The Miller mansion didn't look anything like what either Starsky or Hutch had imagined, though neither could be entirely sure what it was he was expecting. Something along the lines of Dracula's castle would have been more in keeping with the musician's dark image. This home was a sumptuous example of Florentine architecture, a symphony of stone and arches that lay behind trees and a winding drive that obscured it from the road. Even now that the mansion was in sight, they were not able to proceed to the entrance without first calling the house from outside a pair of black iron gates.
"May I help you?" a woman's voice, thickly Italian-accented, came over the small speaker.
"Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson, Bay City Police, to see Mr. Miller," Starsky responded.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No, ma'am. We're investigating a case and we need to speak to Mr. Miller."
"Is it about Jessica?" she asked.
"Jessica?" Starsky replied.
"Hold your identification up where the camera can see it," she said.
Starsky dug out his ID and held it up to the security camera. There was a buzzing sound as the gates began opening slowly. Once they stood fully open, Starsky drove the Torino the rest of the way up the winding drive, following it until it circled in front of the house. The man they hoped to question was just walking out the door, with a little white-haired woman holding onto his arm. He looked considerably different from the photos, his long hair pulled back in a pony tail, dressed in jeans, a white shirt, and a leather jacket. The pair were heading for a black Porsche parked just ahead of where Starsky had stopped.
"Mr. Miller," Hutch said, as he got out of the car.
"You're from the police?" the elderly woman asked immediately as Starsky and Hutch approached them. "Did you find her?" she asked, a frantic look in her eyes.
"I'm Detective Hutchinson, this is Detective Starsky. Who's missing?"
"My little sister, Jessica," Jake responded. "She's at a boarding school upstate...at least, she's supposed to be. She left there a week ago with some fake permission slip, and they just called... Look, if this isn't about Jessie, it's gonna have to wait. We're on our way up there."
"Actually, the reason we came out here is the investigation into the deaths of two teenagers--"
"And one of them was wearing a 666 t-shirt," he said, completing Hutch's sentence. "Look, I don't have time for this witch-hunt shit right now. My sister's missing, and if you don't have anything to do with that, you can make an appointment with my housekeeper for when I get back."
"How old is your sister, and where did she disappear from?" Starsky asked.
"She's sixteen, and she was at the Chadwick School for Girls in Aspen Hollow. It's a little town not far from San Francisco," the elderly woman replied.
"This is my grandmother, Ida Miller," Jake belatedly introduced. He rubbed over his mid-section with his free hand, then seemed to realize he'd been doing it and stuffed his hand in the pocket of his jeans.
"This may have nothing to do with your sister, given the location, but one of the victims is a sixteen-year-old white female with dark hair," Starsky said. Ida gasped and covered her mouth.
"Grandma, wait in the car. We'll be done here in a minute."
"This isn't about Jessie. She's up north, probably running around with her boyfriend somewhere. Please wait for me in the car, okay? I'll just be a minute."
"All right," she agreed, nodding. When she had slipped into the passenger seat and closed the door, Jake turned a glare on the two detectives not unlike the one he usually sported on magazine covers. "Is that your new tactic? Scaring little old ladies? What the fuck was that? My sister is missing somewhere up north of San Francisco, and you're trying to tie that to this case because of a t-shirt?"
"Mr. Miller, there were signs of a devil worship ritual having taken place near where the bodies were found, and given your stage shows--" Hutch was cut off by another angry response.
"Given our stage shows, what? You think I sacrifice teenagers in my spare time? My own sister, for God's sake? You can get as shitty with me as you want to, but leave my grandmother out of it. She's an old woman and she doesn't need the stress. I don't worship Satan. My band mates don't worship Satan. I don't have an altar in my house, and I don't perform Black Masses. I don't take drugs, and I can't drink very much because I have an ulcer. If you want to search the house for drugs or dead sacrificial animals, you're welcome to do it. But right now, I just want to find my sister."
"What about your parents?" Starsky asked.
"What about them? My father died when we were kids, and my mother dumped us on my grandmother. I don't know where she is. I haven't seen her in twelve, thirteen years now. I'm Jessica's legal guardian because my grandmother is getting old and we didn't want Jessie ending up in foster care if something happened to her. Is there anything else you need to know, or can I go now?"
"Has your sister been reported missing?" Hutch asked.
"Yes, the school reported it a few hours ago."
"Has she been in any trouble before?"
"Never. She's a good kid. A little wild sometimes, but a good kid. Grandma and I put her in that school because she's a straight-A student and that place is supposed to be a ticket into an Ivy League college, and she needs more supervision than someone who travels eight months a year or an elderly woman can give her."
"I only asked about her being in trouble because if we had fingerprints to compare, we could eliminate your sister as a possible match for the female victim," Hutch explained. "I didn't want to say this in front of your grandmother, but our victim has been dead about a week."
"Oh, my God." Jake pushed a few stray strands of hair out of his face. "But why down here? It doesn't make any sense." Jake paused. "Oh, man."
"What?" Hutch asked.
"At the school, they said her friends said something about her going to LA with her boyfriend to see a concert. Bay City would be on their way."
