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***CHAPTER FIFTEEN***

Frankie Brown hadn't needed the confirmation of a doctor to know that her hunch about Angel's condition had been right on target, but her guests seemed to take the news as more of a shock. She poured each one of them a cup of coffee, setting the pot down on a hotplate to keep warm, and then she sat down and waited to see if anyone would make a move toward their cups or in any way try to communicate with her. She took a careful sip of her coffee. "Isn’t anyone going to say anything? I would think this would be a joyous occasion."

Hutch spoke up. "Well, normally Frankie, it would be pretty great news. But there happens to be a couple of hitches in the seam work that are cutting into our enthusiasm a little bit."

"And those would be?"

Hutch looked at her, then at the girl and his partner. "Well, for one thing we have an unwed mother-to-be whose father is a possible murder suspect. So ah, things don’t look too good there." Starsky looked up after Hutch finished his sentence, and then dropped his head down. Hutch continued. "The other hitch is that Starsky and I are due back in Bay City in a few days and we're not even close to finding out what happened to Angel’s mother." He left out the part about the possibility that his partner might have something to do with putting the young lady in the family way.

"I see. Well, that does sort of put a damper on things, I agree. But, I have no doubt the tide will turn. Just have faith."

"Well, I hope so. From your mouth to God’s ears."

No one else said anything more. The coffee cooled and the room got quiet. Starsky got up presently and walked toward the entrance to the kitchen. He waited there. Then without a prompt, Angel got up and joined him, they paused at the doorway for a second and then left the room.

Hutch nodded knowingly, he raised one eyebrow and blew out some air from his chest as the two of them left. Frankie’s eyes trained on his and she gave him a knowing smile. He got a gut feeling from that look that she knew exactly what was going on between the two of them with him having to say a word.

Once Starsky and Angel were outside, it didn’t take the two of them long to find a quiet place to talk. They found an old sycamore tree not far from the back of the house and leaned against it. He was fiddling with her hair, letting the strands fall into her face and then directing them away absently. She closed her eyes and lowered her head, pressing it against his chest. "I know what you’re going to say, David, and it’s okay. You don’t have to do anything."

"But I want do the right thing."

She lifted her head. "What’s the right thing? Marrying me?"

"If that’s what it takes."

"But what do you want to do?"

"If it's mine, I want the kid to have a father. I don’t want him or her growing up without one, like I had to."

She opened her eyes to look into his and she wondered if he really meant what he was saying. There was a little fear, a little doubt, and yes, possibly even love there. And as much as she would love to have him for a husband and a father to her unborn child, she just didn’t know if she was prepared to have him sacrifice himself or his peace of mind to make it a reality. "Hey, I don’t want you to do this if you’d be unhappy about it later on."

"Let me worry about that," he said, bending his head down to kiss her. "I just wanna know one thing. Do you love me, Angela?"

She looked up into his eyes and smiled brightly, thrilling at the sound of her given name flowing from his lips. "I couldn’t love you more right now."

"That’s all I wanted to hear. Don’t you worry about a thing, I’ll take care of this."

She rested her head in the crook of his arm and began to cry softly into it as he held her.

==================================================================================

"What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Starsk?"

Hutchinson’s reaction was reserved, even calm, considering the fact that his partner had sprung the startling news of his tentative engagement on him while they were sitting in Captain Kraft’s office. He’d delivered his response at half of what its normal decibel level would have been had they been somewhere more private. Despite all efforts to reason with his partner on the subject, Starsky refused to budge.

"There’s nothin’ you can say that’s going to change my mind. If I made a mistake I’m going to fix it!"

"Oh, you’re gonna fix it, all right."

"What’s that supposed ta mean?" Starsky folded his arms in front of him defiantly.

The blond stabbed a finger at him. "This has got to be the stupidest stunt you’ve ever pulled in your life."

"You know what’s the matter with you? You…you’re selfish, that’s what it is. You been sharing your space with me for so long, you can’t see straight for lookin’."

"You’re right about that." Hutch rolled his eyes, his voice subdued. "But I’ll bet I’m seein’ a whole lot straighter than you are right now. And that’s sayin’ a lot. I mean, how long have you known this girl? A week or so at the most?"

