Milton Crosby gazed at the creased photograph, his vision blurred by tears. He gently rubbed the little girl's face with his thumb as he drew in shuddering breaths, trying to calm himself down.
He allowed the anger to take him over, welcoming the thoughts of vengeance that filled his whole being.
It was like this every year on the anniversaries; her birthday, Christmas...her death. But this year was different. This year he was in a position to do something about it.
He had recently been released from Cabrillo State Mental Hospital after 18 months and was quietly settling back into the community. A job had been procured for him in a print shop with a small apartment above. Things should have been looking good but the past festered, turning his thoughts dark.
The photograph showed a tall black man staring at the camera with spaced-out eyes. He held a small girl in one arm who happily displayed a gap-toothed smile. The man's other arm was slung around the shoulders of a lanky pre-teen.
Milton stared at his 12 year old self, feeling bitterness at the hand life had dealt him. Not long after the photo had been taken, his father had been killed by two cops...'resisting arrest' they said.
Everything had gone wrong after that. Milton had always been a 'difficult boy' but after his father's death he had run wild. As their mother had abandoned them not long after his little sister, Emily's, third birthday, the children were now alone in the world. They had been separated and put in different foster homes. Emily had settled well with her foster family and the authorities were trying to find adoptive parents for her but then tragedy had struck. A carelessly discarded cigarette had sparked a fire that engulfed the house and all the occupants, leaving Milton totally alone.
He ran away countless times and eventually found himself running drugs for the same man his father had worked for. His school attendance had always been sporadic but it swiftly became non-existent.
He had always had a fascination with fire and had been setting small fires in trash cans from an early age. This had escalated after Emily's death as he began to desire bigger and bigger fires to satisfy his craving.
At nineteen years of age he found himself in prison after being caught at the scene of a fire he had set in a disused building. This set the tone for the next three years with spells in and out of prison for various drug or fire-setting offences and eventually he was committed to Cabrillo State in the hope that a remedy would be found for his obsession.
Milton quickly learned to play the system and after a year and a half he was pronounced 'cured' and released back into the community he had terrorised.
His obsession had shifted focus now. Although he still flirted with fire-setting, he was now intent upon getting revenge for the death of his little sister. Unable, or unwilling, to accept it for the tragic accident it was, he began to search for the cops who had taken away his father and removed the only stability in his life. In Milton's mind they were responsible for Emily's death and he was determined to make them pay.
Milton settled into his new life, hiding his fixation behind the friendly mask he displayed to the print-shop customers and his neighbours. But secretly he was making enquiries about the cops who had destroyed his life. He looked forward to watching their homes burn, their families die like Emily.
However he learned that one of the cops was already dead, killed on the orders of a mobster, hung on a meat-hook so he heard. Thwarted of his revenge he redoubled his efforts to track down the man's partner.
He discovered that he was now a married man with two children of his own, a boy and a girl who was about the age Emily had been when she died. In fact she looked a little like the Emily he remembered and that planted a seed in Milton's mind. He would take the cop's daughter to be his new Emily. Then he would know how Milton had felt all those years ago, robbed of a precious little girl.
He smiled at the photo. "Soon," he whispered. "Soon we'll be together again, Emily."
And so he began to formulate a plan. He took to driving past the cop's house at various times of night and day. He followed the family to church and back every Sunday. He followed the children and their mother on a variety of shopping trips. He even followed the school bus.
He printed hundreds of leaflets and began to drop them at all the houses in the street...'An eye for an eye' they said in bold print. Most of them ended up in the trash but Milton didn't mind. His message was being delivered and that was all that mattered to him.
Detective Sergeant David Starsky nudged the door open with his hip and carefully reversed into the squad room, both hands full of take-out cartons and two cups of coffee. He hummed a Christmas carol under his breath as he deftly wove around desks, chairs, fellow officers and villains to the desk he shared with his partner, Ken 'Hutch' Hutchinson.
Hutch was sitting at his side of the desk, apparently engrossed in the report he was typing.
Starsky knew better. He knew this was pay back for laughing at Hutch earlier that morning.
"Hey, Hutch. You wanna grab your coffee?"
Hutch never even looked up. "Just put it down please, Starsk," he said quietly, continuing to laboriously two-finger type.
Starsky grimaced. He didn't like being at odds with Hutch but was it his fault he could see the funny side and Hutch couldn't? "I'm sure I wouldn't be sulking if it was me," he thought.
They had been chasing a suspected car thief for about ten blocks when he suddenly stomped on his brakes and took off on foot across the park. Hutch was out of the car in pursuit in the blink of an eye while Starsky drove to the other side of the park to cut him off. Having been alerted by the call for back up, a patrol car approached from the opposite direction, pulling up at the same time time as Starsky, the two cars nose to nose.
The uniformed officers and Starsky piled out of their respective vehicles and began to race across the grass towards two struggling figures. As they drew nearer, the bulkier of the two broke free, handcuffs dangling from one wrist, and violently shoved the other. He turned to resume his flight but ran straight into Starsky and the two patrolmen. Starsky barely broke step as he ensured the uniformed officers had the felon under control and sped on to check on his partner.
Hutch meanwhile had stumbled over a tree stump, arms windmilling as he attempted to stay on his feet. His efforts were in vain however as he landed on his butt in the shallow water of the children's paddling pool.
Starsky slithered to a stop and bent over with his hands on his knees. He could not control the laughter which overtook him, leaving him breathless and with tears streaming down his face.
Hutch flushed with embarrassment which made Starsky giggle all the more. He knew he had overdone it when Hutch ignored his outstretched hand in favour of struggling out of the pool by himself. Starsky supposed he should be grateful Hutch hadn't taken his hand and pulled him in there as well.
Hutch sloshed ahead of him to the Torino with as much dignity as he could manage. He shot him a glare when Starsky insisted on putting a blanket on the seat before he got in, and sat in icy silence all the way to headquarters where he headed to the locker room to dry off and change, still studiously ignoring his partner.
"I'll go get lunch hey, Hutch? Hutch?"
No answer was forthcoming, so Starsky went to one of their favourite haunts to buy a peace offering.
He heaved a sigh. He hated it when Hutch gave him the silent treatment. Somehow he managed to deposit their lunch on the desk without dropping or spilling anything. Checking the contents, he pushed one container towards Hutch and one of the coffee cups.
"C'mon, Hutch. Ya gotta admit it was funny." Starsky's lips twitched as he tried to stifle the grin that threatened to break out. He quickly schooled his features into what he hoped was a serious expression when Hutch looked up at last and stared at him from under his brows.
"Next time I drive, you run."
Starsky, eager to make peace with Hutch, would have agreed to almost anything. He allowed his control to relax and the grin spread across his face. "Sure, Hutch. Whatever you say."
He settled down happily to eat his lunch while Hutch sat back from the typewriter to investigate what his partner had bought for him, opening the container as though the contents might leap out and seize him by the throat. Starsky watched him out of the corner of his eye and swallowed down the annoyance he felt at Hutch's elaborate performance, realising that he needed this small victory of sorts to begin restoring the equilibrium in their relationship. Starsky knew he had probably pushed Hutch as far as he could for one day if he ever wanted his friend to talk to him again.
Hutch glanced at him across the desk. "Thanks, Starsk."
Starsky grinned cheerfully as his world righted itself again. He munched contentedly on his own lunch and chugged down his coffee before leaning back in his chair until it teetered on two legs, propping his feet on the desk and beginning to hum again. Hutch looked across, a small frown between his eyes.
"Uh oh," Starsky thought. He stopped abruptly and rushed into the silence. "You all set for our shopping trip tomorrow, Hutch?"
The frown deepened momentarily and Starsky thought he'd said the wrong thing again, but then Hutch's face cleared and he smiled. "Yeah. I guess it'll be fun."
"I can't wait," Starsky enthused. "I wonder what we should buy for Dobey?"
"I think maybe you should let Rosie decide."
Starsky's face fell but he soon brightened. "But we can give her some ideas..." His voice trailed away as he caught the expression on Hutch's face. Dropping his feet to the floor, righting the chair in the process, he turned slowly to see the captain standing in the doorway to his office.
"Good afternoon, Captain..." he began.
"Don't you 'good afternoon' me, Starsky!" Dobey barked. "Don't you have work to be getting on with?"
Starsky glanced towards the small stack of files on his side of the desk. "Yessir."
"Then I suggest you get on with it or you'll have to come in tomorrow to finish it."
Starsky gulped, having no wish to go into work on his day off, especially when he and Hutch had made plans. "I'll get right on it, sir."
"That goes for you too, Hutchinson." Dobey's door closed with a loud 'snick'.
Starsky looked at his now scowling partner and cursed inwardly. All his hard work to win round his friend undone in an instant.
"C'mon, buddy. Just a couple of hours and we'll be out of here."
Hutch raised his eyebrows giving Starsky a disbelieving look, then turned back to the report he'd been typing earlier.
Huffing a frustrated breath, Starsky pulled his files towards him and opened the top one.
Three and a half hours later, they countersigned the final reports, filed them away and left the building before Dobey could find anything else for them to do.
Starsky slung an arm around Hutch's shoulders as they walked towards the car. "C'mon, buddy. Let's go to Huggy's and relax."
For a moment he thought Hutch was going to refuse but then he gave him a small smile. "Okay, Starsk. But you're paying."
"Sure thing. Let's go."
The following morning dawned wet and cool but nothing could dampen Rosie Dobey's excitement. She could hardly eat any of her breakfast and was out of her seat as soon as she was allowed, to watch out for the arrival of her 'uncles'.
As soon as the car pulled up outside, she ran to the door. "They're here! They're here!"
Her mother, Edith, opened the door and Rosie flung herself into the taller man's waiting arms. She planted a kiss on his cheek. "Hi, Uncle Ken."
"Hi, munchkin. Are you ready to go?"
Rosie wriggled free. "I just need my coat and purse," she said. "C'mon, Uncle Dave." Grabbing his hand, she pulled the other man inside.
They giggled together as they wrestled Rosie's arms into the sleeves of her coat but she endeavoured to listen to the grown-up's conversation at the same time.
"Thank you for this, Hutch," her mother was saying.
"It's our pleasure, Edith. I think Starsky has been looking forward to this almost as much as Rosie!"
Her daddy lumbered through to join them. "I'm making you responsible, Hutchinson," he said in a gruff voice.
"Huh! Thanks, Cap," Rosie could hear the smile in Uncle Ken's voice. "I know I'm taking two kids Christmas shopping."
"And don't let him talk her into buying anything ridiculous."
"I'll try, sir, but you know what he's like."
"Unfortunately I do. Just try to keep him in line."
"I've got six dollars to spend," Rosie interrupted. She didn't want her daddy getting mad at her uncles or he might not let her go out with them. "Two dollars each for mommy and daddy and Cal."
"Wow! We can get something really good. And then you can help me choose something for Hutch," said Uncle Dave, smiling at her with those twinkly eyes she loved so much. "Let's go!"
On their way to the car Rosie looked in the mailbox and gave her daddy the letters.
"Here's another one of those papers, mommy." Rosie read it aloud carefully. "'A tooth for a tooth'. That's from the Bible too, isn't it?"