"Do you know anything about him, or have a photo of them?" Starsky asked.
"I have photos of Jessie, but I've never seen her boyfriend. I didn't even know she had one. At the school, they said his name was Matthew Proctor. The little prick. I'm gonna kill him when I do find them, so stick around. You can arrest me then."
"Okay, we'll check into it--and I hope you're joking about killing him," Starsky added. "That's trouble you don't want to bring down on yourself, trust me."
"Depends on what he's done with my sister." Jake sighed. "No, I won't kill the bastard."
"Do you have something of hers that would have her prints on it, something we could compare?" Hutch persisted.
"Yeah, there's stuff in her room upstairs. Like a hairbrush or something?"
"That would be great. The hair samples would help us, too," Starsky said.
"Should we...should we wait until you check...?" Most of Jake's bluster seemed gone now, and he looked stricken at the possibility of his sister's identity being matched with the dead girl.
"We can call you up in Aspen Hollow if you like," Starsky offered. "Like you said, it's all pretty unlikely to be related to your sister."
"We'll wait here. Could you do me a favor, though?" Jake laughed humorlessly. "I piss you off and then ask for favors."
"If we can help with your sister's disappearance, we'll be glad to do that," Hutch offered.
"Would you call the cops up there? I mean, they've got to be this little one-horse department, and they probably don't even know what they're doing...or they just think she's this airhead teenager who took off with her boyfriend..." He paused, swallowing. "She wouldn't do this to us. Not to her grandmother. She's no saint, she's a typical kid...but she wouldn't leave like this of her own free will. I don't want to say things like this in front of her," he said, nodding toward the car. "I just know something bad's happened to Jessie, and I was going up there because I don't think they're taking it seriously enough. Or even if they do, will they know how to investigate it?"
"We'll call the PD up in Aspen Hollow, and if they're willing to work with us, we'll see what we can do," Starsky said.
"Thanks, man. Sorry about the attitude before," he said, extending his hand, which each of them shook. "Tell Gina, my housekeeper, that I said you could look around Jessie's room and take what you need. And if you want some coffee or something, or want to make any calls from here, help yourselves. I'm going to get Grandma and tell her we're waiting a while."
"Thanks," Hutch said, smiling slightly.
The interior of the house was as grand as the exterior. The large foyer boasted a tile floor, with a large round mosaic in the middle in soft shades of gray and green, forming a floral pattern. The house appeared to be furnished in antiques that perfectly fit the home. A massive open staircase wound gracefully up to a second-floor hallway that partially overlooked the main floor. A stout dark-haired woman dressed in jeans and a loose blue shirt met them just inside the entrance, and they asked to see Jessica Miller's room as her brother had instructed. Apparently, Jake Miller didn't demand his staff wear uniforms.
"Her room is upstairs," she said, leading the way up the stairs.
"Music business must be the way to go," Starsky said, looking around at the large ornate chandelier, the elegant paintings on the walls, and the rich colors and designs on the tile floors.
"Mrs. Miller chose the paintings herself. She has a very good eye for art," the woman said.
"How long have you worked for the Millers, Gina? It's Gina, right?" Hutch asked.
"I have been here for three years, since Mr. Jake bought this place."
"What is he, about thirty now? Can't picture anybody buying a place like this in their twenties," Starsky commented.
"He is twenty-six. He will be twenty-seven next week. This is Miss Jessica's room," she said, pushing open a pair of double doors to reveal a sprawling bedroom decorated in shades of fuchsia, pale pink, and white. The colors were very girlish, but the furniture was not the white-finished stuff of children's bedrooms. Jessica's room contained a number of antiques, including a huge four-poster bed in a dark, rich wood. "She decorated it all by herself. When they moved in, he told her she could do whatever she wanted with it."
"She has classy taste for a teenager," Hutch commented, noting that the posters on this girl's bedroom walls were tastefully framed, her stereo system cleverly ensconced in a large antique cabinet, records and tapes neatly stacked and organized in a nearby wall unit.
"Most of Miss Jessica's current things are at her school, but she has a few items on her dresser, and a lot of clothing in the closet. Mr. Jake spoils her with the credit cards. She shops and shops and shops," Gina explained, opening a large walk-in closet that looked more like a small boutique. Two long clothing rods were packed with clothes, a full wall of transparent drawers contained countless pairs of shoes, and more drawers and shelves above and beneath the clothing held purses, sweaters, jeans, and numerous other accessories.
"Do you mind if we look around?" Starsky asked.
"No, but please, unless you have to, don't mess things up. Miss Jessica is very particular, and very private. She would be upset if she knew strange men were going through her things."
"We'll be careful, Gina. At this stage, we just want to find something with her fingerprints on it, and maybe a photo and a couple of personal items."
"Would you like a bag? I can get you a freezer bag from the kitchen to hold her hairbrush," she said, moving to the dresser. "She uses this one sometimes. She took her favorite to school with her." She gestured at a silver dresser set that included a brush, comb, and mirror, all engraved with a large swirling "J." "A gift from Mr. Jake."
