Starsky lowered himself alongside the dilapidated building, determined to get a better look at a partially collapsed set of bleechers. Although the forensics crew had scoured the same area hours earlier, he'd backtracked in the hope of finding something they'd overlooked. After searching for several minutes, Starsky sighed, shook the loose dirt from his hands, and reluctantly stood up. There was nothing new to see here.
The latest crime scene had grown to include an old school building with an attached gymnasium, a portion of which had mysteriously burned down during the night. Once the blaze was under control, a team from Metro spent hours reconstructing what happened before the fire was reported. Once a body was discovered in a locked utility room, Captain Dobey sent Starsky and Hutch to manage the homicide portion of the investigation.
"Anything?" Hutch asked, rounding the corner of the building.
"No, nothin'," Starsky answered, wrinkling his nose in disgust. The late morning sun had caused rivulets of sweat to saturate the underarms of his last clean shirt. Despite his disapproval of his own damp clothing, a quick glance at Hutch prompted Starsky to ask questions.
"Detective Hutchinson, is that supposed to be some sort of catchy new fashion trend?"
Hutch shot his partner a look of mild annoyance. "It is when it's this hot outside. Seriously, Starsk. I thought I was gonna pass out in that back room." Since Starsky had last seen his partner, Hutch had stripped off his shirt and was wearing it draped over one shoulder. "I had to," Hutch added. "I don't know how the firemen do it."
Starsky had to agree. How the firemen could do their jobs in such high temperatures was nothing short of admirable. "Alright, are we done here?" Starsky asked, wiping his forehead with the tail of his shirt.
"Yeah, I say we're done. I told them to go ahead and move the body to the morgue. The preliminary autopsy report won't be available for another twenty-four hours or so."
"Alright, let's wrap it up then. I have a couple of ideas, but I told Dobey we'd be back before noon. I can explain what I'm thinkin' while we drive. And Hutch," Starsky added, smirking at his partner. "While folks out here might appreciate your fine physique, I can guarantee you our boss won't see it that way. I highly suggest you get dressed before we walk back into Metro."
The squad room was nearly empty when Starsky and Hutch returned from the murder scene. That alone wasn't terribly surprising as getting out of the building during the height of the summer heat was always preferable to working in a hot, stuffy building. Several electric fans were strategically positioned around the room in a vain attempt to keep the indoor air constantly circulating.
As they entered, Hutch noticed the door to Dobey's office was standing ajar. While that wasn't entirely unusual either, it did suggest that he might be waiting for someone.
"In here you two!" Dobey shouted.
"How does he know it's us?" Starsky whispered. "He can't see around the corner." Starsky was often amazed by Captain Dobey's acute sense of perception, so much so that he often found it downright creepy.
"Oh, nothing but pure intellect I guess," Hutch whispered back. "And maybe that third eye in the back of his head."
Starsky was struggling to suppress a giggling fit as he dutifully followed Hutch into Dobey's office. As a general rule, it was a poor idea to walk into the big man's office chuckling about anything - a concept that was no help to Starsky at this point. Hutch had done a fine job of setting him up for this one.
"What's so funny?" Dobey growled, glaring at Starsky suspiciously.
"Oh, nothing but my partner," Starsky replied, opting for at least partial honesty. "I'm sorry, Cap'n. It was something Hutch said just before we walked in."
Glancing at Hutch, Dobey could see that whatever was making Starsky so giddy was unimportant to his partner. "Have a seat," Dobey said, pointing to the chairs positioned in front of his desk.
Relieved to avoid further interrogation, Starsky hurried toward the nearest chair while Hutch busied himself occupying the other one. To his credit, Hutch always knew when to push on his partner and when to retreat. Hovering too close to Starsky might destroy what was left of the other man's composure.
"You wanted to see us?" Hutch asked.
"Yes, I wanna know what you learned about this morning's victim. After that, we can determine if there are any similarities between this case and some others I've recently learned about."
Hutch pulled a small writing tablet out of his pocket and began reading the notes he'd logged less than an hour earlier. "The victim is a caucasian male with blonde hair and blue eyes - estimated age, late thirties. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest, pending the autopsy report, of course. No identification, drug paraphernalia, or weapons were found on the body."
Hutch looked expectantly at Dobey. The frown his boss had worn since he and Starsky entered the room had deepened visibly after listening to Hutch's report.
"There have been two similar homicides in neighboring counties since the first of the year," Dobey announced. "By similar, I mean by way of the physical description of the bodies, not to mention they both died rather dramatically," he clarified. "From what you've just told me, the other victims bore a striking resemblance to the body that was discovered this morning."
Starsky straightened noticeably in his chair. "Are you worried we might have a serial killer on the loose?"
"It's crossed my mind," Dobey admitted, looking directly at Starsky. "Or at a minimum, a perpetrator who's on a killing spree of some sort. Both of the other victims worked in different occupations. It will be interesting to see what we learn about any parallels between this morning's victim and the previous cases."
"Were either of the others cops?" Starsky asked.
"No," Dobey answered, his tone suggesting he might have anticipated the question. "No, we would have heard about both of those situations a lot sooner if that was the case. Interestingly, I've learned that one of them had recently applied to the Academy. Acceptance had not been determined at the time of his death."
Hutch appeared to have taken a sudden interest in the flooring pattern.
"I want you to have a look at these files," Dobey continued, handing the brown manilla folders to Starsky. "I'm confident you'll make the same observations I have, but I want you to read them and get back to me. I have a meeting with the mayor in about an hour. I'll be available in my office sometime later this afternoon."
Starsky nodded as he accepted the files from Dobey. Until Hutch had read the description of the latest victim out loud, he hadn't realized how closely the personal details resembled his own partner. Yet again, Starsky reminded himself there were no known connections between Hutch and any of the victims - at least nothing they understood as of yet.
"I'll be interested in talking to you later today," Dobey said, closing a drawer as he prepared to leave. "I have an uneasy feeling about all three of these cases which is why I want the two of you to have a look at them."
"Understood, Captain," Starsky said.
As Dobey left the office, Starsky returned his attention to Hutch. When Hutch showed no sign of moving, Starsky took the initiative. "Come on, partner. Let's go find a corner of the cafeteria with functional air conditioning and have a look at these files." When Hutch still didn't react outwardly, Starsky tried again. "Hutch! Did you hear me?"
Insistence was finally enough to penetrate the other man's concentration. "Yeah, Starsk. Sorry, I heard you."
When Hutch didn't stand up quickly enough, Starsky grabbed him by the arm and hauled him to his feet. "You first," he added, pushing Hutch toward the door. "And don't you dare go all blonde and intellectual on me between here and the basement. The boss says we have work to do."