"That's right, sweetheart. I wonder why someone keeps posting them in our mailbox?"
Her mother took the paper and folded it in half and half again while Rosie climbed into the back seat of the car.
In a flurry of farewells Rosie and her uncles drove away, Rosie waving furiously until her parents were out of sight.
The journey went too quickly for Rosie as she and Uncle Dave sang Christmas carols all the way. Uncle Ken pulled a cross face but Rosie didn't believe he was really mad, his lips kept smiling although he looked like he was pretending not to and his eyes sparkled nearly as much as Uncle Dave's.
Rosie could barely contain her excitement as they trailed from shop to shop. It was so hard to choose but at last she had a flowery brooch set with blue and purple stones for her mommy, a book about basketball for Cal and a garish tie for her daddy that she and Uncle Dave loved. Uncle Ken said daddy wouldn't like it but Rosie loved all the bright colours so that was that.
They had stopped off for lunch earlier and now Rosie was waiting with Uncle Ken while Uncle Dave stood in line to pay for something. She hoped he wouldn't be long. Her tummy was telling her it was time to go home.
Rosie held onto Uncle Ken's hand as what felt like the entire population of Bay City swirled around them. Suddenly she felt his hand jerk and then slip out of hers. As she looked up to see what was wrong, another hand grabbed hers and pulled her away.
His eyes met hers and she saw pain in them. She thought he looked scared too. He began to run after her and the man who was dragging her away.
Rosie felt frozen with fear, her feet stumbling as the man took her further and further away from her uncles. She knew Uncle Ken was a fast runner but he seemed to be moving more and more slowly and he was getting left behind. She tried to shout out but could make no sound with a throat tight with terror.
She fell and the man picked her up roughly. The mass of people before them parted as the man pushed and shoved them aside. Rosie looked over his shoulder and watched as Uncle Ken fell and disappeared in the crowd. She couldn't see Uncle Dave at all.
Milton couldn't believe his good fortune. He had just finished delivering more leaflets down the cop's street and as he passed the cop's house on his way home, he saw 'Emily' getting into a car with two white men. A parking space opened up before him and he quickly swung into it. He watched the cop and his wife waving and then go back inside. He hurriedly posted his 'special' leaflet into their mailbox, the one he'd made especially for the cop, before setting off in pursuit of the red and white car containing his prey. It was easy to follow the car, the fancy paint job making it stand out from the other vehicles.
Milton was able to blend in with the crowd as he trailed 'Emily' and her companions around the bustling shops. He was even able to grab something to eat when they stopped for a burger.
At last the two men separated and Milton realised he finally had an opportunity to free his sister and take her home. He nervously fingered the knife in his pocket as he approached 'Emily' and the tall blond holding her hand.
He had never before set out to deliberately hurt someone but knew he had no choice in this instance. The man would not let him simply take 'Emily' away, so he would have to do it by force.
He carefully worked his way closer until he was able to hear the child's chattering and the replies of the man accompanying her.
Without giving himself time to back out, Milton pulled the knife he always carried from his pocket, unwound the towel he had wrapped around the blade and plunged it into the man's side. He heard him give a little 'Oof' and then pulled out the knife, feeling it slippery with the blond's blood.
Milton grabbed 'Emily''s hand and began to run, dragging her through the crowd towards the exit. The little girl stumbled and fell so he scooped her up into his arms and slowed his pace to a brisk walk, trying not to draw attention to himself.
Reaching his car he struggled to unlock the door with his blood-slicked fingers. He wiped his hand down his thigh, fighting to maintain his hold of the now struggling child. He gripped her more tightly as she began to cry loudly.
He bared his teeth in what he hoped looked like a smile as he noticed an elderly woman watching them.
"She wants everything in the shop," he said.
"Huh! Kids today!" the woman replied. "Don't know when they're well off." She hobbled away, laden with several large bags.
At last the door opened and he forced 'Emily' in ahead of him, pushing her past the steering wheel into the passenger's seat.
"Shut up!" he growled. "Shut up!"
Slamming the door, he started the engine and revved it loudly before lurching into the flow of traffic, unaware the woman was still watching them.
Starsky stood in line impatiently shifting from one foot to the other. Much as he loved Christmas, he had to admit that they'd done enough for one day. He was sure Rosie had enjoyed herself and even Hutch had entered into the spirit but now he was looking forward to taking Rosie home and sampling some of Edith Dobey's baking.
A shrill scream alerted his cop senses. He looked across to Hutch but couldn't see him.
"That's funny," he thought. "Where've they gone."
He could see a small crowd gathering and abandoned his place in the queue to go see what was happening. Pulling out his badge, he forced his way through the melee but was totally unprepared for the sight that met his eyes.
Hutch lay on the floor with a beautiful African woman beside him.
"It's all right, my darling," she was crooning. "Someone's going to call for an ambulance."
Starsky crashed to his knees beside her. "Hutch! Hutch!" He scanned the crowd quickly then turned back to his partner.
"Hutch! Where's Rosie?"
Then he noticed the blood staining Hutch's shirt and pants. He realised the woman was attempting to apply pressure to a wound in Hutch's side.
"Oh my God, Hutch! What happened?"
Hutch struggled to sit up but more blood oozed out between the woman's fingers.
"Did you see what happened? He had a little girl with him...a little black girl, about so high." He estimated Rosie's height with his hand.
The woman shook her head. "Sorry. I saw a man pulling a child through the crowd and your friend seemed to be chasing him. Then he collapsed here."
Starsky didn't think his heart could beat any faster but it clicked up another gear. He needed to get his 'cop head' on quickly. Looking around at the crowd he said "Has anyone called an ambulance and the cops?"
"Yes, sir," a frightened voice answered. Starsky looked up at the speaker, a young man in the store's uniform who looked like he should still be in school. Starsky gave a curt nod of thanks then turned back to the good samaritan who was helping Hutch.
"Are you okay?"
She gave a small smile and a nod but Starsky could see it was an effort and he noted the tear that slid down her cheek. "Want me to take over?"
"No, I'm fine. You do what you have to do." She nodded towards the badge in his hand.
Starsky spared a few seconds to visually check his partner. Hutch's eyes were dulled by pain and Starsky judged that he was only semi-conscious but Starsky knew he had to do his job and find Rosie.
He rested a hand on the woman's shoulder, whispering "Thank you." Then he stood to scan the crowd but there was no sign of Rosie or the man Hutch had allegedly been pursuing.
It was with relief that he saw an ambulance crew and two uniformed officers heading their way, ushered by a dumpy little man in an ill-fitting suit. Starsky flashed his badge at them and addressed the paramedics.
"That's my partner and this lady's been helping him. She can tell you better than I can what happened."
Much as it hurt him, he knew his priority was Rosie's whereabouts and Hutch was in good hands. He turned to the patrolmen.
"What happened, Sergeant?" the older of the two asked.
"I'm not sure, Mike. It's our day off and we'd brought Captain Dobey's daughter Christmas shopping." He scanned the store once more before his eyes settled again on Hutch and the activity around him. "I don't know where she is."
He could feel panic beginning to build within him and pushed it firmly down.
"Call this in, will ya. We need to get a team down here immediately."
Showing his badge once more, he approached the suited man who was hovering near where Hutch lay.
"Sir? I'm Detective Sergeant Starsky. Are you the manager?"
The man dragged his eyes away from the paramedics and glanced at Starsky.
"Yes, I'm the floor manager," he said as his eyes slid back to the activity on the floor.
"We need to close the store now."
"I can't do that. The store is full of customers."
"And a lot of those customers are potential witnesses to a crime. A child is missing and I believe she's been abducted. And also a police officer has been assaulted." Starsky's eyes turned glacial as he glared at the smaller man. "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you to close the store."
The manager stepped back from the angry cop. "But..."
"Fine. I'll do it myself."
Starsky marched to the nearest counter and picked up the phone there. "What number for security?" he barked at the hapless girl behind the till.
While he waited for someone to pick up, he watched the paramedics worriedly. Their movements were confident and unhurried but he was concerned about the amount of blood his partner had lost. He looked pale and shocky and now lay prone on the floor.
"Security," said a voice in his ear.
"My name is Detective Sergeant Starsky, Bay City PD. There is an incident on the second floor and I need you to close the store now. Seal all exits and wait for police back-up to arrive."
"Yes, sir," came the prompt reply.
As Starsky hung up, the speakers which had been piping Christmas music into the store, blared out. "All security personnel, code red. Repeat code red. This is not a drill. Report to your designated station immediately. All security personnel, code red."
Starsky was impressed by the swift response to his alert but feared it would be too little too late. Precious time had been lost between Rosie's disappearance and the store being sealed.
The patrolman, Mike, reappeared at Starsky's side. "Very slick security operation here, sarge. I recognised a couple of ex-cops on the doors. Reinforcements are on the way and someone's going to see the Dobeys. How's Hutch?"
"He's lost a lotta blood." Starsky's eyes were once again drawn to his partner. Hutch was now half reclined in a wheelchair, beads of sweat on his face, lines of pain etched around his mouth and eyes. Starsky tore his gaze away, knowing that he was the senior officer at the scene and needed to get the investigation under way.
Turning to the floor manager, he asked to use the man's office to begin interviewing witnesses. Mike, his partner and two recently arrived officers helped Starsky to corral the shoppers in one area as Hutch was wheeled away towards the elevator. Starsky's eyes followed his partner even as he herded shoppers together.
As the elevator doors opened he was relieved to see Lieutenant Oliver Thomas arrive on scene. He was about Starsky's height but carried more weight and was ten years or so older. His brown hair was cut short and neat and he sported a trim moustache. Although his black suit was a little rumpled, his shoes shone and his tie was knotted with precision.
Of all the officers who could have been assigned to the case, Starsky was glad it was Ollie Thomas. He knew both he and Hutch could work with and for the man.
"Afternoon, Starsky. Want to fill me in?" Starsky gathered his thoughts then told Lt Thomas what he knew and what had been done so far.
The lieutenant nodded as he listened. "Okay, Starsky. I've got officers en route to take statements and an APB is out on Rosie Dobey. Go check on your partner and I'll see you back at headquarters in..." a glance at his left wrist "...three hours."
Before leaving, Starsky went over to the woman who had helped Hutch. She sat slightly apart from the others, her head bowed, her bloodied hands clasped in front of her. Starsky could see her trembling. He crouched beside her.
"I just want to say thank you," he said gently.
She raised her head to look at him with teary eyes. "You're welcome," she whispered.
"Are you okay?" he asked, concerned that she was obviously upset and yet no one was looking after her. She nodded and offered a tremulous smile.
"I'm fine. I've learned a bit of first aid but never really expected to need to use it. Is your friend going to be all right?"
"I'm off to the hospital now but I'm sure he'll be fine. Thanks to you." He watched her cheeks colour prettily. "Lt Thomas is taking over here. He'll want a statement from you...uh...sorry, I don't know your name?"
"Angelica. Angelica Bradley. My friends call me Angel."
"Well you were certainly our angel today, Angelica." He pulled a business card from his pocket and scribbled on the back. "This is me, Dave Starsky, and my partner is Ken Hutchinson. You can reach either of us on that number if you need us."
