"Oh, just someone telling Greg to leave her alone," he said with some of the joy that any break in a case brings.
Hutch walked over and stood behind him. "That's pretty boring handwriting. Could be a man telling Greg to leave him alone, too." He took the envelope, which had been pinched in between Starsky's fingers.
"No return address. I looked." Starsky examined the note. No signature. Very plain handwriting. Plain stationery. No perfume scent or hearts and daggers doodled anywhere. He handed it to Hutch.
"Easy to get handwriting samples. Samples close enough to this, we'd have enough ammunition to get a court order for a bite sample to match to our boy's cheek."
This relationship ends right here, Greg. You don't really know anything that would be of any interest to the police. I cannot put up with any more of your trouble. Everything is going well for me, my career is on the upswing. When I get the promotion, I'll have reached my goal. It'll take an awful lot more than your usual tactics to bring me down. If you don't stop harassing me, you'll regret it. Move on to your next target. Or else.
Hutch sat down on the bed. Starsky started to protest, but remembered, to his dismay, that this apartment had been gone over by the lab boys days ago. They could sit anywhere they wanted, move things. "'Or else' is a pretty vague threat. Just about anybody'd say that to him under the circumstances. I can't believe he hadn't already heard that one a million times before."
Starsky reread the sentence Hutch was pointing to. "'When I get the promotion, I'll have reached my goal. it'll take a'--is that an 'A'?"
Hutch nodded and looked over his shoulder. "An awful lot--"
"Right. 'It'll take an awful lot more than your usual tactics to bring me down'."
"Who's up for a promotion?"
"Whoever it is, he or she knows something about his violent past and probably his history of blackmailing people," Starsky said.
Later that afternoon, they were organizing their notes again. "Let's keep this one where we can see it. This list is something we keep having to--" Hutch stopped abruptly.
"What is it?"
He pointed to the list and Starsky looked over his shoulder. "These notations in the margin," Hutch said. "Handwriting look familiar?"
"Who?" Starsky started to say. "Krueger, wasn't it, gave us that list? This is a fine kettle of fish."
"We've been wondering what role Miss Krueger plays in this Library Days of our Lives. Add this to our new pot of African violets. Maybe she's in it a whole lot deeper than we ever thought."
Their last stop was back to the station where they went over files, testimony, interview transcripts, anything they could get their hands on concerning the murder a year ago of Raymond Salazar, the librarian who was up against Donna Rushton for the position of assistant director. He'd been shot and left for dead while driving the bookmobile in a bad section of town. His wallet was missing and the vehicle was found miles away.
"What're you putting in the salad?" Hutch asked.
"Raisins. I saw this chef on TV, and he put raisins in a salad." Hutch looked unsure. "Now, don't say anything 'til you try it. You might like it." Starsky tossed the salad. "Don't forget, partner, there were other things that you didn't know you'd like until you tried 'em."
Hutch, whose hands were covered with flour and egg, craned his neck to give his partner a kiss. "How many pork chops you want, one or two?"
As they continued making dinner, they moved around the small kitchen, sometimes bumping into each other, sometimes by mistake. "One of these days, we should get a bigger kitchen," Starsky said, but then felt embarrassed that he'd spoken so definitely about their future together. But Hutch agreed. Starsky walked over to him, a carrot stick between his lips. They kissed, and each man got half. During dinner, they deliberately avoided talking about the case. They argued about sports and cars mostly.
After dinner, Hutch suggested they take a shower. Showering together had become a form of foreplay for them. He got undressed and threw a bath towel over his shoulders. Starsky pulled off his shirt. As his partner turned toward the bedroom, Starsky gave him a swat on the butt and followed. He walked over to the mirror. "I feel like I'm gaining weight," he said more to the mirror than to Hutch.
Hutch looked at his partner. He got up and stood behind him. "I don't think so."
"Y'know, I always wondered how I'd look with a hairy chest." Hutch wrapped his arms around his partner, looking over his shoulder, stroking Starsky's chest. "Yeah," his hands traveled from Starsky's ribs up nearly to his shoulders then back again. "I've always been pretty proud of this body," Hutch said as he rubbed the furred belly. Then fingertips only moved upwards. "Like this trail of hair..." Downwards. Starsky just let his arms rest limp at his sides while his partner's hands continued their journey. Other parts of him were anything but limp.
"Follow the dots," Hutch said, pushing Starsky's hands out of the way when he tried to participate. "I've worked hard for this great body," Hutch teased, as each hand moved down past one of Starsky's hips to rub the thighs, eliciting grinding moans from his partner. "Just look at this body." Hutch purred and his hands ventured in between his lover's thighs. Starsky rolled Hutch's name around on his tongue, inaudibly.
"When Hutch gets home I'll be ready for him," Hutch whispered against Starsky's ear.
He manipulated Starsky's stiffening genitals through the denim of his cut-offs. "When he gets home, he'll do wonderful things to me." The snap was undone, and the eager cock pushed forward, causing the zipper to begin to open as if by magic. Starsky remained quiet, allowing Hutch to speak about and manipulate his body as though it were his own.
Hutch unzipped the rest, slid his hands inside, and pushed the shorts down without touching his partner's genitals. There was still a new shock of sexual thrill as Starsky realized, Hutch, my good-looking, brave, macho partner, is pulling down my pants and then he's gonna--. It brought up a sort of primal fear, crossing a set boundary, allowing yourself to be exposed, physically and emotionally by another man. Allowing that man to touch you in the most intimate of places, then to admit to yourself and to him, how good it all feels.
The bit of fabric that passed for Starsky's favorite cut-offs lay in a pool of denim at his feet, as he heard his partner's voice again. "Hutch likes me to be ready for him." Starsky could feel Hutch's cock against his ass. He pushed back and flexed his buttocks.
