The Swing of Things
At 12:01 am. both Hutch and Wally were relieved by the midnight shift. They headed down together with the other guards to check out and pick up their paychecks. Hutch had changed quickly and had already said good-bye to Wally when Reynolds came in to change. Hutch made small talk with the other departing guards, watching Reynolds out of the corner of his eye as the other man dressed and prepared to leave.
Not like Starsk to leave late, he thought, slightly concerned when Starsky was not quick to arrive after his shift-partner. Maybe he got sidetracked with the toys and is picking up. His concern deepened when Reynolds was finished and ready to leave, yet Starsky still had not arrived.
"Hey, Reynolds, Coleman still stuck upstairs?" Hutch ventured, not expecting much response.
"Haven't seen him for awhile," Reynolds replied with disgust and a nasty look in Hutch's direction. "Must have dozed off somewhere. It's not my job to worry about him keeping his ass outta trouble." Reynolds grabbed his belongings and strode out of the employee locker room, ending any further conversation.
Cheerful guy, Hutch thought in disgust, Starsky must have had a fun time tonight. Everyone else had changed and left and Starsky had still not come down. Hutch was two seconds from going back upstairs to look for him when Starsky came through the door, looking tired and white-faced.
Starsky headed straight for his locker around the corner and Hutch followed close behind. "Bad night?" Hutch asked quietly, watching his partner's face.
"Nah." Starsky shrugged, looking a little sheepish. "Something sure didn't agree with me tonight though. After my last coffee break, I felt awful. Something kept running right through me and I had to spend a lotta time in the john. I'm sure Reynolds noticed that he spent a lotta time by his lonesome for awhile. I sure know how to impress 'em." He glanced slyly at his partner, a smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. "It must'a been dinner, pal. Remind me to pack my own meals from now on."
"Hey!" Hutch said, waving his finger at his partner. "If you can eat three-day-old meatloaf sandwiches without getting the runs, then you can handle anything I can dish out. Besides, it's probably that birthday mess you mixed up yesterday morning. You're probably lucky you got through a whole shift with that stuff in your system."
"Nah, it's probably knowin' today was payday," Starsky replied with a heartfelt sigh. "Can you believe tryin' to make a livin' with that amount of chump change? The bank is gonna laugh at me again." Finishing the last loop on his worn-out Adidas, Starsky waved his partner toward the door and pulled on his jacket. "Lets get home, huh? My head's starting to hurt again and I'm not sure how long I wanna be outta contact with a bathroom."
They made their way through the corridors without seeing anyone and left by the employees' rear entrance. It was dark and moonless. Hutch took in a lungful of the cool air, smelling the distant ocean and a hint of mist early morning mist.
The private employee lot was dimly lit and surrounded by a tall wooden fence. There were several cars belonging to the midnight shift parked close to the entrance door, commanding the few lit spaces under the single dim spotlight. The detectives walked past them into the chilled darkness of the night, turning the collars up on their jackets, eyes and ears scanning the area. Neither Starsky nor Hutch talked or looked at each other as they studied the dark lot toward Hutch's car. Hutch fell into the old pattern without a thought, senses alert to the distance, pace and stance of his partner. It was like a second skin to him, moving as a team on the streets, prepared at any second to evade, capture or backup his partner at the slightest twitch of action.
Hutch held back a deep sigh as he surveyed the dark hulk of the LTD. By luck, fate or design he almost always ended up having to parking in the farthest, darkest corner of the lot. And at the end of almost every shift there were lose papers and garbage blown up and around his car by the evening breeze.
Starsky threw his partner a disgusted look as he made a show of kicking the garbage away from the passenger door. Hutch ignored him, quickly unlocked his door and settled himself, leaning over to unlock the passenger side. So help me, the tired blond though with exasperation, recognizing the look in his partner's eye, if he starts on my car tonight I'll just leave him here. For some reason his companion had bent down and was ignoring the open door. "Come on, Starsk, let's go."
"Wait, Hutch, hold it," Starsky replied, deadly serious. He was still squatting down out of Hutch's sight. "You'd better come and get a look at this,"
Hutch quickly opened his own door instantly knowing that Starsky had gone into his 'cop' mode. He started around the back of the LTD, eyes scanning underneath. Hutch had just gotten to the trunk area when he froze. In the inky blackness of the midnight shadows Hutch could make the vague outline of what looked to be a shoe and ankle. He reached down and tentatively touched the shoe, verifying it's shape in the dark. The rest of the body invisible under the car.
