I Can Still Dance With a Drink in My Hand
Written for "Discovered in Graceland" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community.
Starsky stepped back and looked up, ignoring the flash of the police photographer's camera.
The shark was hanging by its tail at the end of the pier, stark white on black, outlined against the night by the floodlights. From this angle Starsky could see clearly that its belly had been slit open, the contents spilling out onto the weathered planks. A bloodless arm hung out of the stomach, the skin pitted and peeling. It looked like something out of a horror film. A particularly cheap horror film, whose prop people had used old cheese as material for the fake dead bodies.
A young man in shorts and sandals was babbling to a uniformed officer, "...I told Ricky that sharks will eat all kinds of things, and then I cut it open 'cause I figured, you know, we might get a buoy or a surfboard or something, and that... that... thing came out. I didn't touch it. I called you guys right off. And..."
"Ah, Starsky and Hutchinson."
Starsky turned as a gray haired man walked up and stopped to stand beside him, looking at the shark.
"Andy," said Hutch. "I'm surprised to see you out from behind your microscope."
Andy's shoulders had the stoop of a man who'd spent his life at a forensic table, probing into the secrets of the dead. He pushed his glasses up his nose, smiling. "It's not every day we find a body in a shark."
Starsky looked back at the six foot great white. "Yeah. I mean, wow." It was all he could say. He'd done a u-turn the moment he heard the call on the radio, and had peeled rubber all the way here. It was Jaws. Big as life and twice as real.
"We're not really just sight-seeing," said Hutch.
"Yes we are," said Starsky. He didn't see any reason to deny it. There were dozens of people milling around, far more than necessary for a single dead body. Lab people, print people, photo people. Trucks and antennas everywhere and a news chopper circling overhead. Reporters' cameras had already started flashing from the barricades. This was going to be front page news by morning.
"We were in the area," said Hutch.
"Only two jurisdictions away." Starsky ignored the dirty look Hutch gave him.
Andy smiled tolerantly. "Come with me, I want to show you something."
A miasma of rotten fish and death hung heavily in the air. The night was warm and there was no wind to disperse the stench. Starsky covered his nose with his jacket as he approached the shark. The forensics guys were all wearing surgical masks and Starsky eyed them enviously.
Andy, on the other hand, appeared unperturbed by either the sight or the smell. He crouched down next to a pile of offal which had spilled out of the belly of the shark onto the deck. A small white tag marked it as evidence item number six, photographed and ready for bagging.
Andy pulled his pen light from his breast pocket and flicked it on. He used it to indicate an object in the pile. "Look at this."
Still holding his jacket over his nose, Starsky dropped to his heels and squinted, trying to see clearly. "What is that?" It looked yellow, curved...
Hutch leaned over, bracing his hands on his knees. "Bone?" He sounded as if he was trying to hold his breath.
"Very good! It's part of a skull," said Andy, clearly pleased. "Remarkably intact. But what interests me more is this bit here."
The pen light moved a few inches to the side. Starsky swallowed, fighting down nausea as it illuminated gobbets of white fat and strings of red flesh. It stopped on a precise black circle in the yellow bone.
"That is almost certainly a bullet hole," said Andy.
Hutch straightened and clapped his hand over his mouth, pinching his nose closed. "The victim was shot in the head?" His voice was muffled.
"Shot in the head, dumped in the ocean," said Andy. "Sounds like a homicide case to me. And isn't that your department?"
Starsky stood up, and glanced at Hutch. "Murder, huh?" He shouldn't feel triumphant about this. He really shouldn't. Murders were tragedies, always. But the fact remained...
"There's no way they can call this one a traffic accident," said Hutch.
Great minds think alike, thought Starsky.
"I admit he doesn't look like much, but Duncan's a crack shot." Bodie maintained a blank façade, hiding his amusement. He'd told Doyle to dress down and look hungry, but he hadn't expected his partner to take him quite so literally.
Trevor regarded 'Ray Duncan' doubtfully, his sharp gaze tracking from Doyle's grubby trainers to his equally worn jumper, both of which looked as if they'd been rescued from a charity's reject bin. "You say you've worked with him before?"
"Amsterdam. Just ask Greene." It was another tangled thread in a complicated back story, a web of lies with each part leading back to a single source. Months in the set up, almost three weeks into the execution, and ultimately it came down to simple faith that none of the villains would be clever enough to see the complete pattern.
Doyle was doing his part well. He was slouched against the wall of the entrance hallway, arms crossed, looking utterly disinterested in the proceedings. Hungry, sure, but also too much the hard man to reveal any desperation. And dangerous. Exactly the sort of bloke Trevor ought to want on his private security team.
Trevor, in contrast, was stout and sandy-haired, wearing an expensive linen jacket and a cravat that made him look like a git.
"Very well." Trevor waved a lazy hand at Bodie. "Put him through his paces, Bentley."
"Eh?" Bodie blinked.
"Let's see what he's got." Trevor's smile had teeth. "You can take him, can't you?"
From the first day they'd met, Bodie had never had any doubt he could take Doyle in a real fight. Sure Doyle had handed his arse to him once or twice during training, but that was because he'd been following CI5 rules. Play nice. No permanent injury.
Doyle met his gaze, and Bodie read the clear challenge in his eyes. This was for real. No slapping the floor to indicate surrender. No one around to break things up.
Bodie glanced quickly around at his surroundings. Would have to watch out for that table. It looked old, and the vase on it looked even older. The mirror might be a problem, too. The carved banister... not too bad. Sturdy enough to take a hit, if they ended up at the end of the hall.
He removed his suit jacket. Wouldn't want to split it up the back. It was double breasted, and silver, and he'd rather like to keep it once the job was done.
Rolling his sleeves up, Bodie moved a few steps to the side. Doyle circled in the opposite direction, inching fractionally closer. Bodie watched for an opening, knowing beyond any doubt that Doyle was doing the same.
There it was. Doyle had dropped his left hand, fractionally. Bodie moved in fast, relying on his greater reach and weight. Doyle ducked, and Bodie's fist grazed the side of his face.
Then Bodie was dodging Doyle's jab, with no time to react as Doyle hooked a foot behind his knee. Bodie stumbled and twisted, pulling Doyle off balance. They hit the ground together, each trying to seize the upper hand. Bodie got Doyle into an arm lock, but Doyle managed to slip free, and then Bodie found himself dangerously close to being trapped in a leg hold.
They separated, panting. Bodie could hear Trevor applauding, and there were other voices as well. Spectators had gathered on the stairs. Someone was making bets. 'Bentley' versus 'Duncan' with distressingly high odds against Bentley.
Beating Doyle wasn't turning out to be as easy Bodie had expected. His style in this fight was nasty and ruthless. Not at all what Bodie had learned to expect from the ex-copper.
Bodie wiped the blood away from his lower lip and moved in again, matching Doyle's grin with one of his own. He feinted with a jab to the face and then hopped back quickly as Doyle retaliated with a side kick at the Bodie family jewels. Bodie felt the edge of Doyle's trainer scrape his leg. Close.
"Naughty," said Bodie, and ducked under Doyle's next swing. Enough with the fancy footwork. He closed in and started slugging, his head down. He was watching Doyle's feet now, less concerned with the incidental damage he was taking to his ribs. He'd seen an opening, and if he could just hold on long enough...
There! Doyle was trying another snap kick. Bodie took the blow on the front of his thigh and grabbed Doyle's leg. Planting his left foot against the wall, Bodie launched himself forward. Doyle landed hard on his back, yelping as his knee hit his nose.
Bodie had no time to relish his momentary advantage. Doyle planted his trainers directly below Bodie's ribs and kicked, hard. Bodie was airborne before he knew it, propelled over Doyle's head. He tucked his head into his chest and pulled his elbows in close, just as his shoulders slammed into something hard and full of edges.
Something that broke beneath him, with a sound like glass.
"Enough!" bellowed Trevor.
Bodie rolled smoothly onto his feet, more than willing to keep fighting. Doyle faced him, his hand pressed over his mouth and nose. Blood was running down the front of his shirt, but his eyes were creased with amusement.
"Hey!" That protest came from the stairs, and Bodie turned to find every member of Trevor's household staring at himself and Doyle. There, watching avidly from the steps and hanging over the railing on the upper level, were all of Trevor's thugs, his girls, and his various lackeys and hangers-on.
"They've not finished the fight!" said the girl with the platinum bob. The blood lust in her expression contrasted disturbingly with the baby doll nightie she wore, and the tiny dog she clutched in her arms.
There was a rumble of agreement from the others.
"I'm not having them tear up my house!" Trevor stepped forward and glared them all into silence. Then he gave them a conciliatory nod. "However, you're right. This has been undeniably entertaining." He rubbed his hands together, smiling. "I'm sure we can arrange a better venue for the contest, and perhaps then some of you would like to try your hand with the champion."
That sparked more commentary, anticipatory this time, and the spectators began to disperse.
Behind Trevor's back, Bodie retrieved his jacket and handed Doyle his handkerchief. Doyle pressed it to his nose, rolling his eyes in silent disgust. Bodie grimaced in agreement. He wouldn't mind a rematch, but he wanted it on his own terms. Not as a novel amusement for Trevor and his friends, with the two of them just another pair of fighting gamecocks. Then Trevor turned around again and he quickly blanked his expression.
"He's good," said Trevor. "I'll give him the same I'm giving you."
"For what?" asked Doyle, his voice slightly nasal.
Trevor frowned. "What?"
"Well, what do we do, exactly?" Looking perfectly guileless, Doyle turned to Bodie. "You said private security."
"You do as you're told," said Trevor. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a well-stuffed money clip. Peeling off several bills, he handed them to Bodie. "Get him a suit."
"Yes, sir." Bodie bit his tongue, struggling to suppress a grin at Doyle's offended expression. "Can't have him running around all covered in blood, can we?"
"You're not exactly Gentleman's Quarterly yourself," snapped Doyle, as Bodie hustled him out the door.
Bodie brushed at the spot of blood that marred the front of his shiny silver suit. "Ah, but this fabric's been treated with some space age compound. Wrinkle resistant. Practically waterproof. Blood wipes right off. Next best thing to shark skin."
"Good God. I don't want to know what laboratory they cooked that material up in."
Doyle climbed in on the passenger side of the car and immediately checked under the dashboard. Satisfied, he ran his fingers under the edge of the seat, bending over his knees to peer down into the wheel well. When he straightened, his nose had started to bleed again and there were tears in his eyes. Pressing Bodie's handkerchief to his face, he reached over and switched on the radio.
"Alride, mate. 'Ow did you do id?"
Bodie reached over and pulled Doyle's hand down, frowning at his nose. "How did I do what?" He took Doyle's face in his hands and used his thumbs to check the state of his cheekbones.
Doyle shook him off impatiently. "Nothing's broken," he said. "How did you dispose of my predecessor?"
"Oh, him." Bodie chuckled. "That wasn't any of my doing." He grabbed for Doyle's face again. "Now hold still, I just want to make sure." Bodie's lower lip was throbbing, and his ribs felt as if someone had been playing a drum solo on them -- which wasn't far from the truth. He could only imagine the kind of pain Doyle must be in.
Doyle's right cheek felt a little odd, but that was probably because of that old break...
"Let go!" Doyle struck the centre of Bodie's chest with the heel of his palm, hard.
Bodie's shoulders hit the side window. "Ow!" He rubbed his sternum, and gave Doyle a hurt look. "I only wanted to make sure I hadn't injured you."
Doyle snorted. "Oh, dry up. You said it wasn't any of your doing?"
"Well, not entirely." Bodie started the car. Elvis was playing on the radio, singing about rocking the jailhouse. "He disappeared the other day. Gone for hours. Trevor was going spare and everyone was running around looking for him. And then we all hear this little scream from the basement. One of the maids found him in a closet with a base pipe, getting high. Someone might have suggested she look there."
"So you didn't hand him the stuff and force him to smoke it, then."
"Of course not! What do you take me for?" Bodie glanced over at Doyle and grinned. "That was only my back up plan."
Doyle's laugh was good to hear.
Something occurred to Bodie, as he turned onto the main road. "Listen, Trevor's not done checking you out. He's going to offer you one of his girls tonight. You'd better take him up on his generosity."
Doyle looked at him curiously. "Or?"
"Or he'll offer you a boy. And if you refuse again, he'll decide you're a cop and dump your body in the Thames."
'Be yourself' had been Cowley's advice to Bodie when he'd taken the position as Trevor's personal bodyguard. And it had been all too easy to find his place, sliding back into the habits and attitudes of his mercenary days. Doyle, on the other hand, had been a cop. He'd been in the Drugs Squad, so technically he had more undercover experience than Bodie, but fitting in still wouldn't be as easy for him as 'be yourself'.
"Christ," said Doyle.
"No fear," said Bodie, trying to reassure. "They're all nice girls." Mostly. Jane had this thing for whips, that perhaps wasn't technically 'nice', but...
"Of course they are," said Doyle, giving him a wry look. "I saw that this evening. Lovely girls, with a taste for blood."
There was a time when Huggy had wanted Starsky and Hutch to come into his bar by the back alley entrance, during off hours so no one would see him talking to the cops. For years they blithely ignored his attempts to set limits, showed up whenever it suited them, and asked questions right out in the open.
Then Huggy's bar had burned down. It took Huggy the better part of a year to scrape together enough to open the Pits, and by that time he'd decided that having a visible police presence in his establishment might be better protection than paying off the local gangs. More reliable protection, in any case.
Huggy was going legit, and he made sure everyone knew. No more girls turning tricks in the rooms above his bar. No more after hours entertainment. No more 'favors' for old friends.
Interestingly, however, information continued to come his way without any abatement in either quantity or quality. Street people are terrible gossips, worse than a bunch of old ladies on bridge night, and a bartender hears everything. Even a straight bartender with known connections to the cops.
Hutch leaned over the bar, his expression expectant. "So what have we got?"
Huggy shook his head, and stacked the glass he'd just finished drying with the others. No point in encouraging them. "You've got a forty-two dollar bar tab, dating back almost two months."
Starsky thumped down on the bar stool next to Hutch. "C'mon, Huggy! You know what we want."
"I know what I want. And I should point out that forty-two is only his part of the tab." Huggy nodded at Hutch. "Yours," meaning Starsky, "is sixty."
"What? No way!"
"I said you were drinking too much," said Hutch, smugly. "But do you listen? No..."
"I've already got a Jewish mother. I don't need another," said Starsky, as he extracted his wallet from his back pocket. He began peeling money out. Two twenties were followed by three tens, three fives, and six ones. He then turned his wallet upside down and shook it. A quarter, a dime, and seven pennies clattered down onto the surface of the bar. "Will this do?"
"Hey, thanks," said Hutch.
"I'm not covering your tab, dummy. I'm paying off mine and I'm compensating Huggy for his time and effort on our behalf." Starsky smiled ingratiatingly at Huggy.
Huggy trapped a penny that was trying to make a rolling break for the edge of the bar. "I hate to disappoint my Caucasian brothers, but it's just lot of chatter, nothing solid."
"Well, give us the un-solid stuff," said Starsky.
"Sure," said Hutch. "Insubstantial is still better than non-existent."
"There's talk about a new player in town -- or more precisely, out of town. A cat with a lot of flash."
Now they were both leaning on his bar, eyes bright, looking like a scruffy pair of orphaned baby birds. Insatiable.
"The chicks are hot for his British accent, and the limos and coke don't hurt none, either," said Huggy. "Now, I'm not saying there's a connection, but you know that new theatre down on the strip?"
Starsky smirked. "Yeah, blue movies."
"I heard they're showing Fuck Rogers of the 69th Century," said Hutch.
"You heard." Starsky made a disgusted sound. "I happen to know you took what's her name to see it last Wednesday. And you didn't invite me!"
Huggy shook his head, again. These two were in a class of their own.
"I was hoping she'd find it inspirational," said Hutch, offended. "And anyway, your mind's already in the gutter."
"Did she?" Starsky looked interested.
Huggy cleared his throat. Standing at his bar listening while Starsky and Hutch bragged on their sexual exploits wasn't high on his list of things to do on an afternoon. "I presume while you, sir..." Huggy made sure he had Hutch's attention. "While you were taking in the show, you noticed the gentleman standing by the door with his clicker, counting every John and Jane who walks in?"
