I had a lot of difficulty writing this story--it deals with bigotry, terrorism and white supremacy. I have never understood blind prejudices: the hatred of someone you don't even know. I wrote it to try and understand, but I still don't! Some of the images in the story turned out to be quite disturbing, just so you are warned. I am not Jewish, but have tried to research the information as carefully as I could. If I have written something incorrectly, I apologize! Mea Culpa. Lastly, if any of you who live outside California think I have used poetic license creating a heat wave in early October, let me tell you this is no lie. It was 97 degrees on Oct. 14th, 2001! Sit back, get comfortable and give yourself some time to read this, it's a lot longer than I expected!
Friendly criticism welcomed at Dawnrca@earthlink.net
Bad Moon Rising
"Barukh atah HashemBlessed art Thou, Lord}," the rabbi intoned as the cantor began to sing the next prayer. The late evening sun's rays slanted through the windows to his right, casting long shadows across the Sabbath worshippers. The plaintive song spiraled up and around the congregation, summoning an ancient and holy atmosphere to the modern temple.
David Starsky's attention wandered as the reverent words echoed through him, contemplating a mosaic on the wall opposite, representing Moses' trek across the desert. Gold tiles sparkled amongst the paler brown and tan colored chips as the sun moved slowly across the synagogue.
On any other Friday night Starsky might have been out with friends, in a bar or even with his girlfriend, dancing in a nightclub. Even six months ago, Starsky would never have imagined himself going to the services of his faith. He'd never been much of a practicing Jew. Oh, he gave Hanukkah and Passover a nod, but not much more than the one he gave to the Christian holidays Christmas and Easter. To him, any holiday was good for a get together with friends, no matter what faith they practiced. He certainly couldn't remember his parents ever keeping kosher and he'd never been required to learn Hebrew or have a Bar Mitzvah.
So, why was he here at temple for the second month in a row on the most popular date night of the week? A hard question to answer, but that was what he was attempting to do.
Ever since he'd answered a dispatch call to Rabbi Micah Bachman's residence and met the personable young teacher, he'd been trying to learn more about Judaism.
Born only a few years after World War II, Starsky could still remember his US born parents telling him of the fear they had had for their incarcerated relatives during the war. Uncle David and Auntie Chava had even stayed in the Starsky home for over a year after they'd emigrated from Poland. Young David had, at first, been critical of their old country ways and thick accents, but had come to be fascinated by their stories. These only recounted life in some small Polish village, where they'd kept cows and chickens. Of their time in "the camp," they said nothing, his Aunt always hiding the ugly numbers tattooed on her wrist with long sleeved blouses.
It had been dangerous to be a Jew. That was the impression he'd been given. Don't tell people you don't know well, and certainly don't wear overt signs such as yarmulkes and prayer shawls outside the home.
Starsky's Jewish education had been stunted even before allowed to begin. Thus, at the age of 33, he'd become curious. The meeting with Rabbi Micah, despite its ominous reason, had seemed fortuitous.
The night had been a dark one, only the barest sliver of a moon riding in the sky near Venus. Unknown anti-Semites had used this cover to spray paint vicious slogans and swastikas across Bachman's home. To add insult to injury, they'd erected a cross on the lawn and set it alight. Called away from an argument between rival hookers, Starsky had been all too happy to go to a situation that had more meat.
He hadn't expected the well of emotions that had overtaken him, seeing those long hated words written one foot high, in pig's blood. Kike, Jesus Killer...Angry, ugly words only meant to incite more hate. The older detective Starsky'd been partnered with while Hutch was recovering from a knifing had been nonchalant. Burned out from years on the force, he had acted as of he didn't understand Starsky's growing anger, and had been next to useless in defusing the situation.
Photographs of Starsky and the rabbi pulling down the charred cross had appeared in all the morning newspapers. Religious groups of every denomination had come forth denouncing the horrible crime against the Bachmans. Amazingly, Micah Bachman had called for peace, saying that the hatred had to end and that he wanted to call a peace conference. A meeting between the white supremacists and the leaders of the various factions they abhorred. People said Micah Bachman was crazy, that he couldn't stop centuries of animosity with one summit. But they listened, and very slowly, even members of hate groups started to agree to the talk. Agreeing to sit down in a room with Jews and blacks was more than most had even imagined. Negotiations were still in the works as to where and how this could be undertaken, but there was hope in the air. Already, whispers of Nobel Peace Prize were being connected with Bachman's name.
Pulling himself out of the reverie, Starsky directed his gaze up at Micah Bachman, concentrating on the Hebrew words he spoke. A prayer of peace. Ancient words spoken for centuries, calling up to God.
As the last words of the service died away, most of the worshipers began to gather their belongings, trailing from the large temple into the smaller community room, stopping to chat briefly with the rabbi.
Two long tables dominated the long narrow community room, both covered with plates of cookies and small cakes made by the female members of the temple. Chairs were piled around the periphery of the room in anticipation of a children's pageant being presented on Saturday night. Micah Bachman's wife Miriam presided over a silver coffee urn set up near the main doors to the room. The rich, aromatic smell surrounded her like an exotic perfume. She dispensed cups of the fragrant brew with such a gracious smile and warm welcome that even non-coffee drinkers came over to schmooze with her and the entire congregation adored her.
Micah stood against the open double doors to the community room, the coffee urn just behind him. He inhaled the aroma of ground coffee, enjoying the knowledge that Miriam was there, where he could turn his head and give her a smile and a wink. They'd been married over two years but he still felt like a newlywed. She was a tall, elegant woman, with masses of blue-black hair, which she tried to keep secured with a banana clip, but never quite managed to. Micah and Miriam were of a height, which is what brought them together, in an odd sort of way. Her taller brothers and his shorter sisters had found it amusing that the two could stand shoulder to shoulder. And that is how their married life had been, shoulder to shoulder, together turning Temple Beth Sharon into a place where Jewish people felt safe and nurtured. A place to worship with pride despite a less than desirable address. Even the anti-Semitic attacks on the Bachman house hadn't changed their resolve to talk openly and publicly about Judaism. They wanted to encourage lapsed Jews, like David Starsky, back into the temple.
With a seat approximately midway back in the temple, Starsky found himself crushed into the throng heading for the community room. He nodded hellos to the few faces he recognized, falling in line behind a large family of stair step towheaded children, finally achieving Micah after nearly five minutes in the line.
"You went though that service like Mario Andretti," Starsky teased. "My Hebrew's not that good."
"Got to keep up, Dave," Micah laughed, "or you fall behind. But, yah, we were cookin' tonight. Got out sooner than usual. Miriam's annoyed 'cause the coffee urn hadn't warmed up yet."
"I'd love a lukewarm cup." Starsky moved aside for a large busted woman and her tiny, balding husband behind him. They shook the rabbi's hand with bored disinterest, bickering with one another the entire time.
Miriam was deep in conversation with a largely pregnant woman, so not wanting to interrupt, Starsky headed across the room to the cookie tables. Three boys, their yarmulkes decorated with Sesame Street characters and held on with bobby pins, darted in front of him, grabbing macaroons from a plate.
Little knots of parishioners chatted together, the rabbi's recent press conference regarding the hoped for peace talks the major topic of conversation. Starsky snagged two chocolate cookies, listening absently to the chatter around him.
There was no warning. No one had a sudden premonition. The temple members continued to wander into the community room, a small group still clustered around Micah at the double doors. No one raised an alarm or shouted out prophetic words. There was just a sudden ear shattering blast, the concrete under the community room floor rippling like water.
A bomb exploded in the temple, crashing through the street side stained glass windows, a ball of fire sending out waves of heat and destruction though the entire room. The shock waves funneled gale force winds across the hall and through the connecting doors to the community room, hurling most of the congregation to the floor as every window shattered. The double doors, propped open for the members to egress, slammed shut with a violent jerk, knocking flat the few people left standing, bodies piling upon bodies already prostrate.
Micah slammed into an older man, unable to stop his fall as the doors crashed closed. His first thought was to the holy writings and books in the temple. They couldn't be lost! He tried to scramble to his feet, turning in time to see the paneled wall to his right crumble, whole sections dropping down onto the women gathered around the coffee urn.
