The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

The remaining hours of the day passed uneventfully. Kolchak and Rockford split up after lunch, with Kolchak suggesting they rendez­vous at 8:30 that night. Taking advantage of the time spent apart from his new partner, Kolchak used the diner’s pay phone to make some preliminary calls to the police and coroner regarding a couple of the suspicious deaths he’d read about in the paper. In each case he posed as an AP stringer following up on those stories – just a few more questions, if you don’t mind, regarding the state of the bodies. What is the current theory about the massive blood loss in the victim? Any idea where it might’ve gone? Each flustered “Who told you there was massive blood loss?”, “No comment” and sudden dial tone told Kolchak more than any direct answer could have. A couple of hours later, he was met by the attractive real estate agent he’d made the acquaintance of when he first came to L.A. Faye Kruger was a bright, chatty redhead with pretensions of being a writer that two weeks of being Kolchak’s girl Friday had effectively doused. Still, she came when he called and was happy, if surprised, to see that he hadn’t made it back to Chicago just yet. She offered to make him dinner at her place and Kolchak smoothly pointed out that dinner was still hours off. What could they possibly do to fill the time?

When 7:15 rolled around and Kolchak finally rose from Faye’s bed it was too late for her promise of a home-cooked meal. She stirred beside him and nudged at his love handles with her bare foot while he pulled on a sock. “Where do you think you’re going, lover boy?” she asked, grinning at him sexily.

“The graveyard, actually,” Kolchak returned with what he hoped was a charming grin, “Do you think I could borrow your car?”

He’d been able to stop by an In-N-Out burger stand on the way and now food wrappers decorated the floor of Faye’s Chevette. Using a gas station map, Kolchak found his way into the hills of Burbank and, specifically, to the gates of Forest Lawn Cemetery, the final resting place of many a famous name. On this Thursday night, though, it was just a well-groomed hillside flattened into dull shades of gray-blue by a not-quite-half moon. A few hundred yards past the gates, Kolchak came upon Rockford’s Trans-Am parked along the shoulder and the detective himself propped against the hood with his arms folded across his chest. He greeted Kolchak by saying, “This is just about the most ill-advised, most likely pointless exercise I’ve been mixed up in since – well, since the last one.”

“Right, but you’re here,” Kolchak reasoned, “so you must have some lingering questions or doubts that only concrete proof will settle. Right? So let’s pick our spot and get inside.”

Rockford held up a halting hand. “Just a second, Carl. There’s a good chance our little partnership ends right here.”

Like he’d just walked into a shut door, Kolchak’s face went stiff with surprise, “What? Is this about-? Look, they’ve got one guard in a golf cart patrolling this place on the hour, if, that is, he hasn’t nodded off in the guard shack by the time Johnny Carson’s finished his monologue. We won’t get caught.”

“That’s not it,” Rockford stated and, even in the deepening dark, Kolchak could read the seriousness in the set of his features. “I got the police reports of the Dark Star Coven murders this after­noon.”

Kolchak’s eyebrows shot up and he nodded slowly. “Oh. And you – you read them already I take it?”

“Yeah,” said Rockford. “See, I had the feeling all along that there must’ve been more to your interest in this case than just a high-profile murder story or some good-hearted concern for poor Valerie Martin.”

“Now, be fair, Jim. There’s nothing saying my interest can’t be complex and multilayered. I happen to care greatly for how this resolves for Ms. Martin-”

“You were there, Carl,” Rockford interjected, “at the crime scene. Last Tuesday night five pro jocks got brutally killed in a swanky penthouse apartment and the only living witness to the inci­dent was a third-rate reporter from a Chicago news wire named Carl Kolchak.”

Kolchak reeled, “Third-rate?

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