Hutch nodded. "I remember him."
"That gentleman is in the employ of a certain other gentleman, popularly known as The Director, who controls the distribution of the movie you saw. After the feature ends, the checker calculates a percentage of the profit, goes to the owner of the theatre, and says, 'Give me five thousand'."
"Or else." Huggy shrugged. "The theatre owner pays."
Starsky looked puzzled. "Where does the money go? To the Director? And how does the British guy come into this?"
"What do they pay you for?" Huggy opened his till and put Starsky's money away. "You're the cops. You figure it out." He pulled out his notebook and scratched out Starsky's tab.
Huggy wasn't looking at Starsky and Hutch, but he could feel them staring at him expectantly. Absolutely insatiable. Against his better judgment, Huggy said, "I'll tell you this. Some of the money goes missing. And some of the people who make that money go missing become shark bait. Or they turn up in hospital, claiming they fell down the three steps outside the theater, and somehow broke seventeen different bones. Or just they're plain gone, like Jamie T. Or... they find themselves thrown in front of cars, like Al Greene."
Any of which could happen to him, if the Director ever decided he didn't like a certain Huggy Bear Brown talking to the cops.
"The California Highway Patrol said the Greene death was a traffic accident," said Hutch.
Huggy gave him the look that statement deserved.
"Right," said Starsky. "Well, thanks Hug."
"Yeah, you have fun unweaving this tangled web. I have an establishment to run." And a liquor license to renew, thought Huggy as he spotted the notice tucked under his cash. Starsky's payment would just about cover the bribe.
"When I was a kid, I looked up to that man," muttered Doyle under his breath. They'd just finished a circuit of the grounds and were now stationed in the hall. Most of the party guests had arrived, and were now scattered around the grounds and throughout the house. The air was heavy with the scent of marijuana, and the floor vibrated with the bass beat of Trevor's new stereo system.
Bodie leaned close to his ear. "Which one? The retired footballer, or the elderly rocker?"
"He's not that old, you know!"
"Wine, women and song. Ages you fast," said Bodie wisely. "Look at Elvis. He can hardly drag himself up on stage these days."
"Wine, women and song? More like sex, drugs and rock and roll." Doyle prodded his nose gingerly. It was less sore today, but dark purple bruises had blossomed under both eyes, necessitating the use of sunglasses, even at night.
Bodie, to Doyle's immense disgust, looked as immaculate as ever. Lounging casually by the door, he'd been getting admiring looks from many of the women, and several of the men.
Sod this, thought Doyle. He loosened his tie and opened his collar. If he couldn't look good, then at least he ought to be able to breathe.
"Come on," said Bodie, abruptly. "Let's mingle. See if we can hear anything interesting."
Doyle grimaced. "Besides, 'baby, blow me' and 'where's the coke'?"
Bodie shot him a quick grin, and a moment later he was gone, sliding easily into the crowd. Doyle grumbled to himself about pretentious bastards with delusions of class, and then decided to get himself a drink from the bar.
It was past midnight before he saw Bodie again. Doyle was in the garden, rousing revellers from the bushes and chivvying them back to the house. He'd just paused in the shadow of a tall yew hedge, when he felt the press of cold metal at the nape of his neck.
Doyle froze, and then heard a familiar chuckle.
"Bo-," Doyle caught himself just in time. "Bentley, you bastard!"
Bodie flipped the gun and slid it back into his holster. "Sloppy. Very sloppy. Duncan."
"One of these days I'll end up shooting you," retorted Doyle. "And they'll give me a medal."
There were times, like these, when Doyle looked at Bodie and wondered if he could trust him. It was a dangerous thought. You had to trust your partner, or you might end up dead. But when Cowley had prepped them for this operation, he'd told Bodie to 'be himself'.
How much difference was there between Bodie and the other hard men Trevor hired? If he was given the right motivation, could he put a bullet in Doyle's head? He had been a mercenary once. Every time Doyle asked him why he was in CI5, Bodie's answer was different, and never reassuring. He was in it for the money, he said. For the fast cars. For a chance to try the latest, best weaponry.
"I don't know what the old man's waiting for," said Bodie. "We've got more than enough to put Trevor away for life."
It was the unguarded vehemence in Bodie's voice that set Doyle back on his heels, interrupting his uneasy thoughts. "Is there something you haven't told me?"
"Nah, it's all been in the reports. It's just..." Bodie turned away, his hands in his pockets. "Never mind. If we don't get back they'll think we were out here snogging."
Doyle had to run a few steps to catch up. He grabbed Bodie's arm and yanked him around. "Oh, no you don't! Cough!"
There was a moment's silence, and then they heard laughing voices coming up the path. Something shifted minutely in Bodie's stance. "While you were out here avoiding society," he said, loudly enough for the others to hear, "Trevor arranged some... fascinating entertainment for the rest of us."
"Do tell," said Doyle. He didn't have to fake his interest.
"You know Jane, the one with the whip fetish? Well, Trevor had her give a demonstration. Had a little blonde bird strung upside down, while Jane flogged the living daylights out of her." Bodie's voice was bland, expressionless.
A man and a woman rounded the corner of the path and Doyle stepped forward to block their way. "I'm sorry, sir. You'll have to go back to the house. Trevor's orders."
The man had seemed prepared to argue, but the moment Doyle invoked Trevor's name his entire attitude changed. He took his date by the arm and hurried her back toward the house.
"Is she alive?" asked Doyle, quietly. A murder would put the entire investigation in a completely different light.
"Oh, quite. I have it on good authority that she even got off on it."
"Bruised but not bloodied. Jane knows how not to turn a sub into steak tartar."
Doyle thought about what Bodie had said earlier. "You know, I'd like some answers, as well."
"Ours is to question why," suggested Bodie. He poked Doyle in the ribs. "Live long and never die?"
Doyle just shook his head. As mottos went that one was almost the philosophical antithesis of everything CI5 stood for. An agent's life was signed over to Cowley to use in the service of England, however he saw best. Anything they needed to know they were told. If they weren't told, it was because they didn't need to know.
Never mind questioning why Bodie did the job, there were days when even Doyle wondered how exactly he'd wound up in CI5. And the answers he gave himself, preserving law and order and a chance to make a difference, were no more satisfactory than Bodie's fast cars and guns.
Inside the house they found the party beginning to wind down, drugs and alcohol taking their toll on the revellers.
A large black man was hunched over a naked blonde girl lying sprawled across a couch. He appeared to be rubbing something onto her back, buttocks and thighs. On closer examination, Doyle saw the way it gleamed in the light from the lamps and realized it was oil, and that it was being smoothed over raised red welts. Doyle knew then that this had to be the bird Bodie had mentioned, the one who had been whipped.
At least, he thought, someone's looking after her.
Bodie intercepted an exhausted looking girl carrying a tray. As he relieved her of the remaining sandwich triangles he asked, "Where's Trevor?"
"I think he's in his office."
"Thanks," mumbled Bodie around a full mouth. He offered one of his sandwiches to Doyle, who shook his head.
The girl gave them a wan smile. "There's more in the kitchen, if you want."
Bodie's grin widened. "I'll take you up on that later, love."
They found Trevor in the downstairs office, shouting into his phone. "What do you mean, we may have a problem? I'm paying you to ensure that we don't have problems! Shark? A bloody shark?" He glanced up as Bodie and Doyle stopped at the entrance to the room. "Here, one moment."
Trevor pulled the phone away from his ear. "Close that door, would you? I need privacy."
Doyle nodded and reached for the door knob. As he was closing the door, he heard, "You're supposed to clear all such actions with me first!"
He exchanged a glance with Bodie and they silently found posts at either side of the entrance to the office. If anyone came looking for Trevor, they'd turn them away. But more importantly, even through the closed door they could still make out a few shouted words.
It wasn't much. Bodie said later that he'd thought he heard the word 'shark' a few more times. And something about a bay.
Doyle, for his part, had new information to consider about his partner. Bodie had sounded coldly callous in his description of the girl's flogging, but he had brought it up in the context of Trevor's arrest being overdue. Which could only mean that he was genuinely outraged by what had happened.
Not so much the heartless mercenary, after all.
Today it was Starsky's turn to play devil's advocate.
He watched Hutch drum his fingers on the desk as he read. After a few minutes, Hutch was hitting the desktop so hard Starsky could feel the vibration all the way over on his side. There had to be somewhere an unwritten rule which said that only one half of the partnership could freak out at a time. The other half had to be correspondingly calm and rational. It was some kind of cosmic see-saw.
Starsky cleared his throat.
Hutch kept reading, oblivious to everything except what was in the folder in front of him.
"Hey!" said Starsky. "You should buy me a candy bar."
"I've got the coroner's report on that traffic accident." Hutch picked up the folder, sheets stapled to the inside, and waved it at Starsky. "Check this out, 'Victim was missing shoes. These items were not located at the scene. California Highway Patrol states that the victim was knocked out of his shoes. CHP will not be pressing charges against the driver of that vehicle.'"
Starsky squinted and tried to focus on the flapping pages. "Someone at the scene could have stolen his shoes. It happened downtown." He was using his reasonable voice. The one he reserved for lunatics and overwrought partners.
Hutch slapped the report down on his desk. "With dozens of people standing around, none of whom actually saw Al Greene run out in front of the car?"
"They were all looking the other way?" It was either that or transitory mass blindness, a common affliction amongst the residents of downtown Bay City.
"Al was working as a checker at the Kittykat Theatre," said Hutch.
Starsky thought 'where you went and saw Fuck Rogers and didn't take me' but he didn't say anything out loud. They'd been over that argument before.
"They had him replaced the day before he died," continued Hutch. "Then a week later, that guy disappears. James Turner. And what about April Showers?"
Starsky dug back into his memory. "April Showers, formerly known as Katie Buchowsky. Pretty little kid from Kansas. She died of a drug overdose, in the back alley of the Inferno Club."
"Yeah, with the belt wrapped around her left arm. How'd she manage that, when she was left-handed?"
"We've been over this before," said Starsky. "You and I, and most everyone else in this town, we all know April Showers was murdered. And so was Al Greene. And for all we know, James Turner, too. Unless he got smart and went back to whatever Podunk town he came from. But we can't prove it. We don't even have a place to start."
"They all worked in the porn industry, that's something."
"It's paper thin, Hutch." Starsky caught himself beginning to drum his own fingers on the edge of his desk. Hutch's righteous anxiety was contagious. "You need to buy me a candy bar."
"I need to buy you a candy bar?" said Hutch, disbelievingly.
"Yeah, because I gave Huggy all my money." Starsky paused and thoughtfully considered the condition of his cupboards. "I'm also going to be eating dinner at your place tonight. And tomorrow night. Good thing it's only another week to payday."
"As I recall, you refused to put any of that money towards paying off my tab. Which you helped me rack up in the first place."
Starsky gave Hutch his best wide-eyed innocent look. "But we have to pay our snitch! What if he stopped talking to us?"
The phone on Hutch's desk rang. "You know you look bug-eyed when you do that," said Hutch, as he picked up the receiver.
Hutch smiled and held up a hand. Then he pointed at the receiver and silently mouthed, I'm on the phone.
Starsky used an even simpler hand signal to let him know exactly what he thought.
Hutch ignored him. "Thanks, Andy, I really appreciate this." He hung up the phone and stood, reaching for his jacket. "We've got something, after all. Turns out Shark Bait is our missing checker. James Turner, AKA Jamie T."
Bodie groaned and tried to pull his blanket over his head. The other half of his bed was empty, which meant that the girl must have slipped out at some point while he was asleep. One cracked eye revealed that it was still dark, and from the sound of Trevor careening down the halls, he hadn't been to bed at all. Fucking cokehead insomniac.
Even bodyguards need to sleep some time, thought Bodie grumpily. The shift schedule existed for a reason. He should know. He'd drawn it up himself.
"I'll get him up for you," said a voice outside his door. Doyle. Sounding entirely too chipper for the hour.
Bodie was trying to decide if he'd ignore Doyle when he knocked, when his door was flung open, bright light stabbed his eyes, and the suit jacket he'd left over the back of a chair hit him in the face. "Berk!" He threw the jacket on the floor and sat up, glaring.
"No," said Doyle cheerily. "The berk is the guy caught sleeping on the job. Didn't you hear everyone running around? We could have had a massacre while you were having your lie in."
"What's the excitement?" Since clearly Doyle wouldn't be looking quite so composed if they'd actually had a massacre.
"Trevor wants everyone packed before dawn. He's going to America."
"He's flying to Bay City, California. This morning. As early as possible, in his private jet. Which is apparently almost, but not quite, as large as Elvis's private jet."
"Damn!" Bodie began throwing on his clothes as fast as he could, hopping across the room with one leg in his trousers.
Doyle propped his hands on his hips and watched him. "Something I've always wanted to know..."
"Yes, I'm a heavy sleeper. Yes, I was exactly the same in the jungle. No, it never interfered with my survival." It had actually saved his life once when he'd slept through most of a real massacre, and had consequently been able to slip away behind the government troops overrunning the camp. Though he'd rather have his fingernails removed one by one than share that story with Doyle. "Now, be useful. Grab my bag and throw everything from that top drawer inside."
Doyle didn't move. "Who makes the call?"
Bodie stopped, his shirt half buttoned. "I thought you'd..."
"I've managed to get halfway through dialling three times since Trevor got us all up. He's been-"
A bellow from the hall interrupted him. "Duncan!"
"Right," said Bodie. "Keep him distracted. Tell him I'm still packing. I'll use the phone in the hall." That one was almost certainly bugged, but Bodie was confident he could work around that small problem.
Doyle nodded and reached for the door knob. Bodie caught his arm. "Wait. You know what I have to do."
"I'll cover you as long as I can," said Doyle. And then he was gone.
Bodie threw a few shirts into his bag and zipped it up. Then he eased his door open and looked cautiously up and down the corridor. There was a girl hurrying in the opposite direction, but no one else of consequence. He was able to slip downstairs unseen.
Making the phone call was a bit trickier. Bobby, another of Trevor's security men, stopped to see who he was calling. His suspicious glare faded when Bodie winked and whispered, "My girlfriend."
Bobby grinned, slapped him on the back, and continued on his way. Bodie was relieved. Bobby, besides being big and black, was easily as broad as he was tall, and had no discernable neck. There was no way Bodie could have taken him out without alerting the whole house.
There was no guard at the gate when Bodie drove off Trevor's estate. Trevor's security had been little better than a joke before he'd hired Bodie and nothing had been done to improve it since. Bodie, in fact, had been actively looking for ways to undermine security. It was one of these endeavours which had led to Doyle's hiring.
Bodie was hoping that he would be able to leave and return undetected. It was a slim hope, but he drew consolation from the knowledge that if his own part in the operation went tits up tonight, at least Doyle would still be inside. Assuming his cover wasn't too poisoned by his association with Bodie.
But Doyle was good at thinking on his feet. Ex-copper or not, he was the best CI5 had to offer. Bodie had never had any occasion to regret his decision to ask Cowley to partner him with Doyle.
Which was another thing he'd never tell Doyle. Because regulations stated that no agent could have any say in their teaming. It was all supposed to be decided on the basis of psychological compatibility and complementary skills.
"We're the best," Bodie had told Cowley. "If I'm not number one in a class, then it's because he's grabbed the top spot. No one else even comes close. What other reason do you need to put us together?"
"You're very different," Cowley had said.
"Complementary," was Bodie's response. "Like you said."
For all Bodie knew, Cowley had been planning to partner him with Doyle all along. But he wasn't prepared to take the chance. He'd seen how well Doyle worked with Jax. And there were others he himself could have been successfully teamed with, too. Doyle didn't seem to care, one way or another. Bodie, on the other hand, knew exactly which partner he wanted.
And still wanted. He'd missed working with Doyle these past few weeks.
Bodie stopped his car in the shadow of the flyover. He could hear the sound of traffic overhead, and crickets in the weeds around him. He used the time he spent waiting profitably, searching the car one more time for bugs. It wasn't so much that he expected Trevor to have had his car bugged, but that he couldn't be certain that he wouldn't. These days Trevor swung unpredictably between mania and paranoia.