Standing up he attracted the Lieutenant's attention. "Sir, this is Angelica Bradley, the lady who helped Hutch. Would you look after her please while I go to the hospital?"
With an encouraging smile, Starsky walked briskly from the store to his car, eager to get to the hospital to check on Hutch for himself.
Rosie Dobey didn't know what to do. Or rather she knew what to do but wasn't sure how. Her mommy and daddy had told her never to go with strangers. But now a stranger had hurt Uncle Ken and taken her away. She knew she had to get away but he kept watching her.
He had shoved her into his car and driven across town. When he stopped at a red light she tried to get out and run away, but the door was locked and before she could open it, the light turned green.
Now she was alone with the stranger in a dingy little room above a shop. She sat in a chair, knees drawn tight to her chest as she watched the man with wide brown eyes.
"You want something to eat, Emily?" he asked. "I got your favourite."
"I'm not Emily," she said in a wobbly voice. "I'm Rosie. And I want my mommy."
"Emily is your real name. Don't you remember?"
Rosie's eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled. "I'm not Emily."
"Yes, you are. I'm Milton Crosby and you're my little sister, Emily."
"I'm not!" Rosie began to wail. "I'm Rosie Dobey and I want my mommy!"
Milton crossed the room in four big strides. Rosie thought he was going to hit her, his face was so angry. She took a huge breath to try to stop herself crying and watched him fearfully.
Milton shuddered to a halt, breathing heavily. "I'm sorry, Emily," he whispered. "Don't be scared. I got your favourite chips and soda."
Rosie uncurled a little so she could see. The man smiled at her and pointed to the table. "See?"
Rosie nodded shyly. "Mommy doesn't let me have those 'less I've been 'specially good."
"Well we won't tell her then. It'll be our little secret."
Rosie uncurled a little more. "Have you got cookies?"
"No, I ain't got cookies! You think I'm made of money?"
Rosie shrank back at the anger in his voice. "Sorry," she squeaked, tears starting to well up again. "I'm sorry."
Milton grunted and grasped Rosie's arm. She began to struggle but he scooped her up and dumped her on the chair at the table.
Her breath whooshed out of her at the rough treatment. She rubbed her arm and tears rolled silently down her face as she watched him pacing the room. This man was really scary and she hoped Uncle Ken and Uncle Dave would come and rescue her soon. Then she remembered seeing her Uncle Ken falling down hurt and she cried all the more.
"For God's sake, stop that noise! STOP IT! NOW!"
Milton thrust his face into Rosie's and she felt his spit on her cheek. He spun away and resumed his pacing. After three or four circuits Milton threw himself into a chair.
Rosie watched him apprehensively but gradually relaxed as it became clear the man was settled for now. She reached for the can of soda. The tab was really hard but she didn't dare ask the man to help her. So she put it back and picked up the potato chips instead. They didn't taste very nice but she was hungry so she ate them quickly.
Having finished, she didn't dare move. She sat as still and as quiet as she had ever sat before and warily watched the man.
He became aware of her scrutiny. "Finished?" he asked in a quieter voice. Rosie nodded jerkily. "Wanna watch TV?"
"Do. You. Want. To. Watch. TV?"
"Yes please," she whispered sliding down from the table and moving to the chair she had occupied before.
"We're gonna have so much fun, Emily. It'll be just like it used to be."
Unsure how to respond and not wanting to anger him again, Rosie said nothing.
Milton flicked through the channels until he found a cartoon.
"Right, Emily. I gotta go to work for a bit. I'm just downstairs so if you want me, bang on the floor and I'll be right up. Won't be long."
Giving her a rough hug he left the room, carefully locking the door behind him. Rosie let out a quivery breath.
When it became clear that he had really left, she clambered to her feet and tiptoed around the small apartment hoping to find a way out. However the windows were small and grimy and Rosie knew she couldn't get out that way or attract anyone's attention.
She found and used the bathroom and peeped into the dark bedroom. Then she slumped back into the chair in front of the television, tears once again sliding down her face.
She wanted her mommy and daddy, and her big brother, Cal. She wanted Uncle Dave and Uncle Ken and worried about how badly Uncle Ken was hurt.
Eventually she fell asleep, curled up in the chair, and that was how Milton found her when he came up from the shop.
When Starsky arrived at the hospital, he was pleased to see staff who knew him and Hutch from previous visits. He quickly filled in the necessary forms and just as he was finishing, a nurse arrived to take him through to the Emergency Room.
He found Hutch propped up on a bed, minus his shirt and with a large, white dressing showing starkly against his tanned skin.
"Dr Franklin," Starsky said, shaking the hand of the tall, bespectacled man who had turned from his inspection of the bags of blood and clear liquid which were dripping steadily into the intravenous lines.
"Detective Starsky. We must stop meeting like this," he smiled.
Starsky returned the smile then turned to Hutch. "You okay?"
Hutch gave a curt nod and Starsky refrained from asking the questions he wanted to. Turning back to the doctor he asked "What's the verdict, doc?"
"Detective Hutchinson has been very lucky. Although the wound is deep and required stitches, the blade missed anything vital. We're just replacing lost fluids and starting him on antibiotics. I want to keep him in overnight but your partner is as stubborn as you and refuses."
"I'll be fine, doc," Hutch cut in. "I know the drill and Starsky here will keep an eye on me."
"I'm prepared to release him to your care, Detective Starsky, so long as he gets plenty of rest."
Starsky knew that that Hutch would not rest while Rosie was missing and was equally certain that he would simply walk out whether Starsky or Franklin agreed or not.
"Of course, doc. I'll make sure he rests."
Starsky shot Hutch a warning glance as Dr Franklin said, "He needs to stay here while the drips run through. Why don't you run and get a change of clothes for him? We should be done here in a couple of hours or so."
"I wish you wouldn't talk about me as if I wasn't here," Hutch grumbled, earning him a small smile from the doctor.
"I wish it was always so simple when you two come to see us. I have other patients to see, Ken. I'll be back soon to check on you."
"Thanks, doc," said Hutch as Franklin turned to go.
"Yeah. Thanks, doc," Starsky echoed.
As the curtain closed behind the doctor, Starsky turned to Hutch.
"What happened, buddy?" he asked quietly.
"I don't really know. We were standing waiting for you when I felt a pain in my side, like someone punched me. Rosie let go of my hand...or I let go of hers...I don't know..." Hutch's voice tailed away and he stared into the distance as though watching the incident replay on a screen. Starsky waited for him to continue.
"I saw this tall black guy dragging her away and I started to run after them but then... Where is she, Starsk? Did you catch him? Is she okay?"
Starsky grimaced and shook his head. "They were already gone before I got to you."
"Then what are you doing here?" Hutch yelled beginning to sit up. "What am I doing lying here? We gotta get out there, Starsky!"
"Whoa! Slow down, Blondie. You're not goin' anywhere till I've got your clean clothes and Doctor F okay's it."
Hutch looked like he was about to argue but Starsky silenced him. "Ollie Thomas has a team at the store interviewing all the witnesses and there's an APB out on Rosie. There's nothing we can do that's not being done already. I'll get Huggy on it too. Give me a description of this guy and I'll radio it in while I go get your clothes."
Hutch could obviously see the sense in this as he subsided back onto the bed with a sigh.
"Similar height and build to Huggy," he said closing his eyes. "Um...faded blue jeans, they didn't fit too well, looked old and well worn. Black sneakers. Big, baggy, hooded windcheater...dark blue with white stripes round the cuffs. That looked old too. Wears his hair real short."
He reopened his eyes. "Starsk, we've got to find her...we've got to. There's no telling what he's doing to her."
Starsky swallowed and squeezed Hutch's arm. "We will, Hutch. We will. Now get some rest while I go get your stuff."
The two detectives locked eyes both reading the guilt and sadness in the other's, yet at the same time giving each other strength and support. Starsky gave a short nod then roughly pushed his way through the curtains and marched back to his car. Throwing himself in, he put both hands through his hair and tugged at his curls in frustration. He grabbed the radio and called in Hutch's description of the kidnapper before firing up the Torino and peeling out of the parking lot.
Three hours later found both Starsky and Hutch walking into the squad room. After a brief argument at the hospital, Hutch had convinced Starsky that he would get to headquarters under his own steam if necessary, so Starsky had given in, reasoning he could watch his partner more easily if they were together.
"What are you doing here, Hutchinson?" Lt. Thomas greeted them.
"Did you seriously expect me to stay away?" Hutch flared.
Starsky put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Hey, we're all on the same side here, Hutch," he said quietly before turning to the lieutenant. "C'mon, Ollie. This is important to us."
"Sorry, Hutch. I just didn't expect to see you here tonight. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Lieutenant. How about filling us in on what we've got so far." Hutch sank into his chair and Starsky got him some water from the cooler. Hutch nodded his thanks as Starsky plumped down across from him.
Lt. Thomas pulled up a chair. "As usual there are only a few credible witnesses," he began. "The woman who helped you, Hutch, is the best one. Her description tallies with the one Starsky radioed in and it has been circulated to every officer on patrol. Unfortunately, although the store has some surveillance cameras, they are trained on the tills so we have nothing useful there.
The security at the store is very efficient. The head of security is an ex-cop, as are several of his team, but despite a thorough search of the store it would appear he got away before you raised the alarm and the store was sealed."
Starsky glanced at Hutch who was slouched in his seat with his eyes closed, a picture of despair.
"Go on, Lieutenant."
"We've received no ransom demands or indeed calls of any kind. I've got one team looking at known paedophiles and another is checking recent releases from prison.
The only clue we have is a leaflet in Captain Dobey's mailbox. Forensics are checking it for prints but it looks like some other leaflets which have been in circulation in the area. The first one said 'an eye for an eye'. Then there was..."
"Yes, 'a tooth for a tooth'. Rosie Dobey got that one herself," Starsky interrupted.
"No. This is a new one. It says 'a child for a child'."
Hutch's eyes pinged open. "Another one?"
"I've got officers knocking on doors but so far it seems the Dobeys are the only ones to receive this particular leaflet."
Starsky and Hutch exchanged a look.
"And I think they will be the only ones to receive this one," said Starsky. "This makes it personal to the Captain."
"But why take Rosie?" Hutch put in.
"How long has this been going on?"
"It would seem to be several weeks," the lieutenant said. "Most people though it was some kind of religious group posting the leaflets."
Starsky and Hutch sighed in unison.
"So this guy has been planning this for some time," said Hutch.
"And he always intended to take Rosie," Starsky said.
"Which brings us back to 'why'," said Hutch, wearily "Why target the captain? And why take Rosie?"
"We need to pull Dobey's files," said Starsky. "There must be something in one of them."
"Have you any idea how far back we'll have to go and how many files that is?" Lieutenant Thomas protested.
"We'll go back as far as we have to, Lieutenant," Starsky said, icily.
Hutch snapped his fingers. "What about print shops? Is anyone checking where these leaflets were produced? We're not just talking ten or twenty here. You said these leaflets have been circulating for several weeks and he's probably dropped several at each house to get his message across."
