Dobey slid a framed photo forward across
the surface of his desk. “Do you recognize either of these men?”
Hutch braced an arm on the desk and leaned
forward, his head tilted to one side. Two men smiled at the camera, the larger one’s arm around the shoulder of the
smaller. Despite the rather startling difference in size, they looked as if they might be related; brothers, perhaps. He tapped
a finger on the teenager, and said, “That’s our jackrabbit.”
“And that’s the giant I saw at
the funeral,” said Starsky, glancing over Hutch’s shoulder. He found himself a chair and sat down. Everyone else
in the room was standing, even Dobey, but Starsky decided he didn’t care. He was entitled. And maybe just a little tired.
Dobey indicated the larger of the two men
in the picture. “Reginald Malcolm.” A thick brown finger landed in the spot Hutch’s had occupied a moment
earlier. “Fred Malcolm.”
Hutch looked over at Detectives Wadley and
Brown, who were standing opposite himself and Starsky. “Then you’ve got Harold Malcolm!”
“Unfortunately, no,” said Brown,
“Huh?” said Starsky, in the same
moment as Hutch asked, “What do you mean?”
Brown grimaced. “He shot himself.”
With his partner showing no signs of wanting
to elaborate, Wadley stepped in and related the story with enthusiasm. “Yep, we knocked, identified ourselves and blam!
Kicked the door open and there he was on the floor with his pistol in his hand. Helluva thing.” He shrugged, grinning
in a manner that was not at all humorous. “He even left us a note, but all it said was ‘I’m sorry.’
Dunno what he was apologizing for, unless it was his total failure at achieving ‘Father of the Year’.”
“We’ve issued APBs on both of
them,” said Dobey.
Wadley nodded emphatically as Brown said,
“We’ll get them!”
Cops, especially the best of them, are a
competitive bunch. It hurt to see Wadley and Brown sweep out of the room cheerfully optimistic about making a bust that Starsky
and Hutch felt should be theirs. It didn’t matter that Starsky was still on medical leave, nor did it matter that Hutch
was constrained by protocol from directly investigating the attempts on his own life. They still wanted the collar.
Dobey could almost count down to the moment
when the ones left behind would make an attempt at regaining control of the case. The door swung shut behind Brown. Three.
There was a soft click as it came to a halt in the frame. Two. Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance. One.
“Cap,” said Hutch, right on cue.
“This is our Bayside Strangler.” He pointed at the larger man in the framed photo.
“You’re sure about that,”
said Dobey. It wasn’t a question so much as it was a request to hear the evidence.
“Start with Fred Malcolm,” said
Hutch. “We observed him trying to pawn evidence from the Anna Morgan murder. The fingerprints he left on Anna’s
necklace were the same as those found on those letters that were sent to the station and the press.”
Starsky snapped his fingers. “Fred
Malcolm… Fred, Freddy… Freddy Mercury!” He looked up at Hutch. “Do you remember that whole business
with ‘another one bites the dust’? Ya think he was trying to tell us something?”
Hutch nodded thoughtfully. Could be.
“I wonder…” Starsky trailed
off. The kid’s just an accomplice, why would he be leaving clues?
“It started right after…”
“… after the first murder.”
“You don’t suppose?” He’s growing a conscience?
“It’s a possibility.”
“… could work to our advantage.”
Dobey cleared his throat loudly. Both men
turned to look at him with mildly surprised expressions on their faces, and he strongly suspected they had forgotten he was
in the room. Though separated by circumstance, they still functioned very much as a team, and sometimes that communion had
a way of shutting out everyone else.
“What about the other creep?”
Hutch turned back to face his captain, and
continued laying out his case. “Reginald Malcolm fits the profile of the killer. He’s a big man with large hands.
I know that’s not enough by itself, but when you factor in everything else…” He paused, organizing his thoughts.
“Harold Malcolm said family troubles drove him to drinking.”
“I can’t imagine too many things
more troubling than knowing you’ve got a serial killer in the family,” commented Starsky.
“Family troubles…” agreed
Hutch. “It was probably just coincidence that I happened to be on the scene when he blew through that red light and
injured the Kaminski woman.”