Bodie had finished his search and had just begun a second round, when another car, a nondescript saloon, pulled up beside him, gravel crunching under its tyres.
Cowley leaned out the window. "Well?"
"Trevor's having business difficulties."
"We already know that," said Cowley, his tone warning Bodie not to waste his time. This particular meeting was only to be arranged in circumstances of extreme urgency.
"Yeah, except this branch of the business is in Bay City, California. And Trevor's going to be flying there today to oversee things in person."
"So... Bay City," said Cowley, thoughtfully.
Bodie shifted uneasily in his seat. "Sir, Doyle and I... we were thinking that now might be a good time to stage that raid. Before Trevor leaves the country. He's got a suitcase of drugs he takes with him everywhere. It's divided up like those pill counters you get for the days of the week, except this is for a whole month. And it's everything you can imagine. Uppers, downers—."
"I'm sure it's very impressive and more than enough to put Alan Trevor away," interrupted Cowley. "But he's just one man. Think of this network as if it were a Hydra. If we chop off the head, two more will have taken his place before evening. We've got to cut off all the heads at once. Cripple the beast."
"But we've given you names!"
"Of social acquaintances. Hangers on. Lackeys and addicts. Nothing we can directly link to the importation of drugs into this country."
"Yes, sir." Bodie wondered if the investigation as a whole had been a failure, or just his part in it.
"You and Doyle, you've managed to get close to him."
"He doesn't let us listen in on his business, if that's what you mean. And he sweeps for bugs every day." An agent had infiltrated a year earlier, and had attempted to plant bugs of his own. His body had never been found.
"Don't try to tell an old fox his business, Bodie." Cowley frowned forbiddingly. "Trevor's paranoid. He won't travel without his bodyguards. Go with him tomorrow. Take note of everyone he talks to, especially anyone in customs. Keep your ears open and your head down. You won't have any authority while you're overseas. If you end up in jail..."
Bodie waited a moment, but Cowley didn't finish his statement. "Is this an official assignment, sir? Or are we on our own time?"
Cowley started his car. "Good luck."
Hutch smiled affectionately. Starsky was so excited it was coming out in his driving. The Torino was practically skipping down the street.
"Man, Andy's good." Starsky bounded through the intersection just ahead of a tractor trailer, ignoring shouts from the driver. "I didn't think anyone could get an ID off of that corpse. Much less all that detail on how he was tortured."
Hutch lost his smile. He could have gone to his eternal rest without knowing that the deceased had his fingernails 'forcibly extracted prior to death'. He glanced at the scrap of notepaper he held, and then double checked it against the street numbers.
"That's our building right there," said Hutch. "Former residence of one James Turner."
"Jamie T. The other missing checker. Now found, in the belly of a shark." Starsky bounced the wheel of the Torino off the curb as he pulled in.
Hutch sometimes wondered how much of Starsky's salary every month went into repairing his rims. For such a terrific driver, Starsky really wasn't any good at parking.
Jamie T's last address turned out to be a depressingly grubby apartment building. Red brick, broken windows on the first floor, and a front door blocked by a wrought iron gate, hanging half off its hinges. It creaked mournfully as Hutch pushed it open. "Let's see if anyone's home before we go looking for the super."
"I don't think places like these have supers," said Starsky, wrinkling his nose as he stepped into the dark interior.
The third floor hallway smelled of mildew, vomit and urine. The few lights which hadn't yet burned out glowed dimly behind yellowed glass fixtures, and the peeling carpets were dark green. Hutch could only hope that had been their original color.
"Here's number thirty-three," said Starsky. He banged on the door with the side of his fist.
There was no response. Starsky glanced at Hutch, and then banged again. He cocked his head, and a moment later Hutch heard the footsteps as well. He moved back a step, reaching for his badge.
The door opened. Hutch froze, his hand in his pocket. He saw Starsky's jaw drop.
The girl smiling at them was very pretty, very wet, and entirely naked.
"Oh, hi!" she said, cheerfully. "You caught me in the shower. C'mon in. Sit down. I'll only be a minute."
Hutch rubbed his hand over his face, and took a deep breath. It was no illusion. When he looked again, there she was, her fine white ass trotting unconcernedly into the back of the apartment, bare feet leaving wet prints on the floor.
He grabbed Starsky's arm and shook him. "You heard the lady. Come in. Sit down."
Starsky walked into the apartment like a man in a daze. He sat on the edge of a flower-print sectional sofa, and blinked blankly at the wall for a moment. Then he turned to Hutch and said, "High?"
Hutch tried to recollect what he'd seen beyond a pair of perfectly formed breasts, pert pink nipples, and indisputable evidence that the girl was a natural blonde. "As a kite. If her pupils were any smaller, they'd be in another dimension." He felt a stab of disappointment. In the real world girls didn't just answer their doors naked for the pleasure of any lucky fellow who might decide to knock. "But I didn't see any tracks. So unless she's shooting up between her toes, it's not heroin."
"Probably coke," said Starsky, glumly. "Or speedballs. She's too lively to for it to be dope."
Hutch looked around the apartment. It was a single room, with the only amenity being the bathroom. "There's the hotplate, there's the mattress, and there's the window to jump out of."
Starsky stood up and walked over to the window. He pulled the curtain aside. "Except it faces onto a brick wall."
They turned as they heard the water stop running. The bathroom door opened.
"Hi! I'm Lois Lane." The girl was now wearing a bathrobe, though it was barely long enough to cover her rear and falling open in the front. She crossed the room and went straight to the fridge humming in the corner. Bending over to inspect the interior, she gave them both a second look at her well formed ass. "Can I get you two anything? We've got..." She paused. "Beer. And a tomato. But only one. Tomato, I mean. We've got lots of beer."
"Uh," said Starsky. He'd lost whatever composure he'd gained while she was in the shower, and was now staring at her with his mouth hanging open again.
Hutch managed, "James Turner."
"James? Oh... Jamie!" Lois' expression turned regretful. "You're a couple of Phil's guys aren't you?" She found a bottle opener and used it to pop the top on her beer. "Look, I'm really sorry the Director's giving you a hard time, but Jamie skipped town! I don't know where he is, or what he did with the money from the peep shows. The Director's just going to have to find himself another actor." She took a long drink from her bottle. "Are you sure you guys don't want a beer?"
"Another actor?" asked Starsky, vaguely.
"Well, gee!" said Lois, indignantly. "It's not like there's anything special about Jamie. He ain't twelve inches long or nothing. I'm sure once the Director finds another guy who can get it up in front of a camera, he'll ease off your boss, right? I mean, honestly, talent can't be in short supply. Gosh, I'd bet either of you two could give a girl a good time."
"What?" Hutch wasn't following any of this.
"Well sure!" Lois wandered over and kissed Starsky affectionately on the cheek.
He stepped back too quickly and almost tripped.
Lois giggled. "You're cute enough. You two could do a double act. Now, listen. I've got a show at the Aphrodite in half an hour and I have to get dressed. I wish I could be more help, but trust me, Jamie's gone. It's the price of doing business, you know? But if you want me to put a good word in for you with the Director, let me know. Maybe I can get you Jamie's job. The acting, I mean. Not checking."
She propped her hands on her hips and cocked her head, looking them over with her lower lip caught between small, even white teeth.
"Hey, that's a pretty good idea!" she said, finally. "Look, I'm on regularly at the Aphrodite, five nights a week, when I'm not doing movies. Lois Lane. Look me up, and I'll get you an audition. But, for now, bye-bye!"
Before Hutch knew quite how it had happened, he found Starsky and himself standing in the hall.
Starsky stared blankly at the closed door. "Do we look like leg breakers?"
"I'm sure I don't," said Hutch. "She must have been talking about you." He gave Starsky a shove toward the exit.
In the car, Starsky sat with the keys in his hand, looking thoughtfully into space. "The Director..."
"Huggy mentioned him," said Hutch. "He's the one making money off of pornos in our town."
"And Jamie was the kind of guy who can get it up in front of a camera," said Starsky. "But he wasn't ten inches."
"I, uh, think she said twelve inches."
"Jamie wasn't twelve inches," explained Hutch. "For all we know, he could have been ten inches."
"You want I should drive us down to the coroner's? I'm sure Andy has a ruler we could borrow." Starsky started the car, a wicked gleam in his eye.
"No, that's quite alright," said Hutch, primly. "I wouldn't want you to go to any trouble."
"Oh, I don't mind in the slightest." But Starsky's tone was insincere and he had already turned in the other direction, back toward the precinct.
Hutch laughed. "Why don't we review what we've got? Lois said that Jamie took off with the money from the peep shows."
"Yeah, peep shows." Starsky stopped at a light and gave Hutch a quick grin. "You know, put a quarter in the slot, get to see about two minutes of a twenty minute show. It costs about two-fifty to see the whole movie... What? I had to try it once!"
Hutch was outraged. "You told me you wanted those quarters for candy bars!"
"I said once!" Starsky pulled through the light and stopped at the side of the road. "Hey, Hutch...?" he asked, tentatively.
"What!" Hutch was still upset at the idea that Starsky had been scamming quarters off of him to go and stare at naked chicks. At least, he thought that was what was upsetting him. Maybe it was the fact that he'd never thought to check out a peep show for himself. How had he managed to overlook something like that?
"Well...," said Starsky, slowly. "If I put a quarter into a peep show, most of my quarter ends up going to whoever's funding the production and distribution of that stuff. In this case, that mean the Director and whoever's backing him. Maybe that mysterious British guy Huggy mentioned."
Hutch nodded, his curiosity overtaking his irritation.
Starsky looked troubled. "And when you took your girl to see Fuck Rogers, that money also went to those guys. Right?"
"Well... how much of our money do you suppose has gone into the pockets of the guys that killed Jamie T, and Al Greene, and April Showers?"
Hutch had no answer for him.
Delay tactics were never in order. Trevor had known something was up the moment Bobby had reported to him that "Bentley" had made a call and then left the house. They'd immediately taken Doyle's gun. Trevor had then ordered Bodie followed, but evidently there was some confusion as to who was supposed to carry his orders out, and by the time they'd organized themselves Bodie had vanished.
Doyle stuck to the script. He told them he didn't know why Bodie had left, or where he had gone, and he said he didn't care. Repeat ad infinitum, ad nauseam. He looked at the heavies holding guns on him, calculated his odds, and wondered if he'd survive a raid. He was braced for the choppers and the sirens, any minute now, because obviously if Trevor was leaving the country they'd have to move in on him sooner rather than later.
He was not expecting the sound of a single car pulling up to the door. Even less was he expecting the sight of Bodie ambling innocently in the front entrance, seemingly astonished to be greeted with a gun in his face.
"Where have you been?" demanded Trevor, as he reached into the front of Bodie's jacket and took his pistol.
Bodie was pinned between two of Trevor's larger thugs. Doyle remembered having been introduced to them as Karl and Josef. Bobby was behind Doyle with another gun, which made entirely too many armed men versus himself and Bodie. He wondered what had happened to the raid. Evidently Cowley had a different plan in mind.
"Saw my bird," said Bodie.
Trevor turned to Bobby. "Dial the last number he called from here, and put it on speaker."
Bobby walked over to the phone, and dialled with one thick brown finger.
They all heard the sleepily irritated female voice crackle over the speaker. "Yes? Hello? Will, you bastard! I told you it's over!"
Bobby disconnected the line.
"Your bird?" asked Trevor.
"She was," said Bodie, and he looked so tragic Doyle immediately began to worry he'd crack up laughing and ruin everything. "I told her I wouldn't be seeing her for a little while. I really thought she'd wait."
Trevor turned away with a half-laugh, tossing Bodie's pistol into the air and catching it by the barrel. Before Doyle had time to react, Trevor backhanded Bodie across his face with the gun, knocking him to his knees.
Doyle lunged forward, only to be stopped by a thick brown arm across his throat. His shout of outrage became a throttled gasp.
Bobby leaned close to his ear. "If you care for your mate, don't say a word." His voice was a harsh whisper.
Doyle, struggling to draw in air and seeing grey static move in from the periphery of his vision, nodded frantically.
Bobby's arm dropped down to his chest, and his hand patted Doyle's shoulder. Doyle considered feeding him his fingers, and then quickly discarded the idea. Bobby could be right. If Trevor only wanted to make an example of Bodie, then interfering could potentially lead to both their deaths.
Bodie was on his knees on the tiled floor of the hallway, both hands covering his face. Blood dripped between his fingers, bright red against the stone tiles.
Trevor stepped forward and grabbed Bodie's hair, pulling his head back. "You're going to have a pair of shiners to match your mate. But I think a hard man like you needs a stronger lesson."
Bodie glared sullenly at him. "I only wanted to see my girl." He spat blood onto the floor by Trevor's shoes, and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "I wasn't gone more than twenty minutes..."
Trevor straightened. "Jane, my love."
Bodie's head snapped up, alarm written clearly in his expression.
Doyle felt Bobby's hand tighten across his chest. "Don't move," the deep voice whispered in his ear. "They'll hurt him worse if you interfere."
Bodie bolted to his feet, trying to escape, but Karl and Josef had their arms locked through his. They slammed him up against the wall and held him there, next to the sixteenth century painting of a woman taking her bath, attended by maids.
Irrelevantly, Doyle wondered why he had noticed that last detail. This was not the time to suddenly discover that some of his art education had stuck after all.
Jane stepped forward. She was a small brown-haired woman, ordinary enough in appearance, dressed conservatively in a turtleneck, her jeans tucked into high leather boots. With her whip tucked under her arm, she almost looked like a posh young lady, ready to spend the day riding.
Her head canted to one side, and her hands on her hips, she examined Bodie. "Lose the shirt," she said.
Karl and Josef each grabbed one half of Bodie's shirt and gave it a practiced yank, shredding it right up the middle and pulling it off over his head. This was clearly not the first time they'd done this. If anything, they looked bored.
Jane's whip was short and made of braided black leather. She dragged the tip lightly down Bodie's spine. Bodie remained silent, his face hidden from view, but Doyle saw the broad muscles of his shoulders tighten.
"How permanent a lesson do you want?" asked Jane.
"Not permanent at all. A gentle lesson this time, my love," said Trevor, smiling. "He'll need to be able to work today."
"But it's such a beautiful back," said Jane. "Like an unmarked canvas." Her whip traced a sinuous line down to Bodie's belt. Then, without warning, her wrist snapped and the leather cracked, biting into his back. The welt appeared instantly, red against white, and Bodie gasped, audibly.
"It's the anticipation," she explained, as the whip trailed gently across his shoulders, lightly touching the skin of Bodie's neck.
The whip cracked again, another welt appearing beside the first, perfectly parallel.
This time when the whip lightly stroked Bodie's back, Doyle saw him shudder convulsively.
Crack. A third stripe. And a fourth. Bodie was silent when she hit him, but when she traced the rising welts with the tip of her whip, Doyle heard him groan.
"Pain is easy to take," she said. "Anticipation is hard."
Doyle realized that he was shaking his head in silent denial of what he was seeing. He forced himself to stop. Tearing his eyes away from Bodie, he looked at Trevor instead.
He wished he hadn't. Trevor's lips were parted and he was breathing heavily as he watched Jane ply her trade. Doyle tasted bile. As soon as this was over, he was going to get Bodie away. To hell with Cowley, and his plans. Bodie had been right. They'd collected more than enough evidence to put Trevor away. There was no reason...
Crack. And again. And one more time after that. Nine red stripes across Bodie's back, from his shoulders down to his hips and Trevor's arousal was blatantly visible, straining at the fabric of his trousers.
Jane stepped back and looked at Trevor. "I have to change direction now. It'll look very pretty, but wherever the lines cross he's going to bleed."
"That's enough then," said Trevor. He clapped his hands. "All right, everyone, show's over! I want you all ready to leave in an hour."
Wrapping his arm around Jane's waist, Trevor turned away, clearly no longer interested in Bodie. "Now, as for you my love, I can think of several other things you can do for me in the meantime..."
Karl and Josef released Bodie, letting him drop heavily to his knees.
"Tough," commented Karl, casually.
"Not bad," agreed Josef. "The last one pissed himself."
Bobby silently handed Doyle his weapon back, and left.
