Chapter 20

Nothing is forgotten or forgiven,
When it's your last time around,
I got stuff running around 'round my head
That I just can't live down
      Something in the Night—Bruce Springsteen

      When Starsky woke up the next day, he lay awake for a few quiet minutes before rising. There was something different about the day, but he couldn't say what it was. For days now, he'd been anticipating something that never came, yet his apprehension didn't fade. Today, he felt like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Waiting for a confrontation that could be fatal, either to his soul, or to his body.

      Then again, maybe it was his imagination.

      He wondered, during breakfast, if Hutch felt it, too, but didn't ask. They weren't talking much these days, or at least Starsky wasn't. He couldn't find the words anymore. Maybe because he couldn't find the sense of anything anymore. His whole purpose in life had been wrapped around being a cop, and now that was over. He'd accepted the fact that whatever happened, the chances of them going back to active police work were thin. He'd accepted that, but he hadn't really adjusted to it. If he wasn't a cop, then what was he? Who was he?

      He tried not to think about that much. Whenever his mind got on that track, he just found himself sinking lower and lower into depression. There were no answers for that yet. Maybe there would never be.

      He and Hutch went through the paces, just like they had been doing. Shower, breakfast, then touch base with their friends. Tomas was slowly improving. He'd gone through half the photos from Metro, but no positive ID yet. Baylor and Meredith had nothing new for them. Higgins was stuck at the station on light duty, manning the radios. Starsky thought that was funny, that they'd put a guy on the radios that nobody wanted to talk to. Dobey, Huggy, K.R., nobody had anything new for them. Starsky felt no surprise, no new disappointment. He really expected nothing different.

      Early in the afternoon, he and Hutch went to the Green Parrot to practice with the demonstrators. It was hard for Starsky to do that, since pretending to be a bad-ass cop was more painful than he could've ever imagined it would be. Accepting the fact that pretending to be a cop was as close as he might ever get to the role again was the hardest part. And as enthusiastic as Hutch was about this passive resistance stuff, Starsky just didn't get it. Why would anyone willingly sit their butts down and wait for some crooked cops to come beat on them? How could anyone just roll into a ball and take it, and not fight back? Especially when the people volunteering to do that had only minimal involvement in their issue. Some of them weren't even gay! It was the most alien notion Starsky had ever come across.

      Yet, he admired the demonstrators. They still believed in something. They were willing to put their own bodies on the line for that belief, in the hopes that their personal sacrifice might improve the world for others. He was humbled before their strong conviction. He could remember feeling like that once. When he was a cop. When he was willing to die to help others, to sacrifice himself for his partner.

      He glanced at Hutch. Today Hutch was a demonstrator, sitting hip to hip with the others. He'd crossed his arms and clasped the wrists of the demonstrators on either side of himself. They were singing some Christian hymn and swaying back and forth. It reminded Starsky of some kind of bizarre campground. All they needed was a bonfire and some hot dogs.

      Hutch would look beautiful highlighted by a midnight bonfire, all gold and bronze.

      Tsuka was walking through the crowd, reminding them what to do when the police came—how to curl up to protect their heads and faces and groins, how to make themselves dead weight to make it harder for the police to forcibly remove them, how to hang on to each other to prolong the removal. And she continually reminded them of how to keep their attention focused on their higher objective. How not to lose their patience. How not to get angry or fight back. She was so little, Starsky thought, yet her mind was like a clear, running stream, clean and full of purpose. He admired her strength, but knew his own mind was too full of anger and turmoil to be trustworthy.

      Yet, he went through the exercise and did as he was instructed. He couldn't let these people down. If they were willing to risk everything for him, the least he owed them was a little effort.

      Starsky was surprised when Sugar approached him after the class. He was in his "regular guy" outfit, but the twinkle in his eye was pure Sugar.

      "Hey, big boy," Sugar breathed, doing Mae West. It was an uncanny interpretation even without the benefit of wigs, clothes, and props. "How's about comin' back to my kitchen and seein' what I got? The chef's put together a juicy big one, red and beefy, just for you. Hutch's busy right now. What he don't know won't hurt him!"

