Disclaimer: This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit. It is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.
Mahalo to all of the wonderful people in my life, who continue to encourage, support, and inspire me in my endeavor to write.
Many heartfelt thanks especially goes out to these special ladies:
Brook . . . mahalo girl, for getting me over the “humps” and for always inspiring me to move my lazy fingers; I don’t know if I’d still be around if we didn’t talk everyday,
Strut (my big sis) mahalo for being my ‘ohana, for your insightful suggestions and sweet encouragements that continue to shape and mold me into the writer I want to become.
And to my sweet buddy Wuemsel, mahalo for being the best cheerleader around, you always know how to brighten my day with rainbows and sunflowers,
Starskysgal, mahalo for never failing to make me smile and for sharing your hammer,
And a big mahalo goes out to you Eli, for your unfailing belief and never-ending patience when it comes time to post on the beautiful “Ruminations” website you created for me.
You wonderful ladies make writing so much fun! I am truly blessed indeed.
Warning: “Episodes” might be considered a dark tale and contains some graphic scenes and foul language that may be offensive to some readers. This story also revolves around a paranormal/metaphysical genre; if this is not your cup of tea, then please refrain from sipping. I would hate to spoil someone’s fun.
October . . .
She sat up abruptly on the lumpy and uncomfortable mattress, gasping, her small frame quivering in the darkness as she attempted to catch her breath. She tried to slow the rapid beating of her heart as she gathered her bearings; gradually remembering that she was in the cheap motel room she had found late last night as she had exited the interstate freeway. Although the motel looked run down and weather-beaten, its gaudy neon lights had boldly declared a vacancy and it had become a beacon to her weary soul. She rubbed the goose bumps from her thin arms and pushed her long, dark hair away from her damp face with shaky hands. Breathing hard, she closed her eyes and mentally forced herself to calm down.
She glanced at her small travel clock and saw that it was only 4:25 in the morning. She had been asleep a whole two hours and three minutes. The diminutive woman got out of bed and slowly padded to the window. She cautiously drew back the stained curtains to peek out at the quiet street, listening to the distant sound of the cars whizzing by on the interstate highway, her dark brown eyes darted about, ready to track any movement in the darkness below; the glare from the neon sign accentuating the hollows of her high cheekbones.
She closed her eyes and sighed softly, putting out her sensors, but could feel nothing that would jeopardize her safety. Even as a little girl, she always knew when danger was nearby; self-preservation always seemed to enhance her abilities somehow. She intuitively knew she was safe for now, but she didn’t allow that knowledge to lull her into a false sense of security. He was out there . . . somewhere . . . and he was looking for her.
She turned away from the window hearing the soft swoosh of the dirty curtain fall back into place. Walking into the small bathroom she clicked on the yellow bulb hanging from the ceiling and turned to stare at herself in the mirror. She self-consciously tucked some strands of her long dark hair behind her ear. She looked like a mess. All those many months of running were starting to take its toll on her.
She turned off the light and walked the few steps back to the lumpy mattress only to frown at it with disdain. Just the thought of climbing back in there sent shivers up her spine. She didn’t want to chance a sore back come morning, she didn’t want to go back to sleep and she most definitely didn’t want to dream again, for she always woke up violently like this when she dreamed about him.
Yet this time, the dream had taken a different turn from its usual horrific ending . . . and it scared her.
Closing her eyes wearily, she could still see them . . . those eyes . . . filled with horror and pain . . . eyes that were the color of the deep ocean. Mari quickly opened her large almond shaped eyes, her heart filled with despair. Whoever this curly haired man was, he was now somehow connected to this nightmare of hers . . . of that she was sure . . . and she knew without a doubt that she needed to find him and warn him about what was to come . . .
. . . CHAPTER 1 . . .
November . . .
It was chilly as she stood outside the “The Pits”, a place she had seen only once. It seemed almost surreal somehow to be actually standing in front of something that she had only dreamed about. She pulled her worn sweater closer together as a gust of wind blew bits of street rubbish against the leg of her jeans. She looked down at the pieces of paper and watched as another gust of wind took them away. She sighed, feeling unsure of her decision to come here, but she wanted to check this place out and make sure that it truly existed.
“Well Mari, it’s now or never . . .” she said softly to herself, adjusting the strap of her backpack upon her shoulders. Taking a deep breath to buff up her flagging courage, she walked to the door and entered.
She stood quietly to the side and looked across the brightly lit, smoked filled room of the crowded bar and grill. The room felt pleasantly warm after coming in from the brisk windy evening and she slowly took off her white sweater, gathering her long dark hair neatly away from her long, slim neck up into a ponytail. It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the light, as they casually roamed around the room, but they were immediately drawn to the curly haired cop who sat huddled in a booth, in the back corner, across from a tall blond wearing a tan leather jacket.
She quickly looked around and spied a small, unoccupied table and an empty wooden seat by the side of the little hallway leading to the restrooms. Mari walked over to it and sat down, trying to remain inconspicuous as she curiously studied the brunet who suddenly laughed out loud at something his companion said. She watched as his familiar dark blue eyes twinkled mischievously, the grin that spread across of his face made him appear almost boyishly charming, although the woman intuitively knew that this was only one of the many facets that this ruggedly handsome detective possessed.
Mari had learned he was a police officer from one of the many recent dreams she had been having of him. She knew he carried a badge and a holstered gun concealed under the dark brown leather jacket that he wore. She also knew that the blond sitting across from him was his partner, though she had yet to see his face.
Mari watched as the cop in question took a quick sip of beer from his mug, returning the glass to the table, still grinning as he began to gesture with his hands, his mouth moving in response to something his partner had said. She saw the blond throw his head back, laughing; and she silently wondered what the fairer man looked like, as his back was turned towards her. Though she was clear across the room, it was obvious to her that these two men shared a very close and special bond.
She felt exhaustion creeping in, as she sat still and quiet in the warm room, listening to the buzz of conversations around her; the tinkling of glass, the occasional laughter and boisterous joviality on some of the nearby tables made her feel suddenly lonely and out of place. She was frightened too, but it was time; she could no longer run from what was inevitable.
He was here in Bay City . . . she could feel it as clearly as she had seen it. Her weary mind drifted back to the vision she had just a week ago. As in all of her visions, she could only see what was happening through the killer’s eyes, could only see whatever he gazed upon during the time lapsed in her “episodes” as she called them.
Mari knew the killer had been on the I-5 heading down towards California for some time now . . . leaving a string of missing girls as he traveled from Canada, through Washington and Oregon . . . always able to get away before suspicions arose. All this time, she knew he was coming for her too . . . she was as certain of this, as the sun rising. Hadn’t she awakened many times screaming from the images in her dreams . . . foreseeing her own death by this lunatic’s hand?
For months now, she had been able to stay one step ahead of him, but somehow he always knew where she was . . . somehow they were “linked” and that thought frightened her immensely. It was only a matter of time, she knew, before she would become one of those girls he had slaughtered.
But this time, maybe the element of surprise would be on her side . . . he would never think that she would stop running, especially after seeing what he was capable of. She knew he fed on her fear. Over the past few years, she had witnessed the horrendous things he had done to the women who were stupid enough to get into his car. Apparently he had a face that ladies trusted, though she herself had never had the opportunity to see it.
She could feel her heart accelerating with fear. He was here . . . somewhere . . . in Bay City. She closed her eyes, remembering the sign from the freeway . . .
It was dark and drizzling. She could see the wipers moving back and forth against the windshield of his car, could hear him humming off-key to some song on the radio. She strained to catch a glimpse of his face, or eyes, through the rear view mirror; but his eyes never left the road and all she could see was the dark ribbon of highway through the never ending spattering of raindrops. Yet, in the darkness of the car she could almost ‘feel’ his thoughts.
She sensed that he was in a good mood, feeling proud of his despicable accomplishments, relishing the screams that he had played back over and over in his mind of the young red-head he had repeatedly raped. Seeing in his mind’s eye, the terrified girl’s tear-stained face, the horror in her beautiful green eyes, as she saw the large butcher knife that he held above her . . .
Abruptly, Mari could sense his thoughts shift away from the brutal murder he committed and she knew without a doubt that he was now thinking of her. She could feel his eyes squint and she “knew” that he was grinning in the dark interior of the car.
The man suddenly focused his attention back to the road, looking to the off ramp from the I-5 and she could see the sign hanging above: Bay City . . . 11 miles. Mari could feel him smiling as his thoughts returned to her; she could hear his voice whisper in her mind, “I see you Mari . . . I know you’re there watching me . . . you can’t hide and run forever.”
She shivered, remembering his whispered taunting. He was right though; she couldn’t run forever. She hadn’t been able to save those girls, but maybe this time . . .
The young Asian woman bit her lip with trepidation, but she felt resolved in her decision. This time there would be no more running. It was time to be proactive . . .
No more cat and mouse games. Playing hide and seek was over . . .
Whatever was to happen, it would happen here in Bay City and somehow . . . somehow that curly haired detective would play a big part in all of it. She would do whatever it took to help the police catch this serial killer . . . maybe this time, they would listen to her.
Despite her resolve and her bravado, she shuddered in fear, as against her will, her mind drifted once again to his beautiful green-eyed victim. She felt suddenly nauseous, her eyes growing wide with horror as she remembered the young redhead sobbing and begging him to stop as he continued to ram the blade into her soft belly . . .
