He leaned back against the sofa, rubbing his eyes. Starsky picked up a can of root beer, shook it hopefully, then, obviously finding it empty, sadly put it down on the coffee table. He helped himself to a Cheese Doodle and crunched it. Hutch looked up at him.
"Hey, Cheese Doodles are health food, Hutch," Starsky said defensively, apparently reading Hutch's disapproval.
"How do you figure that?"
"They've got cheese in 'em, don't they? And cheese is full of calcium and protein and stuff like that."
"Cheese Doodles don't have cheese in them, Starsk. Cheese Doodles have nothing but salt, white flour, and a bunch of chemicals."
"That must be why they taste so good." Starsky helped himself to another one, then took a sip from Hutch's mug to wash it down--and almost did a spit take. "Shit!" he sputtered. "What is this crap?"
"Just soybean milk."
"Soybean milk? How the hell do you milk a soybean?"
The words came out without Hutch's even having to think about it first. "You have to use a very low stool."
Starsky just stared at him. "This's because of that Gandhi movie you went to, isn't it?" he said finally. "That's what's puttin' you on this weird vegetarian trip."
"I'm not saying I'm going to turn into another Gandhi. But it wouldn't hurt you to have an open mind, you know. There've been some really famous vegetarians--Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Louisa May Alcott, Albert Schweitzer, Buddha, Socrates--"
"No, that's a myth that Hitler was a vegetarian. He had digestive problems and went without meat once in a while, but most of the time he ate meat, according to Albert Speer, who was one of Hitler's closest friends. In fact, I've heard stuffed squab was one of Hitler's favorite meals."
Starsky snorted. "Okay, so Hitler ate baby pigeons, and George Bernard Shaw and Socrates ate birdseed. Big deal. That doesn't mean we should do it."
"C'mon, Starsky, why don't you at least think about going vegetarian? At least for a few nights a week?" Hutch coaxed.
"Okay, I'll think about it. But not while I'm eating." Starsky crunched on another Cheese Doodle. "So," he said, "what d'you think?" He gestured toward the pile of material from the Bay City Public Library they'd been poring over for the last four or five hours, now awash with post-it notes they'd used to flag possibly relevant or important details during their perusal. Post-its, Hutch thought, would go down in history as the great invention of the eighties. They certainly made a cop's life easier; he could mark any piece of information in a file and find it at a moment's notice.
"I'm not sure what I think," Hutch said. "But maybe we could summarize what we've found out and then discuss important points?"
"Great, you go first."
"Okay. Stop me if you want to add anything. It's 1956, Ike is president, Mickey Mantle just won the Triple Crown, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus and thereby gave birth to the civil rights movement, and Larry Magoch just made one of his most successful pictures, Hell Bent for Leather. His son, Larry Magoch, Jr., is just a few months short of two years old.
"One Friday night, he and his wife Lila go to see a movie, Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe, leaving a registered nurse with the baby. It's the first time they've ever left the baby with anyone since he was born so they're both a bit nervous, but the babysitter is an old friend and they plan on being gone only a few hours. They come home about nine o'clock to find the babysitter in hysterics. When the sitter went to check on the baby, shortly before they'd arrived, she found him gone and a ransom note in the crib."
"Which we have a copy of," Starsky said, and picked up a facsimile from a newspaper article. Hutch looked at it, but he'd already read it several times:
Your son is mine but unharm and will be released when you pay $100,000 for his return. Get it ready in 50s, 20s, and 100s unmarked bills non-sequential and await further instrutions for delivery.
Do not worry, the gentleman watching over your son is trained in medical. The child is well and will be unhurt as long as you comply stricly.
Do not contact police if you do you will regret it. Do not provock us, we are not kidding. Obey to the leter and you will see your son well and safe again.
"So Larry and Lila call the police--disobeying the letter's instructions, but they were so scared they didn't know what else to do," Hutch said. "A lot of newspaper and magazine articles of the era say the police screwed up from the beginning, but they had a lot of good old-fashioned bad luck, too. It was like the baby vanished into thin air. The police raked the county, tracking down even crank calls and letters, but found nothing. The babysitter--their best suspect--came out clean as Ivory Snow, was an old friend of the Magoches and had a lily-white reputation besides. And the police were handicapped by Larry Magoch's fame and all the media pressure. They didn't even have any pictures of the baby to use in their search--apparently no pictures were ever taken of Larry, Jr. They had to go by a description from the Magoches instead."
"They didn't have any medical records either," Starsky said. "Looks like the baby never went to a doctor."
"Yeah. The Magoches apparently brought new meaning to the term overprotective parents, but maybe that's understandable, with both of them being so famous. Anyway, over the next few days, Magoch manages to get the money together to pay the ransom. The police want to mark the bills, but Magoch won't let them. He's afraid the guy who took the baby will find out and kill the child, so they finally just make note of the serial numbers. A week goes by, and the Magoches are frantic--until finally they get another ransom note. The second note tells Magoch to go on a train ride and throw the money out the window after he passes a certain sign. He does this, but he forgets to signal the police first, so whoever picks up the money slips through their net. The money is gone and the baby isn't returned. No more letters either. The whole country is in an uproar.
"Then, two months later, two lovers find the baby's body on a beach between LA and San Diego, half-buried in the sand. Badly decomposed, meaning the baby was probably killed immediately after the kidnapping. Larry Magoch IDs the body as his son's, and, after the autopsy, the baby is cremated at the father's request. And, now that they no longer have to worry about the child's safety, the police go on an all-out manhunt to find the kidnapper."
"You know, I remember reading that bit when I was a kid," Starsky said. "They pretty much tore the city apart. Some people were even arrested, but they couldn't make anything stick until they found Henuber."
"Yeah," Hutch said. "Who they found kind of by accident. Henuber was suspected of being guilty of some burglaries from the year before, and when the police searched his house--they didn't worry about things like warrants in those days--they found the entire $100,000 of the ransom in his garage. There was no doubt it was the ransom money--they checked every serial number. So they arrested and convicted him."
"But Henuber kept insisting he was innocent," Starsky said. "Testified for himself at the trial, even got his wife to testify for him, protested after he was convicted that he'd been framed, that he had never even seen the Magoch baby, and somebody planted the money in his garage. Then, right before his execution, he wrote an article for this magazine called Ticktock--an old magazine like the Saturday Evening Post; it went belly-up in the sixties, but at the time it was really popular--saying he'd done it, after all. Ironically, they gave him the same amount of money for his confession as the ransom--$100,000. There was nothing like a Son of Sam law in those days, so killers could get away with shit like that, profiting from their crimes. Of course, the money went to his wife, since Henuber went to the gas chamber shortly after the confession came out. And that was it. Oh, except he did say in his confession that he'd acted alone, that he had no accomplices, that even his wife didn't know about it. So you were right about that."
"Yeah, although, as you pointed out, he could've lied," Hutch said. "Anyway, the kidnapping pretty much ruined Larry Magoch. He never made another movie, his health deteriorated rapidly after Henuber's execution, and he died of a heart attack in 1959, just as Lila told us. And Lila sold their house and moved to Bay City, and now she's gone, too." He sighed, looking at their pile of papers again. "Hell, everybody's dead. The judge, the defendant, the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, the babysitter, Larry, Lila--all gone. If there really is a link between the kidnapping and what happened to Lila Magoch, it's going to be tough to find it."
