was happy to be alive and who he was on

that fine Chicago day.   His beautiful wife would be home soon.

They would open a bottle of good wine, chat about the uneventful

churn of their day, retire in the safety and comfort of their
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 8

comfortably mortgaged home, the possibility of sweet, sincere

sex perfuming the night air.

     As his Reeboks slapped the pavement in steady rhythm with

his easy breathing, Michael could not imagine a much more

sanguine existence.   Not that he was one hundred percent

satisfied.    Not by a long shot.   He had always been ambitious.

An achiever, reined in just short of over-achiever.     He was

comfortable – that was the word. Yet always poking around for

that little extra edge that might make him just a tad bit more

comfortable.    Michael Janaseck didn’t strive.   Striving was for

dissatisfied jerks.    He knew he was smart, capable, had life in

pretty good perspective.    And intended to keep it that way.

     The ability to conceive what waited for him in the dark

blue Buick parked just down the street was beyond his

comprehension.    It didn’t fit his world.   Belonged to some other

universe he had never personally encountered. And could never

understand.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 9




                           Chapter 2




     April 11, 1936
     Cicero, Illinois




     The child is playing in her father’s upstairs closet, way

in the back beneath a hanging forest of old clothes, when she

finds the gun in a shoebox. The pistol is shiny, black, and

heavy.    She turns it over and over in her little hands,

wondering what it might be for, what it is doing there. She

caresses the cold barrel, holding it to her cheek, letting its

chill sends little waves of electric pleasure throughout her

body.

     Her father hates guns, which makes the secret in the

shoebox even more tantalizing. He is terrified of any kind of

weapon. One day she would come to learn how he had seen things

that set this fear deep inside him. She does not share his

terror.    On the contrary, for her it is love at first sight.

     From this early discovery as a little girl of six playing

in her daddy’s closet, she is physically drawn to the touch, the
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 10

smell, the silent power of any instrument capable of dealing

death. Over the years she would return to the closet again and

again, learning to rub the cold steel between her legs and over

her small breasts, letting the orgasmic thrill transport her to

islands of pleasure only the power of the pistol could provide.

     It would be years before she would take her first life.

But the deep satisfaction would never fade.   It was there from

the beginning.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 11




                                  CHAPTER 3



     “You call your folks?”

     Vanessa Janaseck curled up on the cushy Pottery Barn couch

in the den, The New York Times Magazine open in her lap.

     “Uh huh.   Mom’s good, Dad’s bitching about his little aches

and pains as usual.   Nothing new.    Mom said she’d stop by and

take you to lunch on Saturday.”

     Michael lounged across the room surfing on his laptop as

was his custom after dinner.   Checking emails, perusing The Net.

     “Can’t Saturday.   I’ll call her.”

     “Why not?”

     “Girl’s weekend at the lake.     Roxanne is driving up there

with me.   Be back late Sunday.    I told you, didn’t I?”

     “Probably.   Sounds like fun.”

     “Not really.   But I said I’d go.”

     Vanessa’s short-cropped blond hair framed a lovely face

which, combined with a wonderful body conspired to make her look

ten years younger than her age. At 40 she was 13 years younger

than her husband.   His second marriage, her first.    But that
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 12

disparity in years somehow worked to make each appreciate the

other more. Vanessa was an attractive woman.   Michael a

handsome, successful man.   Both kept themselves in great shape.

Glancing over at Vanessa and smiling, Michael had to admit yoga

did have its advantages.

     The couple had the best of relationships, fresh as the day

they were married.   Supportive companions, each successful in

his and her own right, adventuresome sexual partners.   These two

were experiencing at this stage of their lives as close to

happiness as it gets.

     That was about to change.



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



     The morning arrived wrapped in a cold Chicago bluster.

Wistfully Michael yearned for the spring-like temperatures of

the day before.   But he was accustomed to and prepared for the

fickle Chicago weather, and simply cinched his Burberry tighter

and hitched his commuter gait up a notch on the trek from

downtown train station to office.   Awaiting him were the

customary crises and petty problems that were all part of the

glamorous world of advertising. On his way into the first of

many life and death urgent meetings on his calendar,

Administrative Assistant Lucy Crocker caught up with him.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 13

      “There’s a guy up front to see you, Michael.”

      “What guy?”

      “I dunno.   He didn’t say exactly.”

      “Well if he doesn’t exactly have an appointment or if he’s

not exactly a new client with a ten million dollar account in

his pocket, please tell the guy up front I’m in a meeting and to

make an appointment like everybody else.”

      “Okaaaay.   Geeze…”

      The life and death urgent meeting broke up at 11:15 having

accomplished nothing as usual.      Lucy passed a note to Michael as

he moved down the hall toward his office.

      “From the guy without the appointment.     He scared me.”

      Glancing at the hastily scribbled note, Michael slowed his

pace and read: What did Mother tell you, Michael?

      He flashed back to yesterday and the message on his

computer.   “What the fuck is going on?” he thought.      Coming

from the world of sophisticated promotion and persuasion, his

first inclination was to think maybe this was some kind of

under-the-radar guerilla marketing campaign somebody was working

on.   “Odd though,” he said to himself.     “Not quite right how

it’s being served up.    But what else could it be?     Do the two

messages even connect?      Whoever this is knows my name.   Weird.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 14

     Probably nothing, he figured.    But still, somebody was

trying to get to him on some level.    And a part of Michael

Janaseck was a little put off by these strange goings-on.

     Lucy was disappearing down the hall when he called her back

again.

     “Lucy.”

     “Yo.”

     “What did you mean the guy scared you?”

     “What guy?”

     Patience, Michael.    Speak in short, complete sentences.

     “The guy you just told me about that didn’t have the

appointment and gave me this note.”

     “Oh.    He had scary eyes.”

     “Scary eyes?”

     “Yeah.    Like when he looked at me I got the willies a

little.”

     “You’re watching too much TV, Luce.”

     “I don’t have a TV.”

     “You work in an advertising agency where we make television

commercials all day and you’re one of the three people on the

planet who doesn’t own a TV?”

     “Maybe if this agency would pay me more than the diddly

squat I get in my teenie-weenie paycheck every month, I could

afford one.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 15

     Shooting Michael one of her best killer looks, Lucy once

again began to wiggle her way down the hall to her post.

     “Hey Lucy.    Round up Sasha and Soup for me, will ya?   My

office.”

     “You got it.”

     Michael closed the door to his office and moved behind his

desk, still feeling a little light-headed and disoriented.

Before he could consider the unsettling events that were giving

birth to Excedrin headache #1, the office door flew open and two

refugees from Planet Creative stormed in.

     “Does the concept of knocking ever occur to you Yo-Yos?”

Michael growled.

     “Oooo, was Michael Angelo up to something we shouldn’t be

disturbing in here?”    Sasha, the tall skinny half of the dynamic

duo, was an asshole.    All elbows and attitude.   But a reasonably

funny asshole that most people put up with because he was at

least occasionally entertaining.

     “A little afternoon delight featuring Lucy-Goosey perhaps?”

     “Shut up, dickhead.”    Michael had no time for Sasha’s crap

today.   He glared at the young Art Director who got the message,

turning instantly serious.

     “Oh put your pants on, Mikey.   We got dog shit to sell

here.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 16

     The “dog shit” Sasha referred to was Flakies Dog Food, a

small but not unimportant agency client.   It might seem strange

that otherwise intelligent adults could spend hours planning

strategies to sell food for animals to people who would never,

hopefully, eat it.   But this was the ad biz, and these ad

professionals were all extremely well compensated for their

persuasive skills, no matter what the product.

     They understood the convoluted target audience concept at

work here.   Pet owners so longed to please their domesticated

beasts that they would buy almost any substance served up on a

silver platter that might demonstrate a sensitive act of love

for their canine companions.    The doggies, of course, couldn’t

care less.   They would eat pretty much anything, as demonstrated

by the fondness of many species for their own feces.   Thus the

essential challenge:   sell something to a buyer who would never

consume the product.

     “So what we got?” Michael sighed, massaging his temples.

“Besides a client meeting tomorrow for which we are typically

un-prepared?”

     Soup, short for Soupy, picked up the note Michael had left

on the edge of his desk.

     “What did Mother tell you, Michael?” he read out loud.

     Mike’s head shot around.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 17

     “Hey, gimme that.   You always read other people’s mail,

Soupy?”

     “Sorry, man.   It’s not mail, anyway.    Just a note.    Chill,

brother.”

     Soup was one of Michael’s favorite copywriters.      A real

talent, with the maddening nocturnal habit of procrastinating

until the eleventh hour the night before a major presentation to

craft The Brilliant Idea.   Sasha, never one to let an

opportunity slip by, jumped at the chance to needle his

colleague.

     “So what did mother tell you, Mikey?     Eat your peas and

carrots?    Wear your rubbers?   No, that would be Daddy I guess.”

     Michael glared from one Creative to the other.

     “You assholes are doing this, aren’t you.     C’mon.    It’s

bullshit, so cut it out, OK?     We got too much on our plate for

these stupid games.”

     “Doing what?” Sasha whined.

     “What are you talkin’ about, man?” Soupy said.

“We are serious ad pros here.    We don’t play no freakin’ games.”

     Michael stared hard into the faces of his two compatriots,

looking for a crack, a smile, a tiny tell that might give their

prank away.   But there was nothing.    Not a twitch.   Either the

boys were very good. Or innocent.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 18




                         CHAPTER 4




     Michael’s commute from home to office every morning and

back again after work was a triple jump.    From his building on

Michigan Avenue it was a short walk to the train station – ten

to 15 minutes depending on how late he was to catch the Metra UP

Northwestern to his Arlington Heights stop.    In terrible

weather, when Chicago became a sister city to the North Pole, he

could take the bus if he had to.    But it had to be really shitty

for that to happen. So Michael customarily hoofed it on the

first leg of his journey home in the evening.

     The 45 minute train ride passed through Clybourn, Irving

Park, Jefferson Park, and eight more stops before dumping

Michael six blocks from his home.    In the ugly winter months

this could be a frigid experience.   In summer, sweltering.   But

the train was better than a library as reading sanctuary, and

most commuters buried themselves in newspapers, magazines and

books to pass the time, largely ignoring weather conditions.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 19

     The last leg was a short stroll to casa Janaseck.    On this

particular day Michael’s head was so crammed full of dog food

trivia that he barely looked up as the dark blue car slowed and

pulled beside him three blocks from his home.    A black tinted

window oozed down and a hand emerged, index finger pointed at

Michael’s head, thumb raised, then lowered in a deadly

pantomime.

     The phantom bullet found its mark, striking with all the

force of its intended terror.    Once when he was twelve Michael

had been accidentally clobbered in the noggin by a baseball bat

during a pickup game in the park behind his house.    On impact

his head felt as if a thousand bees had taken up residence there

as he slumped to his knees.    The result of this sinister assault

from the drive-by finger pistol had much the same staggering

effect.    Momentarily stunned, the victim watched in horror as

the hand withdrew into the car’s shadowed interior, window

rising, dark vehicle slowly pulling away.    The shooter was in no

hurry.    He wanted Michael to feel total panic, to internalize

the fear, to get the message that he was, for whatever reason

God only knew, in the crosshairs of a deadly force completely

alien to his world.

     Over the past two days Michael had been by degree mildly

disturbed, slightly concerned, and more than a little worried.

Now he was scared shitless.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 20

     On legs borrowed from a wino after a nasty binge he

stumbled the three blocks home, head spinning with dark

fantasies.   Should he call the police?    And tell them what,

exactly?   One silly email, a cryptic note left by a stranger and

a pointed finger had him all shook up?    Couldn’t see the cops

jumping to his defense on that flimsy evidence.    But something

was going on here.   Something bad.   And it was not his

imagination.

     Climbing the steps to the front door of his safe suburban

castle, Michael Janaseck was totally unprepared for how much

worse things could get.   And how fast.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 21




                          Chapter 5




July 23, 1949
Larry’s Tavern
Cicero, Illinois



     The Old Style Beer clock on the wall reads 4:30pm.     Greasy

late afternoon sunlight slips through the gloom to barely

illuminate three customers and a bartender who idly reads The

Chicago Tribune behind the long pock marked bar.     One of the

patrons of this unpretentious establishment seems out of place

here.   A stunningly attractive young woman.    With murder on her

afternoon agenda.

     The woman sits statue still.     Smoke drifts lazily from the

cigarette held casually between two perfect red-tipped fingers.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 22

Cool gray eyes focus on a restaurant across the street.   She

crosses her long lovely legs in one languid motion that draws

something just short of a drool from the two men seated at the

far corner of the bar.

     The woman feels nothing.   Not excitement, not fear, not

anger.   As she sits in Larry’s Tavern on that Tuesday afternoon

she knows only that she is ready.   Perhaps even destined to

begin what is to begin today.

     The Beretta 9000 strapped to her thigh feels cool against

her skin as she walks toward the door and out into the street.

Six hungry eyes follow.
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 23




                              CHAPTER 6



     “What’s wrong?”

     Vanessa greeted her husband in their kitchen with this

intuitive shot of concern wives are famous for.

     “You OK baby?”

     “I’m fine,” he said, loosening his tie.

     “Tough day?”

     “Just need a drink, that’s all.”

     “You have a visitor out back.”

     Michael’s spinning head amped up its bad vibe another

notch.

     “What?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 24

     “Man said he had something important to talk to you about,

I don’t know.”

     “Vanessa, Jesus!   You let just anybody in our house?

C’mon, who is this guy?    What does he want?”

     “Hey, I don’t know, he said he knew you.    What’s wrong,

Michael?   Are you sure you’re OK?”

     “Yeah, yeah.    Where is he?”

     “Out on the patio.   I made him some iced tea.”

     “Shit.”

     Heading through the back of the house and onto the tree

shaded stone patio Michael pondered the recent disturbing trend

of letting strangers poke into his life without introduction or

warning.   Probably this one was selling aluminum siding or

insurance or some equally ghastly commodity.     He vowed to

dispense with the intruder quickly and get to that drink.      Then

have a little chat with Van about protecting privacy.

     The man sat with his back to Michael as the shaky ad guy

emerged into his sun-dappled backyard.    Michael loved this part

of the house.    He came here often to read or just relax when the

weather permitted.    Ringed by shade trees and natural foliage

and backed by a small creek at the far end of the property, this

was a protected, solitary place where a stressed-out executive

could put the world on hold for awhile.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 25

     Michael noted that the man was probably in his late 70s,

maybe early 80s.   A little past prime for your typical aluminum

siding/insurance peddler, he thought.    But everybody was working

longer, postponing retirement these days.

     The man’s head was mostly bald, with a wisp of yellowish

white hair arranged in an unselfconscious comb-over.       He was

dressed in gray slacks and a worn but not threadbare sport coat

that had been around the block a time or two.       White shirt, top

button fastened.   No tie.    Elderly fashion plate he was not.

Sipping on the iced tea that Vanessa had made he looked like

someone’s distant uncle.     Small, slightly hunched forward, tense

body language, Michael observed.

     “Hi, Mike Janaseck.     Can I help you, sir?”

     The man rose, turned to face Michael, reached for his hand

in greeting.

     “John Goodnight, Michael.     Nice to meet you.”

     The man wore large glasses of the style popular with men in

their later years.   Milton Berle.    Ed McMahon.    The two stood

awkwardly facing each other.

     “Excellent tea.   Would you like some?” the old guy said.

     “Gee, I thought this was my house,” Michael said to

himself.   “Strange how the old fucker seemed to sort of take

control with a comment like that.”

     “No, no thanks.   What are you selling, Mr. Goodnight?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 26

     There.    Maybe that would put this conversation at close to

an end.    The man smiled, a rather distant, rather painful smile.

     “Could we sit please?”

     Reluctantly Michael pulled up a chair and faced his mystery

guest.

     “I’m not selling anything, Mike.    To get right to it, I

have information you will find shocking, undoubtedly disturbing,

but quite necessary to convey.    You need to hear it and to know

that I’m here to help…”

     “Excuse me, sir, but I don’t think I’m interested…”

     “Please, Michael.    Just hear me out and I’ll be gone.   I

know things about who you are that you don’t know…who your

mother was…”

     “Wait a minute, my mother is not ‘was.’    I think you’ve got

the wrong…”

     “They know who you are, Michael.    They’re coming.   Please

let me help you.”

     The ad man’s blood pressure spiked at the recognition of

this phrase.

     “You sent that email.”

     “Yes.”

     Michael stood, turned, walked off a few paces trying to get

a grip on his revolving brain.    What the holy fuck was happening

here?    “I don’t live in some made-up episode of CSI,” he
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 27

reasoned. “This is my house.      I have a job.   I inhabit a normal

world where veiled threats and covert meetings are not real.”

The more he tried to sort through the bizarre events shoving him

out of control, the angrier Michael became.       He consciously

tried to slow his breathing and get on top of his emotions,

listening to the crickets sing in the grass at the edge of his

real life real property.      A dog barked somewhere off down by the

creek. Cicadas chimed in adding to the chorus of a normal

suburban sound track. Wheeling on his uninvited guest, Michael

prepared to put an end to the nonsense.

       “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but…”

       Now the old man appeared to be sleeping, head tucked down

into his chest.     Great.   The narcoleptic old fart is taking a

nap on my patio.

       The iced tea spilled from his hand, and a dark stain

rapidly grew to discolor the front of his white shirt.       That

could not be what it looked like, Michael thought.       No, no.

       “Hey.   Hey!”   Michael stepped fearfully closer to the old

man.

       “Hey, Mister!    Oh God.   Oh my God!   Oh sweet Jesus!”

       Vanessa appeared in the back doorway to the patio.

       “What’s the matter, Mike?”

       “No, Van, no!   Stay there!   Don’t come out here!   Call 911!

Jesus Christ!”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 28




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




     Michael had never met a Detective before.    Only caught

glimpses of this obscure profession portrayed by actors on TV

and in the movies.   Read about them in mystery novels.    But here

was a real live Detective Dewey Sosa sitting in his living room

investigating a homicide.   A murder.   In Michael’s own back

yard, for chrisakes.    How could this be happening?   Already the

phone was jangling like a thing possessed.    TV crews prowled the

front yard that had just hours ago been the quiet entryway to

the sane world of Michael and Vanessa Janaseck.    Uniformed cops

poked and prodded the grounds, looking for whatever it was they

looked for.   An old man with some wacko story about who Michael

was had just been carted out in a body bag.    “I’m gonna wake up

and this will all be a bad dream,” Michael thought.     “Gotta be

something I ate.”

     “Mr. Janaseck?”

     “Huh?”

     “If you don’t mind, sir, just a few more questions.”

     “Sure.   Sorry.”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 29

     “Now you say you didn’t know Mr. Goodnight.    Never met him

before, is that correct?”

     “Right.”

     “But he was in your house when you came home at…what time

was that?”

     “Around 6:45, I guess.”

     Since the interview began, Detective Sosa had been typing

into a small laptop balanced on his knees.

     “Let’s see here…before you said that time was 6:30. Which

would it be, Mr. Janaseck?     6:30 or 6:45?”

     Understandably, Michael’s trip wire was set on super

sensitive at this point in the proceedings.

     “Ya know, Detective, on days when strangers are shot and

killed in my back yard, I tend to fail to check my watch on a

regular basis, so I guess I’m just not fucking sure.”

     Detective Sosa smiled.    This reaction momentarily

rearranged the unusual features of his face, turning the smile

into more of a grimace.    The policeman’s face was unusual in

that nothing there seemed to be the size it should be.     Nose too

big, eyes too small, mouth slightly off kilter.    Like some badly

managed Mr. Potato Head.    The effect was somewhat off-putting,

making it difficult to get a read on this odd creature from the

shadow world of investigative police work.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 30

     “You said before that Mr. Goodnight was a stranger to you,”

Sosa continued. “That you’d never met. Is that right?”

     “That’s right.”

     “But this complete stranger was in your home when you

arrived at 6:30.   Or 6:45.   Isn’t that unusual, sir?   To let a

total stranger into your home?”

     Michael shot a look at Vanessa.    Her face was pale and

drawn, hands twisting the life out of a dishrag in her lap.

