Sing a Song of Gladness and Cheer
by Theresa Kyle

SHSVS, Episode 804, Part 5

Back to Part 4

Smigiel and Isak were sitting at the lawyer's desk, talking in low tones. Hutch heard Smigiel say, "The will will probably take eight or nine months to probate, but if you want money before that time, any bank would loan it to you on the basis of your inheritance. I would be happy to arrange--"

"Excuuuuse us," Starsky said, walking in, Hutch following after.

Smigiel was outraged. "This is a private attorney-client consultation!" He acted as if the two of them were violating the Holy of Holies.

"Too fucking bad," Hutch said, and it was not difficult at all for him to sound pissed off. "Time's up, Mr. Wolf."

"What the fuck?" Isak squeaked as Starsky pulled him roughly out of his chair and yanked his hands back to snap on handcuffs.

"Mr. Isak Wolf, you're under arrest for the murder of Lila Magoch," Starsky said in a cold, clipped voice. "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say--"

"This is an outrage!" Smigiel roared. "Are you crazy? Isak didn't kill Lila!"

"We think he did, Mr. Smigiel," Hutch said blandly. "He had the motive. Half a million motives, actually."

"I wouldn't kill Lila," Isak protested. He was still squeaking. "I loved her."

"We have it all figured out, Wolf," Starsky said. "How you deliberately sought her out, a lonely widow, plannin' on conning your way into her affections at the hope of getting some of her pile. And then talkin' her into leaving you all that money, but she was pretty healthy, so you decided to help things along with a little--"

"No!" Isak cried.

"This is just because he's black, isn't it?" Smigiel demanded. "You can't find the real killer so you latch onto Isak just because he's a member of a minority."

"Why not?" Starsky said, fairly convincingly, although Hutch could tell by his partner's eyes he hated having to pretend to be a racist, even to catch a killer. "What reason would Mrs. Magoch have for hiring a black guy, unless he conned her into it?"

"You...you have it all wrong!" Smigiel cried. "And I'm going to hit the BCPD with the biggest lawsuit for false arrest you've ever seen. Just wait and see."

"Fine, you do that," Hutch said. "The way the civil courts are backed up, it won't see trial for two or three years. By that time, the slippery Mr. Wolf here will be on death row." He nodded to Starsky, who grabbed Isak by the shoulders and started to pull him out the door.

"Stop!" Smigiel yelled. "Wait! I...I..." The articulate lawyer was, for a few seconds, at a loss for words. Then he said, "I can prove it. That Isak didn't kill Lila."

Starsky stopped at the door. "We're listening."

Smigiel looked at Isak with something like regret in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Isak," he said. "I really wanted to tell you this under...under better circumstances." He looked at the two policemen. "The truth is...Isak is Mrs. Magoch's son."

"What?" the young man blurted out.

Smigiel nodded. "Yes, you heard me, Isak. You are the missing Magoch baby."

"This is some kinda joke, right?" Starsky said. "You're tellin' me Mrs. Magoch screwed around on her husband, a guy she practically worshipped?"

"No. She didn't." Smigiel sank back into his chair. He looked apologetically at Isak again. "She was going to tell you this, Isak. She just couldn't think of a way to tell you without...without revealing a secret that she would've rather died than have anyone find out. And neither can I. But it looks like I'm going to have to." He looked at Starsky and Hutch again. "Larry Magoch was black."

Hutch wondered if he looked as stunned as Starsky did.

"I know," Smigiel said, seeing their faces. "It sounds like the headline of a Globe article, doesn't it? 'UFO Spotted over San Francisco; Baby with Two Heads Born in Mexico.' But it's true. Well, actually he was half-black. His mother worked in a factory and was coerced into having sex by her white boss under the threat that she'd be fired if she didn't. It was a good job, at least for a black woman of that era, so she complied. Then, when she got pregnant, the bastard fired her anyway. She went back home to Alabama to have her baby, but after he was born, her parents threw her out because the baby was white--he had black hair and dark eyes, but his skin was light. It was then that she decided her child was going to live better than she did, so she started to tell people that Larry, her baby, wasn't hers. That she was his nurse who used to work for Larry's mother, who had died. Although Larry knew the truth, she convinced him to go along with her story so people would think he really was white, and he'd have a better life. Then, after she died, he went to Hollywood--telling everyone that he'd lost both his parents when he was a kid--and made his fortune as a big cowboy star. He, in the vernacular, 'passed'. And no one ever guessed the truth."

"Oh, my God," Isak said, his voice a croak. Starsky, apparently realizing only when the young man spoke that he was still cuffed, swiftly took out his handcuff key and released him. But Isak still didn't move. He was staring at the lawyer. "How'd you know all this?"

"They told me," Smigiel said. "I knew them back then, and they needed legal guidance. I was the only person they ever took into their confidence. Larry never told anyone else about his heritage--except Lila of course, when she wanted to marry him. He told her he could never get married, and then he told her why--the chances were too great he'd have a child that...that was like his mother. He only agreed to marriage when Lila told him that children didn't matter, that they just wouldn't have children. But they didn't have the birth control pill in those days, and, well, something went wrong. After fourteen years of marriage, they had Larry, Jr.--you, Isak. She told me later that she just couldn't get an abortion--she loved Larry too much--and I guess they both hoped the baby would...look white. After all, it was three-quarters Caucasian. But, to be on the safe side, they arranged for the baby to be delivered at home, and used a doctor from Mexico who didn't speak English. Then, after the baby was born and Larry's fears were realized, they didn't know what to do. So they did what many people do when they don't know what to do--they did nothing."

"You knew about the baby then?" Starsky asked.

"No, I didn't. Not until much later, right before the kidnapping. They hid the baby all that time. Told people he was very susceptible to germs and couldn't be 'exposed' to any outsiders, to explain why they wouldn't let anybody see the baby. Wouldn't allow magazines to take any pictures for the same reason. Then, when some magazines offered to buy their private pictures, they said they didn't want any pictures released of the baby for fear of kidnappers. Of course, they never dared take any pictures of the baby, even private ones. It hurt me that they never let me see him--I was a good friend of Larry's--but then, Larry and Lila were pretty private people, so I thought they were just being overly protective.

"Then, finally, they told me. The baby was almost two years old at that point, and they were starting to worry about things like letting him play outdoors and what if he was seen? And school. He'd be going to school in a few years. They had to think of something. So they told me the whole story, including Larry's background. They wanted me to arrange for an adoption--to find a good home for Larry, Jr. And, fool that I am, I talked them out of it," the lawyer groaned. "I told them the publicity--giving away their own baby--would ruin Larry's career. It was the fifties, the time of the baby boom--babies, family, were taken very seriously then. Any man who gave away his own baby, even to a good home, would have been crucified in the papers. What a damned idiot I was."

"So the kidnapping was your idea?" Starsky asked.

