Brooklyn, New York, 1955
Davey sat on a small traveler’s trunk outside the front steps of his two-story walk-up. The movers were carrying all his family’s stuff out of his home and cramming it into a large moving truck. There’d been a time when he would have loved to watch them or play around in the truck cab. He’d managed to escape his ma’s worried eye by telling her he wanted to watch the movers, but now that he was outside, all he could do was sit.
He pulled out a piece of folded up newspaper from his jacket. He kept it in the front breast pocket, so he wouldn’t lose it or get it dirty. Ma didn’t know he’d kept it. She couldn’t bring herself to read any of the articles, tossing the papers into the fireplace as they arrived. This one, he’d nabbed from his pal Toby’s rubbish bin.
Prominent Rabbi Murdered in Front of Son.
Rabbi Michael Starsky, 38, was shot yesterday on Underhill Avenue. Mr. Starsky was walking with his son David, 12, from Union Temple of Brooklyn. According to young David, Mr. Starsky was attempting to intervene in an altercation between four teens who were fighting outside of Micky’s Dinner on Underhill and Lincoln. Witnesses inside the diner said that one of the young men, Thom Marcus, 18, had been dining alone, when the other three men came in and started calling him names. Micky McGarry, the owner of the diner, told the men to leave. Once outside, they started beating on Mr. Marcus. The details of the shooting remain under police investigation.
“Hey Tony, lookit this! We could nail ourselves a fag and a Jew!”
“You boys haven’t really hurt anyone yet. Just go home!” Davey saw his father moving closer to the young man who was lying on the ground. They’d knocked him down with a punch to the jaw when he and Pop walked around the corner. As the older boys started to kick the one on the ground, he heard his Pop yell, “Stop it!” as he ran ahead of Davey.
He saw the gun before his Pop did and watched his father go very still, but somehow, keep moving towards the boy on the ground. How could Pop move so slowly?
“Johnny, where’d you get the piece? You never said we was gonna kill him. We’s was just gonna rough him up. Put it away or the cops ‘ill get called for sure.”
“Johnny, listen to your friend. Go home now.”
“I don’t take orders from no Jew. ‘Specially a fag-lovin’ Jew!”
The sounds of sirens were starting, and Davey felt a surge of relief. Johnny glanced in the direction of the high-pitched wail. At that moment, he saw Pop lunge for the gun in Johnny’s hand. He heard the shot and watched his Pop fall to his knees.
“NOOOOOOOOOOO!” Davey wailed as he ran to his father’s side. The older boys took off running as Davey collapsed to the ground atop his Pop, blood gushing from his father's chest in spurts.
Davey shut his eyes against the memory, carefully re-folded the newspaper clipping and put it back in his pocket. He didn’t know why he kept re-reading it because it always took him right back to that awful night four weeks ago. Somehow, the pain of remembering it was something he just had to keep poking. Like when he’d jammed his toe against first base and broke it last summer. The doc had taped it up and he’d sit on the floor and push on it sometimes. Not hard, but somehow, even though it hurt, pushing on it felt good.
“You ready to go Davey?” He looked up and saw his Ma, holding his six-year old brother’s hand. Nicky hadn’t looked at his brother since the shooting. Davey felt the accusation in that avoidance. Nicky’s attitude only cemented the guilt he already carried for not having stopped their Pop from dying.
Ma and Nicky were dressed nice. Ma had tried to get him to wear his pants, shirt and tie to the going-away party they were throwing down at Union. He’d refused. His Dungarees and t-shirt was all he was gonna wear forever. Denim and cotton were what he and Pop were wearing coming home that day. They’d been doing some yard work at the temple together that afternoon. He’d never see Pop dress fine again, so he never would either. It hadn’t taken much arguing with Ma. Time was when she’d have insisted, but somehow his resolve made her back down.
Davey looked up. “I don’t wanna go.”
“Why not? This is your last chance to say good-bye to Toby and Josh and all your friends.”
“I don’t wanna go to California, Ma.”
Ellen Starsky squatted down to Davey’s level. “I know, son. But the three of us crammed into Mrs. Swartz’s spare room is too much. Your Aunt Rose can care for you until I can find a job and a place big enough for us to be together.”
Davey nodded and stood up, dragging his small trunk over to the moving van. Silently, he walked over, took his mother’s hand and never once looked back.
Duluth, Minnesota, 1955 Christmas Eve
“Kenny, you be good for Father Joe. If I find out you’ve been fooling around in the sacristy again, I’m telling your father.”
“I know Mom!” Ken rolled his eyes, but had turned away from her so she wouldn’t see, got out of the car and trudged up the stone steps that had been cleared of snow.
Getting picked for altar boy duty at midnight mass on Christmas Eve was supposed to be an honor. Getting dropped off at St. Elizabeth’s at 10:30 on Christmas Eve, with the temperature dropping and the wind blowing hardly felt like one. He thought of Kelly in her room back home, asleep and waiting for Santa. His parents had forbidden him from telling her Santa wasn’t real. He’d told his mom it wasn’t fair because it had been their neighbor Daniel who had told him when he was six. Kel was eight now and he thought it made her a baby to still believe in Santa. He kept his mouth shut though.
