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 Three of the Code 33 trilogy.
Part One: Recompense
Part Two: Measure for Measure
Valerie Wells and Sue David
Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows had seen better days. The school was in the heart of the inner city and its exterior was slightly tattered. Starsky thought it looked tired. The school lacked a playground, so the children were playing on the asphalt parking lot. A class of kids was playing basketball in one corner of the lot, using a battered hoop the net had fallen away from long ago.
“Wonder if the school was this run down back in the day.” Hutch commented.
“Really. Kind of a bleak place to go to school.”
Starsky and Hutch proceeded to the school office and asked the ancient secretary if they could speak with the principal. She could barely see and had to put on her reading glasses to look at their proffered badges.
“Oh, dear,” the poor lady exclaimed. “Is one of the children in trouble?” She squinted up at Starsky.
“No, ma’am, nothing like that.” He reassured her.
“We’re investigating a case, ma’am, and we would appreciate it if we could have a word with your principal.”
“Yes, yes, right away.” The elderly lady shuffled off and into a door on the opposite wall.
“Geez. Hutch, that lady may have been here when our victims were.”
“Starsk, that’s been twenty years. You don’t think . . .”
Hutch’s comment was interrupted when the door opened again and the elderly lady motioned in their general direction.
“Come in officers, Mrs. Sandling will see you now.”
A friendly looking woman of about fifty stood and walked around her desk to greet them. “Good afternoon, gentlemen. I’m Rhonda Sandling. Won’t you sit down please?”
“Thank you, ma’am, I’m Detective Ken Hutchinson, and this is my partner, Detective David Starsky.” Starsky offered her a small wave of his hand accompanied by a tense smile.
“You look uncomfortable, Detective Starsky. Did you attend Catholic School?” Mrs. Sandling smiled wryly. The ability of a simple school building to make some adults uncomfortable was a sense of endless amusement for her.
“No, ma’am.” Starsky looked sheepishly between her and his partner. “I guess the principal’s office always makes me a little nervous. I spent a lot of time there.”
She laughed softly, “Oh, I won’t bite, detective. Your partner doesn’t look uncomfortable.”
Starsky laughed too. “Nah, Blondie here was the perfect child. Best all around everything, captain of whatever, most likely to fill-in-the-blank. You probably know the type. The only time he ever went to the principal’s office was to pick up an award.”
Hutch said, “Don’t let that get around, ma’am. Bad for my macho, tough-guy cop image to let it leak that I was in the glee club.”
“Your secret is safe with me. What can I do for you gentlemen today? Mrs. Crawley says it’s not about one of our children.”
“Not exactly. Our visit is about some of your former students though.” Starsky started to explain. He shot a look at Hutch who picked up the signal that Starsky wanted him to tell her the reason for their appearance.
“Mrs. Sandling, have you heard about the recent string of related homicides in the city?”
“Oh yes, terrible thing.” She shook her head sadly.
“Before I go any further, some of what I’m going to tell you isn’t public knowledge and we need it to stay that way. The media is already having a field day over this case.” Hutch said.
“Of course, I won’t say anything.”
“My partner and I have reason to believe the victims all attended your school in the seventh grade. They are all the same age and their relatives have verified that they were enrolled here.” Hutch paused for a moment, noting the look of shock on her face.
“Oh no. Are you sure? How old were they?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Hutch continued. “They were all thirty-three years old.”
“Well, most seventh graders are twelve or thirteen years old. That would have made their date of attendance during 1959 to 1960, right?”
Starsky said, “That sounds right. Could we review your records for that year”
“Gosh, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure if that information is still around even. We had a filing room flood about ten years ago when our water main broke. A lot of our older records were destroyed.”
That was terrible news. Without a class roster, they might not be able to break this case until every student in the class was dead – every student except the killer.
“Can you find out for us? We need a class roster for that year. Is there a storeroom we could look in for the records? Please, Starsky and I can look through them.”
“Unfortunately, they aren’t here anymore. We have a storage unit at the Diocesan office. I’ll call over there and get some of the office staff to open it up for you. I think it’s best if they look. Is there somewhere I can reach you?”
Hutch handed her one of his cards and thanked her. “Let us know if we can help you search. We need those names if we hope to catch the killer and prevent more deaths.”
“I understand. I’ll call you the instant I know something.” She stood and escorted them out of the office.
“Wait a minute!” She exclaimed. “The pictures. I forgot about the class pictures. Come with me.”
Starsky and Hutch followed Mrs. Sandling down the hall to a set of display cases. Hanging inside the back of the cases, along with the trophies and mementos, were pictures of each class that had attended Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows. The school opened in 1952 and every class was represented.
