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Detective Sgt. Kenneth Hutchinson was already seated at the long table in the squad room, going over some paperwork, when his partner came in, a few minutes late, as usual. Hutch looked up as Detective Sgt. David Starsky sat down next to him, a steaming Styrofoam cup in one hand and a paper bag in the other. Hutch grimaced.
"Are you going to make me watch you eat that?"
Starsky grinned, irrepressible as usual. "You don't have to watch. You can share, if you want."
Hutch made another face. "No, thanks. I might need my stomach later."
Starsky dug around in the bag and came up with a plain bagel. "Not even this? I got it just for you. No sugar, no good stuff at all."
"Well...." Hutch weakened, and Starsky plopped the bagel onto the file in front of him, then went on blissfully eating his chocolate-covered donut. Hutch had just taken his first bite when their captain opened the office door and stalked in, carrying a file and looking grim. Both men looked up.
"Morning, Cap..." Starsky began, but broke off at the look on the captain's face. If it had been possible for the older, black man to be pale, he would have been. As it was, he simply looked sick. Without a word, he dropped the folder on the desk in front of Starsky.
Starsky picked it up with the hand not holding the donut and opened it. Hutch couldn't see what he was looking at, but Starsky did go pale and dropped the donut onto the desk.
Hutch's eyebrows rose, and he reached for the file, but Starsky put his hand on top of his partner's. "It's pretty ugly, Hutch."
If this was bad enough to make Starsky stop eating chocolate, Hutch thought to himself, it must be pretty bad. He braced himself mentally and opened the file. One glance was all it took to make him abandon all thoughts of finishing the bagel...or ever eating again.
It was a crime scene photo, as Hutch had expected. A youngish man several years younger than Starsky and Hutch lay on his back, spread-eagled. And cut open from chin to abdomen. Various parts of his insides were spread around him on the ground and oozing out of the gaping wound. Hutch swallowed hard and shut the file.
"Garbage haulers found him this morning around 5," Dobey said, half sitting against the table. "The murderer thoughtfully left his ID on him. He was 24 years old. Name was Mike Stanley. He was found in an area known for male prostitutes. Maybe he just didn't pick the right one."
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances. "Shades of John Blaine," Starsky said miserably. "Only worse. Here we go again."
"We don't want the press getting hold of this until we've got this lunatic off the streets," Dobey said. "I want you two to lead the investigation. And I want results, fast. Is that understood?"
"Sure, Cap," Starsky said. He picked up the file in one hand and his jacket in the other. "Let's go, Hutch."
The interview with the family had to come first, to get names of Stanley's friends and associates. Everybody had to be a suspect at first, and eliminated one at a time. But this wasn't going to be a pleasant interview.
The Stanleys lived in a once-nice but slightly decaying neighborhood, in a post World War II style house set a little way back from the street. Though the day was balmy, the curtains were drawn and every door and window was tightly shut. Starsky parked the red-and-white Torino and shut off the motor, but neither man moved immediately.
"I hate this part," Hutch said finally.
"No more than I do, buddy," Starsky said. "Let's go."
They walked up to the door and rang, and a few minutes later, the door opened just a crack, stopped from opening farther by a burglar chain. Starsky, who was nearest, showed his ID. "Police, ma'am," he said gently. "We'd like to talk to you for a few minutes."
"Is it about Michael?" the woman asked. She'd been crying.
"Yes, ma'am," Starsky said.
The door shut, and opened again, all the way this time. A woman of about 50 stood there, her hair slightly mussed. But she tried to smile for them as she invited them in.
She waved them to seats on a floral-patterned sofa in the darkened room and took a matching easy chair for herself. Hutch produced a notebook and pen.
"We're investigating Michael's...death," Starsky said, more gently still. "What can you tell us about his friends, anybody he might have been with in the last few days?"
The woman's lip trembled, but she steadied it. "Most of his friends were boys he'd known from school, kids from the neighborhood. At least the ones I met," she added.
She paused and wiped at her eyes.
"They wouldn't let me see his body," she said, almost to herself. "They pulled the sheet back just far enough for me to see his face..." At this she dissolved into tears. Hutch reached out and laid a hand on her arm comfortingly. In a few moments, she regained control of herself. "I'm sorry," she said, pulling a tissue out of her pocket. "It's just so...awful."
"That's why we want to catch the guy, ma'am," Starsky said. "Can you give us a list of Michael's friends? Maybe someone knows something that can help us."
She nodded, wiped at her eyes again, and took the notebook and pen that Hutch held out for her. She scribbled on it for several minutes. "He was supposed to be at the movies last night," she said, looking up at Hutch, who was nearest. "He liked 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' so much. I thought it was because everybody takes part in it, holding newspapers over their heads..." She smiled a little. "I went with him once. It was kind of fun..."
Hutch looked at Starsky, who sighed and reached out to pat the mother's hand. "Thank you, Mrs. Stanley. We'll keep in touch."
Once in the car, Hutch said, "'Rocky Horror'? What's that?"
"Your cultural education is sadly lacking, Hutch," Starsky said, shaking his head. "I can't believe you never saw that." With a grin, he sang, "I'm a transsexual transvestite from Transylvania..." He burst into laughter at Hutch's expression. "I'll take you to see it some Saturday night," he said. "It's a blast."
"I'll bet," Hutch said sourly. "Where to now?"
"Start questioning the friends, I guess. But I'm betting Michael had a whole set of friends that none of them knew," Starsky said.
Starsky's instincts were right. None of Michael Stanley's old high school buddies could imagine what he was doing in the part of town where he'd been found, and none knew of anyone who could possibly want to kill him. And their answers all had the ring of truth both Starsky and Hutch had learned to recognize after years of interrogating suspects. At the end of the day, the detectives were right back where they'd started that morning.
When they got back to headquarters, they found that the coroner had released Stanley's personal effects. A large manila envelope was waiting for them. Starsky dumped it out on the desk and the two detectives started going through it.
A wallet, containing a few dollars, a driver's license and a ticket stub for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." A set of car keys and some loose change. A pocket knife. A couple of half-crushed aspirins. A plastic baggie with a few stems and seeds of marijuana left in it and a battered package of rolling papers. Some business cards, one of which advertised an adult book store in the neighborhood Stanley had been found in.
"Guess we start here," Starsky said, holding up the card.
"At least we know he really did go to that movie," Hutch said, looking at the ticket stub.
The clerk at the adult book store wasn't much help. He simply shrugged when Starsky showed him the photo of Mike Stanley. "I've seen him come in here a coupla times," the man said.
"Was he in here last night?" Starsky asked patiently.
The man shrugged again. "I work days."
"Would you say this guy was a regular customer?" Hutch put in.
Starsky was beginning to lose his temper. "This man was murdered last night and drawn and quartered like a Thanksgiving turkey," he said evenly, but with a cold stare in the midnight blue eyes that got even the clerk's languid attention. "We're going to find out who did it. If we don't, and if it's because you know something you aren't telling us, the blood of this man is going to be on your hands, asshole. Now, if you can't help us..."
The man licked his lips nervously. "OK, OK, sorry. Tiffany was on last night. Wait a minute, I'll get her phone number for you." He turned away and reached for a file card box on the counter. Flipping through it, he located what he wanted and scribbled the number down on the back of a business card. "She ain't too friendly if you wake her up," he said, handing it to Starsky. "And she worked till 6 a.m., so she's probably still asleep. Just so you know."
"Thanks," Hutch said, when Starsky simply took the card and shoved it into his jeans pocket.
On the way out, Starsky's eye caught a good look at some of the books and magazines on display. They hadn't paid attention on the way in because they were intent on questioning the clerk. But when Hutch noticed that Starsky wasn't behind him which he didn't do until he was almost to the door he went back to look over his partner's shoulder. Almost every book and magazine had a homosexual theme.
"Specialty store," Hutch said dryly.
Starsky had picked up one of the magazines and seemed riveted to a graphic photo of two men in the act of having sex with each other.
Starsky shut the magazine and put it down. He shook his head. "You don't really think about what it means in practical terms, do you?"