"He must love his little sister a lot," Starsky said, picking up a photo of the two of them together, Jake looking sweaty and bedraggled but all smiles in his stage attire, and Jessica dressed up like a typical teenager at a rock concert--band t-shirt, jeans, and leather vest, hair teased and sprayed into a puffy style, large earrings dangling from her ears.
"They are a close family," Gina said. "I hope this dead girl...is not our Jessica."
"We hope not, too, Gina," Hutch said. "The bag will be a big help."
"Yes, of course," she replied, turning and heading back down the hall.
"I don't know if all this equates to loving a kid or spoiling her." Hutch sighed, looking around the opulent room.
"The guy bought the house when he was twenty-three. When you're that age, piling on things probably seems like love. Besides, I was thinking more of this picture. She looks like a happy kid."
"She looks like our dead girl," Hutch said grimly.
"Do you mean that?" A man's voice startled them from the doorway. Jake Miller stood there, watching them with horrified eyes.
"She had dark hair, too, and she looks to be about the same build as Jessica," Hutch said. "It was a thoughtless comment," he added.
"I thought...I came up in case you needed help figuring out what to take, or to find anything specific." He smiled when he looked at the photo Starsky was holding. "That was taken at Madison Square Garden last year. We did a sold-out show. I took her out of school for it, you know, because it was the first time we sold out there, and she wanted to shop on Madison Avenue," he added, his voice shaking. "Take what you need. I'll be downstairs." He strode out of the room quickly, then headed down the stairs at the same pace without looking back.
"This must be mom and dad," Starsky said, picking up a framed photo of a middle-aged man with dark hair, and a pretty blonde woman about the same age, and what looked like a teenaged Jake and a very young Jessica.
"Let's borrow the photo and the hairbrush and get downtown. I think this family needs an answer pretty soon," Hutch said.
"What did you find out at the Miller place?" Dobey asked when he saw his detectives returning to their desks.
"Not what we expected. A missing girl." Hutch handed Dobey the framed photo of the musician with his sister. "She's a pretty good match for our female victim. They're checking her hairbrush for prints, see if they're a match. If so, we'll get her dental records..." Hutch sighed.
"You think he had something to do with it?"
"No," Starsky said with certainty. "He's crazy about her. His grandmother lives out there with them, and they seem like a pretty close-knit family."
"He's not really what we expected, Captain," Hutch said.
"What were you expecting?" Dobey asked, looking at the rock magazines stacked on Hutch's desk and shaking his head.
"That guy," Starsky said, pointing to one of the photos. "Instead, we get Ward Cleaver with big hair and attitude," he added. The summation made Dobey chuckle.
"He's clean, no priors," Dobey said. "Didn't it occur to you to check him for priors?"
"Sorry, Captain. I guess we were distracted by the...fanfare around the guy. Or maybe we just assumed he'd have priors for tearing up hotels or something," Starsky said, wondering if he'd fallen prey to making the same assumptions about the man that the evangelists and Moral Majority mouthpieces were likely to make. He had a wild image, therefore, he must be wild and lawless.
The phone rang, and Starsky picked it up. A moment later, his face fell.
"Right. Thanks, Mike. No, it's not good news, but at least it's an ID. Right. Yeah, I'm sure we can get the dental records." Starsky hung up and looked at Hutch. "The prints are a perfect match with our Jane Doe. Ginny's going to compare the hair samples from the brush, and we'll get the dental records from the dentist, but he said it's a good match. It's Jessica Miller."
"We need to place that call to Aspen Hollow and find out more about Matthew Proctor. I'll give you odds he's the dead boy in the other grave."
"Man, I don't want to go back out there with this news," Starsky said, sitting in his chair and leaning back.
"His sister turned up missing at her boarding school up north. She left with her boyfriend on some phony permission slip a week ago, and hasn't been heard from since," Hutch explained to Dobey. "Apparently, he's a local boy from the high school in Aspen Hollow."
"See what you can find out. You want me to dispatch a black-and-white to the Miller place to tell them?" Dobey said.
"No, we'll do it," Hutch responded. "First, I want to talk to the folks at the Aspen Hollow PD and get a photo and ID information on the boyfriend. If he has priors, they may have prints for us."
"Keep me posted. But don't neglect to investigate the brother. We don't know anything about this guy, and his band doesn't exactly have a good reputation."
"Right, Captain," Hutch said, waiting until Dobey closed his door to continue. "I don't think Miller had anything to do with this."
"Probably just a sick coincidence."
"Maybe it's some psycho evangelist trying to prove a point--you know, hit him where he lives."
"That's really twisted," Starsky said. "I can't believe anyone who's even remotely tied in to some kind of religion could want to kill an innocent girl just to prove a point."
"Worked for the witch hunters. I wonder what Miller meant about a witch hunt earlier?"
"I don't know, but I think we oughtta ask him," Starsky concluded.
The detective at the tiny Aspen Hollow Police Department was less than thrilled, but also less than surprised, to hear from "big-city" cops regarding the disappearance of Jessica Miller. The prestigious girls' school was in a bad position with a potential high-profile disaster, and Jake Miller had already telephoned them and interrogated them about their investigation. He willingly provided information on Matthew Proctor's record of minor juvenile offenses. The photograph he wired to them strongly resembled their John Doe. Neither doubted that the prints would match.