"Miriam!" he shouted.
Screams rose as the dust began to settle. Primal wails of pain. Death was in the air.
His ears ringing, Starsky raised up to his knees. The room was in shambles, plaster and shards of glass littering the floor. Nearly every person near him was bleeding, most getting to their feet, looking around in dazed confusion. Starsky put his hand to the back of his head where he'd collided with one of the over turned cookie tables. He'd lost his yarmulke and his fingers came away slick with blood, but he found he could stand without swaying. Steadying himself on a table leg, he aided a tiny red headed woman and an older executive type man to their feet. All around them, panic was beginning to swell after the initial silent shock.
"The temple is on fire!" a tall bearded man shouted from across the room, eliciting renewed screams of fear from the panicked crowd.
A mass exodus started towards the back fire doors, people pressing franticly on the panic bar, trying to force the emergency doors open. Dozens of men and women surged forward, crushing those closest to the exit in their hurry. The door's failure to open only increasing the terror of the populace.
"We're trapped!" shrill voices wailed.
"Try the windows!" A man with blood dripping down his forehead pushed two chairs into position, climbing up to pull himself onto the sill. The windows were set high in the battered walls, probably six feet above the floor and now dangerously studded with shards of splintered glass.
A sensible woman ran to the temple's tiny kitchen, grabbing up the rubber mats from in front of the sink and passed them back to cover the wicked glass on the sill.
Immediately, the escape was launched, small children being hauled quickly out the window and dropped gently to waiting hands below.
As sirens could be heard in the distance, Starsky's police training kicked in. His head pounding with a possible concussion, he turned resolutely against the direction of the fleeing throng, searching the wounded for Micah and Miriam.
The red bearded rabbi was digging single mindedly through the rubble, his hands mangled and bloody, his hair covered with plaster dust. Beyond the impassable double door, screams could be heard. There were still people trapped in the devastated temple.
"Micah! Get out!" Starsky shouted above the anguished cries of terror. Heat from the fire was blistering the paint on the walls, the temperature of the room raising rapidly.
"Miriam's under there!" Micah gasped, covered in blood and plaster. "I have to get her out. Dave, go get the Torah. Save it...I'll get Miriam."
"It's an inferno in there." Starsky grabbed at his arm, coughing from the smoke seeping under the edge of the double doors. Micah jerked away, attempting to lever a large piece of cracked paneling off the women.
Against his better judgment, Starsky added his muscle, hoping emergency crews and firemen would arrive expediently. The panel splintered in half, one girl scrambling up, sobbing with relief as she ran to her waiting parents. The other two women lay ominously still, Miriam's black curls matted with gore, the back of her head caved in.
"Oh, God, Oh, God." Micah reached out a trembling hand, entwining his fingers in her hair. He began to pray in Hebrew, sobbing.
Bending over the pregnant woman, Starsky tentatively felt for a pulse. There was a steady beat at the base of her throat, but she lay unmoving. The smoke was getting thicker and without electric lights, it was becoming increasingly difficult to see.
Shouts and strong lights came bursting in, the exit finally unblocked from the outside. Emergency personnel swarmed through the room, assessing the wounded and helping those ambulatory to safety.
"Over here!" Starsky called, coughing as the acrid smoke invaded his respiratory system. Micah was cradling Miriam against his chest, her arms draped limply across his lap.
The firefighters all wore masks, obscuring their faces, so Starsky was never sure who swooped down on them, loading Miriam quickly onto a gurney and herding the men towards the open door.
Shuffling through the debris after the gurney, Starsky stumbled, twisting his ankle on something. Bending down, he pushed two halves of a blue platter aside, the cookies now just crumbs. Under one broken piece of crockery lay a tiny yarmulke embroidered with a bright yellow Big Bird. He stuffed it into his pocket, limping out of the super heated room and emerged into a crowded alley behind the synagogue. The cooler night air sent goose bumps up his arms, although the ambient temperature was still in the seventies.
Brilliant flashes of light blinded him as he paused on the sidewalk just behind Micah, photographers from every newspaper once again recording Starsky and the rabbi backlit against an inferno.
He was shunted towards a weary group of people all being supplied with oxygen masks and bandages. There was a surreal quality to the scene. Enormous quantities of people seemed to have materialized in the avenues surrounding the burning synagogue, all fighting to save the building and it's people, united in a way they might never be again. Starsky breathed in the sustaining 100 percent pure oxygen, watching as the paramedics pulled a blanket over Miriam's face.
"Just slide your hand back a little." Ken Hutchinson took the opportunity to snake his arm under Angela's, letting his hand skim along the slope of the warm, round underside of her breast, grasping the pool cue with a firm hand on her smaller one. "Like this. Line the cue up with the ball, give it some English..." He angled his knee between her legs, letting her shift her weight to rest her body against his.
"English, Hutch?" The girl giggled, turning her head to peer through her teased overly bleached blond hair at him. "We are speaking English, aren't we?"
"It's an expression." He gave her a game smile, moving the cue to recapture her attention. "Take the shot."
Angela made an awkward stab with the stick, not even connecting with any of the balls.
Reaching over to the table behind him for his beer, Hutch gave a shake of his head. Angela had legs for mile, curves better than a mountain road and a face that would stop traffic, but her I.Q. wouldn't reach 100 if she stood on a box. He swallowed most of the beer in two gulps, surveying the raucous Friday night crowd in The Pits. His old friend Huggy manned the bar, handing out drinks and wisecracks with equal ease.
"Hutch?" Angela sucked on her bottom lip, tongue just peeking out. "Maybe I need another lesson?"
Privately, Hutch thought she'd never learn pool if she majored the game in college, but that wasn't exactly the point of the lessons, after all.
He let his left hand rest on her bare back, just above the knot holding her halter-top together. "Grasp the cue easily and point it at the ball." He pulled her arm back, helping her to snick the cue ball with the tip of the cue. Solely by accident, that ball hit two more, the red one actually tipping into the corner pocket.
"Did I win!!?" she trilled, planting an enthusiastic kiss on his mouth. He responded in kind, leaning her against the pool table, cupping her buttocks in both hands.
Thus engaged, neither noticed Huggy behind the bar suddenly signal the closest patrons to silence as he turned up the radio.
Even with those huddled around the bar quiet, the room was noisy enough to obscure much of the radio broadcast, but the few words that Huggy heard clearly were enough to put fear in his heart.
"Hutch." Huggy interrupted the blond couple's oblivious clutch, his usual grinning face serious.
"Not now," Hutch hissed, nuzzling Angela's ear.
"Now," Huggy insisted, waiting until he could see the blond cop's eyes. "What was the name of that Jewish church Starsky went to?"
"Synagogue. Uh, Temple Beth Sharon." Hutch groped for the name.
"Hutch," Angela wheedled.
"It was bombed," Huggy told him.
"When? Tonight?" Hutch swallowed against the tightening in his throat, throwing back what was left of his beer in a single gulp.
"An hour ago, I guess, I dunno... There were casualties."
"Angela?" Hutch attempted to focus, not letting himself imagine the worst. "You need to take a cab home."
"What happened?" she asked plaintively. "I thought we were going back to your place."
"A friend--my partner may be in trouble." He prayed that wasn't something worse. "I have to go."
"Keep in touch," Huggy urged. "Go, man."
Hutch didn't need to be told twice. He dashed for his battered Ford. Debating whether to head over to the bombsite or to police headquarters, Hutch contacted dispatch for any information they had on Starsky's whereabouts.
Still without any actual word on Starsky, or for that matter, any other member of the congregation except that most had gone to neighboring hospitals, Hutch directed the car to the one closest to the synagogue.
The ER appeared in utter chaos, staff in full trauma mode to take care of the most badly wounded from the synagogue fire. Fighting his way through the crowd to the nurse's desk, Hutch's stomach flip-flopped at the sight of a badly burned man on a gurney being whisked onto an elevator.