Mrs. Sandling pulled a set of keys out of her jacket pocket and opened one of the cases. She took out the frame for 1959/1960 and handed it to Hutch. “Will this help?”
The entire school must have been in that picture. A group shot taken on bleachers in the parking lot. She pointed to the top row.
“The top row would be the seventh and eighth graders.”
Starsky said, “We really need the names.”
The principal hit herself on the forehead with the palm of her hand and said, “What’s wrong with me? Mrs. Crawley has a file with each class and their pictures. Individual grade pictures. Those have always been kept in the office and it wasn’t flooded.”
They returned to the office. Within a few minutes, the detectives had a black and white picture of the seventh grade from the 1959/1960 school year. Each child was shown in a small headshot and their names were in a legend along side each row.
They scanned the names and found Kate Winslow, Pablo Martinez, and Lydia Harris. Bernice Jackson was not in the picture. Looking through the photographs of each child, they noticed one with a name and no photo. The child’s name was “Hazel Brown.”
Starsky asked, “Is it okay if we hang onto this for now? We’ll get a copy of it and bring this back to you.”
“Yes, of course. I’ll go call the Diocese now and let you know what else we can find.”
Hutch said, “Thanks, Mrs. Sandling. Oh and, don’t forget to keep it quiet.”
“Mum’s the word, detective.” She took her fingers and made a locking motion over her lips.
Starsky remembered something. “How long has Mrs. Crawley been here?”
“Oh, she’s been here since the school opened, almost thirty years.”
“Any chance she might remember any of these kids?” Starsky pointed at the picture.
“I doubt it. Mrs. Crawley has a hard time remembering where she parked her car. She actually reported it stolen once when she parked it on a different street around the corner.”
“She’s still driving?” Hutch asked, his expression conveying his dismay.
“Yes she is. Mrs. Crawley is still driving a 1956 Desoto Firesweep. Pepto-Bismol pink no less. She’s harmless and she only lives about five minutes from here. Did you want to speak with her?”
“Maybe later. After we’ve had a chance to look over this photo and see your records.” Hutch answered.
“Fine then, I’ll be in touch.” She shook their hands and went back to her office.
When Hutch turned back to say something to Starsky, he noticed a pained expression on his partner’s face. “Starsk? You all right?”
“Oh, Hutch. I just had a terrible thought. What if our four victims ain’t the only ones?”
“What? We haven’t had any other homicides like this other than these four.”
“No, no, not here. What if there are other victims in this picture in other cities?”
Hutch absorbed that thought and said, “Man, you could be right. Let’s head back to the station and make some phone calls.”
Starsky studied the photographs while Hutch made out a request for information. They didn't know where to start looking for the rest of the members of the class, so they were going to start with the DMV in hopes that there was some information on where they might be living.
The faces in the photos, in varying stages of puberty and adolescence, made Starsky a little sad. Seventh grade had been a tough time for him personally,
and knowing that some of the children pictured were dead now, with others
possibly in grave danger, was poignant.
He easily recognized Lydia Harris. One of the photos on her parents' wall was
her seventh grade class picture. He had to use the list of names to spot Paul
Martin, who had had a mustache and longish hair as an adult. He didn't look
anything like the crew cut, serious-faced boy in the class photo.
Starsky studied the blank space where Hazel Brown's photo should have been.
"Wonder why there ain't no picture for this Hazel Brown."
"Maybe she was absent that day?" Hutch guessed.
"My mom always made me go to school on picture day even if I was half dead,"
Hutch grinned. "Mine, too. But that school's in a poor neighborhood and sometimes poor people don't think things like that are important."
"I guess," Starsky said, still looking at the photos.
Hutch called the DMV and gave them a list of all the names in the class, asking for information on any of them and explaining why it was a top priority. They told him it would take a little time, especially considering most of the girls had probably changed their names at marriage and would be listed under their current last names.
"I know. Do the best you can," Hutch said. He hung up with a sigh. "Now for R&I," he said to Starsky.
"Charlie's gonna kill us," Starsky said.
Charlie made a big show of complaining that "everyone wants everything
yesterday" but he did promise to run the killer's M.O. through the computers
and see if anything popped out. "How many kids were in this class?" he asked.
"Thirty," Hutch said.
"Wonderful," Charlie grumbled. "Thirty people you want me to track down, and
they could be anywhere."
"Twenty-six," Starsky corrected. "Four of 'em are dead."
"It's still a lot of names," Charlie pointed out.