“Whoa . . . you okay girl? Hope it wasn’t anythin’ you ate here, and if it wuz, then I didn’t cook it!”
She lifted startled almond shaped eyes to the tall, skinny man who stood above her, a towel thrown carelessly over his shoulder, his teeth flashing white against his dark complexion.
“I . . .oh I’m sorry . . . I must have been . . .”
“Zoning out . . . either that . . . or you saw a spook,” Huggy grinned, admiring the features of the diminutive Asian girl who sat before him. “Man, by the look on your face, I thought you were gonna toss your cookies!”
The woman smiled, lowering her dark brown eyes from the perceptive gaze of the flamboyant black man. She pushed some loose strands of her hair behind her right ear and looked up at the smiling man. “Sorry . . . my father always said I have the most readable face . . .”
The dark man eyed the tiny woman as she smiled. Although there seemed to be an air of innocence about the young girl, Huggy could immediately sense something was wrong. His street smarts kicking in, intuitively knowing that the girl was in some kind trouble he asked, “Anything I can help you with?”
“Uh . . .yes there is . . . could you bring me a cup of coffee . . . please?” the young woman smiled hopefully, her dark, brown eyes shining in her heart-shaped face.
Huggy grinned, respecting the privacy the girl obviously wanted to keep. “Okay, okay I get it . . . no need to be so polite . . . ain’t none of Huggy’s business. I hear ya loud n’clear, so . . . one cup of coffee comin’ right up.”
The woman laughed softly when she saw the black man wink at her, and she watched as the tall, skinny man sauntered away from her small table. Mari sighed. Her father was right. Anyone could read whatever was on her face at any moment. She would have to be cautious of that . . . especially now with the killer so close.
She turned her attention to the back booth where the detectives sat. A big part of her wanted to run up to the brunet and pour out her fears, knowing he would want to protect her and keep her safe from the destiny she foresaw, and yet, would that be fair? To drag him into this now . . . when evil was close enough to reach out and touch her? She knew that being here was bringing the killer into the path of this man, but her dreams had told her that somehow their destinies lay entwined.
She pondered silently over that thought, rationalizing over and over again the reason why she should just pack up and leave. Yet, she was so tired . . . tired of running, tired of being alone with no one to talk to . . . tired of “knowing.”
Somehow this curly haired man would play a part in all of this she was sure, but just what that part was, she had no clue. Maybe she could help him . . . save him somehow from the horror that awaited him, especially since she had finally found him before the killer did. All she knew for certain was that her dreams always came down to this man . . . his bright blue eyes filled with pain and horror . . .
Mari looked over to the booth in which he sat. Seeing him now, sitting in the corner, as big as life, just a stone’s throw away, boggled her mind. When she came here to scope out the place, she had never thought he would be here tonight. Whatever the universe, or the powers that be wanted, it was certainly pushing it to happen . . . tonight.
She sighed again. Maybe she was pushing it. Maybe it was too soon. She knew she needed to warn him somehow, but how would she tell him without him thinking she was some kind of psychotic nut who needed to be locked up in one of those local mental institutions. God only knew, the people in her own neighborhood wanted to lock her up a long time ago.
‘Excuse me sir, you don’t know me, but I saw you in danger. You see, I have visions and dreams that usually come true, and somehow, you were being hurt by the killer who has been after me for some time now. I’ve decided to come here to warn you about it.’
The young woman snorted softly to herself, disgusted with the dialogue she made up silently in her head as she imagined herself walking up to the two detectives. “Just brilliant Mari!” she whispered sarcastically under her breath.
“Brilliance is the shine of your long, ebony hair” Huggy said, bowing gallantly over his arm as he placed the cup of coffee before her. “Your coffee is served Mari,” he grinned at her startled look. “I heard ya,” Huggy chuckled, “Not only do you zone out, but I see you talk to yourself too.”
“Oh . . .” she said lamely, feeling the heat of embarrassment in her cream colored cheeks, “I really have to stop that!”
“Hey Hug . . . we’ve been waitin’ all night for ya . . . I think Hutch might need another cold one,” Starsky said, on his way to the restroom, “What’s takin’ ya so long? Hey . . .” the brunet smiled down at the quiet young woman whose eyes widened as they connected with the twinkling blue orbs from the man in her dreams.
Mari smiled hesitantly, not knowing what to say with the sudden appearance of the very same man whom she had been wrestling with herself all night to talk to.
“Hey . . . have I met you before?” Starsky asked, frowning slightly, but offering her his patented grin that lit up his whole face, “Huggy . . . shame on you . . . keeping this lovely lady all to yourself back here by the john. No wonder we couldn’t find ya all night . . . and we thought it was just busy!” The brunet turned to Mari and winked playfully.
Huggy smiled down at the young woman, “May I introduce you to my loud friend . . . this . . . is David Michael Starsky, and this . . .” the tall skinny man said, extending his palm out towards the dark haired woman, “Brilliant girl . . . is Mari.”
“Hi . . .” Mari stammered, blushing even more, “I was um . . . I . . .I was being sarcastic when I said that . . .” she finished lamely, feeling even more embarrassed under the scrutiny of those intense blue eyes.
“She was talkin’ to herself and my sharp ears picked up on her conversation.” Huggy grinned.
Mari softly smiled, shrugging lamely, “It’s an annoying habit I have . . . one of many I’m afraid . . .”
“Yeah?” Starsky smiled, seeing her blush profusely, something about the shy Asian girl warmed his heart. “Then you should meet my friend Hutch . . . he has a lot of annoying habits too, just like you . . . he’s in the corner over there,” the brunet said, flicking his thumb over his shoulder, haphazardly pointing in the direction of his booth. Starsky reached his hand out to hers on the tabletop, and taking it firmly in his, he shook it, “Nice t’meet ya Mari.”
She tried to prevent him from touching her, standing up in the process, her wooden chair falling to the ground, but time suddenly seemed to stop, the air became thick and heated, swirls of sharp colors whirled around . . . vibrant bloody reds and deathly black ensnared her, suffocating her senses until the background noises of “The Pits” faded into obscurity and the vision took hold.
The sound of her heartbeat vibrated in her ears, “He’s there . . . I see him . . . he’s there watching you in the night . . .when . . . when you tell the woman to leave,” she panted, her dark eyes first seemed wild, then they grew distant and unaware, focused inward on something only she could see, her breathing rapid and shallow.
Starsky looked down at where their hands were joined. Her small hand had turned ice cold, her fingers digging into him with a deathly grip. The brunet quickly looked to the black proprietor who frowned and shrugged his bony shoulders.
A sharp gasp brought Starsky’s attention back to the small Asian girl who continued to speak in a voice void of all feeling . . . like she was reciting the events of something from the daily newspaper.
“You try to help her. Y-you go back into the alley calling for her, but it’s too late . . . he has her . . . he’s dragged her by her long blond hair, his hand crushing her mouth to keep her screams silent. He knows . . . he knows . . . about you . . . about me . . .”
A cold finger of fear raced down the detective’s spine. Hearing Mari’s soft monotonous voice, the vacant look in the woman’s eyes filled the brunet with sudden dread. “Hey . . . hey . . .” Starsky said, his voice growing louder as he shook the small woman, breaking her from that trancelike state, watching as Mari’s eyes rolled back, “Hey . . . c’mon . . . you okay?”
Mari would have fallen to the floor had the detective not been holding her up. She snapped to, awareness flooding her being, seeing the curious onlookers staring at her, feeling self-consciously aware of the intensity of the moment . . . the concerned, bright blue gaze that never wavered as he stared down at her, the firm grasp of his hands holding her shoulders. She had to get out, embarrassment flooded her soul . . . she had called attention upon herself . . . she had to get out . . .now!
She breathed heavily, feeling dazed and disoriented, trying to stop the tremors that continued to wrack her small frame. The “episodes” were becoming more and more frequent, probably because her self-preservation ability was kicking in. He was close. He was here in the city and she needed to run . . . now!
“You okay . . . hmm?” Starsky asked gently, stooping to catch a glimpse of the woman’s eyes as she bowed her head. She was very petite, the top of her head coming right above his chest, almost a foot shorter than his five feet, eleven inches. “Whatsamatter? What happened?” the brunet asked, letting the lady go when she started to struggle.
“I-I’m s-sorry . . .” Mari stammered, reaching to the back of the fallen chair to get her backpack and her sweater, “I . . . I have to go . . .” She nearly ran out of the bar and grill in her haste to leave.
Starsky and Huggy watched her go; the brunet turned to his long time friend, “What just happened?”
“Hey buddy . . . what’s going on?” Hutch asked, “Thought you might’ve drowned in the toilet or something . . .who was that girl that just ran out of here?”
“Maaan, that was freeeeaky!” Huggy said, the whites showing in his wide eyes, as he stared at the door Mari disappeared through, “What the hell was that?”
“Shit, if I know . . .” Starsky said softly, reaching down to right the wooden chair. The brunet stood to look up at his tall blond friend.
Hutch grinned, “Well, from what I saw . . . either you’re losing your touch buddy, or you offended her somehow . . . maybe something slipped out before you could get to the restroom in time huh?”
“Anyone ever tell ya that you’re a bag of laughs Blondie?” Starsky said sardonically, his face breaking out in a grin as he heard Hutch laugh out loud.
“No Hutch . . . y’should’a heard what she was sayin’,” Huggy said, his face dead serious, “It was like she was in some kind of trance or somethin’”
“Yeah?” Hutch said, looking to his partner, “What happened?”