From long practice, Hutch was able to decipher the cryptic remark. "No, but so what? You don't have to watch."
"No, guess not."
Hutch gave Starsky an affectionate shove as they started out the door, grinning to himself. Eight years on the street and a tough New York childhood, and somehow Starsky seemed to hang onto an almost childlike naivete. It could be annoying, but it was kind of endearing, too.
They went back to the station to make the call to Tiffany. Hutch dialed the number and waited while it rang and rang. He had almost decided to give up after ten rings when the phone was finally picked up and a hoarse male voice mumbled "Hello?"
"This is Detective Hutchinson of the Metro division," Hutch said. "I'd like to speak to Tiffany, please."
There was a long silence, so long Hutch began to wonder if the voice's owner had gone back to sleep. Finally, the voice said, "This is Tiffany."
Hutch raised his eyebrows at Starsky, on the extension. "We'd like to come talk to you about one of your customers at the store in connection with an investigation we're working on."
More silence. At last, the voice said, "OK. I go on at ten."
"We'd like to talk to you now."
A long and exaggerated sigh. "In person, I suppose."
"That would be nice," Hutch said sarcastically.
"All right, all right." The voice recited an address, and Hutch wrote it down.
"Cooperative bastard, isn't she?" Starsky said with a grin after Hutch hung up.
"A real sweetheart."
The address proved to be a surprisingly posh apartment in a neighborhood neither detective could have afforded.
"I guess the adult book store business is lucrative," Hutch said.
"Give me a break," Starsky snorted. "I'd say 'Tiffany' moonlights."
"Doing what, I wonder?"
Starsky rubbed at his eyes wearily. "We probably don't want to know," he answered after a few moments.
"Tiffany" opened the door wearing a velvety-looking robe. He was almost painfully slender, with rumpled red hair that hung to his shoulders. "Come in, gentlemen," he said with an elaborate bow.
Barely restraining himself from rolling his eyes, Starsky went in first, followed by Hutch, and they took the chairs the man waved them to.
"Name, please?" Hutch asked, pen poised over his notebook.
"Tiffany..." the man began, but Hutch raised his eyebrows sardonically, and the man stopped. "OK. Stephen Douglas. Tiffany's a professional name."
Hutch noted it without comment. "How long have you worked at Boys' Toys?"
"About a year," Douglas said.
"Do you know this man?" Hutch produced a photo of Michael Stanley.
Douglas took it and looked at it with a frown for a moment. "Sure. Don't know his name. He comes in every now and then."
"Did you see him last night?" Starsky asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Douglas said, frowning even more. "He didn't buy anything, though. Just kind of hung around, as I recall, and finally left."
"Did he leave with anyone?" Starsky asked.
"Man, I don't know," Douglas said impatiently. "We were busy last night. We always are on Fridays."
"Try to remember. It's important," Hutch said.
Douglas looked back and forth between them. "Why is it so important? What did he do?"
"He died," Starsky said bluntly. "Want to see the pictures? They're not very pretty."
"You mean somebody offed him?" Douglas exclaimed.
Douglas rubbed at his eyes. "That sucks, man. Damn. Hold on, let me think." After a few moments, he said, slowly, "I think he did leave with some guy, but he didn't meet him inside the store...kinda seems to me the guy was hanging around outside, and this one," he indicated the photo he still held, "went outside and talked to him. Next time I looked up, they were both gone. I can't be certain."
"Could you describe the man outside?" Hutch asked.
"Not very well. I didn't really look at him, you know? Maybe around 30, 35. Light hair, not as light as yours," he looked at Hutch, "but not dark. Kind of a paunchy gut. Wearing a jacket and tie with jeans."
"Had you ever seen that man before?" Hutch asked.
Douglas shook his head. "No. Not that I remember. Sorry."
"Could you recognize him if you saw him again?"
"Maybe. Don't want to promise."
"If you see him again, take a good long look and call us, OK?" Starsky asked, producing a card with their phone number and extension on it.
"Sure, man. How'd he die?"
"Knifed," Starsky said shortly, remembering the captain's admonition that they didn't want the details out on the street.
Douglas shuddered. "Man, that's a bummer. I'll keep my eyes open."
As they drove away in the Torino, Starsky said, "Well, that was interesting. Why do you suppose he calls himself 'Tiffany'?"
"I think we'd know if we visited that store after ten tonight," Hutch said dryly. "Which we probably should do. I'm just not sure I want to."
After taking a few hours' break early in the evening, Starsky and Hutch headed back to the neighborhood of Boys' Toys. They were in Hutch's car so as to be less conspicuous, and as they rolled to a stop down the block from the store, both realized that at this time of night, the store was a hotbed of activity.
"Popular place," Starsky commented.
"No shit," Hutch said, watching in amazement the steady stream of men going in and out, hanging around out front, bending over cars. "Looks like a regular hangout."
"Don't s'pose there's any illegal activity going on here, do ya?" Starsky asked with a grin.
"At an upstanding establishment like this one?" Hutch replied in mock indignation. "Starsk, I'm surprised at you!"
"So, you wanna go in?"
"No," Hutch said with a sigh, "but I guess we have to. Come on."
Both men felt like they were running some kind of gauntlet as they approached the store, dodging several men who were obviously under the influence of certain substances and others who eyed them with interest.
One of those reached out and got Hutch by the arm as they walked by. "Hey, blue eyes," the man said, slipping his arm through Hutch's. "Why don't you ditch Curly-Top and raise your standard of living a bit?"
The expression on Hutch's face was priceless, Starsky thought with a grin he couldn't suppress. Starsky smoothly took over, taking Hutch's other arm and gently pulling him back toward himself.
"Sorry, sweetheart," he said coolly. "You're too late."
The other man shrugged and leaned back against the store. "If you change your mind," he said to Hutch, "I'll be right here."
Keeping hold of Hutch's arm to preserve the illusion, Starsky steered him inside the store and actually managed to keep from laughing until they were inside.
"It's not that funny, Starsk," Hutch said mildly.
"Sure it is," Starsky sputtered, wiping his eyes. "If you could have seen your face..." He grinned. "Reminded me of your expression when Sugar suggested dyeing her -- uh, his -- hair the same color as yours. 'Member that?"
Hutch rolled his eyes and turned his attention to trying to spot Stephen Douglas.
It took several minutes, but finally Starsky lightly punched Hutch's arm and said, "Over there. I think."
Hutch looked at the person who was stocking shelves at the other end of the store. Wildly curly red hair topped an overly made-up face, and a tight red dress with four-inch heels completed the ensemble. "Are you sure?"
"One way to find out," Starsky said, starting off. He stopped next to the stocker and said, "Tiffany?"
The redhead looked up and pasted on a brilliant smile. "Hello, gentlemen." The voice was husky, but nothing like the one they'd heard that morning. If the detectives hadn't known better, they would have believed this person was a woman. But somewhere under the make-up, Starsky recognized Stephen Douglas.
"We're hoping your friend shows back up tonight," Starsky explained. "What's with the outfit?"
Douglas straightened up and flashed the smile again. "A girl's got to make a living, boys."
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances, then Hutch shrugged. "Don't ask right now," he said to Starsky.
"Wasn't planning to," Starsky said. To "Tiffany," he said, "What's all that action going on outside?"
"People meeting each other," Douglas said. "Making new friends. All God's children need love, Officer."
Starsky glanced around to make sure no one had heard that remark. "We don't want everybody knowing we're cops," he hissed.
"Sorry," Douglas said. "Then what should I call you?"
"Try 'Dave,'" Starsky said. "And he's Ken."
"All right, Dave," Douglas said. "You might try hanging around outside instead of in here. That's where the real action is. As you already noticed."
Starsky looked at Hutch. "I imagine he's right."
"Dave, Dave," Douglas said sadly, shaking his head, but with a wicked grin. "I don't want everybody knowing I'm not a woman."
"I think they'd eventually discover it," Starsky said shortly.
"Of course," Douglas answered, still grinning. "But by then, it won't matter."
"Come on, Starsk," Hutch said, pulling him in the direction of the door. "Let's go poke around outside."