      Starsky smiled tiredly. It made his face hurt. "Thanks, Sugar, but I don't act right when I've been eatin' beef. Like the Incredible Hulk says, 'You wouldn't like me when I'm angry . . . .'"

      Sugar dropped the artifice and looked disappointed. "Starsky, honey, you're making Sugar worry, and that gives her wrinkles. You don't want me to have wrinkles, do you? You're not eating, baby. Don't think Mama Sugar hasn't noticed. Come on, choke down a burger for me. I'm scared to death you'll lose some of that prime padding in the rear we all love so much."

      He couldn't maintain the smile, so dropped it. "Thanks, but I can't. I had a good breakfast, and I'll probably eat something light later on. But I couldn't handle anything heavy like that right now. It's nice of you to worry, though."

      Sugar put a hand on his arm. "Starsky. Look. I give you a hard time and all, but . . . I feel like I'm watching you fade away right in front of me. Your old spark has gone, and it's been replaced with something . . . scary."

      Maybe that was why no one told him jokes anymore or tried to pinch his butt. He hadn't gotten a good proposition since the shooting.

      "Something's gone wrong between you and your partner," Sugar continued, "and it's tearing you both up. I just wish I could do something to make it right again. I mean that."

      He patted Sugar's shoulder. "Don't worry about us. Me and Hutch, we've been up against lots of bad times. We always get through them." He hoped she wouldn't see through the words he didn't believe himself. He walked away before her mournful look got to him any worse.

      The day went on, hour by hour, as uneventful as Starsky could hope for. He did his job as well as ever, but part of him wasn't even there. He was pleased to see more people in the bar tonight. Everyone was beginning to relax as the days went on and nothing occurred. Some of the regulars who'd stayed away in fear started drifting back in, and the place seemed livelier than it had since the night of the shooting. He took some comfort in that. If Sugar lost the bar due to them, Starsky thought it would be more than he could handle. It amused him that he had come to a point in his life where a gay bar had become his refuge from the world. A world that despised him because he had dared to feel desire for the person he loved most.

      He knew he was letting it work on him too much when the deejay responsible for playing dance music in the bar suddenly put on "Take Me Back" from Bonnie Tyler's latest album. He found himself in the booth without remembering how he got there. He ripped the needle off the album, making a screech resound through the speakers. Without looking, he knew that everyone in the bar had stopped dancing and had turned toward the booth.

      He leaned threateningly over the slender, young deejay, and growled, "I don't give a damn what you play, but under no circumstances will you ever play anything from this album again. Do you understand me?"

      The deejay went white and eased back as far away from Starsky as he could get. "Yes, sir." he stammered. "Whatever you say. Never again from this album. Yes, sir!"

      "Thank you," Starsky said politely and stormed out. As he exited, he spotted Hutch looking at him sadly. But when their eyes met, Hutch turned away to serve another customer, and Starsky left to do his rounds.

      K.R. trudged up her stairs, feeling tired in body and spirit. Nothing was working out right. She'd spent hours, a few days ago, pouring over that printout to have it end up as wasted time. She had followed thin leads and questioned so many people, she was dizzy. Huggy had pulled so many markers in to try to learn anything, he was working in the red, and all for nothing. It was like they had both moved to another part of the world where they couldn't speak the language, yet needed to have precise depositions completed on deadline.

      She was beginning to feel like a failure, that she might actually make things worse for these guys. She hated considering a settlement and knew she'd never get them back on the force if she did, but her lawyer's mind was telling her it was the logical thing to do. Good thing she hardly ever listened to her lawyer's mind.

      She opened the door tiredly and smiled as Buddy charged up to greet her. At least there was one comforting bit of stability in her life. She leaned down to stroke him hello when a familiar voice greeted her from the living room.

      "'Bout time you're home," Joey said to her. "I was getting worried."

      "Have you been here long?" she asked as she came into the living room and deposited her heavy briefcase.

