The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

The look Rockford now shot Kolchak was all the response necessary and Kolchak bobbed his head to say okay, I get it and dropped the crucifix back into the bag. The detective was inwardly referring to the checklist of pros versus cons in bringing Kolchak along on this rescue mission in the first place and finding his math questionable. He would now have to keep a protective eye on the affable lunatic as well as deal with the situation – whatever it might be – waiting for them on the other side of this door.

Rockford held a silencing finger to his lips as he tried the front door knob of 478 Wollam. He didn’t have to do much as the door swung lightly open at his touch. With a look to Kolchak and a motion indicating to keep low, Rockford knelt and carefully pushed the door open enough to allow him to creep inside. With one last look behind him, scanning the western horizon where the day’s sun was steadily dropping behind the ridge of the ambitious hill called Mount Washington, Kolchak followed.

There were lights on inside the place but it was stock still, the air not stirring even with the breeze introduced from outside. They entered a foyer that branched into a small living room; the walls pleasantly covered with sunny yellow-and-white striped wallpaper and here or there framed posters of meadow scenes. There were a couple of couches and standing lamps and crocheted rugs on the hardwood floors – nothing that announced this as the inner sanctum of black magic either investigator expected. The hallway they inched along was lined with bookshelves where a cursory examination re­vealed the collected volumes of Aleister Crowley’s Magicks side by side with I’m OK, You’re OK and Happiness is a Warm Puppy. Ahead on the right was the empty kitchen while on the left was the entrance to a guest room – visible on the floor spilling out from with this room was what looked to be small shards of broken ceramic. Rockford was first to the room and he peered around the edge of the doorjamb. Kolchak saw the small jolt in Rockford’s shoulders and angled himself to get his own view.

Inside the guest room was a small bed with its mattress jarred at a strange angle on its box springs, an overturned chest-of-drawers and the remains of a heavy vase that lay jagged and sparkling amongst the disarray of what must have been a violent struggle. Across the bed was a teenage boy tossed down and bent oddly, his neck mangled and spattered with gore. Beneath him were the legs of an older woman whose torso was bent at the waist so her upper half wasn’t visible from where Rockford and Kolchak stood. Her stockinged feet were shoeless. A mother and son? Rockford didn’t know but the answer didn’t matter right now. The sight sickened him

and he’d seen plenty of terrible things in his time. He was doubly sickened by the sudden click of Kolchak’s camera. Rockford angrily grabbed at the reporter’s jacket lapel, wordlessly expressing his disgust. All Kolchak could do was shrug apologetically. Rockford shook his head and turned from the room. If there were cops here, they must be in trouble. Their hearts thudding in their throats, Rockford and Kolchak headed for the stairs.

They found the third body halfway up. It was a middle-aged man in a black turtleneck sprawled upside down across the stairs, a gold medallion of a ram’s head dangling past his chin and laying on the wooden stair step. Rockford and Kolchak had to clamber over his remains to reach the second-floor landing. Once they had reached the top a gasp escaped Rockford despite himself and he didn’t react this time to the snap of Kolchak’s shutter. Taking in the scene before them, he could hardly fault the newsman’s zeal.

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