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The Sentinels


(Note: This story is not set immediately after 'Do You Know What Night Is?' Mysterious things happened on Miranda's Island, and Starsky & Hutch may refer to them from time to time.)



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I was dreaming and where I dreamt a light had gone out and in that light they blind their sight and sit sentinel upon the brooding of owl-thought, counselings I remember ever mute and alive, hidden in all things.

Robert Duncan, The Sentinels, from Ground Work II, In the Dark.

**********************************************

'We the jury find the defendants guilty!'

There was a long moment of silence, then a wild mixture of cheers, and cries of rage and horror. The judge pounded her gavel on the bench and called for silence. She was ignored. Reporters rushed out of the courtroom to file their stories.

Starsky and Hutch turned to each other to share a moment of triumph before walking over to Daniel to pat him on the back.

Hutch felt a chill along his spine. He looked around the courtroom. There it was, over in the corner. A shadow. A pair of eyes blinking for a moment. They were gone before Hutch could see enough to ID the owner.

'Hutch?'

'Mmm? Oh, nothing.'

'Hey! It's not nothin', Blondie. You look like you've seen a ghost.'

'No. Just someone walking over my grave, I think.'

'Don't joke about that, Babe. Come on. Give.'

'It's nothing, Starsk. Just a feeling.'

'Feelings ain't nothing, are they Dan?'

'Hey. I'm not getting involved.' Daniel grinned at them both. 'You gotta work out your own problems, remember?'

'Hoist on my own... whatever that thing is.'

'Petard, Starsk.'

'Gesundheit.'

'What?'

'Quit stallin', Babe. What was this feeling?'

'Boy, you never give up, do ya? I've had it before. Ever since this trial started. Like someone was watching me. Haven't you felt it?'

'Well, we were testifying, Hutch. And there were all those protestors. All those people who thought the guys should have been given medals for setting a queer on fire. So yeah, I figure people were watching us. So?'

'This was different.' Hutch thought a moment about how to define the difference. 'People have always watched us. You get used to it when you're a cop. Fear. Hatred. Curiosity. You tune it out. This... this I couldn't tune out.'

'Maybe someone was checking you out. You know, you are hot.' Starsky said the last few words in a very low whisper. Dan looked Hutch over, and laughed in agreement.

Hutch grinned at them. 'No. It wasn't that kind of interest. But you know, you just made me realize. There was a kind of hunger there, just not sexual hunger.'

'Huh?'

'I don't know, Starsk. I keep telling you. I just felt a hunger, reaching out to me. Like I was some sort of prey.'

'Now you are scaring me.' Starsky was looking around the courtroom now, scanning every face. Dan was doing the same thing. Enough freaking out my friends, thought Hutch.

'It's gone now, Starsk, if it ever was there. Maybe I was just freaked out by all this fuss over the trial. Come on, Dan. We'll give you a ride home, or to see Josh. Whatever you like.'

'Yeah, thanks. I want to see Josh. Give him the news in person. He'll be glad this is all over.'

They walked out of the courtroom, and down the street to the parking lot. The Torino was waiting. Starsky bent to unlock the door.

Someone was watching them. Hutch turned quickly, but whoever it was, they had disappeared among the other cars.

'Stay here!' he ordered, and took off, down the parking lot, checking each row of parked cars, before moving on to the next. A flicker of movement caught his eye. Footsteps running away caught his ear.

'Police! Freeze!' he called out. The footsteps didn't stop. He ran after them, but they faded in the distance. He stopped at the far edge of the parking lot, and looked in every direction. No signs of a fugitive on foot. Only cars. Cars in the parking lot. Cars on the road.

'Hutch?' Starsky asked at his elbow. 'What's up? Someone feeling hungry again?'

'No,' Hutch answered him. 'This was something different.'

'I know,' said Starsky. 'Whoever that was, he was afraid.'

*********************

They strode in through the doors of The Pits.

'Hey, Hugs!' Starsky shouted. 'Where are you?' Huggy appeared behind the counter, as if by magic.

'You called, Master?' he asked.

Hutch sniggered. 'Now, Huggy,' he said. 'Don't give Starsky ideas. I need a beer.'

'That was an interesting segue,' Huggy noted.

'An interestin' what?' Starsky asked.

He heard a chuckle behind him, and turned quickly. A tall Black man was standing there, looking at Hutch. A tall, handsome Black man. Hutch noticed the direction of Starsky's attention, and turned from the beer Huggy had placed in front of him.

'Bay?' he asked. He smiled.

'In person,' said the stranger.

'Well, that's a refreshing change,' said Hutch. 'After years of Post Cards, and Christmas Cards, and... let me see... a grand total of two phone calls?'

'I'm a terrible friend, I know.'

'No,' said Hutch. 'You were busy. But you're here now. And I want you to meet someone, Bay. My partner, David Starsky.'

'Partner?' asked Bay.

'Oh, yes,' said Hutch. 'Definitely my partner. Starsky, this is Bayan Justin. An old friend.'

Friend? Perhaps, thought Starsky. Not that old, though. Bayan Justin? Why did that name sound familiar?

'We worked together in the Civil Rights Movement, back in the sixties,' Hutch was telling him, as they sat down at a table to drink their beers. 'It was Bay who planned that whole March on Washington thing. When Martin Luther King made his speech about going to the mountain top?'

Ah, yes, thought Starsky. So why don't I know anything about you?

'What have you been doing lately?' Hutch was asking his friend.

'Ah, how soon they forget,' said Bayan.

Hutch laughed. 'Hey!' he said. 'I've been busy myself, you know.'

'I can tell,' said Bayan. 'You're a big shot detective. You have a Partner.'

'Really,' said Hutch. 'And what about you? Come on! Tell!'

'Well, I have a partner of my own now, for a start,' said Bayan.

'Great!' Hutch said. 'And?'

'And I've been working for Gay Rights. You know, we're really the test case for civil rights, these days. In the sixties it was Blacks. Now, it's the Gays.'

'You're probably right about that, Bay,' said Hutch. 'But how many people are going to share our opinion? I mean, look at how the Civil Rights Movement treated you. You were their greatest asset, and they treated you like.... Sorry, I didn't mean to bring that up again.'

'That's okay. But I'm not bitter. Or, let's say I haven't been bitter for a long time. I wanted to change the world. To make it a better place. Not to be praised for my efforts, and given medals.'

'I know,' Hutch answered. 'I feel the same way. That's why I became a cop.'

'Is it?' Bayan asked. 'I've never understood that. I thought you wanted to be a doctor. I don't know if you ever told me what changed your mind.'

'Serendipity,' said Hutch, smiling at Starsky. 'I wouldn't have met Starsky, if I'd been a doctor. Well, that's wrong. I would have met him, if I'd worked in a hospital emergency ward in LA. But it wouldn't have been the same.'

'That's for sure,' said Starsky. 'Sewing up my knife wounds, and gunshot wounds, is hardly as romantic as sharing a car on a stakeout, or chasing crooks down dark stinking alleys.'

'You can say that again,' said Hutch.

Bayan looked back and forth between them. 'David Starsky!' he said. 'I'm sorry, I didn't connect the dots. You're his partner, on the police force?'

'The same. But I'm his partner off the force, too.' 'Whew!' said Bayan. 'That's dangerous, isn't it?'

'Oh, yeah,' Starsky admitted, with a grin. 'But we live for danger, don't we Hutch? Hutch? You with us?'

'Yeah, Starsk. Keep talking will'ya?'

'Oh! No problem. I like to talk. How about you, Bay? Why you here in LA, anyhow? Come for the smog?'

'No,' said Bayan. 'The sunshine.'

'Then you was misled, pal. How ya doin', Hutch? Need more beer?'

'No, this one's fine,' said Hutch. 'Someone's watching us,' he added in a lower voice, but an equally casual tone.

'So I gathered, Babe. Where?'

'Behind you. To your right.'

'Think I'll get another beer,' Starsky announced, and got to his feet. He ambled over to the counter, and peered over it.

'Hugs? You there, somewhere?'

'I'm here, dummy,' said Huggy's voice behind him. 'And you call yourself a detective.'

Starsky pulled Huggy's bright purple lapels toward him, and glared into his face.

'I am a detective, Turkey,' he snarled. 'And don't you forget it. Who's that guy over by the window? The one sitting all alone.'

'Now, that I don't know. Quit wrinkling my lapels. You're giving this joint a bad name.'

'And you call yourself an informant,' said Starsky, with a grin. Casually, he turned toward the window, but their watcher was gone.

Starsky glanced over at Hutch and his friend. They were having an intense conversation in his absence, by the look of things, but Starsky wasn't too worried. It didn't seem to be that kind of conversation. He strolled back to the table, casually.

'I'd like to help, Bay,' Hutch was saying. 'But it's not that simple.'

'Vital things never are, Ken,' said Bayan. 'If there's real life there, beating with your heart's blood, it's complicated.'

'Yes. Complicated. That's the thing. It's not just me. If it were just me, if I were the only one involved, do you think I'd hesitate? At one time I would have, but I've grown out of that.'

'Then why do you hesitate now?' asked Bayan.

'Because there's more at stake than civil rights. More at stake than my beliefs about justice. Human rights. Ideals. Beliefs. Justice. These things aren't all there is to life. What about love? What about personal relationships? What about doing your job, and earning a living? After the marches are over, and the protestors have gone home, what then? Life goes on. You've made your statement. Then, you get up the next morning, and some goons in white sheets have come by and trashed your car, and painted Kill All Fags all over your garage door.'

Hutch was keeping his voice low, but it was filled with passion. He was glowing with the intensity of his feelings. Starsky shifted a little closer, and let his thigh touch Hutch's, under the cover of the table.

'I'm not afraid, Bayan,' said Hutch. 'Not in the way you think. Not for myself.'

'I know,' said his friend. 'You're cops. It's difficult enough for anyone, but for you, there's the image to uphold. All that macho posturing. For the most part, the police are still a homosocial organization, and they're terrified about that being misunderstood. If it became public that two of their number were in a gay relationship....'

'We'd be history,' Starsky finished. 'Besides, lovers can't work together as partners, even heterosexual lovers.'

'Is that necessary?' asked Bayan. 'Do you have to be partners on the job?'

'Oh yes,' said Hutch. 'Starsky would be useless without me.'

'Hutch!' Starsky protested, kicking Hutch's leg. 'What do you mean I'd be useless. You barely scrape by with me along to keep you in line.'

'Hey!' said Bayan. 'I get the picture.'

************************

'Okay, Babe,' said Starsky. 'What's up with you?'

Hutch locked his apartment door, and turned to Starsky with a grin. 'I'll show you what's up,' he said, and took Starsky's hand. He put it on his groin, and pressed into it, gently.

'Oi vey!' Starsky sighed. 'Not right now, schweetheart. We have to talk.'

'About what?' Hutch sounded aggrieved.

'About what's up with you, and I don't mean that. You deflected my questions about this person who's been watching you, and I let you, because of Daniel. But I want to know all about it before we go to bed. Then, in the parking lot... what was that about? You, ordering me to stay put, like I was a rookie? Yes! Yes you did, Hutchinson.... Shut up! I'm not finished with the interrogation yet. What's with this friend who shows up out of the blue, and I've never heard of him before? Huh? You got an explanation for that? You better come clean!'

'I would if you'd let me get a word in edgewise,' Hutch pointed out.

'Sorry,' said Starsky. 'I've been building up a head of steam for hours. I'll make us some coffee. Start spilling the beans.'

Hutch followed him to the kitchen. 'Gotcha,' he said. 'What beans would you like me to spill first?'

'Doesn't matter to me,' said Starsky. 'Pick any beans you like.'

Hutch laughed softly, and pressed against his lover, as they stood at the kitchen counter. 'He's just a friend, Starsky. That's all.'

'Okay,' said Starsky. 'But why didn't you ever mention him before?'

'Well, have you mentioned every old friend you ever had? I'm sure there's a few who've never come up in conversation, and some day, we might bump into one of them.'

'That's true,' said Starsky, pressing back against Hutch to feel the evidence of his desire. 'But there's more to it than that, isn't there?'

'Yes,' said Hutch. He didn't sound angry, just a little tired. 'I suppose there was. We... we had sex a few times, about three times I guess. I was still in the closet, for the most part, and Bayan was being careful.'

'Careful?' asked Starsky. He finished setting up the coffee maker. Hutch pulled up a stool and sat down. Starsky missed the warmth of his body, but he wanted to hear this story.

'Bay has never really been in the closet,' said Hutch. 'He's a Quaker. He's a pacifist. But he grew up without guilt or shame about his sexuality. He never tried to hide it. But then, one night, all that crashed down around him. Right here in LA, actually. He got arrested, having sex in a car, with two other men.'

'Two? Whoa! Hot stuff!'

'Yeah,' said Hutch. 'Happens every day, that people have sex in cars. If they're a man and a woman, we tell them to move on. If it's two men....'

'How long was he in jail?' Starsky asked.

'Two years,' said Hutch.

'One year for each guy, huh?' Starsky asked, grimly.

'I guess so,' said Hutch. 'You have to understand, Starsky. Bayan was one of the founders of the Civil Rights Movement. He was protesting segregation back in the forties. He was the one who convinced Martin Luther King that non-violence was the way to go. And then, he got arrested for sexual perversion. That was what they called it.'

'So he went into the closet, and locked the door?'

'In a way. He put most of his energy into things like the March on Washington. He told me, he'd turned off his sexuality most of the time. He didn't want to fall in love with a man. And neither did I. Too dangerous.'

'So, you stepped away from the danger?'

'Yeah,' said Hutch. 'Then I met you, okay? Like you said, we live for danger. He's no rival, Babe. No one is. Satisfied?'

'Mmm. On that point, Hutchinson. I still want to know about this feeling you've been having about being watched.'

'And about the parking lot. I know. Wherever did you get that strange idea? I didn't talk to you like you were a rookie.'

'Sure you did,' said Starsky. 'A rookie just out of the Academy. Stay here! Those were your very words. Then, you took off. Hutch in full protective mode. What am I? Chopped liver?'