"Hey, Hutch, how about we call the LAPD tomorrow and see if there are any cops who worked on this case in 1956 that are still alive?" Starsky suggested. "If there is somebody, maybe we could talk to him. Treat him to dinner and flatter him a little, get him to open up about it. Maybe he could give us something that'd be useful. We both know that sometimes the most important stuff about a case never makes it to the newspapers--or the trial."
"Good idea, Starsk. Okay, let's do that tomorrow." Hutch smiled. "Funny."
"I was just thinking...maybe twenty-six years from now, some young cops will be taking us to dinner, flattering us, to get us to talk about some of our big cases. Like the Las Vegas Strangler, or Simon Marcus."
Starsky snorted. "There's a cheery thought. Thanks a lot, Hutch."
"You're welcome." Hutch pulled himself up. "Come on, let's go to bed."
"That's the best thing I've heard all day," Starsky said, quickly pulling himself up, too.
Hutch climbed into their four-poster mahogany bed and was immediately taken into strong arms.
"I love you so much," he whispered.
"I love you, too," Starsky whispered back. He kissed him, his lips caressing, then a little harder, more sensual. Hutch clung to him, loving the feel of his partner against him, the brush of his quickening breath against his face, the power of his hard erection as it drove demandingly against his belly.
"Ah..." Hutch sighed.
"You're mine, Hutch," Starsky whispered. His hand moved down Hutch's body, took his penis in his hand. "This is mine, too," he said softly. "All mine."
"All yours," Hutch said, his words hardly more than a breath. He was fast losing all coherence. "Starsky...please...make love to me...."
Starsky looked at him. "You want it that way again? Aren't you still sore from this morning?"
"No. Yes. I don't care," Hutch said, still finding it hard to breathe. "Please...."
"Shh. You don't have to beg." Starsky reached for the lubricant on the nightstand and prepared himself, and Hutch watched him, feeling his fever rise. Just watching Starsky touch himself, bringing that massive cock to full erection with his self-caresses, made him tremble.
"I want you to put it inside me," he whispered, "and never come out. I want you to be inside me forever."
Starsky didn't tease him for that, didn't say anything like, "That might make it a little hard to do our jobs, Blondie." He just murmured, "Yeah, me, too." He moved on top of him, positioning himself, and Hutch, as if following his lead in an old and familiar and well-loved dance, moved his legs up around his shoulders.
"Doesn't this hurt your back?" Starsky asked softly.
"No," Hutch said. It did, a little, but he didn't care about that either. He wanted--needed--to see Starsky's face while they were joined. "Please...."
Starsky kissed him, then pushed up and moved in.
"Ah!" Hutch cried out, clinging to Starsky tightly, digging his heels into Starsky's back. It felt so good. It always felt so good. He loved having Starsky inside him, being joined to him, being closer to him than anyone. There was nothing like this. There was nothing as good as this.
"Hutch..." Starsky panted, pushing harder. Thrusting fast. Hutch closed his eyes again, drinking in the feeling of Starsky deep inside him, taking him, impaling him.
"Never come out," he whispered, like a litany. "Never leave me...please...never leave me."
"Never," Starsky promised, his voice almost gone. "Never, Hutch."
Then they both lost words as Starsky rammed harder and harder and Hutch rocked with him, their bed bouncing vigorously in their frantic dance of passion. Finally Starsky cried out, blinking as he ejaculated, and Hutch, as always, excited beyond endurance at the sight of Starsky climaxing, followed a second later.
They both collapsed, panting, sweaty, and wasted.
Hutch reached up and stroked Starsky's curls.
"You're so beautiful," he whispered, even as he felt himself drift off.
The dream began quietly. They were on a beach, throwing their badges into the ocean together. Then they looked at each other, and Hutch could see Starsky's love shimmering there in his eyes. He hadn't wanted to do it, but he had done it for Hutch because he loved him. Hutch grabbed him in a tight hug, and Starsky hugged him back. Hutch said, "I love you," and Starsky said, "I love you," and it was the first time he could remember the two of them saying it like that--no frills, no embarrassed laughter, no "buts" coming after. He felt so close to Starsky, closer than a friend, closer than even a brother.
Then the scene seemed to shift and change. The roar of the ocean seemed to recede, and the sun became bright, too bright, and Hutch felt himself fall, fall, fall through space. When he blinked, he saw Starsky lying on the pavement, his face pale and lifeless, his blood blackening the macadam.
He didn't know he'd screamed until he woke up and saw Starsky, his eyes wide and anxious, bent over him and whispering, "Hutch. Hutch. It's okay. Wake up."
Hutch blinked several times. Then he said, "Oh, shit." He let out a breath, his skin cold and clammy, his heart pounding hurtfully in his chest, and his testicles contracted up snugly against his body.
"S-sorry I woke you," he mumbled.
Starsky relaxed, but only slightly. "You look like shit," he said. "You okay?"
"Yeah." Shit, he was trembling. "I'm fine. G-go back to sleep."
"Yeah. I'm fine."
Starsky turned off the light and snuggled back down, pulling Hutch against him. And Hutch, breathing in the soft, sweet smells of his partner's body, felt his heart rate slowly return to normal. It'd been just a dream--Starsky was here, alive, safe in his arms. He reached up and caressed the soft fur of Starsky's chest.
"Mm," Starsky murmured. "Feels good."
Hutch realized only then that he was aroused--painfully, throbbingly aroused. He pushed his hard erection against Starsky, asking a question, and Starsky answered it by reaching down and taking him into his hand.
"God, Hutch, you're so big. I love how big you are." He pulled on him a little, not hard, just teasing. Hutch bit his lip at the exquisite tingle.
"Please," he whispered.
A second's hesitation, then Starsky said, "'M sorry, babe, I'm kinda half-asleep. Rain check? Meanwhile, I'd love to suck you."
Hutch nodded. "Okay," he rasped out. "Yes. Please."
His hand went into Starsky's hair, squeezing tight as Starsky kissed him. Then Starsky moved down his body and, moving his hand back to the base of his erection, took the swollen head into his mouth. Sucking him deep.
Hutch moaned, twitching with the delicious agony. He couldn't believe, sometimes, how good it was, how perfect, feeling Starsky sucking on his dick, squeezing the base as his tongue worked the tip, a finger lightly stroking the sensitive perineum.
"Starsky...please...oh, God," he moaned, over and over. His butt clenched and unclenched, his toes curled up tight, and he could feel his body break out in a renewed sweat--but a good sweat this time. He moaned again, still clinging to Starsky's hair, stroking.
Then he was coming, biting his lip again as he felt his body spasm in the throes of an explosive orgasm...and he knew nothing more for a while.
Starsky was nuzzling him, kissing him, his lips as gentle as butterfly wings. He opened his eyes stupidly.
"Love you, Hutch."
"Love you, Starsk." Groggily he reached for his partner, but Starsky gently pushed his hand away.
"Tomorrow, okay?" he whispered. "G'night, babe."
Hutch felt guilty, realizing he had pretty much forced Starsky to have sex. But then he remembered that there'd been times when Starsky had wanted to have sex and he hadn't, and he'd gone along with it. Maybe that was what marriage was. "Good night," he whispered.
Starsky's lips brushed his once again, then, within seconds, he was asleep next to him. Hutch followed soon after.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust...."
