"Personally, I think she's blown herself out."
"Nah. No way is she just gonna settle down like nothing's happened." Starsky wadded his third attempt at the Casten report into a compact ball and made a show of hitting the wastebasket on the first shot. "I'm telling you, Edwards, I've known girls like her, and you can put me down for ten she's just getting started. Let's say somewhere between the nineteenth and the twenty-fourth " Squinting his eyes and touching fingertips to temples in the manner most commonly associated with fortune-tellers in cheap nightclub acts, he finally announced, "I'm seeing the twenty-first. Gotta be."
"Done." Edwards grinned. "How about you, Hutch?"
"Unlike my partner here, I'm afraid I can't claim to have much insight into the mysteries of volcanism. I've certainly never been able to channel one. You want to try for earthquakes next? It would be a lot handier, considering where we are."
"Oh, put him down for ten, too." Turning eagerly toward his partner, "Why don't you pick a day between the thirteenth and the eighteenth, hmm? What?" Starsky plastered on the expression that matched the cockily confident voice, and made a concerted effort to radiate innocence. Yes, Hutch had long ago become immune and was likely to see through it instantly, anyway, but that was all part of the game. "I've been reading all about fumaroles. Trust me on this, it's a sure thing."
"Fumaroles, huh?" Hutch asked, rolling his eyes. "Just put me down for five on the twelfth, will you?" To Starsky, "I may not possess your encyclopedic knowledge of fumaroles, but I do know the odds against Mount St. Helens erupting on the same date two months in a row."
"Hey, st--" Starsky's rejoinder was cut off mid-sentence by the hiss of Edwards' sharply in-drawn breath. "Bill?" He instinctively followed the other officer's gaze, but there was little to indicate the reason for the reaction. From Starsky's vantage point, Edwards' attention seemed riveted on the small, fifty-ish-looking man who had just entered their little corner of Metro: hat, light business suit, affable enough demeanor...totally unfamiliar. "Someone you know?"
"You mean you don't--? No, you wouldn't. I'll be damned." He shook his head as the stranger continued down the hall. "That's Chuck Addison. Used to be a detective in Bunco before he went..." Edwards elevated index finger to head and rotated it in the universally acknowledged sign for 'crazy.' "He makes a twice-annual pilgrimage to Homicide, begging to re-open this ancient case he's hung up on. Can't imagine what he's doing here."
Starsky nudged his partner, who had been scowling ever since the visitor had walked in, and was now staring at the comparatively empty hallway. "Hutch?"
The touch seemed to jar Hutch out of whatever trance he'd lapsed into, and he started, then shrugged. "I don't know. He's familiar, for some reason, but I can't place where I know him from. It's right--"
As if on cue, Addison wandered back into view, this time taking a detour into the squadroom and walking straight toward the threesome gathered at the desk.
"Hiya, fellas. One of you mind directing me to Captain Dobey? He's expecting me, but I seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Unfamiliar territory."
"Sure," Hutch responded, gesturing with a pencil toward the office door. "He's just in there. You say he knows you're here?"
"Sure hope so," Addison replied with a wink. "Thanks." Hat in hand, he sauntered over to the door and gained admittance on the first knock.
Edwards gave a low whistle and made a sprint for the exit. "'Bye, guys. It's been a great chat, but I'm outta here, and, if you know what's good for you and have anywhere else to be, I'd suggest making your way there post-haste."
"You wanna share with the rest of the class? He looked pretty harmless to me." Starsky glanced curiously at Hutch, who was now staring intently at the office door, tapping his pencil absently on the desk.
Edwards edged ever-nearer the door. "Just a hunch, and I hope I'm wrong. If not...well, you can always join me in R & I, if you should find yourselves in need of a place to hide out for a while."
Seriously doubting that Edwards could have escaped any faster if his shoes had sprouted wings, Starsky watched the egress for a moment, shrugged, then turned his attention to his equally off-kilter partner. "Hey."
"Whatever you're trying to dredge up isn't going to magically appear on that door over there. How about we get the reports done first and then play 'Pin the Tail on the Memory'? Provided we can't find anything better to do by then."
"Yeah." Hutch drew a hand over his eyes, swiveled back toward the typewriter, and said more firmly, "Yeah." He had barely gotten the first form aligned properly when he suddenly sat up straight and snapped his fingers.
"No, that's where I know him from. I knew I'd seen him somewhere! Addison...he's the guy who saved that six-year-old boy from the car fire in Guasti. You know, you read it, too--five-car pile-up just off I-10, a sedan burst into flames, the kid was trapped. You have to remember. His picture was in all the papers last week."
It wasn't hard to recall the story once he knew what to look for. Aside from being undeniably dramatic, it was also one of the few bright spots in a week of singularly depressing news. "Mom was thrown clear, but the kid was strapped inside. A Good Samaritan ran over, broke a window, and yanked him out just before the tank exploded." Starsky glanced toward Dobey's office with a newfound appreciation for the guest within. "That was him?"
"Yeah, he's still wearing a bandage on his right arm. I saw it beneath his cuff as he walked by, but it didn't register until now."
"That's interesting, but it doesn't explain what's bringing him over--" The sentence died before it even had a chance to fully form, killed instantly by the familiar voice booming through a rapidly opening door.
Hutch grinned. "No, but it looks like we're about to find out."
The mood inside the office was strangely tense, and Starsky found himself instantly on edge: curious about what was going on, saturated with that feeling of foreboding that comes when you already know you're not going to like the answer. One glance at Hutch told him he wasn't alone, and he eyed Dobey warily. "Cap'n?"
"I don't believe you've all had the pleasure, so let me make the introductions. Detective Addison, this is Detective Starsky and Detective Hutchinson--two of my best."
"So I've heard."
"This is retired Detective Charles Addison."
"Chuck," Dobey echoed, returning the pencil he'd been stabbing the air with to its favored spot behind his ear. "You two've probably seen him in the news over the past few days. Chuck gained some well-deserved notoriety last week when--"
"The car fire in Guasti," Hutch interrupted. "That was an exceptional act of bravery you performed."
Rotating the hat in his lap inch-by-inch by its brim, Addison smiled shyly. "Right place, right time. You know how it is."
A response common enough when spoken with false modesty, but there was something in the way Addison said it that lent an unexpected honesty to the words. Laudable, to be sure, but it still didn't offer a clue as to why they had been called in. Extending a hand, Starsky said softly, "Unless the news reports were completely fabricated, there was a lot more to it than that, but something tells me this isn't why we're here."
As all eyes shifted expectantly in Dobey's direction, the captain scratched his cheek and motioned to the chairs. "Have a seat. Where are you two on the Casten case?"
"It's all over but the paperwork."
"And the meetings with the DA," Starsky added, knocking his partner lightly in the ankle.
"Uh-huh. Well, type faster, and I'll hold the DA off as best I can. You've just been temporarily reassigned."
Both detectives lurched upright, almost as a single entity.
"To what?" Hutch asked.