"I think we better head out there and break the news to the family," Starsky said. "We know it's her. The rest is details."
"Yeah, no point in putting it off. I'll never get used to this part of the job," Hutch said, tucking the borrowed photo, along with the photo of Proctor, into a manila envelope.
After ringing the main house from the gate, Starsky and Hutch once again made the journey up the winding drive to the front of the mansion. The housekeeper, Gina, had answered their call and now stood inside the open front door, awaiting their arrival. She looked at them somewhat questioningly, and a bit desperately, but wordlessly led them to the living room.
In the elegant and impeccably decorated living room with its antiques, large arched windows and rich draperies, were seated all five members of 666. Jake Miller was sitting in the corner seat of an ornate brocaded sofa, deep in conversation with another man about his height and build with long brown hair that went beyond his shoulders, dressed in a blue t-shirt and jeans. Two more chairs were occupied by tall shaggy-haired blonds, one in jeans and a black shirt, the other in jeans and a 666 t-shirt. Another man with long black hair, clad in a faded blue denim shirt and jeans, stood at the bar in the corner of the room, pouring a tall glass of milk. The milk was almost incongruous enough with the image of a heavy metal musician at a wet bar to make the detectives laugh under less dire circumstances. A moment later, the man crossed the room and handed the glass to Jake, who took a couple sips of it before he noticed the detectives and his housekeeper in the doorway of the room.
"The detectives are here to see you, Mr. Jake," she said, her voice shaking.
"Thank you, Gina."
"Should I get your grandmother?"
"Let her rest," Jake said, setting the glass on the coffee table and rising. "You can stay if you want," he said, and the woman nodded gratefully, sitting in a chair not far from the doorway, apart from the grouping of furniture the band occupied. "This is the rest of my band." He averted his eyes from Starsky's and Hutch's grim expressions, as if he were putting off the inevitable horror a few moments longer, hiding behind amenities. "Tony Patterson," he pointed to the brunet on the sofa, "Nick and Steve Mallot," he pointed to the two blonds, "and Doug Byrne," he concluded, indicating the man who had poured him the glass of milk and was now sitting in a chair near the couch. "Sit down, please." He gestured at a small, unoccupied couch and went back to his own seat. He rested one arm on the arm of the couch, his hand clenching in and out of a fist, the only visible outlet of his stress, except for the ashen color of his face.
"Thank you," Hutch said, feeling the five pairs of eyes focused intently on them, six pairs counting Gina, who looked absolutely panicky, a hand over her mouth.
"We checked Jessica's prints against those of the girl we found," Starsky began. "I'm sorry. There's no easy way to say this. They match." An audible sob escaped Gina, and she fled from the room, her crying carrying to where they sat until she had disappeared somewhere behind a closed door.
"There's no way this can be a mistake? You don't need dental records or something?" Tony asked, resting a hand on Jake's shoulder.
"We will certainly compare the dental records, and the lab is checking the hair samples. We don't make an identification like this lightly, and under the circumstances, even if we'd started with a visual ID, we'd have wanted verification of it," Hutch explained. "But we didn't see the need to prolong the waiting. The prints match, and we have no reason to question the validity of that result."
"How did she die?" Jake asked, his hand staying clenched in a fist now, the knuckles turning white.
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances. It was a gesture not lost on the other members of the band.
"Hey, man, do you really want to hear that now?" Tony asked, his hand still on Jake's shoulder.
"She was my sister. I have to know how she died," he stated firmly.
"There were multiple stab wounds," Hutch responded, his voice gentle and yet clinical, trying to give the man the information he wanted in the least emotional, and yet least brutal, way he could. "There are indications, as we mentioned, that it was a ritualistic killing. We think the young man we found with her may be Matthew Proctor. As they told you at the school, he was a student at Aspen Hollow High School. We'll probably have confirmation on his ID when we get back to headquarters."
"Did the bastard rape her, too?" Jake asked, unclenching his fist long enough to swipe his hand past his eyes.
"Yes," Starsky responded, feeling Hutch shouldn't be the one to deliver all the bad news. "And you should know before you hear it somewhere else...her throat was cut."
At that, Jake sprang from the couch and rushed out of the room.
"I'll go," Tony said, hurrying to follow him.
"He's probably sick to his stomach," Nick spoke up, shaking his head. "We try to keep an eye on him, in case his ulcer starts bleeding. He's not always straight with us when he's sick, and we've had him wind up in the ER a couple times on the road."
"You didn't have to get so damn detailed with him. You just told him his sister was murdered," Doug said.
"Like Jake would have accepted it and left it at that," Steve retorted. "He's a fucking bulldog when he wants to know something."
"We should probably go," Hutch said. "We'll be back in touch. There are some questions we need to ask Jake and Mrs. Miller, questions about Jessica, for the investigation."
"She was a good kid," Nick said. "A little wild, but smart, good in school, and not into drugs or anything. She did a little drinking with her girlfriends, and she mouthed off at her grandma once in a while, so that's why she ended up at that boarding school. Jake thought they would keep track of her, curb the partying, and keep her focused on getting into a good college."
