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They Tell Me You Are Brutal: Duncan Cochrane, #3

They Tell Me You Are Brutal: Duncan Cochrane, #3

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They Tell Me You Are Brutal: Duncan Cochrane, #3

347 pages
4 hours
Dec 4, 2017


Lies convict, but the truth condemns.

When five people die from tainted pain medication, Governor Duncan Cochrane must lead the investigation. Meanwhile, his son's drunken confession leaks to a journalist with an agenda. Can he protect his home city without sacrificing his family or his office?

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the third book in the critically-acclaimed series detailing Duncan Cochrane's rise to prominence and the personal cost of his public ambitions. [DRM-Free]

"David Hagerty's novel is the third in a trilogy of crime fiction for the thinking person. Each setting is painted in rich detail to create a vivid scene. Each scene is crucial to telling the story. Characters often have back stories leaving the reader to ponder the complexities of their personae, the most complex persona being that of Duncan Cochrane, his tragic protagonist. Yes, this is a page turner, but there is much to be gleaned from each page." ~ Robert D. Knable


  • Book 1: "They Tell Me You Are Wicked"
  • Book 2: "They Tell Me You Are Crooked"
  • Book 3: "They Tell Me You Are Brutal"
  • Book 4: "They Tell Me You Are Cunning"


  • The "Syndicate-Born Trilogy" Series by K.M. Hodge
  • The "Payden Beck Crime Thriller" Series by Michael Golvach
  • "Forgive Me, Alex" by Lane Diamond
  • The "PI Kowalski" Series by Chris Krupa
  • "Banana Republic: Richie's Run" by Glenn A. Bruce
  • "The Oz Files Series" by Barry Metcalf


Dec 4, 2017

About the author

Stories about crimes have always resonated with me, whether it was Crime and Punishment or The Quiet American. Maybe it’s because I started my career as a police reporter, or because I worked for a time as a teacher in the county jail. More than a decade ago, when I decided to finally get serious about writing, I started with short stories based on real misdeeds I’d witnessed. I wrote one about my next door neighbor, who’d been murdered by a friend, another about an ambitious bike racer who decides to take out the competition, and a bunch of others based on characters I met in jail. Over time these got picked up by various magazines online and in print. More than a dozen now exist, with most of the latest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Big Pulp. For my debut novel, They Tell Me You Are Wicked, I drew inspiration from the most infamous event in the history of my hometown: the real life killing of a political candidate’s daughter (though I made up all the details). Now I am at work on a second volume in the series, set two years later, after my hero, Duncan Cochrane, has become governor. He’s haunted by the family secret that got him elected, and fighting a sniper who’s targeting children in Chicago.

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They Tell Me You Are Brutal - David Hagerty





Duncan Cochrane – Book 3

Copyright © 2017 David Hagerty

Cover Art Copyright © 2019 Kabir Shah


ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622536207

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-620-7


Editor: Darren Todd

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond



At the end of this novel of approximately 66,243 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) FORGIVE ME, ALEX by Lane Diamond, the first novel from the Tony Hooper series of psychological suspense/crime thrillers, and; 2) FRACTURE POINT by Jeff Altabef, the first novel from the A Point Thriller series of futuristic crime thrillers. We provide these as a FREE extra service, and you should in no way consider it a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.


eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

Books by David Hagerty



Book 1: They Tell Me You Are Wicked

Book 2: They Tell Me You Are Crooked

Book 3: They Tell Me You Are Brutal

Book 4: They Tell Me You Are Cunning (Coming Summer 2019)




What Others Are Saying about the Duncan Cochrane Series:


They Tell Me You Are Wicked:

It works as a whodunit, but it’s Cochrane’s story and political life that’ll provide the fuel for this series. ~ Crime Thriller Hound


They Tell Me You Are Wicked:

...a compelling picture of the Windy City when it was still in thrall to the mob and its own unique political machine. ~ Shots Magazine


They Tell Me You Are Wicked:

