When the Chips Are Down, Part One
by Sarah Problem
With thanks to Lucy

SHSVS, Episode 11, Part 3

Later that evening after the casino show, Starsky found himself smiling as he and Hutch left the showroom with the crowd.

Great show! I think she looks even better in real life than on the screen! She sure can sing! I wonder if I can get an autographed picture?

He knew Hutch had enjoyed himself, too, even though he wasn't as much of a fan of the actress as Starsky was. And the best part was they hadn't been thrown any clues or reminded that they had a job to be back at on Saturday morning.

Then he spotted Smithson and Palmer lounging over by a row of slot machines, obviously waiting for them.

Oh, great, Starsky thought, his good mood tempered at the sight. Just the way I wanted to end the evening.

He did notice right off that they were in civilian clothing this time. Looking at Hutch, he could see his partner was just as tired of seeing these two as he was, but at the same time he knew it wasn't personal.

"Okay, what's up?" Hutch asked as they walked up to the pair.

"Nothin' much," Palmer answered with a wide smile. "Just out slummin' around. Smithson's wife is out with the girls tonight, so we decided to come and give you two a hard time."

"Any news on the case?" Starsky asked, wondering if these two would feel comfortable enough to let them in on the local news.

The two Reno cops looked at each other and shrugged.

"We turned in the info, they looked at us like we were Martians and had us fill out reports. They don't seem to be interested in the peacock theory and are now even less interested in you two than before," Smithson said with a grin.

"They think it's a red herring, so I doubt you'll be called in for questioning. In fact," Palmer leaned forward, causing the other three to lean in to hear him. "They've called off all the tails on you guys, so you've got the rest of your vacation to yourselves."

"That is good news," Starsky said, then added, "I guess."

"Yeah, makes us feel real important to know we carry so much weight around here," Hutch added, a slight look of disappointment on his face.

"See?" Palmer said to his partner, a mischievous look on his face. "I told you; you just can't please some people."

"Apparently." Smithson smiled at them. "Actually, we wondered if you guys wanted to hit the bars and hang loose. They've got some really nice places around here with better shows than these. Less glittery but more talent."

Starsky looked at Hutch and saw a slight nod.

Why not? I've got a feeling they want to do some talking about the case.

Normally they'd be tired of work intruding on their vacation, but this interruption wasn't their usual type of case. Usually, when off duty, they fell into a case by accident, through acquaintances or because they themselves were the target. But when the bad guy sends you such an interesting invitation it was hard to pass it by.

"Okay, lead on," Starsky said. "Show us one of these secret places you locals have hidden from us tourists. But I'm keeping the wad of coupons for a while."

Hutch sipped his drink--vodka with a twist. Smithson and Palmer had taken them down a lot of back streets to the outskirts of the city, to a small jazz bar that was dark and comfortable inside. It wasn't too crowded, not surprising for a Thursday night. The lady singer had a good voice and a nice selection of songs. Hutch wanted to like the place, but it reminded him too much of Marianne Owens to be totally comfortable. Another memory that crept up on him once in a while to stick a pin in his conscience. He glanced over at Starsky, glad to see he seemed to be enjoying himself.

I guess he didn't spend as much time at that club as I did, so this one doesn't trigger any bad memories. Not one of your finer moments, Hutchinson.

The four of them sat at a back table and had spent the last few hours trading cop stories and each telling a little bit about themselves. Starsky had even gotten out the wad of coupons Palmer had given him, and the two were going through them like kids talking about trading cards. Starsky had picked a few out for their last day in Reno, giving the rest back to Palmer.

So far, the talk had been about everything but the current case. Hutch got a feeling that was going to change when Smithson seemed to get serious.

"Listen, you guys, I know we shouldn't be talking about this, but Darrel and I wanted to let you know what's going on."

"About the peacock?" Starsky asked, throwing Hutch an "I knew it" look.

"Yeah," Palmer replied. "When the big boys decided to throw your info into the 'in' box and leave it there, Smithson and I went over to The Olympus to have a little talk with some of the security guards over there."

"We sort of like to keep on their good side, if you know what I mean," Smithson added.

"And they told us that the peacock is secure in the back room and is being buffed up for its last presentation this weekend. The 'official' unveiling will be Saturday morning."

"They going to have extra security this weekend?" Hutch asked.

"Like the White House," Smithson said. "This town pretty much runs twenty-four/seven, so starting Saturday morning while moving the peacock back to its perch, they plan on having not only hotel security on overtime but are hiring extra bodies to come in and stand watch. Once it's unveiled there will not only be the security surrounding it but all the tourists pressing their noses up against the glass as well."

"So if it's going to get stolen, then Friday night would be the time." Starsky ran his finger over the top of his glass, looking lost in thought. "Are they taking this seriously? About The Baron, I mean."

Smithson took a sip of his own drink and shook his head. "That's the problem. Palmer and I can't let them know about The Baron, the armored car plot, or the fact that the big boys from the government are buzzing around the area. That's confidential info. So without the details..."

"They don't know what's going on in the outside world, so they don't know what kind of thief they should be planning against." Hutch shook his head. "I can see why they don't think they're vulnerable. Hardly anyone hears about The Baron unless they're in the loop."

"That's what we thought," Palmer admitted, emptying his glass and signaling for another. "So Smithson and I thought we might hang around The Olympus tomorrow night, see if we can make sure nothings happens."

"Or get yourself a nice little collar," Starsky said with a knowing smile at the two Reno cops.

"Never hurts," Smithson admitted, smiling back. "And we two lunatics were wondering when your plane leaves."

"Not until eleven tomorrow night," Starsky admitted, throwing Hutch a look that said he was uncertain. "But I'm not sure...."

Starsky let his sentence hang. Smithson and Palmer glanced at each other.

"Understood, guys," Palmer said, sounding as if he meant it. "But if you want to show up at The Olympus sometime tomorrow afternoon, at about six when the crew getting the peacock all shiny goes home for the weekend, then we'd be happy to run into you and chew the fat."

"Thanks for the invite, guys," Hutch said. "Who knows where we'll be?"

Smithson looked at his watch and groaned. "Make that today. I gotta get home."

"Hen-pecked," Palmer said with a small smile.

"Jealous," Smithson responded, giving his partner a thump on the shoulder as he got up and snagged Palmer's drink. He gulped half of it before setting it back down in front of his partner. "You need another wife to worry about you. C'mon, you gotta take me home."

