Chapter Two

Then

Marvin Platt.

Brown hair, green eyes, 57 years of age.

Deceased.

Found lying in his house with his eyes and mouth wide open.

An unidentified man in a white tuxedo was seen leaving the premises shortly before the body was discovered.

Marvin was the first known victim of the White Tuxedo during his operations in Detroit. Three people were dead so far—Marvin, a 27-year-old woman by the name of Jane Alvers, and James Dempsey, aged 87 years. There was no pattern, no clues on where or when the White Tuxedo would strike. The victims had nothing in common, had never met each other, and lived in completely different parts of Detroit.

Tony Ferano frowned, setting the folder aside. He had been going over it and over it for the last hour, never getting any closer to the solution. And what, perhaps, disturbed him the most in a case where everything was disturbing was the Phantom Child.

Jane Alvers' roommate Katie had been the first to report hearing a little girl's voice in her head, softly and matter-of-factly chanting a strange verse. She thought she had seen the shadow of a child darting past her vision, running, as it were, in slow motion. And yet she had known no one was there . . . other than the tuxedo-clad man vanishing over the lawn. Then an indescribable feeling of dread and fear had come over her and she had gone looking through the apartment, soon finding Jane's lifeless and silently screaming form. Something similar had happened with a resident of the rest house where James Dempsey had lived.

People screaming without being heard, men in white tuxedos, and a spectral child reciting a poem. Could this case possibly get any stranger?

Tony glanced at the folder again. All of the victims had the number seven in their ages. Could that possibly have anything to do with it? The number seven had to play a part in the mess; the chanting kid said something about "the gentlemen" needing "seven" of something. But seven what? Lives?

In frustration he ran a hand into his hair. "This looks more like a case for the Ghostbusters than the Detroit PD," he muttered aloud.

"You have no idea how right you might be. Detective Ferano?"

Tony looked up with a start. He had certainly not expected to be overheard, nor for anyone to not take it as a sarcastic crack. "That's right," he said. "Who are you?"

A hand was thrust in his face. "Carl Kolchak, Independent News Service."

Tony accepted the hand, but with hesitance. "I've never heard of that." He studied his visitor. Carl Kolchak was red-haired, middle-aged, and sporting ancient clothing. He also looked as though he could not care less if anyone thought so.

"Well, it's based in Chicago," Kolchak admitted. "My editor sent me out here to get a firsthand story on the Tuxedo Murders. It's been getting a lot of press across the nation, especially after the latest killing."

"I know," Tony answered, a bit stiffly. "So Mr. Kolchak, what is it you want from me? You sound like you already know more about the case than I do." He fixed the reporter with one of the infamous cold stares that had often resulted in suspects either breaking down and confessing or being utterly creeped out.

"Oh, not necessarily more," Kolchak said. "That's why I said you might be right."

"But you think there is something . . . supernatural going on." Tony started to get up. "I don't have time for crazy theories, Mr. Kolchak. This is a police station. We deal in facts, not kids' nightmares."

"Alright, then here's a fact for you." Kolchak slammed a photograph on top of the folder. "A freelance photographer I know was at the scene of the third murder. He took this picture."

Tony leaned forward, staring at it. It was the murder scene, there was no question of that. James Dempsey's body was sprawled on the floor, face-up, his mouth wide open in that chilling noiseless scream. A man in a white tuxedo was standing over the body, his face mostly turned away from the light. And standing in the doorway of the room, looking in, was the translucent figure of a small girl with curly red hair.

He looked up at Kolchak. "I'd say the picture was faked if it wasn't that every detail is in order in that room," he said. "Although I guess if someone got hold of the negatives from the police files, they could still put it together."

"They didn't," Kolchak said. "This picture is right from my photographer friend's camera." He tapped it with his finger.

"If that's true, Mr. Kolchak, why has he been withholding it?" Tony frowned. "It's material evidence in a murder!"

"He's afraid, Detective," Kolchak said. "I was the only one he'd give it to."

"Does he think the White Tuxedo will come after him, too?" Tony asked.

"That's already happened," Kolchak said, grim. "When he snapped the picture, the guy in the white monkey suit turned to look. Then it was as if he was looking into my friend's very soul, reading him, hypnotizing him! He wrote it all down for me on these pieces of paper." He took two wrinkled sheets of lined notebook paper out of his pocket, which Tony took.

"Why did he write it?" Tony shuffled them, glancing briefly at what was scratched out in an older man's shaky handwriting.