'Starsk! I didn't mean it like that.'

'So you say.'

'I was the one who felt the eyes on us. You told me you didn't feel anything. It just made sense to me, that you should stay with Daniel. In case they were after him.'

'Okay,' Starsky said slowly. 'Do you think that's what it was about? Perhaps friends of those Gay bashers?'

'That feeling we were being watched started at their trial. And a lot of people were angry we arrested them.'

'Yeah,' said Starsky.

Every day of the trial, they had been forced to run a gauntlet of screaming protestors. They had filled the steps of the courthouse, waving picket signs. God Hates Fags! That was a popular one.

'But I don't think that watcher in the parking lot was one of them,' Hutch added. 'Or the guy at The Pits. I think they were one and the same, and he wants to talk to us about something. Something that has him scared. He's checking us out. Are you with me?'

'Yeah,' said Starsky. 'I'm with you.'

The coffee machine bubbled.

****************

'So, Babe. What do you want to do?' Starsky asked. They were sitting in the living room, drinking coffee.

Hutch seemed to consider the question seriously for a moment. He answered slowly. 'I think I want to be on top tonight.'

Starsky choked on his coffee, and spilled some on his pants. It was hot.

'Hutch!' he yelled.

'Aw,' Hutch crooned. 'Now you'll have to take them off.'

'Forget it, Hutchinson,' said Starsky. 'If you don't behave, I'll go back to my own place for the night.'

Hutch looked vastly unimpressed by the less than serious threat. 'What's the matter, Starsk? Usually, it's you trying to get me in bed. I'm feeling really hurt here. Guess the honeymoon is over.'

'Yeah, it is,' said Starsky, unsympathetically. 'We're not in some hotel in Hawaii, or Niagara Falls, with nothing more to worry about than what tourist trap to visit next, or whether we've got enough money to tip the bellhop. I'm really worried, Hutch. If someone is after you for revenge, I wanna know. Okay? So I can take 'em out.'

'I'm sorry, Starsky. I guess once I got home, I started to feel silly about all that stuff. Eyes watching me with hunger. It sounds like a bad dream, you know?'

'I know, Babe. But we've had lots of strange experiences the last few months. I'm not about to brush off anything as just nonsense. Tell me what you saw, or felt, or dreamed. Or even imagined.'

'I told you earlier, in the courtroom. I've had feelings of being watched.'

'From the beginning of the trial, you said.'

'Yes,' said Hutch. 'But you were right, people were watching us.'

'But this felt different, or started to seem different?'

'Yeah. It felt insistent. As if it didn't want to be ignored. Or was too powerful to be ignored. I don't know.'

'Just now, you said you saw eyes?'

'Did I? Yes. I remember now. In the courtroom, right after the jury read their verdict. I saw eyes. For the first time, I think. At the back of the courtroom.'

'Just eyes?' Starsky asked, with a shudder. 'Sounds creepy.'

'No,' said Hutch. 'There was someone attached to them, but I couldn't make out the face. Then, the eyes disappeared.'

'That was when I asked you what was wrong,' said Starsky. 'And I sort of laughed at you. I'm sorry. But now, what do we do? Without anything to ID a suspect, we've got nothin' to go on.'

'There was that feeling of power,' Hutch pointed out.

'Would you recognize that again?' asked Starsky.

'I think so.'

'It would be dangerous to do a search for it, don't you think?'

'Yes. Whoever, or whatever this is, we don't want to let them know we're on to them.'

'No,' said Starsky. 'But tell me if you feel that again, okay? No running off like you did in the parking lot. We're in this together.'

'You're right,' said Hutch. 'I'm sorry. Let me make it up to you.'

'Don't you ever quit?' asked Starsky.

'No,' said Hutch. 'Do you want me to?'

'Never.'

**************************

'What are we going to do?'

'I told you, baby. Trust me. I'm on to something. Some people I'm sure can help us.'

'I don't know, Alexander. I don't want to involve innocent people. They might get hurt. Or worse, they might tip Them off.'

'I don't think so. Here. Look.'

'What's this?'

'It's a newspaper story, dummy.'

'I can see that. But how does that help us?'

'Just read it, okay?'

'It's about that Gay man that got set on fire.'

'Yeah. And?'

'These two cops saved his life, and they testified at the trial.'

'Yeah. And the creeps got convicted. They're that good, Ben. And there's something else. I've seen them. I've seen them together. I think they're lovers. I think they'd listen to us. Help us. I'm sure of it.'

'You're nuts, Alex. Really nuts. Two cops. This story says they're partners, so of course they're together. So what?'

'You haven't seen what I've seen. I can tell these things, Ben. I don't know why, but I can tell. I knew you were Gay right away, remember? I knew you'd like me. That you'd fall in love with me. Was I wrong?'

'No. No, you weren't wrong. Alex!'

'Shh, baby. I knew what you'd like in bed, didn't I? Everything you'd like. Right from the first. I looked at you, and I knew.'

'Yes.'

'Come on. Lie down. Lie down. Let me in.'

'Alex. Make it stop hurting. Make it stop!'

'I will, baby. I will, Ben. My Ben. Mine.'

*******************

'Ben? Ben! Ow! That hurt... What are you doing? Oh, God... Hutch?'

'Yeah, you bastard. Hutch! Not Ben. Who the Hell is Ben? Is he why you weren't so eager to go to bed with me tonight?'

'No! No, Hutch. I don't even know who Ben is. I swear, Hutch.'

'Then why were you calling out his name in your sleep? Tell me that!'

'Oh, God! Hutch. I was in someone else's head. In my dream. I was in someone else's head. In their bedroom. I remember now. Honest, Hutch.'

'Okay, I believe you. I don't know why. But I believe you. What happened? What was going on, other than the obvious, I mean?'

'I'm not sure. I was dreaming. About you, Hutch. Then, suddenly I was in this other guy's head.'

'A guy named Ben?'

'No. His name was Alex. He was in bed with someone named Ben. They were really young, I think. Just kids. And they were talking about us.'

'Starsky?'

'Yeah, sweetheart?'

'Wait a minute, okay? Before you tell me anything else, I need a drink.'

Hutch ignored the worried expression on his lover's face. He slid out of bed, and pulled on his robe, then made for the living room, and the liquor cabinet.

'Hutch?' Starsky said, from the bedroom door. Hutch looked up, as he poured out a glass of gin. Starsky was naked, and as he walked toward him, Hutch was overwhelmed with a feeling of tenderness at his vulnerability. Dressed in his jeans and leather jacket, wearing his badge and gun, driving the Torino like a bat out of Hell -- at those times, Starsky seemed tough as nails, and invincible as titanium.

He wasn't. The scars, still visible on his chest, proved that. So did the hurt expression on his face. Starsky was not invincible when it came to Hutch. What bullets couldn't accomplish, Hutch could do with a few ill-chosen words.

Hutch opened his arms, and pulled Starsky close. He opened his robe, and wrapped it around them both, enclosing Starsky's distressing vulnerability inside his own insubstantial armour, behind his own tenuous defenses.

'I'm sorry,' he whispered into Starsky's hair. 'I know you'd never be unfaithful to me. For one thing, when would you have the time? We're together so much, when one of us does enter a room alone, people say: Oh there's Starsky and Hutch!'

This is the way we should be, he thought. So close together, that if they do take him out, they'll take me with him.

But then, it works the other way, as well. And if I'm dead too, I can't track down his killers. Hutch drew back, and looked down into Starsky's face.

'What's wrong, Hutch?' Starsky asked.

'I don't know,' Hutch admitted. 'I don't really know what's going on with me, these days.'

'You're shaking,' Starsky noted. 'That drink didn't help, did it?'

'I guess not,' said Hutch. 'Starsky? When you said that, about being inside another man's head, it made me realize something. I think that's been happening to me, as well.'

'Why? Did you have a dream like mine?'

'No. At least, not one I can remember. I might have had a dream like that, and forgotten it. But, I do think I know now, what those eyes are watching. It's not just us. They're watching someone else. And I've been in his head -- I think it's a man. And that name -- Alex. That was what tipped me off.'

'Ben!' said Starsky. 'You've been in his mind.'

'I guess so,' said Hutch. 'But then, who is it that's watching him? Who is it that considers him prey?'

'Not Alex, that's for sure. He wants to protect him. I remember some of the conversation now. Ben said something about Them. He doesn't want to tip Them off. He doesn't want people to get hurt by Them.'

'So, let's make ourselves available. Let Ben and Alex come to us.'

'I hope they do that soon,' said Starsky. 'Those are two scared kids.'

'I hope they come to us soon, as well,' said Hutch. 'But if they're able to follow us around, into the courtroom, down to Huggy's, why not just leave? Why hang around and wait for what will come?'

'Good question,' said Starsky. 'Maybe they'll explain when we finally meet them.'

'But you have met them. In a way. I don't know much about them, but I care. Especially since they're lovers.'

'Why 'specially, Hutch?'

'I don't know. Maybe it makes them more vulnerable. Vulnerable to each other's pain.'

'Does it? Do you think we're more vulnerable in that way?''

Hutch pulled Starsky over to the couch and wrapped an afghan around them both.

'Once, I would have said such an idea was nonsense,' he said. 'Once, I thought I couldn't possibly love you more. Just having sex with you -- that would be a mere detail. A detail I could live without. A detail that couldn't possibly change our relationship.'

'Has our relationship changed, Hutch?' Starsky asked. His voice was soft and loving, and not at all worried about the answer.

'You know it has,' said Hutch.

'Has it changed for the better?'

'Yes. And no.'

'Why no?'

Hutch rested his head on the back of the couch, and stared up at the ceiling. There were tiny cracks in the plaster, he thought. Cracks that let in the darkness from the attics above.

'When I loved you before, it was from the outside in,' he said. 'I loved you, but from a distance. Granted, it was a very short distance. Sometimes, only a few inches. But the distance was there.'

'Now, there's no such thing as distance tbetween us, is there Hutch?' Starsky whispered in his ear.

'There's nothing I don't know about you. No position I haven't seen you in. No tone of your voice that I haven't heard. I know how your body feels inside -- like hot, wet silk. And so tight. I've held your cock inside my body, and felt your heart beating in it, loving me.'

'We have no defenses against each other now, darling. Would you go back to the way things were?'

'Not for anything,' said Hutch. 'I love things the way they are. But I'm scared. And I know I've changed. Do you love this person I'm becoming?'

'More than my own life, Hutch. And one other thing. What you said about me not having the chance to be unfaithful? That has nothing to do with it, Babe. It wouldn't matter if I had all the time in the world, and an entire harem waiting. You do realize that, don't you?'

'Is that the truth?' Hutch asked.

'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God,' said Starsky. 'Let's go back to bed, and I'll demonstrate my point in detail.'

'Okay,' said Hutch. 'Demonstrate your point all you want.'

'Mister Great Detective?'

'Yes, Huggy?' Starsky answered, grinning across the table at Hutch.

'I know that young gentleman sitting all alone in the window,' Huggy Bear continued.

Starsky glanced up at the proprietor of The Pits. 'Great, Hugs. Who is he?'

'He's the young gentleman who was sitting all alone in the window yesterday.'

Huggy grinned triumphantly at Bayan, Hutch and Starsky in turn, then disappeared back behind the bar.

'Thanks, Hugs,' Starsky murmured.

'He's been wanting to get back at you since yesterday, Starsk.'

'Yeah,' said Starsky. 'That remark about calling himself an informant rankled.'

They were sitting in the darkest corner in the bar, and the farthest from the window. Hutch nudged the extra chair out from the table a few inches to look more inviting. He relaxed back in his own chair, and smiled across at Starsky.

'Babe?' said his lover.

'Yeah, Starsk?'

'I know you're trying to look friendly, but don't try so hard. I don't want to be fighting off everyone in the place.'

'Don't you?' asked Bayan. 'I'd have thought you'd get a kick out of it.'

'Well, yeah,' Starsky agreed. 'But it's been a long day, and I don't have that much energy left. Wanna save it for other things.'

'Like what?' asked Bay. 'Pool?'

'Oh, yeah,' said Starsky, laughing. 'Definitely pool. Don't want my cue to get all bent outa shape.'

'Excuse me?' said a voice at Starsky's elbow.

'Yes?' asked Starsky.

'Is this seat taken?'

'Nope,' said Starsky. 'I think there's room here for one more, don't you, Hutch?'

Hutch looked up for the first time, as if he'd just noticed someone else had joined them. He smiled gently, but not too invitingly. The new arrival at their table was of medium height, with brown hair, and startlingly blue eyes.

'Sure thing,' he said. 'Have a seat.'

'Um, this isn't what it might look like,' said the new arrival. 'I mean....'

'That's okay, kid,' said Starsky. 'Just relax. We're not making any assumptions. Want a drink?'

'I can't drink,' said the young man. 'Legally, I mean. I'm too young.'

'Don't worry,' said Starsky. 'I'll get you a coke.'

'I'll help you,' said Bayan, and the two men made for the bar.

'You wanted to talk to us?' asked Hutch. 'Yeah, I wanted to talk to both of you. You're Detective Hutchinson, aren't you?'

'That's correct,' said Hutch. 'My partner will be right back.'

'I can't stay long,' said the young man, nervously checking out the front window and the doors. 'My name is Alex. Alexander Yeats.'

'Nice to meet you, Mr. Yeats,' said Hutch. He offered his hand, and the young man shook it. Starsky came back to the table, with a coke for Alex, and fresh beers for himself and Hutch.

'Bayan decided to call it a night,' he told Hutch.

'Ah,' Hutch answered. He took a sip of his beer. 'So, Mr. Yeats...' he began.

'Please, call me Alex.'

'Alex. What did you want to talk about?'

'I have a friend, who's in some trouble,' he began. Then he laughed softly. 'A friend,' he repeated. 'That's a classic. But it's true. I promised I'd help this friend, but he needs more help than I can give.'

'What sort of trouble is your friend in?' Starsky asked.