     “He said he knew Michael,” Vanessa answered for her

husband.

     Detective Sosa’s mismatched Potato Head eyebrows arched up

at this piece of news.

     “But you never met the man, Mr. Janaseck?”

     “I think I said that, Detective.   Never laid eyes on him.”

     Michael paused, unsure whether or not to step out onto the

dangerous ice that cracked and rumbled under his feet.

     “But like I said…like we said…he seemed to know me.”       OK,

here we go.   “He sent me an email.”

     “An email?”

     “To my office.”

     “What did the email say, sir?”

     Another wave of dizzying nausea swept over Michael as he

replied, “’They know who you are.   Let me help you.’”
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 31

     For a moment the only sound in the room was the clatter of

keys as Detective Sosa typed.    Without looking up the policeman

asked, “And how did you know this message came from Mr.

Goodnight?”

     “He said so.”

     “When?”

     “In the back yard.    Before he was…before it happened.”

     “Perhaps we should start over at the beginning, Mr.

Janaseck.”

     Michael sighed, massaged his aching temples, prayed for the

surreal ordeal to be over soon.

     “This won’t take much longer, but I have to make sure I

have all the facts straight, so please bear with me.”

     Michael was bearing, but barely.    Should he completely

share the string of crazy shit that had happened over the last

two days with this investigating officer?     The ad guy had no

experience here.     He was in deep water.   Way out of his league.

But of course he should talk to the man. This was The Law.

Protector of innocent citizens.    Right?    Still, something way

back in the back of his brain whispered caution.

     “When did you receive this email?”

     “Two days ago.”

     “And it didn’t bother you then?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 32

     “Well, sure, it bothered me.    But I wrote it off as

somebody’s idea of a bad joke.”

     “Did you tell anyone about the email Mr. Janaseck?

     “No.”

     Michael could feel Vanessa’s stare.   He tried to ignore it,

looked the Detective in his too small eyes.

     “Why was that, sir?”

     “Like I said, I thought it was a mistake.    At worst a bad

prank.”

     “Guess you got that wrong,” the Detective said, letting his

little eyes roam toward the Janaseck back yard.

     “So, between the time you received this email last…when was

it again?”

     “Tuesday.”

     “Right.   Two days ago.   Between then and now you never

heard from Mr. Goodnight?   Nothing unusual happened to cause any

concern?”

     Careful Michael.   Protect yourself. Protect Vanessa.   Duck

and cover.

     “Nothing.”

     Detective Sosa stared hard at Michael for what seemed to be

too long a time.   The uncomfortable contact was finally broken

as the investigator turned his attention back to the laptop,

entering more unknown information into the file.    Michael wished
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 33

he could see what the man was writing in his stupid computer,

but the angle of sight would not allow any eavesdropping.

     “Do you own a gun, sir?”

     “What?”

     “A gun.   Do you possess a registered firearm?”

     Vanessa actually giggled at this strange new line of

questioning.

     “He’d shoot himself in both feet if he had a gun.    This man

doesn’t even hunt small squirrels.”

     “So the answer is no?   No gun, Mr. Janaseck?”

     “No.    No gun.”

     “OK, let’s go back to the time Mr. Goodnight came to your

door.   You let him in, Mrs. Janaseck, because he said he knew

your husband.”

     “Yes.”

     “You didn’t ask how he knew him?   What the nature of his

business might be?”

     “No.”

     “You are quite the trusting soul, Mrs. Janaseck.    I might

suggest you be a bit more cautious in the future.”

     Vanessa absorbed this reprimand without comment, wrenching

the dishrag in ever tightening knots.

     “So, Mr. Janaseck, let’s see if I have this right.   On

Tuesday of this week you receive a threatening message on your
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 34

computer at your office.   You tell no one about it.   Not even

your wife.”   He paused, glancing at both parties, letting this

small criticism hang in the air like a lead balloon.

     “Today you encounter Mr. John Goodnight, whom you’ve never

met, on the patio of your home when you arrive from work.    Mr.

Goodnight tells you he sent the email.    What else did he say –

anything?”

     “No, not really.”

     “Try to think about what happened in the back yard, sir.

Any little detail might be of help.”

     “I’m sorry, Detective, but that’s about it.    Everything

happened so fast.”

     The sudden bleeping of Detective Sosa’s cell phone cut

through the uncomfortable tension building in the room.    Mike

and Vanessa clutched each other’s hands as the police officer

carried on his end of the conversation, phone wedged between

shoulder and ear, fingers entering more unseen information into

the machine on his lap.

     “Thanks, Tuck.   No I’ll be back within the hour.

Appreciate it.”

     As before, without glancing up from his data entry effort,

Sosa fired a shot across Michael’s bow.

     “Mr. Janaseck, did you encounter an unusual visitor in your

office yesterday?”
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 35

     Now the detective looked up from his typing directly at

Michael with what seemed to be a new level of suspicion edged

with a shade of hostility.

     Michael Janaseck was not a liar.      He had never lied to this

detective.    Only left out certain details that the cop

apparently had no trouble uncovering anyway.       Why had Michael

not been more forthcoming?      What made him hold back, giving the

investigator crazy reasons to find the ad man less than

truthful?    Damned if he knew.    But right now he felt a strange

wave of guilt. With a growing sense of doom, he sensed he was

falling into a nasty trap of his own making.

     But that was ridiculous.     He’d done nothing wrong.   Hell,

he was the victim here.     So why was he acting like Public Enemy

Number One?    He was sure his face was turning a suspicious shade

of crimson publicly broadcasting his apparent complicity in the

murder of an old man he never met. Michael struggled for

composure, and in a voice that surprised him with its unruffled

control stated, “I get lots of visitors at my office, Detective.

Some are quite unusual.     I’m in the advertising business.”

      “This one delivered a personal note, sir.       Can you tell me

what it said?”

     Shit.    Soupy.   Sasha.   Lucy.   The cop knew exactly what the

note said.    Knew all about the scary guy at the front desk.

Fuck, they were talking to people at his office.      Investigating
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 36

him, for chrissakes.    This is nuts!   Time to come clean - this

whole deal was going off the rails in a really bad direction.

     “It said, ‘What did Mother tell you?’”

     “’What did Mother tell you, Michael,’ I believe was the

full context.”

     Detective Sosa sighed.    Closed his laptop.

     “Mr. Janaseck, I don’t feel that you are being completely

upfront with me.”

     “Hey, I’m a little shook up here, Detective. Gimme a

break.”

     “Please, sir.   I simply asked if anything unusual had

happened to you in the last few days, and you seem to be leaving

out details in that regard that could aid our investigation.     A

man was killed in your back yard, Mr. Janaseck.     I expect you to

cooperate more fully.    This is very serious matter.”

     “I understand that…”

     “Do you have a lawyer, sir?”

     “What?”

     “Do you have an attorney, Mr. Janaseck?”

     “What for?   Why would I need one?”

     “We have to pursue all possible avenues to solve a crime

like this.   You were alone with a man who was killed on your

property.    You have received warnings from the deceased, and

apparently others, which you have chosen not to fully share with
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 37

the authorities.    I strongly suggest you secure proper legal

representation.    And Mr. Janaseck, please do not leave town

while our investigation continues to be active.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 38




                          CHAPTER 7



     July 23 1949
     Lombardi’s Restaurant
     Cicero, Illiois


     Lombardi’s Restaurant in Cicero, Illinois, is almost empty

at 4:35pm.   Quiet, except for one waiter preparing for the

evening crowd and the fat man at a table in the corner, head

down over a steaming bowl of linguini with clam sauce.

     The woman enters, heels echoing on the black and white tile

floor.   Walks directly to the lone diner’s table.   The fat man

looks up, pudgy watery eyes taking in the uninvited vision

before resuming the noisy intake of pasta a la slime ball.

     “I didn’t order no desert.”

     The woman does not speak.   Silently, slowly she slides her

silky tight skirt higher up her perfect thighs.   The man’s eyes

are reluctantly drawn from dinner to follow this revealing

progress.    Those eyes widen as the woman retrieves the Beretta
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 39

from its lascivious perch, in one smooth motion pointing it at

the fat man’s head.   He rises with surprising agility for a big

man, pushing back the table, spilling red wine.    Too late.   A

small hole opens in his forehead.    Blood and matter gush from

what was once the back of his head painting the wall a Jackson

Pollock tableau of death.   The fat man staggers backward,

clutching his chair and crumples to the floor.    The smell of

gunpowder and sound of the blast fill the restaurant.

     Then silence.

For a long moment nothing moves.    As if she has all the time in

the world, as if she has just been shopping for perfume at the

local emporium, the woman turns and walks out of Lombardi’s

Restaurant, bestowing upon the cowering waiter a smile as

dazzling as afternoon sunlight.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 40




                          CHAPTER 8



     Michael’s hand shook as he downed the heavy-duty Scotch he

had been craving since he came home.     Since before the world

collapsed.   He was not a big drinker.   Did not habitually

require alcohol in the evening, though he and Vanessa often

enjoyed the occasional glass of wine.    Today was a huge

exception.   Today mild mannered Michael Janaseck craved a strong

drug to quiet his high voltage nerves.      Give him time to settle

and think.

     Vanessa joined him in the den with a Merlot of her own.

Police and media had finally, blessedly, departed.     It was

early evening, the phone had settled into an annoying succession

of persistently unanswered rings.     Two people sat together in

shock, groping for how to put their lives that had so violently
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 41

and suddenly come undone back on track.   Vanessa broke the

silence.

     “What the hell is going on, baby?”

     Her husband shook his head, as much to try to clear it as

to answer.

     “I don’t know.”

     “Why didn’t you tell me about that email and the guy at the

office, Mike?”   A note of frustration coupled with hurt at the

lack of customary communication tinged her voice.

      “Like I told the police, I really didn’t think these

things were for real.   Some prankster or something.   I thought

…I don’t know what I thought.   Why did you let a stranger into

our home, Van?” Michael shot back with the understandable

irritation born of recent tensions.

     For a moment husband and wife stared at each other,

grappling with the darkness that had suddenly descended upon

their sunny suburban lives.

     “I can’t believe this is happening to us,” Vanessa said.

“It’s so unreal…”

     “I know.”

     “And that detective – he creeps me out.”

     “Yeah.”

     Michael took another long pull on his drink.   Vanessa

sipped her wine in baffled silence.
                                                 Brahl / Bloodlines / 42

     “I need to talk to Mom and Dad.”

     “They called several times.”

     “And the office.    I have meetings…not sure what to do about

all that tomorrow.”

     “Do you have to go in?”

     “I guess.    But everybody’s gonna look at me funny.       I mean,

this crazy shit is all over the news.”

     “Does that detective actually suspect you, for Christ’s

sake?”

     “I don’t know.    That’s insane.     I can’t even deal with

that.”

     Michael pulled his cell phone from his pocket and speed

dialed his parents.

     “Who you calling?”

     “Mom and Dad.    I’m sure they’re panicked.”

     “Hi Mom.    No we’re OK.     Yeah, it’s nuts.    We’re fine, just

shook up, that’s all.    Yeah, I know.       No, you don’t need to come

over tonight.    But I do want to talk to you guys…tomorrow maybe.

No, it’s OK, really.    We’re fine.     I’ll come by tomorrow.    Don’t

worry, OK?   This is all just some bizarre mistake and we’ll be

fine.    Yeah.   Is Dad OK?   OK.   I’ll see you tomorrow.    I’ll

call.    Good night, Mom.     I love you.”

     Mike had to talk to his Mother.         See if she could shed any

light on the darkening circumstances that had twisted his life
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 43

and his stomach into foul tangles impossible to imagine just two

days ago.   Was it really only two days ago that things had been

normal?   Did it really only take 48 hours to turn 53 years

inside out?

     Tonight the Janasecks would try to sleep.   Try being the

operative word.   Tomorrow they would face a dawn filled with new

terrors poised to stretch nerves and lives past the breaking

point.



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




     Michael did go to the office the next morning.    It was

Friday, and he needed to make the Flakies meeting.    Soupy

presented some wonderful creative work churned out, as expected,

late the night before.   Michael did his best to appear engaged,

though dog food was pretty much the farthest thing from his

mind.

     The Flakies client was a freshly minted MBA, pleasant

enough, but totally incapable of making a decision.    That task

was reserved for way more senior Product Managers several rungs

up the Flakies organization chart.   The meeting, therefore, was

a gigantic, though obligatory, waste of time.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 44

     Fridays were always cluster fucks at the agency.     Like

clockwork clients waited till Friday, preferably afternoon, to

make their impossible demands, dump butt loads of last minute

work and save their flaming disasters for the last official

workday of the week.    After a grueling five, sometimes six or

seven days of jumping through client hoops, agency staffers from

Media to Research to Creative to Account Service to Production

had their brains beaten to mush.    Not to mention one foot out

the door in the Happy Hour trough.    Fridays routinely sucked.

And this one was particularly nasty.    How many times could

Michael respond to, “Are you OK?” and/or “What happened, Mike?”

What could he say?     He had no answers, was still numb from the

seismic shocks of the past four days.

     Steve Larkin, agency president and all-around ingenuous

prick, stuck his handsome head into Michael’s office.

     “Got a minute?”

     “Sure, Steve.”

     The Silver Fox flowed inside and closed the door.     Never a

good sign.

     “I heard Flakies went well.”

     “Yeah, Soup and Sasha did a great job.    Jennifer liked

everything, which doesn’t mean shit.    But we stroked her.    On to

the real meetings next week.    Jesus I hate that crap.   It’s such

a goddamn waste of everybody’s time.”
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 45

     “I know.    But we gotta play the game.    Anyway, I just

wondered if there was anything I could do…”

     Here we go again.    Michael almost longed for the

traditional Friday disaster call.    It would be easier to take

than this.

     “No, thanks Steve.    I’m fine.”

     “You need some time off?    This crazy shit must have you

pretty stressed.    Maybe you should take a day or two.”

     “No, I’m OK.   Really.”

     “That detective was here again.”

     Michael felt the sledgehammer blow, fought to appear calm.

     “He was?”

     “Asking everybody more questions.    Said it was all routine.

I’m sure those guys have to check everything out in cases like

this.”

     “I guess.”

     “Has everybody a little on edge, though.”

     “I’m sorry, Steve…”

     “Not your fault.”

     The boss man fiddled with his Armani tie through the

awkward silence.

     “Sure you don’t wanna take a couple days?      Clear the head?

I can’t have one of my best guys distracted.”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 46

     It was easy to see where this was going.    Compassion was

never Steve Larkin’s strong suit.     He simply saw police

detectives hanging around asking questions as bad for business,

and wanted to remove the source of irritation, if only

temporarily.

     “Thanks, Chief.   I’m fine.    Too much goin’ on.   Too many

junior brand managers to babysit.”

     Larkin seemed genuinely disappointed, as if genuine had

ever been an emotional part of his vocabulary.

     “OK, Mike.   You just let me know if there’s anything I can

do, OK?”

     “I will.”

     As the agency prez oozed out the door Michael’s phone

chirped.   Probably the expected asshole client demand of the day

that would keep staff up late and working the weekend.

     “This is Mike.”

     “His funeral is tomorrow.     Burial at Westminster, 3pm.    I

hope you will be there.”

     Abruptly the line went dead.     Dead as the stranger murdered

in Michael’s back yard.

     The caller was a woman.    Sounded older.   But voices and

ages were difficult to connect sometimes.     She didn’t sound

happy.   Neither was Michael.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 47

     He stared at the empty buzzing phone, incapable for the

moment of processing this latest assault on his sanity.     His

head pounded.    Bile rose in his throat.   He considered bolting

for the john before willing his acidic stomach back in place.

     Now what?     Should he accept the latest cryptic invitation?

Should he tell the cops?     Fuck, he didn’t even know this dead

guy – this John Goodnight.     Why should he go to his funeral?

Michael detested funerals, avoided those rituals like the

plague, even for people close to him.

     But maybe this woman caller knew something.     Maybe if he

met her she could make some sense of the Mickey Spillane world

that Michael Janaseck had suddenly been sucked into.

     Shit.   No.   He’d be damned if he would take this latest

bait.   Michael Janaseck – ad guy, husband, suburban homeowner,

agency softball team shortstop – would not play this game.

Would not attend any fucking funeral for a guy whose only

relationship was the unlucky happenstance of croaking in his

back yard.   No way.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 48




                          CHAPTER 9



     Michael stood on a hillside watching the small group

gathered around the freshly prepared gravesite.    A regular

Robert Altman cast of characters was in attendance for the final

sendoff of Mr. John Goodnight.    There was The Priest, looking

grave.   The Deceased, unseen star of the show, tucked away in

his unspectacular casket.    Two cemetery workers positioned well

off to the side, prepared to do their duties after the ritual

was concluded.   And assorted mourners, few and far between.

Apparently Mr. G. had few friends, given the sparse crowd of

dark-suited men and women clustered under the temporary tent

above the open grave.   Could be the man was an insurance

salesman after all.

     Four members of this forlorn gathering were far more

interesting than the rest.   Two dark-faced gentlemen who looked

poured into their shiny, bulging black suits stood scowling with

hands clasped in front of them.    Police Detective Dewey Sosa

lurked at the edge of the small crowd.    And a woman in her late
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 49

60s, gray hair tucked under a black hat, shapeless

church/funeral dress draping a thin frame, J.C. Penney’s purse

and black shoes completing the fashion-backward ensemble.

     The singular connection that separated these four from the

rest of the entourage was chillingly clear:   they were paying no

attention to the internment of the lost soul.   All were staring

directly at Michael Janaseck




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



     The object of their intense interest took several

involuntary steps backward under these withering glares.

Turning and shifting with effort to forward gear, he casually,

or so he desperately hoped, headed up the hill toward the

parking lot and relative safety of his car.   He tried his best

not to run, being careful to avoid looking back over his

shoulder at what might be following.

     Michael was easily far enough away from any potential

pursuers that he trusted his car was reachable without a

problem. Yet his hand trembled violently as he put key to

ignition.   His screaming brain flashed on all the cliché scary

film scenes featuring ignitions that wouldn’t ignite as drooling
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 50

monsters closed in from behind.    Blessedly, the hero of his own

private horror flick was able to escape in this reel.

     He followed the winding asphalt path as it led out of Dead

People Central onto Westover Boulevard, turned right at the

light and just drove.    Where he was headed, he didn’t have a

clue.

     Michael had come to the burial hoping to speak with the

woman from the phone call who might know something about the

crazy events that had turned his life inside out.    That was

obviously not going to happen with “Columbo” and “The Mobster

Brothers” looming nearby.

     Who was she anyway?    What could this woman tell him?

She had stared at him with a mixture of fear, sadness and

accusation that made his skin crawl.    And who were those two

goons?   The finger pistol assassins?    The back yard killers?

     Oh shit.    He almost forgot, he promised to go see his

parents today.    They were probably beside themselves with worry,

wondering what the hell was going on with their baby boy.

     They weren’t the only ones.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 51




                          CHAPTER 10




     Edna and Seymour Janaseck lived in the house at 8813

Penelope Lane that Michael grew up in, spent his happy childhood

in, was married in.   The place hadn’t changed a whiff since

construction in the early 1950s.   Nestled in the quiet Chicago

bedroom community of Hanover Park, the Janaseck home could not

have been more Middle American if it had been built by Norman

Rockwell.

     Still reeling from his unsettling cemetery experience,

Michael made his way through the familiar surroundings not

bothering to knock at the unlocked front door.   The ancient

grandfather clock in the foyer spoke softly through the hush as

he headed back toward the kitchen, a place wrapped in childhood

memories of cookies baked and family meals shared.

     “Mom? Dad?”   Michael announced his presence out of long

established custom, smiling a weak but hopefully reassuring
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 52

smile as he approached Edna and Seymour, returning his mother’s

embrace, breathing in the aroma of fresh peach cobbler.

     “Oh Michael,” she cooed, “how horrible this must be for you

and Vanessa.     Do you have any idea…”

     “No, Mom.    Not a clue.   It’s all too weird.   We’re OK,

though.”

     “Do the police know anything, Mike?” Seymour asked, concern

clouding his once handsome, now gracefully aging face.

     “Not yet I guess.”

