The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

“…. but of course that all depends on finding where he’s roosting, which is where you come in,” Kolchak was wrapping up, finding Rockford’s expression unchanged. “Jim?”

It looked like Rockford was swimming up from his own thoughts, “Mm? Yeah? You were saying something about Dracula?”

Kolchak nodded, smarting a bit but taking it, “Okay, I know, I know. This is coming high and fast out of left field, but for this to work, you’re going to have to believe me – or at least give me the room to prove all this to you. What do you say?”

With a flick of his wrist, Rockford had turned the engine back on. He responded sarcastically as he shifted the car into gear and spun back into traffic, “I say it’s a little early for Halloween, Carl.”

“Better check your calendar, friend,” Kolchak uttered darkly, “It’s always Halloween. Trust me.”

Too tired and low on gas to swing towards Kolchak’s motel, Rockford drove both of them to his trailer. The reporter/headcase could sleep on his couch. The Trans-Am rolled onto the sandy “driveway” fronting his modest home. The sight of his dad’s truck already parked there only indicated to Rockford that quarters would be a little cramped that night.

They exited the car and Kolchak followed Rockford up the steps to the trailer’s door. “Beachfront,” he said diplomatically, “Very nice.”

“Yeah, well, location is everything,” Rockford said, jangling his keys as he reached for the door.

The door swung open from the inside so quickly that it caught Rockford full in the face, knocking him backward into Kolchak and sending them both to the sand before either knew what had happened.

From their place on the ground, both Kolchak and Rockford could make out Angel framed in the doorway, “Jimmy! Thank God!”

Angel had hopped down to meet them as they regained their footing. The look in his eyes was one Rockford had rarely seen, even in one as prone to cowardice as Angel Martin: genuine panic. “Angel? What’s going on?” he asked, noting the appearance of his father now filling the doorway. “Rocky?”

Rockford’s dad, a thickly built old man with a boxer’s face, stood at the trailer’s threshold in a ratty bathrobe, his white hair mussed from sleep. “Angel here called me for help when he couldn’t find you, Jimmy. I drove him here to wait for you to show.”

“It’s Val, Jimmy,” Angel said urgently, his hand gripping Rockford’s shoulders. “She’s gone! And it’s all my fault, man!”

“What?” Kolchak chimed in while Rockford attempted to put the brakes on Angel’s escalating anxiety.

“Wait a minute now, just keep it together and come inside.”

“No!” Angel insisted, “We gotta go now – this second! It’s already been too long!”

“And go where?” Rockford asked.

Angel was helplessly turning left and right, clenching handfuls of his hair, looking for all the world like a distraught autistic child, “I don’t know, man, I don’t know! But we gotta find her!”

Rockford guided his friend along with a hand on his back, making for the steps into the trailer, Kolchak following. Looking to his dad, Rockford said calmly, “How about some coffee, Pop?”

Rocky backed up to let them all enter, “Yeah, sure thing.” After Kolchak entered and briefly introduced himself, Rocky asked, “Where you boys been? You’re filthy!”

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