"Now wait just a minute! We're still working MacGruder, and are this close to a breakthrough on the Steven's heist--"
Dobey held up his hand in an obvious bid for silence. "Thorpe and Flores are fully informed on the Steven's incident, and MacGruder wasn't your case to begin with." Shifting his weight in the mildly protesting chair, he added, "Anyway, unless you've found a lead I don't know about, you're still working your way through a phone book of suspects one-by-one. No shortage of people out there wanting to rid the world of lawyers--even the high-priced versions. Can't see this case being any colder in a week than it is right now."
"But--" Starsky was about to point out that not everyone with a grudge either had the expertise necessary to professionally sabotage a car, or the money to hire someone who did, but Dobey didn't seem to be in the mood to argue.
"Sit down, Starsky! This is a police department, not a democracy--you don't get a vote. You're being handed a cold case homicide with the intention that you approach it like you would any other case. You'll have access to everything from the original investigation: interviews, rec--"
Dobey fixed a steely glare on Hutch. "What was that?"
"I asked how cold a case? What exactly are we dealing with here?"
"Darcy was murdered exactly eighteen years, one month, and seventeen days ago," Addison answered quietly. "She's had a long wait for justice, wouldn't you say?"
The stunned silence remained for several long seconds before Hutch came up with the next logical question, glancing briefly at Starsky before opening his mouth. "How long? How long are we doing this, and what exactly does it entail?"
His eyes darting briefly over to the quiet, solemn figure of Addison, Dobey picked up an official looking paper and fanned the air lightly. "Just what I said, one week. The commissioner has requested you be reassigned for one week only, just to see what you can make of the case in that time. All your other cases are cleared until then, and you'll be working with Detective Addison here, since he was the original investigating officer and knows more about the case than anyone. Any questions?"
One week? We're supposed to magically solve an eighteen-year-old murder case in one week, at the request of the commissioner? Starting where? Attempting to make sense of a picture he had the strongest feeling they were being shown only the tiniest portion of, Starsky found that he had little but questions, though one managed to ascend with alacrity above all the others. "Why?"
"Because the BCPD takes a dim view of unsolved homicides, and it's a tough case that's going to require some imagination. Naturally. " The hint of a smirk crossed Dobey's face, but was quickly gone.
Terrific. Well, Starsky, you asked.
Hutch, happily, picked up the ball where his partner left it. "Yes, but why now? Has there been a break? Any new leads? Why the sudden renewal of interest in an old case? Unless there's something you're leaving out, nothing's happened, except--"
Deep in thought, Starsky drummed his fingers on the armrest. The heroic and widely heralded rescue in Guasti. A fairly unattractive shape began to assume recognizable form in the fog, and Starsky was reminded yet again how little he appreciated being used as a political pawn, even when the cause was not entirely without merit. As Dobey and Addison exchanged meaningful looks, Starsky and Hutch did the same.
"Look, Chuck," Dobey began amiably, "I need to get a report from my men, and tie up some loose ends here before we go any further. Go get the files, and I'll have Carstairs get you set up in the situation room."
Judging by Addison's humoring smile, the verbal sleight of hand fell somewhat short. "Sure, Captain." He bounced out of the chair with surprising agility. "Detectives, your reputations precede you, and I'm looking forward to seeing your skills in action, as it were."
The snap of the door closing was akin to the sound of a starting pistol in a race to see who would speak first. In this case, Hutch won.
"I know. I don't like it any better than you do, but there's more at stake here than you realize. It's a sensitive situation."
"Don't tell me." Starsky slouched a little lower in his chair and sighed. "He's been pushing on this case for years, but everybody's been able to ignore him before now."
"Guasti gave him some media leverage," Hutch continued, "and he's threatening to use it. How close are we?"
Starsky flashed a wide grin--the pure, undisguised amazement on the captain's face making him wish he'd remembered to bring his camera to work. "I keep telling people, the meatloaf in the cafeteria's amazing stuff--gives ya superpowers."
"Edwards filled us in a little," Hutch clarified. "You want to fill us in on the rest?"
"You're close. Addison's been on this private crusade for years, and nothing's ever come of it. No offense, but no one's expecting anything to come of it this time, either. It's just that now he has the media in his pocket, and in an election year..."
"The commissioner can't afford to take the chance. That's just terrific," Starsky said dryly. "So he's willing to take us off the things we might actually be able to make a difference in, and put us on this?"
Dobey raised his hands in a gesture of resignation. "Addison already knows the ground rules. You two are in charge, you set the tone and make the decisions. Do what you can--let him know you're doing what you can--then call it a day. And try to keep him happy in the process, understood?"
"We're on hand-holding duty," Hutch said disgustedly. "To Serve and Appease."
"Well, if you don't like it, you can always surprise everyone and actually solve the case. Now get out of here."
"You're just delaying the inevitable." Hutch leaned languidly against the wall, as his partner committed assault and battery on the vending machine. "Can't stay down here forever, you know."
"Yeah, but nothing says I have to go up there without some sugar back-up."
"You're actually enjoying this, aren't you?"
"You make it sound like a crime," Starsky teased. "Hey, I prefer to look at it as a paid break from the usual routine. Who knows? We do this right, maybe they'll give us Hoffa."
Hutch's mumbled, "And what would we do with him if they did?" was just a barely audible backdrop to the sound of feet hitting the stairs on the trip up.
The first to arrive at the door, Starsky knocked, then stopped mid-whistle and stared in awe at the room their third wheel was in the process of setting up. Gotta hand it to you, Addison, you know how to set a stage. Crime scene photographs had been neatly tacked onto the bulletin board, and stacks of boxed files awaited review from the floor--sitting patiently until the retired detective completed whatever it was he was writing on the chalkboard. Professional.
Acknowledging their arrival with a wave of chalk, Addison smiled warmly before returning to his notes. "Grab some chairs, fellas, or you can begin arranging the files if you'd rather. Either way, I'll be with you in two shakes."
Hutch quirked an eyebrow as both men began pulling clearly labeled folders from file boxes. Of the more than fifty present, Starsky soon realized, only a handful were official police records--the rest had been compiled by Addison, personally. Okay, so we know he's both dedicated and thorough...maybe it's time we found out why. "Mind if I ask you a question, Chuck?"
"Fire away, Detective. Any time."
Before Starsky had even formed the first word, he was stopped by a light nudge from his partner, who shook his head and pointed to himself. Fair enough. Of the two, Hutch was the man more likely to couch a phrase in diplomatic enough language to make even an insult sound like a compliment, and the current situation could only benefit from tact. Starsky willingly stepped back and gave Hutch first crack.
"You've logged in some long hours on this case, so it obviously means a great deal to you. Do you have some personal involvement we should know about?"
Addison froze in place for a moment, then put down the chalk in slow motion, drawing in a deep breath before turning to face his companions. "Didn't you ever have an assignment that got under your skin and steadfastly refused to let go?"
"Not eighteen years worth," Starsky replied.
Addison shrugged. "Be happy it's never happened to you, David. May I call you that?"
"Why not? Considering we're gonna be living in each other's back pockets for the next week, it seems only fair."