     “Are you hungry, son?      Can I fix you something?”   Like

mothers the world over Edna believed that food would cure every

ill and dispel all difficulties, spiritual, emotional, and

physical.

     “No Mom, I’m good.”

     “How is Vanessa?” Michael’s father asked.

     “She’s OK.    Shook up, of course.   She’s at the lake with

some of her pals.    Be back tomorrow.    It’s good she could get

away I think.”

     In the serenity of the Janaseck home the clock ticked away

from its place in the foyer. Jackson the family cat slept in the

sun on the window seat in the living room. Edna held her boy’s

hands across the kitchen table, smiling motherly support.

     “Mom, can I ask you something?”

     “Of course dear.    What is it?”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 53

     “Somebody said something the other day that kinda confused

me – about knowing who my mother was.   Does that make any sense?

Were you a chorus girl in your wild youth or something?”

     Michael almost chuckled at the image, hoping to make light

of the nagging concern raised by a dead man two days before.

     Edna Janaseck looked at her son for a beat too long.

     “What?” he frowned.

     Her gaze drifted to her husband.   They locked eyes, faces

melting into expressions Michael had never seen before.

     “Now what?” Michael thought.   “What new disaster is heading

my way?”   His heart quadrupled its pace, pumping too much blood

to his already overtaxed brain.

     Seymour finally broke the agonizing silence.

     “Michael, you are our son.   We raised you from the time you

were a tiny baby.   You’ve grown to be a fine man, and we’ve

been proud of you every day of your life.”

     Michael started to speak, but his mouth had gone dry.    Ice

flowed through his veins, clogging arteries with chunks of

frigid dread and foreboding.

      “Oh baby,” Edna choked back a sob, “we couldn’t be more

your mother and father, couldn’t love you any more dearly if…”

     Seymour, trying to gain control, spoke with tears in his

voice.

     “We wanted to tell you so many times, but couldn’t find…”
                                                   Brahl / Bloodlines / 54

     “Stop!”    Michael shouted.    “What are you saying?       You’re

not my parents?    I’m adopted?    Mom?    Dad?”

     Michael rose from his chair, reached for the table to

steady himself.    The insanity of the past four days broke over

him like a tsunami, this last piece of news smashing his grip on

reality beyond recovery.

     “My parents are not my parents,” his brain screamed.           “Then

who are they?    Who was my mother?       Who the Hell am I?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 55




                          CHAPTER 11



     Michael staggered out the front door of 8813 Penelope Lane,

vaguely aware that his parents, or those two people who called

themselves Mom and Dad, followed close behind, pleading to know

where he was going, if he was OK.

     He didn’t know.   And he wasn’t.

     “Just drive,” his mangled mind said.    “Just move somewhere.

Anywhere.”   The shaken man’s only thought was to get away, try

to get a grip on a life once firmly anchored, now spinning

wildly out of control.

     So Michael drove.   Northwest along Highway 20, picking up

Interstate 90 toward Rockford.    It was after dark when he

finally slowed, taking the State Highway 23 Exit, pulling into a

motel just off the main road.    His consciousness, like an

overloaded computer tripped into neutral by a surge protector,

had temporarily shut down.   Only the functions necessary to

operate his vehicle remained active and in control.   He was

exhausted, not sure where he was or how he got there.    And

didn’t much care.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 56

  After checking in at the nasty front desk of the zero star

motel he parked in front of Room 33, closed and locked the door

behind him, sat on the bed with his head in his hands and

sobbed.   He felt like a little kid separated from his mommy and

daddy at the zoo, wandering lost among the animals and big

people not knowing where to turn, what to do except wail until

help came.

     But Michael Janaseck didn’t have a mommy and daddy, he

bleakly reminded himself.    At least not the pair he knew so

well.   Not the familiar ones that could rescue young Michael

lost at the zoo.    Those two were fakes.   Imposters.   Who his

real parents were remained a mystery.   A riddle only strangers

could solve.   Strangers that were coming for him, Hell bent on

some malicious quest he could not understand.    Strangers who

knew who he was.    And killed people who got in their way.

     Michael finally collapsed on the bed, falling into a

feverish sleep.    Two hours later he awoke to surroundings as

strange as his life had so suddenly become. He stumbled to the

tiny sink and splashed cold water on his face, sat back down on

the bed and tried to force his tortured brain to cope.     Willed

himself to deal with some kind of rational explanation for the

lunacy that had consumed his sensible existence.

     He tried to call Vanessa, getting her voice mail.     She was

still at the lake with her friends.   The message he left sounded
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 57

normal – he hoped she was having fun, would see her soon, loved

her.    Bye.

       Picking up the small notepad placed on the nightstand by

the thoughtful motel management he started to write, attempting

to make sense of the disconnected events that had unhinged his

life.

       “Email,” he began.   OK, now he knew that was no joke.    No

wrong number.    No crazy promotional scheme.     John Goodnight, a

man Michael didn’t know from Adam, apparently knew him.       And had

sent the very real warning.     They know who you are. “But who are

they?” Michael wondered.     “More to the point, who am I?”    No

answers here.    Just questions leading to more questions.

       Let me help you.   “Well, I guess that offer got your ass

killed, my friend,” Michael reasoned.      “Or was that bullet in my

back yard meant for me?”     Maybe the cops could figure that one

out with their ballistics tests and firing angles and scientific

investigative bullshit.     Mike sure couldn’t.    No point worrying

about it.

       “Scary guy,” he wrote on the pad.    Probably connected to

the goons at the cemetery.     Maybe the finger pistol asshole in

the car. “Is that who is coming for me?” Michael worried.        “Are

they the ones who killed Goodnight?     Probably.”

       What did Mother tell you, Michael?    “The scary guys know

me,” Michael said to himself.     “They know my name.   Great.   But
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 58

what about the two sideways references to my mother?” he

thought.   “Mother with a capital ‘M’.    What’s that all about?

And Goodnight’s claim to know who my mother was.      Add to those

mysteries the latest shocker that the woman I’ve thought of for

53 years as Mom is not my birth mother after all.      Who is my

real mother?    Who is Mother with the capital M?”

     “Find mother,” Michael scribbled on the pad.

     “Woman at cemetery” was his next entry.     “Could she be

mommy dearest?   Was poor dead John Goodnight my father?      Uncle

maybe?”

     “Find cemetery woman,” he wrote.     Whoever this woman was,

Michael was convinced she held the key that would unlock the big

bad box of secrets.   But find her how?    Start where?   That was

the trick.   She was only a voice on the phone.    A black figure

at a funeral.

     All these obstacles aside, Michael was starting to feel a

little better, having at least sorted through the shattered

pieces of his unraveling life.    He had the makings of a plan:

somehow find his birth mother; some way talk to the cemetery

lady.

     Still his head throbbed.    So many questions.

     Then the motel phone on the nightstand rang.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 59




                              CHAPTER 12



     November 3, 1955



     The small room bears little resemblance to a seat of power.

Yet terror central it is, without question.   An old oak desk

hunkers against the back wall, unadorned with the customary cozy

family portraits and personal knick-knacks.   An ancient green

ink blotter, small lamp with tattered shade and dog-eared

calendar are its only accoutrements.   Blackened windows cast a

sinister gloom into every corner.   Sunlight is not welcome here.

A photograph of J. Edgar Hoover hangs on one wall.    Upside down.

     The small man nervously paces the room awaiting the return

of the woman who invisibly spins her web of fear and death from

this unobtrusive den.   The door opens and she glides in, sits

behind the desk and appraises her Lieutenant, confidant,

protector and surrogate father with cool gray eyes.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 60

     “It’s done,” she says in a voice as dead as old autumn

leaves.

     He nods, a barely perceptible acknowledgement of her simple

pronouncement.

     “Willie Bioff had a very bad day,” she smiles.

     That seductively charming smile has the effect of chilling

the little man to the bone.   He marvels at the woman seated

across from him.   Images of a tiny baby, a little girl, a

rebellious teenager kaleidoscope across his memory.     When did

this savagely beautiful butterfly emerge?    So cold.    So

merciless.   So like her father in so many terrible ways.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 61




                         CHAPTER 13




     Detective Dewey Sosa’s disorganized face masked an orderly

mind capable of analytical thought respected and admired

throughout the Chicago investigative community.   Currently that

super rational intellect was chomping away on the sketchy

details surrounding the Goodnight murder.   In much the same way

as Michael Janaseck was trying to connect the dots, Detective

Sosa continued to sift through the facts as he knew them.   This

collected knowledge was stored and neatly categorized on his

personal laptop, a luxury in the Chicago Police Department,

evidence of Sosa’s senior status on the force.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 62

       While computer and brain demonstrated efficiency and

order, the Detective’s workspace radiated chaos.   A half-eaten

bologna and cheese sandwich poked its crusty head out from

beneath a mound of files, photographs, reports, newspaper

clippings and weeks-old paper coffee cups. The debris spilled

onto the floor and ran up the walls of the cubicle Detective

Sosa called home.   The man was a classic study in contrasts.

     Rounding the corner into this paper jungle Detective Tucker

“Tuck” Small cleared away a relatively junk-free space and

perched on the edge of his partner’s desk. Detective Small

carried the lifelong burden of a highly inappropriate surname,

given his 290 pound six foot seven inch frame.   When introduced

to Detective Small most people either broke into uncontrolled

laughter, spewed whatever they were drinking across the room or

figured somebody was pulling their leg.

     “Working late?” Sosa greeted his cohort.

     “Late, early, can’t tell the fuckin’ difference anymore,”

Small answered sourly.

     Tuck was the perfect counterpoint to his partner’s

analytical approach to police work.   A tenacious information

collector, Small lived at the DMV, the Courthouse, the Chicago

Library, County Records, wherever information could be gathered

and examined.   His nose could routinely be found buried in

newspaper files, ballistics reports and rap sheets, constantly
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 63

supplying data to feed his partner’s appetite for facts

pertaining to whatever case they might be working.    Sosa was the

brain and Small the legs, interviewing witnesses, checking

evidence, chasing down leads.

     “Got some interesting shit on Mr. Goodnight,” Small

offered.

     “Interesting as in helpful?   Or just interesting

academically?” Sosa enquired dryly.

     “You’re the genius, you tell me.   Our man was born in

Chicago on October 2, 1935.   Name on the birth certificate – are

you ready for this – is John Karl Guzik.    Ring any bells?”

     “Guzik, Guzik, lets see.   Sex offender?   Preferred old

ladies?    Like to dress up in their underwear?”

     “Nope, you’re thinkin’ of John Boy Gupcheck.    Married his

grandmother. Our boy is John Karl Guzik. His father was,” Small

paused for dramatic effect, “Jake Guzik.”

     This last bit, delivered as if dropping a major bombshell,

did not generate even a ripple of recognition from its intended

target.    Sosa continued to stare at his partner with a blank

expression on his Picasoesque face.

     “Dewey, c’mon. Jake ‘Greasy Thumb’ Guzik?     Hello?”   Small

flipped open a legal pad covered with chicken scratch notes.

Technology, again in contrast to his partner’s M.O., was clearly
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 64

not this investigator’s style.   From his transcribed research

material the detective read:

     “Jake Guzik was known as the Chicago mob’s financial

     genius.   A pimp, his friendship with mob leader Al Capone

     began when he overheard two gangsters planning Capone’s

     murder, and quickly got word to Capone of the plot.    In

     gratitude, Capone took him into his organization, and when

     he discovered Guzik’s financial aptitude, eventually made

     him treasurer of his outfit.   A major part of Guzik’s job

     was paying off local police and political leaders, which is

     where he got the nickname ‘Greasy Thumb.’   He endeared

     himself to Capone to the extent that once, when a local

     hood beat up Guzik, an outraged Capone tracked the gangster

     to a local bar, walked up to him and emptied a revolver

     into his head.   Guzik was trusted not only by Capone but

     also by other Mafia leaders outside of Chicago, and despite

     the squabbles, turf fights and gang wars that erupted

     regularly among Mafia families, Guzik was never part of

     them and was considered above them by other Mafia leaders.

     Although federal and state authorities had long been after

     Guzik, they only managed to land him in prison for a few

     years on an income tax evasion rap, and when he got out he

     went right back to his old activities.   He died of a heart

     attack in Chicago in 1956.”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 65

     Small looked up from his notes as if to say, “Whadaya think

of that?”   Sosa, staring off into space, exhibited less than the

enthusiastic response his partner was after.

     “Well?” Small said.   “Dewey?”

     “Interesting,” Sosa mumbled.

     “Jesus, Dew, did you hear what I just said?    The deceased

was the son of one of the most famous Chicago racketeers of all

time!   And all you got to say is interesting?”

     Sosa kneaded his forehead with both hands.

     “I’m still not making any connection between Goodnight, or

Guzik, or whatever the fuck his name was, and Janaseck, Tuck.        I

don’t care if he was the son of Bugsy Malone, what was he doing

in this advertising guy’s back yard when he got whacked?       Why

was he warning Janaseck?   And why were the goons hanging around

Janaseck, anyway?   At his office.    At the funeral.   It just

doesn’t add up, that’s all.   I’m sorry, partner, don’t mean to

rain on your parade.   This background on Guzik might mean

something, I don’t know.   What did the guy do for a living, do

we know that?   Was he mobbed up?”

     “Sold shoes,” Small answered, a bit deflated at the tepid

response to his outstanding police work.    “Women’s shoes.”

     “Huh.”

     Undaunted by Sosa’s reaction Small offered the latest

report from the ballistics experts.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 66

     “Lab guys say the gun was fired from at least 50 feet away.

No powder burns…”

     “…so Janaseck would have had to walk away from Goodnight,

uh, Guzik, to make the shot.”

     “Right.   And it looks like a silencer on the .38 that

killed Goodnight.   Or Guzik.   Whatever.”

     “Well that sure does sound like a pro hit, Tuck.    Maybe we

should dig into your history lesson further, son.”

     As Small continued flipping through his notes, hoping to

find some morsel that might be useful to his partner, a

uniformed cop joined the two detectives in Sosa’s cramped

cubicle.

     “Janaseck skipped,” he announced. “Left town this

afternoon, headed up 90 toward Rockford.     Checked into a

sleazebag motel about an hour ago.”

     The two detectives looked at each other, eyebrows raised.

A small smile momentarily scrambled Sosa’s Potato Head features.

“Now that’s interesting,” he said,
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 67




                          CHAPTER 14



     The motel phone was a live rattlesnake striking at

Michael’s heart with every bone-jarring ring.

     “This is crazy,” his frantic mind screamed. “Nobody knows

I’m here.   I don’t even know where here is.”

     After what seemed like maybe 200 audible attacks the

paralyzed ad man summoned the courage to reach out and touch the

awful instrument.   A familiar voice issued chilling orders with

terrifying efficiency:

     “Do exactly as I say, Mr. Janaseck.   You don’t have much

time. Leave the motel now.   Get in your car and drive toward

Rockford.   About three miles up the road is a Denny’s Restaurant

on your left.   Go inside and immediately exit through the back

door.   I will pick you up there.   Follow my instructions

precisely or I can help you no further.    Go. Now.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 68

     Cemetery lady abruptly disconnected as she had once before,

leaving Michael with a dead rattlesnake in his hand.

     Brain spinning, adrenaline pumping he made a gut decision

to follow her cloak and dagger directions and get the heck outa

Dodge.    Bolting through the door he took two steps and crashed

into a very large Chicago police officer standing just outside.

     “Michael Janaseck?”

     Wide eyed, Michael could only stare at the cop in panic.

     “Are you Michael Janaseck?”

     Michael nodded dumbly.

     “Please come with me, sir.    The other officer will drive

your car.    May I have the keys please?”

     “Why…where…?” Michael stammered.    “Have I done something

wrong?”

     “You are not under arrest at this time.”

     “At this time?” Michael wailed to himself.

     “But I’m meeting someone.    Can’t this wait?”

     “No, sir.   Detective Sosa would like to speak with you now.

You were cautioned not to leave town, Mr. Janaseck.    I suggest

you accompany us voluntarily.”

     On the three-hour squad car journey back to police

headquarters in Chicago, another new experience for model

citizen Janaseck, Michael struggled to regain some sense of

composure.    He reasoned that his best bet, perhaps his only
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 69

option now, was to cooperate fully with the authorities.    Or at

least give that impression.   There were still pieces of the

puzzle he was determined to keep to himself.   Parts of the

bizarre story he would hold back while hopefully appearing to

answer all questions openly and honestly.

     This was an odd decision, foreign even to Michael himself.

The strategy to play his cards close to the vest came from a

place in his psyche he could not hope to understand.     So much

had happened in the last three days to slam his sense of order

off kilter that he was operating on a whole new set of

principles.   Veiled warnings, obscure threats and clandestine

meetings, not to mention murder, had a tendency to do that.

     Another strange reaction, a baffling response to the

unsettling series of events, was even more difficult to

comprehend.   A growing distrust of law enforcement, approaching

animosity, had begun to bubble up from somewhere deep within

Michael Janaseck’s DNA.   Like a very early cancer it was all but

undetectable at this stage.   But certainly there.   And growing.




*********************************************************
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 70

     Arriving at the station Michael was shown to a seat in a

bare-bones room and told that Detective Sosa would be with him

shortly.    He’d seen this place on cop shows a hundred times.

Beat-to-shit plain vanilla table, metal folding chairs, empty

walls painted a lovely shade of mucus beige.

     “Should fire the decorator,” Michael thought stupidly.

     He shook his head and scolded himself. “OK dick brain, get

it together. This is not a game.   Not an episode of Law and

Order.   This is real shit, not reality TV, and if you want to

survive to the next round you better suck it up and start

thinkin’ straight.”

     The door to the interrogation chamber opened and the

detective with the mismatched face entered without a word,

followed by another man Michael had never seen before.   Sosa

took a seat across the table.   The other guy assumed a standing

position in the corner, cradling a yellow legal pad in arms

folded across his barrel chest. He looked like a linebacker for

the Packers, clearly a fellow not to be messed with. Sosa

silently opened his laptop and initiated the proceedings without

preamble.

     “Mr. Janaseck I thought we agreed you were not to leave

town,” the detective said without looking up.

     “Sorry, guess I shouldn’t have done that.”

     “No, you should not have done that.   So why did you?”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 71

       “I was upset. Not thinking.”

       “Upset about what?”

       “Well, see this guy was murdered in my back…”

       Sosa looked up and shot Michael a glare that would sour

milk.

       “Mr. Janaseck help me out here,” the detective said.    “I’m

having a hard time understanding why you’re taking this

attitude.”

       “What attitude?” Michael pleaded defensively.

       “The uncooperative, evasive, disagreeable attitude of

someone who has something to hide,” Sosa clarified angrily.

       “Hey, I’m trying to…”

       “I must remind you again that we are conducting a murder

investigation here.    Not issuing a citation for jaywalking.

Homicide, Mr. Janaseck, is a very serious crime.    And

obstruction of justice is equally serious.    You are walking

closer to the edge of that illegal act than I think you realize,

sir.    So I’m going to instruct you again to cooperate openly and

honestly and answer my questions as forthrightly as possible.

Will you do that?”

       “I’ll do my best,” Michael replied weakly.

       “What caused you to drive to the outskirts of Rockford and

check into a low rent motel, Michael?    You said you were upset.

About what?”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 72

     “I had a disturbing conversation with my parents.”

     “Disturbing in what way?”

     Michael swallowed hard.

     “I was told that I was adopted,” he said quietly.

     The room grew still for a moment, the only sound being

Sosa’s computer keyboard clatter.

     “Well, I can understand how that could be upsetting,” the

detective offered in a somewhat softer tone of voice, continuing

his questioning in a less belligerent manner.

     “Can we go back to the Goodnight burial for a moment?    Why

did you attend that service, sir?”

     “Well, the man was killed in my back yard.    I guess I just

wanted to pay my respects.”

     “But you didn’t know Mr. Goodnight.”

     “No.”

     “That’s a little odd, don’t you think?”

     “I suppose maybe.   This whole thing is more than just a

little odd.”

     “Did you know Mr. Goodnight’s given name was Guzik?”    Sosa

searched Michael’s face for some reaction.

     “No.”

