The young woman was bored, even resentful of the long meeting she was forced to attend. Kansas born and bred, the now petulant girl was the epitome of classic all-American beauty. Her face was oval in shape, with a high forehead and naturally arched eyebrows that lent an air of haughtiness to her expression no matter what her mood. Her eyes were large and moss green, her hair a white-blonde sheathe. She stood 5'11" tall in her bare feet and, at twenty-one years old, was worth millions of dollars a year to the large group of businessmen who surrounded her at the conference table.
Restlessly, she fiddled with her gold pen while her agent whispered to her reassuringly. "Marsha, honey, just a few more to go. Hang in there."
The distinguished looking man at the head of the table observed the brief conversation between the girl and her agent and got to his feet. "Why don't we all take a short break? We've been reviewing these contracts for over two hours now, and I'm sure Miss Wells would appreciate a moment to freshen up. We've finished with the preliminary paperwork anyway, and all that remains are the main terms and conditions of the binding contract. Let's break for twenty minutes and meet back here."
Marsha rose in a hurried manner and headed for the door, calling over her shoulder as she went, "Ben, see if you can find me a cold Tab, would you? I can't drink that warm shit anymore."
Her agent frowned a little at her language. "Sure, baby, sure. Now don't wander off, okay? Twenty minutes means twenty minutes."
"Whatever." Without another glance, she headed out the door in search of the ladies' room. She'd just spotted it when she felt a large, heavy hand grip her shoulder and another hand wrap itself around her mouth, extinguishing the scream that rose in her throat.
"Come on, Detective. You know how to do this. Spread 'em out. Come on."
Starsky groaned under the weight anchoring his arms over his head, but tried to obey the order. "Oh, you son-of-a-bitch! You're a sadist. Just how long do you think you can keep me pinned here?" he asked, inching his legs farther apart.
"As long as I want. I can keep you here all day long and make you writhe," the breathy voice answered.
"You'd love that, wouldn't you?"
"Uh, huh. About as much as you would. Now spread 'em out."
Starsky did, spreading his legs wide and raising his knees a little higher. "Now. Now ya gonna quit torturing me and get down to business?"
His blond-haired lover laughed throatily, before kissing him deeply and slipping his hardened girth slowly into the hungry portal he'd been teasing so beautifully. "How's this, baby? This what you wanted?" Hutch asked unnecessarily, starting a deep undulation guaranteed to drive his partner wild.
"'Bout damn time," Starsky groaned out, before speech was no longer possible and he gave himself over to the delicious sensations rocking his frame.
Long moments later, both men lay on the messy bed, spent and sated, content to let their heartbeats return to normal while holding each other tightly. A few strands of Hutch's dampened hair were begging to be brushed from his eyes, so Starsky did, then pulled the happy face closer to kiss it again. "If that was your idea of a quickie before work, we better look for new jobs and a new boss. We're definitely going to be late."
"Not if we shower together," Hutch all but laughed out. "Besides, with you at the helm of the Tomato I have no doubt we'll get there with minutes to spare."
"We gotta get out of bed first," Starsky murmured, wishing it was their day off. "I'll go if you will."
"On three?" Hutch asked, still feeling ridiculously happy.
Starsky got up on two and reached a hand down. "Come on, you're not getting your back washed unless you move your ass."
Hutch grabbed the outstretched hand and got to his feet. Both cast a regretful look at the large bed with its tangled sheets and blankets. "Next day off, we don't leave it, okay?" Hutch asked seriously.
"Okay," Starsky readily agreed. "Our next day off we'll stay in bed all day long, but now we gotta go to work."
An hour later, freshly shaved and showered, both men were seated at their joint desk sharing a cup of coffee. The last few work-weeks had blended together as they'd spent long hours on the street wrapping up two cases at once. The daily grind of categorizing statements and preparing reports had taken a serious back seat to their field work, and today they had promised each other they'd spend a few hours on the boring but necessary paperwork that was littering their desk, before Dobey's temper went into overdrive. Then they could hit the streets for their regular patrol.
"Starsk? I need the Sorenson statement. can you hand it to me?"
"I'd be happy to hand it to you if I had it, but I don't. It's on your side."
"No, it isn't."
"Yes, it is."
"Starsky--I have my side of the desk mainly organized now, and I'd know if the statement was here."
"I'm tellin' you, I don't have it!"
"All right, you two, enough of your bickering. I have the Sorenson statement, and it wasn't easy to retrieve from that garbage dump you call a desk!" The partners sat up a little straighter as their captain addressed them. They were long accustomed to Dobey's quick entrances to the squadroom from his adjoining office. "The statement can wait, though. I need you two in my office; a new case came in."
Starsky was the first to bounce from his chair, and was halfway to the office before Hutch had returned the file in his hand to a manila folder and rose himself. Once inside, they seated themselves casually in the chairs in front of Dobey's desk, Starsky even daring to rest his feet on the edge of it.
"You comfortable, Starsky?" Dobey asked in his most put-upon tone.
"Very, Cap'n. now what's the new case?" Starsky stretched out his legs a little farther, ignoring the look Hutch was sending him.
"Have you two ever heard of Marsha Wells?" Dobey asked as he fumbled through paperwork on his desk.
The detectives glanced at each other, then Hutch answered for both of them. "Nope, never have. Should we know her?"
"You'd know her if you were a female between the ages of twelve and sixty. She sells more cosmetics than any model in the country and was on the cover of more than thirteen magazines last year alone." Dobey grabbed two magazines from a stack of files and tossed them across the desk. "This is Marsha Wells."
Both men whistled appreciatively at the pictures of the stunning blonde, who posed with a seductive pout to her lips. Starsky spoke first. "Now that's a pretty girl."
"I'd say that's an understatement, partner." Hutch was studying both covers and noting the differences as well as the similarities to the shots. "Marsha Wells is involved in the new case, Captain?" He asked while thumbing through one issue.
"Marsha Wells is the case. She's missing. Her agent thinks she's met with foul play, but the uniforms on the scene couldn't turn up any evidence of that."
"When did she go missing, Cap?" Starsky was looking over Hutch's shoulder as he spoke, taking in the pictures of the missing girl.