After he'd flashed his detective's badge, the admitting nurse was at least civil, curtly informing him that she hadn't gotten all the names of the wounded and dead, but she hadn't come across a David Starsky. The lack of any concrete information was raising his blood pressure, but Hutch was determined to remain calm. After all, at least with his police credentials, he had been able to get the harassed nurse to talk to him. There must be many families waiting somewhere with just as much worry, having to wait for that terrible phone call saying a loved one was dead. He wasn't going to get one of those phone calls. Starsky had escaped death so many times before; he was almost as invincible as a comic book super hero.
This vaguely humorous image cheered him slightly as he maneuvered the car through traffic. The radio was keeping up a morbid death count on the temple congregation, announcing that five-no wait, six, people were confirmed dead and nearly all the people there had sustained some injury. The rabbi had been glimpsed by "This reporter" walking under his own power away from the blaze, but that was the only person any of the radio stations Hutch listened to identified by name.
The next hospital was five miles away, passing Temple Beth Sharon along the way. The entire area was barricaded for several blocks in every direction by all manner of emergency vehicles and personnel. The fire appeared to be under control, but even at night there was a visible pall of smoke hanging low over the ruined building. News media vans were parked haphazardly behind the barricades, filming anything conceivably newsworthy, their lights illuminating the scene like a bizarre movie set.
Hutch followed a departing ambulance to Cedar's Hospital, parking in one of the emergency short-term slots before going into the ER to search for his missing partner.
He didn't have to look far. Starsky sat, pale, bedraggled and grimy in a crooked line of hastily assembled chairs along with ten or so other unfortunate Jews from the temple.
"Starsk!" Hutch called from the ER entrance. It was noisy enough that he wasn't sure Starsky had heard him. Hutch skirted another arriving gurney with one of the bombing victims aboard. He waited until the ER doctor had gotten the injured man's vitals from the paramedics, finally catching Starsky's dark blue gaze as the medical personnel moved by. Starsky waved his hand, a tired smile curving his lips.
"Are you all right?" Hutch demanded, louder than he'd intended.
"I'll live." Starsky winced at Hutch's volume, his head pounding. "S'posed to get an X-ray for a concussion."
"How bad is it?" He tipped Starsky's head forward to examine the wound hidden by his curly hair.
"Ow!" Starsky jerked away. "Don't poke at it." He coughed, his lungs still congested from the smoke.
"Starsky, you're covered in blood--are you sure you're all right?" Hutch left his hand on his partner's shoulder, as if to assure himself that he still breathed.
"It's not mine--at least, I don't think so." Starsky focused for the first time on the blood and dirt splattered over his clothes. "It's Miriam's... Hutch, she's dead."
"Oh, Starsky. I'm sorry." Hutch rubbed the back of his friend's neck. "I drove past the...synagogue. It looks like a..."
"Bomb site?" Starsky finished cynically.
"David Starsky?" A tall, black nurse read his name off her admissions checklist, scanning the group of waiting wounded.
"Here." Starsky stood, still limping slightly from the bruised ankle.
"Time for your pictures." She indicated a wheelchair. "Free ride upstairs."
"Can I come?" Hutch asked.
"Sure." She shrugged amiably, amazingly even-tempered despite the chaotic ER.
"I'm Kayla. C'mon, Mr. Starsky, they're waiting for you."
After his head and lung X-rays were read, his ankle taped, head wound bandaged and mild painkiller prescribed, Starsky was finally released from the hospital.
"I wonder what happened to Micah?" Starsky worried, scanning the remaining congregation still in the waiting room. "He must be devastated."
"Did you all come here together?" Hutch asked.
"Yah, Hutch. I can't leave him. He'll need somebody--with Miriam gone..."
"Starsky, does it have to be you?" Hutch knew he sounded insensitive, but he was worried about his partner. Starsky was literally swaying on his feet. "You look done in."
"I just want to know." He glimpsed Kayla coming out of a trauma room, and flagged her down. "Have you seen the rabbi? Micah Bachman?"
"Yes, I checked him out a few hours ago." She marked a few notes on the nurse's notes on her latest patient. "Poor man. He wasn't hurt badly, but his wife... Have you checked the morgue?"
"That's where he'll be." Starsky nodded, immediately regretting the movement. The headache which had been reduced to a dull roar came back with a vengeance. He started for the elevator, then looked back at his partner.
"I'm coming." Hutch groaned, knowing Starsky's soft heart and generous nature wouldn't let him abandon the rabbi in his time of crisis.
They found the rabbi sitting next to his wife's body, holding her pale hand in one of his bandaged ones, his face as still and gray as a statue's.
"Micah?" Starsky asked tentatively.
"Oh, Dave." Micah's face took on some animation, with an attempt at a smile.
"How're you doing?" Starsky resisted the urge to try to cheer the man up; it was definitely not the time.
"I have to stay with her." Micah spoke woodenly. " I know all the words to say, the prayers..." He trailed off, tears running down his face. "I don't want her to be dead."
"Hey, man. I can stay with her." Starsky put a gentle hand on his shoulder, "Maybe you need to get out of here--just for a few minutes, get something to eat? Coffee?"
"Oh, God, she was sitting there with the coffee urn. She was right behind me! Why her?" Micah's words were anguished, but his voice was pitched so softly he was almost whispering.
"You remember my buddy, Hutch?" Starsky tried for a different tactic, pointing out his tall, blond shadow to the nearly oblivious Bachman. "Maybe he could call some of your family for you?"
"Miriam's twin brother was at the synagogue; he made it to the community room even before you did." Micah collected himself together, focusing on the long elegant hand he still held in his own. "He wasn't hurt too bad--in fact, I think he helped get the children out the windows."
"Yah, I saw him," Starsky agreed.
"He called every-everyone else in our families. I think Mother Reinhart is filling out some papers, so we can get Miriam out of here."
"That's good." Starsky smiled, barely able to keep his own voice steady at the sight of the man so full of grief. "I'll just wait here until somebody comes back for you." He glanced up at Hutch. "Is that okay?"
It wasn't a very long wait. Less than ten minutes later, a tall, black haired man with a bandage over his left eye came in, accompanied by an elderly woman who bore such a striking resemblance to Miriam that it took Starsky's breath away. Conversely, the twin brother, Moses, looked very little like his sister, aside from the black hair. The hall outside was crowded with more Bachman and Reinhart relatives. After hushed introductions were made, the two detectives made their departures to leave the family to their mourning.
Hutch watched his partner warily, concerned that he had been downplaying his injuries due to his worry for Bachman. Ever since Starsky had been shot three times in the chest by Gunther's henchmen and actually died for a few moments before being revived by the defibrillator, Hutch had lived in fear that any more damage would overtax Starsky's heart and kill him. He'd questioned the cardiologist, and frankly, any other doctor he could find after the shooting, and they'd all assured him that Starsky's recovery had been complete, and he was fully competent to resume police work. It would be almost exactly a year since Starsky had come back to work in October, and in that time, Hutch had been the only one injured, the knifing that had kept him home for three weeks. During that time, Starsky had been paired with the burned out Watkins and met Micah Bachman. A more suspicious man might find that an ominous coincidence, but Hutch knew Starsky had needed some closure after his near death experience, and if discovering religion helped him cope with emotions he couldn't express, more power to him. He, himself, had felt Starsky's return to the living, and especially, back to police work, nothing short of miraculous.
"Stop looking at me like that." Starsky coughed, his throat still raw from the smoke. "I'm not gonna die, Hutch."
"I know." Hutch pulled him into a rough bear hug, eliciting a yelp of pain from Starsky when he teetered on his bruised ankle. "But it was close, again. You can't keep doin' this to me."
"Me?" Starsky steadied himself against the taller man's arm, before letting his weight back down on his left foot. "Who got stabbed in the belly four months ago?"
"Your foot bothering you?" Hutch asked, concerned. "I can get a wheelchair."
"Since I can see your sad excuse for a car from here, I guess I can walk." Starsky strode across the short emergency vehicle parking lot with more energy than he actually felt. He didn't want Hutch mother-henning him over a concussion. The vigorous pace exacerbated his coughing, though, and Hutch hurried to open the door for him and help him into the car.
"Did you tell the doctor you had lung surgery last year? That coughing can't be good for it," Hutch continued when he'd started the car.