“Ah nuthin’. . .” Starsky said, shrugging the whole episode off, “She probably freaked out, knowing I was gonna introduce her to you Blintz . . . being that you both have that annoying habit of talkin’ to yourselves . . . oh sorry . . . my mistake buddy . . . you just talk to plants!”
“What?” Hutch frowned, looking over at Huggy, “Now what’s he talking about?”
“Who knows . . . all I know is that she started off saying that someone was watching Starsky here and that one his many ladies was gonna be dragged off and abducted . . . right?” the black man looked at the brunet expectantly.
“Huggy . . . will ya just bring us more beer huh?” Starsky said, chucking the skinny man under his chin, “Look, I gotta go to the john . . . real bad!” the brunet said as he attempted to squeeze between his partner and Huggy.
“Wait a minute,” Hutch said softly, gently grabbing his partner’s arm as he tried to pass, his detective senses kicking into gear after listening to Huggy’s ramblings, “Just who did she say was watching you Starsk?”
Starsky let out an exaggerated sigh, lifting his hands in exasperation, “I don’t believe this . . . do you believe this?” he asked another customer who was coming back from the restroom. The customer stared at the dark haired detective for a minute then shrugged and went on. The brunet looked to his friend, “Hutch . . . can we just forget about this incident . . .huh?”
“Starsk . . . who knows . . . maybe this woman was right . . . maybe she can sense things
. . . see things that others can’t . . .”
Starsky rolled his eyes, “Hutch . . . will you go sit down . . . I gotta pee . . .”
“Or fart . . . if I understood what Hutch was eluding to earlier . . .” Huggy said, throwing in his two cents, grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
“Funny . . . very funny Hug . . .” Starsky grouched good-naturedly.
Hutch picked up some napkins from the table and handed it his partner, “Here, take this
. . . maybe it’ll help . . . you can breathe into it . . . ”
The brunet looked at his friends incredulously, “You know somethin’ . . . you two guys should be comedians . . . you’re a barrel of laughs! Now can you get outta the way? I gotta go . . . now!”
He closed his eyes, savoring the feeling of her fear, seeing her run out from a place called “The Pits” in his mind’s eye. His fingers tightened on the steering wheel of his car as he pondered over the curly haired man who had recently been making guest appearances in his dreams. Who was this man and more importantly, what did he have to do with Mari?
He threw the car into gear and headed for the nearest phone booth at the corner from the cheap motel he was staying at in Bay City. Throwing the car into park, he walked swiftly to the phone booth and flipped through the phonebook within, running his fingers along the tiny letters until he found what he was looking for . . . “The Pits”. He quickly scribbled down the address and the phone number of the place and hurried back to the warmth of his car.
He could feel his heart fill with rage at the possibility of Mari being involved with someone, angrily slamming the door of his car behind him. He breathed heavily through his nostrils, trying to calm himself down. Mari was HIS and nobody was gonna get in the way of that . . . not even a cop! He quickly released the parking brake and started in the direction of the address he held in his hand.
CHAPTER 2 . . .
“G’night Hug,” Starsky said, slapping the thin black man on the back, as they were about to exit his place.
“I think it’s more like good morning,” Hutch said smiling, as Huggy frowned.
“I guess you’re tellin’ me that this night of carousing, will also go on that long tab you two gents have been accruing? The black man said, gesturing to all the empty beer mugs on the table that they were just sitting at.
“We owe you Hug,” Starsky said sleepily, his mouth opening in a wide yawn.
“You don’ need t’tell me that . . . I know you owe me!” Huggy grumbled, as he began to clear away the table, suddenly smiling when he saw the wad of greens under one of the glasses. “Hey . . . anytime you want more beer, your friend Huggy Bear is here!”
The detectives walked out of Huggy’s place laughing in the early morning hours, feeling the effects of one too many beers, but knowing that they didn’t have to report into Metro the next day, lightened their spirits even more.
A blonde prostitute dressed in a short, tight-fitting, low cut burgundy dress whispered to her black co-worker, who leaned blatantly against the concrete siding of Huggy’s place, displaying her wares wantonly. The women giggled, as the fair-haired woman seductively called out, her voice low and enticing, “Hey Curly-top . . .”
The two detectives stopped in their tracks as the prostitute sauntered over to them, her long, golden locks gleaming under the dim lights from the street. She gave the brunet the once over, licking her red lips in anticipation, “Mmm . . . you look mighty fine baby . . . wanna have some fun with me . . . end the day with a bang . . .huh cutie?” The hooker looked over to Hutch, “If your friend wants to tag along, Ginger over there, can fill in.” she nodded her head to the black prostitute wearing fishnet stockings who stood up on her black stiletto heels and winked at the blond cop.
“C’mon baby,” the blonde whispered, boldly reaching up to stroke back the curls from the brunet’s face, “I’ll give you the best head anyone’s ever given you before,” she whispered, as her hand inched down to the front of Starsky’s jeans. She ran her index finger up along the seam of his zipper, when his hand abruptly stopped hers.
The warm pressure on his privates shook the pleasant buzz from the brunet’s head. Starsky cleared his throat, feeling himself blushing slightly, “I wouldn’t go there lady for two reasons . . . the first, is that I’m not interested, and the second, is that I’m a cop.”
The wanton look on the hooker’s face faded and was replaced by fear. She looked to Hutch who smiled and flashed his badge. The blond cop waved his fingers to the black woman who after seeing the glint from the badge, immediately began to walk away.
“Now if I were you miss,” Starsky said, pointing in the direction of the quickly retreating hooker, I would do like your friend over there and call it a night . . . it’s late, and I would hate to have to take you in for soliciting.” The brunet winked, seeing the grateful smile of the prostitute who quickly walked away.
“Anyone ever tell you what a nice guy you are?” Hutch said softly, as his partner watched the platinum blonde walk under a dim streetlight, “Let’s go huh buddy?”
“Yeah,” Starsky murmured, seeing the shine from the blonde’s hair as she passed under the light. Something about that image bothered the brunet and he watched her until the hooker faded into the shadows.
“You comin’?” Hutch called from afar, snapping Starsky out of his silent ponderings.
“Yeah . . .” Starsky said, shaking his head as he stumbled after his partner. ‘Maybe I drank too much,” he thought, silently wondering why the image of the prostitute leaving unnerved him so. He followed quietly behind his partner to the bright red car that was parked a ways down the street.
He could feel hot, red anger rise from his gut when he watched the curly haired cop point in the direction of the retreating black whore. It was obvious the brunet felt he was too good for the blonde hooker and it pissed him off as he watched from the shadows. He hated guys like that . . . guys who knew they had that special something that ladies fell for. This cop, with all of his good looks and charm, knew how to use it, knew how to turn it off and on to fit his own sordid needs, knew how to lure innocent girls like Mari into his trap. Mari was his, and no one was going to take her away from him. He’d fucking kill that cop if he had to. The killer clenched his fists in silent rage . . . I’ll show him . . . it was time to leave a calling card . . .
“Hey . . . you okay?” Hutch asked softly, as they neared the Torino, “You didn’t change your mind about that hooker back there did you?” the tall blond detective joked, noticing how quiet and introspective the brunet had become as walked along the quiet street, finally coming to a stop at the bright red car.
“I don’t know Hutch . . . something about her keeps naggin’ at me.” Starsky said quietly, looking over the top of the Torino’s roof at his blond counterpart, “You ever get the feelin’ that you just missed something important . . . like when you skip over a missing puzzle piece that you’ve been staring at all night . . . I mean, it ‘s right there in your face, but you just can’t see how it fits?” The brunet suddenly opened his mouth and yawned widely.
Hutch snorted softly, “I think you need to go to bed buddy . . . you’re tired, your mind’s on overload especially with the Interstate murders that Dobey was drilling us about. You’ll feel better once you get some rest.” Hutch said gently, his eyes softening with fondness for his exhausted friend, “Want me to drive?”
“What . . . and get us both killed?” Starsky said sleepily. The detectives grinned, remembering a time in their past when these exact words were spoken. Starsky winked at his partner and fished the car key from his pocket, inserting it into the lock; his hand stopping in mid-turn as dark brown eyes, distant and unaware floated through his memory . . .
“He’s there . . . I see him . . . he’s there watching you in the night . . . when . . . when you tell the woman to leave . . .” The soft voice that whispered in Starsky’s mind, floated away on the sudden gust of wind that blew down the quiet street.
“Hey . . . it sure would be nice to get out of this wind buddy,” Hutch said softly, concern deepening the ever present crease between his brows, “You planning on standing there all night?” The tall blond knew something was bothering his partner, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Huh? Oh . . . yeah, sorry . . . here . . .” Starsky said, tossing his partner the silver key over the shiny, red roof, “Get in the car and turn on the heater.”
“Where you going?” Hutch asked, the surprise look on his face made the brunet immediately grin.
“Back to Huggy’s . . .gonna check out a missing puzzle piece . . .” Starsky said, hunching his shoulders against the chilly night air, as he jammed his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
“What?” Hutch questioned, watching his partner as he walked back towards the bar and grill.
Starsky didn’t bother to answer, suddenly feeling the urgency to get back and check out the hunch he had. In his mind’s eye, he could see the hooker’s bright, blond hair as it shone under the light from the streets and he once again thought of Mari.