"Yeah, Rosie said something like 'another one of those leaflets'," Starsky added. "There could've been hundreds of them."
"Hopefully one of the print shops will have a record of who ordered these leaflets."
"I'll get a team on it," Lieutenant Thomas said, standing. "Starsky, call R&I, get those files and you and Hutch make a start on them. And don't overdo it, Hutchinson. I'm still not convinced you should be here."
Hutch looked up and growled, "I need to be here, Lieutenant. I've got to be doing something."
Starsky rested a hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle shake. "Drink your water, Tiger, and I'll get on to R&I."
"This is the part of our job I really hate," Hutch huffed, slumping in his chair, letting his head fall back and closing his eyes. Before Starsky could respond, Hutch's eyes cranked open and he leaned across to snag another file.
"Why don't you take a break?" Starsky ventured, putting his hand over Hutch's.
Hutch's eyes shot blue ice daggers at him. "Do you think Rosie's getting a break? Or the guy who took her? Is he having a break? You take a break if you want, buddy. I'm not stopping till we find her."
Starsky refused to be intimidated. "Hey. I'm just worried about ya, that's all. Ya should still be in hospital, not here. Jus' take ten minutes. Please, Hutch. You're no good to Rosie back in hospital...and that's where you're gonna end up if ya don't give yourself a break."
Two pairs of blue eyes met across the desk. Hutch gave a small nod, knowing he had not only reached the limit of his strength but gone beyond it.
"Okay. But only ten minutes. No more." He wagged a finger under Starsky's nose but even that lacked conviction.
"Go grab a coffee and something to eat, Hutch. You'll be ready to hit those files again then."
"Yes, Mom," Hutch said with a small smile as he heaved himself out of his chair and slowly left the room.
Starsky found himself looking at the closed door, worried at Hutch's easy capitulation. Obviously he was feeling worse than he was letting on. He dragged his attention back to the files he was meant to be reading, looking for something...anything...that might yield a clue as to who had taken Rosie and why.
Hutch took the elevator down to the cafeteria on automatic pilot. When he realised where he was he nearly turned straight back round but his growling stomach persuaded him that maybe he should try to eat something, so he joined the short line at the counter. However the cooking smells nauseated him and he got to thinking about Rosie and what kind of ordeal she might be being subjected to.
Years of working the streets had shown Hutch that there were some seriously depraved people out there and the thought that Rosie might be in the hands of a sexual predator sent his guts into overdrive.
He just reached the men's room in time to lose the meagre contents of his stomach. He cupped his hands to scoop some water to rinse the acrid taste of bile from his mouth and then swiped his face with his wet hands. Leaning on the edge of the sink, he took in the haunted eyes that stared back at him from a waxen face.
"'S all my fault," he whispered to his reflection. "'S all my fault. We wouldn't have lost her if I'd kept hold of her hand. I'll never forgive myself if anything happens to her."
Hutch could feel the terror rising inside him, causing his muscles to contract almost painfully, even pulling at his stitches. He made a conscious effort to slow his breathing and calm himself. He needed to focus on finding Rosie...recriminations could come afterwards.
He swept water across his face once more and took out his frustration on the towel dispenser, jerking a long stream of paper from its jaws. Then, squaring his shoulders, he left the bathroom.
As his hand reached out to open the squad-room door an angry voice assailed him and he turned to see Captain Dobey. His superior quivered with rage and Hutch felt like he was standing on the edge of an erupting volcano.
Dobey stalked up to Hutch. "What happened, Hutchinson?" he hissed. "You were responsible...I made you responsible. How could you let her go? I trusted you!" His voice rose to a shout, "I TRUSTED YOU!"
Hutch had no defence. The captain was only voicing Hutch's own thoughts. Before he could open his mouth to respond, the squad-room door flew open.
"That ain't fair, Captain, and you know it! That guy stuck a knife in Hutch..."
"And where were you, Starsky? Where were you when some low-life was abducting my daughter?"
Starsky's face flushed scarlet. Hutch put a calming hand on his chest. This was his failure, not Starsky's. Although the captain's attack was unfair it was also understandable. Hutch could see the grief and fear behind Dobey's anger, mirroring the grief and fear he felt himself. And to be honest, he had a valid point. Neither he nor Starsky had been as alert as they could have been, although they could not have foreseen what was to happen.
"Harold! What are you doing here? Come on through to your office." Lieutenant Thomas glided smoothly between the three men and took Captain Dobey's arm. As they passed Starsky and Hutch, he frowned at them and shook his head slightly.
Starsky and Hutch watched the two men enter Dobey's office, then returned to their shared desk to resume trawling through the files that represented Captain Dobey's career thus far.
What little was left of the day passed quickly as everyone applied themselves to their tasks. Gradually things quieted as phones rang less frequently and officers left to pursue leads or go out on patrol. Starsky realised he'd been staring at the same page for several minutes without taking in any of the information. He raised his eyes to look at his partner. He was worried about Hutch but knew better than to raise his concerns in front of the others. Physically his buddy looked ill, as befitted someone who ought to be resting up in hospital, but Starsky knew he would also be suffering mentally, as he was himself.
Hutch was one of the strongest people he knew and he had no doubts that he would keep pushing himself until Rosie was found. However Hutch's downfall was his clever brain. They both knew only too well what kind of sick people there were out there. Starsky knew Hutch would be imagining all kinds of situations Rosie could be facing and blaming himself for failing to keep her safe. Hutch wasn't always as adept as Starsky at putting up the barriers to keep out the darkness of their working lives, especially when the crime was so close to home. And poring over files at their desks was giving him far too much time to think.
Hutch was a man of action and this enforced inactivity was doing him no favours. Starsky thought back to his own abduction at the hands of the followers of cultist, Simon Marcus. Only Starsky knew about the nightmares that had followed...not his own, but Hutch's. This case must be reviving bad memories for his sensitive partner.
Starsky stretched and groaned causing Hutch to look up at him. "I feel like I'm swimming through molasses here. Let's grab a quick break, huh?"
At first he thought Hutch was going to refuse but giving a curt nod, he pushed back his chair and rose stiffly to his feet. Starsky noticed how he appeared to be unaware that he was holding his side where he had been stabbed. Wisely he said nothing as they walked to the elevator. Unusually no one else was riding the elevator when they entered.
"You okay?" Starsky asked quietly, resting a hand on Hutch's arm.
"I'm fine, Starsky!" Hutch snapped irritably, pulling away from Starsky's touch. "I could see you keep watching me."
"I'm just concerned about you, buddy, that's all."
"Well save your concern for someone who deserves it. You should be thinking of Rosie, not me. That's our job, remember...buddy?"
Starsky kept his temper in check, knowing that Hutch's anger was really directed at himself and not Starsky. As usual the partners were able to ground each other when necessary, one able to balance the other emotionally, and this was one of the many things that made them such a good team.
"I am thinking of Rosie and we will find her. But ya gotta stop with this guilt-trippin'. 'S not your fault." He pre-empted Hutch's response with his own version of the 'Hutchinson finger' and an intense blue stare. "It is not...your...fault." He emphasised the last three words with a prod of his finger in Hutch's chest. "Please, Hutch. Ya gotta believe me. Dobey is reacting like any father would, but he doesn't really blame us."
Hutch held his gaze for a few seconds then his eyes dropped. "I blame me," he mumbled as the elevator doors swished open.
Starsky took Hutch's arm and steered him to a vacant seat in the cafeteria. "Sit!" he said in a tone that brooked no argument. He grabbed a tray and headed to the counter. At that time of night there was no queue but there was also little choice of food. Casting worried glances towards the forlorn figure in the corner, Starsky paid for two plates of meatloaf and two coffees.
Hutch didn't even look up as he put the plate in front of him. "I'm not hungry, Starsk."
Starsky decided to get tough. "Well ya need to eat somethin', Hutch, or I'm takin' ya back to hospital." Hutch's head shot up at that.
"I mean it, Hutch. Ya look like death warmed up and I bet ya feel like it too."
Hutch opened his mouth to reply but subsided at the fierce glare Starsky gave him. He picked up his fork and began to push food around his plate.
Starsky ate in silence, mulling over the few facts they had regarding Rosie's kidnapping, then sat back to watch his friend. When Hutch finally pushed his plate away, having barely touched the meal, Starsky quietly suggested it was time for a pain killer. It was then he realised just how much Hutch was suffering as he took two bottles from his jacket pocket, read the labels and swallowed the medicine without any argument.
Starsky wished Hutch would go home and rest but knew he would continue to push himself as long as necessary, as he would himself if their roles were reversed.
Hutch gave him a small smile. "Satisfied?"
"Not really but I guess it'll have to do. You ready to get back to it?"
Both men pushed their chairs back and headed back to the squad-room.
Rosie awoke to the sound and smell of bacon sizzling in a pan. Her tummy rumbled as she pushed back the thin blanket that had been draped over her.
The scary man had his back to her and was whistling softly as he poked the food in the pan. Rosie wondered if she could tiptoe to the door and get away while he wasn't looking. As soon as her feet touched the floor, she realised she had no shoes on. Carefully she sank down onto her knees to try and find her sneakers.
Milton turned around with a broad smile. "Just in time for breakfast. I thought I was gonna have to wake you up."
Rosie returned his smile with a small one of her own. "Can I use the bathroom?" she asked.
"Hurry up then. I don't want this to get cold."
Rosie trotted to the bathroom and then sat at the table before he lost patience with her. She had no desire to anger him again.
Milton put a plate of bacon and another of bread on the table. He pushed a can of soda towards Rosie and poured himself some coffee.
Both ate in silence, then Milton put on the TV and searched for a suitable channel for Rosie to watch.
"I gotta go out for a while, Emily," he said. "You stay here and don't try to leave. I will know if you try anything and then you'll be sorry."
Rosie shrank back fearfully in her chair but Milton turned away, snatched up his windcheater and left the apartment, locking the door behind him.
Rosie crept to the window, afraid he would return and catch her. She watched through the dirty glass as Milton got into his car and drove away. Once again she prowled the room but could find no means of escape. She sat in front of the TV and began to cry.
Starsky's head jerked up as someone pushed his feet off the chair on which they rested.
"Time to take your partner home, Starsky," said Lieutenant Thomas.
Starsky looked across the desk to see Hutch slumped in his chair, fast asleep.
"You've both worked twelve hours without a break and Hutch should still be in the hospital. You are going home to get some sleep."
Starsky opened his mouth to protest but the lieutenant stopped him. "You're no good to me or to Rosie like this. I need both of you alert or you're going to miss something important. Now get outa here."
Starsky could see the logic in this, having already caught himself re-reading passages and making no sense of them.
"Yeah, okay, Lieutenant. Jus' for a couple of hours."
He looked across to Hutch and shook his head. "How on earth can he sleep pretzelled in a chair like that?" he thought.
"Hey, Hutch! C'mon, partner. Let's go to mine, grab something to eat and a bit of shut eye."
He shook Hutch's arm until his eyes opened and an involuntary groan of discomfort greeted him. Hutch stretched and looked around as though unaware of his surroundings.