When those large hands came up from the inside of his thighs to grasp his cock and balls, Starsky's left hand reached around to grab Hutch's ass. They moved against one another and Starsky was so turned on, in part by watching his partner manipulate him as though they were one and the same body, so free of inhibitions, so full of fire.
Hutch held up his hand and Starsky licked the palm. "Maybe just a little squeeze.... Oh, yeah, babe." Starsky's body tightened. Hutch bent his knees slightly and then Starsky felt fluid-like, sweat-slippery but shadowing, folding atop every move Hutch made. Flesh to flesh, one body, one soul. "Yeah, Hutch knows what I need," Starsky heard his partner say.
Starsky let his head drop back against a strong shoulder. Hutch's lips sampled the exposed throat as his fingers continued pumping. Starsky's body seemed to become fragmented. He felt each location as it reacted to the love his partner bestowed. His entire focus on a square inch of flesh on his neck, absorbing, magnifying every sensation. One moment, a warm silky tongue, the next, there was left a moist spot, an air-cooled magnet to vibrations. The rapid beating of his lover's heart echoed through his own body.
He forced himself to take the occasional glance in the mirror, loving the look of withering self-control on Hutch's face. The look on his own face nearly startled him the first time he'd seen it, from ultra-tense, when he bore down, to ultra-relaxed when his partner kissed or massaged a new space. He'd never seen that look of nearly painful perfect pleasure on his own face. No one had ever put it there before or been able to draw it from him.
"God, Starsk, your body feels so good. Give it to me, babe." His voice had become breathy and still had an edge to it. The pumping got faster, his left hand tormenting the needy testicles. "Come on, boy. Give it to Hutch." Hutch's face was buried against Starsky's neck, his cock pushing, burrowing in between willing buttocks. They trembled and panted in unison.
"Huuuutch," Starsky moaned, speaking for the first time, and when he came, it felt like a jumbo jet was coursing through him, all he heard was the roar. He splashed through Hutch's fingers onto the mirror before them. Soon Hutch came on Starsky's skin. He felt the warm cream coating the back of his thigh. Hutch held him tight, and he held onto his partner's forearms. "God, I needed that," he finally said, and he pivoted, turning to face his partner for some warm, deep kisses, the kind of kisses that only two people who have really known each other as the best of friends and the most intimate of lovers could share.
"Shower," Hutch said. Starsky went along with him. The water felt good, and Hutch always pampered him so well. Starsky leaned into him. Hutch managed to be both thorough and tender with the fragile, spent genitals and there was always a hint of what lay in store later.
Friday, when they went to the library, there was a message waiting for them. It was from a woman in the cataloging department who'd identified herself as Chris Saudelli, Patton's supervisor. They'd left word that they wanted to meet with her, and here she was.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here when you people came in before." She walked to her desk and they followed. The pattern on her underpants showed through her white slacks, and it was difficult not to become mesmerized by the back-and-forth motion of the miniature roses. "Here we go. This is what I wanted to show you," she flipped backward the pages in a legal pad until she reached a certain page. "This is our departmental sign-out sheet. Now, we lost Sam on a Wednesday. Sam was very good about always signing out so we'd know where he was." A staff member called her, and she handed them the legal pad and directed them to a table where they could work, then walked away.
"Right," Starsky said. "Died on Wednesday--" While checking his notes against the page where the supervisor had stopped, he pulled out a chair, spun it around and sat backwards in it. "How far ya wanna go back?"
"Let's just start flipping."
"Tuesday. Union meeting over lunch. A few different people went to that."
"He was a--" Hutch began.
"Library assistant, it says here. Probably some kind of catch-all title. Ready for Monday?" Hutch nodded and he flipped another page back. His finger started at the top of the page. "This can't be right. Does this mean six-thirty the night before? Why's a library assistant at work at six in the morning?"
They flagged the supervisor down as she walked past them. "Would Mr. Patton have been in at six or six-thirty in the morning?" Hutch asked.
"Oh, yes," she said. "He had a unique schedule. Got here at six-thirty and would leave at eleven-thirty. Is there a problem?"
"No. Thanks. Now this makes sense."
She went back to her desk, which was just a few feet from the table where they were sitting. "Let me know if you have any more questions."
"Okay. Sam gets here six-thirty Monday morning and right away, he signs out to go--. Uh, fifth floor." He glanced at Hutch, who took the pad over to the supervisor for help in deciphering the entry.
"Fifth floor, DR, " she said. "Interesting. He had a meeting with Donna Rushton. I don't think she's usually here that early. Oh, well."
"Did Mr. Patton work directly with Mrs. Rushton?"
"Not usually, no. I hadn't told him to meet with her, if that's what you're getting at. And he wasn't working on any projects with her. Not that I knew of, anyway."
They thanked her and went back to the table. "This wasn't on Rushton's calendar, was it?" Starsky stopped when he noticed that a young man who was pushing a truck of books had stopped nearby and appeared to be listening. They both looked over at him, and he pushed the truck on past them. "Too early, y'think?"
"Could be." Hutch fingered the crescent moon on his necklace. "Let's think of reasons why they would've met and their meeting wouldn't have been put on Rushton's calendar."
Starsky went through the papers one-by-one. He tried to make it look like he was reading, but as he held each page up from the tablet, the sun shone through the paper and he looked for signs of white-out or any other alterations that may have been made. There didn't seem to be any. They had similarly inspected the Rushton calendar that Polly had shown them.
