Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on...
--"The Stranger" by Billy Joel
"What a lousy rotten way to die," Starsky commented, shaking his head as he crouched near the badly beaten body of what was once an attractive young woman. "Don't fight back and you get raped. Fight back and you get raped and murdered. Terrific choice."
"The lab boys have all the photos, so she's ready to go as soon as we're done," Hutch said, standing behind his partner. "You think we missed something?"
"No, I guess not." Starsky stood, finally tearing his gaze away from the dead woman. "It's hard to believe the others just fell down and gave up. I'm wondering what she did that freaked him so much that he beat her up like this and killed her. He didn't kill the others, and they said they fought him."
"Maybe not hard enough to provoke him, or maybe she was stronger..." Hutch shrugged. "Maybe he didn't mean to kill her. Her head's pretty close to the brick ledge by the fireplace. There's no visible blood there, but it's not impossible that she fell and hit her head." Hutch looked around the nicely appointed living room of the spacious first floor condominium unit. "The link sure isn't social status. The first victim lived in an old house in a working-class neighborhood, the second one in a housing project, and now he's in the high-rent district. The boy gets around."
"You guys all set?" Ginny approached them, two men from the coroner's office behind her with the gurney.
"Yeah, we're good," Starsky responded. "When--"
"I'll have a prelim on your desk this afternoon," she said with a slight smile.
"Thanks," Hutch said, returning the smile.
Out in the bright morning sunshine, the two detectives took in the surroundings. The dead woman's condominium was part of a pricey four-unit, one-floor building. The building was part of a new condo development in the suburbs of Bay City, and most of its residents were highly paid professionals: doctors, lawyers, CEO's or, in the case of the deceased woman, their spouses. The Spanish hacienda-style stucco structures were accented with red tile roofs and wrought-iron railings. The windows were arched and outlined in black. Professionally landscaped yards boasted mature trees that had obviously been transplanted at great expense to give the area a "settled" feeling. The development itself had the look of a wealthy Spanish village.
Brenda King was married to a local attorney, Raymond King, whom they were trying to locate. A neighbor indicated that King was out of town on business, but had no idea where. Their next stop was Smithers, Crandall and King, Raymond King's law firm. Undoubtedly, someone at his firm would have his itinerary and knowledge of how to contact him.
In the past three months, there had been three rapes, and all demonstrated a similar MO. The perpetrator gained entry through a first-floor window and surprised his victim, either already in bed or, in one case, coming out of the shower. The two surviving victims had described him as a man of medium height and build, wearing jeans, a dark t-shirt and denim jacket. Unfortunately, he also wore a black or dark blue ski mask and gloves, which made any further identification impossible, though his first victim thought he was white, based on the coloring around his mouth. Neither of the women could agree on whether he had brown or blue eyes. When the third victim turned up dead, Starsky and Hutch inherited the case from Garner and Hughes, a strong team of veteran detectives who worked primarily with Sex Crimes. Brenda King's death made it a matter for Homicide.
"You can bet the pressure's gonna be on for this one," Starsky said as they walked back toward the Torino. "I understand the assistant DA just bought a condo here."
"Pressure's always on when someone commits a crime in an area that's not supposed to have any."
Smithers, Crandall and King was a prestigious law firm housed in a sprawling suite on the upper floor of one of the city's priciest skyscrapers. The receptionist seemed anxious to usher the two casually dressed detectives out of the lobby shortly after their arrival. The middle-aged woman wore her gray and black hair upswept and was dressed in a conservative dark business suit. She led them down a hall behind the reception area to the desk of Raymond King's secretary.
"How can I help you?" she asked, brightening considerably upon seeing her visitors. A young woman in her early twenties, she was dressed as conservatively as her colleague, but her blonde hair hung to her shoulders, and her personality was much more outgoing.
"We need to reach your boss, Mr. King," Starsky explained. "We understand he's out of town, but we figured you'd have his contact information."
"Well, yes, of course. I just spoke to him earlier this morning. He's representing a client in a case in Tucson, Arizona." She took a piece of notepaper and wrote a hotel name and two phone numbers on it, then handed it to Starsky. "The first number is the hotel; the second number is the courthouse there, if it's an emergency. I hope nothing's wrong?" she probed, her brow furrowing a bit.
"We really should speak to Mr. King directly," Hutch responded. "Thanks for the information."
"If there's anything else I can do--" she began, waiting until both men had turned back to face her. "Well, I'm always glad to cooperate with the police," she added somewhat coyly, giving them an appreciative smile.
"This would be a nicer city if there were more good citizens like you," Starsky said, his tone oozing his own brand of sugary charm that many women seemed to love. Hutch merely flicked his eyes heavenward before giving Starsky's sleeve a tug as they moved toward the door.
"She liked me," Starsky gloated as they got into the elevator.
"She was looking at both of us when she said that." Hutch pressed the button for the ground floor.
"When I turned around, she looked up--she was checkin' me out as we were leaving."
"You should work on your self-image, Starsk," Hutch retorted with heavy sarcasm. "I hate to break it to you, but she could have been checking me out."
"I saw which way she was looking," Starsky asserted, grinning. "She was lookin' at me."
"She's too young for you."
"Too-- She's over eighteen, isn't she?"
"Barely," Hutch responded sourly.
"Then she ain't too young." Starsky grinned. "You're jealous."
"Don't be ridiculous. Of her?"
"Don't try to deny it, Blondie. You're jealous."
"Should I be?" Hutch shot back. Touche, he thought, grinning inwardly.
"You know I got a weak spot for sexy, leggy blonds." Starsky reached down and goosed his partner just before the elevator doors opened, leaving a somewhat flustered and red-faced Hutch to face the incoming tide of suit-clad businesspeople.
As they walked out to the car, Hutch said under his breath, "I'll get you for that later."
"Promise?" Starsky responded, flexing his eyebrows as he slid behind the wheel of the car.