"Will you stop?" Starsky sighed. "I told him. They took x-rays, remember?" He leaned back on the seat, closing his eyes. In truth, he felt like shit and wished he could just curl up in bed for about a hundred years. The old scar tissue on his chest felt ripped in half with every ragged breath he took. "What time is it?"
"About midnight. How 'bout I take you to my place? You can sleep in the bed." Hutch looked over at him when they'd stopped for a red light. Starsky looked exhausted, his skin still pale in contrast to his dark, curly hair.
"Then you'll make me eat wheat germ and rice flour." Starsky grimaced, the movement of the car already making him mildly nauseated. "No thanks. Take me home."
"Mind if I stay on the couch? I'm beat."
Starsky smiled; he'd fully counted on the other man staying over. He wouldn't have it any other way. All of a sudden, he was crying. Tears streaming down his face before he even realized what was happening. He hitched his breath, not wanting Hutch to notice, but a sob escaped, followed by an even louder one.
"Starsky?" Hutch nearly sideswiped another car, dividing his attention between driving safely and comforting his friend. "What's wrong?"
"I d-dunno." Starsky hiccupped, finally getting the unexpected shower of emotion under control. "I guess it was Miriam and Micah. They'd only been married two years, and..."
"She was too nice a person to die?" Hutch finished for him.
"Yah. How'd you know?"
"Starsk, whenever a friend or someone we love dies, we think that." Hutch pulled up in front of Starsky's house, shutting off the engine. "God knows, I thought that when you were shot. But that's not how life-and-death works. We can't pick and choose who we want to die or there'd be a lot less people on Earth."
"How'd you get so smart?" Starsky wiped a trembling hand across his eyes, giving his partner a brief grin.
"Lots of practice being around you." Hutch snorted. "Now, let's get started up those stairs, cause I think this could take a while."
Starsky found the trek up the front steps arduous, having to stop half way up when his incipient nausea threatened to overwhelm him and he had to wait until his stomach cooperated before finishing the journey. His head pounded until his eyesight throbbed and his ankle ached, just to join in the chorus.
Although happy that Starsky hadn't had to spend the night in hospital, Hutch wondered if it might not have been a good idea. The hospital had been so overloaded with patients from the bombing; they'd sent home anyone even vaguely alert and ambulatory. Starsky had proven that he knew the date, current president and his own name. He'd been able to bluff on how clear and steady his vision was, but Starsky had had concussions before and knew his own limits. The nurse had given Hutch a daunting list of signs and symptoms to watch for with a concussion and smoke inhalation. He wondered if Starsky knew Hutch's limits.
He got Starsky settled in bed with his pain pills and aerosol inhaler, then dumped the bloody, smoke-saturated clothes in the laundry, weary beyond belief. He needed to wake Starsky every two hours, which hardly seemed fair after the night he'd had, but important to assess for any possible brain damage after a concussion. It was going to be a long night.
Turning on the TV, Hutch stretched out on the couch to watch the almost continuous coverage the local news gave to the bombing. He sat bolt upright when the photo of Starsky and Micah flashed on the screen. It was so eerily similar to the original newspaper photo from four months ago; the news station ran both with a split screen. Starsky and Micah in front of the burning cross. Starsky and Micah, bloodied and weary, in front of the burning synagogue.
Hutch checked the time and got up to wake his partner.
From the outside, 1412 South Main Avenue looked like an abandoned storefront. The plate glass windows facing the street had been covered with newspapers, the signage over the door outmoded, still declaring this to be Joe's Deli. There hadn't been any sliced lunchmeats or tuna salad on white served here in three years. The door was locked with a chain wrapped around the knob, so the beat cop patrolling at midnight didn't even give it a second look.
Appearances can be deceiving. In the back room of 1412 So. Main, three men were gathered around a scarred wooden table, toasting one another with Budweisers. It was a celebration. Across from the table, balanced on a bookshelf overflowing with printed pamphlets was a portable TV. Images of the bombed synagogue flashed in black and white, the sound turned off.
"To the Brotherhood!" John Adams raised his beer with a flourish, knocking the can with his other conspirators.
"Success!" Albert Sherman grinned, his pale blue eyes alight. "We've struck a blow for freedom, now."
"Those kikes didn't know what hit them." Peter van Geller knocked back his third beer of the party, flushed with excitement. It had taken his idea, Sherman's design and Adams' strong arm to accomplish their dream, the bombing of Temple Beth Sharon. It had succeeded beyond their wildest fantasies. All the newspapers, every news station and radio were reporting live from the scene. It was the talk of the hour, and all because of the three of them.
Van Geller had never felt such a rush of power. He was invincible. Nobody would ever consider him a loser, an under-achiever, now. He could hold his head up with pride, knowing he had made a difference. That was what his grandfather had taught him, to make your mark in the world, you have to be someone who can make a difference. He had made great strides in his goal to re-instill pride in the American people-white, protestant, hard working American people. Not some dark skinned, foreign born Jesus haters.
"Are you gonna make the call?" Adams asked eagerly, the beer giving his already florid face a hearty glow. "Gotta make the morning papers, man. We'll be famous."
"Can't tell 'em too much," Sherman cautioned, pushing his wire rims up his narrow nose. He was the worrier, but sometimes he thought van Geller could go too far overboard. He still was slightly queasy having realized that they'd actually killed people. Yah, they were Jews--but there was the tiniest niggle of doubt in the back of his conscience. He pushed that back as far as he could manage, concentrating on the telephone call to the LA Times. This had to be done carefully, with style. "We need to get the city's attention, to make them take notice, but not enough so they sweep in here and arrest the lot of us."
"I got it all covered. Al, you think too much." Van Geller laughed. "I want 'em to know we mean business." He smoothed out a crumbled sheet of paper covered with cramped handwriting. "I've written out a speech."
"You can't read all that!" Sherman countered. "They'll be able to trace the call."
"Newspapers don't trace calls, the cops do," Adams scoffed, pulling up the pop-top on another can of brew.
"I'm not sayin' all of it--that's mostly for a letter in a coupla' days." Van Geller shook his head, then paused when an image on the flickering TV caught his attention. "There he is--" He raised his finger like a pistol, aiming it at Micah Bachman. "Pow, Jew, you're dead."
"I can't believe we didn't get him!" Adams groaned.
"It makes a statement, man." Van Geller pointed to the other man on the TV. "He's always with Bachman--that cop, Starsky."
"Don't mess with the cop, Peter," Sherman said. "And unfortunately, killing Bachman's wife makes him look tragic, which I don't think is to our benefit. It would have been better if he'd died."
"What are you complaining about?" Adams crushed his empty beer can, tossing it into a trashcan pushed up under the defunct deli's metal sink. "We killed us some Jews. There's less of 'em in the world tonight because of us."
"Call the newspaper." Sherman directed their attention back to the matter at hand, reading over the scribbled speech. "Just say this..." He pointed to one phrase. "And that." He circled both with a pen. "Just enough to take credit, not enough to let them know who we are, just yet."
Van Geller dialed with one finger, a wicked gleam in his eye as he held the receiver to his ear. It took a while to convince the newspaper's operator to let him speak to a reporter and he was put on hold. This only succeeded in fanning his righteous anger, so that by the time a new voice came on the line, he was on fire. "Who is this?" he demanded imperiously.
"I should ask you the same." The man spoke calmly. "But you asked for a reporter who was assigned to the temple bombing. My name is Andrew Cleary."
"Cleary? Is that an American name?"
"As far as I know," Cleary answered carefully. "If you have any information, I'd like to hear it, but otherwise, I'm extremely busy."
"You're gonna want to hear what I have to say," van Geller gloated. "We're taking credit for the bombing."
"Who is 'we'?" Cleary asked, his heart rate accelerating. He had to be careful, this wasn't the first prank call of the night and he wanted to ascertain that this was the real thing.
"The Brotherhood. We're proud Americans ready to claim this land back as our own. We killed some Jews and we plan to kill more. We're bringing back the Holocaust." Grinning with triumph at Adams and Sherman, he cut off the connection.