"I need another wife like I need another alimony payment to shell out," Palmer muttered, giving Smithson an evil glare. "I told you to shoot me if I ever got near any of these wedding chapels again."

"Got my gun all ready," Smithson laughed. "You'll never know what hit you."

After the two Reno cops left, Hutch decided against a refill, not wanting to get drunk on their last full night of vacation.

It was just as well, as a few minutes later Starsky tugged on his arm, signaling that he wanted to leave. Hutch followed him out.

Neither man said anything as they got into the rental car, but Hutch slid close to Starsky so that their thighs were touching and his arm was draped across the back of Starsky's seat. It was a beautiful evening, having cooled off quite a bit. Away from the main strip, Hutch could see a hint of stars. He wished he could be out of the city so he could really see the sky. He relaxed to the gentle strains of romantic music that came from the radio.

"Wanna go for a drive?" Starsky asked quietly. "Get out in the country for a little bit?"

Hutch was surprised, thinking they were headed back to the hotel room. "You've got an idea of where you're going?"

"Sure." Starsky gave him an evil smile. "Don't you trust me?"

"Trust you to do what?" Hutch smiled back.

"Got an idea."

It was clear that Starsky didn't want to elaborate, and Hutch decided he really didn't care where they went.

"Okay. Whatever."

After a few comfortable minutes, it became clear that Starsky was heading for a highway out of town. There was almost no traffic this time of night and once out of town, where houses grew sparse, their headlights seemed to be the only light around.

Hutch snuggled closer, knowing no one could see inside the dark car.

"Wish we could cruise our beat like this," Hutch said, hand playing in Starsky's hair.

"Guess we'd be a bit too obvious if we did," Starsky said with a small laugh. "We'll just have to behave ourselves for a while longer, huh?"

"Wish we didn't have to."

"I know. I do, too. But one day...."

"One day...what?"

"One day, if things change," Starsky said quietly, "or we get to a point where we don't give a shit about them anymore. Then we'll march right up to IA's office and show them how we feel about each other. Lips, tongue and groping included."

Hutch laughed at the image. He could just see the stunned response of the IA officers in his mind. "Someday, huh?"

"Sure." Starsky reached over to pat Hutch's thigh. "No one says we have to be cops forever. If we're lucky we'll be able to be both, cops and a couple. If not, then when we're done we can tell them to kiss our asses."

"But we shouldn't have to."

"No." Starsky sighed. "We shouldn't have to."

They traveled on for a while and Hutch recognized the route. They had come this way to go to Virginia City, and when Starsky turned off toward the mountains, he had an idea of where they were headed.

The mountain road was narrow and seemed even more dangerous at night than it had during the day. Hutch relaxed and watched out the windows, as the valley seemed to fall down into the darkness. There were no cars on the road, and Starsky wasn't in any hurry, so he got to watch the scenery unfold below them.

They reached a lookout point they had stopped at before, at the top of a mountain where the city was completely blocked from view, as were the lights. What had been a gorgeous view of a nearly empty valley below now was a showcase for the stars in the clear sky.

Hutch got out of the car, the cool air more refreshing than any air conditioner could ever be. They were not far from the stone wall that kept the cars in the small, circular parking area. Starsky turned off the lights, and it took a second for Hutch's eyes to adjust.

When they did, he felt like he was inches from a ceiling of stars.

"I thought it would be like this," Starsky said as he stood beside Hutch. Starsky put an arm around his waist just as Hutch put one over Starsky's shoulders. "I figured up here, with the city behind the mountain, you could get a better view."

"It's wonderful," Hutch said quietly. The mountains were only dark silhouettes now, the moon behind them, and the sky was almost moving with the glitter of the twinkling stars.

"C'mere." Starsky pulled him toward the stone wall. "Let's sit for a while."

They sat on the wall, their feet hanging over the edge into what looked to be a bottomless fall, but Hutch knew the ground was only a foot or so lower than their feet. He could see the dark outline of pine trees here and there, could smell the sagebrush. None of those things kept him from feeling like he was sitting on the top edge of the world.

They sat close, arms around each other.

"Sorry I made plans without askin'."

"That's okay--"

"No." Starsky shook his head, and Hutch turned to see him looking out at the scenery. "It's not. Not really, even though it's turned out okay. I felt you needed to get away, but I needed to get away, too, Hutch. After Alice's death...."

"Yeah, I know." Hutch sighed, drinking in the strong warmth at his side. "We've both had some bad times lately."

"A lot of good times, too," Starsky insisted. "But I just needed to get far enough away from the city to figure out if I wanted to go back."

Hutch pulled Starsky closer, feeling a chill at the words. "You ready to quit?"

Starsky didn't answer, but the arm around Hutch's waist tightened almost enough to hurt.

An animal noise, faint and thin, came from somewhere below them. A cool breeze blew by them, and the stars continued to dance in the sky.

Hutch waited.

When the answer came, it was hardly louder than the breeze that had blown by.

"No. I'm not. But so help me, Hutch...."

Hutch waited another long moment.

"So help me, I'm afraid I'm going to regret staying. Someday it's going to catch up with us. Like it almost caught up with us when Gunther's men shot me. Every day we're walkin' the trapeze wire, and one of these days we're both going to fall off. But right now, this minute, I can't say I'm ready to call it quits."

Hutch stayed silent, letting the words float off into the distance so the darkness would swallow them. He wasn't sure he knew what to say to that painful admission--that bit of fear they always carried with them.

"I'm not ready either, Starsk." Hutch had decided on the truth. "I know what you mean, about wondering if I'll regret staying. If I'll regret pushing you to come back, helping you to get what you wanted."

"You once said that if I hadn't made it back--"

"I might have quit. I don't think I could ever be the same kind of cop without you that I am with you. Maybe a desk job or something else if a job opened up I might be interested in. But not on the streets."

"Did you want to leave?"

Hutch heard the tinge of guilt in Starsky's question.

"No," he replied. "I was content to wait for your return. And I wanted you to come back because you wanted to. I didn't want the choice taken away from you. I might have left the force if things had turned out differently, but I waited because...well...because I wanted to keep doing what we were doing."

"And now?"

"And now?" Hutch repeated, eyes tracing the mountain's silhouette. "Now I feel like we're still accomplishing something. I guess when I helped bring Gunther in, I found I could really make a difference. For a while, I felt like we were just barely treading water, that last year.… Nothing seemed to make a difference, and I felt that everything we did was wasted." Hutch shrugged slightly. "I don't know if I can explain it better than that."

