Disclaimer: This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made from it. No infringement on anyone’s copyright(s) is intended.
© May 2001
This story is Part Two of the Code 33 trilogy.
Part One: Recompense
Part Three: Spare the Rod
Kate Carter hummed to herself as she got the groceries out
of the trunk of her car and closed the lid. Hoisting the paper sack on one hip
and the dog food in the other hand, she sorted her house key out of the rest on
the ring and went to the small bungalow she had recently moved into. She could
hear Koko whining and snuffling on the other side of the door.
"Hang on, sugar, I'm coming," she called to him, but it only made him start barking. She laughed as she got the door open and the little poodle started
dancing around her feet on his hind legs. "Yes, sweetie, I got your food," she reassured him. "Come on, I'll give you some. Take it easy."
Still talking to the dog, she went into the kitchen and poured out some food into his dish before she started the pot boiling for spaghetti and put the rest of her own food away. She flipped on the radio to listen to the news while she worked and heard the usual crime mayhem and weather reports without really paying attention until a name caught her ear.
"Police report that they have several leads on the murders of Lydia Harris and Paul Martin, but no suspects have yet been identified."
Kate stopped what she was doing. Lydia Harris...why was that name familiar?
She wracked her brain, but couldn't remember where she'd heard it before. Maybe she'd read something about the murders in the newspaper? She finally
gave up and finished getting her supper started, played with Koko for a while, and ate dinner in front of the television. Ever since Barry had started his residency at the hospital her evenings had assumed the same routine: come home from work, fix supper, eat in front of the TV, go to bed alone...but it wouldn't be forever, and it couldn't be helped. Koko climbed up in her lap and she let him have a little of her garlic bread as she watched tonight's sitcoms.
At 11, she turned out the lights and went to bed. Koko curled up at her feet and soon both were asleep. She didn't know how much later it was when she was awakened by Koko's frantic barking and growling. Barry, home early for a change? She sat up and listened and tried to quiet the dog, but Koko was too
agitated and he wouldn't growl at Barry. Her heart began to pound.
And then she saw him. A man, little more than a shadow in the darkness of the
bedroom doorway. Terror froze her.
He came toward her, slapping something against his hand, something that looked like a rolled-up cord of some kind. He didn't say a word, just kept coming, and Kate was paralyzed with horror. When Koko snapped at the man, he merely picked up the toy poodle and hurled him at the wall with such force that the dog fell limply to the floor. That finally broke Kate's paralysis.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!" she shouted at him, tears in her eyes. She scrambled out of bed and started to go to Koko, but the man, with a surprising amount of strength -- he wasn't that big, now that Kate was standing up -- grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her painfully. He still hadn't said anything. He pulled her arm up behind her until she was on her knees, and the tears in her eyes were now of pain. With his free hand, he unrolled the cord in his hand. And before Kate even realized what was happening, he had it around her throat and pulled tight. Only then did he speak.
"It's called corporal punishment," he hissed into her ear.
And everything went black.
A string of bank robberies that had included one bank guard's death had absorbed Starsky and Hutch's time for over a week. When they could steal a few moments away, they continued to work on the murders of Martin and Harris, but they still hadn't discovered any connection between the two. Every bit of information they turned up on both victims reinforced their impression that both were perfectly normal young adults, with no shady acquaintances, no buried secrets, no enemies, and no reason for anyone to want to kill them. They had come to the conclusion that the killer didn't know either one and had just chosen them because they fit some image in his own twisted mind. Doug had agreed.
"I can't imagine what it is yet," Doug had told Hutch over the phone that morning, "because serial killers usually stick to a type. Young women with blonde hair or nurses or teenagers. Jack the Ripper chose hookers. But a young woman and a young man? With no physical characteristics in common and different jobs? I don't know, Hutch. I'm going through my books and files, trying to come up with something."
"Thanks, Doug, I know you're doing your best," Hutch said. "Keep in touch."
They had just finished reviewing the security tapes from the latest bank robbery and gotten a good ID on one of the thieves, whose mask had fallen off in his hurry to escape, when the radio beeped.
"Zebra Three, a 187 at 1936 Eucalyptus, Venice. Please respond."
Hutch answered, "Zebra Three, control. That's out of our jurisdiction."