      He took the briefcase from her and moved it out of the way. Then he leaned over and gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek and a hug. "A few hours. Managed to reorganize those files you had spread out all over. Sorted the mail. Your due bills are in the front. Re-filed all the stuff in the outbox stack."

      "Boy, you've been busy!" She grinned. "That really takes a load off my mind, Joey. I haven't had time to deal with that stuff lately."

      "I know," he said, helping her off with her jacket. "You've been working harder than usual. Did you eat? Want me to make you something?"

      "No, hon, thanks. Huggy fed me before I got home." Mushroom stroganoff. If he kept this up, she wouldn't be able to get up her stairs. "What about you? I've got a ton of leftovers . . . ."

      "No, I'm fine. I'll probably go over to the Parrot and eat something later."

      She wandered into her bedroom to change, but kept talking to him through the door. "I've got something for you to deliver to Sugar if you wouldn't mind." That would save her a trip. She wasn't avoiding David or Ken, but it didn't bother her not to have to see them, either.

      "Sure," he said. "I've got to pass the dry cleaners on the way. Isn't it time you sent some things out? I could drop them off."

      "You are a doll!" She stripped off her blouse and donned a clean tee shirt. After slipping her skirt off, she peeled off her panty hose and traded them for jeans. "I've got a ton of stuff that needs to go out. Let me get it together."

      "Sure. I'll put on some tea for us."

      "Great." Buddy was rolling around the worn blouse she'd just dropped on the bed and purring like crazy. She rubbed the cat's belly and chided him. "Yeah, I know you miss Huggy and his mystical catnip. He'll be here in a day or so. You look forward to his visits more than I do, you traitor!" She turned back to her closet and started yanking out suits that needed cleaning, and emptying the pockets. The third one she grabbed made her clutch for a moment. It was the suit she'd worn the night she was shot at.

      Just thinking about that moment still gave her pause. She sighed, trying to work past the memory, and looked at the suit critically in the light. Amazingly, it wasn't torn anywhere, just dirty. The blouse had been damaged enough that she'd had to throw it out, but except for a loose button, the suit came through just fine. Too bad. She would've loved to have an excuse to trash it, but her thriftiness wouldn't let her waste a relatively new, costly business suit just for nerves. Well, maybe when it came back from the dry cleaners, its aura would've changed and she could view it differently.

      She checked the inside jacket pocket, then the two outside ones, finding odd bits of paper with her typical tiny scrawl on it, reminding her of the millions of things she could not forget to do. She pulled out a larger note and opened it, making sure it wasn't something important.

      She started when she realized what it was. Joey's note about feeding the cat . . . that night when David— She closed her eyes as a shock of sensation traveled up her spine. Rubbing her arms, she recalled the feel of his hands. His mouth. It was still so vivid. Of course, it is. You were so wired from the shooting, every nerve ending on edge. She shuddered and started to crumple the note, wanting to put the memories on a shelf where they wouldn't touch her when she least expected it.

      She had balled the paper in her fist and was ready to toss it in the trash, when something made her hesitate. She frowned and opened her hand. The ball of paper sat there, innocently.

      Carefully, she unwrapped it and looked at it again.

      "Filed all the reports that were on the kitchen table. Assembled a list of cross-references for the AT&T appeal. Fed the cat. Talk to you tomorrow. Joey."

      K.R. looked more closely at it. "Assembled a list . . . ." Something . . . about the letter 's'. Each one was written separate from all the others and while the rest of the note was script, the letter 's' was always a funny cursive style, looking almost like a figure eight. Very distinctive and different. Her heart started beating faster.

      She went to her underwear drawer and dug underneath her cotton panties. Pulling out the notebook that had been stolen from Josh Cantrall's office, she laid it next to the crumpled paper. There were two 's's on Cantrall's pad, a large one and a small one. The large one was all by itself, and when she had first seen it, she'd thought it had been the number eight. But Huggy had recognized the diagram as being the layout of Starsky's apartment, and that this was a capital 'S', for "Starsky." The other letter 's' was part of the word "this" which was written in script . . . except for the 's' which was separate, cursive, and looked like a small eight.

