The next morning found the detectives waiting in the same lobby for the same man they had waited for the day before. The check on Straus had come back clean. Dobey was satisfied with the spotless report and the approval of the federal agents' superiors. The meeting had ended quickly, and the result had been that Starsky and Hutch were cleared to plan an undercover investigation of Sizzle. No new word had come in during the night on the whereabouts of Marsha Wells.
As he had the day before, Straus greeted them loudly from the corridor and beckoned them inside.
"He's louder than Dobey," Starsky whispered as he followed his partner to the inner office. This time, both men eschewed the uncomfortable chairs and moved to the much less dangerous looking sofa. The talent agent followed them, dragging one of the uncomfortable chairs behind him.
"I'm not going to sit in the thing," Straus said in an exacting tone. "I'm not crazy. I just want something to lean on. Please, please, sit down and tell me. Have you found out anything about Marsha?"
The two cops noted the genuine worry in Straus' voice, and Starsky answered gently, "Not yet, Ben. We haven't received any new leads either."
The agent cast stricken eyes on the detectives. "Nothing? How can that be? How can a girl--a well-known girl--just up and vanish into thin air? It makes no sense."
Hutch leaned forward. "We agree. It doesn't make any sense, and we're very worried about what may have happened to her and how we can find her."
"Oh, God." Straus rubbed his reddened eyes. "The wife told me I tossed and turned all night. I feel it now. I feel a hundred years old right now." He took a deep breath. "You think she's dead, don't you? You think someone killed her."
"No, no we don't. We don't know anything yet, and we aren't jumping to any conclusions." Starsky softened his voice. "Ben, try and listen. We just don't know what happened and we need your help to find her.
"I told you yesterday, I'd do whatever it took. I have some money if you want to post a reward. I'll pay it, and if it isn't enough, I'll get more."
Hutch got up and stood next to the agent. "We appreciate that, but it isn't necessary right now. We do have a plan, though, and like my partner said, we need your help."
"Tell me." The agent clasped his hands together, and Hutch continued.
"We were able to get some of your suspicions regarding Anthony Ivey and Sizzle corroborated by," he hesitated, trying to find a better noun for their friend than snitch, "by an informed source. We took this information to the federal authorities and our captain. We've all agreed that our best place to start is inside Sizzle."
"What do you mean, inside?" Straus asked, confused.
"He means we plan on going in there, undercover, to see what we can sniff out without anyone knowing we're cops." Starsky left the sofa to stand next to Hutch.
"Undercover? Like on TV? Fake identity stuff?"
"That's right, and that's where we need your help." Hutch took a moment to appraise the agent's degree of distress. When he was satisfied that the man was in control and listening clearly, he went on. "We need you to be our guide to how to get in there. What can we pose as to gather the least amount of suspicion to us? We need to blend into the crowd there if we're going to be successful."
"And you think this will show you what happened to Marsha? You think I'm right, that that no good son-of-a-bitch, Tony, may have pulled some stunt?"
"We won't know until we get inside," Starsky clarified. "But, at the very least, we'll be able to see what's goin' on with those underage kids, and maybe even help them get home to their families, or at least into some kind of shelter where they can be protected."
"I always felt awful about those kids. I guess I should have called the authorities, huh?" Now guilt replaced the stricken look in Straus' eyes.
The detectives didn't answer in the affirmative, the way they wished they could. Instead, Hutch started, "It's not too late to help them now, and hopefully find Marsha at the same time. Can you tell us about the employees? What kind of work do they do?"
"That depends," Straus looked a little mollified by Hutch's comment. "Tony, is the star of the joint, and he owns it lock, stock and barrel. He has lots of people working for him: photographer's assistants, hair and make-up stylists, bookers, accountants, stock models and office help. It's a big studio."
The detectives considered the list. "How hard is it to get a job there as an office worker, or," Starsky glanced at Hutch, "an accountant? My partner is good with math, and both of us can type and file."
Straus shook his head. "You don't want one of those jobs. Those people are stuck in the back office and never interact with Tony or the models."
"Okay, how about a photographer's assistant? What do they do?" Hutch asked, thinking of Starsky's talent with a camera.
"Hutch..." Starsky knew where he was going.
"You could have been a professional photographer and you know it. Your stuff is ten times as good as the stuff that gets published." The agent didn't hear the note of pride in Hutch's voice, but Starsky did, and he flashed a shy smile.
"Partner, we're talkin' about a professional studio. I'm not good enough to fake it in there."
"Who says you'll be faking it? I'm telling you, you're talented enough to pull it off, we just have to get you hired." Hutch paced a few steps, his hands on his hips. "Ben, do you know how the hiring works at Sizzle? Would your recommendation get us in the door?"
"Sure, sure, I can get you an interview. Hell, if this one here," he jerked a chin in Starsky's direction, "is as good as you say he is and you can bring some samples in to prove it, Tony will probably hire him on the spot. He can't keep assistants. He treats them like dirt, and eventually they get fed up and go elsewhere. In fact, I know for certain that one quit last week."
"How many assistants does he usually have?" Starsky asked curiously.
"Four or five. They do a lot of catalog and print work at Sizzle. He could probably use ten."
"Okay, this is perfect," Hutch spoke confidently. "We'll get you in easy, Starsk. now we need a way in for me."
"We could show them those Polaroids you took in the woods that day," Starsky teased briefly.
"Very funny. Ignore my partner, Ben. I'm afraid I can't take a picture to save my life, but I can learn how to load a camera, and I've helped Starsky out in darkrooms sometimes. I've watched him mix the chemicals and I could learn how to do that. do you think there would be any kind of job like that?"
Straus laughed out loud. "Are you kidding? You just described what the photographer's assistants do. You don't think Tony actually lets them take any pictures for publication, do you? No way...he's a glory hound. The only one of his assistants that gets near a camera for production is Leslie, and she's been with him since the start. The rest are glorified gophers, but they still have to know every inch of a camera and have a portfolio of good samples, before Tony will consider them at all."
"Great." Hutch sighed loudly. "Well, what do you think, Starsk? We get you in the front side, and I try for one of the office slots? It's not as good as us both being up front, but maybe I can work my way around that."
"Well, it's not my first choice but it's better than nothing, I guess." Starsky kept his tone positive. It wasn't the best solution, but it was a way in for both of them. "Okay, Ben, can you make a phone call for us? See what's open in the office, and also see if you can get an appointment for me to try for that assistant's job. I'm gonna need some time to get some samples, but not that much."
Hutch smiled slightly at the comment. He knew Starsky kept the best of his photographs neatly mounted in a handsome leather folder.
