Starsky Sketch

Chapter 5

I was gambling in Havana
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns, and money
And get me out of this

            Lawyers, Guns, and Money—Warren Zevon

      James Marshall Gunther rose from the spare metal chair as his lawyer, Josh Cantrall, entered the locked interrogation room. It's come to this, the aging, gray-haired man thought as the slender, sallow-skinned young man strode to the bare table and opened his briefcase.

      This lawyer—this pup, this babe-in-the-woods, this wet-behind-the-ears virgin—was the only lawyer left from the once-prestigious firm Gunther had employed. This barely-tried thirty-two-year-old junior partner was the only one who could still practice—independently. Of course, Gunther had defense lawyers. Employed by a separate firm, they were completely clean, above-board, and bleeding him dry. What the government hadn't taken for tax evasion and ill-gotten gains, his lawyers would devour. If they succeeded, someday he'd be a free man. Free to be homeless and destitute.

      It's come to this! Gunther thought, aghast at his position. He glanced at his cheap, prison-issue coverall, at the drab surroundings of the room—peeling institutional green paint, two chairs, a plain metal table, one window too high to see out of, covered with bars. But he couldn't afford to succumb to depression, not now, not when there was so much still to do.

      "What's going on, Mr. Cantrall?" Gunther ordered, and the lawyer's brown eyes watched him warily. Not with fear, Gunther noted irritably, simply with caution.

      Cantrall took something from his briefcase, placing it before Gunther with a smile. It was the LA Times.

      Gunther saw the headlines, the discreet but shocking photo. He ran his palm over the page in reverence. "Excellent," he said, his eyes shining with the first pleasure he'd had in so long.

      "It went out over every wire service," Cantrall told him. "Even the NY Times put it on page one—but no pictures. Right now, Starsky and Hutchinson are suspended without pay pending a hearing."

      Gunther looked up. "Are they still together?"

      "Far as I know," Cantral said. "Looks like they're hiding out together." He paused, as if considering how to phrase the next. "Word is, Whitelaw's trying to help them."

      Gunther frowned. Whitelaw was a street politician, a councilman. He had no real power.

      "He wants gays to organize behind them," Cantrall added.

      Gunther chuckled. "That's good. Those two are the ultimate macho cops. I can just imagine how they must feel about that."

      Cantrall shrugged, obviously bothered by something. "Callahan works with Whitelaw. K.R. Callahan, the civil rights lawyer."

      Gunther listened to what Cantrall wasn't saying. "You think this is of some concern?"

      He shrugged again. "Might be— She's good. And she's beaten the city before."

      Gunther shook his head and started to say, These two will never allow themselves to wear the title 'gay' willingly. But then he paused. He'd consistently underestimated them. That was what had brought him to this place—underestimating those two simple street cops. He couldn't afford to do that again.

      "You still have your connection in the mayor's office?" Gunther asked.

      Cantrall nodded.

      "All right. Stay on top of it. I think they'll self-destruct. They're not working, and the department will not let them work together in the future. But just in case—keep an eye on the situation. If Callahan's a liability—well, we'll see."

      Cantrall's small smile grew into a shark's grin. It was that expression that had convinced Gunther to keep the man in his pocket in spite of his youth. It was an expression he'd once worn himself and it spoke of complete ruthlessness, a truly conscienceless man. If Gunther ordered it, Cantrall would make it happen. It was good to own a man like that, even if he was young.

      "I'll be in touch, Mr. Gunther," Cantrall said, with the kind of respectful deference usually reserved for warm-paneled rooms with thick carpeting—not prison cells.

      "Thank you, Mr. Cantrall," Gunther said, as the lawyer closed his suitcase and knocked on the door for release.

      Gunther smiled, the thrill of victory fluttering in his chest. It might happen yet, he thought. They might release him before the grand jury. He could get this overturned, return to his rightful place in the world and be free, while those two cops were imprisoned in a shame of their own making. Yes, it all might happen yet.

      Then the guard entered the room. "Time to go back to your cell, Gunther," he said. "Let's go." The rote tone, the lack of respect, the loss of power crashed against Gunther's hopes. He shut his eyes as he left with the guard. It would work. It would. It was his last chance for revenge, for salvation. He would put everything he had into it. And it would be enough.

Welcome to the Hotel California,
What a nice surprise,
What a nice surprise.
      Hotel California—Eagles