Deciding it was high time he entered the conversation, too, Hutch offered, "You can call me Ken if you like, but I usually go by Hutch."
"Great. All I was saying was, be glad. Having a case take over your life is no joke, but it happens sometimes. What can you do?"
Assuming the question to be purely rhetorical, Starsky joined Hutch in looking over the ME's report. Darcy Sandrow: twenty-three-year-old Caucasian female. Gunshot wound to upper left thoracic, resulting in a partially transected left subclavian artery, and death through exsanguination. Damn. Until Hutch's hand came up and stilled his own, Starsky was completely unaware that he'd been lightly massaging one of his own scars.
"Do we have any suspects?" Endearingly predictable, Hutch was always at the ready to change any subject that became uncomfortable, even if only for a few moments.
"Don't need any," Addison replied evenly. "We already know who the murderer is."
On the whole, it was probably a good thing Addison was no taller than he was, for both Starsky and Hutch would surely have suffered whiplash had it been otherwise.
"Would you give that a rest already?" Starsky pleaded, more in amusement than irritation. "It's after midnight already. How much longer do you plan on playin' at this?"
"In a minute. Let's just go over it one more time, okay?"
"Hutch." Starsky sank back on the pillows with a puff and chuckled softly. "You been bitten by the same bug as Addison? What is it about this case, anyway?"
"It's a classic unsolved mystery. You can't honestly tell me you don't find that at least a little alluring."
"No, I can't. I just find other things a whole lot more alluring." Grinning at the almost plaintive look cast his way, Starsky added, "But I'm patient within reason. All right, Holmes. One more time, from the top."
"Okay, we know that Darcy was working in the DA's office when she was killed. An assistant secretary to a prosecutor named Frank Win...? Wan...?"
"Wainwright. You have been listening."
"Yep, now play nice. Go on."
"Who she may or may not have been having an affair with."
Starsky reached for one of the myriad photocopies currently obscuring their bed. "Yeah, her diary wasn't clear on that. She liked him, and everybody thought there might have been something going on, but no one seems to know for sure."
"Now, Addison has successfully convinced himself that the killer has to be Wainwright's fiancée, Letitia Hamland, because--"
"Because Darcy's dying word sounded something like 'mantis,' and Letitia happens to have a praying mantis tattooed on her neck." Starsky shook his head. "That qualifies as interesting, but not much else. There's not one solid shred of evidence to even suggest that she was involved." Placing a hand on Hutch's shoulder, he deadpanned, "Hey, you don't suppose that's why she was never arrested, do you?"
"Maybe, but being the Chairman of the Board of one of the top three publishing houses in the country doesn't hurt, either."
Starsky considered that for a moment, then shook his head. "I give you that she comes from a nifty little family dynasty, and I'm sure her daddy could've paid her way out of a lot of trouble, but still. She'd have been, what? Around twenty-four or twenty-five herself at the time? An heiress to that kind of fortune is going to have a lot more going for her than a prosecuting attorney. Even if he was sampling the nectar from more than one flower, don't you think she'd just ditch 'im and move on? There are other, less dangerous ways to make someone pay, and--if you believe the interviews--no one who knew her even saw it as a possibility. No one's sure he was stepping out on her in the first place."
"Doesn't look like it's going to be easy to run him down and ask, either. Says here he died of natural causes just a short while after Darcy was killed." Hutch let his shoulders sag as he added, whispering, "Addison might be right, you know. It's one hell of a theory, and he's had enough years to work on it."
Resolutely starting to gather all of the papers into a dignified pile, Starsky leaned over Hutch's frame on his way to a crime scene report and lingered there for a moment, savoring the contact of his back against Hutch's chest. "Maybe he is, but we're not going to find out one way or the other tonight. By and large, I really think I'd rather go to sleep with something on my mind other than a young woman lying alone on her bedroom floor, coughing up her own lungs." While he hadn't intended to sound quite that affected by the case, neither did he object to Hutch's gentle answering embrace.
"Don't be. I'd be lying if I said it didn't intrigue the hell out of me, it's just I dunno." Starsky leaned fully back into the familiar warmth, and was once more amazed at how rapidly even the most tenacious of shadows were vanquished. Magic. "Did you notice that he didn't put one photo of the body up with the other crime scene shots?"
"Yeah, I noticed. Also saw that he wasn't the original detective assigned to the case. He must've transferred from Bunco to Homicide within a week after she was killed, though...then requested it?"
"Why d'you suppose Addison's so hung up on this, anyway?"
"Wish I knew. I'm certainly not buying his 'some cases just get under your skin' explanation, but that, as you said, can wait for another time. So, what would you like to do with the rest of our evening?"
Starsky smiled at the recognition of the beginnings of a very personal game. But surely game wasn't the right word? Dance, perhaps, would be a more appropriate analogy. From excitingly playful to almost hauntingly reverent, the specifics could vary considerably with the days, while the deeper meaning--the crux of what was communicated--remained more constant than the seasons themselves. He gave the arm about his waist a quick, appreciative squeeze and swallowed hard before offering the expected response. "There's always our old standby, Monopoly."
"Little early in the morning for that, don't you think? How about cards?"
"Nah. They get lost in the sheets."
"Huh. How about 'Klimbat'?"
Starsky laughed. "Don't think I know that one."
"Oh, no?" Hutch leaned forward until his breath caressed Starsky's ear with moist warmth. "Let's figure it out together, shall we?"
Lunch had so far been the high point of the day, at least as far as Hutch was concerned. Chasing phantoms and leads that had dried up before he and Starsky had ever even entered the Academy seemed to add countless hours onto a morning that had already felt as if it would stretch into infinity. Hutch moved his plate over to make room for the freshly filled glass Huggy Bear set down, and smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Hug." Beer would have been far more welcome, but Hutch was happy enough with the soda.
"Sure thing, mes ami--especially when you exercise your right to introduce new members to the clientele of this fine establishment." With a dramatic nod aimed directly at Addison, Huggy asked, "So, how long is your duo likely to remain a trio? Is this a 'lease with an option to buy' sort of thing, or does it come with an expiration date?"
"Oh, they'll be returned to their normal lives, unharmed, after a week," Addison replied cheerfully, attention still riveted on the half-eaten hamburger before him. "This is a wild place you've got here. Bit out of my neck of the woods, but I may just have to become a regular."
"Music to my ears." Grinning broadly, Huggy leaned down and offered a conspiratorial whisper. "You've got a lot to learn about the other two wheels on your scooter here, though. Neither one has never known the meaning of the word 'normal'." Suddenly distracted by the alarming sight of white puffs of smoke billowing from somewhere in the recesses of the kitchen, Huggy departed as hurriedly as he'd come, leaving the occupants at the table in uneasy silence.
Tellingly avoiding eye contact with anyone, Starsky appeared to be aiming toward total communion with his lunch, very nearly keeping the smirk he'd been unsuccessfully battling for hours at bay. Hutch, on the other hand, found himself staring morosely at an apparently oblivious Addison, and pondering his own less-than-amused feelings regarding the investigation thus far. He'd not automatically bought into the assumption that their "partner" was crazy, but now? Several shared hours in the car were helping that theory look more than merely possible. It was hard to even know how to phrase the question... "That trip to Huntington Park?"