Smigiel looked shocked. "Hell, no! No, what I suggested was that we pay off some doctor who would say the baby had died. It would have cost a fortune, buying off a doctor to sign a phony death certificate and some funeral director to bury an empty casket, but it could have been done. Then they could have quietly arranged to adopt a black baby to take 'their' child's place--who, of course, would have been their own baby. Adopting a black baby wouldn't have exactly been a prime move, career-wise, not in the fifties; I'm sure they would have gotten a lot of nasty letters from bigots, maybe even lost part of Larry's audience, but it could have worked. I had it all figured out. But no, Larry and Lila didn't want to do that. They thought it would be too easy for the truth--Larry's heritage--to get out that way, with so many people having to be let in on their secret. And Larry was afraid the baby might resemble him too much, later. He was absolutely paranoid about anyone finding out he was black. Not that I think that was completely irrational. If that news had gotten out, he would have never been given a job in the movies again. Not in the fifties."

"So whose idea was the kidnapping?" Hutch asked.

"Larry's. He wanted to arrange for the baby's 'death' without having a body, and a kidnapping seemed the best way to him. No funeral director or doctor to bribe, no one had to know their secret but them. I tried to talk them out of it, but I was just pissing in the wind at that point. They were both adamant that this was the only way. So...I gave in. Larry had this quality--I don't know if any of you young men have ever known anyone like this, but there are some people who are so charming, so charismatic, that you're just willing to do anything they want. Larry was like that. Although maybe I'm just rationalizing my own irrational behavior. Who knows? Anyway, Larry talked me into helping them. I managed to find a nice black family in New York, through an intermediary, for the adoption. They didn't know who Isak was, of course; I made up a story about his being the son of an unwed mother. Then, after your adoptive mother flew out of LA with you, Isak, and you both were safely in New York, Lila and Larry arranged the kidnapping themselves. Lila wrote the ransom note, using her left hand to disguise her handwriting, before they left for the movies that night, and they picked an old family friend to baby-sit, someone they knew would follow their instructions not to look in on the baby and find the note too soon, before the 'kidnapping' had time to take place. The whole thing was handled incredibly clumsily--the house being locked up, for one thing, with no signs of it being broken into, they didn't even think to muss up the covers in the crib, and then, of course, there was the babysitter not hearing anything, the dog not barking, the baby not crying. Larry Magoch's reputation was such that nobody suspected him, though, and somehow they pulled it off. And they thought that would be the end of it."

"But Henuber entered the picture," Starsky said.

"Yeah," Smigiel said bleakly. "The damned fool. He didn't know the kidnapping was fake, but when no second ransom note came, he thought maybe he'd hitch a ride on the gravy train. He got a copy of the ransom note, the first one--probably bribed someone in the police department, since the police were withholding details of the ransom note to avoid copycats--and wrote a second note like it. Trying to extort money from the Magoches by pretending to be the kidnapper. The Magoches had no choice but to pay the ransom, of course. Larry tried his best to persuade the police not to make note of the serial numbers, not wanting whoever the extortionist was to get caught, but he was overruled. And Henuber did get caught."

"Lila...she let an innocent man be executed for a crime that didn't even happen?" Isak asked. He looked as if he were in a trance.

"Don't think too badly of her, son," Smigiel said, his tone more gentle than Hutch would've imagined the emotionless lawyer capable of. "They did their best. They tried to persuade the DA to release him, they refused to testify against him, even went to the papers saying they didn't think there was enough evidence against Henuber to convict him. They even wanted to pay for his attorney, but I talked them out of that--said it would be too easy for the money to be traced, and besides, I thought the case was too weak for a conviction. But I was wrong. The public was rabid for blood, and the DA was rabid to be the next governor of California. So Henuber got convicted--and executed."

"Okay, I still don't get it," Starsky said. "How does this tie in with what Lila said the morning she was killed? When she asked us what if someone killed somebody but didn't mean to, would they go to jail? There wasn't any murder; her baby was alive."

"She was talking about herself," Smigiel said tiredly. "I know because she called and asked me that same question, right after she came home from seeing the two of you, I think--although she didn't mention she'd seen you. After Riordon's visit, she was worried that the whole story was going to be revealed at last, with his threat to get a lawyer or go to the press--that it'd be found out that she and her husband, if unwittingly, sent an innocent man to the gas chamber. And she was wondering if she'd go to jail for that."

"But it wasn't murder," Starsky said. "Not legally."

"No, it wasn't, and that's what I told her. But she wanted to be sure of that before she went through with her plans."

"Which were what?" Hutch asked. He couldn't help feeling sorry for the elderly woman, in spite of what she'd done.

"She was going to go to the newspapers and confess everything," Smigiel said. "Not that day, but soon, as soon as she told Isak the truth. Lila said she was sure, with Riordon bringing the case back into the public eye, that it wouldn't take long for modern-day investigators to figure out that the kidnapping wasn't real--and why. But she told me she thought maybe if she went to the press with the truth beforehand, she could soften it a little, make Larry sound less like a villain, less like a father rejecting his own race and his own son just for his career. Like I said, she wanted to tell Isak first, though. She was going to tell him that afternoon."

"Oh, God," Isak whispered. "She was my mother. My mom. Lila was my real mom." He looked at Smigiel, then at Starsky and Hutch, then back at the lawyer again. "And I'm three-quarters white. Shit. So who the fuck am I now?"

"You're still the same man you've always been, son," Smigiel said, and Hutch felt eerily reminded of what Starsky had said to Sam Riordon the day before. "And Lila loved you very much. It almost killed her to give you up. She did it for her husband, not because she was a doormat but because she loved him, but it still killed something inside of her. And I think it did kill Larry, giving you up the way he did. He'd never had coronary problems before, and then all of a sudden, he drops dead of a heart attack just a year after Henuber is executed. I think losing you--and seeing what losing you did to Lila--broke his heart. And Lila never forgot you. After her husband died she even tried to find you--thinking maybe she could do what I suggested at the beginning, adopt you legally. But you had disappeared."

Isak nodded. "Yeah," he murmured. "After my adoptive father died, my mom remarried. And he adopted me as his son, changing my name."

"She re-found you just a few years ago, by accident," Smigiel said. "A friend of the family that adopted you--although, of course, she didn't know you were Lila's--met up with her in Bermuda a few summers ago, and told her your adoptive mother's new name was Wolf. And Lila came and told me, and I dug you up. She was very pleased to find out you lived so close by, and kept tabs on you for a year or so, until finally, she couldn't stand it anymore and decided she had to see you, spend time with you. That's when she came after you to offer you that phony job. It wasn't just because she wanted to be with you, get to know you, either. She wanted you to know all about your father, too. That's why she thought up the idea of you writing a book about Larry--so she could talk to you about your father's background, his life, his career. Well, with you being a journalist it was naturally a good ploy to get you to work for her, but she also wanted you to know about your father, so that when she finally told you the truth, you, maybe, wouldn't hate him but try to...understand. She also wanted to help you, financially, any way she could, to make it up to you a little what she'd done, giving you up when you were a baby. And she was going to tell you the truth someday. She just didn't know how to do it so that you'd understand, and not reject her."