"10-4, Zebra Three. But it looks like your case. Dobey okayed your involvement."
Hutch glanced at his partner. "Control, you mean our two murders?"
"Roger. On our way." Hutch looked at Starsky again. "Terrific."
"Really," Starsky said sourly, turning the car toward Venice.
The cottage in question was about four blocks from Hutch's old cottage in Venice, on a quiet street. An ambulance and a black-and-white had already arrived and the uniformed officers were interviewing neighbors. A man in his
mid-thirties, wearing a rumpled shirt and tie and with dark
circles under his eyes was sitting on the bumper of a car in the driveway with
his head in his hands. They couldn't see his face.
Starsky showed his badge to the officer in charge. "Starsky. This is Hutchinson. Whatcha got?"
"His name's Dr. Barry Carter," the young officer said. "He's a resident at Receiving. Just came off a 30-hour shift and came home about an hour ago. Found the place trashed and his wife and her poodle dead in the bedroom. He's
"Wouldn't you be?" Starsky inquired, a bit sharply. He had no use for the Joe Friday style of cop who thought you couldn't be professional and human at the same time. He turned toward the man while Hutch stayed behind to get any other information the officers had. He introduced himself to Carter. "Can you tell me what happened, doctor?"
Carter's eyes were red with a combination of tears and exhaustion, but he pulled himself together enough to answer, "When I got home, the door was unlocked," he said in a low voice. "That's not like Katie, she's very careful when she's home alone. So I was scared before I ever went in and then I found her in the bedroom..." He had to stop to steady his voice.
"Take your time," Starsky said gently.
The man nodded. In a moment, he went on, "She was sort of lying across the bed, str--strangled, and she had a piece of duct tape over her mouth." He paused again and looked up to meet Starsky's eyes. "She had a...oh, hell, I can't remember what they're called, one of those things kids use in school to make circles in geometry class -- "
"A compass," Hutch said, coming up behind Starsky.
"Yeah. One of those. It was stuck into her hand," he indicated the palm of his hand, "but it had been put there after she was dead."
"How do you know that?" Hutch asked. He hadn't heard what the other officer
had told Starsky.
"I'm a doctor," Carter said. He wet his lips. "It didn't bleed. And Koko -- our dog -- was lying in the floor by the wall, with his neck broken. And the place was destroyed. I mean, books and records smashed and torn up, pictures yanked off the wall and flung onto the floor..."
Carter shrugged and rubbed at his eyes. "I don't know. I didn't look. I just called you guys."
"I'm sorry I have to ask you this," Starsky said, "but can you prove you were at the hospital all night?"
Carter wiped a tear away. "Yeah. It was a busy night and I was only off duty for about an hour for a nap. That was -- " he glanced down at his watch. "God, that was about 5:30 yesterday afternoon."
Starsky jotted that down in his notebook. Then he and Hutch went inside to look at the crime scene.
Kate Carter was still lying where her husband had found her,
partially on and partially off the bed. Hutch pulled the sheet back to look at
her and saw the duct tape across her mouth. He shuddered a little and put the
sheet back over her face before looking at the compass stuck into her hand. The
dog was also still lying where he'd landed, and Starsky examined him. There was
a little blood dried on the fur around his mouth.
"Looks like the killer slammed him into the wall," Starsky said, glancing at the matching smear of blood above where he was crouching.
"Same kind of marks on her neck," Hutch said, pulling the sheet back again. "Ten to one it's the same guy."
"That's exactly what I was afraid you were gonna say," Starsky said, joining Hutch to look at the marks.
"We have a serial killer all right. Better get the crime lab team in here." Starsky walked back outside to make the call.
Hutch looked down at the little dog. Why kill the dog? He was too little to cause any trouble. He thought about the man waiting outside, coming home to this. Hutch wondered if there would be anything to connect this woman with either of the previous victims.
The other victims had lived in second floor apartments – this one in a house. That eliminated one commonality. Hutch looked around the house for the victim's purse. Finding it, he pulled out her wallet to look at the driver's license. She had turned thirty-three the previous month. That thread remained. Starsky walked back toward him. "She was thirty-three, Starsk. That has to mean something, but what?"
"I talked to the ambulance attendants. They're gonna take her down to the morgue for us." Starsky said. "I don't know, I just didn't want that poor guy to watch the meat wagon take her away."