     “You apparently recognized his sister.”

     “What?”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 73

     “Eva Bogner.   At the funeral.   You stared at each other

just before you high tailed it for the parking lot.”

     Tapping into some newly developed ability to mask his

feelings Michael kept his face blank, ignoring the hot-wired

shocks that ricocheted through his head at the mention of

cemetery lady, her relationship to Goodnight, and her name.

     “Detective Sosa, as I’ve said countless times before,”

Michael responded quietly, “I don’t know John Goodnight, or

Guzik, or whatever his name was.   And I certainly have no

knowledge of any sister.   I had nothing to do with this horrible

crime except that it happened on my property. I’m trying to be

as helpful as I can, but the last few days have been brutal.

I’m tired, probably not thinking straight.     I really need to go

home and get some rest.    Could we possibly continue this

tomorrow?”

     Sosa looked at his partner.   Small offered a small shrug.

     “All right Mr. Janaseck.     Go home.   Get some sleep.

We’ll call you when we need you.   But be available, please.”

     “Thanks, Detective.   I appreciate it.”

     As Michael left the room he overheard Sosa say, “Tuck, have

you spoken with the Bogner woman yet?”

     “Not yet, she hasn’t been home.”

     “Well, lets try again tomorrow.    You should go get some

sleep too.”
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 74

     As Michael picked up his keys and headed to his car, going

home and sleeping was the last thing on his mind.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 75




                           CHAPTER 15




     Driving with Small to Eva Bogner’s house in the Chicago

suburb of Skokie, Dewey Sosa continued to crunch facts and

examine suspicions in his ever-active brain.    With no

appreciable success.    He seldom accompanied his partner on

interviews like this, but it was a fine Sunday morning, and he

was getting nowhere with his investigation into Who Killed John

Goodnight.    “Why sit at home or in the office and stew?” he

figured.   Bogner was a thin thread, but just about the only

connection left worth exploring.

     “This it?’ Sosa asked as they pulled in front of a handsome

colonial in the old money section of town.

     “Yeah.   1205 Highland,” Small said, checking his notes.

     “Nice,” Sosa observed.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 76

     “Husband was some big shot in baking – left Eva pretty well

off when he died five years ago.”

     The two detectives walked up the manicured flagstone path

and rang the bell, an effort they found unnecessary as the

entryway door stood ajar.    The men looked at each other,

simultaneously reaching for their weapons.

     “Mrs. Bogner?” Small shouted as he gently pushed open the

door.

     “Hello?”

     Guns drawn, Sosa and Small entered the front hall.      To

their right a large den displayed either a massive lack of

housekeeping skills or a violent intrusion.   A desk was emptied

of its contents, shards of broken pottery littered the floor, a

painting was slashed and ripped from its frame.

     Sweeping weapons in every direction, Sosa and Small

proceeded carefully through the house, finding similar scenes of

destruction in every room.    In the master bedroom at the rear of

the home rested the very dead body of Eva Bogner, tied to a

chair, badly beaten and displaying a bullet hole in her

forehead.

     “I’ll call the lab guys and coroner,” Sosa said.     “And

lets get Mr. Janaseck back downtown.    Too many people around

that guy are dying to suit me.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 77

     “Right,” Small agreed, heading off to clear the rest of the

premises.

     Two hours later the detectives sat in the front room

surrounded by photographers snapping photos and technicians

dusting surfaces in the busy aftermath of a murder scene.      The

body of Eva Loraine Bogner, sister of John Karl Guzik/Goodnight,

daughter of Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik had been removed to the

morgue.

     Nine hundred miles away, Michael Janaseck was sleeping off

the latest shock to his wounded system. His exact location was a

remote cabin on Big Bear Lake near Bemidji, Minnesota.     Home of

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

     Leaving police headquarters the day before, Michael had

raced to the Bogner home, having no difficulty finding the place

with a little help from Google. After discovering cemetery lady

dead in her bedroom, he frantically searched everywhere for some

scrap of evidence that might help make sense of the nightmare

that had become his new existence.   A panicked Michael,

desperate to escape the terror of two murders visited upon

strangers who seemed to be trying to protect him, then drove

like a madman to a distant refuge where he felt safe.    And

invisible.

     Twenty-four hours later there would be a warrant issued for

his arrest.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 78




                          CHAPTER 16



     “Who am I?”

     The question circled around and around in Michael’s head as

he stared out the window of Cabin 4 at the glittering blue water

beyond.   One week ago he had been so sure of the answer.    So

confident of his place in the world.     So certain of his past,

his future, his sense of self.   Now the question haunted him.

Tormented his days.   Stalked his dreams.

     He understood on a pragmatic level that he was probably a

fugitive now, wanted by the law.   Even though he’d committed no

crime beyond fleeing for his life.     He was also very aware that

he was being hunted, pursued by a deadly element that wanted

something from him because of…there it was again… who he was.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 79

     Whoever he might be, Michael also sensed that he was

changing.   Evolving like some sea creature growing a hard

protective shell to ward off predators.   He realized at some

primary level that he was not the same man who boarded commuter

trains in the morning and made love to his wife at night.

     Thoughts of Vanessa racked him with guilt.   He had not

spoken with her since Friday, had simply run, his only thought

being escape.   Leaving the Bogner house he had dashed home,

grabbed some clothes and his computer and blindly hit the

highway with very little consideration of the consequences.

Vanessa would be back from her lake trip now, undoubtedly

frantic, wondering where her husband was, if he was safe,

dealing with the police.

     Michael longed to contact the one person in the world he

knew he could trust, but feared that calling on his cell phone

might be a dangerous move.   The police, or worse, the killers,

might somehow be able to pinpoint his position if he used his

phone.   He was not sure how all that worked, but had a vague

intuition that technology had the power to trap him in this way.

There was so much to learn about this new business of running

and hiding.   And he was such a rookie at the game.

     But part of Michael’s old self that had morphed into the

new fugitive Michael maintained a strong bias for action.      Like
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 80

an old colleague in the ad biz used to say, “Honk, wave, do

something”

     “I have to take the risk,” he rationalized, “even if my

home phone is tapped.    I have to talk to Vanessa.”

     Leaving the relative safety of his cabin retreat he drove

into town and used a pay phone to call his wife at home.     She

answered on the second ring, sounding distraught and frightened.

     “Hello?”

     “Baby, it’s me.”

     “Michael, oh my God, where are you?      Are you OK?”

     “I’m fine, Van.    But I can’t talk long, so please listen.

I’m OK, just have to stay away for awhile until I can figure out

who…”

     “Baby, the police have been here – they’re looking for you

– what’s happening…”

     “I know, I know.    Look, I don’t want you involved in this,

whatever it is, so until I can get some answers just stay cool,

don’t tell anybody I’ve called, OK?    Van?    OK?

     “Yeah, I guess.    But I’m so scared.”

     “So am I baby.    But we’ll get through this, I promise.”

     “Why don’t you just let the police handle this, Michael?       I

don’t understand.”

     Michael hesitated, not sure if he understood himself.
                                                 Brahl / Bloodlines / 81

     “Just give me some time, Van.     I need to protect you my

way, and it’s best I stay out of sight for awhile.        Now I gotta

go baby…

     “Mike?”

     “Yeah?”

     “A letter came today marked “PERSONAL,” with the return

address E. Bogner.    Should I show the police?”

     “No, no Vanessa.   Don’t do that.”

     Michael’s heart pounded so hard he could barely hear.

     “Do you have it there with you?”

     “Uh huh.”

     “Open it.   Read it to me. Hurry, hon.”

     Vanessa tore open the envelope, reported in a shaky

whisper, “There’s nothing in here but a key, to a locker it

looks like.    Number 537.   That’s it, Michael.     What does this

mean?   What’s going on?” she sobbed, on the edge of hysteria.

     “I don’t know.   I’ll find out.    Don’t cry.     I gotta go now,

baby.   Please trust me.     It’s gonna be OK.    I love you, Van.”

     Hanging up the phone was like slicing an artery in Michael

Janaseck’s heart.     He missed his wife terribly.      Longed for his

old life of structure and safety.     Feared the horror that might

be lurking around the next corner, up the street.        Felt so

pitifully incapable of navigating this strange territory alone.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 82

     Driving back to his cabin refuge Michael was only certain

of one thing: he needed help.   Couldn’t do this by himself.

Required an ally he could trust to find answers on his behalf.

Bobby Kramer was an old college pal.   An attorney living in

Minneapolis.   That would be Michael’s next call.   An invitation

to ‘ol Bobby K. to come up to the cabin for a little fishing

expedition.
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 83




                                  CHAPTER 17



       July 2, 1956



       “I’m pregnant.”

       The statement delivered so matter-of-factly explodes like a

live grenade in the hands of the small man in the dark blue

pinstripe suite.      The exquisite black widow of the Chicago

underworld stares across the desk at her closest ally and

protector without a hint of emotion in her cool gray eyes.        He

reacts with the mixture of worry, compassion, fear and concern

any father would feel for a child he raised.      In this case,

swirling emotions multiplied a hundredfold given the unique

position occupied by the woman facing him across the old desk.

       “I’m going to have the baby.    I want you to find a good

home for it.    I want it as far removed from our world as we can

get.    It must never know who I am, what we do, how we live.      Do

you understand?”

       He nods grimly.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 84

     “Who is…” he mutters.

     “It doesn’t matter,” she cuts him off with a switchblade

slash, silencing further discussion.

     “None of that matters.   Just take care of this for me.

Like you’ve always taken care of things for me.     Nobody can

know.   I will stay hidden…even deeper now…until…

     Just do it.”

     Again the man is forced to remember the father of the woman

delivering these cold-blooded marching orders.      That

historically brutal man, devoid of all humanity.     The beautiful

daughter living proof that his blood runs cold in her veins.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 85




                                 CHAPTER 18



     Sosa and Small had lunch every Monday at The Billy Goat

Tavern on Lower Wacker Drive below Michigan Avenue.

Cheeseburgers, no fries, chips.    The topic of conversation was

typically whatever case or cases they might be working.     Today

between huge bites of greasy-delicious burgers The Guzik/Bogner

Murders were on the menu at “The Goat.”

     “Neighbors any help?” Sosa mumbled around a massive mound

of ground round.

     “Not really,” Small said.    “Somebody saw a car cruising by

the house, blue or black they thought.    But no license plate ID.

Nobody heard gunshots.”

     “Silencer again.   Same M.O.,” Sosa declared.

     “Right.”
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 86

     “Beat the crap outa the lady first, though.      And tore up

the place.   They were looking for something.     And Eva wouldn’t

tell ‘em where it was.”

     “Uh huh.

     “These are pro jobs, Tuck.    And Janaseck is not by any

stretch of the imagination a professional hit man,” Sosa said

with conviction.

     “But his prints were all over the Bogner place,” Small

insisted.    “Lab guys boosted a glass from his house after the

Guzik killing, and they match.    Plus he sure has disappeared.

Which definitely makes him a person of interest in my book.”

     “Still doesn’t add up.    We’ve checked this guy out

backwards and forwards and he’s been a straight arrow all his

life.   Doesn’t have a parking ticket on his record.     So how and

why does Mr. Model Citizen suddenly become an experienced

trigger man?     Doesn’t make sense.”

     “What about mob vendetta,” Small changed the subject,

wondering out loud.   ”Son and daughter of famous Outfit bagman.

Age-old grudge against Jake Guzik.      That angle work at all,

Sherlock?”

     “Well, the goombas sure waited a long time to get their

revenge, if you play that out, pal.      I mean those two

practically had one foot each in the grave.      Why wait till now

to whack ‘em?    Besides, Goodnight was warning Janaseck about
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 87

something or somebody.    And then there’s the goon at the guy’s

office.   Nope, the revenge dog doesn’t hunt, partner.”

     Tuck slathered more ketchup on his burger, making sure his

arteries were properly clogged.

     “OK, fine.    But I’m still gonna stroll a little further

down the old Guzik trail.    Right now it seems like the only

place to go with any potential.”

     Sosa nodded in reluctant agreement.

     “Gotta get Janaseck back in here, though,” he said.      “How

the fuck did he get away, anyway?    Where is that son of a

bitch?”

     “He just drove away, Dew.    We didn’t put anybody on him

when he left our place yesterday.    Probably should have.”

     “No shit.”

     “He must have headed straight to Eva Bogner’s, then

skedaddled for parts unknown.”

     “She was dead before he got there, right?” Sosa speculated.

     “Yeah. Forensics confirmed time of death was hours before.”

     “But the guy was looking for something in her house, Tuck.

Like you said, his prints were all over the place.    Janaseck

knew Eva Bogner.    He was lying about that.”

     “Some time after he left there he stopped at an ATM and

grabbed some cash.    We’re watching his bank, phones, the usual
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 88

stuff.   But with a twelve hour head start, he could be just

about anywhere.”

     “Think I’ll spend some time with mommy and daddy, see what

this adoption shit is all about,” Sosa said.

     “You figure Goodnight coulda been Janaseck’s old man?”

     “Don’t know.    Should be easy enough to find out.”

     “Well, if you want me I’ll be at the library, buried in the

fascinating history of Chicago organized crime.”

     “Don’t say buried,” Sosa chuckled.    “Why not use my

computer?   See what you can find on the Internet?”

     “No thanks.    I’ll stick to the old-fashioned system named

after my partner.”

     Sosa gave Small a blank look.

     “Dewey Decimal.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 89




                           CHAPTER 19




     “Any bites?” Michael asked his fishing companion.

     “Not counting mosquitoes, no,” Bobby Kramer replied.

     Michael and his lawyer pal from Minneapolis had been out on

Big Bear Lake since sunrise, with little to show for their

efforts.    Bobby arrived the night before, delighted to meet his

old college chum for a break from the mundane world of real

estate law.   Over the course of the evening they grilled some

juicy steaks, tossed back a few beers and caught up on the past

several years of each other’s lives.    Michael avoided the real

reason for the reunion, waiting until the friends had

comfortably become re-acquainted to broach the subject.     Now it

was time.

     “I appreciate you comin’ up here Bobby,” Michael said.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 90

      “No problem, man.   Your timing was perfect.   I needed to

get away.   And it’s good to see your ass again.”

      “Yours too.   Hasn’t gotten any bigger – how do you manage

that, anyway?”

      “Constant sexual activity.”

      “Bullshit.”

      Morning sunlight transformed the lake into a shimmering

field of diamonds as the old friends shared an easy silence in

the gently rocking boat.

      “So, what’s the real reason we’re up here in God’s country,

Mike?” Bobby asked quietly.    “You were never that big on

fishin’.”

      “Fish don’t like me.   I think they see me coming,” Michael

admitted.   Gazing out at the lake he took a deep breath and dove

in.

      “I’m in big trouble, Bobby.   I need your help.”

      “What, you get some secretary knocked up?    Didn’t ‘ol

Seymour tell ya to keep it in your pants, boy?”

      “No, nothin’ like that,” Michael chuckled uncomfortably.

“Wish it was that simple.”

      Bobby waited patiently giving his friend the time he needed

to get around to whatever was chewing on him.     Finally Michael

let loose a volley of what sounded, even to him, like a wild

plot hatched in a Hollywood studio.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 91

     “Well, it seems I’m being hunted by killers who murdered

two people who were trying to protect me, I’m probably wanted by

the police, and Seymour and Edna just gave me the news that I’m

adopted.”

     “Oh is that all?” Bobby laughed.   “I thought you said big

trouble.”

     The look Michael leveled at his friend conveyed sober

sincerity mixed with real fear and desperate hope for

understanding.

     “I’m serious, Bob.   This is no joke.”

     Bobby Kramer was a small man, angular facial features

softened by hazel green eyes that gave the impression they had

seen it all and could deal with just about anything the world

might dish up.   Those eyes stared at Michael now in disbelief,

registering for an instant total shock before refocusing and

gaining a degree of control.

     “You got a fish there, bud,” Michael said, nodding at the

twitching pole in his friend’s hands.

     “Jesus, Mike,” Bobby said, ignoring the action on his line.

“Are you shitin’ me?   You better start at the top, goddammit.

Holy crap, Mike!”

     For the next half hour, fishing abandoned, Michael walked

Bobby through the unreal events of the past week, beginning with

the cryptic email through John Goodnight’s murder to the killing
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 92

of Eva Bogner and Michael’s helter skelter flight to this hiding

place in the woods.

     “Whoa,” was all his pal could muster. “You gotta go to the

cops, man.”

     “No, can’t do that.”

     “Why not?   Let them handle this, Mike. You haven’t done

anything wrong. Let the authorities do their thing.”

     “Yeah, like they’ve done such a great job so far,” Michael

shot back.    “Two people who tried to protect me are dead, Bobby.

Whatever it is these guys want from me the cops are not gonna

stop them.    I need to find out who I am, who my parents are to

put an end to this insanity.    And I’m begging you to help me do

that.”

     Kramer stared at his friend for a long time, water gently

slapping the sides of the boat, whispering its natural rhythm in

the morning stillness.    Finally Bobby sighed and shook his head.

     “Look Mike, you know I’d do anything you asked.    But I’m

just a pissant real estate lawyer.    I’m not sure how I can…”

     “I’m not askin’ you to get involved in this Bob,” Michael

pleaded.   “It’s too dangerous.   I just need somebody I can trust

to do some research for me.    You know, dig into the old records,

check the adoption stuff.    Help me learn who my mother was so I

can figure out why this is happening.    There’s gotta be a

connection there.    You can do that, can’t you?”
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 93

      “Well, I guess…”

      “Eva Bogner sent me a letter before she was killed.

Vanessa is holding it for me.   There’s a key to some locker in

it.   I need to know what’s in that locker, but I gotta stay outa

sight.”

      Bobby heaved another big sigh.

      “Wow.   Crazy shit.”

      “Help me, Bobby.   You gotta help me.”

      On the way back toward shore Michael continued to fill in

more details.    Approaching the dock below the steep rise up the

hill to Cabin 4, he stopped in mid sentence.

      “Oh crap.”

      “What?” Bobby said, turning around to see what had caused

his friend’s sunburned face to go stone cold white.

      Parked beside the cabin was a dark blue Buick.     And

standing on the dock were the last two characters in the world

Michael wanted to meet.

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



      The little fishing boat flew across Big Bear Lake as fast

as its Johnson 55hp outboard could push it.      Michael maneuvered

toward a cluster of remote coves figuring the likelihood of any

roads penetrating the dense woods off shore would be slim should

his pursuers try to follow on land. Shouting above the engine
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 94

and a stiffening breeze, Michael made Bobby aware that, no doubt

about it, the bruisers on the dock were the relentless “They”

referred to in emails and phone calls of the past week.      The

terrible warnings and tragic consequences for the guardian

angels who had issued them echoed once again in Michael’s head.

     They know who you are.

     They’re coming for you.

     “How did these assholes find you?” Bobby wondered out loud

as the two fugitives sat anchored in a tiny cove after racing

across the lake.

     “Who knows,” Michael replied, shaken by this latest

encounter.    “But now do you see what I mean about police

protection?    The cops can’t protect me worth shit.   Jesus, I’m

sorry I got you into this, Bobby.    I really am.”

     “C’mon, we’re gonna be OK,” Bobby tried to reassure his

friend.   “But we need a plan.   We can’t just hunker down in this

boat forever.”

     “You got your car keys on you?” Michael asked.

     “Yeah, why?”

     “When it gets dark, we’ll head back over to the cabin, tie

up at another dock, and if those guys are still there we’ll

sneak into our cars and haul ass.”

     “That’s your plan?   That sucks.”

     “You got a better idea?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 95

     “Yeah.   Call the cops.”

     “No,” Michael angrily insisted.   “I told you, no cops.”

Then, in an apparent 180, he shifted his position.

     “Wait. That could work.”

     “What, we call the cops?   Good,” Bobby agreed.

     Michael dug into his pocket and retrieved Detective Dewey

Sosa’s card from his wallet.

     “After we get away from those guys, head into town and meet

me at Bunyan’s Run.   It’s a C-store right off the highway.     You

can’t miss it. Just five minutes from the cabin.     There’s a pay

phone in the parking lot.”