When Starsky shifted the tablet, a folded piece of paper fell out. He looked at it. It was someone's notes: "Need room 226 next Friday for library research class." It also had some notes about needing an overhead projector, things like that. He walked it over to Saudelli.
"Oh! Is that where that went! How strange! Thanks for finding it. We have to book that room."
"I see there's a check mark at the bottom," Starsky said, trying to get more information, just in case.
She looked. "Here? That's not a check mark. That's the letter "V." It's a note from Violet Krueger."
"You mean to say Violet Krueger wrote this? She didn't dictate it and have someone else write it?"
"No," she laughed a little then apologized. "I'd know Violet's handwriting anywhere."
"Would you happen to have anything that Donna Rushton wrote?" It was Hutch. Starsky hadn't even known he was standing there.
"Ummmm " she thought. "Well, there is this." She pulled a large, very full notebook from a shelf and started looking through it. "This isn't very timely, but it is something that Donna wrote herself." She took hold of a small yellow transparent plastic tab, in which was a bit of paper that read, Memos. It's from this past Christmas. She made corrections to a party memo that had been sent out to librarians, then she had her assistant--"
"Polly," Starsky offered.
"No. Donna's had at least two assistants since Christmas. This was, uh, Ladonna, I think. Anyway, her assistant just Xeroxed the same memo with her notes on it and it was distributed." She pulled open the three handcuff-sized rings that held the papers and pulled this one out. "Is this helpful?"
Hutch and Starsky smiled at one another. "This is very helpful. Could we get a couple copies of this, please?"
After they realized that Violet Krueger hadn't made those notations on the employee list, but Donna Rushton had, they set out to meet with Rushton. This time, they had a search warrant.
They learned that she had left the library early. Polly thought she'd heard her talking about meeting a friend for an early dinner at Ricardo's. Strangely enough, Ricardo's turned out to be the new incarnation of Andrea's Restaurant, which had been owned by Amboy, before it was sold to aid his court fees. The last time Starsky and Hutch had been there, they'd created a scene and were thrown out. This time, though, they'd be totally by the book, and as incognito as possible. The maitre d' was helpful, allowing them to check the reservation book and even to go inside and take a quick look around. Nothing. "This place reminds me. "
"What, of last time we stormed through here?" Hutch asked.
"No. It reminds me that I'm hungry."
Hutch gave him a little push toward the door. "We'll have to stop somewhere and get something on the run tonight."
"Yeah, I know. Otherwise, Rushton'll be on the run and my full stomach won't mean a thing."
Later that evening, they stopped and got some burgers.
They drove out to Rushton's house in Woodland Hills. As they had done at Karen Jaffe's home, Starsky went around back and Hutch rang the doorbell and knocked. No one seemed to be home. There were no cars, no lights. There was one difference, though. When Starsky turned to leave the backyard, he encountered a German shepherd, probably belonging to Rushton.
It was as though he forgot how to breathe for a second. But then he said, "Nice doggie." And as soothingly as possible, without moving from the spot, he called his partner's name. "What's your name doggie?" He reached to pat its head and the dog growled at him.
Hutch came around the corner and saw the situation, but then disappeared again. Starsky tried to inch away, but the dog's growling made that impossible. His mouth was dry, but he continued to try and speak sweetly to the animal. Finally he said, "You know, doggie, that Starsky has a gun? You don't want to maul the nice man with the gun, do you?" Clearly, the dog knew that Starsky wouldn't shoot him.
And then in a blaze of sound and action, Hutch returned, yelling to Starsky and to the dog. "Come over here, Starsky!" he yelled as the dog ran toward Hutch. "Here ya go, boy!" He said, throwing a small, paper-wrapped package into the back yard. Thankfully, whatever it was got the dog's attention, and Hutch eased out the side gate after his partner.
"Is there a bathroom around here?" Starsky asked, his heart still pounding.
They knocked and examined the front of the house once more, wondering if the back-yard fracas had made anyone inside stir. No luck.
"Starsk, sometimes I just don't get it. I mean, you have this really dangerous job. Guys have cornered you--more than one guy--with knives, chains, whatever. And you just go at them. You do what you have to do. You've saved my ass more times than I can count. What is it about a dog that makes you so afraid?"
"Maybe " Starsky said, breathing hard as they walked back to the Torino. " maybe if I knew that, I wouldn't have so much trouble with dogs." Hutch agreed. When they got into the car, Hutch took a drink of his milk and a bite of hamburger. Starsky looked around. "Where's my burger? I know it was here. I remember taking--" He glowered at his partner. "You--you gave my dinner to that creature?"
"Starsk, I had to do something. You were in danger."
"And why didn't you toss him your burger?"
"At the academy I was taught that when time is of the essence you go for the nearest possible source of help. I reached in through the window and yours was the first one I saw. Simple as that. Your hamburger gave its life so you could live to eat other hamburgers in the future." He smiled.
"We're stopping at the first hamburger joint I see. And you better keep your eyes open, now." At a stoplight, Starsky looked over at him, pulled his sunglasses down a bit on his nose and looked at Hutch over the top of the glasses. "Be careful someone doesn't reach over and toss your burger to the wolves sometime."
"You wouldn't dare," Hutch said, and they both laughed.
"Y'know how the two of us been talkin' a little about maybe buying a house? Just remember, my position is 'not in my back yard' when it comes to dogs like that one."
"All right. Understood," Hutch said. "I'd care more about who was inside the house, anyway."
"So, partner, where else could this woman be?" They called in and put out an APB on her and her vehicle. They had sufficient reason to suspect that she could be armed and dangerous.
"Why don't we try the one location where we've ever seen her?" Hutch said, as he tried to grab Starsky's replacement hamburger. Starsky slapped his hand.