"Getting burned out. How many times we've seen it happen, Hutch? How many times have we heard about it happening?"

"Too damn many," Hutch said bitterly.

"I felt like you needed a safe place to unwind, and I needed a quick reality check. I had to get us out of the city long enough to see it from a distance. But I'm not ready to stop being a cop, or stop doing what we're doing."

"Then it was worth the trip. I've certainly enjoyed it. I'm glad you took charge and got us on that plane, even if I was dragging my heels a bit."

Starsky turned, bringing their faces close together. "Wouldn't have come without you. Guess you're stuck with me and my impulsiveness."

As Starsky's lips touched his, Hutch found that the seriousness of the last few minutes seem to disappear, leaving only the rightness of their being together.

They kissed softly at first, lips only, moving from mouths to cheeks, to noses, then to necks. Butterfly touches that spoke more of internal feelings than sex. They held each other close, laughing a bit as they rubbed nose tips.

"If we go any further you know the Highway Patrol is gonna pull up. I doubt they'd be very understanding of two naked guys doin' the nasty in a parked car at the best scenic stop on the whole mountain."

Hutch laughed heartily. "Guess not! We should head back, so we can get serious."

"Sounds good to me." Starsky pulled away, leaving a kiss on Hutch's lonely lips.

Hutch hated to stop, wished they could neck and enjoy the view like teenagers, but it was just too dangerous to get anything started in such a public place, even if it was in the middle of the night.

They were only about a mile down the mountain, when they passed a Highway Patrolman going the other way, headed for the spot the two detectives had left not long ago.

"Someone is still looking out for us," Hutch said, smiling at the feeling of having gotten away with something.

"Let's hope we're always on their mind, whoever they are," Starsky said with a laugh. "'Cause I think we're in for a hell of a lot of close calls in the future."

"Amen!"

The drive home was spent in silence, the romantic music on at that very early hour of the morning filling the car and echoing in the minute touches they made. Thigh against thigh, arm along shoulders, hands on the nape of a neck and on a knee. Nothing overt, but every touch needed and treasured.

The hotel was quiet when they finally pulled up to it--no one moving, no lights on but the "vacancy" sign and the lights from the office.

As they entered, Hutch blinked at the strong light that filled the room as he flipped the switch. He went to make sure the door was locked behind them, checking the curtains to make sure they were pulled all the way shut. Starsky moved the bag from one bed to put it next to the bag on the other, choosing the bed they would share for the night.

Before Starsky could take anything off, Hutch stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Don't move, okay?"

Looking interested, Starsky nodded. "You got somethin' in mind?"

"You trust me?" Hutch said with a teasing smile and echo of their earlier conversation.

"Trust you to do what?" Starsky gave him a wink.

"Just stay here."

Going to the bathroom, Hutch dug out supplies from his shaving kit. He crossed the room and opened his bag on the other bed. Digging inside, he brought out a thick, but stubby, white candle that looked a bit nicked and dented from its ride in a side compartment.

He grabbed a clean ashtray from the dresser, setting the candle in it on the nightstand between the beds. Lighting a match from the book he'd picked up at the jazz club, he lit the candle and ran over to turn off the light.

It wasn't as dark as he had wished, but the tired room took on a warm and cozy glow. Starsky's smile, as he stood over by the bed, was as soft and loving as his expression. Turning on the radio, he was lucky it was set at the same station they'd been listening to all night.

"Care to dance?" he asked.

Starsky's responding smile made Hutch's heart race. He held out his arms for him.

Just because we can't do this in public doesn't mean we have to miss out. I know how you love to dance.

They embraced, neither moving for a moment as the slow song drifted across the room, Starsky's arms around his neck and Hutch's hands on Starsky's hips. They pressed close, temple to temple, chest to chest.

Hutch relaxed, feeling Starsky do the same. They both leaned into each other, holding the other gently as they began to sway to the music.

It felt warm, cozy and like home to Hutch as he emptied his mind and moved with the music, following Starsky's body as it led them in small circles. Hutch splayed his fingers across Starsky's sides, caressed them, sliding his hands to the broad back. He pressed their bodies even closer together, wanting to feel Starsky's heart beat, needing more.

Starsky's hands were in his hair now, fingertips massaging his scalp. A light kiss was placed on his jaw. Hutch could hear Starsky's contented humming to the music as it vibrated through his chest.

Hutch pulled Starsky's shirt up and ran his hands on the warm skin. He massaged the muscles, moving his hands higher and higher until it only took a slight movement to raise the shirt, inviting Starsky to slip out of it.

The coldness left in Starsky's place as he moved away made Hutch want to pull him back. As Starsky lifted the shirt over his head Hutch did the same. They came together again, slowly wrapping their arms around each other, moving slightly side to side in matching rhythm to the music. Hutch closed his eyes, sliding his face into Starsky's curls. They were soft and springy, caressing his face even as the hairs on Starsky's chest made loving circles against his skin as they moved.

He adored the way his lover was covered with soft, curly hair. As a teenager, Hutch had longed for chest hair and had been very disappointed when nothing developed. There were a lot of blond men around Duluth, among his friends and family, and many of them had almost as much body hair as Starsky did. He had always been a little jealous, feeling more than a bit deficient in that area. With Starsky he had secretly been jealous at first, but now he thoroughly enjoyed the difference in them. He loved the feel of hair against him, loved the way even Starsky's dark lashes and brows curled. He loved to nuzzle the wild sideburns that framed his face. Hutch seemed to need Starsky against him, as if every pore in his body was hungry for the man's touch. He kissed Starsky's temple, nosed gently in his ear as Starsky returned the favor, both of them moving slowly, teasing each other.

Hutch was more than half-hard in his slacks now, leaning his cock against Starsky as they moved, feeling Starsky's cock grow harder against him.

He moved his hands down, slipping under the waistband of Starsky's slacks, able to get his fingers a short way beneath the form-fitting cloth. He moved his fingers as much as he could, even as Starsky was pressing kisses on his collarbone.

Oh, how I need him!

His need was more than body deep; it went down to his soul, filled his thoughts as he tried to pull them even closer together. Starsky was a warm, flowing fountain of life that Hutch needed more than anything else, and the clothing between them had gone from being exotic to being an impediment to his fulfillment.

