The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

Rockford’s bronze Trans-Am carried them east on the 405, away from the blue-green ocean, heading ever further into the sprawl of Los Angeles.

“I’ve got a line on the police reports of the murders and the autopsies of all the victims but it may be tomorrow before I get a hold of them.”

“That’s fine,” Kolchak said through a yawn he’d attempted to stifle.

With a brief sidelong glance at his new partner, Rockford commented, “Too early for you, Carl?”

“Hm?” Kolchak returned, “Oh – no. I just…don’t sleep well of late.”


“Fear of the dark,” Kolchak said, his delivery suggesting a joke, but his eyes as serious as the grave.

Kolchak turned his head back to his window to watch the boggling and unrelenting traffic and, though unsure of their desti­nation, appreciated Rockford’s deft navigation nonetheless.

In answer to Kolchak’s unspoken question, Rockford announced, “Assuming for the moment that Valerie might have been mixed up about that call she says she got, I figured we’d start by checking in with the folks who got the last best look at Stacker Shoemaker.”

“The morgue?” Kolchak chimed in.

“Bingo,” replied Rockford as he steered the car towards the Westwood exit.

The second the ink had dried on his first check as an L.A. Ram, Clayton Shoemaker bought – not rented, but bought – a penthouse apartment in the Fairchild building, one of the most exclusive resi­dential buildings in the upscale mini-city of Westwood. To the press he’d said he just wanted to be close to the UCLA campus where it had all begun, but to his friends he’d admitted it was all about the ready supply of “hot young bods.”

And when Clayton Shoemaker died his mortal remains were brought to the UCLA Medical Center, which had also seen its share of hot young bods.

Kolchak liked this observation and mentally filed it away as material for the story he would write later. Though he also decided he might have to edit out the adjective “hot”; if there was one thing these gray and green halls of the Medical Center’s morgue suggested, it certainly wasn’t warmth of any kind.

At the end of the corridor were the small desk and the small attendant that the helpful nurse upstairs had told them they would find. The tiny fellow was monotonously working over his inordinately large white man’s Afro with a black plastic pick topped with a clenched fist. The second he looked up from his blank-eyed task, Rockford kicked into gear.

“Wally, right? Nurse Reynolds upstairs said you were the man to see.” His smile was friendly and as genuine as a best buddy’s, “I’m Pete Thompson with the FBPR.” And like a birthday party magi­cian, Rockford snapped forth a business card between the index and middle fingers of his right hand. Kolchak fought back a smirk at this as he’d witnessed Rockford set and print that card with the miniature press in his car’s trunk just ten minutes earlier. It was a nice gimmick if the ink didn’t smudge.

Wally read the card aloud, “‘Federal Bureau of Pathology Review’? I haven’t heard of you guys.”

“Not surprising,” Rockford smoothly rolled on, “seeing as how your board of directors has blocked our attempts to do a proper review of this facility since ’68.”

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