"He had to," Kolchak said. "Ever since this happened, he hasn't been able to talk. His doctor confirmed it; he's completely mute!"

Tony leaned back, hard. "It was probably just because it was such a psychological shock for him to witness a murder," he said.

"Maybe so," Kolchak said. "That isn't the point."

Tony considered that. Then he rose, still holding the looseleaf pages in his hand. "I want to see your friend," he said. "I'll read this on the way. Maybe when we get there I'll have more things to ask him."

Kolchak perked up. "You won't be sorry, Detective," he proclaimed.

"Maybe," Tony said, keeping his voice guarded. If there was any truth to it, this mysterious man was certainly their most important witness.

A witness who couldn't even speak.

He had wanted to land a big case. Well, now he had a doosey.

Now

Hamilton Burger was at his desk, going over all current information held by the Detroit PD. A frown crossed his features. Something did not seem right. More than once he had stumbled over what seemed to be a gap—missing evidence, witnesses who had been supposed to be interviewed but who had apparently not been, and references to photographs which were simply not there. The Detroit police chief insisted he had sent everything, but more and more that was looking unlikely.

So where had the rest gone? Who had taken it out, and why?

Was there any possible chance that . . .

Hamilton let that thought die in his mind. He had been going to suggest to himself that the remainder had been removed for being too fantastic, too lenient towards the supernatural. The case as he knew it was so weird that it almost seemed possible.

He picked up a pen, tapping it idly in his hand. Maybe he had been too permissive with that Dolenz kid. But for the kid to give a completely similar account about the girl, when he could have had no knowledge of that aspect of the case, had shaken him.

That entire angle of the case unnerved him, as a matter of fact. Mysterious kids chanting so boldly about murder?

He did not believe in the supernatural, as he had told Micky. Or at least, he did not want to. He had been forced to concede that maybe it wasn't all nonsense, due to a strange series of events he would rather forget. And he felt that ESP and other so-called phenomenon were most likely fake.

But how, then, was he going to explain all the independent witnesses hearing some little girl in their heads?

He groaned, reaching for the phone. Maybe Mignon Germaine would have an idea about what was happening. Although her ideas, whatever they were, would likely favor the paranormal.

Perhaps he should just give in and accept it.

But no, he wouldn't. Not until he had exhausted every other option . . . whatever they were.

xxxx

Micky was uncharacteristically jumpy and nervous by the time the Monkees got back to the Pad. As they stepped inside, something fell down behind the door. Micky flew several feet into the air. "What was that?"

"It wasn't anything," Davy frowned. "Micky, what's got into you?"

"Nothing," Micky said with a weak and unconvincing grin. "Nothing at all."

"The problem is, more and more we can see that's just not true," Mike said. "You're not telling us everything. Did you tell the D.A. what's bothering you?"

"Why would I tell him?" Micky retorted, looking back at Mike as he walked into the room. "I don't even know him." He yelped as he almost tripped over Mr. Schneider in a chair in the middle of the floor.

"But if it has something to do with the case, and I'm suspecting it does, then he'd need to know about it." Mike closed the door behind them.

"That doesn't mean I'd tell him," Micky said.

"Micky, this isn't like you," Mike frowned.

"Won't you just come off it and tell us what's wrong?" Davy exclaimed.

"We're worried!" Peter interjected.

Micky sighed, his shoulders slumping as he stood at the foot of the stairs. "Let's just say we might all be in danger, okay? Mr. Burger said he'd make sure we have police protection." He gripped the banister and headed up. "I'm sure we'll be fine."

"And I'm sure there's more to this," Mike said as they watched him ascend and vanish. "But it's not like we can force him to tell us. We'll just have to wait until he's good and ready."

"I hope it'll be soon," Peter said sadly.

"Well, I don't want to wait!" Davy exclaimed. "He might never feel ready to tell us if we don't take this bull by the horns ourselves. If he really understood how we feel, I can't believe he wouldn't give in."

"Davy, man, maybe we're the ones who don't understand," Mike said. "And if we did, maybe we'd know why Micky doesn't feel like talking yet."

Davy paused on the stairs. "He admitted we might all be in danger, Mike," he protested. "Even if just for that reason alone, don't we deserve to know more?"

Mike sighed. "Micky would never let it get to the point where we were actually getting hurt before telling us," he said.

"Maybe he doesn't really think anything will happen," Peter suggested. "Maybe it's something else he's upset about."