It was strange how he suddenly recalled the soft warning from the petite Asian girl, when he hadn’t thought about her all evening once she had left. Now, as he got closer to Huggy’s, he could feel the heavy hand of fear as it rested upon his shoulders. He began to walk faster, gradually increasing his pace until he found himself jogging.
The brunet stopped in front of “The Pits”, his detective senses on high alert though he didn’t know why he felt uneasy. About to walk to the door, he suddenly remembered the rest of what Mari had said before she made her hasty exit
“You try to help her. Y-you go back into the alley calling for her, but it’s too late . . . he has her . . . he’s dragged her by her long blond hair, his hand crushing her mouth to keep her screams silent. He knows . . . he knows . . . about you . . . about me . . .”
The alley. Starsky turned and ran to the darkened alley a couple of blocks away from Huggy’s, drawing his piece from his holster beneath his jacket. Holding his gun high, he pressed his back against the wall at the mouth of the alley. Taking a deep breath, he whipped around the corner, his legs firmly apart, crouched slightly in a stance to maintain balance. His dark blue eyes darted down the alleyway, adjusting to the darkness within.
It was quiet . . . too quiet; his senses were on overload. He could hear his heart beating wildly in his chest, as he cautiously made his way down the narrow, trash littered walkway. He could hear glass crunching under the soles of his blue Adidas, and he silently cursed himself for his foolhardy eagerness to rush back here. He should’ve had Hutch here with him, watching his back.
He made out the shape of a metal dumpster in the distance, his spine beginning to tingle as he neared it. His senses were screaming by now, and Starsky had the strange feeling of being watched by something in the shadows.
“Hey . . .” he called out, as he crept closer to the dumpster, walking at an angle, keeping his back to the walls of the alley, feeling his heart rate accelerate. He could hear no sound save the whistling from the wind near the tunneled entrance.
He stopped suddenly, his dark, blue eyes spying the shape of something lying next to the dumpster. He closed his eyes, exhaling softly as he made out the bright, golden locks shining in the dim lights from the street. “Shit!” he whispered in the dark stillness of the night.
The dark haired cop whipped around, his gun pointing to his blond partner, “Don’t do that!” he hissed.
“What’s going on?” Hutch asked, walking carefully towards his friend, “What are you looking for?”
Starsky took a deep breath, swallowing hard, trying to get his senses back down to normal, “How’d you get here so fast huh?” he asked his partner who came up beside him.
“Had the key remember?” Hutch grinned, holding it up, silver flashing in the dim light, “What’s going on?”
Starsky nodded in the direction of the body, “You tell me . . .”
. . . CHAPTER 3 . . .
The flashing lights from the police cars lit up the quiet night, eerily illuminating the small group of silent onlookers who stood at the mouth of the alley. Starsky looked back from where he stood by the dumpster, the strange sensation of being watched, once again flooding his being.
He silently scanned the expressionless faces of the street bums and hookers who quietly stared, as one of ‘their own’ was put into the coroner’s wagon and taken away. To the detective, their silence seemed almost apathetic; a tragic ending that to them, seemed almost commonplace and everyday. The brunet heaved a heavy sigh, turning his attention back to the forensic team packing up to leave, as Hutch came to stand beside him.
“Huggy just left . . . said this was gonna be bad for business . . . hey . . . you okay?” Hutch asked, laying his warm hand on the brunet’s shoulder, reading the weariness in his partner’s eyes.
“Yeah . . .” Starsky sighed softly, staring at the spot where the blonde was murdered, “You ever get tired of this job Hutch?”
Hutch glanced at his partner, concern etching his features, “Hey buddy . . . that’s not like you . . . you’re beginning to sound like me . . . what happened to the bottle being half full?”
The brunet shrugged then snorted softly, “Okay . . .” he sighed once more, “Okay . . . let’s call it a night huh?”
“Yeah . . . we’ll file a report in the morning.” Hutch replied, gently squeezing the brunet’s shoulder before he let it go, turning to walk out towards the street.
“So much for having the day off tomorrow.” Starsky grumbled, under his breath, following the blond out of the roped off alleyway.
“Wanna talk about it?” Hutch finally asked the next morning, eyeing his silent, brooding partner, as they drove along the main boulevard. Hutch had picked up the brunet a little later than usual, hoping the extra hour would give Starsky the time needed to recuperate from the night before, but the blond could sense his friend’s moodiness the minute he sat down in the car.
Hutch kept his eyes on the road as he thought about his partner. After they’d left the crime scene late last night, Starsky had barely spoken two words the whole way home. He seemed lost in thought and when he dropped Hutch off, the brunet barely showed any sign of acknowledgment when he heard his partner reminding him that he would pick him up in the morning. Hutch glanced over at quiet brunet, hopefully the little surprise he bought, would cheer up his despondent partner.
“Brought you some doughnuts . . .” the blond said, holding up the small, white bakery package that sat on the seat between them; almost lost in the clutter and paper that was strewn all over the battered interior of the LTD.
Starsky absently turned from the window and looked to the bag, “Huh?”
“I said I brought you some doughnuts.” Hutch grinned, shaking the bag enticingly, smiling when he saw the happy, excited expression that came over his friend’s face, as he turned his eyes back to the road.
“Hey . . . for me?” Starsky grinned, reaching out with eager fingers for the bag.
“No . . . for your mother. Of course for you dummy, but you gotta promise first.” Hutch said, holding the bag just out of reach.
“Wha’? Hey . . . that’s bribery . . .” Starsky grumbled, his face immediately falling into a petulant pout.
Hutch grinned, then lowered his voice temptingly, “There’s a sugared one and a chocolate sprinkled one and the white powdery one that you love so much Gordo . . . right there in that bag . . . all you gotta do is promise me that we’ll talk, then you can eat okay? Don’t shut me out buddy.” Hutch finished softly, sky-blue eyes looking over to connect with his partner’s dark, sapphire ones.
The pout faded, replaced by a look of concern, “Aww Hutch, I wasn’t tryin’ to shut you out . . . just been thinkin’ s’all,” the brunet said, as the dented, brown car came to stop at the red light; Hutch looked over at his introspective partner.
“Yeah? Well, try thinking louder,” Hutch grinned, “What’s been on your mind? What made you double back last night? Just how did you know that hooker was in the alley?”
Starsky sighed, raising his dark brows and shrugging, “That’s what I’ve been thinkin’ about all this time. I saw her blonde hair shining under the streetlight as she walked away from us, and it somehow made me think of what that girl at Huggy’s said.”
Hutch frowned, “You mean the one who ran out?”
“Yeah . . .” Starsky replied, his forehead creasing in a frown, “Hutch, you know how I feel about all of this psychic mumbo-jumbo. I mean for the most part, I think a lot of it is hogwash.”
“I know . . . I was there on that Haymes case when we used Collandra’s help remember?” Hutch said, “You sure gave that poor guy a hard time.”
Starsky snorted, “Yeah? Well, he gave me the creeps!”
The blond laughed, but soon quieted as the brunet continued, “ I don’ know Hutch, last night, after that girl left Huggy’s; I didn’t even give her words a second thought, but watching that hooker walk away from us, seeing her hair shining under the light like that, made me remember what she said . . . I mean I could almost hear her soft voice whispering in my head. That’s what made me go back.” The brunet thought silently for a few seconds, and the blond quietly watched the emotions that flitted across his friend’s face.
“I mean,” Starsky continued softly, “She saw all of this happenin’ before it happened. She said, that I was being watched and that I would go back in the alley and find the blonde dead . . . and last night in the alley, I swear Hutch, there were times that I really felt eyes watchin’ me in the dark.” The brunet shivered suddenly, remembering the eerie feeling of being watched when no one was there. “And yet, when I looked around, there was nobody there . . . I don’t know . . . maybe I was so spooked, I was just imaginin’ things in my head.”
“Or maybe it was a voodoo priest or a vampire stalking you . . .” Hutch grinned sarcastically, knowing how his partner feared those silly things that he watched on those awful B movies he loved so much.
“Funny Hutchinson,” Starsky sulked, “Still playin’ the part of the comedian from last night huh? Ya mind tellin’ me when you’re done with the jokes?” The brunet grouched, slouching back into the uncomfortable seat of the LTD, although his dark, blue eyes twinkled with amusement.
Hutch snorted softly, “Starsk . . . it’s just that you’re so quick to be skeptical when it comes to psychics, but just mention a vampire and you’re the first one buying garlic and crucifixes. Why is it so hard to believe that there are some people out there with more developed senses? I mean, we’re cops and we follow our “hunches” all the time out there on the streets, many times that’s what saves our necks. Look at you . . . what made you go back and check on that streetwalker last night . . . you had a ‘hunch’ right? And you followed your instincts. Believe it or not buddy, on a very simple level, that’s what psychics do.”
Hutch looked back to the road, letting his partner stew on what he had just said. Thinking quietly, Hutch gently stepped on the accelerator when the light turned green, “Okay let me ask you this . . . do you think this girl had anything to do with the hooker’s murder?”
“No,” Starsky said softly, his eyes once again scanning the streets through his side window.
Starsky turned to look at his partner who had his pale, blue eyes fixed on the road, “What? See what?”
“You answered without really thinking about it . . . you said that this girl wasn’t involved with the murder because you ‘intuitively’ sensed that. Logically, we would assume she had something to do with the murder because she knew about it before it happened right?”
“Yeah, but Hutch . . .”