     “Hold on, I thought we were gonna call…”

     “Stay with me, Bob.   This’ll work.   We are gonna call the

cops.   Just not quite yet.”

     Grumbling, Bobby tried throughout the day to talk his

friend out of his dangerous scheme, with no success.    After

sunset the boys began their voyage back across the lake.

Nearing shore, they saw lights on in cabin #4, the sinister car

parked outside as before. Inside, two hulking figures could be

seen playing cards.   Quietly tying up at a deserted dock,

Michael and Bobby carefully worked their way up to the road and

through the woods behind the cabin.

     “Fuck, man, I don’t like this,” Bobby whispered.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 96

     “Shhh,” Michael hushed his friend.    “I’m gonna make sure

they can’t come after us.”

     Taking a fishing knife from his pocket he crawled to the

dark car and slashed all four tires, silently returning to Bobby

like some kind of commando on a night raid.   In truth, Michael

amazed himself at how he seemed to be adapting to the completely

new persona circumstances had forced him to assume.

     “You ready?” he breathed in his friend’s ear.

     “Wait, wait,” Bobby hesitated.   “What if they put a bomb in

our cars?”

     “Um, hadn’t thought of that,” Michael admitted.    “Don’t

think they’d risk the explosion with them sitting there so close

by though, do you?”

     “I don’t know…”

     But Michael was already crawling toward his BMW, motioning

for Bobby to do the same.    Upon reaching his destination, he

glanced over to see that his friend had, reluctantly, also

secured his position on the ground below the door of his Lexus.

Grinning like a mad man and sweating like a pig in the cool

night air, Michael carefully opened his driver’s side door,

eased behind the wheel, slid his key into the ignition and

turned it to the right.   Holding his breath, he braced himself

for Bobby’s suspected blast that would tear him to pieces.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 97




                         CHAPTER 20



     The roar was deafening.   Gravel, sand and dirt exploded

from beneath spinning tires as the two fleeing machines

accelerated from dead stops to warp speed, careening down a

narrow forest path that could barely qualify as a road.

Fishtailing wildly at the hands of their terrified drivers, tree

branches and rocks slicing and dicing their expensive exteriors,

the BMW and the Lexus tore through the underbrush en route to

the main road, and escape.

     Glancing fearfully in his rear view mirror, Michael caught

a glimpse of two startled thugs, guns drawn, stumbling out of

the cabin toward their disabled vehicle. Cowering low over the

wheel, accelerator pressed to the floorboard, he waited for the

impact of bullets that never came.    Screeching onto the blacktop

seconds behind Bobby’s screaming sedan he allowed himself to
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 98

believe Part One of his plan had been successful, and they were

out of immediate danger.   Now to get to that pay phone and, with

a little help from Bobby Kramer and Detective Dewey Sosa,

execute Part Two.   Michael almost smiled.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 99




                          CHAPTER 21




     “Minnefuckingsota,” Sosa sighed, massaging his temples to

ease the throbbing in his tired brain.

     “Bemidji.   Home of Babe the Blue Ox,” his partner added,

leafing through the report on his desk.

     “Who the blue what?” Sosa grumbled.

     “Nevermind.   You read this?” Small asked his partner.

     “Yeah.   But tell me again.   I love a good story.”

     “Well, lets see.   Call came in last night from a pay phone

in Bemidji, Minnesota, asking for you.    Annonymous.   Male.   Said

Michael Janaseck was hiding out in a cabin on Big Bear Lake.

Our dispatch contacts the locals up there, they send a squad car

out.”

     “No Janaseck,” Sosa suggested.

     “No Janaseck,” Small confirmed.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 100

     “Locals find two Chicago hoods, John LaPietra and a Mr.

Dominic Cortina outside the place where Janaseck was supposed to

be holed up.   These bozos are very bad boys, arrests for

everything from armed robbery to peeing on the sidewalk.    Both

done time.   Bemidji cops aren’t sure what to do.   No outstanding

warrants, nothing to hold ‘em on.    So they cart ‘em off to the

station for a few questions and let ‘em go.”

     “Beautiful.   Probably the same two I saw at the funeral,”

Sosa suggested.

     “You think they’re the shooters wiping out the Guzik clan?”

     “I’d bet your pension on it.”

     “We need to talk to them.”

     “Oh yeah.”

     “Bemidji cops took some stuff from the cabin,” Small

continued.   “Janaseck’s computer and some clothes they think

belong to another guy.   Smaller than Janaseck.   We’re checking

that out now.”

     “If there is a second guy, my guess is he made the call.”

     Small threw the report on the desk, leaning back in his

chair and stretching like an oversized cat.

     “So, where does this leave us?” he asked his partner.

     Sosa gazed heavenward, allowing the fine gears of his

always active brain to slip and slide into place.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 101

     “Well, let’s see.    Our mysterious Michael Janaseck is still

among the missing.   Who knows where, running from who knows

what, who knows why.     We have two nasty suspects who keep

turning up wherever Janaseck goes, with nothing solid to link

them to the murders except maybe their checkered pasts.        There’s

a second man we don’t know much of anything about yet.    And, oh

yes, a small factoid you may find interesting uncovered from my

visit with Seymour and Edna.”

     Sosa slipped this last morsel into the conversation with

the deftness of a master chef adding the final dollop of cream

to top off his perfect creation.    Grinning his lopsided grin,

the detective knew he had his partner’s full attention.

     “The signature on the adoption papers for the Janaseck’s

baby boy was Al Capone’s favorite sidekick. Jake Guzik.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 102




                          CHAPTER 22



     February 27, 1956



     Rain falls in a soft drizzle on the forest of black

umbrellas.   In attendance at the service for Jake Guzik is a

virtual Who’s Who of Chicago underworld royalty.     Bosses of The

Outfit past and present are here to pay their respects.      Paul

“The Waiter” Ricca.   Salvatore “Sam” Giancanna.    Tony “Joe

Batters” Accardo.

     Made men from as far away as Kansas City, Los Angeles and

Las Vegas have also come to bid farewell to the little man who,

over his long career in organized crime, became a powerful

political “fixer” for The Outfit.      Victor Spilotro.   Jimmy

“Turk” Torello.   John Scalise.   Michael“Big Mike” Sarno.

     At the edge of the gathering a woman stands alone,

unrecognized amidst the throng of criminal elite.     She hovers

still as death, a dark angel sent from some unholy place to mark

the journey of Jake Guzik’s soul to its final resting place.

Clear gray eyes beneath her veil reveal not a hint of who she
                                         Brahl / Bloodlines / 103

is, why she is here, what she might be feeling.   Silently as

the rain, she turns and walks away.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 104




                         CHAPTER 23




     The face in the mirror was almost unrecognizable.    The eyes

had taken on a cold, haunted look.    The jaw line and mouth

appeared hardened into a mask of grim determination.     Tiny

fissures cracked the forehead of a man transformed both

physically and emotionally.   A stranger stared back at Michael

Janaseck.

     His old life felt like a faded dream now.    One of those

dreams so vivid at the moment of awakening that vaporized in the

light of day. Less than two weeks ago his greatest fear had been

losing an account to a rival advertising agency.    Yesterday he

had narrowly escaped with his life, on the run from killers bent

on his destruction.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 105

     After making the phone call to Detective Sosa from the pay

phone in Bemidji, Michael and Bobby had driven through the night

to a Hyatt Extended Stay Motel not far from the Chicago Loop.

Checking in under Bobby’s name they launched an aggressive

campaign to discover the hidden truth about Michael’s origins.

     Bobby agreed to spend this time in Chicago chasing down

leads and digging through records to see what he could find.    He

had been badly shaken by the ordeal in the Minnesota woods.    But

loyalty to his friend and a real concern for Michael’s safety

pushed him to risk his own neck in an all out search for

answers.

     One of their first missions was to purchase two prepaid

disposable cell phones that the pair could use to communicate,

hopefully without anyone listening in or tracking their

position.    Michael used his rent-a-phone to contact Vanessa for

one brief conversation.    The couple made careful arrangements,

disguising their real intent in case Vanessa’s phone was tapped,

to mail the key sent by Eva Bogner to Michael’s motel, care of

B. Kramer.   Every step Michael and Bobby took now had to be

cautiously considered.    The awful assumption that their

movements were being observed by killers, or cops, made them

vigilant to the nth degree.

     For his part, Michael could do little more than sit in his

hideaway and agonize over the stranger inhabiting his once
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 106

familiar skin.    A burning anger was growing inside him at the

unfair circumstances that had robbed him of his old life.     A

bubbling fury directed at his unknown pursuers.    A simmering

rage at his lost identity.    A boiling resentment toward his

pseudo parents.    And oddly enough, a deep distrust of law

enforcement, the very protectors that should have been keeping

him safe.

     The sound of a key in the door shook him from his

contemplation, drop kicking his stomach into another sickening

free fall.

     “I got Regular and Extra Crispy,” Bobby announced blowing

into the room with his delivery, heading for the tiny

kitchenette.    In recent days Michael had basically abandoned

eating altogether.    He was hungry now, but only for information

his friend might be bringing to the table.

     “Thanks, maybe later.    What did you find out, anything?”

     “Hey, gimme a break, I’m starving here” Bobby complained.

“I’ve been poundin’ the pavement since dawn while you were

hangin’ around watching Days of our Fuckin’ Lives.”

     “OK, OK.    Talk while you eat.”

     Between mouthfuls of Kentucky Fried Bobby reported the

results of his efforts.    Michael listened, becoming more and

more agitated and bewildered as the details unfolded.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 107

     “Well,” Bobby began, “luckily the adoption records were not

sealed, so I got that far at least.    Bad news is there was no

birth mother’s name listed on the paperwork.”

     “What?” Michael wailed.   “How can that be?   Don’t they have

to show…”

     Bobby raised his hand to quiet his friend’s protest.

     “The papers were signed by Seymour and Edna Janaseck and a

Mr. Jake Guzik.”

     Michael’s brain spun like Dorothy’s house in a Kansas

cyclone.

     “Does that mean my father was…”

     “Hold on, not so fast there bucko,” Bobby cautioned.    “All

it means is that Guzik signed the adoption docs, that’s all.”

     “But who…” Michael pleaded.

     “This is not unusual,” Bobby explained.    “Even into the

1950s it was a widely held belief that secrecy should be

maintained to protect not just the adoptive family, but also the

birth parents. American society believed that a relationship

between the child, the adoptive family and the birth parents

would just cause undue stress and emotion for everyone

involved.”

     Michael shook his head, trying to put broken pieces of a

dark puzzle together, fighting to assemble fragments that seemed

to be constantly shifting in patterns he could not comprehend.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 108

Bobby watched his friend struggle with this new information as

he chowed down on an Extra Crispy chicken wing.

     “Guzik,” Michael said.    “The cops told me that was John

Goodnight’s real name.    Could he have been…?”   Michael choked on

the words, staring hard at Bobby across the table.

     “Easy there sport,” Bobby said quietly.      “The signature was

Jake Guzik.   Not John.   Jake would have been 69 at the time. So

if he was your old man, he was really an old man.     We’ll get to

John in a minute.   But there’s more.   Are you ready for this?

Because it gets pretty weird.”

     “How much weirder can it get?” Michael said.

     “A bunch. I did some background checking into this Jake

Guzik guy, and what I came up with blew me away.     Seems he was

some kinda big time underworld character back in the ‘20s and

‘30s. They called him “Greasy Thumb” Guzik because he was the

guy who made all the payoffs to the cops.    Handled the mob’s

finances.   Really a major player in the rackets, famous in those

days I guess you could say.    But here’s the kicker.   Seems like

the gangster kingpin ‘ol Jake worked for back then was somebody

really famous. With a capital F.    A guy everybody’s heard of.”

     “What are you talkin’ about?” Michael said, morbidly

fascinated now.

     “I’m talkin’ about Al Capone, man.    Jake Guzik’s boss was

Al Capone.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 109

     Bobby let this bizarre piece of history settle in before

continuing.   Michael just stared in disbelief, unable to speak.

     “I guess they were real buds, those two.    Guzik basically

ran Capone’s empire behind the scenes.”

     “Holy shit, Bobby.” Michael whispered.

     “Check it out.”

     Bobby fished around in his briefcase and plucked out a

handful of articles copied from old newspaper clippings and

historical records.    Michael read silently, shaking his head in

wonder.



     The loyalty between Al Capone and Moscow-born Jake “Greasy

     Thumb” Guzik was one they still talk about in mob circles.

     Starting under Capone, Guzik was the trusted treasurer and

     financial wizard of the mob, and in the years after

     Capone’s fall was considered the real brains of the

     organization.    Because Guzik was incapable of using a gun

     or killing anyone, Capone protected him, and once killed a

     man for him out of pure friendship.    Such friendship was

     not forgotten, and Jake Guzik to his dying day a quarter

     century after Capone’s removal from the scene continued to

     be one of the most honored chiefs of the Chicago Outfit,

     and some say virtually its boss.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 110

     “Guzik had two kids,” Bobby continued, filling in more

details from his research.    “One was John, who legally changed

his name to Goodnight.   The other was Eva, who married Arthur

Bogner, some big Chicago baker dude.”

     “Both dead,” Michael added, gazing at his friend with those

haunted eyes.   “Murdered because they tried to warn me about

something.   What, Bobby?   Who the fuck am I supposed to be that

after all these years the mob would kill people trying to

protect me?”

     “Don’t have a clue, Sport.    But maybe this will help.”

     Snatching an open envelope from his briefcase Bobby dumped

a key on the kitchen table.
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 111




                          CHAPTER 24



     “You up for a little trip?” Tucker Small peered around the

corner into his partner’s crammed cubicle.

     “Sure,” Sosa said, nose down in the mound of paperwork

covering his desk.   “Someplace with white sand beaches and

nekked native girls would be nice.”

     “I was thinking Milwaukee.”

     Sosa looked up, a pained expression on his disjointed face.

     “Why the fuck would I want to go to Milwaukee, Tucker?”

     “There’s a guy up there.”

     Sosa scowled at his partner, accustomed to his cryptic

style of non-communication.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 112

     “OK…what guy?”

     Small grinned like a cat with a mouse in his back pocket.

     “Through my exhaustive research into Chicago’s rich

heritage of crime and corruption I have uncovered a creep who

was buddies with Guzik and Capone back in the day.     Thought he

might be able to give us some inside dope on stuff they don’t

write about in the history books.”

     Sosa continued to glare at his partner with the same

skeptical look on his face.

     “Jesus, how old is this bozo, Tuck?”

     “Ninetyfuckintwo.   Probably one of the only ones left from

those days.   Given the popularity of the Tommy Gun these

assholes weren’t exactly known for their long life spans.”

     “Huh,” Sosa grunted, tapping a pencil on his crooked front

teeth.   “Well, they say Milwaukee is nice this time of year.”

     On the two-hour drive north along the west side of Lake

Michigan to the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin Heights the two

detectives rehashed what little progress they had made in the

Goodnight/Bogner case. What they knew, what they suspected, and

how to close the gaps on all their unanswered questions.

     “Cortina and LaPietra were no help,” Small said.

     “Nope.   Didn’t think they would be.”

     “You still figure those fuckers for the shooters?”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 113

     “I do.    Can’t for the life of me get a handle on a motive,

though.   Or how Janaseck ties into this thing.    We got nothin’

to hold the Bruise Brothers on.     No murder weapon.   No

eyewitnesses.    No prints.   No nothin’ but a couple of hoods who

keep poppin’ up in very suspicious places.”

     The two rode in silence for a time, Buddy Guy blues on WKGO

providing the musical accompaniment.     Finally Small offered his

assessment.

     “Well I can’t help but think it all goes back to Guzik and

the bad old days with Capone and all that shit.     I’m tellin’ ya

Dewey, we’re dealin’ with some version of mob payback here.     The

‘20s and ‘30s were pretty ugly in our town.     And Jake Guzik was

smack dab in the middle of it, with his fingers in all kinds of

pies.   They didn’t call him ‘Greasy Thumb’ for nothin’.”

     “You may be right, partner,” Sosa said.     “I sure don’t have

any better ideas.    Now tell me again, who is this old fart we’re

drivin’ way the hell up here to see?”

     “Frankie Amato.    Made man, son-in-law of Paul Castellano.”

     “Castellano, big Gambino boss, right?

     “Right.    Frankie disappeared in September 1980.”

     “And you found him.”

     “Yeah.”

     “You must be a detective.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 114

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

     The Shady Glen Nursing Home was a low-slung white frame

structure squatting in a scraggly grove of trees just off

Highway 122.    Meandering from a small parking lot a circular

drive transported visitors to the front door of this human

storage facility, last stop for fifty-three nearly departed

souls.

     “I hate these places,” Sosa said.

     “Does that mean you won’t come visit me?” Small asked.

     “They smell like piss and dying.”

     “OK Ray of Sunshine, punch in the damn code there, willya?”

     The facility was kept locked down day and night, residents

safely sequestered inside for their own protection. Sosa entered

the four-digit number taped to the wall beside a keypad.     The

front door swung open, revealing a sparse lobby and reception

area.    A ragged collection of tropical fish swam listlessly in a

cloudy aquarium.    Three doddering residents occupied the faded

chairs and ratty sofa that constituted the lobby’s meager

furnishings.    Two more in wheelchairs greeted the guests with

vacant stares.

     “Piss and dying,” Sosa mumbled under his breath.

     A sullen orderly directed the detectives to a tiny central

patio where they found the ancient mobster Frankie Amato hunched
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 115

in his wheelchair tossing a ball to a group of very elderly

ladies three feet away.

     “Careful Dew, he’s packin’ tennis balls,” Small whispered.

Shooting his partner a dirty look, Sosa attempted to open the

conversation.

     “Mr. Amato?”

     Whether the old man heard or not there was no response.

The game of catch continued, detectives ignored.

     “Frankie Amato?” Sosa tried again.

     The grizzled gangster fumbled a pass from an old woman in a

tattered bathrobe.   Small stooped to retrieve the ball, handing

it to Amato who looked up at his two visitors, an expression

somewhere between confusion and suspicion etching his beard-

stubbled face.

     “You’re cops, ain’tcha,” the old thug hissed through yellow

and brown spotted teeth.

     “No Frankie,” Sosa lied.   “Me and Tuck here we’re writing a

book about the old days in Chicago.    Capone and bootleg hooch

and all that.    We heard you were right there in the thick of the

action.   Thought you could give us some inside scoop on what it

was really like back then.”

     “Yeah, you’re cops,” Amato wheezed. “I can smell ya.”

     Slowly the old crook’s gaze moved to Sosa’s face, dead eyes

giving no clue if anyone was home.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 116

     “Move over Dewey, let me try,” Small suggested.

     The detective squatted directly in front of the old man,

close enough to invade his space and command his attention,

     “So Frankie, when was the last time you had some really

good home cooked lasagna, eh?”

     Nothing.

     “I’ll bet the food you get here really sucks.”

     Zero.

     “My wife makes an excellent lasagna.    From scratch.   I

could bring you some.”

     Lifeless eyes fixed on some distant shore stared through

the detective.   An ancient woman slithered up to Sosa picking at

his sleeve, loudly insisting that he was her nephew Sebastian

and why didn’t’ he come see her anymore.    When Amato finally

spoke his sandpaper voice rasped with a hatred born of decades

despising the law.

     “You gonna put my name in your book, cop?”

     Small glanced at his partner who silently shook his head.

     “No Frankie.    We won’t put your name in the book.”

     Amato farted, backing Small off a step.

     “Might as well,” the gangster said.    “Worst they could do

to me now ain’t half as bad as dyin’ in this joint.”

     “Whatever you want Frankie,” Sosa said.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 117

     Amato’s vacant expression returned.    Wiping his nose with a

dirty shirtsleeve he retreated into silence again.    Afraid of

losing him, Small plowed ahead.

     “You did business with Jake Guzik back then, didn’t you

Frankie?”

     A shadow passed over the old man’s face.    For a long moment

he sat still, barely breathing.   When he spoke there was a new

edge of caution in his voice.

     “Only when I wanted some asshole wacked.”

     An ugly smile played across the mobster’s face.    The

detectives exchanged looks.

     “But Guzik never killed anybody,” Small said, confused by

Amato’s statement.   “He didn’t do guns.   Never even carried one.