This is one of those surprise-ending novels that are so tightly constructed that it’s hard to write synopsis without giving away an important detail. Hagerty makes a contemporary political point, but gently enough that you can just enjoy the story if you are not interested in the politics. If you are interested in modern American politics, he may help you understand how people come to take sides on a current issue. ~ Scott D. Saifer


They Tell Me You Are Crooked:

Who’d have ever thought that a contemporary novel about 1970s Illinois state politics would be so engrossing. Imagine a David Baldacci novel, but with greater depth of character. ~ Larry Feign


They Tell Me You Are Crooked:

From the beautifully written opening chapter describing the sniping murder of a young boy in Cabrini Green, to the protagonist’s moving into Cabrini Green in order to investigate the sniping (which is based on real events), to the ultimate satisfying, but not entirely happy, resolution, the writing rings of reality and truth. It draws the reader emotionally forward and also conveys a terrific sense of time and place. ~ Theresa O'Loughlin


We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.


In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the First 5 Chapters of the multiple award-winning psychological thriller FORGIVE ME, ALEX by Lane Diamond.





FORGIVE ME, ALEX at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the First 3 Chapters of Jeff Altabef’s FRACTURE POINT, the first book in the extraordinary, multiple award-winning series, A Point Thriller.





A POINT THRILLER Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents


Books by David Hagerty


Table of Contents



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36


About the Author

What’s Next?

More from David Hagerty

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: FORGIVE ME, ALEX by Lane Diamond

Special Sneak Preview: FRACTURE POINT by Jeff Altabef


For my wife, editor, and friend, Diane.

Chapter 1

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

~ Carl Sandburg (1878—1967). Chicago Poems. 1916


Rose Marie Hernandez awoke with a headache, but not an average headache. This one wrapped from her eyebrows to the base of her skull, compressing her brain until it felt ready to leak from her eyes, nose, and ears. Plus, her belly hurt, right where the baby lay against her bladder. Three times already she’d risen in the night to pee, only to release a few weak droplets and return to bed with the urge intact. Her first pregnancy had gone so much smoother, without all the fatigue and nausea that made it difficult to care for herself, let alone her child.

Through the walls of the duplex, she heard her neighbor’s television playing static. The old man next door often slept in his chair (an empty fifth of scotch on the armrest, no doubt) even after the networks had regressed to white noise. She tried to block it out, but the buzz vibrated through her temples. Then a plane passed low overhead, a reminder that her husband, CJ, needed to awaken soon. He worked the early shift at O’Hare, moving baggage from one conveyor to the next, which left him exhausted but allowed her to stay home and be a mom.

She tried rubbing her temples but found the pressure irritating. Then she closed her eyes and imagined the blood flowing to her aching skull, yet with each heartbeat the pressure built. What else had her doctor recommended: neck rolls and shoulder shrugs? Something impossible while lying down. Most nights, the best release came from a good orgasm, only she didn’t feel right serving herself with CJ right there. However, since taking the early shift, he never wanted to when she woke him.

He lay still except for a twitch that told her he was enjoying a good dream, probably about some stewardess unencumbered by forty extra pounds and a bowling ball jammed up inside her. The girls at the airport always cooed and smiled when they saw her waddling through the terminal to meet him, but behind their grins she saw rapacious sexuality. He, of course, dismissed it as hormonal paranoia, assured her that no other women coveted him, but he didn’t understand the female psyche. Young women craved danger and excitement, in all its forms, whether a greasy biker or a married father.

Still, all this rumination wasn’t helping her headache, so one last time she rolled to the bedside and dug in an elbow to raise herself, stomach first. In the blue light of predawn, she stood swaying and woozy, waiting for coherence to return. Instead she felt only the damp weight of her flannel nightgown, redolent of her night sweats and premature lactation. After probably a minute, she resigned herself to the vertigo and padded down the hall, trailing her fingers on the wall for balance.

Outside her daughter’s room waited a backpack with ballet slippers and tutu. Gloria practiced right after school, only if this headache persisted, Rose Marie could never sit through an hour of pirouettes and arabesques. Ever since she’d seen the Nutcracker at Christmas two years before, the girl had become obsessed with the sport. Classes and recitals cost as much as their food budget, and still she needed private lessons to keep up. If the child didn’t turn into the next prima ballerina, no one could blame her parents.