The phone call to Raymond King was not pleasant. It's bad enough to tell a man his wife's been murdered. It's worse to have to explain that she was raped and beaten. If that isn't difficult enough, add into the mix that it all happened in the pricey new condo he'd just bought six months ago--because of the rising crime rate near the high-rise apartment complex they were living in previously.
"Any new ideas on how to go after this sick bastard?" Dobey asked after the phone call was completed in his office.
"There's always a decoy, but since we can't fix a pattern yet on how he's choosing his victims, there's not much way to set anything up," Hutch offered. "I know Garner and Hughes have already scoured the old case files looking through the MO's of every similar degenerate on record, but that's iffy at best. We have a half dozen guys who are on the street who fit the profile. Garner and Hughes found three of them, and we're going to look up the other three, maybe go back and interview the first three...." Hutch watched as Dobey nodded solemnly.
"In other words, you've got no damn idea where to start with this," he surmised.
"Let's say we're still forming our strategy," Starsky offered with a slight smile.
"You better get it formed, because this psycho isn't just raping women anymore. Now he's killing them, too, and there's not too much indication that he's finished!"
"There has to be some connection between the three women. Some place where he saw all of them, or some reason he met all of them. We just have to go over again the same ground the first team did. Garner and Hughes are good cops--they haven't been sitting on this. We're planning to get started right away at going over all of it again, to see if we can pick up something new."
"Then get to it. Keep me informed. You can imagine I already heard from the DA's office this morning," Dobey grumbled.
"The seedy underbelly of crime hitting too close to the high-rent district, huh?" Starsky needled, standing.
"Something like that. All eyes are on this now, so get out there and prove me right for pushing for you two to take this case."
As they returned to their desks, Starsky poured coffee while Hutch started looking through the case files on the first two rapes.
"He's in a sunny mood this morning," Starsky muttered, handing Hutch his coffee before sitting down with his own.
"Why do I see our day off fading on the horizon as a distant memory?" Hutch chortled a little.
"There's really nothin' in these files, y'know," Starsky said, leaning back in his chair, perusing the file on the first victim.
"Yeah, I know." Hutch sighed. "There's gotta be something, Starsk. Some reason he picked them."
"Maybe he's a random nut--ever think of that? I mean, maybe he just spots a woman and follows her and if the opportunity is there, he does his thing."
"I really hope that's not the case, because if it is, tracking him is going to be close to impossible."
"We need to meet with Garner and Hughes," Starsky said. "Find out what they chased down in case it's not all in the files. We've gotta look at every place these ladies do business, every service person who might have been to their homes...."
"We'll call them and get together before we go see the ladies."
Paulette Garner was a tall, full-figured woman in her forties with short sandy hair and glasses. She wore very little make-up, and her clothing was quite tailored. Craig Hughes was slightly older, a slender, balding man with wire-rimmed glasses who looked more like an accountant than a cop. His deceptively harmless appearance gave him an edge on the streets, as he was an excellent marksman and considerably stronger than he looked.
The four detectives sat around the table in an interrogation room, the case files spread out among them.
"I'll tell you right up front, I'm not happy to lose this case simply because one of the victims wound up dead," Garner said bluntly. "It's still primarily a rape case, and we've been working it since the beginning."
"It wasn't our decision to take over, Paulette," Hutch responded. "But Brenda King's death does make it a homicide, and that means it's under Dobey's umbrella."
"We're aware of the departmental issues, Hutchinson. We don't have to be happy with it," she added. "At any rate, the primary concern here has to be stopping this psycho."
"We need to know what you've done, where you've been--"
"We've put in sixteen hour days on this thing," Hughes spoke up, cutting Starsky off mid-sentence. "We've run down so many blind alleys and dead-end leads it's not even funny. These two women don't appear to do much of anything at the same place. They have different mechanics, different hairdressers, different grocery stores, different social circles, different dress shops..." He shrugged, leaning back in his chair. "The only thing they had in common was that they both had occasion to go to the Bayside Mall frequently. But even that was in different capacities. Tiffany Cramer was part of the custodial staff there and Sharon Mitchell loves to shop and meet friends there. We did our best to check out that lead, but it's pretty impossible to hunt down every employee in every store--let alone the mall personnel like Tiffany herself. We didn't find anything we thought was worthwhile there, but it's up to you guys if you want to go over that ground again. I photocopied my notes on our interviews with the mall folks," Hughes said, sliding the two sheets of paper toward Starsky, who was sitting on his immediate left.
"Thanks, this is a big help," Starsky said, looking at the long list of names.
"It's not comprehensive, but we did our legwork on that lead," Garner emphasized. "So, what are you two planning to do now that the ball's in your court?"
"First we have to make sure we aren't retracing your steps, and then we need to talk to the surviving victims again. We also need to visit today's crime scene again to be sure we didn't miss anything."
"Mr. King's probably back living in your crime scene by now," Garner opined.
"Dobey's keeping it sealed through today for us. We've been through the place but we want to go over it a little more carefully." Starsky picked up the papers and gestured with them. "Thanks for your help."
"If we can be of help with the case, let us know," Hughes said. "Just because we're a little teed off at departmental politics doesn't mean we don't want to see this pervert nailed."
Tiffany Cramer's small apartment was neat and tidy, furnished with well-worn pieces carefully accented with strategically placed doilies and throw pillows to cover the threadbare spots. Despite her simple surroundings, she had a flair for color and style that was reflected in the bright oil paintings on the walls. Flowers, butterflies and landscapes added an incongruous beauty to the drab walls of the apartment. Sirens could be heard nearby, and neighbors were arguing vociferously on the other side of too-thin walls. But Tiffany Cramer's apartment looked more like a starving artist's studio than a unit in one of the city's tougher housing projects.
A pretty young black woman with large brown eyes, and hair pulled into a tight ponytail, she had a pleasant smile and quiet demeanor. When the two detectives arrived, she was dressed in jeans and her blue Bayside Mall smock.
"I'm afraid we're running a little late," Starsky apologized. "I hope we aren't making you late for work," he added as they took seats on either end of the light blue sofa.