The darker man wrinkled his brow. "It’s been nearly a week and a half, but hey, who’s countin’? Anyway, who says that’s not long enough for two people to get to know each other?"

"That might be long enough for a parakeet or a dog, but we’re talking about two flesh and blood human beings here. Come on, Starsk, tell me. What do you really know about her? Besides the fact that she’s nice to look at and both her parents are dead?"

Starsky tried to come up with something more concrete than what he was thinking, but finally gave up and said, "I know I love her."

"Look Starsk, you said you and she were only together once, so the odds of you being the kid's father are probably slim to none. Couldn't you at least wait until you're sure of what the situation is before you make a major decision like this? When it's all over, if you still feel the same way about her, you won't hear another word from me, I'll back you up one hundred percent."

"You seem to be overlooking one important thing, Hutch."

"What's that?"

"What happens if it turns out I am?"

"Then we'll work it out together -- the three of us. Just promise me you won't rush into anything, okay?"

Starsky thought about his friend’s proposition for a moment, and then relaxed his stance. For the most part Hutch usually had his best interests at heart, especially when it counted. And most of the time he was happy to have him as a sounding board for his problems, he was a calmer head in a storm--so to speak, even if he was a little on the pushy side sometimes. He put his hand on the taller man’s shoulder and smiled.

"Okay, tell you what, big guy. I’m gonna do you a favor and take your advice, just this once."

"Glad to hear it."

"Oh, yeah, by the way…"

Hutch beamed at him. "What?"

He winked. "I wouldn’t blame you if you’re a little jealous."

They looked into each other’s eyes and for that moment nothing else needed to be said. Then Hutch rewarded his partner with a dubious grin. Of course that was the moment when Captain Kraft chose to come bursting into his office, breaking the intimacy of the moment. Both men looked over their shoulders at him. Kraft stopped, wrinkled his brow, and then went on about his business. On his way to his desk, he opened up the white manila folder he held in his hand.

"Well, this is what we've been waiting for, gentlemen. The results of last nights lab tests. Hopefully this will tell us whether Mr. Colchetti’s family is inexplicably ill fated or if he and his wife died at the hands of a party or parties unknown."

Both men straightened in their chairs and took in a breath as they prepared to hear the results. Kraft pulled out the folder’s contents and studied them for a moment or two before he spoke, then nodded his head thoughtfully. "Well, well, well," he said. "It looks like the two of you were right. Take a look." He handed the folder out to them.

Hutch’s reach was longer by an inch and he got to the folder before his partner. Starsky relegated himself to his chair and settled back to listen. He and Kraft watched and waited while the blond slowly digested the contents. After studying each entry, he divulged the results.

"Well, Colchetti did die of asphyxiation by drowning."

"Damn."

"Yeah. After he drank almost a cocktail glass full of cyanide for breakfast." He thought about it, then said, "Which is pretty strange, since cyanide has a distinct almond odor, I have to wonder why the M.E. didn’t catch it at the scene."

Starsky sat back further in his chair. "Well, he did say the glass was clean when he swabbed it." He shook his head. "Wow, cyanide." Then he took in a breath and blew it out. "That’s some pretty heavy stuff."

"No kidding." Hutch handed the folder back to the captain. " So what happens now, Captain?"

"Exactly what you two were looking to get for from the start, a full-scale investigation, from the car accident to Colchetti’s drowning. If your suspicious are correct, then somebody out there is after the Colchetti estate. We already know they’re brazen enough to kill for it. Now we need to find out who they are, and quickly. Is the source you mentioned earlier safe?"

Starsky sat up, very alert. "Yeah, she’s safe."

Hutchinson looked over at him. "She is for now anyway. But if whoever it is was willing to kill both parents, I think it’s safe to say whoever it is is not going to bother thinking twice about eliminating the last remaining heir to the fortune."

Starsky eyes held a twinge of concern in them; he was still thinking about what the test results said. "What kind of a cold-hearted bastard would poison a guy and leave him to drown in his own Jacuzzi?" Uneasy, he braced both Adidas against the front of the captain’s desk.