“No, hear me out Starsk . . . you answered as quickly as you did, because you “know” she has nothing to do with that hooker’s death, with the exception of maybe “seeing” it in her head before it happened. I ‘know’ she’s not involved in this murder either, because my gut tells me so, and I didn’t even meet this woman. Hutch glanced over at his quiet partner with a grin on his face, “Do you know that what you just did . . . following your intuition, making snap judgments and reactions on gut instinct . . . that can all be labeled as “psychic.”
“Her hands weren’t big enough,” the dark haired detective mumbled.
Hutch turned to look at the brunet who continued to stare out the window. “What?”
Starsky turned to grin at his perplexed partner, “Her hands weren’t big enough to wrap around the hooker’s neck and she definitely wouldn’t have had the strength to strangle the blonde. That girl at Huggy’s was too small; logically there was no way that she could have done it. I don’t need to be ‘psychic’ to know that!” The brunet chuckled when he heard his partner snort.
“You could’ve just told me to shut up,” Hutch smirked.
“What? And miss out on all of that mumbo-jumbo spiel from the college graduate?” Starsky joked, “Anyway, maybe she knows more than what she saw at Huggy’s.”
“Well . . . we could look for her? What did she look like?”
“Small, Asian, long dark hair, dark brown almond-shaped eyes . . . her name was Mari, I think.” Starsky said, “She could be anyone or anywhere . . .” Starsky sighed heavily, his blue eyes roaming the streets through the side window, though he was not really registering anything he saw.
“How was she dressed?” Hutch asked, eyeing the people walking along the sidewalk through the dirty front windshield of his LTD.
“Hmmm?” Starsky looked from his window to his partner, “Dressed . . . um . . . brown tee-shirt, white sweater, jeans, a backpack . . .”
“A backpack?” Hutch reiterated, looking to his partner, “Maybe she’s a college student, or maybe she’s on the run . . . we could check some of the cheap motels around here . . .”
“Yeah . . . hey . . . that’s a good idea . . . anyone ever tell you that you should be a detective? Or better yet . . . a psychic?” Starsky grinned and held out his hand.
Hutch snorted softly, handing the package over to his partner, who peeked with quiet anticipation over the lip of the bag, his eyes widening with wonder.
“Hey . . . you even got jellied ones Hutch!” Starsky said, his eyes shining with happiness.
Hutch chuckled, enjoying the look on his partner’s face. ‘Like a little boy,’ the blond thought fondly, unable to resist reaching over to ruffle his partner’s curls, “Just for you buddy.”
“Hey . . .” Starsky said, reaching in for a powdered doughnut, “This one’s for you . . .” he said, leaning over, as he offered it to his friend.
“No thanks Gordo . . . already had my shake this morning,” Hutch laughed, “Those are just for you, but you better hurry before we get to the station or you’ll have to share ‘em with Dobey.”
“Well I can see you had breakfast.” Dobey grumbled, the minute the detectives walked into his office, “I ah . . . don’t suppose you brought any for me?”
“What?” Starsky said, eyes twinkling as he feigned innocence, “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about Cap.” The brunet looked over to his partner, who tapped the side of his own mouth. Starsky rubbed the corner of his mouth and saw the tell tale white powder on his fingertip.
He grinned stupidly at his frowning Captain, “Oh . . . that breakfast . . . ah …nope . . . Hutch ate ‘em all . . . just had one for myself . . . a white powdered one.” The brunet held out his finger to show the white smear to the dark man.
“Starsky . . . shut up and sit down.” Dobey growled. The large man shuffled papers on his desk then looked up at both his men. “What happened last night? When I came in this morning and heard that a woman was found slain I was worried that the Interstate killer had arrived in Bay City, but the M.O. is all wrong.”
“Yeah . . . she was strangled.” Hutch said, “He did it with his hands from the marks on her neck.”
Dobey looked at the report from the lab, “And from the size of those marks on her neck, we can assume he was a big man. He must’ve been wearing gloves . . . no prints.” Dobey put down the papers and glared at his men. “Anyway, it’s a relief to know that it’s not the Interstate Killer . . . that sick bastard uses a knife in the murdering of all of his victims. And it’s usually girls who come from good homes . . . no streetwalkers in his M.O.”
“What makes you think that psycho is coming here?” Starsky asked, carefully placing his feet on the edge of Dobey’s desk.
The large, black man glared at the brunet, but said nothing, “From the reports that they’ve sent down, it seems he’s travels the 1-5. The killings started in Canada bordering Washington State. They found more murdered girls fitting the M.O in Washington and Oregon and in northern parts of California . . . Bay City is right along the killer’s path . . . we’d be more than lucky if he chooses to pass us by.”
“So any of you care to tell me about what happened last night . . . how you two came across the body?” Dobey continued gruffly, staring at his men from across his desk.
“We were at Huggy’s last night, having a few beers, since we didn’t have to report in today.” Hutch replied.
“And?” Dobey said, his blood-shot eyes shifting to the brunet, “Starsky get your damn feet off my desk!” The Captain growled, turning his attention back to the blond when he spoke.
“And . . . when we were leaving, some hookers approached us and tried to solicit themselves for a last go around before they ended their work day. We sent them on their way and went to the car to go home.”
“And?” Dobey said, when the blond paused, “You still didn’t tell me how you found the body.” The perceptive black man turned his gaze on the silent brunet who sighed and raised dark, blue eyes to his Captain’s face.
“I found the body, Cap.” Starsky said softly, “When we got to the car, I tossed Hutch the key and told him to start the heater, then I doubled-back and found her in the alley next to the dumpster. The rest is history.”
“Yeah, the rest is history, but it still doesn’t explain why you doubled back? What made you go back to that alley . . . how did you know that hooker was in trouble? Did she scream, or did you hear her struggling?” Dobey pressed.
Starsky sighed and leaned his head back on the top of the backrest of the chair, he closed his eyes wearily, “Long story short Cap, there was this girl at Huggy’s. A small, Asian woman, long, black hair, answers to the name of Mari . . . she’s uh . . . barely over five feet, not more than a hundred pounds or so. When Huggy introduced us, I grabbed her hand, intending to shake it and all of sudden she starts wiggin’ out on me . . . tellin’ me that this blond girl was going to be dragged into a dark alley by someone who was watchin’ us. She ran out after that. Later on, when we left Huggy’s and Hutch n’me sent the blonde prostitute on her way, it dawned on me that it was the exact same scenario that Mari described. I went back to check on the hooker, and found her dead in that alley.”
“You telling me, this girl . . . this Mari, is a psychic?” Dobey raised one brow doubtfully.
“I’m telling you how it went down last night,” Starsky said irritably, “Whatever happened at Huggy’s with Mari, it was damn freaky. It scared the shit outta Huggy.”
“We want to find this girl, Captain,” Hutch said, resting his hand soothingly on his partner’s shoulder, “We want to put out an APB and bring her in for questioning. After we write up the report, we want your permission to go out looking for her.”
“She was at Huggy’s last night . . . does he know her? Why don’t you just ask him?” Dobey said, standing up to shove the blue Adidas off the edge of the desk where they were perched, one on top of the other.
Starsky feet landed with a soft thud and the brunet sat up quickly in the chair with a hurt look on his face, “You could’a just asked me to put my feet down Cap.” The large black man rolled his eyes.
“In answer to your question Captain, I think she was just someone who came in from the cold,” Hutch answered, “Huggy didn’t know her from Adam.”
Dobey took a deep breath in, and leaned his chin against a hand propped up on his desk thinking, after a few seconds he said, “Alright, you finish up that report and I’ll put out an all points bulletin on that Asian woman. Once you’re done, you both can hit the streets and find this Mari . . . who knows,” the large man said, shrugging, “If she’s psychic, maybe she can even tell us something about the Interstate Killer.”
. . . CHAPTER 4 . . .
The sun had just about set when they finally called it a day. The two detectives wearily trudged into Starsky’s apartment, the blond flicking on the lights and closing the door, while the brunet went immediately into the kitchen to take two beers out of the ‘fridge.
Starsky tossed a cold bottle to his blond partner, “I don’t get it Hutch, it’s like she’s disappeared. Every lead we had on her went cold. The rooms she stayed at were vacant. The APB turned up nothing. It’s like she knows we’re looking for her and she’s staying one step ahead of us.” The brunet opened his bottle and tossed the small, metal opener over to Hutch who caught it with his right hand. Starsky quickly unsnapped his holster and hung his piece over the edge of the closet door.
The blond opened his bottle and took a swig from it, feeling the cold brew slide down his throat. Hutch ambled over to the couch and sagged wearily into its cushions, “Well, at least we know she’s not a student,” he said, remembering their futile attempts of matching her description and name with the local colleges in the area. “Maybe she’s been doing this for a while now . . . running, I mean . . . probably got good at it.”
“Yeah, but what’s she running from? You should’ve seen her, Hutch . . . she was shakin’ at Huggy’s.” Starsky said, plopping down next to his partner on the couch, “I mean she’s all alone out there . . .”
Hutch sighed and laid his hand on his partner’s knee, “You and I both know there’s a lot of monsters on the streets . . . whatever she’s running from, it’s scared her good.”
“Yeah,” Starsky said softly, his long, dark lashes hiding the expression in his eyes, as he used his thumbnail to rip through the wet paper that covered the sides of the bottle he held. If anyone knew about monsters, it was he and Hutch. Thinking of the young girl out there on streets all alone, troubled the brunet.