Bodie had one hand covering his face, while the other was braced against the wall. He was blindly trying to push himself to his feet. Doyle caught his elbow and immediately had to block a blow as Bodie reacted defensively.
"It's me, mate! You're a bloody mess..."
Bodie blinked at him and then his bruised, blood-smeared face stretched into a parody of a smile. "Not so bloody as all that..."
"Here," said Doyle, struggling to contain his outrage. "Let's get you out of here." And then I can work out how I'm going to kill Trevor, he thought.
Bodie stiffened. "Not going anywhere, unless you mean upstairs."
"For God's sake!"
"Still got a job to do, remember?" Bodie's expression was granite. His jaw clenched, and though Doyle heard a sharp intake of air as he climbed to his feet, he made no other sound.
Heavy footsteps alerted Doyle to the approach of another person. He looked over and scowled at Bobby. "Bugger off."
Bodie snarled in agreement.
Bobby's broad forehead creased with distress. "I just wanted to give you this." He shoved a half-empty tube of ointment at Doyle. "Take it. It's good."
"Daft sod," said Doyle as he watched Bobby leave.
"I can't decide..." Bodie used one hand to steady himself against the wall. "...if he's thick as a brick, or a fucking genius." He waited a moment and then pushed himself off, walking stiffly toward the end of the hall.
Doyle wondered what Bodie meant, since all he'd seen of Bobby would have led him to conclude the man was a moron. He decided it wasn't important, and moved forward to help Bodie with the stairs.
"Great timing, mate," he commented, as lightly as he could.
"I ran into Father, you know." Bodie's knuckles were turning white on the railing.
"Yeah, he said have a nice flight."
So that's Cowley's plan, thought Doyle, dismayed. "Christ."
"You're off the case. The Feds are taking it over."
"What? They can't do that," Starsky yelped. He looked from his captain to the nondescript man standing behind his captain's desk. A man who was now looking more and more like a weasel in a suit with every passing minute.
"Of course I can do that!" Dobey jabbed his thumb down at the nameplate on his desk. "See this sign? It says Captain Dobey. Captain! That means I can do whatever I want with you two jokers, including assigning you both to traffic detail for the next sex... I mean six weeks."
"That's not fair!"
"We deserve some answers," said Hutch, much too calmly. "At least give us that."
Starsky recognized the dangerous tone in Hutch's voice, and drew consolation from the fact that he wasn't the only one furious at this turn of events. Hutch was slouched in the chair in front of Dobey's desk, looking at the Federal Agent from under knotted eyebrows.
The man in the gray suit stepped forward. "James Turner was supposed to deliver the money he had collected while working as a checker at the adult theaters on your strip to a courier. Instead he tried to steal the cash."
Starsky eyed him distrustfully. The Fed had his hands spread, and was doing his best to look harmless. In Starsky's view, however, he was all but sprouting weasel whiskers and a tail. "So whoever was supposed to get the money tracked Jamie down and fed him to Jaws. How is the murder of one fatally stupid kid a Federal matter?"
The man sighed. "Because we have reason to believe the money is going out of the country, and being used to fund the importation of drugs back into America. Specifically cocaine."
"Out of the country," said Hutch, thoughtfully. "To South America?"
South America was certainly where most of the drugs had lately been imported from, thought Starsky, but the Fed had been talking about money, not drugs. "Wait, remember that British guy?"
The man's lips thinned. "Suffice it to say, we have bigger concerns than one dead checker, and we don't need you getting in the way."
Starsky thought fast. "Yeah? Well, what if I said I've got an inside connection?"
He could feel everyone in the room staring at him. Even Hutch had a startled expression on his face. "Jamie wasn't just a checker," said Starsky. "He was gonna be the star of the Director's next big porno." Okay, that was exaggerating a bit. Lois hadn't said anything Jamie being a star. But, Starsky was on a roll and he wasn't going to quit now. "And now Jamie's shark bait. Which means the Director's looking for a new star."
"Starsk...," said Hutch, warningly.
Starsky hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and gave them all his most confident grin. "And I happen to believe I might be able to fill that bill."
Hutch covered his face with both hands and groaned.
Dobey slapped his palms down on his desk with a bang that made Starsky jump. "I didn't authorize an undercover operation!"
Starsky tried to backpedal, hopefully far enough to avoid the fallout of Dobey's wrath. "Well, it was kind of a spur of the moment thing..."
Hutch dragged his hands down his face and folded them together under his chin, his elbows propped on the arms of the chair. "I doubt there'll be much going on under the covers..."
"You can get inside the operation?" asked the Fed, a hint of something like eagerness in his voice. Starsky wondered if he'd actually seen his nose twitch, or if he'd just imagined it. Weasel.
"I've been offered an introduction to the Director," said Starsky.
The man clucked under his breath, thoughtfully.
"No!" snapped Dobey. "Starsky, you're out of line. I'm not having my officers getting involved in making pornography. I don't care if you think you're undercover!"
"But Hutch did that tape for the blackmail sting," protested Starsky. "Remember? He slept with that girl and let her tape him doing it."
Hutch abruptly straightened in his chair. "Thank you so much for bringing that up!"
Starsky, realizing that he was about to lose Hutch's support as well, said, "Hey, you were great. There's a reason they play that tape at every precinct Christmas party."
Hutch didn't seem to take the compliment in the spirit it was intended. "Oh, God," he said, sinking back down into his chair and closing his eyes.
The Fed stepped forward and held out his hand to Starsky. "I should have introduced myself earlier. I'm Federal Agent Max Keller. My team here is made up of two married men and a woman. None of them want to go under in this case. If you're willing to work closely with us, then I could agree to using you as an undercover operative for the duration of this investigation."
Starsky shook his hand. Even weasels could be good guys, sometimes. He grinned triumphantly at Dobey. "We'd get to stay on the case!"
"I don't like it," rumbled Dobey.
"I'm his partner," said Hutch. "If Starsky stays on this case, so do I."
"I don't like it," said Dobey, again.
There was silence in the room. Starsky held his breath. Dobey's decision would make or break this investigation.
"But I also don't like murders going unsolved, or drugs coming into my city," continued Dobey.
Starsky glanced at Hutch, and together they turned to stare at Dobey, expectantly.
"Okay," snapped Dobey. "Okay!"
"I'm going to need to brief you on the case," said Agent Keller. "How much do you know about the porn industry in this town?"
"Hutch worked Vice," offered Starsky, remembering the "Pussy Patrol" t-shirt he'd had commissioned. Hutch's then-wife hadn't been impressed.
"Just for a year," said Hutch.
"Create your cover identities." Keller handed them a business card. "I'll see you at the Bay Towers Hotel, room 28, tonight at nine."
Bodie shifted in his seat and leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. Under different circumstances he knew he'd be impressed. Here he was in a private plane, of the sort that had a lounge in the front half and a soddin' bedroom in the back. The bathroom had gold fixtures. Karl, Josef and Bobby were having a good enough time, helping themselves to the contents of the bar and chatting amicably among themselves.
But Bodie's shirt was sticking to the oily salve Doyle had smeared on his back, and every time he moved, it pulled. His nose was throbbing dully and he'd lost peripheral vision in his right eye. And all he could hear from the bedroom were gasps and grunts as Trevor shagged the stewardesses. Who weren't real stewardesses, anyway, just more of his airhead birds decked out in tiny skirts.
There was something fundamentally unfair about a universe that rewarded mean bastards like Trevor with money -- inherited from rich parents who'd had the good taste to die young. And big houses. Also inherited from the aforementioned dead parents. And fancy cars. Purchased himself, because Trevor would never drive an old car. And all the brainless blonde birds a man could ever want.
It wasn't even as if he was good looking. He was just a short stout sod with thinning ginger hair.
When Bodie had first gone undercover as Trevor's personal bodyguard, he'd relished living the good life vicariously. With no real threats to Trevor's life in the offing, he'd been able to enjoy the expensive clothes, the fine food and the parties. But it had worn thin quickly.
There was the first time Trevor had held a gun to a bird's head while he fucked her, and Bodie had wondered if he was going to have to blow his cover to save her coked-up little arse. There was also the first time he'd come across a guest getting sick in the bathroom, asked if he could help, and was greeted with a demand to cop a hit of heroin, but quick!
"Why do you do this to yourself?" he'd asked one pretty young girl.
She'd been humming a song to herself, leaning against him as she watched the sun set over the river that wound through the back of Trevor's property. She stopped and tilted her head back to smile at him. "Because I'm beautiful and everyone loves me. Because I can be anyone I want, do anything I want, go anywhere I want, and someone else will pay for it. Because I can dance with a drink in my hand."
And then, a week later, Trevor had her beaten in front of thirty-five drunken bastards for his own personal amusement.
Bodie sighed and shifted his weight from one elbow to the other, glancing over at Doyle.
"You can peel your nose off the window, mate," said Bodie. "There's nothing to see." The pilot had them cruising above a layer of cumulous clouds, just miles of great puffy white piles with an impossibly blue sky above.
Doyle looked away from the window, leaned back in his seat and stretched his long legs out in front of him. His sunglasses were tucked neatly into his breast pocket. Up here, he had no more need to cover his bruises than Bodie did.
Bodie eyed him enviously. He'd like to be able to lean back, but it would be murder on his back.
"What's that magazine?" asked Doyle, nodding at the one in Bodie's hand.
"Mayfair," said Bodie. "You already read all the articles, and you told me the birds were boring."
"Plucked and painted within an inch of their lives," said Doyle. "I like some authenticity, right?" His eyes flicked to the back of the plane as one of the girls with Trevor shrieked, no doubt faking her orgasm.
Bodie inclined his head fractionally toward the bedroom. "What about you? Are you a member of the mile high club?"
Doyle looked thoughtful. "Had a stewardess once. But she wasn't flying at the time."
"Don't think it counts then."
They fell silent as the door to the bedroom opened, and Trevor emerged with a girl hanging off either arm. He helped himself to a drink, and then came over and sat down across from them. "You two look positively stiff. Relax! If I'm not safe cruising at this altitude, where am I safe?"
He seemed to have forgotten about the events of the morning, and was now all jolly good humour and generosity. Bodie had already pocketed one American hundred dollar bill, which Trevor had told him to use to replace that shirt.
As if it had been destroyed accidentally, somehow.
Bodie glanced over at the window. "A rocket launcher--"
Doyle kicked him, warningly.
Trevor didn't seem to notice. He had pulled one of the mini-skirted birds onto his lap and was licking the side of her neck, making her giggle. "You've got to try this one. She's fucking fantastic. What's that you were saying, darling? Before, I mean."
The girl smiled. "I said you can fly me."
"Fly me, hah!" Trevor laughed, expansively. "Great slogan. God, I love Americans." He grabbed the girl around her waist and stood her up in front of him. "Here, love, why don't you pick one of those two and give 'im a ride? I'd like to see it from the ground, if you know what I mean."
Bodie shot Doyle a quick glance, only to find Doyle looking just as alarmed as he felt.
"Oh," said the girl. She slipped her index finger into her mouth and sucked on it thoughtfully as she regarded them both. Then she smiled and leaned down to kiss Bodie on his cheek. "I like this one. He looks dangerous."
No, thought Bodie. No fucking way. "I don't like being watched," he said, flatly.
Trevor stopped smiling. "I think for what I pay you, you can like whatever I tell you to like."
I'm going to die, thought Bodie, fatalistically. I'm going to die because there's no conceivable way I could ever get it up with that fat little toad staring at me. Maybe I can kill him first, before Karl or Josef realize what's going on.
The girl draped herself over Bodie's shoulders, causing him to grit his teeth as her weight came down on his abused back. She ran her fingers down the inside of his thighs, and he thought he'd never felt anything less erotic in his life.
Bodie grabbed her arm in a firm grip, eliciting a squeak of alarm. "I said, no!"
Trevor's expression darkened.
But before he could speak, Doyle stood up.
"Come here, love." Doyle took the girl from Bodie and sat back down, settling her in his lap. "Don't mind him. He's just shy."
Placated for the moment, Trevor leaned back in his chair and took a sip of his drink.
The tension in aircraft eased noticeably. There was a quiet series of snaps as safeties were once more engaged, hands dropped away from pistols, and Karl and the others resumed their conversation. Bodie realized belatedly that they had all been on high alert while he was facing off against Trevor. Watching him. Maybe they weren't as stupid as they looked.
"I think he bruised my arm," complained the girl in Doyle's lap. She looked excessively young, with a fine blonde fringe cut straight across her forehead. Her lips were full, red, and pouting.
Doyle captured her arm and looked at it seriously. Then he kissed it. "Better?"
She laughed. "Much! Would you like to see what I can do?"
Doyle was working his way up her shoulder with his lips, pushing her short sleeve up to bare more skin. "What would that be?"
She slid off his lap and pushed his knees open. "You'll like this," she said as she knelt between his legs.
Bodie decided to get himself a drink. He didn't feel like sitting next to Doyle while he got a blowjob. But as soon as he started to push himself to his feet, Trevor shook his head. "You don't want to miss this," he said. "Once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I've seen-," started Bodie.
"You've never seen this," said Trevor.
Bodie sat down. Despite his misgivings, his curiosity was piqued. What did this girl have going for her that made her blowjobs so much more special than anyone else's?
Even Doyle seemed intrigued. He was more than half hard by the time she'd worked his zip down. He glanced up and met Bodie's gaze with an embarrassed look in his eyes.
Bodie looked away, uncomfortably. If he could have had his way, he'd grab both Doyle and the girl, toss them into the bedroom and lock the door. When he looked back, the girl was taking Doyle into her red mouth, her eyes closed.
Just a blowjob, he thought. But the girl's head kept going lower. And lower. She began breathing noisily through her nose and Bodie realized what Trevor had meant. She was taking Doyle right down into her throat. Just like in that movie.
Doyle's eyes were very wide and his expression was far more astonished than aroused. Saliva was beginning to leak from the corners of the girl's mouth and she was making an incredible amount of noise. Bodie glanced up and found Karl, Josef and Bobby all craning their necks to see. He tried scowling at them, but they ignored him, grinning and elbowing each other.
And then Bodie looked down and saw that Trevor had undone his own zip and was pumping himself enthusiastically with his fat fist.
Bodie had just discovered his own personal definition of hell. Trapped in a jet with Doyle getting deep throated on the one side, and Trevor tossing himself off on the other, and an audience of slavering morons thrown in for good measure.
It was the longest flight of Bodie's life.
Trevor came first, casually using the hand towel that Bobby gave him to clean up. Doyle took quite a bit longer. Bodie suspected he must be feeling some performance anxiety. Though, from the look on his face after his eyes closed and his hips began to move, he was having a pretty good time. Doyle's orgasm, when it finally arrived, was most definitely not faked.
All things considered, however, Bodie was relieved it wasn't him getting drooled on.
An hour later, Trevor had once more disappeared into the bedroom with the girls, evidently having done his charity bit for the flight. Doyle was back to staring out the window. He didn't seem inclined to talk after his experience with the blonde bird, and everyone else had gone back to ignoring the two of them.
The silence began to wear heavily. "And the amber waves of grain," quoted Bodie, catching a glimpse of patchwork fields below when the plane banked.
Doyle shrugged without taking his eyes from the window. "My first time abroad, and already I'm bored to tears."
"Cabin service not to your taste?" asked Bodie. Then he thought that Doyle might not want to be reminded of that just yet. "Travel really isn't all it's cracked up to be. But the good news is that we're closer than we were five hours ago."
This time Doyle actually looked at him. "Cracked up? Practising your Americanisms, are you?"
"Could do my John Wayne impression." Bodie immediately dropped his voice to a Western drawl. "All them thar cow-pokes will mistake me for one of they own." He was acting the fool, he knew it. But he had his reward in Doyle's laugh.
"That's dreadful," said Doyle, grinning. "They'll mistake you for a lunatic, is what."
Satisfied, Bodie started to lean back in his seat. His back immediately reminded him of why that was a bad idea. He decided to get himself another drink instead. "I must be a lunatic," he said, as he got up.
Bodie collected two bottles of beer, and turned. "Stopped in New York for refuelling, and never once stepped out to take in the sights. No Times Square. No Statue of Liberty." He heard a rumble of agreement from Bobby, who had his nose buried in a dirty magazine.