It was one of those chilly wet days that occasionally come to Southern California during the winter months, a cold wind whipping the mourners' clothing as they stood silently listening to the rabbi read the psalm while a light rain fell on the grave, turning the upturned dirt to soft mud. It struck Hutch, with a kind of dull surprise, that today was the first day of winter.
The rabbi--who wore no special robes, only a simple business suit--finished reading the psalm, then spoke quietly to the small group.
"Those who are not Jewish wonder sometimes why we Jews do not put flowers on a grave. Instead, to show our regard for the departed one, we put stones. To many, this might seem harsh, a rather strange and even ugly tribute for someone we loved who is now gone, not as pretty as flowers certainly. But flowers do not last. They die quickly and are a sad reminder to those who have suffered a loss that their loved one also died too soon. Stones, on the other hand, last forever, as long as the earth lasts. We are commemorating our loved one's immortality. And stones have a strong symbolic significance, too; stones are what make up an altar, and it is on an altar that one has communion with God."
Hutch felt uncomfortable, both with the words about death and the needle-fine rain that was dripping down the collar of his jacket. He looked again at the casket lying in the grave, looking so small and defenseless against the elements. It was a plain wooden casket, as was traditional with Jewish burials, and he remembered Starsky telling him that Jews didn't believe in embalming their departed ones, either. They believed that the decomposition of the body was not something to be feared or avoided, but embraced as a natural process. He shivered at the thought, guiltily glad in that moment he was a Protestant.
Starsky, as if sensing his partner's unease, moved a little closer to him. He didn't say anything, not with all the people around, but Hutch felt his partner's shoulder give his shoulder a little nudge. He looked up, and Starsky's eyes smiled into his like a physical embrace.
The rabbi said, "Would anyone here like to say a few words about the departed?"
Hutch looked at the small group of mourners who had come out in the rain to see Lila Magoch laid to rest: her next-door neighbor, her lawyer, her personal assistant, and a woman Hutch recognized as a reporter from one of the tabloids. But none of them responded to the rabbi's invitation.
Finally Isak spoke.
"I didn't know Lila as well as the friends she had when she lived in Hollywood," the black man said softly. "But they're all gone now, so maybe I can kind of represent them. Lila was a great actress--but she was more than that. She was tough and disciplined. She started working at age twelve and that was the end of her formal education, but she educated herself. She disciplined herself to read a book a week, on all kinds of subjects; she even read the encyclopedia. She studied Russian once because she thought Russia would someday emerge as a world power--and it did. She did volunteer work at animal shelters, even cleaning out animal cages. She jogged, even at age seventy-one. She spoke at university classes about her husband because she thought it was important that people not forget him. And she was a survivor. She survived on the Titanic and she survived her baby's kidnapping and murder, and she survived her husband's death when he was only forty-nine, without letting any of it make her hard or bitter. But, most of all, she was a good, kind, generous, sweet person. I feel lucky to have known her."
He stopped talking, either because he was unable to continue, or he just ran out of words. After an awkward silence, the soft fall of rain on the casket the only sound, Smigiel addressed the group.
"Lila and I had our differences over the years," the lawyer said, speaking in a sonorous voice that he probably used for addressing judges and juries. "But the one thing I'll always remember about her is how much she loved her husband. It's a love you don't find much of nowadays--a love that transcended everything else. She told me once she understood what Mary, Queen of Scots, meant when she'd said, referring to her husband James Bothwell, 'I'd follow him to the ends of the earth in my petticoat.' And Larry, who was a friend of mine, told me many, many times, how much her love meant to him, more than his money, more than his fame." He clenched his jaw, almost as if overcome by emotion, then he concluded, "That's what I'll remember most about Lila Magoch--how much she loved."
Another awkward silence fell; then, to Hutch's surprise, Starsky spoke up.
"I didn't know Lila, like most of the rest of you here," he said. "I only met her, in fact, the day she died. But just talking to her for a few minutes, I could tell she was a great lady, one of the great Hollywood ladies you don't see anymore--kind of our own American royalty. She was an American queen. I don't know who killed her, but I'll tell you this, my partner and I are gettin' close. And I promise everybody here we're gonna get him--or her."
After a few seconds of more silence, apparently waiting to see if anyone else would speak, the rabbi said, "This service is concluded," and the small group dispersed. Hutch noticed, before they left, that both Smigiel and Wolf placed stones beside the open grave, very quietly.
Starsky and Hutch headed for the Torino. "So what was that all about, saying we're getting close to finding Lila's killer?" Hutch asked. "You know something I don't?"
Starsky shrugged. "I thought maybe it might make somebody nervous, maybe even make 'em give up and confess."
"Yeah, that's possible," Hutch said sarcastically. "Especially since one of our best suspects isn't even here, and we still don't have a clue where he is." Lila's redheaded neighbor had come to the station earlier that day to look at mug books, but she hadn't found anyone resembling the man she'd seen talking to Lila the night before she was killed. And Hutch considered the composite their sketch artist had done from her description useless, since it looked exactly like Robert Urich. "But maybe somebody will tell him about it."
"Hmph. Very funny," Starsky said.
Rose Garland walked up to them. She was wearing a bright orange raincoat--a little too bright for such a solemn occasion, but maybe she didn't have anything black in her wardrobe. "So how's the case really going, huh?" she demanded. "You have any suspects in custody yet?"
"Not yet," Hutch said, "but we're making progress."
The redhead snorted. "In other words, you have nothing," she said scornfully. "I might've known. You're just going to sit around and eat donuts while a murderer runs loose in our building. You cops are worthless." Apparently, she no longer thought the two of them were cute.
"Hey," Starsky said, trying some of his charm. "We're good for some things. Suppose the murderer came up to us right now, we could protect you."
"Yeah, right," Rose said. "Like the murderer is really going to--" She broke off, staring at something behind them.
"What?" Hutch said, turning his head.
A man was standing about thirty feet away, near the road, between two eucalyptus trees--a tall, round-faced man, wearing a raincoat that looked as battered and shabby as Columbo's, rain glistening on his dark blond hair.
"That's him," Rose blurted out.
"That's who?" Hutch asked.
"The man...the man who was visiting Mrs. Magoch the night before she died," she bleated.
Starsky looked at Hutch, then back at the man. "Hey, he does look like a blond Robert Urich."
"Yeah, he does," Hutch said.
They both headed toward the man, not fast, but the Robert Urich clone noticed their attention and started backing up toward the street. He looked scared. No, Hutch thought, he looked panicky.
"Stop! Police!" Starsky called, reaching to pull his badge out of his jacket.
Hearing this, the man took off at a run, and Starsky and Hutch went into a dead run after him. Hutch, hearing the wet sloshing sounds of the ground under his shoes, found himself hoping he wouldn't slide and fall--not only because it would be embarrassing, but because he was wearing a new suit.
Their fleeing suspect reached his car, but no farther--Starsky promptly tackled him, grabbing his arm and twisting it behind him. "Hey!" the man squeaked--a voice that didn't sound at all like Robert Urich's. "What are you doing? I didn't do anything!"
"This your car?" Starsky asked, looking at the battered Chevy. Hutch noticed a large REAGAN/BUSH bumper sticker on the trunk.
"Yeah, it's my car, so what?"
"It's ugly, that's all," Starsky said. "Let's see some ID."
"I will if you let go of me."
Starsky released him, and the blond man, unhappy but resigned, produced his wallet and pulled out his driver's license. Hutch took it.
