“What do you think he wants?” Starsky put his hand lightly on his partner’s back as they climbed the stairs from their basement Cold Case office to Captain Dobey’s fourth-floor lair.
“Your guess is as good as mine. He sounded tense but not angry.”
Knocking on Dobey’s hallway door, Starsky was surprised by the relatively mild, “Come in,” that resulted. Ushering Hutch inside, Starsky entered and closed the door behind him. Dobey had a look on his face Starsky couldn’t read and that made him uneasy. “Sit down, fellas.” Dobey gestured to the pair of guest chairs, geniality replacing inscrutable in his expression. “Sit down.”
Starsky glanced at Hutch, who seemed equally mystified by the quiet voice and unreadable look from their often times volatile superior. Starsky took a seat. “You wanted to see us, Cap?”
Hutch detoured to the water cooler and drew a cup. Bringing it back to the second chair, he gave it to Starsky before he sat down. “Yeah, Captain, what’s up?”
Dobey cleared his throat. “The department’s been getting compliments… mostly…. on its enlightened position regarding same-sex couples on the force since your… coming out ceremony on the City Hall steps.”
“Mostly,” Starsky repeated. Hutch nudged his foot and he smothered a smile.
“You know how it is, fellas.” Dobey’s dark skin showed a slight flush but his eyes were kind. “You can’t please everybody all the time.”
“No, sir,” Hutch dutifully responded. “Of course not. But that isn’t the reason you called us up here, is it?”
Dobey shook his head. “No, it isn’t.” He got up and went to the cooler, drawing and drinking a cupful. He crumpled the paper and tossed it in the wastebasket before sitting back down. “A friend of Edith’s and mine thinks her great grandson’s in trouble. I went out to her place yesterday and talked to her. Now I’m asking you two, as a favor, to come with me today and listen to what she has to say.”
“What sort of trouble, Cap?” Starsky checked wordlessly with Hutch but it was plain his partner didn’t know any more about what was going on than Starsky did. He drank half the water and passed the rest to Hutch.
Dobey folded his hands on top of his desk. “Our friend, Mary Victoria Elizabeth Hanover, whose official title is Lady Hanover, is the matriarch of the American half of the Hanover family. She’s in her late eighties but sharp as a tack.”
When he didn’t continue right away, Starsky prodded. “Go on.”
Dobey met Starsky’s gaze with what appeared to be a mixture of resolve and embarrassment. “Her great grandson, Dillon, is missing.”
Hutch leaned forward. “How long?”
“And what does Missing Persons have to say?” Starsky added.
“To answer both your questions, ten days and nothing.” Dobey sighed, heavily. “He just turned eighteen and Lady Hanover doesn’t think Novack, the detective who took her report, has done any more than open a file. She told me he and his partner did go out and interview her but that’s all. She doesn’t believe they’ve done anything else.”
Starsky didn’t even have to look at Hutch to know his partner’s reaction to the name. “Novack and Porter. We know them, Cap. They’re pretty much paper pushers.”
Dobey lifted a shoulder. “That’s the impression Lady Hanover got. From their record, which I briefly scanned yesterday after I got back, I think they’re competent enough but they’re overwhelmed with cases, as is everybody else on the force.” He stood up. “If you’re not in the middle of something critical, would you come with me and talk to her? She asked for you two specifically but I’m going to let her tell you why.”
Starsky caught a silent question from Hutch and didn’t get up. When Hutch didn’t either, Dobey sat back down.
“Excuse us for asking, Captain,” Hutch said, “but how come you and Edith are hobnobbing with English aristocrats?”
Dobey appeared to consider being offended but decided against it. “Edith’s father was the chauffeur of the Hanover family. His father was one of their coachmen.”
“Coachmen?” Hutch didn’t try to hide his interest. “Really?”
Dobey nodded. “Really. Not all that long ago wealthy people still had carriages for special occasions. After Edith and I got married, her father and grandfather made sure we were included under the Hanover umbrella. They suffered a terrible tragedy some years ago but you’ll love the old lady.”
Hutch got up. “Well, let’s go meet this matriarch.”
Starsky rose, too. “I’ve always wanted to know a…” He searched for the words. “Peer of the realm?”
Dobey huffed. “Not quite, Starsky.” He stood up. “Just wait, though, you’ll love her!”
They drove Dobey’s Crown Vic with Hutch as shotgun and Starsky hanging over the backs of their seats. Starsky peppered their captain with questions about Edith’s family’s history with the Hanovers but Hutch barely listened. He was wondering if Dillon’s story would parallel or oppose his own less-than-happy relationship with his parents. Hutch wasn’t descended from British aristocracy, of course, but wealth was wealth, wasn’t it?
Dobey announced them at the call box beside the gate. Almost immediately the massive wrought iron structure parted and swung open.
From the appearance of the main house, as they approached along the drive, Hutch figured the entire building might have been brought to this country in the 1800s, block by block, before being reassembled. It was three stories of imposing stone and tiny-paned glazed windows. What was probably a head gardener and his four assistants were tending the expansive lawn, plants, and trees of the immaculate grounds.
Dobey parked under the porte-cochere and led the way up the curved steps. Before he could knock, half of the double front doors was opened by a formally dressed butler. “Good morning, Captain.”
“Good morning, Carlson.”
“Please follow me, gentlemen.”
Hutch walked beside Starsky, behind their captain and the butler, down a marble-tiled hallway, past numerous closed doors and portraits on the walls, to what he imagined would be called a solarium, where they were ushered inside.
A large portion of the ceiling was a skylight. Tall windows let in bright sunshine, making the light yellow of the remaining walls practically glow. Thriving plants were in profusion.
Sitting in a wing-back chair near the doors to the terrace was a white-haired lady. She was obviously old, yet didn’t appear to be the least bit frail, and her deep-set pale blue eyes were fierce with determination. Holding out her hand to Dobey, she smiled, and the room grew brighter. “Thank you for coming, Harold.”
Dobey strode forward and bent over her hand. “I told you I’d bring these two if it was at all possible, Lady Hanover.” He straightened and gestured Hutch and Starsky forward. “Lieutenants Hutchinson and Starsky, may I present Mary Victoria Elizabeth --”
“Oh, please, Harold,” she interrupted, her expression almost luminous under its blatant anxiety. “Yesterday, you promised you’d call me Mary.”
Dobey was patently uncomfortable. “I, uh… Did I promise? I’m sorry. I really don’t think I can. How about Mrs. Hanover?”
She sighed dramatically. “If you insist.” She directed her hand and smile to Hutch. “Lieutenant Hutchinson?”
Hutch took her hand and kissed the knuckles. “Ken.”
She beamed and took her hand back, extending it to Starsky. “Lieutenant Starsky?”
Starsky took it and gave it a firm shake. “Dave, ma’am.”
She nodded at each of them. “Ken and Dave it is!” She motioned toward chairs the butler and a maid had moved to surround hers. “Please, sit. I don’t want to get a crick in my neck looking up at you.” Her smile made it a request instead of a command.
While they took their seats, she addressed the maid. “Tea, if you please, Bowers. And some of those lovely cakes I know Mrs. Carlson baked this morning.”
“Right away, ma’am.” The maid scurried out and Carlson closed the door behind her and himself.
As soon as they were gone, sadness clouded Mrs. Hanover’s expression. “I’m glad you could all come so quickly, Harold.”
Hutch sat forward. “Begin at the beginning, please, Mrs. Hanover.”
“Yes, of course.” Sitting back in her chair, she visibly arranged her thoughts. “It’s my great grandson, Dillon. I’m afraid he’s being unduly influenced by patrons and the owner of a gay bar whom I suspect are criminals.”
When she didn’t continue, Dobey gently prodded. “Tell them why you believe that. It won’t be any more difficult to explain it to Starsky and Hutch than it was to tell me yesterday.”
“Of course, Harold, you’re right.”
A light knock sounded on the door before it was opened by Carlson, who stood aside so that Bowers could wheel in a large tea cart. Hutch figured Dobey’s arrival at the gate had initiated the preparations, since the maid brought it so quickly.