Several hours later, Charlie called back to say three members of the class were dead of various other causes, which eliminated them. A girl named Diana Suzewitz had died of cancer as a teen-ager. Two boys, Alan Wickline and
Donald Gibson, had died in Vietnam. And a surprise: Charlie had recognized
the name of another of the boys, Tom Canaday, who played drums in a band
called Windswept and who had a hit record on the charts.
"I never heard of them," Starsky said suspiciously.
"They're country," Charlie said. "And Tom Canaday is very much alive. I just
saw him on TV the other night on Johnny Carson."
"So we're down to twenty-two," Starsky said.
"It's still a lot of names," Charlie complained and hung up.
Starsky grinned and put the phone down. "We're making progress."
"Damned slow progress," Hutch said.
The DMV managed to find a handful of names listed in California -- five --
but Starsky and Hutch could only find phone numbers for three of them.
Apparently the other two had changed their addresses but not updated their
driver’s license records.
John Luckenbill was an obstetrician in San Diego and had been delivering a
baby when Lydia Harris was killed. Hutch called the hospital to double-check,
and the man was telling the truth. That eliminated him.
Caroline Wagner was a nun in Sacramento who went by the name of Sister Mary
Caroline and taught in a Catholic high school there. She could account for her whereabouts for the time of Paul Martin's and Kate Carter's deaths and her story, too, proved true.
Kevin O'Reilly was a priest whose permanent address was in Bay City, but he was on sabbatical in Rome, studying canon law. The diocesan office confirmed that he'd been there for nearly a year and had not made any trips back to California in that time.
"Nineteen," Starsky said.
"Why do I feel like I'm living in 'Ten Little Indians'?" Hutch said with a groan, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
"An Agatha Christie book," Hutch said. "Ten people go to this house for a weekend and one after another they die. You don't know who the killer is or
what the motive is until the end, and even then, it's a surprise."
"You read Agatha Christie books?" Starsky asked with a grin.
"It's better than Superman comics," Hutch retorted.
It wasn't until the next afternoon that they got any more information. Charlie had tracked down one other murder like theirs. This one was in Corinth, Mississippi, a young man named Michael Harrold, and the M.O. was exactly the same. He'd been killed at home three months previously, his mouth covered in duct tape postmortem, and he'd had a key in his mouth. His apartment had been trashed, with records and books destroyed. And he was 33 years old.
Starsky looked at the class photo. "There he is," he said to Hutch, pointing to the picture of the young Michael, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and looking young for his age.
"I wonder if Huggy's found out anything yet," Hutch said.
"Let's go make sure he caught the name of the school," Starsky answered. "He
wouldn't have heard anything we said to him the other day." He reached for his jacket just as the phone rang. "Starsky."
"Dan Deardorf, David. How ya doin'?"
Dan was an old childhood friend of Starsky's who had also become a cop in New
"What's up, Dan? Sorry this ain't a very good time --"
"It's about that case you got," Dan said. "The duct tape? We had one like that. I happened to be in the records room when the request came in."
"You had one? Tell me about it."
"Just like yours, Dave. Her name was Julie Boggs and she was 33. Everything
was just the same. Trashed apartment, duct tape over the mouth, the whole
nine yards. Creepy."
Starsky reached for the photo and found Julie Boggs. "Yeah. She was in that
class. You solve it?"
"Huh-uh. No clues and no witnesses. Only fingerprints were hers and her boyfriend's, and he's in the clear. He was at work and could prove it when she died."
"You sure of him?"
"Yeah. He's my sergeant," Dan said.
"Oh." Starsky felt a little silly. "Sorry."
"He was pretty torn up," Dan said. "If you guys out there solve this one, it'll help him a lot."
"When did it happen?"
"Six months ago."
"Six months?" Starsky motioned to Hutch to pick up the extension. "You sure?"
"I'm sure. I was on the scene."
"Then this guy's been operating longer than we thought," Starsky said.
"What's the scoop, anyway?"
Starsky glanced at Hutch and Hutch gave a slight nod. So Starsky explained
their evidence and theories so far. Dan whistled. "Holy Christ. That's a
psycho you got there, pallie."
"No kidding," Starsky said.
"And your headshrinker friend thinks it's a picked-on kid in that class, huh?
You track down anyone in the class who's still breathin' who could tell you
who got picked on?"
Starsky looked at Hutch again, this time with self-disgust. "Why didn't we
think of that?"
"Dunno," Dan said cheerfully. "Maybe you're just dumb."
"Thanks a lot," Starsky said with a grin.