“Weird coincidence,” Starsky
shifted in his seat, trying to find a more comfortable position. His back was cramping.
“Definitely weird,” said Hutch.
“But that gives us our tan sedan, which Reginald was seen driving when he attended Anna Morgan’s funeral. I didn’t
see the guy who hit me and tossed me over the catwalk, but I know he was a large man like Reginald. A tan sedan was implicated
in the train wreck. And of course, that same car was seen at the courthouse when Dawn’s Gremlin exploded.”
Dobey pulled his chair out and sat down,
heavily. “Everything I’ve heard so far only suggests someone in the Malcolm family might be trying to kill you.
How do you connect Reginald to the Bayside Strangler?”
“It goes to motive,” said Hutch.
“Why would anyone in that family want me dead?”
Starsky grinned, “Besides all the reasons
folks usually have for wanting to kill Hutch.” He ducked as his partner took a swipe at the back of his head.
“I thought at first they might want
to prevent me from testifying against the father in the Kaminski case,” said Hutch, settling himself on the arm of Starsky’s
chair. “But that’s not usually something we have to worry about in traffic court, when all most guys face is a
suspended license and maybe a fine. And even if it was, why blow up my car afterwards?” He shook his head. “I
think they were worried I could identify Freddy.”
“I saw him, too,” Starsky pointed
“But Reginald only saw me,” said
Hutch. “What if Freddy never told him you were in the shop?”
“This is enough to bring them in,”
said Dobey. “But I’ll need something more solid for a conviction. I’ve got a forensics team going over the
house right now. They’ll bring in fingerprints and any other evidence they can find.”
“Freddy might roll over on his brother,”
suggested Starsky, looking up at Hutch.
Dobey leaned back in his chair and took a
critical look at the two men across from him. They had dropped back into their verbal shorthand, and the animation in both
their faces was a pleasure to see. It had been too long since he’d seen Hutchinson this engaged in the details of a case. However, small
lines of strain were showing around Starsky’s eyes and he had that slightly drunken quality to his voice that only showed
up in response to exhaustion. Hutchinson himself looked thoroughly battered, the bruises visible on his face having blossomed
into glorious Technicolor, and he was moving almost as stiffly as Starsky.
Interrupting their discussion, Dobey said,
“Go home, Hutchinson. You too, Starsky. You both look terrible.”
“Aw, Cap,” said Starsky. “You’re
hurtin’ my feelings here.”
Hutch snickered, as he slid off the arm of
Starsky’s chair and gave his friend a hand up onto his feet. “But you know that deep down inside that gruff exterior
he really does love us.”
As the door to the office closed behind them,
Starsky stopped laughing and grabbed Hutch by the arm. He turned him around and stared intently at him. “You cut your
“Some detective you are,” said
Hutch, rolling his eyes. “Actually, Dawn cut it. Apparently some of the back got a little burnt when her car exploded.”
“So that’s all it takes? Stick
some dynamite under your car, and you’ll get a haircut? Geez, I wish I’d known that earlier…”
“Right. Says the man with so much hair
on his head you could use him to mop three gymnasium floors.” Hutch snorted, dismissively.
“Hey, if you got it, flaunt it,”
replied Starsky cheerfully. After a moment he added, “Because I got it,” followed by a brief pause, “And
you don’t.” When this observation failed to get the desired reaction out of Hutch, he said, “It’s
a good thing you’re so tall, or everyone would be able to see that cute little bald spot you got goin’ there.”
That got a reaction. “I do not have
a bald spot!” snapped Hutch.
“You just keep telling yourself that,”
said Starsky in the most sympathetically supportive tone he could manage.
“Denial is not just a river in Egypt, you know.”
loaner ended up being a being a battered Chevy Monte Carlo. The body was grey, but the driver’s door and the hood had
both been replaced at one point without repainting and were yellowish cream and light blue, respectively. The trunk was secured
with a twist of green electrical wire. It was too bad that Starsky had already left for Becky’s house, because Hutch
was quite certain this car would irritate him thoroughly.
love it!” he told the mystified lot attendant.
night, Becky lay awake in bed, as unsettled and uncomfortable as she’d ever felt in her life. Dave had shown up late,
and at first, he had been dragging his heels as if very tired, but he had revived considerably after dinner. They spent a
very comfortable evening snuggled on the couch, watching a late movie.