'It's not anything that he's done,' Alex said firmly. 'But he's trapped in a situation he can't escape from. You see, his father killed his mother. He knows this, but he has no evidence.'

'Yes,' said Hutch. 'Go on.'

'Yes?' Alex repeated. 'You believe me? Just like that?'

'I believe you,' said Hutch. 'But you haven't told me everything yet.'

Alex shook his head. 'There's lots more,' he said. 'But I'd rather Ben told you himself. Could you come and talk to him? He was sure you wouldn't listen to him, or believe a word he said, so I promised to tell you the story myself. But with me, it's just hearsay. Isn't that right?'

'That's right,' said Hutch. He smiled at Alex. 'Lead on, McDuff.'

The apartment building Alex directed them to was old, very shabby, and in one of the roughest parts of LA.

'I live here alone,' he said, as Starsky drove the Torino up to the front door. 'It's not as bad as it looks,' he added. 'Your car should be safe for a while, at least.'

'I hope you're right, kid,' said Starsky.

'When I first came to LA, I made my living hustling,' Alex informed them, as he led them down the hall. The walls were covered in graffiti, and they could smell bad beer, and hear a baby crying loudly somewhere in the building. 'But now I have a job. It doesn't pay as well, but Ben is happier. He knows about before, but he doesn't like to talk about it.'

'We won't mention it,' said Hutch.

Alex opened the apartment door. A young man jumped up from the beat-up old sofa. When he saw Starsky and Hutch, he looked a little nervous.

'Alex? I didn't know you were going to bring them here tonight.'

'I figured it was best,' said Alex. 'They're willing to listen to us, and what's the point in putting it off?'

'I know,' said Ben. He started walking up and down the small room. He was a little taller than his friend, with reddish blond hair. Starsky thought their resemblance to Hutch and himself was endearing. He could only imagine the effect on his partner.

'This is my friend, Ben,' said Alex.

'Ben Talbot,' said the blond young man. He came over to shake their hands. 'I'm sorry for my manners when you came in. I'm really worried about something.'

'That's okay, kid,' said Starsky. 'We're used to that kind of reaction when we walk in the door. I'm Detective Starsky, and this is my partner, Detective Hutchinson.'

Ben nodded nervously. Alex waved them all over to the couch, and invited them to sit down. The couch was old, and rather lumpy, but clean. In fact, the whole apartment was cleaner than the state of the building itself would have led Starsky to expect.

'Would you like some coffee, detectives?' Ben asked.

Starsky was about to decline, but Hutch said that he'd love some. Ben smiled and busied himself heating water on a small hotplate. He spooned instant coffee into several chipped mugs, and arranged them on a dented tray, with a sugar bowl, and a jar of coffee whitener. When the water boiled, he poured it into the mugs, and carried the tray over to the couch, proudly. He put the tray down on the crate which was acting as a coffee table.

Starsky took the mug of coffee offered to him, and added several lumps of sugar. The coffee wasn't any great shakes, but after years of being a cop, Starsky could drink anything and keep smiling.

'Your friend told us something about your problem, Ben,' Hutch began, sipping at his coffee.

'And you were still willing to come here and listen to me?' Ben asked.

'Yes,' said Hutch, very firmly. 'Why don't you tell us the whole story?'

Ben glanced at his friend, nervously. Alex nodded his reassurance.

'Okay,' said Ben. 'Ten years ago, our mother disappeared. My father said that she'd decided she didn't want to be our mother any more.'

'You have a brother, or a sister?' asked Hutch.

'A sister,' said Ben. 'She was a baby at the time. About two years old. I was seven. My father brought another woman to the house. He said she was going to be our new mother, because our own mother didn't love us.'

My God, thought Starsky.

'But I knew that wasn't true,' Ben continued. 'I knew she loved us, and I've never doubted that. She left without a word. She didn't leave us voluntarily.'

'Was her disappearance reported to the police?' Starsky asked.

'I don't know, Detective Starsky,' said Ben. 'I don't remember any police officers coming around to talk to my father.'

'We can check up on that,' Starsky said.

'In all these years,' Ben continued. 'We've never heard a word from our mother. Not a phone call. Not a letter. Not a postcard.'

'None of that is actual evidence that she's dead,' said Hutch very gently. 'Or that your father murdered her.'

'I know that,' said Ben. He didn't seem upset at Hutch's remarks. Probably he had argued the subject with Alex so many times that he knew every point by heart.

'My mother was afraid of my father. I remember that. I know I was only a child, but I remember the way she looked at him, the way he spoke to her. I remember her tucking me into bed at night, and how she held Cynthia when she brought her home from the hospital. She loved us, and she was afraid of him. If she had run away, she would have taken us with her.'

'Has your father ever hurt you, or your sister?' Starsky asked.

'No,' said Ben. 'Not physically. But he scares me. He and that woman he calls our stepmother. Natalie. I know they're doing bad things. I think they killed my mother together, and they've killed other people, other women. I don't have any proof of this, but I know it. I know it in here.' Ben touched his heart, and looked over at Alex. He looked at Alex the way Starsky looked at Hutch sometimes. Touching base, steadying himself, checking that the world was in order, when it seemed to be going mad.

'Do you believe any of this?' Ben asked, with very little hope.

'I believe everything you've said,' Hutch told him, and he smiled. 'What we need to do, is find some evidence.'

'I hope we can do that soon,' said Ben. 'I don't like the way Natalie watches my sister.'

'What do you mean, Ben?' asked Hutch. 'Do you think they'd harm your sister?'

Ben was silent for a moment, arranging his thoughts.

'Up until now,' he said at last. 'My father and his... mistress have left us alone. We're an asset to them. We make them look like a nice, normal family. But lately, that's been changing. I'm not sure why. Maybe because we're getting older. My sister is twelve now, and she's starting to look like a young woman. She... well she has breasts, and I think she's reached puberty in other ways.'

'Maybe Natalie is jealous?' Alex suggested. 'The classic evil stepmother syndrome.'

'And that scares me,' said Ben. 'I'd take my sister and run, if I thought I could get away with it. It's not that I think my father loves us enough to care. But Cynthia is a child. If she disappeared, there would be an investigation. My father would have to cooperate with a search for her. We'd be caught, and dragged back home. And what would happen to me? I'd be sent down the river, and Cynthia would be all alone. No one would listen to a word I said about my mother. They'd think I was a loony with an unresolved Oedipus complex.'

'You've thought all this through before,' Starsky noted.

'Hundreds of times,' said Ben.

'Why do you think your father has murdered other women?' Starsky asked.

'He, and Natalie, bring women to the house. They bring them late at night. The women are drunk. I can hear them, hear them doing things. When I was young, I didn't understand. But now I do.'

'Doing things?' asked Hutch, gently.

'They fuck them,' said Ben, brutally. 'I can hear them, downstairs, in the Rec Room. They used to have the TV on, to cover the sounds, but now they don't bother. I think they gag the women, and tie them up. Then, the women disappear.'

'Do you think they're hookers?' asked Starsky.

'They could be,' said Ben, glancing at Alex. 'I don't know for sure.'

'If your father and Natalie are bringing hookers to the house, that could be grounds for Child Services to remove Cynthia from the house,' said Hutch.

'Yes,' Starsky agreed. 'But if his father cleaned up his act, he'd get his daughter back in short order. We need a permanent solution, Babe.'

'You're right,' Hutch admitted. He got to his feet and walked over to the window. He stared out at the darkening sky for a moment, thinking. Then he turned back to the others. Clearly he had made up his mind about something. Care to fill me in, thought Starsky. Hutch met his eyes and smiled.

'First of all, Starsky and I are going to check if any missing person report was filed on your mother. If it was, the case could be re-opened. Now, about these other women, try to remember anything about them. What they looked like. Dates they were brought to your house. Anything.'

'If they were hookers, and they've disappeared, they might have some friends who remembered seeing your father picking them up,' Starsky added.

'Yeah,' said Hutch. 'Try to remember the most recent time this happened. That's our best bet.'

'Oh, that's easy,' said Ben. 'That would be last night.'

'Damn!' said Hutch. 'Did you see anything, hear anything that might be evidence? Such as a name, for example?'

'No,' said Ben. 'Just the usual noises from downstairs. Then silence.'

'None of that would be grounds for a search warrant,' said Starsky. 'The fact that your father brings home friends for a party in his rec room? No. We need a lot more to go on.'

'I know,' said Ben, in despair.

'Look, kid,' said Starsky. 'We believe you, and we're going to find that evidence. I just wish there was some way we could get you and your sister out of that house. Or at least let your father and this Natalie know they're being watched, without tipping them off about why.'

'Ben?' said Hutch, suddenly. 'What was your mother's maiden name? Do you know?'

'It was Easton. Annie Easton. I have a small photo album of our family, before she disappeared. One of the pictures is of Mom when she was a little girl. It's of her, and some friends.'

'Do you know where the picture was taken?'

'There was some stuff written on the back, I think. But I can't remember what. I'll look at it tonight, and give you a call.'

'Good,' said Hutch. 'Here's my home phone number, and Starsky's. Try my place first, though. I'm sure I don't have to warn you not to call if they're at home.'

'Don't worry. I won't. You guys are amazing, you know? I can't believe you.'

'Don't even try,' said Starsky. 'It'd just give you a headache.'

'That's for sure,' Hutch agreed, rubbing his forehead. 'I don't think there's any more we can do tonight. But be careful. Try and stay under their radar. If they start acting too suspicious, get out of that house, no matter what.'

'We will,' said Ben. 'Thanks. I don't know how I we can ever repay you, just for listening to us.'

'I do,' said Hutch, pausing at the door. 'Stay in school. And you, Alex. Go back, and get a decent education.'

'Oh?' said Alex. 'Why? Why will that repay you?' 'Because you'll need more education than you have to get into the Police Academy. Their standards are getting stricter.'

**********************

Starsky was grinning widely, as he slid behind the wheel of the undamaged Torino.

'What?' asked Hutch.

'Nothing,' said Starsky. 'You.'

'Well, which is it?'

'And those kids,' Starsky answered. 'Talbot and Yeats. We wanna be Lieutenants, or Captains by the time they graduate from the Academy, Babe. That way, they ain't rivals. They're workin' for us.'

'You got that right, buddy. But first, we have to make sure they live long enough. God, Starsk. I want to get them out of that trap.'

'We can't Hutch. Not yet. We're doin' the right thing. We're on to that pair, and Ben has his head screwed on right.'

'Yeah, but it's not enough.'

'Okay, Babe. Listen. I'm copying you on this. Whatever you want to do, legal or illegal, I'm there with you. Got that?'

'Gotcha, Starsk. But I want to try the legal route first. We need a permanent solution, remember? Let's see what Ben comes up with. That picture may give us a lead.'

'What are you thinking, Hutch? We can track down the mother's family? See if they can help?'

'Maybe. But why haven't they done anything before now? The woman's been missing for ten years.'

'Maybe she broke with her family when she married the guy?'

'Could be. But I'm thinking she didn't break with everyone in her home town. Someone still remembers her. And someone is going to show up, wanting to see her.'

'Ah. Meanin' one of us?'

'No. Not a good idea. We need someone that can't possibly be identified as a police officer. Someone who can go in as themselves. I've got a few ideas.'

'Hmm. Might be dangerous.'

'Maybe not, if they visit the family publicly, during the day, and make it clear they have people waiting for them to check in. These creeps like to murder helpless women, women who have no one who cares about them. All this time, they've been getting away with it.'

'We care about them, Hutch,' said Starsky. 'And we're gonna stop them. Me and thee.'

********************

The phone rang, while they were eating a late dinner. Hutch answered it, on the second ring. 'Hutchinson, here.'

'Detective? It's Ben Talbot. I found that picture I told you about, and they're out of the house for a while.'

'Good,' said Hutch. 'Tell me all about the picture.'

'It says it was taken in a town called Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1952,' said Ben.

'Was it? Was it indeed? That's great, Ben. Who else is in the picture?'

'I don't know, Detective Hutchinson. My mother's name is the only name on the picture.'

'Call me Hutch, Ben. And just describe the other people to me.'

'Okay. Hutch. There's another girl in the picture, about my mother's age. They were about ten, I guess. A boy. Again about ten. Several adults. One of the men, he's Black. I guess about 30 years old, or so.'

'Now that's interesting. What does he look like, other than being Black?'

'I'm not sure,' said Ben. 'The picture's kinda blurry. I don't think they had such great cameras back in those days.'

'That's okay. In fact, it's good news. Now, tell me a little about what your mother looked like.'

'She was kind of short, and she had red hair. Really pretty.'

'Good,' said Hutch. 'You're doing great. Have you remembered anything else about your mother's family? Are there any pictures in that album of her relatives?'

'Nothing, Hutch. I'm sorry. If she ever talked about her family to me, I've forgotten the details. And my father has never mentioned her at all, since that day he told me she'd gone.'

'That's okay, Ben. Everything you've told me is helpful. Now, in the next day or so, the Black man in that picture is going to visit your house. His name is Bayan Justin, and he's an old family friend.'

'He is, Hutch?'

'He is now,' said Hutch.

'Hutch?' Starsky asked, as Hutch hung up the phone. 'Did I just hear you commit Bay to a dangerous course of action that he might not be willing to take, without consulting him first.'

'Yup,' said Hutch. 'But he'll be willing. Watch this.'

Hutch dialed a number, and asked to speak to Bayan.

'Hey, pal!' he said. 'How would you like to rescue some children from a life-threatening situation at the hands of serial killers, and....Ouch!' Hutch held the phone away from his ear, but he was grinning.

'What happened?' Starsky asked. 'He hang up on you?'

'No, he dropped the phone in his rush to get over here. He'll probably break every speed record on the way. We might have to rescue him from jail, actually.'

'How'd you know he'd be so willing?' Starsky asked.

'Starsk, that guy is on more human rights organization boards than most people know exist. He's always in the background, but if anything actually needs to be done, he's there. And he doesn't know what the word fear means.'

*************************

'Okay, guys. Here's what I've learned so far.' It was the next morning, and all three of them were sitting at Hutch's table having breakfast. Bay had been up all night harassing everyone he knew back in Chester, Pennsylvania, as far as Starsky could make out. But he looked as fresh as a daisy.