"I need a break," said Starsky, knowing Hutch would never admit to needing a break himself. "I'm sure these reports are written in Klingon or some such. Ollie says we should take a couple of hours away and I agree with him. I'm not gonna argue with ya 'bout this, Hutch," he continued, seeing Hutch's mouth begin to open. "We either take a break or Ollie's sending ya back to the hospital."
Starsky pushed back his chair. At the door he paused and looked back at his partner who hadn't moved. Returning to Hutch's side, he bent over and said quietly, "C'mon, buddy. Let's go."
Milton trotted down the stairs to his car in high spirits. He had Emily back again. It felt so good to have a family once more.
He drove across town to the Dobey's street, unable to resist the pull of revisiting the house his 'sister' had lived in. There was a black and white police car parked outside with an officer sitting behind the wheel. Another officer stood beside the door.
Milton drove past the house and was able to pull into a space a little further down the road. Twisting in his seat, he observed the house for several minutes. But nothing happened.
A second patrol car cruised past and stopped outside the Dobey's house. One of the officers got out and approached the front door which immediately opened. He went inside and emerged about five minutes later with Edith Dobey. He ushered her into the car and they drove away.
Milton waited a few more minutes but the original police officers stayed on guard so he drove away, vowing to return when things had quietened down.
When Starsky and Hutch returned to headquarters, they found the conference room being readied for a press briefing. As they walked down the corridor towards the squad room, they saw Captain Dobey and his wife come out of his office with Lt Thomas. Starsky felt Hutch freeze beside him but neither of the Dobeys acknowledged them as they went past, the captain's arm around his wife's shoulders.
Starsky let out a breath as he turned to watch the trio make their way towards the elevator. He caught Lt Thomas's eye but the lieutenant shook his head and looked pointedly at the squad room. Starsky gave a curt nod and took Hutch's arm to guide him into the squad room. Hutch jumped at Starsky's touch then gave him a sheepish smile. He headed straight to the coffee pot and after checking the cleanliness of the mugs, he poured two cups and carried them to the desk he and Starsky shared.
Starsky was relieved to see Hutch behaving more normally. A depressed, morose, guilty Hutch was a difficult animal to deal with but their enforced absence had definitely done him some good. He had fallen asleep in Starsky's car, awoken to enter Starsky's apartment and have a quick meal, only to fall asleep again. Another dose of painkillers and, while not a new man, Hutch was ready to face the files again.
Starsky had not allowed himself to sleep, preferring to keep watch over his partner, but he felt more refreshed than he had earlier. The change of scene and having something to eat had revived him somewhat and he felt ready to take on the world again.
He and Hutch hadn't spoken on the drive in, both lost in their own thoughts. Starsky was getting his mind clear in readiness for the task ahead and he hoped Hutch was doing the same and not wallowing in guilt. He gave himself a mental shake. Hutch was a good cop...of course he was up to the job.
They both reached for a file. They had started with the most recent and were working their way backwards. As the perpetrator was quite young, it seemed reasonable to suppose the crime would relate to one of Dobey's last cases on the streets. With a start, Starsky realised he was now looking at a file from Dobey's time as a detective sergeant when he was partnered with Elmo Jackson.
"I can't believe how far back we've gone and not found anything," he said.
Hutch looked up. "I know. I'm beginning to think we've missed something."
The same thought had occurred to Starsky but he shook his head with what he hoped was confidence. "Nah. We just haven't found it yet."
"I wish Huggy would call."
"Yeah. Normally a case involving a child puts us all on the same side. Even low-life scum draw the line at hurting a child but this time..." Starsky's voice trailed away.
"Hey, something will turn. It's got to." So saying, Hutch snagged another file and opened it.
Rosie was staring vacantly at the TV when the door suddenly opened, making her jump. Milton's windcheater smelled damp and she wrinkled her nose. His hair glistened with raindrops and he shook his head like a wet dog, showering her with a fine spray. He set down a flat pizza box on the table.
"Treat for ya, Emily, for bein' a good girl."
Rosie jumped down from her chair and approached the table.
"I couldn't remember what you like, so I got loads of toppings," Milton said, pushing a can of soda towards Rosie and opening the box.
"Thank you," she whispered, surveying the pizza which appeared to have every conceivable topping you could think of. She realised she was hungry and tore off a slice.
Milton watched her for a few seconds then said, "You've been really good, Emily. What would ya like? I'll get ya some books or puzzles or somethin'. Ya can't watch TV all day."
What Rosie really wanted, of course, was to go home but she didn't dare say that, certain it would make him angry again.
"Um, colouring books and pencils, please," she said, politely.
"I'll go later. My favourite show's on soon."
"Can I go with you and choose my own?" Rosie asked, pleased at her cleverness. She hoped she would have a chance to escape or shout for help.
"No. You stay here. I don't want anyone seeing you."
Rosie sat back, disappointed, and nibbled the crust of her pizza.
Milton made quick work of his share of the pizza, then flicked through the channels until he found the game show he was looking for.
Having nothing else to do, Rosie settled back in her chair to watch the show. A man in a glittering jacket was talking excitedly. He spoke to the camera and smiled insincerely, showing perfect, white teeth. "I don't like him," Rosie thought to herself.
There was a noisy audience in the TV studio and three contestants answering questions to win money and prizes. Milton sat with his coffee at his side, shouting out the answers he knew.
"I should go on here," he said. "Win loads of money."
Rosie nodded, sipping her soda as the commercials came on. A sombre voice drew her attention back to the TV.
"We interrupt our programmes to take you to a press conference, live at Bay City Police Headquarters."
A photograph of the exterior of the building was replaced by a shot of a long table containing a forest of microphones, behind which sat four people.
Rosie couldn't believe her eyes...her mommy and daddy were on TV! A man she didn't recognise was sitting in between her parents and on her mother's other side sat Auntie Minnie from daddy's work. A card in front of the man read 'Lieutenant Oliver Thomas' and it was he who spoke first.
"Good afternoon. We are asking for the public's help to find a little girl who was abducted yesterday from Haney's Department Store in downtown Bay City."
A photo of Rosie appeared on the screen. She heard Milton growl a naughty word and quickly glanced at him before turning her attention back to the screen.
"...wearing blue jeans, a white tee shirt with multi-coloured flowers, a red coat and white sneakers."
The TV showed clothes just like the ones she was wearing. Rosie looked down at herself as though seeing the clothes for the first time.
"If anyone has seen Rosemary, known as Rosie to her family and friends, please call the number on the screen.
The man holding Rosie is armed and thought to be dangerous. For your own safety do not approach him. Call the number on the screen."
"Ha!" Milton barked a laugh. "Dangerous! Am I dangerous, Emily?"
Rosie looked at him, her eyes swimming with tears.
"Oh for goodness sake, Emily. Stop that snivelling."
Rosie gulped in a breath and wiped her nose with the back of her hand, though she knew her mommy wouldn't like it if she could see her. Then she heard her daddy's voice and spun back to the TV.
"To the man who has my daughter, give yourself up. Give yourself up, return Rosie unharmed and things will go easier for you. But if you harm so much as one hair on her head, we will hunt you down like the vermin you are and..."
Rosie saw Lt Thomas put a hand on daddy's arm then the camera swung to her mommy. She stared into her mother's tear-filled eyes.
"I hope you can see this, Rosie, my darling girl. Daddy, Cal and I are waiting for you to come home. Uncle Ken, Uncle Dave and all the other policemen are looking for you. Be brave, sweetheart, and they'll find you very soon. I love you Rosie-tosie...we all love you and miss you.
Please, sir, whoever you are, please let my baby go. She's only a little girl and never hurt anyone. Please, just let her go."
Rosie watched as the tears began to roll down her mommy's face, and Auntie Minnie put a comforting arm around her shoulders and whispered in her ear.
The camera turned back to Lt Thomas who cleared his throat before speaking.
"Please help us," he said. "Rosie Dobey needs to be returned to her family and they need her back.
If you were in or near Haney's yesterday, please try to remember. Did you see Rosie? Did you see her shopping with these two men, friends of the family?" A picture of Starsky and Hutch flashed up on the screen. "Did you see a young girl being dragged or carried away from the store? Please call us now. We have officers waiting to take your call. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
Please, please help us reunite this little girl with her family and capture the man who has done this, before he takes another child. Thank you."
The TV focused on the phone number superimposed on Rosie's photo before the station logo came on and the presenter announced a return to the scheduled programme.
Annie Lorden let herself into her small, neat house and locked the door behind her. She had had forty-eight happy years here with her late husband and now lived alone with her two calico cats. She missed him every day. And every night...especially the lonely nights when she lay awake until the early hours. They had raised two sons here, who now had families of their own. She missed them too, although they were good boys who called as often as they could.
She set down her bag of shopping on the kitchen table and put some water on for a cup of tea. While she waited for it to boil, she put away the few bits and pieces she had bought for herself, some little treats for Christmas. She carried her drink through to the living room, switched on the TV and sank into her easy chair with a hefty sigh. She closed her eyes, letting the quiet tones of the newsreader wash over her.
"Oh, I'm so tired," she thought, yawning widely.
She almost wished Christmas was over and done with...so much to do, so little time and not enough money. But she was looking forward to seeing her grandchildren. She had been buying little things for them throughout the year and had bought even more yesterday, probably spending more than she should have. But grandchildren were for spoiling and what better time than Christmas to do it.
"Finally, we return to our main story," the newsreader announced. "The abduction of a little girl from Haney's Department Store, yesterday afternoon.
A police officer was stabbed when Rosemary Dobey was forcibly taken from his care while shopping for Christmas presents for her family. He was not seriously injured and is back on duty, assisting his colleagues in the search.
This is Lt Oliver Thomas, who is heading the investigation, speaking at a press conference earlier today."
The picture shifted from the newsreader to film of the press conference.
"If you were in or near Haney's yesterday, please try to remember. Did you see Rosie? Did you see a young girl being dragged or carried away from the store? Please call us now. We have officers waiting to take your call. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
Please, please help us reunite this little girl with her family and capture the man who has done this, before he takes another child. Thank you."
The report finished with Rosie's photograph and the newsreader saying, "Please, folks. Take a good look at this photo of little Rosie and let's see if we can get her home for Christmas."
"Poor little mite," Annie thought, as the commercials came on. "And her poor family. I hope they find her soon."
Her eyes widened. "Haney's? I was there yesterday. What about that little girl who was crying outside? That man who was carrying her? There was something about him I didn't like. Oh my goodness, I wish I'd said something now. All kiddies throw a tantrum when they can't get what they want but..."
The more Annie thought about it, the more she convinced herself that the crying child she had seen was Rosie. She pushed herself out of her chair to get a piece of paper and a pen in readiness for the next newscast, so she could write down the phone number.
Starsky and Hutch continued to work their way through the diminishing heap of files, becoming increasingly demoralised at their lack of success in finding a connection between any of Captain Dobey's old cases and Rosie's disappearance.
A shadow fell across their shared desk and both detectives looked up.
"Angelica!" Starsky exclaimed, jumping up. "Hutch, this is the lovely lady who helped you in Haney's."