The two detectives went back outside, where the action had increased noticeably in the few minutes they'd been inside.
"If we wanted to," Starsky whispered to Hutch, "we could make a couple of dozen busts right now for prostitution, drug dealing, you name it."
"And blow our cover all to hell," Hutch replied in the same tone. "We're after a murderer, not small-time dopers."
"I know," Starsky said, letting his eyes move over the variety of humanity. None of the men outside -- or inside, for that matter -- matched the description that Douglas had given them earlier.
They hadn't taken more than a few steps before Hutch was accosted again, by a different man. This one had clearly been drinking.
"Hey, you lookin' for some company?"
"No, thanks," Hutch said. "We're looking for a friend of ours, sometimes hangs around here. Michael Stanley. Do you know him?"
"Mickey? Sure, I know Mickey. He was here last night, I think..." the man frowned, trying to think through the alcohol. "No, maybe that was the night before."
"Try to remember," Starsky urged. "It's important."
"Why?" the man asked, suddenly becoming suspicious. "What do you want with Mickey?"
Flashing his best smile, Hutch said, "He was supposed to go out with us tonight, but he didn't show up. We got worried."
"Oh," the man's brow cleared, and he returned Hutch's smile. "I'm sure he's okay. Mickey sometimes disappears for a week at a time. And he was here last night, come to think of it. The guy he left with last night, now..." He grinned. "Looked like they might stay busy a while, know what I mean?"
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances. "What did this person look like?" Hutch asked, suddenly intent.
The man frowned thoughtfully. "Let's see. He was mid-30ish, I guess. Kind of --" he made a gesture toward his midsection, "pot belly," he explained, rolling his eyes. "Not Mickey's usual type. Um, kind of dishwater blond hair, mustache, sort of nervous, but some guys are if they're in the closet. Mickey is, too."
"Mickey's in the closet?" Hutch said, mostly for clarification. They'd already deduced that much.
"He said he was going to tell his folks," the man said, "but I didn't think he'd really have the nerve."
"Why? Did he expect it to be bad?" Hutch asked.
The man nodded. "His dad...well, he figured his dad'd throw an awful fit. Macho. You know the type. Wanted Mickey to play football, work on cars, and spit tobacco." He grinned. "All those 'manly' things."
"And Mickey didn't come through?" Starsky asked.
The man shrugged. "Mickey liked football as much as anybody. But his dad's just the kind of guy that wouldn't take the news his son was a 'fag' very well, if you know what I mean."
"How badly do you think his dad would have taken it? Bad enough to beat him up or something?" Hutch asked carefully.
The man considered this. "I never met his dad, so I don't know for sure," he said at last. "I guess I was thinking he'd probably just throw him out or disinherit him or something like that." Suddenly he got suspicious again. "If Mickey's such a friend of yours, you oughta know this stuff."
Hutch produced his badge. Showing it to the man, he said gently, "Mickey was murdered last night. We're trying to find out who saw him last. Had you ever seen this man before? The one Mickey left with?"
The man blinked rapidly for a moment or two and finally said, "Mickey's dead? God." He was silent for several more moments, and finally answered Hutch's question. "Huh-uh. I hadn't seen him before. He was new."
"Anybody else here who might have noticed the two of them?" Hutch asked.
The man looked around. "Most anybody here, I'd guess. Just ask around."
Several of the other people around the store dimly remembered seeing Michael Stanley the night before, but no one else had noticed him leave. The way people were milling around, coming and going, the detectives weren't really surprised. Each one seemed intent on his own activities and nobody was paying much attention to anything else. After another hour, Starsky and Hutch were forced to give up. But before leaving, they took down their witness' name and address.
As soon as they were in the car and safely driving away, Hutch let out a big sigh. "Well, that didn't help much. I do think we ought to question Stanley's father, though."
"I thought it was very helpful," Starsky said, leaning back in his seat and grinning at his partner.
"It proved that the famous Hutchinson sex appeal is even more powerful than I thought," Starsky teased. "You not only bring the ladies flocking around in droves --"
"Starsk," Hutch said, shaking his head. "It's not that at all. Word must've got out."
"About you being a lousy kisser." Hutch grinned.
Starsky returned the grin, but it lacked some of its usual sparkle. He stared out the window in silence for so long that Hutch finally poked him lightly in the arm.
"You still with me, Starsk?"
Starsky sighed and shook his head. "I'm just bugged about this. I mean, I suppose in a city this size, we're bound to run into...well, you know, guys like these...pretty regularly. I just...can't get used to it, I guess."
Hutch raised his eyebrows. "You seemed to be getting quite a few yucks out of it back there."
Starsky shrugged. "You gotta laugh or freak out. At least, I do. You handle stuff better than I do. You got used to the idea of John bein' gay a lot quicker than I did."
"That time, you kind of freaked out," Hutch said.
"Yeah. Thought I'd try laughing this time."
"Did it help?"
"No." Starsky returned to staring out the window.
Hutch turned this over in his mind for a few minutes, then ventured, "It might have nothing to do with why the guy got murdered, Starsk."
Starsky only grunted.
"Not the problem, huh?"
Starsky shook his head. "I just don't get it," he said, almost plaintively.
"You don't have to," Hutch said. "Don't let it bother you so much, buddy. Worry about the case, okay?"
"Yeah. Guess you're right."
Hutch dropped Starsky at his own apartment and drove home in a thoughtful and disturbed mood. Something nagged at him about this case. He wished he could put his finger on it.
His mood didn't improve the next morning when the two detectives met at the squad room before their planned interview with Michael Stanley's father. As soon as he arrived, with Starsky right behind him, Dobey bellowed, "You two. In here. Now!"
"What'd we do this time?" Starsky inquired of his partner, who shrugged.
Inside Dobey's office, the two didn't even have a chance to sit down. Dobey slapped a file into Hutch's hand, who was nearest. "We've had another one."
"Another one?" Hutch opened the folder and stared in consternation at the graphic photo there. The face was different, but the details were the same. Another young man, this one barely in his 20s by the look of him, his body sliced open and bloody.
Starsky peered over Hutch's shoulder at the photo and quickly looked away. Hutch shut the folder.
"Where did they find him?" Hutch asked.
"In the alley right behind that store," Dobey thundered. "What the hell were you two doing last night?"
"Questioning people," Starsky answered. "We spent a couple of hours right outside that store, Cap."
"Well, you messed up!" Dobey said angrily. "Nearest the M.E. can figure, this boy died around 1 a.m." He leaned over his desk. "I want this maniac caught. Do you understand?"
"We thought we were looking for somebody who killed Michael Stanley," Hutch said, trying to calm his irate captain. "Now it looks like we've got a serial killer on our hands. This changes everything," he added to Starsky.
"Sure does," Starsky said.
"Well? Get moving!"
Starsky took the file, and he and Hutch made a hasty retreat.
"Now we've got a real problem," Starsky said. "Guess this lets out Stanley's dad."
"Not necessarily," Hutch objected. "We have to cover every angle."
"First thing we do is go through files to see if there's ever been another guy with an M.O. like this one," Starsky said, reaching for the phone.
"There has," Hutch said.
"Who?" Starsky stopped in the middle of the movement.
"Jack the Ripper."
Starsky rolled his eyes. "Come on, Hutch. That was back in the 1880s."
"I wasn't suggesting this was the same guy," Hutch said impatiently. "I simply said it was the same M.O. Maybe this turkey's a copycat."
Starsky considered that. "Could be. What do you know about Jack the Ripper?"
Hutch thought about it a few minutes. "He killed prostitutes. Five of them, I think. In the Whitechapel area of London. They never caught him, and the killing just stopped finally. The London police speculated that he was a surgeon, or had medical training, because the weapon appeared to be a scalpel or something like that."
"Prostitutes, huh?" Starsky propped his chin on his hand. "Sex crimes, I s'pose?"
Hutch frowned, trying to remember. He'd read a book years ago -- what was it called? -- that went into the Ripper murders in excruciating detail, with police reports, speculation on the Ripper's identity and actual photos of the victims.