Starsky got there first, his hands leaving Hutch's shoulders to pinch and tweak their way down Hutch's sides, their chests still together, skin tingling like an electric buzz between them. Starsky's thumbs were in his waistband, urging the slacks down as far as they would go.

They pulled apart mere inches, each fumbling with the other's buttons or zipper. In seconds they were both kicking slacks across the room, their naked bodies pressed back together.

The next song that came on was a bit faster, and they both ground against each other to the beat. Both cocks were hard now, and Hutch found himself gasping as they rubbed each other just right, sending a jolt through him that made his toes curl.

Their kisses grew faster as well, bites and nibbles that were becoming harder, more demanding. Hutch felt the heat in him build up, fueled by the taste of Starsky in his mouth, on his tongue, the unique scent that meant safety and friendship and belonging. It was all wrapped up in Starsky, and Hutch was starving.

The song ended, and, as their movements slowed, he gently pushed Starsky backwards, letting him know it was time to go to the bed.

They moved in sync, never letting each other go, finding the bed was suddenly under them both.

Panting with desire, cock hard and yearning, Hutch pulled away a bit, looking at Starsky in the candlelight. Starsky's eyes were hooded, dilated with desire, a flush making him look wild and wanton. And in those eyes, behind the desire, was love.

A love that Hutch knew he needed to acknowledge often, for to take it for granted was to lose it.

"David Michael Starsky," he began, his voice husky, his throat so thick with emotion he didn't know if he could say the rest. "I love you. Love you more than life itself."

Starsky's smile went from lusty to soft, his eyes grew a little shinier. His voice was low as well. "I love you, too, Hutch. I can't even tell you how much. Words would never be enough."

They kissed then, hungrily, each fighting for possession of the other until Hutch let Starsky in. Hutch sucked on the tongue that explored his mouth, loving the slick, exotic taste of his lover.

Their bodies were writhing together, rubbing and thrusting randomly. Hutch rolled with Starsky, to put him flat on his back, putting first one knee, then the other between Starsky's strong thighs.

Hutch pulled his mouth away, fighting Starsky who didn't seem to want to let him go. Hutch latched onto Starsky's neck, sucking and nipping at the tender spots he knew so well. With Starsky's hands moving from his hair to his shoulder, kneading and pulling, Hutch moved down to the hollow of his throat, licking the salty flesh and cataloging every sound, every moan and hum that Starsky let loose.

He moved down to the broad, muscular chest, swirling chest hairs on his way to the right nipple. He placed his mouth over it, sucking it and the skin around it, first hard, then soft, using his tongue to flick at the sensitive tip, feeling Starsky buck under him as he tried to pull away and force more of himself into Hutch's mouth at the same time. After a moment, Hutch covered the wet, swollen nub with a thumb, working his way to the second nipple, kissing, biting and pulling chest hair with his teeth so that his lover would never have a second's rest.

He sucked in the left nipple carefully, knowing that Starsky's left side was just a bit more sensitive. He kissed it and caressed it, still thumbing and pinching the other one.

Starsky was moaning now, wiggling and panting, his skin hot and slick. Starsky's hands were in his hair, on his neck and shoulders, moving constantly. When both hands gripped a handful of Hutch's hair, he stopped playing with his nipples, knowing then that Starsky was on the edge.

Hutch moved down Starsky's torso with his mouth, touching, kissing and tasting all the different flavors of skin type and consistency, giving the scars their own attention. As he moved he could feel Starsky's hard cock poking at him, trying to rub against whatever part of Hutch it could find. Hutch tried his best to stay out of its path, not wanting Starsky to be able to rub off on him. Not just yet.

As he licked at Starsky's belly button, Hutch moved his hand to Starsky's ass, knowing his legs were spreading wider and wider with each passing moment.

"Please, Hutch! Do something! Gotta do something!"

Starsky's pleading cut like a knife through the roar of desire in Hutch's ears, the sound making his own cock bob hungrily.

Hutch nibbled the sensitive skin just below Starsky's navel, giving Starsky's taut balls a quick squeeze before carefully tracing his fingers down behind his soft sac, following the sensitive seam of skin to the tender-skinned opening.

Keeping up the kisses and nibbles to the top of Starsky's pubic hair, his fingers caressed a ring around Starsky's opening, one finger playing with the center.

"Need you, Hutch! Need you in me!"

Hutch's mouth was near the base of Starsky's cock now, and he could feel it pulse, could smell the arousal. He held off on the impulse to take the beautiful organ in his mouth; he wanted to make Starsky wait.

Pulling his mouth away, Hutch reached over to the nightstand for the lube he had put there. Squeezing a line of it on his middle finger, he leaned back over Starsky, kissing his stomach as his hand found Starsky's ass once again. Finding Starsky's opening he rubbed it softly, then pushed his finger inside, twisting it around to spread the lube.

Starsky moaned again. Hutch could see his head thrown back, his eyes half closed and his mouth open in pleasure. Starsky was breathing heavily, his curl-covered chest moving quickly, the pulse in his neck giving Hutch the rhythm to use in his preparation. Another finger was added to the one moving inside him, and Starsky's legs came up even higher, giving him more access. Starsky's hands were on his head, carding Hutch's hair through his fingers.

Hutch knew when he found the right spot, could feel the small nub inside Starsky that would throw sparks through his insides. He could feel the difference in the flesh, rubbed it carefully, and moaned himself as Starsky's body bucked at the touch.

"THERE! Yesyesyesyes, there!"

Starsky was ready, and Hutch didn't think he could wait any longer.

Grabbing a pillow, Hutch lifted Starsky's hips up to slip it under him. Starsky pulled his knees up, and the sight, so provocative and trusting, made Hutch feel like he was shaking. His heart was beating a frantic call for completion; his cock aching and needing more than his own hand that spread the lube up and down his shaft.

Gripping himself, he leaned forward and guided the head of his cock to the dark rose-colored opening, groaning in pleasure as his cock head touched it. Starsky sighed deeply, pulling his knees even closer to his chest, his head back and a pleasure-grimace on his face.

"Love YOU!" Hutch gasped, pushing into the tight, hot space, his cock throwing electric shocks to his gut, his heart, as it was slowly buried inside his lover's body.

Starsky gasped, exhaling deeply in a low hum that seemed to shake them both.