'Annie Easton did indeed break with her family when she married Pierce Talbot. Her parents didn't like him, and they didn't trust him. She was in love, so she married him. Her family haven't heard from her since. That was 20 years ago.'

'Where did you get all the info?' asked Starsky.

'Gossip,' said Bayan. 'Great Aunt Mary remembers it all, going back farther than that. I've taken copious notes, and I'm deciding how much of it to drop into the middle of any conversations I have with the suspects.'

'You're really into this,' Starsky noted.

'Hey, it's not often I get to be on your side of the law.'

'Usually you would disdain allowing yourself to be co-opted, I know,' said Hutch.

'Yes,' said Bay. 'But it's in a good cause. Now, I won't mention your names, but I'll do some select name dropping nevertheless. The A. Phillip Randolf Institute expects me back home to continue directing it. I'm due in Thailand next week. Harvard University is giving me another honorary doctorate, the week after that.'

'You're starting to sound like an obnoxiously arrogant and conceited egotist, Bay,' said Hutch, with obvious approval.

'Yes,' Bay agreed. 'But I'm a well-connected egotist. That's the important thing.'

'There!' said Hutch with satisfaction. 'That's the last of them. You wanna make a quick run into Dobey's office, or should I? You're quicker.'

'Not always,' said Starsky, with a secret grin.

'Shh,' Hutch warned. But he grinned back.

'I'll make the report run,' said Starsky. 'You get ready to make a getaway, soon as I escape.' He started to pick up the pile of reports, but Dobey opened his office door.

'Hutchinson! Starsky! My office!'

'It never fails,' Hutch observed.

'Yeah. And we were so close,' said Starsky. They each grabbed a handful of reports and made for Dobey's office.

'Here ya go, Cap'n,' said Hutch, as he placed his reports on Dobey's desk. Starsky put his on top of Hutch's, and gave Hutch another secret grin as he turned toward the door.

'Hang on, gentlemen,' said Dobey. 'Not so fast. I want a word with you. Have a seat.'

'Aw, Cap'n,' said Starsky. 'It's Friday. We've cleared up all our cases, and finished the reports. It's the weekend. Have a heart.'

'Have a seat, Starsky. This won't take long.'

Starsky shared a glance of despair with Hutch, but he pulled up a chair. Hutch took the seat, and Starsky perched on the arm.

'Have you heard from Detective Myerson lately?' asked Captain Dobey.

'Detective Who?' asked Starsky.

'Come on, Starsky. Myerson? The guy who tried to blackmail you?'

'Oh. That Detective Myerson,' said Starsky. 'Nope. Not a word. But then, he didn't have much to work with, did he? Hutch and me? Walking along a beach? So what?'

'You were holding hands, but forget about that. The thing is....'

'I'll never forget about holdin' Hutch's hand, Cap'n Dobey.'

'The thing is, Myerson has resigned. He's leaving LA, for parts unknown.'

'Is he? That's nice. Can we go now?'

'No, Starsky!' Captain Dobey roared. 'You can't go now.' He lowered his voice. 'I want to know what you did to him. It's not that I care about Myerson personally. He's the type that gives cops a bad name. But I don't want IA coming down on me, if they find out you did some blackmailing of your own. Or used threats, perhaps?'

'Nothing like that, Cap'n,' said Hutch. 'We haven't seen Myerson, since that day you told him to transfer to Vice.'

'That's right, Cap,' said Starsky. 'Can we go now?'

'I'll take your word for it, Hutchinson,' said Dobey. 'But I'm worried about you two lately. Not that I haven't always been worried about you. You've always been one big headache.'

'Yeah. We're sorry about that, Cap,' said Starsky. 'Can we go now?'

'If it isn't one thing, it's another. Ever since you got together. Like this,' the Captain waved his hand vaguely in the air, as if at a loss to describe how they were together. 'Ever since then, you're been more of a puzzle to me.'

'Have you got any complaints about our work, Captain Dobey?' asked Hutch.

'No. No, nothing like that,' said the Captain. 'Your arrest record has gone up. You're doing exemplary work. You don't look burnt out, these days.'

'Thanks, Captain Dobey,' said Starsky. 'Maybe it should be department policy.'

'What should be department policy?'

'All partners should be together, like me and Hutch.'

For a moment, they thought Captain Dobey was going to roar at them again. He managed to keep his temper, however.

'Thank you for that piece of advice, Starsky,' he said, quietly. 'I'll consider passing it on to the Commissioner. Now, it's Friday, and you've got the weekend off. Why are you sitting here in my office?'

'You mean we can go now?' Starsky asked.

Their ears were still ringing as they got on the elevator.

The elevator door closed, and Hutch leaned against it, laughing helplessly.

'What's'a'matter, Babe?' asked Starsky.

'Did you see the look on Dobey's face? Poor guy! And I can just see the Commissioner if Dobey really did pass that on.'

'How much chance do you think there is?'

'What? All partners being lovers? What do you think, Starsk?'

'Snowball in Hell about do it?'

'You got it,' said Hutch.

The elevator stopped on the next floor. When the Detective waiting for it saw who the occupants were, he stopped in the doorway, and started to back up. Starsky put his finger on the 'door open' button, and left it there.

'Come on, Myerson,' he said. 'You're holding up traffic. That's a violation.'

Myerson got on the elevator, glanced at Hutch nervously, then stared straight ahead. Starsky still had his hand on the button.

'We just heard some interesting news, didn't we Hutch?'

'Yeah,' said Hutch. 'Really interesting.'

'We heard you were leaving us, Myerson. That true?'

'Yeah,' said Myerson. 'So what? How come the elevator isn't moving?'

'I don't know,' said Starsky. 'Maybe even the elevators don't like you.'

'Just leave me alone, will you?'

'Leave you alone? We should leave you alone? What did we do to you? You know, Hutch?'

'Nothing, that I can think of, Starsky. You got a persecution complex, or something, Myerson? Or maybe you just remembered that old adage about people in glass houses?'

Myerson turned to them. His face was pale, and he seemed to be sweating.

'Stay out of my dreams,' he said.

Starsky laughed. 'You're dreaming about us? Now, that's really interesting. I think you should see the shrink, or something. Then, you should get out of LA. Far, far out. How does Alaska sound? Lots of fresh air, I've heard.'

Starsky took his finger off the button, and the elevator started back down. Myerson pushed the button for the next floor, and got off.

'Bye, Myerson,' said Starsky. 'It's been fun.'

Myerson said nothing, as he started for the stairwell.

'That's what that guy needs,' said Starsky. 'More exercise.'

*************************

'Good afternoon,' said Bayan Justin. 'I'd like to speak to the lady of the house.'

'I'm the lady of the house.'

'Oh, no. You misunderstand me,' said Bayan. 'I meant Mrs. Talbot. Not her housekeeper.'

Natalie turned a little red, but managed to smile at the tall, elegantly dressed Black man, who had climbed out of the limousine. It wouldn't do to slam the door in his face.

'I'm Mrs. Talbot,' she informed him, politely.

'Annie Talbot? Surely not. I haven't seen her in a few years, now. But she was a red-head. Sweet Annie. I'd really like to see her before I leave for Thailand. Is she home?'

The handsome Black gentleman was beginning to sound a bit confused. It was probably best to invite him in, rather than continue this conversation on the doorstep.

'Please. Come inside. Mister?'

'Ah. My apologies. I'm Bayan Justin. I'm an old friend of Annie's family. I'm sure she like to see me, and I'm not here for much longer. I'm leaving soon for Thailand.'

Bayan walked in, looking around as if expecting Annie to appear at any moment.

'I'm very sorry Mr. Justin, but Annie Talbot left home years ago. She abandoned her children. Pierce got a divorce on grounds of desertion. I'm the new Mrs Talbot.'

'Oh dear. Oh dear. I knew nothing of this. We hadn't heard from her in some time, it's true. But the last postcard we got, had this address. And I was here, in LA. I was looking forward to seeing her. Letting the folks back home know how she was doing. She just ran off, you say? Oh dear. I can't believe that. She loved her children so much. I remember her writing to my Aunt Mary. Telling her how beautiful they were. Benjamin. And little Cynthia. How are they? Can I see them?'

Natalie waited for the annoying Black man to wind down. Finally, she got a word in edgewise.

'Ben and Cynthia are doing fine,' she said. 'They're in school right now. But they should be home soon. If you'd like to wait....' she offered, hoping he'd decline.

'I'll wait,' he said. 'I'd love to see them, as I said. So I can tell everyone back home how they're doing. You must just love them. Too bad about their real mother.'

'Yes,' said Natalie, with a tight smile. 'They're just little darlings. I don't know how I'd live without them.'

***********************

Starsky lifted his head from Hutch's shoulder. He gazed down into his lover's eyes.

'Did you like that?' he asked.

'Mmm.'

'Oh, yeah. Somethin' told me you liked that.'

'That's good. Wouldn't want you to be in any doubt.'

'It's getting late. Guess we should get up off the floor. Get something to eat?'

'Guess.'

'I know. I don't wanna move either.'

'We have things to do.'

'Mmm.'

'People are depending on us.'

'I know.'

Starsky rose up on his elbows, and studied Hutch's face. It was true what Dobey had said, he thought. Hutch didn't look burnt out. He still looked tired sometimes, though. Perhaps he'd never be as young, and vibrant, and happy as he had been a few years ago. But then, neither would Starsky.

Hutch worried far too much about other people's problems. He still seemed to think it was all his fault if things went wrong. He didn't understand that people were responsible for their own lives, and their own screw-ups. It was always a mistake to try to change other people's lives for the better, Starsky knew. They had to do that for themselves.

At least now, Hutch had this comfort. Starsky could make him forget his own name at times. For a few moments tonight, Hutch had been incapable of rational thought, and had known nothing but the pleasure Starsky had given him.

'Thank you,' Starsky whispered.

'For what?' Hutch asked.

'You make me happy,' Starsky said.

'Ditto,' Hutch replied.

***********************

'Hutch?'

Hutch turned at the sound of the gentle voice behind him.

'Sweet Alice,' he said. He got off the bar stool, and took her hand.

'I haven't seen you for a while,' Hutch said. 'How have you been?'

'Oh, just fine. How are you? You look so good.'

'I'm just fine, too,' Hutch answered with a smile.

'I can tell. You're in love, aren't you?'

'What makes you say that, Sweet Alice?'

'Now, I know that look. It's real, isn't it? I hope she knows how lucky she is.'

'I'm the one who's lucky. But enough about me. Could I ask you a few questions? There's something I need to know.'

'Anything for you, Hutch.'

'I'm working on a murder case. It's possible that the women who have been murdered are working girls.'

'Don't you know?'

'It's amazing how little I know, Sweet Alice. I'm working blind, here. Do you know of any girls who have gone missing lately? One of them may have disappeared two nights ago.'

'Girls are always disappearing, Hutch. For many reasons. They move on, because they get tired of the same streets and the same Johns. They get all strung out, and go into rehab. If they're lucky. If they're not, they just die. Sometimes, they give up the life and go home. Not often, but it happens. But you know all that.'

'Yes. I do,' said Hutch, sadly. 'But if you can think of anyone who has just up and disappeared, suddenly and completely, let me know. Someone who may have been picked up by a John, and never seen again. And there's something else, Alice. This guy might be working with a woman.'

'A woman?' asked Alice. She sounded alert, all of a sudden.

'Yeah. Have you heard of any Johns like that? A couple, picking up girls together? Maybe in bars. Maybe on the street.'

'You know something, Hutch? I have, now that you mention it. Marcy told me that a man and a woman tried to pick her up the other night. But she doesn't like to do threes. She says it's creepy. Too many legs in the bed. So she turned them down.'

'Good for Marcy,' said Hutch. 'That may have saved her life. I'd like to talk to her. Do you think she'd agree?'

'Don't worry,' said Sweet Alice. 'I'll convince her. Where's that handsome partner of yours?'

'Oh, he's around. Starsk? Ah! There you are. Where've you been?'

'The men's room. I had to go.'

'Figures. Come on, let's hit the streets. Sweet Alice has a possible tip for us.'

'That's great, Sweet Alice. I'll bring the Torino out front. I had to park in the alley.'

Sweet Alice watched him walk out the door, then turned to Hutch with a resigned expression on her lovely face.

'I see,' she said.

But then she smiled.

********************

Starsky parked the Torino a little way down the street, and they all got out and walked to Marcy's corner. Sweet Alice walked between Starsky and Hutch.

'I don't often get to walk down the street between two such handsome men,' she said.

'Oh, come on, Alice,' said Hutch. 'A pretty lady like you?'

'And such gentlemen, too,' she added.

'Well, there's nothing we like more than escorting a pretty lady,' said Hutch.

'What's with you two?' Starsky asked, laughing. 'We're not on the way to the ballet.'

'Wish we were,' said Hutch, grimly. Sweet Alice patted his arm.

Marcy was, in Hutch's opinion, far too young to be selling herself on the street corner.

'Yeah,' she said. 'I'll talk to you, but I want some money, first. I'm not talkin' to two cops out here on the corner. Give me a bad name. And if I go off with you, I need some money to show for it. Understand?'

'Of course,' said Hutch. 'We'll pay you. Buy you some coffee, too.'

'Okay,' Marcy agreed. 'It's a deal.'

They all went to a restaurant a few blocks away, which was heavily patronized by the local uniforms, and had coffee and doughnuts.

'I feel like a cop,' said Marcy. 'Sitting here with you guys. What is it you want to know, exactly?'

'Anything at all that's suspicious. Any girls who have disappeared without explanation. But especially, anything you know about a male and a female who've been picking up girls together.'

'Ah. A guy and his broad tried to pick me up two nights ago. It felt all wrong, and I'd had a pretty good day so far, so I said no. As for girls disappearing -- well, that happens all the time. Usually, they show up again. But Joanie -- she worked the corner just down the street. I haven't seen her in a month.'