Addison blinked back, mouth too full to respond verbally.
"Why? I mean... Why?"
"Wanted you to see where Darcy lived. Get a feel for the area, you know. Used to be SOP when I was still on the job. I know a lot's happened in the fifteen years I've been away, but have things really changed that much?"
It was asked without even a hint of sarcasm, and Hutch was beyond relieved when Starsky finally opted into the conversation.
"Still is, but you took us to a Buy-Lo parking lot, Chuck. Kinda hard to determine much from little painted rectangles on concrete."
"Yeah." Addison shrugged and reached for the condiment rack. "They tore her apartment building down eleven years ago. Tried to stop them--told everyone it would impede an on-going homicide investigation--but no one listened. No one ever listens." He nibbled thoughtfully on a french fry. "She really loved that place, too. Said the fountain reminded her of the one back home in Tulsa. It was a feature of this little community park she used to play in almost every day, back when she was just a kid."
Exchanging another alarmed look with Starsky--about the twentieth of the day--Hutch took another bite of his sandwich while carefully formulating a non-threatening response. "Um, comments like that make it sound as though you knew Darcy very well in life, but you say you never met her?"
The only answer was a bright, infectious smile. Hutch leaned back against the booth, shooting a silent "help" Starsky's way in the process. Predictably, Starsky understood and picked up the thread.
"Are you sure you never met her, Chuck? It's one of those things that's really important to keep in mind."
He made a dismissive gesture with another fry. "No, no. I only got to know Darcy afterward."
"Afterward?" Hutch placed the drink he'd been holding back on the safety of the table. "You mean, after she died?"
"Hmm." Addison nodded. "She nudges me, you know. Keeps me on the right track, wouldn't let me give up if I wanted to. Great food here, fellas. Really do like this place, despite the name. So " He rubbed his hands together eagerly. "...what do you want to tackle after lunch? Back to the interviews?"
Starsky wiped his mouth with a napkin, slowly extracting a notebook from his jacket pocket with his free hand. "Well, let's see who's left. Mrs. Anderson from the apartment downstairs--back when there was still an apartment--died in 1973, so she's not gonna be much use. Arthur Timmelson doesn't remember 1962 at all. Sarah Endels was fun but, considering that she mistook me for Nixon, I'm not sure how much stock we can put in her contention that Darcy was murdered by Communist aliens wearing purple fast-food caps." Shifting slightly in the booth so he could bring up one leg onto the seat, he glanced at Hutch. "Were you ever able to reach Social Services?"
"Yeah, they're working to contact her family. And you never know." It actually begins to look plausible after our little seance in the parking lot.
Starsky gazed mildly at Hutch. "True, you never know. Frank Wilson at least remembered her, but couldn't contribute anything that wasn't already down. That leaves--" He shuffled through a few pages before finishing, "--Jacob Werner, Alice Kendall, and Ted Samuels from the original canvass and follow-up. Not counting various and sundry co-workers at the DA's office--most of whom have probably moved on by now--the five people we haven't even been able to trace, and Letitia Hamland herself. Did I miss anybody?"
"Nope, that sounds about right. Darc doesn't have any family to speak of, and most of her friends have moved on. It's not that they don't love her, you understand, but she's always encouraged people to go forward, not dwell on the past. Just makes it hard when you're investigating, that's all."
The quickly escaping, quickly controlled grin that flashed across Starsky's face was something Hutch suspected only he would notice. In light of this latest comment, the most recent in a series of colossal understatements for the day, it was remarkably restrained.
"Well, I vote for Tish," Addison announced. "This being a Saturday, we won't find any joy at the DA's office, anyway, and it's time you met the person responsible for all this. She's a cagey one, I'll tell you. Just don't be fooled by her smoke and mirror routine, and we'll be fine."
A horrifying thought occurred to Hutch--one that was impossible to ask tactfully, but too important not to ask at all. "Letitia Hamland was one of several suspects in the original investigation--not even the primary person of interest--according to the official documents. Any chance at all she doesn't know you suspect her?"
"Oh, she knows--"
"--but at least she changed her mind about the restraining order, so we're good to go. Lucky for us, she's spending the weekend in her penthouse, so at least we don't have to make the grand trek to the beach. Hey, you want me to drive this time?"
If Starsky hadn't been actively choking on his last bite of food at the time, Hutch was confident he would have enthusiastically declined the offer, and gladly did so for him.
Letitia's apartment was only about a twenty-minute drive from Huggy's, but it could have been another world. Located in one of the more sumptuous of the newer downtown buildings, it came complete with uniformed doorman and the closest thing to a breathtaking view as Bay City had to offer.
"Feel like we took a wrong turn somewhere?" Starsky teased.
Shoulder to shoulder with Starsky against the warmth of the Torino, Hutch didn't take his eyes off the animated discussion taking place between Addison and the doorman about fifteen feet away. "Just keep telling yourself that there's no place like home. Our wallets aren't going to stand for you getting too used to this."
"Don't think we'll be here long enough for that. What're we gonna say, anyway? 'We'd like to ask you a few questions about a girl who worked for your long-deceased fiancé about eighteen years back. We know it was a long time ago, but do you have any recollection of having killed her'?"
Hutch watched Addison chat with the doorman, and idly wondered how many visits he'd paid to Letitia over the years. "Yeah, I know it's a long shot. One thing's for certain, though, he's convinced."
"And he might be right. Sure, it makes me a little uncomfortable that he seems to have forged one hell of a relationship with a dead girl, but I haven't seen anything to suggest that he's less than a great investigator, and you know how I feel about instinct. It'll take you a long way, but I get nervous when it's all you've got, and I'm not sure how happy Chuck is going to be when he finds out we're going to be exploring other possibilities."
"There's something about that 'mantis' comment that bothers me, too. I can't help but wonder--"
Any further discussion was delayed as Addison turned and beckoned them to come. "She's in for the rest of the afternoon, in preparation for some big do going on at the Grand Haviland tonight. Just Tish and her assistant are up there right now, and Al here will keep our little visit a surprise."
The doorman winked conspiratorially as they walked in the door, and helpfully pointed the way to the elevators. The building seemed a second home to Addison, though, and he wound them through the maze to Letitia's apartment with dizzying speed. Their knocks were answered almost immediately by a perky young woman, whose attitude changed from friendly interest to guarded animosity as soon as she caught sight of the older detective. "You again? Don't you ever get tired of harassing her?"
"Hello, Vera. How's Roger?" With a nod to Starsky and Hutch, he explained, "She has the cutest little Pekingese, very similar to Darcy's Peter Pan. Uncanny." Turning back to Vera, he added, "And no, I don't get tired of it at all. If Tish is honest, she'd tell you that she'd miss me terribly if I ever stopped coming--it's become part of our normal routine after all these years."