They stopped at some pay phones to call the station and then call Penny Hendricks. Someone had mentioned that Penny could've been the one Rushton was supposed to have had dinner with. Hutch fished in his pocket and eventually produced some change. He handed some to Starsky. "You got Hendricks' number? Why don't you call her? I'll call in, see if anything's up."
Starsky got into the booth beside Hutch's, put the coins in and dialed. He was just about to put the phone to his ear when he noticed that some fool had put ketchup on it. He hung up in time for his money to come back and leaned into Hutch's booth. "Got a napkin?"
Hutch made a little hand gesture at him but went on talking. Starsky didn't get it, so he asked again. "Starsk, you know it bugs me if people interrupt me when I'm on the phone."
"I know, I know. Do you have a napkin?"
"There's all this junk smeared along the receiver in that booth." Finally, his partner understood and whispered for him to go back to the Torino. There were extra napkins from dinner. Oh, yeah, Starsky said to himself as he retrieved the napkins and returned to wipe off the phone.
He put the coins back in the slot, but this time one of them seemed to have gotten stuck on the way down. He pulled the change lever about a dozen times, and that did no good. He put the phone to his ear and got some inane recording about how he needed to deposit another ten cents. "Hey--you accepted that dime two minutes ago! What's wrong with it now?" He slammed a fist against the side of the phone.
"Phone abuse'll get you five to ten." Sometimes Starsky loved Hutch's calm voice. Other times, he didn't.
"The thing ate my dime. Perfectly good dime. Wouldn't let me make my call. Took the dime fine when there was ketchup all over the phone--" Hutch had stepped into the booth, so Starsky moved halfway out. "So what is it? You're supposed to either get ketchup in your ear, or the goddamn phone eats your money?" He kicked a rock, and it just missed the Torino's fender.
"Hello, Miss Hendricks," Hutch said. "This is Detective Hutchinson. I'm calling because my partner and I are trying to locate Donna Rushton. Have you seen her this evening by any chance?" Hutch looked at Starsky and shook his head. "Can you tell me if you and she were to have dinner together--. Oh, I see. No. If you could just contact us, that would be better. Don't want to unnecessarily alarm Ms. Rushton. Do you have our number? Right. And thank you again." He hung up the phone and, with an amazing slight of hand that Starsky'd never known his partner could manage, slid something into the waistband of his jeans before leaving the phone booth. Starsky fished it out. It was a dime. Of course. He put the dime in his pocket and they both got back into the car.
"Puttin' money in a guy's briefs? Sounds like a pay-off for something to me, Sergeant Hutchinson."
"Well then maybe, Officer, it sounds like what is." He smiled.
"Don't tell me I'm only worth ten cents, now."
"You'll get a lot more tonight, Starsk. You're worth a hell of a lot more than that."
Hutch rolled the window down all the way, rested his elbow on the frame.
"Okay. You're a killer librarian whose murdering days are numbered. The cavalry is closin' in. Where do you go? What do you do?"
Hutch just looked straight ahead. "That's the million dollar question, partner."
"Remember when we were in her office that one time? 'Member how she tucked that little black calendar book'a hers away when she saw us looking at it?"
"And she tried to distract us with talk about Violet Krueger. What was in that book? Think it was worth--?"
"Worth going back to the library to get before skipping town? And she made sure everyone knew that she'd be somewhere else tonight. Somewhere besides the library," Starsky said.
"It's really a shot in the dark."
"Well, if we get there soon enough, it won't be dark. And maybe we can avoid the shooting." They stopped at another pay phone and arranged to borrow Penny Hendricks' keys to the library.
They didn't tell her why they needed to get into the building, and they felt secure in the fact that she wouldn't call anyone to alert them that the police were on their way.
Finally, they made a brief radio call into Dobey to inform him of their plans. "We don't even know if anything's going down," Starsky said into the microphone. "She might not be there, and if she is, she may be alone and we can bring 'er in no problem."
"All right, but call for backup when you need it, you hear?"
"Ten-four, Captain." Hutch returned the car mic to its holder.
The library was dark and appeared to be empty. The rows of tall shelves gave it a maze-like quality. Starsky had to be particularly on-guard because they might not be able to see their suspect coming. "'Five floors and a basement,' the lady said. Where was her office, again?"
"What makes you assume she'd be in her office?" Hutch asked. "This woman, and whoever else might be with her, has the run of the building. We don't know what she's doing, or where she might be doing it."
"But, if she and her pals were scared enough of us to try and blow us up, don't ya think they'd probably be in the 'wrap things up and get outta town' mode?" Starsky put his finger to his lips. "Shhhh."
"What is it?" Hutch asked.
"Nothing. Just shhhhh."
Rather than risking each going on a different floor and their losing communication with one another, they opted to start at opposite ends of each floor in turn. "She's got keys to all the office rooms. How do we get past that?"
"Have faith, buddy. We can do it. If we're really lucky, we'll hear her and her keys clanking around," Hutch said. A nod passed between them, and each ran cautiously to the east and west ends of the main floor. This floor had circulation and reference desks on the east end, where Starsky was. He didn't know if he was thankful that he didn't have to look around the darkened corners of all those rows of books, or if he was more worried because he had that much less to hide behind. He moved slowly, keeping his back to walls, dividers and the occasional cement pillar. We'll be on the fourth floor, and she'll be back on the first, he thought, wishing they'd had a chance to call for backup.
And suddenly, he heard a sound. The squealing scrape, probably of a chair against the floor. He got low and moved toward the sound, eyes and ears keenly focused, scanning for anything further. He could sense that he was getting closer to the source of that sound, and when assured that he was well concealed by a pillar, he eased his chin around the side to--. He jumped and his head jerked back, just missing the hard concrete.