Coming awake, Starsky lay quietly with his eyes closed, wondering why he'd wakened on his own. Hutch had disturbed his sleep at least three times during the night, but now, even without opening his eyes, he could tell it was daylight. He didn't feel any less tired, just no longer able to sleep. Opening his eyes just slits, he let the room come slowly into focus--the ceiling and the floor remained in their respective, correct positions. This was a definite improvement over the severe dizziness he'd had the last time Hutch had forced him to open his eyes. His head ached, but it wasn't threatening to fall off and, amazingly, he felt hungry.
Therein lay the reason he'd awakened. He could smell coffee--and possibly toast coming from the kitchen area.
With infinite care, Starsky swung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly stood. There was a tiny bit of vertigo if he turned his head side to side, so he stopped doing it immediately, and his head hurt worse in an upright position, but it was bearable. He started out of the room in search of food.
"You're awake," Hutch declared from the kitchen.
"No thanks to you." Starsky accepted the glass of orange juice he handed him.
"Well, after you swore at me at six AM, I gave it up. Your vocabulary showed an accurate grasp of the here and now, although anatomically, I think what you told me to do is impossible."
"You didn't hide anything in this, did you?" Starsky asked suspiciously, tasting the juice.
"Just oranges, Starsk." Hutch held up his hands in defense. "I just made toast and there are eggs ready to be scrambled."
"I could eat that," Starsky agreed. He followed his partner into the sunny kitchen, noting with surprise that it was nearly eleven am.
"You probably don't even want to read the paper," Hutch warned, scrambling up four eggs, two for each of them.
"That bad?" Starsky asked, sitting down at the table.
"You've taken a better picture."
"Hmm." Starsky pulled the LA Times over to peruse the front page. As warned, there was a half page sized picture of him, standing just behind Micah as they'd followed the gurney out of the burning building. A sharp ache centered in his chest when he realized the photographer had just missed getting Miriam in the photo. The headline was what really kicked him in the gut: "Hate Group Claims Bombing."
"Somebody's proud of that?" he asked in a hollow voice.
"Starsky, don't even read it." Hutch folded the paper, setting a plate of eggs and toast in front of him. "It's just birdcage liner."
"It's the same guys who burned the cross on Micah's lawn." Starsky played with his fork, no longer hungry.
"I read the article. Some group called the paper late last night and claimed credit," Hutch explained. "There's no proof. Probably sickos calling just to get mentioned on the front page."
"We gotta get 'em, Hutch," Starsky said fiercely. "We gotta get 'em off the streets. They killed Miriam...for nothing. For being Jewish."
"Starsky." Hutch sighed. Starsky's pain sliced through him like a sword. Being blond, tall and Nordic looking, he'd never felt the sting of blind prejudice. He had been raised in a nearly all white neighborhood. Duluth, Minnesota had lots of Swedes, but not a single Jew that he'd ever been aware of. The blacks he'd met as a child he could count on one hand. Two housemaids, a cab driver, the porter on the train ride to his grandmother's and a gardener. He'd never been exposed to prejudice until his college days, when a classmate had been beaten for the color of his skin. Hutch had helped the injured man to the infirmary, the encounter leaving an uneasy anger inside him. Why hate a person you don't even know? What purpose did it serve, except to fill your own mind with hate and negativity?
Becoming a cop had opened his eyes to the entire spectrum of violence against persons just for their color, gender or religion. There was an infinite maelstrom of hate in the world, centering first on one set of people, then another. History had shown that very little changed through out the centuries, especially prejudice. Hutch had never really given Starsky's Judaism any thought, probably because until recently, neither had Starsky. The Star of David next to symbols of Christmas had just been Starsky's quirky stamp on the season; it hadn't seemed jarring to him at the time. The difference in their religious beliefs didn't concern him in the least, he knew Starsky as a person, and had never discriminated against others. It was that somewhere there was a group of anti-Semites who didn't agree with his liberal ideas. Now, he began to feel a tendril of fear for his best friend; Starsky was reclaiming his Jewish heritage at a very dangerous time.
"You don't know what it's like," Starsky countered tiredly. "Nasty looks, names called before you turn around, actin' like you're dirt."
"Your friends don't act like that," Hutch said softly, running a finger along the wood grain of the table. "I don't."
"I know, I'm sorry." Starsky caught his eyes, reading the empathy there. He sagged, weary. "How can anybody do that? Hutch, there were kids there. Little kids running around... Where's my clothes?"
"I put 'em in the hamper. Why?"
"I found a yarmulke. I need to keep it till I can give it back." Starsky started to rise, wincing as the construction crew in his head renewed their hammering.
"I'll get it. Eat some food." Hutch dug through the dirty clothes in the wicker laundry hamper, feeling in Starsky's pockets until he found the forlorn little yarmulke with a once jaunty yellow bird embroidered on the top.
"Here." Hutch placed it on the table, pushing the newspaper even further away as if it could contaminate the unknown child's head covering.
"I didn't do anything." Starsky tore his toast into tiny bits, eating only a few bites. "I just stood there for the longest time. People were hurt; I saw this baby girl crying and her mom was unconscious..."
"Starsky, don't do this to yourself." Hutch came up behind him, pressing his thumbs into the dark haired man's rigid neck tendons, massaging him.
"Micah wanted me to save the Torah, but it burned." Starsky leaned his head on his arms, letting Hutch's fingers loosen his muscles. "What kind of sense does that make? Huh? Burning up a place of God, just to prove you're better than they are?"
"It doesn't make any sense, Starsky, none at all."
"The funeral will probably be on Monday," Starsky said after a long pause. "But there's no...synagogue left."
"I'm sure they can hold it at a funeral home, or some other temple," Hutch suggested, wanting to have some other conversation, with some semblance of normalcy to it. "Did you ever call Meredith last night? She must be worried sick, it was all over the news."
"Uh--she's not here." Starsky sat up, rolling his head around to crack his vertebrae after the massage. "She's in Washington."
"Since Monday." The dark haired man picked up the yarmulke, idly smoothing out the wrinkles over Big Bird's face. "She was invited to join a task force on teen-age drug use and went to D.C. for six weeks on a training seminar."
"Starsky, you didn't tell me." Hutch stared at his partner, wondering why the news of his girlfriend's departure was delivered with such a calm, almost dispassionate tone of voice. "Did you two have a fight?"
"No." Starsky gave him a sad half-grin. "She said she needed some space--and hey--this could be a big advancement for her career. Her family's just been giving her some grief lately."
"About the color thing?" Hutch questioned, "I thought everyone was past all that."
"She lets them get to her." Starsky shrugged. "But yah, the black/white thing was pretty much talked to death, and then she let them have the double whammy. She told 'em I was Jewish." He snorted bitterly. "Sammy Davis Jr. I'm not. Pretty ironic, huh? Buncha wanna-be Nazis hate me for being Jewish, and then I can't be seen with my black girlfriend cause her family doesn't want a Jew in the family."
"Aw, Starsk." Hutch forced down the flash of irrational anger. "You know Meredith will come back. She loves you--no other girl has ever stuck around this long, not with the food you eat."
"Meredith likes burritos," Starsky defended, but there was no joy in his voice. "Hutch, I couldn't stand in the way. She could get a promotion, maybe... She could outrank me, huh?"
"You always did have a flair for flirting with insubordination," Hutch teased. "The sergeant and the captain."
This brought a genuine smile to Starsky's face. "You think she'd make captain?"
"I'm not talking about you, buddy." Hutch ruffled his dark hair, careful to avoid the bandage on the back of his head.
"I'll call her later," Starsky promised. "But I'm gonna go back to bed, first. My head's splittin'."
"You didn't eat anything." Hutch collected up the plates, he still had most of the eggs on his plate, too.
"You didn't make burritos." Starsky shuffled back to his room. "That's what I was hungry for."
Neither partner did much for the rest of the day, preferring to remain low-key to avoid the increasingly aggressive news media. The phone rang so many times Hutch finally left it of the hook, and about mid-afternoon a knock on the front door revealed reporters demanding interviews. Hutch's terse "no comment" only whetted their appetites and insistence that he produce Starsky.