"Where are we now?" asked Doyle.
"I'm not sure, exactly. Middle America. If we headed South we'd hit the Mississippi River, and Memphis, Tennessee." Bodie sat back down with Doyle and handed him a beer.
"Thinking of dropping in on Elvis?"
Bodie tried his impersonation of the King. "Uh-huh, uh-huh."
Doyle shook his head, pityingly.
"C'mon, Hutch. There's no downside to this. Me and a bevy of beauties, keeping America safe from drugs..." To Hutch, it sounded as if Starsky was trying to convince himself that he could make this undercover operation work.
Hutch looked dubiously at the entrance to the Aphrodite Club. Black silhouette cut outs of dancing girls decorated the marquee of the old theater building, and a neon sign trumpeted 'Live! Girls!' "What if the Director decides a Jewish guy from New York isn't what he's looking for?"
Starsky had been paying attention during Federal Agent Keller's briefing. "Well, given that before the Director was a big shot, he was Teddy Stanke from Pensacola, I think he might have some sympathy. And anyway, I'm not going to be myself, am I?"
"Oh, right." Hutch grimaced. "You're who, again? Studly Hungwell?"
"Funny." Starsky jabbed Hutch in the chest with his forefinger. "You do realize that if my audition falls through, you're going to have to step up to the plate."
"Oh, no." Hutch shook his head. "No, no, no."
"Why not? It's not like you're some kind of blushing virgin."
"Starsky, that's not the point. You're not just doing the girl. You're doing her in front of a crowd of people with cameras running. Everyone's going to be staring at you!"
Starsky's eyes went unfocused, no doubt seeing visions of naked girls dancing in his head. "Yeah... Kind of a turn on, isn't it?"
Hutch glanced down, observed the material evidence of Starsky's current state of mind, and sighed. Then he reached over and pinched Starsky's thigh. Hard. "No, it's not. Because I'm not an exhibitionist."
"Ow!" Starsky gave him a wounded look, and rubbed his leg. "I'm not an exhibitionist!"
Hutch felt no guilt. He'd successfully distracted Starsky's mind -- and other parts south -- from the girls for the moment.
"Well, not like that, anyway," clarified Starsky. "You make it sound so dirty, when really it's just that I don't have a bunch of hang-ups about my body like you do."
Hutch decided he'd had enough of this conversation. "Fine, hot shot. Let's go and see if the Director will buy that manly body of yours." He opened the car door and got out, letting Starsky scramble to catch up as he crossed the street.
The Aphrodite club was busier than they'd expected. Starsky and Hutch stopped just inside the door, briefly dazzled by the lights and noise. A girl in a fringed leather jacket bumped into Hutch's back. He tried to move out of her way and ended up knocking Starsky into an alarmingly large tattooed man. Apologies were proffered hastily and Hutch grabbed Starsky and looked for a safer spot to stand.
Shoved into a corner, they stopped and simply stared. There was a circular stage in the center of the room, and smaller stages in each of the corners. The music was excessively loud and Hutch could feel the heavy throbbing beat right down in the soles of his shoes.
"What's that?" shouted Starsky, gesturing at the center stage.
"I think that's supposed to be Annie Oakley," Hutch shouted back.
"Sure, but is the person playing her a guy or a girl?" The burlesque performer was doing a slow striptease, making good use of both cowboy hat and gun.
"We'll find out when that gun belt comes off, won't we?" Hutch sincerely hoped 'Annie' wasn't actually putting the barrel of that weapon where it appeared to be going. Maybe it was a water pistol?
"Oh, hey! I know you guys."
Hutch jumped, startled by the voice behind him. He turned and found himself looking down into a familiar face. "Lois! You said you would connect us with the Director."
Her expression brightened. "Both of you?" Lois was wearing a costume that appeared to consist primarily of the shredded remains of a beaded curtain. And for some reason, it made her look more naked than ever.
"Uh, no. Actually, just him."
Starsky seemed to have gone catatonic, so Hutch grabbed his arm and dragged him forward.
"Aw, too bad. Both of you would be kinda neat. You know, dark and blond, together on one girl. Sexy."
"That's, uh..." Hutch stumbled over his words for a moment. The naked lust in Lois' eyes was disturbing. "N-not our thing."
"Well, you're in luck," said Lois. "The Director's here, and he's going out of his mind because he hasn't got enough barbarians for the shoot tomorrow."
Hutch heard Starsky ask, "Barbarians?" But he didn't hear Lois's answer, if she gave him one. She had Starsky by the hand and was dragging him across the room, toward a booth near the main stage. Hutch followed in their wake, trying to remain inconspicuous.
There were three men at the table, one of whom was shouting into a mobile phone, of the kind Hutch had seen once or twice in Starsky's car magazines. The cutting edge of telephone technology. He slammed the handset down just as Lois arrived at the table with Starsky in tow.
"I want to introduce you to..." She turned to Starsky. "Hey, I never got your name!"
"Harvey," said Starsky.
"See?" she announced. "I've found a new actor for you. His name's Harvey. Do I get my finder's fee?"
The Director was a thin man with a long narrow face. He examined Starsky critically. "Only if he works out, darling, you know the rule."
Lois pouted. "But just look how cute he is!"
"Hi," said Starsky.
"Cute are a dime a dozen," said the Director to Lois. "The question is, can he perform?"
"I had the lead role in my high school play, four years running," offered Starsky.
Hutch winced. They'd planned a more convincing background, but it sounded as if Starsky had forgotten and was falling back on his real life experience instead.
"See, there was this one time the girl who was supposed to play Camille couldn't make it, and neither could her understudy, so I..."
Oh yeah, Starsky was definitely drawing from his own life. He was rattled.
And the Director was looking bored. This was not good.
Lois slapped Starsky's chest with the palm of her hand. "No, silly! That's not what he means. C'mon, let's show him what you can do."
"What?" said Starsky.
Lois turned and leaned over onto the stage, her beaded skirt flying up to reveal tiny silver underpants beneath. "Sissy! Hey, Sissy!"
Sissy -- definitely revealed as a girl now, though a lean and rangy sort -- was finishing up her cowboy act with a demonstration of rope tricks. She paused and gave Lois an inquiring look.
"We want you to rope this dude," said Lois. "He thinks he's Grade A."
There was a scattering of whistles from the spectators around the stage, and a few shouts of 'go for it!'
"What?" said Starsky, again.
"Go on," said Lois, urgently. "Get up on stage. You want to be a star, you've got to show the Director your stuff. Don't worry, Sissy will take care of everything."
Hutch thought this might be the moment when Starsky would call the whole deal off. He knew that's what he'd do if he were in Starsky's shoes.
Instead, Starsky hesitantly climbed up onto the edge of the stage. He rocked nervously on the balls of his feet.
Sissy smiled and beckoned him forward with one finger.
Starsky took one slow step forward, and then another. Without warning, Sissy whipped the rope over her head and threw a perfect loop over him. As it fell down to his knees, she yanked it sharply.
Starsky landed on his rear with a thud and Sissy pounced onto him. She straddled him and pumped her fist in the air to the cheers of the spectators. Then she leaned down and whispered something into Starsky's ear. Starsky began to grin.
Hutch felt a presence at his side, and looked down to see Lois standing next to him. "The Director just had to let a guy go, because he was having problems with his penis," she said, conversationally. "So if your friend works out, he'll be really happy."
"Problems with his, um...?"
"Yeah," said Lois. "He just couldn't get it to stay up. I must've used up a whole tube of lipstick trying to fluff him up for the camera. I mean, he was real good-looking, but... you know what I think?"
Sissy had turned herself around and was unbuttoning Starsky's jeans. Suddenly Starsky drew his knees up and rolled her over beneath him, kicking the rope off his feet. Sissy gave Starsky a quick nod and Hutch realized they were acting out some sort of prearranged plan.
"Hey!" said Lois.
"Oh, uh..." Hutch tried to remember what she'd been saying. "What do you think?"
Now Starsky was tying Sissy's feet to her hands, as if she was a calf. Everyone in the room was now staring at the stage, whooping loudly.
Hutch could feel himself shriveling up at the mere of thought of being on stage in Starsky's place. But Starsky... God, Starsky looked like he was in his element, playing to the crowd.
"Well," said Lois. "What you've got to realize is that this guy's big claim to fame was that he did double penetration."
"He did what?" Hutch dragged his attention away from the stage and focused on Lois with a frown. She couldn't have just said what he thought she'd said.
"Double penetration," explained Lois, patiently. "You know one guy up the girl's pussy, and the other up her ass. It's not as much fun as it looks. It's sweaty and nasty, and most guys have a hard time keeping it up when their penis is rubbing against another guy's penis."
Starsky's penis, on the other hand, was currently in Sissy's face. She was kneeling in front of him, still wrapped up in her own rope, and talking quickly. Starsky nodded, then took her head in one hand, and guided himself into her mouth.
Hutch felt like his own balls might be taking up permanent residence in his abdomen. His libido had been so thoroughly traumatized, it was never going to come back out to play again.
The crowd was chanting, "Do her! Do her!" And -- Good God, thought Hutch -- Starsky was thrusting in time with their shouts.
"But what was I supposed to say?" asked Lois, undisturbed. "Baby, you need to just accept yourself and get a job doing gay porn?"
Hutch made a vague sound of agreement, still watching Starsky. From the look of intense concentration on his face, Hutch assumed he must be right on the edge. He glanced over at the Director and found him leaning forward with an expression of approval.
The noise of the crowd changed to a roar, followed by applause. Hutch turned around just in time to see Starsky pull back and finish right in Sissy's face. The music cut out for a moment, and the ambient noise shifted to conversation and laughter.
Starsky tucked himself back into his jeans and then knelt to help Sissy out of her ropes. Hutch heard him ask, "How was I?"
"You got it in my eye, you goof!" But Sissy was laughing. She stood and kissed him on the cheek. "You were fine, really. You showed them the money shot, and that's what counts." As she hopped off the stage, she made an A-OK sign with her thumb and forefinger at the Director.
Starsky slid off the stage looking abashed now that the attention was off of him. The Director pulled out a notebook ledger, and wrote something inside. Then he looked up. "Name?"
"Uh... Harvey Wallbanger," said Starsky.
The Director gave him an impatient glare. "Your real name. And I'll need to see some ID."
"Dave Steinberg," said Starsky. Reaching into his pocket he produced the fake ID Agent Kelly had given him. "Am I going to be in a movie? How much do I get paid?"
"You'll get a hundred dollars a day, paid in cash after the film's in the can." Sharp eyes examined Starsky, from his navy blazer down to his sneakers. "We can work out an advance if you need money for food or rent."
"A hundred dollars a day! And an advance?" Starsky's eyes were very round. He looked over at Hutch, questioningly.
Hutch shook his head. Taking the Director's money, even in support of an undercover role, wouldn't be smart.
"Nah," said Starsky, regretfully. "I'm a little short, sure. But I've got a buddy looking out for me."
"Your choice," said the Director, clearly not interested in explanations. "We'll be shooting at 1475 Beachside. Tomorrow, 7 a.m. Don't be late." Digging into his pocket he came up with a small vial of white powder. He flipped it to Lois, who caught it. "There you go, your finder's fee."
"Gee, thanks!" Lois left without a backward look at either Starsky or Hutch.
For a moment, Hutch entertained the thought of walking up to the Director and busting his ass right here in front of everyone.
Starsky grabbed his arm. "I know what you're thinking," he said.
"It'd be worth it," said Hutch, wistfully imagining frog-marching the Director out of the building in cuffs.
"No, it wouldn't," said Starsky, shepherding him towards the exit. "And you know it."
Hutch did know it. One vial of coke wouldn't get the Director even a day of jail time, and the Federal case would be blown to hell. "But it's a sweet fantasy, isn't it?"
"Oh, yeah," said Starsky, and the hunger in his voice was far more intense than any emotion he'd shown on stage.
Inside the car, the silence was almost palpable when contrasted with the noise and lights of the club. Instead of driving away immediately, Starsky leaned back in his seat and ran his fingers through his hair with a tired groan.
"Well, you did it," said Hutch.
"Oh jeez, Hutch," said Starsky, with sudden dismay. "I'm a porn star. If my mom finds out, she'll kill me!"
It was dark by the time Trevor's plane taxied into Bay City International Airport.
Doyle watched Trevor slip a thick wad of American dollars to a man in uniform, no doubt so that the fellow would overlook the minor issue of their guns. And then it was simply a matter of waiting for the bags to be loaded and the limousine to arrive.
Outside the airport, Doyle stood back from the others, next to Bodie. He looked around with keen interest, smelling salt in the air and taking in the unfamiliar shapes of the potted palm trees lined up opposite the loading lane. Bay City seemed excessively green to his eyes. Fern-like plants sprouted from every corner.
The night was hot and humid, and there was something unsettling about the way the vehicles were all travelling on the opposite side of the road. It felt as if he'd stepped into a mirror universe. Even the buses looked different. Longer and squarer, somehow.
"So how does it feel to be a member of the mile high club?" asked Bodie, quietly.
Doyle grimaced. "I've been contemplating taking a vow of celibacy when we get back home."
"Isn't that a bit drastic? You seemed to enjoy yourself."
"The bird was lovely, but when His Lordship whipped out his dumpy little cock and started wanking..." Doyle shuddered. If he could choose one memory to wipe from his mind, that would be the one.
Still, it wasn't all bad, because here he was in America. Not that he'd be playing the tourist. And he certainly wasn't going to make a berk of himself by getting excited about it in front of Bodie, who'd travelled just about everywhere...
Bodie nudged his shoulder. "Exciting, isn't it?"
"Yeah," said Doyle, grinning despite himself.
1475 Beachside turned out to be a large warehouse, as anonymous as any along that strip of road. A small paper sign tacked up by the door identified it as the home of 'BabeView Productions'.
Starsky had imagined something like the amateur soft core set-ups he'd occasionally stumbled across during busts. A Super-8 camera or two. A few lights. Girls in costume, and everyone tripping over each other, crammed into the basement of someone's home.
This was entirely different. In fact, what it resembled more than anything was a Hollywood soundstage. There were dollies and rolling ladders and boom mikes. Scaffolding against the walls. At one end of the warehouse, workmen were piling boulders on top of each other and sticking branches in among them. A generator hummed nearby as electricians worked to untangle a twisted nest of wires and lighting arrays. Two plaster Greek columns leaned against the wall, next to a facade of a full-scale Greek temple.
Well, perhaps three-quarter scale, Starsky amended silently. He'd never seen a Greek temple in person, so he had no idea how big they actually were. He did, however, have a suspicion that the temple columns were not usually statues of naked chicks with big boobs.
But if they were, he wanted a plane ticket to Greece ASAP.
At the other end of the warehouse there were racks of clothes lined up, chairs, and a long mirror at which girls in bathrobes were having their make-up done. There was one girl, sitting in an old dentist's chair, with her knees spread... Starsky blinked and looked again. She appeared to be getting her pubic hair trimmed and styled.
He nudged Hutch. "Will you look at--."
"What are you doing here?"
Starsky jumped and turned to find an older woman glaring at the two of them, a clipboard tucked under her arm.
"Uh, I'm Harvey, I mean Dave Steinberg, and this is a friend of mine," said Starsky, quickly. "I was told to be here..."
"You're on the list. He's not. We don't need any more performers," said the woman, sternly. "And even if I was inclined to arrange an audition for him..."
Hutch paled. "No, no. I-I'm, I'm not... I mean, I can't!"
Starsky grabbed Hutch's arm. They had to play this right, because it was going to look very suspicious if Hutch had to provide backup from a car parked across the street. "He doesn't want to act, he's got stage fright. It's just, he's my best friend...
"Oh!" interrupted a familiar female voice. "Oh, you mean he's your friend? Well, that explains a lot!"
Starsky turned to see Sissy standing in the door with her hands on her hips. She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, her hair pulled back into a casual pony tail and she had a gym bag over her shoulder.
"I thought you were just nervous last night, but if you really prefer boys..." Sissy examined Hutch for a moment, and then gave an appreciative whistle. "I totally get the attraction. He's hot!"
"Wait a minute! You said I was really good," protested Starsky.