Kraft stuffed the autopsy report folder back into its envelope. "A mercenary would do it. This kind of killing takes a guy who’s not emotionally involved in the outcome, somebody who gets paid to kill. When it’s over, he's got no major stake in the deal; his gratification is a clean kill and a large paycheck. After that, he’s off to his next assignment."

Hutch rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger reflectively. "That's an idea, but the first thing we’ve got to figure out is who stands to gain the most from all this and who would hire him."

"How about the new wife?" Kraft offered. He sat back and stretched in his chair. "With the first wife out of the picture, she stands to make off with a good chunk of change. Including the insurance money. And I heard from a reliable source that the payoff was pretty substantial."

"That's good too, but probably too obvious. Why would she take the chance? The police would suspect her first, then where would she be?"

"Right. And plus, she was the one who called us. She even had the receipts from her shopping trip. Her purchases were dated and time stamped."

Starsky sucked his teeth. "So that let’s her out… at least for now. Who else?"

Kraft dropped his head, and then looked up slowly. "There’s the daughter, you did mention that there was some animosity about her father’s remarriage."

Hutch shot a look over at his partner and Starsky shook his head. "No way. This is way too big a deal for her to have anything to do with it. I’d bet my life on that."

Hutch glanced at the captain, then back at Starsky. "C’mon, Starsk. If there’s even a remote possibility that Angel might be involved in this thing we need to know. If she isn’t in on it directly, then she probably knows something. I mean as soon as she hit the front door I got this weird feeling about her, like there’s more to her story then what she’s been telling us. Are you going to sit there and tell me you haven't noticed the way she latched on to you and hasn’t let up on you since?"

"You know, it just might be my animal magnetism, you ever thought of that? So okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right--which you’re not. What would be her motive for lyin’ to us?"

Hutch shrugged. He couldn’t think of anything that would make any sense right now. It was just one of those feelings he’d get every now and then. He’d see or hear something that didn’t seem quite right, something that didn’t fit logically into the pattern of things. And there it would sit, staring him in the face, plain as day, until he figured it out. Nine times out of ten, he did, it just took time.

Kraft, sensing the tension between the two men, offered them a truce. "All right, seems I’ve hit a sore spot with that one. Let’s just drop it for now."

"No problem, Captain," Hutch answered.

"Yeah, that’s what I thought."

"It was just an idea, Starsky."

"Yeah, a bad one."

"Okay, okay, boys, that’s enough, that’s enough. Any other ideas before we close this one down for the afternoon?"

Starsky put up a finger. "Yeah, one more thing. Do you happen to know the background on the current Mrs. Colchetti?"

"Sure do. Got it right here." Kraft pulled open a file drawer in his desk, rifled through it and pulled out a thin blue file folder. He opened it and read through the contents carefully. "Ah yes, here it is. Mrs. Jessie Colchetti, maiden name is Jessie Milner. Says here she worked as a salesgirl for an upscale department store right before she found Mr. Right and quit."

Hutch put his hand on the captain’s desk. "You said she worked as a salesgirl. You ever check out her background?"

"Nope, no reason to. Why?"

"Just plain curiosity. Does it give the name of the department store?"

"Warwicke’s. But it went out of business about three years ago. You’re thinking she has a reason to lie?"

"Don’t know. But it’s a possibility. I’m just curious to know how she and Colchetti happened to meet and strike up a relationship so quickly. At any rate, I think it’s something we should follow up on."

"Well, all I can say is good luck in your search."

Starsky stood up and did a half-salute. "Thanks for that. See ya later, Cap."

The captain nodded at them and Hutch got up and went to the office door, letting Starsky out ahead of him. The man bulldozed past him so quickly that the breeze he created rustled the blond's hair, a foretelling of the dressing down he was to receive once they were out of the building.

Once they were on the street Starsky dropped his right hand onto his partner's shoulder and stopped his forward momentum. "What the hell was that back there, huh?"

"What the hell was what?"

"That back there--that, Angel’s got to be involved in some way and you had a feeling about it, stuff. How come this is the first I’m hearin’ about it?"