Hutch leaned his head on the back of the couch and sighed wearily. He rolled his neck against the cushions to look his partner, who by now, had peeled most of the beer label off, stuffing the wet peels in his empty bottle, the worry coming off of him in waves, “Hey . . . the bottle is half full remember?” the blond grinned.
Starsky snorted softly as Hutch gently slapped his thigh, “How ‘bout if I call for a pizza huh?” the blond said, “We could order a pep . . .” The blond cut his sentence short when they heard a timid knock at the front door. “You expecting company?” Hutch asked the brunet, who shrugged and quickly stood.
Starsky walked over to the door and opened it to reveal the petite, Asian woman he and Hutch had spent the better part of the day searching for. “Hey!” the brunet said, his bright blue eyes widened in surprise.
The girl seemed to cringe, stepping back from the tall man of her dreams, “I-I am s-sorry if this is a bad time . . . I shouldn’t have come, but I knew you were looking for me … I-I should go . . .” Mari stammered, color rising in her pale cheeks. Before Starsky could stop her, she quickly turned and started to run down the steps, her long, dark hair flying out behind her.
“Wait a minute,” Starsky snapped as he raced after her, reaching out to grab her by both shoulders, turning her into his arms as she struggled to free herself.
Pain and light exploded behind her eyes the minute he touched her, time seemed to once again stand still. In her mind, she could see his deep blue eyes, wide with horror and etched in pain. The gleaming blade falling viciously in a downward arc, “Noooo,” she cried out, her eyes rolling upward, as her body grew limp.
Starsky caught her slight frame as she fainted, and he carried her up the stairs, seeing Hutch at the top of the landing.
“What happened?” Hutch said, concern filling his sky-blue eyes, as Starsky easily carried the young woman inside and laid her on the edge of his bed.
“Dunno,” Starsky said softly, reaching out to gently push away strands of hair from her pale face, “She started runnin’, I grabbed her and she just collapsed.”
“She’s just a kid Starsk,” Hutch said softly, his kind heart reaching out to the young unconscious woman, “Wonder what she’s been through . . .”
Starsky sighed and carefully stood up, staring down at her lying still on his bed, “Guess we’ll find out when she wakes up huh?” The brunet turned to look at his partner, “ In the meantime, we should order that pizza . . . she’ll probably be hungry.”
“Yeah . . . I’ll go do that right now,” Hutch said, following his partner out from the bedroom, “Where you going?”
“Gonna get her backpack . . . she dropped it out on the stairs when she fainted.” The brunet pointed out, as he walked through the front door. Starsky picked up the bag and carried it back into his apartment and put it on the couch. He listened as Hutch made the phone order for the pizza; the blond cop walked slowly over to the couch once he hung up, his pale, blue eyes locked on the bag.
“You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” Starsky said, his dark blue eyes connected to the sky blue ones of his friend, who sat down on the couch next to the bag.
Hutch bit his bottom lip in indecision, “Yeah . . . but I don’t think it would be ethical Starsk . . . why don’t we wait until she gets up.”
“I am up,” a small voice came from the doorway, Mari looked to the bag on the couch, “There’s nothing in there . . . go ahead and look if you want.” she said softly. The young woman looked so small and defenseless, standing in the darkened doorway of Starsky’s bedroom, that both detectives could feel a sense of protectiveness come over them.
“Hey Mari . . . how ya feelin’ huh?” Starsky said, his voice low and gentle, as if he were speaking to a wounded doe, “Why don’tcha come out here and sit down for a bit . . . this is my partner Hutch, the guy with the annoyin’ habits I was tellin’ ya about at Huggy’s . . .” Starsky said with a grin, when Mari’s eyes nervously darted to the tall blonde.
“Hi Mari,” Hutch said, his rich, soothing voice was both gentle and kind, “It’s okay . . . no one else is here, but us. You can come out . . . we won’t hurt you . . . we’re policemen,” he added, hoping that fact would put the young woman at ease.
“I know,” Mari whispered, “But your badges and guns won’t protect you . . . from him,” she said sadly.
Hutch glanced over at his dark haired partner, who quickly returned his look, then grinned reassuringly at the girl, “Look, we can talk about it over some pizza,” the brunet said enticingly, trying to charm the wariness from the girl’s eyes. “It should be here in a little while. Why don’tcha you sit down and I’ll get ya somethin’ to drink. What would ya like?” Starsky asked.
Mari walked hesitantly out into the living room, her dark brown eyes taking everything in . . . from the neatly folded afghan on the back of the couch to the tidy kitchen the curly haired detective walked towards.
“If you have coffee . . . I would . . . most appreciate a cup.” Mari hesitantly said, her voice soft and unsure; reaching the couch to nervously sit on the edge of it, “You have a very nice place . . .”
“It’s home . . .” Starsky replied from the kitchen, as he put the coffee pot on the stove.
The Asian woman nodded, and looked down at her clasped hands, “Home,” she whispered wistfully, so softly did she say this, that Hutch barely heard her. The blond could feel the sadness that emanated from the small woman beside him.
The brunet walked back out to the living room, “Hey . . . a kid like you shouldn’t be drinkin’ coffee.”
Mari smiled for the first time, the haunted look in her eyes fading, revealing a serene and beautiful face, “I’m not a kid, I’m nearly twenty eight years old,” she smiled shyly.
“You don’t look a day over nineteen” Hutch said, eyeing the petite woman. He could tell that she was feeling very nervous and uncomfortable being alone with two men, and his heart went out to her as she looked uneasily around the place. The blond wondered about the man she kept referring to and he knew his partner was probably thinking the same thing, yet he knew Starsky was trying his best to make her feel comfortable so he didn’t broach that topic. “The pizza should be here shortly,” Hutch gently said instead, “In the meantime, can you tell us how you happened to find us here?”
“I know you’ve been searching for me all day, but so has he . . . and because of that, I walked with the shadows.”
“The shadows?” the blond repeated, a frown marring his handsome features.
“The shadows are the people of the streets . . . the ones we walk by everyday and don’t see with our eyes . . . or our hearts. These people fade into the background and are lost . . . they have no one . . . they are like . . . shadows.” Mari said softly.
Starsky frowned, remembering the street bums and hookers who watched the body of the blond prostitute being carted away the other night. He realized then, that he couldn’t clearly remember any of those people . . . their features were just a blur in his memory . . . dark and misty like shadows . . .
“I-I was able to find your home . . .” Mari said quietly, drawing Starsky’s attention back on her; feeling uncomfortable under his bright, blue gaze, “B-because I have seen it before.”
Starsky quickly glanced at his partner, then turned to look at the quiet woman, “You’ve been watchin’ my place?” Starsky asked softly.
The dark haired woman quickly shook her head, “No . . . not like that!” Mari said, her eyes wide with fear, as she quickly stood up, “It m-must look like that, but I promise, I haven’t been watching your place and I haven’t followed you here . . . I just . . .”
“Hey . . . hey . . . take it easy,” Hutch said soothingly, regretfully seeing the fear back in the young woman’s face, “My partner didn’t mean it like that . . . we both know you haven’t been following us.” The girl looked like a frightened rabbit about to run. The blond reached out and gently tugged her back down to sit on the couch, “It’s okay Mari, we know you’ve been running . . . and we know you’re able to see things or know things before it happens.”
The Asian girl looked at the tall golden man sitting beside her, her eyes round and wary, “You know this . . . you know about my ‘episodes’?” she whispered, her small voice barely audible in the quiet room.
“Episodes?” Hutch questioned.
“My dreams and v-visions . . . I call them that,” Mari said in a whisper.
“That night at Huggy’s . . . you had an ‘episode’ didn’t you? You saw the blonde woman being dragged into the alley,” Starsky said, quietly walking over to the couch to crouch down beside her, “You tried to warn me, but I let it happen . . . I didn’t figure it out in time . . .” the brunet said softly, his deep blue eyes sad and guilt-ridden, “She was murdered last night . . . in the alley just like you said.”
Mari closed her eyes and bowed her head, her long dark hair falling from her shoulders, “I know,” she said quietly, “I ‘saw’ it all . . . I thought perhaps this time . . . maybe it would be different . . . that perhaps her life would be spared. I am sorry for the woman.”
Starsky swallowed and glanced up at his partner who knew he was feeling bad. The blond winked compassionately at him and turned his attention to the tiny lady sitting beside him.
“Mari,” Hutch said softly, purposely keeping his voice quiet and low, “Can you tell us anything about the man who killed her? Is this the same man who’s been looking for you all day too?”
The Asian woman turned to stare at the blond man, “Yes. That is why I am here . . . to tell you everything I know. I-I made a decision that I wouldn’t run anymore . . . not from him.”
Mari turned to look at the brunet crouched at her feet, forcing herself to meet the intensity of his blue gaze, “I have come to warn you. He will be coming after you very soon. He dreams of you, and he hates you. He is evil; he has killed other ladies before the one last night, and he was watching you when you came out of the bar and grill. He killed that woman because he wanted you to know that he was finally here, and he didn’t like how you turned her away. He wanted to show you that he was more powerful than you and he used his hands to strangle that blonde woman.”
“Y-you mean that this guy has killed before?” Hutch asked, his growing concern for his partner evident on his face.
“Yes, but this time it was different. In all the other times, he has used a knife on every woman he captured, dragging them into his car, as he travels from state to state along the 1-5.” Mari voice became even softer as she looked into the deep blue eyes locked on hers, “To you, he is known as the Interstate killer, but to me . . . he is the devil.”
. . . CHAPTER 5 . . .