Starsky was still talking to the agent. "I could be ready by this afternoon if you can get me in that quick. Maybe you can find out about any other spots that would get my partner closer to Tony, or to the staff closest to him. He's not gonna be able to do his best work stuck in the back and, frankly, we work better if we're close together."
Straus nodded but didn't say anything. He rubbed his eyes again and moved a little closer to where Hutch was sitting. "Can you stand up for a second, Detective?"
Hutch looked surprised at the request and darted his eyes to Starsky, receiving a shrug in return. "Um, sure." Hutch got to his feet, standing a little stiffly. "I'm up," he quipped.
"Can you turn around? Move slowly, if you don't mind." The agent was looking Hutch up and down now, and both detectives noticed it.
Hutch shook his head a little, but did revolve slowly around one time. "Okay, wanna tell me what this is about?"
"Yeah, yeah...you might just have a shot." The agent was talking under his breath and definitely to himself.
"A shot at what, Ben?" Starsky asked loudly, since the agent seemed to be lost in thought.
"Getting hired on as a model."
"A model?!" Hutch's voice squeaked in shock.
"A model?" Starsky repeated, sounding surprised but not shocked.
"A stock model," Straus clarified. Tony has a large string of stock models who work directly for him, unlike the big names who normally work for an agency that hires Tony. Part of Tony's business..." He paused. "Didn't I already tell you this?"
"It's okay to say it twice, whatever it is," Starsky assured the man.
"The catalog work is what pays the rent. That's the stuff he uses stock models for. You know what I mean. The pretty young housewife showing off her new refrigerator, or the happy businessman posing in his new Porsche. Those people are stock models. I'm afraid some of those kids I was tellin' you about are stock models, too."
"And you think Tony would hire Hutch as a stock model?" Starsky was clearly pleased.
"I think so; he's tall and thin. Handsome face and he's got those nice blue eyes. Plus he's blond, and it looks natural to me. Tony will go for that look."
Starsky smothered a grin. "I'm certain my partner is a natural blond, Ben." He made a show of studying his partner carefully. He did note the reddish flush to Hutch's cheeks, but couldn't resist teasing him just a little. "I suppose he's good lookin' enough."
"Oh, yeah, I can always tell a bottle job." Straus was proud of his many years in the business, and it showed. "I'm a modeling agent, remember? I'm telling you, he's plenty good looking enough."
"Um, guys? Um, thank you, but you're both forgetting one thing--I can't model. I-I have no idea how to model." Hutch was hoping that the nervous twinge in his voice wasn't noticeable. "Tony would see right off that I have no experience, and then not only would I not get in on the front end, but I'd have blown my chance to get in on the office side, too."
"Modeling is not that hard. Of course, I wouldn't want you to repeat that to any of my clients. They think they're doing brain surgery half the time, but basically it's being able to take direction, move easily, and be a perfect living clothes hanger. The hours are long and you're on your feet all day. That part can be hard. Of course, you're too old to do any fashion shots, anyway, and those are the hardest."
"Wait a minute, I'm only thirty--" Hutch began indignantly, but Straus cut him off.
"If you're over twenty-five--and you look over twenty-five to me--you're too old to do any fashion shots. It doesn't matter, though. You're the perfect age to play the dad in back-to-school ads, or the husband buying his wife some bauble. You know the type of ads I mean, you must see them in magazines and newspapers all the time."
"I guess we haven't been paying enough attention to advertising, Ben, but we'll trust your experience in this matter. If you think he can get in that way, we'll go with it." Starsky was trying to ignore Hutch's sputtering.
"It'll be okay, partner. you'll be fine, and I'll be there the whole time." Starsky refrained from patting Hutch's knee and turned again to the agent. "Now, can you help us create some kind of background for him? Something that Tony will buy? After all, as you said he isn't twenty-five, and what if Tony gets suspicious about wanting to see what he's done before? Any ideas?"
"Sure, sure. Hutch--I can call him Hutch?"
"Yeah, you can call him Hutch. You can call me Starsky."
"Good, okay. I'll tell them that he's the client of a friend of mine from the Midwest--he looks like he could be from the Midwest--and that he's just relocated to California. I'm helping him out, you see. helping him get a gig, because he and my associate are friends. It's a favor thing. This business runs a lot on favors...Sizzle owes me a bunch of them. I rep the top models in town. Of course, the one thing I can't tell is if he's photogenic or not. If he's not, there's no way he's getting in, no matter how many favors they owe me."
"I don't know if I'm--" Hutch was cut off again.
"He's photogenic," Starsky answered with assurance.
"I'll need a head shot of him--eight-by-ten glossy."
"That's no problem; we'll take care of that today." Starsky was still speaking for both of them. "Now, we're going to want to go in at separate times, maybe two, three days apart. Me first, so can you work on the assistant's job first?"
"It's done. I'll be on it as soon as you leave. There's one thing, though. All of this is going to take time. Time to get you in there, and once you're in, time for you to find out anything. What about Marsha while all this time is going by?"
Hutch found his voice. "We're not the only police officers working the case, and the federal authorities are also involved. Trust us, there's plenty of manpower available to hunt down any lead, and the feds are doing background checks now, on both Marsha and any family and friends they can find. The case will not be idle while we're getting set up."
"I better make those calls," was Straus' only reply. He did smile at Hutch, though.
"Okay, thank you. So you'll let us know as soon as you have anything arranged?" Starsky asked, while handing him another business card. As an afterthought, he found a pen and jotted his home number on it as well. "You can reach us at either of these two numbers."
"I'll be in touch. I'm going to make this happen as fast as I can." The agent hurried to his desk, as Starsky and Hutch waved good-bye and headed out of the office.
After a brief stop at Metro to inform Dobey of their plans and to gather some of the paperwork that still needed to be completed from their desks, the men headed over to Starsky's place. Now that they were on an undercover assignment, even one that hadn't started yet, it was important that they maintain a very low profile. They wouldn't be working the street or going to Metro very often, until the assignment was over. Much to both men's chagrin, Dobey insisted they could get some of their backlogged reports completed while they waited and prepared for their stint undercover. He even suggested they borrow one of the department's portable typewriters. It now sat in the back seat of the Torino.
Hutch carried the paperwork upstairs for safekeeping, but neither wanted to work on reports right then. They were both focused, Hutch albeit nervously, on preparing for their roles.
"Think we can have a beer?" Starsky asked hopefully, with his head stuck in the refrigerator. "We're kind of off duty."
"Yeah, I think so, and I know I can use one." Hutch flopped on the couch, putting his feet up on the coffee table. His sigh was loud enough for Starsky to hear from the kitchen. "I don't know how you think I'm going to pull off being a model, Starsk."