"Yeah." Hutch put a hand on Starsky's shoulder. He knew inside that tough-cop exterior, his partner was sentimental and he cared about the victims and their families. "Is there someone we can call for him?"
Starsky handed him a number, "This is his brother's number. Will you call? I'm gonna go wait outside with him till the lab team gets here."
Hutch took the piece of paper, "Sure. I'll stay in here and start looking around. He watched Starsky walk back outside, his shoulders slumped. Hutch could tell he was taking this case hard.
The crime lab team arrived and started their meticulous work. Hutch had already written a few pages of notes in his small notebook by the time they started. Mike Rodgers, the head of the team walked up and shook Hutch's hand. "Another one, Hutch?"
"Looks like it, Mike. She's in the bedroom. Hey, would you get the pictures out of the way first. We need to get her out of here. Her husband's waiting outside."
"Sure thing, Hutch."
Starsky walked back in to tell Hutch that Dr. Carter's brother had arrived, but they wouldn't leave as long as the victim was still here. Hutch explained they were taking the pictures first.
When the victim and her husband were gone, the two detectives started cataloging the items in the house as they had done the other two scenes. As the crime lab team finished each room, they started making their lists.
The record collection that was smashed this time included jazz greats, some rock and roll, and even a few 78-rpm wax platters. Pictures of the couple were scattered all over the house and every book was pulled down from the shelves. Hutch found a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets under the bed and made a note to ask Dr. Carter if it belonged to them. He had a feeling it didn't. Starsky found a copy of "Little Women" hacked to pieces on the living room floor.
The next two days were spent investigating the crime scene and the background of this latest victim and her husband. Just like in the other two cases, the investigation did not produce a murder weapon. The only fingerprints in the house belonged there. Dr. Carter's alibi checked out, although the detectives never doubted it would.
The M.E.’s report confirmed the cause of death to be strangulation, probably using the same implement as the first two victims. The duct tape was put on post mortem and this time a paperclip had been placed in the victim's mouth. Notes on the first victim did not include a reference to anything being found in her mouth. Hutch made a note to inquire about that.
Katie Carter was a dental hygienist. She worked at the same office for the past three years. The office was located in Venice, not near either of the other victims. She had several close friends and a sister living in Bay City. Katie and Barry Carter met in Chicago where he went to medical school. She was working in the dental office closest to campus. After graduation, Barry had gotten an internship at Memorial Hospital in Bay City. The couple had married and moved to Bay City, which was Katie's hometown. Barry still worked at the hospital as a resident in the Trauma Department.
Neither the victim nor her husband had any history of trouble with the law or anyone else. They paid their bills on time, attended church on a regular basis, and they got along with their siblings. Two days into the case with no more than three or four hours sleep each and they still had nothing. Both men were tired, hungry, and frustrated. They had stopped speaking to anyone but each other several hours back when Dobey bellowed for them from his office.
"Starsky, Hutchinson, get in here!"
Hutch looked up at his partner, not liking the dark circles he saw under Starsky's eyes and wondering if he looked as whipped. They stood and walked into the captain’s office. Starsky sank down into a chair and Hutch leaned against the door after he closed it.
"Cap?" Hutch said tentatively.
"I just got off the phone with the commissioner. One of the Carters’ neighbors went to the media. The lid's off this case."
"Terrific." Starsky said, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the chair. The department had tried to keep quiet the fact that they were working on a link between three cases. Each time they investigated one of the scenes, more people became involved. The risk increased that someone would blow it and tell the press that they were looking at a serial killer. They all knew that the media would sensationalize the case and start a panic in the city. What had already been a difficult case just became harder.
Hutch asked, "Do they know whose case it is?"
"Uh-huh. Calls have already started coming in from reporters looking for you two. I told the switchboard to take messages on all the calls until I can set up a liaison officer."
Hutch signed deeply. "Cap, this isn't going to make our job any easier.”
Hutch crossed to the window and looked out to the parking lot below. The media were already well represented. “Uh-oh. Guess we can’t get out of here without facing them now.”
Starsky kept his eyes closed when he said, “No comment.”
Captain Dobey said, “What?”
Hutch laughed. “Hold that thought.”