"Don't ever do that to me again!" Hutch said in a harsh whisper, as he reholstered his gun.
Starsky's heart was pounding. "Any--" He took a couple deep breaths. "Anything?"
Hutch shook his head. "On up?"
"Yeah." Once at the door to the stairwell, they stood at each side of the doorway, guns drawn. Hutch gave a quick glance inside, nodded and they went in. This was one of Starsky's least favorite kind of stairwells to be walking into. There were about ten steps, then a corner to another ten steps. From the bottom of that first set of steps, you couldn't see up to the top.
Their communication for the next while would all be in very well-rehearsed, precise silence. Nods, small gestures, vibrations, sometimes even thoughts passed between them. As they found their way onto the second floor, Starsky couldn't help but wonder if Rushton worked alone, or if she had one or more accomplices. They'd established early on that she probably couldn't have committed the murders single-handedly. Even if she had a brilliant and evil mind, even if she were a master of martial arts and could have overpowered the victims, there had to have been another person to drive the victims' cars away.
This floor housed LP records, microfilm readers, and children's books. Quite the assortment. It was a strange dichotomy to be worrying about his partner's and his own safety and suddenly look over to see Harry Belafonte's bright, smiling face on an album jacket. As some of the shelves of albums were at eye-level, his instinct was to aim his gun, and he nearly did, threatening at least the image of some musician. How could he have thought Buddy Holly was the murderer? He allowed himself a brief, if strained, smile, a valve to let out some of the tremendous amount of built-up tension.
Slowly, carefully, they made their way to and beyond each floor. On the fourth floor, the one next to the top, when he and Hutch were nearly together in the middle of the room, he saw his partner snake around a corner of the book stacks, his body sloughing off a layer of grimy looking dust. He could feel how hard Hutch was trying not to sneeze.
Fifth floor, top of the building. This time, as they glanced at one another before separating, the eye contact was that much more intense. This floor probably represented High Noon. "I'll be there if you get into trouble," the glances said, and each man ran as quietly and steadily as possible to his prescribed end of the very large room. P through Z, Starsky thought as he pressed his back against the northwest corner wall. That's what he'd said days ago when Rushton had escorted them up to this very floor to conduct employee interviews. Call for backup before you go into something bigger than you can handle, Dobey had said. And yet, they hadn't. There hadn't been time.
As he moved stealthily around a corner, Starsky again thought of Rushton's office, which was room 501. She'd told them about how she aspired to be in the spacious corner director's office on the same floor. Starsky looked at the number on the nearest office to him--551. Damn, 501 was over in Hutch's corner. He shot a hard glance down from his side to the next, wishing he would see some sign of his partner's whereabouts and progress. He didn't, and he didn't have the time to wait until he did.
Even though they were in an urban area and there was a section of the roof behind him--a locked area most likely for workmen--he could hear no traffic sounds. The top corner of his back jeans pocket was temporarily caught on some unjointed piece of shelving, and when Starsky shifted to free himself the fastest way possible, the small squeak that the metal made seemed dangerously deafening. And again, the quiet returned, hanging in the stagnant air.
He turned a corner and had entered the Q range. And then R. Something ahead of him in the aisle caught his eye. A dark shadow, low to the ground. He'd nearly kicked one of those small, metal, wheeled step stools that was in the aisle, but managed to see and avoid it at the last moment. As he walked past, he noticed an embossed image of a woman holding a book on the black rubber top of the stool. She didn't look like any killers he'd ever met before. But then, she didn't really look like any woman he'd ever met before either. Maybe, if he stepped on the stool, he could see through the stacks, peep-hole-like, over the tops of some of the books.
He never got to finish the thought. He heard a dull thud followed by a grunt, which he knew came from his partner. He moved toward the sound, his finger vibrating where it was perched along the body of the gun, above the trigger. Once he reached the row of U's, directly in front of room 501, he saw the something that was a very bad sign. A burly young man was walking into the room, holding and pointing what looked like Hutch's gun.
The door to the room was left open. That was good. Although there was a large, clear window in the front; the Venetian blinds had been drawn. That allowed both the suspects camouflage, but Starsky, who was on the other side, as well.
For the first time, he heard Rushton's voice. "He's not working alone. We have to find out where that other cop is."
He managed to glance into the room just beyond the end of the blinds before rushing out a few feet into one of the rows of books. He heard Rushton or her male accomplice peer outside, checking where Starsky had been standing seconds before.
"Nobody," the male voice said.
"Oh, god, how would you know?" Rushton said angrily. "Could be fifty of them out there and you wouldn't notice."
That was a piece of luck. Discord between the suspects. It could ultimately work in their favor. When he'd glanced into the room, he saw Hutch in a chair, and he seemed to be just coming to. Starsky's guess was that Rushton probably got his attention while her boy slugged him. Only Hutch, Rushton and the two-ton young accomplice were in there. It wasn't Shulman, but this man was certainly in the same league.
"You gonna let her talk to you like that?" It was Hutch's voice.
"Shut up!" Rushton yelled.
"You don't like it when she yells, do you? Why don't you tell me about Ray Salazar." Hutch was obviously speaking to the accomplice.
Starsky heard a slap, followed by a laugh from his partner. It wasn't a real laugh, and it was a very chancy thing to do, as it could get him more than just slaps from the guy.
And then he heard a bit of information that they hadn't received before when the kid said, "Aw, Ma." This was her son. None of the information on her had said she had any children.
"You shut up, too!" she yelled. "Come over here!"
Starsky heard some movement in the room. It was time to figure out and make his move.
"I'm nearly as good a shot as my son," she said. "Shame the Empty Copper Sea didn't work out."