"I know you can, simple as that," Starsky joined him on the couch and handed over a cold can of Coors. "I know you're nervous now, but once you're doing it, it'll be the same as every other undercover assignment. You're a terrific actor when you gotta be. This is no different than any of those other times, and you're always a little nervous until we get going." Starsky toed off his sneakers and kicked them aside. He ran a socked foot over Hutch's booted calf. "You'll be terrific."
"Yeah, but Starsk, this is in front of a camera, posing and stuff." Hutch took a healthy gulp from his beer.
"Hey, speaking of cameras, I better find mine. I've gotta take some shots of you, then we'll have to set up my developing stuff in the bathroom." Starsky got up and headed for his desk. It only took him a moment to find his much loved Nikon F2. He checked it over quickly. "I've even got film, so we're in business."
"Aw, Starsk, do we have to do that right now?"
"No. You can finish your beer, but then we gotta do it. We have to be ready, and I don't wanna lose the natural light. I'm gonna take some shots on the balcony, and then maybe I'll find something around here to use as a decent backdrop, and I can take some inside shots."
Hutch groaned loudly, but Starsky ignored him and headed back to the kitchen. The low rumbling in his stomach had reminded him that they hadn't eaten yet today. He made a quick search of the refrigerator and pulled out a plate of ham, some cheddar cheese, bread and mayonnaise. "I'm making ham sandwiches." Starsky raised his voice to be heard clearly in the living room. "Do you want cheese on yours?"
"Yeah. You want some help?"
"No, I got it. Finish your beer."
After they were done with their quick lunch, Starsky herded Hutch into the bedroom. "Brush your hair, while I find you something to change into." He headed for his dresser.
"What's wrong with the shirt I'm wearing?" Hutch asked, while heading to the adjoining bathroom to deal with his fly away hair.
"It's the wrong color. It won't photograph well."
"Okay, you're the expert." Hutch was wielding the brush like a weapon, but his hair didn't want to lie down. "There's a lot of static electricity in the air or something. Starsk! I look like Dennis the Menace!"
From the dresser, Starsky rubbed his mouth to smother a laugh. When he was composed, he called out, " Bring the brush with you; I'll fix it after you change." He continued rifling through the drawers until he found what he sought--a soft cashmere sweater in forest-green. He shook it out once and laid it on the bed. "Hurry up!"
"I'm coming, don't yell at me." Hutch's hair was sticking up in a few places, but he didn't resemble Dennis the Menace.
"I wasn't yelling. I was speaking enthusiastically." Starsky smiled and pointed to the sweater. "Put that on."
"Isn't it kind of hot for a sweater?" Hutch asked, unbuttoning his shirt.
"You're not going to be wearing it that long, and the color is perfect."
Hutch fingered the soft material before slipping it over his head. The sweater was V-necked and, other than being a little short in the sleeves, fit him fine. "This is nice. where'd you get this?"
"My mom sent it to me a couple of weeks ago; there was some sale at Barney's or Macy's or somewhere. It looks good on you, but push the sleeves up some." Hutch did as he was asked. "Okay, sit down and let me see what I can do with your hair. Mine's not stickin' up, ya know."
"That mop of yours is too heavy to lift off your head."
Starsky laughed as he brushed the fine blond hair back off Hutch's face. It didn't take long for the strands to fall into their normal shape. "Okay, we're ready. To the balcony we go." Starsky made a flourishing gesture with his left arm.
Once outside, Starsky took a few practice shots of the sky just to adjust his lens. He posed Hutch with one arm on the railing and one at his side. "Smile." Hutch plastered a grin on his face.
"Okay, that was my fault, I should have told you to smile naturally." Starsky looked up, a patient expression on his face.
"Come on, give me a good one."
They went on like that for ten minutes--Starsky cajoling, and Hutch trying his best to cooperate. Starsky was getting some shots, but not the one he wanted. "Hey, relax for a minute, I'm going to switch settings." Hutch let out a sigh of relief for the reprieve and turned his back to Starsky, leaning both elbows and his waist against the railing. He watched a few birds fly by, while Starsky was making his adjustments behind him.
"Um, hm? You ready?" Hutch asked with his back still turned.
"Not quite, but I was just wondering if I'd told you today that I love you."
Hutch turned his head over his shoulder, and his face lit up with a tender smile. Starsky clicked quickly. He got his shot.
Later that afternoon after taking several interior poses, Starsky was in the bathroom, which he'd converted into a temporary darkroom. Hutch had brought up the typewriter and was working on some of their reports when the phone rang. Starsky heard the ring faintly, but not what Hutch was saying to the caller. He was just about finished, and it took less than five minutes to join Hutch again in the living room. His partner was back on the couch. "Who was on the phone?"
"Straus," Hutch answered. "You're in, buddy, or at least you have an interview. You have to be at Sizzle tomorrow morning at eight. You're meeting with the great Anthony Ivey himself."
At 7:45 the next morning, Starsky was waiting in an art deco styled lobby. Unlike the pleasant, professional receptionist at Straus' office, the receptionist at Sizzle was little older than a teenager and viewed Starsky as suspiciously as if he were there to rob the place. After checking his appointment with Ivey's personal secretary, she'd waved him to a chair without saying a word.
For this I got up at the crack of dawn, to be sneered at by Miss Teenage Horror Story? Hutch is probably still sleeping, too, while I wait to see Tony the Artiste and who knows what else he is. Starsky was trying to stifle a yawn, as he mentally prepared himself for his meeting with the photographer. The longer the wait, the sleepier he was becoming.
He and Hutch had been up late preparing the fake background he would use and sorting through his leather portfolio. All his photos of Hutch had to be removed, as well as any he'd taken at any police event. He smiled under another yawn, remembering Hutch's surprise when he viewed so many pictures of himself that he'd never seen before.
Starsk, when did you take all these? Hutch had asked.
When you weren't looking.
The loud buzz from the receptionist's station broke into Starsky's reverie. He glanced at his watch and saw that the photographer was already more than twenty minutes late for their meeting.
"You can go back now, Mr. Simms. Third door on your right." The receptionist didn't look up as she spoke.
That's me, Mr. Simms, Mr. Donald Simms. "Thank you," Starsky muttered, grabbing his portfolio and smoothing down the crease in his beige dress pants as he rose. He and Hutch had decided on pseudonyms using the initials from their real names, just to make things simpler. When Straus pulled off an interview for Hutch, he'd be using the name Kevin Harris. Starsky took a deep breath and headed for the inner offices.
The third door on the right, was unmarked and closed. Starsky tapped on it lightly. He heard a muffled voice from inside the room. Then, "Come in already!"