      She had to sit down on the bed. Her palms were sweating and she felt herself trembling.

      A sharp whistle sounded in the kitchen and she jumped guiltily.

      "You ready for tea, K.R.?"

      She squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn't answer him. Taking a deep breath, she collected herself emotionally. Steeling herself as if she were bracing for a difficult court battle, she took the notebook and Joey's crumpled paper and went into the kitchen.

      "I brought some real lemons," he said. His back was to her while he poured the tea. "I know how much you like fresh lemon in your Earl Grey, and they looked really good today."

      Placing the notebook from Cantrall's office on the table, and his note right beside it, she waited for him to turn around.

      "It'll need just another minute before it's ready," he said, smiling at her. When he saw her strained expression he had a moment's confusion, then glanced down to where her hands framed the evidence. It took him about fifteen seconds to recognize what he was seeing. "From the Office of Josh Cantrall" was stamped on each page of the notebook, so there was no question as to its origin.

      When he realized what it was she had, the color drained out of his face so fast she thought he was in danger of passing out. He sat heavily in the nearest chair as if he feared that, too.

      "Wh-wh-where did you get that?" he stammered, indicating the notebook.

      "That's not important." She was amazed at how clear her voice sounded, how steady. She was trembling like a leaf. "What's important is this," she pointed to the incriminating handwriting. "Joey! The man who owns this is Gunther's lawyer. What the hell are you doing involved with him? And why?"

      "N-n-n-no, I'm not, I swear! I didn't write that! It's not me!"

      "You're lying! You've been lying to me all along! How many years, Joey, have you been up here, going through my things, going through my confidential records, pretending to help me when all the time you've been working for this despicable snake?" She came around the table to corner him in his seat.

      He gripped the edges of the chair as though his world were tilting. He was pale, sweating, his voice quavering in fear. "I had to. You don't know him. What he's like. What they did to me. Kelly, you can't tell anybody. They'll kill me if they find out I talked."

      Rage gave her strength. She moved in closer, staring unblinkingly at him. "You listen to me, you miserable spy. You've not only betrayed two honest cops, two genuinely decent human beings, you've not only betrayed my friendship and trust, you've not only sold out every gay person in this city, but you've collaborated with the Devil himself. And if you think this Irishwoman is afraid to look the Devil in the eye, then you don't know me very well. Now, you've got one choice and one choice only. You're either going to sit here and tell me everything, on tape and on the record, or I'm going to call Starsky and Hutchinson and tell them to come over here. And then I'm going to leave you alone with them. Now you tell me. What's it going to be?"

      Tears fell heedlessly from his eyes, one after the other in a steady stream, as though someone had turned a faucet on and couldn't turn it off. "Kelly. I can't. And it's too late anyway. Way too late." He started to sob. "But . . . but I can at least tell you why . . . ."

      "Got a radio for me, Higgins?" Patrolman Jay Green asked.

      "Right here," Higgins said, logging the number of the unit on his form. Green handed him his dead one. "It'll be charged and ready tomorrow morning." He recorded that unit and Green's badge number, then slipped the radio into the charger.

      Green didn't thank him, but few of the men did. As Green was leaving the room, Higgins watched him fiddle with his radio. He frowned. That was the third man he saw doing that tonight. Higgins wasn't positive, but it looked as if they were moving the frequency knob. That didn't make much sense to him since all police communications were regulated to go out over very specific frequencies. There was no reason to adjust that knob. Other frequencies were available, but the department was not authorized to use them. Higgins suspected that as the frequencies got crowded, the others would be made available, but they weren't yet. Higgins looked back at the radio Green had just given him. The frequency knob was set correctly, as were all the radios in the charging units.

      It was quiet for a moment, so Higgins decided to call Dobey. He knew the captain would be in late, since he'd been keeping extremely late hours ever since the whole situation broke loose about Starsky and Hutch.

      "Captain Dobey's office," he growled.

      "Captain, this is Higgins. Have we authorized certain units to change frequencies on their radios?"

      The question must've caught Dobey off guard. "I don't think so. Why would we?"