"Care to test that theory, Charles?" A tall woman--only a few inches shorter than Hutch, and every bit as blonde--appeared in the doorway to what Hutch assumed to be a study, and leaned against the doorframe with a sigh, studying Starsky and Hutch with an intensity that seemed designed to make its object blush. "Considering the delectable niblets you've brought along with you, though, I may just have to forgive this visit. So, aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?"
Starsky was the first to have his badge out and made the standard introductions to Letitia, who was by this time standing unnaturally close.
"Yum. You two almost make me wish I had done something frisk-worthy. You know, Charles, I've been expecting you. Read that wonderful article about you last week--noble deed, by the way--and just knew you wouldn't be able to pass up an opportunity to convert the notoriety into something to feed your obsession. So, everyone, please come into the living room, sit down, and tell me what I can do for you. I'd offer you refreshments, but I'm guessing you won't be here that long."
Hutch began, "As I'm sure you've already surmised, we're here to ask you a few questions about Darcy Sandrow. We're just having another look at the case and are trying to re-interview as many people as possible." Hutch had the oddest feeling that both he and Starsky were going to sink into the couch, never to be seen again. It was suddenly very clear why Addison had opted for the reassuringly non-upholstered George III open armchair. "How well did you know her? Can you fill us in on the last time you remember seeing her?"
Seductively arranging her legs on the body of the settee, she sipped at what Hutch assumed to be an iced tea. "I don't have any recollection of having met her at all." Turning toward the study into which Vera had retreated, Letitia called out, "Vera, dear, would you head down to Sasha's and pick up my gown? She said four o'clock, but you know how she likes to buy herself extra time. Scrummy."
"She just made up that bit about you in her diary then?" Addison's voice had taken on a low, serious quality Hutch hadn't encountered before, and he felt Starsky sit up and take notice, too.
Letitia fixed Addison with an unblinking, cat-like stare. "Perhaps I'm just more memorable."
"Assistant to the guy you were set to marry, and you never even met her?" Starsky's tone was non-threatening, but suggestively incredulous.
Letitia, oddly enough, neither blinked nor re-directed her gaze, and the tension in the room went up several notches. "Frank showed me her picture afterward, of course--plain, average sort of girl, though he was quite broken up by her death." She shrugged, as though that qualified as one of the great mysteries of the universe. "I couldn't even recall her back then, and my memory certainly hasn't improved in the intervening eighteen years." Finally, she cocked her head Starsky's way. "This is just a friendly chat, right? Nothing to call my attorney for?"
"Fine. Then let me pose a question to you. You both went to the Academy, I imagine? Well, can you recall the director's secretary?"
"Not offhand," he admitted.
Hutch jumped in to finish the thought. "But, to the best of my knowledge, she was neither murdered nor rumored to be sleeping with my fiancée at the time. If she had, I think I might remember her better."
"Touché." She raised her glass to Hutch, then returned her attention to Addison. "As Charles and I have discussed on numerous occasions, those rumors came to light only after Frank's passing. Poor dear. Everyone always assumed it was the stress from working on the biggest case of his career, but I expect the coronary had far more to do with the fact that he was playing doctor with everything in a skirt."
"Darcy believed that he was serious about her." Addison's face was still wearing the same harmlessly cheerful expression from earlier, but his voice carried a definite edge.
"And if he was, and I knew about it, that might have given me a motive to do her harm. But I didn't, no matter what you believe, and you certainly haven't met with much success at convincing anyone otherwise."
She smiled, and Hutch felt as though he'd been exposed to the air from a deep freeze.
"You're welcome to come tilt at my windmill anytime, Charles, but it's something of a masochistic hobby, don't you think?"
"It all depends on to whom you are referring."
It's like watching a chess match, Hutch thought. Maybe you're not so crazy, after all. A seasoned interrogator, certainly. Addison obviously knew enough to adapt himself to his suspect, even to the point of matching her speech pattern. Both Letitia and Addison were too wrapped up in giving each other the Evil Eye to notice the look Hutch exchanged with Starsky, at least until Starsky cleared his throat.
Letitia turned her head very slowly Starsky's way and blinked. "Yes, Detective?"
"Do you happen to remember what you were doing on the morning of the thirteenth of April, 1962?"
Her laugh wasn't much warmer than her smile. "Can you? Under any other circumstances, that would be too funny. However, considering that I memorized my alibi years ago, let me give it to you from the top. You may follow along on your paper, if you'd like. I'm quite certain that Charles must have furnished each of you with copies." Swinging her legs off the settee, she sat up, looked straight ahead, and folded her hands like a schoolgirl, easily reciting what sounded exactly like a prepared speech. "I was awakened at seven o'clock by a phone call from my brother, Andrew, as he was on shore leave at the time. Brushed my teeth, got dressed, telephoned Paul Jessup--he was Daddy's driver--and had him take me to the house in Redondo Beach. Andy met me there, we breakfasted together, then headed out to the marina and spent the day on the yacht. Didn't get back in until evening."
"And managed to do all of the above without any witnesses, save for your brother and driver, both of whom had a vested interest." Addison gifted Letitia with a salute. "Impressive, I must say, especially for someone so 'memorable.'"
"What can I say? I was feeling private that day. Now, I'm sorry to cut this short, gentlemen, but I'm really rather pressed for time. I'd have to check my schedule, but I believe Tuesday's free. Give me a call if you need anything further, and perhaps we can plan on lunch. You know what they say about breaking bread together."
Hutch shivered as Letitia's voice sent icy fingers up and down his spine. Not without a food taster, thanks, he thought wryly. "Generous offer, but I have a feeling we'll be otherwise occupied by then."
"Pity, and I wasn't being generous--I'd have insisted that you buy."
"Big event tonight?" Starsky asked, putting away his notebook and pointing toward the evening bag and other accessories decorating a side-table.
"The Howard Gala and Auction...for the famine relief fund, I think." She smiled coyly. "Would you two be interested in tagging along? One of you could be my date, the other a back-up. I could draw straws."
"Sorry." Hutch did his best to struggle free from the couch's hold. "Already spoken for."
"Both of us," Starsky replied to her hopeful glance.
"Naturally. The best ones always are."
Addison contained himself just until they hit the elevator. "You see what I mean? You've both got instincts--you can't tell me they weren't just screaming to you that she did this!"
Hutch stretched against the elevator rail and sighed, nodding at Starsky to answer. His would be the same reaction; he'd already seen it in Starsky's eyes.
"I like evidence, and right now we don't have any. Not one lovely piece to tie her into any of this, and I don't have the first clue how we're ever going to come up with any." Tapping fingers against the wall nervously, he stared back at Hutch. "Gut instinct, though? Yeah. She's the one."
Addison sank against the railing and emitted something very like a sob. "Finally! Finally...someone actually believes us."
The fact that both Starsky and Hutch realized immediately who the other half of the "us" was, didn't make it any less disturbing.