They got back on the phone to Dr. Luckenbill and put their question to him.
He was silent for a moment while he thought about it. "Seventh grade was a
long time ago, Sergeant," he said.
"I know," Starsky said. "Try."
There was another silence, and finally he said, "There was a girl named Lydia. Poor kid, she was gawky as hell --"
"She's one of the victims," Starsky interrupted.
"Oh, really? That's too bad." Luckenbill thought again. "Uh, one of the boys...let's see, I can't remember his name, but he was black. And he took a lot of guff."
"Black?" Starsky reached for the photo, which Hutch handed to him. Four of the
kids were black; three of them were boys. "Why did he take so much guff?"
"I can't remember," Luckenbill said apologetically. "I don't think his being black had anything to do with it. Seems like it was something else. I just can't remember what."
Starsky read the names of the black boys to him in the hope that it would shake his memory loose. "Leroy Dixon. David Mills. William Lucas."
"I'm sorry," Luckenbill said again. "None of them ring any bells. I'll keep thinking about it and call you if anything comes to mind."
"Thanks." Starsky broke the connection and called Sister Mary Caroline to ask her the same question. She also immediately thought of Lydia, but after he told her Lydia was dead and asked about boys, she drew a blank, too.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But I never took much notice of the boys. I was awfully shy then and terrified one of them would talk to me. I think the only boy I talked to at all was Hazel...uh...what was his last name?"
"Hazel?" Starsky's eyebrows went up. "Hazel was a boy?"
Sister Mary Caroline laughed gently. "Yes, poor child. He was even shyer than
I was. New boy that year, and non-Catholic. Terrified of the nuns. Hated the uniform -- and it was ugly, bless his heart. Girls wore these hideous blue and gray plaid jumpers with white blouses and boys had to wear black pants and white shirts with these simply awful plaid ties. Bow ties, in fact. The idea behind uniforms is to level the playing field, so to speak, so none of the children feel strange if they can't afford nice clothes, but honestly, Officer, I think they feel even stranger in those awful uniforms."
"Do they have uniforms at your school?"
"Yes, indeed," she said, laughing again. "And they're just as hideous as ours
"Do you remember anything about Hazel? His picture isn't in the class photo."
"Just that he was painfully thin and shy and shorter than most of the class,"
she said. "A dear boy, as I recall, that's why I wasn't afraid of him like I was with the others. But it's not like we were friends or anything. I just felt sorry for him and so I said 'good morning' or something of that sort on occasion."
"Did he get teased?"
"Oh, heavens," she said. "Everyone got teased for something. I don't think anyone in the class escaped that. They called me Sister Goody Two Shoes because I wanted to be a nun, and they called Lydia Four Eyes and Metal Mouth
and they called Pablo Speedy Gonzales."
"And Hazel? Do you remember what they called him?" Starsky persisted.
She thought about that and finally said, "No, I'm sorry. I'm sure he got teased about his name, but I don't really remember."
"Okay, thank you, Sister."
"Certainly. I wish I could be of more help."
Starsky hung up and said to Hutch, "Ten to one, Hazel's our killer. Can you imagine growing up with a name like 'Hazel'?" He shuddered.
Hutch grinned a little. "That would be pretty awful, I agree. So how do we find him?"
Starsky said, “DMV had nothing on a Hazel Brown. Let’s check with the FBI, see if they have any records. I’ll give them a call.”
“I’ll follow up with Mrs. Sandler about those school records.” Hutch said.
When Mrs. Sandler answered the telephone, she explained that she was just about to call them. The search through the records at the Diocese had turned up a box with some material from that class. She thought it might be interesting.
“Thanks a lot. Where is the Diocesan office?” Hutch asked.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I am having it brought to the school. If you’ll come by in the morning, I’ll have it for you first thing.”
“Great. Is nine okay?”
“Perfect. See you then.”
Starsky was hanging up the phone from speaking with an agent at the local FBI office. They would start a search for Hazel Brown and get back to him as soon as they had something.
“Starsk, in case you were wondering what that loud noise is, that would be my stomach growling. I feel like we forgot to eat a few meals in a row. You ready to run down to Huggy’s?”
“Been meaning to do that for a while now. Let’s hit it. We can get back on this in the morning.”
Hutch looked concerned. “You sure we shouldn’t come back tonight?”
“Hutch, you know how long that FBI search is gonna take. We might as well get some sleep after Huggy’s. Eating isn’t the only thing we’ve been skipping too much on this case.”
“I know. I’m just worried about the rest of the people in that class.”