Starsky wasn't sure what to expect when he entered the large office. All that he'd been told about Tony Ivey said he was a brilliant, temperamental, morally bankrupt individual. The man at the center of his thoughts was standing in the middle of the large, rectangular room. He was tall, Starsky noted, but reed thin. He had the kind of dark brown hair that was so deep it could look black in some lights. His face was so thin it made his features appear too large, and right then, Starsky was staring into an open cavernous mouth that was twisted in anger. Ivey was shouting into the phone.
"I want you to just fucking make it happen! That's all. It's very simple. Just do it!" Ivey slammed the phone down before turning to Starsky. "Come on, come over here. If you're expecting a polite, formal interview you may want to try another studio. I don't work that way."
"I'm just looking for a fair chance, Mr. Ivey," Starsky put on his most ingratiating smile and delivered the first of what he assumed would be many insincere statements. "I've admired your work for a long time, and I'd just love the chance to learn from you."
"You can shit can the kiss ass stuff. That goes nowhere with me; in fact, it pisses me off. I know every little wannabe to ever pick up an instamatic wants to work with the best, and that's me. The best. Now why don't you just show me your book?" Ivey plopped in his desk chair and lit a cigarette. He tapped on his desktop impatiently. "I'm really not bullshitting you when I say I'm a busy man. Bring your book here, please."
Starsky hurried to the desk, unwrapping the leather thongs from his portfolio as he went. He dropped the book down where indicated and stepped back. Ivey had not offered him a chair, and he decided against taking one on his own, preferring to remain standing. For several moments, the only sound in the room was the exhalation of smoke and the quick page turns of mounted pictures. Then, Ivey slammed the book shut.
Okay, am I in, or am I shit canned? Starsky thought, unconsciously using Ivey's previous vernacular. He raised expectant eyes to the photographer.
"They're decent." Ivey stamped out his cigarette and reached for the phone. "You're no Avedon, but I expect you already know that since you're satisfied with working as an assistant at your age. Straus said you can load a camera and I'm a loader short, so I'll try you for one week. You fuck up once, and I'll shit can you on the spot." He started to dial a number, then glanced back up at Starsky. "What? I just told you, you have a week. Now get out of here. Go find Leslie. Leslie is my assistant and she deals with all the other assistants. She'll set you up."
Starsky was caught between relief that he was being hired and confusion as to what he was supposed to do next. "Okay, thank you, Mr. Ivey. Um, Leslie will tell me when I start I guess? And I can find her in the studio?"
"Oh, God, I have no time for this. Please tell me that you're smarter than those questions indicate? You start today. Now. This moment. I hope that's not disruptive to the plans you may have already made for the day?"
This guy is a first class prick. I'd like to know how he's lived so long and kept all his own teeth, Starsky thought darkly, while trying to arrange his face in a pleasant manner.
"I'm very happy to start today, Mr. Ivey, and I'll just go find Leslie now." Starsky managed to get the words out with a smile, but he hurried for the door. He paused for just a second with the knob in hand, but when Ivey didn't speak again, he made his grateful exit.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Starsky eased the door closed and turned around. He encountered a solid force in front of him. He jumped back against the door. "Excuse me, ma'am, I didn't see you."
"That's all right," a slender woman in her late thirties smiled reassuringly. "I was listening at the door and waiting for Tony to let you loose. I'm Leslie Curry, and I'll be trying to make your first day with us a little more comfortable now."
Starsky let out some pent-up breath and returned the smile. "That's good to hear, Miss Curry. I wasn't even sure where I was supposed to start looking for you, never mind if I remembered how to operate a camera after that interview."
"Call me Leslie." The easy smile was back, and the woman lightly touched Starsky's elbow. "Come on, let's get a cup of coffee and I'll explain what your assignments will be." The tall woman led the way down the narrow corridor until they reached a makeshift lunchroom. Starsky looked around curiously.
There were a few tables with chairs, and additional chairs were scattered around the room. Three coffeepots were in various stages of use. One brewing, one nearly seared to the burner, and one being passed back and forth between two girls wearing short bathrobes and heavy make-up. They waved at Leslie briefly, but otherwise made no comment as they continued filling their cups and adding saccharine. Others--both men and women--wandered in and out, clutching mugs and moving with speed. Starsky didn't see anyone who looked to be under eighteen, but since all the women--and to his eye, the men--were made up, it wasn't as easy to gauge their ages.
After they found two clean mugs, Leslie guided them to a table. She took a sip of her coffee. "So you survived our Tony. You're to be congratulated."
"Is he always in that good a mood?" Starsky asked pointedly.
"I'd like to tell you that Tony's bark is worse than his bite, but I'd be lying. He's a brilliant, temperamental artist, but I'm afraid he has little patience." Leslie spoke in an indulgent voice, as if she were explaining a toddler's antics.
"Then I assume you have a lot of patience." Starsky tried for a light tone and sipped his coffee, wondering if he could keep the conversation on the photographer without appearing to be too curious in his first thirty minutes on the job.
"I've worked for Tony for years. I admire his talent and respect his abilities. I suppose I can ignore most of his moods. This is a hard business to run, and he's had some--personal...well...you know. Everyone's life gets crazy sometimes." Leslie set her cup down and brushed some hair out of her eyes. "Now, let me explain what we'll be expecting from you, Donald."
Starsky hid his disappointment when the subject was changed to his duties. He'd been hoping that Leslie would continue talking, and perhaps even mention that the photographer's girlfriend was missing. Instead, he listened to a rundown of very basic job responsibilities that he'd be performing. When Leslie was finished talking, she stood up. "Okay, that's about everything. I'll take you to our office manager now, so you can be put on the payroll, then we'll go to the darkrooms. There's a good deal of film from two shoots yesterday that need to be printed. You can start there."
It was 9:00 that evening before Starsky wearily walked into his home, as tired as he'd been from any day in recent memory. Sizzle moved at a frantic pace, and from the moment he'd been put into the darkroom, he'd worked non-stop. Finally at 8:00, the last shoot of the day was over, and no one had anything else for him to do. He made the long drive home, trying not to think that he'd be back in twelve hours. Instead, he wondered what Hutch had done all day and anticipated seeing his partner again.
Hutch was sitting on the couch, slumped over the typewriter that was set up on the coffee table. He was typing with one hand and rubbing the back of his neck with the other.
"I hope you haven't been sittin' like that all day long." Starsky shut the door and moved toward the couch as he spoke.
"Hey, Starsk," Hutch's welcoming smile was especially sweet to the worn out cop. "How'd it go?"
Starsky leaned over the back of the couch and grasped Hutch's shoulders. Hutch raised his face, as Starsky lowered his, and kissed him hello. "Hi. I missed you."