The remainder of the workday passed very much as the morning had, serving to add considerable wear to the soles of their shoes, but contributing precious little to the investigation itself. Starsky announced his intention to swing by his apartment at least long enough to shower and change clothes before meeting Hutch back at Venice for dinner, and Hutch took the opportunity to do some serious communing with the leafy residents of his greenhouse. Good place to decompress. Good place to think.
Although he was somewhat startled by Starsky's arrival a mere forty-five minutes later, he was not surprised in the least when his partner nonchalantly draped himself in the nearest chair and began browsing through the mail he apparently hadn't taken the time to read through earlier. Home had long ago become wherever both happened to be. Hutch pinched a dead leaf off of an otherwise healthy-looking Dracaena and continued with the watering, reveling in a relaxation and warmth that had been missing just minutes before.
"I think she paid for a hit."
"Huh?" Starsky's comment was continents removed from where Hutch's thoughts had just been, and it took him a moment to catch up. "So your theory is that she paid someone?"
"Well, that's my theory until someone comes up with a better one. Her alibi's not that tight, but she's kinda hard to ignore, and it's more than a little strange that no one noticed her walking in or out of a strange apartment building in the middle of the morning. Hey! The course catalogue from Jameson just arrived."
"Oh, yeah?" Hutch glanced up from behind the Ficus and took a quick peek. "I still can't get over that lady's smile. I know Addison's a bit eccentric " Thwacking Starsky lightly on the back for the quirked eyebrow and grin, he continued, "But I think I can understand why he's so sure now. She gave me the chills; imagine what it must be like to have been around her for the better part of two decades."
"You won't hear any argument from me, but I still don't know what we're supposed to accomplish in six days that a team of Homicide detectives hasn't been able to crack since 1962."
Hutch picked up a young Maidenhair fern in an effort to reach a sad-looking Anthurium, then found he had no place to set the dripping pot of greenery. "Here " He grabbed the hand of a Starsky still engrossed in the catalogue, manipulated his partner's arm until the hand was palm up, and deposited the fern there. " be nice to her. She's sensitive."
"Aren't we all," Starsky murmured, not even bothering to look up. "Well, I can tell you one thing--at least at Jameson we wouldn't have to sell your body to science to afford the tuition. Their schedules are a lot more flexible than Littlefield, and they have some things here that actually sound interesting."
"Thought you had your heart set on a combination of Advanced Thermodynamics and Fencing."
Starsky grinned. "I've always wanted to buckle some swashes. Haven't you?"
"Nobody's but yours."
"Aw, good point, and we manage that without taking a class. Right now, it's a toss-up between practical and not-so-practical-but-fun."
"Sounds intriguing. What have you got?"
"How about Beginning Spanish for practical? It's getting to be that we need to understand it just to do our jobs properly. Imagine what it'll be like later down the road."
Hutch had moved over to his nest of what appeared to be idyllically happy Pileas. "Spanish is good, but I can teach you that myself."
"You'd do that?"
"Sure. We can get some books, flashcards, and I'll even bet Arturo would be happy to converse with you now and then. It helps to hear it from a native speaker, you know. It would be good for me, too--I'm about due for a refresher course."
"Cross Spanish off," Starsky said, scribbling in the corner of the catalogue with his free hand. "Okay, then, how about Legal Issues in Western Literature? I like literature, and already know a few things about law...whaddya think?"
"Law and Lit., huh? Who's teaching the class? Anyone we know?"
"Um...says here it's the playground of one Garner Manning. Ring any bells?"
"Not off-hand. Sounds interesting, though. I'd like to spend some time studying the contrast of law fiction versus law in real life. Besides, it's gotta be an improvement over Thermodynamics."
Starsky waved the pencil sternly at Hutch. "It's a sad thing when a man loses his sense of adventure."
"Yeah, I'm sure it must be. Hey--don't tip the fern! I told you, she's sensitive."
Starsky sighed, closed the catalogue, and swung his feet down to the floor, focusing all of his attention on the plant. "So, you're the sensitive type, yes? Let Ramon make you relax and forget all your cares, you beautiful green goddess. Yes. Yes you are, you--"
"Oh, brother." Hutch snatched the Maidenhair away with a scowl.
"Hey! We were having a moment there!"
Carefully returning the plant to its place of honor, Hutch took the time to mist its fronds before turning back Starsky's way and misting him, too. "I said to be gentle, not seduce it. If there's going to be any seducing going on around here, it had better not involve anything in a pot."
"Yeah, well, when that plant thrives--and it will--you're gonna thank me."
Hutch set the mister down, sank close alongside Starsky, and reached for a couple of Starsky's catalogues. "I'm not so sure about that. I don't like the idea of going up against a fern with a libido."
Starsky nuzzled Hutch's forehead and whispered. "I wouldn't worry about it. Ferns make me ticklish. Now, if we were talking about a Philodendron "
He didn't get any further before Hutch had a firm hold on the mister once again.
Starsky was grumpy. Slouched over a backwards-turned chair in the situation room, coffee in hand, he found he just couldn't help it. He consulted his wristwatch and groaned inwardly. Only eight-fifteen in the damned morning. Monday had come entirely too quickly, anyway--all the more so for a long, fruitless Sunday and practically no sleep the night before. He tried valiantly to hide the irritation that bubbled just below the surface and thought he was doing a relatively decent job--an illusion that shattered like glass as soon as he heard Addison's apologetic tone.
"Thanks again for coming in early like this, fellas." Addison busied himself at the borrowed coffeepot, filling cups for both himself and Hutch. "Yesterday, too, seein' as how it should've been your day off and all... Well, w-- I just really appreciate it. Means a lot."
Hutch stepped back from the chalkboard long enough to smile warmly at Addison. "No problem, Chuck. If we've only got a week, we probably ought to make the most of it, huh?"
Get it in gear, Starsky. You've been handed a challenge, mornings aren't usually fatal, and whatever else you might say about him, Addison's a hard guy not to like. Internal reprimand over, he sat up straighter and dismissed the earlier mood. "Besides, we owe ya after that great breakfast you bought us." Starsky patted his stomach appreciatively. "Two days in a row. I could actually get used to mornings, if I had that to look forward to every day." The bid to peer around Hutch's form and see for himself what his partner was scribbling so madly with the chalk met with no success whatsoever. "Hey, Picasso. How's it going up there?"
"You tell me." Hutch added one more flourish, moved aside enough to give both Starsky and Addison a chance to read everything, then returned to his place at the board. "This is a list of all the original suspects. Of the four people here who were never cleared, Gerry Leeds is dead, Ben Tyson has been living courtesy of our tax dollars for the past eleven years, Jig Ames lives in Tampa with his wife and three kids, and we've all had the pleasure of making Letitia Hamland's acquaintance." He pointed his chalk at Addison. "You say that the other six have ironclad alibis? No margin for error?"
"Anything's possible, but their stories always checked out, always remained solid--most with multiple witnesses to back them up."
"Okay," Starsky said slowly, "so let's assume we don't want to waste time going that way unless we run fresh out of theories. When and where did Leeds exit this world?"