"My boss has been really great about all this. He'll understand if I'm a little late," she said, sitting in a chair nearby. "Would you like anything to drink?"
"No, thanks, we're fine," Hutch responded, smiling. "I can't help noticing your paintings--did you paint those?"
"Yes, I did," she responded, smiling. "I love to paint; I've been doing it since I was a little girl."
"Have you ever shown your work?" Hutch persisted.
"No," she said, laughing a little. "It's not that good."
"I think you should really take it to a gallery, Miss Cramer. They're lovely."
"Thank you. I didn't expect the cops to be art enthusiasts."
"Hutch does some painting himself. He's pretty good at it, too," Starsky said, sounding like a proud parent.
"Really? Have you shown your work?" she asked, genuinely interested.
"Touche," Hutch said, chuckling. "I haven't shown mine either."
"I dare you to take one to a gallery," she challenged. "I will if you will."
"Oh, I don't know..." Hutch let the words trail off uneasily, shaking his head a little.
"Who knows, maybe we'll both end up rich and famous. Of course, that'd mean leaving all this," she said, gesturing around the room.
"I'd miss getting shot at on a regular basis," Hutch replied jokingly. Then, he became more serious. "Miss Cramer, I know this is a difficult subject, but we really need your help. There's been another assault--"
"You mean a murder. I saw it on the news, and I figured it was the same pervert from the way they said he got in. I begged the landlord for three solid weeks to fix the lock on my kitchen window..." She didn't finish the sentence, swallowing. "I told the other detectives everything I could remember."
"We don't want to make you relive all the unpleasant details, Miss Cramer. Honest," Starsky said. "We have the case files and your statement. What we're most interested in is lifestyle information. There's some reason this guy targeted the three women he chose. We need to find that link if we're going to find him. So far, nothing's adding up."
"I didn't know the other woman who was attacked. I don't know about this third one--they were withholding her name."
"Brenda King. She's the wife of a local attorney," Hutch said.
"Nope, doesn't ring a bell," she said, shaking her head. "I don't exactly run with lawyer's wives. Between work and school, I don't do much socializing at all."
"You're studying art?" Starsky asked.
"No, actually, I'm taking business courses. I don't want to live in a dive like this forever. I can be a starving artist without taking expensive classes in it."
"According to your statement," Hutch began, opening his notepad, "you attend classes at Bay City Community College three nights a week and work full-time, mostly days, at the mall as a custodian. Do you have any hobbies, or belong to any clubs? Any restaurants or other business places you frequent?"
"I can't afford to eat out, and I don't have time to join clubs right now. I lead a very drab life, Detective. It has to be that way right now until I get my degree. I work as many hours as I can get at the mall, and I'm trying to keep my grades up. I mean, sure, I grocery shop, I go to the movies with a couple friends from work once a week--all that's in my statement."
"Yes, it is. Is that the only place you go?" Hutch persisted.
"Just work, campus, the library, the grocery store, the movies, the bank, and sometimes the deli a few blocks from here. I don't remember if I mentioned that in my statement before."
"I don't think so, no. What's the name of it?"
"Rudy's Sandwich Shop. They've got really good cold cuts and some of their prices are pretty decent, actually. Whenever I treat myself to take-out, it's from there."
"Okay. Now when you go to the library, do you use the campus library or the public library?" Starsky asked.
"Mmm...both. Mostly the campus library, but if I want to pick up any books to read for pleasure, I go to the public library on Sheridan Street. It's a little bit of a drive from here, but it's a beautiful library and they have a better selection of books."
"When was the last time you were there?" Hutch asked.
"About three days ago. I went there this weekend to get a couple books." She gestured at the two hardcover books on the coffee table. One was an historic romance novel and the other appeared to be a book on dealing with the aftermath of rape. "I'm still trying to get a handle on that," she said a little uneasily, noticing Hutch's focus on the book. "There's a really good counselor at the college," she added.
"I'm glad," Hutch said sincerely, smiling. "We appreciate you taking time to talk with us. I know this isn't an easy subject."
"No, but I want to do what I can to nail the bastard who did this. I used to have a tough time meeting all my deadlines before, but you oughtta try it when you can't go to sleep at night, listening to every little noise... I nailed the windows shut when I got home from the hospital, so unless they break 'em out, or hack through the deadbolt, they can't get in now."
"You nailed your windows shut? You need a fire escape--"
"Detective Hutchinson, I would rather burn alive in ten fires than go through that again."
"Understandable," Hutch responded mildly. "Thanks for your time." He rose, and Starsky did the same. Tiffany followed them to the door and opened it. "If you need anything at all, or you think of anything, call us at one of these numbers," he said, handing her a card.
"Thanks, I will. You'll let me know if you catch the guy, right?"
"Most definitely," Starsky responded, nodding.
The coroner's report was waiting for them when they returned to the station. Brenda King did not die from any sort of accidental fall against the fireplace--she died from a very deliberate blow to the head. They were no longer hunting a serial rapist, but more than likely, a serial killer just beginning his rampage.
Hutch silently cursed himself once again for having bought that "Grease" soundtrack for Starsky. It was eleven o'clock before they made it back to Starsky's place, they were just getting around to fixing a patched together dinner of soup and leftovers, and Starsky was bopping around the kitchen, giving John Travolta a run for his money on all the lead vocals. Right now, neither Travolta nor Starsky were welcome noise pollution as Hutch poured the canned soup he'd heated up into two bowls. His leg was bothering him the way it usually did when it was going to rain and he'd been on his feet all day. If that wasn't enough to make him grouchy, the thought of how great it would feel to twist it around in awkward positions for the bedroom gymnastics he'd been hoping to engage in tonight finished the job.
Hutch was about to snap Starsky's head off in no uncertain terms for adding his own weight to the already unhappy leg and a too-tired back by draping himself over Hutch and wrapping his arms around Hutch's middle. Somehow, though, he forgot about all that as Starsky swayed them slowly to the music, crooning "Hopelessly Devoted to You" in Hutch's ear. Instead, he turned and accepted the embrace, which turned into a slow dance.