"Late yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a contract signing. They were on a break, and her agent thought she was going to the ladies' room. She never came back to the meeting. Now, this woman is twenty-one, and we have no evidence that anything violent may have happened to her, so for all we know she's off on a spa trip, or just pulling some kind of stunt with her contract." Dobey tossed a few more magazines to the men. "Since she's a high profile person, we're not taking any chances. I want you two to start hunting down leads immediately. This is now your number one priority."
"So, I guess all those reports we owe you will just have to wait a while, huh?" Starsky smiled hopefully.
"You know, if you would just do your paperwork daily, this would never be an issue." Dobey started to warm up to a real lecture, but the calm looks on the faces of his detectives told him he'd be wasting his breath. "Yes, Starsky, your reports will have to wait awhile. Here's the initial statement from the agent." He handed a file to Hutch. "Now get going."
It took little time for both men to put their jackets on, close the open drawers of their desk and hurry from the squadroom. Starsky was openly relieved to have escaped the boring morning he had anticipated. Clapping Hutch on the back, he led the way to the parking lot. "Reprieved! And by the Captain himself." Starsky was whistling as he unlocked the door of his well-loved Ford, got in and reached across the passenger seat to unlock Hutch's door. He had the engine started before Hutch was fully seated, and the car in reverse at the same time his partner managed to get his door closed. "So, where do you want to start?"
Hutch was examining the report Dobey had given them. "Well, might as well start with her agent. See if we can get some additional information from him, then we can check out that attorney's office where the girl was last seen."
"Okay. Address?" Starsky asked putting his sunglasses on.
"Well, Starsk, looks like we're going out of our territory."
"Yeah? Where to?"
"Hm, if I'd've known we were going there this morning, maybe I would'a ironed my shirt." Starsky glanced down briefly at his lightly rumpled, very comfortable t-shirt.
"Do you even own an iron?" Hutch asked, laughing a little.
"Sure, I use it for melted cheese sandwiches once in a while." Starsky flashed a grin. "If you're real good, I'll make you one sometime."
"Thanks, Starsk, you sure do know how to spoil me."
"Nothing but the best for my partner. Now, where exactly in Beverly Hills am I heading to?"
Hutch gave the address and settled back against the seat to peruse the scanty information in the file. He also glanced again at the model's photograph, fixing her features in his brain. The girl was undeniably gorgeous, but the careful studied poses for the camera obliterated any trace of personality or character in her face. He put the photo back in the file. "I wonder what kind of girl she is?"
"A rich one I'd bet." Starsky was calmly dodging slower cars in his normal zigzag approach to city driving. "I read once where those top models can make five hundred dollars or more an hour."
"What do we make again?" Hutch asked rhetorically, quickly bracing a hand against the dashboard in defense of another fast lane change.
"Not even close."
"That's what I thought. Good thing we don't care about money."
"Oh, yeah, that's what I think every time we go to the bank and cash our checks." Starsky's laughter was infectious, and both men enjoyed a few minutes of mirth before Starsky seriously considered Hutch's earlier question. "I suppose she's probably a little stuck-up. Face like that--she's probably had people falling at her feet all her life."
"That's just speculation on your part; she could be perfectly nice and not at all stuck-up."
"Hutch, you asked me to speculate."
"I'm just saying it's hard to know."
"Okay, maybe she's as sweet as sugar and as innocent as a baby, or maybe she's a conceited prig, but neither one really matters much unless it leads to some idea about where she may be or what may have happened to her. Let's hope her agent can fill in some blanks."
Finding parking on the narrow street where the discrete office building was located took patience, but eventually Starsky found an open slot to inch into. Both men briefly admired the cleanliness of their surroundings and the manicured shrubbery, before heading inside the posh suite of offices. A large receptionist's station was located in the front of the main lobby. A middle-aged, professionally dressed woman greeted them pleasantly from behind the high desk.
"May I help you, gentlemen?"
"Yes, ma'am, we'd like to speak to Ben--um, Ben...?" Starsky looked at Hutch for help.
"Ben Straus," Hutch supplied smoothly. "We don't have an appointment, but could you please let Mr. Straus know that Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky are here to follow up on a complaint he filed at our precinct?"
"Yes, of course. Miss Wells' disappearance has us all very concerned." The receptionist reached for the phone, dialed and whispered a few words. "Mr. Straus will be out momentarily. Perhaps you'd like to take a seat." The sweep of a manicured hand indicated a small grouping of chairs.
"Thanks," Starsky responded, smiling briefly before walking with Hutch toward the soft lobby seats. They didn't have a chance to sit down, though, as a loud voice beckoned from the lobby corridor. "I'm Ben Straus. Come on back to my office."
The partners followed the agent down a short hallway until they reached a large double-door entryway. They were led inside an office decorated in chrome and glass, all polished to mirror finish. The furnishings were sparse and sleek, but contained a few low slung, soft-backed chairs, a small sofa and a large desk. "Sit down, please. Have you heard anything? Turned up any leads or clues, whatever you call them?" The agent's voice was still loud and unquestionably nervous.
"No, Mr. Straus, we haven't." Starsky tried to find a comfortable position in the strange chair while he spoke. "My partner and I were just given your report to investigate. We came here first to talk to you and get some further information before we proceed."
"I don't know what more I can tell you that I didn't tell the officers who came out when I called yesterday."
Hutch sat forward a little. "We'd like to review the facts you reported and ask you a few more questions about Miss Wells, if that's okay."
"That's fine, that's fine. What can I tell you?" The agent moved restlessly from his desk chair to perch on the edge of the desk itself.
"You told the officers on the scene that you and Miss Wells were in Bay City to attend a contract signing meeting at the offices of Harrington, Burke and Clay, the attorneys representing Lady Fair, Incorporated. Is that correct?" Like his partner, Hutch was struggling to get comfortable as he spoke.
"Sorry about the chairs. The dumb-assed decorator my secretary hired thought the room needed an eclectic look, so I'm stuck with chairs no one can sit in without their backs breaking." The detectives nodded in agreement before Straus answered. "Yes, that's correct. Marsha and I were there to sign her new contracts."
"You said new?" Starsky asked. "does that mean a renewal of an old contract, or was this a new deal for her altogether?"