"Oh, sure, sweetie, but a girl knows when a guy's mind is somewhere else. Don't deny it. You wouldn't be the first actor who's mostly gay." Sissy patted his cheek, reassuringly.
"Can you be mostly gay?" asked Hutch, curiously.
Sissy laughed. "Sure, you can. I mean, I mostly prefer girls myself. I fuck guys for money, and I fuck girls for fun." She threaded her arm through Hutch's elbow, and leaned in close to his ear. "To be perfectly honest, I'm glad you're gay. It simplifies things. 'Cause there's nothing sadder than having some stud think he's in love with you, just because you did a couple of scenes with him."
The woman with the clipboard scowled ferociously. "Director ain't gonna like it."
"Let's see," said Sissy. Unconcerned, she released Hutch and strolled over to a door a few feet away. After a cursory knock, she opened it and said, "Hey! Harvey here's got a friend. He wants to hang on set, make sure it's all on the up and up."
There was a moment's silence, and then the Director appeared and looked at Hutch. "He ain't fuckin' the talent!"
Sissy sighed dramatically. "No, I said he's a friend. Like, special, you know? Like Albert's friend."
The Director tapped a cigarette out of the pack in his hand. "Yeah, I remember seeing him last night. Not jealous, is he?" He examined Hutch suspiciously.
Hutch shook his head. "No, I'm not the jealous type at all."
Starsky looked at Hutch's wide-eyed, please-believe-me expression and felt a bubble of hysterical laughter begin to well up inside. He bit his lip hard, and tried to think of very serious things. Like the fact that the Director could easily have both him and Hutch fed to the sharks if he ever found out they were cops.
"Can he do anything? I don't need another useless boyfriend, manager, pimp, or whatever disrupting the shooting." The Director lit his cigarette, and waited for an answer.
"I don't suppose you're artistic," asked the woman with the clipboard. She sounded as if she didn't expect much from Hutch.
"Uh, I paint," offered Hutch.
"No," said Sissy. "She means, can you do hair? Make-up? Costumes? Anything like that? Anna's been doing the costumes, but she could use some help."
"Yeah," agreed the older woman. "We always need more help there."
Starsky decided this was definitely the right time to jump in. "He's great at costumes! He even sews." Which might be a bit of an exaggeration, as the only thing Starsky had ever seen Hutch sew were buttons. But that still counted as sewing, surely.
"I do?" asked Hutch, giving him a startled glance. Then he seemed to realize that everyone was waiting expectantly for his answer. "I mean, yeah, I do!"
Sissy turned back to the Director with a triumphant grin. "There you go. We got another costume designer!"
"Oh boy," said Hutch, apprehensively.
The Director shrugged. "Fine," he said. "Come into my office. I'll take down your information. Don't expect me to pay you as much as I pay him. Actors get more than the day help. And I hope you remembered to bring ID." He didn't wait for an answer, turning and disappearing back into his office without a backward glance.
"See you later," said Starsky.
Hutch gave him a wan smile, and trudged over to the Director's office.
Sissy punched Starsky lightly on the shoulder. "I'm glad that's all sorted out. Now, I've got to go and get dressed. Rosa here will look after you. Go get 'em, tiger. Break a leg, and knock 'em dead." She grabbed her gym bag and trotted quickly over toward the make up area. Several of the girls greeted her cheerfully.
Starsky found himself alone, except for Rosa who was looking at him with a narrow-lipped expression of disapproval. It was alarmingly close to the look he'd imagine his mother would be giving him if she was here right now, and he shifted uncomfortably. "Uh, do I get a script?"
"Script? You are new at this, aren't you?" Rosa snorted and started across the room. Starsky followed her. "Listen up. The film is Gonad the Barbarian. You're one of the barbarian horde. You and your pals come across a tribe of lesbian Amazons, and you first beat them all in battle, and then you introduce them to the wonders of sex with a real red-blooded man, thereby converting each and every one of them to heterosexuality."
"I'm really a barbarian?" Starsky thought that sounded pretty good. Especially if he got to carry a sword.
"You're..." Rosa checked her clipboard. "Barbarian Number Six. And lucky you, it looks like you actually get a couple of lines, and a name. Crogar. Don't worry, we'll tell you what to say when it's time."
"CroGAR! Now getcher cute little ass over to the costume rack and let your buddy fix you up with a loin cloth. We start filming in an hour."
Precisely an hour later, somehow chaos had turned into order. The Director was in his chair, coaching girls through their lines. Spray bottles and tubs of Vaseline were lined up just outside of camera range, and Starsky was waiting to invade with several other 'barbarians'.
And the star of the movie. Gonad the Barbarian. Starsky tried not to stare. He'd gone through life happily aware that he was a little larger than average, and he'd had a girl once tell him that his penis was "pretty". He supposed that meant nicely shaped.
"Gonad" made him feel inadequate. And he couldn't even hate him for it. The guy was a big, good-natured kid of about twenty. While the other guys were pumping themselves up, with a little help from someone who called herself a "fluff girl", Gonad already had his loincloth tented out almost a foot.
And when he caught Starsky staring, Gonad gave him an engaging smile and said, "It's the cameras. Soon as I hear them rolling, I just get hard. Dunno what it is."
Starsky looked down at his own sadly cowed penis and tried to think sexy thoughts. C'mon, little buddy, you can do it. And then he thought, oh hell, you really are little, aren't you?
The fluff girl stopped in front of him and propped her hands on her hips. "Oh, for goodness sake! Didn't I just do you?" She dropped to her knees and reached under his loincloth.
"Eep!" Starsky tried to step back, but she had her fingers behind his balls. "Really, I'm good. Look, it's already coming up!" One good jolt of adrenaline was all it took to get his hard-on back, and for the first time in his life Starsky was grateful for that particular panic reaction. It was embarrassing as hell in the gym, but he couldn't have asked for anything better here.
She dropped back onto her heels. "Well, make sure you keep it up. We're not having five barbarians with hard-ons, and one who's floppy, running out there to conquer the Amazons."
Gonad leaned over and said, "Pinch yourself just at the base. See like I'm doing? That keeps the blood all trapped, so you won't go soft again."
"Thanks!" Starsky pinched himself grimly. He was relieved to discover that the technique actually worked. And after a moment he began to relax.
Hutch was nearby making some final adjustments to several of the costumes. Still holding himself, Starsky glanced over his shoulder.
"Don't you think you could have cut this a bit longer?" Starsky used his free hand to tug at the scrap of leather covering his groin. He felt ridiculously naked. He'd been plucked and shaved within an inch of his life. They'd taken all the hair off his shoulders and back, and even most of the hair on his stomach. At least they'd let him keep his chest hair, and he'd flatly refused to let them anywhere near his groin with the scissors. He'd reluctantly trimmed down there himself, uncomfortably reminded of the last time he'd had to cut his pubic hair, when he'd got chewing gum stuck in it.
"Do you want to look like you're wearing a loin cloth, or a diaper?" snapped Hutch, sounding harried.
"Excuse me, Ken?" interrupted Lois. "I don't think this shows off my breasts to their best advantage."
She was wearing a white sheet, cut into squares and knotted at the shoulder. A plastic sword belt held the entire assemblage together at her waist.
Without missing a beat, Hutch reached out and seized the front of her outfit with both hands. One sharp tug and the sheet ripped right down the front and fell open, exposing her breasts. "Hang on!" he said, before she could protest. Grabbing a role of double sided tape, he ripped two pieces off. Taking great care, he stuck one on each of her nipples, and then he pressed the sides of her costume to the tape. "There!"
Lois looked down at herself. She gave a tentative bounce, and then grinned when her costume stayed in place. "Hey, this is great!" She ran off, happily.
"Buddy, I think you've got a future in this business," said Starsky, scratching his denuded left shoulder.
Hutch shook his head. "I'm just glad none of this actually requires sewing."
Then the guy with the horn blew it really loud, and that was the signal for the invasion. Starsky grabbed his plastic ax and ran.
The first impression Bodie had when he stepped out of the front door of the hotel was of a solid wall of heat. For a brief moment he was transported back to another country, on a darker continent. But the roar of traffic was reassuringly modern, and the words of the people passing by, while strongly accented, were still English.
He stepped aside and waited for Trevor, continuing to scan the street. The impression he got was of a new city, crumbling only a little around the edges. The downtown buildings were all modern, canyons of brick and steel towers. On the drive in from the airport he'd seen a little of the outlying suburbs, and had a vague impression of large homes with flat roofs, done up in white and assorted pastel colours.
There were many more black faces around than he was used to seeing, though mostly on the hotel's staff, rather than as guests.
Doyle joined him.
"What's the delay?" asked Bodie. He shifted his weight, feeling the fabric of his shirt rub against the still-sensitive skin of his back. The heat was oppressive.
"He's chatting up the maid," said Doyle.
Bodie nodded wisely. "I remember her. She's got those lovely, big..." He paused. "Eyes."
"Trust you to notice her eyes," said Doyle, with disgust. A moment later, though, he grinned. "They are very nice, though."
The rotating door turned and Karl and Josef joined them outside.
"What heat!" commented Josef, squinting up at the sky.
Karl looked at Bodie and Doyle suspiciously. "You two are like twins. Where there's one, there's the other, and always ducking off to talk where no one else can hear."
Bodie felt a stab of alarm, but he was careful to show nothing but contempt for the implied accusation. "No more than you and your mate there. I've heard the rumours about you two lovebirds."
Josef laughed mockingly. He hit Karl on the shoulder. "Hear that, mate? They think they've sussed us out!"
Karl scowled, and crossed his arms.
Doyle's expression matched Karl's. "I know him," he said, indicating Bodie. "I don't know either of you."
"Fair enough," said Karl. "But maybe you want to try being a little friendlier, and a lot less exclusive. Some rumours are worse than others."
Bodie was glad for his sunglasses, and not because the day was bright. Karl was right, and it was entirely his own fault. When he'd first started on Trevor's staff he'd been impersonally friendly with everyone, not forming any close attachments but not alienating anyone either. By the time Doyle had shown up he'd been so lonely, and so bloody glad to see a friendly face, that he'd attached himself to him without reservation or caution.
No wonder Karl was suspicious.
The problem, Bodie realized, was that he had no idea how to fix the situation. "Be yourself" just didn't cover it. He took a cautious sideways look at Doyle, but he was staring straight ahead, his expression unreadable.
Fuck, thought Bodie.
Just like on a real movie set, lunch was provided for the actors and crew. A long table was set up and there were ham, tuna, or egg salad sandwiches to choose from, as well as several different kinds of cold deli salads, pickles and cheeses.
Starsky sat near the back wall with his paper plate, far enough out of the way that he could talk to Hutch without being overheard.
In any case, anyone who saw them whispering together would assume they were getting all romantic with each other. Which under different circumstances might bother Starsky a bit, but definitely not here.
"You know what gets to me the most, Hutch?" Starsky stuffed half a sandwich into his mouth and chewed it ferociously. "It's how damned un-erotic this job is. It's putting me right off sex."
Hutch looked over to where the Director was in his chair, reshooting a girl-on-girl scene. "He takes his job pretty seriously."
Starsky agreed. The one thing he'd discovered over the course of the last few hours was that the Director was obsessive about getting everything just right. Not that he was mean or unreasonable. The girls all seemed very fond of him, which Starsky supposed he could understand. After all, he paid them well and fed them lunch, and gave them a fair bit of latitude when it came to what they would or wouldn't do for the camera. And he paid them extra cash, on the spot, for stuff like anal sex.
However... "That's not what I'm talking about. The girls don't seem to mind what they're doing, but it feels like, I dunno. Like they'd be just as happy, or happier, playing Parcheesi." Starsky chewed dispiritedly on a carrot stick. "Except who gets paid a hundred dollars a day to play Parcheesi?"
"It's a job, Starsk," said Hutch. "If you spent every day working in a chocolate factory, after awhile I imagine you wouldn't think chocolate tasted all that great."
"It just seems a shame to do that to something like sex," said Starsky. He put his plate on the floor and folded his arms over his knees. "And making these movies - it's really hard work for those girls! You know, at least a hooker only has one client at a time, and no one expects her to have sex for eight hours straight."
The Director had stopped the cameras again and was instructing the girls to arrange themselves in a different position on the temple steps. They were both red-faced and sweaty, looking completely exhausted. The fluff girl ran up and squirted their pubic hair with the squirt bottle, to make them look more aroused, and then they were at it again. It was about as sexy as a gynecological exam.
"Anna, from Costumes, is getting paid in blow," said Hutch, casually.
Hutch nodded. "While you were playing Fuck the Barbarian, I was getting the lowdown from the crew. About a third of them are paid in blow. It's their choice. They can use it themselves, resell it, or both."
"Where the hell is he getting--," started Starsky.
He was interrupted by a shout from the Director. "I need Barbarian number six! Where is he?"
"Here!" Starsky bounced up, knocking his paper plate onto the floor.
Hutch reached over and patted Starsky's leg. "I'll keep asking questions. We'll talk later."
Crogar, AKA Barbarian number six, had evidently come upon the Amazons making love to each other. He seized one, tied her up, tossed her over his shoulder and ran off into the hills with her. The hills being a pile of rocks and sand twelve feet to the right of the temple.
The Director kept up a running monologue throughout the scene, alternately instructing and chastising.
"Okay, you've got the girl over your lap and you're hitting her with the flat -- the flat! -- of your sword. Careful with the edge. It's dull, but you could still do some damage and we want a chastened Amazon, not Amazon julienne. And you, Lois, wake up! I don't care how comfortable you think his lap is..."
Starsky leaned over and looked at the girl sprawled across his knees, her ankles and wrists tied. "Are you sure you're okay with this?"
She yawned expansively. "Oh, sure." Lifting her head, eyelids at half-mast, Lois explained, "I just need a pick-me-up, you know?"
"Coffee, you get coffee and that's it," bellowed the Director. "Jesus jumpin' Christ. We could all get busted just for making this film. If they find you using drugs on the set, we're all looking at jail time!"
Starsky blinked. So a bunch of the crew were getting paid in blow, but they weren't allowed to use it on the set.
A tendril of marijuana smoke wafted Starsky's way and he glanced over to see a cameraman pinch off a joint and tuck it into his pocket. Obviously the crew didn't take the Director seriously. Maybe he wasn't so scary, as long as you weren't trying to steal money from him.
"Pay attention everyone, we're already behind schedule—." The Director stopped as a girl ran up to his chair. She bent down and whispered in his ear.
"What? Here? He's supposed to be in London!"
Starsky realized that several people had entered the warehouse during the filming. In the middle of the group was a short, red-headed man who appeared to be in charge. He was smirking.
Leaving three of his men by the door, he strolled across to the Director. Starsky watched, concerned. The red-head didn't look particularly threatening, but the two thugs in dark shades and suits that he had flanking him looked like real bruisers.
He's supposed to be in London! That was what the Director had said. So, was this the mysterious Brit Huggy had mentioned?
The Director stood, looking flustered. "Trevor! It's great to see you."
"We need to talk, Teddy." Trevor ignored the Director's outstretched hand. His bodyguards scanned the crowd with cold eyes.
Yep, thought Starsky. He sure sounds British.
"Of course. My office is this way."
Trevor and the Director disappeared into the office, leaving the two goons to flank the door on either side.
Starsky quickly untied Lois. He patted her flank. "I'll be back in a minute, okay?"
"Oh, sure," she said, yawning. "I'm not going anywhere."
Starsky met Hutch over by the back wall. "We've got to get an ear in on that meeting," he whispered.
"Way ahead of you, buddy," said Hutch, calmly. "Why don't you distract the muscle, and I'll see if I can slip out. There's a window in the back alley that looks right into the office."
Starsky grinned, feeling ridiculously proud of his partner. "You did some scouting."
"The Director's compulsive about keeping records. I was thinking of taking a look at them after everyone left--." Hutch cut himself off. "Never mind. Get over there and..." He paused and looked at Starsky. "Seduce them with your hot bod."
Starsky was suddenly very aware that he was wearing nothing but a skimpy scrap of leather. And also that the erection he'd tried so hard to achieve and maintain now seemed to have become permanent.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "You're mean."
Hutch grinned widely.