Hutch grabbed a file from the nearby stand and briefly shuffled through its contents. "Twelve years ago next month, up in Quentin. He was doing life for a bank heist that went bad, but it looks like cancer made that a fairly short sentence. Tyson's still present and accounted for, though, so it's worth a call. Maybe even a visit, if he's willing to talk."
"I'll tackle Ames somewhere around...what? Three o'clock? That should be around dinnertime there, shouldn't it?" Starsky pulled out a notepad and flicked it open with one hand. "What's the number?"
"It's 813-555-1259," Addison responded without looking up. "And you might want to wait until around four o'clock--he likes to eat close to seven." Shrugging at the stereo stares, he added simply, "I've called him on a few occasions over the years, that's all. It's only natural to pick up on habits and things over time. You know."
"Moving on..." Hutch made check marks alongside the four names, then focused his attention on the notes below them. "According to Ballistics, Darcy was killed by a Browning 9mm automatic, fired from no more than fifteen feet away. From the trajectory, it was a right-hander, and someone taller than she was. No trace of the gun has ever been found?"
"None. Look, I appreciate your thoroughness, but this is all a waste of time. We already know who pulled the trigger. We need to keep Letitia in our sights and not get bogged down in all of this. It's irrelevant."
"I hear you, but we were told to investigate this just like we would any other case." Impatience was an emotion with which Starsky was intimately familiar, and he was careful to prevent his voice from betraying even the slightest hint of irritation. "And that means taking a long, hard look at all of the possibilities. You were a cop for too many years not to know that."
"Any standard investigation gives you a hell of a lot more than seven days digging time."
"You're right," Hutch said softly, "and we're keeping that in mind, but that doesn't mean we're going to gloss anything over. If this case means as much to you as I think it does, you don't really want us to be sloppy, anyway. There'll be time enough for Letitia--I promise."
Hutch's conciliatory and reassuring words seemed to do the trick, and Starsky moved on to the next point. "What do we think? Trained killer, or lucky shot?" Addison visibly flinched, and Starsky cursed himself for the choice of words. Sorry, Chuck, but we're trying to help here, and there are just so many euphemisms available.
"Oh, I think we have to go with the fluke theory." Hutch gave the chalk a rest and clapped its residue from his hands. "The subclavian artery isn't exactly your typical target, and if you were that good a shot, why not go for something you can be sure of?"
Starsky accordion-pleated a candy bar wrapper. "Not a professional then. That leaves revenge, prevention, accident, and random."
"Couldn't be a preventative strike, David--Darcy didn't have that kind of lifestyle, and she certainly wouldn't have attempted to blackmail anyone. Not in her nature. If you'd just read her diaries--"
"That's near the top of our 'to do' list, but that's not what I mean. The person doing the preventing wouldn't necessarily know that blackmail wasn't a likelihood. The Mafia has a long-standing tradition of hitting people who see something they shouldn't, even if the person who did the seeing is totally in the dark. We really should be able to rule out accident, though; a kicked-in door pretty much takes that one out of the running."
Hutch picked up the chalk and marked the board accordingly. "Random doesn't seem reasonable, either. It was hardly a stray bullet, although the shooter could've gone to the wrong address, I suppose."
"The Happy Eunuch theory," Starsky said with a laugh.
"I beg your pardon?"
Hutch chuckled, too. "That translates as 'plausible, but not probable.' Just a catch phrase we coined years ago."
"Clever," Addison declared, joining in the mirth. "How long have you guys been together? You seem...I dunno...different somehow."
Starsky glanced up to assess Addison's motivation for asking. A loaded question, under other circumstances it could also have been an alarming one, if not for the fact that they'd been fielding the same query since back in their Academy days. "We've been together for a full decade now, but finishing each other's sentences goes back to when we first met." The indelible memory of their very first encounter on day one at the Academy--when he found himself staring down at the tall, shy young man who had appeared at his feet without warning, just having taken a header over his own shoes in the gym ("That's an interesting approach to P.E."..."Yeah, well, I never have been a slave to convention.")--came back into sharp focus now and made him smile. Even then. Me and thee from the beginning. Starsky had the strangest sense that their connection had always existed, waiting to be discovered far more than needing to be forged. "It's either there or it isn't, y'know?"
"I know all about the 'isn't,' anyway," Addison replied softly. "At any rate, I took the liberty of calling Alice Kendall again, and she's more than willing to talk with us this afternoon. Just returned from a trip to Minnesota to visit her niece."
And there it was, that brief, oh-so-subtle-but-unmistakable look that Hutch reserved only for the most vulnerable people who fell into his orbit. Molly, Joey, Tommy Marlowe, Marianne Owens--all had been beneficiaries at one time, and now it was Chuck Addison's turn to be adopted into their ranks. Oh, Hutch... Starsky reached over and nudged his partner, doing his best to keep the brainstorming session rolling. "Let's hear it for common ground. Nothing like shared geography to loosen somebody up before questioning, especially when it reminds you of beloved family members."
Addison laughed. "You're from Minnesota? Nifty angle, but you might want to determine if the niece really is beloved before we travel too far down that path. Granted, it's been over ten years since I last spoke with Ms. Kendall, but I seem to recall that she wasn't exactly filled to the brim with familial warmth at the time."
Hutch seemed to almost literally shake himself free of whatever mood had begun to descend, and he started once more toward the board. "Okay, that covers the potential civilian witnesses, and we'll be tackling the DA connections today and tomorrow. What about the crime scene? Anything noteworthy there? Something missing, something left behind?"
Addison shook his head vehemently. "No, not as far as we could tell. As I said before, Darcy didn't have any close family and kinda kept to herself for the most part, so that was never definitively established. We had her best friend, Stephanie Whitcomb, come in to take a look around, though, and neither she nor anyone else ever came up with anything that had gone missing. Nothing out of place but the door; nothing added that shouldn't have been there."
"I went over most of the apartment witness statements last night," Starsky said, rubbing his eyes. "There were three sightings of what may or may not have been an unfamiliar person roaming around the morning of the thirteenth, but about the only common denominators are 'male' and 'tall.' Race, age, hair color, weight--all of 'em ranged from tubby middle-aged Chicano to one that sounds as though it could've been you." He extended a hand Hutch's way and adopted the "official" tone used for interrogations. "So, Mr. Hutchinson, where were you the morning of April 13, 1962?"
"Willing summer to hurry up and get here, as I recall, and still giving thanks for finally being in a co-ed school."
"We didn't put a lot of stock in those statements," Addison said with a shrug. "Too many variables, and most of them assumed the person was male because of the height."
"And Letitia must be at least six feet tall." Hutch nodded. "Yeah, the reports don't give us much to work with, do they?" All was quiet for a moment, save for the tap, tap, tap of chalk against board, then Hutch stood up a little straighter. "I did have--"
"Didn't you say you--?" Starsky made a solemn show of giving the floor to Hutch. "Two minds, one thought. Go on."
"I was just going to say that I did have a question about Darcy's supposed last word, 'mantis.' I know all the reports say that she spoke it clearly, but considering her injuries...couldn't it have possibly been something else? A name, a place, something?" He burrowed into the mound of files littering their small table, finally fishing out the desired form. "I noticed that there was an Arthur Mannis living in 33A. Isn't it possible--?"