      "I can't say, sir. I was just worried that it was on a memo I missed."

      Higgins could almost see Dobey frowning. "Well, now you've got me worried that I missed it, too. Let me get my file . . . ." There was a pause and Higgins could hear Dobey opening drawers and shuffling papers. He could also hear the groan of Dobey's over-abused chair. "I can't find anything on it, Higgins. I've glanced through all the memos from the last three months. Why are you asking?"

      "Not sure, sir. I'm new at radio detail. It just seemed to me that some of the men were changing their frequencies. I thought it was something new I hadn't heard of. I must've misinterpreted what I saw. Sorry to bother you."

      There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Okay, no problem, Higgins. It's always good to check on these things."

      They hung up. Higgins looked at the bank of charging radios and thought, Yeah, it's always good to check on these things.

      Taking a charged unit from the rack, and glancing around to be sure he was alone, he set the volume to low and put the radio beside him. He turned the frequency knob one click and listened. After ten minutes, there was nothing but dead air, so he turned the knob another click. Another ten minutes passed and nothing but silence. Well, he figured he had little enough to do on this detail, so it wasn't like he was wasting time. He turned to yet another frequency. He got distracted by some paperwork he remembered he had to complete and realized he'd been on that frequency almost twenty-five minutes without hearing a thing.

      He was just about to turn it to the last frequency setting when there was a soft crackle. Then a voice said, "Unit Fifteen is in place. Waiting further instructions. Over."

      Another voice said, "Unit Fifteen, we copy. This is Unit Four. All units now in place. Waiting final orders. Stand by. Unit Four will lead. Over."

      There was dead space then, "This is Unit Nine. We're not sure we're at the right place. What's your twenty, Unit Four?"

      After a beat, Unit Four answered. The address was a rough area on the strip known for violent busts that needed heavy backup. It was just a few blocks from the Green Parrot.

      The radios went silent again. All units in place? For what? As far as Higgins knew, there were no major stakeouts going on, no major drug busts going down, no large operations scheduled. Since the shootout at the Green Parrot, the city had been pretty quiet.

      He picked up the phone again.

      As Peter walked up to the bar, Hutch saw him coming and got his beer ready. "Evening," he said amiably, and handed him the cold brew.

      "Hey, that's service," Peter said and gave him a friendly smile. He reached into his pocket for a bill, but Hutch stopped him.

      "That one's on me," he said. "I owe you."

      Peter shook his head. "Not at all. If anyone owes anybody—"

      "Okay, let's skip the mutual gratitude routine," Hutch said, "but the beer's still on me." He paused as Peter took another sip, then said quietly, "You okay?"

      "You mean have I gotten over the crushing disappointment of not winning your heart?" Peter said jokingly. "No. But I'll live. I guess I've got a weak spot for sadder-but-wiser cops."

      "Boy," said Hutch in a kindly way, "do you need to get over that."

      Peter looked at him pointedly. "Are you okay?"

      Hutch figured it was only fair of him to ask. "If you mean have Starsky and I resolved our differences, then, no."

      Peter looked surprised. "But I thought— I mean, when you called me—"

      "Starsky and I have been together a long time. We've had our conflicts, our hard times. This is just another one. I know how I feel and who I am, and that helps a lot. But Starsky's still working it out. Nothing can get resolved between us 'til he does."

      Peter looked worried. "You think he will?"

      "I don't know. But if he doesn't, I think it'll be harder on him than it will be on me."

      The phone rang and the other bartender, Kevin, answered it. Then he called over to Hutch, "Hey, it's for you."

      Hutch picked up the extension nearest him. "Hutchinson."

      "Hutch. It's Higgins . . . ."

      Starsky stood on the landing between the Black Parrot and the Rainbow Parrot and looked over the dancers downstairs in the main bar. It was almost a normal crowd, and he was surprised. It was nothing like Ladies' Night, but still, there were more people than had been at the Parrot lately. Life goes on, he thought wryly.

      Even though he couldn't see them, he knew Sugar and the other dancers were lining up behind the curtain for the ten o'clock show and quietly going through their routine in one last rehearsal before the deejay finished the last song of the set and the curtains went up.