"Lady Fair is brand new, although I've been workin' the deal for eight months now. Lady Fair is the top of the game. The best of the best. This is an exclusive contract, too. One year where they don't use another model for any of their cosmetic ads--print or television--and Marsha doesn't model for anyone else."
"Is that an unusual kind of contract?" Hutch wondered. "I mean, you said you worked the deal for eight months."
"Yes, it's unusual. An exclusive like this is a risk for both sides, so it doesn't happen that often."
Starsky gave up trying to stay seated and asked while rising, "What're the risks?"
"If the campaigns don't fly with the public, the company is stuck with no other choices for a year. And if the model should be offered another deal--one she or he really wants--they can't take it because they're on an exclusivity clause." Straus loosened the knot of his knitted tie before continuing. "Detectives, how is knowing about the contract going to help you find her? I mean, I'm not trying to tell you your business, but shouldn't you be out there looking for her?"
"Mr. Straus," Hutch began.
"Ben, call me Ben. I'm not the formal type."
"Ben," Hutch went on. "At this point we have no evidence that a crime was committed or that Miss Wells is in any danger."
"What do you mean? She's gone! She never came back to finish signing the most important contract of her career. You don't know Marsha; her career is everything to her. She wouldn't have just walked out."
Starsky placed a light hand on the troubled agent's shoulder. "Ben, we're going to do everything we can to find out where she is, but we've seen things like this before. Not with famous models maybe, which does concern us, but sometimes people just decide to take a little vacation without telling anyone about it. She could've been mad, she could've been gettin' cold feet about the signing. Legally, we can't even put out an APB on her until twenty-four hours have passed, since she's an adult and we have no evidence that she was kidnapped or that any crime occurred."
"Twenty-four hours before you can do anything?"
"That's not quite true," Hutch interjected quickly. "We are here right now to talk to you, and we're starting an investigation. Miss Wells is a high profile person, and so the risk that she could be a crime victim is greater. We just wanted to point out that it could be nothing at all, and she'll be calling you any minute."
"Something happened to her, I'm telling you!"
"Okay, just take a breath. Let's start with the people at the meeting. We'll need their names, addresses and phone numbers if you have them. Also, did Miss Wells know any of them personally, or just from a business standpoint?" Hutch found a pencil in his jacket pocket and accepted the small pad of paper Starsky handed him.
"My secretary can give you a list of names and numbers." The agent moved to his desktop phone. "I don't have home addresses, and you already know the office building they work out of."
"That is the attorney's office." Starsky pointed out. "What about the company itself; where is Lady Fair located?"
"Their corporate headquarters is in New York, but they have a field office we deal with here in town."
"In Beverly Hills?" Hutch clarified.
"Okay, could you please ask your secretary to add that address to the list? What about her family? Close friends? Can you tell us anything about them and how we can reach them?"
"She doesn't have any real close friends that I know of. There are some other models she shops with sometimes, but no real friends. As for her family, she'd never talk about them. All I know is that she ran away from some farm in Kansas when she was seventeen and hitchhiked her way here. I don't even know the name of the town."
"We'll need all of those other girls' names; they may know something, even if they aren't good friends. Can you add those, too?" Starsky asked.
"Yeah, no problem." He dialed his secretary's extension. "I'll tell you where you should start, though. You should start with her no-good boyfriend."
The partners glanced at each other, as they waited for the man to give his secretary the list of instructions. Once he hung up the phone, Starsky spoke. "What do you mean, her 'no-good boyfriend'? You think he'd harm her?"
"I don't know--I've never trusted him. He thinks he owns her. That she's his personal property, and she listens to almost everything he says and believes it. Even the bullshit."
Hutch tried to sit up a little straighter, "Can we have his name and address, as well?"
"Sure. He's real easy to find, but you'd better take some cop cars with you and a lot of handcuffs before you go see him."
Starsky had been looking at Hutch, but he spun his head around at the agent's words. "Now, why would we need to do that, Ben? This guy's a criminal?"
"No, not in the way you're thinking. His name is Anthony Ivey, and he runs the hottest photography studio in the city, maybe even the country. He makes his real money doing advertising shots; the fashion editorials are what give him his cache, though." Straus noticed the nearly identical expressions of confusion the detectives were wearing. "Advertising, as in breakfast cereal, cars, cheese, anything the manufacturer wants to sell to the American public, Ivey or his top assistant photographs it for print. Fashion editorials don't pay nearly as well, but that's where the glamour is and the shots where you get your name under the picture in the glossy rags."
Hutch ran a hand through his hair, flipping it out of his eyes. "But you said he's involved in illegal activity?"
"Not exactly, but if you visit him unannounced, you'll find plenty of illegal substances around. I'm talking about drugs. The studio is closed to the public, and there's always plenty of coke and pills on the premises to keep his already jittery, sleep-deprived models, up and alert. They work insane deadlines over there. That's what I was talking about."
"Okay. Listen, Ben, you've given us enough to start with, but we may need to come back and see you. Would you mind adding your own home number and address to that list?"
"Sure, sure. Whatever you need, I just want ya to find the kid. I'll go get the list." The men watched as Straus hurried from the office. Starsky sat on an edge of the desk and leaned over until his arms were resting on the sides of Hutch's chair.
"Well, buddy, whatcha think?"
"I think I'm stuck."
"In the chair. To the chair." Hutch wiggled a little pathetically. "Starsk, help me would ya? I can't get out of this monstrosity. I think my back locked up."
Starsky was laughing, despite the glare coming from his partner, as he reached under Hutch's elbows and helped heave him to his feet. Hutch couldn't swallow back a groan.
"That thing should be registered as a torture device! Now my back really hurts."
Starsky placed a warm palm on Hutch's lower back and dropped his voice so it was barely above a whisper. "Not to worry, I'll take care'a that tonight, okay?"
"Is that a promise?" The look of pain was gone from Hutch's face.
"That's a promise."
They separated casually when they heard the agent's returning footsteps. The man looked out of breath, as he came back to the desk and handed Starsky a sheet of paper.
"Here it is. You'll let me know when you know anything?"
"Of course, and if Miss Wells contacts you, please call us at this number." Hutch handed him a business card.