Starsky spent most of both days asleep, which worried Hutch almost as much as the head wound had. Since he was usually a perpetual motion machine, it was unnerving to see Starsky asleep and unmoving for long periods of time. The two unrelated occurrences, happening so close together--Meredith's departure and Miriam's death--were enough to send him into a tail spin of depression and Hutch wanted to be sure he was there if Starsky started to free-fall.
The weekend passed slowly, and as Starsky had surmised, there was a funeral for Miriam Reinhart Bachman on Monday morning at one of the largest synagogues in the LA area. The larger space turned out to be necessary; not only was nearly every ambulatory member of Temple Beth Sharon in attendance, but so was the media, representatives from other religions in the city and even the Mayor crowded into the pews.
The Reinhart and Bachman families kept to themselves, in pews roped off with a blue ribbon. Starsky sat only a few rows behind, next to Hutch, but couldn't bring himself to intrude on their grief. The news media had already done enough of that, printing stories from every conceivable angle about Micah and Miriam, the temple, their fight to establish peace talks between the current assortment of hate groups and those they professed to hate, and most intrusively, printing a picture a Miriam in her wedding dress. Only a block or so from the funeral, the newspaper box on the corner featured a beautiful black haired woman in a flowing white dress, serenely smiling at the camera. The cruel irony of it tore open the heart.
"Them Jews bury their dead quick, huh?" Van Geller had watched the procession of cars following the hearse from his Buick parked on a side street. "Don't wanna let 'em smell too much."
"They smell bad enough before they're dead!" Adams crowed. He straightened his copy of the morning's paper. "She was kinda pretty, huh, dressed in her wedding dress?"
"How can you say that? Probably was a..." Van Geller pushed up his binoculars, scanning the crowd of people still filing from the house of worship. "Hey, there's that curly haired cop--Starsky. They let anybody on the force these days. My granddad said he could smell a Jew from half a mile."
"Your granddad would probably have shot any Jew he could smell." Adams laughed. "How is he?"
"Feeling better finally. The heart attack really shook him up." Van Geller turned to train his binoculars on the hearse now turning onto Milton Avenue before it took the freeway off-ramp. "Looks like they're heading for the Jewish cemetery."
"Good guess, Einstein. Where'd you think they were gonna put her?" Adams scoffed, starting the engine.
Hutch had ducked out before the end of the funeral to join the parade of cars to the burial site. He inched the car up to the curb, stopping to let Starsky climb in before following the blue sedan in front of them around the corner to Milton Avenue.
"How're you doing?" Hutch asked seriously, steering the Ford onto the freeway.
"It's not my wife we're puttin' in the ground," Starsky replied tartly, then softened. "I don't know how he's keepin' it together, Hutch. This has to be killin' him. All the reporters around, and he still says he wants to go forward with the peace talks." Starsky focused out the window, watching for the sign to Mount Olive Cemetery. "I was glad he let Rabbi Stern do the funeral. Y'know he wanted to do the whole thing himself?"
Slowing the car to take the next exit, Hutch noted Starsky had never answered the original question. He had talked about how Micah was doing, not once mentioning his own feelings. Starsky's incredible generosity of spirit and deep empathy for others would get him in trouble some day it he didn't start thinking about himself. Hutch knew he had been depressed since the bombing, all the more so because of Meredith's absence.
In her defense, she had immediately volunteered to fly back to California to be with Starsky, after seeing his picture printed in the D.C. newspapers, but he had talked her out of it. In Hutch's opinion, he shouldn't have.
"After the gravesite, I need to go into Metro to talk to Dobey," Hutch spoke up. "He called this morning, said he'd been trying to get through all weekend."
"I knew there was a reason you weren't answering the phone," Starsky teased, but he looked as if his heart weren't really in it. "I guess I should get back to those McClusky files; I never did finish typing up all of his statement. That guy talked my ear off."
"Starsky, you don't need to come in to work. Take the day off. You had a concussion."
"And do what? Sleep? I already did that." Starsky closed his hand over the door handle, as the car rolled to a stop in the parking lot. "Don't keep protecting me, Hutch. I'm a big boy. Gunther's scars are all healed, and I hardly got a scratch from the bombing. I heal fast."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Hutch muttered as they walked up to the grave. Luckily, the cemetery had hired extra security, so only invited mourners were allowed onto the grass, the paparazzi kept away with large wrought iron gates.
Eyeing the police standing next to the ornate entrance to Mount Olive, John Adams drove on past without stopping. The offices of the United Aryan Brotherhood were only a mere five blocks away; he didn't even have to get back onto the freeway. As a parting gesture, Van Geller pointed his finger gun, imagining he was picking off LA's finest like ducks at a carnival shooting range.
"Hutchinson, get into my office," Captain Harold Dobey requested, after the two detectives had arrived into the squad room. "Starsky, I asked for those McClusky files about two weeks ago."
"Captain, you're exaggerating." Starsky rolled his eyes at Hutch, but set about finding the errant paper work in the mess on his desk. "Good morning to you, too."
"How was the funeral?" the black man asked more soberly, taking in Starsky's still haggard appearance.
"About what any funeral is like." Starsky snagged the McClusky statement out from under a pile of papers from a completely different case. "Found 'em."
"He's not talking much about any of it," Hutch explained, once in Dobey's office. "I don't think he ever really thought that kind of prejudice would be directed at him."
"It's frightening," Dobey agreed, who had dealt with his own share of prejudice.
"I want to work on the bombing case, Captain. I know it's a different precinct, but..."
"Slow down, son, I already have a case for you, undercover." Dobey raised his hand to stop the onslaught of arguments he knew were coming. "It is related to the bombing."
"Undercover doing what?" Hutch asked suspiciously. "And why isn't Starsky in here to hear this, too?"
"Because this is an assignment he needs to stay as far away from as possible." Dobey frowned. "Did you hear about the group who claimed responsibility for the bombing?"
"I read it the paper. The Brotherhood, I think they called themselves?" Hutch remembered.
"Right. There are three hate groups in the LA area that use the misnomer Brotherhood. One immediately spoke up to say they had nothing to do with the bombing--Brotherhood to promote the Superiority of the White Man." Dobey made a face at their grandiose title. "Weirdly, they were one of the first groups who originally had agreed to join the talks with Bachman, which put them to the front of everybody's suspect list."
"But?" Hutch put in, to prove he was listening.
"They really do want to talk peace. Apparently, they consider Jews white people and only really dislike black people." The captain laughed derisively. "This sentiment is at odds with most of the other groups around, who lump all the non-Caucasian races into the black category."
"What's that got to do with me?"
"Because your looks can get you places that your partner and I can't even get close to," Dobey said, opening the manila file on his desk. "The other two groups currently under suspicion are the Brotherhood of the SS and the United Aryan Brotherhood."
"Both sound like a return to the Nazi days."
"Exactly. An undercover officer is already in place to infiltrate the SS, and we want you to go undercover with the Aryans," Dobey explained.
Not knowing how to answer, Hutch sat very still, considering his options. On one hand, he'd like nothing better than to bring down a bunch of proto-Nazis from inside their own organization. If they turned out to actually be the ones responsible for the bombing, it was icing on the cake. On the other hand, it was not exactly an optimal time to leave Starsky on his own. "What about Starsky?"
"He'll have a temporary partner."
"Oh, that'll make him really happy." Hutch rubbed his forehead; there was too much to think about, too many decisions to make. "What do we know about these Aryans?"
"Very probably they're the ones who burned the cross on Bachman's lawn, as well," Dobey informed him. "They've been pretty low level for a few years, but seem to be showing up more on the radar lately."
"Starsky said he thought the two incidents were related," Hutch mused. "Again, if I agreed, what's he going to do? I don't like working without him."
"Since he's been linked with Bachman more than once now, the brass feel that we should keep him at the rabbi's side," Dobey answered. "We're putting him in as Bachman's personal bodyguard."
"Captain, that just puts Starsky in even more danger!" Hutch objected.
"Ah, that's where his new partner comes in, and I think you'll be happy with my choice."