Hutch didn't stop, keeping the pressure constant, wanting to enter his lover in one smooth, slow stroke. He didn't stop when his pubic hairs brushed Starsky's ass, didn't stop when the base of his cock was firmly entrenched, didn't stop when he was in as far as he seemed to be able to get. Hutch leaned his weight on Starsky, forcing Starsky's ass cheeks even farther apart, using his weight to go as far as it was ever going to be possible to go.

Starsky gasped again, his eyes opening wide. Hutch watched him closely, looking for any sign of pain.

"I can't get inside you far enough," Hutch choked out, his eyes meeting Starsky's surprised ones. "No matter what we do, no matter how we do it, I'll never be as much a part of you as I want to be. As I need to be." He tried to smile, wanting Starsky to know that he accepted the fact as a part of life. "But I will always be a part of you. I can't be me without you!"

Starsky's eyes searched his face, a loving smile of understanding taking over his own. "I can never have you in deep enough. Never be physically in you deep enough. Impossible to do." Starsky's hand came to cover Hutch's heart, fingers spreading to cover his chest. "But in here we'll always be a part of each other. Always."

Hutch backed off a little, pulling out slowly until his cock was over Starsky's prostate. He pushed, angling up so the head rubbed at it, pleased to see Starsky gasp and grab at the bed covers.

He wanted to fuck, to move and thrust, but he wanted to see Starsky fly even more. As Starsky's face took on the grimace of pleasure, he kept up the slow rubbing, pulling Starsky's legs to his own chest so he could control his penetration.

"Oh...oh...oh...oh...please...yes...oh..." Starsky moaned between pants, echoing the rhythm of Hutch's angled thrusts. His whole body was tense, muscles straining, neck arching his head back, even as Starsky's head moved back and forth. Starsky's knuckles were growing white with his grip on the bed. "Don't stop...ooooooooh...don't...so close...oh, please!"

Starsky's cock was hard, flat against his own body, leaking pre-cum; his balls were tight to his body under the soft, curly fuzz that coated them.

It was when Starsky's left hand started to unfold that Hutch knew the time had come. Before Starsky could grab at himself Hutch did it for him, gripping the base of the large cock and pulling at it in a firm grip, feeling the soft skin move against the blood engorged core. When Starsky's glans slid into his grip, Hutch twisted ever so slightly, spreading the pre-cum that was still leaking over the top of his glans and Hutch's palm.

Using the lubrication, feeling the lava burn in his own cock and balls, Hutch pumped Starsky once, then twice, hearing himself groan deeply as he tried to hold off his own climax.

"Ahhh.… Uhhhhh.…" Starsky's body froze, his face a grimace, eyes squeezed shut. Hutch thrust once more, hand moving quickly on Starsky's cock "YESSSSSSssssssssssss...."

As Starsky exploded in his hand Hutch milked him from the base of his cock to the tip, carefully trying to match the pulsing he could feel in his hand and the ripple of abdomen that accompanied Starsky's climax. The powerful spasms of his internal muscles gripping and releasing at Hutch's deeply seated cock like another hand.

He lost it as Starsky started to take deep breaths and his eyes rolled open, leaving him looking glazed and incredibly smug.

Hutch thrust hard, the hot slide putting mind-blowing pressure on his needy cock. He pulled out, anxious to repeat that moment, enjoying the motion itself. Then he thrust again, finding himself moving faster, pushing harder. Muscles straining, he held his breath as he pumped, feeling the electricity flowing through his body from his cock and balls grow close to overwhelming.

He opened his eyes, focused on Starsky's face, and drank in the look of love and drowsy pleasure before he hit the wall.

Hutch hit it hard, the orgasm taking over his body, taking his breath away, tightening his muscles until he felt something would snap, making his cock and balls feel huge and electrified. It seemed to go on forever, throwing sparks around his brain and making his insides tremble. As the pulsing wave diminished, Hutch felt himself weaken with them, gasping as if he would never be able to breathe right again, feeling his heart still racing in his chest.

He was emptied and weak, trembling and dizzy, not sure where his limbs were and not caring. He was on a body that was furry and satiny, warm and compliant--where he needed it to be, the perfect resting place. There was a loving voice that wooed him awake, but kept him relaxed. It asked him to do things and he did them, not paying attention to what was going on. He moved, Starsky moved, he was wiped off with something--none of those things important enough to bring him out of his mental and physical cocoon of satisfaction.

He heard the candle being blown out. Then furry, hard muscles were under his head, a heart beat lazily into his ear, and his body was wrapped around the person he loved.

It was so perfect he couldn't help but fall asleep.

Starsky was the first one to awake the next morning, but only because his bladder was threatening to revolt. He carefully slid out from under Hutch, all of his muscles feeling happy from his workout, although his ass was a bit sore. A happy, well-fucked sore, but one that reminded him that he needed the bathroom for more than one thing.

From the light coming through the curtains and the relative silence from people outside who were coming and going, he realized it must be mid-afternoon. Glancing at the room's alarm clock, he saw it was close to two o'clock. Time to get up before room service came to clean up.

We're going to have a hell of a time getting used to a regular schedule. This is almost like when we were on the night shift. Takes a while to get used to going to bed earlier than three or four in the morning.

He padded to the bathroom, took care of business and decided on a shower. He was hungry now, and this was their last day of vacation.

So what are we going to do for an encore? Wonder if Hutch is up for a movie this afternoon. We never seem to get around to going to the movies when we're home. Or we could hit the strip again.

His thoughts were interrupted by the bathroom door opening. Through the frosted glass of the shower, he could see Hutch lumber into the room, heading for the toilet. By the time he finished his shower, Hutch was brushing his teeth. Their eyes met in the mirror and Starsky gave him an evil leer.

"Any more nights like that," he began moving to embrace Hutch and rub up against him, dripping on the smooth skin while his eyes never lost contact with Hutch's, "and the hotel staff is going to be real surprised when they come in to clean up and find two cops who've passed away from pleasure. In the same bed."

Hutch snickered around his brushing, then spit into the sink. "Good thing you told them not to make the room up until after three."

"It's Reno," Starsky shrugged. "They're used to night owls sleeping late. And I made sure to tip the manager enough that he was happy to make sure his people complied. But..." Starsky let Hutch go long enough to look around the room. "We're cutting it close on this one."

"Not enough time left to mess up the other bed, huh?" Hutch asked as he stepped into the shower.

"Not if you plan on both of us doin' it, but that reminds me.…" Starsky toweled off quickly then walked naked over to the second bed, opening his suitcase and stuffing yesterday's clothing and underwear into a side pocket, throwing in the used candle as well. Pulling out the last of his clean slacks and shirt, he dressed quickly then moved the bags to the used bed. He then messed up the other bed so they wouldn't draw the attention of the hotel maids.