My head is saying, fool, forget him
My heart is saying, don't let go
Hold on to the end
That's what I intend to do
I'm hopelessly devoted to you...
As the song ended, and another, more up-tempo number began, Starsky moved back a little.
"You're leanin' on me a lot, babe. It's your leg again?"
"Damn thing feels like it's still jammed under the car tonight."
"Must be gonna rain. Go sit down and I'll wait on ya for a while. After dinner, you can soak in some warm water and I'll give you a massage, how's that sound?"
"Pretty damn good." Hutch kissed Starsky's mouth quickly and took him up on his offer to serve dinner, sitting down at the table with a little grunt of fatigue. "We're gettin' old, Starsk. We don't even have to listen to the news anymore to know when it's gonna rain." Starsky laughed out loud at that. "I'm glad you're so happy about becoming old and decrepit."
"Well, 'long as I'm gettin' old and decrepit with you, I don't mind so much. But I was thinking about my grandmother. She used to say the same thing--that the good thing about gettin' old was that you knew it was gonna rain before anyone else did, and you were never wrong."
"Oh, great. Now I sound like your grandmother."
"You're the one who brought up this getting old crap, not me," Starsky said, laughing.
"Pretty soon we'll have a mortgage."
"If we were real old, we'd have everything paid off. We're just old enough to be achy and young enough to be in debt." Starsky set the sandwiches he'd made out of the cold chicken on the table with the bowls of soup.
"Thanks for cheering me up, Starsk." Hutch rolled his eyes as he helped himself to a sandwich.
"Anytime, buddy." Starsky chortled a little evilly as he began eating.
Hutch leaned back against the tub and groaned contentedly. Starsky had taken a quick shower himself and then filled the tub in which Hutch was soaking, and now he was massaging Hutch's leg with the same skill and gentleness he had way back when Hutch had gone through physical therapy after his brush with death in the canyon. Like he would with any perp who was fool enough to cause Hutch any real pain, Starsky pursued every muscle spasm in the leg and dealt with it swiftly and effectively.
Of course, Starsky usually didn't pursue perps in the nude, and Hutch had to admit he was enjoying watching his naked partner's movements as much as he was enjoying the therapy on his cranky old injury. The bathroom was warm and steamy, and he was beginning to long for more contact with a warm, moist, freshly showered Starsky.
As devoted to his task as he was, Starsky was starting to show a little fatigue himself, and after a couple of telltale signs of strain in his expression, Hutch called a halt to the massage he'd have been content to let go on forever. Starsky was leaning over the tub with his arms extended, putting a lot of effort into his work, and it was obviously pulling on some muscles that didn't flex as easily as they used to.
"I better get out of the tub before I fall asleep in here," Hutch said, smiling. "Leg feels great, babe. Thanks."
"Doesn't hurt anymore?"
"Not very much at all. Not anything like before."
"Good. Let's dry you off and get your beautiful blond body into bed. I think your third leg needs a little attention," Starsky quipped, grinning at the rising erection Hutch was developing.
"Third leg, huh?" Hutch responded, pulling Starsky into his arms. "Should give us an interesting edge in the three-legged race at the next police barbecue." Hutch smiled as Starsky snorted inelegantly at that imagery. Then, he put his mouth close to Hutch's ear and whispered hotly.
"It's long, sturdy and powerful, babe," he said, one hand straying down to pump the hard shaft. Hutch groaned and thrust into the busy hand, which stilled. "Not here. In bed, where I can do it right." Starsky moved back and pulled Hutch by the hand out of the bathroom into the bedroom, leading him purposefully toward the bed, which he'd turned back while Hutch was starting his long soak. "Get in and get comfy," Starsky said, pushing the covers all the way back.
"Do I get any say in how this is going?" Hutch teased, following orders nonetheless, settling back on the mattress and easing over to make room for Starsky.
"Nope." Starsky grinned widely then. "But that doesn't mean you aren't gonna like it." With that, Starsky moved down to hover over the rigid cock that rose above its nest of gold. He ran his tongue up the underside in one long stroke, dragging a ragged groan out of Hutch, who grabbed a pillow and stuffed it behind his head. The sensations were one thing, but watching Starsky work his magic was too good a show to pass up.
With one hand rolling and cupping Hutch's balls and the other straying under him to grip and massage his ass, Starsky took the long cock as far into his mouth and throat as he could manage. Putting all his effort into pleasing Hutch, the dark head was bobbing now with the motion of the sucking. Just when Hutch thought he couldn't feel any better, a questing finger began probing between his cheeks, teasing the opening there. He let out a sound that was somewhere between a gasp and a groan, his hips bucking as much as they could with the dual motions of Starsky's mouth and hands. As the finger managed to slide just past the opening, he shouted, feeling the first of the spasms shake him, his seed being eagerly swallowed by the hungry suction on his cock.
When it was over, Starsky released the spent cock and kissed it gently, then moved up to lie next to Hutch, resting his head on Hutch's shoulder.
"That was great, babe," Hutch said, feeling dangerously close to dozing off in the sleepy afterglow. Starsky hadn't had his needs tended, and yet he felt too lethargic to move. Then he felt the gentle humping motion against his hip--safely on the other side, away from the recently massaged leg. "Let me take care of you--"
"Lie still, darlin'. Your hand'll work. I'm real close," Starsky added, groaning as Hutch wrapped a hand firmly around the straining cock and began pumping. It seemed Starsky deserved something more, but he was insistent, and Hutch had to admit that he was pleasantly relaxed and not all that excited about moving. Feeling Starsky's warm body undulating against him, the hard cock in his hand beginning to surge with expending fluids, and hearing Starsky's moans of pleasure caused Hutch to come dangerously close to getting hard again. When Starsky had stilled and slumped against him, Hutch ran his other hand through the dark curls and kissed the top of Starsky's head.