"Sam Riordon," he read. "Phoenix, Arizona." He handed it back to him. "Long way from home, aren't you, Sam?"
"I came here for the funeral," Sam said, his voice shaking, either because of the cold and the rain or some other reason. "I just happen to be an old fan of Larry Magoch's, and I wanted to see his wife...well, laid to rest. Is that a crime?"
"Try again, Riordon," Starsky said. "We happen to know you were here in Bay City the night before Mrs. Magoch died, if not earlier."
Sam looked at Starsky, then at Hutch. He swallowed.
"I didn't kill her," he said.
"We didn't say you did," Hutch said. "But we do know you threatened her."
"I didn't threaten her!"
"C'mon, Riordon," Starsky said. "You told her you'd be back, and she said if you did come back she'd sic her lawyer on you."
"That wasn't a threat! I just...t-talked to her, that's all," Sam stammered. "Look, let me go, huh? I don't know anything about Mrs. Magoch's murder."
"So where were you Monday? Say about ten a.m.," Starsky said.
"I was...I was at the university. Looking up some stuff."
"You a professional researcher?" Hutch asked.
"No...no, I'm a vocational counselor, actually. You know, someone who helps people find the right jobs for them. But I'm on a leave of absence right now."
"I don't suppose anybody noticed you at the university, while you were doin' your research," Starsky said.
"Look, I didn't kill her!" Sam cried. "I had no reason to kill her. In fact, I had every reason for wanting her to stay alive. You see, she--"
"What?" Hutch snapped.
Riordon lifted his chin, a gesture that seemed, to Hutch, oddly like that of a suitor just about to declare his love. "She's my mother," he said.
Starsky's eyes widened. Hutch ground out, "Look, Riordon, we don't have time for games. Lila Magoch never had any children except the one that was kidnapped and killed."
"That's who I am," Sam Riordon said. Proud and defiant, although his voice was shaking a little again. "The one that was kidnapped. I am Lawrence Magoch, Jr."
"What about the baby they found on the beach?" Starsky demanded.
"That was...that was some other baby. It wasn't the Magoch baby. I'm the Magoch baby." Riordon's shoulders seemed to slump then, as if he were a marionette with the strings cut. "She was my mother," he whispered. "And now she's gone. She's gone...."
And, incredibly, the big brown eyes filled with tears. Filled up and then spilled over. Standing there crying in the rain, in his shabby raincoat, with no hat and rainwater plastering down his dark gold hair, Sam Riordon didn't look much like a murderer. He looked, in fact, rather pitiful.
"Look," Starsky said, in a gentler tone. "Why don't we go to the station and talk this over, huh? It's nice and warm there. And dry. How about it, huh?"
Riordon just nodded. He reached up and wiped his nose in a childlike gesture. "Okay," he mumbled. "Okay."
Riordon sat in the interrogation room, smoking some low-nicotine cigarette called True--the brand he'd requested when Hutch had offered to get him something from the vending machines. As he lit the cigarette, he held it with his left hand.
"You a southpaw?" Starsky asked casually.
Riordon looked a little surprised at the question, but responded readily. "Yeah," he said. "I was lucky, too, that my teachers didn't try to switch me to my right hand when I was a kid. I've heard some teachers used to do that and it led to all kinds of neuroses. And God knows I'm neurotic enough." His grief and his defiance both seemed to have vanished, leaving in their place a kind of docile sulkiness.
"Okay," Starsky said. "Why don't you start from the beginning. Tell us why you're so sure you're Larry Magoch's son."
"I'm not sure. Not exactly," Riordon equivocated. "It's just something I'm pretty certain of."
"So tell us why you're pretty certain," Starsky said. "Just try not to take all day about it. My partner and I are due for retirement in twenty-five years."
Riordon looked at Hutch as if for help, and Hutch, as he met the brown eyes that Lila's neighbor had said could melt polar ice caps, wondered if Riordon really could be Larry and Lila Magoch's child. There was nothing in his facial features that brought to mind either parent, but of course, lots of people in the same families looked nothing alike.
Riordon, apparently finding Hutch's face as unyielding as Starsky's, sighed.
"Okay," he said resignedly. "Here goes. I grew up in Vermont, a little town called Bridgewater. My father worked operating a ski lift in Killington until he died when I was in college. Then several years later, when I was working in Montpelier, my mother got cancer. I quit my job and moved to take care of her--she was living in Phoenix by then--and, the last time she went to the hospital, she told me that...that I wasn't really her son. She and my father--my adoptive father--were unable to have children, but had been turned down by adoption agencies because my father was divorced. They cared about things like that in the fifties. So they'd arranged for an illegal adoption. Paid money to an unscrupulous baby broker through a guy with underworld connections, a guy my adoptive father'd met in Korea.
"I was really shocked to hear all this--my parents had never told me I was adopted. But I was even more shocked when my mom hit me with the rest of it: that, over the years, she and my father had had suspicions that I was the Magoch baby. Of course I thought it was crazy, unbelievable, at least at first, but she had a lot of reasons that made sense. They adopted me just a month after the Magoch baby was kidnapped. I was the same age as he was--I was two years old then, I'm twenty-eight now--and I was blond like Lila Magoch, but with brown eyes like Larry, which fits the description of the baby the Magoches gave the police. And the guy who sold me to my parents, the one connected to organized crime, was originally from Los Angeles, where the baby was taken.
"My mother told me she and my father thought maybe the man who'd sold me to them knew the gang that kidnapped the baby--probably some Mafia-type gang. Then, when the publicity over the snatch got to be too much, the gang decided the baby was too hot, that it'd be too risky to try and return him. But why not get some money for him instead of just killing him and having to dispose of the body? There weren't any photographs of the baby in existence to worry about, there was no way the baby could be identified except by his parents, and if they sent the baby far enough away, who was to know? So--my parents speculated--the gang went to this guy to help them get rid of the baby, and he went to my parents and...well...sold me to them, probably thinking Vermont was far enough away from Los Angeles to be safe."
"What about the baby they found on the beach?" Starsky asked.
"Oh, that wasn't the Magoch baby," Sam said. "No way. I've read a lot about it since my mother told me this stuff, and it's obvious it wasn't Larry, Jr. The body was more decomposed than it should've been after two months, for one thing--so decomposed they couldn't even tell the sex of the child. And there was no real positive ID of the body, either--like I said, no photographs, no dental records, not even any medical records. As far as anybody knows, the baby never went to a doctor; Magoch didn't believe in them, he said. The only way to positively identify the body would've been fingerprints--the police had lifted fingerprints off the baby's toys and crib after the kidnapping--but the corpse was too decomposed for prints to be taken. So all we really have is Magoch's ID, and I think he said the baby was his only because he was worried about his wife. She had been having a really rough time since the kidnapping--the doctors kept her under almost constant sedation--and I think he wanted her to have some closure. He wouldn't let her look at the body either. So, like I said, the only reason we have to believe the body was Larry, Jr. is Magoch's subjective opinion."
"And what about Henuber? You said the baby was taken by a mob, but Henuber said in his confession he acted alone," Hutch said.
"Oh, Henuber didn't have anything to do with the kidnapping," Sam said, as if any idiot would know that. "He confessed only because that magazine, Ticktock, offered him a wad of cash if he did, and he was worried about his wife and baby after he was gone. His wife was pregnant when he was arrested, you know, and he was really worried about her raising their baby by herself. Anyone who studies the case can tell Henuber didn't do it. It was obviously done by a gang."