After shaking hands with the worried man, they left the office and headed back to the car. "Where first?" Hutch asked as Starsky pulled away from the curb.
"Huggy's. I'm hungry, and maybe he's got some more information about this Ivey character. We can eat and talk at the same time."
"Okay, I could go for some lunch, and since you didn't iron your shirt, we better not eat in Beverly Hills."
Hutch enjoyed the light slap delivered to his thigh, especially when it turned into a caress. It was brief, though, as both returned to thoughts of the case on the drive to their favorite hangout.
The Pits was running at its normal level of chaos for this time of day. The neighborhood establishment did a brisk lunchtime business, even though the food was sometimes negligible in taste. It was, however, cheap and plentiful. In addition, a colorful crowd of strays and regulars made for an interesting meal.
Starsky spotted an open booth near the back and led the way to it. Both men waved at Huggy who was busy at the bar, just to let him know they were there. Starsky scooted alongside the worn, leather-covered booth bench first, leaving the end corner for Hutch. Hutch sat down with a small wince and reached a hand behind his back to press against a defiant muscle.
"Back still hurtin' ya?" Starsky asked, concerned.
"No, not really, just a twinge."
"You know, partner, between your trick back, the colds you've been getting all year, and that occasional sore throat that you try to hide when you have it, well--I'm beginning to think that I better start takin' better care of you. Maybe pay more attention to what you're eatin' and how much sleep you're getting." Starsky's tone was teasing but his smile was sincere.
"Very funny, buddy," Hutch laughed out. "I'm not sure a change in my diet would do a lot for an occasional sore back."
"Maybe not, but it might help the colds if you started eating a real healthy breakfast or something in the morning."
"I do eat a healthy breakfast most of the time," Hutch argued, embarrassed, "maybe not on the mornings we're running late, but otherwise."
"You eat a bowl of rocks or something terrible from that blender you love." Starsky made a shuddering motion. "I'm talking about eggs, and oatmeal."
"You'd be joining me in eating this healthy breakfast?"
"Well, I'd help you make it."
"Help him make what?"
Both men looked up at the question and saw Huggy, who had made no noise on his approach and was now preparing to squeeze into the booth.
"Nothin' really, Hug. How's it goin'?" Starsky worked his way farther over to give Hutch room to move down for Huggy.
"It is goin' spectacularly, my brothers. Now to what do I attribute the nature of your visit? Are you in the mood for a tasty Huggy special, or perhaps I can tempt you with one of the fine entrees my new chef has been worrying himself over."
"What kind of entrees?" Hutch asked suspiciously.
Huggy waved his arms expansively, "The kind designed to delight and tantalize the most discerning of palates!"
"I'll have a cheeseburger," Starsky said with finality.
Hutch smiled and raised his index finger, "Make it two."
"Do I look like a waiter to you two no-taste bums?" Huggy shook his head indignantly. "I'll see if I can send an available waitress to your table post-haste, however." He moved to get up, but Starsky stopped him.
"Hang on a sec, Hug. We wanna ask you something before you get our orders squared away."
"You always do." The bar proprietor relaxed back against the seat. "Well, lay it on me."
"What do you know about a man named Anthony Ivey?" Hutch asked. "He's a photographer in Beverly Hills."
"You mean the dude that owns Sizzle?"
"Sizzle?" Both detectives looked confused, and Starsky volunteered, "That's not the name Straus gave us."
"He didn't give us a name, Starsk, just the address," Hutch replied, grabbing his notepad. "Go on, Huggy. What do you know about him, or his place?"
"Are you askin' if he dabbles on the dark side?"
"Come on, Hug," Starsky looked up as he spoke, "spill it."
"Well, I know that ol' Tony runs himself the chicest photography studio going, and he isn't always particular about the ages of the models he uses."
"So? There's nothing illegal about using underage models," Hutch began, but Huggy broke back in.
"There is when their mamas and their daddies don't know nothin' about it, unless I'm most mistaken."
Huggy anticipated the next question. "And before you ask, I ain't talkin' about no kiddie porn, least of all none that I ever heard 'bout. All I know is that he signs up a certain amount of runaways without providing them with any adult supervision, and perhaps he's been known to provide chemical persuasion to keep them happy and posing for him."
Hutch rubbed his eyes against the smoke in the bar. He and Starsky shared a glance, and Hutch knew his partner was thinking the same thoughts. "Huggy. This is the second time in one morning that we've heard about illegal activity in what we now know is the hottest studio in California. You want to explain to two confused cops how this has gone unnoticed by the Beverly Hills Vice Squad? Or the press?"
"The press? Hutch, you're smarter than you look, even I know that, but that was one dumb question. The press means advertising. Those dudes are all sleepin' in the same bed, and they're not goin' to say nothin' about nothin'."
"Okay, but no one has ever leaked a word to the police?" Starsky's tone was justifiably doubtful. "That's hard to believe, Hug."
"Believe it or not, this is just the word on the street--or the street as it travels to our fair town. I'm just passing on my knowledge as you asked me to do. I claim no responsibility on its accuracy. Now, can I go get a waitress to take your orders, or do you wish to converse further?"
"No, go ahead and get her, we're starved." Starsky watched as Huggy walked off, but quickly he called him back. "Hey, do us a favor?"
"But of course."
"See what else you can find out on the quiet okay? Anything about Ivey or the studio."
"I'll see what I can do." Huggy started off again, but his patience was tried when Starsky called him again. "Yes!"
"Make sure the burgers are cooked medium-rare, okay?"
Neither detective could understand what Huggy was mumbling as he made his way to the bar."
Three hours later, the detectives were exiting the offices of Harrington, Burke and Clay. They had questioned everyone who had been present at the meeting from which the model had disappeared; even the floor receptionist and the building's janitorial staff were thoroughly interviewed. The process had been time consuming, but other than matching some factual time information already gathered by the police officers that had been called in after the disappearance, the questioning had yielded almost no new information.
"Sun feels good," Starsky commented as the heavy door closed behind them. "They always keep those office buildings way too air conditioned." Hutch nodded, as he removed his hands from his pockets to turn down his jacket collar. He had worn it up with his jacket zipped against the cool interior air. Starsky noticed a faint rush of goose- bumps on his neck as Hutch unzipped the light material partway.