"That's what I like to hear." Hutch grabbed one more light kiss before Starsky straightened. "So, how'd it go?"
"I'll tell you about it after I get out of these clothes and grab a beer." Starsky headed for the bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt as he went.
"I was beginning to think I was going to have to send a patrol car to check on you," Hutch commented loudly enough to be heard in the bedroom.
"Trust me, partner, there were times today that I wish you would have." Starsky came out wearing his old, comfortable blue bathrobe. "That place is run like a concentration camp."
"That bad, huh?" Hutch pulled the sheet of paper from the typewriter and set it on a small stack of folders. He leaned against the cushion and used two hands this time to rub the back of his neck. "Sit down and tell me about it."
"I'm getting the beer first. you want one?"
"No thanks. I made some macaroni and cheese a couple of hours ago. You want me to heat it up for you? You must be starved."
"I think I'm too tired to eat right now." Starsky reentered the living room, yawning as he spoke, and sat down in his fan-backed chair, beer in hand. He patted his knee. "C'mere."
Hutch smiled and moved from the couch to sit on the floor between Starsky's bare legs. He leaned his head back and stretched his own legs out to their full length.
Starsky put his beer down and started a firm massage at the nape of Hutch's neck. "I'll tell you one thing, just for openers. Ivey should be arrested for being the meanest asshole to ever walk the earth, even if we find out he hasn't committed any crime, and I strongly doubt we will."
"Little more to the middle," Hutch directed as he rotated his head slowly. "Yeah, there. Oh, God, that's sore." Hutch shut his eyes as Starsky increased the pressure between his shoulder blades. "So tell me. I'm guessing Marsha Wells wasn't hanging around the place?"
"How'd you get your neck this bad? Jesus, Hutch, did you sit slumped over all day? Your lower back is probably worse." Starsky dropped his hand to the small of Hutch's back. "No," he sighed, using the heel of his hand to rub now. "Marsha Wells was most definitely not in sight. Nor were any drugs that I could see. Some of those models were pretty wired, though."
"Well, we both knew Straus had to be exaggerating when he said that drugs were out in plain sight. I'm sure he has seen them occasionally, and they probably are on the premises most of the time, but I'm guessing they're somewhat careful about them." Hutch patted Starsky's calf, settling back against him. "That's good, Starsk. That helped, and you're tired. Just relax now."
"I'll do a better job when we go to bed." He grabbed his beer again, drinking thirstily. "I'm gonna try and figure out a way to get closer to Ivey tomorrow. They had me locked up in the darkroom all morning, and in the afternoon when I was in the studio, he wasn't."
"How'd you do as a photographer's assistant?" Hutch asked with a caress to the calf he was lightly holding.
"I did fine, I guess. It was pretty boring work to tell you the truth, but Leslie told me that one of the other assistants didn't show up for work today and he didn't call in, so I have a feeling I'll be doing more than grunt work soon, since they're so shorthanded."
"Did you get his name?"
"Sure. I already called it in to Dobey on the way home. He's gonna run a make on the guy."
"I love having a partner who's smart as well as charming."
"You forgot gorgeous."
"I never forget that."
"Better not. so, what did you get done today while I was slaving away?"
"What about Leslie? You didn't tell me about her," Hutch reminded his tired friend.
"Oh, yeah. Well, she thinks that Ivey pisses perfume. She started to say that something was going on in his "personal life," but she shut up real fast. She's been with the guy for years, and she knows that studio like she built it."
"And no one mentioned the fact that his girlfriend is missing?" Hutch asked in disbelief.
"Not directly, at least not that I heard, but like I said, they had me locked up half the day. I did overhear two of the models talking about a police visit, but they clammed up when they saw me. I'll do better tomorrow. I won't be the stranger who's gettin' stared at." Starsky rubbed his eyes fiercely. "God, I'm tired." Another yawn escaped. "Did anything turn up on this end?"
"Nope. I took a few of our finished reports over to Metro about noon, and checked in with Dobey. He said that the feds have been in contact with the girl's family and that was a dead end. Apparently, her folks died when she was a child, and an aunt and uncle raised her. Not a happy home life. She left the place for good at seventeen, and they didn't try to find her. They told the agents they haven't heard from her in four years."
"This is lookin' strange, Hutch. It's been over seventy-two hours, and none of us have turned one clue yet."
"We've gone that long without a lead before, and you just went under today." Hutch was getting to his feet as he spoke. "By the way, that pile of reports on the table needs your signature."
"Okay--but in the morning."
Hutch made his way to the kitchen. "You won't have time in the morning; you're up at what, five-thirty?" The sound of pans being rattled reached Starsky's ears as he groaned.
"Thanks for the reminder, pal."
"You're welcome. Do you want some salad with your macaroni and cheese?"
"Remember? I said I'm not really hungry. I'll eat breakfast, okay?"
"At five-thirty?" the blond head popped out of the kitchen to ask.
"Shit." Starsky thought quickly but could come up with no way out of a pre-dawn rising. The drive to the studio was too long, and he was expected back and working by 8:00, which meant he really should be there at 7:30. "Shit," he mumbled again. "Yeah, give me some salad, too."
"Will do," Hutch replied cheerfully. "Now find a pen and sign the reports that I've been slaving over."
After Starsky signed the reports, grateful--although he didn't say it aloud--for the huge backlog of paperwork that was now behind them, he did manage to eat most of the warmed-up dinner Hutch had placed in front of him. He was yawning so loudly throughout the meal, Hutch took pity on him and removed the plates from the table. "Go to bed, buddy, before I have to carry you in there."
"Yeah, I'm goin'. Aren't you coming?"
"I'm right behind you; I'm just going to rinse off the plates."
Starsky nodded and made his way blearily to the bathroom. His teeth received a cursory brushing, before he made his way to the bedroom, shed his robe and climbed between the navy blue sheets. Dimly, he could hear Hutch in the bathroom as he started to drift.
Hutch came in quietly, and took care to undress with as little noise as possible. The bedside lamp was still on, but Starsky's eyes were closed.
The poor guy is beat, Hutch thought as he finished undressing, laying his clothes on the chair. He was wearing his underwear when he pulled his side of the bedcovers down. Then there were some mumbled words from Starsky's side of the bed.
"Take 'em off."
"Huh? Your eyes are closed, how did you know I was wearing them."
"Heard what you took off." The mumble was barely discernable now.
"Starsk, you're asleep, buddy."
"Don' care. There's always the mornin'." The last word was half spoken and half sighed.
Hutch waited for a moment, but there was only silence and deep breathing. He removed his briefs, tossing them in the general direction of the chair before climbing in next to his partner. He pulled him close, appreciating the warm naked skin. Then he whispered softly into an ear. "You have to be up at five-thirty."