Starsky muddled along with his typing, trying to decipher his own handwriting. In the heat of an interview, he sometimes had to write too quickly to worry about spelling. Not that his spelling was letter perfect on the best of days, and this certainly wasn't it. Despite sleeping the weekend away, he still felt tired, out of sync with the rest of the world. He tried filtering out the noises of the squad room, but voices kept intruding. Anderson was arguing with his wife on the phone, Myers was describing a particularly gruesome autopsy he'd viewed to his partner, complete with crunching sounds for the breaking of the ribs.
Where was Hutch anyway? What did Dobey have to tell him? He hadn't sounded particularly angry, so Hutch probably wasn't in any trouble, but it was fairly unusual for Dobey to speak to one partner without the other. Deciding he needed to find out what Hutch was getting into, Starsky stood abruptly, colliding with an unmovable object in his path.
"Little Davey!" a basso voice growled, wrapping his arms around the detective and lifting him off the floor.
"Darryl," Starsky squeaked in a strangled voice, "I asked you not to call me that. An' put me down."
"Yessir." Darryl Washington placed him back on his feet, grinning widely. At six foot four, he towered over the dark haired detective. With his bald head, fierce, dark skinned face and massive shoulders, he had once frightened a cornered assailant so completely, the perp had voluntarily surrendered his gun to Washington's partner rather than have the one time halfback come near him. In truth, Washington was more like a huge teddy bear, sweet natured and gentle, enjoying nothing more than flipping burgers on the barbecue with a group of friends.
"What're you doing here, Brick?" Starsky used his friend's football nickname: Darryl Washington, Georgia Tech's Ton of Bricks.
"Ah passed mah test."
"You made detective?" Starsky crowed. "That's fantastic! Congratulations!" He slapped him on his molded bicep. "Wait'll Hutch hears this."
"Hears what?" Hutch emerged from Dobey's office. "Hey, Brick, good to see you."
"He's one of us, now," Starsky explained. "Got your gold shield, yet?"
"Nah, Ah'm waitin' for mah new captain t'give it t'me," Washington said with a grin that said he knew more than he was letting on.
"You're changing precincts?" Starsky guessed.
"Washington, good, you finally got here." Dobey came through the door carrying a small leather box. "Starsky, Hutchinson, I want you to meet our newest detective, Sergeant Darryl Washington." He handed the young man his new gold detective badge with a little flourish. Behind them, Anderson, Myers, and Wong clapped and cheered their approval.
"You act like you knew all along!" Starsky accused his blond partner, who was busy shaking Washington's hand.
"Dobey told me just now." Hutch laughed.
"Why keep me in the dark?" Starsky pouted.
"'Cause we got a surprise for you, Little Davey," Washington answered, admiring his new badge before slipping it into the special wallet he'd just purchased.
"Darryl, you call me that again..."
"I kind of like it." Hutch looked down at him. "You look like a Little Davey."
"Don't you start." Starsky pulled himself up to his full height.
"What can we say, you are kinda small." Darryl patted him on his curly head.
"Next to you, everybody is."
"I can see over your head, Starsk." Hutch enjoyed the teasing, especially after Starsky's moodiness of the last few days. The fact that Washington would be with Starsky as Bachman's bodyguard had swayed his decision to go undercover with the United Aryan Brotherhood. He felt safer knowing Starsky was with a partner as formidable as Darryl Washington. Besides, they were already good friends and would enjoy working together, lessening the sting of Hutch's departure.
Starsky grumped, eyeing the other detectives in the room. With the exception of Sam Wong, a Chinese-American who stood about 5'8'', he was the shortest person in the room. It was disconcerting. Starsky had never really considered himself short, in fact, at just a smidge under 5'11'', he was actually above the national average for American males, which he was proud of. He was the tallest man in his family, with both a brother and uncle he topped by an inch or so, but he felt suddenly vaguely inferior. He gave himself a mental shake; it was just all the emotions left over from the bombing getting to him. So he was short and Jewish--that had never been an issue in his police work before, and wouldn't be now.
"Starsk, we're just teasing," Hutch consoled, when Starsky hadn't given back any retorts of his own.
"I know." Starsky nodded. "Now, what was the mysterious meeting with Dobey all about?"
Both the captain and Hutch filled in the other two on the undercover operation and Starsky and Washington's new assignment. Starsky was appalled that the blond man would go into anything so dangerous without backup and objected strenuously. But in the end, even he could see that Hutch was the only man for the job and was tremendously impressed that his friend might be the one to bring the temple bombers to justice. He had absolutely no objections to Darryl's appointment as his temporary partner, since the grouchy Watkins had finally retired.
Dobey returned to his office to get the ball rolling on the undercover assignment, leaving the other three to plan their next moves.
"Ah'm dry as a bone," Washington remarked. "Anybody wanna Coke?"
"I do." Starsky stood, nudging his blond friend. "What'd you want?"
"Whatever you guys get. I need to get a handle on this stuff. It's not gonna be easy." Hutch huddled over the file on the United Aryan Brotherhood to glean all the information he would need to infiltrate their group, simultaneously trying to come up with a plausible cover story.
"Hope you don' mind gettin' stuck with me 'stead o' Hutch." Washington and Starsky made the trip to the soda machine to get refreshments for all while they planned out every aspect of Hutchinson's undercover investigation.
"Brick, frankly Hutch was startin' to get on my nerves," Starsky said honestly, dropping enough coins in the drink machine for three Cokes. "It's nearly a year since I been back to work after getting shot by Gunther's goons, but Hutch still acts like the stitches will pop and my lungs are gonna hang out." He retrieved the ice cold cans, handing one to his friend. "After the bombing on Friday night, I thought he wanted to wrap me up in bubblewrap and put me on a shelf." He popped the top of his Coke and took a swig. "He means well; don't tell him I said that."
"Ah swear," Darryl agreed, both amused and touched by their devotion to one another.
"And if you start anything like that, I'll..." Starsky regarded the larger man with as stern an expression as he could muster. "I'll punch you in the kneecap."
Washington chortled, slapping Starsky on the back hard enough to slosh the Coke out of his can. "Well, it's only temp'rary, till Hutch finishes that undercover. Ah 'spect Ah'll get a different partner later."
"Hey, I wouldn't mind having a big guy like you around all the time." Starsky eyed his bulk with speculation. "How much can you press?"
"I picked you up easy 'nough."
"What's that s'posed to mean?" Starsky laughed good-naturedly, following him back into the squad room.
The rest of the day was spent going over background information on white supremist groups, and fleshing out Hutch's undercover persona. After much deliberation, several Cokes and candy bars from the machine, and a pizza delivered into the squad room, it was decided that Hutch should be a disillusioned factory worker. Passed over for a promotion because a Jewish man was made floor manager, he would seek out the Brotherhood for vengeance. Arrangements were started to find an apartment near United Aryan's offices and a factory to use as a cover employer.
"C'mon, Hutch, I'm starving," Starsky groaned. "We've worked out everything--I know more about Ken Chambers than I do about you."
"It's after six," Washington agreed. "As mah mama used t'say--there's always another day."
"Okay, okay," Hutch agreed reluctantly. He did feel vaguely guilty for keeping Starsky at work so long when he'd meant to send him home early, but he wanted his cover perfect. It was vitally important that he not screw up in anyway. It could be more dangerous than he wanted to think about. "How 'bout the Pits?"
"You been there?" Starsky asked Darryl. "You haven't lived 'til you've had one of Huggy's burgers. And if you survive the ptomaine poisoning, you're immune for life."
The bar was surprisingly crowded for a Monday night, most of the patrons watching a baseball game on the TV over the bar. A wild pitch caused an uproar amongst those watching, many pitching peanuts and pretzels at the screen.
"Welcome to the zoo!" Huggy hailed them, nodding when Hutch indicated beers for the three of them.
"Kinda wild." Washington laughed, dodging some flying snack foods. "That team ain't gonna make it to the series."
"Brick, how'd you know?" Starsky argued. "They won 'gainst the Braves. It's only September, the playoffs haven't even started."