Why do you say that, Frankie?”

     “The Thumb don’t pull no trigger,” Amato smiled again,

sending a chill down Tucker Small’s back.

     “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Sosa said under

his breath.    Small held up a hand.

     “OK Frankie, so Guzik was not a shooter.    Who was it pulled

the trigger?    How did Guzik play in that game?”

     In the cool afternoon sunlight Nixonian beads of sweat

glistened on Frankie Amato’s upper lip. Slung low on his chest

his head weaved back and forth like a bull anticipating the
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 118

matador’s final thrust.     When the old Mafioso finally spoke

Small and Sosa had to lean in closer to hear the muffled words.

       “Nobody talks about that shit,” he mumbled.

       “C’mon, Frankie,” Small pressed.   “It was a long time ago.

They can’t hurt you now.     You said that yourself.”

       Like a drowning man clawing his way toward the surface,

Amato began to change. It was as if the old mobster had suddenly

been whiplashed back in time to a lawless Chicago riddled with

sudden death.     A new look of fear and seething anger filled his

previously empty eyes.

       “Stupid fucking cops,” Amato rasped.    “You don’t know

shit.”

       The old gangster’s ragged breaths came in tortured gasps.

       “Tell us, Frankie,” Small pleaded.    “You were there. What

don’t we know?”

       Amato squeezed the arms of his wheelchair in a death grip,

struggling with some ancient underworld law that in its day

would never be broken.     But he was old now.   They couldn’t hurt

him now.

       “Nobody knew who she was,” he croaked.    “Nobody ever saw

her.     Never said her name out loud.   Only assholes ever met her

were dead assholes.”

       The sick smile played again across the old man’s face.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 119

     Like some long festering infection, once lanced the poison

poured out of the old gangster in a rancid stream.

     “They say the last thing you saw before you got it was so

beautiful it was almost worth dyin’ for.”

     Small and Sosa silently stared at Amato, allowing the rush

of bizarre history to continue.

     “They say she stashed away fifty mil in stolen cash

someplace.   Capone’s cash that Guzik scammed.   Some think it’s

still out there.   Nobody knows for sure.”

     A cloud crossed the sun bringing a sudden chill to the

small patio.   Amato’s face darkened, black memories swirling

behind bloodshot eyes.

     “The bitch didn’t have to do Joey, though.”

     “What’s that, Frankie?” Sosa leaned in.     “Joey?   Who’s

Joey?”

     “No reason.   She didn’t have to do him.    Never could figure

that.”

      As if waking from a dream to the cold light of day the old

criminal began to shake violently, wrapped in a terror that time

had no power to erase.    Before closing his eyes and escaping to

that dead-silent sanctuary where nothing could touch him, the

grizzled Mafioso spit out his final defiant word, effectively

ending the interview.

     “Mother,” he said.
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 120




                          CHAPTER 25




     “I know where this goes,” Michael said, turning the key

with number 537 on it over in his hand.

     “Huh?” Bobby said, mouth full of Extra Crispy.

     “A locker at the Train Station.”

     “How the fuck do you know that?”

     “I’ve used those lockers to store stuff on my way in or out

of town.”

     “Really?   Cool!   Let’s get over there and see what ‘ol Eva

left you.”

     “Uh, hold on pal.   I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to

show my face yet.”

     Bobby stopped gnawing on a chicken leg, visibly disturbed

by his friend’s unstated suggestion.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 121

     “Oh swell.   I get it.    You want me to go alone and hang my

ass out there I suppose.    Sure, why not.   My life insurance is

paid up.”

     “Whoa, easy there Bob.    I know how risky this is.    Believe

me I do.    And I’ll never forget how you’ve helped me so far.      If

you’re not up for it I totally understand, and don’t blame you.”

     Bobby sulked.

     “Eat somethin’ willya, for Christ’s sake,” he said.

“You’ll need your strength to carry my coffin.”

     “Shut up,” Michael grinned.    “I have an idea how we can do

this and minimize your exposure.”

     “Fine, James Bond, let’s do that.    I’m all for minimal

exposure.”

     “First of all, nobody knows you’re helping me, right?

Nobody knows who you are.”

     “Don’t think so.   Should they?”

     “Well, how about your stuff you left behind at the cabin?

The cops and the bad guys would have been all over that.”

     “Just clothes.   I have my wallet and cell phone with me.

They can’t I.D. me from a pair of jeans and a couple shirts can

they?”

     “Fuck, I don’t know.     Let’s hope not.   Anyway, here’s my

idea how we could work it at the train station.      First you find

some homeless person there.    That’ll be easy.    They’re all over
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 122

the place.    Give him or her a twenty, tell ‘em to go to locker

537 and bring you back whatever’s inside.    Promise another

twenty when they deliver.    You disappear into the crowd and

watch.   Anything funny, split fast.   Whadaya think?”

     “How do you know this shit, Mike?    You been takin’ a home

course in Spy vs. Spy or somethin’?” Bobby said.

     “TV, movies, that’s all.    I’m just doin’ the best I can,

Bobby.   I’m a total greenhorn at this crap.    I sell dog food,

remember?”

     “Yeah.   That fills me with great confidence.”

     After an awkward silence, Bobby cleared the air.

     “Will you please for Christ’s sake eat something.    You look

like shit.”



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



     Chicago’s massive Ogilvie Transportation Center, locally

still referred to as the Northwestern Station, occupied two

square blocks bounded by Randolph and Madison Streets to the

north and south and Canal and Clinton to the east and west.

Every day in excess of 37,000 commuters boarded Metra trains

from inside this venerable old structure.    For Bobby Kramer to

melt into the crowd and watch his bag lady of choice approach a
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 123

row of lockers, key to #537 in her hand and partial payment in

her pocket, was no problem.

     “Fuck me,” Bobby thought to himself,    “anybody with half a

brain would know that old gal is a scam.    They’d follow her

straight back to me and I’d be toast.    Great plan, Michael.

I’ll be lucky to get outa here alive.”

     Bobby edged through the crush of travelers, glancing every

so often toward the lockers as his surrogate opened #537,

retrieving a white envelope from inside and shuffling out of the

building toward their agreed upon rendezvous.    He followed her

at a distance, waiting until he could postpone the pickup no

longer.   The coast, he thought, seemed clear.

     Snatching the envelope from her gnarled claw and slipping

the woman the second half of her contract payment he walked

away, dreading the beefy hand that would at any second grab his

arm, dragging him off to some imagined torture chamber where

pain and suffering waited in the dark.

     Having sweated thorough his shirt, breathing a giant sigh

of relief in the knowledge he would live another day, Bobby left

the station and drove to the motel, his mission accomplished

without anticipated incident.    Back in the room he tossed the

envelope on the kitchen table.

     “I hope this was worth it,” he muttered.    “Don’t wanna do

that again anytime soon.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 124

     “You weren’t followed, were you?” Michael said, ignoring

his friend’s discomfort, ripping open the envelope with Eva

Bogner’s name printed on the outside.

     “Don’t think so.   But how the hell should I know?    Like you

said, you sell dog food and I peddle real estate law.     We’re not

exactly Starsky and Hutch.”

     The contents of the package proved to be a one-page letter

addressed to “My Dear Eva,” dated June 3, 1956.    Michael

devoured the handwritten script with Bobby peering anxiously

over his shoulder.



     My Dear Eva,

     If you are reading this I will no longer be of this earth.

     I trust my death occurred from natural causes at a

     respectable old age.     Given the volatile nature of my

     chosen profession, however, that circumstance may sadly not

     have come to pass.    Such is life.

     I have done my best to raise you and your brother properly,

     dear Eva.   I have provided for you in my fashion to the

     best of my ability.    And loved you with all my heart.

     It is with the expectation of your returning that love I

     ask you now to fulfill a promise I made and can no longer

     keep.
                                      Brahl / Bloodlines / 125

This task may prove difficult.    It may be dangerous.

Nevertheless it is of vital importance to me.    I hope you

will treat it with the urgency and determination I assure

you it deserves.

You were never close to Jaqueline, by design.    She was

purposely estranged from you and your brother throughout

your young lives.    I considered this best for all

concerned.    Yet I cared for her equally and remained true

to the solemn commitment made to her father long ago.

She has recently born a son.    We arranged for the baby to

be given a good home, safely sequestered from the unique

dangers of the world in which she and I live.

My request of you, which I am also making of your brother

John by separate correspondence, is that you watch over

this child.    Guard him from a distance.   Protect him should

he find himself in harm’s way.

I hope dear daughter that you know the tenderness I have

always felt for you.    And in that knowledge you can find it

in your heart to grant me this last wish.

The boy’s name is Michael.

Michael Edward Janaseck.

                           Your loving father
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 126




                          CHAPTER 26



     Michael Edward Janaseck paced the motel room, stomach

churning, head throbbing, trying to process this latest batch of

insane information.   He was getting closer, no doubt about it.

Closer to discovering who his mother was.     Closer to learning

who the real Michael Janaseck was.     And why his life had taken

such an awful turn.

     The knowing was cold comfort, every bit as painful as it

was satisfying.   Coming to grips with the reality of his

ancestry was not easy for a man so placidly rooted in a life he

was confident he understood and fully accepted as true.

     “So my birth mother was raised by an underworld Mafioso, Al

Capone’s right hand man, who from the grave persuaded his two

children to protect me from God knows who, God knows why.     Which
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 127

got them killed, leaving me with a big ass target on my back,”

he said out loud, almost laughing at his own spoken words.

     “That’s just fuckin’ crazy.”

     Bobby watched without comment, allowing his friend space to

work through the minefield of emotions currently blasting his

psyche to smithereens.

     “What blood flows in my veins?” Michael wondered as he

continued frantically prowling the room.    “What genes have been

passed along?    What strengths and weaknesses are locked inside

my DNA that I could never have imagined were part of me before?”

     Like a caged animal Michael walked, back and forth, back

and forth, wrestling with the unknown, trying to make sense of

the senseless.

     “The letter said something about a ‘dangerous world in

which she and I live.’” he thought to himself.    “Was my mother

involved in the Capone crime network somehow?    Has she handed

down to her son inclinations to steal and kill like a mother

would bequeath a child the talent to paint or sing?    Like I

might have inherited blue eyes or blonde hair?”

     His brain hurtled wildly through new levels of pain and

torture.   Then, at the crest of the maelstrom, a distant emotion

joined the fight for control.    A calming, numbing sense of

purpose spread throughout his system, pouring like hot wax on
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 128

cool skin.    A layer of cold, dispassionate hardening of the soul

slowly calcified around Michael’s heart.

     His breathing slowed. His pacing stopped mid stride.

     “Where do we go from here?” Bobby asked quietly, noticing

the change.

     Michael pulled up a chair across the table from his friend,

sat down and smiled a small sad smile.

     “You go home, pal.”

     “What?” Bobby shouted.    “Go home?   What the fuck?”

     “Back to MinneNoPlace.    Away from this shit.    You’ve done

enough.    I can’t risk getting you in any deeper.     It’s not

fair.”

     “Now hold on,” Bobby started to protest.

     “No, you gotta get out now Bobby,” Michael said firmly.

“Seriously, I can handle this from here.”

     “Aw c’mon, Mike,” Bobby pleaded.

     The look in Michael’s eyes told his friend there would be

no use arguing the subject further.    Bobby stood, shaking his

head.    Michael came around the table and the two embraced, both

reluctant to let go.

     “You’re the best,” Michael said, tears hiding just behind

the words.    “I’ll make this all up to you one day.     I promise.”

     “You sure you don’t want me to stick around just another

couple…?” Bobby tried feebly again.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 129

     “I’m sure,” Michael cut him off.   “But listen, before you

go I have one last favor to ask.”

     Bobby grinned.   “I knew you couldn’t get along without me.”

     When Michael looked at his friend the smile quickly faded

from Bobby’s face.    He saw something in that look he had never

seen before.   And it scared the shit outa him.

     “I need you to buy me a gun.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 130




                          CHAPTER 27



     “Well that was enlightening,” Detective Sosa said,

gratefully watching the Shady Glen grow smaller in the rear view

mirror.

     “You buyin’ all that crazy shit?” his partner asked.

     “Yeah, I’m buyin’ it,” Sosa nodded.    “The old bastard was

so scared I thought he was gonna pee in his pants.”

     “I believe that is a routine occurrence at Shady Glen,”

Small chuckled.

     “Jesus, Tuck.   A female Mafia assassin that had all those

made guys shakin’ in their boots.    Incredible.”

     “And nobody had a clue who she was.”

     “Hard to believe.”

     “What’s the hard part, Dew?    That she was a she?”

     “Well, it does give a whole new meaning to the term ‘hit

man.’”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 131

     “Careful there, partner.   Your male chauvinism is showing.”

     “Hey, you ever heard of such a thing?   In those days,

especially?”

     “Matter of fact I have.    Grab my briefcase there and look

for a file of copied newspaper clippings marked ‘Mafia

history.’”

     Muttering under his breath about anal detectives and

liberated women, Sosa pawed through Small’s voluminous files.

     “I’m a pretty thorough researcher, as you know,” Small

reminded his partner. “I’ve been gathering everything I could

get my hands on relating to the Mafia or the Outfit or the Cosa

Nostra.   There should be a wire service story in there,

something about ‘Mafia Mamas’ – something like that.    See if you

can find that bad boy.”

     At length, locating the document he was directed to search

for, Sosa read the headline,    “Mafia Dons have company.   Now

there are Mafia Mamas, too.”

     “That’s it.   Read it out loud there, Susan B. Anthony.”

     The article from a July 7, 2002 issue of The Tribune was

written under the byline of one Hillary Clarke.



     A decade after the celebrated maxi-trials of mafia mobsters

     put many of southern Italy’s leading gangsters behind bars,

     organized crime is taking on a feminine face.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 132

     On May 26, three women were killed and five wounded in an

     all-woman mafia shootout in the mountain village of Lauro,

     east of Naples, indicating that women are showing the same

     penchant for violence and vendettas as their men folk.



     “Where do you get this stuff, Tuck?” Dewey asked, shaking

his head.

     “Read those parts I marked there.”



     When it comes to breaking the glass ceiling in organized

     crime syndicates, the Camorra of Naples, whose roots go

     back 200 years making it older than the Sicilian Cosa

     Nostra, are well ahead of their southern cousins.

     ‘Investigators have always underestimated the role of

     women in the Camorra,’ said Sociologist Amato Lamberti.

     ‘We shouldn’t wonder at the sight of women holding the

     shotgun and firing.    For at least 30 years women have been

     taking power inside these criminal organizations.’



     “Wild,” was all Sosa could muster.

     “Yep.   Strange, but evidently true.   Lady shooters have

been around a long time.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 133

     The detectives grew quiet as they rolled through the

northwestern outskirts of Chicago, each occupied with his own

thoughts, both trying to digest all that they had heard.

     “So if you believe Frankie’s gonzo story,” Small said, “it

would seem we’re talkin’ a lady killer of legendary proportions

here.”

     “Legendary,” his partner agreed.

     “Then we got Jake Guzik, godfather to this femme fatale.

We got the infamous Al Capone lurking somewhere in the

background.    And we got Mr. Janaseck.   The wild card.   Other

than bearing Guzik’s signature on his adoption papers that guy

still seems to have nothing to do with the rest of this

underworld bullshit.    No reason the mob should be on his ass.

So where does that leave us, doctor?”

     “Well, actually I believe it leaves us with some answers to

questions that have been bugging me since day one.”

     “Oh really?” Small said, surprised. “Have I missed

something here?”

     Sosa smiled his crooked half smile.

     “What was the last word the ancient Frankie spoke before

retreating into La La Land?”

     “Ummm…”

     “’Mother.’    He said ‘Mother.’   My guess is that’s the name
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 134

they gave the black widow that had all the hoods crappin’ in

their pants.”

     “OK, could be.   So…”

     “Remember the thug who came to Janaseck’s office?      Probably

LaPietra or Cortina is my guess.   Passed our boy a note: What

did Mother tell you, Michael?    Mother with a capital M.    Gotta

be the same lady executioner.   There’s your connection.”

     “Damn you’re good.   I shoulda caught that.”

     “You’ve been busy,” Sosa said.

     “But I still don’t get it, Dew.    Why would these sleeze

bags be knockin’ off Guik’s family and threatening Janaseck

after all these years?    You think Ms. Murder For Hire really

told him something?   Is that where you’re goin’?”

     “Maybe.”

     Sosa’s left eyebrow arched at an impossible angle,

unbalanced eyes narrowing as his brain clicked and whirred.

     “Frankie said something else.    He mumbled something about

$50 million that supposedly Guzik scammed from Capone,

remember?”

     “Yeah.”

     “Said Guzik and this ‘Mother’ bitch stashed the cash

someplace.   And nobody ever found it.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 135

     Sosa paused, afraid to speak out loud what he suspected.

It sounded far-fetched, even to him.    Taking a breath, he tossed

his theory out there to see how his partner would react.

      “What if the bad guys figure Mother knew where the money

was and somehow, some way she let Michael Janaseck in on the

secret?”

     “Shit, Dewey.”

     “Could explain a few things.”

     Small scratched his head and frowned.

     “But wait a second.    How the fuck do we get from

illustrious hit woman of the 40s and 50s to Mr. Average

advertising guy five decades later?     Why would this ‘Mother’

person have any reason to tell Michael Janaseck anything?”

     “We don’t know that she did.    The important question is do

the killers think she did.    Don’t forget whose name was on those

adoption papers.”

     “C’mon, you’re not sayin’…”

     “I don’t know, Tuck.    All I know is we better find Mr.

Janaseck before somebody else does.    That boy is in deep shit.

Deeper than he could possibly imagine.”
                                         Brahl / Bloodlines / 136




                         CHAPTER 28




     The gun rested ominously on the bed in the shabby motel

room, deadly clip and ordinance at its side.   One of Bobby

Kramer’s last missions for his friend before leaving Chicago at

Michael’s insistence was to purchase this weapon.   A fully

automatic Glock 18, capable of firing ten rounds in one second.

     Staring at the thing Michael heard Vanessa’s voice in his

head: “He’d shoot himself in both feet if he had a gun.”    That

observation was undoubtedly true for the old Michael.    But a new

Janaseck model was rapidly evolving, shedding years of

accumulated attitudes and predispositions as a snake might

slither out of an old and no longer useful skin. Still not sure

if push came to shove that he could point the pistol at a human

and pull the trigger, Michael sensed he was slip sliding in the
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 137

direction of that kind of cold blooded rage at a frightening

pace.

     After two weeks of terror, confusion and wrenching insights

into his heritage shaking his foundation to the core, he had

come to this place a different man.    The old “honk, wave, do

something” mantra once applied to that relatively innocent world

of advertising worked in him now.     He was determined to make

the leap from defense to offense and take the battle to the

enemy.   Attack the attacker.

     Calling on his secure phone, Michael had just spoken to

Vanessa, hopefully setting wheels in motion that would bring his

torment to some kind of conclusion.    He missed his wife terribly

and yearned to have their old life back again.    But this call

was business.   Michael hoped and prayed that someone on another

line was listening.



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



     Vanessa Janaseck was not doing well.    She had always

considered herself a strong woman.    Capable.   Confident.   Tough

when she had to be.   But these last weeks since the stranger had

come to her door and died in her back yard she found the days

increasingly difficult to manage.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 138

       Her husband, best friend, lover and trusted companion had

vanished.    The police treated her like an accomplice to a crime

rather than the victim of one.    And she was certain she was

being watched.    Shadowed at the supermarket.    Followed in her

car.    Observed at home.

       Vanessa was on edge.   Nerves frayed, subject to fits of

tearful hysteria.    Her days, once so sunny, were now cast in

dark melancholy.    It took all the energy she could muster simply

to get up in the morning and stagger through the motions of her

life as it had once been.

       She had only spoken with her husband twice since the ordeal

began, and then in short bursts brimming with tension and fear.

The last communication had been particularly surreal.      Michael

did not sound like himself.    There was a hard edge to his voice,

a cold inhumanity that had never been part of his easygoing

nature.    It was almost as if she was speaking to a stranger,

Vanessa thought.