Rose Marie trudged toward the starburst of the nightlight in the bathroom, which in her current state felt blinding. Inside the medicine cabinet lay every imaginable powder and gel to make one look prettier (though after marriage and children and turning thirty, that mattered far less to her), yet no bottles of aspirin. To look under the sink, she executed a deep-kneed squat but again found only more useless potions. At last she reached the aspirin, far in the back of the bottom drawer, then recalled that her doctor had forbidden her from taking any during pregnancy.

Above the toilet, a small picture of the Virgin Mary beamed at her. As always, the Savior’s mother looked beatified with a golden halo, her naked child laid upon her knee. Did she too suffer the pains of pregnancy, or did God spare her those indignities as reward for her purity? Surely the vessel of man’s salvation could be absolved of Eve’s sin.

No angels offered deliverance to sinners, though, so she returned to the hall closet, where a half-dozen shelves teetered with towels and bottles and junk (what else could she call a squirt gun shaped like a duck?). With one hand on her belly and the other on the doorframe, she squatted to see past the antacids and cough medicines, but the light from the bathroom reached only the front half, and no doubt the one pill she could take lay behind all the others, where she’d left it following her last bout of migraines two years ago. Silently, she prayed that it hadn’t expired.

After releasing her belly, she pushed aside two vials of cough syrup, sticky with runoff, and a tube of hemorrhoid cream (at least the gods of reproduction had spared her that indignity) toward a promising container in one corner. It wasn’t the medicine she recalled or expected, the glue on its box still affixed, but the label promised quick relief from headache, backache, or fever, and the top twisted off easily. The blue capsules inside looked little different from any other pills, but they passed without choking her, and she found the gelatin aftertaste oddly reassuring.

For a long moment, she stood in the closet doorway, waiting for relief, and when it didn’t come, she swallowed a second pill. Then she reversed her previous path—a hard shove off the molding to get herself upright, a dozen steps back to the bathroom to extinguish the light, and a dozen more back toward the bedroom.

Halfway, she paused and gripped the wall for balance as a new sensation overcame her: a searing pain in her stomach that rose toward her throat like vomit. Only she’d expelled all her dinner, and this time a bubbly foam coated her mouth.

Her last thought as she fell was of her unborn child, so she twisted to absorb the impact with an arm, an elbow, anything but her belly.

Chapter 2

The tyranny of grain.

That’s how Duncan Cochrane and his staff referred to most of the state, which outside of Chicago comprised limitless fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans. Interspersed among the crops lay small cities that serviced the farms surrounding them, but by and large Illinois embodied the Midwest’s farm monopoly.

Which was why Duncan’s campaign focused on these rural voters. They made up three-quarters of the electorate, and they leaned conservative, more concerned by climate than crime. With the election six weeks off, the governor needed to woo these country folk, to show he was no effete, college liberal from the lakefront. By intuition these farmers mistrusted anything or anyone originating in the metropolis.

Except too much time on the farm would ruin his appearance. With Indian summer stretching into late September, even at nine in the morning the sun bored down with the intensity of a tanning lamp, while a light breeze carried wisps of grass and corn silk.

To protect himself against sweat stains on his suit and hay in his hair, Duncan waited inside his campaign bus while a makeup artist tried to powder away the stress lines from his forehead. The woman proved fastidious, dabbing on a single puff, leaning back to examine her work, taking the governor by the chin to turn his face to the light, then repeating the ritual with another puff, and another. By the fourth iteration, Duncan wanted to push her away, but with nothing but other irritations to occupy him, he resigned himself to the most helpful of them. Middle age and public office demanded that he disguise his weathering with makeup and hair dye like some vain movie star trying to extend a fading career. To distract himself, he studied the scenery.