"You won't take us alive, copper," her son laughed.
There was the sound of a chair being moved. "And then you could have saved so much trouble if you'd just taken that hint and backed off. You found out what kind of a man Gregory was. Was his death a loss of any kind, really?" Her condescending tone changed briefly. "You sit down, too!"
"What about Patton?" Hutch asked.
"Bastard was trying to get hush money out of me; somehow he'd gotten some information from Greg. Sam hadn't ever tried anything like that before, I could tell. Jaffe would've tried. Now, after you and your partner are eliminated, and little Violet is implicated, I can go on to get the directorship and no one has to know anything about my personal life." She started to laugh, and the son joined in. When Rushton's laugh deteriorated into some kind of cackling sob, Starsky knew it was the right time to move in. She'd no doubt regain her self-control shortly.
He ran up behind Rushton, knocking her down and causing her to drop the gun, which he kicked toward Hutch and away from the kid. She was wild with rage and tried to run out of the room. He grabbed her shoulder, but his hand slipped and he had a hold of the back of her jacket. He was aware of the fight going on between Hutch and her son across the small room. When he'd successfully tugged her back into the room, she squirmed to escape again, and the nearest thing to grab was her hair. He got a handful of the mighty beehive bun, but it came off in his hand. He threw it on the ground and retrieved her with a small amount of fuss, cuffed her hands behind her and sat her in a chair. "I should've set that bomb to go off sooner. Get rid of you and that gaudy red sports car of yours."
"Hey! You watch it!" Starsky said.
While Hutch had his gun in his hand, the son had shoved him against a wall that was covered with a white board. As the two of them struggled, the back of Hutch's shirt was erasing a marker-written economics lesson from the board. Hutch used a head butt followed quickly by some well-aimed kicks to bring sonny boy down. He cuffed him, sat him down next to his mother, and held his gun on them both. The kid had the same build and look as Shulman. It could've easily been Rushton's son they saw at the tavern that night.
"Mother and son killers. What'll we get next?" There was a phone in the room, and Starsky was glad to discover it could be used to dial an outside line. "Dobey said we should call for backup," he said, as he dialed and listened to the ringing. They couldn't be sure if there were others, connected to this duo or not. Maybe elsewhere in the building, maybe in the basement, there would need to be manpower to really check the premises. As he talked to the dispatcher, he heard Hutch reading the prisoners their rights.
After flipping a coin, it was determined that Hutch would go to the ground floor and meet the other officers. He turned to leave the room, but--"What the HELL is that?"
Starsky looked at what Hutch was pointing to.
"It's a disembodied hive o' hair. Don't worry. I think it's dead already."
When Hutch left the room, Starsky felt a great sense of relief. In the back of his mind, he knew there was still a chance that someone else was lurking in the building, but he suspected that they had the only two criminals cuffed and under his watchful eye. Soon the sound of sirens could be heard.
It was dark out now. The flashing lights entered through the room's outside window, reflections covering the whiteboard with random, pulsing red and blue color. "Hey," he looked over at the now dark-haired Donna Rushton. "We have this great romantic photo of you and Mr. Erlewine. It was taken, of course, before you bit him on the face." Hutch returned and leaned on the doorframe. "Gotta make sure they don't forget to get hold of that little calendar of hers." He leaned against the door where he and his partner could speak without being overheard.
The parking lot that had been so dark and empty when they arrived, now contained police cars, light, and people moving around.
Hutch said, "Y'did a good job, partner, taking down the woman while I was wrestling with the kid, Mr. Moose."
"Hey, I went after the one with the gun. She was more dangerous. An' she could'a been carrying a flame thrower or somethin' in that--"
"Hive of hair?" Hutch laughed, as Starsky turned the corner, now about a mile from the station.
"Hey, don't laugh. There are those fake pregnant bellies that shoplifters use. Why not detachable hair--store your entire arsenal. All your militia and beauty salon needs in one carry-all hive." At the next stoplight, he noticed that the people in the car beside them were looking at them because they were laughing so hard. He didn't care.
As they walked over to the elevators, Starsky looked at his partner and commented, "That's a fine golf ball you've got growing on the side of your head."
Hutch winced, rubbed his head and asked, "You ever think of retiring or trying for a desk job? Leaving this stuff to the younger, less jaded guys?"
"Yeah, every time we wind up one of these."
"Ever feel like the two of us had better not ever retire?"
"Yeah, every time we wind up one of these," Starsky repeated. Hutch nodded and, now that they were alone in the elevator, reached over, threaded his fingers in Starsky's hair and rubbed the side of his head.
It was the beginning of a four-day weekend for them, and Saturday morning. As Hutch dried himself after his shower, he said, "There's something I've been meaning to ask you, Starsk."
"When we were in the library, two or three times I heard you asking if people could legally gain access to patrons' check-out records. Was there anything personal behind that question? Your love of Bigfoot stories, maybe?"
Starsky went over to his desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a book. He handed it to Hutch.
"The Joy of gay sex!" Hutch said. "I didn't know there was such a thing! And don't tell me--" He closed the cover and tilted the book up, no doubt to see the Bay City Public Library stamp in red. He set the book down, walked over to Starsky and gave him a hug, while he was just brimming with laughter. "You mean to tell me that some of your recent moves haven't been Starsky originals?" They kissed a terrific kiss, although they had a hard time keeping their lips together because they were both laughing so hard. "I'm I'm just amazed that you were brazen enough to check it out!"
"Well," Starsky cocked his head. "I'm working on this case . Checked out quite the assortment of books that day."