Isak let out a slow, not entirely steady breath. "I think I knew, somehow," he said. "I mean I knew she felt more for me than just an employer. I didn't know why, but...I knew we had something special. We always felt close to each other, even when we argued."

"I wish she had told you," Smigiel said. "And I'm sorry I didn't tell you right after Lila died. Maybe I had this feeling I still had to protect Larry. He was a good friend of mine, you know. I never cared much for Lila, I think she coerced Larry into marriage, and I suspect she got pregnant on purpose, but Larry was someone I...loved deeply. I could never condone what he did, but I loved him--" Abruptly the lawyer stopped, looking from Starsky to Hutch, his colorless eyes suddenly narrowing. "This was all bullshit, wasn't it?" he snapped. "You weren't going to arrest Isak at all. You just did it to get me to talk."

"Yeah," Hutch said evenly. "If you want to bring a lawsuit against us for false arrest, go ahead." He looked at Isak. "Mr. Wolf, I hope my partner didn't hurt you. Sometimes he gets carried away with the 'bad cop' routine."

"No. He didn't. It's okay," Isak said. "You...you guys knew this all along? That Larry and Lila Magoch were my birth parents?"

"No, we've only known a few hours," Starsky said. "Your fingerprints matched the ones taken from the Magoch baby's crib twenty-six years ago."

"Shit," the lawyer muttered, "I forgot about those damned fingerprints."

"You thought you would just keep it a secret forever, didn't you?" Starsky said coldly. "Even if it meant we'd never find out who killed Lila."

"Come on," the lawyer said impatiently. "You must realize by now that there's no connection between what...what happened all those years ago and what happened to Lila now. It was just coincidence that Riordon showed up the night before she died. Unless you think he did it. That Lila told him he wasn't her child and he got so mad he snapped."

"No, Riordon didn't kill her," Hutch said. "We know that for a fact."

"So who did?" the lawyer demanded.

"We don't have any idea, Mr. Smigiel," Starsky said. "We were hoping maybe you could tell us. Like maybe you know of somebody who knew the truth about the kidnapping, besides you, that didn't want the truth to get out--who knew Lila was going to spill the beans and wanted to stop her. Somebody you told in 1956, maybe--or more recently."

Smigiel shook his head. "I never told anyone, not even my psychiatrist. Larry asked me to keep the secret of his heritage, and I did, for twenty-six years. You're wasting your time following this trail, gentlemen. So why don't you just leave and try to find the person who really killed Lila?"

"Thanks for the advice," Hutch said coolly. "We'll keep that in mind." He didn't like Smigiel any more than he ever had, and finding out he'd played a part in the fake kidnapping certainly hadn't increased his affection. To Starsky he said, "C'mon, partner, let's go. I think we're done here."

He walked out, Starsky following.

"You know, I just can't help wondering if maybe Smigiel was right," Starsky said on their drive home. "That all that stuff about the faked kidnapping has nothin' to do with what happened to Lila. You think?"

"I don't know, Starsk. But I do know that you've been talking about the case nonstop since we left work. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve."

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that I'd like to talk about something other than the job for a few minutes, if you don't mind. Like what we're going to have for Christmas dinner, for example."

Starsky brightened considerably at the mention of food, as Hutch had known he would. "Christmas dinner. Now there's somethin' worth talkin' about," he said enthusiastically. Then, a little tentatively, "Hey, Hutch, you're not gonna insist on any of those health foods, are you? I mean, I really don't want to have tofu burgers and brewer's yeast for a holiday meal."

Hutch laughed. It felt good to laugh for a change, after the tense day they'd had. "No, partner, no tofu burgers. If there's one time of year when you should have what you want to eat, it's Christmas. How about going traditional, with a turkey?"

Starsky thought about it for a minute, then said reluctantly, "No. A turkey is too big for the two of us. We had a turkey at Thanksgiving when I was growing up, and we wound up eating turkey hash and turkey soup for two weeks."

"Something like duck, maybe?" Hutch suggested.

"No, duck is expensive and makes crappy gravy."

"Okay, how about a Cornish game hen?"

"What's that?"

"It's...a game hen, Starsk. A small bird, like a chicken only smaller."

"Can you stuff it?"

"I don't think so. I think they're too small to stuff. But we could buy some Stovetop."

"Oh. Okay. Well, okay, that sounds good. And maybe yams?"

"Sure. And a big green salad."

"And pumpkin pie for dessert? Will you make one of your homemade pumpkin pies, Hutch?"

"Yep. I'll even make it on Christmas Day, if you want, so it'll still be warm from the oven when we eat it."

"Great! And can we put vanilla ice cream on top?" Starsky asked hopefully. "Pie really isn't pie without ice cream."

Hutch had to concede that Starsky had a point. "Okay," he said. "I guess a little sugar won't kill us."

"Oh, wow, Hutch. This is gonna be the best Christmas ever, even without bein' able to exchange presents."

Hutch reached out and took his partner's hand. Held it tight in his.

"Another year together, partner," he said huskily.

"Yeah." Starsky's eyes glowed at him. "And the happiest year of my life, Hutch."

"That's what you said last year."

"That's because every year is happier than the one before."

And Hutch, once again, had to concede that Starsky had a point.

After a stop at Lucky's Market to stock up for Christmas dinner, they went home to a late supper and, as usual, an early bedtime.

Hutch was vaguely aware of having a pleasant dream about lying on a nude beach with Starsky next to him, when he felt something nudging him. He tried to ignore it, but when the nudge became more insistent, he opened his eyes. It was dark--still the middle of the night, he realized irritably. It was Starsky's hand that was nudging him.

"What?" he muttered, closing his eyes again.

"Hutch." Starsky sounded wide-awake. "Hutch, I want to do something."

"I have a headache," Hutch said, trying to bury his face deeper into the pillow.

"No, no, not that. I want to go out. Will you go with me? It's important."

Hutch opened his eyes again, looking at his partner. Then he glanced at the luminous dial of the clock next to their bed. "Starsky, it's a little past two a.m."

"I know, but I can't wait 'til morning. This is really important." Starsky sounded excited.

Reluctantly, the thin threads of his pleasant dream fading into nothingness, Hutch pulled himself up. "What is it?" he said.

"I want to go back to the crime scene."

"What?"

"Just to try something, Hutch. It's less than a mile away. Please."

"Okay, okay," Hutch grumbled, as he climbed out of bed and reached for his jeans, wondering all the while if he was crazy to be listening to his partner. "But this had better be good, Starsk. No, this had better be excellent. This had better be the best fuckin' idea you've ever had."

"It might be, Hutch." Starsky was still excited. "It might be the solution to the case."

Curious now, although still disgruntled about having to get up at 2:00 a.m. and on Christmas Eve, too, Hutch pulled on the rest of his clothes and followed his partner out to the Torino. A heavy coastal fog shrouded the street, and Hutch, feeling the chill seep down to his bones, thought once again that Starsky had better have something good with this, or he was going to kill him.

Minutes later, they were at Paradise Towers. Starsky unlocked the door with the key Isak had given them and they walked in.