"You're doin' a nice imitation of a popsicle. Just how cold were you in there?"
"Pretty damn cold. It felt like Minnesota in January." Hutch jammed his hands back in his jacket pockets.
"Maybe it's the remnants of that virus you were fightin' last week."
"You weren't cold in that meat locker?" Hutch asked indignantly. "That air conditioner must have been set at fifty degrees."
Starsky shook his head and smiled a little at the exaggeration. "Hey, what time is it?" he asked, changing the subject before Hutch really started sputtering.
"I legitimately forgot to put it on this morning."
Hutch shook his head a little and glanced at his watch. They had almost reached the car. "It's nearly three-thirty." Their call sign was being spoken from the dashboard radio and could be heard even though the doors weren't open yet. "You going to grab it from your side?" Hutch asked his partner, who was fumbling with the door lock.
"Yeah, I got it."
"Zebra Three," Starsky recognized the dispatcher's voice immediately, "patch through from Captain Dobey."
"Okay, Mildred." Starsky sat down, holding the radio handset with his left hand, while his right one stretched across the seat to unlock Hutch's door. Hutch had one leg inside the car when Dobey's voice assaulted them."
"Where are you two? You haven't radioed in all day!"
"We're working on our top priority case, as you told us to do when you gave it to us this morning, Cap'n, remember?" Starsky raised his brows questioningly at Hutch who shrugged his shoulders in return.
"Well, I need you in here, now. The feds have stuck their noses in, and we're going to have a meeting in my office at four."
"Oh, that's just great," Hutch muttered under his breath, making a reach for the handset, but Starsky held on to it.
"Cap'n, just how the hell did the feds get involved so fast? It hasn't been twenty-four hours yet, and Hutch and me just started diggin'."
"Come in, Starsky. I'll explain it to you when you get here, and I hope you and your partner have made some progress today."
"We just got started, Cap'n." Starsky voiced his complaint at the same moment that Dobey signed off. He replaced the handset in its cradle and turned to Hutch. "I guess we got a meetin' to go to."
"Yeah, it didn't sound like we had a lot of choice. Oh, well, look at it this way--if the feds want to take over, we've only invested one day of our time. Not weeks and weeks, only to have them come charging in and kick us off, or taking all the credit for a case we handed over almost completely wrapped up." Hutch spoke in a resigned tone that held a touch of bitterness.
"I suppose you're right, but I'm hopin' we still get a chance to work this one. I'd like to get inside that studio for myself. See what that Ivey dude is mixed up in--especially if he's got kids involved."
"Well, one way or another, the BH Vice is going to get informed. If this guy is dirty, he'll go down hard."
It took less than ten minutes for them to reach their station. Once upstairs, they glanced briefly at the messages on their desk before filling two mugs with stale coffee and tapping on the closed door of Dobey's office.
Dobey's sharp voice pierced the thin door, "Come in." Starsky opened the door wide, waiting for Hutch to brush past him before he entered himself and slammed the door closed louder than he had intended to. Starsky stopped at Hutch's side, both still close to the door as two men they didn't know rose from the office's guest chairs.
"You made good time," Dobey commented, getting up from his desk chair as he spoke. "These two gentlemen are Federal Inspectors Gates and Mitchell. Gentlemen, these are the investigating officers, Sergeants Hutchinson and Starsky." All four men shook hands briefly, the detectives taking casual note of the tense stance that the redheaded Gates held, only slightly more pronounced than the balding Mitchell. Dobey spoke again, "Starsky, why don't you grab two more chairs from the squadroom?"
Starsky glanced at Hutch, then answered, "We're fine standin', Cap'n." The partners moved around to the back of Dobey's desk, leaning back against the wall where they could see the inspectors who had reseated themselves. "Wanna fill us in on what we're meetin' about?" Starsky asked in a low tone, his facial expression deliberately pleasant.
"Our office was notified of the disappearance of Marsha Wells. Now, we know this isn't strictly federal, yet," Gates paused for breath and looked at all three of the city police officers, "but we're anticipating that it could become federal if a ransom demand is made. Our office would like to work cooperatively with your department from the beginning. We feel it will be the best way to insure that nothing is missed, and should we need to take a lead role in the investigation, less time will be lost."
"Joint cooperation?" Starsky began, but Dobey interrupted him.
"Wait a minute, you two." The captain rubbed a finger across his trim mustache as he addressed his detectives as if each had spoken. "I'd like to get the clarification, if you don't mind. He turned to the inspectors. "I'm assuming that this cooperation includes the approval of your superiors? May I also assume that my department and my men will stay on the case in full capacity until it's closed?"
This time Mitchell answered the inquiries. "Yes, Captain. We have full authority to authorize a joint investigation, and we won't be bouncing your department from the process."
"All right. I'm satisfied, and you'll have our cooperation." Dobey turned back to receive nods from Starsky and Hutch. "Now, where do you want to start?"
"We'd like your detectives to brief us on what they may have learned today." Gates sat forward a little and drew out a notebook.
"Well, I'm afraid we don't have a lot yet," Hutch began. "We interviewed the attorneys and all the office staff where the girl was last seen. That was basically a zero. We did get some information from her agent, though, and we want to follow up on it as soon as possible."
"What was that?"
"It seems that Ms. Wells' boyfriend is a photographer. He runs a studio in Beverly Hills named Sizzle, and the agent..." Hutch raised his brows.
"Ben Straus," Starsky supplied.
"Right, thanks. Straus thinks there might be illegal activity going on there, and that the boyfriend..." He paused, briefly, but remembered the name before Starsky could speak up. "Ivey, Anthony Ivey is of questionable character."
Gates nodded and released a small sigh. "Our office has heard of Sizzle. Unfortunately, it's all been rumor and innuendo. Nothing that we could turn over to vice to start an investigation."
"And now?" Starsky asked. "I mean I know we didn't bring in anything solid yet to go on, but one of our sources backed up what Straus told us. Couple that with the fact that the girl is gone and the man who runs Sizzle is her boyfriend, and I'd say that's worth an investigation."
