The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

Rockford stomped on the brakes, verbally as well as literally, to avoid plowing into the back of the Pinto in front of them. “Hey!” Kolchak exclaimed, bracing for impact, while Rockford uttered something a lot more colorful. They weren’t the only ones coming to a sudden stop; to the right and left – four lanes of the 110 were at a dead standstill.

“Damn it!” Rockford added, smacking the heel of his palm against the steering wheel.

Kolchak craned his head towards the side window, trying to peer past the cars stacked immediately before them. “What is this? Rush hour?”

Rockford sighed, “Some maybe. But I forgot it’s a game night.”

“A what?”

“The Dodgers are at home tonight. That’s Dodgers Stadium right up there,” Rockford indicated the hill up ahead on the left. “They’re playing the Braves, I think.”

Kolchak looked at the section of the stadium visible from their position that primarily consisted of the light banks ringing the huge circular structure. As if on cue they popped on as he watched, the light blurring in parallel rays against the darkening purple-blue sky.

5. 8. 0. 3. The needle weakly twitched from the bottom of the speedometer’s horizon.

“We’ve got to hurry, Jim!”

“I’m worried too, but there’s not much I can do right now,” Rockford said, scooting up the few feet the traffic’s snail-like pace allowed. “But the good news is Becker’s already sent a patrol car around to the place. Hopefully this will all be wrapped up by the time we get there.”

Kolchak sank back in his seat. “Yeah…hopefully,” he said, silently willing the sun to stick around just a bit longer.

It was a tense wait as they lurched and heaved through the traffic snarl adjacent to the ballpark. In spots here and there they stood still long enough to watch the shadows lengthen beneath their wheels. Once free, Rockford nearly shoved his foot through the car’s floorboard, pushing all eight cylinders as hard as he could. They dipped and rose along the freeway until, not too long after, Rockford took the Figueroa exit that was marked with a sign indicating they were headed towards Elyria Canyon Park.

The streets they took wound downward from the modest heights of the Hollywood hills to the pleasant community of Silverlake whose fine wooden town homes stacked lackadaisically amongst stretches of honest-to-goodness Nature seemed to Kolchak more like Seattle than the garish urban sprawl of Hollywood next door. The closer they got to the park, the more sparse the development became and once they’d reached the end of Wollam Street there was just one house left standing at the border of the deep green reserve beyond, a two-story house no more ominous than any others on the block. The only suggestion of something amiss was the presence of a solitary black-and-white patrol unit sitting in front of the house, empty.

Rockford rolled the Trans-Am to a gentle stop. When he and Kolchak exited the car they were greeted with a quiet evening broken only by the sound of distant dogs, muted televisions, and the squawking chatter of the police car’s radio – calls no one was answering.

“Carl, maybe you should stay put for now,” Rockford warned.

“Not a chance,” Kolchak replied as they made their cautious way to the front door. “Do you carry a gun?”

Rockford frowned, “No.”

“Wouldn’t do you any good anyway,” replied Kolchak, waving the idea away. “But do yourself a favor and take this.” He reached into his gym bag and produced a small crucifix on a chain.

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