      Both Tsuka and her husband, Yoshi, sat at a table drinking tea. They'd been here every night since she'd started doing the civil disobedience training.

      At the bar, Hutch was serving Peter a beer and the two of them were talking. Starsky could feel a stir of jealousy, but it was a pale shadow of his previous insanity.

      Can't stand anyone getting too near Hutch, can you? You hypocrite. That ain't love, it's ownership. I was always flattered by it when women got that way about me, at least 'til it got on my nerves and I dumped 'em. I always knew it had nothing to do with real love. Like with Kira. It was all ownership and territory, which is why me and Hutch were going head-to-head about it. Kira was just the symbol.

      He suddenly had trouble remembering what she looked like, how she felt under his hands. It was something that had happened a long time ago that was only the vaguest memory now.

      As he watched Peter and Hutch interact, he felt a pang of disquiet. Peter had real feelings for Hutch, real caring. That might've worked out for his partner. God knows, women never did.

      Hutch reacted to something Kevin said to him, then reached for the phone behind him. He spoke into it for a minute, then his expression changed, and his whole body went rigid. Starsky went on alert and started down the stairs.

      Hutch put two fingers to his mouth and blasted out one short, sharp whistle. Starsky nearly stumbled. That was the signal to the demonstrators. What's happening? When? Now? It had never seemed real to him before this.

      The music stopped and the dancers came out from behind the curtain, looking apprehensive.

      Hutch leapt up onto the bar. "Get in position! If you can't participate, get out of here now! We might only have seconds—"

      The front doors burst open as he said that. Cops poured in. All of them in uniform. So they'll be harder to identify, Starsky realized. One of the cops was yelling something about a raid. Everyone was under arrest.

      Bar patrons raced up the staircase, following the planned escape route. Starsky urged them to hurry as he ran down past them. The escapees would go out through the Rainbow Parrot, up the fire escape, onto the roof, and over four buildings. They'd enter that building and wait on the top floors until someone came and gave them the signal to leave.

      The people in the two upstairs bars came pouring out like ants from a hive. Most of them would mass together side-by-side on the bottom of the stairs and jam it, passively resisting and preventing the cops from going upstairs, buying time for the others to escape.

      Hutch was directing activities. People were laying tables on their sides and curling up around them, using them for shelter and making it harder for the cops to move around.

      Starsky ran toward the front doors. He stood before the line of cops, making himself a target. It rattled him that he didn't recognize any of them.

      "What are the charges?" he demanded. "Where's the warrant? We haven't violated our license or broken any laws. This is an illegal raid!"

      The cops in front of him just laughed, and four of them grabbed him roughly and pulled him into their midst.

      "We've got all the charges we need, faggot," one said, as he swung his billy club. "Don't you know cocksucking's against the law?"

      Instinctively, Starsky raised his hands to fight back, but fought that urge as he remembered what Tsuka had taught him. Instead, he curled into a ball and dropped heavily, making himself a dead weight. He covered his head and the back of his neck with his arms and covered his groin with his legs, hugging his knees tightly to his chest. It made it difficult for the uniforms to grab hold of him, and while the billy club landed hard on his side and ass, his most sensitive parts were protected. He felt like an armadillo, being rolled around on the floor ineffectually as they tried to move him. He couldn't see anything happening around him, just glimpses of blue-clad legs and action. He could hear the tables being dragged, moved, overturned, chairs falling, people crying out as they were struck, high-pitched screams.

      Over all that, he could hear Hutch's clear tenor voice, Tsuka's thin soprano, and then Peter's rich baritone calling out instructions to the resistors. But cops kept pouring in.

      The sounds of shattering glass rent the air, as the cops smashed the new front window that had been replaced after the shooting. Starsky heard the stained glass over the bar going next, then the mirrors. Then there were individual explosions of glasses shattering on the floor. It had the eerie resonance of Kristallenacht in Germany. He suddenly felt as though he were plummeting back through time, as though hatred could alter dimensions and keep making the same events occur over and over.