"I thought I remembered hearing they decided the Ripper was the King's son or something," Starsky said, "and the cops hushed it up because of that. That they knew all along who it was and just deliberately didn't do anything about it."
"That was one theory," Hutch agreed. "They also thought maybe the guy had a special grudge against prostitutes, maybe because one had given him syphilis or something. The prince you were talking about, Prince Eddy, I think his name was, he was supposed to have had syphilis. The bottom line is, each murder was a little more violent than the last, and the prevailing theory, as I remember it, is that the last victim's murder was so horrible it finally drove the guy the rest of the way over the edge and he killed himself. "
"So if our guy is a copycat," Starsky said, "it's possible he's going after these guys for a similar reason?"
"Could be. Let's start trying to figure out what Stanley and..." Hutch opened the folder long enough to glance at the latest victim's name, "Brent Farmer had in common."
"There's only one problem with this Ripper thing," Starsky said. He'd been wracking his own brain for details about the Ripper murders and he had suddenly remembered seeing a photo of the last known Ripper victim, Mary Kelly.
"Like you said, the Ripper murders got more bloody as they went on," Starsky said. "And the last one, Mary Kelly, the guy not only sliced her open, he cut off her breasts and took out her kidneys and piled it all neatly on the bedside table."
"Yeah, I remember reading that," Hutch said. "What's your point?"
"Our copycat started out that way," Starsky said. "How much worse can he get?"
Hutch winced. "Don't even think that."
Thorough questioning of Farmer's family got them only one thing that the two victims had in common: Both were in the habit of hanging out at Boys' Toys. The two men might have been acquainted, but more likely weren't. Farmer's family had never heard of Michael Stanley, though they had long ago resigned themselves to the fact that their son was a homosexual. They had even let him bring dates home for dinner. There seemed to be no reason to suspect that they had had anything to do with the murder.
"Back to the store tonight?" Starsky asked as they were rearranging their notes after the interviews.
Hutch sighed. "I guess so. Only this time, we may need to stay a little later, pal. This maniac seems to do his best work in the early hours of the morning."
But Sunday night was a slow night at the store. Only a few men were outside, and no one was inside but the clerk, one the detectives hadn't met yet. Apparently, weekends were the hot time. By midnight, no one was around at all.
Starsky leaned back against the building and raised his eyebrows at his partner. "Whaddya think? Hang around or call it a night?"
"Do you really think Dobey'll let us take off for two days with no results? That's what we've got now. A vague description that doesn't tell us much. That's it."
"We can't invent evidence," Starsky pointed out. "And Dobey ain't gonna want to authorize overtime for us working our days off this week on a case with no clues."
"Man, I hate to just leave it for two days..."
"We won't leave it," Starsky said with a grin. "We'll talk about it and hash it over like we always do, and you know it. Besides, thinkin' is part of our job."
"It is?" Hutch pretended amazement. "Then that's the part you're way underqualified for, buddy."
Starsky punched him lightly and affectionately in the arm. "That's why I keep you around, Blondie."
At home that night, Hutch rooted around through every book in his apartment and finally found the Jack the Ripper book, dusty and forgotten. Sitting down with it at the kitchen table, he opened a notebook and proceeded to study what was known about the Ripper's methods, looking for anything at all that might help him and Starsky get an idea about what kind of lunatic they were looking for.
The Ripper was the first serial killer whose crimes were considered "sex crimes," according to the book, although there had been others in the past, even as far back as the 13th century, when Gilles de Rais, the Marshal of France, went on a child-killing spree. And the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory had been accused of killing some 650 girls in the 16th century, reportedly so she could bathe in their blood. But criminology had advanced a lot since those days, and sex crimes as a category had been ushered in by the Ripper.
The book helpfully included a character sketch of the typical sex-crime murderer, and Hutch made notes on his pad. Most were alienated outcasts of society. Most were sadistic and had abnormal sexual appetites and an overwhelming urge to dominate. And most regarded women as objects rather than human beings.
Hutch was so deep into his reading that he almost jumped out of his skin when the phone rang. Taking a deep breath to get his heartbeat back to normal, he picked it up. "Hutchinson."
"Whatcha doin'?" said Starsky's cheerful voice. "You sound guilty."
"I'm reading about Jack the Ripper," Hutch said, slightly annoyed. "I'm trying to see if there are any parallels besides the obvious one."
"Have you found any?"
"I don't know yet."
"Is something wrong?" Only Starsky would have heard that note of worry in his voice, Hutch thought.
He sighed and rubbed at his eyes with his free hand. "I don't know. That's the problem. Something's bugging me, and I don't know what it is."
Silence for a moment, then Starsky said, "You're hearin' a little bell goin' off somewhere in the back of your head?"
More silence. Finally, "One of our cases? I can't think of any like this. I mean, this bloody."
"Neither can I. I don't think it was one of ours. Maybe something I read....Shit, I don't know," Hutch said, frustrated.
"You'll think of it," Starsky said seriously. "Try sleepin' on it, buddy."
"Yeah, you're probably right."
Stealthy footsteps. He froze, turned, looked over his shoulder. The dark street was deserted. Distant thunder rumbled as heat lightning briefly flashed across the sky. He walked on, his heart beating fast, ears straining. Nothing.
No, wait. There they were again. Somebody was following him...
He reached for his gun -- but it wasn't there. Suddenly panicked, he ran, and the footsteps picked up speed. He looked behind him, then tripped over some obstacle and fell sprawling, face down. Before he could scramble to his feet again, someone had him by the throat, strangling him.
He couldn't breathe...he saw the flash of a blade in the reflected light of more lightning --
Hutch woke with a jerk, bathed in sweat, heart pounding. For just a moment, he didn't know where he was. He rubbed his eyes, pushed the damp hair away from his face and took a deep breath. Then, he couldn't help himself, he turned on the bedside lamp. He just didn't like being alone, in the dark, after the terror of the dream.
"Hutchinson, you're an idiot," he scolded himself aloud, hoping the sound of his own voice would dispel the feeling. It didn't work.
Some tough homicide detective you are, he thought. Sitting here in bed, shaking like a leaf, over a damned nightmare.
Unlike most nightmares, however, this one wouldn't dissipate. Usually Hutch's dreams were barely more than impressions once he woke up, but he could still feel that same bone-numbing terror he'd felt during the dream. He could feel his heart still pounding.
"Damn it!" he said, aloud again. This was no way to get back to sleep. He looked at the phone speculatively. There was only one person in all the world he could call at -- he looked at the bedside clock -- 4:12 a.m.
An incoherent mumble on the other end made him smile, in spite of his fright.
"Starsk, it's me."
"Hutch? Whassa matter?"
Now he felt completely stupid. What should he say? Starsk, I'm scared. I had a nightmare and I can't go back to sleep. Yeah, right.
"Nothing, buddy. Go back to sleep. I'm sorry I woke you."
"Hutch, what is it?" Starsky was fully awake now, and he didn't like the way Hutch sounded. "Are you okay? Did something happen? Talk to me!"
"It was just...I had a bad dream."
Starsky was momentarily stumped. He couldn't remember Hutch ever even mentioning a bad dream, much less calling him in the middle of the night over one. "Musta been a lulu."
"Wanna tell me about it?"
No. I want you to make it go away.
He sighed. "It was...I was walking down this street, and somebody was following me, and then...I fell...and he started strangling me...and then I saw he had a knife."
"I just couldn't go back to sleep," Hutch said, not realizing how forlorn he sounded. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bothered you."
"Hey," Starsky said. "This is me, remember? Who else can you call at this hour?"
In spite of his lingering uneasiness, Hutch grinned. Almost exactly the same thing I thought.
"Seriously, babe, this lunatic we're messing with, I don't blame ya. Surprised I haven't had one myself. Just remember we're the good guys, 'kay?"
"Yeah. Go back to sleep, Starsk. See you tomorrow."
He heard Starsky yawn. "Okay, Blondie. Sure you're okay?"
"G'night," Starsky said around another yawn.
Hutch hung up and lay down, but he didn't turn the light out. Haven't been afraid of the dark since I was four or five. It's a little late to start again now.