She couldn’t describe how much she
liked him. The way he kissed, the way he held her… She rolled over and grabbed a pillow, hugging it to her chest. The
orange cat, ever affectionate, jumped up onto the bed and draped itself over her hip.
shouldn’t be a problem. All
the other women she knew made it sound so simple. Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl sleeps with boy.
She’d thought about it. She wanted
to, and yet she was nervous. They didn’t really tell you what to do in high school health class, beyond the basic mechanics.
What if she was clumsy, or stupid? What if she did something embarrassing? What if he laughed?
For that matter, why had she gone all these
years saying ‘no’ to every guy who’d tried to get her to sleep with him, only to want so badly to say ‘yes’
to the one guy who’d never actually asked?
Maybe this evening he had somehow sensed
how unsure she was about the whole thing. She couldn’t be certain, but she suspected that might be the case, because
all at once, he’d levered himself back from her and said, in a voice that sounded much rougher than any she’d
heard before, “I think it’s time you went to bed.”
was what she wanted, right? A guy who wouldn’t push: a lover who would wait until she was ready. Except, how would she know when she was
ready? And why did she feel so badly about the fact that after he’d said that, she’d actually gone to bed? Why
did it feel like she’d somehow chickened out? She could almost hear what Anna would have said.
you’re an idiot.
you’re an idiot. He lay on
the fold out couch-bed with his hands folded behind his head, mentally kicking himself. The
girl is obviously willing, and what do you do? Ya send her off to bed. Alone.
Except that it had occurred to him that this
was a big responsibility. A person’s first time ought to be something special. Well, maybe his own hadn’t been
anything particularly spectacular, having been nothing more than a clumsy tumble in the backseat of the junker he’d
bought when he turned sixteen. It had ended with both him and Mary-Christina laughing hysterically at their own ineptitude,
and then that cop had shown up with a flashlight.
Never mind. He shook his head, brushing away
the old memories. Becky’s first time ought to be special, and he wanted to handle it just right. Something with… He didn’t know. Maybe wine and flowers. Girls
like that kind of thing, right?
Except Becky wasn’t like most of the
other girls he’d known. She might actually prefer that new album by the Police and a cold beer.
This was a responsibility he was determined
to take seriously. It was important to take the time and get it right. He shouldn’t just dive right into things.
speaking, that is.
He knew he was right. It didn’t make
him feel like any less of a fool, though. He tried to force himself to review the facts of the Malcolm case, but his mind
kept coming back to Becky. He was sure there was something he was forgetting, but sleep ambushed him before he could recall
what it was.
man and the dog were tired and both of them had a tendency to sleep much too deeply these days. Neither Starsky nor Monster
heard the crunching of gravel as the car rolled up outside the small cottage early that morning. In their defense, the engine
had been cut two houses down the road so there was little to awaken them.
It was not until the door had been kicked
open, bouncing back against the wall with the sound of splintering wood and the squeal of springs tested to their limits,
that either of them reacted.
There was little to be faulted in the speed
of their response then. Monster was on his feet immediately, barking viciously as he lunged forward – straight into
a cloud of pepper spray. The dog yelped and dropped to the floor, blinded and in pain. It frantically rubbed its face into
the carpet, trying to rid itself of the fire that burned its muzzle.
Starsky had rolled out of the sofa bed as
soon as he heard the dog. He was on his feet before he’d even fully awakened. His vision cleared then narrowed as he
took in the muzzle of the gun pointed directly at him. He froze. His left leg decided to check out at that point, and he sat
down rather abruptly on the edge of the bed, still staring at the gun.
A nervous voice said, “D - don’t…
don’t move!” The barrel of the gun shook, and Starsky slowly held his hands out to the sides, taking in the familiar
face of the person holding the weapon.
Freddy Malcolm was sweating and pale, his
gaze flickering nervously over towards his larger companion. Reginald Malcolm quickly seized Monster by the collar and, handling
him as if he weighed little more than a lapdog, tossed him out the back door. Locking the door, he turned and fixed cold eyes
“Where’s the girl?”