Entering the church at night always gave him chills, though now that he was twelve, he admonished himself for being a scaredy-cat. There were some candles still burning from an earlier mass, but otherwise, the sanctuary was dark. He knew the place so well though, the darkness didn't mean he couldn't find his way. He saw light coming from under the door of the sacristy, so he knew Father Joe was here already. Stopping briefly to kneel and cross himself as he passed the altar; he knocked on the heavy wooden door off to the left.
Ken opened the door slowly. For the last year or so, it seemed that no matter what time he showed up before mass, Father Joe was still getting dressed into his vestments. This time was no different. Father Joe was standing with his black pants on, fly open, topless, with his black shirt in his hand. At least he had pants on this time.
He didn’t know why seeing Father Joe this way made him feel so strange. He’d seen his dad getting dressed or watched the dads who helped out with his Sea Scout troop get changed or dressed on camp outs. They were just guys. But with Father Joe, it was different. Almost like the priest wanted him to see him this way.
Ken walked quickly over to where the alter boy vestments were kept in a closet off to the right.
“Are you not even going to say hello Kenny?” Father Joe asked.
“Uh, hello Father.” He looked briefly at the man and then looked back to the closet. Why was he still standing there with his pants open?
Taking his coat off, he pulled the white alb off its hangar, hanging his coat up in its place.
“Here, let me help you.” Father Joe had crossed the room quickly and was suddenly behind him, reaching over his shoulder to take the hanger from his hand.
Ken had gotten taller since the summer, so he now came up above the priest’s shoulder. This meant that to reach over him, the man’s body pressed against his own. He froze. Was Father Joe hard? His own erections had been popping up at very inconvenient times of late, especially whenever he sat in English class and could watch Nancy Baker chew on her pencil in the next row. But he didn’t think that happened to priests. They were celibate. He figured that meant their dicks didn’t work or something, because who would choose to never have sex?
Ken stepped slightly into the closet to give some space between their bodies, but Father Joe seemed to follow him. Turning around, he ducked under the man’s arm and walked to the drawer where they kept the stoles.
“Kenny, you seem tense tonight. Do you want to talk about something?” Father Joe, stood next to him now, resting a hand on his shoulder, rubbing slightly.
“Just excited about Christmas I guess.”
The hand kept rubbing, moving slowly down his back. It didn’t feel bad, but it didn’t feel right either.
“This time of waiting is hard for all of us. But Christmas is about more than presents Kenny. It’s about the coming of our Lord.”
Ken glanced back and he saw the priest’s hand resting on his own crotch, finger tracing the top of the bulge in his underwear that was now impossible to miss.
“There are ways to release our anxiety, so that we can move into leading worship with a clear mind.” The hand massaging his back and shoulder was joined by the other and again he felt the stiff pressure of the priest’s engorged penis against his lower back.
With a resolve he didn’t know he could muster, he pushed hard against the man, causing him to stumble. Father Joe put his arm out to break his fall and Ken head the loud crack of bone as the priest’s wrist broke. He screamed in pain and Ken ran out of the sacristy, leaving his coat behind, and bolted into the cold, dark, winter night.
He kept running the two miles it took to get home. He hid out in the barn, wrapping himself in horse blankets, not even going into the house when he saw the lights go on in the morning. Finally, hearing his mother’s panicked voice calling his name, he went inside. He never told his parents what had happened but he never went back to St. Elizabeth’s. Every Christmas Eve, as his family would leave to go to mass, his mother would remind him that she was praying for his soul. He would turn off the Christmas tree so he could sit alone in the dark: angry with God.
Bay City, California, 1977
Starsky’s mood was as dark as the dashboard of his ’74 Torino as he drove fast along Los Angeles Boulevard. He hadn’t thrown up the dome light, preferring to just take his chances with any black & whites he might encounter. The phone call had come in at 0730, which was about four hours earlier than he normally woke up. He’d asked dispatch to call Hutch and tell him he’d pick him up in twenty minutes, but he’d taken longer to wake up in the shower than he’d meant to, thus the racing through city streets a good 20 miles over the speed limit.
When he pulled up outside Venice Place, Hutch was waiting on the street for him, looking annoyed, which didn’t help Starsky’s mood either. He wasn’t up for getting scolded by his partner right now.
Hutch had barely sat in the car when it pulled away from the curb and he had to yank hard to get the door shut. “Shit, Starsk, if you didn’t take so long jacking off in the shower, you’d get here on time.”
“Don’t start with me.” Starsky growled as his foot punched harder on the accelerator.
Hutch put his hand on the dash for balance as he pulled the dome light off the floor, flipped the switch and slapped it on the roof.
“Is the victim a kid?” Hutch asked. All he knew was that there had been a shooting at St. Edwards’s High School that morning, about half an hour before school was supposed to start. It was already on the news as he was getting ready. Uniforms were on scene, so if they’d called him and Starsky, someone had died. If it was a kid, that would explain his partner’s mood.
“No. One of the priests who taught at the school.”
“Guess someone wasn’t saying their Hail Marys”
“Hey, the man’s dead. Just ‘cause you and your church ain’t talkin’ no more don’t give you the right to be an asshole.”
“What’s up with you today?” It wasn’t like Starsky to lay into him quite so hard first thing.
“Nothin’. I just hate gettin’ woke up early.” The truth was, he’d been gripped by a nightmare before the call came and it was still searing through him. He hadn’t dreamed about Pop’s death in years. Which was good, because when he did, it wasn’t so much a dream as it was reliving it all over again.