Bowers was followed by three dogs. The smallest, probably a Pomeranian, but Hutch wasn’t sure, quickly checked out the strangers before jumping onto Mrs. Hanover’s lap, where he was cuddled.
The second, a huge brindle Great Dane, marched - there could be no other word for it - past Dobey, apparently already familiar with his scent. He stopped at Starsky’s chair, then Hutch’s, thoroughly sniffing hands, clothes and shoes, before moving to the right side of Mrs. Hanover’s chair and sitting. He was definitely on guard.
The third, a Doberman pinscher, paced slowly around the group of chairs, undoubtedly receiving the sensory input he’d need in order to recognize the newcomers in the future.
“They’ll know you from now on,” Mrs. Hanover said, “and will remember you as my guests.”
While Bowers poured and passed around cups of tea, offering cream and sugar, Mrs. Hanover set her cup on the arm of her chair and jostled the bundle of fur in her lap. “This precious creature is Walter, the Fifth.” She ruffled the long reddish silken hair. “All my Poms have been named after my late husband, whom I miss to this day.”
With the maid now handing out plates and napkins, then offering everyone pastries and small cakes from a tray, Mrs. Hanover stroked the large head of the Dane. “This magnificent animal is Horatio. And that one…” she indicated the prowling Doberman, “is Anubis.”
Hutch nodded his appreciation of the dogs’ names. “All excellent, apt choices, ma’am.”
Bowers placed the goodies tray on the tea cart. “Will there be anything else, madam?”
Mrs. Hanover shook her head. “Not right now, thank you.”
“Very good, ma’am.” Bowers and Carlson left the room and the door was closed behind them.
Mrs. Hanover picked up her tea. “So, down to business, then.” She took a sip and returned the cup to its saucer. “It is my opinion that my great grandson, Dillon, has been… unsettled about his sexuality for quite some time.”
“What makes you say that, Mrs. Hanover?” Starsky asked.
“He’s never been very good at concealing his emotions and, over the past ten years, since he’s been living with me --”
“Excuse me,” Dobey broke in, gently, “but please allow me to fill in a little background for my men.” She nodded and drank her tea while Dobey turned to Hutch and Starsky. “Dillon’s parents and all four grandparents were killed when their private plane crashed in the Sierras. There were other relatives willing to take Dillon in, of course, but he wanted to live here.”
Hutch looked around at the beautifully appointed room. “That’s certainly understandable.”
“Mrs. Hanover filed for custody,” Dobey continued, “and it was granted.”
“I’m sure that made things a lot easier for Dillon,” Starsky said.
She put her cup and saucer on the table to the left of her chair. “I hope so, Dave. Even though I’d lost six members of my very close family, I’m sure it was more devastating for Dillon. He was only eight, and his parents were the most important people in his world. I tried to put my own grief aside so that I could help him in any possible way.”
“He’s been happy here,” Dobey said. “I know that.”
“Thank you, Harold.” She turned her attention back to Hutch and Starsky. “Dillon may have been happy with his living arrangements but I don’t think he was happy with himself.”
“Again, ma’am,” Hutch prompted, “what makes you say that?”
She sighed. “The company I’ve discovered he’s been keeping.”
“You’ve discovered?” Starsky asked.
“Yes.” She straightened her shoulders. “Since he turned eighteen, he began coming home later and later, and even staying away overnight - a few times for a couple of days. When he wouldn’t tell me where he was, I hired a private investigator.”
“As I asked yesterday, Mrs. Hanover,” Dobey broke in, “why didn’t you come to me?”
“Oh, Harold, I thought I had explained that but I suppose I wasn’t clear. You’re a captain. I didn’t want to burden you with my family’s problems.” She went right on, overriding any protest. “I did report him missing, as you know, but when those detectives seemed to think I was simply being an over-protective great grandmother, I thought I’d hire myself a… a P.I.”
“I don’t mean to be impertinent, Mrs. Hanover…” Starsky set his untouched tea aside. “If you didn’t want to burden the captain, and you’ve hired your own gumshoe, why did you ask Captain Dobey to bring my partner and me here today?”
Tears began to collect in her eyes and she quickly extracted a handkerchief from the sleeve of her dress, ready to blot them if they fell. “Because I’ve received what I believe is a blackmail letter.”
Dobey surged to his feet. “What? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It arrived after you’d left yesterday.” She reached for his arm and her expression begged forgiveness. “Sit down, please, Harold, and I’ll tell all of you everything I know.”
Mumbling under his breath, Dobey sat back down.
Mrs. Hanover poured more tea for herself and Hutch - Dobey and Starsky hadn’t touched theirs yet. When the pot was back on the cart, she looked into each of their faces. “I needed a little time to think, after I read it, and to digest what my investigator had already told me from his initial searches.”
“What conclusions have you come to?” Hutch asked.
“Dillon has,” she continued, “been hanging around a tavern called ‘In and Out’.” Color rose to her cheeks. “I’m told there’s a fast food chain with that name but I’m quite sure those institutions have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular establishment.”
Hutch glanced at his partner and Dobey but each returned a negative shrug. He looked back at Mrs. Hanover. “We’ve never heard of it.”
“I’m not surprised. According to my…” she smiled at Starsky, “gumshoe, it attempts to stay below law enforcement’s radar. But he says it’s a hangout for homosexuals. And, even though he couldn’t document it, he believes many of them are criminally oriented.”
“How oriented?” Dobey asked, sounding and looking deadly serious.
“I have no way of knowing, Harold. All I can tell you is that my investigator doesn’t want anything more to do with the case. He was here this morning, with bruises on his face, to deliver his report and receive final payment.”
Starsky sent Hutch a silent pretty wimpy but didn’t say it out loud.
Mrs. Hanover lifted a manila envelope from the table next to her elbow. “This is what he gave me.” She handed it to Dobey. “I’d appreciate having it back, eventually, but please take from it whatever information is useful.”
Dobey withdrew two sheets of paper and scanned them quickly before handing them to Starsky, who held them so that Hutch could read, too.
“Looks like it’s a public bar, not private or members-only,” Starsky commented. “That could be important if there’s hinky stuff going on there.”
“I don’t recognize any of these names of patrons, Starsk,” Hutch said.
Starsky shook his head. “Neither do I. No priors or sheets this guy could find on any of them, so we won’t have probable cause to roust the place.”
Hutch read through the pages again. “Couldn’t get close to Dillon, he was always with others from the tavern.”
“As you see there,” Mrs. Hanover went on, “a man named Thomas Long, is the owner of the ‘In and Out,’ and I believe he’s cultivating a… relationship with Dillon.”
“To what end?” Starsky handed the report back to Dobey.
“My money, I should think, Dave,” she replied. “Or as much of it as he can get his hands on. Mr. Long - I’m assuming he’s the one who wrote me the letter - seems to know I’d do anything to get Dillon back.”
“May we see the letter, please?” Hutch took a small pad of paper out of his pocket and, searching his jacket in vain, accepted the pencil offered by his partner. Sending Starsky a thanks, he began to make notes.
“Yes.” Mrs. Hanover picked up a white legal-size envelope from the table that had held the P.I.’s report and handed it to Starsky who shook out his handkerchief and used it to grab the rectangle by a corner. Careful not to touch either the envelope or the letter inside with his fingers, he unfolded the single sheet and held it so that Hutch could read it, too.
“You’ll notice,” Mrs. Hanover continued, while they were reading, “that there is no return address on the envelope and the letter is unsigned. It contains no specific details - simply innuendo - but my reading of it tells me that, if I want Dillon back, I’ll begin to liquidate many of my holdings and assets.”
Starsky passed the handkerchief-protected letter to Dobey. “Considering the number of people who’ve handled it by now,” Starsky said, “the odds against finding the fingerprints of any known felon would be astronomical, but we should check. Right, Cap?”
Dobey nodded and began reading. “Yes, we should.”