"You know," Starsky said conversationally, "I met a guy one time who was sure he was Napoleon. Had some really good reasons for believing it, too. And nobody could ever convince him otherwise, even when they showed him an encyclopedia that said Bonaparte died in 1821."
"Look, I know it sounds unbelievable," Riordon said. "But it's not completely off the wall. Something like that could happen."
"Okay, so your mom thought you were the Magoch baby," Starsky said. "So after she tells you this, you immediately come here to California to talk to Mrs. Magoch?"
"Well...no, not right away," Sam said. "I mean, first I had to bury my mother. And then I...well, I wondered awhile if it was really true. I mean, it sounded fantastic. But it was killing me, wondering who I was, so finally I flew to Los Angeles, rented an apartment, and started gathering and studying material on the Magoch case. Actually, I never wanted to bother Mrs. Magoch at all--that is, until I was sure. But then I...something happened. Like I said, the police took fingerprints in the baby's nursery, off the baby's toys and crib. And I found out the LAPD still has those prints in their old files. Those prints could prove I'm the Magoch baby for good. Could make me sure. Well, I am sure, I guess--pretty sure--but these prints would make me really sure. But the sons-of-bitches wouldn't let me have them. Wouldn't even let me look at them. Even with the Freedom of Information Act, they told me I had to have a signature from Mrs. Magoch, giving them permission to release those prints. Don't ask me why, but laws are never meant to be understood, are they?"
"So you went to visit her," Starsky said. "That's what you were doing there Sunday night?"
"Yeah," Sam muttered. He reached up and pushed some of his still-damp blond hair out of his face. Plainly, he wasn't enjoying this. "I didn't want to go to her until I was sure. I mean, she was a nice old lady and I didn't want to shock her or upset her, but what else could I do? I had to get that waiver signed.
"So, I call Mrs. Magoch on Sunday, saying I represented a charity for lost dogs and would she let me come see her, and she says okay. And I drive here to Bay City that night, taking some of the material I'd accumulated with me, in a bag--to show her I really did have some good evidence that I was the Magoch baby, that her husband had made a mistake ID'ing that corpse. She didn't look very happy to hear what I had to say. In fact, she looked kind of scared, but she didn't look surprised--pretty telling in itself, huh? I think she knew instinctively she was my mother, but she just couldn't admit it. She let me talk. We sat in her living room for maybe ten minutes, and like I said, I showed her some of my documentation, told her some of the stuff I'd uncovered that made it pretty damned obvious Henuber was innocent, that the case against him was manufactured, that the corpse wasn't her child."
Sam helped himself to another cigarette. He took a drag and exhaled deeply.
"Finally, I got into telling her why I was really there--I wanted proof that I was the missing Magoch baby, by comparing the baby's fingerprints the LAPD has with mine. I made it clear I wasn't interested in getting any part of her husband's or her estate, or selling my story to the tabloids or anything like that. I'd even sign a paper relinquishing all my rights if that was what she wanted. All she had to do was sign the waiver so I could get the fingerprints. Just her signature, that's all I wanted! But she said no." He flushed. "She told me I was wasting my time, there was no way I could be her child, and that if she let me have the prints, no matter what they proved, the press would find out and everybody'd be writing about the case again and...and she couldn't bear that. She said she would rather die than have that old case gone over again; those were her exact words."
Hutch flashed a look at Starsky, who raised both eyebrows, his eyes clearly saying, She'd rather die? "So what'd you do?" Hutch asked Riordon.
Sam shrugged. "I just told her that if she wouldn't help me, I'd hire a lawyer to get the fingerprints. And if that didn't work, I'd go to the press, the tabloids, TV stations, whoever'd listen to me, to raise some hell so the LAPD would cough up those prints. And she told me I couldn't do that, that she didn't want any publicity. But I said if it raised a shitstorm of publicity, so what? Isn't it more important that the truth come out? What if I really am your child? What if the state executed an innocent man, a man who never murdered anyone? Don't I have the right to know who I am, and doesn't the public have the right to know the truth? That's when she told me to get out. Shouted at me, actually." He flushed again. "So I left."
"That must've really hurt," Hutch said softly, seeing a motive in the making. "Your mother--or a woman that might've been your mother--throwing you out like that."
Riordon gave another shrug, pretending indifference. "Oh, well, I figured I'd talk to her another time, try later to get her to agree to help me." He lowered the cigarette, staring down at the scarred metal table. "But there won't be another time now." He looked up. "I just wanted to know the truth," he said desperately. "Who I was. Who I am. Was that so much to ask? That she help me find out who I really am?"
"Yeah," Starsky said, his voice silk-smooth. "That's not much to ask. Why was she so afraid of publicity, huh? You have any ideas?"
"I don't know," Riordon said. "But she was afraid. Looked really scared of me, like I'd threatened her, even though I hadn't. I begged, yeah, but I didn't threaten."
"And you had overnight to think about it," Hutch said. "And then the next day, you decided you were going to get those fingerprints no matter what. So you went to Mrs. Magoch's and told her she would help you or else. And when she still refused, you--"
"No!" Riordon cried. "I didn't kill her! I didn't go back there. I only saw her that one time. Is it my fault she got killed the next day?"
"Look, it's understandable you'd lose it," Hutch said sympathetically. "That, after all these months of wondering about your roots, when she refused to help you, you just blew."
"I didn't blow!" Sam shouted. "Look, all I want are those fingerprints! How would killing her get me those fingerprints?" He looked from Hutch to Starsky. "I just want to know who I am," he said, really sounding desperate now. "I didn't want to kill her, or anyone. I just want to know who I am!"
"Look, Riordon," Hutch said. "Maybe we can help you. If you help us."
Sam looked at him, eyes wary but hopeful. "What?"
"Give us your fingerprints," Hutch said. "And we'll get those prints from the baby's nursery for you and be able to tell you once and for all if you're Lawrence Magoch, Jr."
The blond man looked stunned. "You...you would do that for me?"
"If you do something for us," Starsky said.
"What do you want?"
"Give us permission to search the apartment where you're staying," Starsky said. "And your car. We probably could get a warrant, but it'd be a lot faster and easier if you just gave us permission."
Sam blinked. "I don't understand. Why would you want to search my apartment and my car?"
Not too bright, Hutch thought. Or maybe he just doesn't have that kind of mind. "Evidence," he explained. "Bloody clothes, maybe. Our ME told us the perp probably got splattered with blood."
"Oh." Riordon blinked again as he processed this information. "Okay," he said. "Sure. I have nothing to hide. Search my apartment all you want, my car, too. When...when can I find out about the fingerprints?"
"Not so fast," Hutch said. "We'd also like you to meet with one of our polygraph experts and take a lie detector test."
"Lie detector test?" Sam looked surprised. "But those aren't admissible in court, are they?"
"No, not unless both sides agree, but they're still used as an investigative tool," Starsky said. "We can't force you to submit to one, legally, but if you agree, we'll set it up--tomorrow, probably."
"And if I agree, you'll...you'll tell me about the prints?"
"Yep, as soon as we know," Hutch said. "We'll have to get the prints from the LAPD and then have a print man compare them, but we should be able to do that sometime tomorrow." He didn't add that anyone with a little training, including himself or Starsky, could compare two sets of fingerprints with no problem, that they just would need an expert for, perhaps, giving later testimony in court. "But we'd like to do the search right now. Go back with you, along with a few uniforms. How about it?"