"He's always been real responsible about Jessie, since they were kids," Steve said. "This is gonna be rough on him. He'll blame himself for it."
"How into all the devil worship themes do your fans get?" Starsky asked, figuring this was as good a time as any to talk to the band.
"Mostly I think they get that it's just an act," Doug said. "And before you ask, it is just an act. A few of them get a little obsessive about it. We get some seriously weird fan mail," he said, smiling.
"Anything you'd consider threatening?" Hutch asked.
"Sure, but mostly from religious freaks. Those are the threatening ones," Nick said. "We've had a number of people tell us we were going to burn in Hell, and those were the mild ones. But then any bunch of people who'll spend their day burning albums and dancing around the fire aren't playing with a full deck anyway."
"So the threats come from the religious fanatics, morality watchdog types?" Starsky asked.
"Yeah, but I'm not saying they all sit around and write threatening notes. I just mean we've gotten threats, and mostly because people are against what we do, not because they like it or are into it."
"Except that weirdo who sent Jake that sick letter. Man, he was seriously crazy," Steve said.
"What was the letter about?" Hutch asked.
"The guy was all worked up because Jake said the whole devil worship thing was just an act, a stage show and that was it. It was in a magazine interview several months ago, and the interviewer asked Jake outright if any of us really worshiped Satan. Obviously, he laughed it off and said we didn't, that it was just a show. Then he gets the letter, and this nut went on and on about him defying the Master or mocking the Master, or something, and all those 'Masters' were with capital M's." Doug sighed. "I've seen some weirdos at our shows, and we've gotten some sicko mail before, but that guy scared the shit out of me."
"Were there any follow-ups to the letter? Phone calls, weird guys hanging around backstage...?" Starsky asked.
"You'd have to be a little more specific," Steve said, chuckling. "A lot of the guys hanging around backstage are weird. The girls aren't too bad, though."
"I'm gonna go see what's up with Jake," Doug said, rising and leaving the room.
"Does Jake still have the letter?" Hutch asked.
"He might. He was a little unnerved by it, but he might have tossed it by now. When he's feeling better, we can ask him," Steve offered.
"That'd be great." Hutch stood, and Starsky followed suit. "Please tell him again how sorry we are about his sister. We'll do everything we can to find the person responsible for her death."
"Thanks," Jake said from where he stood in the doorway, his voice husky. He walked slowly back into the room and extended a hand to Starsky, who shook it, and then to Hutch, who did the same. "Thanks for coming back out." His eyes were red and puffy, and his face pale. "I want to see her."
"Once we get the dental records, we can confirm the ID--"
"No," he cut Hutch off. "She's my little sister. I...I want to see her. I need to make arrangements, you know?"
"We're gonna help you with that, man. Just take it easy," Tony said, running his hand lightly over Jake's upper back. "You don't need to go down there tonight. Besides, Ida's gonna wake up and wonder where you are."
"I want to see her. Look, you've done what you need to do...haven't you? I don't want her stored in a drawer like a lab sample," he said, fresh tears filling his eyes.
"We don't know exactly when the body will be released. Our medical examiner is a very efficient lady, so I'm sure she'll release the remains as soon as possible."
"She's not 'remains'," Jake shot back angrily, clipping off Hutch's explanation. "She's my sister, and she deserves a decent burial."
"We couldn't agree more, and we'll do all we can to expedite the process," Hutch said.
"I want to see her tonight."
"What about Mrs. Miller?" Hutch asked.
"She's sedated. Her doctor came over. She got really upset after you left. She won't come around until tonight sometime, maybe even morning. At least, that's what he said."
"Gina's here. She can look after Ida, and we'll go downtown with you," Tony said.
"Okay. I need my jacket." He looked around, confused, until Doug appeared with the jacket, handing it to him. He slid into it, shivering a little.
"I'm sorry if we told you too much, too soon," Starsky said. "We thought it would be easier hearing it from someone in person than on the news. We've kept some of the details out of the press intentionally, but it's only a matter of time before more explicit details come out."
"No, it's okay. My ulcer's acting up," he said, feigning more composure than he obviously felt. "Not your fault."
"This isn't easy to say, but you need to keep in mind that she's been dead a week, and there's been some...decomposition in that time," Hutch stated. "You might want to reconsider."
"It's not right for her to be there in a drawer, with nobody...nobody coming there that's family. She doesn't need to get identified by fingerprints and hair samples. She'll get identified by family. I'm not changing my mind."
"Okay. You guys want to follow us there?" Hutch asked, and Doug nodded.
"I've got my Caddy. We can all fit in that."
"Your 'old man' car?" Jake teased him, forcing a little smile, and Doug laughed, looking relieved that his friend could manage even a little humor.
"Yeah, that's right, buddy, the 'old man' car," he responded, putting an arm around Jake's neck and pulling him into a brief, playful headlock before releasing him.
Starsky's eyes flicked up to the rearview mirror. The black Cadillac with its dark tinted windows followed close behind them, eerily resembling a funeral car.
"Were they what you expected?" he asked Hutch.