The next morning was even harder than the previous one for Starsky. The alarm tortured him awake at the appointed hour, and not even a pillow would smother its demanding shrill. Hutch added a pointed shove to his shoulder before he succumbed to the inevitable and got out of bed.
"I'll make you some coffee while you shower," Hutch whispered, eyes still tightly closed. He was snoring softly again before Starsky was even inside the bathroom.
Sure you will, Blondie. You're dead to the world and comfortable and warm, while I'm standing here freezing in the middle of the night waiting for the shower to heat up.
Once the water was above chilled, Starsky managed a quick shower followed by a quicker shave. He needed coffee before he left the house. Hutch was still snoring lightly while he dressed and found his shoes. He shut the door partially behind him as he headed for the kitchen and got the coffee on. He'd almost finished his first cup when Hutch padded from the bedroom, rubbing his eyes and trying to stuff his arm in a robe that was inside out.
"I was going to make that for you."
"But then you fell back to sleep."
"You want something to eat?"
"No. I want you to trade places with me. You go be a photographer's assistant and I'll go back to bed."
Hutch was all the way in the kitchen now, his robe only partially on. He kissed Starsky sleepily. "Good morning. I'd do it for you if I could. I'll call Straus later and see how he's doing on getting me in."
"I'd prefer it if you weren't all naked and gorgeous right now when I gotta go. Plus, you're gonna freeze to death." Starsky untangled the rest of the robe and tied the belt around Hutch's middle. "I know you would," he continued. "I'm just bitching, and I have to leave now. I'll try and check in later."
"Okay, I'll stay in touch with Dobey and work from this end." Hutch reached for a mug while yawning. He stared at the empty porcelain and then put it back. "I don't really have to be up now."
Starsky shook his head and finished the remains in his cup. "Nope, you can sleep all you want, and I'm gonna try and not resent that. I'll see you tonight."
Hutch was on his way back to the bedroom when Starsky left. Luckily he encountered little traffic, so his drive to the studio was faster than he'd anticipated. When he reached the entrance to Sizzle, he took a moment to mentally prepare himself to don the persona of Donald Simms, photographer's assistant, and stepped inside. Ignoring the receptionist, he hurried for the main studio.
The room had been transformed in the short hours since he'd left it. It now resembled a luxurious ski lodge, complete with fake fireplace. Two models he hadn't seen the day before were sitting in tall stools toward the rear of the room, looking bored and smoking cigarettes. Ivey and Leslie were in a heated discussion with two men Starsky didn't recognize. They were all standing in the middle of the raised platform floor. Starsky stayed quietly at the door, listening intently.
"I don't care that you and your crew worked all night. I don't care. It's your job, the thing I pay you for. I've got the representatives from Revlon coming here in one hour to check on the shoot. Do you see those two women sitting on those stools?" Starsky saw the arm Ivey used to gesture with nearly hit Leslie in the face. He continued listening as the furious photographer continued. "Those are Revlon models, and they're now making a handsome sum of money to sit on their skinny asses because the set is all wrong!"
The two men stared at the floor both looking exhausted and abashed. They said nothing.
Starsky saw Leslie put herself between the men and Ivey, and then she laid a hand on Ivey's arm. "Tony, we have an hour. I know the changes you want done, so why don't you let me manage them and you go to your office and just unwind for a few minutes. You haven't slept in days."
Ivey turned his face away, and Starsky was able to clearly see the change in his expression. He looked stricken. He didn't answer his assistant, but he nodded and started to walk away. Leslie followed him to the door, and Starsky unobtrusively moved out of the way and settled himself partially behind a corner back drop.
"I thought she would have called me by now, Les. What if something did happen? What if this isn't one of her games?" The photographer spoke in a whisper, but Starsky was able to hear him.
"She still may, Tony, maybe even this morning. There's been nothing found to indicate that anything happened to her, you know that." Leslie's voice was singsong soothing, and even Starsky could see Ivey relax under her tone. "Now you go on and let me handle this. I'll send someone to get you when it's done. We still have lots of time."
Starsky stepped out of his corner when Ivey left the studio. Leslie spotted him immediately. "Donald, I'm so glad you're early since we have a hell of a morning ahead."
"Yeah, I heard a little about that when I came in," Starsky mentioned in a light tone.
"The set argument? That was nothing, although I've got to get the guys started on the changes. It's really no big deal. Tony is just a little overwrought right now, and he was...disappointed that the chalet doors aren't opening properly. It's a little thing since they'll be closed for the shoot, but he likes a realistic set."
And giving his employees ulcers, Starsky thought darkly, remembering the downcast eyes of the workmen who had obviously been up all night. He plastered on a smile. "So, where do you want me to start?"
"Well, I have another no-show today. Sam left a message saying he has the flu and won't be in for the rest of the week. That leaves me two assistants down and a ton of work to get done. I'm going to need you to take some color tests for a scheduled run later in the week, and there's a group of hopefuls coming in this afternoon. I'll need you to manage that entire process. I'll be tied up with Revlon, and Mike--the other assistant--is going to be working with some of the kids on a record cover."
Starsky's ears perked up at the mention of "kids" but he asked instead, "Hopefuls? I'm sorry but what process will I be managing?"
"We have four or five new guys coming in this afternoon to test as stock models. House models. You know."
"Sure, of course." Starsky smiled confidently. "So I'll be taking the test shots?"
"Yes, and pick through their books. See if you can find one or two of their own glossies that I can stick under Tony's nose without his pitching a fit." Leslie spoke tiredly. "He'll choose the ones he wants to hire himself, so we'll be keeping them around until Tony can find a few minutes to break free and see them. If I can give him a heads-up with their own head shots, it saves him time."
"I guess an operation like this hires models on a regular basis?" Starsky asked.
"Yes, on a contract basis. We always need fresh faces, although we manage to keep our more reliable stock models working pretty steadily. It depends on the jobs." Leslie glanced at her watch. "I have to get going. You're clear on everything?"
"Yeah, no problem. I'll get started now."
"Thank you." Leslie hurried off to start the set designers on their changes, and Starsky left the studio to start his morning. Before he went to the smaller studio down the hall, he made a quick detour to the Torino, which he'd parked one block away from Sizzle. He needed to call in the name of the flu-ridden assistant to Dobey.
The next four hours flew by, as Starsky got the test shots completed and was required to do another stint in the darkroom. The passing of time was marked with increasingly louder rumblings coming from his empty stomach.
Haven't these people ever heard of lunch breaks? he asked himself, wishing he'd thought to bring a sandwich from home. The time spent in the darkroom was doubly frustrating because it meant less time interacting with the studio staff.