Hutch rose a little more slowly and took Angelica's hand, raising it to his lips. "Thank you," he said softly, gazing into her eyes and making her blush.
Starsky watched with a smile on his face.
"Have a seat, Angel," he said, ushering her into his chair and perching on the corner of the desk beside Hutch, who had returned to his seat. "What can we do for you?"
"I just wanted to see how you are," she said, looking at Hutch. "I couldn't believe it when I heard you were back at work."
Hutch looked down briefly, then glanced up at Starsky before looking at Angelica. "I've got to be here," he said quietly. "I can't sit at home and do nothing while Rosie is missing."
Angelica reached across the desk to touch his arm. "I'm sure you will find her. I was asked to come in and look at photographs to see if I recognised the man who did this. But I didn't really see his face...so I wasn't much help," she finished, shaking her head sadly.
"You've been a great help, Angel," Starsky said. "You helped my partner when no one else did and that means a lot to me."
He smiled warmly at her, making her blush once more.
"Even though you didn't pick him out of the books, you'll have helped to eliminate some of the possible suspects and so narrowed our search down a little more," Hutch put in. "We'll get him, it's just taking longer than we'd hoped."
"And I'm keeping you from your work," said Angelica, rising from Starsky's chair. Both detectives stood as well.
"Thank you," Hutch said once more. "I really appreciate you dropping by."
"And keep in touch," Starsky said, showing her to the door.
Angelica paused by the door and smiled at them both. "I will," she said.
"Quite a lady," Starsky said, as he by-passed the desk and headed for the water cooler.
"Yeah," Hutch agreed, still looking towards the door.
"Time for more pain killers, I think," said Starsky, glancing at his watch and putting a cup of water in front of Hutch.
Hutch chuffed a laugh. "Thanks, mom. What would I do without you?"
Milton perched on the stool behind the counter of the print shop, staring out the window, seeing nothing. He couldn't quite believe the police had put Emily's picture on TV. And all that rubbish about her being abducted! She should be here with him, her family. Maybe he should think about moving? Then they wouldn't be able to find her.
He would have to do something about those people she'd been living with, then they would all forget about her and she could stay with Milton where she belonged.
The idea came to him out of nowhere. He hadn't set any fires since leaving Cabrillo State Mental Hospital. Maybe he had been cured? But now, the more he thought about it, the more the desire came upon him. His fingers itched with the thought of it. He would have to take his time and plan carefully, but this had to be his best ever.
His attention was drawn to the door as it opened and two police officers came in.
Milton's heart began to race. Surely they hadn't tracked Emily down so quickly? With a start, he realised that one of the officers was speaking to him.
"Uh, sorry. What was that?" he said, hoping he would appear dumb and not guilty.
"We're trying to find out where these leaflets were printed," the officer repeated. "Please would you take a look and see if you recognise them."
His partner showed Milton a copy of his own leaflets.
"Has anyone asked you to print these?"
Milton pretended to look at them while his mind whirled.
"No, sorry. I've never printed anything like that," he said, hoping they wouldn't know he was lying.
"Would you have another look, sir. Just to be certain."
Milton looked again, his heart still thumping loudly, as though it would leap right out of his chest.
"No," he said. "I've never seen them before."
The two officers exchanged a glance and one of them sighed heavily. "Another one crossed off the list. Thank you, Mr...?
"Crosby. Milton Crosby."
"Thank you for your cooperation, Mr Crosby."
Milton let out a shaky breath as the police officers left as unhurriedly as they'd arrived.
"I told them my name," he berated himself. "Why didn't I make something up? Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
He picked up a small display stand of business cards and threw it across the shop.
"STUPID!" he screamed, as cards spun around him like snowflakes in a blizzard.
Starsky and Hutch put down their respective files simultaneously with a growing sense of anxiety.
They had gone through every one of Captain Dobey's case files, going back more than twenty years, and had not found anything that seemed to have a connection to Rosie's kidnapping.
Dobey's record was exemplary, both when a uniformed officer and plain clothes detective. He had rarely discharged his weapon and few of those instances resulted in a fatality. None of these had involved a child, either male or female, and no innocent bystanders had been harmed.
Starsky heaved a gusty sigh. "What now?" he asked, turning to his partner.
"Why did he take Rosie and not Cal?" Hutch wondered aloud, a frown creasing his brow. "Is he replacing a child or specifically a daughter?"
"Opportunity?" Starsky suggested. "Was it easier to take Rosie because she's younger and smaller...and our guard was down?"
He saw Hutch flinch and hurried on. "Let's start checking the fatals...look into them in more depth...check family connections."
Hutch heaved a sigh of his own. "Yeah, I guess so. Gotta start somewhere." He reached for his notes and read out the names so Starsky could locate the files to cross-reference with their criminal records.
"Anderson, Roy. Brooks, Joshua. Crosby, Samuel. Patterson, Tyler."
Hutch called R&I for the relevant files and within minutes Charlie Collins hurried through the squad room door, bearing four fat files.
"How d'you wanna do this? Two each?" Starsky asked, returning from his third trip to the coffee pot.
"Alphabetical," Hutch decided. "And let's put our heads together on these."
As Starsky nodded in agreement, Hutch opened Ray Anderson's file to see a photograph of a thin, bald white man with wild, staring eyes.
"Shit!" he spat out in disgust. "It's not him!"
Starsky put down the coffee cups feeling disappointment course through him, but he pasted on a smile for Hutch. "Well let's look on the bright side. One down, three to go."
Hutch glared at him. "Regular ray of sunshine you are," he grumbled.
"Better than being a storm cloud, like you," Starsky countered with a grin. "Though we make a beautiful rainbow together."
Hutch stared at him incredulously. Starsky could see him struggling to form a coherent response. "A rainbow? What have you been putting in your coffee, Starsky? You're beginning to sound like Huggy."
"I wish Huggy would call," Starsky said, the smile falling from his face. "I can't believe there's no word on the streets."
"I wish forensics would call," added Hutch. "How long does it take to find a match for one lousy fingerprint?"
Starsky snorted, "At least they've managed to eliminate the Dobeys."
Hutch gave a small smile. "Thank heavens for small mercies."
Starsky glanced around the nearly deserted squad room and leaned forwards, resting a hand lightly on Hutch's knee. "You okay?" he asked quietly.
Hutch also looked around before staring him down. "I'm fine, Starsky. Stop fussing," he hissed and picked up Joshua Brooks' file. Starsky narrowed his eyes and thought about pursuing the subject. Then he shrugged and scooted his chair around the desk to sit beside Hutch, their shoulders touching as they studied the file together.
A round-faced, black man with plump lips, a misshapen nose and large limpid eyes stared out at them from the photograph. The file also contained left and right profile pictures. They read a familiar tale of a man who had turned to crime at an early age to fund a drug habit. Petty crime had quickly escalated until the fateful day he had pulled a gun on a shopkeeper, not knowing, or not caring, that there were customers in the shop. A hostage situation had developed and Dobey and his partner, Elmo Jackson, had been among the first to respond.
After a stand-off that lasted several hours, Dobey and Jackson were ordered to attempt an entry to the store from the rear. The report said that Brooks had panicked and started firing his weapon. Dobey and Jackson had had no alternative but to return fire and Brooks had died in hospital from his wounds.
There was no mention of any family and a call to Children's Services confirmed that Brooks had never been married and had left no dependants.
Starsky set the file aside. "Maybe we should call Children's Services now and get them to check on Crosby and Patterson. Might save some time."
"Yeah. Good idea, Starsk," said Hutch, picking up the phone.
Starsky stifled a yawn as he once again headed for the coffee pot, with a detour via the water cooler. He made his way back to the desk with two coffee cups precariously balanced in one hand and a cup of water in the other. He placed the water in front of Hutch who looked up enquiringly.
"Pain killers," Starsky said in his 'I mean business' voice.
Hutch rolled his eyes but complied by popping two white pills in his mouth and washing them down with a gulp of water. He then opened Samuel Crosby's file. This time a thin black man looked out from the pages with spacey eyes. His cheeks were sunken, his skin pockmarked with acne scars.
A remarkably similar story to Joshua Brooks' unfolded. A life of drug-running and petty crime, culminating in a robbery at a mom-and-pop grocery store. Crosby had run away from the store when confronted by Dobey and Jackson, and the two officers had given pursuit. At any other time the vision of Dobey pursuing a suspect on foot would have made them smile, but not today.
Despite repeated warnings, Crosby had kept running and Jackson had fired a warning shot into the air. Crosby had turned and aimed his weapon at them so they had had no choice but to shoot him. He had died at the scene.
As they waited to hear from Children's Services, they opened Tyler Patterson's file. This man had been a career criminal, working for a minor drug baron. Going through the rap sheets, it came as no surprise that his life had been ended by a policeman's bullet.
Starsky sat back in his chair and looked at Hutch who was already reading through their notes. Starsky felt exhausted but surprisingly his partner seemed more energised. He realised that the hunt for Rosie's kidnapper was engaging Hutch's brain at last, taking his mind off his guilt and physical pain.
Starsky swallowed another yawn. The long hours of work, combined with his vigil over a sleeping Hutch, were beginning to catch up with him despite the large amounts of caffeine he had consumed.
Dobey's door opened and Lt. Thomas looked out, calling sharply. "Starsky. Hutchinson. Briefing in the conference room in twenty minutes. I'm recalling the team leaders to share what we have so far and plan what we do next."
"We'd better get on to Children's Services and chase up those records," Hutch said, picking up the phone again as Starsky began to gather his notes in readiness for the meeting.
Several police officers of varying ranks, some in uniform, most in suits, and a few others more casually dressed like Starsky and Hutch, were talking quietly in the conference room. When Lt. Thomas entered, the room fell silent. He took a seat at the head of the long table and surveyed the faces looking at him. Everyone looked tired but he knew they would not stop until Rosie was found. He inhaled deeply through his nose and let out his breath slowly through his mouth as he began.
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I'll go over the facts as we know them and then you can all fill me in on your findings. We'll have a brain-storming session after we've heard all the reports.
Captain Dobey's daughter, Rosie, was out Christmas shopping with Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson. While Starsky was waiting in the checkout line, an unknown assailant stabbed Hutchinson and pulled Rosie away from him. Despite the store being sealed, the man was able to escape.
We have received no ransom demands or communication of any kind from the kidnapper. However, for a period of several weeks prior to Rosie's abduction, leaflets have been posted at all the houses on the Dobey's street. The first one read 'An eye for an eye', followed by 'A tooth for a tooth'. The Dobeys have also received one which said 'A child for a child'. Forensics found a partial thumb print as well as smudged finger prints and are endeavouring to find a match. As most of you know, this is a laborious process and it is imperative that we don't make a mistake. But if this man is in the system, we will identify him and track him down.
Conrad, give us your report on the interviews with witnesses."
Lt. Thomas sat back in his chair and gave his attention to the young uniformed officer who rose to his feet. This was Jack Conrad's first big case and Lt Thomas could see a thin film of sweat on his brow and upper lip and the slight tremor in his hands as he prepared to speak, though he kept his voice steady.