"I want you to stay here while I go out into the hall, Hutch," Starsky said, speaking in a low tone, almost a whisper. "And while I'm out there, I want you to talk."

"Talk?" Hutch wasn't tracking too well. Okay, he was a morning person, but 2:00 a.m. was not morning in his estimation--it was the middle of the fucking night. "Talk about what?"

"Anything. A poem, song lyrics, your high school valedictorian speech. Walk through the apartment and say something in a normal speakin' voice. I want to see if I can hear you out here."

Hutch was beginning to get a glimmer. "You think that--?"

"I don't think anything right now. Just do it, okay?"

"Okay," Hutch agreed grudgingly.

After Starsky closed the door behind him, however, he realized he couldn't think of a damned thing to say. He sure as hell couldn't remember his valedictorian speech.

What the hell, he thought, and started to recite the only thing he could think of: the preamble to the Constitution. He walked into the kitchen and began:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Feeling foolish, he walked into the living room and, not wanting to recite the Constitution again, tried a psalm he'd learned as a child in Sunday school:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me...."

His mind went blank after that; although he knew something followed about dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, he couldn't quite remember it. "Amen," he said finally, then walked into Lila's memory room. Avoiding standing anywhere near the still-vivid bloodstain on the hardwood floor, he recited some lines he'd once memorized for a high school humanities class, from Macbeth:

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle, life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

He stopped. The bedroom and the dining room, he thought, wouldn't be necessary for the experiment; they were in the back of the apartment, and no way could someone in the hall hear anyone that far away. He figured the bathroom was out, too, since it was very unlikely many people would have a conversation there. He walked out the front door.

Starsky was standing in the middle of the hallway, his face blank.

"Well?" Hutch said.

"Not here," Starsky said. "Let's go."

Hutch didn't press it. He didn't say anything in the Torino, either. It wasn't until they were back in their own living room that Starsky said, "I know who killed Lila Magoch."

"The hell you do," Hutch said.

"I do. Only I can't prove it. Hell, we'll be lucky if we have enough even for a search warrant. But I know she did it."

"Rose Garland?"

"Yep."

"You're thinking she overhead the conversation between Lila and Riordon the night before Lila was killed? And something she heard was why she killed Lila the next day?" Hutch didn't even try to keep the skepticism out of his voice.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. Okay, Hutch, correct me if I'm wrong. First you recited the preamble to the Constitution, then you did the psalm, right? Was that it?"

"No. I also recited the 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow' speech from Macbeth--when Macbeth finds out his wife is dead--while I was standing in the room where Lila was killed. The Constitution was the kitchen and the psalm was the living room."

"Great. Riordon said they had their talk in the living room, so that fits. I could hear every word, Hutch." Starsky was pacing around the room, and Hutch, who felt tired just watching him, sank onto the sofa. Wishing he were upstairs in bed, wrapped around Starsky's warm body, but trying not to think about it.

"Here's what I think happened," Starsky said. "Rose Garland lied. She didn't come home just as Riordon was leaving Lila's apartment, but earlier. She gets out of the elevator and is in the hallway and she hears Lila and Riordon arguing in the living room. And she stops and listens. And finds out, listening to them, that Riordon thinks he's Lila's son, the one that was kidnapped all those years ago, meaning Al Henuber was innocent at least of the murder, since obviously the victim is still alive. She doesn't know what the hell to do, so she just stands there like a dummy in the hallway until Riordon and Lila walk out the door and find her there. She pretends she was just coming home, but she's really shook up.

"Then, the next day, she decides she has to talk to Lila. She lied again when she said she didn't get up 'til afternoon--although maybe she told the truth about not bein' a morning person, she was up early that day, or maybe she lay awake all night. Anyway, the next morning she walks down the hallway and knocks on Lila's door.

"Lila answers, and Rose, too excited to play it cool, asks to come in. Lila lets her in because, after all, she is a neighbor. And then Rose blurts it out. She wants to know the truth--if the Magoches' baby is really alive, if Henuber didn't really kill a baby in cold blood just for a hundred thousand big ones.

"Lila doesn't tell her the whole truth, of course. But I think, since she's already talked to her lawyer and told him she's going to tell the true story pretty soon--to her real son and to the press--she figures it wouldn't hurt to tell her neighbor some of it. So she says something, I don't know what, but enough. Rose finds out Lila and her husband more or less let Al Henuber go to the gas chamber, even though they knew he didn't kill their baby. They knew he was innocent of murder, but they let him die anyway. And she goes berserk. She grabs the Wingate award and beats Lila to death in a fit of rage that's probably been buildin' up her whole life."

Hutch still wasn't tracking well. He could hear the sound of a train whistle in the distance--the only outside sound in that still, damp night. Even the nearby freeway didn't seem to have any traffic at this hour.

"But why? Why did she do it?"

"Because Rose Garland was Al Henuber's daughter."

Hutch just stared at him.

"His daughter?"

"Yeah. His daughter. We know Henuber had a baby, both Witby and Riordon told us that his wife had a child when he was in prison. Who would want Lila dead more than Henuber's daughter, Hutch? Lila sent her father to the gas chamber. We should've thought of this before, find out what happened to that baby--but then, we didn't know that baby would have a motive until today."

"Starsky, it's the middle of the night and I'm still not quite awake. What makes you think Rose Garland is Henuber's daughter?"

"I don't really think it. It's just a theory, that's all. She's the right age to have been born then--in her mid-twenties. And she has red hair, and Henuber was a redhead--remember Witby mentioned his 'carrot-colored hair'?"

"Maybe Rose's hair is dyed."

"Maybe, but if it is, the roots didn't show. You know, I just thought of something else--Rose comin' after us after Lila's burial service, after I said we were close to getting the killer--she came up to us because she wanted to find out just how close we were. I guess we didn't think of that before 'cause right after that, Riordon showed up. Anyway, you wanna hear my big reason?"

"I'm waiting breathlessly, Starsk."

"Okay, here it is--this is what woke me up out of a sound sleep tonight. Henuber was a gardener."

"Yeah, I remember that, Witby told us. But so what?"

"So, Henuber's wife changed her name after the execution; Witby said that was the rumor, anyway. Now think about it. A woman who loves her husband--she stuck by him all through the trial, even testified for him--just had a baby by him, and she's of the generation where women were happy to have their husband's names, that was even part of their identity. Okay, she's being forced to change her name so her child won't grow up with the taint of having a baby killer for a father, but she still wants to keep part of her husband's identity. Wouldn't 'Garland' be a perfect name for a gardener's wife? She even named her daughter after a flower."

Hutch finally got it. "A tribute to her husband," he murmured. "Maybe even a kind of memorial to him."

"Yeah. That's what I was thinking. Rose Garland--gardener. Like I said, that's what woke me up."

"I don't know, Starsk. It sounds really farfetched."

"Yeah, I know it does." Starsky didn't seem daunted by the comment, however. He was still too excited. "But it could have happened, Hutch. Rose could have heard them talking, just like we proved tonight. And you have to admit it's one hell of a motive. Ginny said whoever killed Lila really hated her, and who would hate her more than the person whose father she destroyed? It's a perfect example of that old question you told me one time, the question all good cops ask at the scene of a crime, something about Sonny Bono--"

"Qui bono, Starsk. Who benefits."