At least this afternoon I'll be able to get closer to some of these people when I shoot the "hopefuls" coming in. I'll have to have more time with Leslie and maybe even Ivey. The thought of the afternoon's assignment made him think of Hutch, and he hoped that his partner was getting good news from Straus about his own interview. The sooner Hutch got in here the better Starsky would like it.
A sharp rap on the door interrupted his thoughts. He didn't recognize the voice that called to him. "Hey, Simms. Studio two is filling up fast and I was told to get your ass down there."
"I'm on my way." Starsky hurriedly completed the last negative he'd been working on, rinsed off his hands, and made his way to studio two. Four men were waiting inside with what appeared to be varying degrees of nervousness and boredom. The youngest looked to be about twenty and the oldest somewhere in his early fifties, which surprised Starsky a little. He plunged in.
"Hi, I'm Donald Simms and I'll be taking your test shots. I'll also need to see your, um, your books. I'll need to pick out a glossy or two before we get started." Starsky watched as all four men reached for leather folders and plastic cased eight-by-tens. "I suppose you all brought resumes?"
The loud opening of the studio's door interrupted the answer. The receptionist popped her head in. "I've got one more for you. He was late." The girl said nothing else as she left, clearing the entrance for a tall man who looked at Starsky a little nervously. "I'm sorry I'm late." The man moved forward with an out stretched hand. "My name is Kevin Harris."
Starsky blinked rapidly but managed to keep his face expressionless as he clasped his partner's hand. "Hi Kevin, I'm Donald Simms, th-the photographer, er, photographer's assistant. Um, I'll be taking the test shots."
"Good, thanks. Ah--nice to meet you." Hutch nodded imperceptibly and raised a manila folder. "I brought my head shots."
Starsky was regaining his equilibrium. "You can just wait with the others, Kevin, while I set up."
Starsky was grateful for the unfamiliar camera waiting for him on the tripod. It gave him something to focus on other than the astonishing appearance of his partner, who was now trying to look at home in his surroundings.
Well, partner, I wished for you and here you are.
Now that the surprise was wearing off, Starsky felt a strong sense of relief. His earlier frustrations at not having turned any leads were slipping away as his natural optimism took over. Now that he and Hutch would both be working from the inside, they'd be able to make some real progress.
Finishing with the camera, Starsky grabbed the clipboard with the directions for the body angles and head placement that Leslie was looking for in the pictures. He stole a glance at the hopeful applicants and saw that Hutch was clearly the most nervous of all. He felt a stirring of compassion for his partner, who really didn't like to be on display, and decided to end his wait. "Kevin, if you'll step up to the white line here, I'll start with you."
He could see Hutch swallowing from six feet away, but the blond squared his shoulders and ambled to the line. Wearing a black shirt tucked into crème colored pants, Hutch looked both sophisticated and elegant. Starsky tried to communicate his approval with a sly wink as he gave his instructions. "Okay, if you'll just turn your head to the right, chin up a little and relax your arms for me."
Hutch tried hard not to blink--as hard as he tried to relax under the gentle voice directing his positions. Although it felt longer, in just a few minutes he was done and Starsky was smiling at him.
"Thank you. That's all I need, but you'll have to hang around, okay?"
"Sure." Hutch stepped over to the back wall, still feeling his heart beat too fast. He caught his breath and watched as Starsky worked calmly and confidently with the other models. Even to Hutch's untrained eye, he could see that Starsky knew how to get the best poses arranged and the most natural shots. His partner was as graceful and easy going as if he'd always been doing this.
When we retire from the force, he can do this for a living and support me in the manner to which I could become accustomed. The thought made Hutch smile and he felt the last twinges of his nervousness fade away as he watched Starsky work.
All the test shots were just completed when Leslie flew into the room. She went to Starsky immediately. "I have two minutes; the Revlon shoot is not going well and I'm afraid Tony is going to murder someone in a moment."
Starsky and Hutch took care to not look at each other, Hutch in particular maintaining a casual stance as he stood with the other models.
Leslie continued. "Do you have the glossies?"
"Yeah, right here." Starsky handed over the small, neat stack. He made sure that Hutch's picture was on top.
"Thanks. Show them where they can get coffee, but no one leaves the building until I get back." With that, the harried woman flew back out of studio two.
"So," Starsky smiled at the comely group. "Who wants to come get a cup of coffee with me?"
The lunchroom was more active than the day before, and there were almost no free chairs. Starsky pointed out where the empty mugs were located, allowing the men to help themselves while he hung back and waited.
Hutch poured himself half a cup and smiled his way over to where Starsky was standing.
"I'll explain tonight," Hutch whispered so softly that Starsky barely heard him.
"I'm just glad to see you here." Starsky returned in as soft a voice, then casually walked over to the fifty-something-year-old model to make small talk.
Hutch took a few sips of his coffee, then looked carefully around the room. The most crowded table was filled with teenagers done up in heavy punk make-up and hair. Next to them was a table of women who appeared to be in their mid to late twenties. Hutch made his way over to join them.
"Hi, do you have room for one more?" He smiled his most beguiling smile. "My name's Kevin and I'm just trying out for a spot today."
The women looked him over appraisingly, before one nodded and indicated the last empty chair. "Sure. Take a load off, honey. We all remember our first day here."
"So, you're all house models?" Hutch asked.
"That's right. House models, just dripping glamour, every last one of us." There were light giggles from the other models as the woman spoke. "I'm Becky and I'm a smart ass, so don't let me bother you. This is Carla, Joan and Susie."
"I'm pleased to meet all of you." Hutch appreciated the fresh candor, which was not what he'd been expecting.
"Where ya from, Kevin? I've never seen you on the LA circuit, and I've been on the circuit for a million years." Becky appeared to be the only one of the women interested in conversation.
"I'm from the Midwest, Minnesota to be exact." The masked detective easily spoke the truth.
"Another one from the great beyond, Joan." Becky laughed heartily. "We get a lot of transplants. Joan and I have decided we're the only native Californians in California."
"I haven't been here very long myself. I'd always wanted to try my luck in California, because you know it's hard to get a lot of modeling work in Minnesota," Hutch replied. He quickly decided to dig just a little. "Are there other models from the Midwest who work here?"
"Some, sure." Becky didn't seem interested in elaborating. "You're certainly not just getting started?"
"Of course not." Hutch hoped his smile was confident. "I've been doing this for years but never fulltime. Like I said, not a lot of work in Minnesota."
"Remember what Marsha said about Kansas, Beck?" Hutch turned sharp eyes on Joan as she addressed her friend.
"Sure. She always said it was 82,264 square miles of empty." Becky's tone seemed a little sad to Hutch, but he jumped on the opening.