"It's a shame you have to do that without me," Hutch said, grinning from the doorway.

"You could join me, anytime."

"No, I like to watch you. You always were sexy going solo."

Starsky stuck his tongue out at him.

They left to go to the strip and find a good buffet for a leisurely meal. They didn't have to worry about packing yet because Starsky had paid for the room until Saturday noon. Starsky figured they were on the same wavelength since it wasn't until dessert that the topic of The Baron came up.

Digging into his pie, Starsky decided that they'd better decide what they were going to do. Before he could swallow his first spoonful, Hutch, who was eating a concoction of mixed fruit, beat him to it.

"We do have a reputation to keep up," Hutch said as he speared a few pieces of his dessert.

Starsky knew exactly what Hutch was saying. "We've beaten him once already, it would be a shame to let him get away this time."

"Smithson and Palmer will be hanging around The Olympus. Also the hotel will have their own staff."

"Didn't sound like the local PD is going to pay much attention to us solving those clues," Starsky said, shaking his head. "I haven't seen a tail today, so I think the locals have their hands full with all that bank stuff. They're probably brushing off this peacock thing because they've got too much time and energy invested in the armored car heist to worry about anything else."

"Well, a bank heist would be a bigger haul and more embarrassing, not to mention dangerous, if The Baron was really after it."

"But it's just not his style," Starsky argued. "If they'd studied his files like they should have, it should'a rung a warning bell with someone."

"So...you want to stake out The Olympus for a while?"

"No," Starsky gave Hutch a mischievous look, "but I wouldn't mind visiting it, as a tourist, sometime this afternoon."

Hutch grinned back. "Wouldn't be butting in if we're sightseeing, right? But what if we miss our flight?"

Starsky shrugged. "Well, we have the room for tonight if we want it. If we help catch The Baron, I don't think Dobey could yell too loud at us for getting home a bit late."

"And if we miss the plane and don't have The Baron in handcuffs?"

Starsky smiled knowingly at Hutch. "Then we apologize, listen to him yell while we just grin at him like two idiots, and he'll give up on trying to get through our thick skulls. Eventually."

"Well, it looks like we've got a few hours to kill until six o'clock then, doesn't it?"

They walked up and down the busy strip, watching the crowds on the sidewalk and inside the casinos slowly get thicker and thicker as evening came on.

Starsky thought there was a different feel to this city than there was to Las Vegas. It was smaller and the casinos weren't as big, nor were they as far apart, but there was a certain charm to the fact that the city had a long history.

They spent some money gambling, eventually losing all that they cared to lose. Starsky knew that they'd never again have the luck they'd had in Vegas, and that was fine with him. Winning a lot of money would be nice, but he wasn't looking for that kind of a break to "fix" anything in his life. He enjoyed his life too much to want to change it too much. So they only gambled a little, enjoying the games for what they were.

At five-thirty, they drove the car down to The Olympus. The place was impressive, and farther down the strip than they'd been before. It was a tall building, about fifteen stories tall with a huge parking lot.

The parking lot was pretty full, even at that early hour. The first floor entrance was mostly glass, and inside the decor seemed to be mostly blues and gold, with white wisps here and there that were supposed to look like clouds. Starsky decided people were supposed to feel like they were walking through a city in the clouds--like the real Mount Olympus was supposed to be. Like most of the casinos they'd been in so far, it was ridiculously overdone, but fun nonetheless.

Especially the pretty girls in togas and high heels that ushered them in and served drinks.

He and Hutch walked around the busy, loud gaming rooms, stopping to watch people play at the tables once in a while. Basically, all the games in all the casinos were the same, and only the decor was different. It was in the back rooms where each casino made its mark. Some had a lot of small shows during the evening, others had famous entertainers in fewer, and more expensive, shows. Most had a couple of different type of dining rooms--from the cheap buffets to the very expensive and exclusive rooms. The Olympus had both types of shows, along with a buffet, various stores and the "Peacock Room." He and Hutch followed the directions to the latter, keeping an eye out for Security and the two detectives they knew would be there.

Starsky didn't see anyone but the obvious "suit 'n tie" security men in place. The Peacock Room was guarded by a man in a tuxedo, who carefully checked his reservation sheet before letting anyone in. By the look of some of the clientele that entered, some from an apparently hidden back entrance to the casino, the meal would probably be the type that cost an arm and a leg. Next to the door, but far enough down the hall to keep the regular tourist traffic from blocking the entrance to the restaurant, was a large, glass-enclosed case.

He and Hutch walked up and took a look at the items inside. The first thing he noticed was the center of the case, with a plush, purple velvet display that was empty. The plaque below it labeled it as the resting place of the "Golden Peacock" and a note that it would be displayed for the last time that weekend. There were other objects inside the case relating to the history of the casino, and Starsky noted, a lot of pictures and personal objects of the owner's first wife.

So the other two wives didn't exist, as far as Raymond Wyatt was concerned.

Starsky elbowed Hutch and nodded to the back of the case. It was obvious that the whole back of the case could be moved aside and the contents worked with from the back. That wall would be accessible from inside the restaurant. Hutch nodded, letting Starsky know he saw the set-up.

They moved away, across the wide hallway, stopping beside a large potted tree. Hutch, his eyes on something down the hallway, put a hand on his arm.

"We've got company."

Turning, Starsky saw Smithson approach them with a smile. The tall black man was dressed in white shorts and a striped shirt, looking like a tourist.

"Evening, gentlemen," Smithson smiled, actually looking happy to see them. "I see you've looked over the set-up here. Nothing in there right now worth stealing, and I've noticed that hotel security is now at its lowest in this area."

"So you think they'll be in full force tomorrow?" Hutch asked.

"Yeah, with the peacock safe down in the basement for now, they're not worried about this empty display."

"You really think The Baron is after the peacock?" Starsky asked. "Or is this just an 'in case it's true' stake-out for you?"

Smithson was quiet for a moment, chewing on his lip as he thought. He shrugged. "I don't know a lot about The Baron's past, but I have to say that from the little the Feds let slip that the armored car set-up does sound like something he wouldn't be interested in. My guts tell me that this is more his style. So, why not check it out?"

"Where is the peacock now? Downstairs somewhere?" Starsky asked.