Starsky had gone back to the glove compartment to get the flashlight. He shone the light under the back wheel. "I saw a glint and bent down to check it out," Starsky said quietly. "It's a ring and it's still on a hand. It must have caught the light from the security light
"Toss it here, Starsk," Hutch asked, catching the flashlight.
Feeling a familiar tightness in his gut, Hutch squatted down and played the light over the wind-blown debris under his car. The lower half of the body seemed to be a man dressed in gray slacks and dark blue shirt, with a darker thin wind-breaker. Hutch had the chilling feeling that he might have seen this man before, but wasn't sure. He a long arm under the car to brush aside some wind blown garbage and shone the light upon the area where man's head should be. It took only a second for him to divert the light. "Oh man, Starsk," Hutch breathed, fighting the sudden feeling of nausea.
Starsky, who had been pale before leaving the store for the night, now looked a bit steadier. He had come around to squat down by Hutch and without a word held his hand out for the flashlight.
You'd think that after all these years I'd be able to handle a body better, Hutch thought in self disgust. In those few seconds he had seen no face under the mass of dried blood, tissue and white flecks of bone. Hutch had never been able to handle a fresh body very well, gratefully letting his partner examine those cases. He considered it one of his biggest weakness'. Starsky had never commented on it, always letting Hutch handle the reports while he handled the examination of those newly dead.
At least I can return the favor for him when the tables are turned, he mused with some satisfaction, watching his partner calmly examine the body. Starsky tended to shy away from the decayed corpses, unnerved by the natural decomposition of the human body. Hutch could do those distasteful examinations without a qualm, knowing he was saving his partner from having to deal with them. I guess the longer they've been gone, the less human I feel they are, he sighed to himself. Wonder what that says about me?
"Well, buddy," Starsky's grim voice broke the silence, his glance at Hutch told him there could be no mistake. "I guess we have something to report to Detective Gainer now, don't we? Think he'd be interested in a murder?"
The early morning hours of this particular Friday had been a classic case of 'hurry up and wait' for the both of the detectives. Hutch had left Starsky the unenviable position of guarding the crime scene for the few minutes it took to alert the night-shift supervisor.
In a hurried discussion they had decided to go the civilian route with this. Captain Pasquini might want their undercover roles uncompromised. Using the police radio in Hutch's car, moved and hidden under the passenger seat, would have caused too many questions. They agreed to wait and inform the Homicide Detectives of their real identities and let them contact Captain Pasquini. He would make the decision on who had the need to know. No need to advertise.
After the first uniformed officers had checked dead body call, Starsky and Hutch had been taken aside while extra squad cars arrived to cordon off the area for the Homicide team. Their undercover ID's had been taken and both had been shepherded back into the store, where they had been separated and told to wait for their statements to be taken.
Hutch had spent the time sitting at someone else's desk, head on arms, replaying the scene over in his mind. He went over the way the evening shift had come and gone, trying to decide the best time the parking lot would have been deserted enough for murder. Any information he and Starsky could come up with might be helpful, if and when the time of death and identification of the body was made. I know I must have seen him before, if only for a few minutes, Hutch mused. But I just can't place him.
After nearly two hours, a middle-aged, well-dressed black man opened the door and nodded at Hutch. He walked over and presented his hand.
"Hello, Mr. Avery, I'm Detective Greg Phillips from Homicide and I've come to take your statement about this tragic event. I'm sure we can get you squared away and home in no time." The man smiled and talked quietly, giving the impression of a friend, someone you could trust.
Hutch was immediately struck by the man's friendly and smooth demeanor at such an early hour. Obviously a seasoned professional, Hutch thought with a bit of relief. Maybe he's someone we can actually work with for a change. A detective could elicit good information from a witness when putting them at ease and Phillips obviously was very calm and comfortable in this situation.
"Pleased to meet you, Detective Phillips," Hutch stood and shook the detective's hand, "but I'm not Kenneth Avery. My real name is Detective Kenneth Hutchinson, of Metro. I work under Captain Harold Dobey, but am on temporary assignment to Captain Anthony Pasquini. My partner is Detective Dave Starsky and he is undercover as Dave Coleman, the other man who discovered the body." Hutch smiled at Phillip's surprised look and handed the detective his ID and badge. "I think you'd better call Pasquini in on this. He may not want our covers compromised."
"Hot damn!" Phillips cursed, a look of disgust crossing his face. He sat heavily in the chair opposite Hutch and stared at him for a moment. "Wouldn't you know that my first hot lead would be a washout." He sighed and picked up the phone. After a lengthy call to his station-house, Phillips read the extension off the office phone, hung up and waited quietly.