Hutch looked at Starsky. He knew this was more than just an early morning homicide. “Whenever you’re ready to talk about it, I’ll listen. Until then, stop taking whatever the hell it is out on me.”
Starsk gave him a quick nod and they drove the rest of the way in silence, save for the chatter of the police radio.
As they got closer to the school, the streets became congested with people, news trucks, and black & whites blocking side streets to try and create a perimeter around the scene.
“Zebra 3” Hutch spoke into the microphone
“Zebra 3” Replied the dispatcher
“We’re 10-23, but how do they want us to enter?”
“Stand by Zebra 3”
Suddenly Dobey’s voice came over the comm, “Dispatch, have them come in on 18th. I’ll have the unit ready to move and let them through.”
“Zebra 3, do you copy?”
“Affirmative.” Hutch replaced the radio mic as Starsky had already turned right to sweep around the ball fields to the back of the school. As he did, he noticed one of the news trucks pull out to follow them.
“We got a shadow, Hutch.”
Hutch turned around and leaned out the window. He pointed at the driver and then twirled his hand, indicating they should turn around. The driver flipped him off. Hutch slid back into the car.
“I do believe that news guy just failed to yield to an emergency vehicle, failed to comply with directions of an officer and I bet if I got a look at the vehicle, I could find lots of other infractions.”
“Screw him. Your hand will go numb writing up all those tickets. Who is it? Will or Tony?”
Hutch looked again. “Tony.”
Starsky smiled. “When we get out, I’ll remind him of how sweet his sister tasted and then we can book him on assaulting a police officer.”
Hutch chuckled, “Not nice to diddle a man’s sister Starsk.”
“I didn’t diddle. I took my time; long, smooth strokes…”
“Yeah, tell me about it later, we’ve got our opening.” Hutch waved at Officer Barnes as the patrol car backed up to let them through and pulled forward again. The news truck pulled off to the side and Hutch could see Barnes already walking up to it, motioning for them to turn around and go back up the street.
They parked next to the dumpsters that were behind the gymnasium and walked around to the front of the school, where crime scene tape was already up. Half way up the walkway to the school entrance laid a large mass covered in a coroner’s sheet. Dobey was standing a few feet away, talking to one of the patrol sergeants.
“What we got Cap’n?” Starsky asked, as Hutch walked over and knelt down, lifting the sheet up.
“Father James Markee, 53. We figure he parked in the staff lot there and was on his way into the school when he was shot close range by a medium caliber gun. At least one of the shots was fired while the barrel was against his belly because he has a gas mound.”
Hutch lifted the sheet higher as Starsky knelt beside him, pulling the dead man’s shirt up to reveal the four wounds in his stomach and chest.
“The contact shot was probably the first.” Starsk said, pointing to the bubbled skin that had stretched up and ripped as the escaping gas from the fired round, having no where to go but into the tissue, had become trapped and then exploded out as the bullet created its hole. Rookie cops often made the mistake of thinking this kind of entry wound was an exit, but the dark stippling of the powder was the give away.
Hutch nodded. “These other three were fired farther away,” he stood up and held his hand out, “probably standing over him after he’d fallen to the ground.”
Starsky stood up, laying the sheet back over the body and looked around. “Not any trees or places to hide. So he saw whoever it was coming.”
“Might have known him.” Hutch postulated.
“Or not. It’s a school. He could have assumed it was a parent who wanted to talk to him.”
“Probably didn’t pull the gun until he was right up on him.”
“Yeah,” Starsky agreed. “He’s close enough to the school that if he was afraid, he’d’a run inside.”
Both men turned to their captain, “Do we have any witnesses?”
“You wanting me to do your job for you now? I have to go talk to the press. All the staff have been gathered into the lunchroom, along with about 45 students who had come to school early for various reasons. Some of them have their parents, but not all. Start with the teachers, so we can get the rest of the parents here before you try and question them.”
Both men nodded and went inside as the crime scene team kept taking pictures and cataloguing the scene.
“Mrs. Day, you said you heard the shots fired and looked out the window?” Hutch asked the elderly lady, dressed in a brown stretch-polyester suit, silver grey hair piled into a bun. He’d left the priests to Starsky to question, telling his partner that he’d rather charm the ladies. His partner knew Hutch never spoke to clergy if he could avoid it, but he didn’t know why.
“Yes, young man. I looked out and saw Father James on the ground and a tall, thin man running out through the parking lot.”
“Can you tell me what he was wearing?”
“He had on pants like his.” She pointed to Starsky’s jeans. “And a dark, hooded thing, like the basketball players wear before a game.”
Hutch nodded as he took notes on his pad. “Did it have writing on it? Did it zip up or was it like one that pulls over the head?”
“I don’t know. He was running away from me. The hood was up, it was dark colored, black or maybe dark blue. No writing on it.”
“OK, Mrs. Day, go ahead and go back to one of the tables and I might check in with you in a little while.” Hutch looked across the room to see his partner walking quickly toward him with one of the older priests following him.
“Hutch, this is Father Paul.”
The priest extended his hand and for a moment, Starsky feared that Hutch wouldn’t shake it. But even Hutch couldn’t be that rude, as he quickly shook the man’s hand and turned to his partner.
“Father Paul says he looked out of his room on the second floor and saw the guy approach Father James. He thinks he might recognize him.”