But he couldn't bring himself to turn it out, and finally fell asleep, with it still on.
The dream didn't return, and Hutch awoke at his usual time of 6 a.m., without the alarm. Remembering he didn't have to go to work, he started to turn over and go back to sleep, but decided he didn't want to push his luck with the dream. Instead, he went for his run and came back home feeling much better. He went to the refrigerator for his health elixir.
The Ripper book was still lying where he'd left it on the kitchen table. He scooped it up and took it and the elixir to the couch. Flipping through the book, he came upon the photo of Mary Kelly's body.
Good God. That's awful.
Kelly's squalid surroundings just made the whole thing worse. The woman looked like somebody had done a bad job of dissecting her, which in a way, the Ripper had. Hutch put the elixir down.
What's the link? Is there a link? Am I imagining this whole thing and giving myself bad dreams for nothing?
But just as he started to put the book away, the thing that had been nagging at him clicked into place.
He picked up the phone and dialed Starsky. When his partner answered, still groggy -- early morning had never been his best time of day -- Hutch said, "Me. I just thought of it."
"Thought of what?"
"The thing that's been bugging me about this. Remember that murder in San Jose in '69?"
At his end, Starsky frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"A young guy got killed, vanished on his way home from work and got found about three or four days later in a garbage bin. Behind an adult book store."
"The San Jose Slasher!" Starsky exclaimed suddenly, in a tone of enlightenment.
"Exactly. They never caught him. The papers had a field day. Especially when they found the second guy a few months later. Remember him?"
"Yeah. They never did find the rest of his body, did they?"
"Only his head and part of his torso," Hutch confirmed. "I remember reading that the D.A. said there was no proof it was the same killer, because they didn't have enough of the body to tell if it was the same M.O., but I think they were actually pretty sure it was."
"So you're thinking we've got the killer here now?"
"It's a possibility."
"But it's been years, Hutch. Why would he come here and strike twice in two days after all this time?"
"I don't know," Hutch said. "But we don't know that it has been years since he did this. Maybe he's been working in some other area, for all we know."
Starsky made a noise of disgust. "God, Hutch, you make him sound like an artist or something."
"In a way, a twisted way, he is. He's never been caught, has he?" Hutch inquired.
"If this is the same guy. It might not be."
"Well, I'm going to call in and ask Libby to request the San Jose files and we'll compare notes with the detectives who handled the case up there. If I'm wrong, okay, we'll come up with something else."
The files arrived in time for Starsky and Hutch's regularly scheduled shift Wednesday, and the first thing Starsky saw when he walked into the squad room that morning was Hutch examining a crime scene photo every bit as bloody and ugly as the two they had for their own case. Reaching over his partner's shoulder -- and startling Hutch badly as he did so -- Starsky picked up the photo and studied it, sipping his coffee with his other hand.
"Same M.O., isn't it?" Hutch asked.
"Sure looks like it." Starsky put the photo down -- also the coffee -- and swallowed, making a face. "Man, this guy is not only killing guys, he's doing a number on my appetite."
"You and me both, buddy," Hutch agreed, turning the photo face down on top of another one in the same position and turning his attention to the written reports of the San Jose detectives. Starsky started to reach for the other face-down photo, but Hutch stopped him. "That one's worse, Starsk."
"I'm a tough street cop," Starsky said, grinning, though he was still a little green around the gills. However, he visibly braced himself as he turned the photo face up and found himself looking at a torn-open plastic garbage bag containing a severed head, next to the top half of a man's torso which was not only missing the arms, but most of the ribs and internal organs as well. He quickly turned the photo back over and sat down.
"We're gonna get this asshole," Hutch said tightly. "Nobody deserves to end up like that."
"And when we do," Starsky said, his voice slightly thickened with his reaction to the photo, "I'm gonna enjoy putting the scum away for the rest of his miserable life."
The San Jose force had kept exhaustive records of their hunt for the killer. But they had never had any witnesses who could give a description of a suspect.
The two lead detectives on the case -- Dan Forcum and Bob Raymond -- had included their extension number for Starsky and Hutch among the information, with a note saying they'd be willing to do anything and everything "to help nail this sonofabitch."
Starsky grinned when Hutch showed him the note. "I think I'd like those two."
"They've been partners for close to 20 years," Hutch said, not looking up from the M.E. report he was reading. "Gonna be retiring in a few years, Forcum told me, but neither one wants to leave with this case still open. That's also why they're still on the street, instead of at some nice safe desk job."
"You and me someday," Starsky said. "Still on the street, still partners, too damned stubborn to do anything else."
"Or do it with anybody else," Hutch agreed, looking up this time to smile at Starsky. "Just promise me you won't drive me to the nursing home in that striped tomato of yours."
"Well, I'm not going in that heap of yours," Starsky retorted with a grin.
Starsky and Hutch weren't the only officers on the case. A couple of uniformed cops and another set of detectives were doing a lot of the grunt work and reporting to Starsky and Hutch with whatever they found. But Dobey had made it clear that success -- or failure -- would be their responsibility. With that in mind, and also with the added pressure of a couple of police-beat reporters who had turned up to sniff around the precinct in search of a good murder mystery, the two made several stops in their district to talk to their usual street contacts, looking for information.
Huggy's, of course, was the first stop.
"Don't tell me, let me guess," the elfin-faced black man said when he saw them coming through the door of The Pits. "You're here to ask about our mysterious dissection-happy murderer."
Starsky and Hutch looked at each other. "So much for keeping the details off the street," Starsky said dryly.
"Are you kiddin' me?" Huggy demanded. "How long you suppose you'd keep something like that quiet? Every pretty-boy in town is afraid of his own shadow."
"That didn't seem to be the case last weekend," Hutch said. "We were nosing around Boys' Toys and the place was busier than New Orleans during Mardis Gras."
"Word hadn't got out yet then," Huggy said. "It has now." He made a slashing motion across his throat. "Them boys ain't into blood, you dig? They have gone underground. There won't be too many of them around until you catch this cat."
"Are you saying nobody will talk to us?" Hutch asked.
Huggy considered. "I think they will. They want the guy caught as bad as you guys do. What I am saying is, if the killer is lookin' for a next victim, he might find it a little more difficult."
"And he might grab whoever comes along if he can't find what he wants," Hutch finished. He looked at Starsky. "Which might make him ripe for a decoy."
Starsky looked thoughtful. "Man, that'd be dangerous."
"Not if we do it right. Plenty of backup. Wires. The whole bit."
Starsky shrugged and reached into his pocket. Coming out with a quarter, he said, "Heads or tails?"
Starsky flipped the coin, caught it, and slapped it onto the back of his right hand. He uncovered it and showed it to Hutch. It was heads. "Okay, pal, you're the sacrificial lamb."
At the end of the day, when they'd finished questioning all their street contacts and had come up with essentially the same thing Huggy had told them, they presented their plan to Dobey. Predictably, he exploded.
"No! I'm not having my men -- my best men -- taking a chance on getting drawn and quartered!" Dobey thundered at them. "This isn't some two-bit drug hustler. This is a bloodthirsty killer."
"Cap --" Starsky began, but Hutch intervened.
"We're not suggesting doing it alone," he said to Dobey. "I'll be wired. Starsky'll be nearby listening to everything that goes on. We can have as much backup around as we want, if they're well-hidden. All we gotta do is --"
"You can't prove he's the murderer unless you catch him in the act of murdering someone," Dobey pointed out angrily. "We don't have any hard evidence."
"If we get him in the act of trying to murder someone, we can get circumstantial evidence," Hutch said. "Once we have a suspect, we can check his movements and alibi for the time of the murders. Maybe even get a confession. These guys usually like to brag." Then he added with a grin, "Starsky and I won't let him actually kill me, Captain."
That made Starsky look at his partner with a sudden sick feeling. Hutch returned the look, understanding. They'd been too close to that too many times already. Hutch turned back to the captain.
"It's worth a try, Cap. We've got nothing now."