Mari sipped her creamed coffee, her eyes downcast as she lowered the heavy mug to the table. The few bites she’d taken from the pizza, took away the gnawing hunger in her belly and the hot coffee seemed to draw the chill that was perpetually within her, leaving her feeling almost peaceful and lethargic . . .
She smiled, two small dimples appearing under her high cheekbones, as she listened to the comfortable, playful bantering between the detectives. For the first time, in a long time, she felt relatively safe. It was nice to be in a home, and that thought made her ache for her family.
She raised her eyes to dark, blue orbs filled with compassion, and she silently nodded at the curly haired detective who sat before her, touched that a virtual stranger would be worried about her.
“How ya feelin’” Starsky gently probed, seeing the dark, tired lines under her haunted, brown eyes. He glanced over at his partner who understood his silent concern.
“Better.” Mari lied, lifting the mug to take another sip of the sweetened coffee. “I have to leave soon . . . I don’t want him to find you . . . in your home.”
“What makes you think he’ll come here?” Hutch asked gently, noting the tired lines under the girl’s eyes, “I mean . . . you didn’t “see” anything did you?”
Dark images flashed in the young woman’s mind . . . the sharp knife glinting brightly, as it caught the light while making its downward arc, bright blue eyes filled with horror and pain...
The young Asian woman lifted the mug once again to her lips and swallowed down her fear. She turned to look at the fair-haired man, “No, but if he is looking for me, I don’t want him to find me here,” she said softly, turning to look at the brunet.
“This creep . . . how do you know he’s the Interstate Killer?” Starsky asked.
“How could I not know?” Mari said sadly, “I see what he does before it comes out in the papers. No one can identify who he is and the nickname the newspapers have given him has stuck. The FBI and the police have consistently failed to apprehend him, always one step behind him as he travels from state to state, and that fact alone fills this killer with glee, as he continues to outsmart everyone. He loves knives. He has so many, although he only uses the same large one in every murder that he’s committed. That knife is cherished by him and he always uses it for his special victims,” Mari’s voice was but a whisper, her eyes focusing inward, as she clearly visualized the serrated edge of the butcher knife, dripping with blood, “It is stained with the blood of his prey . . . a memento that he treasures. He means to use it on you. ” Mari said, her voice trembling as she turned her dark gaze to stare into the turbulent ocean blue depths of the dark haired detective, “For some reason, he means to kill you . . . and me.”
The blond cop looked over to his partner and their eyes met briefly before the brunet turned away to look again at Mari, as the girl continued in her soft, frightened voice . . .
“One of girls he killed had hair the color of flames, and eyes as green as emeralds. When he abducted her, he raped her many times, and then stabbed her repeatedly until she was dead. He thinks about her a lot . . . and he’s growing more and more confident, as each of his crimes go undetected and unpunished.” Her hands shook slightly, and she carefully put the mug she held back down on the tabletop.
“Where was this woman, this red-head at the time of death?” Starsky asked, glancing down at the Mari’s hands, as she clasped them tightly together. He remembered how cold they felt as she dug her slim fingers into his at Huggy’s the other night. He glanced up at his blond counterpart, reading compassion in the pale blue eyes of his friend, as the blond stared at the young woman who sat beside him.
“Oregon . . . they haven’t found her body yet . . . they will though in a few days. He buried her in a shallow grave, but the elements and animals have already had their way with her remains.”
“Mari,” Hutch said gently, as she turned to look at him, “Do you know where she’s buried?”
“No . . .” the small woman’s voice quavered, “I just saw the hole that he dug and she was lying in it. Her eyes were open . . . staring up at the sky . . . there was a full moon on the night he buried her . . . I-I could see it’s reflection in her green vacant gaze, before the first shovel of dirt fell on her face.” Mari shuddered at the memory that flashed before her eyes. “It was probably in the mountains somewhere . . . I could almost smell the pine trees and the damp smell of the forest.”
For a minute, it was quiet in Starsky’s apartment, as the detectives silently digested what the young woman had just shared. Hutch was the first to speak, making sure his voice was soft when he asked her another question, “D-did you ever see this bastard’s face in any of your visions Mari?” the blond stammered, the vivid image of the young redhead lying dead in the shallow grave disturbed the sensitive blond.
Mari shook her head sadly, her long, dark hair swaying with that slight movement, “I am sorry,” she said, her dark almond shaped eyes rose hesitantly to meet the pale blue ones of the blond, “You see, I can only see what he sees . . . I can see all of the horrible things he’s done to these women, but from his perspective alone . . . I . . . I know this sounds strange, but it’s like I am looking out with his eyes. I can sometimes feel what he is thinking, but I have never been able to see the evil one’s face. I can only see his hands . . . and they are very large hands. S-sometimes . . . sometimes I used to get the feeling that he knew I could see him, that I was watching him, watching what he did, and now I know for sure that he knows about me. He is very careful about not looking into mirrors or into anything that might reflect his image. He doesn’t want me to see what he looks like.”
“You mean he knows you can see him?” Starsky asked, his eyes shifting to meet the gaze of his quiet partner.
“Yes,” Mari said softly, “I am sure of it now . . . we are connected somehow and he has been able to follow the psychic link or vibrations back to me. It is a game to him. He is powerful, clever and elusive and he knows I fear him greatly.”
“Well you’re safe now,” Starsky said reassuringly, “We’re here and we’ll protect you . . . I promise.”
Mari smiled hesitantly, wanting so much to believe the confident promise of the ruggedly handsome brunet, yet over the years, she had grown to understand and believe in the accuracy of her ‘episodes’ and this time, she knew without a doubt that Starsky’s promise, though sincere and heartfelt, were merely words. Fate had a way of dictating events that were meant to occur and Mari knew that this nightmare was far from being over.
“Thank you. I know you and Hutch will do everything within your power to help me,” Mari whispered, lowering her eyes to the cup before lifting it to take another sip of coffee. She looked up then and asked quietly, “Would you mind if I used your restroom?”
“Sure,” Starsky said, getting to his feet, “It’s right through there,” he said indicating the bathroom door that was shut at the moment.
“Thanks,” Mari said shyly, rising from the edge of the couch, “I guess the coffee is going right through me.” Hutch got to his feet too, taking the mug from the small woman as she passed in front of him. Both men listened to the soft “click” of the bathroom door being locked behind her.
“Geez,” Starsky said, shuddering, “The stuff that poor kid has to see . . . the way she described the killer burying that girl in the moonlight. . .”
“Yeah,” Hutch said softly, returning the coffee mug to the table. The tall detective ran his fingers tiredly through his fine, blond hair, then stretched his back, “I’ll run a check on that as soon as we get into the station tonight . . . and I’ll get in touch with the Oregon State Police Department tomorrow sometime, to check out her story . . . what?” Hutch asked as he saw his partner’s expression change. “Starsk, I know what you’re gonna ask me . . .”
“I don’t think we should bring her in tonight Hutch,” Starsky interjected, “It’s late and Dobey’s long gone by now . . . why don’t we wait . . . let her get some rest. Tomorrow will be soon enough . . .”
“Starsk . . . if she’s right and this is the Interstate Killer, the Feds will have to be notified as soon as possible. If we let her leave, we might never get the chance of bringing her down for questioning . . . she’s a pro at disappearing remember?” Hutch reminded softly.
“Yeah . . . I know,” Starsky said, “But what are we gonna do . . . lock her up until tomorrow morning? I was thinkin’ she could just stay here . . . she’s exhausted . . . you saw the dark circles under her eyes . . . I could keep an eye on her . . .”
“Starsky,” Hutch said, “If what she says is true, then there’s a killer after the both of you. . . you’d be sitting ducks in here! It would be safer for her if we took her down to the station.”
Starsky sighed, knowing his friend’s reasoning was right, but hearing all that Mari had been through brought out compassion in the brunet. There was something about that girl, and her fragile vulnerability that got to him.
The dark haired detective walked over to the window to peer out at the darkened streets below; he turned to his partner, “Look Hutch, she’s been through a lot . . . I mean, we don’t even know half of her story yet . . . and a part of me doesn’t want to even hear it . . . she’s been through hell and back . . . you saw her when I mentioned the word ‘home’, it’s obvious this is the first one she’s been in for a very long time . . . she’s probably been runnin’ so long, she’s forgotten what it’s like to even have a home.”
“Starsk, listen to me buddy,” Hutch said gently, his sky blue eyes softening with affection for his kind-hearted partner, “ I know you’re hurting for her, I am too, but we’re cops first, there’s a procedure we follow . . . we had an APB out on her . . . Dobey is expecting us to bring her in . . .we’ll get her statement, put her into protective custody if we need to . . .” Hutch stopped in mid-sentence, when Starsky raised his hand to silence him.
“Now what?” Hutch whispered.
“Didjya hear it?” Starsky asked, his ear cocked towards the bathroom, obviously listening intently to something.
“Hear what?” Hutch asked.
“The toilet flushing? She’s been in there an awful long time.” Starsky said, walking over to the bathroom. He leaned his ear against the wooden door.
“Oh god Starsk . . . don’t do that,” Hutch said, closing his eyes disgustedly, “She could be doing something . . . private . . .in there. I don’t think she’d appreciate you listening through the door!” the blond whispered.
“I don’ hear nuthin’” Starsky murmured, pressing his ear firmly against the door.
“What?” Hutch asked, his voice still low in a whisper.