'Okay. That's a help. Now, about the couple who tried to pick you up. This picture look familiar?'

Hutch pulled out a Polaroid photo that Alex had dropped off for them at the station earlier. He said he'd taken it himself, from behind a bush, just that morning. It showed Pierce and Natalie, standing in their driveway.

'That looks like them, yeah. It's kinda hard to tell for sure, cause it was late at night, and I didn't get too close. But yeah, I'd say it was them.'

'Thanks, Marcy. If you see them again, don't take them up on their offer. I don't think you'd like their method of payment.'

Sweet Alice took the photo from Marcy, and studied it.

'They look like such a nice, normal couple,' she observed.

'Appearances can be deceiving,' said Hutch.

'Don't I know it,' said Marcy. 'Some of the worst clients I have, look like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. And sometimes the roughest and scariest looking guys? I had one guy, he was so tough lookin' I was almost too scared to go with him. Turns out, he just wanted some cuddling. Broke down in my arms and cried like a baby. Paid me double, cause he said it wasn't nothin' for me. Wish he'd come back.'

'But these people,' said Sweet Alice. 'You're thinking they're a bad lookout? You're thinking they're maybe killing girls?'

'That's what we're thinking,' said Starsky.

'I haven't heard any warnings on the news,' Sweet Alice observed.

'No, and we can't put any out there, because we have no evidence,' said Hutch. 'We don't know anything for sure.'

'We're investigating this on our own time,' Starsky told them.

'You mean, you're doing this for nothin'?' Marcy asked, amazed.

'Yeah,' said Starsky. 'We don't get enough murder and mayhem on duty. Gotta go out looking for it.'

***************************

'I contacted the suspects,' announced Bayan.

'Cut it out, Bay,' Hutch told him.

'Hey, if I walk the walk, I get to talk the talk. As I was saying, I contacted the suspects, at their residence. Spoke to Mrs. Suspect first. A little later, those children came home from school. Then Mr. Suspect arrived.'

'And what did you think of Mr. and Mrs. Suspect?' Starsky asked.

'A charming couple,' Bay observed. 'Good looking. Polite. Urbane. Raised the hair on the back of my neck. I think my balls have permanently ascended back into my body.'

'You sure that's not just because we told you our suspicions, in no uncertain terms?' Hutch asked.

'I'm sure,' said Bay. 'Something about their eyes. Eyes that have watched people die, and felt nothing but pleasure. I've seen eyes like that before, when I was in prison. There's something missing, in such eyes. When you can kill like that, and feel no pain, it's like you've lost your soul.'

'Thanks, Bay,' said Hutch. 'But how do we prove it? As far as I know, scientists haven't come up with any test for the presence or absence of a soul.'

'You're right, of course,' said Bayan. 'And in fact, we have no spiritual way of knowing if anyone has indeed lost their soul, either. The Friends would tell me I have judged those people too harshly, based on a short conversation. Perhaps I did let your words color my assessment of the situation. We believe that there is something of God in every human being, but evil exists, too. I can only report my feelings in their presence.'

'Oh, I believe you, Bay,' said Hutch. He got up, and poured himself more coffee, then came back to the table. 'We have our own reasons for believing you, outside of what Ben and Alex told us. But I do wonder if someone can lose their soul. Is it possible? Would it actually leave a mark, that you could see?'

'When you talk about the soul,' said Starsky. 'You mean something different from the spirit, right?'

'The spirit, Starsk?'

'Yeah, Hutch. You know, there's a spirit inside every living thing, right? It's what maybe drives us to live. It's not life itself, exactly. It can die, and our bodies can go on living. We've seen people like that, walking the streets often enough. But when you say 'the soul', you mean something else.'

'Yes,' said Bay. 'It's like an inner light. Perhaps it opens us up to God's presence?'

'An inner light? Maybe. But where is that light? Is it in a special place, or all through our bodies?'

'I don't know if anyone has ever looked into the matter,' said Bayan, with a grin.

'Oh, if anyone would ask such a question, it would be Starsky,' said Hutch.

'I was reading something the other day, that really amazed me,' said Starsky. 'The ancient Egyptians, when they made mummies, they cut out all the organs in the body, and carefully preserved each one in a jar, placed inside the coffin, so that when that person came back to life, they'd have all their essential body parts available.'

'Oh, yeah?' said Bay.

'Yeah,' said Starsky. 'But, get this. They threw the brains away, because they didn't know what use they were. Isn't that funny?'

Hutch looked down his nose. 'You wouldn't be Egyptian, by any chance?' he asked.

'No more'n you,' said Starsky, with a grin. 'The point is...'

'Oh? There's a point?'

'...the point is, we have different beliefs about how things work. Like, I think the book said the Egyptians believed we thought with our hearts, or our livers, or something.'

'I've known lots of men who thought with their dicks,' said Bayan. 'I used to be a little like that myself.'

'That's it! That's it! See, maybe we don't just think with our brains. Maybe the Egyptians were right. Maybe we don't know everything there is to know about how our minds work.'

'Yeah?' said Hutch. 'And?'

'And maybe we need to think with our souls. And if we don't, if we ignore them, our souls shrivel away, and die. And we're left like, hmm, not animals.... but not really human, either.'

'How would you recommend thinking with your soul, David?' asked Bayan.

'Well, you have to find it first. Wake it up. Get it moving.'

'Moving?'

'Flying. It's like a bird, it has wings.'

'And this you know?' Bayan asked.

'Oh, yes,' said Starsky, gazing at Hutch, across the kitchen table. 'This I know. When my soul flew back to yours. Remember? I keep tellin' you. But you keep forgetting.'

'I don't forget that,' said Hutch. 'I don't ever forget that.'

'But you think I'll forget that?' Starsky asked.

'Why do I get the feeling we're not talking about the case any more?' asked Bayan.

Starsky turned to Bayan, his eyes twinkling. 'We're talking about a huge bone of contention between us,' he said.

'Oh, go on, Starsk. It's not that huge,' said Hutch.

'Yes, it is,' said Starsky. 'And it's a long standing bone, too. You see, Hutch thinks I don't have a grasp of the seriousness of the situation. He knows I love him. He trusts me to watch his back in a firefight. But he doesn't believe I'm in this for the long haul.'

'It's like I said the other day, Starsky. The little things, the everyday putdowns, and snubs, the name calling. They wear a person down. After years of it, and all because of me...'

'I'd still love you, because you're worth it. What can I do to prove that? To make you trust me absolutely? Every time I think I've proven myself, that little look comes back.'

Starsky reached out and smoothed Hutch's forehead, with one long hand. With the other, he touched Hutch's lips, and smiled when Hutch licked his fingers.

'What can I do, to send that look away forever?' said Starsky.

He pulled Hutch toward him, across the table, and kissed him, hard. 'We could march in that Gay Rights rally, next weekend,' he suggested.

'And on Monday, we'd be handed our pink slips,' said Hutch.

'So what? We'd fight it. We'd have all the Gays in LA picketing for us. Even if we lost the fight, we could move to San Francisco. Two out Gay cops? Just fired by the LAPD? They'd love us. Even if they didn't love us, that's not the end of the world. There are other cities. Other jobs. There is no other Hutch. You're unique.'

'Well, I should get back to my hotel,' said Bayan. 'It's getting late. Let me know if you need my services. In this case, I mean.' Bayan grinned.

'We will,' said Hutch.

They all got to their feet.

'You know,' said Bayan. 'If Starsky walked into a Gay bar, wearing those jeans, you'd have to fight off nearly every guy in the place.'

'I know that,' said Hutch. 'Maybe that's another reason why I want him to go on pretending to be totally straight.'

'What are you guys on about?' Starsky asked, innocently. He strutted up to the door, and opened it. 'Night, Bayan,' he said. 'See you tomorrow.'

The phone rang. Hutch answered it.

'Hutchinson, here. Hello, Marcy. What's up?'

Bayan paused in the doorway, at the sound of Marcy's name. 'That's the young lady you were talking to earlier, right?' he asked Starsky.

'Right,' said Starsky. 'The young lady of the evening.'

Hutch waved Starsky over, to listen in to the conversation. Bayan waited a bit uncertainly, but his curiosity won out.

'Detective Hutchinson, I told all the girls I know to avoid that pair, but this Josie, she just won't listen to no one. She figures, what the Hell. Or she thinks she's Wonder Woman. Or something, I don't know.'

'So she got in the car?' Hutch asked.

'No shit, Sherlock. And I told her what you said, over and over. So, I went to this phone booth, and called you right away.'

'Okay, Marcy. Thanks a lot. I'll do what I can.' Hutch hung up the phone.

He looked at Starsky, then at Bayan.

'Mr. and Mrs. Suspect just picked up another victim,' he said.

'That's what I gathered,' said Bay.

'What can we do?' Starsky asked. 'We can't show up at their door, and demand they let her go. If she went with them willingly.... And then, they'll know we're on to them. We're no further ahead.'

'I've got an idea,' said Bayan.

*************************

'Look, Bay, this is ridiculous,' said Hutch. 'You're not an undercover cop. You're not a cop at all.'

'No,' said Bayan. 'I'm a friend of those kids.'

'That was just a cover story. You never saw them before today.'

'No, but I've seen them now. And I'm their friend now. And, in fact, I never had to see them, to be willing to help them.'

'If you get hurt....'

'I wrote out a statement before I went in the first time, absolving you both of all blame.'

'Bay! That's not what I'm worried about, and you know it.'

'I know it, but that is what I'm worried about. I called my boyfriend, too, and said goodbye, just in case. Now, if I'm not out of that house in half an hour, you can come in after me. But no shooting, please.'

'I can't promise that, Bay,' said Hutch. 'If one of them tries to harm those children, or Starsky, I'll blow their fucking heads off. And I've got the firepower to do it.'

'Well, don't do it in my defense. I know you don't understand, but violence is against my religion. I'm serious, Hutch. I'm willing to die, rather than use violence. What you are willing to do, is your business. I want to help Ben and Cynthia, and Josie. But a shootout at the OK Corral is not part of that contract, Wyatt Earp.'

'Agreed,' said Hutch. 'I do respect your beliefs, Bay. I always have. I'll give you half an hour. And we won't come in with guns blazing. At least before we assess the situation.'

Bayan leaned in the car window, and kissed Hutch on the forehead. 'You're gorgeous,' he said. 'And your boyfriend's a doll. The two of you have some real potential.'

He turned and headed for the front door of the Talbot house. The windows were all dark. The street was in a well-to-do part of town, and very quiet. That was more nerve wracking than if it had been Watts, with homeboys ranging up and down the streets, shooting anyone wearing the wrong colors.

Bayan knocked at the door. He waited, and rang the doorbell. The door opened. Starsky and Hutch heard voices. Arguing, it seemed. Then, Bayan walked inside. The door closed. Silence descended on the street again.

************************

Bayan rang the doorbell one more time. He heard footsteps coming toward the door. Heavy, impatient footsteps, he thought. The door opened. It was Mr. Suspect.

'Yes?' he said. 'What do you want?'

Not as polite as earlier in the day, Bay noticed. But that was to be expected.

'May I come in?' asked Bay.

'Come in?' Mr. Sus... er Talbot echoed. 'Do you know what time it is? Mr. Justin, isn't it?'

'Yes. You remembered. How kind of you. I wondered if you could do me another kindness, Mr. Talbot. If you'll let me in, I'll explain.'

'Let him in, Pierce,' said Natalie, from the depths of the darkened room behind him. 'He'll just keep talking. Someone might notice.'

'That's right,' Bay noted. 'We wouldn't want that, would we?'

'What do you mean?' asked Pierce.

'Why, just that no one likes their neighbours listening to their private conversations. What else would I mean?'

'Okay. Come in,' said Pierce, rather ungraciously.

He closed the door behind Bayan.

'Okay,' he said again. 'What's this all about? It's really late. We were on our way to bed.'

'I'm sure you were,' said Bay. 'I'm sorry to interrupt. But I've had a bad dream.'

'Have you? Too bad. Why not call your Mommy?' Natalie was dropping the nice facade rather quickly, thought Bay.

'Well, you see, the dream was about you. Or, at least this house. I was worried about the children, and I wanted to see that they were safe.'

'They are. Perhaps you should leave now,' said Pierce Talbot.

'I'd like to see for myself,' said Bay. 'Humour me.'

Pierce and Natalie exchanged a look. It wasn't a pleasant, humouring sort of look.

'Just exactly what was this dream about?' asked Natalie.

'It was a nightmare, to put it bluntly. Really disturbed me, as I'm sure you can understand. Those poor children. Can I look around? I didn't see much of the house before. But in the dream, there was a room, downstairs in the basement. A rec room. And someone was being hurt. Let's see. The door was here. Ah yes. I'm sure you wouldn't mind if I went downstairs just to check. Would you?'

'Mr. Justin! This is outrageous. Take your hand off that door knob right now, and get out.'

'I can't do that, Mr. Talbot. I'm going down those stairs.'

'If you don't leave immediately, we're calling the police,' said Pierce Talbot. He grabbed Bayan's arm, and tried to pull him away from the door. Bayan twisted out of his grip, and turned on him, his eyes fierce and hard.

'Go ahead,' he said. 'Call the police.'

He opened the door, and started down the stairs.

'Pierce!' said Natalie. 'For God's sake, stop him.'

****************

'Explain it to me again, Hutch? Why are we letting an unarmed civilian go in there, while we sit out in the Torino, like a couple of wusses? Huh?'

'Calm down, Starsk. It's Bay. No one lets him do anything. Or stops him either, for that matter. Once he gets an idea in his head, that's it.'

'Really?' Starsky turned to him, his face a mask of astonishment, as if he had never confronted such a motherlode of perfect stubbornness in his entire life before today.

Hutch grinned. 'He's a bit like you,' he noted.

Starsky snorted in disgust. 'Really,' he said, again, looking his stubborn lover up and down.

**********************

Bayan heard Pierce Talbot on the basement steps behind him. He continued down the dimly lit stairs. Talbot overtook him, and grabbed his arm again. Without slowing down, Bay body slammed Talbot into the wall, and twisted out of his grasp. He reached the bottom of the stairs.

