Submitted by Tornado Dragon
While checking out feminist bookstores for leads in the Linda Niemeyer case, Hopkins (James Woods) comes across one run by Kathleen McCarthy (Lesley Ann Warren), and he starts to question her. They wind up having a long conversation that goes across a few locations and ends back at her bookshop/house, where Hopkins learns many things about her: She was a student at Daniel Webster High School, and there, she ran a feminist poetry club called “Kathy and her Kourt”. She and the other members decided not to date any of the guys at the school because they thought that none of the guys were worthy of them and they wanted to save themselves for “Mr. Right”, whom they believed would come to them when they became published poets. However, in 1972, a week before graduation, Kathleen was raped by two male students. Too scared and ashamed to tell the police about it, she instead told her Kourt about what happened to her, and they ended up deserting her. She spent the next year consumed with loneliness and depression to the point where she was contemplating suicide, but then, an anonymous male poet sent her a poem along with some flowers. For the last 14 years now, this poet has periodically continued to send her those gifts, and she keeps them pressed and dated in picture frames and stored in a chest in her bedroom. She also tells Hopkins that, while she has speculated about the identity of her poet, she has never really tried to figure out who he was, and she decided to reciprocate his anonymity by keeping her diaries private forever.
After she finishes telling Hopkins all of these things, she gives off signals indicating that she wants to make love to him, and Hopkins is open to the idea. However, wanting to be more relaxed for it, she excuses herself to both take a bath and smoke some marijuana. As he waits, Hopkins looks through her old high school yearbook on her coffee table, and he suddenly finds pictures of both Deputy Sheriff Delbert Haines (Charles Haid) and Lawrence Henderson (Dennis Stewart) on one of the pages, the former of whom he discovered (through a hidden recorder he found in his apartment while illegally searching it) is running drugs and male prostitutes and getting kickbacks from male prostitute hustlers, and the latter of whom is a prostitute that Haines has been running his operation through and goes by the nickname “Birdman”, which is his nickname in the yearbook. He decides to leave to look into this some more, so he takes the page from the yearbook and then leaves a note for Kathleen explaining why he had to go.
We then see him chatting with another detective over his car radio, and the detective informs him that the crime lab found a fiber element on the hidden recorder that is identical to a fiber found in Niemeyer’s apartment, probably from a white glove, so this ties the killer to Haines. Hopkins tells him to run a make on Henderson and bring what he gets to the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, where he will be waiting for him. When they meet, the detective informs Hopkins that Haines is escorting a convict to the Wayside Honor Farm and is due back at noon tomorrow, and Henderson has been fingerprinted, but his rap sheet oddly doesn’t say much. He then gives Hopkins a copy of Henderson’s mugshot before they start searching the area for him in the hope that he can tell them who bugged Haines’ apartment. However, neither of them notices Henderson getting into a car nearby with an unknown man.
The next morning, Hopkins finds out that Henderson has been found murdered in a motel room, so he drives over to the crime scene. He is shown that the killer wrote a message saying “we shall never yield” in Henderson’s blood on the mirror above the bed, and he soon realizes that it is a line taken from Webster High’s song. Hopkins then breaks into Kathleen’s store while she is away and snoops in her closet to try to find her yearbook, and he ends up breaking into her chest to see if it is in there. He finds it and gets confirmation that the line is indeed in the school’s song, and he also finds the framed flowers and poems. He looks over the dates that she received these gifts before comparing them with the dates of Niemeyer’s murder and the other unsolved murders in his notebook, and he notices that all of the dates match up. After taking one of Kathleen’s diaries and leaving another note for her telling her that he broke in here and took the diary, he telephones Internal Affairs, but he only gets the answering machine. The pre-recorded message informs Hopkins that he is suspended from duty pending an investigation, but he spurns this.
Hopkins then breaks back into Haines’ apartment and waits for him to return, and he fights and overwhelms him when he does. He then disarms him and searches him until he finds a file on Henderson in his coat, and Haines tells him that Henderson was his informant and asks him why he would kill his own informant. Hopkins forces Haines to sit down before he reads the file, where it clearly states the day when Haines first employed Henderson as his vice finger man. He tells Haines that, while this explains Henderson’s clean rap sheet, it doesn’t explain why he, a deputy sheriff, is involved in illegal activities. He then asks Haines what he is going to do now that Henderson is dead, and remarks that, once he gets linked to Henderson, he is going to have to find a whole new career for himself. Haines replies that he is clean all the way down the line, and he doesn’t know anything about Henderson’s murder or anything else that he is talking about, and he tells Hopkins that the only thing he can bust him for is for stealing a file.
Hopkins proceeds to remove all but one of the bullets from his revolver (though the bullets are all dummy rounds), then goes up to Haines and putting the barrel up against his head. Hopkins then tells him about Kathleen and how the person who has killed Henderson and many other women over the last 14 years always sends Kathleen a poem and flowers every time he kills, and this person also bugged this apartment, which was how he was able to connect him (Haines) and Henderson. He asks Haines why the killer has an obsession with him, and when Haines replies that he doesn’t know, Hopkins plays Russian roulette with him to force him to tell him what he knows. He eventually gets Haines to admit that he and Henderson were Kathleen’s rapists, and they did it to teach her a lesson because they got fed up with her and her Kourt refusing to date any of the guys at their school, feeling that they were a bunch of elitists putting everybody down. Hopkins then demands to know who knew about the rape and loved Kathleen and wanted revenge, but Haines swears that he has no idea. Hopkins eases up and shows Haines that he is wearing a wire, then tells him that he will be turning in his confession to Internal Affairs tomorrow and get him fired and prosecuted. Haines offers to provide him with information about some corrupt cops in exchange for leniency, but he first asks if he can use the bathroom before he starts talking. Hopkins allows it, but he senses that Haines is going to return with one of the guns from his bedroom and try to kill him with it, so he takes a fully loaded revolver out of his ankle holster and hides in the entrance to the kitchen in order to get the drop on Haines first. Sure enough, Haines returns wielding a shotgun, so Hopkins blows him away.