Both of them hated the idea that another person could become a victim before they turned something useful.
“We’re doing everything we can, Hutch.”
The drive to Huggy’s was a quiet one with each of them lost in thought. When they weren’t talking about this case they were thinking about it. Although they often got wrapped up in a case, this one was more like being immersed.
When they arrived at The Pits, the place was packed. Every booth and table was taken. Looking around, neither of them could spot Huggy. They walked up to the bar and waited a few minutes to get Diane’s attention.
“How you boys doin’ tonight?” She asked, setting a beer on the bar in front of each of them.
“Not too bad,” Hutch answered. “Where’s the Bear?”
“Huggy’s not here tonight. Be back tomorrow. He had to run down to San Diego to see a friend.”
Starsky asked, “Did he leave anything for us?”
“Nah. Said to tell you if you stopped by that he’s still working on it, but nothing yet. He saw the news report on the school and the murders. Funny thing is he went to that school. Said he was glad he was thirty-four. The people being killed were the year after him. Funny coincidence, huh? You guys want a couple of specials?”
Starsky wasn’t too fond of funny coincidences. He also was still mad that the media had gotten wind of the information about the Catholic school. He made a note to grill Huggy about the school and his time there when they caught up with him the next day.
“Yeah, we’ll be back by the pool tables.” Starsky touched Hutch on the elbow and pointed toward the pool tables. Hutch looked distracted, watching a man sitting at the end of the bar.
Starsky turned his head and looked where Hutch was staring. The man under his partner’s scrutiny was unremarkable. He had on a dark coat, his dark shoulder length hair was greasy and stringy and he was nursing what looked like a boilermaker. The one odd thing about him was the dark sunglasses he was wearing inside. Starsky looked around for a cane or a dog but saw neither in evidence to indicate the man was blind. He turned back to Hutch and shot him a “What?” look.
Hutch answered the look. “When Diane said Huggy was not gonna be here tonight, that guy reacted.”
“Maybe he’s waitin’ on Huggy for something.”
“Maybe. I don’t know though. He just sort of gave me a funny feeling that’s all.”
Starsky smiled at him. “You been hanging out with Huggy and Joe Collandra again?”
Hutch followed Starsky back to the pool tables, turning occasionally to watch the man in the dark glasses. His cop’s instincts were telling him it was something, but he had no idea what it could be. By the time Diane came out with their food, the man was gone.
“Diane, that guy sitting at the end of the bar in the dark glasses, you seen him in here before tonight?” Hutch asked as he took the plates of food from her.
“Did he say anything to you?”
“Just ordered his drink. I was pretty busy though. He got here a little while before you did. He ordered a boilermaker. Anything else?”
Starsky looked at him. “What’s with you and that guy?”
“Probably nothing. Let’s just eat.”
Starsky knew better. His partner’s instincts were excellent. If Hutch thought there was something strange about the man he was more likely to be right than wrong. The man was gone and there was nothing they could do about it though. They ate, played a few games of pool, and left for the evening. About ten minutes after they left, Diane went looking for them. She had been so busy all evening she hadn’t had the chance to tell them something. The man in the sunglasses had not left a tip and what he did leave seemed strange. He had left behind a broken piece of chalk.
The next morning they sat with Mrs. Sandling in her office and opened the box she had for them. Luckily, this box was not damaged by the water main disaster. Mrs. Sandling was right; the box contained some interesting items. The first thing they found was a copy of the class picture. Then they pulled out the seating roster. Starsky stared at it for a few minutes and then looked up at Hutch with wide eyes.
“Oh my God. Look at this list. The kids sat in the class pretty much in the same order as the victims have been killed.” He passed the sheet over to Hutch.
Hutch read through the names and Starsky was right. The first row of students were all dead. The next row were too with the exception of the child who sat closest to the classroom door – Hazel Brown. The name directly behind him belonged to Donald Gibson, one of the boys who died in Vietnam.
“Starsk, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Yeah, this Hazel Brown is not the killer at all. What’s the chance he would remember the seating arrangement from a class twenty years ago?”
They looked at each other and said simultaneously, “The killer is the teacher.”
Mrs. Sandling looked shocked. She excused herself for a moment to go and pull the personnel file for the teacher.
Starsky continued to look through the box, noting that there was a large file folder full of detention notices for the students in the class. Most of them were for talking in class or playing pranks on the teacher.