Hutch kept silent, knowing that Phillips was waiting for a call from Captain Pasquini. Phillips wouldn't talk or continue the case until Pasquini could confirm or deny his cover operatives in this situation.
After five long minutes the phone rang and Phillips answered it. He relayed the information Hutch had given him over the phone and silently handed the receiver over to Hutch.
"Hutchinson, that you?" Captain Pasquini asked in a sleep dulled voice.
"Yes sir. Starsky and I were on our way home and found the body under my car out in the employee lot. As far as I know, Phillips is the only one who knows who we are." He glanced at Phillips who nodded his head at the question. "What do you want Starsky and I to do?"
"Give Phillips your report and go home." Captain Pasquini replied after a thoughtful moment. "Be at my office at 10:00 a.m. and I'll pull Gainer in. We'll see what we have then." Hutch handed the phone back to Phillips and watched as Phillips took his orders.
Detective Phillips hung up silently and shook his head in disbelief. "Might was well get your partner in here and go over it all at once. Let's see what we've got."
As Starsky was brought in and introduced to the Homicide Detective. "Just as a matter of record, Detective Starsky, you didn't happen to kill that poor man outside, did you?" Phillips flashed Starsky a crooked smile.
"No." Starsky answered casually, casting an amused look at his partner. "Why, you takin' volunteers?"
"Well, it would have made things a lot simpler on this case." Phillips grinned back, shrugging. "When the cop on the scene described how calm and cool you two acted, I decided to put you two on ice 'til we could call in the rest of Iverson's night shift. Most were still awake and came over pretty quickly. After taking preliminary statements it was found that one guard had disappeared on and off after closing hours. And he couldn't be accounted for by his partner for as much as fifteen minutes at a time." Phillips smiled questioningly at Starsky's sheepish look. "Hutchinson here seems to have an alibi from his partner for his whole shift and he was seen on breaks by quite a few others. What about you Detective Starsky?"
"Stomach trouble. I was in the john," Starsky replied shortly, shifting in his chair embarassedly. Hutch chuckled quietly and Starsky flashed him a dirty look.
Starsky and Hutch gave Phillips a complete rundown on their evening shifts. It was 5:00 a.m. by the time Phillips let them go. Both were hustled out quietly into the back of a black-and-white and dropped within a few blocks of their apartment. Hutch had lost possession of his car for the duration of the death scene investigation, but expected to have it back by tomorrow afternoon.
Neither one said much on the way. Hutch felt tired and depressed, knowing that the scant amount of information they had been able to supply Detective Phillips had not been of much help. Hutch was not surprised when a obviously subdued Starsky passed on an early morning snack, opting instead for bed.
The next morning found Starsky and Hutch seated together at a long table in the local precinct, waiting for the start of the 10:00 a.m. meeting. The room was crowded with detectives, few of them Hutch was familiar with. They were initially greeted by a tired and harassed-looking Detective Phillips and quickly introduced to his partner, Robert Sanders. Young, strawberry-blond and a face full of freckles, Sanders looked uncomfortable in an obviously new suit. Showing all the signs of a newly-made detective, he seemed overly impressed with the group, flashing an embarrassed smile, but saying nothing.
The only detective in the room who knew actually knew the Metro men was the one who continued to ignore their existence. Hutch watched Detective Lonnie Gainer out of the corner of his eye as the man stood in a corner of the room, sipping on a cup of coffee. Hutch noticed the man had arrived by himself and had not greeted or talked to any of the other officers. A smaller, dark-haired, dark-eyed man, Detective Gainer carried the look of haughty superiority about him. Always impeccable and stylishly dressed, he had a snobbish attitude, as if he found everyone around him slightly distasteful and corrupt.
Starsky, as usual, had commandeered a couple of donuts from somewhere and had offered one to Hutch, who had declined in favor of black coffee.
"Doesn't look like Gainer is very popular with anyone," Hutch whispered to Starsky, who threw a quick glance at the detective in question. "Guess we aren't the only ones who don't care for him."
"I think it's the other way 'round," Starsky replied distractedly around a bit of donut, reaching for his partner's coffee. "I think it's the rest of us who don't fit into his idea of proper police procedure." Starsky made a face at the bitter, black coffee in the cup. He ignored his blond's snort of disgust as he swirled a large chunk of donut into the captive cup."
"Oh, just keep it," Hutch said with a repulsed look on his face, declining the cup Starsky offered to return. "Thanks for ruining my coffee pal."