'Is this the way to the Rec room?' he asked, as if nothing much had happened.

'Listen to me, you nosy nigger. If you don't get out of my house now....'

'I suppose that means it is,' said Bay. 'I'll just check out this room, then have a word or two with Ben and Cynthia, and then I'll be on my way. I'm so very sorry to have been such a nuisance.'

'I'm sure you are,' Pierce Talbot snarled. 'But you'll pay for it.'

'Do you want cash?' Bay asked. 'Or will you take a credit card?'

He opened the Rec room door.

'Oh, my,' he said. 'I see you already have company. Good evening, Ma'am. Mind if I join you? Though we might have a more enjoyable conversation if you take out that gag.'

'You're not having any sort of conversation with her or anyone else, Justin. You interrupted a private party, and you're not welcome. For the last time, get out.'

'But the young lady looks so uncomfortable. I don't think much of what she's wearing, either. And if this is a party, where are the refreshments? She must be thirsty. Let's just untie her, get her something to drink. How about that?'

'Are you some kind of a joke?'

'You know, you're not the first person to ask me that, and I'm sure you won't be the last.'

'Now that's where you're wrong,' said Natalie, from the doorway. 'We are the last people who will ever speak to you at all. We warned you to go, but you didn't. Now, you're never leaving this room alive.'

'Then I'd appreciate it if you'd make my last conversation more interesting,' Bay said. 'And quit with the tedious threats. You can start by telling me how you expect to explain my disappearance. I'm not some girl off the streets.'

The doorbell rang.

'What the Hell is going on?' said Pierce.

'Just ignore it,' said Natalie. 'Let's take care of him first.'

****************

Starsky rang the doorbell for the third time. He was about to kick in the door, when it opened. It was Ben.

'Hutch? David? What's going on? Someone called a short time ago, but They answered.'

'I know, Ben,' said Starsky. 'That was Bayan Justin. He's still in the house, and we're here to check on him. Have you heard anything?'

'Voices,' said Ben. 'That's all.'

'Okay,' said Hutch. 'Look. Get your sister, and get out of the house. Our car is parked across the street, and down two houses. It's a red Torino with a white stripe. Here's the key. Lock the door, and stay in the car, no matter what. Understand?'

'Sure, guys. What are you going to do?'

'Never mind,' said Starsky. 'Is there a basement window that opens onto the Rec room?'

'Yeah. It's on the left side of the house, from the backyard. It's got a heavy black curtain.'

'Thanks. You're great. Now get out.'

Starsky turned, and made for the backyard.

******************

'Let's see,' Bay was saying. 'You could shoot me, and say you caught me breaking in. Though I have witnesses who saw you let me into the house, so how would you explain that?'

'Witnesses?' asked Natalie.

'Well, yes. You didn't think I was stupid enough to come here alone, did you?'

'Who the Hell are you?' Pierce asked.

'I told you, this afternoon. There will be a lot of people wondering what happened, if I don't leave this house, in the same condition as I entered it. But of course, that's entirely up to you. You better make up your mind fast though. There are two of you, and only one of me, but I'm not just going to stand here and let you beat me to death. I'm a pacifist, but I'm not insanely suicidal. Shooting me would probably be the best bet.... Well, I'm waiting.'

'Will you shut the fuck up?' screamed Natalie.

'Sorry,' said Bay. 'I've never shut up when I was told to. And I can't make an exception for you. I'm sure you can see that. I suppose your hesitation over shooting me, means you hate guns as much as I do? How nice.'

'Pierce! Will you just hit him or something? What the Hell is the matter with you?'

'I guess Pierce is a non-violent murderer,' said Hutch from the doorway. 'He likes his victims tied up first.'

Pierce and Natalie turned, in surprise.

'Starsky!' Hutch yelled. 'You can come in now!'

The basement window crashed in. Starsky tumbled through, rolled and came up on his feet, gun in hand.

'How do you do that?' asked Hutch. 'Sure you didn't sprain something?'

'I'm sure,' said Starsky. 'And by the way, Pierce and Natalie Talbot, in case you hadn't noticed, we've got you surrounded. You're under arrest.'

Pierce looked at the two hard-eyed cops facing him, and the equally hard-eyed Bayan, and surrendered. Natalie was a bit tougher. She tried to escape past Hutch, but he caught her, and soon had her in handcuffs.

'We didn't do anything,' she screamed. 'This was all a setup.'

'Fine,' said Hutch. 'That will come out in the hearing, if it's true, so what are you worried about?'

'I want a lawyer,' she said.

'We were getting to that,' said Hutch. 'You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney....'

Hutch read Natalie her rights, and Starsky took care of Pierce.

Bayan untied Josie, and pulled out her gag. He threw his topcoat around her, and helped her down from the pool table.

'Are you in any pain?' he asked gently.

'Yes,' she whispered. 'They... they did things.'

'So I gathered. We'll take you to the hospital. Let me find you a blanket, and help you put that coat on properly.'

'Thanks,' said Josie. 'They said they were going to kill me, but only after they had more fun.'

'Yeah, well some people have strange ideas about fun,' said Bayan. 'Hutch? I think we should get Ben and Cynthia out of the way, before you take their father off in handcuffs, don't you?'

'Good idea,' said Hutch. 'We have to call this in, anyway. Get evidence down here. And God! Dobey's going to roast our nuts over a slow fire over this one.'

'Hmph!' said Bay.

***************************

It was hours later. The night had seemed to go on endlessly, but now everyone was settled. Ben and Cynthia were staying at Alex's apartment. Josie was in the hospital. Bayan was back at his hotel.

Pierce and Natalie were in lockup.

Hutch sighed as he stroked Starsky's hair. The sounds of his breathing and the beating of his heart were soothing. They were like the sea, Hutch thought. Primal. Rhythmic. Sensual. He imagined the rush of blood through his lover's veins. Into his heart. Out again. Through all his blood vessels. Into his cock.

Starsky opened his eyes. They were dark with passion. Hutch pulled him down, into a fierce kiss. Starsky kissed him as if it might be the last time. His mouth moved lower, and lower, down Hutch's chest, kissing each nipple carefully and thoroughly, kissing down his abdomen, moving down, down, into Hutch's navel, over each hip bone, down to his thighs, between his thighs, kissing his penis, licking his balls, kissing, kissing, swallowing his penis, so sweetly, so gently, sucking, licking, loving each moment. Hutch thrust up into Starsky's mouth. Starsky's tongue was soft and rough, warm and wet, sweet and so, so nasty and evil. Hutch wanted to laugh at the teasing things Starsky's mouth was doing. He wanted to shout. He wanted to laugh, and to shout, and to come.

Eventually, after a very long time, he did all three.

Starsky fell asleep with his head resting on Hutch's heart. The slow calm of his sleeping lover filled his dreams. He sank deeper and deeper into the flow of his blood, into the sighing of his breath, into the beating of the wings of his soul.

**************

The Mountains of the Moon were cold, so cold it looked as if the peaks were covered in ice. But that was not possible, thought Starsky. There was no water on the Moon, so there was no ice.

The Moon was dry. No water. No wind. Still. Calm. Silent.

Starsky could see Hutch's footprints in the sand, and followed them into the mountains. He could hear Hutch's heartbeat, far above. Hutch's soul had wings. Starsky could hear the wings beating the air, stirring up a wind of their own. The sand began to rise, in the small wind storm created by Hutch's soul. Hutch's footprints were disappearing before his eyes.

'Hutch?' he called. 'I know you're there. I can hear you. But the trail is gone.'

Hutch appeared on the ridge above him. The Earth was rising in the night sky. Earthlight was one of Starsky's favourite lights in which to watch Hutch smile. He smiled back.

'The cave is here, beloved. Warm and dry. It's cold tonight.'

'Icy,' said Starsky, as he entered the cave. 'Why is it so cold tonight? It's summer on the Moon.'

'There are ghosts out tonight,' said Hutch. 'Ghosts always bring the cold and the ice. Their hearts are frozen in time.'

'Ghosts!' said Starsky. 'Yes. There are ghosts. That's what I saw up in the mountain peaks. I thought it was ice. But it was ghosts.'

'We should talk to the ghosts,' suggested Hutch. 'Invite them into our cave.'

'The ghosts will bring the ice,' said Starsky.

'It's warm in the cave,' Hutch reminded him. 'We can melt the ice.'

'How do we call them to the cave?' asked Starsky.

'Tear down the wall at the back of the cave,' said Hutch. 'And call the ghosts down from the peaks.'

Starsky went to the back of the cave. The wall looked solid, but he did as Hutch asked. He tore at the solid stone wall with his hands, and it gave way before him.

The cave wall opened, and Earthlight flooded the cave. Far above them, in the Mountains of the Moon, the ghosts roamed the mountain peaks. Their eyelashes were dripping with frozen tears.

'Come down into the cave,' Starsky called.

'We can't,' they mourned. 'We are chained in the ice.'

'Come down,' Starsky called. 'The cave is warm. It will melt the ice.'

'We can't,' the ghosts mourned. But one ghost came down off the mountain peaks. Her eyelashes were dripping with frozen tears. She carried the ice of the highest peak down into their warm cave.

'You are a ghost,' said Starsky. 'You have brought ice to the Mountains of the Moon. But it is warm here in the cave. What is your name?'

'Annie,' she said. 'My name was Annie.'

***************

'Hutchinson! Starsky! My office!'

Starsky looked at Hutch, who looked back.

'We just got here,' said Starsky.

'And we're dead,' said Hutch. 'You think he'd accept a plea of temporary insanity?'

'It's worth a try.'

The walk to Captain Dobey's office was all too short.

'Cap'n,' said Starsky, as soon as he closed the door. 'We can explain.'

'No need. Good work, Detectives,' said Captain Dobey.

'You see we were.... What did you say, Cap'n?'

'I said, "Good work". The thing to do now, of course, is make it stick. You need more evidence. Here's your warrant. Go find it.'

'Um?' said Starsky, feeling decidedly incapable of expressing his astonishment at Dobey's atypical behaviour. He heard a laugh behind him, a laugh that sounded familiar.

'You're not usually at a loss for words,' said Bayan.

'You can say that again,' said Dobey. 'You don't know what I've gone through over the years.'

'Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.' Bayan sang the line from the old spiritual in a lugubrious tone, but his voice was wonderful.

'Knock it off, Bay,' said Dobey.

'Oh come on, Harold. Lighten up.'

'Um?' said Starsky again.

'You two know each other?' asked Hutch. It was hardly a brilliant question, since the answer was obvious.

'Yeah, Detective. We know each other,' said Dobey, with heavy sarcasm.

'It's not their fault, Harold. I didn't tell them we were old friends.'

'And why not?' asked Dobey. He seemed offended at the oversight.

'I was just getting to know Starsky. I didn't want to incriminate myself,' said Bayan.

'Well,' said Dobey. 'We worked together in the....'

'Civil Rights Movement?' Starsky asked.

'You got it,' said Bay.

'Boy, you guys sure get around.'

'Okay,' said Dobey. 'Enough of this. You need to get to work, and we'll talk old times later. This Josie has accused the Talbots of assault. Sexual and otherwise. Bayan here is accusing them of assault and attempted murder. They're denying all the charges, of course.'

'Of course, Cap'n,' said Starsky.

'They say that Josie is a prostitute and consented to all the sexual acts that took place. Bayan forced his way into their home, and refused to leave. But Bay tells me that you have grounds to believe they may have committed other acts of violence in that house, up to and including murder.'

'Yes, Cap'n,' said Starsky. 'Just as an example, Pierce Talbot's wife disappeared many years ago, but her husband never filed a report. Her son suspects she was murdered.'

'That's not much to go on, but considering what happened last night, I'm not inclined to dismiss your suspicions. So, go find evidence to support them. Dismissed.'

'Yes, Sir!' said Starsky and Hutch. They turned and marched out of the office.

'You see what I mean, Bayan,' said Dobey.

**********************

They didn't speak on the way out of the office. They didn't speak on the way down on the elevator. Indeed, they didn't speak until they were safely in the Torino, soaking up its familiar atmosphere.

Then, Starsky turned to Hutch and said, 'That was freaky, Hutch.'

'Yeah. It was.'

'I'm not sure I like a nice, polite Dobey. I was scared there for a moment. Thought maybe he'd had bad news. Thought maybe he learned he was gonna die... or we were gonna die.'

'Yeah. But it's just that he's old friends with Bayan. What'd Bay say to him, anyway?'

'I dunno. You don't suppose....'

'What? Oh, no. No, no, no.'

'I know. I mean, just imagine it.'

'No thanks. Let's get outta here, and go look for dead bodies. It's not that I really want to find them, but they would be a help right now.'

'Yeah,' said Starsky. 'And I think I know where they are, Hutch.'

'Where?'

'They're in the freezer.'

'Oh, come on. That's so... so....'

'Typical serial killer stuff? I know. But these people didn't strike me as being all that creative.'

Hutch sighed.

The house was blocked off with yellow Police tape. Oglers were standing out the front, trying to get a glimpse of a dead body or two.

'Sorry, kid,' said Starsky, to one boy on his bicycle, who was straining to see in the slightly opened door. 'We already hauled them away.'

'Figgers!' said the kid. 'I never get to see any action.'

'Watch TV,' said Hutch. 'It's safer.'

The Forensic Evidence team was swarming all over the Rec Room.

'We found some hair,' said one of the investigators. 'Something that may be blood. But it could just be from last night.'

'Oh, there's more than a few hairs, or drops of blood here,' said Starsky. 'There are bodies.'

'Okay, Detective Starsky. Bodies. Where are they? We've been all over the house.'

'They're in the freezer,' said Starsky.

The entire Forensics team laughed.

'We tried there already,' they said, almost in unison. 'First place we looked.'

'Yeah, well you better look again.'

Starsky stalked into the kitchen, and opened the fridge. Then, he checked the freezer compartment.

'Ice cream,' he said in disgust. 'Frozen fish. Frozen vegetables.'