Smithson nodded. "Palmer is talking to a couple of security guards he knows, to see if he can get the layout. This place has a whole floor downstairs for staff--the laundry for the rooms upstairs, the security staff, store inventories, costume storage and floor maintenance. Cooking staff and kitchen supplies are here, on the same level with the restaurants.

"How open is the casino?" Hutch asked, eyes on the tourist traffic that seemed to pass them by without a second look.

"The place is wide open. The doors never close, and there are front and side entrances for the tourists and those renting rooms, along with a semi-private entrance at the back for those who want to eat in the Peacock Room without rubbing elbows with us low-lifes."

"What about the stores?" Hutch nodded in the direction of the numerous small shops that lined one side of the long, wide carpeted hallway. "They open all the time?"

Smithson frowned for a moment, eyeing the shops closely before he spoke. "I think the clothing, toy, souvenir shops, and the small National Bank branch close fairly late, about nine or so. The restaurants keep day only hours, but the coffee shops and both bars are open twenty-four hours. Of course, the kitchen is open for room service all day, as is the laundry."

"So there could be people coming and going through these rooms all the time, and Security may not see any need to stop them and ask questions if it looked like they belonged," Starsky said.

"This place never really sleeps; it just slows down for a few hours to clean up and restock," Smithson answered.

"Maybe Palmer will be able to add something to this," Hutch said, nodding toward the far side of the hall.

Palmer, dressed in jeans and a cowboy shirt, was sauntering toward them. They greeted him quietly, the four of them moving closer to the wall, trying to create a more private space.

"Fancy meeting you two here," Palmer said with a wicked smile. "Here's the deal. Security is full of themselves and doesn't see any problems with the peacock sitting on its ass downstairs. They've never had it stolen before, so don't feel that they're in any danger. They've got plans for extra security for tomorrow, but not until six in the morning. Then they plan on setting up some sort of line of guardrails in front of the display to help keep the visitors moving along, past the display, in an orderly manner."

"So it doesn't have any extra guards on it now?" Starsky asked.

"Nope," Palmer replied. "It's downstairs, in one of the locked security rooms, sitting on the same shelf it's been sitting on all week while it's been cleaned. All by its lonesome."

"Sounds like the perfect set-up for The Baron," Hutch said.

Both Reno officers nodded.

"So, any ideas?" Starsky asked looking around the huge hallway. "Where do we start?"

"Well, you know this guy better than we do. He wanted you here, so if this is a rematch between you guys then you must have some idea of what he'd do; otherwise, you wouldn't be much competition."

"The Baron likes to use distraction. Get everybody running to the other side of the building and then go in. In our case, we had to move our entire operations to a less secure area, which gave him his chance."

"So when we see something big happen, we should go the other way?"

Starsky smiled at Smithson's question. "Something like that."

Palmer's expression turned sober. "Are you guys packing? I'm afraid this could get serious."

"Ankle holsters," Hutch moved his leg just enough to show Palmer the bulge of the gun under his slacks. "We've got our badges, too, for show. But if we can, we'll let you guys do the actual grunt work. Less paperwork that way."

"Then I guess we can't do anything else but wait and see what happens," Smithson said, looking frustrated.

"Here's hoping we recognize his work before we stumble over it," Hutch said.

The Baron smiled to himself, as he placed the last of the devices in its pre-determined location. So far the day had gone very well, with all of his work unfolding according to plan. If everyone was keeping to schedule, right now ninety percent of the local police force would be following the armored cars from bank to bank, the Federal Government would be ready to escort them to the San Francisco Federal Reserve, the local thugs he had hired to case the banks and get the shipment schedules would be waiting at home for further instructions that would never come, and Starsky and Hutch would be somewhere downstairs waiting to catch him.

He had carefully watched them in the hallway and had been pleased to see things going well.

It is, of course, a calculated risk to invite them along, but one that has elevated the game considerably.

After doing his own research on the two cops, he knew that being this close--and failing--would work on their nerves more than anything else. It had just been too good an opportunity to pass up. There was always time for a more proper form of revenge later. Now it would be enough just to rub their noses in it.

Backing out of the vent, he pulled off his surgical gloves and stuffed them in his pocket. Everything should now be in place. Time to start the fireworks and put his plan into motion.

Hutch sighed to himself, walking through the gaming tables once again. The four of them had been walking around the casino for two hours now, and nothing strange had presented itself. It was almost eight o'clock and they had two hours left before their flight. If something didn't happen soon, he and Starsky were going to have to call it a day and leave in time to check out of the hotel and return the rental car.

There were some things Hutch learned about himself as he made the casino's rounds. The first was that gambling got boring very quickly. The second was that he never wanted the job of a security guard. It had only been a couple of hours and he was tired of the place, the games and the people. He needed a bigger space to move in. At least working the streets gave him that.

He was just about to head for the store area when a series of loud alarms went off and the lights flickered. As most of the tourists looked around in confusion, he moved quickly toward their agreed upon meeting area.

"Attention please. Attention please." The background music had quickly been replaced by a booming voice. "The Olympus now asks all visitors to please make an orderly departure through the nearest exit. We appreciate your cooperation and will have the technical difficulties sorted out as soon as possible. Blue light, 12-15."

Hutch could only guess that the strange code at the end was a signal to all gaming table personnel, as they had stood motionless until it was announced. As a group, they started to stuff all their currency into the special slots that sent the cash to the basement. Most were not allowed to keep more than a certain amount of currency on their table anyway, so it was a quick procedure to get rid of the rest. The announcement was repeated, almost overwhelmed by the loud talk of speculation, fear, and some disgust from those who must have had their winning streaks interrupted.

Hutch fought the moving crowd down the hall to their meeting spot, having to show his badge in order to get past the security people who were now shepherding the guests toward the emergency exits.

Smithson was already at the rendezvous.

"There's been a report of smoke from the upper floors of the hotel. The fire department is on the way," Smithson reported, sounding out of breath.

"Didn't see anything up front," Hutch said. "You see any of the smoke? You think it's a real fire or a smoke screen?"

"Didn't see it myself, so I can't say."

Hutch didn't for one minute believe it was anything but a smoke screen for The Baron. Timing was too precise.

"Guess it wouldn't help to call in the on-duty cops?" Hutch said.

Smithson shook his head. "Believe me, the ones on duty who can come will already be on the way."