“I’d better get moving on that liaison if they’re already out there.” Dobey said.
When Hutch looked back over at Starsky, he was starting to doze. // Great. He’s so tired he can fall asleep in 30 seconds. //
Dobey noticed too. He realized the two men had been on duty almost all of the past 48 hours. “Hutchinson, take your partner home. Get some sleep.”
Starsky opened his eyes again, “Hey, I’m awake.”
Hutch walked over and held his hand out to give Starsky a boost up out of the chair. “Come on, partner. Let’s go out the back before it gets any worse out there. You might be awake, but I’m beat.”
He turned Starsky toward the door, looking back at Dobey. “Thanks, Cap. We’ll call you later.”
Starsky stopped to pick up some of the files on the way out of the squad room. “Maybe we can go over these later after we’ve had some sleep. Who knows, maybe we’ll see something’ we’ve missed till now.”
“Maybe. I know there’s something. I still can’t get what it is though.” Hutch said. They walked down the stairs toward the back door. As they got closer, they could hear the reporters outside.
“You ready for this, buddy?” Hutch asked his exhausted partner. Starsky was still having a hard time with this case. He was tired and Hutch was worried about him facing the throng of reporters like this.
“Yeah, I’m the picture of civility, partner. No comment, no comment.”
The two men paused for a moment to gather their reserves of
going into the mob. Starsky thought he recognized a few of the reporters from
Prudholm's trial. And the reporters certainly seemed to recognize Starsky and
"Starsky, what have you found out?"
"Is it true we have a serial killer loose in the city?"
Both men simply put their heads down and muttered "no comment" and tried to
get past the horde to the car. Flashbulbs kept going off and tape recorders and microphones kept showing up in their faces.
"Officers, this is a huge story!" Called one of the younger reporters. "You
owe it to the public, if only so they can protect themselves!"
Starsky whirled around and opened his mouth, but Hutch grabbed his arm and
all but dragged him along.
"There'll be a statement from the department later!" Hutch called over his shoulder. "We will not be making any statements!" He opened the car door and
gave Starsky a shove to get him started, then hurried around to the driver's side, pulling his keys out of his pocket on the way. In a few moments, they were away.
"This is my car," Starsky remarked.
"I know that," Hutch said, a little breathless. "I didn't want to argue with you about talking back to those cheeky bastards."
Starsky chuckled. He adjusted the files more comfortably on his lap and let Hutch drive to his place. Once they were there, Starsky spread the files on Hutch's coffee table and got out his notebook. Hutch got his out, too, and they started studying their notes again from the beginning, hoping the connection -- whatever it was -- would click for them.
"Okay," Hutch said, for maybe the tenth time. "All three victims were strangled with some kind of electrical cord."
"All three were 33 years old."
"Check," Starsky said. "Hey, you don't think -- "
"Three victims. All 33 years old. Maybe that's the end?"
"I wish, but I doubt it," Hutch said.
Starsky sighed. "Okay, okay. And all three had duct tape on their mouths, put
there after they were dead. What the hell is THAT?"
"Doug said it could mean the killer wanted to shut them up."
"So he knew them," Starsky theorized, "and for some reason he wanted to make
a point of the fact that they wouldn't be able to tell something about him now?"
"But how could they know him?" Hutch asked. "There's no connection between
the three of them. Didn't work together. Didn't live in the same neighborhood. Didn't go to the same church or even bank at the same damn bank!"
"There's gotta be something. They're all the same age. That might be it,"
"They didn't go to college together, if that's what you're thinking," Hutch said. "I checked."
"Couldn't be Boy Scouts," Starsky said.
"Especially since two of 'em are girls," Hutch returned tartly.
Starsky gave a wan grin. "Born in the same hospital?"
"Sure," Hutch said, pretending that was a real possibility. "And the killer was their doctor and dropped all of them on their heads in the delivery room and he's afraid they're gonna tell and he'll lose his medical license."
"GIRLS, Starsk." Hutch rubbed his eyes.
"Then how do you explain Martin, buddy?"
"Maybe he's a sissy," Starsky said.
"I'm hungry," Starsky said. "Why don't we order a pizza? I can't think when I'm hungry."
"Go ahead," Hutch said. "No anchovies. And no hot peppers."