"Tomorrow, I'm gonna love you into next week," Hutch promised, his voice sounding slurred, even to him.
"Mmm. Sounds nice," Starsky agreed through a jaw-stretching yawn. "Just next week?" he added, a definite smile in his voice.
"That's better." The next sound Hutch heard was soft snoring. A moment later, he was asleep.
He was lying on his stomach, his left leg drawn up a bit. But that wasn't the foremost thing on Starsky's mind--it was the feather-soft touch of something warm and a bit moist on his left buttock. It felt good. He groaned contentedly and drew his knee up a bit farther. That drew a soft chuckle from somewhere behind him. A very familiar chuckle. Starsky grinned into the pillows and waited for the next sensation. He didn't bother opening his eyes; the sleeping beauty routine obviously had his partner hot and bothered, so who was he to interfere?
The soft touch of lips was back again, but this time moving in closer to his center, a tongue tip teasing the soft flesh on the inside of his buttock, not quite reaching the now exposed target. He tried thrusting his ass up a bit, but the sensations didn't increase. Instead, they turned into a series of little kisses planted along the seam between cheeks that were gently separated by two large, warm hands.
Then the tongue returned to the little pucker and began licking and prodding in earnest. Starsky thrust his growing erection against the sheets and squeezed his pillow in a death grip.
"Hutch," he mumbled, not sure if he wanted his lover to stop what he was doing or do more of it. It didn't really matter, because Hutch was obviously moving at his own pace, taking his time. There was something so...wanton in lying there, held open this way, every part of his body attuned to what was happening in that one little spot.
The tongue moved away, and soon he felt Hutch's large, sleep-warmed body moving over his back, blanketing him.
"Good morning," he whispered hotly against Starsky's ear.
"Can we do this instead of the alarm from now on?" Starsky quipped, grinning.
"Told you I was gonna do it right this morning--or should I say, I'm gonna do you right this morning?" Hutch responded, a smile of his own obvious in his voice. As the last words were uttered, a long, lubed finger slid into Starsky's moistened opening. He lurched a little in surprise, then gasped and thrust against the bed again. "That's it, babe, open up for me," Hutch encouraged softly, using the finger to stretch and lubricate while his free hand slid up Starsky's back, rubbing gently. The first finger was removed and then replaced with two, which began stretching more aggressively. "Yeah, you're ready for it, aren't you, beautiful man?" Hutch teased, kissing his way down Starsky's back.
"Now, babe...gotta be soon," Starsky gasped, writhing with pleasure as the fingers rubbed over his prostate.
The fingers were withdrawn, and Hutch moved up, whispering in Starsky's ear again.
"I love you." He kissed the ear and then moved back, and Starsky could feel the mattress dipping here and there as Hutch moved to prepare himself. "Raise up for me." The feeling of the strong hands on his hips and the slight command in the voice threatened Starsky's already shaky control, and he fought hard to calm himself enough to enjoy this to the fullest. He drew his knees under him, raising his ass, offering it eagerly.
A moment later, he was being opened and filled as Hutch slid steadily but carefully into the tight channel. When they were fully joined, he paused, reaching under Starsky to fondle the heavy balls there, then to grip and gently pump his aching cock.
"Hutch," he grunted, the word barely audible, trying to warn his partner how close he really was. Hutch apparently needed no more cue, because he planted a kiss on Starsky's spine and gently released his cock, bracing himself on his arms on either side of Starsky's body. The pumping began slowly and built to a steady rhythm. Starsky lost himself in the creak of the springs, Hutch's soft moans and gasps, and most importantly, the hard cock moving in and out of him, stretching him, claiming him. He began thrusting back against Hutch, shuddering in pleasure with each stroke.
The speed and intensity of the thrusts picked up, adding the satisfying slap of flesh to the blend of sounds that was almost as intoxicating as the sex itself. Some part of Starsky's mind registered that he was going to be shifting in the driver's seat all day, unable to escape the reminders of this morning's lovemaking. The thought made him crazier, and he felt the beginnings of his climax, resisting the urge to get up on all fours. Hutch was moving hard and fast now, and he didn't want to disturb that cadence. They were gasping and crying out almost in unison, and when Starsky came, it was with a cry of ecstasy torn from the pit of his throat. Hutch's own movements became more erratic and Starsky heard the shout of his name before he felt Hutch's orgasm, felt himself being filled, and then felt the wonderful weight of the warm, damp, sated body that began to press his him into the mattress. He didn't resist the downward push, letting it flatten him, his legs straightening out in the process.
Hutch was in him, on him, and all around him. He couldn't move with Hutch's weight pinning him to the bed, Hutch's softening cock still inside him.
"Wow," he managed, trying to catch his breath.
"Anybody ever tell you," Hutch began, then paused to catch his breath, "you have a gorgeous ass?"
"Yeah. My big horny blond partner," Starsky quipped, reaching behind him to stroke Hutch's hair as the other man rested his head on the back of Starsky's shoulder.
"Felt so good," Hutch admitted, catching the hand and kissing it. "You feel so good."
"You felt pretty good yourself. Still do." He managed to squeeze Hutch's flaccid cock with tired internal muscles. "Wish you could loan it to me for the day," he said, chortling.
"There's not much I wouldn't do to make you happy, Starsk, but I draw the line there." Hutch kissed the shoulder near his mouth and carefully eased out of Starsky. "Insatiable comes to mind," he teased, moving up to lie next to Starsky, who shifted onto his side, ready to snuggle into the arms that waited for him. His legs tangled with Hutch's and his body was cradled lovingly. Hutch rubbed up and down his back gently. "I love you."
"I love you, too, babe. More'n anything," Starsky asserted.
"It's only five a.m.," Hutch said, smiling.
"If we eat breakfast in the car, we could stay in bed two more hours."
"I think we could stay in bed forever and I'd never get enough of you." Hutch kissed the end of Starsky's nose.
"I'd be willing to experiment for four or five years and see how it goes," Starsky offered, hugging Hutch tightly.
"Just four or five years?" Hutch asked.