      Just then, the cops mobilized a united effort against him as many hands lifted him bodily. He tightened his posture, expecting to be carried outside and tossed into a wagon. But that didn't happen. The rough hands moved him through the mass of cops, then tossed him into a corner. He landed hard, but held back any sound, not wanting them to have the satisfaction. He focused inward, found his center, and hummed his Om. He would not let them win.

      His arms were wrenched away from his body, and one was twisted high on his back. Then a hand tightened cruelly in his hair. His head was wrenched back hard, and he was forced to his knees. He squeezed his eyes shut to prevent tears from welling up from the pain.

      "You got 'im?" someone asked.

      "Yeah, we've got him," a familiar voice said.

      His heart dropped as he recognized Russo's voice. He felt like he was trapped in a vise, in an unyielding machine. He tried to move, tried to pull away, but he was completely imprisoned by a man who was more machine than human.

      "I've got you good, don't I, sweetheart?" Russo's hated voice dripped sarcasm. He opened his eyes and tried to look behind him, but could only see Russo's profile and his leering grin. He looked to the front and was stunned to find Wilson standing there. Wilson's face was dark with rage and hatred.

      Starsky blinked dully. "You're part of this?" He'd always respected the older cop, felt bad for him being stuck with Russo. He thought Wilson had been the reins on Russo, holding him back from being even more corrupt than he was. He was stunned to realize how wrong he'd been.

      "You are so stupid," Wilson said contemptuously. "I'm not part of this. I am this."

      "Thought you knew, silly faggot," Russo purred. "You always said it. Wilson's the brains of this outfit. I'm the brawn." He twisted Starsky's arm harder to emphasize his point.

      Starsky barely managed to stifle his gasp. Stars danced in front of his eyes as pain lanced through his arm, shoulder and back.

      "Wilson organized everything," Russo gloated. "He made the contact with Gunther's lawyer. He knew all the brothers who would be willing to lend their help. He orchestrated the whole thing. There isn't a cop in LA that isn't with us in spirit right now."

      "You two thought you could just laugh it off," Wilson said. His voice shook with anger. "All those years together, throwing it in the face of normal men. Real cops. You think we didn't know? Touching each other right in front of us. Miserable queers. How'd you ever get through the army? The Academy?"

      Russo yanked on Starsky's hair to make sure he had his attention. "Probably got all those medals for giving the generals the best head they ever had, right? Know what we need, Wilson? We need a demonstration. Starsky needs to show us the fine technique we saw in that film. Probably been a few hours since you had some, huh, Starsky? Feelin' hungry?"

      He froze, stunned and dizzy. He couldn't believe that all these years later he would once again find himself on his knees, tortured by bullies, just like in Brooklyn. Wilson moved close enough for Starsky to smell the detergent in his uniform. He ran a thumb over Starsky's lower lip, then gripped his chin cruelly. A surge of fear curled in his belly and he lurched to escape, but Russo was immovable.

      "That's what I like about you, Russo," Wilson said darkly. "You always get right to the point." He reached for his zipper.

      "Do it," Starsky swore, trying to ignore the quaver in his voice, "and I'll bite it off."

      Wilson smiled and it was a frightening sight. "You ever give head with a broken jaw? It's a lot more unpleasant, trust me." He showed him the billy club to emphasize his point.

      Around them raged a noisy war. People were being hauled out of the bar. Screams of anger rang through the air. A dozen voices were singing, some were chanting against police brutality. It was a scene out of Hell.

      But Starsky's own private Hell was about to get a lot worse.

      As Wilson reached for his zipper with one hand, he dug a thick thumb into the flesh where Starsky's jaw hinged, forcing his mouth open. The blood was pounding in Starsky's ears, and instinctively he called Hutch. It just made him look weaker to these bastards.

      "You wanna pretend he's Hutch, honey," Russo murmured, "you go right ahead. It'll just encourage you to do a better job."

      Starsky thought he should close his eyes, that it would be worse if he didn't, but he couldn't make himself look away. You were right, Hutch. It's nothing but rape, and it's gonna happen to me right here within yards of you, and there's nothing I can do to stop it.