Mike blinked and looked over. "You might have something there, Shotgun," he said.

"One thing and then another," Davy said in exasperation. "Can't we make up our minds?"

Micky seemed to feel the same. Without warning he threw open the door to his and Mike's bedroom and yelled down the stairs. "I saw the tuxedo man on the beach and a kid was talking in my mind about gentlemen taking seven something and not being able to yell for help! And the district attorney said that other people heard the same thing when this guy killed someone!" And he slammed the door again.

The other Monkees stared up at it. "Well," Mike said at last, "that's . . . something else, alright."

xxxx

Carl Kolchak was in Los Angeles by evening. He found his suitcase—which was miraculously not missing—and ambled out the door to the rental car already waiting. After finding and checking into his hotel he was to go to the police station and ask for Lieutenant Tragg.

He eyed the streets in derision as he drove. He had never particularly liked Los Angeles; it seemed such a strange, garish, and even ostentatious city. Not to mention it went on forever. L.A. had gobbled up lots of smaller cities, incorporating them as sub-divisions of itself. Kolchak doubted he could remember all of them if he tried. Worse, it meant the White Tuxedo would have a lot of space to cover if he had decided to make Los Angeles County his next killing ground.

The hotel and his assigned room were nice enough. As long as he could get a decent sleep, that was what was important. It was tempting to flop on the bed and test its softness level. But he supposed he should hurry on along. The L.A. police were not likely to have much patience for him, especially since they already knew about his "crackpot" theories. Better not to start off on the wrong foot by being late.

So Kolchak left the comfort of the room and headed for the police administration building. It was bustling and crowded when he arrived, as he had figured it would be. He stumbled out of the way of several people just going up to the nearest vacant window at the help counter. Others waited in similar lines in front of other windows. This was certainly a far cry from a lone sergeant at a lone desk.

"Can I help you?"

He looked up with a start. A tall, young plainclothesman with a trenchcoat and fedora was standing in front of him, curious.

"Well, I don't know," Kolchak drawled. "I'm looking for a Lieutenant Tragg."

Something sparked in the detective's eyes. "I was going to see him myself," he said. "You must be Mr. Kolchak." He looked Kolchak up and down. "Yes, you definitely must be him."

"Forgive me for not knowing if that's a compliment," Kolchak said with dripping sarcasm.

Now his contact looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he said. "It's just that I've heard a lot about you. I'm Lieutenant Anderson, by the way." He held out a hand.

Kolchak slowly took it. "Are you working this case too, by any chance?"

"Not yet," said Lieutenant Anderson. "If . . . something happens, I'll probably be put on it."

"You mean a murder that falls under the jurisdiction of the LAPD," Kolchak said.

"Yes." Lieutenant Anderson started down the hall. Kolchak hastened to keep up.

"So . . . what's Lieutenant Tragg like?" he asked, as much or more because he wanted to brace himself as it was because of his curiosity.

"He's a long-time veteran of the police force," Anderson told him. "I've worked with him for years. He doesn't like nonsense, I can tell you that."

Kolchak nodded. "Nonsense like . . ."

"Like burning old city landmarks to ward off supposed vampires," Anderson finished for him. "Yes, Mr. Kolchak, that story has circulated through the precincts of the Los Angeles Police Department longer than I care to remember."

"Now, I paid to have that cross rebuilt," Kolchak hurriedly interjected, wagging his forefinger at the Lieutenant. "Surely that part has gone around too."

"Oh yes. And your cooperation on that matter was much appreciated. Although I'm sure you realize that the department would have insisted you make restitution even if you hadn't willingly agreed."

"I realize it very well," Kolchak said. "Yes, very well. I've had quite a few run-ins with the police."

"I'm afraid I believe it." Anderson paused in front of a door marked Lieutenant Tragg once they reached the Homicide department. He turned the knob and stepped inside, Kolchak closely following. "Lieutenant? Carl Kolchak is here."

The man at the desk looked up. "Oh, he is?" He glanced to the second person entering his office. "Yes . . . come in, won't you?" He stood, gesturing at the room.

Kolchak was not sure what he had expected Lieutenant Tragg would be like, but an older, shorter man was not it. He had been around enough police in his day, however, to be wary of the proffered friendliness. Tragg was probably craftier and tougher than he would let on at first.

Tragg was already sizing his visitor up and down, just as Kolchak was doing to him. "Well, so you're Carl Kolchak," he mused. "Lieutenant Arthur Tragg." He held out his hand and Kolchak hesitantly shook it. "And I assume you've met Lieutenant Anderson over here."