"Aw, you take all the fun out of it," Starsky complained. He made the call and came back. They hashed out other improbabilities for a while until there was a knock at the door.
"That was fast," Hutch said, standing up and reaching into his pocket. He
examined the crumpled bills. "I don't have enough."
Starsky reached into his own pocket and produced a five, handing it over.
Hutch went to the door, but when he opened it, it wasn't their pizza. It was the young reporter from outside the precinct. "What the hell are YOU doing here?" Hutch demanded, starting to shut the door in the young man's face.
"Please, Officer," the reporter said. "I can't go back without a story, my editor'll kill me. Give me something, anything!"
Hutch opened his mouth, but Starsky had launched himself from the couch and
put himself between Hutch and the reporter. Hutch could almost see smoke coming out of his ears. "Easy, buddy," he said automatically, but Starsky shook his hand away and glared at the kid.
"You want a story?" he said angrily. "Is that all this is to you, kid, a 'story'? What the hell are you thinking, huh? Three people are dead!"
The reporter blanched a little and took a step back. "I kn-know that," he stammered. "But you don't understand -- "
"I understand," Starsky snapped. "I understand just fine. What paper are you with? What's your name?"
"The -- The Chronicle," he said. "Uh, Jim Cl-Clark."
"Okay, Jim," Starsky said with ice dripping from every syllable. "You listen to me for a minute, huh? I'm gonna tell you something and I want you to remember it."
"Starsky, Dobey said -- "
"I know what Dobey said," Starsky answered. "This ain't got nothin' to do with the case. It's got to do with real life."
Hutch shut up.
"Look, kid," Starsky said. "You show up after the blood's mopped up and the bodies are gone and you ask a bunch of questions and go back to your clean little desk and write all about somebody's pain, but you don't feel it, do you? You don't have to tell little kids their daddies are goin' to jail or break it to parents their kid's dead or watch a teen-ager ruin his life 'cause he don't believe there's anything better waitin' out there. Do ya?"
"No, sir," Jim said quietly.
"We do, pal. We gotta do all those things and we gotta worry at the same time that somebody's gonna blow our heads off. Every damn day we gotta do this, Jim. Now you listen." Starsky leaned forward and fixed Jim with that piercing glare that usually made suspects only too happy to tell everything they knew. "To you, this is a 'story.' But to three grieving families, this is an empty chair at the dining room table! It's somebody they love that they ain't never gonna hug or kiss again! It's a funeral they gotta go to! And you'd better by God remember that!"
Jim took another step back.
"We can't fix it, but we ain't gonna let you or any other reporter compromise our case so we can't catch whoever did this. You got that, Jim?"
"Yes, sir," Jim said, backing up even further. "I understand, sir."
"Good!" Starsky slammed the door.
Hutch followed him back to the couch, and when another knock came a couple of
minutes later, he tried to get to the door first, but Starsky was too quick for him. He yanked the door open and the look on his face would've scared anyone, but the pizza delivery boy that stood there wasn't much more than a kid, and he almost dropped the pizza.
Hutch pushed Starsky aside and smiled. "How much do we owe you?"
The two detectives hashed the case out almost all night, finally falling asleep where they sat about 3 a.m. Hutch woke up first, when the newspaper
thudded against his front door, and yawning, got up to go get it. He opened
it up on the way back to his seat and was stunned at the headline.
"Bay City's Officers Have a Heart."
"Uh, Starsky?" Hutch nudged his partner with his toe. "Starsk! Wake up, buddy."
Starsky groaned and stirred and finally opened one eye. "'s 't mornin'?"
"Wake up, dummy. Look." Hutch moved to sit next to him and showed him the
headline. "Dobey's gonna kill us both."
Starsky visibly paled. "Uh oh."
Hutch hadn't read the story, only the headline, but once he started reading, he realized the story had nothing to do with their case. "Hey, wait, this isn't so bad."
BAY CITY -- If the citizens of this city have the idea that the "thin blue
line" that stands between them and the criminal element is only interested in
glory, they're wrong. The officers who work the streets of Bay City care.
There are three open murder cases in Bay City today, and the officers in
charge of the investigation will not rest until those cases are solved. But not because they want the credit or the "collar" or because they enjoy the chase or even because it's their job.