"Right, who benefits. Well, who that's still alive would feel happier over Lila's death than Henuber's child--if she found out what happened, that Henuber didn't kill the baby, and Lila knew it and let him go to the gas chamber, anyway? Anyway, tomorrow we can track down Al Henuber's wife and child, and find out what happened to them. And see if I'm right."

"Yeah. It's certainly worth testing as a theory."

Starsky gave him one of his little-boy looks. "You think I'm full of shit, don't you?"

"It's possible. I think that about you on a periodic basis," Hutch teased, then, as Starsky's face fell even further, "C'mon, Starsk, I think it's brilliant. And you're right, it all makes sense. It's about the first thing in this case that does." He covered a yawn. "But right now, if you don't mind, I'd really like to go back to bed. I'm cold, and you know I need to get my eight or I get cranky. Okay?"

"Okay," Starsky said agreeably. "God forbid Ken Hutchinson should get cranky. He might get a line or two in his gorgeous, perfect forehead."

"Oh, shut up," Hutch growled. "I already have a lot of lines, and you know it."

"Not to me," Starsky said.

When they undressed and got into bed again, Starsky seemed to want to make love. Hutch wasn't really in the mood, but decided Starsky probably deserved it, after all the brain work he'd done. They had a quick but satisfying sixty-nine, then fell asleep in each other's arms.

"This is ridiculous," Rose Garland said, looking at the warrant and then at Starsky and Hutch. "Just because I'm unlucky enough to be the neighbor of a murder victim, now you want to tear my place apart?"

"We'll do our best not to mess it up too much," Hutch said.

"This is just, like, totally crazy." Rose looked more exasperated than angry, however. If she was feeling any fear, Hutch thought, she was hiding it well. "I want a lawyer."

"You can call one if you want to, but that won't delay the search. You're not under arrest, so you don't have the right to make us wait until you have an attorney present." Starsky nodded to the two uniforms who'd come in with them, who promptly went into the bedroom. Starsky opened the closet in the living room and started looking through the coats and jackets.

"What are you looking for, anyway?" Rose asked, then added sarcastically, "Maybe I can help save you some time."

"It's written on that warrant," Hutch said. He went to the coffee table and started sorting through the magazines and newspapers, but there was nothing there but some current tabloids, along with a few astrology magazines and a TV Guide. "Murder evidence such as bloody clothes or anything else with blood on it, or any written material pertaining to the Magoch kidnapping that you might've stolen from Lila's apartment after you killed her."

"What? You think I had something to do with Lila's murder?" Rose was incredulous. "Sheesh, all those donuts you guys eat must've fried your brains. Why would I want to kill Lila? Just because she didn't want to go jogging with me or gave me a batch of stale cookies one time?"

"Come on, Rose," Hutch said, not even trying to be patient by this point. "We know who you really are. Our R & I did a check on your mother, Mrs. Marjorie Henuber. After some digging, we found out she'd moved to Maine and changed her name to Garland after her husband was executed for kidnapping and murder in 1958."

"Oh, please. You guys are so out in left field it's not even funny," Rose snapped. "I guess I should know my own mother's name, and it wasn't Marjorie Hen--whatever. It was Violet Garland."

"Yeah, she gave herself a flower name, too," Hutch said. "That was kind of touching, in a way--she had to change her name for your sake, knowing you'd have a tough row to hoe if people found out who your father was, but she couldn't reject him completely. And when you got old enough to hear the story, she told you all about him. How he was railroaded because Larry Magoch and his snooty Hollywood wife wanted a scapegoat for their son's kidnapping--"

"No!" Rose cried. "It wasn't like that."

Hutch waited, holding most of his breath. This was the moment all cops prayed for--the moment when the suspect was caught off-guard and blurted out something, some information, maybe even a confession. But she didn't. Finally, Starsky said helpfully, "So how was it, Rose?"

"I don't have to talk to you," Rose said. "Just do your damned search and then get out of my apartment."

Starsky, finished with the closet, went into the kitchen.

"You really think I'd hide evidence of a murder in the kitchen?" Rose said icily.

"Hey, don't you ever read Ellery Queen?" Starsky countered. "People are always hiding stuff in the refrigerator or the freezer. We were on a case once where someone hid some diamonds in an ice cube tray. Well, they weren't really in the ice cubes, but that's what a little girl told some guys who were threatening her. It's a long story," he added, when Rose just gave him a blank look. He opened the refrigerator door.

Hutch searched through some drawers and, finding nothing, went into the kitchen to help Starsky. "Find anything?" he asked.

"Yeah. This woman has the worst diet I've ever seen," Starsky said. To Rose he added, "Don't you eat anything but Perrier and yogurt?"

"I have to watch my figure," Rose said. "You should see the skimpy costumes we have to wear at work."

Starsky grunted as he inspected the yogurt cartons, one by one. Hutch looked on the counter, but there was nothing on it but a bowl of lettuce and a cutting board with a tomato on it, which Rose had apparently been slicing up for a salad when they'd arrived. He hunkered down to look under the sink.

He saw what one would expect under a kitchen sink: dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, plastic gloves, sponges, an empty plastic pail, shampoo, but he still looked carefully at each container in turn. He started to close the door--then stopped. The box of laundry detergent was unopened, but it hit him it was large enough to hide something inside.

He brought out the box. It was heavy, he realized. Too heavy to have just detergent in it.

"Starsk," he said.

Starsky quickly moved over to him. "Better get the uniforms in here," Hutch said. "The more witnesses the better."

Starsky went to the bedroom and called to the two men, who came out immediately.

Rose was pale, standing still as a statue as she stared at the box of Tide. "Want to talk to us?" Hutch asked her.

She didn't answer. She didn't even give any indication she'd heard.

Lifting the box, Hutch saw the bottom had been doctored--opened and then carefully taped shut with clear plastic tape. He held the box of detergent over the sink and carefully peeled off the tape, opening the box from the bottom.

Laundry soap inside. A poke of Hutch's finger, however, revealed something solid amid the white flakes. He dumped the soap flakes out into the sink.

Along with the soap flakes, two shoes fell out--white Nikes, maybe about a size six. Nice ones, Hutch noted. They looked new. Well, Rose had said she jogged.

Carefully, he pulled them out from the mound of laundry detergent. They weren't completely white, he noted. One of them was splattered with a brown substance.

He looked up at Rose. She looked a little sick.

"Kind of an odd place to hide shoes, huh, Rose?" he said.

"It's none of your damned business what I do with my shoes," Rose said, her voice quavering despite her defiance.

"It's our business when you kill someone and then try and hide the evidence," Starsky said. "So what happened, huh, Rose? You threw your bloody clothes out after you killed the old lady, but you just couldn't bear to throw out those expensive jogging shoes?"

"No!"