“I didn’t say that Detective.” Father Paul corrected. He clasped his hands together in a careful way. “I said he reminded me of someone. A former student actually. But this student graduated eight or nine years ago. I can’t be sure it was him because I haven’t seen him in years.”
“Do you have a name?” Hutch asked and then feeling Starsk’s elbow in his side added, “Father.”
Father Paul looked at him carefully from behind small, black-framed glasses. “You don’t like me for some reason.”
Hutch shifted away from the man, leaning into Starsky’s shoulder, grateful that his partner didn’t move, but bore the weight of him.
“I don’t even know you, so why would I not like you?” Hutch asked, looking at the man fully now.
“Excellent point. So do you not like priests or just Catholics in general.”
“Name. Do you have a name of this person you think you remember or not?” Hutch was getting more agitated at this man. He was actually pretty unassuming, though his eyes studied him, like he found him curious.
“Darryl. Darryl Sinclair.”
“I’ll go call that in and see if anything pops.” Hutch said as he put a hand on Starsky’s arm before he walked swiftly away.
“Your friend carries a heavy weight.” The priest turned to Starsky with a sigh.
“He’s actually Catholic, but stopped going to church when he was in Junior High.”
Father Paul gave him a serious look. “How old?”
“Uh, twelve I think.”
“Has he told you why?” The priest asked his question with a sad quietness.
“No. He doesn’t go to church and doesn’t like Christmas. Otherwise, he doesn’t talk about it much.”
Father Paul shook his head a little. “Ask him if he was an altar boy.”
“Why?” Starsky had liked the priest instantly, but was unnerved by his seeming to understand about Hutch’s attitude.
“Because he’ll have to tell someone and he clearly trusts you.”
“You know what happened to him?”
“Not specifically no. But children who are raised Catholic don’t generally turn away until they are in high school or older. Twelve is pretty young to make that decision without some cause.”
“What’s him bein’ an altar boy got to do with it?” Starsky was very curious now.
“Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. You’ll know if it’s relevant as soon as you ask him. If I’m right, and believe me, I pray with all my heart I’m not, but if I am, it will be a hard story to tell. Do you have any more need of me Detective? I’d like to go talk to some parents now.”
“Do you have any idea why someone might’ve wanted to kill Father Markee?”
“All of us have done things that our Lord wished we didn’t, Detective. James was no different than anyone else.”
“That a yes or a no?” Starsky could understand why Hutch found talking to priests confounding.
“It means that I know of no specific reason, but he’s only been in this diocese for about 18 months. I have no idea what he may or may not have done prior to his time at St. Edward’s.”
“I get the feeling that you didn’t like the man.” Starsky was starting to see that he needed to listen to what wasn’t said. “Do you know of something he did before?”
Father Paul sighed. “I don’t. He and I weren’t friends. He taught mathematics and I taught literature and religion. I guess you’d call it a hunch. I call it Wisdom. I just never felt right about him. He’s a secular priest, so the fact that he is teaching here at all is unusual.”
“Whaddya mean he’s secular? Don’t that mean non-religious?” Starsky wasn’t unfamiliar with the basics of Christianity, but this was beyond anything he’d learned about before.
“No. Secular priests are those assigned to parishes. They earn salaries and have no rules that might define a religious order, such as a vow of poverty. Regular priests, such as myself, have pledged themselves to a specific order and agree to live by the regulations of that group. This school is run by the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. We dedicate our lives to social justice through education and mission. We agree to go wherever we are sent in this call. For James to have come to us meant he was being taken out of parish ministry. Sometimes secular priests will request such assignment, if they find they have a gift for teaching or chaplaincy. I just never got the sense that James particularly liked teaching, though he seemed to get along well with the students.”
“So you’re saying he might have been sent here because someone wanted him out of the parish he came from?”
Father Paul smiled at him. “You appear to have a quicker mind than your brutalization of the English language would suggest Detective Starsky.”
“Ya should see me type.” Starsky smiled back, wrote a number on his pad, tore it and gave it to the man. “If you have anything more you want to tell us, call that number.”
Shaking hands, the priest said, “Tell your partner I will be praying he finds the peace and justice he needs.”
Starsky looked at him quizzically, but nodded and left.
Hutch was sitting in the Torino, watching the coroner’s crew work. His expression told Starsky that his thoughts were far away.
“Did you get a hit on the name?” He asked as he leaned against the open door.
“Huh?” Hutch focused on his partner as if seeing him for the first time.
“Darryl Sinclair? You get a hit?”
“Oh, uh, yeah. There are three living in Bay City, but one is in his 80’s, so I put him aside for now. Got addresses from the DMV for the other two. You wanna go check them out? One’s way out in the canyon and the other’s by the old zoo.”
Starsky shivered. “Let’s do the canyon first. I feel like drivin’ for a bit.”
Hutch knew that if they could avoid the zoo, Starsky would prefer it. Bad memories. There seemed to be a lot of bad memories goin’ around.
As they cruised down the highway, windows down, Starsky clicked off the radio. “Why don’t you go to church anymore Hutch?”
Hutch looked at him with a sideways glance then turned away. “Why don’t you go to shul?”
“I’m often working and kinda got out of the habit. Plus, I like spending my Friday nights with you.” Starsky waited. He’d answered honestly. Would Hutch do the same?
“I guess I don’t have any use for God anymore.”
“Any use for God or any use for church? ‘Cause they ain’t the same thing.”