These officers want to help ease the pain of grieving families.
Sergeant David Starsky informed this reporter last night that the journalists who write about crimes are lucky; we don't have to see the faces of the families affected by crime. We don't have to give the bad news and we don't have to share the pain. We show up after it's all over.
But officers like Starsky and his partner Kenneth Hutchinson
have to work
the front lines and they put their own safety at risk to do so. This may seem
an obvious statement. Perhaps it is. But until every person reading this
article has stood face to face with an officer of the law and heard the pain
in his voice as he describes what it means to tell a child his father's going
to jail, or deliver the bad news that someone has died, then you don't
understand what a police officer faces every day.
It's tough. But they keep doing it. And they do it, Starsky
"To you, this is a story," Starsky said.
"But to three grieving families,
it's an empty chair at the dining room table. It's somebody they love that
they won't ever kiss or hug again."
"That ain't exactly what I said," Starsky complained.
"So he's got better grammar than you do," Hutch said with a grin. "Besides,
he wasn't exactly able to take notes while you were hammering him."
Starsky smiled at Hutch. "So, is Dobey gonna kill me?"
"Not a chance. You made us all look like cops who care." Hutch laughed lightly.
Starsky's smile faded quickly. "Don't we?" He looked so sad; Hutch's heart ached for him.
"Starsk, you wanna tell me what's buggin' ya?"
Hutch was worried. Starsky almost never tried to keep his feelings from his partner. "I'm sorry, Gordo. I'm worried about you. Talk to me. Please?"
Starsky looked about as dejected as Hutch had seen him in a long while. "I'm sorry, Hutch. I didn't mean to worry you. You know, I really don't know what it is. If I did, I'd tell ya."
"Aw, buddy, come on now. Think about it. I know this case has been tough on both of us. For some reason though, you've taken it extra hard. Why?" Hutch wasn't going to let it go. He knew Starsky would feel better if he talked about it.
"It's just that it seems so . . . evil. The victims aren't just dead. This killer is trying to destroy who they were. Their lives, their memories. All that stuff he breaks up at the scenes. I can't believe these cases aren't linked somehow. I just can't. If I believe that, how can we stop it?"
Hutch sighed. "I know, buddy. You're right this is an awful case. I think you're also right about the link. We just gotta find it. The guy's a wacko, Starsk. Don't take it so hard that we haven't been able to get into his head yet. We will."
"I just hope we do before he kills again."
"Me too, partner."
They talked about the case while Hutch made a quick breakfast. Starsky wasn't going to feel any better until the case was solved, but at least Hutch knew what he was thinking. They cleaned up and hit the streets, a little unsure of where to go next.
Hutch decided to drive his car for their shift. He might not be able to help Starsky feel better, but he could at least let him relax a little while he did the driving. The battered LTD was sitting at a traffic signal on the outskirts of Venice when an old man stepped off the curb and shoved a bunch of roses under Starsky's nose.
"Want some flowers, pal?" The old man croaked at him.
Starsky shoved him back out of the window. "Back off, old man." He was in no mood for this nonsense. Hutch sneezed.
Hutch sniffed. "These street vendors are really getting aggressive. You'd think we were in New York City."
Starsky smiled at him. "Nah, if we were in New York, he woulda shoved me back, then started washing the windows on this heap. We'd have been invited to pay for the privilege too."
The detectives decided to stop at the M.E.'s office first. They were still waiting for an answer to the question of whether the first victim had anything in her mouth. No note had been made of it in the autopsy record so the victim had to be exhumed. The report was supposed to be ready that morning.
Handing the report to Starsky, the M.E.’s office secretary shook her head sadly. "This guy sure is a sicko."
Starsky opened the file and scanned through it. The M.E. had found a school hall pass in her mouth. "What the hell?" He handed the file to Hutch who read it and shook his head.
"What the hell?" Hutch said.
Starsky quipped, "There an echo in here?"
“Starsky, do you think our killer could be a school principal maybe?”
“The stuff we’re finding around the victims and in their mouths all seems related to school somehow. Chalk, the ruler, this hall pass.”
“Maybe a teacher?”
“Let’s get back over to the precinct and start looking through those files again.” Starsky suddenly had some enthusiasm and Hutch was glad to see it. Finally, they had a break in the case.