“I said I don’ hear nuthin’” Starsky said in a louder voice. He rapped his knuckles against the door, “Mari? Hey . . .you okay in there?” The brunet turned to look at his partner, then knocked once more, “Hey . . . if you don’t answer me, I’m comin’ in . . .”
Starsky looked once again to his blond counterpart who nodded. Grabbing the doorknob, the brunet slammed his shoulder several times against the door until it gave way. The small, tidy bathroom was blatantly empty and still, except for the curtain blowing eerily from the wind coming through the opened window . . .
. . . CHAPTER 6 . . .
She walked along the sidewalk, keeping to the shadows, hearing her heartbeat accelerating as she quickened her steps. He was here . . . somewhere in the neighborhood, searching for her . . . she was sure of it. Somehow he had found her again and she would not be the one to lead him to David’s home. Once again, an image of the dark haired detective’s beautiful blue eyes etched in pain and widened with horror, flitted across her mind’s eye. She clutched her sweater tighter against her small frame, as the wind continued to pick up and blow through her thin clothes. After the warmth of being in a home, the night air seemed extra cold and bitter.
She had forgotten how wonderful it was to sit on a couch in a brightly lit house, surrounded by people who actually listened and spoke with her. Little things like drinking coffee with cream from a mug, instead of a Styrofoam cup was a privilege and a blessing that she had forgotten. So many things about his place reminded her of home . . . the blanket on the back of the couch, the curtains at the window, the aromatic smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen . . . even his bathroom resembled her home . . .
She quickly ducked behind a hedge as the lights of several cars drove past. She crouched down low, peeking out through the leaves until the last car went by. Mari breathed a sigh of relief, closing her eyes wearily, as her she remembered the ‘episode’ she just had in the detective’s bathroom . . . the vision that prompted her to hastily leave . . .
She held the soft bath towels against her face, as she stood in the bathroom, smelling the fabric softener that the detective obviously put into his wash. It smelled clean and fresh, reminding her of her own home. Memories of times long past, flitted through her mind’s eye …
She remembered how her mother used to put fabric softener into their laundry too . . . that was her despised chore at home . . . to fold the clothes and towels for the family. God, what she would give to have that simple, mindless job again . . . what she would give to have her parents and older sister alive and well again.
The day that her life was forever changed, she had been folding the towels. She was just seventeen at the time . . . a teenager who thought she knew all about life. Yet, nothing in her young world would have ever prepared her for the horror of what followed.
She remembered humming to herself in the laundry room, taking the time to make the creases in the right places as her mother had taught her, when she sensed something wrong. Her hands stopped over the white collared shirt she had been working on and she tilted her head to listen, hearing her mother gasp loudly, a soft thud hitting the floor, followed immediately by another muffled thud, as her sister began to sob loudly.
Frightened, Mari crept down the hallway to peek into the living room, holding in her cry of horror as she spied her mother and father dead on the floor . . . neat little bullet holes in their foreheads. Her eyes widened as she heard a muffled scream, seeing the large man on top of her sister, his pants dropped around his ankles, his hips moving erratically as he thrust savagely into her. Mari saw him lift the butcher knife in the air; the downward thrust of the blade buried the knife hilt-deep into her sister’s breast. Mari crept back into the laundry room and silently crawled into the hamper, throwing towels over herself to hide.
She didn’t know how long she stayed in there with the dirty laundry, buried under towels and linens, silent tears running down her cheeks. Her mind had left her for a while due to the shock, but she dazedly remembered strong arms lifting her out, a warm blanket being placed over her shoulders, feeling disoriented and woozy as they guided her out of the bloody living room. She vaguely remembered the soft, whispered words and pitiful stares of neighbors and policemen as they led her to the awaiting ambulance.
“Poor thing . . . looks like she’s in shock.”
“That bastard used a silencer on the gun . . . overheard the cop say that . . .”
“Naomi was stabbed with a butcher knife . . . I wonder why the killer didn’t just shoot her like he did her parents . . .”
“Wasn’t Naomi going to the community college? Poor thing . . . her life was just beginning.”
“Rape and murder right in our neighborhood . . . what is this world coming to?”
Mari’s safe and sheltered world had suddenly been turned upside down. She had been placed in a foster home soon after that, another tragic ward of the state, when the ‘episodes’ started. Visions of people she didn’t even know began to creep into her dreams . . . visions of seeing things and knowing what would occur before it happened.
When she became of age, she left her foster home, enrolling in some night classes as she worked during the day. She later did some research at the library on extra sensory perception and found out that sometimes, latent abilities came to the forefront after a tragic or horrific experience. Pondering this new gleaning of information, Mari carried on with her life, working at a local eatery, renting a comfortable apartment as she put herself through school and tried to piece her life back together again.
On her twenty-fifth birthday, the ‘episodes’ became more intense and Mari began to ‘tune-in’ to someone, seeing things from that person’s eyes. At first it was hazy and unclear . . . visualizing hands setting kittens on fire . . . seeing the blade of a knife carving into the flank of a dog . . . the visions were getting progressively more and more clear, as the deeds of this individual became darker, vicious and intensely cruel.
She knew he was a male by his large hands. When he killed his first woman, Mari went to the police who remembered the poor Asian girl and the tragic murder of her family. They patronized her and dismissed her frantic pleas as stressed induced fears. She knew they shook their heads at her when they ushered her out of the station, the whole small community in which she lived, thought she was a nutcase with her many attempts to warn others of the things that were shown to her through her ‘episodes’.
She knew many people feared her and they tended to stay far away from her, thinking she was mentally unstable. It was because of this, that she was eventually fired from her job. She was after all, ‘bad for business’ as her boss had told her before he let her go.
Isolated and alone, Mari grew more withdrawn and shied away from others, from their whispered stares and accusing pointing fingers. And after all of trouble she went through to inform the police, they had never found the murdered woman’s body, just as they had never caught the man who had murdered her whole family.
It was shortly after that, when Mari realized the killer could sense her watching him. Somehow this person had ‘abilities’ too, and he seemed to follow the psychic link or connection back to her. Her life as a fugitive began the night she felt her senses screaming out to her to run. He had found her, in her little sleepy town of skeptics and non-believers, and she had been running ever since, narrowly escaping with her life.
Mari sighed pressing the soft fabric into her face, feeling her eyes begin to burn with the unshed tears that she held within for so long. “Knock it off Mari,” she fiercely whispered to herself, “No time for crying!”
The woman in her, longed to be held and comforted by someone; a ruggedly handsome face, framed with dark curls and ocean-blue eyes twinkling over a lopsided grin flashed in her mind, but she quickly shoved that image away. There had been many nights on the run, when she had wondered if she would ever have the opportunity to just live a normal life with a husband, maybe some kids, in a nice little house on a quiet little cul-de-sac somewhere . . . anywhere, but life on the streets soon convinced her like nothing else did, that fairytales did not exist . . . the only thing that did exist in her world, were knife-wielding monsters who never gave up the chase.
The small woman sighed, leaving the towel rack to walk to the basin. Mari washed her face with the warm water running from the tap, wiping it with the soft cloth that she took with her. Throwing the towel over her shoulder, she lifted her eyes to the mirror above the sink and stared at herself. So pale . . . her eyes looked almost sunken in, making her cheekbones look even higher than they were. She self-consciously tucked long, dark strands of her hair behind her ears and sighed again. Those detectives must think she looked like a pathetic wraith.
Suddenly the room grew cold, hazy images filled her mind of a street lined with houses. A quiet street, a neighborhood, large hands tightly gripping a steering wheel as the car’s engine hummed quietly. She could tell he was searching . . . searching for her . . . he was so near . . . she could feel it. Her sense of self-preservation kicked in, forcing her to move. Mari shut off the tap water, looking towards the shut door as she heard the soft murmurings of the detectives deep in conversation.
She bit her lip, waffling in indecision, but she determinedly turned her back to the door … damn if she would lead him here into another home. Spying the window, Mari quietly opened it up, feeling the cold draft that immediately entered the room. Before she could change her mind, she quickly crawled through window into the quiet chilly night.
Mari quickly stood, her legs felt stiff from crouching behind the hedge for so long. She perused the dark street, making sure she was alone. Her senses were screaming by this time, as she quickly made her way down to the small grocery store she saw a couple of blocks away from David’s house. If her guess were right, there would be a phone there for her to use.
“Dammit, she’s gone Hutch . . . she took off through the window!” Starsky said, “Better call it in . . . Dobey’ll have our hides if we lose her again . . . Shit!”
After glancing at the open window in the bathroom, Hutch quickly picked up the phone, calling in for back-up. The blond had just placed the receiver down when it immediately rang again.
“H’lo?” Hutch said brusquely.
“David? This is Mari . . .” a small, quiet voice whispered on the other end.
“Mari? It’s Hutch . . .” the blond gentled his voice, “Where are you?”
“Hutch . . . I’m sorry I ran. I’m at the corner store . . . I had another ‘episode’ in the bathroom. I saw him Hutch, he’s somewhere near . . . I didn’t want him to hurt David . . . oh god, I might have led the killer to him . . . it’s all my fault” she sobbed.
“Listen Mari . . . calm down,” Hutch said, as he quickly looked around the empty apartment for his hotheaded partner, “Look . . .y-you stay in that store okay? I think Starsk might be outside looking for you . . . you stay there and we’ll come and get you alright?” Hutch quickly hung up the phone, his heart falling when he spied Starsky’s gun and holster still hanging from the closet door.