“Do you have a photograph of Dillon, Mrs. Hanover?” Hutch asked.
“Of course.” She stood, placing Walter on the chair with a firm, “Stay!” As she left the room, Horatio and Anubis followed closely.
Dobey carefully folded the letter and inserted it back into the envelope, which he then put in with the P.I.’s report. He handed Starsky’s handkerchief back to him, futility lacing his voice. “I’ll send a tech out to fingerprint everyone in the house but with all the postal people who might had handled the thing, there’ll still be unidentified prints galore.”
Mrs. Hanover came back carrying a framed 8x10 photo. She handed it to Hutch, who shared it with Starsky while the dogs returned to guarding and patrolling. Dobey indicated that he didn’t need to see it; he knew what Dillon Hanover looked like.
“May we keep this for now?” Hutch asked. “And the letter?”
“Certainly.” She picked Walter up and sat, settling him in her lap.
Hutch extracted the picture carefully. “We’ll get everything back to you as soon as we’ve made copies.”
“Thank you.” She gestured to the material Dobey held. “As you read, instructions will come soon but is what you have there enough for you to do something, Harold?”
“I should think so.” There was deference in Dobey’s tone as well as genuine caring. “I’ll have Starsky and Hutchinson start right away.”
Tears had begun to coarse down her cheeks but her voice was firm. “I suspect they’re brain washing him so that, when they make their actual demands, he won’t say or do anything. He may even side with them by that time. You know… the hostage syndrome.”
“The problem is,” Hutch said, quietly, “ever since Starsky’s and my… coming out party, we’re known in the gay community. We can’t try to infiltrate this group.”
“Yeah, but Hutch --” Starsky began.
“Yes, I’m aware of that.” Mrs. Hanover’s voice overrode whatever Starsky’s observation would have been. “Which is why I asked Harold to bring the two of you here today. I want you to find and talk to Dillon. If he truly believes he’s gay, that’s something I can live with. But I have to know!”
Hutch thought of something. “Does Dillon have his own transportation?”
Mrs. Hanover nodded. “Yes. He insisted on getting his driver’s license as soon as he was old enough and bought a car with a little of the money he’d inherited from his parents.”
“Any idea what kind?” Starsky asked. “Make? Model? License plate number?”
She shook her head. “I believe it’s a rather luxurious Lincoln of some sort. I’m sure that information is somewhere in Dillon’s room.
As she started to get up, Dobey put out his hand and forestalled her. “Please don’t concern yourself, Mrs. Hanover. It’s easy to come by.” He turned to Hutch and Starsky. “Clear your desks of anything that isn’t critical and give this as much time as you can over the next few days. I’ll make sure the chief knows it’s a priority with me.”
“You got it, Cap!” Starsky turned to their hostess. “Mrs. Hanover, did your investigator tell you that Long, or someone in his crowd, had roughed him up and that’s why he was abandoning the case?”
“He didn’t say so, specifically,” Mrs. Hanover replied, “but I believe that’s what happened. Also, when he came here for his first interview and learned of my suspicions about Dillon’s sexual preferences, he seemed reluctant to accept the job. Even though my offered monetary recompense overcame his misgivings, I got the impression he’s what you would call a homophobe. Added to his personal feelings about gays, something he learned about Thomas Long, or something that happened there, has scared him.”
“Well,” Dobey said, “his work will allow us to begin our own investigation. Which will have to include taking the fingerprints of everyone in your household who may have touched the letter.”
Mrs. Hanover’s expression softened. “If I weren’t so worried I’d almost be excited. Imagine, my prints on file with the BCPD.”
Everyone chuckled and the tension was lessened a little.
“With the wording in that letter,” Hutch said, “even though Long probably thinks you haven’t identified the sender, we can question him. Maybe Dillon will be there.”
She wiped the tears from her face. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank us yet, ma’am,” Hutch cautioned.
As soon as they got back to the station, Starsky and Hutch left Dobey at the elevators and walked downstairs to their basement office. Winding a sheet of paper into his typewriter, Starsky glanced up at Hutch, who was getting coffee for each of them from the morning’s pot before turning the machine off. “That wasn’t what I expected when Dobey called us up to his office.”
Hutch handed him the notes he’d taken, along with a full mug. “Our captain has many undiscovered dimensions.”
“Who could’ve figured British aristocracy in his background, though?”
“Edith’s,” Hutch corrected.
“Right, Edith’s.” Starsky’s fingers began to find the correct keys. “Think we should tell Novack and Porter we’ve taken over their case?”
Hutch sipped his coffee before shaking his head. “They’ve had ten days. After we’ve found Dillon and he’s back home, we’ll let them know so they can officially close their file.”
Hutch got a new folder out of his desk and wrote Hanover, Dillon on the tab, ready for the report Starsky was writing. He slipped the photo of Dillon inside.
After dropping the blackmail letter and photograph off in Forensics, Starsky followed his partner down the hall to Records & Information. Inside, Minnie Kaplan was in the process of discarding the debris from her brown-bag lunch.
When Starsky plopped down in the chair next to her desk and Hutch dragged up another, she raised her expressive eyebrows. “Do I assume you two are about to ask me for a favor?”
“It’s not for us, Minnie,” Starsky said.
“It’s for Dobey.” Hutch had a hopeful look on his face.
She was decidedly skeptical. “And just why can’t the good captain ask me for this favor himself?”
Starsky patted her hand. “‘Cause he’s upstairs arranging a print tech’s visit to a member of the British peerage.” He didn’t give her a chance to ask questions before gesturing toward her computer. “First, could you search the DMV and tell us what kind of car Dillon Hanover drives?”
“That’s easy.” Within moments, the California Department of Motor Vehicles database was up. She made notes on a pad of paper, tore the page off, and gave it to Hutch.
Hutch glanced at the information and passed the sheet to Starsky, who read it, then slipped it into the Hanover file he carried.
“Next,” Hutch said, “we need you to tell us everything you can about a Thomas Long.”
“Owns a tavern called the ‘In and Out,’ Starsky added.
Her eyebrows soared higher. “You mean a bar?”
“That’s what we’re told.” Starsky sat back in his chair. “It’s a gay hangout, according to a P.I. whose report we read this morning.”
“A gay hangout with that name is…” her face wrinkled with undisguised disapproval, “about as subtle as a sledge hammer.”
“We agree,” Hutch said. “But then, Starsky and I don’t think Thomas Long is into subtlety.”
Typing quickly, Minnie pulled up a screen and read out loud: “Thomas Rudolph Long… owner and proprietor of ‘In and Out Tavern’.”
“I hate that name,” Hutch muttered.
“Really,” Starsky and Minnie commented, simultaneously.
“Nothing here says private or members-only so it’s a public bar. The address is 4312 South Benson Avenue.” Minnie glanced up at Starsky. “That’s a pretty rough part of town, isn’t it?”
Starsky checked with Hutch and got a nod before responding. “Sure is.”
Minnie went back to scrolling through the information on her monitor. “There’s quite a list of arrests, from ’68 through the mid-70s, but nothing came of them.” She read more carefully. “Looks like he was charged with soliciting an undercover cop in ’72 but…” She scrolled some more. “The case was dropped.”
“That was… convenient for Long,” Starsky muttered.
“If he’d been convicted,” Hutch said, “he wouldn’t be eligible for a liquor license.”
“Yep,” Starsky agreed. “Anything else, Min?”
Minnie shook her head. “Nothing since then.” Bringing up another screen, she continued. “He became the owner of record of the tavern two years ago. No complaints filed against him or the place. No, wait, there’s a flag here. Let me click on it.” She did and read silently for a minute. “Well, according to this page, it’s a notorious gathering place for gays, and unsubstantiated rumor says that sex acts go on all night, on-stage and off. With audience participation.” She wordlessly read more while Starsky and his partner waited patiently.
When Minnie spoke again, her voice was subdued. “Every time a raid’s been tried, nothing sticks.”
“Why would we want to raid the place?” Hutch asked. “Homosexuality isn’t illegal anymore, Minnie.”