"Why, yes, I have," Kolchak said. "As a matter of fact, we had a very . . . nice little chat." He glanced at Anderson with some confusion. Was he planning to stick around and have his own chat with Tragg afterwards? Anderson gave no indication of his plans.

Without warning the grip tightened. "Let's be clear on one thing, Mr. Kolchak." Tragg's voice had hardened, too. "We don't tolerate Tomfoolery around here. There will be no slaying of vampires or other legendary creatures on my watch. Is this understood?"

Kolchak managed a friendly smile. "Perfectly, Lieutenant." Yep, his new ally was no pushover.

"Eh. Good." Tragg released Kolchak's hand and walked back to his desk. "Now, give us everything you've got on the Tuxedo Murders."

"Well . . . you might not like some of it," Kolchak said. He moved with hesitance to the chair in front of the desk. "A lot of this case is very . . . unexplainable."

"Yes, so I know." Tragg sat down. "Here's everything we got from the Detroit PD." He handed Kolchak a folder of freshly faxed documents and photographs. "Is it all here?"

Kolchak went through the packet, pausing to look at certain papers and pictures for the first time in several years. A frown crossed his features. "No," he said.

Anderson came closer. "'No'?" he repeated.

"What's missing?" Tragg demanded.

"Several things." Kolchak set the open folder back on Tragg's desk. "Several very important things, I might add! Including the photograph taken by one of the White Tuxedo's victims."

"What are you talking about?" Tragg peered at him. "None of the victims ever survived."

"Oh, not the ones he meant to kill, of course," Kolchak said. "But there were several others, the ones who now and then stumbled across one of the murder scenes before the White Tuxedo could get away. Instead of killing them too, he left his mark on them in . . . other ways."

"Don't speak so ominously, man!" Tragg frowned. "Talk in plain English!"

"Alright then, I will." Kolchak leaned forward. "More often than not, these particular victims were left mute after their encounters with the White Tuxedo." His eyes narrowed. "Some of them never did regain the ability to speak."

"And you say one of them took a photograph that used to be in the casefile?" Anderson looked unsettled.

"That's exactly what I'm saying," Kolchak said. "Detective Ferano and I put that file together. We went back to it again and again while we were trying to solve the case. Once the killings stopped in Detroit and the White Tuxedo disappeared, as far as I knew he held onto it."

"Did you have copies of that photograph or any of this other missing information?" Tragg lifted up several sheets of paper, as if he hoped to find that the absent pieces had miraculously resurrected in the folder during the discussion.

"Just of that photograph," Kolchak said. "A friend of mine snapped it. I was going to bring it out here with me, but the strangest thing happened. I couldn't find it." He shook his head. "I thought I'd just misplaced it. But after seeing this, I don't know what to think."

"There's no chance that Detective Ferano might have these missing articles with him?" Anderson ventured.

"It's possible," Kolchak shrugged.

"Problem is, no one knows where he's gotten himself," Tragg said. "That's why we had to send for you instead." He looked disgusted. "The Detroit PD said something about him having started an illegal gambling racket and using extortion—while he was still on the force."

Kolchak stared at him. "Maybe that was a lie too," he protested. "Just like him killing his wife."

"Oh, it wasn't a lie," Anderson said. "There's proof of his involvement in those rackets. And it's also quite well-known that he's been running around with Baby Face Morales for the last few years, ever since his disappearance in Detroit."

Now Kolchak's jaw dropped. "Well, it isn't known by me," he said. "The man I knew wasn't about to take up with vicious gangsters!"

"Apparently you didn't know Detective Ferano as well as you thought," Tragg said. "But nevermind all that; we're not getting anywhere." He stared down Kolchak in all seriousness. "Can you give us a list of everything that isn't here and what it contained?"

Kolchak snapped to attention. "I believe I can," he agreed.

"That's what we're counting on," Tragg said. "Oh, by the way—I was testing you with this folder. Mr. Burger, our district attorney, also came to the conclusion that some items were missing. However, that was only after he'd studied it for some time. Now you came to that same conclusion after just a brief glance by comparison. I can't decide whether I'm more curious or impressed."

"What can I say?" Kolchak returned. "Lieutenant, when I tell you all the details of this case, it shouldn't be such a surprise that my memory concerning it is good. I lived and breathed the Tuxedo Murders for weeks. It's not something anyone could soon forget."