A medium-boiled debut for college professor Nich Toland--"a kind of a policeman"--who turns down student Darlene Abbott's request to find her missing chum Kristin, then changes his mind when one girl turns up dead in a Combat Zone alley, and the other in a wayside gulley. Also: both have his name and phone number hidden on them in crack vials. It seems that Kristin, in researching a paper on prostitutes and a wombs-for-rent racket, seriously angered somebody, and Toland's retracing of her steps uncovers a partner-in-a-porn-scam college president; a deeply sadistic scholar; an unethical Boston physician; a Mafia connection; and, again, a bent cop. Aided by used-car dealer/fellow-reservist Swede Knudson and gorgeous girlfriend Moira, Nick will set up the doctor, confront the president, and accost the lowlifes at Pan's Flute, a smarmy sex-show setup. Eighties' man Nick (he sees a shrink, works out, has an ex, spends quality time with son Nicky) is Spenser-tough, predictable, and marginally admirable; but Story (Cemeteries are for Dying, 1982) gives him a merely competent beginning, nothing more.