“Not in private,” she responded quickly. “In a home or a members-club.” Her voice was suddenly angry. “But any blatantly sexual act in a public place is still against the law. ‘In and Out’ is a public bar, Hutch!” She gestured to her screen. “This Thomas Long is a slimeball.”
Starsky patted her hand again. “How ‘bout Hutch and I try to nail his ass to the wall, as our thank you for all this?”
She smiled as she clicked back through the pages she’d brought up, hitting the Print key numerous times. The first sheet of blank paper slid into the printer. “That’d be a good thing, Starsky.”
After the last page dropped into the tray Hutch picked them up and handed them to Starsky, for the new folder. “Consider it done, Ms. Kaplan.”
Starsky rose, bent over and kissed her cheek. “We love ya, Min.”
“G’wan,” she mock-snarled. “Get outta here and go earn your outrageous lieutenant’s salaries.”
Starsky found a parking place for the Torino on the street half a block from the ‘In and Out Tavern.’ Locking the doors after he and Hutch had gotten out, he shoved a dime into the meter and joined his partner in an unhurried stroll toward the bar whose outside was several grimy layers of class below the Pits. The walls were decorated with graffiti that was only semi-literate and the windows were so dirty the beer signs inside were almost illegible.
“Geez.” Starsky shivered. “If Huggy ever gets the impulse to lower his standards, he could use this place as a model.”
A thug in skin tight leather pants and a muscle shirt, his arms crossed over his chest, stood in front of the door, eying them up and down. “What’s the password, fellas?” The bulge in his crotch was impressive.
Starsky affected surprise and turned to Hutch. “I didn’t know we needed a password, did you?”
Hutch shrugged. “Perhaps this doorman will make an exception in our case.”
“Cops.” The doorman straightened and glared.
“Will ya look at that, Hutch?” Starsky limp-wristedly pointed toward the increasing size of the bulge in the guard’s groin. “I think he wants to get acquainted with you.”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s particularly interested in me, Starsk.” Hutch’s voice was silky.
“No?” Starsky put on his best pouty expression. “What do you think?”
Hutch studied the doorman. “He’s a watcher. He probably gets his rocks off that way. Doesn’t have the stones to actually take part.”
Starsky pretended equal interest in the silent guard. “You may be right, you usually are.” He took a step toward the human blockage and stared into angry eyes. “Password, huh?… How about, please?”
After a few moments, the guard broke eye contact and moved aside.
Hutch held the front door open for Starsky. “Good one,” he whispered.
The interior was as uninspiring as the exterior. The walls might have been a light color at one time but cigarette smoke had turned them brown. Ceiling fans lazily stirred air that smelled of booze and sex.
Duct-taped booth benches were occupied by daytime drinkers, many with their hands in each other’s laps. The middle of the gritty floor held tables with customers lounging all over each other, rubbing crotches and kissing deeply. Two stools were occupied in front of the bar and Dillon Hanover was wiping glasses behind it. A black-clad waiter with white wings in his sleek dark hair was serving drinks to a party of four.
“I say again, geez!” Starsky hadn’t lowered his voice and several heads turned toward them.
“What would happen,” Hutch mused, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “if a tourist were to blunder in here?”
A man Starsky recognized as Thomas Long, from his mug shot, rose from a table and sauntered toward them. He was of medium height and lean. His dark hair was slicked back from an angular clean-shaven face with full lips and deep-set dark eyes. “Since I have a very experienced doorman outside, officers, that isn’t a possibility.”
Long’s voice was smooth and Starsky felt his skin crawl. Hutch leaned against him and Starsky gratefully accepted the silent strength and support.
Long stopped too close to them, deliberately infringing on their personal space. “What brings Starsky and Hutchinson, BCPD’s finest and the city’s most well-known same-sex couple, to my humble place of business? Simple curiosity?” His face broke into a smarmy smile. “Or desire?”
When neither Starsky nor Hutch reacted, Long bowed slightly. “My name is Thomas Long, boys, and I think you’ll find the ‘In and Out’ more interesting than that dive I’m told you patronize occasionally.”
Hutch scanned the room and its occupants slowly before turning his lip up in a sneer that made Starsky proud. “You’ll never get anywhere near the ambiance of the Pits.”
Starsky nudged his partner. “I don’t think he meant Huggy’s place, partner.”
Hutch feigned surprise. “No?”
Starsky shook his head. “I think he had the Green Parrot in mind.”
Hutch cast another disparaging look around before he sighed dramatically. “This dive would have to take a few significant steps up even to reach the level of the Parrot’s basement.”
Starsky grinned at Long. “And you ain’t got no subtle a’ tall. You should take lessons from Sugar!”
Starsky was pleased to see the flash of anger Long couldn’t hide but his tone remained haughty. “Sticks and stones, my friends.” He ushered them to the bar.
Dillon was still wiping glasses and slipping the bases into slots over his head. Like his great grandmother, Dillon was tall and slim but the resemblance ended there. His dark hair was too long and greasy and his hands shook. Plus, he appeared uneasy, totally lacking in self-confidence.
“What will you have, gentlemen?” Long asked. “First round’s on me.”
Starsky shook his head. “We’re on duty.”
Hutch leaned an elbow on the bar and looked at Dillon. “Do you happen to have any soft drinks back there? Unopened?”
Dillon glanced at Long, who simply nodded and walked away.
Hanover turned to a small refrigerator behind him and brought out two cans of Coke. Setting them on napkins and sliding them toward Starsky and Hutch, his voice, when he spoke, was hard-edged. “My great grandmother sent you, didn’t she?” When Starsky and Hutch didn’t answer, Dillon spun to the cash register and rang up the drinks. “That’ll be two bucks.”
Hutch peeled off a pair of singles and handed them to the surly young man. Dillon placed them in the cash drawer and slammed it shut before facing them again. “Well, you can just tell her to butt out of my life!” He waved his hand toward Long and the others. “These are my friends. I’ve got a good job here and I’m happy.”
“Oh, yeah,” Hutch said, loud enough to be heard in all corners of the room. “We can tell how happy you are.”
Dillon huffed and moved away.
Starsky opened his can of Coke and took a long swallow. Setting it back on the bar, he turned to Hutch. “Gotta hit the head.”
Hutch gave him a concerned glance and lowered his voice. “Be careful.”
Starsky leaned close. “I’ll be fine.” He glanced in the mirror behind the bar, memorizing every face. “We’ll check the mug books when we get back to Metro.”
Hutch nodded but the uneasiness didn’t leave his expression. “Just be careful, okay?”
Playing to their audience, Starsky leaned up and kissed Hutch on the mouth. “Always.”
Deliberately swaggering, Starsky moved toward the back hallway. The Gent’s door had barely closed behind him when the waiter Starsky had noticed - due mainly to the two white streaks extending from his temples back into his glossy black hair - came in behind him, closed the door and leaned against it.
Starsky’s hand went to the butt of his gun and he stared at the intruder. Probably a few years older than Dillon, he was slender, dressed completely in black leather, with a face that would almost certainly be termed pretty. Starsky wasn’t impressed. “Stand away from the door.”
The waiter raised both his hands, palms outward. “Don’t worry, Mr. Starsky, I’m not armed and I don’t mean you any harm.”
Starsky didn’t alter his hostile stance. “Whaddaya want?”
The dark-eyed waiter lowered his hands but didn’t move, otherwise. “They call me Magpie, and I’m here to ask you and your partner to meet me in the alley behind this place after you leave.”
“Why should we?”
Magpie shrugged. “Because I’m hoping you want to save Dillon’s life.” Without another word, he opened the door and slipped out.
Starsky replayed the conversation in his mind while he relieved himself and washed his hands. When he left the men’s room and walked back to Hutch he knew his face didn’t betray the meeting. He picked up his Coke, turned his back to the bar, and leaned against it.
“You okay?” Hutch’s words were barely audible.
Starsky smiled and sipped; he knew Hutch would sense that something had happened. “Fine,” he responded, sotto voce. “Tell you outside.”