It took a lot of talking, but finally the captain agreed to let them attempt their decoy routine, as long as they let him assign enough backup to pull off a coup in a small country, as Starsky phrased it, grinning.
They set the day for Friday, when Boys' Toys would normally be at its busiest, anyway, and Hutch called Stephen Douglas to help him dress the part.
As Starsky watched, not sure whether to laugh or squirm, Douglas worked on Hutch's hair and clothes until, when he was finished with the detective, he would have passed for any of the usual customers at the store.
"There's only one problem," Starsky said as Hutch examined himself in the mirror with more than a little dismay.
"What?" Hutch asked. "This outfit isn't enough of a problem?"
"You're a little too old, buddy," Starsky said.
Hutch looked pained. "Too old for what? I'm only 33."
"All the victims have been in their early 20s," Starsky pointed out.
"He'll pass," Douglas said, critically examining his handiwork. "It's dark outside, and he ain't exactly geriatric, Dave."
Hutch made a "see, I told you" gesture toward Douglas.
"Are you guys sure you want to do this?" Douglas asked suddenly. "I mean, it's pretty dangerous, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Hutch agreed. "But it's a dangerous business we're in."
Douglas looked back and forth between them for a few moments, then shrugged. "Well, I gotta go to work. Guess I'll see you later. Be careful, huh? This stuff's really bad for business." He grinned to show he was kidding.
Hutch returned the grin, but it didn't quite make it to his eyes. "Thanks. For the help, I mean."
With a wave, Douglas left.
"Are you ready?" Hutch asked his partner.
"Yeah. We've set up camp in that abandoned store front across the street. Me and Dickerson'll be there listening to the transmissions. Dickerson's partner -- Cramer -- will be in the store, masquerading as a clerk. A whole raft of uniforms -- out of uniform -- will be scattered around the block. Dickerson's in charge of radio, so if something happens, he'll call them in. You got enough ammo?"
"Wire in place?" Starsky felt his partner's shirt front to make sure. "Have we tested it?"
"Three times," Hutch answered, smiling faintly.
Both were silent, just looking at each other for a few minutes.
"Well, we better get moving," Hutch said at last. "We might not even score tonight." He picked up his jacket and put it on to hide his shoulder holster, though the night was too warm for one.
They drove toward the store in silence, and Starsky stopped the car a couple of blocks away to let Hutch walk the rest of the way. They couldn't be seen together, and Starsky had to sneak into the storefront "camp."
Hutch opened the door and started to get out, but Starsky said, "Hutch."
He stopped and looked back. "Yeah?"
"Always am, buddy," Hutch said.
The crowd was a bit smaller outside the store tonight, but Hutch recognized a couple of his fellow officers milling around in the crowd. Too many would have drawn attention, since most of the regulars knew each other by sight, if no other way. Hutch joined the group.
Across the street, Starsky put on the headphones and listened to the talking going on around Hutch. Dickerson was seated in front of the blacked-out window, watching what was going on through a barely-there clean spot. "He's just standing around," Dickerson reported. "Nothing happening yet."
"This could take hours," Starsky said, still listening.
Around 12:30 a.m., Starsky suddenly stiffened. "Hi, blue eyes," a voice said in his ear.
"Hi," Hutch replied in a friendly tone. He'd been approached several times already, most of them offers to sell him drugs, a couple offers of "company" but none that matched the description Douglas and their other witness had given them of the man who'd left with Stanley the night he was killed.
This one did.
"Where's your friend?"
"What friend is that?" Hutch asked.
"Your curly-haired sidekick that was here with you last week."
"Oh. I don't know. Around. We're not Siamese twins," Hutch said with a smile.
"I kinda thought you were, if you know what I mean," the man said, cocking his head a little to one side. "What's your name?"
"Ken," Hutch answered. He hadn't made up an alias, because Douglas assured him no one would be interested in his last name, anyway.
"I'm Duke. Interested in going somewhere we can talk?"
"Sure. But not far. I'm meeting somebody here later." He didn't want to get out of range of the wire.
"Just a friend," Hutch said hastily. "He works nights. I'm giving him a ride home."
"We don't have to go far," Duke said. He looped his arm through Hutch's and they started walking away. Hutch caught the eye of one of the two officers in the crowd, and the man nodded, almost imperceptibly.
Duke had hold of Hutch's right arm, luckily, so he wouldn't feel the lump of his gun under the jacket. But Hutch was worried about him finding the wire -- and how far this thing would have to go before they'd have reason to call in the cavalry and arrest him...if he was even the man they were looking for.
"Where are they?" Starsky demanded of Dickerson.
"Walking down the street," Dickerson reported. "There's an alley a block down. I saw it earlier. Looks like...yeah, they just turned into it."
"Talk to me, Hutch," Starsky muttered under his breath.
As though he'd heard him, Hutch's voice said, "I haven't seen a friend of mine down here for a week or so. You come around a lot? Maybe you know him."
"May be. What's his name?"
Duke looked at him with a hint of suspicion, but Hutch kept his eyes blank and his smile friendly. Duke shrugged. "I've met him. Haven't seen him around lately, either. Maybe he found a new place to hang out."
"Guess so," Hutch said.
They reached the end of the alley -- a dead end, Hutch noticed -- and Duke gave him a gentle push, putting his back to the wall of the nearest building. "So what's your game, sweetheart?" he asked, his hands on either side of Hutch's head, effectively pinning him there.
"My game?" Hutch asked.
"What do you like?"
"I aim to please," Hutch said, forcing the friendly smile again.
"Is that a fact?" Duke leaned even closer, and Hutch saw a glitter in the man's eyes that hadn't been there before. He wanted desperately to reach for his gun, but he didn't dare. As yet, they had nothing on the man.
Duke lowered one hand long enough to run a finger down Hutch's chest -- and froze abruptly when he felt the wire under Hutch's shirt. He raised his eyes, and the glitter was even more pronounced. Without warning, he grabbed Hutch's throat with one hand and ripped Hutch's shirt open with the other, yanking the wire off.
Starsky heard the tell-tale static of disconnection. "He found the wire! Move, let's go!" he shouted, leaping to his feet and out the door. He heard Dickerson's voice on the radio directing the other officers to the alley, but he was already running full speed, drawing his gun as he went, with his heart in his throat.
In the alley, Hutch fought for all he was worth, but Duke proved surprisingly strong. He was applying so much pressure to Hutch's windpipe that the detective was already seeing stars and losing consciousness. He tried to reach for his gun, but he couldn't breathe...he couldn't see...everything was going dark. He bucked his body desperately, trying to throw the man off, but Duke had him down now, and just before he lost consciousness, he heard the sound of a switchblade opening.
Starsky dashed into the alley just in time to see the light hit the blade. "Freeze!" he shouted, dropping to a crouch and aiming at Duke.
Duke turned to look at him, then, smiling, deliberately and quickly sliced the knife down Hutch's now-bare chest, bringing forth a gush of blood.
Starsky fired, catching Duke high in the middle of the chest, then ran to his partner and fell to his knees beside him. The rest of the officers had arrived just as Starsky fired, and Cramer, Dickerson's partner, took care of cuffing Duke and calling for ambulances for both men.
"Hutch! Hutch, come on, babe, wake up! It's Starsky... Hutch!" Starsky yanked a handkerchief out of his pocket in a vain attempt to stop the flow of blood.
"Is he breathing?" Cramer asked, trying to help with his own handkerchief.
"Yeah. Just." Starsky gently patted Hutch's cheeks, trying to bring him around. "Hutch, come on. Open your eyes. Come on, Hutch!"
Finally, just as the wail of sirens approached, Hutch opened his eyes and started coughing. The skin of his throat was already turning an angry purple. He tried to speak, but couldn't.
"Ssh. The ambulance is here. You're safe. You're gonna be okay," Starsky said, weak with relief.
Hutch's lips formed the word "Starsk" but no sound came out. His eyes weren't quite focusing, either. But he was conscious, and just then the paramedics arrived and started working on him. Starsky backed away, but kept a hand on his partner's shoulder. He'd seen the look of panic in the blue eyes.
