The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

Rockford tried to rein his buddy in, “Dennis, if you have the leads I asked for, that means I’m that much closer to wrapping this whole thing up. What you should now be thinking about is the young woman who’s possibly in danger right now from whoever’s behind all this.”

“Who’s behind this?” Becker parroted, “That’s no mystery, Jim, it’s those freaks from the Dark Star Coven. The two ‘warlocks’ we have in the stir are taking the credit for everything.”

“What did you find out, Dennis?”

“The Porsche – you were right on that one, Jim. It came up on the hot sheet in connection with the Fanelli case.”

“Who?”

“Leo Fanelli, big shot talent agent found murdered in a Westwood restaurant parking lot two nights ago. Neck all messed up like in those other Coven murders. His Porsche was missing.”

“And so was his blood, right?” Rockford asked, shooting a look over at Kolchak who sat at their table nonchalantly loading his camera with film.

“Jim – there’s a limit to what I can tell you, you know that.”

Rockford’s stomach was rolling, “The phone logs, did you get any-?”

Becker cut him off, “Yeah, here’s the clincher. At 10:27 p.m. last night, a call was put through to your buddy Angel’s line coming from a Silverlake phone number. Specifically from 478 Wollam Street.”

“Hold on, Dennis,” Rockford said, pulling the small note pad and pen from his jacket’s inside pocket, “give that to me again.” He jotted the address down as Becker repeated it.

“Should I know the place?” Rockford asked.

“Probably not,” Becker responded, “but to your hard-working police department that is known as the headquarters of the Dark Star Coven.”


65. 70. 75. Kolchak watched the needle push farther and farther to the right of the Trans-Am’s speedometer, finally holding and bobbing just past 85. He made a good show of listening to what Rockford was saying, but he was slightly preoccupied with watching the cars dodging out of their way and the angry or startled looks on the other drivers’ faces as they were overtaken by the roaring muscle car.

“So I hope you’re okay with a slightly more mundane – if still grim – explanation of recent events,” Rockford was saying, as coolly as any Indy 500 champ.

“If it leads us to Valerie Martin safe and sound, then that’s all that matters, obviously,” Kolchak said, flinching only slightly when Rockford performed a very illegal high-speed lane change, narrowly avoiding the bumper of the pickup in front of them. “But are you saying that this cult – only two members of which have been arrested – is behind all these similar murders – Clay Shoemaker and the Godzilla Gang, the talent agent Fanelli, even Catherine Rawlins’ sister and boyfriend?”

Rockford answered, “I don’t know about that. I haven’t looked into that case at all. I’m just saying at this point it appears likely that these cultists are on some kind of rampage. They’re the ones who have Valerie.”

“What kind of sense does that make, though?” Kolchak asked, still gripping the handle of his door, his knuckles bloodless, “Why target the out-of-state girlfriend of one of their victims? And why would a group of Satan worshippers kill a man for his snazzy wheels?”

It was obvious that even Rockford had his doubts, his excuse sounding half-hearted, “Well, come on, what did the Manson Family have against the La Biancas or that Tate woman? These freaks are playing by their own rulebook and there’s not a whole lot w-”

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