Mostly he saw corn stalks, rows upon rows of them, reaching to the horizon in all directions. Some farmer had offered his land to the governor’s campaign in hopes of wooing his neighbors, who’d voted against the democrat four years before and surely would again six weeks hence. This latest attempt to make the cosmopolitan governor more country, more folksy, more like the people downstate who hated Chicago and all it offered—the crime, the density, the industry, the polish—proved unsophisticated.

That was the problem with holding events in a field: no control. Not that his staff would acknowledge as much. A plein air rally, they’d termed it, to appeal to the rustic instinct. Except the only voters present were journalists who’d followed his every move for months and who’d long ago made up their minds about him, and they numbered only a dozen.

Out the tinted windows of his coach, Duncan searched for his chief strategist, Kai Soto, who’d promised to fix everything before the boss arrived. Instead, the governor saw preparations worthy of a middle school dance: hay bales encircled an antique wagon with a red barn backdrop. Didn’t the state’s leader deserve better? Country kitsch would not swing a close election his way.

How incongruous would he look standing on the flatbed in his gray pinstripes from Brooks Brothers surrounded by tractors and combines—as out of place as a horse in the rotunda of the state capitol. He may as well have stayed in meat packing, where no office door could keep out the clang of machinery or the stench of raw flesh. He’d quit the sausage company he founded and that bore his name to escape such slaughter, only to return now to witness animal husbandry first hand. This event felt closer to the butcher shop in his family’s corner store than the legislative halls he imagined. Evidently, you could never transcend your beginnings.

At last Duncan saw his top advisor striding toward the bus, his brown double-breasted suit cut fashionably large in the shoulders, but with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Despite his position and experience, Kai always tweaked the latest styles in ways that irked his employer. To wit, he’d stuck a sprig of wheat behind one ear, hillbilly style.

As Kai ascended to the artificial cool of bus, bringing with him a funk of barnyard, Duncan prepared a diatribe about the importance of professionalism, but before he could start, Kai said, We need to change our script.

* * *

Rather than read the usual platitudes about safety and prosperity, all of which sounded hollow, even to him, Duncan improvised. He studied the throng of bored reporters, fanning themselves with notebooks or slumping on hay bales like butter melting over cornbread, and began, I just received word of several suspicious deaths yesterday in the Chicago area. He paused to gauge the reaction of the audience, who all alerted like farmers to a distressed lowing in the corral. "Four people have passed away under unusual circumstances, including an expectant mother.

I’ll be speaking to local officials immediately after this, but until that time I’ll have no official comment. Again he paused, recalling Kai’s advice to look concerned, and framed his face. Except this. If these fatalities are the result of negligence, we will hunt down the party responsible and impose the strictest penalty allowed under our new sentencing laws. As the father of a murdered child, I promise that justice will be swift and severe.

A fireworks of flashbulbs blinded him, so Duncan struck a determined pose. At least for those last lines, he had no need to fake sincerity.

* * *

On the bus ride back to Springfield, Duncan sought a better explanation from Kai.

The mayor already held a press conference, the campaign manager said.

To say?

Four people died from an unknown poison, and she thinks that a medicine killed them.

How could she conclude that?

Didn’t say.

"What exactly did she say?"

Kai activated a VCR opposite them. Cue the melodrama.

The tape fuzzed to an image of grandeur: the mayor standing center stage before City Hall, its classical white columns rising behind her like silent agents of government, as she implored all Chicagoans to turn in their bottles of Remedall to the police. With her man’s haircut and man’s suit and man’s glare, she looked like a drag king, her overacting worthy of a soap opera. She glowered for the cameras, answered every question with grim certainty, and spoke with the authority of someone who had personally autopsied the victims.

Four people die on the same day, and suddenly she’s blaming a multi-national corporation. How irresponsible. If it didn’t imply paranoia, Duncan would assume that she called the press together just to needle him. She’d never said it directly, but in answer to one reporter’s question about resources, she’d called upon every government agency, federal, state, and local to aid her in finding the source of this mass contamination. With only a few words, she’d burdened him with her own corpses.

After watching the segment twice, Duncan turned off the tape and stared out the window at the amber waves of grain. Hard to assimilate that vision with the political dumb show of the Second City.