As Starsky slid into the passenger seat, the radio beeped, "Zebra 3 from Control. Come in please."
Starsky shot Hutch an "oh no" look as he picked up the mic and answered. "Zebra 3, go ahead." Every time they got a call he was worried it would be another victim.
"See Officer Baxter at 1159 Alameda, code 33."
Hutch said, "Another victim. Damn it."
Captain Dobey had worked out the code 33 signal with the department's officers and dispatchers when he knew the media was on their tails. He had called Hutch and let him in on it the previous evening.
They pulled up to a small house about three miles from the Katie Carter’s home. Officer Kent Baxter walked up to them. “This one’s not dead, guys.”
Hutch said, “What?”
“Yeah, the victim’s roommate, Erika Snell, found her still alive about thirty minutes ago. They took her to Memorial. Victim’s name is Bernice Jackson.”
“Was she conscious?” Starsky asked.
“No, but the roommate says she talked to her for a minute before she lost consciousness. She’s inside.”
The two detectives hurried inside to speak with the woman. They introduced themselves and sat facing her. The living room was trashed, just like the other crime scenes.
“Can you tell us what happened?” Hutch asked her gently.
“I’m a nurse and I work the night shift. I came home about half an hour ago and found Bernice. She was lying on the floor in her room. Well, mostly on the floor, her legs were up on the bed. At first, I thought she was dead.” Erika was crying.
“Did she by any chance have duct tape across her mouth?”
Erika sniffed and nodded the affirmative. “Yes. I took it off so she could breathe better. She came around a little and coughed.” Erika held out her hand. She had a small pink pencil eraser in it. “She coughed this out of her mouth. Oh my God.” Hutch took it from her and put it in his pocket.
She put her head in her hands and cried.
“The officer outside said your roommate said something to you?”
Erika nodded. “The strangest thing. I was able to revive her for a few minutes. She said just one thing before she passed out again – ‘corporal punishment.’ What does it mean?”
The partners looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Corporal punishment? Maybe it was a marine drill sergeant, or a prison guard. The clues were coming in, but the connection was strange. Why these particular victims?
“How old is your roommate?” Starsky asked.
“Bernice is thirty two. Well, she’s almost thirty-three. Her birthday’s next week.”
They thanked Erika and asked for permission to look around the home. Officer Baxter had ordered a lab team so they were careful not to disturb anything. In the victim’s bedroom, they noticed an alarm clock on the floor. The time had stopped at 6:12, five hours had passed. They found a small black piece of chalkboard under the victim’s bed.
“I think we need to talk to Doug again.” Hutch said.
Doug listened without comment as the two of them laid out
all the clues they had so far. He raised his eyebrows at some of the things the
victims had had in their mouths, but only made some notes on a legal pad on his
lap while they talked. When they finished, he shook his head.
"I wouldn't want to meet this one in a dark alley," he said with a long sigh. "I think maybe your hunch is right. This person's got something to do with a school. An old classmate, maybe?"
"But they're all from different places," Starsky objected.
"Are you sure? Can you look into their backgrounds? What if this is the kid everyone else picked on? And now he's getting revenge?"
Starsky glanced at Hutch. "It's sick, but he might be right."
"They are all the same age," Hutch agreed. He looked back to Doug. "He?"
Doug nodded. "It's very rare for women to be serial killers, Hutch. And on top of that, women who murder very rarely choose strangulation as their method. Women poison or sometimes use a knife, but strangulation requires more upper-body strength than most women have, especially if the victim struggles. And one of the victims was a healthy young man. I can't see a woman being able to subdue him long enough to strangle him. It's not sexist," he added in answer to Hutch's raised eyebrows. "It's just biological fact. Go ahead and check your files for female murderers and you'll see I'm right."
Hutch rubbed his face. "Okay. So we're looking for a man, and maybe he was in school with our victims."
"I'd say that's a good bet," Doug said. "It's worth looking into, anyway."
Their next stop was supposed to be the hospital. Starsky
called ahead and found out that Bernice Jackson had died shortly after being
brought to the Emergency Room. He sighed as he replaced the microphone. In
addition to his regret that she had died, the detectives were hoping for an
eyewitness account from her. That would have been a big break in this case.