Hutch opened up the folder on Hazel Brown. His mother had transferred the boy from a local public school. Hazel had gotten into some trouble in school the previous year – fights, truancy, and failing grades. He was forced to repeat the seventh grade. The file included his transcript from the public school and a note written by the principal that his mother was hoping the more disciplined atmosphere in the Catholic school would help her son. He had attended on a compassionate scholarship, his tuition waived by the school due to his mother’s financial situation.
“Hutch, we’ve gotta find out who Hazel Brown is and where to find him. He’s probably the next victim.”
Mrs. Sandling walked back into the office with a file folder. “That class had a lay teacher, a Mr. Holten. His record has several notes in it about the principal counseling him to be less angry in class. Looks like that year was his last here. I also see several letters of complaint from parents about how he treated the students. The final notation says he went up to San Francisco to teach summer school and never came back because he had been admitted to a mental institution up there.”
“Bingo,” Starsky said. “Thanks, Mrs. Sandling. Can I hang onto this class roster and Holten’s file?”
“Yes, anything that will help.”
As they walked through the office on the way out, Mrs. Crawley said, “Oh officers! I heard you were looking for Hazel Brown and I remembered something.”
Hutch turned to her, “What’s that, ma’am?”
“Hazel was a boy. Does that help?”
Hutch smiled at her and winked at Starsky. “Yes, ma’am. That’s a big help, thanks.”
They ran back and hopped in the car. Hutch called control for a patch through to the FBI office to check on their progress with Hazel Brown.
“Any luck with our search?” Hutch asked the agent Starsky had spoken with the last time.
“Yes, I left you a message early this morning, but I guess you didn’t get it.”
“We had some things to do this morning outside the precinct. What was the message?”
“Well, it’s not much, but I have a record of a Hazel Brown from Bay City. He’s black, male, thirty-four years old. The record says he has an alias, also known as Huggy Bear. That’s all I have.”
“I thought Diane said he went to that school the year before this class. Oh my God, Huggy’s the next victim.”
Starsky punched it as Hutch put the red light on the top of the car and hit the siren. They were headed for The Pits.
Martin Holten was sitting at his table reading the paper. The media frenzy over his string of murders fascinated him. The class of children he was now killing had been evil. Their bad behavior caused him to have a mental breakdown and he had spent nearly twenty years in a psychiatric institution. The state of mental health care funding in California had been partially responsible for his release. The money to treat patients like him was gone. He was believed to be manageable with medications and outpatient therapy. Too bad he never went to the therapy sessions and he refused to take his medication. The drugs made him dopey and overly passive. He liked the powerful feeling that had returned to him when he stopped taking the drugs.
His mission to destroy the seventh grade class of 1959 had been satisfying. He had spent the past twenty years thinking about them, remembering their antics, and planning in his head how he would give each of them the corporal punishment they deserved.
He sat playing with his weapon – the power cord from an overhead projector. That seemed so fitting. One of the favorite tricks the children played on him that year was stealing the power cords from the overhead and film projectors. They also liked to steal the light bulbs, but he didn’t know how to efficiently execute someone with a light bulb. No, the projector cord suited his needs just fine. Once the victims were dead, he placed a memento in their mouths and sealed them shut with duct tape. He had promised them all he would shut them up for good if they didn’t start behaving in class. They hadn’t listened.
The previous evening had found him waiting in a bar called The Pits. Finding Hazel Brown had been a little more challenging than the others because he had changed his name to Huggy Bear. He remembered the young boy as a poor student, shy in class. He had failed the seventh grade in public school and had been sent to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows to help him become a better student. The boy had participated actively in the stealing of his projector cords though, despite his shyness. Holten was disappointed that Huggy was not at the bar the night before, but he could be patient. He would try again later in the day. Hazel Brown would be dead as soon as he could find him alone at his place.
Huggy had driven since late in the night to get home from San Diego. He and his "friend" – actually a lady he'd met when she came into The Pits – had gone to dinner and a show and then stayed up until the wee hours talking and making love. Huggy was well satisfied with his trip and whistled as he let himself into The Pits through the back door and started up the stairs to the apartment above. He was going to have to open the place, sleepless night or not, so there was no sense in going home, but that's why he kept a bed upstairs. Sometimes he needed it for a catnap in between shifts.
Huggy kicked off his shoes, tossed his jacket toward the chair, fell into bed and went immediately to sleep. Sometime later, he woke up to go to the bathroom. He rolled over and opened his eyes and looked up into a vaguely familiar face.
"Hey!" Huggy said, startled. "Who the hell are you and what are you doin' here?"
"It's called 'corporal punishment,' Hazel Brown," the old man said, softly and with a bit of glee. He unrolled what looked like an electrical cord.