"It's not ruined," Starsky replied with a slight smile, "the sugar would be good for you, quick energy. And the crumbs are needed calories."
Their conversation was suddenly interrupted as Captains Pasquini and Lang entered the room. Captain Lang was of the Homicide division and oversaw the work done by Phillips and Sanders. He and Captain Pasquini had obviously decided this was a joint case for Robbery and Homicide.
Captain Lang took over the briefing, not wasting any time. "Gentlemen, we are all aware of the murder at Iverson's last night. The reason Captain Pasquini and I are here is to let you know that there is an on-going undercover robbery investigation going on inside that store. The three men undercover are Detectives Starsky, Hutchinson and Gainer." He motioned toward the three men. "Captain Pasquini and I, and the Chief, have decided that for now these officers will maintain their cover. As you will see, there is a good possibility that we are all working on the same case."
"My men," Captain Lang looked seriously around the room, "will treat this in the usual manner, starting with what we now know and working the usual angles. We are introducing you to Captain Pasquini's men in order to avoid confusion. When it's needed, Starsky, Hutchinson and Gainer will be treated and questioned in the same manner as other civilians in the case. If they discover anything that may help our case, or we theirs, then that information will be reported to Pasquini and I. You will be notified accordingly." Captain Lang looked at Pasquini, who signaled for him to continue.
Captain Lang picked up his fact sheet and started to read off the current information. "The deceased's name was Douglas Kirk, Head Jeweler of Iverson's. He was in charge of quality, design and maintenance of the Jewelry lab located in the basement of the building. He hired gemologists and various tradesmen to work at the resizing, repair, engraving and the Original and Custom Design workshop for the main branch. He inspected, graded and sorted the overseas purchases for the entire corporation, including those branches on the East Coast."
"The man was 65 years of age, divorced, with two children he was not close to. His ex-wife and children are located in Florida and are en-route here. They maintain by phone that they do not know anything of his current personal life or friends."
"The Jewelry lab officially closes at 6:00 p.m., except for shipments coming in and out, but Kirk was known to keep unusual hours, working as he saw fit. We are still in the process of checking his whereabouts during the evening. We will be interviewing his personnel today."
"Time of death is listed at or around 11:00 p.m., give or take an hour. Death at this point would seem to be from a blow to the front of the head and face, as there seems to be no fatal wounds to the other parts of the body. There may have been an attempt to conceal the identity of the victim, considering the amount of damage inflicted upon the face. While there does not seem to be evidence of any struggle, the lab will need a few more days for chemical tests and skull reconstruction.
The car belongs to Detective Hutchinson. Both he and Detective Starsky were the first to discover the body. A copy of their reports are included in your files. The car has been gone over and processed, with no new evidence found. As far as we can tell at this point, the car's location was the only reason the body was hidden beneath it. And that, gentlemen," Captain Lang looked around the room, "is all that we have at this point." He nodded toward Captain Pasquini.
"Gentlemen," Captain Pasquini nodded towards his three detectives, "come with me please."
The four of them walked the short distance to Pasquini's office and arranged themselves inside.
"We are, of course, co-operating fully with Homicide on this case." Captain Pasquini began, settling at his desk. "You men will continue in your covers until further notice. Do you have anything you wish to add to your reports?"
"No sir." Gainer answered, quickly.
Starsky glanced at Hutch and shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, Cap'n."
Captain Pasquini sighed and drummed his fingers on the table. "Gainer, I want you to go over the information you originally obtained, so that we can rethink our positions here." The Captain leaned back, giving his detective a significant look and leaving Hutch to wonder what was not being said between the two.
Gainer frowned at his Captain and glared at the two Metro detectives. He obviously didn't want to share his information.
Starsky left his perch on a chair arm and took a few steps toward the man, only to be met with a defiant look. "Listen, Gainer, we're not rookies here. We've been through this stuff a few times ourselves." Starsky's voice rose, frustration showed on his face.
"We're not after your thunder," Hutch said quietly and firmly from his chair, aiming his voice at his partner. Keep it cool, Starsk, we don't have a lot to say for ourselves at this point either. "We know it's your informant and your show..."
"...but we don't like to be kept guessing," Starsky continued a bit calmer, flashing a frustrated glance at his partner, but talking to Gainer. "And we've been under for almost four weeks now. We're at a dead-end and we'd like to hear what you've got so far."