"Sure, okay. Yeah, it's a deal. I'm fine with both the polygraph and the search. You say I'll hear tomorrow about the prints?" Riordon was pathetically eager.
"Unless there's some holdup with the LAPD," Hutch said. "But I don't think there will be. They're pretty efficient."
Sam Riordon crunched out his cigarette and stood up. "Okay, then, let's get started."
"Bullshit," the old man growled. "Pure bullshit. There's no way the Magoch kid could still be alive. For fuck's sake, I saw the body myself."
Starsky forced a charming smile. Damn, he's good at this, Hutch thought. Starsky could coax the birds out of the trees if he were so inclined. "We realize this guy is probably a looney tune," he agreed. "But you know how it is when you're working a high-profile murder case. Hell, I don't have to tell you. You have to explore every angle, even if you're pretty sure it's crap."
"Don't I know it. I worked a few cases like that myself." The old man took a sip of his brandy. "But I still say it's a crock of shit. It's like those assholes who claim Marilyn Monroe was murdered by Bobby Kennedy because she was having an affair with him. Hell, Bobby Kennedy wasn't even in Los Angeles when Monroe bought it. I know, I was on the force then. Why're you wasting your time with this fruit loop? Do you think he might've killed her? You said your witness said Lila looked scared when she saw them together."
"We're keeping an open mind," Starsky said. "He's got a good motive, but we didn't find anything in his car or his apartment today when we searched them, no bloody clothes, nothing like that. And our ME thinks the perp was right-handed, and this guy's a leftie. He's agreed to take a polygraph tomorrow, though, and hopefully after that we'll have a better idea."
"Yeah. Hell, maybe he's so crazy he really does think he's the Magoch baby and was mad at Lila for letting him get kidnapped all those years ago, and that's why he killed her. There are all sorts of nuts out there. Well, if he did it, I hope he fries, no matter who he is. When are you getting the prints from the nursery?"
"Tomorrow," Hutch said. "Your old friends at the LAPD said they'd send them by messenger sometime in the morning."
The old cop grunted. "Still bullshit. I knew Lila Magoch, and she was sure as hell smart enough to know her own child, even twenty-six years later. If this nut really was her son, she wouldn't have been scared of him. But, hey, go for it. If you find the Magoch baby, it'll be a big boost for your careers anyway. Like finding Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart. You'll be legends in your own time."
"Yeah, well, right now we'd be happy just to solve this murder," Starsky said. "Mr. Witby, if you'd just tell us--"
"Uh, call me Mark, okay? After all, we're colleagues, even if I've been retired for a while."
Former Detective Mark Witby took a big bite of his veal parmesan. Starsky and Hutch, when offering to buy him dinner in return for his telling them about his work on the Magoch case, had let him choose the restaurant, and he'd picked an Italian place near the docks called Roselli's. But as Witby enjoyed his veal, and Starsky his spaghetti, Hutch found he had no appetite for his own dish, a Caesar salad. The garlic and pasta smell of the restaurant was too much like the smell of another Italian restaurant he remembered, a smell he associated with paralyzing fear, danger, and the slick feeling of his partner's blood on his hands.
Shit, he thought, with a twinge of black humor. I really am a basket case.
"Okay, Mark," Starsky said, still laying on the charm. "Tell us about the Magoch kidnapping. You were a detective on the case?"
"Yep, and I'd been a detective for ten years--I was in my forties--so I was no rookie. But I admit it, the case had me stumped, still does. It was hinky from the beginning." Witby washed down his veal with more brandy. "Right after my partner and I arrive, we go to the baby's nursery and there's the empty crib, and there's the ransom letter. But the first thing I notice is the baby's bed was made up, like nobody had ever slept in it. I asked Magoch if he'd touched anything in the baby's room, and he said no; ditto for his wife and the babysitter. But a kidnapper who takes the time to make the bed after he steals the baby? Who does that? And there were a whole bunch of other questions I had to ask myself. Like why did the kidnapper come so early in the evening? Why didn't he wait until everyone was in bed? And how did he know the Magoches were going out to the movies that night? They didn't tell anyone, didn't even call the babysitter until late that afternoon. Whoever did this, planned a kidnapping in just a few hours? And why didn't the babysitter hear anything? Why didn't the baby cry? Why didn't the dog bark? They had a Schnauzer, which, as you might know, are damned excitable dogs. Not a peep out of the mutt, according to the babysitter and the neighbors. None of this was ever explained in Henuber's confession, either. Like I said, hinky. And there was something else."
When Witby hesitated, Hutch said, "What?"
"This never came out in the trial, that I remember," Witby said. "But the babysitter never saw the baby that night. She came in to do the babysitting thing and the Magoches were just going out the door. And Mr. Magoch told her the baby was sleeping and would she please not disturb him. That he'd had a cold and hadn't slept very well the last few nights and he needed his rest. He made a real point of it, making her promise. So she promised. And she never did see the baby at all. Now is that strange, or what? A babysitter who never saw the baby she was supposedly sitting? I don't know if that means anything, but it sure as hell hit my hinky button when I heard it."
"We read that some people suspected the babysitter of being involved," Hutch said.
Witby grunted. "Yeah, we did, too, as a matter of fact--just because she was there and said she hadn't heard anything. But she was clean. And Larry Magoch vouched for her. Said she was an old friend of theirs and wouldn't have done anything to hurt their baby. Anyway...where was I?"
"The sitter never saw the baby," Hutch prompted. "And the dog didn't bark and the baby didn't cry. You know, a lot of other people wondered about that. Why the baby didn't cry when a stranger grabbed him."
"Yeah, we thought that was strange," Witby said. "'Course the kidnapper could've put some chloroform over the baby's face, or something like that. That could've even been how the baby died--the kidnapper suffocated him in his crib. The body was too decomposed by the time we found it to conclude a cause of death." He dug into his veal again.
"You didn't have any solid leads for a long time, did you?" Starsky ventured. "To Henuber or anybody else."
"No, we didn't. Not for want of trying, though. We even--and this is strictly between you and me, and I mean it--talked to some of the men in the underworld, if you know what I mean. Organized crime. And we're not talking about those cuddly cute guys in that Godfather movie who went around hugging each other and making spaghetti. These were psychos who'd slice a baby to ribbons and not turn a hair. But even they didn't have a clue as to who did it."
"The Magoches must've been shattered," Hutch said. "When their baby was taken."
"Yeah," Witby said somberly. "Well, Mr. Magoch seemed to be okay. But Mrs. Magoch was really tore up. We didn't talk to her much, but every time we saw her, she was just wearing her bathrobe, walking around hollow-eyed like a ghost. I tried to comfort her, told her we'd get her baby back, but she just looked at me with those big eyes of hers and didn't say a thing. It was like she wasn't even hearing me. I tell you, I was scared for her sanity, and I think her husband was, too. He kept hovering around her, bringing her stuff--hot cocoa, a blanket--like she was an invalid, but she hardly even seemed to notice him. It was like she'd had her heart shot out."
"It must've been even worse after they found the body," Starsky said.
"Oh, yeah. That was bad. I wasn't the one who told her, but I was there. She didn't say anything, but I could tell she was upset. Her husband said he would ID the body; he wouldn't let her do it. But he could only stand to be there about a minute with the body, and I didn't blame him."