“Starsk, why are you asking me this? Why do you care if I go to mass or not?”
“Father Paul was a nice guy. Nice enough for you to not treat him like you did. He said some things. He told me to ask you if you were an altar boy.”
“None of your damn business.” Hutch growled as he turned the radio back on and started staring out the passenger window again.
Guess it’s the ‘Maybe Everything’ answer, Father Paul Starsky thought to himself.
The drive out to the canyon had been a bust since Darryl Sinclair, 22 was currently serving in the Marine Corp, stationed at Pearl Harbor. They had thanked his mother for her time and made the long drive back. That left only one remaining Darryl in the area.
“What you got for us Dispatch?” Hutch asked.
“Darryl Sinclair, 29, of Winchester Avenue has no priors and only one parking ticket outstanding for Genesee Park, dated July 18 of this year.”
Starsky was puzzled. “What was the ticket for?”
“What was the violation on the parking ticket?” Hutch relayed to Dispatch.
“The only way to get a parking ticket for loitering is if you’re sitting in your car for hours. And even then, someone would have to complain about ya.” Starsky mused.
“Isn’t Genesee the park with all the baseball fields?”
“Well, let’s head over to Winchester Avenue and see if he feels like paying that fine.”
Sinclair hadn’t been home and while they looked around outside, there was nothing they could see that would give them cause to enter his house. After putting a Person of Interest notice about him on the wire, they headed to The Pits for dinner.
The place was pretty empty, which was normal for a Tuesday night. Huggy had chatted with them for a bit but neither of them was particularly talkative. Finally, Hutch broke the silence. “You wanna tell me why you were so irritable this morning?”
Starsky looked at him confused and then remembered back to how he woke up. His nightmare seemed so long ago now. But maybe this was his in to get Hutch to talk about what Father Paul seemed to think he needed to.
“I’d had a nightmare about my Pop.”
“The shooting?” Hutch asked.
Starsky nodded. “Sometimes, I just re-live it in my dreams. Always thinking I’m gonna stop it from happening.”
“Sorry buddy. How old were you when it happened?”
“Twelve. Same age you were.”
“When I was what?” Hutch avoided his eyes.
“When you stopped going to church.”
“Starsky, I told you…” but he was cut off.
“No, what matters is what you ain’t telling me. Why’d you stop going to church Hutch.”
Looking into his beer, Hutch realized that if there was ever anyone who he could tell, it would be Starsky. Very quietly said, “Because of Father Joe.”
“Why? What did Father Joe do?”
“I’d been an altar boy for about six months. It was fun and a big honor. Made my mom so proud. I was asked to serve on Christmas Eve. It was just me and Father Joe, a few hours before Midnight Mass. We were changing into our albs and…he was…he tried to…”
Starsky just waited, already dreading what his partner would say next, realization gripping his gut.
Hutch glanced up and the look of caring concern on his friend’s face bolstered him somehow. “He was.... touching... me, so I pushed him away… hard. He fell and broke his arm. I ran and didn’t set foot in a church until my own wedding. Only other time I’ve been in a church was when Nancy asked me to give her away last year.”
“And you never told your folks why?”
“I never told anyone why, until now.”
Starsky leaned forward and reached across the table, placing a hand of Hutch’s arm. “It wasn’t your fault, y’know.”
“In my head, I know that. I’ve taken all the same victim psychology trainings you have. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder, ‘Why me?’ What did Father Joe see in me that made him think I’d want him like that or that he could do that to me?”
“You broke his arm. I’d say whatever he thought, he misjudged you.”
“I’m not so sure.” Hutch would never tell his partner that, until they’d met, he had walked in the confidence that Father Joe had pegged him wrong. Then Starsky came into his life and he’d spent seven years wrestling with the haunting thought that maybe the priest had known something about him that he didn’t.
“You up for a stake out?’ Starsk asked, pulling his hand back.
“Father Paul hinted that if I found out why you stopped going to church, it might be a clue to why Father Markee was killed.”
“You think Father Markee was like Father Joe?”
“Would you have killed Joe?”
“Not for what he did, no. If I hadn’t been able to stop him though…I don’t know.”
“Well, we ain’t gonna know until we talk to Darryl Sinclair. Why don’t we go see if he’s home, and if not, we’ll form a little welcome home party.”
Starsky wasn’t surprised that Sinclair wasn’t home. His gut was telling him that Father Paul’s read was right somehow. But how did it all work together?
“Zebra 3, come in.”
“Zebra 3, go ahead.” Starsky answered. Hutch had crawled into the back seat to take his turn at sleeping.
“I have a patch-through from a Paul Janoviak.”
Starsky had no idea who that was, but told Dispatch to connect it. “Good Evening Detective. This is Father Paul.”
“Hey there Father. Did you remember somethin’?”
“Actually, I did a little digging in the school records. Darryl Sinclair graduated from here in 1966. His records show that he listed St. Marks as his home parish. James Markee was the priest at St. Marks from 1960 until 1975.”
“So Father Markee was Darryl’s priest?”
“Yes, from the age of 12 until two years ago.”
“Lemme guess. Darryl was an altar boy.”
“His records do list that as one of his activities.”
“Father, you should have been a detective.”
“You seek justice in your way, I seek it mine, son.”
“Thanks, Father Paul. We owe you one.”
“I will remember that Detective. Good night.”