The blond fished the car key out of his pocket and sighed. "I don’t know Starsky, maybe you’re just too close to see it. It’s understandable." He went around to the driver’s side of the Dodge and got in. Starsky stood outside the car for a minute and then got in too.

"Yeah, I know it’s understandable. But you know what's not?"

Hutch put the key in the ignition, a little perturbed. "No, what?"

"You’re supposed to be my best friend, how come you don’t tell me about these things first?"

Hutchinson didn’t have a quick answer for that.

***CHAPTER SIXTEEN***

Penn State Mutual’s personnel office was on the eighth floor of the main building, and it was almost a dead ringer for the first floor offices, except that the lighting was calmer and there were a few less people roaming the halls. When they got off the elevator a counter loomed before them, one that had presumably been set up for applicants to fill out applications. Behind this area was a sliding glass window, which at this particular moment was closed. Starsky walked past it and leaned against a bare wall to wait while his partner went to work on ferreting out a human being to talk to.

When Hutchinson walked up to the window he saw a woman sitting on the other side of the glass with her back to him. Her platinum blonde hair flowed past her shoulders and onto the back of the beige windowpane patterned suit she was wearing. He tapped on the glass and immediately went into his Prince Charming mode, his voice dripping with sweetness. "Pardon me, miss."

The woman turned round in her seat and faced him, her face expressionless. Try as he might it was hard from him to mask the surprise that must have been evident on his face. She certainly wasn’t what he’d been expecting. This woman was at least twenty years his senior and unpleasant. And probably well past the age of succumbing to something as lightweight as the Hutchinson charm.

She got up and slid open the window. "Yes, how may I help you?"

Quite involuntarily Hutch’s mouth stood agape. The woman also seemed to have some kind of a speech impediment that made the s’s on her ‘yes’s’ sound like cat’s hisses. He stole a glance at his partner, who simply shrugged and smiled, obviously amused by his partner’s predicament. Spurred on by the challenge, he took only a millisecond to regain his composure, he straightened his face and smiled at her.

"Ah, ah, yes, we’d like to ask you a few questions, Miss ah..."

"Casden. Jane Casden, I’m the manager here. What kind of questions do you have? And who is this ‘we’ you’re speaking of?"

The woman was all ice and mothballs, not a stitch of warmth to speak of. Hutch pointed to where his partner was leaning against the wall and Starsky waved to them and smiled. He started again, "My partner and I… Um, we…" He pulled his badge. "We’re detectives, and ah, well, we need some information on an employee we think might have worked here."

"And your names?"

"I’m Detective Hutchinson, that’s Detective Starsky." He was stilling holding the badge against the glass.

"And this is official police business, you say?"

"Yes, ma’am."

Still showing some mild signs of irritation, she slipped on a pair of bifocals that hung from a chain around her neck and squinted at the badge as she verified its authenticity. Hutch smiled uncomfortably as she took her time sizing them up. When she was done she smiled at him and that’s when he noticed she was wearing dentures.

"Okay, the two of you look legitimate enough. What’s the name of the employee you’re looking for?"

Hutch motioned for his partner to join him now. "We’re looking for anyone in your files with the last names of Milner or Colchetti." He spelled both names out for her.

Starsky finished holding up the wall and strutted over to the counter, nodding at the manager as he did. She was still writing the names down on a small slip of paper when he got there.

"Anything you can tell us would be great," Hutch added, watching her finish.

The woman looked the surnames very carefully, then pulled the glasses off her face and let them hang around her neck. The two of them weren't sure whether she thought better with them off, and they weren’t about to ask to find out.

"Well, I’ve been working here a while and these names don’t ring any bells. Would you like me to check the files?"

"Would you please? That’d be great." Hutch answered.

When she left, both men consulted each other wordlessly; Hutch’s face was a huge question mark and Starsky’s didn’t offer any answers. They shrugged and waited for the woman to return. After about a minute or two she came back with two file cards in her hand.

"Here’s what I have." She handed one card to Hutch and the other to Starsky. "These are the only two people in the files with those last names."