Suddenly Huggy remembered who the man was – his seventh grade teacher, Mr. – Mr. – Holten, that was it. He was so puzzled by the man's presence that he didn't think to be afraid until Holten knocked him sideways on the bed and flipped the cord around his neck with amazing speed. Then Huggy started to struggle; sure that he could overcome the much older man without much trouble.
But Holten had a startling strength, and he held Huggy down and tightened the cord until Huggy couldn't breathe. And he couldn't break free. As he weakened and his vision started to go dark, he heard another sound.
"Huggy!" Starsky's voice came up the stairs and in another moment both detectives burst through the apartment door. "Freeze!" Starsky ordered Holten, holding his gun on him.
Holten merely tightened the cord.
Starsky was afraid to fire due to Holten's half-prone position on top of Huggy. He launched himself at the man and hit him with the butt of his gun. But though Holten rocked from the force of the blow, he didn't let go of the cord, and Starsky could see that Huggy was fading.
Hutch was right behind him, and he hit the man also, right in the temple, finally forcing him to let go as he slid off Huggy, stunned. Hutch took care of cuffing Holten while Starsky gently turned Huggy over and got the cord off his neck. He could see bruises already forming, but Huggy coughed a couple of times and opened his eyes.
"Hey, you okay?"
Huggy swallowed, rubbed his neck and tried to nod. "Yeah, think so," he said hoarsely. "What the hell is going on?"
Hutch yanked the old man unceremoniously to his feet. "Meet our serial killer, Hug," he said. "Martin Holten. I believe you know each other."
"Man, I ain't seen him since I was 13," Huggy said, and coughed again. "Why the hell would he wanna kill me?"
"Good question," Starsky said. "Why did you want to kill Huggy?"
"They're bad," Holten said. "They're all bad. They have to die. Every one of them. They have to die."
"Who has to die?" Huggy demanded.
"The kids in your class," Starsky said. "He's been killin' all of you, one by one. Even some in other states."
"Why?" Huggy rose to his feet, a little shaky. Starsky held his arm to steady him.
"Because you're bad," Holten said. He didn't seem at all disturbed to be in cuffs. He simply stood there.
Huggy shook his head. "I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about."
Holten's eyes glittered. "I spent 20 years in an institution because of you, all of you. And every day of those 20 years, I planned how I was going to get even with you. You can stop me for a while," he said to Hutch, who had a firm grip of his arm, "but eventually they'll let me out again, and I'll finish what I started. I'm not going to stop until every last one of the little bastards is dead!"
"What could a bunch of seventh-graders do to you?" Starsky demanded. "That's crazy."
"Yeah, isn't it?" Holten said. "That's what they say at the hospital, too. I'll tell you what they did. They fought. They were insolent. They played tricks on me. They wouldn't behave. They wouldn't do their homework. They talked back. I told them I'd shut them up someday. And I have."
Starsky and Hutch both looked at Huggy. His eyes were wide.
"We were kinda bad," he said to them. "But hell, fellas, all seventh-graders are bad. It's what they DO. And this guy," he gestured at Holten, "it didn't help that he was one of these nervous, wimpy types. He squeaked when he was mad at us and we thought it was funny and..." He shrugged. "Good God, who'd've thought he'd come back 20 years later and try to kill us all?"
Huggy argued with Starsky and Hutch about going to the hospital, but they insisted, partly because they were worried about him and partly because they needed the paper trail to help convict Holten. Once the ambulance had left with Huggy and a black-and-white had taken Holten away, they made sure Huggy's place was locked and headed back to start the mountain of paperwork. They hadn't Mirandized Holten before he'd started confessing, but neither of them expected it to be difficult to get a confession on the record. Crazies usually wanted to talk about their crimes and how clever they'd been. When they finished with Holten, they’d head to the hospital to pick up Huggy.
The detectives were right about Holten. After they read him his rights, he waived the presence of an attorney and offered them a full confession. He provided details on two more murders of classmates the investigation had been unable to locate. One was killed in Seattle and the other in Phoenix. In all, the man had murdered eight innocent people. After his arraignment, he would be transferred to Caballo Point under the care of Dr. Jackson pending a decision as to whether he could be tried.
Huggy was treated and released from the hospital emergency room. The doctor said he was lucky. Based on the lengthy list of victims, Huggy agreed. The only thing he had to worry about now was that his two favorite cops knew something about him that he had hoped would never be revealed to anyone again.
Sitting in their favorite booth at The Pits, Starsky and Hutch were having a meal on the house, courtesy of the grateful proprietor. Captain Dobey was sitting with them, enjoying a bowl of won ton soup, ever amazed at Huggy’s ability to pull any type of food out of his kitchen.