Gainer looked trapped. "After the first robbery, we worked with the Federal Marshals and the local police at the robbery sight." Gainer began, obviously uncomfortable with retelling the story. "They seemed to feel that the robberies were staged locally, by two-bit hoods. Anyone could have timed the deliveries over a period of time and traced routes. After the second robbery, we started concentrating more in the local area. As far as I know, none of the stolen jewelry has ever been recovered."
Gainer glanced at the other men again, his lips pursed in a thin line. "I had a salesperson from the jewelry area approach me here at the station with some suspicions. They had noticed some pieces that seemed out of place in the store rooms and had noticed that Douglas Kirk had been acting strangely since just before the first robbery. I've had some access to the physical records of the items listed as stolen and as far as I can tell, nothing looks out of place. I've been studying the Jewelry lab downstairs and haven't seen anything out of the ordinary there either. As far as I could tell, whatever was bothering Kirk didn't have anything to do with the robberies. He may have prepared and cataloged the items for shipment, but he had no control or information on their actual movements either before or after they left his vaults."
"What did the salesperson find out of place?" Hutch asked quietly.
"Some of the set diamonds and un-set gems that were put aside for a certain store didn't seem just right. My informant couldn't be specific, as it was not an official appraisal. They reported to me that Kirk acted very nervous when he found this individual near the items, examining a few of them. He asked them to leave the area and had been acting strange and distant since then. They weren't sure, but they think the 'off' merchandise was in the shipment that was taken during the second theft. They were afraid that something was wrong and that Kirk might have been mixed up in the robberies. They came in to Robbery wanting to know if we could get him out of any trouble before he got in too deep. They were hoping for some kind of amnesty deal for him, to give him a way out."
Hutch looked over at Starsky, a question in his eyes. It's not hard to guess, is it Starsk, he thought to his partner. I think we both know who it is. Starsky nodded, letting Hutch know he was thinking the same thing.
"It was April May Sims who came to you," Starsky said, with a slight grin, enjoying Gainer's shocked look.
"Yeah," Gainer admitted, suddenly red faced. "It was. How did you know?"
"She was the only salesperson on any shift that had personal access to the Jewelry labs," Hutch replied quickly, frustrated by Gainers' closed attitude. "And she knew Kirk well enough to have known if he were acting strange. She was his protégé." He rubbed his chin in thought. "Have you talked to her since the murder?"
"No," Gainer answered, "I called her when we found out Kirk had been killed. She was upset, so I've told her to stay home until I can talk to her this morning. Nobody at the store will be surprised at her calling in sick."
"Is your absence from the store covered?" Captain Pasquini asked Gainer.
"Yes, Sir. I'm running some personal errands for Mr. Liston." Gainer made it sound as if it were a errand of some importance and Hutch held back a groan.
"Picking up his laundry, huh?" Starsky asked with a slight smirk at Gainer's attitude, somehow picking up on his partner's thoughts.
Hutch flashed Starsky a quick 'hushing' glance, fighting to hide his own budding snicker.
Starsky just shrugged back with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Cap'n, would it be possible for Hutch and I to question Miss Sims?" Starsky looked toward the captain hopefully. "We'd both like to get a first hand description of the lab Kirk worked in, since we may not be able to get close with our covers. We may be able to pick up something from all the gossip we've been hearin'."
"Maybe knowing we're around may make her feel a little safer," Hutch interjected. "If she knows Gainer is undercover and hasn't told anyone of his presence, then she should be able to handle us being in on the case." Hutch paused, trying to gauge the captain's reaction. "We may be able to find out something she neglected to tell Gainer." He received a dark look from the estranged detective.
"'Sides, Gainer will need to get back soon and we don't go on 'til 3:00 p.m." Starsky added hopefully.
Captain Pasquini, sat quietly for a moment, studying the detectives. He nodded slowly in Starsky's direction. "Let me check with Captain Lang first. His men may have already talked to her, or sent someone out." Pasquini dialed his counter-part quickly and presented the issue. After some give and take on both sides in a short conversation, Pasquini nodded to Starsky and Hutch. "Captain Lang has agreed to let you meet with Miss Sims because of your years in Homicide. Afterwards, you will immediately file a report and have it on his desk before your next shift and they will forward me a copy. Homicide will follow up on anything you may find. Her address is on file in the employee records."
Starsky jumped up quickly, grabbing a handful of Hutch's jacket and pulling him to his feet . "Thanks, Cap'n!" Starsky threw behind him as he headed out the door, pushing Hutch in front of him and leaving a burning Gainer alone with his captain.