The two federal agents exchanged a hard look before Gates spoke. We agree with you, Detective. We also need to inform Beverly Hills vice, to let them know that we'll be playing in their back yard--and obtain their cooperation."
"We'll let you handle all the informing and the politeness, while Hutch and me get over there and start asking some questions." Starsky redistributed his weight against the wall, sipping from his cup. His smile was confident, and he was clearly pleased that they were remaining the lead investigators. He tried to catch Hutch's eye to communicate his pleasure, since Hutch hated turning a case over as much as he did, but his partner seemed lost in thought. Agent Gates was starting to speak again when Hutch cut him off.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute." Hutch gripped Starsky's free elbow as he spoke. "Let's think about this. If we go in there now, with the little information we have, Ivey or any of his staff who might be dirty, could just freeze up."
Starsky shrugged his shoulders, surprised at Hutch's statement. "So? We run that risk every time we question a suspect. What're you gettin' at?"
"I know that, Starsk, but just hear me out. If we go in now, we're not getting farther than the lobby. Agreed?"
"Agreed, but we can talk to them. Get a feel for if they're dirty or not, and if we have to come back with a warrant and tear the joint apart, okay. We'll do it."
"But--even if we get a judge to agree to issuing a warrant to search--and that's a big if, considering we're working with unsubstantiated rumors--and if we bust in there, all we may find are some drugs on the premises. All that'll get us is a few busts for possession. It won't necessarily give us any information on what may have happened to Marsha Wells, or what may be happening inside to those underage kids."
Starsky smiled and said, "So what's your brainstorm, partner."
Hutch smiled in return, oblivious for a moment to the other three men in the room who were listening to the exchange closely. Right now, he just needed Starsky to see and support his idea. Together they'd convince the others if they had to.
"We go in undercover."
"Yeah, I kinda thought that was part of your brainstorm." Now Starsky's smile was a grin. "Okay, I can see the advantages..." he began, before being interrupted by their captain.
"Hold on a minute; I'm not sure I see the advantages. Undercover as what? And just what do you hope to accomplish at this stage of the game? You said yourself you've barely started working the witnesses." Dobey looked at Gates and Mitchell as he spoke to his detectives, trying to gauge their reaction.
Gates took the lead again. "It's an interesting idea. Before we continue discussing it, though, I'd like to hear if you have any experience in undercover work."
"My men are well-trained, Agent Gates, and have been undercover numerous times. Often in very dangerous situations," Dobey answered loudly.
"All right. Please continue then, Detective Hutchinson." Gates turned to his partner before Hutch could start. "Unless you have any questions?"
"No," Mitchell said softly. "I'd like to hear the idea out."
Hutch moved closer to the agents' chairs. "I'm afraid I don't have a detailed plan right this second. As my partner can tell you, I just thought of this. It makes sense, though. We go in, and you and your office work the case from the outside."
"And we can coordinate with Beverly Hills to cover the studio quietly," Starsky added, moving to Hutch's side.
"Okay, we can see some possibilities here and it may be the best way to get the information, but as your captain asked you previously, just what are you going to go in undercover as?" Gates asked the question with an expectant look on his face.
"We'll need to do some research before we can answer that," Hutch replied a little impatiently.
"We could go back to Straus," Starsky suggested with a snap of his fingers. "That dude is already on the inside of the business, and it was obvious that he's got no love for that photographer. I bet he could help us."
"That's a great idea, Starsk." Hutch turned to Dobey. "Well, Captain?"
Dobey didn't answer immediately. He stroked his mustache again, then picked up a pencil before he spoke. "All right. If we have the approval of the agents' superiors, I'll approve it as well. But, I want to run a complete check on this Ben Straus before you go back there. Let's make sure he's clean before we enlist his help. Even then there's some risk, but it'll be calculated. I'll trust you to feel him out before you lay this out. Understood?"
"Understood, Cap'n," Starsky answered for both of them. "We'll get started on the run down."
"No, I'll do that myself. I'll also send a pair of uniforms to this Sizzle place, to ask some basic questions of this Ivey character. If he's the girl's boyfriend, he'll be suspicious if someone doesn't see if he knows anything about where she may be."
The detectives nodded in agreement; it made sense. "Okay, Cap'n, but tell the guys to tread real softly. We don't want to tip our hand."
The look Dobey gave Starsky would have withered a lesser man. "Thank you for that valuable advice, Starsky. Now I think this meeting is over. We'll reconvene in the morning after Gates and Mitchell have secured their office's approval, and after we have the make on Straus complete. For tonight, we're done."
The agents and the detectives all said a quick good-bye before they exited Dobey's office. The agents bound for their car, and the detectives to their desk.
"What time is it now?" Starsky asked, making a grab for Hutch's wrist. Hutch didn't bother with a teasing reprimand; he merely turned his arm so Starsky could look at his watch more easily. "It's goin' on five."
"Already?" Hutch was surprised; he didn't think they'd been in Dobey's office that long, and he looked at his watch himself. "Starsk, it's just four-thirty."
"Let's call it a day anyway, okay?" Starsky locked pleading eyes on his partner. "I'm not in the mood for paperwork tonight are you?"
Before Hutch could answer, Dobey poked his head out his office door. "I'll need your case notes typed up and on my desk before you leave tonight." The stout man closed the door again, ignoring Starsky's groan.
By 6:00, with the report neatly typed and left with their superior, the men were in Starsky's kitchen. By mutual agreement they had decided to sleep at his apartment because the refrigerator held more food than the one at Venice Place. At least more food that Starsky would eat.
They worked in tandem to throw a fast meal together from the leftover chicken they found, as well as the salad makings in the crisper. Hutch made the dressing for the salad first, quickly mixing olive oil, vinegar and garlic together and setting it aside. Then he started with the salad itself, slicing, chopping and peeling, while Starsky dumped the chicken in a pan and stuck it in the oven to warm. As an afterthought, he searched the freezer and found half a bag of frozen french fries. He found another pan to pour those into and salted them before sliding them into the oven as well. Once his own part of the dinner preparations was complete, he leaned against the counter to watch Hutch busy at the cutting board. Hutch's large hands were practically covering the small knife he wielded, and Starsky smiled as carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes and lettuce were quickly reduced to small pieces and tossed in a wooden bowl.