Hutch turned the LTD
back toward Metro.
"I doubt this is the kid everyone picked on," Starsky said to Hutch on the way back to the precinct. "Didn't Lydia's mom say she was the kid who got picked on?"
"Yeah, she did," Hutch said. "So unless there was another kid who got picked on even more, that kind of washes that theory out."
They sorted through files again, re-read their interview notes, and still the glaring fact kept coming back that all four victims had been from different places. But Starsky and Hutch were nothing if not thorough, so they got on the phone.
Lydia Harris' mother said she had gone to Garfield High School in Richmond, VA. Paul Martin had gone to St. Agnes, a Catholic high school in Bay City. Kate Carter -- Kate Winslow, then -- had gone to MacArthur High School in a suburb of Chicago. And Bernice Jackson had attended Roosevelt High School, also in Bay City.
"Damn," Hutch said, looking over the information. "Back to square one."
"Maybe not," Starsky said. He was looking at the files again. "Remember school, Hutch? Remember when the peer pressure thing first hit and you first realized how important having the right haircut and the right kinda jeans was? How old were you?"
"Junior high," Hutch said instantly.
Starsky nodded. "Exactly. Hormones kicked in, the girls who'd had cooties for six or seven years suddenly started to look pretty good, and it was Geek City."
Hutch grinned. "Not necessarily."
Starsky gave him a playful punch in the shoulder. "Okay, Blond and Beautiful, maybe not for you. But for us mortals, that was the year we first realized what the word 'miserable' meant."
"Your point? If you have one?"
"Maybe we're asking the wrong question. Let's ask where they went to junior high."
"But if they grew up all over the country, what makes you think they could've gone to the same junior high school, and somehow they all wound up dead in Bay City?" Hutch inquired.
"It can't hurt to ask," Starsky insisted.
"Okay, okay. We'll ask."
Four phone calls later, they were staring at each other in dismay. All four victims had attended the same Catholic grade school in Bay City, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. Kate Carter and Paul Martin -- whom, it turned out, had been "Pablo Martinez" in grade school -- had grown up in the parish church. Lydia Harris, her mother said, had gone to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow from fifth to seventh grade, until her father was transferred to Texas, and later to Virginia. They'd returned to Bay City while Lydia was in college. Bernice Jackson had attended the school for part of her seventh grade year.
"So they were all there for seventh grade," Hutch said. "That's the link. It's gotta be."
Starsky nodded. "We need a list of the entire seventh grade class that year. Ten to one our killer's name is there."
"I need a drink," Hutch said, rubbing his forehead. "What say we move the discussion to Huggy's?"
Huggy's was hopping, usual for this time of day, so Starsky and Hutch squeezed themselves into seats at the end of the bar and accepted the beers Diane brought them. Huggy looked harried and harassed, and they didn't expect him to be able to talk to them, so they drank their beers and discussed the case in low voices -- or as low as possible in the din.
It was the better part of an hour before Huggy could even get away long enough to say "hello."
"How goes the case, gentlemen?" he asked while drawing a beer for a customer.
"Rotten," Starsky answered. "Four victims and we just figured out they all went to junior high together."
"Huggy!" the impatient customer called.
"I'm comin', I'm comin'," Huggy answered crossly. To Starsky and Hutch, he said, "So you figure that's the link?"
Hutch nodded, but Angie rang the bell from the kitchen and Diane was all the way across the room delivering another order.
Huggy muttered something impolite under his breath, delivered the beer, picked up the food and grabbed the ticket. "Sorry, guys, it's a madhouse tonight."
"So we see," Hutch said with a grin. "Listen, ask around, will you? See if you can find anything out about that school?"
"Sure, sure," Huggy said, turning to go.
"It's called Our Lady of Perp..." Hutch began, just as another customer almost collided with Huggy.
Huggy barely managed to keep from dropping the tray and this time he cussed out loud. Starsky chuckled.
"It's called what?" Huggy asked.
"Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows," Hutch said, but Huggy was halfway across the room by then. "Think he heard me?" Hutch asked Starsky.
"No," Starsky said, watching their friend duck and dodge as he made his way to the table and delivered the food. "We'll try again tomorrow. He's too busy to mess with us now. Come on, let's go check out that school."
End Part II