"For the bed experiment. If you're talkin' about us, you're stuck with me forever."
"I better be. Did I mention I was crazy about you yet this morning?" Hutch had that wonderful, slightly sappy grin on his face that said he was head over heels. Starsky never ceased to be thrilled that he was on the receiving end of that expression.
"Maybe not in so many words, but that one really loud 'Oh, God, Starsky' kinda said it all," he quipped, kissing Hutch's lips quickly.
"Smart ass." Hutch laughed and then sighed happily, letting his eyes drift shut. "I am."
"Crazy about you."
"I know. I'm crazy about you, too, Blondie. Go to sleep."
Barely arriving as the clock struck 8:00, Starsky and Hutch were summoned into Dobey's office. The captain looked grim as he sat behind his desk, hands folded on top of the blotter.
"Number four was just admitted to Mercy Hospital."
"Damn. You're sure it's the same guy?" Hutch asked.
"Got in through a downstairs window, raped and beat the woman, then left. From what she told the ambulance attendants, he was an average-sized guy wearing jeans, a denim jacket and a ski mask."
"My God. There's usually a month between his assaults," Hutch pointed out, looking at Starsky. "If he's picking up the pace like this--"
"Hopefully it means he'll get sloppy and make a mistake," Starsky interjected. "Who's at the scene?"
"We just got the call from the hospital. The victim managed to call the ambulance, so how much evidence has been disturbed or lost, I'm not sure yet. Probably plenty." He wrote down an address on a piece of paper and handed it to Starsky. "When you finish at the hospital, go have a look at the house. I have a black-and-white unit there keeping an eye on things. Keep me posted."
"Right, Cap'n," Starsky responded, and they headed out for Mercy Hospital.
Linda Sherman was a divorced, middle-aged woman of average size, with curly brown hair that brushed her shoulders. It occurred to Hutch that perhaps the rapist was making a point of not choosing any two women exactly alike. Sharon Mitchell, the first victim, was a tall, very thin white woman of nineteen, single, with short black hair; the second victim, Tiffany Cramer, was an attractive single black woman in her twenties of average height and build; and Brenda King was a petite, very pretty blonde in her mid-thirties and married.
The latest victim had been badly beaten--much worse than Sharon Mitchell or Tiffany Cramer. Both of those women had only suffered the blows necessary to overpower them. Brenda King had been beaten to death, and Linda Sherman looked as if she only marginally escaped the same fate. As she lay in her hospital bed with one eye swollen shut and her face badly bruised and distorted from the beating, Starsky and Hutch made their first attempt to question her.
"Ms. Sherman, I know you're in a lot of pain, so we aren't going to ask you right now to tell us the whole story," Hutch said gently. "The ambulance attendants told us what you told them, so if you could just confirm that we have the information correct with a yes or no answer, that'll do for now." She nodded slightly, and Hutch began his recitation of the story.
A man attacked her in her bed, overpowered her, raped her, and proceeded to beat her, despite the fact she had offered him no serious resistance. She felt that she had survived solely because her dog, a cocker spaniel who had been barking frantically since the start of the attack, had finally found some way to get her closed bedroom door open and gone for the man's leg. He was apparently not armed, because he didn't attempt to shoot the dog. He also had trouble getting it off his leg, finally retreating back through her window, managing somehow to dislodge the dog long enough to slam the window shut and make a run for it. She'd passed out for a time, and when she came to, she called the ambulance.
"Did the man say anything?" Starsky asked when Hutch had finished confirming the facts.
"He just threatened me and said it would be worse if I fought him. So I didn't fight him, and look what he did," she mumbled through a badly swollen mouth, a tear trickling out of the corner of her eye.
"I'm sorry, Detectives, but you'll have to come back later. The doctor said five minutes," a nurse reminded them from the doorway of the room.
"May we come back and ask you a few more questions later?" Hutch asked. The woman nodded slightly. "This case is our top priority, Ms. Sherman. I'm going to have an officer posted outside your room, so you don't need to be afraid, okay? We're going to nail this guy."
"Thank you," she muttered, sniffling and wiping at her eyes.
"Thank you, Ms. Sherman," Starsky added, nodding in her direction before they turned to leave.
"There was one thing," she said, making both men pause and turn around. "He said..." She swallowed, then managed to pull herself together enough to make the statement. "He said, 'isn't this what you wanted?' I don't know what he meant."
"Did you recognize his voice at all?" Starsky asked.
"No. I...I don't do anything that would make someone think I wanted this!" she shouted, and the nurse entered the room, approaching the bed.
"You need to stay calm, Ms. Sherman--"
"Would you be calm?!" she bellowed in response, making the nurse step back a bit.
"Please?" The nurse looked at Starsky and Hutch and gestured toward the door. They took the cue and left, then watched as another nurse entered the room with medication, probably a sedative.
"I just wanted to tell her it was him and not her," Hutch said. "Doesn't matter what she did or didn't do, she didn't deserve that." He gestured at the closed door of her room.
"Well, whoever he is, he's got a possible leg wound that's gonna need treating, depending on how good a job the dog did on him."
"Why so fast? He just killed Brenda King last night."
"Maybe he got off on the killing. Maybe it was a bigger rush than just the rape, and he went back for more. Or the killing really sent him off into pscyholand, out of control. Hey, you better let Dobey know you've decided on a uniform on duty here," Starsky said with a grin. "He's not gonna like that."
"What if the guy comes back?" Hutch asked, heading for a telephone to call Dobey.
"Why would he? She can't ID him unless he does some damn fool thing like show up here."
"You said yourself he might be out of control--psycho. Who knows what he'll do?" Hutch picked up the phone and started dialing.
"I think you're thinkin' with your heart and not your head," Starsky commented quietly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" He hung the pay phone back up and stared at Starsky.
"It means you wanna do something for that poor lady in there, so you're postin' a guard on her door when she probably doesn't need it. We need to get over to her house and have a look around."
"I still want a guard on her, and I'm not thinking with my heart." Hutch dialed Dobey's number again.