He moved up behind his partner and encircled his waist snugly. "Need any help?"
Hutch had removed his boots when they first got home, but Starsky was still wearing his shoes, making the difference in their heights nearly negligible. Dropping the knife, Hutch dipped his head backwards to rest on a shoulder, as he enjoyed the nibbling sensations being applied to his throat. "No, not with the salad, I don't. I could use one of these, though." Hutch turned around enough to be able to find Starsky's lips. Together they shared the first kiss of the evening.
Starsky's hands traveled slowly up his partner's spine, as the kiss deepened slightly. Soon his hands were buried in the fine strands and massaging along the hairline at the nape of Hutch's neck. He felt the pleasured sigh being released against his lips as a vibration that almost tickled. Once a quick release for air was accomplished, Starsky anchored the blond head more firmly before kissing the soft lips under his own one more time.
Hutch rocked a little against the compact body pressed tightly to him. He found the lush padding of Starsky's rear and stroked it firmly over the denim, loving the way it moved under his hands and the way Starsky's legs separated against his touch. Reluctantly, Hutch pulled away from the hungry mouth and asked, "Are we going for our second quickie of the day right here in the kitchen, or are we waiting 'til later?"
"Wouldn't necessarily have to be a quickie," Starsky mumbled, trying to bare Hutch's neck a little more for his mouth to explore.
"We've got chicken heating up in the oven," Hutch whispered. The feel of his partner's hands and lips were playing havoc with the idea of waiting until after dinner.
"Um hm, and I got a blond heatin' up in my arms." Starsky exposed an ear, pushing the hair away gently so he could suck the lobe into his mouth and tease and tickle the outer shell with a wet tongue.
Hutch's response was immediate. He abandoned the lush, covered ass to reach up and grab a handful Starsky's t-shirt. A few tugs had the material freed from the belt, and Hutch let his hands wander across the warm flesh underneath. Then curving his fingers, he stroked down the sturdy spine before plunging them under the belt to explore the soft upper curve of bare skin.
Starsky groaned against the ear he was still tormenting. Hutch had barely started to touch him and already he was on fire, as if a current of pure pleasure was radiating from Hutch's fingertips to electrify every nerve ending in his body. With a kiss to Hutch's ear, he released it and placed both hands on his partner's shoulders, easing him backwards without dislodging Hutch's hands from his own rear. "I need a little room," Starsky whispered.
Using two hands, he yanked Hutch's shirt free and started unbuttoning it from the bottom. He rubbed each bit of skin he revealed as he worked his way to the collar, lowered his mouth and nuzzled into the working hollow of Hutch's muscular neck, and then opened the shirt flaps wide to palm the hardened nipples that were waiting for his touch.
Hutch sucked his breath in sharply as the combination of the tongue lapping against his throat, teeth nipping under his chin, and the circular sweep of the flattened hands against his chest and belly started an incendiary reaction in his groin. He pressed closer, dipping his hands as low as he could inside the tight jeans.
"Starsk, your pants," Hutch was breathing a little fast as he rubbed his groin against Starsky's. The zippers of their jeans made a cracking noise as the friction increased. "Got to get your pants off."
"Oh, yeah," Starsky rasped out, but instead of reaching for his own zipper, he moved back slightly and attacked Hutch's. Nimble fingers worked fast to undo the top snap of the jeans and open the zipper, despite the fact that the closeness of their two bodies left little room to work. In seconds, he had the blond's jeans bunched at his feet. Pulling the slightly damp briefs over the massive erection, he let them go, allowing them to slide down the long legs of their own accord while he fingered the swollen flesh. "You're so hard," he commented unnecessarily. "I love it when you get so hard for me, so fast."
"All you have to do is be this close to me and I want you. You don't even have to touch me, and I want you." Hutch had managed to free one hand from its tight confines. He reached around to find Starsky's straining fly. He started to open it but was stopped when Starsky gracefully slid out of his embrace, pulling Hutch's other hand free, and dropped to his knees. Hutch moaned at the meaning of the gesture. Anticipation increased the need coursing through his body. He quickly kicked away the jeans, freeing his feet.
"It's better when I touch you, though, isn't it?" Starsky asked before twining his fingers in the thatch of moist blond curls. He pushed at Hutch's legs with his shoulders, backing the tall man against the counter top. "Isn't it nicer--hotter--when I touch you? When I put my hands all over you?"
"God, yes. Touch me, Starsk."
Starsky reached between the spread thighs to clasp the tight balls, giving them a gentle tug. "Like that? Want me to touch you here?" He flattened his palm to rub the bottom side of the sparsely haired testicles.
"Yes, there. Oh, yeah, oh, yeah--touch me there." Hutch was alternately rubbing his own belly and Starsky's dark hair. The feel of the hard edge to the counter top was cool where his shirttail was unable to cover his bare rear.
"How 'bout here?" Starsky crooned, grasping the thick barrel tightly. He jerked it once, twice, three times in quick succession.
"Yes, there, everywhere--Starsky!" Hutch's voice was shaky with desire. The tone and timbre of the cry was a further aphrodisiac to his partner.
"Or what if I just take as much of this monster in my mouth as I can and suck you dry? How about that, Hutch?"
Hutch made a sound akin to a whimper as Starsky did just that. Coherent thought left his brain as he gave himself over to the delightful tongue and lips, creating a special magic like no other.
Starsky was merciless in his need to drive his partner wild. When he had as much of the long penis tucked in his mouth as he could, he created a vacuum with his lips, sucking hard then releasing enough to lick. He drew his tongue down the underside of the length until he reached the tip. He curled his tongue tightly to toy with the slit, loving the cries Hutch was making. He stroked the penis a few more times before guiding it back inside his mouth and reaching his hands around to fondle his lover's bottom. The tight flesh was cool to his touch, exactly the opposite of the burning cock in his mouth. Finding the opening he sought, he gently penetrated Hutch with one finger.
"Starsk, Starsky, now--do it. Do it, please. Harder...oh, God," Hutch moaned and filled the willing mouth with rough thrusts. Starsky took it all and when the final thrust came, he drank the warm gift, leaving Hutch drained and standing on shaking legs.