Addison rose without warning and said sharply, "None at all. It was 'mantis,' and there was no mistaking it for anything else. I covered all of this years ago. What part of that don't you understand?"
"With all due respect, Chuck--"
Starsky's interjection was cut off mid-thought, when Addison swung his direction and snapped, "I am telling you, that's what she said! Are we clear on this now?"
Taken aback by the unexpected outburst, Starsky was still sifting through responses least likely to add fuel to the fire when Hutch's hand appeared on his shoulder. Closing ranks. Addison was well liked, but there were definite limits.
"This is probably as good a time as any for a break. Starsk and I have some phone calls to make, and weren't you going to set up a road map for the DA's office? We need to know who's still there, who's moved on, and where we can reach them before we go much further."
Addison took a deep breath and seemed to deflate a little. "Arthur Mannis was in Palm Springs at the time, attending a national convention of brush salesmen. He was far and away the prime suspect, right up until the evening I happened to catch sight of Letitia with her hair swept up and made the connection. I'm sorry, David. Really. It's just... I don't expect you to understand, but there are certain things in this I know to be true."
"And you know these things how?" Starsky asked gently, not really expecting an answer.
"I'd tell you to trust me, but I don't suppose I've earned that right yet. Unfortunately, it's all I've got." Addison proceeded to make his way through the doorway and down the stairs without another word to the pensive-looking pair of detectives watching him leave.
Starsky exhaled with an audible puff. "You thinkin' what I'm thinking?"
"That maybe we ought to run a background check on Addison while we're at it?" Hutch pulled up a chair and sat down opposite Starsky, resting his chin on folded hands. "Yeah, I'm afraid I am thinking what you're thinking."
Telephone calls, an assortment of singularly unhelpful interviews, and an extended exile in Records delayed the trip to the DA's office until just after 1:00 that afternoon. Most of the people Darcy had worked with had moved on years ago, but they got lucky with Deputy Assistant District Attorney Philip Berman--a man who was not only their best chance at the DA's office, but was now officially their last.
Uncharacteristically congenial and laid back for a man in his position, he ushered them into his office the way one would with old friends and proceeded to order Chinese food for the quartet.
"Neat girl! As I'm sure Chuck here has already told you, I remember Darcy well. Both of us started here on the same day and were run through the orientation process together. We were assistants to the assistants back then--the legal equivalent of scullery work, basically. Not great, but it helped pay for law school, and I think Darcy was giving some thought to police work. Would've been good at it--she had the instinct, you know? Anyway, I was assigned to ADA Edmond Bromen, while she played file fetcher for Frank Wainwright. Try saying that four times fast."
"Not with a mouthful of Kung Pao shrimp, thanks." Hutch managed to corral a slippery mushroom with his chopsticks and quickly popped it into his mouth before it could escape. "We've gone over everyone's statements and--while we'd be delighted to hear you'd thought of a few new leads in the meantime--we're really just here to get some background on Darcy from someone who actually knew her."
"In life," Starsky added innocently.
"Sure." Berman frowned and leaned back in his chair. "Let me think...she was quiet. Not shy, exactly, but not someone you'd expect to see at all of the society parties in town. Attractive, in a sort of unconventional way. I hit on her a couple of times, but I must not've been her type. I got the impression she preferred the older set. Bright as a button, and I mean scary-bright. Didn't need to go over things more than once before she had them locked in that brain of hers; probably had at least close to a photographic memory." He shoveled a few more bites of steamed rice into his mouth before continuing. "One of the reasons they awarded her with placement in Wainwright's office--that was definitely the place to be back then."
"Why was that?" Starsky asked, engaged in a losing battle with a snow pea. "What was so special about Wainwright?"
"He was one of the top bananas in this place at the time." Addison, the only one who had eschewed chopsticks in favor of a fork, was already halfway through his lunch. "High profile cases. Definitely the person to be with if you were planning on climbing the ladder."
"Wainwright was amazing. I used to cut classes every once in a while just to go watch him prosecute a case. High art, I'm telling you. And to drop with a massive coronary at thirty-eight..." Berman shrugged. "Just goes to show, I guess."
Hutch was unsure what exactly that was supposed to show, and was still debating about whether to ask when Starsky jumped in.
"You say he worked high-profile cases--anything around that time that Darcy might have stumbled onto? Something that, if you stretched your imagination to the breaking point and didn't put any lights on, could possibly resemble a motive for murder?"
"I'd have to send somebody down to ferret out the case files, but I can't imagine. Everyone automatically assumed that Wainwright would be handed the Devlin Conspiracy and Fraud case--biggest name in Bay City retail at the time and a monster to prosecute--but he didn't officially get that until after her death, and died before it was even a third of the way through the process. Anyway, this must've all been examined and dismissed at the time. Right, Chuck?"
"We went over it with a fine-toothed comb," Addison agreed. "Devlin had the money, resources, and means to arrange a hit, but I'm not sure a date had even been set for the trial yet. It's highly unlikely he would've known Darcy existed; even less likely that he'd have cared."
"Just out of curiosity, who won in the end?" Hutch snagged his last shrimp with determination. "Bit before our time, and I don't actually remember hearing anything about it before."
"Devlin walked," Berman said sadly. "It was a weak case from the beginning. Had Wainwright lived, we might've made it, but no one else stood a chance in hell."
"Any rumors about a relationship between Darcy and Wainwright?" Starsky moved on to his fortune cookie, broke it open, and smiled mysteriously at the paper's prediction. "See any signs that her services might've extended beyond filing?"
Berman glanced uncomfortably at Addison before responding. "There are always rumors, but it's hard to tell. Was there mutual interest? Probably. Wainwright liked the ladies and didn't do much to hide that fact, even after he met the Society Page Amazon and got engaged. Never saw anything myself...but then, I probably wouldn't have." He grinned. "I wasn't his type, either."
With the exception of some pleasant conversation and a nice lunch, Berman didn't seem to have anything more to contribute to their rapidly evaporating information pool, and Addison excused himself to make the phone call to Alice Kendall. Another one to scratch off the list, Hutch thought dismally. "A Merry Heart Doeth Good Like A Medicine," read his fortune cookie. Like hell. Rolling his eyes, he was about to toss the offending paper in the wastebasket on the way out, when Starsky caught his hand.
"Hey! We have a pact, remember?"
"We have several, if I'm not mistaken. Which one says I can't throw paper in the trash can?"
Starsky folded his arms in mock annoyance. "The one that says we share fortune cookie fortunes."
Hutch surrendered the paper with a grin. "Be my guest. I hate to tell whichever deity wanted me to read that today, but my heart is anything but merry at the moment."
"Well, maybe mine will cheer you up." Handing it over, he positioned himself so he could peer over Hutch's shoulder as he read it.
"'You will have an enjoyable experience in the near future'?"
Patting Hutch lightly as he walked past, Starsky whispered, "I'm counting on it."
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