It only took them a few minutes to get April's address and directions to the car impound. Hutch's car was located a few blocks away from the station in auxiliary storage. Once outside the smaller man took off in a brisk walk that even Hutch's long legs had trouble matching.
"Hey, slow down," Hutch called to his jubilant partner, a smile tugging at his mouth. "This isn't a race to see who gets there first!" Hutch gave in to the grin, welcoming the obvious signs of a Starsky in hot pursuit.
"Finally, Hutch!" Starsky exclaimed gleefully. "Finally! Something we can actually do for a change. I know Gainer isn't givin' us anything that's not pulled outta him first and I'm tired of playin' beggar-boy to his prince. We're gonna take this case and crack it wide open, I can feel it." His arms waved with enthusiasm, eyes alight with new energy.
"About time we did some real work on this case." Hutch replied, giving his partner a slap on the back. "Time to show this division that the real talent works at Metro." It felt good to hear Starsky's laugh in reply. He felt the same way. It was past time to wind this show up and go home.
April Sims' apartment was in the older, rundown part of town. There were barely any stores or business' left open in the area and more houses were empty than were lived in. Even with a map the two detectives had trouble, as most street signs were missing and house numbers non-existent. They were finally able to find her apartment, a second story unit in an older house, with it's own stairway at the side of the old and tired house.
Both detectives brought out their ID's before knocking on the door.
It took a moment for April to come to the door. Behind the chain both detectives could see her look of shocked surprise as she recognized them.
"Sorry to bother you, Miss Sims." Starsky held up his ID so she could see it through the door opening. "We're Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson "Can we come in and talk to you for a moment?" He handed her his ID through the door so she could get a better look.
The door closed softly for a moment while April unlatched the chain. She held open the door and stood aside as the detectives entered the apartment.
It was one fairly small room. A delicate Japanese screen divided the back bed and bathroom area off from rest of the apartment. There was barely room for a sofa, bookcase and TV stand, but there was no crowded or cluttered look. A small, two-chair folding table was pushed up against one wall next to the small kitchenette. While the room could use an extra coat of paint, it was well kept and clean. Hutch noticed that the few pieces of furniture in the room showed an eye for design, color and practicality. On the blank wall above the small table were pinned sheets and sheets of paper, showing numerous drawings, all of them of various jewelry pieces. Hutch was impressed with the quality of the artwork. She does have an eye for detail and design, Hutch thought. Wally was right, she does have some natural talent.
April waved them over to the small couch, while she took one of the small kitchen chairs to sit in front of them. She had obviously been crying and looked tired and worn out.
"I know this is quite a shock for you Miss Sims," Hutch began quietly. He caught Starsky's nod to continue. "Detective Starsky and I have been working undercover at Iverson's, as you may have guessed by now. I know that Detective Gainer informed you of the death of Mr. Kirk." He waited while she nodded and wiped at her streaming eyes. "My partner, Detective Starsky and I thought it would be better if we came over and talked to you about your actions last night. Maybe you can help us find his killer."
Hutch waited for April to nod her head in agreement before taking out pad and pen. He nodded to Starsky to take over the conversation,.
"Could you please tell us of your movements yesterday, Miss Sims?" Starsky smiled kindly at her as he caught her eye. "We would just like to start with your actions for yesterday, if you don't mind
April nodded and took a ragged breath. "Yesterday I worked the 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. shift, like I usually do. I guess you know I work the Jewelry counter." She tried to smile back, biting her lip as more tears came. "I had a morning and an afternoon break and ate lunch in the cafeteria." She shrugged. "It was a normal day, as far as I could tell. It seemed a little slow, actually."
"We know you were friends with Mr. Kirk. Were you able to see him at all yesterday?" Starsky prodded gently.
April shook her head. "No. But Mr. Kirk and I weren't exactly friends. He was more my teacher than anything else. I met him a couple of years ago, when I was first hired at the store."
"Isn't it a bit unusual for the head of a department to take on a sales clerk as student?" Starsky asked.
April smiled a bit modestly at the pair. "I've always been interested in gems, jewelry and design. One day we had a custom ring order arrive for pickup at my counter. I had taken the original order for the piece and had one of Mr. Kirk's staff come up for a design consultation with the customer. I watched as he drew the design and took an order for the type of gem they wanted set in the ring. When the finished piece arrived, I couldn't help but check it and it was..." She hesitated, looking at the detectives, uncertain how to explain her reaction, "...it was wrong."
"Wrong?" Starsky repeated, waiting for April to continue.