Hutch read his aloud. "A. Colchetti. Position, temporary assistant, date of termination, August 10, 1978."

Starsky then read his. "Sharon Milner. Position, senior secretary, termination date was fall of ‘78."

They switched cards with each other and studied them. Then Hutchinson tapped the one he was holding against the surface of the counter and said, "The last name’s right, but the first name’s not a match on one. Would you happen to know who these two ladies worked for when they were here, I mean offhand?"

"No not offhand. I could look it up though," she said, but didn’t move.

Starsky leaned over the counter and settled a fist under his chin. "Would you do that for us please? We’d really appreciate it." She nodded and went back to the file room. He raised an eyebrow at his partner and they waited some more. After another few more minutes, she returned.

"That one person, A. Colchetti, she was a summer intern here under Mr. Bruce Emerson’s supervision for the months June through to August."

"Is there a first name on that one?"

"No, there’s only a first initial on both the card and the application."

"Huh. Okay."

"The other woman, Milner, worked for Mr. Emerson as well."

Starsky rose up off his fist. "This Emerson guy, what does he do here?"

"Why, um, Mr. Emerson is one of our best insurance agents. He writes up some of the major policies for our company."

"Hmm. Do you mind if we keep these?" Hutch motioned with the file card.

She retrieved the cards from them diplomatically. "I’m sorry I can’t let you do that. The cards and the termination forms are company property. But I can make photostats of them for you." She pointed towards a large mimeograph machine.

"That’d be fine. Oh, and ah, one more thing, please."

She stopped in mid-turn. "Yes?"

Starsky finished out his partner’s request. "Where would we find Mr. Emerson?"

"Oh, he has the corner office on the fifth floor. His secretary’s name is Bea. She’ll be able to help you. I’ll just be making these up for you now."

Both men nodded and waited for her. When she was finished she handed the still warm copies of the cards and the termination papers to the blond man and waited for more instructions.

Hutch gave her a boyish parting grin. "Thank you, Miss Casden. You’ve been very helpful."

Starsky reached over and impulsively tweaked her cheek. "Yeah, thanks a lot, sweetheart."

The woman reluctantly smiled as they disappeared into a waiting elevator. Hutch rolled the copies in his hand into spiral form and banged them lightly against his palm. "Ah, the Hutchinson charm and the Starsky warmth, they haven’t failed us yet."

"Yep. Puts a smile on even the crankiest face." Starsky said to him as the doors closed.

"She was actually kind of cute when she smiled. Makes me wonder what a good dental plan might do," Hutch replied.

Starsky smiled and said, "Good old Hutch, ever the romantic."

===================================================================================

Bruce Emerson’s office was exactly where the personnel manager had said it would be, on the fifth floor. The elevator opened out into a large office space and the actual he occupied office was behind a big wooden oak door in the corner. The secretary’s nameplate read BEA FLORADAN, SR. SECRETARY. When they stepped off the elevator she was talking on the phone. They stood out of sight for a moment and eavesdropped on her conversation.

"Oh, he’s a horrible man. I’ve never worked for such a beast in my whole life. He’s cruel and inhuman and I’m going to tell him so one day…oh, I don’t know when…after I work up some courage I suppose, then…I’ll…" The two of them moved forward and she looked up and stopped talking in mid-sentence. "Ah, Velma, I’ll have to call you back, it looks like we have some visitors…okay, goodbye."

She scratched the back of her head as she hung up the phone and gave them a half-smile, then looked up at them, clasping her hands in front of her. "Hello, may I help you?"

At first glance, Miss Floradan appeared to have only a little better temperament than the manager in the Personnel office did, but not by much. She was a challenge for them, but with the Hutchinson charm and Starsky’s disarming friendliness on their side, they hoped to win her over as well. Starsky pulled his badge and flashed it at her. "Hi there, we’re here to speak with Mr. Emerson. Is he in right now?"

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No. But it’s very important that we speak to him." Starsky gave her a sly wink. "I’m Detective Starsky, and this is Detective Hutchinson."

"Well, Mr. Emerson has stepped out for a moment, but he’ll be returning shortly if you’d like to wait." She smiled and said.