'Well, that is what belongs in a freezer,' Hutch pointed out.

'There are bodies in the freezer, Hutch. I know it.'

'Okay, okay. But they're not in the freezer. How do you explain it?'

'This isn't big enough for bodies. Even cut up bodies. They bought another freezer. There has to be another freezer. A bigger one. In the basement. In the garage. Somewhere.'

'Hey!' Hutch shouted. 'Anyone seen a bigger freezer? A chest freezer of any kind?'

'Nope, Sarge.'

'Nothin' like that. Sorry.'

Starsky was vibrating with frustration.

'There's another freezer, Hutch,' he grated. 'I know it.'

'Let's look around.'

They walked from the front of the house to the back. They combed the garage, looking under some old tarps, and finding only car parts. They examined every inch of the basement, looking behind the furnace, and into the laundry room. Nothing.

'Let's call Ben. See if he knows anything,' said Hutch.

'Okay,' said Starsky, sounding discouraged.

'Hang in there,' said Hutch. 'If you say there's a freezer, we'll find it, if we have to dig up every inch of the yard.'

****************

Hutch was talking on the phone with Ben, asking him about freezers, and shaking his head at Starsky. It didn't look good, thought Starsky.

The morning sun was struggling to get in through the low window of the Rec Room. It was cold in here, thought Starsky. Had the Forensics team turned off the furnace to preserve evidence? It was cold near the window, where Starsky listened in to Hutch's end of the depressing conversation. He walked further into the room, past the annoyed Forensics team, on toward the opposite end of the Rec Room.

He looked around as he walked, slowly. More slowly than he had walked the room with Hutch. Hutch had been humouring him by that point, he knew. Hutch was humouring him, because he had woken up in the middle of the night, talking about ghosts, and the moon, and Hutch was worried he was losing his mind.

Starsky wasn't worried about going nuts. Hutch would take care of him if he did. Probably hide him in the attic. Or the basement. A hidden room, like in that book an old girlfriend had insisted he read. What was it called? 'Jane Eyre'. That was it. The hero was secretly married to a madwoman, and hid her in a secret room.

It was colder, the further Starsky got from the window, and Hutch. Hutch was warm. That was why their cave was warm. Because of Hutch. Their cave on the moon was warm, but the ghosts were cold. Starsky had knocked down the wall, and let in the ghosts at the back of the cave.

The wall. The wall at the far end of the Rec Room was very cold. Wooden panelling like that should be warmer.

'Hutch? Ask Ben when this room was built, will'ya? It looks newer than the rest of the house.'

***********

Hutch was trying to listen to Ben, over the noise of the Forenics Team. Ben was saying that he was certain that they didn't have another freezer. At least, he couldn't remember ever having seen such a thing. Did his father own any other property? Did he remember any times his father and Natalie spent away from the house, perhaps at a holiday cottage?

Hutch could sense Ben's frustration growing. He knew so little about his father and the woman he called his wife. For the most part, the adults in the house ignored the children. He and Cynthia had not been abused, in any way, but there was no warmth, no sharing of family times. Considering the family, that was a blessing. But now, when asked questions about his father, Ben was at a loss.

Pierce Talbot was an executive for a medium sized corporation. Natalie was a former secretary for the same business. It was where they had met, thought Ben. His father might own large tracts of vacation property, for all Ben knew. He had never seen it.

'Hold on, Ben. Starsky has a question. Oh, yeah, Starsk. Good question. When was the basement Recreation Room built? Starsky says it looks newer than the rest of the house.'

'I think it was designed and built after Natalie moved in. I don't remember playing down there with my mother. Natalie wanted a Rec Room. But we kids weren't allowed down there often.'

'Thanks, Ben,' said Hutch. 'Stay on the phone, will you? I'm going to talk to Starsky, but I'll be back. I'll be a few minutes, so just relax as much as you can.'

'Okay, Hutch.'

Hutch could hear Alex talking to Ben in the background. Something about putting his head in Alex's lap. Good idea, thought Hutch. Starsky was at the other end of the room. The room seemed darker than a few minutes ago. Dark, and silent, and cavernous. The Forensics Team had disappeared.

Starsky turned and held out his hand, pulling Hutch to his side.

'What took you so long?' he asked.

'This room,' said Hutch. 'It's become a cave.'

'Yes,' said Starsky. 'Our cave. But you rule our cave. You told me to pull down the walls, and let in the ghosts. Now, how do we do it here?'

'Use a crow bar?' Hutch asked.

'No,' said Starsky. 'Nothing so crude. The ghosts have been locked away. We need to unlock them. And the Talbots might protest that our warrant didn't cover ripping out walls to look for bodies. Let's not give them any chance to have evidence excluded. If we can open this wall, like a door....'

Hutch studied the panelled walls. They all looked exactly alike, with no sign that the end wall could open. But if Starsky said it opened, it opened.

Hutch pressed against the wall, trying to extend his senses beyond their usual limits. Miranda had said he could do it. She had told him that everyone had extra senses that they didn't use in their everyday existence. Those senses could be honed. Hutch had been trying to hone his, but without success, so far.

He felt Starsky's hand on his shoulder. He remembered Miranda telling them that they carried their Dreamworld life with them always. That nothing could part them now, not even death. If this room was their cave, then they could open the door.

Hutch stepped back. He studied the panelling again. He had been wrong the first time, he thought. The panels weren't exactly the same as the panels on the other walls. This panel in the middle, for instance. It was a fraction of an inch narrower than the others. Press here, and press there.

And, look! Damn! Starsky had been right. The wall did open.

He could hear the Forensics crew exclaiming behind them. He could feel Starsky's hand gripping his shoulder tightly. He stood and stared at the large, white, chest freezer.

Okay, the thing was locked. How to unlock it? One of the young uniformed cops had a set of pass keys, and lock picks. He said his father was a locksmith, and he carried them around with him all the time. You never knew when they might come in useful, he said.

'Burglar's tools,' Starsky snickered in his ear. Hutch didn't care. The lockpicks worked on the third try. The freezer lid swung back. The young cop gagged, and left the room hurriedly. Hutch could hear him throwing up in the furnace room. In a moment, he might join him. But in the meantime, he had to make a phone call to Metro.

This was no longer a simple case of assault.

The meeting with Assistant District Attorney Sheila Holmes was going rather well, thought Captain Dobey. Since Starsky and Hutch were off gathering more evidence, he had gone with his old friend Bayan Justin to talk over the charges against Pierce and Natalie Talbot. Bay was recounting their threats against his life, when the door burst open, and the Talbots' lawyer swept in.

'Excuse me, but this is a private conference,' said ADA Holmes, getting to her feet and drawing up to her full five feet two inches.

'Yes,' said the Talbots' lawyer. 'A conference to discuss the ridiculous charges against my clients. I'm here to persuade you to drop those charges.'

'Drop the charges?' asked Sheila Holmes. Her blue eyes flashed. 'Drop charges of assault, rape, and attempted murder? Are you insane?'

'No, but you are if you're going to court on the word of a prostitute, and a draft-dodging queer.' 'Make that a queer draft dodger,' Bay spoke up. 'It's more euphonious.'

'Oh, excuse me, Mr. Justin,' said the lawyer. 'I didn't see you there.'

'Of course not,' said Bay. 'I'm Black.'

'You would bring that up, wouldn't you?' the lawyer sneered.

'Well, you brought up my religion and sexual orientation,' Bay pointed out.

'And I'll do that in court, as well. I have your arrest record, right here.' The lawyer opened his briefcase and drew out a sheaf of papers. 'You spent time in prison for evading the draft. You spent time in prison for perverted sexual acts. Why should anyone believe the word of a coward and a pervert?'

'I don't know,' said Bay. 'Do you have my entire arrest record?'

'Yes. So what?'

'Read it all,' Bay demanded.

'I'm sorry,' said the lawyer. 'I don't have enough time for that.'

'I'll insist on that in court. I'll insist on all my times in prison being accounted for, not just the times that suit you. Please tell the court why I spent time on a chain gang in 1948, for example.'

The lawyer checked his records.

'Ah,' he said. 'A civil disturbance.'

'What sort of a civil disturbance?' Bay insisted.

'You refused to move,' said the lawyer.

'Yes,' said Bayan. 'I refused to move. I refused to move to the back of the bus. Even when I was punched, and kicked in the head, and pounded with sticks. Tell the court about the times I refused to leave a Whites Only restaurant, even when I was attacked by dogs. Or what about...'

'Enough of this,' said the lawyer. 'I don't have all day.'

'My apologies,' said Bay. 'I thought you were interested in my criminal activities.'

Sheila Holmes was grinning. 'I think my witness can hold his own in court, Counselor,' she said.

Her phone rang. She answered it, and her face turned white, but she shot an approving glance at Bayan.

'Well, Counselor,' she said. 'It looks as if your clients have more to worry about than the testimony of a prostitute and a queer draft dodger after all.'

'What do you mean, Sheila?' said Captain Dobey.

'Your detectives found a freezer, Harold. It's full of body parts. Human body parts. So far, they've counted a dozen heads. But they haven't reached the bottom yet.'

'Excuse me, Sheila,' said Dobey. 'I better get over there.'

************************

Captain Dobey watched his best team of detectives dealing with one of the most distressing crime scenes in their career.

Forensic teams were emptying a freezer full of human body parts. Police photographers swarmed around, taking pictures as the corpses were exhumed from their cold grave.

Starsky and Hutch were pale, but calm, the centre of the storm. Chaos swirled around them. Every once in a while, one of them would look up, catch a glimpse from the other's eyes, and gaze back.

I was wrong, thought Dobey. When I learned they were lovers, I thought it would destroy their working relationship. But I was wrong.

What happened here, anyway? I don't quite understand the chain of events. They weren't working on a serial killer case. I didn't know there even was a serial killer case to work on. And here they are. They've solved one.

They finished all their official cases, wrote up the reports, handed them in, and went home for the weekend. The next thing I know, Bayan Justin sweeps into my office, reminding me of the days when I was young and idealistic, and thought I could change the world. Before I got old, and stuck behind this desk. Only Bayan's even older than me, and he's still idealistic, and still thinks he can change the world.

I remember him, thought Dobey. I remember him leading marches beside Dr. King. I remember his passionate speeches about how there was nothing wrong with causing trouble, as long as it was creative trouble. I remember people sneering because he was homosexual, and didn't hide it. But then, when people like Jesse Helms sneered as well, we all got on Bayan's side. We became good friends. That was when I first realized Blacks could be bigoted like anyone else, and we could be in the wrong.

To get back to the story, thought Dobey, Bayan sweeps into my office. He tells me a story about how he got involved in one of Starsky and Hutch's cases, and how two people are in jail, but there's probably more to the case, and how he and Starsky and Hutch might get into trouble, and what am I going to do about it? The next thing I know, I'm covering for them. And here we are now, handling the worst serial killer case in years. A just reward for virtue?

***************************

Hutch wasn't happy, Starsky thought. They'd solved a big serial killer case, before anyone else even knew there was a serial killer case to be solved. The crime scene was secure, and Forensics would be investigating it for days.

The perps were behind bars, and with this sort of evidence, they'd be there for life.

But Hutch wasn't happy.

Hutch probably thought they should have solved the case earlier, or something. Like, a year ago. Or ten years ago.

Then there was Ben and Cynthia. Like that was Hutch's fault.

They'd tracked down the grandparents. The mother's family. They'd disowned Annie when she married Pierce, and seemed to think her horrible death, and interment in a freezer bag, was all her own fault. When Hutch mentioned the children, the grandparents said they had no intentions of raising the children of a serial killer, and hung up.

Ben said he was moving in with Alex. But Cynthia was only twelve. What about her? Child Services would probably get involved. She would be sent to a foster home. What kind of life was that, for a girl her age? Especially one who had just learned that her own father was an unspeakable monster, who had murdered her mother.

When Starsky and Hutch had interrogated Pierce Talbot about the bodies in the freezer, he said they must have been planted there.

'Probably by you,' he said.

Starsky had to drag Hutch out of the room, though he'd wanted to throttle the monster himself.

Dobey had sent them home for the rest of the weekend.

'It's Saturday night,' he said. 'It's supposed to be your day off. Go home. Do whatever it is you do there. I'll see you Monday.'

'Monday!' Hutch shouted. 'With a case like this to work on?'

'Let Forensics do their job,' Dobey shouted back. 'That pair will still be in jail on Monday. I can guarantee it. Their lawyer isn't going to talk them out of this one.'

Starsky dragged Hutch out of Dobey's office, out of Metro, and into the Torino. Hutch glowered the whole way home.

Now, he was sitting in the living room. Glowering.

Bayan Justin was strumming on Hutch's guitar. He played a few expert arpeggios.

'Hutch!' he said.

'Yeah?' Hutch asked, glumly.

'Help me sing this song. It's more your song. My love is blond, just like you.'

Bayan began a tune. An old folk tune, thought Starsky. Hutch's eyes lit up.

'You're evil, Bay,' he said. But he sang the song with Bay, nevertheless.

'Black, black, black is the colour of my true love's hair. His lips are something wondrous fair. The bluest eyes, and the bravest hands. I love the ground whereon he stands. Black, black, black is the colour of my true love's hair.'

Hutch and Bay had beautiful voices, and they blended well together. The second verse was even more powerful.

'I love my love and well he knows. I love the ground whereon he goes. And if my love no more I see, my life would quickly fade away. Black, black, black is the colour of my true love's hair.'

Starsky clapped vigorously.

'Thank you,' said Bay. 'Thank you all very much.'

'You can really play that thing, Elvis.' said Starsky.

'Oh, he's played with musicians like Leadbelly,' said Hutch. 'And here he is, singing with me.'

'Hey!' said Bayan. 'You have a great voice.'

'So I keep telling him,' said Starsky. 'But he doesn't listen.'

'He's like most men,' said Bay. 'Solid marble between his ears.'

Starsky found himself sharing a grin with Bayan Justin. It was a bit surprising, he thought. Justin wasn't really the kind of guy he thought he could be friends with. A Quaker. A conscientious objector. Someone who'd been in jail over twenty times in his life. Someone who'd actually been on a chain gang.