As Starsky turned to go, he felt a stinging slap on his right butt cheek. "Hey!" He whipped back around to confront Hutch.
Hutch held up both hands, chuckling. "I'm in character!"
Starsky grabbed Hutch's collar. "Okay, buddy, listen to this. I may be selling my body, but I am more than just a sexy piece of meat. This relationship is going to be built on mutual respect and consideration. Got it?"
"Was that in character?" asked Hutch, after a moment's silence.
Doyle leaned against the flimsy wall, trying to hear the argument raging inside the office. From what he could make out, Trevor was yelling at the director of the... film, if you could call it such a thing. Looked more like an orgy, with a few cameras tossed in for good measure.
At any rate, Teddy had been running things locally in a manner for which he didn't have authority. He'd been making decisions that had more to do with the money management side of things, instead of just sticking to making his films.
And then there were the records.
"You've got books?"
That last was clear enough. Trevor sounded appalled. There was an indistinct protest from Teddy.
"Give me that!" demanded Trevor. A brief pause, then, "Names, dates, amounts, good God, man!"
After that his voice dropped again and Doyle had to strain to hear anything. He caught something about a shark again, but it was still impossible to put it into context.
"See that?" said Bodie, jabbing him in the ribs.
Doyle blinked. "What?" He'd been so focused on trying to hear the argument in the office that he hadn't seen much of anything in front of him.
"The clown in the leather nappy, back there with his friend."
Doyle looked in the direction Bodie was indicating. The two men appeared to be involved in an intense discussion. "You think they're planning something?"
Bodie tapped the side of his nose, wisely. "I don't think, my son, I know!"
Doyle sniggered. "You don't think."
"Berk," said Bodie, without heat. "Look, here comes Leather Lad. Ten to one he tries to distract us while his mate slips out the back."
"Uh, hi!" Leather Lad strolled up and smiled brightly.
Doyle looked past him. Just as predicted, the blond was ducking out the back door while his friend stood there and tried to chat them up. Doyle exchanged a glance with Bodie who nodded in acknowledgement and took off in quick pursuit.
"Hey, wait!" Leather Lad turned to follow.
Doyle reached out and grabbed his shoulder, spinning him back around.
"Hold on," demanded Doyle, drawing his pistol. "Who are you?"
Leather Lad crossed his arms, clearly unimpressed. "Dave."
"And where's your friend gone?"
"For a leak," said Dave, biting off each word. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm feeling a sudden urge to do the same."
Doyle leaned back against the wall, comfortably, his weapon still trained on Dave. "No, I think we'll wait right here." He found himself rather liking the tough little sod. It took real nerve to stand as good as naked in front of an armed man.
Dave sighed expansively and settled back on his heels, his hands folded neatly in front. His stance was civilian, but Doyle had spent enough time in Bodie's company to recognize the attitude of someone on parade rest.
"Military, were you?" asked Doyle.
Dave shrugged. "I thought you Brits didn't carry guns."
"A gross exaggeration." Doyle was almost certain he saw Dave's ears twitch as the argument in the office briefly increased in volume, but the man's expression remained impassive.
The door in the back banged open, and Bodie shoved an irritated looking blond man through it. Grabbing the back of the man's neck, Bodie sat him firmly down in a folding chair before striding back across the room to Doyle.
Doyle holstered his weapon. "Well?"
Bodie held up a sadly battered joint. "Caught him smoking up in the alley. Or so he claims."
If Doyle hadn't been looking directly at Dave, he would have missed the brief flash of triumph that crossed his face. In the space of a blink there was nothing to see but innocence.
"We're not allowed to use drugs on the set," explained Dave, helpfully.
"Right," said Doyle. "Get out of here."
He watched Dave trot back to his friend, who was being consoled by a gaggle of pretty, and mostly naked, girls.
"The blond's calling himself Ken," said Bodie. "Argumentative bastard."
"They're all right," said Doyle, still watching Dave speculatively.
Bodie made a rude noise, and leaned back against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. "Didn't know you went for that type."
"We are that type," said Doyle. He didn't know who Dave and Ken were working for, but he was fairly certain it wasn't Teddy, any more than he and Bodie were working for Trevor. They had an agenda of their own.
Bodie lifted an eyebrow, and then smirked. "No, we are infinitely more handsome, suave, and deadly."
As soon as Starsky arrived, he began trying to get rid of the girls. Hutch helped by claiming that only Starsky could heal the trauma he'd experienced, after having been manhandled by that awful thug. The girls left giggling.
"There goes my reputation," said Hutch, regretfully. "You know, I've had more women offer me the sexual experience of my life today... If this goes on much longer, I might have to explore my straight side."
Hutch had found his workday very educational. He had no idea there were so many women who considered 'I'm gay' a personal challenge. Beautiful women. Beautiful naked women, in every shade of the rainbow from chocolate skinned brunettes to translucently fair blondes.
"But you're madly in love with me, remember?" Starsky sat down on the floor and hooked his arm over Hutch's leg. "That was a smart move."
"I thought I might need an excuse for being out back." Hutch tugged at the curls under his hand, grinning. From the corner of his eye he could see that the Director was back, standing over by the cameras, still trying to placate an irate Trevor.
Trevor's two thugs were right there as well, flanking their boss. Hutch rubbed the back of his neck. The asshole bodyguard had not been gentle with him.
Starsky propped his chin on Hutch's knee and looked up. "Where did you get the joint from?"
"Bummed it off Albert, there." Hutch nodded at a camera man a few yards away. "He even gave me another, since that guy took mine away."
Noticing Hutch looking his way, Albert smiled sweetly and waved.
Starsky harrumphed. "I think he likes you, Hutch. You'd better not be thinking of cheating on me."
Hutch smacked the side of Starsky's head. Then he leaned down and said into Starsky's ear, "We're going to have to watch ourselves. You saw for yourself that Trevor's heavies are packing heat and that goon who grabbed me is more than just muscle. He's had training."
In fact, the way he'd been thrown up against the wall with his wrist between his shoulder blades, Hutch was willing to bet it was some kind of military or police-type training. An untrained person might try that move, but if they'd put the same amount of force into it without a corresponding amount of control, Hutch would have found himself with a dislocated shoulder. As it was -- Hutch rotated his shoulder experimentally -- he wasn't even sore.
The goon in question was expressionlessly scanning the crowd with his partner, apparently ignoring the conversation between Trevor and the Director. The other three men were leaning against the door, smoking and leering at the actresses. They looked more like the run-of-the-mill muscle Hutch would have expected a man like Trevor to hire.
"Oh, you sweet talkin' devil, you," said Starsky. He reached up and grabbed Hutch's head, pulling his ear down within whispering range. "Yeah, and they're no dummies. The other one pegged me as ex-army."
The Director's voice interrupted them. "If you two lovebirds are quite done, we've got a movie to make! Chop, chop!"
Hutch started to straighten up, only to feel Starsky's arm tighten around his neck. Before he could react, Starsky firmly kissed his nose.
"No more flirting with the cameramen," said Starsky as he released him. "You belong to me, and don't forget it."
Hutch was still trying to catch his breath when a pretty brunette leaned over his shoulder and said, "Maybe you just haven't met the right girl yet?" One full breast, the nipple pink and pert, brushed against his cheek.
It occurred to Hutch that he might have to kill his partner.
Doyle had decided Teddy was a compulsive idiot, keeping detailed paper records on all his illegal dealings.
On the other hand, if he and Bodie could get their hands on some of those records they might be able to put an end to this ridiculous tour. What he'd seen of Bay City was interesting -- very colourful in a pastel, drug-delirium kind of way -- but Doyle wanted to get his feet back on the comfortingly sensible shores of England.
"What happened to her ropes?" demanded Teddy. "The Amazon is supposed to be bound in this scene!"
Dave, appearing nonchalant about the erection tenting his leather nappy, trotted over to where a girl lay curled up against a plaster boulder. She was fast asleep, snoring lightly.
"Hey, wake up," said Dave, patting her cheek.
Doyle heard an impatient snort behind him, and Trevor stepped forward into the lights.
"Hey," Teddy started to protest.
Trevor made a slicing gesture with his hand, and Teddy immediately fell silent. It was obvious who had the power.
Doyle exchanged a glance with Bodie as Trevor headed for the girl, who was now rubbing her eyes and smiling sleepily.
Together, they moved up on either side of Dave, and snagged him by the elbows, pulling him back.
He looked at them, confusion and alarm on his face.
"If you know what's good for you, keep your mouth shut," said Bodie, quietly.
There was a grim expression in Bodie's eyes, which Doyle suspected was echoed in his own. He patted Dave's cheek. "We like you."
"We'd like to see you live," said Bodie, grinning humourlessly. He leaned in close to Dave's ear and whispered, "Copper."
Dave went rigid, his eyes wide.
Doyle had to suppress a grin. It wasn't at all nice of Bodie to terrorize Dave, but it certainly was an effective way to keep him quiet. And from Dave's reaction, maybe he actually was an undercover cop. Doyle had been thinking more along the lines of private investigator, judging Dave and his partner too clean cut to be working for Teddy's competition. But Bodie's instincts were usually good, however unlikely it seemed that any department would put its officers undercover in a dirty film.
More proof that Bay City was a bizarre town.
Regardless, all they had to do was keep Dave and his partner from causing any trouble, and then tonight they could wrap this whole operation up neatly, and most importantly -- quietly.
Trevor dropped to one knee beside the girl and lifted her chin in his hand. "Are you tired, love?"
She nodded, blinking.
"Would you like this to be over, so you can go home?" Trevor's voice was like honey, syrupy sweet and gliding over the threat beneath his words.
"Sure..." she said, tentatively.
"Right, then!" Trevor rocked back on his heels. "Get on your hands and knees."
"Okay," said the girl. The room was silent as she complied.
Doyle relaxed fractionally. He'd been concerned for a moment at the idea of anything being 'over', but evidently Trevor only meant to shag the girl. Which was something she shouldn't object to very much, considering she was being paid to do the same with the other fellows.
Then Trevor undid his zip and reached for one of the pots of Vaseline. Doyle grimaced. He'd evidently done a decent job of blocking the memory of the flight from his mind, because he'd forgotten just how repulsive a creature Trevor was, with his paunch spilling over his groin, and the sparse, sandy hair curling underneath. Doyle glanced away, hoping the nasty little toad wouldn't take too long.
If he and Bodie could get away from the hotel tonight, they might be able to return and break into Teddy's office without anyone noticing. If the evidence was strong enough, they could arrest Trevor -- Doyle paused for a moment to appreciate the warm feeling that idea gave him -- and forcibly extradite his fat little arse back to England, where he could face trial.
And if he resisted...
Doyle was distracted from his pleasant thoughts by a shriek from the girl.
"No wait! I don't do anal!"
Trevor's fingers were digging into her hips, and he was thrusting brutally at her arse, even as she clawed the ground, trying to crawl away. The girl began to cry. "You're hurting me!"
Doyle was unprepared for the solid blow that landed in his gut. He doubled over with a pained grunt, feeling Dave twist free of his grasp.
Bodie cursed. "Bastard bit me!"
Through watering eyes, Doyle saw Dave grab the back of Trevor's shirt and haul him off the girl, throwing him to the ground. He heard shouts and pounding feet and knew Karl, Josef and Bobby were about to join the fray. Any moment now, there would be gunfire.
Dave had Trevor by the collar and was hauling him up off the ground, his fist cocked.
Daft sod's going to get himself killed, thought Doyle. Ignoring the protest from his bruised gut, he launched himself at Dave, tackling him.
They hit the ground together, on the other side of Trevor. Doyle rolled Dave onto his stomach and yanked his arm up behind his back. Dave yelped, and bucked beneath him, his toes scraping the sandy floor. Doyle secured his grip. Short of voluntarily dislocating his shoulder there was nothing Dave could do.
Glancing up, Doyle spotted Dave's partner immediately. He was at the front edge of the crowd, watching the situation tensely. To Doyle's immense relief, he didn't look like he was about to do anything rash. Copper, or private dick, there was too much at stake to risk over one bloke who thinks he's a hero.
Looking to the left, Doyle saw that Karl, Josef and Bobby all had their weapons drawn and were pointing them at Dave. And, incidentally, at himself.
Doyle was sure none of those three -- certainly not Karl or Josef -- would lose any sleep if he 'accidentally' took a bullet or two while they were protecting Trevor from the porn star.
But where was Bodie? To Doyle's surprise, he discovered that his partner had taken charge of the girl, finding a robe from somewhere and wrapping it carefully around her shoulders. He was talking to her quietly, all the while watching the situation with much the same intensity as Dave's partner.
There's something of the hero in Bodie, too, thought Doyle, bemused. Even if he's too professional to risk throwing away the entire case over one girl.
Trevor stood, brushed the sand off his knees and straightened his collar. He didn't do up his trousers, but instead stood over Doyle and Dave, looking down at the two of them. "Fancy yourself a real hero, eh?"
Doyle tightened his hold, feeling Dave's muscles bunch beneath him. One slip, and he'd explode, and get himself shot down in an instant. And they'd never be so lucky as to have a stray bullet catch Trevor as well.
Trevor strolled around them, casually. Doyle tried to ignore the erect organ bobbing at his eye level. For God's sake, he thought, irritably. Put that thing away.
Then Trevor stopped between Dave's ankles and said, "Take her place, then. Though I expect it won't be your first time, more's the pity."
Alarmed, Doyle glanced over his shoulder. What the hell?
Movement behind Trevor caught Doyle's eye. He saw Karl's mouth fall open in surprise as an arm suddenly snaked around his neck, and his Glock was smoothly grabbed out of his hand.
"Freeze! BCPD!" Dave's partner pointed the Glock at Doyle, as Karl struggled, clawing at the arm around his neck, his eyes bulging. "You're all under arrest!"
The effect on the crowd was instantaneous. Men and women both began to scream. There was an immediate crush at the warehouse doors, as people scrambled for the exits, climbing over each other in their panic to get out.
Trevor spun, drawing his own weapon and firing without hesitation. The bullet slammed into Karl's chest. His eyes opened wide in shocked surprise, and then he was down, taking the cop to the floor with him.
Trevor bolted for the other end of the warehouse, in the wake of the fleeing crowd, his gun in one hand, doing up his trousers with the other.
Doyle released Dave, who promptly rolled and bounced up swinging. Doyle ducked around him and charged after Trevor, only to feel a hand snag his collar, and yank him back.
He did not have time for this shit.
Doyle turned quickly, using his momentum to land a sidekick in Dave's stomach. Dave was utterly open, undefended, and the blow landed with satisfying effectiveness. He folded with a grunt, both arms wrapped around his midsection.
Satisfied that Dave was down, Doyle resumed his chase, only to find that Trevor had vanished. "Damn it!" He skidded to a stop, then changed direction and ran for the office instead. Much as he'd love to put a bullet in Trevor himself, it was the evidence that mattered most. Trevor was just a small part of a much larger organization.
He smelled the petrol before he was halfway across the warehouse.
He heard Trevor's voice through the open door of the office when he was just a few yards away.
"Idiot!" snapped Trevor. "If the cops get their hands on these records!"
"There's only one cop..." That was Teddy's voice.
Doyle reached the door just in time to see Trevor shove Teddy back against filing cabinet and pull his gun. "Enough! It's over!"
The weapon barked. A small black hole appeared directly between Teddy's eyes, a fraction of a second before the back of his head disintegrated into fragments of blood and bone.
"Stop," snapped Doyle, stepping into the office, his gun covering Trevor. "Drop your weapon."
The fumes hit him like a kick in the sinuses. Teddy's office had been soaked in petrol. Doyle's foot hit a red plastic can lying on its side by the door, still draining onto the floor.
"Oh, for God's sake!" Trevor threw his gun down and held his hands away from his body. "And just what are you supposed to be? Another bloody copper?"
"Worse. CI5!" Doyle stepped forward and grabbed Trevor, shoving him face down on the desk. He glanced around, looking for something with which he could secure the man.
Trevor snorted, unimpressed. "A little outside your authority, aren't you?"
Doyle saw Trevor's eyes move fractionally, tracking past his shoulder. Doyle reacted instantly, only to feel himself skid on the soaked floor. Off balance, he was struggling to bring his weapon around when he felt liquid hit his face.