       Even more puzzling was Michael’s comment at the end of

their brief visit.     He urged her to call him on his new cell

phone if she ever needed him.    Gave her the number.    Repeated

it.    Made sure she wrote it down.

       “Up to now he always warned me to be careful during our

conversations,” Vanessa thought.      “Suspected that someone might
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 139

be listening on the line.   Why would he contradict himself like

that?   What is he thinking?”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 140




                         CHAPTER 29




     “We found his car,” Small scowled.

     Sosa and his partner were lunching at their usual Chicago

hangout, chewing on burgers and the Janaseck case.

     “He wasn’t in it,” the detective added.

     “Yeah, figured that,” Sosa said.

     “Abandoned in a lot down on the south side.    Nothing to go

on so far.”

     “Figured that, too,” Sosa muttered.

     “Why is this asshole running from us, Dewey?    What’s his

problem?”

     “Could be he thinks somebody’s trying to kill him.    Could

be he’s right.”

     “Well it pisses me off.”

     “What, that we can’t find him?”

     “Yeah.”

     “Chicago’s a big city, Tuck.     America’s a big country.    He

could be anywhere.”
                                               Brahl / Bloodlines / 141

     “Sure, but this guy is no Osama bin Laden for Christ’s

sake.    He’s just a dumbass advertising schmuck.     We should be

able to track him down.”

     “So long as we get to him before the guys with the guns do,

that’ll suit me fine.    Just gotta keep up the heat.”

     Small shook his head.    Sosa munched on a pickle.

     “You got anything more on the hidden loot angle?” Sosa

asked.    “Talked to any prehistoric mafia banditos lately?”

     Small grinned. “Frankie seems to be the last of a dying

breed, praise The Lord.    Everything I’ve been able to dig up

looks like mostly urban legend.     There is one thing I found

that’s kinda interesting, though.”

     Small flipped through his voluminous yellow pad,

referencing notes slightly obscured by mustard stains and burger

grease.

     “Supposedly Jake had a sister.    Norma.     Supposedly she

blabbed something about records hidden away in a mausoleum.”

     “Records of what, supposedly?” Sosa perked up.

     “They say brother Jake stashed ledgers detailing Capone’s

secret cash reserves in this graveyard.     Story is they were

written in code.    In Polish.   Backwards.”

        “Bullshit,” Sosa snarled, dismissing the unsubstantiated

account, returning his attention to his burger and Diet Coke.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 142

     “Yeah.   There’s a ton of that kinda crap floatin’ around”

Small said.

     “Nothing solid enough about hidden money to kill people

for, huh?”

     “Don’t think so.    But then I guess that depends on how

comfortable you are killin’ people.”

     “Good point.   Any other fairy tales professor?   I’m in the

mood for a good story.”

     “You probably heard the one about Capone’s other financial

genius, haven’t you?”

     “Nope.   What’s the punch line?”

     “Actually, I believe this tale is true.    ‘Ol Al had another

money man whose son became a World War II hero.    Ace pilot, so

the history books say.    City of Chicago thought enough of the

guy they named an airport after him.    Father’s name was Eddie.

Son was Butch.   Butch O’Hare.”

     “Wow. No kiddin’.    I hate that place,” Sosa growled.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 143




                           CHAPTER 30




     The call that Michael hoped for and dreaded came at 2:45

the next day.    His cell phone jangled from its position on the

bed next to the loaded Glock.

     “Its not Vanessa,” Michael told himself.    “Or Bobby.   I

know those numbers.”

     The call might have been from some random survey taker.      Or

one of the thousands of non-profits soliciting a donation to the

cause.   But it was not.   Michael knew who it was.   It was Them.

The Listeners.   The Killers.   His stalkers had found him.   Just

as he planned.

     Finally, contact.

     “Let’s get this show on the road,” he thought grimly.

     The voice on the other end was not what Michal expected.

More cultured.   Less thuggish.   A man in calm control.

     “We need to speak with you, Michael.    This has gone on far

too long.”
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 144

       “Who are you?   What do you want?   Why are you doing this?”

       “We just want to talk.   You give us the information we’re

after and we’ll be out of your life.       No harm, no foul.”

       Michael tried to control his breathing.     To keep his

stomach from leaping into his throat.      Only the strange new

ability to chemically turn his blood to ice water enabled him to

think straight.

       He had to manage the situation.     To get on top of it.    To

direct the flow of events rather than allowing them to pour over

him, as had been the case since the horror began.

       “Michael?   Are you there?” the voice said.

       “I’m here.”

       “We’ll come to you.   Just tell me where you are.”

       “Why should I do that?” Michael said, struggling with the

fury and fear

       “Because if we have to come looking for you we will find

you.    And that would not be good for your health.     Now stop

playing games.     Give me an address.”

       “How do I know you won’t hurt me?”

       “If you don’t give me your location in the next ten

seconds, I promise you we will.”

       The voice issued this statement with frigid efficiency.

Michael had no doubt that the threat was real.       Ten seconds.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 145

      Inside Michael Janaseck a battle raged.     Fall back or step

up.   Be the victim or deliver the blow.     Cold anger fought with

paralyzing fear for the upper hand.

      “What guarantee do I have…?”

      “None.   Perhaps you didn’t hear me.    Or I didn’t make

myself clear.    We believe you have what we want, Michael.      And

we will not hesitate to inflict the degree of pain required upon

you and those you hold dear until you tell us what you know.

Five seconds.”

      In a shaky reply laced with equal parts terror and rage,

Michael said,

      “Arbor Inn Motel.   Room 36.”

      “Stay put.   We’re on our way.”



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



      Across the street from the Arbor Inn Motel Michael waited

in the old Toyota Bobby had acquired for less than the price of

a decent steak at Harry Carey’s.      The old piece of shit served

its purpose.    It ran.   Barely.   Michael owed Bobby, for sure.

Would pay him back someday.     If he was still breathing.

      The Arbor Inn was located in a run-down neighborhood on the

south side of the city.    Not the kind of place you’d take a prom

date for dinner, but workable for Michael’s purposes.      Slunk
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 146

down low behind the wheel he was ready, the Glock in a brown

paper bag on the passenger seat beside him.

     He could do this, he kept telling himself.     Still he

sweated bullets as he sat there in the old car waiting for his

guests to arrive.   Not knowing where they might be coming from,

he prepared himself to sit tight no matter how long it took.

     Thoughts and feelings once so foreign now disturbingly

familiar continued to swim in swirling eddies through his

fractured mind.   How did he get here?   Where had the old Michael

gone?   Who was this stranger living in his skin?    How had he

taken up residence there so quickly?     Could he really do what he

was on this god-forsaken street corner to do?

     Waiting, thinking, the pressure and pain grew more and more

intense, until he came close to bolting.    Running.     Just

running.   Anywhere.   Anywhere away from this insanity.

     The dark blue car pulled slowly into a parking spot

directly in front of Room 36, bringing Michael instantly back to

ugly reality.   Too late now.   Be committed. Do this.

     The low rent motel was a carbon copy of so many similar

establishments lining the streets and highways of America.

Numbered rooms on first and second floors facing parking lots.

The Martin Luther King assassination flashed through Michael’s

feverish brain.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 147

      Three men emerged from the blue car and approached Number

36.   Two of them Michael recognized from the cemetery and the

cabin.   Beefy, nasty characters with “bad ass” written all over

them.

      The third member of the charming trio Michael suspected was

the voice on the phone.    Tall, angular, older, obviously the

brains and honcho of the outfit.

      The three walked purposefully to Number 36, muscle guys

with hands stuffed inside coat pockets.    One knocked on the

motel room door as Michael eased out of his position, paper bag

with pistol at his side.   Inside the bag his hand felt for the

cold grip of the gun, fingers closing around its handle.    The

sensation of holding a loaded weapon with intent to kill was at

once completely alien and totally comfortable to him.    Why this

should be so he had no time to contemplate, his laser focus

occupying total attention on the targets with their backs to him

across the street.

      The door to Number 36 opened.   Surprising all concerned a

man in boxer shorts and stained wife beater appeared, scratching

his oversized belly and blinking in the sunlight.

      Michael stopped in his tracks, unprepared for the room he

had set up as a decoy to be occupied.    The three men at the door

were obviously shocked as well, though Michael could tell by
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 148

their body language even from behind and half way across the

street that surprise was quickly turning to anger.

     He took one more step, pulled the Glock from the bag and

pointed it at the broad back of one of the men in black.     These

people had stolen his life from him.   Ripped him from the sanity

of a world where people took commuter trains to the office, had

quiet dinners in the evening and went to movies.     Shoved him

into an ugly parallel universe where murder was an everyday

occurrence.   Their incomprehensible actions and unwarranted

attacks had changed Michael Janaseck in a very fundamental way.

Put a gun in his hand, finger on the trigger.

     He could kill them for what they’d done.   He could happily

watch them bleed and die on this street for what they’d done.

So why was he frozen, unable to move, unable to act.

     “Pull the trigger, goddammit,” the new Michael whispered.

     “Run, you stupid bastard,” the old Michael screamed.

     As if witnessing a scene in slow motion he saw one of the

targets turn and look his way.   Without thinking, Michael

whirled and sprinted for his car, footsteps pounding in pursuit.

Blood slammed in his brain.   Shouted curses followed close

behind as he dove into the Toyota, starting the engine (“thank

you, Jesus”) and tearing off down the street.

     Michael drove like a madman through unfamiliar territory,

racing around corners, running red lights, flying down alleys
                                         Brahl / Bloodlines / 149

just wide enough to accommodate the hurtling car.   When he

finally slowed and stopped in a crumbling apartment building

parking lot he was drenched in sweat, inhaling great gulps of

air, only vaguely aware of his cell phone screeching on the seat

beside him.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 150




                            CHAPTER 31



     The Janaseck house was a shambles.     Vanessa sat on the only

corner of her couch that hadn’t been ripped and torn to shreds.

Every room had been ransacked.     There was no other word for it.

Ransacked, top to bottom.    Every treasured piece of her life had

been smashed.    Obliterated.   Contents of every drawer, every

cabinet tossed and crushed as if some hungry beast had plowed

through the place in a mad rage.

     “Mrs. Janaseck,” Detective Sosa spoke quietly, reluctant to

disturb Vanessa in her catatonic state.

     “Mrs. Janaseck,” he gently pushed forward, “have you been

in contact with your husband?”

     Slowly she turned to him as if recognizing for the first

time that he was in the room.

     “You must know Michael is in danger, Mrs. Janaseck.     We can

help him.   But he is making it impossible by running from us.

What has happened here is part of what is happening to your

husband.    These people are looking for something.   They think he
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 151

knows something.    And they won’t stop until they find it.    If

you have information concerning where he is or how we might

contact him, it is vital that you share it with us now.”

     Staring at the destruction around her, Vanessa cried

softly.

     “Why are they doing this?” she sobbed.     “Who are these

people?   Michael doesn’t know anything.    For God’s sake, why is

this happening to us?”

     Sosa spoke compassionately but urgently.

     “We don’t have all the answers yet.    Or enough evidence to

prosecute.   But please, Mrs. Janaseck, the important thing is to

get your husband to a safe place where we can protect him.        He

is not under any suspicion now.     The minor laws he’s broken will

not be a problem if he just stops running and allows us to

help…”

     “I don’t know where Michael is,” Vanessa interrupted

truthfully, her voice a hollow echo.

     “But you’ve spoken with him, haven’t you,” Sosa insisted.

     Bloodshot eyes searched the detective’s disjointed face.

Sosa could almost track the struggle going on behind those eyes.

The indecision.    The confusion.   The despair.   He could see

Vanessa groping for a way to proceed.    And was silently

determined to let the woman come to him in her own time.

     “Yes,” she whispered.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 152

     Sosa inched forward, imperceptibly closer to his subject.

     “When was the last time you spoke with him?”

     “Yesterday.”

     “Do you have a way to contact him?”

     “He has a cell phone.”

     Sosa felt as if he was holding a tiny fragile bird in his

hand.   One wrong move, one misinterpreted gesture and she would

be lost.

     “I would like to call him from your home phone.     Would you

let me do that, Mrs. Janasek?”

     Vanessa reached into her purse extracting a slip of paper,

handing it to the detective.

     “He asked me to write it down,” she said, bewildered eyes

clouded with doubt.   “I thought that was a funny thing to say.”

     Sosa frowned, sharing her confusion.    He stood and began

searching the rubble for a phone, found the instrument and put

the receiver to his ear.

     “The line’s been cut.    May I use your cell?   I want Michael

to answer my call.”

     Again Vanessa reached into her purse, this time locating

her cell phone and handing it to Sosa, who dialed the number she

had given him.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 153




                          CHAPTER 32



     The message left on Michael’s cell phone after his wild

flight through the streets of South Chicago did nothing to

improve his mood.   Or digestion.   If anything, the voice sounded

even colder and more terrifying than before.    The angry intent

was chillingly clear.

     “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing Janaseck.

Or Guzik, or whatever you’re calling yourself these days.    But I

assure you it is a very dangerous one that you cannot win.    That

little episode back at the motel will force me to take actions

with extremely unpleasant consequences if you don’t immediately

give us the information we request.    Tell us where you are, tell

us now, or prepare to encounter pain at a level you cannot

possibly imagine.   This is your last chance, asshole.”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 154

     Michael paced the shabby motel room replaying the message

over and over like a bad song in his fevered brain.    The sound

of his ringing cell phone stopped him in his tracks.     Funny, he

thought, how that sound used to signal nothing more than a

caller on the line.   A client with some unreasonable demand.     A

golfing pal with a Saturday tee time.   How and when had that

sound become an adrenaline syringe to the heart?

     Peeling himself off the ceiling Michael recognized

Vanessa’s cell number and relaxed a notch.     He vaguely

remembered telling his wife to call him if she needed anything.

Anxious to hear her voice, he answered without thinking.

     “Hi baby.”

     “This is Detective Dewey Sosa.   Do not hang up.”

     Michael froze, anger, confusion and fear ripping his nerves

to shreds.

     “Where is my wife?   Where is Vanessa?”

     “She’s right here.   We’re at your house.”

     “Leave us alone you prick.    Why can’t you leave us alone?”

Michael shouted into the phone.

     “Listen to me, Michael.   Calm down.   We’re on your side.

You are in great danger.”

     “Oh, there’s a news flash.”

     “We can protect you if you’ll just let us help you.”
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 155

     “Gee that sounds familiar.   Seems like the last guy who

said those words to me ended up dead in my back yard.”

     “Michael, please…”

     “You did a bang up job of protecting his sister too,

Detective,” Michael snarled.   “Real nice work there.   Why don’t

you go arrest somebody for jay walking.   I’ll handle this

myself.”

     In a rage, Michael threw the phone against the wall, vowing

never to answer another call from Vanessa’s number.

     Late that night his phone would ring again, and he would

take the call.

     It would be the last.

     It would be the worst.



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



     1:35am.

     Jangling noise.   Fingernails on blackboard. The awful

instrument by Michael’s bedside screeches its shrill summons,

issuing a final invitation that cannot be refused.

     Groggy, he reaches for the phone, clawing his way to

consciousness from the murky waters of fitful sleep.    Awakening

from dreams of pain and death.

     “Time’s up.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 156

     “What do you want?” Michael croaks.    “Tell me what you

want.”

     “I want your ass here within one hour.     39th and Racine.

Warehouse at the end of the street.    No cops.   No bullshit.     One

hour.”

     “Endgame,” Michael thinks to himself.     “No way around this

one. No way to finesse this one.    No way I’m gonna just walk

into their trap.”

     “I don’t think so.”

     “No?” the voice laughs, a dry merciless cackle.

“But your wife is expecting you.”

     Suddenly wide awake, every neuron fully charging, Michael

crushes the terrible phone to his ear.

     “My wife?    What do you mean my wife?”

     “Vanessa.    I believe that’s her name, yes?   Would you like

to speak with her Michael?”

     “Oh God, oh no, oh please God, don’t let them have

Vanessa,” Michael’s mind screams.

     “Michael?”

     She sounds so small. So helpless.

     “Van?   Baby, are you OK?   Have they hurt you sweetheart?”

     “I’m OK.”

     “I’m coming, baby.    It’s gonna be OK.   I’m coming.”

     “One hour,” the voice repeats.
                                    Brahl / Bloodlines / 157

“You bastards…if you hurt her…”

“You’re late, she’s dead.”

Racing for his car, Michael has one thought.

“Kill them.   Kill them all.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 158




                           CHAPTER 33




     Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District lies just south of

the city along Bubbly Creek.    This nickname was given to the

south fork of the Chicago River’s south branch for its extreme

level of pollution.   Local stockyards had been dumping massive

quantities of blood and entrails into the fetid stream for

decades.   Not a particularly attractive part of the city on a

sunny Chicago afternoon.    At 2:00am the neighborhood was

downright scary.

     Michael brought the crappy old Celica to a stop near the

corner of Racine and 39th as directed.    The scene around him

looked like something out of World War II Germany after an

Allied bombing strike.     Looming dark structures hovered in

various states of disrepair, broken windows displaying jagged

gaping holes in the sides of filthy brick and plaster
                                                Brahl / Bloodlines / 159

fortifications.    The Hawk swept scraps of newspaper and bits of

refuse down the dark deserted street.       A faint odor of garbage

and decay wafted on the breeze.      Michael could imagine rats the

size of Beagles in the alleys and whacked-out junkies shooting

up along infected hallways.      Oprah would not be stopping by

anytime soon for afternoon tea.

       “Keep focused,” Michael warned himself.      “Find Vanessa.

End this thing.”

       He eased his way cautiously out of the car, loaded Glock

sweeping the perimeter, right hand on the trigger, left cradling

the bottom of the handle.       “Just like they do on CSI,” he told

himself ruefully.

       The ugly building at the end of the street had to be the

one.    A graffiti-encrusted door looked like the only way in.

Holding the gun at eye level, arms outstretched, he pushed at

the door with his left foot.       It creaked, gave slightly, and

swung open revealing a black cavernous maw that flipped

Michael’s stomach like raw hamburger on a hot griddle.

       “Shit,” he whispered.     “No flashlight.   No matches.   Dark

as hell in there.”

       Praying not to step on anything soft, wet or squishy,

hoping to avoid tripping over a sleeping junkie or dead body, he

took several tentative steps inside.       And bumped into something

hard and cold.     A railing.    A staircase.   Feeling around in the
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 160

pitch dark for the first step, heart pounding so loudly he was

sure anyone in the vicinity could hear, he started climbing.

     Reaching the top of the crumbling staircase after several

minutes of careful ascent, Michael encountered another closed

door.   Rusted and battered as the first.   With one ominous

difference.    A shaft of light oozed from a crack at the bottom

of this door.    Whatever waited on the other side was illuminated

in some way.    Pulse pounding, sweat dripping and stinging his

eyes, weapon cocked and ready to fire at the slightest hint of

any movement, Michael nudged the door open.

     On the other side an expanse of gray concrete floor

stretched the length of the building, littered with discarded

construction material, cardboard boxes and crates, pools of

liquid and broken glass.    Shadows cast by overhead fluorescent

lights painted strange patterns on the surface and etched

sinister motifs on the walls.

     In the far corner of the empty room, bound and gagged in a

metal folding chair, Vanessa stared at him, eyes wild, head

swiveling back and forth.

     With a strangled shout Michael started across the cavernous

space, all thought of caution and killing swept from his mind.

The irrational desire simply to free Vanessa, cradle her in his

arms and take her home trumped every strategy for staying alive.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 161

     The vicious blow from behind sent searing pain through the

back of his head.    Michael crumpled to his knees, a black

curtain extinguishing all light, all feeling, all hope.



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



     “Why’d you have to hit him so hard, jerkoff?    We’ll be here

all night.”

     Michael heard distant voices on the far side of the roaring

agony in his head.   A radio station tuned to static.   He tried

to open his eyes, but the pain said no way.

     “Who is that?   Where am I?”

     Raising his head inches off his chest, he struggled to

regain his senses.

     “Look, the baby’s awake.”

     Cold water splashed in his face.

     “I’m drowning,” Michael’s wounded brain screamed.

     Rough hands jerked his head back by his hair, let it fall

limply again to his chest.