      Wilson had exposed his short, ugly dick, and the smell of sour musk hit Starsky hard, nauseating him. Fine. Let's see how well you like being puked on, you fucker.

      Suddenly, there was a roar, as if a wild animal had been unleashed, something big, like a tiger. That sound wasn't human, and it cut through all the other chaotic noises. Wilson and Russo turned, startled by its rage. And as they did, Hutch landed on Wilson in a full body tackle and bore him to the ground.

      Starsky's eyes widened. He'd seen Hutch in a million fights, and seen him mad as hell besides. But he'd never seen him like this. His long hair was flying as his fists pounded Wilson senseless. He kept roaring in fury as he beat Wilson into unconsciousness.

      Even Russo was impressed. He started backpedaling like crazy, dragging Starsky with him across the floor. Russo was yelling for help, sounding near panicked.

      Hutch bolted off Wilson's senseless body and launched himself at them, shouting, "LET HIM GO NOW!"

      A sea of blue descended on Hutch just as he drew back to punch Russo in the face. Five cops landed on Hutch's back, his arms, but anger gave him strength. Starsky watched in stunned amazement as Hutch was nearly buried under the mass of men, only to rise up, yelling Starsky's name, and throwing the cops off. But it only lasted a minute, as others joined the fray and subdued Hutch under their sheer numbers.

      A couple of other cops grabbed hold of Starsky, keeping him contained, but one of them snapped, "This wouldn't have happened if you two didn't have to play around!"

      Starsky strained to see what was happening to Hutch as the uniforms around him grew denser. Suddenly, there were shouts of anger from the back of the bar. Starsky heard Roland yell, "They've got Hutch!" and every patron of the Black Parrot responded. Leathermen converged on the cops restraining Hutch.

      No! Starsky moaned, knowing that would only give the police the excuse to be rougher, and give them more charges for the raid.

      But it was too late. There was chaos all around them. The rest of the demonstrators held their positions, but the cops engaged the leathermen in a war only the cops could win.

      As Starsky was dragged bodily out of the bar, he lost sight of Hutch who was drowning in uniforms and finally disappeared. An unreasoning panic gripped Starsky's heart, and he couldn't stop himself. "HUUUUTCH!" he screamed as they were separated. "HUUUUUTTTCH!"

      In the midst of a dozen black-and-whites with their lights flashing stood several paddy wagons waiting for their human cargo. He was tossed bodily into the back of one and had the doors slammed and locked in his face. He threw himself mindlessly against it, shouting for Hutch, rattling the bars like a wild man.

      Arms came around him, but not to restrain. He turned and realized he'd been thrown into the wagon with all the drag queens, no doubt as a sign of contempt. The dancers gathered around him, hugging him, holding him, struggling to console him. Sugar had been doing Marilyn tonight, but right now her voice was just herself. She stroked his hair, his face, and he realized he must've seemed insane to them. They were worried about him. Afraid for him.

      "Easy, baby, easy," Sugar cooed. "Calm down. Just take it easy."

      He was panting frantically, his heart racing. "They've got Hutch! They . . . they've . . . ."

      "I know, baby," Sugar said. "But freaking out isn't going to help him. It'll just give those pigs an excuse to beat on you some more. You've gotta calm down. We've got to think. The kids that got out. You know they're gonna call K.R. She'll get us out of this. But you've gotta pull it together, honey."

      His arms stole around Sugar and he hugged her to him. He wanted to weep into her shoulder, wanted to explain just how afraid he was for Hutch. The dancers crowded all around him, holding him tight, giving him a strange sense of comfort and security. They kept murmuring meaningless phrases, telling him it would be all right, it would be fine.

      You stupid pigs, Starsky thought. These people have more integrity and guts every goddamn day than any of you ever had in your whole miserable lives.

      For the first time, Starsky felt something he'd never been able to understand before. He felt hatred for the police.

Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
I'll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town
      Darkness on the Edge of Town—Bruce Springsteen