By 0130, Starsky was starting to nod off. He leaned over the seat and lightly patted Hutch on the face, trying to get him to wake up. “C’mon Blondie, my turn for a little shut eye.”
Hutch leaned into his hand, rubbing his cheek against it, still asleep. Starsky caressed his hand through Hutch’s hair, feeling a bit bad for having to wake him up, but he was tired and this was the deal. “Let’s go beautiful, wake up now.”
Hutch’s eyes fluttered open and in a sleepy voice he asked, “Did you just call me beautiful?”
Starsky smiled at him, “You are pretty cute when you sleep. But it’s my turn now.”
“Yeah, OK” and he sat up and started to climb up over the seat. “No sign of him yet?”
Starsky climbed into the back, feeling the warmth on the vinyl where Hutch had been laying. “Not yet, which isn’t making things look too good for ‘ol Darryl.” Starsky yawned and leaned back, choosing to lay with his head on the driver’s side, right behind Hutch.
“Father Paul called in while you were asleep. He says Darryl was an altar boy for Father Markee.”
Hutch stilled. “Oh yeah?”
Starsky reached up and squeezed Hutch’s shoulder. “You OK?”
“Yeah, Starsk. Yeah. Get some sleep.”
Hutch sat staring at the house, lost in his thoughts. There was some relief in finally telling someone about what had happened that Christmas Eve so long ago. In fact, now that he’d talked about it, he felt a little bit silly. On the job, he’d seen more than his share of raped women and abused kids to understand that what happened to him wasn’t all that bad. Then again, it had never been about what Father Joe had actually done. It was about how it had made him feel. The shame, the guilt, the questioning…all that began that night. He looked over his left shoulder at Starsky’s sleeping form, taking in every contour of his face, and felt the familiar stiffening that happened whenever he gazed at his partner for too long.
Had Father Joe been responsible for why Hutch reacted the way he did towards Starsky? That was a question that played over and over in his head. Hutch was educated enough to think that something as significant as which sex you were attracted to wasn’t gonna switch on a dime. He felt like he was straight. But if that was so, why did he look at his partner and get hard sometimes? Why did his heart clench every time Starsk got serious with a girl? Why did he feel the need to touch him all the time?
Turning back to look out the windshield, he saw it and sunk low in the drivers seat. It was almost five in the morning, so the sun was just breaking, but in the shadows, a figure was walking through a side yard, to the front door of the house. Dressed in jeans and a dark, hooded sweatshirt, the man paused at the door long enough to unlock it and went inside. Hutch noted that no lights went on.
Sitting back up and leaning over the seat he shook Starsky’s shoulder. “Wake up! He’s back.”
Starsky’s eyes were wide open from the moment Hutch’d touched him, which was always true. His partner slept sound, but he woke up fast and reactive. Before he’d had time to think, Starsky was climbing over, practically on top of him.
“Move over Blintz.”
“You could have climbed into the passenger side.” Hutch said dryly.
“My car.” Starsky grumbled. He woke up fast, but seldom happy. Not for the first time Hutch wondered if he really was fully awake in those moments or if his body just functioned automatically while his brain caught up.
“What’d ya see?” Starsky asked once he was settled into the driver’s seat and had yawned a few times.
“A man matching the description of our suspect go into the house.”
“What! Why didn’t you say so?” Starsky grabbed for the radio.
“And now someone’s awake.” Hutch leaned back against the door and watched Starsky work.
“Zebra 3, we have possible ID on Darryl Sinclair at 2127 Winchester Ave. Please send an X-ray.”
“Received, Zebra 3. All Units: Anyone available to X-ray Zebra 3 at 2127 Winchester Ave?”
“Lincon 4 enroute”
“Nora 5 enroute”
“Shit.” Starsky muttered.
“Dobey must be listening to his scanner. He shouldn’t even be on duty this early.” Hutch agreed. Having their captain on scene was going to make everything more intense.
“Do you wanna wait or risk going in?”
“This goes bad and IA will have our balls.” Hutch said, not really caring, but thinking it should be said.
“What’s gonna go bad? It’s us.” Starsky smiled and opened the car door, Hutch followed suit.
They walked up to the door, Starsky knocked loud while Hutch stood to the right of the door. There was faint crash that sounded like a table being knocked over.
“You hear that Hutch? Someone could be in trouble.”
“I heard it. Guess we’re going to have to go in and make sure everyone’s safe inside.”
Starsky leaned back to kick in the door when Hutch put a hand on his shoulder.
“I love the manly moves, Starsk, but got a better idea.” Hutch pulled his wallet out and removed a credit card.
“You gotta be shitting me.” Starsky said, but he stood back and let his partner work. Hutch slid the card between the door and the jam and it popped open quietly. Hutch grinned at him.
Starsky looked impressed. “And to think I’ve been breaking my back when you had that skill all along?”
Hutch gave a small smile. “It doesn’t always work, but it seems worth it to try first.”
Opening the door, Hutch called out loudly, “Darryl Sinclar! Bay City Police Department! We just need to talk to you!”
Starsky entered first, Baretta aimed out at the floor in front of him as he swept first to the right then left. Motioning clear to Hutch, he walked further into the small living room off to the right, his partner quickly crossing to the far side where the room shifted to dining room and he saw a heavy chair on its side. Leaning in quickly, Hutch saw the narrow door that would probably lead to the kitchen.
“Starsk. Do you hear that?”