"I'd love to meet a fellow Midwesterner. Is Marsha a house model here?"
"No, not anymore. She used to be when she first came to California as a kid. Tony discovered her."
"Ah, the man I hope to be working for," Hutch commented. "Tony Ivey."
"Be careful what you wish for, Kevin. Tony has been known to make me wish I'd become the nurse my mama wanted me to be." Becky fumbled with her cigarette package as she spoke. "Damn, I'm out."
"Especially this week." Hutch didn't know if the comment came from Susie or Carla. he hadn't straightened the names out to match the faces yet, but he leaned forward a little and made sure his expression was full of casual interest.
"The boss is having a bad week?"
"You can say that again. Marsha took a powder, and Tony's been..." Joan was speaking this time, but stopped when Becky put a hand on her arm.
"Ladies, we're late. Kevin, good luck, I hope we see you around." With that, Becky crumpled up the empty cigarette jacket and rose. The others followed, and Hutch was left sitting at the table alone.
Hutch was still thinking about the exchange and what Becky might know, when Starsky started clapping his hands sharply. He looked up and saw a young girl leave his partner's side. He got to his feet, just as Starsky was telling the men that it was time to go back to the studio.
The small group walked single file back to studio two, Hutch in the rear right behind Starsky. When they entered, they saw Leslie and Ivey in the middle of the room.
"Oh, good, your little coffee break is over," Ivey said before the door was closed behind the group. "You two stand over there." The photographer was pointing at Hutch and the older model. "Now, please? That wall. Go. Stand there."
Hutch couldn't help looking at Starsky briefly, but he checked it as he left the group with the silver-haired man and stood at the near wall. Ivey continued.
"Now, you other three, thank you for coming in, lalalalalala, you know the drill. One day we may be able to use you, but this isn't the day." The photographer waited with an impatience that almost had an odor for the rejected models to gather their belongings and leave the room. He turned to the men he had waiting.
"Okay, you two have some possibilities. Walk across the room for me."
Hutch watched as the other model took off immediately. He glided smoothly across the room, turned, and strode smoothly back to the wall.
"Thank you." Ivey looked at Hutch expectantly. "The invitation was for both of you. If you please?"
Hutch could feel Starsky's encouragement as if it were spoken aloud. He threw his shoulders back and remembered to not copy the walk he'd just seen, but to use his own. He moved naturally across the room and hoped his cheeks weren't showing the blush he felt.
The loud shrill of a telephone interrupted his walk back. Ivey answered it himself and turned the room blue with cursing. He slammed the phone down hard and turned to Leslie. "Fucking Revlon is going to kill me. I have to get back in so you finish here. Hire them." Without another word, the angry man stormed from the room.
The atmosphere in the tense studio brightened considerably on his exit. Leslie smiled broadly and spoke to Starsky first. "Donald, do you think you can show our new models where the office manager is? Once they have their paperwork filled out, take them to make-up. I have shoots for both of them in the morning, and I'd like make-up to get their colors set today." She turned to the newly hired models. "Welcome to Sizzle, gentlemen. I'll see you both tomorrow morning at seven sharp."
Hutch entered Starsky's place almost an hour after his partner had arrived. It was after 9:00 p.m. Starsky looked up eagerly as he entered, but his welcoming smile was soon frozen on his lips.
"Don't say a word. Not one word." Hutch headed for the bathroom with Starsky hot on his heels.
"What did they do to you?" The bathroom door closed in Starsky's face as he asked the question. He could hear the sound of the sink taps running full blast.
"They put enormous quantities of make-up on my face," Hutch yelled back. "Then they took it off, so they could start all over again in a slightly different shade. They did this three times, and now it's all coming off."
"I'm coming in," Starsky said as he opened the unlocked door. He watched for a moment as Hutch pulled his shirt off and stuffed it in the hamper. Then he lathered up a washcloth vigorously. Starsky was trying not to stare, but....
"I don't want to talk about it, Starsky."
"But, Hutch...your hair." Starsky reached out a tentative hand to touch the top of Hutch's lacquered head. "It's all poufy on top, and it's all gone below your ears, and there's nothin' on your neck anymore!"
"Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Starsk." Hutch began scrubbing his face with the soapy cloth.
"Why'd ya let them cut it? Why'd they cut so much of it!"
Hutch turned his head toward his stupefied partner, his face still covered in lather. "I didn't have any choice. I found out today that my hair is," Hutch cleared his throat and adopted a snotty tone, "hopelessly out of style and it had to be immediately rectified."
"But I love your hair, and I didn't know it was out of style." Starsky elbowed Hutch over a bit and peered at himself in the mirror. He fingered one of his thick curls. "Is my hair out of style?"
"How would I know?" Hutch shoved Starsky back over. "I know you're not cutting it, though."
"You cut yours."
"They made me." Hutch began to blink rapidly. "Ah, shit."
"I've got soap in my eyes. Ah, shit!"
"Lemme see." Starsky grabbed a dry towel with one hand and Hutch's chin with the other.
"Now I've got it in my mouth, too!" The sheared head jerked away from Starsky's hand, as Hutch plunged his face in the running water. He made an abundance of sputtering noises.
Starsky began staring again at the bare neck as it was bent over the sink. He couldn't get over how clean and defined they had made Hutch's hairline. He couldn't believe they had trimmed the long locks he loved. He noticed something else.
"Hey, Hutch? The back of your very bare neck is colored funny. I can't believe they put make-up there, too."
"I'm lucky they didn't put rouge on my nipples." Hutch raised his clean face from the sink and reached for a hairbrush.
Starsky was chuckling at the image Hutch presented, and he wrapped his arms around his partner from behind, squeezing briefly before reaching up to pinch the un-rouged nipples. They pebbled immediately. "I don't know. A little rouge on these babies might be kinda sexy. "'Course, I'm the only one who gets to apply it."
Hutch laughed as he tried to drag the brush through hair that was stiff with hairspray. Starsky was distracting his efforts by nuzzling the back of his neck. It was just starting to feel good when Starsky pulled away.
"You, oh love of my life, need a shower. You taste like make-up, and I always hated that taste. Plus, you're never gonna be able to brush this junk out of your hair."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right." Hutch moved to the shower and opened the curtain wide to start the water. He bent over low to remove his shoes and socks and with his back still turned to Starsky, slowly pulled off his pants, tossing them aside. He ran a hand under the water again, then hooked his thumbs in the elastic of his underwear and removed them an inch at a time. Once he was nude, Hutch stepped into the warm spray and turned around.
"Am I showering alone?" he asked with a short smile, before closing the curtain.
It only took Starsky thirty seconds to strip and join him.
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