Both men looked around for their partners, not wanting to take off unless all four of them had touched base. The outward movement continued, as did the announcements. Hutch kept his eyes open, scanning the confused crowd moving past them.

Palmer came running up next. "There's smoke coming in from the vents in the kitchen area. They've almost got all the diners out."

"Same with the hotel rooms. There must be smoke bombs in the vents somewhere," Hutch said, eyes frantically searching for Starsky. "Great cover! Who's going to notice anything going on in this evacuation?"

The crowd was starting to thin, as most of them had already been herded outside. Hutch could see shop managers closing up their stores, checking their cash registers and pulling down the rolling gates that guarded the doors.

Hutch breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Starsky weaving through the crowd.

"The basement's being evacuated and the security teams are covering the exits. What's up?"

"Smoke from the vents in the hotel and kitchen areas," Hutch repeated. He turned to Smithson and Palmer. "What would Security be doing about the peacock right now?"

"Most of Security will be helping hotel management do a floor-by-floor sweep upstairs, making sure all the rooms are evacuated. They'll also be stationed at the exits and checking the bathrooms."

"Leaving the rooms downstairs vacant?" Starsky asked.

"Just a few will be downstairs, and they'll be concentrated in the money collection area. A few will probably remain to watch the monitors and make sure there aren't any looters. It's a maze down there, so I don't know if any of them will have a good view of the hallway. If The Baron takes out the cameras in that area he'll have a clear shot at that door."

Starsky grabbed at Hutch's arm and pulled. "Let's go!"

The four of them, badges held high, made their way to the staff entrance, bypassing the elevator and using the stairs to go down to the basement. The complex underneath was immense and fairly empty, but it wasn't long before they were challenged and let through after their badges were inspected.

A tall, blond man in a suit halted them as they made their way past the storage and laundry areas to another set of secure doors.

"Palmer! Damn it, man! Is this why you were asking all those dumb-ass questions? It's going to be worth my job if you don't tell me what the hell is going on!" The man looked Starsky and Hutch over quickly. "You vouching for them?"

"Sure. Hutchinson, Starsky, this is Riggs," Palmer introduced them without preamble. "He's Security Manager for this shift. We think that this is a smoke screen--"

"For the peacock or the cash rooms?"

"The peacock," Palmer replied.

"Damn! I knew it!"

"How?" Starsky asked.

"If they were going to hit the cash rooms they would've hit us before we made our latest bank deposits. We just dumped a fortune in cash at the banks yesterday. I told my boss we should have put the peacock in a more secure place."

"What's the story so far?" Smithson asked Riggs.

"Reports from upstairs are that one of my men pulled a smoke bomb out of a vent before he was overcome. We're advising the firefighters of what we've found. There's too much smoke for just a few devices. Must be a couple dozen at least."

"And your security down here?" Hutch asked.

"I've got a few men who've volunteered to stay by the money processing areas, I couldn't order anyone to stay in a fire situation. I've been in the monitoring room and saw you guys coming down. Come with me and we'll see if we can nip this in the bud!"

They all ran down the well-lit hallway, turning random corners. Hutch tried to catalog their route in case they had to make their way back out on a run.

This hallway dead-ended, Riggs stopping before a large metal door. He looked relieved as he yanked on the handle and the door didn't budge an inch. "Great! No one's been here yet."

Hutch got a chill down his spine as he reached out to touch the door, feeling how thick it was. He looked at Starsky, who looked back at him with what must be the same thought.

The Baron has already been here! I'd bet our last dollar that it's already gone and on its way out of town!

"Can you open this up?" Starsky asked Riggs.

"No, I don't have the master key. Once it's secure only the head of Security has the key. He's on his way in right now."

"Go wait for him," Palmer snapped to Riggs, his eyes on Starsky and Hutch. "We'll need to check."

"But--"

"Riggs, go! Don't put your job in any more jeopardy!"

Riggs looked at him a moment before it dawned on him that they thought the peacock was already gone. Going pale, he nodded once and pulled out his walkie-talkie, calling for someone upstairs to let him know when their boss had arrived.

"What's upstairs, right above this area?" Hutch asked Riggs excitedly.

Riggs looked at him blankly for a moment. "Oh, it would be the toy store."

Starsky reached out and put a hand on Smithson's shoulder. " Hutch and I'll go upstairs and see what's goin' on."

Hutch turned with Starsky and they ran back down the hall. Hutch was glad they'd both been paying attention to the twists and turns of the corridors so that they both could find their way out. They had to flash their badges to keep from being tackled by Security who apparently guessed that if you were running, you must have done something wrong.

Almost out of breath, they hit the stairs and climbed up to the main level, stopping once past the staff entrance and in the main hallway.

"So," Starsky began, panting, looking up and down the hallway. "We're thinking that The Baron has already gotten in that room and is using the distraction to get the peacock outside, right?"

"Yeah, but if so, he's already outside and long gone. Maybe if we can find the way he got into the room we can find a clue as to where he is now."

"Down there," Starsky announced pointing to his left. "It was down there."

Following Starsky, Hutch sprinted down the empty hallway to the cage-enclosed door. The pull-down cage only covered the door area, though, and as soon as Hutch got an idea he glanced at Starsky who shrugged and muttered, "Well, this is gonna cost us!"

Moving as one, they grabbed at a small, potted tree, pushed it over and picked it up by its trunk. Using it as a battering ram, they turned their faces away and struck the glass window in the front of the store.

Hutch heard hundreds of pieces of glass hit the tile floor inside. They used the tree once again to remove any dangerous shards left hanging. Dropping the tree, they carefully stepped in through the now empty window frame, knocking the display toys every which way.

They quickly searched the front area. Starsky held up his badge to keep out the upset security guards who came running at the sound. Hutch heard Riggs' voice over the walkie-talkies they carried, ordering his men to stay back and leave them alone.

This was a fairly large store, filled with stuffed animals and small souvenir games, and toys that had the Olympus' logo all over them. Seeing nothing amiss in the front area, Hutch headed for the back rooms behind the counter.

There was a small hallway, with one door on either side and one at the very end. Hutch opened the first door on his right. A small office. The one across from it was what looked to be a fair-sized storage room full of toys waiting to go on the shelves.

Hutch opened the room at the end of the hall. He stopped as he entered. It was a fairly large, single-toilet restroom. What held his attention was a small electric saw sitting on the floor in a pile of plaster dust and tiles, a sizable hole in the wall behind them.

Looks like we're a little late. And more than a dollar short.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2...

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