"We would, thank you. Would you mind if we asked you a few questions about him in the meantime?"

"Why, is he in trouble?" She looked at them as if she wished he were.

"No, he’s not. They’re just some general questions. Do you mind?"

"No, go ahead. I’ll tell you what I know."

"Fair enough. How long have you worked for Emerson? And how is he to work for?"

"Well, I haven’t worked for him for a very long time. But if I had to describe working for him, I’d say he’s the dictator-type. He likes bullying people around to get his way, and then showing off his acquisitions after he’s stepped all over someone to get them. He really doesn’t much care how he acquires things."

Hutch took notes. "Humph. So he likes expensive cars, clothes? Likes to wine and dine people? That kind of thing?"

"Yeah. I haven’t figured out how he does it yet, he really doesn’t have that kind of a salary to draw from."

"So, anyone in particular he goes around with that you can recall?"

"Well," she whispered conspiratorially, as if she were sharing a tawdry secret with them. "He’s been known to bed his share of women around here. It doesn’t take much to turn him on. If they’re pretty and shallow, they’re his type. He’s one of those big, brawny guys, long on muscle, short on intellect, you know? I thank the Lord everyday that I’m not into those types. In fact, he used to go out with the woman that I replaced. I don’t remember her name right now, but she was his secretary before I got here."

Both men looked at each other, surprised by her candor. Hutch folded his notepad closed. "Well, thank you, Miss Floradan. You’ve been very helpful. We’ll let you know if there’s anything else."

"No problem, officers. I’m glad I could help. Like I said, he should be coming back pretty soon. You can wait over there if you like." She pointed to a row of chairs to their right.

"Thank you." They said in unison.

Both detectives took seats facing away from Emerson’s office door, making sure to position themselves directly in front of the elevator where they guessed he would arrive. Starsky checked his watch, eyeballing the proximity of the elevator doors to any exits. Nothing looked close by. The last thing they want him doing was slipping past them once he got there. The curly-haired detective slid down in his seat and closed his eyes, while Hutch drummed a tune on the wooden portion of the chair he was occupying. After about a fifteen-minute wait, Emerson emerged from the elevator, his briefcase in hand. He stopped at Ms. Floradan’s desk to check for messages, oblivious to the two visitors who were waiting for him.

"Any messages, Bea?"

"No. But you have visitors." She pointed out the two detectives, who immediately perked up in their seats.

He turned around and looked at them. "Oh, okay."

She found her note pad and reminded herself of their names. "Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson. They’re investigating a case. They’d like to ask you some questions." She seemed to delight in filling him in on the last part.

Hutch got up first and extended his hand. "Mr. Emerson, I’m Detective Hutchinson, and this is my partner, Detective Starsky."

Emerson shook the blond’s hand and then the brunet’s when he offered it. "To what do I owe this pleasure, officers?" From his Armani suit to his alligator shoes, he was smooth. He took off his hat and sunglasses and waited for one of them to answer.

Starsky clasped his hands behind his back, cut a glance at the man’s curious secretary and cleared his throat. "Do you mind if we take this into your office? It’s kind of a private matter."

Emerson turned to his secretary and she gave him a level stare back. He wasn’t getting any help there. "Ah, well, I suppose so. Will this take very long?"

"Not at all, sir. We just want to ask you some questions about a couple of former employees of yours."

"All right. Follow me then."

Emerson led them to the door of his office, shifted his briefcase under his arm long enough to locate the key from his trouser pocket and unlocked the door. Anticipating his need for help getting in the door, Starsky leaned forward to open it, letting him precede them inside. The businessman set his briefcase on his desk and closed the door after them. Then he turned and took in a measured, regular breath. "Okay, gentlemen. I’m all yours. Please, sit."

He waited for them to ease into the client chairs in front of his desk and then went around it to sit down, he leaned back against his chair and rested his elbows on the armrests. "All right, what’s this all about?"

Hutch started first. "Mr. Emerson, my partner and I are investigating two deaths, a husband and wife named Elaine and John Colchetti. We have it on pretty good authority that someone with the last name of Milner worked here as a secretary under your supervision, and we think there might be a connection."