The mayor—who would remain forever nameless among Duncan and his staff—had employed every means to frustrate and embarrass the governor since the two had assumed office simultaneously four years before. In public and to other Democrats, she blamed everything on the state and its leader, from underfunded schools to corrupt cops to public housing slums. Two years before, Duncan had to move into the city’s largest tenement, Cabrini Green, to catch a sniper there. This show of sincerity impressed local voters but not their mayor, who since the campaign began had criticized his work more than his opponent had. Some party loyalty.

He turned to his chief of staff, who looked as depressed as if they were taking the RV on a tour of Lincoln landmarks.

What can we do? Duncan said.

Right now, nothing. Let the mayor grandstand. You focus on your reelection.

I don’t want to hear any more hysteria on the news blaming us for inaction.

We’ll tell the media that we’re doing all we can to support the city through this local crisis.

You think they’ll believe that?

Doesn’t matter, so long as the voters do.

Chapter 3


Duncan groped for a light on the nightstand but found only empty air.


I didn’t mean to.

Unable to find artificial illumination, Duncan instead waited for his eyes to focus. Once they did, he noticed his wife missing. He tried to recall going to sleep the night before, but specifics eluded him. What reason did she have for being absent at—the digital clock read 3:16? Then he recalled that she’d left for Chicago two days prior.

I didn’t mean to say anything.

Aden’s voice brought Duncan back to the problem at hand, namely that his adult son, now twenty and attending UIC, was calling after curfew.

About what? Duncan said.

Lindsay. Like I promised. I wouldn’t say anything. Not for... ever... and I meant it... just like we said. But these guys... once they heard....

The stuttering and stopping could signify only one thing. Are you drunk? Silence on the other end provided an answer.

Besides keeping quiet about his sister, Aden also pledged not to drink. How foolish of Duncan to believe that his son had learned to control himself. Back in high school, he’d return home intoxicated several nights a week, once accompanied by the police. Two years in military school should have taught him self-discipline. On that assumption, they’d rejected an invitation from West Point (engineered with the help of a friend in Congress) and trusted that Aden no longer needed the yoke of external discipline. ROTC was supposed to provide an inoculation of rigor. Evidently, the vaccine had failed to protect him.

You’re not making any sense, the governor said. What did you say?

Aden paused to snuffle away some excess emotion. That... that....

If you could say it to someone else, you can say it to me. What was it?

That it was my fault. That she died.

Four years too late. This confession arrived four years too late to do anyone any good, and addressed to the wrong party. Instead of trusting his family, the boy had blathered to some strangers, and now he expected his daddy to sympathize? Before that day, years had passed since he’d confided in his father about anything important. So why start now? Probably because he had no one else to tell. His son wanted sympathy, but Duncan needed information first.

What specifically did you say, and to who?

I can’t remember. I must of... blacked out. But now the guys are calling me ‘sister killer’ like it’s some big joke.

Duncan sat up in bed and stared at the dim light framing the shades opposite him. With all the doors and windows closed and locked against intruders, the governor’s mansion retained the stuffiness of summer. He listened for the breath of the air conditioner but heard only a train clanging past outside. He threw off the thin blanket that gripped his legs and kicked one foot free of the top sheet to create a vent.

"Did they think you were joking?"

Can’t tell. They dog me, all the time, call me the warden’s kid. I hate them. I hate it here.

Involuntarily, Duncan sighed loudly enough for the boy to hear, then tried to gather his thoughts before speaking again. The worst thing to do was upset Aden further. For now, let it alone. Chances are, it will pass soon enough.

Dad, I tried, but they won’t give it up. It’s been like... days! The irrationality of inebriation tinged his voice, reminding Duncan that he had to dumb down anything he said.

Just for tonight then. Tomorrow, I’ll... talk to someone.

How though? You’re, like, way down there, and they probably won’t even answer back.

Don’t worry. When the governor calls, people respond.

Not always truthfully, but at least they replied.

* * *

After several sleepless hours,

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