Hopkins calls his partner, Dutch (Charles Durning), at the station, and he finds out from him that Kathleen and her attorney are there to file a complaint against him. He tells Dutch to come meet him at Haines’ apartment building because he has just killed Haines and needs his help to square it away. After Dutch comes over, Hopkins tells him about how he has figured out that Kathleen, Haines, and Henderson were all in the same class at Webster High with the killer, and since they got the killer’s fingerprints from a book in Niemeyer’s apartment, all they have to do is match them with everyone else in that class, and the search shouldn’t last long because he has never been printed. Dutch ultimately decides to conduct the search as well as try to secure Kathleen’s cooperation, but he tells Hopkins to go someplace where he can stay out of sight for a while, given all of the trouble that he is currently in.
While Hopkins is at home, he gets a call from Joanie (Randi Brooks), a woman that he had a sexual encounter with days earlier, and she invites him over to her place for another roll in the hay. However, when he gets there, he finds her dead in the kitchen with her body placed in the same sexual position Hopkins had her in during their previous tryst, and he realizes that the killer was here the last time he saw her and is now targeting him. Hopkins is next seen entering an interrogation room with Dutch so Dutch can interview Kathleen, and though he gives Kathleen her diary back and apologizes, she refuses to accept his apology, nor is she all that willing to help out him or Dutch. Hopkins tells her that the mass murderer he is after is the same guy who has been sending her the flowers, but Kathleen reacts with disbelief, believing that her mystery poet is a gentle and tender soul. He tells her that the killer has had a twisted and obsessive love for her that dates all the way back to the day she got raped, and he knew who her rapists were and how her Kourt ditched her afterwards, so he has been punishing the same innocent types of women as the Kourt members ever since, and the murders and her flower deliveries occur within a day of each other every time. When she still won’t accept his explanation, he questions her integrity as a feminist and asks if she cares about any of the women who have been killed.
Dutch soon orders Hopkins to sit down and shut up, and he tells Kathleen that he found that six people in her graduating class have never been fingerprinted, and he starts to show her photos from the yearbook of those six people. She gets quiet when she casts her eyes on the third picture, which is of Robert Franco and whose nickname is “Poet Laureate”, and she tells Dutch that she remembers him. Capt. Gaffney (Raymond J. Barry) then enters the room and tells Dutch that he wants to see him and Hopkins immediately, so Dutch tells Kathleen to look at the list of the other three names he has and find their photos and write down anything she remembers about them on his notepad, after which he leaves with Hopkins. The officers meet with Gaffney in another room, and Gaffney shows Hopkins that he received a photo of when he and Joanie had sex, shocking Hopkins and confirming that the killer was indeed there at the time. Gaffney tells him that he is indefinitely suspended and there will be a hearing to determine if he will be brought up on criminal charges for different things including killing a fellow officer, and he makes him turn in his badge and gun. He then extracts a promise from Dutch that Hopkins will no longer interfere with the investigation and will be available for the hearing.
When Hopkins returns to the interrogation room, he discovers that Kathleen is gone, and he finds that she tore off a piece of paper from the notepad, indicating that she wrote down a phone number belonging to one of the six people. He then looks out the window and spots her running down the street, so he quickly goes after her. We next see Kathleen calling the number on a payphone, and we find out that Robert Franco (Steven Lambert) is on the other end. She explains who she is and how she knows him, then informs him that a “crazy policeman” has his name on a list of suspects that he thinks is a mass murderer, and once this cop finds out that he was a poet and that he was on their school’s poetry review with her, he will come after him and hurt him. Just as she tells him Hopkins’ name, Hopkins surprises her and rips the receiver from her hands, and he starts talking to Franco while letting Kathleen listen in. Franco tells Hopkins to not hurt her because “she is not like all the rest”, essentially confirming that he is the killer, which shocks Kathleen. He tells Hopkins to let her go and then it will be just the two of them, and they agree to meet up at Webster High in an hour for a showdown. After Hopkins hangs up, he demands for Kathleen to tell him why she called Franco and warned him about him, and she replies that she truly believed that Franco was innocent and didn’t want to see him get persecuted by him. Hopkins tells her to go back to the station and give Franco’s name to Dutch “in case he doesn’t show up”, and as he starts to leave, she asks him if he is going to kill Franco, and he more or less replies that he might.
Hopkins enters Webster High carrying a shotgun and begins his search, and he finds the body of a night watchman in an auto shop class with a note from Franco pinned to him reading that he is waiting for him in the men’s gymnasium. Hopkins eventually spots him in there, and Franco (who is toting an Uzi) initiates a cat-and-mouse-style gunfight with Hopkins, which ends when Hopkins surprises him, kicks the Uzi out of his hands, and then knocks him to the ground. After being ordered up onto his feet, Franco taunts Hopkins with the fact that, as a police officer, he has to take him into custody, not kill him. Hopkins informs Franco that he has some good news and some bad news for him: The good news is that he is right; he is a cop, and he does have to take him in. However, the bad news is that he has been suspended and he doesn’t care about following that procedure at all. He then slam-fires the shotgun three times, killing Franco.