Starsky gestured to one of the uniforms, who handed over two evidence bags. Starsky put one shoe in each bag. Rose watched this, looking even sicker. Finally she blurted out, "I was having my period. That's what happened. I was having my period and wrecked my shoes."

"And you thought maybe if you put them in a box of laundry detergent that would clean them up good, right?" Hutch said.

Rose's lips tightened, and Hutch wondered why he'd ever thought she was pretty.

"Don't worry," Starsky said placatingly. "Our police lab will be able to tell pretty fast what kind of blood it is. And after we type it, if we find out it's Mrs. Magoch's, it's gonna be a little hard for you to explain how it got there if you didn't murder her." He nodded to the two uniforms, who then left.

"Why don't we just wait here and see what happens?" Hutch suggested. "They'll call us when they have the blood typed. Meanwhile, why don't you have your salad? It might be the last good meal you have for a long, long time. Believe me, prison food is not gourmet."

"You don't understand," Rose said.

"You probably shouldn't say anything more. Besides, we know why you did it," Starsky said. "That nice little old lady next door railroaded your father, when she knew all along he was innocent. She even put your mother in an early grave, didn't she, by sending your dad to the gas chamber?"

"No! It wasn't like that," Rose cried. "My mother thought he was guilty. She always thought he was guilty. And so did I. I always thought he'd done it--kidnapped and killed that little boy."

Hutch stood there hardly breathing, and he knew Starsky, next to him, was hardly breathing either.

Words were tumbling out. "And I'm not talking about just his confession, either. My mother told me that one day, before my father was caught, she was searching in the garage for some old rags and found the ransom money in a big wooden box. My father hadn't spent any of the money; he was waiting for the heat to die down. It was all there, every cent. My mother never told him, never told anybody but me later, but she knew long before he was arrested that he was the Magoch kidnapper."

Hutch wondered if he would have to coax the redheaded woman to continue, but Rose didn't seem to need any coaxing. Words were tumbling out even faster.

"I always thought he was guilty, too. You don't understand. You don't know how it was, growing up knowing you had bad blood, knowing your father was one of the worst fiends of the twentieth century. My mother changed our name to Garland after the trial. She picked Garland because my father was a gardener; that way, she could still kind of keep his name. We moved to Maine, the farthest we could get from California and still be in the United States, but the guilt was still there. Always there. I couldn't get close to anyone for fear of their...finding out who I really was. And my mother...I think it ruined her life, too. She felt responsible for the Magoch baby's death, since she'd always nagged my father to earn more money, especially after she got pregnant. She thought it was her fault he'd kidnapped the baby."

Rose let out a breath. "And then...when she died...I inherited the money from her. Money that damned magazine had paid my father, a hundred thousand dollars, for his confession. My mother had never touched it. She'd invested it for me, and by the time she died, it was...quite a bit, due to compound interest. So I used it to come back to California and look up Mrs. Magoch. I knew Larry Magoch had died shortly after my father did, but I'd heard Lila Magoch was still alive. And I finally tracked her here."

"To kill her?" Hutch asked softly.

She stared at him. "No! No, I just wanted to...to get to know her. Be her friend." Her voice was pleading. "I wanted to make amends somehow, even though I didn't dare tell her who I was. All the guilt I'd grown up with...I just felt as if I owed her something after what my father had done, killing her only child...even if all I could do was be her friend. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah," Starsky said. "I know."

She leaned against the kitchen counter, as if indescribably weary.

"I found out she was living here, so I bought this apartment--paid more than it was worth to the guy who owned it before me, so he'd move. And I moved in," she said, almost as if talking to herself. "I tried to get close to her, went jogging with her, asked her over to watch TV. We even went shopping together at Robinson's a few times, but...I don't think she really wanted to be my friend. She didn't really want a woman friend, period; she was the type of woman who only liked the company of men, even at her age."

She sighed, a deep breath that made her chest rise and fall. Hutch couldn't help thinking, as he watched those small but attractive breasts lift and then sink in the pink leotard she was wearing, what a waste it all was.

"And then...that night...I came home and heard her talking with...with that man." Her voice quavered. "I couldn't...I just couldn't believe it. He said that he was her child--the Magoch baby. That Al Henuber had never killed anyone, that he had just written that confession for the money. And this guy sounded really convincing--the things he said about the case--saying how it was obvious, if you looked at the facts, that my father hadn't been guilty of anything more than extortion. And Mrs. Magoch didn't deny what he was saying. She didn't argue with him. Just told him to leave when he said he wanted her to help him find out the truth of the case. He wanted to compare his fingerprints with the Magoch baby's and prove my father's innocence, but she wouldn't let him.

"I tried to get back to my room in time, but I didn't. They both saw me standing there in the hall, and I pretended I was just coming in, that I hadn't heard anything. And I went into my apartment and I didn't hear anything more. But I couldn't help thinking...wondering if maybe he was right. If maybe my father was innocent."

"So the next morning, you went to Lila's to ask her what had really happened in 1956," Hutch said.

"Well, wouldn't you?" Rose demanded. "If you'd lived your whole life thinking you were the daughter of a baby killer, wouldn't you want to know the truth? To have that taint removed once and for all, not just for you but for your father's memory, too?

"But she wouldn't talk to me. Oh, she invited me in, but she was busy straightening up that damned room she'd devoted to her husband's crap. She said she was having company soon, two stupid asshole fans she'd just met who were coming by to see her husband's stuff, and she wanted the room to look nice. I don't know if she even heard me when I tried to talk to her about what I'd overheard the night before. Finally, she just looked at me kind of blankly and said she didn't want to talk about it. Just blowing me off! So I told her."

Rose was shivering now, as if cold, and her face was white as a ghost's. Hutch wondered if she was going into shock, and thought for a brief moment of telling her to sit down. But he didn't want to risk stopping the flow of words.

"I told her...whose daughter I was," she whispered. "And said that I thought I had a right to know the truth. And she...she looked at me with this sick expression...and I knew. I don't know how I knew, but I knew. My father was innocent and she knew he was innocent.

"I demanded to know what had happened, and she...she told me." Still whispering. "She told me everything. She said she and her husband never meant to hurt anyone, but they'd invented a phony kidnapping in order to put their child up for adoption, because the public would never accept Larry Magoch giving up his own child. They'd never dreamed somebody would actually send another ransom note, but when my father did, what could they do? I said, 'Why didn't you say anything at the time? Why didn't you go to the police and tell them the truth after they arrested my father?' She looked at me as if I were mad and said, 'I couldn't do that. It would have ruined my husband's career if people found out what we'd done.' Like his fucking career was more important than a man's life! And then she said, 'And, after all, he did try to rob us.'

"That's when I lost it." Her voice was almost gone now. "Here this bitch, this cunt, had done this, inventing the kidnapping, lying to everyone, then letting my father take the rap, when she knew all along her baby was still alive--and yet she was sitting in judgment on him! She and her husband lived in this beautiful house, had a swimming pool and beautiful clothes and vacations in Europe, but my father had to work fourteen-hour days getting heatstroke from the sun just to keep food on the table. And she was condemning him for stealing! After she had killed my father, just the same as if she'd shot him, before I could even get to know him."