"After meeting Jake, I'm not sure what I expected from the rest of them. I guess I thought they'd be swizzling booze, smoking pot, and sitting around with three or four underage girls clinging to them."
"They probably do that backstage," Starsky quipped. "I'm not kidding myself these guys are choirboys. And they could be BS'ing us along with all this 'it's just an act' stuff. I'm just having a hard time picturing Jake and his friends dancing around naked drinking goat's blood."
"His grandmother wouldn't let him do that in the house," Hutch joked, and Starsky chuckled, then became serious again.
"When I was with Simon Marcus's goons, they were seriously sick people. It's true they worshiped Marcus more than Satan, but they were into that, too. These guys...they're healthy. At least, they seem like healthy, normal people. You couldn't spend time with those psychos in Marcus's cult without knowing they were seriously sick."
"Not all Satanists are brainwashed nutcases. There's a Church of Satan, and there are some well-known Satanists. You and I might think they're crazy, but they're not the types that you'd pick out on the street as devil worshipers, or even as nuts. There's even a Satanic bible."
"Do I want to know how you know this?" Starsky asked.
"When we were involved in the Marcus case, I did a lot of reading. I was hoping something would click...something that would help me see what made them tick. What I did see is that there's a side of Satanism that works like any other religion, and not all people who follow it are outwardly or obviously insane. Jayne Mansfield got involved in it, you know."
"Devil worship? No kidding."
"One rumor was that the car accident that decapitated her was part of a curse put on her for trying to break away from it. There have been claims that she still haunts her mansion."
"That's creepy," Starsky said, shuddering.
"I have a book of 'true' haunted house stories. You probably read it before. I think you've checked out just about everything in my collection at one time or another."
"Yeah, I check out your collection every chance I get," Starsky responded, flexing his eyebrows. "I woulda remembered that story, though."
"We'll look it up when we get home. Light the pumpkin, read a scary story, screw around a little...."
"Forget lighting the pumpkin. We'll start screwing around, forget the candle burning in the pumpkin, and burn the house down."
"You're still interested in the scary story and the screwing around, though, right?"
"Not necessarily in that order, babe," Starsky retorted, reaching over to ruffle the back of Hutch's hair.
More than one surprised look was cast in the direction of Starsky and Hutch and their visitors. Behind the detectives, all five members of 666 walked down the hall toward the morgue. Though they weren't in stage clothes, five fully grown men with substantial manes of long hair were enough to attract some attention in a county building.
"Wait out here. We'll make sure things are ready," Starsky said. They'd called in to alert Ginny's staff that the victim's brother would be coming in to ID her, but they didn't want to bring five visitors into the morgue without making sure things were ready. They were surprised to see Ginny herself standing next to the slab bearing the girl's corpse.
"There's not much we can do with her, but we'll keep the sheet up as much as we can to cover the wound in her neck."
"You did something with her, Ginny. She doesn't look as bad as she did," Hutch observed.
"I just combed her hair a little, fluffed it a bit, and brought it around her face a little more. It covers that bad spot where the decay is most visible over here," she said, gesturing to an area on the left side of Jessica's face. "That won't disturb any vital evidence." She looked at the girl regretfully. "You told him we could ID her from the dental records?"
"Yeah, we told him. He wants to do it himself. He thinks family should do it," Hutch said.
"Her brother brought friends. We've got five guys out there. Any problem if they all come in?" Starsky asked.
"No. We're ready." Ginny pulled the sheet up to cover Jessica's face. Starsky nodded and led the way back out to the waiting area.
"They're ready when you are," he said, standing aside from the door as Hutch did the same, holding it open.
Jake stared at the open door for a moment as if it were the gateway to Hell itself.
"You don't have to do this," Doug said.
"No, I do have to do it."
"Then we're all doing it," Nick spoke up.
"You don't have to--"
"Yeah, we do. We're in it together, pal, remember?" Tony said.
"Okay." Jake nodded, then took in a deep breath, wincing a little as it seemed to bother his stomach. Then he walked forward, determinedly, his friends right behind him. Starsky and Hutch waited just inside the doors as Ginny introduced herself.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Mr. Miller," she added. "Just let me know when you're ready," she said, indicating the covered form on the slab.
"Is anybody ever ready for this?" he asked her, and she shook her head slowly.
"Not when it's someone close."
"Go ahead," he said quickly, as if he had to get the words out before he changed his mind.
Ginny pulled back the sheet just far enough to expose the dead girl's face.
"Oh, God, no," he said in a choked voice. "Oh, Jessie." He reached out toward the form on the slab, then pulled his hand back.
Steve turned his head away, appearing unable to look at the face of death any longer.
"Whoever did this needs to pay for it. In a big way," Doug stated. His voice was flat, cold, and ominous.
"That's our job," Hutch said.
"Then you fucking well better do it right, or we'll handle it," he shot back.
"Jake?" Tony was watching his friend intently, as he'd fallen completely silent, staring at his sister.
"They won't let me see her again after this. This is the last time..." He finally reached out and touched her hair with the tips of his fingers. "I love you, Jess. I'm so sorry, kiddo," he said, his voice breaking. "I thought you were safe. You should have been home. I should have been there to protect you, but I wasn't. I was your guardian, but I didn't guard you."