Starsky took his time finishing his drink while Hutch did the same. The activities at the tables and in the booths had not resumed and the sullen, challenging, angry looks he and Hutch were receiving would have caused him some concern, if he thought the people had any intelligence. They were probably all dupes of Thomas Long’s, though, and Starsky came close to feeling sorry for them. Long, himself, eyed him and Hutch with a blank expression that didn’t quite manage to conceal his hatred.
When both containers were empty, Starsky dug a couple of dollar bills out of his pocket and slipped them under his can as he placed it on the bar. “Thanks, bartender,” he called to Dillon.
Getting no response from the young man, or from anyone else in the room, Starsky put his arm around Hutch’s waist as they walked out.
Once on the sidewalk and away from the sulking doorman, Hutch asked, “What was that all about?”
Starsky went to the driver’s side of the Torino, keyed open the door and clicked the lock on the passenger’s side. Hutch climbed in, Starsky fired up the engine and pulled into traffic before he answered. “We’ve got a meeting around back.” At the entrance to the alley next to the tavern, Starsky turned in.
“A waiter followed you toward the men’s room.”
Starsky nodded. “Name’s Magpie.”
“That fits, considering those obviously bleached wings in his hair.”
The Torino approached the door identified as the exit for ‘In and Out Tavern.” Magpie was waiting, looked both ways and ducked into a parking space indented into the building next to the bar. The car, whose rear bumper extended into the alley, was the black Lincoln registered to Dillon Hanover.
Warily, Starsky got out, quickly joined by Hutch, and they walked toward the waiter.
Starsky kept his voice low and non-threatening. “What did you mean when you said you hoped we wanted to save Dillon’s life?”
“You need to get him away from here,” Magpie said quickly. “I think he is gay but he’s not Thomas’ kinda gay. Long’s gonna mess him up somethin’ awful if he stays.”
“Do you know where Dillon is living?” Hutch asked.
“He’s got a room next to mine right around the corner.” Magpie jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “St. Francis Hotel.”
Starsky couldn’t help himself; he looked at Hutch and felt the same jolt - memories of John Blaine still hurt. He turned back to Magpie. “That’s his car, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. What of it? The hotel doesn’t have parking so Long lets him keep it here, chauffer him around when Long wants to feel like a big shot.”
“When does Dillon get off work?” Hutch asked.
“Same time as me,” Magpie answered. “Closing, two a.m.”
Starsky held out his hand and, clearly surprised, the waiter took it. “Thanks, Magpie. We’ll talk to him tonight.”
Magpie left immediately and Starsky walked with Hutch back to the Torino.
“Small world,” Hutch murmured.
“Tell me about it.”
After Starsky and Hutch left the alley behind the ‘In and Out Tavern,’ they stopped at the Pits for a late lunch. The place was busy and they were well into their burgers and beers before Huggy had time to join them, bringing his own brown bottle. His expression was sly as he slid into the booth across from them. “What’s this I hear about you two hobnobbing with ah-rees-toe-crats?”
Starsky couldn’t hide his surprise. “Where’d you hear about that?”
Huggy’s sly turned to smug. “Minnie kept digging after you left. She called me. Told me about your new case.”
“You’re right, Huggy,” Hutch said. “Lady Hanover, is definitely upper crust.”
Starsky had already finished his fries and stole one off Hutch’s plate. “But her great grandson’s got himself into a whole shitload of trouble.”
“Ever heard of a guy named Thomas Long, Hug?” Hutch asked.
If Huggy Bear could have gone pale, Starsky figured he would have. As it was, his face lost all its usual humor. “Owner of the ‘In and Out Tavern,’ right?” When Starsky nodded, Huggy grimaced. “Yeah, I know him. And I’m here to tell you that he is one very bad dude!”
Starsky hadn’t seen his oldest friend shaken quite like that in an awful long time. “Tell us about him, Hug.”
Huggy swallowed a large gulp of brew, set the bottle down and wiped his mouth. “You went to ‘Nam, Starsky, and I tried to maintain the image of self-reliance you and I had managed to create for ourselves in the ‘hood.” He drank more beer. “Long came to town, though, and things changed. He was about our age, reckless - reminded me a little of you and me, Starsky - and started surrounding himself with a bunch of blacks and whites who were openly gay. The kind the rest of the world cheerfully called faggots.”
He signaled to the bar and Anita brought him another beer. She took the empty away and Huggy drank half the contents of his new bottle in one pull. Starsky waited patiently and was grateful that Hutch did, too.
Finally, Huggy looked up and met Starsky’s gaze. “You were always my anchor, Starsky, but you weren’t here. And I got sucked in. Not all the way, mind you, but close enough.”
When he didn’t continue right away, Hutch prodded, gently. “Go on.”
“I found out he was into some pretty heavy shit. He had a councilman in his pocket; I never found out who. The guy was a closet gay - as most were at the time - who fed Long information that I was told led to extortion… and worse. I heard he had a list of people he was blackmailing. Beatings were common.”
“And no one reported these things?” Hutch asked.
Huggy shook his head and drank. “They couldn’t, Hutch. They’d have lost their positions, their influence, everything, if the public found out they were gay. That label was almost worse than death back then!”
“What happened?” Starsky asked.
Huggy winced. “I was on the fringes of his group but I guess I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the style of life he wanted his followers to pursue so…
Long and three of his best buddies are what happened. I was gang-raped. They probably thought I was dead when they left. But I wasn’t. A cousin of mine found me and got me to Aunt Celia. She took care of me for the month I needed to heal and get back on my feet.”
Starsky reached across the table and put a hand on Huggy’s arm. “Did you report it?”
“Naw. I figured the cops couldn’t do nothin’. This was before you joined up, Starsky, and my opinion of the boys in blue wasn’t too great.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?” Starsky asked.
Huggy patted the hand before he drew his arm away. “Because you didn’t need to hear it. You came back with enough of your own demons. You didn’t need mine on your shoulders, too.”
“But Hug --”
Huggy waved the protest off with a rueful grin. “Over and done with, m’ man. And I’ve managed to avoid the sonavabitch ever since.” He drilled a hard look into Starsky’s eyes. “But you need to believe me when I tell you he is one mean, sadistic, powerful asshole. Do not ever turn your back on him.”
“He’s got Lady Hanover’s great grandson in his thrall,” Hutch said.
“An’ you need to… extricate him.” Huggy nodded. “I get it. I’m just sayin’, be very, very careful.”
Back at Metro, Hutch opened Dobey’s hallway door in response to the bellowed, “Come in,” and followed Starsky inside.
“What have you found out?” Dobey asked as they sat down.
Quickly and concisely, Hutch, with Starsky adding a few details, related their conversations with Long, Dillon, and Magpie.
Afterward, Starsky talked about Huggy’s warning. He didn’t go into the details behind the cautions, however, and Hutch was glad. Huggy didn’t need anyone else, even Dobey, knowing about his ordeal.
“You listen to what he told you!” Dobey’s voice was a little harsher than it needed to be but Hutch understood the reason. “I don’t want either one of you taking any chances with Long!”
“We won’t, Cap,” Starsky responded.
“So, what are you going to do about Dillon?” Dobey asked.
“He has a room at the St. Francis,” Starsky said.
Dobey winced and silent memories were shared. “You going to talk to him tonight after he gets off work?”
Hutch nodded. “That’s the plan.”
“Guess you’ll have to see what he has to say and then play it by ear.” Dobey shuffled files on his desk, no longer looking at them. “Good luck.”
Knowing they’d been dismissed, Hutch got up. “We’ll let you know.”
Out in the corridor, Hutch thought about the conversation as they walked to the stairwell. “That’s probably the best we could have hoped for.”
“At least he’s leaving it up to us.” Starsky opened the door and held it.
“Now, let’s just hope we don’t screw things up for the kid.”
Starsky stopped on the top step, turned to face him and donned an offended expression. “What? Us? Screw things up?”