Her voice was shaking, although she wasn't crying. She reached up and pushed back some errant strands of her tousled red hair, then her hands dropped.

"I don't remember grabbing that statue and hitting her," she said huskily. "I know I did, because I remember standing over her and feeling blood on my face, all hot and sticky, and looking down at her battered face and feeling like I wanted to puke. It was bad, worse than anything I could have ever imagined. It's funny, but as much as I hated her, as much as I still hate her, if I could undo what...what happened, I would in a heartbeat. I would even give my life if I could undo it. It was that awful. In the movies when a guy kills someone, he just blows it off. The next minute, he's making jokes with his sidekick or making love to his girlfriend and not even thinking about it anymore, but real life isn't like that. I still feel like puking, just thinking about it."

"I know," Hutch said quietly.

She didn't seem to hear him. "I didn't know what the hell to do. I knew her assistant didn't come in until afternoon, but he could still come by early, he sometimes did. I wiped that award thing off, in case my fingerprints were on it, and wiped the doorknob, too. Then I went back to my apartment, put my blood-splattered clothes in a garbage bag, and took a shower. I really had to scrub my fingernails; they had lots of blood under them. Then I went out and drove around, and finally, down on Sequoia, I found a dumpster and threw the garbage bag in. It wasn't until after I got home that I saw one of my shoes had blood on it. I was so out of it I hadn't noticed before. The blood had dried by then, and I knew the body was going to be discovered any time, so I knew I didn't have time to clean it up, and I didn't know if I could get all the blood out, anyway. But I didn't want to throw the shoes out either, they were brand new and expensive. So I thought I would just hide them until I could figure out what to do. And then, when you came around asking questions, I thought maybe I'd just tell you about seeing that guy--maybe you'd go after him instead of me, and I'd be safe. Maybe--"

Her voice stopped. Didn't trail off. Just stopped.

Starsky, apparently realizing the young woman was out of words, said gently, "Ms. Garland, I'm gonna give you your rights, okay?" He might've been coaxing her off a ledge rather than getting ready to arrest her for murder.

She looked at him as if he had spoken Chinese. Starsky, apparently taking her silence as assent, began, still speaking in a gentle tone, "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be prov--"

"No!" Rose cried suddenly.

Hutch blinked as, swift as lightning, Rose grabbed the knife on the cutting board and held it up to Starsky's neck. Right over the carotid artery.

Oh, shit. That was all Hutch could think. Oh, shit, oh, shit. He hadn't been expecting it. He'd been tense and ready for anything earlier, when they'd shown up with the warrant, when they'd talked to her about their suspicions, when they'd found the shoes. Even while she was confessing. But when she stopped talking he'd thought she was defeated, wiped out, done. Apparently not.

His hand itched for his gun, but he knew he couldn't draw it. She could slice Starsky's throat in less than a second and he'd be too late. He wondered, in the tumbling thoughts on the frantic gerbil wheel of his mind, how long it would take Starsky to die if she cut his carotid artery with that fucking knife. Not long, he realized. No, death would probably be instantaneous--or as instantaneous as death can ever get.

This was his nightmare coming true. Starsky dying and he couldn't do a thing about it. He was helpless.

Starsky didn't move an inch. His eyes, looking into Rose's, were somber but not pleading.

"Rose, Rose." He spoke softly, like a lover. "You don't really want to do this. C'mon. You'll just make things harder for yourself."

Hutch wanted to talk, too. Use reason on her, say there was no way she could get away with murdering his partner. But he couldn't speak. His throat muscles felt paralyzed. Just like his body. Frozen.

"I have to do it," Rose said. Pleadingly. "I'm not going to prison. I'm not going to bring more shame on my father's name."

Finally, Hutch heard himself speak. Incredible, but true.

"You're the only one who can clear your father's name, Rose," he said.

Rose glanced at him. That was all it was, just a glance, but it was enough to tell Hutch she was listening, at least. He pursued his advantage, talking--like Starsky had--quietly and gently, as if to a skittish horse.

"Only a few people know the truth, Rose. That guy you heard with Mrs. Magoch, he doesn't really know the truth, just suspects it. Mrs. Magoch is dead, so she can't tell anyone. The public at large still thinks your father kidnapped and killed a two-year-old baby, that your father was a monster. And how are they ever going to learn the truth if we don't tell them?"

Rose was looking at him now--her eyes right on his. No longer looking at Starsky. But the knife was still over Starsky's throat; Hutch could see the little dent on Starsky's flesh that showed she was pressing it hard against his skin. Hutch wondered if Starsky could risk trying to knock the knife out of her hand. But, no--by the tense posture of her body, he knew the second she felt him move she would cut that life-giving artery with one fatal jerk of her hand.

"You know he wasn't guilty?" she whispered.

"Yes, we do," Hutch said. Easy, easy, he told himself. "My partner and I know how the Magoches set up the kidnapping, wrote the phony ransom note, arranged to have their child adopted. We know your father never kidnapped or killed anyone, that an ambitious DA railroaded him. We even found out he had an alibi for the night the baby was supposedly taken. But if you don't put that knife down, my partner and I will never say anything. No one will hear the truth, and your father will go down in history as a child killer. All the true crime books, all the history books will say the same thing--'Al Henuber, convicted kidnapper and murderer of the Magoch baby'."

"No..." Rose whispered. For a few seconds she didn't move, and Hutch wondered, his heart hammering loudly in his ears, if she could even comprehend what he was saying.

Then, oh, God, miracle of miracles, her hand--the one holding the knife--dropped. Dropped as if she had suddenly lost all strength in her arm. Starsky, quick as a magician's trick, grabbed the blade out of her hand.

Hutch sagged against the kitchen counter. He, too, felt as if all strength had left his body.

"You'll tell them?" Rose asked Hutch, her voice small and pitiful. It reminded Hutch--without his quite knowing why--of the sad meow of a lost kitten. "You'll tell everyone the truth now?"

Hutch couldn't speak. He couldn't say anything to the woman who had just tried to kill his partner. It was Starsky who finally answered.

"Yeah, Rose," he said, his voice quiet but full of conviction, even as he pulled out his cuffs. "We'll tell them. At your trial."

Starsky was whistling as he and Hutch left the DA's office, obviously in a good mood. The assistant DA had told them they had a good case against Rose Garland, especially since the blood on her shoe matched Lila Magoch's. Even if her lawyer agreed to a plea bargain, the assistant DA told them, Al Henuber's daughter would be in jail for a long, long time.

As he pulled the Torino out into traffic Starsky said cheerfully, "Well, all's well that ends well, huh?"

"Yeah. Right," Hutch said, staring out the window.

After a pause: "Stop it, Hutch."

"What?" Hutch, startled, looked at Starsky. "Stop what?"

"Stop feeling guilty about Rose pullin' a knife on me." Then, when Hutch said nothing more: "C'mon, babe, it wasn't your fault. Neither of us knew she was ready to snap."

"It's not that," Hutch said.

"It's not?"