"Yes." April nodded her head energetically. "I could tell it was 'off'. The original design was smooth and flowing, but the finished piece was heavy and off-balanced. The stone setting was slightly off-center at one end and the stone was not the quality ordered."
"You could tell all this just by looking at it?" Hutch asked in surprise.
"Well, no," April answered a bit embarassedly. "I took it out of the box when I saw it didn't look right. It didn't feel right either. I was supposed to call the customer and leave a message that it was ready. I couldn't, it wouldn't have been right. I called the Jewelry lab and had the designer come up. He was very upset with me and refused to discuss it. Mr. Kirk was called in and he examined the ring. He took the ring back with him downstairs." She sat for a minute and folded and unfolded her handkerchief for a moment. "I found out later the designer had been fired and Mr. Kirk personally reworked the ring from scratch. He came up a few days later and showed me the new ring for my 'personal stamp of approval' before we called the customer." She smiled at the memory. "I usually took my early break downstairs in the Jewelry lab and Mr. Kirk would let me watch while he worked on a piece, or planned out a design. Sometimes I helped out with small jobs. I plan on getting GIA certified as soon as I can save the money for the school. Mr. Kirk said I had a job with his department as soon as I got certified."
"GIA certified?" Starsky wondered aloud.
April nodded shyly. "It stands for the Gemological Institute of America. They have certain classes you must take to be certified. It's very prestigious and it's practically required for the better positions. I've been trying to save up enough to go. Once I get certified, I'll be qualified to work in the labs at Iverson's."
"When did you notice the problems starting with Mr. Kirk?" Hutch questioned, keeping his voice low and level.
April leaned back in her chair and wiped at her eyes, trying to concentrate. "I've gone over this once already with Detective Gainer." She whispered.
"I know, Ma'am," Starsky smiled encouragingly, "but we would really like to hear it again, from you."
"It was just before the first robbery," April sighed. "Iverson's had received some jewelry and loose gems in a shipment from Singapore. Mr. Kirk was spot checking gems and set stones for cut, color, clarity and carat weight. He also spot checked the quality of the metal used. You know, to make sure that the gold and silver were the same quality as the order specified. I always went to help him check the shipments during my break, along with the other lab workers. Later, after I got off of work I went back down to talk to Mr. Kirk, he was sorting the jewel drawers in the vault by branch destination. I was talking to him and walking around the vault when I spotted an item on a tray that looked strange. I had started to pick up a piece to examine when..." She sniffed, taking a second to compose herself, "...when Mr. Kirk jumped, like he'd been shocked and started yelling at me. He shooed me out and finished locking up the vault, even though he wasn't through sorting. He apologized afterwards." April broke in to fresh tears.
Hutch, touched by her mourning, leaned forward and patted her arm gently. "Lets just take a minute, April," He gave her a kind smile. Starsky had gone to the kitchenette and returned with a glass of water. April took a big breath and sipped at the water, giving Starsky a teary, but grateful smile.
"Later," she continued after a few moments, "we all heard about the robbery. I'm not sure, but I think the shipment that was stolen contained the set of trays that I was look at. After that, Mr. Kirk seemed more distant and nervous for weeks. Instead of working in the lab during my break, we started sitting in his office, having coffee and talking." She sighed again, rubbing at her forehead. "After the second robbery, he told me that he'd really rather I didn't come down anymore. He said that Ms. Quincy was throwing fits about my access to the labs. She didn't want anyone in the secure area who didn't actually work there. He met me upstairs for breaks for another week or so, then he quit coming altogether."
Hutch cleared his throat. "Miss Sims, do you know what was wrong with that first shipment you saw?"
"No, I'd just gotten that impression when I reached for it. I never got a chance to see anything else." She shrugged.
"Detective Gainer said that you came to the station to talk to him about Mr. Kirk." Starsky added.
"I was scared for him," she answered in a whisper. "I felt like he was in trouble and wanted to help. I told Detective Gainer about what had happened and that I felt that something horrible was going on. Mr. Kirk was such a nice person, so sweet and mild. I was afraid that he might have found something out about the robberies. I was hoping that if the police talked to him and offered to help protect him, then he would feel safe enough to tell what he knew. I got the impression that he was more and more frightened all the time."
"Why was that?" Starsky wondered aloud.
"He was very jumpy and while I was still taking breaks in his office, sometimes I'd open the door when he was concentrating on something on his desk and he would jump, startled, until he realized who it was. One evening I had stayed very late to help with some inventory and saw him standing by the employees' exit. Wally Kraft was coming out of the break room and Mr. Kirk talked to him for a moment and they both left. Later I asked Wally if Mr. Kirk was okay and he said that Kirk just wanted him to walk him to his car. Wally said he usually walked Mr. Kirk to his car before coming back from break and had been doing it for a few weeks. I've never known Mr. Kirk to be so skittish before."