"Yes, she worked for me. Is that important?"

"Well, before Mr. Colchetti, eh, departed this life, he just happened to marry a woman by the name of Jessie Milner. We were checking out her background and we found out that her maiden name and the name of your last secretary are a match."

Emerson bowed his head and steepled his fingers in front of him. "Much as I’d like to help you out. I really doubt that we’re talking about the same person here. The fact that their names match is probably pure coincidence. What does this woman look like that you mentioned?"

Starsky leaned forward. "She’s about five nine, red hair, nice figure, could pass for a model."

Emerson shook his head. "No, no way. Sharon Milner could never pass for a model. She was…ah…pretty in a plain way, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, okay," Starsky said. "So what about this student you had working for you as a temporary assistant right around the same time that Miss Milner worked here? You let her go. Why?" Emerson smiled broadly, his calm demeanor slipping a little. "I really don’t see how that’s any of your business."

Starsky glared at him. "Hey, we can make it our business. We could have the local police come through here and let them go over your records and check out your books and find out that way, but to tell you the truth, we’d rather not go that route. Believe me, explaining things to them won’t be half as pleasant as explaining them to us, or as confidential. So my suggestion to you is that you tell us what we want to know right now."

Emerson lifted his head. "Okay, okay. Since you put it that way, I guess I’ll have to come clean. I was seeing her, but it was mostly platonic. I mean, we might have necked a couple of times, but it was never more serious than that. When I look back on it, I guess it was my own fault, I should have seen it coming. The longer I let it go on, the more out of hand things got, and the more she came to me for consolation when things got bad at home. I guess after a while she thought I was really serious about her. Well, things just came to a head one day and she went and got hysterical on me, came in and told me that her mother was killed in a car accident and that she was pregnant. Swore the kid was mine. When I tried to convince her there was no way I could be the father, she said she didn’t believe me and that she was going to make things difficult, so I had to let her go."

"So you let her go just like that, huh?" Starsky asked.

"Yeah. I felt it was for her own good. I’m a very big hearted that way."

"Just an all-around swell guy."

"That’s me. So, is that it? Have I answered all your questions?"

"In a minute, there’s one more thing." Starsky said, knowing the answer to the question and dreading it at the same time. "What was her first name? There’s only a first initial in the files."

"I think it was Angelina…no…Angela."

Starsky did a subtle double take. "Angela? You’re sure on that?"

"Yeah, positive. Why? You know her?"

"No--I…"

Realizing that his partner’s reaction might give away the extent of his involvement with the case or worse, Hutchinson quickly stood up and dropped their calling card on the top of Emerson’s desk. He hustled his partner out of his chair and tried to rush him out of the office door. "That’s it for now, Mr. Emerson. If you remember anything else please give us a call. The number’s on the card."

Emerson nodded twice but his eyes were on the darker man, the cop who was giving him the eagle eye. Starsky had gotten up from his chair, but wasn’t making any effort to leave the room. Hutch could practically see the gears turning in his partner’s head; the man was putting two and two together and not liking what it was adding up to. He put his hand on his friend’s stiffened arm and pulled. "C’mon, Starsk, let’s go."

He pulled his partner towards the door by his left arm and ushered him out of Emerson’s office. When the elevator arrived, Hutchinson waved goodbye to Emerson’s secretary and the two of them headed out of the building. When they were on the street, Starsky shook himself loose from Hutch’s grasp; he was ready to go off like a Roman candle.

"What’d you do that for this time?"

"I didn’t want you to make a scene back there."

"I wasn’t gonna make a scene. I just wanted ask the guy some more questions."

He laughed nervously. "Must be some kinda coincidence, huh?"

"I don’t think so, Starsk."

"That’s what I was thought you were gonna say."

"I know what you’re thinking, partner, but right now we need to focus on whether or not there’s any connection between Jessie Colchetti and Sharon Milner. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that Bruce Emerson’s just handed us a load of garbage. There’s more going on down here than just a simple coincidence."

"I guess you’re right."

"I know I am. So let’s go."

"Where’re we goin’?"

"To talk to the widow."

CONTINUEDŽ