"No. Well, it's partly that, but mostly it's...Starsky, I froze. Just like that time when we were shot at in the alley and I froze, didn't back you up...and you could've been killed. Because, just like then, I was so scared of losing you, I couldn't move." He looked out the window again. "Because of my fear I failed you. Failed you as a brother cop, failed you as a friend, and I sure as fuck failed you as a partner."

"You didn't fail me as anything," Starsky said gently. "Look, you big blond galoot, you're forgetting a minor detail here--you saved my life today. If you'd tried to grab her, she would've panicked and carved me up like a turkey. But you did just what you should've done, didn't try to rush her, didn't try to pull your gun, just talked to her quietly, pushin' all the right buttons to get her to see that killing me wasn't a smart thing to do."

"But that wasn't...I wasn't thinking, Starsky. Don't you get it? I was too fucking terrified to think."

"So what? That's what bein' a cop is all about, sometimes--acting on your instincts, flying by the seat of your pants. And you did great. Hey, I'm here, aren't I?"

"Yeah. You are," Hutch admitted. But he still remembered how helpless he'd felt. How he'd been able to see nothing but that silver knife blade poised over Starsky's vulnerable, defenseless throat--

"Hey," Starsky said, interrupting his thoughts. "Stop thinkin' about it, Hutch. Just stop thinkin' about it. It's over with. Hey," he added, reaching for Hutch's hand and giving it a hard, fast squeeze. "Your nightmares are just that--nightmares. Not real life. I told you before, you're not gonna lose me. Not ever."

"You can't promise me that. I mean, you can promise never to leave me...but you can't promise you'll outlive me."

"Hey, I figure neither of us is going to outlive the other, that we'll just go out together, like Butch and Sundance," Starsky said. "Or better yet, we'll both live to be a hundred and then one night just die quietly in our sleep--hopefully after havin' had some really good sex."

"At age one hundred?" Hutch said, smiling a little now. Starsky could always make him smile.

"Sure, why not? That'll be well into the next century; who knows what medical advances they'll have then? Maybe a hundred then will be like fifty is now. Look at Joan Collins on that show Dynasty. She's fifty years old and she's a sex symbol. In Lila Magoch's time, a woman was washed up by the time she was thirty."

"Well, I can see you still going at it at a hundred, anyway," Hutch said. "You always were a sex fiend."

"That's why you love me."

"You got it."

Starsky turned into the Metro parking garage.

Isak Wolf was waiting for them in the squadroom--empty now, since it was late afternoon on Christmas Eve.

"Is it true?" Isak asked, not bothering with amenities. "Al Henuber's daughter killed my mother? Smigiel just called me and said one of his golf buddies at the DA's office told him that."

Hutch was amused. On the last day of her life, Lila had said that lawyers were the biggest gossips, and he guessed this proved it. "Yes, it's true," he said. "She confessed--to us--and she'll probably confess again to the DA, after her lawyer arranges a plea bargain. And she'll pay for what she did--not as much as she should pay, but she'll pay."

Isak shook his head. "Unreal," he murmured. "Rose killed Lila. I knew her, you know. I mean, not well, but we'd talk sometimes, and I made bread and cookies for her a lot. Lila and I were always trying to get her to eat more. She always seemed like a nice girl."

"Sometimes, nice people commit murder," Starsky said. "Amazing as that is to think about."

"Yeah, maybe." Isak sighed. "You know, this reminds me of something my grandmother--my adoptive grandmother--once said to me: 'Chickens always come home to roost.' I'm not saying Lila deserved to die, she didn't, but in a way, I can kind of see why Rose did it. By trying to protect her husband, Lila killed Rose's father. She didn't mean to, but she did. And now, all these years later, her chickens came home to roost."

"Yeah," Hutch said. "I can see why she did it, too. But I still don't feel very sorry for her." He could never forget how Rose had almost killed his partner.

"I don't either. I wish I could, but I don't. Because of her, Lila and I both missed a chance to...to talk as mother and son. I wish she'd had a chance to tell me she was my mom, and I wish I'd had a chance to tell her I forgive her for giving me up. But at least we had our year together. I was really lucky to have that. You'll...keep me in the loop?" Isak asked. "I mean, if this goes to trial or if she plea bargains or whatever?"

"Sure," Starsky said. "Meanwhile, why don't you go home and try to have a merry Christmas, huh?"

"I'll try. Actually, I'm going to spend Christmas with my folks. They live up in Oxnard, but they're going to be in LA for the holidays, staying with friends of theirs in West Hollywood, and I'm going to join them. I don't know how much of this I'm going to tell them. I'll tell them everything eventually, but for now...I don't know."

"I'm sure you'll figure out the best way to handle it," Hutch said.

"Thanks," Isak said. "At least this has convinced me of one thing--I'm going to write that book about Larry Magoch. And Lila. The whole thing, from the beginning, including the fake kidnapping. I think the story needs to be told."

"That's terrific," Starsky said sincerely. "I'm sure you'll do a great job."

"You know," Hutch said, "she fought those books being written before because she was afraid of the truth coming out. But right before she died, she realized it was time for the truth to be told, after all. And I think she would want her son to be the one to tell it."

"I hope you're right," Isak said.

"Ah, he's always right," Starsky said with a grin. "Hey, send us an autographed copy when your book comes out, okay?"

"I will. Oh, I almost forgot. I brought you some eggnog." Isak handed Hutch, who was standing closer to him than Starsky, a paper bag. "No rum in it, so you don't have to arrest me for attempting to intoxicate a police officer." He smiled, and Hutch suddenly realized he really was a handsome kid. He didn't really resemble Larry Magoch, except for his voice, but he was easily as handsome as the cowboy star had been. Then Hutch realized something shocking--he was thinking of a guy in his twenties as a "kid."

"Thanks," Hutch said.

"You're welcome. Well, so long...and merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas," Starsky said.

Isak left and Starsky took the bag from Hutch. He took the lid off the jar of eggnog and sniffed.

"Ah...smells like Christmas," he said as he put the lid back on. "We'll need to get some rum to put in it, though. Eggnog isn't eggnog without it." He put the bag down on the desk.

"You think the kid will be okay?" Hutch asked.

"Yeah, I think so," Starsky said. "Even with his fucked-up father." He sighed. "Really sucks, you know? Larry Magoch was a hero in every movie he ever made, but if he'd been a real hero, he would've just said to the world after his baby was born, 'Hey, I'm black, and so what?' He might've changed a lot of people's thinking doin' that. But he didn't, just to save his stupid career."

"It wasn't just his career," Hutch said. "It was also that he couldn't accept being black. He couldn't even keep his child because the baby reminded him of that part of himself that he couldn't face."

"Yeah," Starsky said. "When you come down to it, he really was a son-of-a-bitch." He sighed again. "Shit. Another one of my heroes bites the dust."

"You've still got me," Hutch said, half-teasing, half-serious.

Starsky smiled. "Yeah, that's true," he said, lowering his voice to that sexy tone Hutch loved. "Thanks for reminding me."

"Anytime."

On to Part 6

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