"That wasn't a criticism, babe," Starsky responded, squeezing Hutch's shoulder before leaving him to his phone call.
Linda Sherman's tidy white bungalow was located on a quiet street, lined with similar houses. It was trimmed with pink shutters and accented with numerous pots of pink flowers.
"A rapist could pick this place out a mile away as belonging to a lady," Starsky said, barely sidestepping one of the omnipresent pots of flowers.
"You think he picked her out that way?" Hutch turned the key in the lock, listening to the yipping and yapping of the panicky cocker spaniel. "Got the doggie treat?" He reached back to Starsky, who handed him the rawhide bone they'd picked up for appeasing the dog. Hopefully it would consider it a worthy substitute for their flesh.
"Uh, yeah." Starsky handed it over to Hutch, who smiled and shook his head a little. Starsky was still a bit uneasy with dogs he didn't know, and that was something that wasn't about to change.
"Just try to be sure he doesn't take off out the door."
"Maybe we should've called Animal Control."
"For a cocker spaniel?" Hutch turned to look back at his partner in disbelief.
"He already bit the perp, didn't he?"
"You want to wait in the car while I try to apprehend this rabid beast, or do you think you can back me up here?"
"You don't have to get snippy about it." Starsky crouched in a position that looked like he was waiting to receive a football rather than apprehend a fleeing dog. With an upward flick of his eyes, Hutch wondered how this man could be so brilliant on the streets and so damn useless in cornering a small dog.
"His name's Sunshine."
"If somebody named you Sunshine, wouldn't you bite people?" Starsky asked.
"You've got a point." Hutch put the key in the lock and slowly opened the front door with one hand, doggie treat at the ready with the other. He was confronted with a small, honey-colored cocker spaniel who backed slightly away from the door but continued to bark incessantly. "Hey, there, Sunshine," he said in his best placate-the-dog voice. "We brought something for you. Yes, you're a good dog, aren't you?"
While Hutch worked his magic on the dog, Starsky gave up on his crouch and looked around the front porch. The attacker had gotten in through a side window, so it wasn't surprising nothing was disturbed here. By the time he returned to the front door, Hutch was patting the dog on the head and giving it the chew-toy.
"Just let him sniff you, Starsk," Hutch said, waiting while Starsky reluctantly offered the dog a sniff of his hand before venturing to pat it on the head. "The nurse said Ms. Sherman asked if we'd take the dog to her sister's place."
"If that dog pees on my seats, you're cleaning it up," Starsky stated flatly. "If we're gonna haul dogs, we're gonna start takin' your car."
"Starsky, sometimes it amazes me how the milk of human kindness just flows through your veins." Hutch straightened from his squat next to the dog, and it followed him around as they walked through the house.
"Hey, just because I don't like doggie droppings in my car doesn't mean I'm not a nice guy," Starsky protested as he wandered through the living room, looking at books on the shelves, magazines on the coffee table, a sweater tossed over the back of the couch--all things Linda Sherman had seen or touched or used before she was attacked. The house was the same, but she'd never see it or anything else the same way again.
"Starsk?" Hutch's voice came from the bedroom, which was separated from the living room by a short hallway.
"This look familiar?" Hutch held up a romance novel.
"It's not the same title, but it's the same kind of book Tiffany Cramer had on her coffee table. Actually, it might be the same author."
"So they like the same books," Starsky said, shrugging. Then his expression changed as realization dawned. "Look in the back," he said, as Hutch was doing that very thing.
"Bay City Public Library - Sheridan Street" was stamped on the card tucked in the pocket affixed inside the back cover. Tiffany Cramer's name appeared four names ahead of Linda Sherman's on the small card.
"You think our boy hangs out at the library?" Starsky asked, taking the book from Hutch and thumbing through it. "Man, this is really corny," Starsky commented, shaking his head.
"Look at the cover, Starsk." Hutch waited while Starsky obliged. The cover showed a rugged-looking pirate, complete with eyepatch, clutching a wild-eyed maiden clad in a tattered, low-cut dress, hair flying wild.
"Do I have to?" Starsky passed the book back to his partner.
"Remember what Linda Sherman said the guy said to her--'isn't this what you wanted?' Maybe we've got a sicko going after ladies who read racy romance novels. A lot of these books are big on the old 'hero rapes girl/girl falls for hero' theme."
"So this fruitcake might think these women are going to fall in love with him?" Starsky asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Maybe. Maybe it was the realization that wasn't going to happen that made him go berserk and kill Brenda King, and then beat Linda Sherman the way he did.
"It's kind of a stretch. Lots'a women read these."
"Let's find out if Brenda King or Sharon Mitchell did, and if so, which library branch they used."
After completing their search and analysis of the crime scene, the two men radioed headquarters to get Sharon Mitchell's address. The small one-floor house they approached was the antithesis of Linda Sherman's: paint peeled from the siding, a side window was boarded up, a screen hung torn from the frame on the screened porch, and there was an old jalopy parked on the front lawn with the hood open. Rock music blared from a radio that sat near the car, and there were various mechanics' tools scattered on the lawn. The house was reasonably typical for the neighborhood.
They walked onto the screen porch, and Starsky reached to knock on the door when it opened. A tall, thin man in his twenties stood before them, dressed in a tank shirt and jeans, tattoos covering most of both arms. His greasy black hair hung partially in his eyes, and his breath smelled heavily of liquor.
"Police," Starsky said, flashing his badge. "We'd like to speak to Sharon Mitchell."
"She's at school," he grumbled, pushing past them to return to his work on the car. "You find the guy yet or are you just comin' back to ask more stupid questions?"
"We're new to the case," Hutch explained. "And you are?"
"Well, Mr. Sterns, rest assured that it's our top priority to nail this guy."
"Yeah, we've heard that one before--two months ago. I guess bein' he killed somebody, now it's a big deal."
"It was always a 'big deal'," Hutch said. "Now that he's killed someone, it's a homicide case, which is where we come in."