Starsky smiled up at the panting form, licking his lips, enjoying the sight of Hutch trying to recover from the orgasm he'd just given him. He got to his feet and pulled the long body close again. He kissed Hutch passionately, not caring that the blond was still trying to catch his breath. He could feel his own blood pounding in his ears, his own need shrieking to be relieved.
Hutch broke away, gasping. "You trying to finish me off?" he asked with a smile, running a hand through Starsky's tangled curls and noting the deep inhalations and the hard bulge against his thigh. "That was pretty amazing, you know. now how about we go in the bedroom and let me take care of you?"
"Too long a walk," was the answer he received. "Can't wait. I need you now." He plummeted Hutch's neck again, pushing the collar low on the shirt he still wore, and nibbling against the skin lightly. "Need you, babe." With that, he spun Hutch around and bent him over the counter. "Okay? Hutch? Okay?"
Hutch was shocked to find himself partially stretched over the cold formica, but it excited him, too. His body was too sated to react, but his heart thrilled to the knowledge that his partner wanted him so much. "Okay, it's fine. It's perfect. Give it to me, do it."
Starsky was panting, his need reaching desperate proportions as he told himself to slow down. He made short work of freeing his penis and balls from their denim prison, not even bothering to remove the jeans entirely. He ran his hands up and down Hutch's back, under the soft cotton shirt, and then kneaded his buttocks for a few seconds. "It's gonna be fast," he warned. "I'm right there now."
"It's okay," Hutch murmured, "I'm not made outta glass."
Starsky's organ pulsed harder and harder, feeling like it might burst before he could prepare Hutch. Somewhat frantically, he cast his eyes around the kitchen, looking for anything he could use. His lust-filled brain incapable of guiding him to the bedroom to retrieve the lubricant they had just used that morning. He spied the large bottle of olive oil on the counter by the sink, and in two steps had the bottle in his hand. The cap was already off.
Hutch saw what he had grabbed and spread his legs as far as they could go. He made no protest, just waited as his heart pounded against the hard surface. In an instant, he felt his shirttail being pushed out of the way and his cheeks separated.
The trickle of the thick oil caused him to gasp, as it left a tickling sensation down his skin before it reached his center. "Oh, God, Starsk...it feels weird."
"Hang on," Starsky smoothed the oily substance all around the clenched orifice, then as slowly as he could, he worked it inside with one finger. He had to clench his teeth now, his excitement threatening to explode. No matter what, though, he'd never hurt Hutch by entering him dry.
Hutch bore down on the finger, feeling Starsky's urgency as if it were his own. "Put in three. I'm open; I'm ready--you don't have to go slow."
Starsky didn't answer because he couldn't. He splashed a little more oil on his hand and on Hutch's butt, before plunging three fingers deep inside the slippery hole. He twisted his hand, seeking to give Hutch more pleasure and open him further at the same time. Hutch quivered in response, clutching the counter until his knuckles lost their color.
Still pumping his fingers, Starsky used his other hand to pour the oil over his aching cock, not caring that some dripped to the floor and onto the jeans still clinging to his thighs. He smoothed it from base to tip with a trembling hand, and then removed his fingers from Hutch's ass to position his weeping shaft. He inched in, finding little resistance. Hutch's body was open for him, and, with a sigh of relief, he drove himself in deep until he was flush against the pillowy rear. Hutch purred in response, arching backwards to tighten their union as Starsky began to piston. Together they found their rhythm--one as old as time itself.
Forty-five minutes later, the partners were sitting at the small kitchen table, eating chicken that was a little too dry, and french fries that were a little too crisp. The salad had never made its way to the refrigerator to be chilled, so it was room temperature, but the men ate hungrily, enjoying it all.
Both were bare-chested, bare-footed, and clad only in pajama bottoms. Starsky's were a deep wine color, while Hutch wore faded blue. After their earlier coupling, a shower had been a necessity.
"My butt still feels kinda slick," Hutch observed, reaching for more ketchup.
Starsky's grin was huge, as he replied with raised eyebrows. "I did try and get all the oil off you. I soaped your rump a lot."
"I was there, Starsk, remember? I'm not complaining, I was just mentioning that I have a slippery ass, that's all."
"Yeah? Let me feel for myself." Starsky made a half motion to rise, but Hutch stilled him with a look.
"Finish your dinner. I think your hands have been on my butt enough, considering we haven't even gone to bed yet." Hutch's smile took any sharpness out of his words.
"Well, I'll be checkin' it out when we do go to bed." Starsky spoke in a mock serious grumble. He was well satisfied now, but he liked to keep his blond guessing. "Hey, any more fries in the bowl?"
"Big talker." Hutch shoved the bowl at his elbow across the table. "I think we're both finished for today, plus we should figure out how to approach Straus tomorrow. You know, make some notes--work stuff?"
"I don't wanna work tonight," Starsky spoke with his mouth full of fries. "I'm tired, plus we don't know what to plan until we get Dobey's clearance and then talk to Straus."
Hutch got up from the table, carrying his used dishes to the sink. He wrapped up the last of the chicken, sticking it in the refrigerator while he answered, "I guess you're right. There's not a lot we can do tonight, and I'm tired, too. How about some TV in bed?" He added some tinfoil to the top of the salad bowl and stuck that in the refrigerator as well.
"Now you're talkin'." Starsky got up himself, juggling his plates with the now empty french fry bowl.
"You wanna wash or dry?" Hutch asked, filling the sink with warm water and adding a squirt of detergent.
"I'll dry." The dark-haired man quickly grabbed a sponge and wiped the counters down, while watching Hutch wait for the sink to fill. He found two dish towels and slung one over Hutch's shoulder, and the other over his own.
Hutch tested the water with an elbow and then plunged in up to his forearms, sending bubbles floating around the room. He never saw Starsky get behind him, but he did feel the elastic of the pajamas being pulled away from his waist, and the long fingered hand that began to rub all over his bare backside.
"You're right, Hutch. Your butt is still slippery." Starsky ducked his head when the wet sponge came flying backwards, laughing hard as it hit the wall, leaving a wet trail on the way to the floor.
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