Starsky stood still, straining to hear what Hutch had. Then he got it. An echo of someone speaking. Looking down he saw a heating vent.
“He must be in the basement.” Starsky said as he walked back through living room to the entry way. There was a stairway that went up and then he saw the door under the stairs ajar. Feeling Hutch’s presence behind him, Starsky pulled the door open and glanced in. There was a light below, but not on the stairs.
“Darryl! Come on up man. We just want to talk to you.”
They could hear Darryl chanting. “Benedic mihi pater, quia peccavi Benedic mihi pater, quia peccavi. Benedic mihi pater, quia peccavi. Benedic mihi pater, quia peccavi.”
Then there was a loud crash and Starsky ran down a few steps so he could see the whole of the basement.
“Hutch! Hurry!” Bounding down the rest of the stairs in two bounds, Starsky ran over to grab a hold of Darryl’s legs, as he swung kicking from a rope attached to a high beam. Hutch righted the chair and climbed up to pull on the noose Darryl had looped around his neck. Straining to get his fingers under the rope enough to loosen the knot, he finally just reached into his pocket, pulling out a small knife he carried and started to cut the one-inch cord.
Darryl had been struggling when they first got to him, since he hadn’t dropped enough to break his neck and instead was enduring the agony of having his oxygen cut off. As the flow of oxygen was decreasing, his body was going lax.
“Hurry up Partner. We gotta get this thing off him.”
Hutch was tempted to say something snarky but instead focused on cutting faster. Finally the rope broke and Darryl’s body fell down, Hutch moving fast to catch him under the arms. Once they had him down, Starsky pulled the noose downward and they could finally get it off. Autonomic functions kicked in and with a gasp, Darryl breathed, though his eyes stayed closed. Hutch slapped his face, trying to get him to wake up.
“What was he sayin’? Before he kicked the chair away.” Starsky asked, sitting back on his heels.
Hutch re-checked Darryl’s pulse and answered, “He was saying, ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned.’”
Looking around the small hospital waiting area, with its mustard-yellow walls, hard vinyl chairs and inane prints of farmhouses, Starsky wondered how many days of his life he’d spent in this same spot. At least today he wasn’t waiting on news about Hutch’s condition, but that didn’t make him hate the waiting room at Memorial any less. Plus the coffee tasted like tar.
“Here.” A candy bar landed in his lap as Hutch sat beside him in the small two-seat chair. It wasn’t a couch, more like they’d cut the arms off two chairs and glued them together.
“Thanks.” Starsky muttered as he opened it.
“Doc been by yet?” As Hutch asked the question, Dr. Kovats came through the door and both men stood up.
“He’s conscious and stable. He’s aware he’s in custody, but he has been given a sedative and that is noted in his file.”
Clearly the doc had dealt with criminal cases before, if he was telling them this. It meant there was documentation that could be admitted into evidence, so anything Darryl told them while drugged would likely get invalidated at trial.
“I wanna talk to him anyway.” Hutch said. Starsky put a hand on his arm.
“Anything he says we can’t use. He can’t give Miranda consent.”
“As a confession, no. But we can use anything he says for investigative purposes.” Then a little quieter, “Starsk, I gotta know.”
Starsky nodded and then added, “Thanks Doc. We’re good.” Hutch led the way through the door to Sinclair’s hospital room.
“Darryl Sinclair?” Hutch asked, noting the shiny layer of ointment that covered the ligature burn that marked across the man’s throat.
“Who’re you.” Sinclair rasped.
“My name is Detective Ken Hutchinson. This is Detective Starsky. We’re the ones who found you.”
Darryl looked away from them, “Why didn’t you let me die?”
“That’s not our call to make. Why’d you try to kill yourself.” Hutch was speaking quietly and Starsky just stood by the door, watching.
“You know why. Or you wouldn’t have been at my house to begin with.” Sinclair kept staring out the window.
“You knew Father James Markee.”
“Since I was 12. First thing Father Jim did was form a baseball team. He drove us all around to play against other churches.”
Baseball. That stuck in Starsky’s brain and tickled. “Why do you hang out at Genesee Field?” Hutch turned toward him, a puzzled expression on his face, but Starsk was looking right at Darryl.
“That’s where he told me to look. He didn’t have a source anymore. ‘They’re too old’ he said. Go to the ball fields. Find them there.”
Hutch turned back to Darryl. “Who’s too old Darryl?”
“The boys. At the school where they stuck him. Once you turned 15 or so, he didn’t have use for you anymore. ‘cept me.”
“Father Jim told you to help find him some younger boys? For what?” Hutch knew they were dancing close to the edge. If they got motive out of this, they’d have to hope they could build it without him.
“For the team. We always needed new boys for the team. He made me Assistant Coach. Called me The Recruiter. But I couldn’t do it. I looked, but I couldn’t ask any of them. They looked like they enjoyed playing baseball. I didn’t want them to hate it. The way I hate it. He got mad that I wouldn’t do it. So mad.” After a few seconds, they realized that Darryl had fallen unconscious.
Hutch turned towards Starsky, his face tight. Instinctively, Starsky stepped to him, placing a hand on the back of Hutch’s neck and drawing his forehead to his own. “C’mon Blintz. I’m buyin’.”
“Oughta be a crime makin’ a kid hate baseball.” Starksy said as he rolled the ball back to Hutch while he took another swig from his bottle.