     “Give him a minute.   He’s comin’ around.”

     Slowly, brutally, the world began to seep back into focus.

Michael felt his hands tied behind his back, his feet bound by

something like a rope to the bottom of a chair.    His head hurt

like a motherfucker.    Blood mixed with water trickled into his
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 162

shirt.   He licked his lips, opened his eyes, saw Vanessa

shackled in a similar position ten feet away.    Struggling with

his bindings sent new spikes of torment through his battered

skull.

     More chunks of reality began to fall harshly into place.

The warehouse.   The gun.   Where was the gun?   Three men.    Two in

white shirts, dark slacks, weapons in shoulder holsters.       The

cemetery.   The cabin.   The motel.   Third man, angular face,

short cropped blonde hair, turtle neck sweater, arms folded

casually across his chest, leaning against a stack of crates

piled to the ceiling.

     This man approached his captive peering into Michael’s face

from inches away.

     “You’ve been a very bad boy, Michael.    Caused us a good

deal of trouble.    But we’re going to fix that now, aren’t we?”

     Looking past the malevolent stare, Michael shifted his

focus over the man’s shoulder to Vanessa.     Her eyes were red and

swollen, a bruise forming on her forehead, hair tangled and

plastered against her cheek.    His heart wrenched in his chest.

Cold fury churned and roiled in his veins.    He turned back to

the man and spat in his face.

     The fist slammed into Michael so hard it snapped his head

back and almost tipped him over backwards in his chair.       Blood
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 163

spurted from his broken nose, running into his mouth in a

gushing torrent.

     “OK asshole, enough with the tough guy stuff,” Mr.

Turtleneck hissed, wiping the spittle from his face with a

handkerchief.   “Now tell me where the money is, and maybe you

and the bitch might walk outa here alive.”

     Coughing on his own blood, Michael shook his head.

     “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

     “I’m talking about the fifty million dollars mommie dearest

stashed away,” he shouted.   “You know where it is.    Talk to me.

Or we start working on your wife here.”

     Licking his blood-soaked lips, coughing up chunks of bloody

matter from his draining nose, Michael’s eyes blazed into his

captor.

     “You touch her and I’ll kill you.    I promise you that.”

     “You’re in no position to make that kind of threat,”

Turtleneck sneered.   “Even if you were, I don’t believe you.

You don’t have half the balls your mother had.”

     “That’s it.   Get him talking,” Michael’s fractured mind

insisted.   “Learn the truth.   Find a way out.”

     “I never knew my mother.   She told me nothing.    You got

this all wrong.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 164

     “Oh I don’t think so.    She scammed the cash with Guzik.   We

know his son John was with her two weeks ago when she died.      She

told him.   He told you.”

     Turtleneck grabbed Michael by the front of his bloody

shirt, hoisting him up off his chair with surprising strength

for a slight man.

     “I want that money, dickhead,” he bellowed.

     “I didn’t know my mother.    I didn’t even know she died.

You killed John Goodnight.    He told me nothing,” Michael

whispered, eyes locked with his tormentor in cold hatred.

     Turtleneck straightened.    Backed two steps away. Rubbed his

temples, stretched his back and sighed.

     “Let me spell this out for you, Michael.     Perhaps you can

see it from my point of view.    You are the only living relative,

the son in fact, of an amazing woman. They called her “Mother.”

Nobody knew her name.    She was the most feared assassin in the

history of organized crime.    There were lots of scary guys

around back then.    But she was scarier than all of them put

together.   An angel of death using live ammunition.    This

killing machine, along with her father figure Jake Guzik, who

happened to be Al Capone’s trusted bagman, stashed away $50

million somewhere.   Nobody knows where.   Nobody would fuck with

her when she was alive.     But now she’s dead.   Jake Guzik’s son

and daughter are equally deceased.    We have thoroughly searched
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 165

their houses.    And yours.   And found nothing.   Now call me

crazy, but to me it seems highly unlikely that Mother would

leave a fortune lying around without telling a soul where it

was.    Without passing the key to the secret along to her one and

only heir.    That would be you, Michael.    Get my drift?”

       Michael stared at the man in silence.    When he spoke, it

was with quiet urgency.

       “Don’t you think I would give you what you want if I could?

I don’t have the answers to your questions.      You’ve made a

terrible miscalculation, and I can’t help you.”

       Turtleneck sighed once more.

       “You see Mr. Cortina over there?    He hasn’t had a woman in

a long, long time.    Have you, Dominic?    Just look at him.    It’s

obvious he needs to get laid.    Right, Dom?”

       The thug nodded stupidly at his boss, leering at Vanessa.

       “No,” Michael’s brain pleaded.   “Oh God no.”

       “I’m tired of this nonsense, Michael.    I want that money,

and you know where it is.     Tell me now, or I turn Dominic loose

on the bitch while you watch.    Then I kill her.”

       “Please,” Michael whispered.

       Turtleneck gestured toward the thug who lumbered toward

Vanessa, a wicked, ugly grin on his face.

       “No,” Michael shouted.   “Wait. Stop. Don’t do this.

Vanessa!”
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 166

       “You can stop it any time, Michael.   The money.    Where is

the money?”

       The goon looked down at Michael’s wife and unzipped his

fly.    The other mobster loosened the terrified woman’s bonds.

She struggled, kicked and screamed through her gag as the two

animals slammed her on her back on the cold concrete floor,

ripping her white blouse apart, pulling her blue jeans down.

       Michael screamed.   Thrashed.    Cursed.   Spat blood.

Pleaded for mercy.    None was given.

       Cortina’s pants pooled around his ankles, white buttocks

exposed as he and his monster assistant ripped Vanessa’s

delicate panties from her waist.

       For Michael, the room became a red spinning whirlpool of

screams, grunts, maniacal laughter and soft weeping.       One small

faraway part of his mind flashed to the times he and Vanessa had

made love.    Touched each other gently.    Wrapped each other so

sweetly in tender caresses.

       And now this animal…

       Another part of Michael Janaseck, the one that had grown

like a bad weed inside him, fed on the scene.      Gathering power,

coldly imagining how revenge might feel, locking out emotions,

replacing them with deadly calculation.

       “Stop. Sweet Jesus, please stop,” was all he could wail,

tears and blood obscuring his vision.
                                             Brahl / Bloodlines / 167

     “Stop!”

     That plea for mercy did not come from Michael’s bloody

mouth.   A shouted order floated in from some distant corner of

the warehouse.

     “Stop!    Police!   On the floor.   Drop the gun.   Drop it!”

     Shots.    Screams. Chaos. Blood sprayed Michael’s cheek.

Hands loosened ropes, helped him to stand.     Vanessa lay on the

concrete floor, a big man gently covering her with his coat.

     Slowly the scene began to descend into focus.       Police had

come from somewhere.     One of Michael’s tormentors was on the

floor, seriously wounded or dead.     The other two lay on their

stomachs, hands manacled behind their backs.

     Michael vaguely recognized the odd-looking detective

directing the operation.    And was that Bobby Kramer asking if he

was all right?

     Still the room spun, reality faded in and out of focus.

Michael’s bewildered gaze shifted to the monster on the floor

nearest him, trousers still down around his ankles.       As if in a

dream, he staggered toward the beast.     In slow motion he reached

for the brick lying in his path on the wet concrete.       Like he

was engaging in the most natural of acts, he raised the brick

over the man’s head, crashing it down again and again and again,

feeling the skull shatter like a rotten Halloween pumpkin under

his repeated blows.
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 168

     Beefy arms pulled him back, pinning the smiling Michael

Janaseck on the floor.   Gulping in great gasps of air he looked

up into the horrified face of his wife.   She was staring at a

man she’d never met before.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 169




                           CHAPTER 34




     Michael rose to the surface of the Morphine Sea, opened his

eyes and looked around.

     Hospital room.   Bandages.   Tubes in arms and nose.

     “Feel pretty good,” he thought.

     He tried to sit up.    That was not happening.

     “Where is Vanessa?” he suddenly panicked.

     “Is she OK?   God, that son of a bitch on top of her.”

     Michael squeezed his eyes closed again.     Opened them once

more to see people entering the room.     A nurse.   Guy with a

messed up face.    Was that Detective Somebody or Other? Spinoza?

Barbossa?   Another guy.   Big bruiser.   Cop.   Oh hey, Bobby

Kramer is here!

     “Ugle bamf,” Michael sputtered.

     “What’d he say?” Sosa asked.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 170

     “Ugle bamf,” Small said.

     “Oh.”

     “Hey Starsky, how ya doin?” Bobby grinned, approaching the

bed and patting his pal lightly on the shoulder.

     “Truble mozale amoblegoop,” Michael muttered, still unable

to get his tongue around the words his partially anesthetized

brain was trying to formulate.

     Finally managing to utter one small English sentence he

whispered,

     “Vanessa?”

     “She’s OK Mike,” Bobby smiled.    “Doin’ fine.   You’re both

gonna be fine.    ‘Cept your head is pretty messed up.   And your

nose don’t look all that attractive.”

     “She’s really…”

     A tear escaped Michael’s eye.

     “Yeah. Don’t worry, bud.    You’ll both be outa here in no

time.” Bobby reassured his friend.

     Turning to Detective Sosa who was standing uncomfortably at

the end of the bed, Michael managed to mumble another difficult

question.

     “I under arrest?”

     “For what?” Sosa smiled.    “Other than a complaint about

some old unpaid bill from some cabin in Minnesota I can’t think

of any laws you’ve broken lately.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 171

     “But that guy,” Michael stammered. “I killed in the

warehouse…”

     “Dead,” Sosa interrupted.    “He was already a gonner.   You

can’t kill a dead guy.    That’s the law, I believe.”

     Michael began to relax some.    Still so many questions.     So

many blanks to fill in.    Truths to uncover.

     “How did you know we were at the warehouse?” Michael

wondered out loud.

     “Your friend Bob here called, said you’d peeled out at 2am

headed for the bad side of town.     Figured something was up.”

     “Bobby,” Michael smiled weakly.    “Thought I told you to go

home.”

     “Yeah.   You did.   I went, got a toothbrush and came back.

Knew you couldn’t take care of yourself without my help.”

     “Thanks man,” Michael said, grabbing his friend’s hand.

“Thanks for a whole lotta things.”

     For the next ten minutes the group chatted, filling in more

holes.   Michael signed some official papers and then he was

tired and needed to sleep.

     “When can I see my wife?” he asked before nodding off.

     “Soon,” the nurse assured him. “Get some rest now.”

     As Michael was sliding back into the arms of the

pharmaceutical gods he thought he saw Bobby deep in conversation

with the big cop in the far corner of the room.    Did Bob look
                                         Brahl / Bloodlines / 172

back toward his friend and shake his head?   Or was that Lady

Morphine playing tricks on his mind?

     “Vanessa,” he whispered, already halfway to the land of

dreams.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 173




                            CHAPTER 35



     Two weeks later.



     Healing, nursing their wounds, Michael and Vanessa spent

the following days and weeks just trying to piece their lives

back together.   It wasn’t easy.   Their home was in need of a

total makeover, forcing the couple to rent an apartment while

repairs and rebuilding were underway.

     Neither one was quite ready to go back to work yet, though

both were getting anxious for that time to come.   It would be

good to get their minds off of “the ordeal,” as the two week

stolen chunk of their lives came to be called.   Work would be a

welcome diversion.   Michael almost laughed anticipating what a

breeze dealing with demanding clients would seem compared to

what he had been through.
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 174

     The couple spent a good deal of time with Seymour and Edna

Janaseck.    Michael came to regret his hasty flight from the

warmth of their caring affection.    They had raised him, loved

him, and even if they weren’t his real parents they were good

people.    He would always think of them as “mom and dad.”   Time

and patience would help reestablish that vital lifeline.

     Michael and Vanessa’s relationship was another story.

While they still loved each other, a new awkwardness had

replaced the old comfortable closeness the couple once enjoyed.

Michael had changed.    There was no doubt about it.   “The ordeal”

had altered him in subtle ways that made it difficult for

Vanessa to open herself completely again to the man she had

married and thought she knew so well.   Thankfully their

affection for each other ran so deep they mutually agreed to

make the effort to get to know each other again.    To become

intimate again.    To make friends and lovers out of strangers.

     One evening as they sat in their apartment, Michael surfing

the Web, Vanessa reading, the phone rang.    Only recently had

Michael been able to calm his nerves enough not to twitch at

this sound.   Part of the road to recovery, he told himself.

     The caller was Bobby Kramer, who happened to be in town and

wondered if Mike and Vanessa could join him for dinner the next

night.    Delighted at the prospect of seeing his old friend,

Michael accepted immediately.   Vanessa suggested the boys go and
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 175

have fun.    She would spend the evening with one of her many

girlfriends, supportive pals who were bombarding her with

invitations to “share a glass of wine and talk if she felt like

it.”

       “So what brings you to town?” Michael asked over beers at a

neighborhood sports bar.      The Bears were playing on a cluster of

big screens and the place was packed.      He was so glad to see

Bobby the noise and the pitiful performance of the home team

didn’t bother him in the least.

       “Oh, dumbass seminar on tort reform,” Bobby winced.     “Not

nearly as exciting as hangin’ out with Janaseck.       But then, very

little chance of getting shot, either.”

       They both laughed.    They could laugh now, as the horrors of

“the ordeal” slowly began to fade into memory.

       The friends talked about all sorts of things: college days,

sports, business, politics, plans for the future.       Then, after a

few too many Heinekens, the easy conversation grew quiet.       Bobby

fidgeted, seemed to Michael to be on edge for the first time.

       “Whatsamatter, Bob?    You OK?”

       “Sure. Yeah. I’m fine.”

       “C’mon, son.    What’s on your mind?   You can tell ‘ol Uncle

Mike,” he poked his pal.

       Bobby paused.   Looked Michael in the eye.
                                              Brahl / Bloodlines / 176

     “You think you’re strong enough to hear some more news

about your distant past, Mike?”

     Sobering up quickly, Michael tensed.

     “Sure.    Hey, we’ve been through the ringer, man.    What

could possibly be more of a shock to my system than what I

already know?    Go ahead.   Lay it on me.”

     Bobby looked down, then back up at his friend, trying to

gauge Michael’s ability to handle what he had to say.

     “Well, I guess you have a right to know.      It’s your life.

It’s just so goddamn unbelievable.”

     “Bobby…” Michael prodded irritably.

     “OK, OK.    Well, seems like that detective – the big guy –

Small?”

     “Yeah?”

     “Weird name.    Anyway, I guess he’s quite the research

junkie.   And he got started digging around trying to find out

more about your mother.      Who she was, what the real story was,

that kinda shit.”

     “What he found was basically that nobody knew her. She was

the great mystery of her day. The ultimate killer for hire.       Did

her job more efficiently and invisibly than anyone ever had

before.   All kinds of myths and stories grew up around her.      But

the details of her life remained secret, and are pretty much

unknown to this day.”
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 177

     Michael sat quietly.    Let his companion continue.

     “Small couldn’t find evidence of a driver’s license record,

no history of schooling, social security, none of the paper

trail that follows every American citizen throughout his or her

lifetime.    But the deeper these secrets were buried, the harder

he dug.   And this guy has access to docs that most people don’t

ever get to see.    He became obsessed with finding answers.”

     “Anyway, the big riddle that Small kept trying to solve was

how Jake Guzik came to raise this lady, apparently from birth.

How did she just drop in his lap?    Who were her parents?

Apparently there were no adoption papers to be found.      He starts

to figure maybe Guzik had some relationship with one of his

prostitutes and this child was the result.”

     Bobby stopped again.    Looked hard at Michael.

     “You still OK, champ?    Want me to keep goin’?”

     “Sure.   C’mon, Bob.”

     Hesitantly, Bobby approached the awful heart of the

detective’s archeological dig.

     “What Small found was a record of birth from a prostitute,

all right.    A date and place that from the rest of his

information matched your mother’s birth perfectly.      But the

mother of this child was not involved with Jake Guzik.      Jake had

a personal code of ethics that prohibited any contact with the

girls he managed.    This woman, your mother’s mother, was
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 178

apparently the deeply sequestered mistress of a married man well

known at that time.   A powerful man.   A man who asked his

closest friend and business confidant to raise in secret the

baby girl he had fathered.   To treat her as his own daughter.

Which tracks with the reference in the letter from Guzik to his

children.   Bobby stopped and stared at his friend, unable to put

the conclusion into words.
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 179




                           CHAPTER 36



     4 weeks later.



     Michael and Vanessa returned to work grateful to have their

professional lives back on line.   As they had anticipated it was

good to be busy again. Good to settle into something like the

old comfortable routine.

     On a personal level they were making steady progress

rediscovering each other, putting the pieces of their private

world back together.   The old ease and warmth had come drifting

in like the tide, embracing the couple in familiar feelings of

comfort and confidence.    While the nightmare would always be

with them, it gradually receded, occupying less and less of

their waking and sleeping thoughts.

     The Saturday night out was Vanessa’s idea.

     The restaurant was Michael’s suggestion.

     A date, she called it.   Time together, just the two of

them, to mark in some small way their passage back to life as it

once was.   Real life as it should be.

     As they worked their way toward The Loop through the nasty

Chicago traffic the couple chatted easily about work, friends,

progress on the refurbishing of their home, the winter storms
                                           Brahl / Bloodlines / 180

that would soon be battering their town.   Arriving at Charlie

Trotter’s Michael handed the Land Rover off to the parking

attendant and walked hand in hand with his wife into the classy

interior of one of their favorite restaurants in the city.

     Dinner was, as always, superb.    Michael lost himself in the

candlelight glow of his wife’s beautiful face.    Vanessa

luxuriated in her husband’s sweet attention, charmed as always

by his crazy tales from the wacky world of advertising.      The

old Michael, the strong, confident, caring man she married was

back with her now.   The monster in the warehouse, the grinning

stranger that had so brutally appeared was a bad dream,

hopefully forgotten forever.

     As the two lingered over the last of an exceptional bottle

of Bordeaux their conversation nibbled around the edges of “the

ordeal.”   Not a trace of the old fear was in evidence that had

once made any discussion of the subject tabu.    They could talk

about it openly now.   A good sign.

     “Do you think there really was any hidden money?” Vanessa

wondered out loud.

     “We’ll never know,” Michael said.    “My guess is that was

all part of the legend.   But fifty mill sure would pay some

bills, huh?”

     “Michael Janaseck,” Vanessa scolded in mock surprise,

“that would be blood money.    We couldn’t touch…”
                                            Brahl / Bloodlines / 181

     “Easy there Elliot Ness, just kidding,” Michael chuckled.

     They laughed together, enjoying the last of their meal,

hating to see the evening end.     Vanessa reached for Michael’s

hand.   Squeezed it.   Smiled a sad funny smile.

     “You OK, baby?”    Michael frowned, his antenna picking up on

her subtle change in mood.

     In the soft candlelight she looked into her husband’s eyes

searching for solid ground on which to proceed, hoping for

guidance on which path to follow, looking for a sign that would

make it safe.

     Finally Vanessa whispered in a voice filled with tenderness

and uncertainty,

     “I’m pregnant.”

     A thousand emotions poured through Michael’s head. Feelings

of fear and anger, joy and expectation, happiness and despair,

doubt and resolve.     Then, a soft smile playing on his face, he

spoke the only words that would work. The only sentence that

made sense.   The simple assurance that Vanessa had hoped would

be there.

     “I love you,” was all she needed to hear.
                                          Brahl / Bloodlines / 182




                               EPILOGUE



     “What makes us who we are?

     How do those microscopic pieces of anatomy we call genes

and chromosomes work with our DNA behind the scenes to influence

personality and mold lives?

     We understand so little about this central aspect of

humanity.   The role it plays in determining the paths we take.

Its impact upon the everyday decisions that collectively decide

our fate.

     Do our ancestors live on inside us, driving our psyches,

crafting our character?   Are we merely actors performing scripts

created by our mothers and fathers?   Our grandparents?    Their

predecessors?    Or are those guidelines bonds that may be broken

as we find our own way?

     I never considered these questions before.

     I think about them all the time now.”



                          -Michael Capone Guzik Janaseck

				
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