"It's not as bad as it looks," one of the paramedics told Starsky and Cramer. "We're taking him to Memorial."
"I'll meet you there," Cramer said. "You go with Hutch."
Starsky dug his car keys out of his jacket pocket and handed them to the other officer. "Thanks."
On the way to the hospital, the paramedic in back with Hutch and Starsky quickly and efficiently bandaged the wound and got the bleeding stopped. "He'll need stitches, I think," he said to Starsky. "But it's really not very deep."
"What about his neck?" Starsky asked. He was alarmed by the ugly bruising, and worried about damage to Hutch's windpipe.
"It's gonna hurt for a few days," the paramedic said. He leaned over Hutch. "Sergeant? How are you doing?"
Hutch's eyes had moved back and forth, following the conversation. He hadn't lost consciousness again. He opened his mouth and said in a hoarse whisper, "We get him?"
"Hey, don't try to talk," Starsky said, before the paramedic could say anything. "Relax, buddy. The bastard's on his way downtown."
"Charges?" Hutch whispered.
"Assaulting a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon. Maybe even attempted murder. Whatever we can charge him with. He'll be there long enough for me to get a crack at him, I promise," Starsky said grimly.
"No, not you, too. You're going to take a couple of days off, Blintz. And don't argue with me," Starsky added, softening the words with a grin as Hutch opened his mouth again.
At the hospital, Starsky was forced to wait, as he had been all too often before, while the doctors worked on Hutch. Eventually, however, one came out to speak to him.
"Yeah," Starsky answered, leaping to his feet.
"We're going to keep Sergeant Hutchinson overnight," the doctor said. "We took several stitches in his chest, but he's in no danger. There was no damage to his throat, though it's going to be quite painful for several days. I've warned him not to talk any more than he absolutely has to, but he insisted, rather forcefully," the doctor smiled, "on seeing you. Don't let him talk very much."
"I won't," Starsky promised. He went to the room the doctor directed him to and found Hutch all bandaged up and looking distinctly unhappy. "Hey, Blondie. How ya doin'?"
"Been better," Hutch said, still quite hoarse, but sounding better than he had.
"They're springing you tomorrow. I'll come for you in the morning. Then we'll interrogate your friend Duke, but I'm gonna do the talkin', okay? Doc says you shouldn't talk much."
"He also said," Hutch paused to swallow painfully, "that this," indicating his bandaged chest, "wasn't serious." He stopped and swallowed again, wincing. "Sure hurts like it's serious."
"I'll bet it does, babe," Starsky said, inwardly thinking, I'm gonna hang that bastard that did this if it's the last thing I ever do.
"Hey, Starsk," Hutch said, recognizing the look on his partner's face. "Easy. We knew it was gonna be dangerous. Don't go..." he paused again, trying not to let how much his throat hurt show, "...don't go blowing the case on account of this."
"Who said anything about blowing the case?" Starsky asked innocently. "We're gonna pin the whole shootin' match on the bastard. You watch."
When Hutch didn't finish, Starsky prompted gently, "Yeah, Hutch? What is it?"
Hutch hesitated another moment, then said, "It was...it was just like my nightmare. I couldn't react..."
The nightmare...aw, shit, buddy. "You okay?" Starsky asked gently. He'd wondered, but didn't like to ask, how a good cop like Hutch had let somebody like Duke get the best of him.
Hutch wet his lips. "I guess...it's just...I was..." he stopped again.
"Shit, buddy, anybody'd have been scared. Scared is what keeps us alive out there," Starsky said, even more gently.
In the morning, Starsky picked Hutch up, complete with a fresh set of clothes he'd picked up at his partner's apartment. After they'd checked Hutch out of the hospital, they headed for Parker Center to interrogate Duke.
He wasn't in a mood to be cooperative. "I got nothin' to say," he said as soon as they entered the interrogation room on the jail floor. "I want my lawyer."
"That's your right," Starsky said agreeably. "You don't have to say a word. But I don't think you understand something, scum. We're not just charging you with hurting my partner here. We're charging you with a couple of real ugly murders that happened in that neighborhood last week. And we're charging you with a couple more ugly murders that happened in San Jose a few years ago. And if we can find any other ugly murders to charge you with, we'll throw those in too. Unless, of course, you can convince the jury you didn't do those murders."
"You got no proof."
"No? Where were you last Saturday night around 1 a.m.?"
Duke simply stared back at him.
"Friday around 3 a.m.?"
Still no answer.
"Okay," Starsky said, smiling, but with steel in his midnight eyes. "Your prerogative, pal. You got any idea how high bail's gonna be for four murders and assaulting a police officer? You're gonna be sittin' in this jail for a long time, man. Hope you like the food."
"The food sucks," Duke spat at him. "And you'll never make it stick."
"You don't think so?" Starsky looked at Hutch. "I witnessed your assault on my partner, pal. Nobody messes with my partner. And we got two witnesses who'll place you in the vicinity of the first murder, in the company of the first victim, the last time anybody saw him alive. Looks bad, Duke. Real bad."
Duke looked at Hutch, too. "You're awful quiet, sweetheart. Why ya lettin' this guy do all the talkin'? Could it be you enjoyed our little soiree?"
Hutch's eyes shot fire and he came out of his chair at Duke, but Starsky grabbed him and held him back. "Whoa, buddy. Easy. Sit down."
Hutch struggled, but he was still a little shaken from his ordeal and Starsky held on tight. "You sonofabitch," he snarled hoarsely at Duke. "I'm gonna enjoy sending you up."
Duke smiled, a maddeningly smug smile. "It'll never happen, sweetheart. I'll walk out of here a free man. You wait and see."
"I don't believe it!" Hutch exclaimed a few days later, stalking into the squad room and throwing a piece of paper down in front of Starsky, who put aside the phone he'd started to dial and looked up. Hutch didn't get mad often, but when he did...
"What?" Starsky picked up the paper and looked at it, then swore. "How the hell did that happen?"
"I don't know. Dammit!" Hutch slammed his fist onto the table.
Starsky studied the paper again, a release form for one Andrew "Duke" Bradford, out on bail, having been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder. "Where are the charges for the four murders? Or even our two?"
"Dropped. Lack of evidence," Hutch spat, sitting down at last, but still wound up.
"Lack of evidence?" Starsky said blankly. "We have witnesses..."
"We have one witness," Hutch corrected him. "Douglas'll testify he saw Bradford with Stanley. Which doesn't, apparently, make him a murderer. The other guy...poof. Vanished. Split. Gone."
"Gone?" Starsky had a sudden sinking sensation. "Gone where? I mean, has anybody found another body?"
Hutch stopped and looked at Starsky. "Oh, shit."
The other man -- Randy Petersen, his name was -- hadn't been seen at Boys' Toys since the night Starsky and Hutch had talked to him. His apartment was empty and his neighbors hadn't noticed him for a few days, either. He worked at a nearby Radio Shack as a salesman, but he hadn't shown up at work after his shift on the previous Saturday. He'd been off Sunday and Monday, so no one had noticed his absence until that day.
"He's never even called in sick," the manager told Starsky and Hutch. "This just isn't like him."
The two detectives exchanged glances. Then Hutch thanked the man and said they'd be in touch. Once in the Torino and rolling, Starsky said, "I got a bad feeling about this, Hutch."
"So do I."
They'd already put an APB out on Petersen, but without much hope.
Two hours later, the radio beeped. "Zebra three."
Hutch yanked the mike off the hook. "Zebra three here."
"We've had an anonymous report of a body at the corner of 7th and Figuero. The subject matches the description of Randy Petersen."
Hutch looked at Starsky, who had already swung the car around and hit the siren. "Roger, Control. We are responding," he said, slapping the flasher on the roof.
When they arrived at the corner in question, they saw plenty of the normal activity, but nobody who seemed interested in them, other than the kind of looks police officers usually got when they arrived somewhere. They looked at each other again. Hutch reached for the door handle.
"Huh-uh," Starsky said. "You still got stitches. You drive. I'll get out and walk around."