"As is usual, we have had conflicting statements from the witnesses we've interviewed," the young man began, "so we're working to collate the information received to try to build up a true picture of what happened. It's disappointing that we have so little of use to us. Unfortunately the store's security cameras are trained on the tills and therefore we have no visual evidence. Obviously Detective Hutchinson's description is one of the most credible and the lady who helped him has also given us useful information. Miss Bradley has been into headquarters to look at the books but was unable to pick out the offender. However we have been able to eliminate some other suspects from our enquiries."
"Thank you, Jack," Thomas said. "Collins, can you give us your team's report on the recent releases from prison?"
Charlie Collins from R&I stood, looking down at the notes in his hands. An experienced officer with many investigations under his belt, Collins delivered his report with confidence. "We've contacted the local jails for information on releases over the past three months and compared it with our internal records to see if any of the offenders have a connection to Captain Dobey. So far we have found nothing but bear in mind we are talking in excess of two hundred people here so it will take time."
Lt Thomas acknowledged the sounds of discontent that rumbled around the table. "I'll see if I can get you more manpower, Charlie. It looks as though we'll have to start looking further back. I suggest you finish these three months as quickly as you can and then continue to work backwards in monthly increments."
Collins nodded and sat back down as Lt. Thomas pressed on with the next item on his mental agenda. "Young? Have you had any luck with the print shops?"
"No, sir. My men have been showing every shop owner a copy of the leaflets but no one has admitted to printing them. There are still a few to call at but I'm not hopeful."
"That's disappointing," Thomas said, frowning. "Sanderson, you're up."
"I've had officers checking up on known paedophiles," the tall child protection officer said. "They have made unannounced visits as well as checking with their parole officers. So far we have nothing to report but we are still checking their alibis and there are three who have dropped off the radar. I have men looking for them and would appreciate it if everyone would get word out to their contacts. Normally we can expect a good response from the streets as even the cons don't like the paedos."
"Thank you, John. We held a press conference to appeal for help from the public. Glassman, your report please."
Bernie Glassman was something of a 'career uniform' having been on the streets for more than eighteen years. He had only recently taken up the promotion his years of experience merited. He stood and cleared his throat nervously, glancing at Starsky and Hutch before referring to his crumpled notes. Lt Thomas noticed that Starsky met Glassman's eyes and remained staring intently at the uniformed officer while Hutch kept his attention down on his hands and refused to look at Glassman. Thomas wondered if there was a history between the three men. As he had only transferred to Bay City a few months previously he did not yet know every officer in the precinct, but it struck him that Starsky and Hutch were behaving like nervous parents at their child's first recital.
Glassman coughed again and began his report. "We've received several calls on the number we gave during the conference, the vast majority being the usual cranks. It takes time to check all those to eliminate them. Unfortunately, like Sgt Conrad, we also have very little to go on. However, as I was leaving for this meeting, we received a call from a lady who says she saw a man carrying a crying child outside Haney's. We have sent a patrol car to bring her in to look at the books. She was able to give us a partial number of his vehicle so one of Charlie's team is trying to track that down."
"Are you sure this lady is credible, Bernie?" Thomas queried.
"Yes, sir. I felt it was worth pursuing."
Thomas nodded, approving Glassman's decision. Glassman's experience had taught him to follow his gut. That kind of instinct had solved many a case. Thomas was intrigued to see Starsky's expression relax and Hutch look up to give Glassman an approving nod and half smile. He would have to investigate the relationship between the veteran cop and the two young detectives some day.
"Now the Dobeys are the only household to receive the 'child for a child' leaflet so we believe this was not a random act but the Dobey family was the target. Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson have been looking over Captain Dobey's old case files."
He nodded to Starsky and Hutch, then sat back, interlacing his fingers and resting them in his lap. He was interested to see the partners in action. They had a reputation as hot-shots but their arrest record was second to none. They were closer to the Dobey family than most of the other officers and were deeply involved in this case.
Starsky stood and explained what steps they had taken and the conclusions they had drawn. Hutchinson sat beside him, quietly attentive. Starsky spoke eloquently but Thomas noticed how he often looked to Hutch for confirmation. He got the impression that they normally presented a report two-handed but had purposely toned down their usual style this time, in deference to the situation no doubt.
As Starsky finished Hutch added, "We got a call from Children's Services as we were leaving the office. As we suspected Tyler Patterson had no children but Samuel Crosby left two children, a boy and a girl. Both would now be in their late teens or early twenties so we feel it is worth looking into their whereabouts. We would like to apply for a court order to release the Children's Services' records."
Thomas nodded. "I'll get on to that myself." He then turned to address the group. "I know how hard you have all been working, but unfortunately we have pitifully little to show for all your efforts. I don't have to remind you the Dobeys are counting on us to find their little girl. She is out there somewhere, frightened, possibly injured and alone. We are going to bring her home.
We have only two credible witnesses, Hutch and Miss Bradley, but we have a strong possible coming in to go through the books. We have a partial plate number for a vehicle...do we know what make or year?"
Glassman shook his head. "No, sir. Just that it is blue."
Thomas finally allowed himself a small smile. "Well, it's better than nothing. I will apply for the court order for Children's Services and chase up forensics. I'll also find some people to help you, Charlie. Your team now have the suspect vehicle to follow up as well as going through the prison records. John, give everyone the names of the three men you're searching for. Jack, I want your team to continue collating the witness statements. Starsky and Hutch, I want you to sit in with Bernie and speak to the lady who is coming in. Has anybody anything to add?"
"Yes, sir," said Hutch, glancing at Starsky, who nodded. "I know Charlie's team has a lot on their plate but has anyone looked at releases from mental institutions?"
"Good point, Hutch. Bernie and Jack, I want you both to release two of your men to Charlie. Charlie, redeploy your men so you have a team on the prison records, one on the vehicle and a third to start checking on releases from Cabrillo. I sure hope we don't have to spread our search out of state. Anything else? No?"
Thomas stood. "We have Captain Dobey and his family in a safe house for now so I'll go and appraise them of what we have so far. Good work, everyone. And please thank your teams for me."
Everyone rose and left the room, most talking animatedly about the case, a few apparently lost in their own thoughts. Lt. Thomas sat back down with a sigh and dry-wiped his face. The meeting had gone well but he was frustrated by the lack of progress. It was not his style to get angry at the officers under his command, feeling that encouragement and praise was more productive than shouting. It wasn't their fault they had so little to show for their hard work.
He was not looking forward to his upcoming meeting with the Dobeys. Harold was naturally angry and upset and would be demanding results that he could not, at this stage of the investigation, give him.
He pushed himself out of the chair and headed for his office to set wheels in motion for the court order Starsky and Hutch needed and then to go to the safe house.
Rosie ran to the window, all the while listening to the heavy footsteps retreating down the stairs. She shrank back behind the grubby curtain as Milton looked up towards the window as though he sensed her scrutiny.
She watched the blue car drive away and wondered again if she would be able to attract someone's attention. However the few passers-by all scurried past with downcast eyes. No one even glanced up as she pounded on the glass.
Should she break the window? Rosie was scared that Milton would return before she had made her escape so she reluctantly gave up on that idea.
Crossing the room she tried the door, twisting and rattling the handle. She pulled on it with all her strength, and thumped and kicked it. But the door was stronger than it looked and after battering it for several minutes Rosie had to concede defeat.
She wandered back to the window. Pressing her cheek against the glass she closed her eyes and began to say her prayers like her mommy had taught her.
As Starsky and Hutch entered the squad room the phone on their desk was ringing. Hutch made a grab for it while Starsky flopped into his chair like a puppet whose strings had been cut. He watched Hutch scribbling notes, looking increasingly animated.
Starsky slid down in his seat. He felt his eyes closing and fought a brief battle to keep them open before succumbing to the call of sleep. A hand on his shoulder startled him awake and he was surprised to see Hutch crouching in front of him, his face inches from his own, wearing a sympathetic smile.
Starsky smiled self consciously and lowered his gaze, enjoying the fleeting moment of closeness with his partner in the midst of this terrible case. He felt a light squeeze at the back of his neck and then Hutch's hand ruffled his hair as he stood.
"That was Children's Services. They're going to send the files across but here's the condensed version. Crosby's children were taken into care after his death as the mother had abandoned the family and no one knew her whereabouts.
"The boy, Milton, was quite a handful by all accounts, running away several times and setting fires for fun. He started to get in trouble with the law and eventually dropped out of sight..."
"And they just let him go? Without looking for him?"
"C'mon, Starsk, you know what it's like. Too many kids, not enough social workers. He slipped through the net. He's not the first, he won't be the last. At least we have a name to check."
"What about the girl?"
He saw a shadow of sadness cross Hutch's face.
"She and Milton were placed in different foster homes. Emily was put up for adoption and it seems they were near to finding a family for her. But there was a fire and everyone died."
Starsky felt the sadness wash over him too at the thought of a young life cut short. Then his brain began buzzing as his thought processes clicked up a gear. Looking up, he realised Hutch was looking at him intently, eyebrows raised as though he had solved the case already and was waiting for Starsky to catch him up.
"Do you think Milton is replacing Emily with Rosie?"
Starsky nodded emphatically, feeling excitement coursing through his veins. "I do."
"Yeah, me too," said Hutch, eyes glittering dangerously. "Let's go see Ollie and run all this by him. We need to get a team tracking him down asap."
Milton drove past the cop's house as slowly as he dared without raising suspicion. There was no police car parked out front, no sign of a guard on the door. Parking carefully he adjusted the mirror so he could observe the house. After waiting fifteen minutes, he slid out and closed the door quietly. Pushing his hands into the pockets of his blue windcheater he sauntered down the road past the cop's house.
No. Definitely no cops on guard.
What could that mean? He hoped the family was home...there was no point setting a fire in an empty house. But then again an empty house would enable him to look around and formulate a plan for eliminating Emily's other family.
Milton fingered the matches in his pocket feeling the desire begin to wash over him like waves in the ocean. Just small waves for now but he knew that they would grow bigger until he was engulfed, unable to stop himself.
His knife rested beside the matches, still enclosed in the bloodied towel from the other day. He had not been able to bring himself to look at it let alone clean it. But he needed the reassurance of knowing it was there, his defence against who knows what demons that occasionally beset him.
He turned and began to retrace his steps, attempting to see if anyone was looking out of their window, or sitting in a car, and could see him.
Satisfied he was unnoticed, Milton walked casually up to the Dobey's house and with a final quick look, he slipped through the side gate and into the back yard.
His fingers fumbled with the matches as he fought the impulse to set a fire there and then. He was smart enough to know that starting something now would prevent him from doing something in the future. But sometimes he was overcome by the desire.
Pulling the matches from his pocket he lit one, watching mesmerised as the tiny flame danced. As it neared his fingertips he dropped it and struck another and another. In no time they were all spent.
The craving had receded slightly allowing Milton to look around more carefully. The garden was well-tended with tall trees at its borders and a patch of grass in the middle. There was a paved area near the house on which stood a wooden table and chairs. Milton felt a streak of jealousy go through him and it hardened his resolve to destroy the house and its occupants.