"It's not your fault, man," Nick said, resting a hand on Jake's back. "Don't hang this on yourself."
"She's dead! I wasn't there for her. I sent her away...she didn't want to go, but I sent her anyway and now she's dead and it's my fault!" Jake turned and walked briskly out of the room, slamming the swinging doors open on his way out.
"When can he bury her?" Tony asked quietly.
"We won't hold her any longer than we have to, I promise," Ginny said. "I know how much it means to the family to be able to move on. A day or two at most."
"Thanks," he said, and with that, led the other three band members out of the morgue, Starsky and Hutch close behind them.
"Doug," Starsky said, waiting until the musician turned to face him. "Think real hard about what you said in there. I know this is a tough time, but vigilante tactics never get you anywhere. We want this sicko, and we'll get him. You've got to let us do our job."
"I've known that girl since she was a little kid. Jake was crazy about her right from the start. Like a second dad with her. Whoever did this, I don't want to see them in jail. I want to see them on a slab, looking ten times worse than she does. Then, I'll be happy."
"You can be as happy as you want, just don't make it happen. It won't bring her back, and you'll be stuck behind bars the rest of your life," Hutch said.
"So what do you do to investigate something like this?"
"We question friends, family, classmates, teachers... We'll work with the Aspen Hollow PD to investigate Jessica's death, and Matthew Proctor's death. This case is our top priority."
"If we call and ask for you, you're gonna update us on what you're doing, and what you've got?" he persisted.
"We'll tell you whatever we can without jeopardizing the investigation," Starsky said firmly, starting to bristle at the questioning. Doug seemed to pick up on that, and backed off a bit.
"We're just looking out for Jake. He's gonna take this hard, and he's already blaming himself. If you don't nail the SOB who did this, I'm not sure how he'll deal with that. Nothing personal."
"We really do want this creep. He's killed a least these two kids, maybe more. Nailing him is a departmental priority," Hutch said.
Jake, who had been arguing rather vociferously with Tony, Nick, and Steve while Doug was talking to Starsky and Hutch, seemed to be running out of steam. He was venting his pain and anger, and his friends knew that. Once the storm had passed and he was standing there, his body shaking a bit with repressed grief, Tony pulled him into an embrace while the others stood nearby, offering a few words of comfort, hand on his shoulder, or simply the support of their presence. Doug went to join the group, which now resembled something like a football huddle.
"We could get him some water or something," Hutch said, suddenly feeling they were intruding on something very personal.
"Sure," Starsky said, walking with his partner toward the water cooler. "You think they'll be a problem going out and playing Lone Ranger?"
"I'm more worried about what they'll do if we arrest someone. I doubt they know the first thing about going out and finding the perp. I think it's mostly hot air and grief."
When they returned, the group were sitting on the couch and chairs just outside the morgue. Jake seemed to have pulled himself together and was nodding as Doug said something to him.
"We thought you might want this," Hutch said, handing him the paper cup of water. "There's some toxic coffee down the hall," he said, and a couple of the guys snorted a laugh at that.
"We'll pass on the coffee, thanks," Nick said. "We should get back home in case Ida wakes up," he said, and Jake nodded.
"Thanks for the water," he said after finishing it. "Sorry I lost it. Tell the lady in the morgue...God, I can't remember her name...."
"Ginny," Starsky said. "She's our medical examiner."
"Tell her thanks and I'm sorry I made a scene. I didn't really mean to."
"I'm sure she's seen worse, but we'll tell her," Hutch said. "We have some questions, but they can wait until tomorrow. We'll come out to the house in the afternoon. Will you all be there?"
"Yeah, we're staying over tonight," Tony said.
"I'll be okay," Jake said, shaking his head.
"You're out-voted four to one, so shut up," Steve retorted, the friendliness in his tone taking the harshness out of the words.
Jake stood, and the others followed his lead.
"We'll be expecting you guys tomorrow afternoon. Whatever you want to know...we'll do anything we can to cooperate. Earlier, when I told you you could search the house? I was being a smart ass, but I mean it. If there's anything you need to look at or take for evidence, don't waste time getting warrants. I'll sign waivers or whatever, but you know, anything I've got, you can have access to it."
"Thanks. That's helpful. We'll be in touch tomorrow," Starsky responded.
"You've got a knot the size of a football back here," Hutch said as he knelt on the bed behind his partner, massaging his neck and shoulders. Starsky sat on the side of the bed, his nose buried in the book on haunted houses, reading the Jayne Mansfield story for himself.
"You suppose any of this is true?"
"I don't know," Hutch said, with a smile in his voice. "The only things in the story they can really verify are that she died in a car crash, and they had trouble getting other paint to cover the pink color of her house. They can't prove it was a curse, or that the problems they had painting over the pink color was anything more than a paint issue."
"Still...it's weird. You think Jessica could've been into something her brother didn't know about?"
"She was away at school. Anything's possible. All we know about her so far is what Jake and his friends have told us, which isn't exactly objective. We need to go up to that school, talk to the Aspen Hollow PD."
"You think Dobey'll let us take a drive up there tomorrow after we question everybody at the Miller place?"