“So, Huggy, did it do you any good to transfer you to the Catholic school?” Starsky asked between bites of his burger.
“I guess so. Guess I was so grateful to get back to public school, I behaved myself enough to graduate. Prob’ly never woulda done that if I hadn’t done time at Troubles.” Huggy replied with a smile.
“Troubles?” Hutch was curious.
“Yeah, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows was just too much to say. We always just called it Troubles.”
“I thought Catholic school teachers were supposed to be nuns.” Starsky said.
“Not always. If I remember c’rectly Mr. Holten was gonna be priest at one time. Feature that.”
Starsky let his mind run with that idea. “Really,” he said with a chill and a shudder echoed by his partner. Hutch’s imagination was less vivid about such things than Starsky’s, but he picked up the image as if Starsky had broadcast it directly into his head.
When their dinners were finished and the plates cleared away, Hutch announced they had some gifts for Huggy.
Hutch had a jar of hazelnuts for Huggy. He presented them with an innocent look. “We’ve been thinking, Hug. Maybe you should consider switching to these instead of peanuts for the bar. Lots of people are allergic to peanuts.”
Dobey agreed. “That’s a great idea, Hutch.”
Huggy accepted the jar without comment. Then he turned to Starsky. “You got somethin’ to add to this, Curly?”
“Who me?” Starsky was wide eyed.
“Don’t give me that ‘who me’ look. You’re about as innocent as a fox in the hen house.”
Starsky put on his most wounded expression. “Now, Huggy, that hurts. I have a nice present for you, but I don’t know if you’re gonna get it if you got that attitude.”
Hutch said, “Now, Starsky, Huggy can’t help it if he’s paranoid right now.”
“Paranoid!” Huggy growled.
“Huggy, you were almost killed. Perfectly normal for you to be a little paranoid.” Dobey offered helpfully.
“Starsk, Huggy didn’t mean that. Give him the present. Come on now. You know, Hug, Starsky had to go to a bunch of antique stores and flea markets to find this thing.”
Huggy put his hands up in defeat. “Go ahead, man. Do your worst.”
Starsky handed Huggy a box with a sly smile.
Dobey warned him, “Don’t hurt his feelings, Huggy. He went to a lot of trouble.”
Huggy sighed and opened the box. Inside was a lunch box with a cartoon picture of Hazel the maid from the old television series.
“Cute. Thanks.” He had to chuckle in spite of his distress at what could be next. “You know I’m waitin’ for the other shoe to drop, fellas. Hit me with it so we can move on, huh? Y’all are being cruel to the Bear.”
Hutch started to giggle, turning a little red as he choked out “Hazel? Hazel?” He slapped the table with his hand, trying to catch his breath.
Dobey added with a warm laugh, “What was your mom thinking, Hazel? I mean Huggy.”
Huggy said, “That’s pronounced ‘hay-zelle’ not ‘Hazel’ like the maid, man. Captain, I’m surprised at you. You should know that.”
“I do, but it’s more fun the other way.”
Hutch’s giggles had started to infect his partner too. Starsky gasped, “Geez, Huggy, was your mom TRYING to get the crap kicked out of ya?” That only made Hutch laugh harder. “Hutch, you better go outside and get some air.” Starsky advised. Hutch just shook his head, tucking his chin and refusing to make eye contact with his partner. That was only making it worse.
“I was named after a guy my mom knew in South Carolina where she grew up. You see why I changed it?” Watching Hutch’s struggle to regain control was starting to make him laugh too.
Dobey asked, “When did you change it?”
“After I graduated. I turned eighteen and my mom couldn’t stop me. Best thing I ever did.”
Dobey grew a little more serious. “Who knows? That might have saved your life. Gave these guys some extra time to solve this case since Holten had a hard time finding your new name too.”
“Hey, how did he find me?” Huggy asked.
Hutch was better, but he was still incapable of answering. He touched Starsky on the arm and indicated for him to answer.
“Hutch found out Holten got it through an archived copy of the local newspaper. He ran across a legal notice of name change. Your attorney must’ve filed it.” Starsky explained. Huggy whistled.
Dobey said, “He may be crazy, but the man would have made a good detective.”
Huggy smiled at his friends. “Thanks, amigos. I owe ya. Oh, Starsk, I appreciate the lunch box. I think I’ll save it. Somebody might pay good money for that someday.”
Starsky laughed. “For a lunch box from an old TV show? No way, man.”