"A minute really isn't long to recognize a body," Hutch remarked. "Especially when it's badly decomposed."
"Yeah, it was decomposed," the old cop agreed. "But it was his baby, all right. Magoch said the number of teeth was right, and the size was right, and all a that. Unfortunately, there wasn't much left of the face, though. D'you know, there weren't any photographs of the baby?"
"Yeah?" Starsky said.
"Not even one," Witby said. "Screwy as hell, isn't it? I never heard of anybody not having pictures of their own kid, sure as hell nobody in Hollywood. But they didn't have any. Said they'd been afraid of a photograph getting out somewhere and someone using it to kidnap the baby. Ironic, huh? We had to go by descriptions when we did the APB--blond hair, brown eyes, dimples."
Sure sounds like our boy Sam, Hutch thought as he sipped his beer. Well, they'd know for sure tomorrow. For a few seconds, he imagined the newspaper headlines: BAY CITY COPS FIND MAGOCH BABY AFTER 26 YEARS. He wondered if Witby was right, if it would mean a big boost in their careers. Maybe. Maybe they'd be promoted, get off the street, and Starsky would never be in danger of getting shot again....
Then he saw Starsky looking at him, and he realized he was dropping the ball. Flushing a little, and hoping it didn't show in the dimly lit restaurant, he said to Witby, "Is there any chance Magoch would say the baby was his when it really wasn't?" Then, as Witby scowled at him, "You know, maybe he was worried about his wife, her having a breakdown or something over the baby's kidnapping, and figured the baby was dead by now but they'd never find the body, so if he ID'd this body, maybe his wife would start to get over it."
Witby was still frowning. "I suppose it's possible," he said. "He didn't look very broken up when he looked at the body, I'll tell you that. And I thought that was strange. Hell, when we found the body, a lot of big, tough cops were standing around bawling, including me. But he never shed a tear. I thought then it was just because he was in shock. But...I don't know, I suppose it's possible he lied about it being his child. But why would he do that? And why did he later go down the tubes, if his son wasn't dead? He never made another movie after that baby died, and then he died and she moved to Bay City to get away from all the Hollywood memories, I guess. You ever meet her? I know some cops make a point of meeting all the big celebrities that live in their town."
"We just talked with her once, very briefly," Starsky said.
"She was one hell of a lady. Answered all her husband's fan mail, sent out photographs of him to anybody that asked, gave interviews to any magazine or newspaper that wanted one, as long as they didn't ask about the kidnapping. Keeping her husband's flame alive. That's what some magazine or other said about her one time." Witby sighed. "She was a damned beautiful woman. I know you boys probably don't believe me, you just saw her as some old lady, but she was...she could just take your damned breath away, even when she was in her forties. Her pictures don't do her justice and neither do the movies she was in, but she was the most beautiful woman I've ever laid my eyes on, and that includes Marilyn Monroe, who I saw once at a party right before she died. Let me tell you, in real life Marilyn Monroe was a dog--blotchy skin, over-bleached hair. But Lila Magoch was a beauty."
Sounds like he was in love with her, Hutch thought. But he kept it to himself; it was none of his business.
"Would you like dessert?" the waitress asked.
Hutch shook his head, and Starsky said, "Mark? You want something?"
"Cheesecake, if you got it," Witby said.
"Make it two," Starsky said, and the waitress nodded and left.
"I'm gonna need a bigger size pants when I leave here," the older man complained. "My wife is gonna kill me. She's always at me to eat rabbit food and count my calories on a fuckin' pocket calculator, even if all I have is a breath mint."
"Sounds like my partner," Starsky said.
Mark grinned. "Yeah, partners are as bad as wives, aren't they? Sometimes worse." He sobered. "Anyway, after the baby's body was found, it was hell for three months. We tracked down every lead we could, but nothing. I've never seen more nothing in any case. Then we got a break. We busted this down-on-his-luck gardener, Al Henuber--oh, I guess they call them landscapers nowadays, but in those days they were gardeners--for some burglaries the year before, and found every dime of the Magoch ransom money in his damn garage. Busted the case wide open. The DA took him to court, got a conviction, and that was it."
"What other evidence was there against him?" Starsky asked. "My partner and I have read a little about the case, but to us there didn't seem to be much to convict the guy, besides the money."
"Well, hell, the money was the main thing, but there was also the handwriting of the two ransom notes. One of our experts said Henuber wrote 'em. And there was a witness who said he saw Henuber in the neighborhood the afternoon of the kidnapping, who positively ID'd him in court."
"Witnesses can be wrong, and handwriting analysis isn't an exact science, as we know," Hutch commented. "As I recall, Henuber claimed in court that the money was planted, that he had no idea how it got into his garage. Is there any chance he didn't do it?"
Witby looked at Hutch. But, to Hutch's surprise, he didn't get angry at the implication that he'd arrested the wrong man. "Why d'you think that?" he asked.
"Like we told you earlier, we think there's a chance the kidnapping is somehow connected to what happened to Lila Magoch," Hutch said. "And one possibility is that she found out who really kidnapped and killed her baby--something Riordon said to her might've tipped her off, maybe--and the killer knew that and came to her place the next day and killed her."
The older cop looked at Hutch for a few seconds longer. Then he looked at Starsky. Then he let out a breath and put down his glass of brandy.
"Okay," he said. "I'll level with you two guys. But this is off the record, okay?"
Starsky nodded, and Hutch said, "Okay."
"I mean this is completely off the record, and I'll deny I ever said it if anybody asks me, but...I don't think Henuber did it. I never thought he did it--I mean the kidnapping-murder part. I was shocked as hell when he wrote that confession."
Starsky blinked. Hutch said, "You thought he was innocent?"
"Oh, I didn't think he was innocent of the extortion. I think he did write that second ransom note and try to get money out of the Magoches. But the kidnapping and murder? No."
"Why not?" Starsky asked.
"Some damned good reasons. For one thing, that witness who ID'd him in court was an out-of-work actor who just wanted to get his name in the papers, in my opinion. I didn't trust that flake as far as I could throw him, but the DA used him anyway. For another thing, I didn't think Henuber was smart enough to try to pull something as elaborate as a kidnapping. He wasn't retarded or anything, but he was kind of a simple guy. And, hell, with that carrot-colored hair and freckles, he looked more like Howdy Doody than the perpetrator of the crime of the century. Okay, I know that would sound stupid to a layperson, but hey, we're all cops here, right? And you boys know that sometimes you get instincts about people when you question them, a deep-down gut feeling. Like I met Charles Manson once, and for a week afterward, whenever I even thought about the guy, I wanted to take a shower. He gave me the creeps in a major way. But Henuber wasn't like that. Yeah, he was a thief, and like I said, it's pretty likely he was guilty of extortion against the Magoches, but I couldn't see him kidnapping and killing a baby. He wasn't a killer.
"And there were other things, like the two ransom notes. Like I said, we had a handwriting expert who said they were written by Henuber, but two other experts said the notes were written by two different people, that Henuber wrote only the second one--something that never came out in the trial."
"You mean the prosecution hid the evidence from the defense," Hutch said coldly. "Nowadays, something like that, a lawyer who did that could get disbarred, even brought up on criminal charges."