As April studied her handkerchief, Starsky caught Hutch's eye and nodded slightly toward the door. Time to call it quits and let the poor girl rest, he decided, agreeing with his partner's intentions. She's not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. He nodded to his partner.
"I think that's all we need for right now, Miss Sims." Starsky rose and took April's hand. "We'll contact you if we need to talk to you again. Please remember that if you see us at Iverson's, we are still working undercover." He gave her a kind smile.
"I don't think I'll be in for a few days," April said, looking tired and worn. "I'm not sure I want to come back now."
Starsky and Hutch had made the supreme sacrifice and had gone straight to the station-house to produce Captain Lang's report. They were told that Homicide Detectives Phillips and Sanders were in charge of the murder investigation and they were to keep them fully informed. In the future they could report either in person to Homicide or through Captains Lang and Pasquini. This way they wouldn't have to worry about catching each other at the station, or stumbling over each other at the store. But it also means we now have two captains to please, Hutch sighed. I feel like a ping-pong ball.
After the drudge work, they decided that they just had time to go by their bank and deposit their paychecks. While they usually worked only off the department's money, it didn't make any sense to alert the payroll department that someone wasn't bothering to cash their checks. Not when it's the whole store you're trying to fool. They then stopped back by their apartment to eat and freshen up before their Friday night shift started. They had talked over April's statement in the car and had not seen anything that had not been included in Gainer's report.
"I can't help it," Starsky said, eating his lunch at the kitchen sink. "I just got the feelin' Gainer ain't telling everythin' he knows. Not to us, 'n not to Pasquini."
"He probably isn't." Hutch commented, still dressing after his shower. "But you couldn't prove it by us. I wouldn't get too excited. We can't do much while we're stuck in those green suits. I'm pretty sure we're not going to find out too much on this late shift either. Maybe we ought to get the Captain Pasquini to talk to Mr. Collins and get us on dayshift. Bypass Gainer and Ms. Quincy all together. That'll take a few days, so we can finish up on nights. I just don't think we're going to find anyone here that knows anything."
Starsky had agreed with his partner and they decided to push the conversation tonight, see if anyone knew anything they weren't telling to local cops. They called Captain Pasquini and asked him about getting transferred to the dayshift. He agreed with their reasoning and decided to call Mr. Collins himself.
The mood at the lockers and time clock that evening was quiet and subdued. The local detectives had interviewed many employees and word had traveled that the police were looking inside the store for suspects. At first the other employees were guarded and silent around the undercover detectives, everyone knowing when and where the body had been found. But by the first dinner break curiosity managed to break through and Hutch found himself the center of attention.
Hutch fielded questions from the other guards about finding the body. He was convincingly vague, not wanting to give out any crime scene details they could use later. About all he could tell them was he and Dave had thought they saw something under the car and there it was. Hutch didn't have to add any drama to the story to keep everyone's open-mouthed attention.
Wally sat through the whole thing quietly, his arms folded, staring at the table. He didn't seem too interested in his dinner. Hutch watched him surreptitiously. The other guards acted surprised and astonished at the murder, but no one seemed to have anything new to add besides wild conjecture and pointless gossip. Wally was definitely acting subdued. Looks like Wally needs to talk, Hutch sighed to himself. He's always seemed like a good kid. I hope he's not into anything deeper than he can handle.
He had been paired with Saputo for the evening and Wally was paired with Jefferson, so he would have to make contact with Wally in some less obvious way. On the way back to his floor, Hutch stopped by Starsky's floor and quickly told him of Wally's actions during break.
"I think he knows something," Hutch whispered. "We need to talk to him, but we need to keep it low-key. Maybe we can snag him after work," he wondered aloud. "But it's going to be tough, Wally isn't the gabby kind and he's pretty much a homebody. We need something to convince him to indulge in some friendly conversation."
"No problem," Starsky answered, flashing him a mischievous smile. "I think I've got the answer to that."
"Oh yeah? What are you going to do?" Hutch asked suspiciously. He knew better than to trust that smile any farther than he could throw his heavy partner.
"Just wait and follow my lead," Starsky replied with a Cheshire-cat grin. "But you'd better get back to work before you're missed. I'll take care of Wally." And with that Starsky waved him away, saying no more.