Hutch laughed and started down the stairs. “Let’s go check the mug books. See if any of Long’s… associates are in them.”
At two a.m., Starsky showed his badge to the desk clerk at the St. Francis. “Which room is Dillon Hanover in?”
The bald man lifted his head from a porn magazine and beady, mud-brown eyes stared at them. “You got a warrant?”
“No, I don’t got a warrant.” Starsky turned to Hutch. “You got a warrant?”
Remembering the years-earlier exchange with Janos’ henchmen, Hutch smiled. “Nope.” He leaned casually on the counter. “We’re not here to hassle your resident. We only want to talk to him.”
The clerk got off his stool and backed up a step, obviously feeling threatened, even though Hutch thought he’d been anything but. “He ain’t come in yet.”
Hutch nodded. “We know. He just got off work, he and Magpie will be here any time now.”
“Okay. So ya know ‘im. But I ain’t givin’ ya the key.”
Hutch straightened up. “Of course not. Just tell us what room and we’ll wait for him in the hall.”
“Four twelve.” The clerk backed farther away. “Don’t tell ‘im I tol’ ya.”
“We wouldn’t dream of it.” Hutch put his arm around Starsky’s shoulders and, glancing at the Out of Order sign on the elevator, headed for the stairs. “Waiting in the hallway’s better than waiting down here, don’t you think, Starsk?”
“Anywhere’s better than here!”
Hutch chuckled. “Such charming employees and attractive ambiance…. I’d almost forgotten.”
Starsky huffed. “I’ll bet.”
Hutch opened the fourth floor stairwell door for his partner and followed him to Four-twelve. Starsky knocked but there was no answer, which Hutch had expected, because they were early. He leaned against the opposite wall and Starsky joined him.
About fifteen minutes later, Dillon walked out of the stairwell. He stopped in his tracks and, for a moment, looked as if he was going to bolt. Instead, putting on an air of aloof unconcern, he shouldered past them and slipped his key into the lock on his door.
“We just want to talk,” Starsky said.
“We’re not here to hassle you,” Hutch added.
Dillon turned around and glared at them. “Thomas told me not to say a word to you guys.”
“Got you on a short leash, huh?” Starsky’s sarcasm was knife-edged.
“I’m not on anybody’s leash!” Dillon growled. “Get outta my face!”
Hutch put a hand on Dillon’s arm. “Listen, son --”
Dillon flung the hand off. “I’m not your son!” He pushed his door open, probably intending to slam it in their faces but Hutch bulled his way inside with him. Starsky followed, shutting the door behind.
Dillon definitely had not expected that. “What do… What do you think you’re doing? You can’t barge in here like this!”
Starsky leaned against the wall. “What kind of acts has Long got you participating in there at ‘In and Out,’ kid? Do you get to show off on-stage? Or has he got you stashed in the back rooms with his slimy clients?”
“That’s none of your damn business!”
Hutch could feel Dillon’s eyes on him as he prowled, picking up and putting down various objects and items.
“Wha… what are you doing?” Dillon sputtered. “Those things belong to me, you’ve got no right --”
Starsky pushed himself off the wall and stalked into Dillon’s face. “We do when it involves extortion!”
Dillon stumbled back a step. “What are you talking about?”
Hutch moved to Dillon’s right side. “Your great grandmother got a letter, no signature, no return address.”
“It implied,” Starsky continued, “that you’d be sent back to her, safe and sound, if she begins cashing in and liquidating assets and waits for further instructions.”
Dillon sat down heavily on the ratty sofa. “Why… that’s…”
Starsky sat on his left. “Yeah, it is.”
Dillon looked at him. “And you think Thomas sent it?”
Hutch sat down on his other side. “We know he did. That’s the kind of man you’ve gotten yourself involved with, Dillon.”
Dillon shifted into a defiant attitude and leaned back. “I don’t believe you!”
“You know the waiter with the white streaks in his dark hair?” Starsky asked.
Dillon nodded. “Sure. Magpie.”
“He knows what your boss is into,” Hutch said. “Ask him. When Long’s not around.”
“Magpie told us you need to get out before you’re drawn in too deep,” Starsky went on. “The way he apparently is.”
Dillon swallowed audibly. “He’s got the room next door here but he’s never said anything to me.”
Hutch shrugged. “Probably knows Long might kill him if he did.”
Dillon wrapped his arms around himself and thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, Magpie’s the only one who didn’t take any part in my… initiation last week.”
“What’d they do to you?” Hutch allowed the compassion he felt for this young man to creep into his voice. When the boy began to tremble, Hutch felt it through the thread-bare couch.
“Nothing I wasn’t expecting.”
It was obvious the memory wasn’t a pleasant one and Hutch’s feelings ramped up a notch. “Hurt a lot, didn’t it?”
“That’s what happens, kid,” Starsky added, “when you’re not prepped and ready.”
Dillon glanced at each of them. “You two are gay, right? I saw the news conference on the City Hall steps.”
“The world may look at us that way,” Hutch replied, “label us that way. But, if we are, it’s our version.”
“We’re exclusive to each other, Dillon,” Starsky explained. “We don’t sleep around. We’re going to be married as soon as the state passes a law that says we can.”
Dillon didn’t even try to hide his surprise. “Really?”
Hutch smiled. “Really! We love each other, Dillon. We don’t just like to fuck.”
“Although we do enjoy that.” Starsky chuckled. “A lot!”
Dillon almost choked on what might have been a laugh. “How do I find out if I’m gay or not?”
“Have you ever had romantic feelings for a man?” Starsky asked.
“Like you wanted to have a candle light dinner with him?” Hutch half-way turned toward Dillon and brought his left knee up onto the sofa. He didn’t want to threaten the guy any longer. “Feel like you wanted to treat him to a movie, or the theater?”
“Talk to him about a book you enjoyed?” Starsky shifted into a less-dominant position, as well. “Take a walk with him in the park?”
“There was someone in high school…” Dillon’s tone was reminiscent.
“And?” Starsky prompted.
Dillon shrugged. “And nothing. I was too scared to say anything. He was, too, maybe.”
“Anybody else?” Hutch prodded.
“Actually…” Dillon grew thoughtful. “I’d ask Magpie out, if I didn’t think Thomas would throw a fit.”
“By the way, where is Magpie?” Hutch asked. “Doesn’t he leave after closing, like you do?” He exchanged a charged look with Starsky - maybe Long had noticed Magpie following Starsky into the men’s room, and then out into the alley - maybe Magpie was in jeopardy.
Dillon waved a hand. “Things got a little rowdy after you guys left and the shenanigans went on all night. Thomas asked him to stay a while and help clean up. He’ll be here any minute.”
“Talk to him when he shows up.” Starsky stood and dug their card out of his pocket, holding it toward Dillon. When Dillon made no move to take it, Starsky dropped it on the arm of the sofa.
“Don’t wait until morning,” Hutch added. “And after you talk to him, call us. Doesn’t matter what time it is, Metro’ll put you through.” He got up and followed Starsky to the door before turning back. “Your great grandmother loves you, Dillon. Unconditionally. And she’s worried.”
“So call us,” Starsky repeated.
Starsky rolled onto his side and snuggled his slightly aching ass back into Hutch’s wilting cock. Hutch’s arms came around him and drew him close. His lover’s breath stirred the curls under his right ear.
“Hmmmmmmmmmm,” Hutch murmured. “That was spectacularly nice.”
Starsky chuffed. “Nice? That’s the best you can do?” He turned over and snaked his arms around Hutch’s long, lean body, nuzzling his scratchy cheek against his partner’s smooth chest. “Is the honeymoon over or somethin’?”
“Hmmmmmmmmmm,” Hutch repeated. “The best. At least since the last time I was inside you.”
Starsky tightened his grip. “Okay, I guess that’ll do.” After their prolonged, energetic love-making, though, he could tell Hutch wasn’t any sleepier than he was. So he decided to address the elephant in the room. “What can we do about Dillon, if he doesn’t call?”