Hutch rolled his eyes, but he had to admit Starsky was right about the stitches. He took over the wheel and Starsky walked up and down the street, peering into storefronts and looking over everybody he passed. Then he saw the alley -- and the figure huddled behind a garbage bin. "Hutch!" he yelled, waving his arm to signal his partner. Drawing his gun, he walked toward the figure, every sense alert. In moments, Hutch was behind him, with his gun also drawn, covering him.
The figure never moved. And when Starsky finally reached him, he recognized him. "Hutch, it is Petersen."
Hutch shoved his gun back in his holster and hurried forward. Starsky had already knelt beside the man, whose clothes were soaked in blood. "Dead?"
Starsky shook his head. "Not yet. But he will be soon."
"I'll get an ambulance." Hutch ran back to the car.
Petersen stirred and opened his eyes, trying to focus on Starsky's face. "He...he attacked me. I got...I got away...Hutchinson..."
Starsky pinned on a reassuring grin. "I'm Starsky. He's Hutch. And he's gettin' you an ambulance. You're gonna be okay. Who attacked you?"
"That guy...the one who...got...Mickey..." The eyes drifted shut again, but the chest kept rising and falling.
"He still with us?" Hutch asked softly, coming back to kneel on the man's other side.
"Yeah. God, Hutch, look at all that." Starsky had finally had time to examine the man's many wounds. He looked like he'd been in a sword fight -- and lost. And he, also, had bruising on his throat.
"He's gonna need a few stitches, too," Hutch said, with sympathy.
But Petersen died on the way to the hospital. It was impossible to keep the news of his death out of the newspapers, even though no mention was made of Bradford. As soon as he read it, Douglas called to say he didn't want to testify against Bradford.
"We can give you protection --" said Hutch, who had taken the call.
"Man, I'm sorry," Douglas said, and he did sound genuinely sorry. "I just can't. Look what happened to that poor bastard you found yesterday. You got no proof, Ken. You can't keep the sonofabitch in jail and he's sure to come after me next. He knows I saw him."
"We'll get proof."
"How? And when? Soon enough to keep me from being his next entree?" Douglas demanded.
"We're working on it," Hutch said desperately. "Come on, Douglas. You're our only witness."
"Yeah, I know. That's what scares me."
"Cap'n, we gotta have a search warrant," Starsky said, leaning over the captain's desk. "There's gotta be something in his house to link him to this case!"
"Where's your probable cause?" Dobey demanded.
"Douglas," Hutch answered. "Douglas saw him with Stanley. That's the last time anybody saw Stanley alive. That's our probable cause."
Dobey was shaking his head. "The D.A. will never go for it. That wasn't enough to charge him with the murder. And what about Farmer? We've got nothing at all to link him to Farmer!"
"What the hell's the matter with the D.A., anyway?" Starsky asked angrily. "We've got a witness who can place this monster at the scene, with the victim, near the time of death, and he won't even charge him and give us time to gather evidence?"
Dobey sighed and rubbed his face. "This is potentially a big news case," he said. "If we mess up, charge the wrong guy or, God forbid, don't solve it, the newspapers will crucify us and the D.A. Won't look good at election time."
"Fuck election time!" Hutch said, making Starsky draw back and look at him with something akin to awe. He'd rarely seen his partner this agitated. Hutch saw the look and waved a hand in apology. "Sorry. Captain, we'll never get the proof we need if we don't get a search warrant. Lean on the D.A. Lean on the judge. Lean on any sonofabitch you have to!"
Dobey sighed again. "Okay, okay. I'll see what I can do."
In order to get the warrant, Starsky and Hutch had to do some fast talking to get Douglas to agree to sign a statement to the effect that he had seen Bradford with Stanley the night he was murdered, and they had to get him to identify Bradford out of a mug book. The whole thing took the better part of the day, but they finally had their warrant. With Dickerson and Cramer as backup, they headed for Bradford's house in Hollywood.
The other two covered the back of the house while Starsky and Hutch went to the front. Starsky knocked on the door and yelled, "Police! We have a warrant! Open up!"
There was no answer, and Starsky stepped back and gave the door a mighty kick, which broke the frame and sent it flying open. He followed it through, landing in a crouch with his gun drawn. But the front room was empty. Dickerson and Cramer had come in through the back at the same time.
"Nobody back here, either, Starsky," Cramer called from the kitchen.
"Okay," Starsky said. "We'll start in here. You guys start back there."
Starsky left Hutch to work on the living room, while he went toward the bedroom. The door was shut and secured with a padlock. That didn't slow Starsky down much. He pulled out a pocket knife and used it to unscrew the hasp from the door frame. Then he drew his gun again, stepped to the side of the door, and kicked it open. Peering around the door cautiously, he stepped through. And stopped dead in his tracks. "Hutch."
Hutch looked up, but couldn't see his partner. He came into the hallway. "What?"
Starsky didn't answer, so he followed him into the bedroom. And also stopped dead. "Good God."
One wall was a veritable shrine to Jack the Ripper. At least a couple of dozen books about the mysterious killer stood on a shelf. There were photos and drawings, including a few pencilled ones that Bradford must have done himself, of Ripper victims in excruciating detail. There was a small leather case full of surgical instruments. And laying over the foot of the bed was a bloodstained shirt. Hutch pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and picked that up carefully.
"If this blood matches Petersen's, we've got him," he said to Starsky, who still stood as though frozen, staring at the display. When he got no reply, Hutch said, "Starsk?"
Starsky turned and looked at him, eyes wide. "Yeah, I heard ya. I just can't..." he waved his hand at the wall. "I can't freakin' believe this."
"Starsky? Hutch?" Cramer's voice came from the kitchen, sounding oddly strained. "Will you guys come here?"
The two looked at each other, and Starsky ran, while Hutch put the bloody shirt into an evidence bag, then followed.
He almost ran into Starsky, who was standing in the kitchen with Dickerson and Cramer. The refrigerator door was open, but there were no shelves and no food inside it. There was a body. A body covered in blood that dripped slowly out onto the floor.
It was Bradford. And in one hand he still held his switchblade, also covered in blood. His throat had been cut.
Finally Dickerson broke the silence. "Strange as it sounds, I think he did that himself."
"He couldn't have..." Hutch began, but then stopped. "Could he?"
"Let's get the lab boys in here," Dickerson said, heading for the front room and the phone. "We'll soon know."
There were no prints in the house other than Bradford's, the tech told the detectives, after dusting every possible surface. And it was possible, though it would take iron determination, for a person to cut his own throat.
"He must have crawled in there," the tech said, pointing at the refrigerator, "pulled the door shut, and --" he made a slashing motion across his own throat, then shuddered. "Sick, man."
"The Ripper theory," Hutch said to Starsky, "that the last murder was too much for him and he killed himself."
"But Petersen survived, at least for a while," Starsky objected.
Hutch frowned. "Maybe that's what was too much for him. He failed."
The blood on the shirt Hutch had found turned out to be Brent Farmer's, effectively linking Bradford to that murder. Douglas' evidence of having seen Bradford with Michael Stanley, coupled with Petersen's dying statement to Starsky that Bradford had been the one who attacked both him and Stanley, seemingly wrapped up the case. But Hutch remained unsatisfied.
"For pete's sake, what more do you want, buddy?" Starsky demanded, as he laboriously typed out the last lines of their report.
"We still can't prove the bastard killed those two kids in San Jose," Hutch said, frustrated, as he paged through the folder from those cases.
Starsky stopped typing, leaned back in his chair, and looked at his partner. That tell-tale crease was in the center of Hutch's forehead. "I don't know how we can do that, Hutch," he said gently. "No witnesses up there who could ID a photo or anything."
"I know," Hutch said, running a hand through his already thoroughly-mussed blond hair. "That's what makes me so damn mad."
"Hutch," Starsky began, then stopped, unsure how to phrase it so he wouldn't further upset his partner.
"What?" Hutch finally asked.
"What if Bradford didn't kill those two guys in San Jose?"
Hutch stared at him for a moment, then looked down at the photos in the folder he still held. "God, Starsk, don't even think such a thing. That would mean...there's another one of him still out there somewhere."