"The first cops they sent out here looked like a couple of my old high school teachers. Can't picture them out bustin' crooks." He leaned farther into the mouth of the car, adjusting something with a wrench.
"Actually, they're a good team," Starsky said, peering into the car's engine himself, curious. "But now the case is ours, and we have our own ideas on how to go about it. Did you live here at the time Sharon was attacked?"
"No. I asked her twice about moving in together, and she kept saying no. I moved in afterwards. She didn't want to be alone at night anymore." He straightened and wiped his hands on his jeans. "So what else do you have to ask? Look, she's been through a lot with this shit. She's all messed up. How about going out and getting this guy instead of making her answer a bunch of dumb questions?"
"We don't want to make her go over the rape again. We just have a few other questions for her--some things that have come up from the other cases that might help us put together why this guy chooses the women he does," Starsky explained.
"She'll be home pretty soon. If you wanna go inside and have a beer or something, go ahead."
"Thanks," Hutch responded, smiling. "You mind if we take a look around inside?"
"The attack happened here. We never saw it when it was a crime scene."
"Sure, I guess so...go ahead. I've gotta finish up out here. I'm due at work in half an hour."
"What do you do?" Hutch asked.
"I work the loading dock for Hanover Shipping. That important?" he asked.
"Hard to say," Starsky said. "We're trying to get a good picture of the people each one of the victims had contact with. There's a common thread somewhere--something that binds a bunch of women together who aren't otherwise similar."
"So it's probably somebody they all know?"
"Or someone who knows all of them. Does Sharon have any friends or acquaintances you think we should talk to? Any weird guys she's had to give the brush off?" Hutch probed.
"Oh, man, she knows a lotta people. We both do. I mean, I don't think it's anybody we know...not somebody we hang out with. There's nobody that seems like they'd do something like that. I don't know all of her friends, but I haven't seen any...weirdos hanging around."
"Okay, we'll talk with her more about that. Thanks," Starsky concluded, and they entered the small house, leaving Frank to finish up outside.
"Well?" Hutch asked, wandering around the cramped living room and into the small kitchen.
"He doesn't strike me as a serial rapist and killer. Seems like a harmless sort." Starsky paused by the window that had been boarded up. "This where he got in?" he asked Hutch, who joined him in the living room again.
"Side window in the living room--yeah, that's it. She was grabbed right over here somewhere, I guess, near the bathroom."
"Right there." A female voice startled them from behind. Both men turned to see Sharon Mitchell standing inside the front door. "I came out of the shower and toweled off my hair, and walked out, and...and he was there." She tossed an obviously heavy bookbag on the somewhat worn sofa, sending her purse to join it. Dressed in a sweater and jeans, she looked every bit the part of the average college student. "Frank said you had more questions about my friends or something." She sat on the couch next to her things. "Sit down if you want."
"Thanks," Hutch said with a little smile, sitting in a nearby chair while Starsky took the empty seat on the other end of the couch. "I'm Detective Hutchinson, this is Detective Starsky. We're new to the case, so we're doing a little legwork of our own now."
"I don't think it was anybody I know. There was nothing about him that seemed familiar."
"Were you able to see anything about him? Hair, eyes, skin color, anything?" Starsky asked.
"Not really," she said, shaking her head. I know I saw his eyes, but you know, it's weird. I can't see them in my mind anymore. I remember they were cold--like...like a crazy person's eyes."
"Did he say anything?" Hutch asked, watching her intently.
"Yeah, a few things, but I don't remember much. I was screaming part of the time, and...I just don't remember all the details. I don't want to."
"This is very important, Ms. Mitchell," Starsky explained. "Please try to remember anything he said. Even a word or two."
"Something about...something about wanting it--the usual crap bastards like that say to women."
"Do you remember how he said it? How he phrased it?" Hutch pressed.
"It was a question, I guess, now that you mention it." She frowned in concentration. "Like, 'Don't you want this?' or something like that. I...I'm sorry. I just don't remember exactly."
"That's okay, Ms. Mitchell. Believe it or not, this is a big help."
"He said something similar to at least one of the other women. Anything we can start to piece together about this guy may be the thing that helps us nail him," Starsky explained.
"Good. Hey, look, I hope Frank didn't give you a bad time."
"No, not at all," Hutch said, smiling as they rose to leave. "He was very cooperative."
"He's a good guy. Wish it hadn't taken something like this to make me see that. Now it doesn't much matter," she said, standing up and walking with them to the door. "I can't picture..." She let the thought trail off, blushing a little, as if realizing that she was about to say something very personal to two total strangers.
"Is there a counselor, maybe on campus, that you--"
"No," she cut Starsky off mid-sentence.
"If you decide you'd like the numbers for any rape counseling services, just give us a call at this number," Hutch said, handing her his card. "And, if you think of anything else that might help--"
"Yeah, I know. Look, the other cops already tried to get me into group therapy. I'm not into shrinks, but thanks."
"Just one more thing, Ms. Mitchell," Hutch said. "Do you read romance novels at all?"
"Excuse me?" Her eyes widened a little. "What kind of a question is that?"
"I suppose it seems like a strange question," Hutch acknowledged, smiling. "It could have meaning for the case."
"Yes, I do read them once in a while. My college reading gets a little heavy, so it's nice to read something brainless sometimes."
"Do you buy them or check them out of the library?" Starsky asked.
"Library. I don't really care about building a permanent collection, if you know what I mean," she added with a slight smile.
"Which branch?" Hutch asked.
"The Sheridan Street branch. It's a little walk from here, but it's a great library. They have everything I'm looking for, it seems." She frowned. "This is going to help the case somehow?"
"Any similarities we can determine between the victims may lead to finding the man who did this," Hutch explained.
"I have a couple in my nightstand that still need to go back. I suppose they're overdue by now." She walked into the bedroom with the two detectives behind her and pulled two books out of the nightstand drawer. Both were by the same author, and both covers depicted similar themes. "Don't think I'll be wanting these again anytime soon."
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