“We’ll figure something out. Right now, my mind’s struggling with Huggy’s revelation. He never told you any of that?”
“Awful burden to keep to himself.”
“Huggy’s always been that way. I used to have to drag stuff out of him. He’s almost more of a private person than you are.”
“I suppose I knew that. But why have we never heard of Thomas Long before now?”
“We’re still pretty new in the gay community, Hutch. And I think his criminal activities must be fairly well hidden.”
“You’re probably right.
“We can’t go in and physically remove Dillon, you know,” Starsky pointed out. “He’s an adult.”
“And we didn’t find any of the bar patrons’ faces in our mug books. No wants or warrants.”
“Too bad, too. That would’ve given us a reason to go back. Maybe, during the arrest, we could’ve gotten Dillon out.”
Hutch nodded. “We’ll just have to find a way to convince him to leave of his own accord.”
“And make damn sure Long knows he better not retaliate in any way.”
“Oh, yeah, damn sure!”
“He made my skin crawl when we first walked in. I felt like I was in the presence of Evil, itself.”
Hutch stroked his back. “I did, too.”
Starsky snuggled more deeply into Hutch’s arms. “I feel sorry for gays who only know that kind of perversion.”
“We’re really lucky, Starsk. We found each other without having to go through any of that.”
Starsky finally felt himself drifting. “Don’t I know it,” he muttered.
Next morning, while Starsky and his partner were briefing Dobey on their conversation with Dillon, Dobey’s phone rang. He answered it somewhat angrily. “What?” The response was enough to have Dobey hitting the speaker button and hanging up. “Say that again!”
“A man known as Magpie…” The operator’s voice bounced around the room, “is at Memorial Hospital, Captain Dobey. He’s the victim of a severe beating and possible gang-rape. He asked an intern to call here. He says he needs to talk to Starsky and Hutchinson right away.”
As Starsky opened the hallway door for Hutch, he heard Dobey say, “They’re on their way!”
With the Mars light flashing and siren wailing, Starsky hurried the Torino through scattering traffic. He screeched to a halt near the Emergency entrance and bolted through the doors on Hutch’s heels.
A gurney was just being wheeled out of the E.R. and they ran to it, displaying their credentials and paying no attention to the intern who attempted to block them. “This patient can’t talk to you now. He’s on his way to surgery.”
“We know.” Starsky shoved past the startled doctor to Magpie’s side as the orderlies continued toward the elevator. Hutch walked at the injured man’s head.
A sheet covered Magpie’s body but his face was a mess. Both eyes were swollen, his lips were split, his chin, cheeks and eyebrows held temporary bandages that had blood seeping through. IV bags hung from poles on both sides of the rolling cot, their tubes trailing under the sheet.
Somehow, Magpie must have heard their approach because he turned his head and tried to focus on Starsky. “Long has taken Dillon, and a few of the more violent members of our circle, to Mrs. Hanover’s.” Magpie grabbed Starsky’s hand. “I’m afraid of what Long plans to do.”
As they reached the elevator, Starsky gently placed Magpie’s hand back under the cover. “We’ll take care of it, Magpie.”
Hutch patted Magpie’s shoulder. “You just concentrate on staying alive and getting well.”
Magpie tried to smile, making his lips bleed again. “Do my best.”
Starsky and Hutch ran out to the Torino and piled in.
Hutch picked up the mic and keyed it. “This is Zebra Three. Patch me through to Captain Dobey.”
While Starsky flew out of the parking lot, Dobey’s voice came over the speaker. “Dobey here!”
“Magpie just told us Long and some of his gang have taken Dillon. They’re on their way to Lady Hanover’s.”
“I’ll get backup and meet you there!” Dobey clicked off.
Starsky concentrated on his driving and didn’t even blink when the radio squawked a few minutes later. “Zebra Three, I have a patch through from Captain Dobey.”
Hutch grabbed the mic. “Go ahead, Captain.”
“The switchboard just got a call from Dillon.” The background noise of his car’s engine and siren made Dobey’s voice a little difficult to hear. “He’s at his great grandmother’s and there’s been a fight. How far away are you?”
“About two minutes, Cap,” Hutch replied.
“Me, too.” Dobey disconnected.
Dobey’s unmarked sedan flew toward the gate from the right and Starsky backed off enough to allow his captain’s car to precede the Torino through the wide open entrance. Two black-and-whites followed them.
The grounds were deserted which made Starsky even more uneasy. The empty Lincoln was parked beside the front stairs.
Once they’d all blocked in the TownCar and scrambled out of their vehicles, Dobey gestured for the four uniforms to split up and go around the house. “We’re going inside. Meet us at the terrace entrance.”
Motioning for Starsky and Hutch to follow him, Dobey drew his weapon and walked cautiously through the gaping front doors. Loud voices, curses and screams were coming from the solarium. Starsky unzipped his jacket and pulled his gun as they hurried. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hutch do the same.
The scene that greeted Starsky’s eyes in that formerly pristine room was one he’d never forget. Most of the furniture was overturned or broken but Mrs. Hanover was seated, regally, in her wing back chair; her face was a study in pride and satisfaction.
Dillon stood rigidly and protectively by her left side, in place of the usual piecrust table, which was in pieces near the window. Dillon’s hand was holding hers and the expression on his face was fierce.
Horatio stood rigidly on Thomas Long’s chest, his bared fangs inches from Long’s throat. The growl that rumbled in the dog’s massive chest was hair-raising. A pistol lay close to Long’s right hand but he was making no move to retrieve it.
Anubis’ jaws were clamped firmly around the right arm of the bouncer who was swearing a blue streak and struggling, futilely. Even the strength in his massive left fist was no match for that of the Doberman grip.
Walter, snarling, snapping, and yapping, dashed between two other gang members on the floor who were cowering under the threatening stances and brandished rakes, shovels, and pick axes held by the gardener and his assistants.
Bowers, the remains of a teapot in her hand, stood beside Carlson - who held a silver-headed cane as if he could wield it proficiently - and his wife. Mrs. Carlson had a meat cleaver clutched to her apron-clad chest.
There were several guns scattered around the floor.
As soon as Mrs. Hanover noticed the newcomers in the doorway, she called to Walter, who instantly bounded to her. She scooped him up and settled him in her lap.
Mrs. Hanover, Dillon, and the household staff had fallen silent but Long and his friends were babbling, making demands, and cursing.
The doorman was sobbing. When Mrs. Hanover spoke a quiet word and Anubis let his bleeding arm go, he held it to his chest, his eyes never leaving the still threatening Doberman.
“Silence!” Dobey shouted as he walked into the room. Everyone who was still making noise shut up. At a second soft word from Mrs. Hanover, Horatio stepped away from Long and went to sit by her right side, opposite Dillon.
Dobey leaned over the tavern owner. “Thomas Long, you are under arrest. I know one of the charges will be assault with a deadly weapon. I’ll read you your rights before you’re questioned and figure out what the rest of the charges will be after we get you downtown.” He gestured to the four uniforms standing by the French doors. “Call the paramedics and have any injuries treated before you transport these guys! And I don’t want any of them out of your sight for a second!”
Starsky holstered his Beretta before he helped the officers collect the fallen weapons, cuff the bad guys, and herd them outside.
By the time he got back, the unbroken chairs had been righted, others had been brought in from elsewhere, and Bowers was serving tea.
Hutch moved to his side. “I don’t know about you, Starsk, but I’m feeling a little superfluous.”
“If that means useless, I get it.”
“Hardly useless, Starsky,” Dobey growled, joining them. “You’re the ones who found Dillon. And, whatever you said to him, got him thinking clearly, so that when Long brought him here to do wrong, he did right.”
“Okay. Yeah, I guess.” Starsky shrugged. “First take-down I’ve been to where I never even pointed my gun.”
Hutch put an arm around his shoulders. “Look at it this way, partner, we don’t have to fill out weapon-discharge forms.”
Starsky brightened. “That’s right! We don’t.”