He decided to keep it simple...a trash can fire would serve his purpose. He would fill it with oily rags and set it alight by the back door. Oil soaked rags at the front door would complete his revenge. He didn't concern himself with being caught, having already decided that he and Emily would be moving away from Bay City to start a new life far away where nobody could find them.
Starsky drove the Torino swiftly across town feeling reinvigorated. Lt. Thomas had agreed with their opinion that Milton Crosby was now the prime suspect and every available officer was actively seeking him. There had been a hum of renewed hope throughout the department.
Charlie Collins' team unearthed information on Crosby's criminal background. They knew what car was registered in his name and most importantly of all, they now had an address.
With Lt. Thomas following behind, Starsky and Hutch were heading for the small print shop above which was the apartment which was listed as Crosby's last known address. Several blocks away they killed their lights and sirens and coasted gently to a halt behind a patrol car that was already at the scene.
One of the uniforms approached. "The shop is closed and his car isn't here," he reported.
Lt. Thomas sent the uniforms to check round the back. "Keep in touch," he said, indicating the walkie-talkie in his hand. The street was almost deserted as Starsky, Hutch and the lieutenant walked towards the print shop.
"We've got to do this by the book, guys; no entry without a warrant," Lt. Thomas was saying, as a loud banging attracted their attention.
Starsky was the first to spot Rosie at a window above the shop, pounding frantically on the glass. "But we can enter if we have just cause," he growled, breaking into a run, Hutch and Ollie at his heels.
The door easily gave under their combined assault as did the door which led to the living quarters above.
Starsky pounded up the narrow stairs behind Hutch. As he came through the battered door he saw Hutch scoop Rosie up in his arms, crushing her in an embrace that the little girl returned fiercely.
He heard Rosie's cries and saw the tears glistening in his partner's eyes as their gaze locked across the room.
Clearing his throat to try to disguise his own emotions, Starsky called down to Lt. Thomas. "Ollie! We've got her!"
After a quick check with Hutch he added, "She seems fine."
"Let's go then," Ollie called back. "The uniforms will get him when he comes back. We need to get Rosie back to her family."
Starsky and Hutch clattered down the stairs, Rosie holding onto Hutch tightly. She refused to let go when they reached the Torino, so Hutch clambered awkwardly into the back with his precious cargo.
After a quick word with the officers who had responded to his call for back-up, Lt Thomas climbed into his own car and led the way to the safe house.
Starsky followed the lieutenant's black Ford across town listening to his partner soothing the distressed child in the back seat. "Hutch'll make a great dad one day," he thought.
Rosie's tears dried as she was reassured that she would soon be back with her mommy and daddy, and Uncle Ken was not hurt too bad.
The blue car drove down the street and pulled into the alley between a small mom-and-pop store and a laundromat. Milton could scarcely believe it when he'd seen the red and white car parked down the road from his home. It must be the same one...surely there couldn't be two cars with that fancy paint job?
Twisting in his seat to look out the rear window, he wondered what to do. Was it just coincidence the car was parked there? Or had they found out where he lived? Maybe they had already taken Emily away and were lying in wait for him?
As he debated what to do, he saw three men walking by, two looking all around vigilantly, the third carrying Emily in his arms. He immediately recognised the blond and his curly-haired friend.
In that instant he knew what he had to do. If he couldn't have Emily then no one would.
Turning to the front he drove down the alley and took three quick right turns which brought him up behind the red car just as it pulled away. Milton hung back, grateful the car was so distinctive.
It looked like they were following a black Ford across town and sure enough both cars indicated and pulled up behind each other. Milton stopped too and watched intently as the curly man helped the blond out of the car, Emily still clinging to him like a limpet. The third man, whom he recognised from the TV appeal, was standing close by, looking all around. All three men approached one of the nondescript houses and disappeared inside. Milton just caught a glimpse of a uniformed police officer before the door closed.
Milton alighted from his car and scanned the neighbourhood. He jogged to a small convenience store and emerged minutes later with a bottle of soda and a box of matches.
Taking a quick gulp of the soda, he poured the rest onto the ground. Siphoning some fuel out of his car and into the bottle was easy, something he'd done several times in the past. He carefully pushed an old rag from the trunk of his car into the mouth of the bottle.
Creeping up to the house he set light to the rag and with his heart pounding, he took aim at one of the windows and threw the flaming bottle as hard as he could.
Lt. Ollie Thomas drove swiftly across town, the Torino close behind, and soon both cars were pulling up silently outside the safe house.
Rosie had fallen asleep and the lieutenant waited as Starsky helped Hutch out of the back seat. As they drew nearer the door opened, a uniformed officer standing just inside.
The lieutenant led the way down a narrow corridor and entered a room which was surprisingly bright and airy after the gloom of the hallway. A TV played in one corner showing a western, a loud gunfight masking the sound of their arrival.
Cal Dobey sat on the floor, leaning against the sofa, staring at the screen with unseeing eyes. The captain sat on the sofa, one hand resting on Cal's shoulder, his other arm holding a sleeping Edith close. His eyes also gazed at the TV although his expression showed his thoughts were far away from the drama unfolding on the screen.
Lt. Thomas cleared his throat. "Harold?"
Captain Dobey looked up, taking in the three figures in the doorway. The lieutenant motioned Hutch forwards and it was then that the captain saw his daughter blinking sleepily in Hutch's arms.
"Rosie," he breathed. Then he shook his wife awake. "Edith! It's Rosie! She's back!"
Captain Dobey made to rise then sank back down beside his wife as Hutch walked forward and gently placed Rosie in Edith's arms. Cal leapt up, a wide grin splitting his face before the tears began to flow.
A babble of noise broke out as the Dobey family was reunited. Lt. Thomas ushered Starsky and Hutch towards a doorway through which Officer Minnie Kaplin was just emerging, drawn by the sound. Minnie drew back and the others followed, leaving their friends to enjoy their reunion in private.
Starsky filled Minnie in on how they had rescued Rosie as she heated some water for drinks, glancing occasionally at his partner who was uncharacteristically quiet. Hutch had one arm braced against the wall beside the window, his other hand resting on his hip. His gaze appeared to be riveted on something outside but Starsky felt sure he was looking inwards, nursing his guilt once more. The rigidity of his stance radiated a tension that discouraged conversation, but when had that ever stopped Starsky?
Picking up two of the cups and taking a huge bite out of a cookie, he approached his partner.
"Here ya go, buddy,"he mumbled around the cookie. "Minnie made some tea."
Hutch took the cup with a silent nod of thanks as Starsky swallowed his mouthful.
"Isn't this great, huh? Rosie's back home, we've got cookies and it's nearly Christmas."
He intercepted the filthy look Hutch gave him and grinned.
"Ho, ho, ho, little boy. You shall go to the ball."
"Shut up, moron."
But the affectionate tone and half smile took the sting out of the words.
The kitchen door opened and all four officers turned to see Captain Dobey, his eyes suspiciously damp but a broad smile on his face.
"Thank you, boys," he said gruffly, looking at Starsky and Hutch. "And you too, Ollie." He grasped the lieutenant's hand and pumped it vigorously. Then he dropped the hand and cleared his throat in obvious embarrassment.
"Forget it, Cap. It's okay," Starsky said. Hutch nodded agreement beside him.
The awkward moment was broken by a crash and screams from the other room. After a split second's immobility, the group moved, as one, to the door.
An horrific sight greeted them...flames licking at the furniture, Edith and the children cowering in a corner.
Training kicked in as Hutch, Captain Dobey and Minnie hustled the family out the door and down the hallway. Starsky and Lt. Thomas were first out the front door, guns drawn.
Starsky could see two uniformed officers struggling with a hooded figure. With a quick check to see the Dobeys were okay, he ran to help. He could sense Hutch close behind him, watching his back as always.
The man was screaming and cursing, flailing his arms and kicking out in his efforts to get away. The combined force of all four officers was needed to subdue him, as the man seemed imbued with a superhuman strength borne out of desperation.
"Emily!" he howled. "Emily! Don't take my Emily!"
Rosie watched wide eyed as Lt. Thomas read the man his rights and he was loaded into a black and white. "I'm not Emily," she said quietly. "I told him my name is Rosie but he wouldn't listen. He said he's my big brother. But you are, aren't you, Cal?"
Starsky watched as Hutch crouched down in front of the little girl, knowing his partner would find the right words to comfort her. He was proud of the way Hutch could talk to so many diverse people and allay their fears with just the tone of his voice and instinctive choice of words. Just another one of the ways he and Hutch complemented each other so perfectly.
"Yes, Cal is your brother, Rosie. But Milton is sick. When he saw you, he thought you were his lost sister and wanted to take you home. He didn't mean to hurt or scare you. He got confused, that's all. He'll go to the hospital and they'll help him get better."
Rosie nodded solemnly, accepting what Hutch said. "Bye, Milton. Get well soon."
She waved towards the patrol car where Milton now sat quietly crying, his head downcast. Then she took her mommy's hand and walked with her to Lt. Thomas's car. Hutch rose slowly as Starsky moved up beside him to place a hand on his shoulder and they watched the Dobeys drive away from the safe house. The sound of sirens filled the air as the fire service arrived.
A few days later Starsky and Hutch were back on duty, cruising the streets in Hutch's somewhat battered but deceptively powerful car.
The previous night they had enjoyed a party thrown by their friend, Huggy Bear, in honour of Rosie's safe return. All the Dobeys had been there of course, as well as many of the police officers who had been working on the case. Some of the security team from Haney's department store were in attendance, and Starsky and Hutch insisted that Angelica Bradley and Annie Lorden should also be invited in return for their help. It had been an evening filled with laughter and a few tears too.
Starsky happily looked forward to a double date he had arranged for himself and Hutch with Angel and a work colleague of hers. Huggy had found himself volunteering to host a Christmas meal for Annie and other lonely older people in the area. And several of the police officers at the party were talked into acting as waiting-on staff for the meal, something they were happy to do.
The radio gave out three beeps, effectively bringing to a halt the good-natured bickering over where they should take the ladies on their date.
"All units in the vicinity. Two-eleven in progress, laundromat, corner of Washington and Main. Code two."
Starsky grabbed the light and slapped it on the roof while at the same time snatching up the mike. "This is Zebra Three. We are in the area and responding. ETA three minutes."
Their arrival couldn't have been better timed if it had been choreographed. Just as they approached, a giant of a man ran from the laundromat, dived into a dark blue Ford and peeled away from the kerb, tyres squealing. Hutch gave chase as Starsky flicked on the siren.
As the pursuit continued, Starsky broke off from the commentary he was giving over the radio to look at his partner.
"Hutch? Do you believe in danger view?"
Hutch spared him a quick glance then wrenched the wheel to the right as the car in front tried to shake off its pursuer. "Danger view?" he queried. Then his brain seemed to click into gear with his partner's. He shook his head briefly and rolled his eyes, smiling indulgently. "That's deja-vu, Starsky. Deja-vu."
"Well whatever it is, I get the feelin' we've done this before."
The blue Ford suddenly lurched to a halt by the park and the driver took off on foot across the grass. Starsky tumbled out of Hutch's car and set off after their enormous prey.
"Yeah. Me too, Starsk. But this time I'm driving and you're running."