Hutch put his arm around Starsky's waist. "Okay, partner. We've got four days off in front of us. Should we start on page one, or--"
"I was actually a little worried that the title--" He noticed the confused look on Hutch's face, so he was a bit more specific. "I was kinda worried that the word 'gay' might make you uptight or something."
Starsky was at once warmed and comforted in a big bear hug.
"Starsk, as I've said before, labels don't mean a thing. The way we make love, they call it gay sex. If there weren't a name for it, we couldn't find books like this one to give us ideas, right?" They kissed. "We love each other, and we want to be together. If anyone's going to label our whole relationship, it'll be us. Right?"
"Right," Starsky agreed.
"Now, back to this wonderful piece of literature you've borrowed here. Oh." He opened up the back cover. "When's it due? How much time have we got?" More laughter. "Since you've read it and I haven't, why don't you tell me which page you think we should start on."
Well, I've been thinking--" Starsky sucked an earlobe in between his lips, and then said, "I got this friend of mine I've been wanting you to meet."
"Oh, really?" Hutch said with a look that covered both delighted curiosity--and a little worry.
"Really." He flipped right to a page toward the end about toys. "Friend's name is 'Starsky Junior.' An' he's been looking forward to meeting you." He moved around so he was standing behind his partner. "That sound okay to you?"
Hutch nodded and finally let out an "Oh, yeah." He groaned from someplace so deep within him that it was tangible--Starsky actually felt the words roll along his own body, from his thighs to his groin.
Starsky dropped to his knees, letting the palms of his hands slowly follow his descent, moving from his partner's shoulders, to his back, past his ass. "Cracked any walnuts between these, lately?" he asked as he caressed each thigh, fingers eventually traveling in between them as Hutch separated his legs even more. He could hear his partner's breathing. "Close your eyes, babe," Starsky told him, before sucking a small ring of Hutch's ass into his mouth. He flicked his tongue over the skin before removing his mouth.
As he massaged the pale buttocks before him, he fought the surge of excitement that threatened to make this all end too soon. He drew his tongue in long swipes over his partner's ass. "I'm in the mood to eat some Hutchinson." His tongue tip drew along the crack. "That okay with you?"
Hutch didn't say anything, but when Starsky reached up and spread apart his ass cheeks, Hutch reached back to hold them apart. "That's my boy," Starsky whispered. First, he reached through his lover's legs, handling and pulling at the cock and balls that filled his hands. Hutch groaned, and Starsky saw his fingertips whiten a little, pulling his buttocks further apart. A real invitation, he thought, and when he licked the backs of Hutch's balls there was the most breathy "Yeeeessssss."
"This what you want?" There was no answer, but as his tongue traveled past the small asshole and then over it again, his partner made his feelings known as he bent forward to receive Starsky's tongue, his fingers loosening their grip on his ass. "My Hutch," he whispered, imagining for a moment the shock so many people would have were they to find the two of them like this. If anything, it made the moment, and the taste, sweeter.
Hutch pushed back against him a couple of times, but then turned around and took Starsky's hand and they walked toward the bed. He pushed the pillows up so he could lean on them, and sat up in the bed with his back against the headboard. Then, he put a pillow under his ass and pulled those incredibly long legs apart so an arm held each leg behind the knee. He spread his legs. "Now, Starsk. Easier, and I get to watch this way."
They had done this before, in bed and with one of them seated in a chair. Starsky got on his stomach, took deliberately tantalizingly quick tastes of the eager cock and balls, and then returned where he'd left off. When the tip of his tongue nudged at the puckered hole, Hutch's body jerked and the headboard slapped against the wall. When he started to look up, Hutch spoke. "No. No, it's okay. One of these days we'll get a padded headboard."
Starsky smiled, then continued. As always at this time, the opening seemed impossibly small, and completely uninviting to guests. Soon enough, the tiny folds of skin would loosen so he could suck on them, bringing about wonderful moans from his partner. He added his fingers to the game, rubbing the area just between Hutch's balls and asshole.
Finally, the passage opened enough for the tip of his tongue to enter, and when it did, Starsky could feel Hutch's strong thighs attempt to jump forward, held in place by both his partner's own arms and Starsky's shoulders. He knew that feeling. It was a combination of the involuntary push forward to get a deeper connection and some kind of fearful jerking away as though what was being done to you is too "naughty." But then your system slows to a roar, remembering who it is who's doing this to you. So when you do push forward, and your partner does go deeper, it's all the more stimulating.
"Mmmmmm," Starsky hummed, and when he felt his tongue accepted more deeply, he felt a warm hand on the back of his head, stroking his hair. He hummed again.
When the opening was about the diameter of a dime, Starsky lapped his tongue back and forth along the crease, from the root of Hutch's balls nearly to the small of his back, and back again, the gaping target, like a small but tasty indentation in his path.
He looked up at Hutch, but didn't have to speak. As they did in some of the scariest, most intense times at work or off duty, they'd found that while loving one another, in their most intense times in the bedroom, they could also communicate nonverbally. Did Hutch need more of his partner's tongue? Or now did he want his fingers? He saw Hutch reach into the drawer of the nightstand. Not only did he pull out the bottle of lube, but Starsky thought it was very brazen and very erotic that he pulled out the dildo as well. He was ready tonight. No "Oh, I forgot about that," which would've been acceptable had he decided he'd rather try it some other time.
He handed both items to Starsky, who poured forth some lube and did what he sometimes called "the Dance of the Fingers." The first finger was accepted easily, and Hutch motioned for a second finger almost immediately. Starsky scissored his fingers and felt Hutch reposition himself. He looked up to see if his partner was comfortable, and the smile he was given told him that he was. Now he held his fingers close together, plunging them in, them pulling them nearly out, then plunging again.