That night, at the Pits, Starsky, Hutch, Dobey and Minnie were seated around one of the tables when Huggy pulled up a chair and joined them.
“So…” Huggy was visibly pleased, “I hear Lady Hanover’s great grandson is home safe and sound.”
“He is, Huggy,” Dobey replied, his usually gruff voice sounding almost mellow. “And each of us believes he’s learned a lot about himself.”
“I’m all ears, guys.” Huggy leaned his elbows on the table. “Tell me how it went down.”
Starsky related the facts, concluding with, “Long and his clowns never considered Mrs. Hanover’s staff and dogs as possible threats. He probably figured all he had to do was show up, wave a gun in Dillon’s direction, and Lady Hanover would hand over everything he wanted.”
“Only, once Dillon had announced himself at the gate,” Dobey continued, “and driven onto the grounds, Baskin, the head gardener, hadn’t liked the look of Dillon’s passengers. He and his helpers ran around to the terrace.”
“Carlson, the butler,” Hutch said, picking up the thread, “sensed bad things from Dillon’s expression and posture as soon as he opened the door. While allowing them all to enter, he lifted a cane from the umbrella stand and, once in the solarium, was able to make good use of it during the melee.”
“The three dogs?” Minnie asked.
Starsky nodded. “Dillon told us Horatio attacked Long, while Anubis and Walter kept the others busy until Carlson and Baskin managed, with the help of everyone else, to take control of the situation.”
“That’s when Dillon was able to call the station,” Dobey finished.
“And no one was hurt?” Minnie seemed to have trouble believing that.
Dobey almost smiled. “A few bites - the doorman, was the worst - some knots on heads - nothing stitches, antiseptic, and lots of aspirin didn’t take care of.”
“The dogs have had their shots…” Starsky continued.
“So there’s no chance Long or one of his cronies will get rabies,” Hutch completed the thought.
“Unfortunately,” Starsky muttered. Hutch’s foot rubbed his under the table and Starsky stifled a laugh.
“So, all’s well that ends well, I presume?” Huggy’s voice held a tone Starsky thought he understood.
Starsky caught his oldest friend’s gaze and held it. “Thomas Long is going away for as many years as the D.A. can convince a judge and jury to give him, Hug.”
“You were absolutely right about his being a bad dude, Mr. Bear,” Dobey added, almost gleefully. “We easily got a warrant, and the files in his office safe are damning. The prosecutor will have fun deciding which of many felonies should take precedence, but he’s promised he’ll pursue all of them.”
Starsky nodded, sending Huggy more silent reassurance. “You’ll never have to think about him again.”
Huggy lifted his bottle and clinked it against Starsky’s. “Thank you.”
Starsky could tell that Dobey and Minnie didn’t understand that last exchange but Hutch did and that’s all Starsky cared about at the moment. All’s well that ends well, indeed, came wordlessly from his partner.
Starsky and Hutch, in the Torino, and Dobey, in Dobey’s Crown Vic, met Dillon at the hospital when he went to pick up Magpie a few days later. While Dillon left to take care of the paperwork and to push the wheelchair, Dobey treated Starsky and Hutch to cups of terrible coffee in the waiting room.
“Lady Hanover is sure about this, is she?” Hutch’s question addressed all the concerns Starsky was pretty sure each of them had.
Dobey sipped, managing not to gag, and nodded. “She tells me she wants to get to know Dillon’s friend. The house is more than big enough and, with a nurse coming every day until she’s no longer needed, Mrs. Hanover is sure the staff can handle the rest of Magpie’s recovery.”
“That’s probably the best thing that could happen,” Starsky said. “To Dillon and Magpie.”
Dillon and Magpie in the Lincoln, followed by Dobey in his Crown Vic, and Starsky and Hutch in the Torino, drove under the banner that stretched above the estate’s main entrance. It read, ‘Welcome Home, Dillon.’
Starsky pointed at the two words that had been hand-lettered at the end, ‘And Magpie!’ “That about covers it.”
“I suspect,” Hutch said, “if they can’t figure out how they really feel about each other, and themselves, while they’re both here, they never will.”
“My money’s on them, Hutch.” Starsky parked the Torino behind the other cars and watched as Carlson pushed a wheelchair down the newly-installed ramp at the side of the front steps and rolled it to the passenger’s door of the TownCar. Dillon bailed out of the driver’s seat, ran around, and was in time to help Magpie out and into the chair.
Starsky took Hutch’s hand, content to be an observer, and was pleased that his partner didn’t seem to be in any hurry to join the group. “Maybe, if I backed away real slow, they’d never miss us.”
Hutch squeezed his fingers. “Too late, buddy.”
Starsky glanced toward the front doors and saw Mrs. Hanover staring in their direction.
“Don’t you two even think of leaving!” Her voice was clear and strong enough to carry over the commotion at the Lincoln. “I haven’t had a chance to thank you properly yet. Get out of that car and come in! I won’t ever let Harold forgive you if you don’t.”
Starsky shrugged. “Guess we’ve been summoned.”
Hutch nodded and opened his door. “I believe we have.”
By the time they made it to the door, Mrs. Hanover had herded everyone else inside. She blocked their path and put her arms around their necks. She was tall enough that she didn’t have to stretch very much in order to plant a kiss on first Hutch’s cheek, then Starsky’s.
When she stepped back, her face was flushed and her eyes were full of gratitude. “I will never, ever be able to thank you both enough. You’ve given me a huge gift.” Before Starsky could think of a word to say, she turned around between them, taking Hutch’s left hand in her right and Starsky’s right hand in her left. “Now, come! The celebration is set to begin on the terrace.”
Hurrying them along faster than Starsky had realized she could move, he glanced across the top of her head and met Hutch’s beaming smile. “We go with the flow, right, partner?”
“It doesn’t look like we have much choice.”
Mrs. Hanover chuckled. “None whatsoever!”
Out on the terrace, Magpie and Dillon were surrounded by young people Starsky thought were probably Dillon’s friends, from school and elsewhere, and every one of them seemed happy to have him back in their midst.
Mrs. Hanover dragged them over to the group just as Dillon introduced his companion. “I’d like you all to meet Robert Magnus Piper!”
After Mrs. Hanover had moved away, and amid over-lapping ‘welcome,’ ‘glad to meet you,’ etc., Starsky whispered in Hutch’s ear. “Maybe he bleached his hair to match his nickname, instead of the other way around?”
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”
“Should that teach us not to jump to conclusions?” Starsky asked, quietly.
Hutch smiled. “Probably not.”
Starsky nearly jumped when Dobey came up behind them and put his hands on their shoulders, peering between them toward the boisterous crowd.
“You did good, fellas,” Dobey said.
“Thanks, Cap,” Starsky replied. “It feels like good.”
That night, Hutch rolled over and gathered Starsky into his arms. “Did the gentle, solicitous way we just made love have anything to do with today’s celebration, you think?”
Starsky snuggled. “It sure affected me. I felt like I wanted to cherish you. Try to show you just how much I adore you.”
“I know I’ve said this before but I need to say it again. We’ve been so lucky, Starsk. We found each other, we’re there for each other…”
“We depend on each other but we support each other, too.” Starsky looked up. “We love each other.”
Hutch kissed the offered lips. “I truly hope Dillon and Magpie --”
“Robert Magnus,” Starsky interrupted with a snicker.
“Quite a name, huh? I truly hope they find something similar to what we have.”
“With Mrs. Hanover rooting for them and giving them every opportunity, they’d be idiots if they fucked it up.”
Hutch winced. “Crude, but well put.”
Starsky leaned back, a glint in his eyes. “You know me, Hutch, I ain’t nothin’ if I ain’t crude, rude, irreverent, impatient… uh, intolerant… uncultivated…”
“You mean, uncultured?”
“Starsky, are you trying to get me stirred up again?”
His partner’s impish expression matched the talented fingers that were sliding toward Hutch’s nether regions. “Maybe… Is it working?”
Hutch smothered his laughter and passion against Starsky’s mouth. “Oh, yeah.”