Even in his intoxicated state, Starsky had to wonder how they’d ended up on Hutch’s kitchen floor again. They’d been drinking mostly beer, with a few tequila shots thrown in at random points and eating pizza. That was it. They’d started out standing in the kitchen eating the take out pizza and somehow ended up sitting on the floor. They were rolling a baseball back and forth, talking about nothing.
“Made me hate church. I s’pose hating baseball’s worse though. Starsk?”
His partner looked at him a little glassy-eyed and nodded at him slightly.
“Why do you think James Markee kept on with Darryl? If his pattern was to stop abusing them at 15, why keep going with Darryl?”
“I think he picked Darryl because he could control him. Same way a car thief looks first for cars that are left unlocked or with the keys in the visor.” Seeing Hutch’s expression, he added, “Don’t go there. What happened to you, that wasn’t the same. You fought back. Look, everyone wonders why, like somehow they made the bad things happen. Even if Darryl was someone Markee could manipulate, that don’t mean he deserved it.”
As much as he appreciated what Starsky was trying to say, he couldn’t believe it.
Hutch wasn’t sure what he was going to accomplish by talking to Darryl again, but he found himself standing outside the man’s hospital room the next morning anyway.
The door opened and Father Paul came out, clearly surprised to see Hutch standing there.
“Good morning. Detective Ken Hutchinson, wasn’t it?”
“What are you doing here?” Hutch challenged.
“Darryl asked me to come. He was quite a brilliant writer as a student and I was fortunate to have him in several classes. Given the sad circumstances, I was happy to visit him.”
“Why would he want a priest of all things?”
Father Paul looked sternly at him but spoke softly. “I imagine because despite everything that happened to him, he didn’t paint all priests as evil because of the sins of one.”
“How generous of him.” Hutch’s sarcasm heavy in the air.
“Detective, I seem to recall an officer who shot an unarmed black man, killing him, even though he was attempting to surrender. It was in every paper and news story for months. Were you that officer?”
Hutch knew exactly what the priest was referring to and his eyes narrowed a bit. Did the man know of his connection to that case? “I’m not. But I know who did.”
“See, you knew him. And you were both officers. Therefore you must think like him and approve of what he did. I can call you racist and a murderer then? Your partner too. You two must drive around looking for ways to kill black people.”
Hutch just looked at him, anger rising.
“No? I see. I should evaluate you on your own actions then? Yes, that would seem the more intelligent approach. And the most kind.” The twinkle that was appearing in Father Paul’s eyes was annoying. Then his expression became very serious.
“Ken, whatever happened to you, it was not of God and it is not of the priesthood. It was the sin of one man.”
“To me, maybe. But what about Father Markee? And I am pretty sure they aren’t the only two in the country or even the world. How can you defend a system that makes this happen? You take a bunch of guys, tell them they can’t have sex and put them around young boys!”
The priest shook his head sadly. “You are not wrong. You’re not entirely right, either. Obviously, police work will also be an attractive option for someone who is power hungry and looking for a legitimate way to abuse that power. I don’t defend the system; I work to make it better. And from what I’ve seen and heard of you and your partner, you do as well. I must return for my 2nd period class. If you ever wish to talk, I am at the school every day until five.”
Hutch nodded at him and watched the priest walk off, pulling the thin stole off his neck and realized that Father Paul had been hearing Darryl’s confession.
Hutch leaned against the bar at Huggy’s, watching Starsky throw darts. The Markee case was in the hands of the DA, though this was one time when Hutch hoped the killer would get psychiatric help instead of jail time.
“Say Blintz, you really drink wine as a kid in church?” Starsky asked as he lined up to throw another dart.
“Once I was old enough for communion, yeah. But don’t be impressed. It tasted terrible.”
Finishing his turn, his partner stepped up to the bar next to him, taking a swig of his beer. “You think you’ll ever go back?”
“I don’t know. Father Paul said I could come talk to him anytime, but I’ve been out so long, it’s just not a part of my life any more. Right now, I’m OK with that. If I did go back, my mom would be able to stop her ejaculations.”
Starsky choked on his beer. “What the fuck’d you say?”
Hutch’s eyes twinkled. “Mostly mom anyway. Growing up, she’d do 4 or 5 ejaculations a day for me. I imagine Dad would too if she asked him.”
“Now I know you’re just jerking me.”
Hutch laughed, “I’m really not. They’re prayers Starsk. Mom’s favorite was ‘Oh Lord, save us, we are perishing.’ But she’d change it to ‘save him, he is perishing’ referring to me.”
“Why’d they call ‘em ejaculations?”
“I guess because they’re short quick prayers you utter at times of stress.”
“So, ‘Oh, God, Oh God, Right there’ would count then?”
Hutch winked at him, “Two ejaculations for the price of one.”
“Tell ya what, you take me to mass sometime and I’ll take you to shul.”
“Do I have to wear the Frisbee on my head?”
Starsky laughed, ‘Yeah, I’ll grab you a nice orange plastic one at Long’s Drugs next time I’m there. Now take your turn so I can keep winning.”
Hutch walked over to the dart board, and as he lined up to throw his first dart, he glanced over at his best friend, so thankful to have him, strong, alive and realized that Starsky was the one person who always brought him peace.
For the first time in 22 years, he mentally recited a silent prayer of thanks: God, I thank you for the people in my life who are easy to love.