He held still and looked up. He felt Hutch's ass muscles tighten around his fingers as he tried to understand what his partner was saying.
"Shhh, shhh," is what it sounded like. But then he heard and understood it. It made him smile. "J-Junior. Starsky Junior."
Hutch nodded, and Starsky coated the dildo with lube then held the tip of it against his partner's asshole. He ran the tip around the outside edge until Hutch couldn't take it anymore, and he felt those long fingers grasping at him. "Okay, partner. Allow me to introduce--" After a couple of inches, Hutch tightened up. This wasn't unusual when they were working without toys, and Starsky knew how much his partner wanted it, so he kissed the back of Hutch's thigh, rubbed the side of his face against his skin. He saw Hutch reach forward and take hold of his own cock, pulling it out of the way--though erect as he was, it hadn't been that much in the way.
Starsky smiled and the next few inches of the toy were accepted so easily. it wasn't as though he was pushing, as much as Hutch's body was just swallowing it, pulling it in of its own accord. Starsky felt a drop of pre-cum dribble from the tip of Hutch's cock, and he laughed as he said, "May I introduce Starsky Junior?"
"I think," Hutch said, squirming as Starsky began manipulating the toy. "I think I can say that he and I have now been 'introduced'." Hutch's big smile seemed to occasionally distort into an expression of pain, but Starsky knew his partner's expressions and this wasn't pain. He knew his partner and all of his expressions by heart. "What the hell are you doing?"
Starsky laughed. "I'm doin' what I know you like. Havin' fun with ya." His right hand fondled Hutch's chin, as his left kept up the tempo down below. They kissed, and when Starsky felt his partner's quivering lips beneath his, the urgency in his own body grew. His knuckles brushed up against Hutch's balls, and even that small amount of contact elicited a deep moan. After another kiss, Starsky finally made his own needs known. "Lover..." He lay with his chest atop his partner's, their mutual sweat making it difficult for him to stay there. His knee took over driving the dildo and he took hold of each side of Hutch's face, kissing him and speaking into his mouth with every other breath. "I'm dyin' here. I gotta be inside you ."
A large hand reached between them to grasp his erection. Hutch leaned his head back and breathed hard. "Let's retire the starter. It's time you and I got down to business." With Starsky's help, he removed the dildo and tossed it aside. "Come on c-come on, Starsk."
Starsky loved to grasp those large, strong thighs, a hand on the inside of each, and then separate them. He loved to do that, and he loved to feel that Hutch was spreading his legs, helping him, wanting him. So much more intimate, so much better than what he had had with women. Each line on his partner's face held meaning, he could read every gasp, every shake of the head.
It was a shocking sensation, one Starsky had never experienced before. His partner's body was completely ready for him, like a glove, made to measure. The heat and tightness were there, but the entry was swift, so swift that he felt as though his body would enter his partner's, there was no stopping him. They would be totally joined. And then as quickly as he had sailed right in, Hutch flexed his ass muscles sending a fiery jolt through Starsky's body. It was as though he'd been very hot and took a running jump into a swimming pool. Hutch's body reacted and it brought him immense pleasure to see and feel his big partner squeeze him between his thighs and then shift so that he offered Starsky easier access.
Hutch must've noticed the new experiences Starsky was having. "Tell me what you're feeling."
He felt the wrinkles in the sheets beneath his knees, the sweat on the back of his neck. These weren't the kinds of things Hutch wanted to hear, though. He leaned forward and whispered. "I feel you, blue eyes. I feel your ass under my fingers, and I feel your body taking my cock." That sharp current shot up his back again. He laughed as well as he could, though he was having trouble breathing. "Oh, man. I feel your ass opening up to me, one second taking what I give you " He thrust forward, deliberately squeezing Hutch's balls against his stomach. " an' the next second, I feel you grab me," he kissed his partner. "And you tug and I can feel my balls tightening, feel you pullin' the cum outta me."
"Oh, yeah?" Hutch asked. "Whadya mean? Like this?" And then Hutch was running the show. He arched his back, his body swallowing the maximum possible, then pushed up against Starsky's body, squeezed and pulled on his partner's cock. His body was so beautiful--pale, blond pubic hair, and then nothing but smooth Hutchinson flesh the rest of the way up, until his eyes met his partner's eyes and he leaned forward.
His lover's eagerness brought him to the edge. He moved his hands underneath Hutch's ass and held on so tight that he knew there'd be bruising. He sat up and began pounding into him, deep, quick strokes as he reached forward, grabbing and pumping Hutch's cock like it was the stick shift on a formula one race car. He saw nothing, and all he could hear was himself grunting with each in-stroke, and his partner saying, "Yes," softly, intermittently, and deliciously. Which of them came first? He hardly ever could tell. They shared a post-climax kiss, during which they held each other so tight for fear they'd fall from the earth. Starsky's fingertips glided along his partner's face as Hutch pulled him forward, burying his face in Starsky's hair and kissing the top of his head. The strong arms that were holding him relaxed and he sat up, intent on staying inside his lover's body for the time being. Looking down, he saw the white proof of their lovemaking intermingled with and clinging to the dark hair on his stomach. Hutch's eyes were closed but he was smiling. Starsky rubbed his hands from Hutch's knees, which were on either side of him, down to the ankles and feet. "You know what they say about guys with big feet," he said.
"What do they say?" Hutch asked, his eyes now partially open. "And you better not say 'big socks'."
"No way, blue eyes." He leaned forward again, careful not to rest his entire body weight on his partner. "Big socks is not what I was gonna say." And then any doubt he may have had that you can laugh as you kiss the person you love more than anyone in the world were put to rest. That's just what they did.
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