A man who'd been to bed with Hutch. A man whom Hutch still obviously admired.

Yet, there it was. He couldn't help but like the SOB.

'So, about the Gay Rights march next week,' said Bay.

'Uh, yeah?' Starsky said. 'What about it?'

'I think you guys would make great marshalls. It looks like it might be bigger than we supposed, and we may need more security. What do you think?'

Starsky shot a glance at Hutch. Hutch was looking skeptical.

'Sure,' said Starsky. 'Put me down. Do I get to wear an armband, and order people around?'

'Of course,' said Bay, with a grin.

'Good grief,' said Hutch. 'I guess I better go along, just to keep you under control.'

But Hutch looked happier, thought Starsky.

**************************

It was a week later. A lovely, sunny LA morning. Bayan introduced them to the other march organizers and marshals.

'This is Dave and Ken,' he said.

'Hello, Dave and Ken,' said one of the other marshals. 'You have any experience with controlling crowds?'

Starsky laughed. He shook hands with everyone around. 'Dave Starsky,' he introduced himself. 'I'm a police officer.'

'I'm his partner,' Hutch added. 'Ken Hutchinson,' 'Starsky? Hutchinson? Wait. You're the cops that just broke that serial killer case, aren't you?' someone asked.

'And didn't you save that kid from being killed?' another marshall contributed. 'You remember? Venice Beach?'

'Yeah. We remember. That was us,' said Starsky. They were suddenly the recipients of a lot of awed looks. Looks of awe and speculation. 'So, I think we can handle a crowd,' Starsky finished.

'I should think you can,' said Bayan.

'Do we get treats if we do?' Starsky asked. 'You know. Candy?'

Bayan laughed. Hutch choked, and Starsky turned to look him up and down.

'Lollipops?' he said, and watched Hutch blush.

'I'll leave it to Hutch to come up with something,' Bayan said.

They were coming off a week from Hell, but he and Hutch were hanging in there. Forensics had pretty much identified the oldest body in the freezer as Annie Talbot, though that hadn't been confirmed yet. The other bodies, all women, were still unidentified. Some might forever remain so.

One good thing, he thought. Working together, he and Hutch, Bay and Captain Dobey, and Sheila Holmes, had found a home for Cynthia. They had tracked down a Quaker couple from Annie's home town, now living in LA. They had actually known Annie as a child. In fact, they were the two other children her age, in that picture Ben had held onto all those years. They had a daughter Cynthia's age, and were willing to act as foster parents. Sheila had made all the legal arrangements, and gotten them approved by a Family Court judge she knew.

Cynthia was as happy as she could be under the circumstances. She would be near her brother, and in a familiar environment. Hutch nudged his shoulder. 'Look!' he said. Captain Dobey, and his family. The Quaker couple, their daughter and Cynthia. Ben and Alex.

'Hi!' they all said. 'We're here for the march. Where does it start?'

******************

It was noon. The march was getting underway. Captain Dobey and his family were marching with PFLAG -- The Parents and Friends of Gays. So were Cynthia and her new family. Alex and Ben said they'd float around.

'You meet a lot of interesting people that way,' said Alex.

'Yeah,' said Ben. 'Like me. We met at the first Gay Rights march I ever went on. And now look at us. How'd you guys meet?'

'We met at the Police Academy,' said Starsky.

'Ah. Lotta guys hook up that way?' asked Alex.

'Not that I'm aware of,' said Hutch. 'But who knows?'

Bayan sighed. 'My boyfriend and I met on a street corner, waiting for the light to change. I don't remember where I was going, and I don't think I ever got there. Somehow, after looking into his eyes it didn't matter. Wish he was here now, but he couldn't get away.'

At that moment, a voice called from the sidelines of the march.

'Bay! There you are. I've been looking all over.' A young, blond man, quite a few years younger than Bayan, ran up and threw his arms around him. Bay's eyes lit up with joy. They kissed each other with great affection.

'Hey! I thought you couldn't make it, and I wouldn't see you until I got back from Thailand. Can you stay overnight? I have to leave in the morning.'

'I know. I know. If it isn't one thing, it's another.' But the young blond man didn't seem angry or upset. He looked at his lover with pride.

Bay introduced him. 'Everyone, this is Tim, who it seems came out here on the sly to check up on me.'

'Sure, Bay,' said Tim. 'All the way from New York. Wanted to catch you in the act. And look at the cute guys you're with. I'm jealous.'

'You're wasting your jealousy,' said Bayan. 'They're all happily married.'

*********************

The march had been under way for some time. It was indeed a very large turnout, thought Starsky. He was beginning to feel a lot less alone in the world. Surely, out of all these many thousands of people, there were some who shared his experiences. Surely there were other men and women who hadn't realized they could love someone of their own sex until later in life.

Starsky began to wonder about those discussion groups Bay had mentioned. It might be interesting to go to one. Maybe there were other cops like him. It might be good to find out, talk to them. Perhaps Hutch would feel a little less isolated too, if he came along.

Hutch was sticking close to Starsky's side. Starsky had tried pointing out that they were here to watch the crowd, not each other. He'd gotten a dirty look for his pains. Okay. Let Hutch be a mother hen. What did he think was going to happen to Starsky anyway? This crowd was pretty friendly.

Hutch was looking calm, though. He hadn't mentioned any of his former worries about the fallout if they left the closet together. Perhaps Starsky's lecture about all the possible futures before them had sunk in. Perhaps he was beginning to see that the world wouldn't end even if they did lose their jobs.

The sun was well overhead, now. It was getting warm, and Starsky unbuttoned his jacket. He wished he could take it off, but he had nowhere to leave it. The Torino was miles back. Hutch didn't seem to notice the rise in temperature. His coat was still buttoned up.

They were passing a small park, and there were crowds of people watching them. Up ahead, he could hear the chants of 'Gay Rights Now!' and 'Gay Is Just as Good as Straight!'

He could also see a group of people on the sidelines, holding signs of their own.

'God Hates Fags!'

'Homos Burn In Hell!'

'Sodom Was Destroyed Because of Queers Like You!'

Lovely. Did those idiots really think their signs would make him stop loving Hutch?

Hutch was watching the crowds along the sidewalks, now. Perhaps he was worried about confrontations between the marchers and the homophobes. That would be ugly, and not what they wanted. Bayan and the other organizers wanted a peaceful demonstration to call for more Gay Rights, not a riot.

Judging by the hate-filled faces they were beginning to see, however, some people were deeply affronted by their very existence.

Starsky didn't understand this. Yes, at one time he had thought that homosexuality was wrong. But he had never wanted to hurt anyone, simply because they were Gay. He would never have held up a sign saying, 'Kill All Fags'.

Kill All Fags? What the fuck did that mean? How could anyone....

Starsky landed on the sidewalk, with Hutch on top of him. He could hear shouting. Feet ran past his face. He felt Hutch's body shaking on top of his own.

'Starsk? Starsk? You okay?'

'Yeah. I think so. Get off me, you big lug. What the Hell's going on?'

'You sure? You sure you're not shot?'

'I'm sure.... What'd'ya mean, shot? Hutch? Lemme up!'

Starsky could hear other voices. Another one of the parade marshals called to them.

'You guys okay?'

Starsky lost his temper.

'Yeah, I'm okay!' he bellowed. 'Or I will be if Hutch gets the Hell off me and lets me breathe.'

Hutch shifted off his body, a few inches. Starsky managed to sit up. He looked around. There were other people lying on the ground, but no one looked hurt. It was like one of those anti-Vietnam War 'Die Ins' he'd witnessed a few times, back in the seventies. People were lifting their heads and checking the situation out.

'Okay,' said Starsky. 'What the fuck happened?' 'Someone fired a shot,' said one of the marshals. 'Straight at you. Your friend pushed you down in time, though.'

'I thought he hit you,' someone said to Hutch.

'No,' said Hutch. 'I'm fine. What happened with the shooter? He get away?'

'A few guys ran after him, but we don't know. Thank God the crowd didn't panic, or people would have been trampled to death. What should we do, now?'

'Nothing,' said Hutch firmly. 'If the shooter had wanted to take out a bunch of marchers, he'd have done so. He ran off. Get everyone moving again. Tell them it was a misunderstanding. A firecracker. Whatever you like.'

'Okay. Will do.'

'Hutch.'

'Come on, Buddy. Let's get you on your feet. Sorry about landing on you so hard.'

'Hutch.'

'Hope I didn't crack one of your ribs.'

'No. I'm fine. Hutch, will you shut the fuck up for a minute and answer me?'

'How can I answer you if I shut up?'

Starsky stared at his lover. Hutch couldn't meet his eyes for some reason.

'Hutch?'

'Yeah?'

'You were hit, weren't you?'

'I'm fine, Starsk. Let's get back to work.'

'Yeah. You were hit, but you're only bruised, 'cause you're wearing a vest under that jacket. I should beat the stuffin' outa you. You know that? What's going on, Hutch?'

'I don't know, Starsk. If I knew, I'd have been able to do something to stop this ahead of time.'

'What do you know?' Starsky asked as they started marching alongside the crowd again.

'Remember, I told you someone was watching us?' said Hutch.

'Yeah, but then you said that maybe it was Ben's father, or something. That you were seeing him out of Ben's eyes. We took care of that.'

'We did,' said Hutch. 'But the feeling didn't go away. I really don't know what's going on. Can't we talk about this later, Starsky? I can't talk right now.'

'You're all bruised from the bullet. We should go to a first aid station.'

'Oh, that'd be great. Scare the crap out of everyone.'

'Okay. No first aid station. I'm calling a taxi. Taking you to the nearest hospital.... Shut up, Hutchinson. You don't get an opinion on this. You owe me one. Lying to me.'

'I didn't lie, Starsk.'

'Lying by omission, Hutch. Trying to evade my questions. Oh boy, do you owe me.'

*******************

Hutch was furious about missing the rest of the march, over a few bruises. Well, a few bruises and a cracked rib. Starsky didn't care about Hutch's fury. He'd faced it down before.

They were at home, and Starsky was well into the second stage of his lecture, and was threatening to crack a few bones in Hutch's skull if he ever tried such a stunt again, when their friends caught up with them.

'Bay. I'm sorry about the march,' said Hutch. 'I didn't want to take off like that, but....'

'Oh no, Hutchinson. Don't you dare blame me!' said Starsky.

'I wasn't! But I could have held out, if you'd just....'

'Children! Children!' said Bayan. 'Don't fight! I'm not worried about the march, Ken. I'm worried about you.'

'Oh, Hutch is fine,' said Starsky, his voice dripping with sarcasm. 'He was just shot by an attempted assassin. Happens all the time.'

'You really were shot?' asked Tim. 'By whom?'

'We don't know,' said Starsky. 'But Hutch had some sort of warning he failed to mention to the rest of us.'

'Don't you get it, Starsky!' Hutch shouted. 'I didn't have any warning. All I had were feelings. Feelings of being watched. I told you about them. Remember? Then, I thought I knew what they were. I thought it had to do with Ben and Cynthia. Maybe it did, partly. But after we solved that case, the Watcher hung around. I could feel his anger. I could feel that he hated you. I started to think I was going nuts. Paranoid-delusional. What would you have said, if I told you I felt someone was planning to kill you? Huh? Would you have stayed home? Hidden under your bed? No. Of course not. You wouldn't have done one damn thing differently. And if nothing had happened, you'd have started to doubt my sanity too.'

Hutch stopped for breath. Starsky put his arms around him, carefully.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I thought you were just hiding things from me.'

'If I'd known anything, anything at all, Starsky, I would have told you. Don't you believe that?'

'Okay. I'm sorry. Forgive me?'

Hutch moaned something, and buried his face in Starsky's hair.

'Ahem!' said Captain Dobey. 'Could someone fill me in on this? I haven't understood a word you've said for the last five minutes. Except that bit about losing your sanity, Hutchinson. Though I always thought your partner would go first.'

'Oh, boy!' said Starsky. 'Have a seat, Cap'n. This is going to take a while.'

**************

It was late, and everyone else had gone home. Starsky had given them a heavily edited version of a few of their strange experiences since he'd 'nearly died' as he put it.

Dobey was sceptical, but he couldn't deny the evidence. They had caught a pair of serial killers. Someone had shot at Starsky, and hit Hutch.

Or maybe he'd meant to hit Hutch all along, thought Starsky. Terror choked him for a moment.

He was rubbing massage oil into Hutch's bruises. When his hands stilled, Hutch looked up, questioningly.

'What's wrong?' he asked.

'Hutch? Are you sure they were after me? What if it was you they tried to kill?'

'I never thought of that,' said Hutch. 'It just seemed that they hated you the more.'

'But why? Do you suppose this has to do with Gunther? Maybe someone wants to finish what he started?'

'No,' said Hutch, after a long moment of silence. 'This feels like something connected to our dreams. To that other world. It's evil, Starsky. Not just criminal, not in any ordinary way. It's evil. And that sounds so trite. So old-fashioned. Who talks about evil any more? Maybe I am going insane.'

'If you are, I'll go with you,' said Starsky. 'Just don't try to shut me out, from now on. Tell me everything, remember? No matter how trivial. We agreed before, but you forgot.'

Hutch sighed. 'I know,' he said. 'We're in it together. For better or for worse.'

'Together,' said Starsky. 'Until death parts us, and beyond.'

He poured more massage oil into his hands, and rubbed it a bit lower than Hutch's ribs.

Hutch laughed. 'I didn't get shot there, Starsk.'

'Thank God,' said Starsky. 'That would have been a tragedy of massive proportions.'

'I'm glad you agree. Oh!'

'What? That hurt?'

'No. It feels good. Keep rubbing.'

'I can do that,' said Starsky. 'You know, I've been wondering. If I rub long enough, and hard enough, will a genie pop out?'

'You're weird, Starsky.'

'Maybe,' Starsky agreed. 'But I'm gonna try. I've got at least three wishes I want fulfilled.'

*** The End ***