"Probably. The Aspen Hollow PD already agreed to cooperate with us and share information. We need to see where our victim was from, who she was hanging out with. Her friends are probably a better source of information than family a few hundred miles south of her." Hutch sighed, continuing his massage. "I don't know what I'd do if that were Cathy on that slab. And when she was that age..."
"Pretty horrible thought, isn't it?"
"I don't blame those guys for wanting to kill the bastard who did it. I wouldn't mind taking a few swings at him myself."
"Can't you come up with anything better to rub than my neck, Blondie?"
"You have problems with tense muscles in other places, too?" Hutch asked, a smile in his voice, his hand sliding around Starsky's side to his stomach, the fingers inching beneath the towel around Starsky's hips. Starsky angled his head back for a kiss, his tongue plunging into the soft, wet depths as Hutch's hand found his cock, surrounding it and squeezing gently--too gently to satisfy, but not too gently to arouse.
Pulling away, Starsky tossed the towel aside and climbed onto the bed with his partner, who shed his robe so the two could fall together, skin-on-skin, in the middle of the bed. For a long while, they indulged in the simple pleasures of kissing and petting one another, relishing the intimate closeness. Soon, Hutch's hand found its way back to where it had begun, pumping Starsky's cock, bringing it to a fuller hardness.
When Starsky reached between them, he found Hutch already hard, his hips thrusting at the stimulation of Starsky's hand. With his free hand, he groped for the lube and smiled when he found it under the pillows. Hutch, the eternal Boy Scout--always prepared. Handing it to Hutch, he rolled onto his belly, perfectly content to lie there and enjoy himself and let Hutch do the driving.
Hutch nudged his side with a couple of pillows, and Starsky lifted up so they could be carefully positioned beneath him, supporting his body and raising his ass at the perfect angle. He sighed contentedly, but wiggled with a bit of frustration, too, at the feeling of his needy cock plunging into the softness of the pillows. He grinned when he realized that Hutch probably intended to take his time, wanting Starsky to come from the sensations in his rear rather than his cock.
A long slick finger circled his hole, then slid the rest of the way inside, spreading lube and relaxing his passage. He shifted a bit, spreading his legs a little more and thrusting his ass out farther, both reacting to the stimulation and knowing he was giving Hutch a show that would wear down his resolve to go too slowly. He smiled a little evilly when he felt the first finger withdrawn and the second added hastily.
"Gettin' a little antsy there, babe?" he teased. Hutch responded by kissing and nibbling at the nape of Starsky's neck while his middle finger brushed over Starsky's prostate, eliciting a surprised yelp of pleasure.
"I've got all night," Hutch whispered hotly against his ear.
The two fingers were withdrawn and replaced with the slick head of Hutch's cock, pressing insistently against Starsky's entrance. Carefully, Hutch slid inside, and Starsky concentrated on relaxing as the large cock filled him. When they were fully joined, Hutch began a maddeningly slow rhythm, sliding almost all the way out, then slowly back in again.
Starsky groaned and thrust backward, trying to increase the sensations. But Hutch was ready for him and matched his backward movement.
"You're killing me here, Hutch," Starsky complained, but knew there was little point when he heard the evil chuckle behind him.
"Just relax. I'm just giving you your massage from the inside out. Nice and slow and easy."
Starsky groaned low in his throat, admitting, if only to himself, that what Hutch was doing felt pretty damn good. Incredible, in fact. So incredible that it was almost more intense than when they went at it hard and fast. With Hutch pulling almost all the way out each time, and plunging back in, he was giving the tightest muscles in Starsky's passage an amazing workout. It was like dozens of entries, over and over, as if claiming him once wasn't enough. He moaned at that thought, gripping the sheets, crying out as Hutch grazed his prostate with that same slow steady pressure.
Strong hands on his hips steadied him as Hutch shifted a bit, angling his entry to rub more aggressively over the little nub inside his lover's body. He started moving faster and harder, pumping in and out of Starsky, giving his prostate a workout that would leave him tingling for hours. He knew he was screaming like a madman, babbling nonsensical half-words and obscenities, focusing exclusively on that pounding rhythm and the electric jolts his little gland was sending throughout his body.
Hutch was moaning now, too, his own body obviously demanding satisfaction. Still, he kept his hands braced on the bed, forcing them both to draw pleasure only from the union of their bodies.
Unable to hold back any longer, Starsky let out a series of gasps and cries, his body shuddering, his climax coming over him in waves as Hutch's rhythm continued, the pace finally faltering and becoming more erratic as Hutch cried out Starsky's name and the sensations became slicker and wetter as he emptied his completion into Starsky's body.
Slumped together, feeling boneless and unable to move, bodies still joined, they rested a few minutes before Hutch carefully eased out and rolled to the side.
"I don't think I'll ever walk again," Starsky said, snorting a laugh.
"I think I wore out my equipment," Hutch joked.
"You shoulda gotten an extended warranty on that thing if you were gonna use it that way."
"Not my fault my partner's ass should be registered as a lethal weapon," Hutch retorted, rewarded for his sparkling wit with a pillow in the face.
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