The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

Rockford’s eyebrows shot up and his head ducked back in an expression of sheer blindsided surprise. He was equally caught off-guard by the lack of a similar response in his partner. Kolchak, he noticed, only nodded intently.

“And the blood – ” Wally continued.

Rockford snapped out of it, redirecting his attention to the orderly, “Uh. What about the blood?”

“There wasn’t any.”

In the interest of pure thoroughness, Rockford and Kolchak paid a visit to the Crisman Funeral Home where they established that the body received from UCLA Medical Center and which subse­quently made its way into a powder-blue, stainless-steel EternaSlumber casket was, in fact, an exact match of the beefy blonde football hero smiling thickly out of Valerie Martin’s photo. Afterwards, they mutually decided that lunch was next on the agenda. As they drove, Rockford’s mind was elsewhere. He had been quietly sorting through the facts and impressions he’d been collecting over the last day and there was something about his new partner that wasn’t sitting level. Kolchak was by all means an amiable and quick-witted guy, but Rockford had a pretty good nose for hidden agendas. He would keep his suspicions to himself for now, if only for Valerie’s sake.

The place was a diner on La Cienega called Norm’s. They made their way to a booth against a window, rays of brilliant yellow afternoon sunlight slanting through it from outside. Telling Kolchak to order a meatloaf sandwich and Coke for him, Rockford excused himself while he made for the payphone. He put in a quick call to Angel, inviting him and Valerie (if they could find a ride) to join them for a status report. Next was a call to the secretary of Mr. Warren Jameson, the very wealthy entrepreneur who’d recently hired him to dig into the background of his prospective son-in-law. He didn’t have any news for him yet, but Rockford knew it was smart to keep his paying clients in the loop no matter how much progress had been made. And lastly, he rang up his buddy in the LAPD, Sgt. Dennis Becker, in order to ask a favor. This didn’t come as a surprise for Becker since, other than the occasional fishing trip invite, Jim’s calls were always about a favor. He was a little taken aback when Rockford requested a phone log of all calls placed to a Brooklyn phone number for the day and night of May 13th.

“What?” Becker replied, “That’s a pretty tall order, Jim. Especially with no whys or wherefores. You may not have noticed, but Brooklyn is just slightly outside my jurisdiction.”

“This ties into the Shoemaker case.”

“What case, Jim? Five pro ballplayers got killed by some tripped-out, hippie Satanists – we got signed confessions and two of the nut jobs in lockup – end of story. Shoemaker’s case is closed.”

This was a familiar dance and Rockford knew Becker would fall in step. “Those are my specialty, Dennis, says so right in my ad.”

It took another couple of minutes of back-and-forth before Becker with a heavy, put-upon sigh said he’d do what he could.

When he returned to their booth Rockford found Kolchak sipping at a cup of black coffee and poring over that day’s Los Angeles Times. Rockford noted that he was specifically combing through the local crime section.

“Keeping up with your distinguished competition, Carl?”

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