There was a single frozen instant in which Doyle saw Bobby clearly, another red petrol can in his hands and a grin on his face. Then the moment shattered, and the world dissolved into blinding red pain.
Christ, my eyes!
Doyle staggered, hardly aware of his gun being pulled from his grip. He hit the ground on his knees, tears pouring down his face. Gasping, he ground the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Distantly, through the pain, he could hear Trevor say smugly, "Thank you, Bobby."
"Go ahead and light that fire, sir," said Bobby.
Doyle struggled to find his bearings in the agony that gripped him. Stupid, he raged silently. Letting him walk right up behind you, like a rank amateur... He forced his eyes open, only to find the world a blur. He blinked through his tears, trying to resolve the wavering images.
"I've always wanted to burn money," said Trevor.
A flare of yellow light caught Doyle's attention, the blurry figure resolving into Trevor. He was holding something, watching it burn. Then he dropped it. Fire flared up instantly, forcing Trevor to jump back.
Doyle flinched, feeling the heat sear his face even as the pain flared brighter, blinding him again.
"Well done," said Bobby. Doyle heard the crack of a pistol and he ducked reflexively, expecting to feel the impact of the bullet.
Instead, someone else grunted with shock and pain. Doyle lifted his head and through watering eyes he saw Trevor stumble and fall.
Almost instantly the stench of burning meat filled the room, and Trevor began to scream.
Doyle gagged, trying to scramble backward. "Bloody hell!"
"My assignment," said Bobby, "was to discover if Trevor had become a liability to the organization. I determined he had, and I executed the contract." His voice had changed from the amiably slow drawl Doyle had known earlier, to something much sharper and more precise.
"You're a fucking assassin!" Doyle found the door frame and grabbed it, pulling himself to his feet. His eyes were streaming, and he turning, trying to fix Bobby's location in the confusion of heat and pain.
"And you're CI5."
Doyle felt something collide with the back of his head, igniting a white-hot explosion behind his eyes. His knees buckled. The last thing he heard, as the world faded to black, was, "But I liked you anyway."
Starsky had seen Hutch go down, but in all the confusion he hadn't seen him get up again. "Hutch!" His elbow pressed tight against his battered midsection, Starsky spun on his heel, searching the remnants of the fleeing crowd. Several of the camera stands had been knocked down and live wires snaked across the ground, sparking. He could smell smoke.
A hand landed hard in the center of his back, shoving him forward.
Starsky heard a gunshot, followed by the too-familiar scream and whine of a ricochet. He ducked and rolled, coming back up onto his feet just in time to see the goon who had accused him of being a cop turn toward him, weapon raised.
There was no time to react. All Starsky knew was the utter certainty that he was looking his own death in the eye. Then a bullet seared past his ear, and behind him he heard a man yell.
Starsky didn't waste any time trying to figure out how the goon had missed at almost point blank range. The important thing was that he'd taken down one of his own, instead. Starsky grabbed the stricken thug's weapon before he dove for the dubious cover of the plaster boulders.
The sand skinned his knees, and he banged his elbow. His stomach and ribs were aching. He felt ridiculously exposed, and he was absolutely certain that this was not the way he wanted to die. There was no dignity, dying in a leather loincloth. He didn't even have shoes, and wasn't every cowboy supposed to die with his boots on?
Starsky braced his arms on top of the boulder. "Hold it!"
The big, scary goon was still standing in the same spot as before, but now he looked righteously indignant. "I'm on your side!"
His buddy was gurgling out his last breaths, a spreading pool of dark blood soaking the sand beneath him.
Starsky looked from one to the other dubiously.
"Look, if I wanted to kill you, I'd have done it by now," said the goon, impatiently. "I saved your bloody life!" He appeared utterly undisturbed by the dying man's agony.
Starsky might have waffled indefinitely, trying to decide who the good guys really were. But a shout from the far end of the warehouse solved his dilemma very neatly for him.
"Hutch?" yelled Starsky, relieved beyond words to hear his partner's voice. Then the sense of what Hutch was hollering sank in and he realized that he could smell a good deal more than just electrical smoke.
Noxious black clouds were billowing out of the Director's office, and the stench of gasoline hung heavy in the air.
"Bugger!" exclaimed the goon. "They're burning the evidence!" He vaulted a toppled camera stand and bolted for the office.
"Hey, wait!" As Starsky stood he stepped on something sharp. He hopped several steps, trying to keep up, and then had to stop long enough to pull a sliver of glass from his foot.
The cast and crew were nearly all gone, except for one large black man darting out the side entrance. The air was turning blue with smoke, and Starsky could feel his lungs beginning to burn as he ran.
He found Hutch just outside of the burning office, kneeling next to the other bodyguard. He had the top off one of the spray bottles and was pouring water into the man's eyes.
The goon had got there ahead of Starsky. He crouched and grabbed his stricken friend's arm. "Are you okay?"
The guard was coughing and wheezing, his hair wet and blood soaking into his collar from a head wound, but his response was crystal clear. "The papers!"
"Right!" He shoved his weapon into the guard's hand. "Hold this."
To Starsky's horror, the goon turned without hesitation and ran straight into the burning office. He slid over the top of the desk in a shower of sparks. Grabbing a drawer, he swung it over his head and threw it through the window on the opposite wall. There was a sound of shattering glass, and then the flames roared higher, gorging themselves on the influx of fresh air from the other side.
Starsky staggered back, feeling the heat like a punch in the face. The man in the office vanished from view almost instantly, engulfed in a cloud of smoke.
"Bodie, you bloody moron!"
Doyle was as close to frantic as he'd ever been in his life, but he didn't panic. There'd be time to fall apart later, when he was pulling three bodies out of the ashes, instead of two.
The fire was too intense to get through on this side, but there was a window on the opposite wall. He'd seen the alley as they drove up, which meant the shortest way around would be through the door and to the left.
To his relief, Doyle found that he didn't need to see perfectly to know where he was going. As he ran, he shrugged out of his jacket. A fire extinguisher would be invaluable, but there was no time to search for one. And his jacket could be used to smother a fire, even if the object on fire was a human body.
Doyle skidded around the corner of the building and into the alley. He was just in time to see Bodie dive out of the window, his jacket over his head and a trail of smoke following him.
Bodie somersaulted, hitting the ground first with his shoulders and then slamming into the wall opposite. He lay frighteningly still, sprawled limply.
Doyle dropped his jacket and grabbed Bodie's shoulder, turning him over onto his back. He pressed his ear to Bodie's chest, listening for any indication he was breathing. His hand was already on Bodie's neck, feeling for a pulse. Then Doyle felt him shudder, once. A moment later, Bodie began to cough. It was a deep, racking convulsion, and it was about the sweetest sound Doyle thought he'd ever heard.
His hand on Bodie's back, Doyle looked around at the loose papers, notebooks and binders littering the alley. Some were charred and others were smoking, but many more were perfectly intact.
Bodie coughed again, and this time he gagged wetly, and began to kick the ground, trying to turn himself over. Doyle rolled him onto his side, just as Bodie vomited soot-black chunks onto cement -- and onto some of the evidence, as well.
"Sorry, mate," said Bodie, miserably. But he was breathing easier now. He was black with soot, and the bit of skin Doyle could see beneath the dirt was bone-white.
Doyle grabbed him before he could land on his face in that mess, and propped him up against the wall. "I hope you didn't breathe in too much of that smoke. You'll be seeing pink elephants."
The sound Bodie made was suspiciously close to a giggle.
"My partner's gone to call for an ambulance, and a meat wagon." The blond policeman was standing in the entrance to the alley, his gun drawn. "Who the hell are you?"
"We're civil servants," said Doyle, wearily. Now that the immediate danger was past, he was beginning to feel the effect of the blow he'd taken to the back of his head.
"Watch where you point that thing," said Bodie, hoarsely. "Wouldn't want it to go off accidentally." He coughed a few more times, and then bent forward to grab a piece of paper before it could blow away. He held it up, between two fingers. "Do you think Cowley will find this useful?"
Doyle couldn't make much sense of any of it. Between his still watering eyes and his headache, the numbers on the paper were sliding around alarmingly. "Oh, very good."
"You're not cops," said Ken.
"And you're not... whatever the hell you were pretending to be," said Doyle. Nodding very carefully at Dave, who had just appeared behind his partner, he added, "And he's definitely not a porn star." He was pleased when his head didn't actually fall off.
"Hey," said Dave. "The ambulance is on the way. They'll give your pal some oxygen, and put a few stitches in your head." He turned to Ken and said urgently, "Give me your shirt."
"Just give it to me!"
"No! I'm in the middle of an interrogation here."
"They don't look like imminent flight risks, so put your gun away and take your shirt off." When his partner didn't comply immediately, Dave propped his hands on his hips and said, "Either you take it off, and give it to me, or I'm going to take it off you. You know perfectly well we've got half the squad on their way here, every last one of them hoping to see naked chicks. And what they're gonna get instead is naked me."
Ken smiled broadly. "Yeah, I know."
"You're an asshole."
Doyle could hear sirens in the distance, rapidly growing louder.
"What will you give me for my shirt?"
"Give you!" yelped Dave. "Unless you've forgotten, you owe me!"
Doyle was interested to note that all the while Ken was arguing with Dave, he never actually stopped covering them with the gun. Nor did Dave ever take his eyes off the two of them. They sounded like incompetent buffoons, but they were acting like reasonably competent policemen.
Bodie was still sorting through papers, all the while wheezing noisily, snuffling and periodically wiping his eyes with his forearm. He appeared to be having some difficulty with his hands, and Doyle wondered if he'd managed to burn them.
"I paid Huggy for that information," protested Dave.
"But you didn't pay my bar tab, which means I can't drink at the Pits until next payday. Which means, if we go out tonight, you're going to have to cover my drinks."
"I don't have any money!"
"But you do have a clean tab."
"Fine! Bastard. Your drinks tonight are on my tab. Now gimme your shirt. I'm not facing those jerks without my dignity."
"I thought it was your clothes you were missing," said Ken as he pushed the gun into his waistband and began removing his shirt.
Doyle listened with open fascination. He and Bodie had been called a double act, but these two sounded like an old married couple. He wondered how many years they'd been partnered.
As Dave tied his partner's shirt around his waist, he said, "I think we should introduce ourselves properly. I'm Starsky, and this goofball here is Hutch. We're detectives with the Bay City Police Department."
"Doyle and Bodie," said Doyle. "Our outfit is CI5."
"I've never heard of it," said Hutch. "Is it British? What are you doing here?"
"Observing," said Doyle, wryly.
"Oh, and didn't we do a good job," said Bodie, happily, if hoarsely. He produced a spiral notebook, only slightly charred in one corner.
Doyle opened it and squinted at the columns. With effort, names and dates began to form out of the confusion on the page. Shipment details. Contacts. British ports. "Cowley will want to give us nice fat bonuses for this."
"Never happen," said Bodie. "But we might get a 'well done, lads!'"
Starsky rocked back on his heels as he watched the plane taxi down the runway. "You know, Hutch, I don't think I liked those guys."
Hutch propped his hip on the railing in front of the large viewing window. "I think we barely registered on their radar."
Starsky frowned. He hadn't been able to forget that Bodie and Doyle would have stood by while that girl had been raped, just so they could maintain their covers. When he'd tried to ask Bodie about it the man had given him an unreadable look and said the girl might have taken it as a hint that she ought to find herself a safer line of work.
"They were cold, Hutch. Really cold. Still, I guess all's well that ends well."
Bodie and Doyle had been in some trouble at first, as it turned out they'd entered the country without legal passports or official authorization. But Dobey and Agent Kelly were happy with how everything had turned out.
Mr. Cowley had dressed Bodie and Doyle down over the phone, which he'd had put on speaker so he could deal with both of them at once. He said their job had been to observe, not spread death and destruction across the Atlantic.
Agent Kelly cleared his throat at that, and said, "It was irregular, certainly, but the Agency would like you to know that we appreciated having your men's help in this case, Mr. Cowley."
"Yes, thank you," said Cowley. There was a pause. Finally he said, "Bodie, Doyle, in light of the evidence you have managed to turn up... You've done an adequate job, lads."
Bodie had beamed, and even Doyle had looked pleased.
And Starsky had decided he'd never understand the British. Because if that was the praise they'd been hoping for... It must be that whole stiff upper lip thing. Starsky was grateful Dobey wasn't cut of the same cloth.
The plane was gone now, swallowed in the clouds. Starsky grinned, feeling his spirits lift. The job was done, and done well. "And the best part is, the Director never finished his film!" He bounced slightly as he began walking toward the escalator.
"What?" Starsky looked at Hutch quizzically.
"You know a certain amount of the film had to go into evidence."
"Sure, but nothing with me in it, right?"
"Right?" asked Starsky, anxiously.
"Let's just say you might want to skip this year's Precinct Christmas Party."
Bodie watched the stewardess push her cart down the centre of the aisle. "I'm hungry," he said, pathetically. Both his hands were bandaged, though otherwise he'd come out reasonably unscathed. A doctor had commented admiringly on the health of his lungs, and his overall constitution.
Doyle looked away from the window, where he had been watching clouds. "So buy yourself something." He was not inclined to feel any pity for Bodie. He'd had to have about two inches square shaved off the back of his head so they could put stitches in. His hair was going to be months growing back in and he was not happy about it.
"With the money Trevor gave you. That hundred dollar bill! I know you never got a chance to spend it." Doyle couldn't believe Bodie would try such a transparent ploy.
"Oh," said Bodie. He pulled a magazine out of the pouch in front of him. "I don't have it anymore."
"What did you do with it?" demanded Doyle.
Bodie opened the magazine, effectively disappearing from view. "Gave it to a bird."
"What? What bird?"
"The dozy one. Slipped it in the pocket of her robe."
"You..." Doyle started to laugh. Finally, conclusive proof that he'd misjudged Bodie badly. There was nothing at all callous or untrustworthy about his partner. "You're marshmallow under that hard exterior!"
Bodie ignored him.
Doyle's glee abated as a new thought occurred to him. "You know, she'll likely just drink it away." Or snort it up her nose, or shoot it up her arm.
"Yeah well..." Bodie shrugged without looking up from his magazine. "She can still dance with a drink in her hand."
It took Doyle a moment to place the lyric and match it to the singer. "Damn. Here we are, leaving America. And I never got to meet Elvis."
"And you never will," said Bodie.
"He died two days ago."
"No, look." Bodie held up the magazine. The cover was bordered in black, and there was a picture of Elvis with the dates of his birth and death on the front. "The King is dead."
"This is one bloody great cosmic joke, isn't it?"
"Here, you read it." Bodie passed the magazine over, and stood up. "I'm going to go chat up that stewardess. Maybe she'll decide to feed me."
A week later, Starsky was still trying hard to look on the bright side of things. "Well, at least the film wasn't ever distributed. It's safe in the evidence locker. And the other guys will understand. They'll stop teasing me, eventually. A cop's gotta do what a cop's gotta do, right?"
Hutch nodded encouragingly. "Right!" He climbed out of the car and waited for Starsky to join him.
The missing reel should have turned up by now. But since it hadn't, Hutch was fairly confident that it was gone for good. Starsky would never need to know.
It hadn't really been his fault. He'd only taken the film out in order to find the perfect segment to show at the Christmas party. And then, of course, he'd had to run it by a couple of the precinct's female officers, in order to ensure that he'd picked just the right one.
And anyway, it was high time he got his own back, after having been forced to listen to multiple renditions of himself doing his "oh, baby" routine in the blackmail case. Hutch was looking forward to having Starsky be the holiday entertainment for a change. Turnabout was fair play.
They were a few steps from the entrance to the Pits when a jeep filled with young men slowed down. "Hey, Cro-gar! Whooo!" The driver hit the gas and they sped off, howling with laughter.
Starsky spun around to stare after them. "What did they say?"
"Uh... crowbar," said Hutch, crossing his fingers behind his back. "Must be some kind of new college slang."
"Hutch," said Starsky. "The film just went into Evidence, right?"
Hutch picked up his pace, pretending not to hear.
"It didn't go anywhere else, did it?"
Maybe Huggy would protect him.
Because Huggy wouldn't want blood spilled in his bar, surely.
-- THE END --