"Hey, I agree. But we didn't have discovery rules in those days. And in case you're wondering...yes, I told all this to the DA, but he didn't listen to me. He wanted to be governor of California, and he knew this case would make his career, and he wasn't going to let a little thing like the truth get in his way. It probably would've made his career, too, if he hadn't died of lung cancer before he could even start his campaign, the fucking prick. Have you seen facsimiles of the ransom notes?"
"Of the first note, not the second," Hutch said.
"Well, I'll have someone in my old office fax you over some copies of the notes, and you can have one of your own experts check them out, if you're curious. Maybe they were written by the same guy, maybe two different guys, but I have to say, to me the handwriting on the two notes looked different."
"Of course, there's still the fact that Henuber confessed," Starsky said.
Witby snorted. "Yeah, after a magazine offered him a lot of money to do it. Okay, he couldn't spend any of it on death row, but he might've wanted to leave something for his wife and baby. His wife had a baby while he was in jail, and he probably wanted to give them both a chance to start over after he was gone. Which she did, I guess, since she disappeared after he was executed. Rumor has it she changed her name and went with the baby to Europe, but nobody knows for sure. Sometimes I wonder how she spent the money. Blood money, I'd call it."
"Okay, so maybe Henuber was innocent, at least of the kidnapping," Starsky said. "I mean, you were there, you know more than any of these turkeys who wrote books about the case, probably even more than the attorneys who tried the case. So what do you think happened?"
Witby didn't seem to want to answer. Finally he said, "Well--again, I'll deny this if you ever repeat it, but--if the father had been somebody other than Larry Magoch, and if it'd been a less innocent time than the fifties… What I mean is, if this happened today, and the father wasn't a famous cowboy star with a squeaky-clean image, I would've suspected him of some complicity in the case."
"You're kidding," Starsky said, and Hutch knew he wasn't faking his amazement. "You mean you think Larry Magoch might've...might've killed his own child? Then covered it up with a phony kidnapping?"
"It fits the evidence," Witby said soberly. "The made-up bed, the dog not barking, the baby not crying, the babysitter not hearing anything or even seeing the baby that night, the kidnapping happening when the parents were conveniently out of the house. And I told you he didn't seem very grief-stricken, even when he saw that poor baby's dead body. Like I said, I thought at the time it was because he was in shock, but...it could've been for some other reason. Like maybe he was abusing the child in some way--we had child abuse in those days; we just didn't talk about it--and then, when the baby died, he just made up the whole kidnapping thing to cover his ass."
Hutch saw Starsky go pale in the dim light, and wondered if his partner was thinking of his own abusive father. He reached out with his foot and lightly touched the outside of Starsky's shoe with his toe, a comforting little nudge. Starsky looked at him. He didn't smile, but his eyes showed his gratitude.
"None of this came to me at the time, you understand," Witby said. "Larry Magoch was a big star, and, unlike most actors, he had a spotless reputation--no extramarital women, no boozing, no fistfights, no nothing. Did a lot for charity, too, just like Lila did later on. But looking at it with hindsight, I'd say he acted pretty damned suspicious. Not only not showing any grief, not even seeming very distraught--except for worry about his wife--but bossing us all around, telling us how to run the case. None of this came to me at the time; like I said, the fifties was a more innocent era, but now I'd say it looked a hell of a lot like he wanted to confuse the investigation as much as he could, keep us from finding out the truth. Especially when we were getting ready to pay the ransom money. He had a damned hissy fit about us marking the bills, even though we said we'd do it in a way the kidnapper would never notice, that the marks could only be seen under ultraviolet light. It was like he didn't want the kidnapper caught. It would all tie in with his having something to do with the baby's death. Hey, I'm not saying he killed the baby on purpose, or even that he necessarily was an abuser. Maybe it was just an accident and he panicked, not knowing that if he killed the baby by accident he probably wouldn't go to prison."
Hutch felt a chill, remembering Lila's question to them right before she died. Suppose someone killed someone, but didn't mean to do it. Would that person go to jail? Had she been asking because her husband had accidentally killed their child, and she knew she could be held as an accessory for not telling the police? Was that why she'd told Sam Riordon she'd rather die than have the old kidnapping case brought to public attention again--because she was afraid of the horrible truth being discovered?
"Or maybe he was just afraid of losing his fans," Witby added. "Hell, a big movie star accidentally killing his son? Even if the law didn't touch him, no way would anybody go to his movies after that. Look at what happened to Fatty Arbuckle, the great silent film comic--all he did was get accused of rape, and he never appeared in front of a camera again."
"If he did do it, his wife must've known about it," Hutch said. "If your theory is true, the baby was already dead when the babysitter came, and there'd be no way even a devoted husband could keep a mother from saying good night to her baby before they went out, at least not without arousing her suspicions. She knew what he'd done and lied for him, even if she didn't have any part of the kidnapping scheme."
Witby's eyes narrowed. Then he sighed.
"Yeah, I guess she would've had to at least know about it," he said grudgingly. "Maybe he told her they had to do it, to save his career, and her baby was already dead so she thought she might as well go along with it. I think she probably would've done anything he said; it was obvious she adored him. But let me tell you something. There was no way that woman was faking her grief. If Larry did kill his own child, accidentally or otherwise, she had no part in it. I'd stake my life on that. If Larry killed that poor baby, he did it by himself."
The waitress arrived with the two plates of cheesecake, and both Witby and Starsky looked at the plates but didn't touch them. Finally, Witby pushed his plate away and, a second or two later, so did Starsky. Apparently, the conversation about a man possibly murdering his own child had made them both lose their appetites. Hutch didn't blame them. If he'd had any appetite before, he definitely wouldn't have one now. He sipped his beer.
"You really think there might be a connection between Lila's murder and that old kidnapping?" Witby asked.
"Yeah," Starsky said. "We do."
"Well, I don't see the connection myself, but here's a suggestion for what it's worth. How about this guy Riordon isn't the Magoch baby at all and doesn't even think he is, that that was just a story he made up to throw you off track. How about he was there at Lila's apartment that night to blackmail her with something instead. And if Larry Magoch was involved in that poor baby's death and faked the kidnapping to cover it up, and this guy Riordon knew it, or suspected it, or even just thought it was a good theory, and told Lila he was going to tell people--go to the papers, whatever--let me tell you, Lila would've done anything, and I mean anything, to protect her husband's legend. And if that happened--I mean if Lila threatened this guy somehow--maybe he killed her in retaliation, or in a panic. I'm not saying that's what happened. But it's a possibility."
"Thanks," Hutch said, meaning it.
"You're welcome." Witby let out another sigh. "I don't know why I told you guys this now. I mean, I've never told anybody any of this shit about Magoch possibly being involved in the kidnapping before. But I feel like I owe it to Lila. If it's going to help you find her murderer... Let me know if there's anything more I can do for you, okay?"
"Okay," Hutch said, for both of them. "And thanks again."
"You're welcome again." Witby grinned a little. "And thanks for the great dinner. I enjoyed seeing how the two of you work--your partner charming me up one side and down the other, and you, Hutchinson, playing the bad guy, asking the difficult questions. Kind of like my partner and I used to work together, in the old days. You're good, both of you." He stood up. "Got to go to the little boys' room, then we can leave, okay?"
After he left, Starsky said to Hutch, "Are we that transparent?"
"Only to another cop, I guess," Hutch said, not feeling entirely convinced.
"Oh, well," Starsky said. "He did say we were good."
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