"They haven't got a prayer," Darryl disagreed. All three stood watching the last pitch of the game, but despite a close score, the Oakland A's won, disappointing the other team's vocal fans. Huggy was kept busy pouring conciliatory drinks all around.
"You that good with all sports or just baseball?" Hutch asked.
"Football's mah game, but Ah'll watch anythang with a ball." He shrugged. "Ceptin' Ah never got the hang o' cricket."
"Nobody understands cricket." Starsky pulled out a chair, flipping it around and straddling it backwards, his arms folded on the backrest. "Take a load off."
"I wanna check out the jukebox." Washington dug out some quarters from his pocket. "Anythang you like t'hear?"
"Any Temptations?" Hutch suggested, taking a chair next to Starsky at the table.
"Mah man." He slapped the blond man's hand in a high five, but before he could make it over to the neon accented machine, the opening strains of Credence Clearwater's "Bad Moon Rising" filled the room.
"What'll it be, guys?" Huggy asked.
Starsky ordered, gesturing Washington back to the table while Hutch put in his own order. After Huggy brought over the beer, introductions were made between the skinny bar owner and the newly promoted detective. Huggy joined them for a drink while all four toasted their new and old friends, the three detectives knowing this was the last time they could be seen together for a few weeks.
Taking a long drink of beer, Starsky gave a shiver, a grimace on his face.
"Bad brew?" Hutch tasted his own, finding nothing out of the ordinary.
"No, I just hate this song." Starsky shook his head. "Gives me the creeps."
"'There's a bad moon rising...'" Hutch sang along, Darryl joining in, an octave lower. "'Hope you have got your things together, hope you are quite prepared to die...'"
"It's like somebody's walkin' over my grave." Starsky waved a dismissive hand at the jukebox. "I hope you picked something better, Brick."
"'Mah Girl,'" Washington answered, digging into the burger Huggy had brought over.
"Now that's music," Starsky agreed.
"I wouldn't trust his taste," Hutch needled. "He likes disco."
"Starsky!" Huggy exclaimed. "Those BeeGees?"
"I don't listen to the BeeGees." Starsky applied a liberal dollop of ketchup on his hamburger before taking a large bite.
"He likes ABBA." Hutch swiped Starsky's pickle with a leer. His tuna melt hadn't included one, just an ice cream scoop of potato salad.
"Those Danish girls are pretty hot," Huggy said thoughtfully, picking up empty glasses from the neighboring table before taking them back to the bar sink.
"They're Swedish," Darryl supplied helpfully. When the other three gave him incredulous looks, he nodded vigorously. "From Sweden. In Scandinavia."
"We know where Sweden is, Brick," Hutch agreed, eating the pickle in sharp bites. "You like ABBA?"
"They're not happenin', man." He picked up a French fry. "Ah don't know why we're talkin' 'bout them anyways."
"Because he..." Starsky frowned, unable to untangle the conversation. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, his head aching from the smoke and noise in the bar. The sensual tones of "My Girl" were almost drowned out by the ambient background conversation. "You ready to become Ken Chambers, buddy?"
"I better be; think I'll start Wednesday or Thursday, if Dobey gets an okay from that factory on Wilber." Hutch swallowed the last of his beer, waving his mug towards Huggy at the bar.
"Why not tomorrow?" Darryl asked.
"Can't go in before his cover story has back up. The factory, his apartment's landlord, all have to agree to be in on it." Starsky ate some of his burger, the ketchup dripping onto his French fries. "Can't be too careful, one wrong word and your cover's blown to hell." He picked up one of the red splattered fries, licking off the ketchup before eating it.
"Starsk, that's disgusting." Hutch belied his own words by swiping a fry.
"You two are crazy," Darryl laughed, knowing he was going to enjoy working with both of them.
"He is." Starsky pointed to the blond man. "An' for the record, I like Jim Croce."
"Think I'm crazy?" Hutch countered. "Comes from working with you." He took another French fry. "Better watch yourself, Brick, Starsky's libel to drive you 'round the bend."
"Speak for yourself; you'll miss me inside of a week," Starsky grumbled. "And keep your hands off my fries."
"I didn't get any," Hutch pointed out.
"Is that my fault?"
All three parted company amiably, returning to their respective homes before ten. Hutch slept in his own bed for the first night since the temple bombing, but he was restless, unnamed worries disturbing his sleep.
In the odd way of dreams, he was desperately searching...first down one corridor, then another, finally peering down a deep cave, his heart pounding so loudly it sounded like jungle drums. But he never found what he sought, awakening covered in sweat at 5:30 AM. He had an overwhelming urge to call Starsky, but chided himself for the worry, going out for a morning run instead. He had to remind himself to keep his distance from Starsky from now on. Any contact between the two of them could be dangerous. He couldn't keep calling him whenever he felt like talking, and he certainly had to start orienting himself to a more prejudiced mindset.
With that in mind he changed quickly after his run, driving down to South Main, over thirty minutes away from his house, to have breakfast. After the laid back, bohemian atmosphere of Venice, where he'd lived for several years, the community of Waverly was depressing, the nearby car parts factory dominating the whole neighborhood.
A diner was doing a fairly booming business for only 6:30 in the morning, and Hutch got the last stool at the counter. He ordered an omelet, wheat toast and tea, idly watching the other patrons eating their own breakfasts.
The food was surprisingly good, since the diner had the look of a place that fried everything in a vat of bacon grease. The eggs were light and fluffy, with a hint of dill. He'd be happy to eat here everyday of his undercover, but then remembered that if he were supposed to be out of work, he wouldn't be able to afford it. He was just finishing his cup of tea when a tall, broad shouldered man with the white blond hair of a true Nordic walked in, took a seat two stools down the counter from Hutch and ordered pancakes and bacon.
"Sure thing, Peter." The waitress was definitely over forty, but she simpered in front of the blond man like a schoolgirl. Hutch was no judge of another man's looks, but Peter certainly could have been the captain of some high school football team perhaps ten years back with his thick neck, huge hands and swaggering style.
"You sure got a way with a pot of coffee," Peter teased the waitress. "You know I never go anywhere else." Studying the man's profile, Hutch realized with a jolt that this might be the elusive Peter van Geller. There'd been no photograph with the file on the United Aryan Brotherhood, but his gut told him that this was his assignment.
As Hutch got up to pay the waitress, whose nametag proclaimed her as Dotty, a second man walked in, joining Peter at the counter. Obviously friends, the blond accepted a sheaf of papers from the smaller, thin-faced man, frowning as he read the information.
"Your change?" Dotty asked when Hutch appeared not to be paying any attention to the transaction.
"Oh, keep it," Hutch said generously; it was only a couple of quarters. While a big tip for the breakfast, he thought it might get her into his good graces for the future.
"Thanks." She tucked the money into her pocket, smiling at him.
"Got to get to work." Hutch started planting his cover story. "Boss told me he had something important to tell me this morning; don't want to be late."
"You work over at the factory?" Dotty asked. "Haven't seen you around much."
"Just got off the night shift two months ago; hard to get up when I used to be going to bed." Hutch laughed. "Kept being late, but now I think good things are about to happen. Maybe a promotion."
"Well, good luck! Come in and tell me when you get that promotion."
"Sure thing." Hutch waved at her, giving a glance to the two men at the bar. He got the impression that something was going on between the two, and that he should keep his eyes on them.
Sitting in his parked car half a block down from the diner, Hutch watched the city of Waverly come to life as more businesses opened up, more people walking purposely to their respective jobs. Peter and his friend stayed in the diner far longer than it would have taken both of them to eat two breakfasts, but finally emerged at nearly 7:45. They walked only a few hundred yards to an abandoned looking storefront with newspapered windows, unlocked the chain on the front door and entered. It was the address for the United Aryan Brotherhood. Hutch congratulated himself on somehow recognizing the blond man as probably being Peter van Geller, the titular head of the organization, but wondered how he could get in their good graces. It didn't look as if they were advertising for any applicants. In fact, it looked like they had plenty to hide. How would he explain how he'd heard of them?
He sat watching for a half-hour more, but nothing much of interest happened. A few more men entered the Brotherhood offices, all naturally white but they were also noticeable for being tall and blond haired. Maybe the Aryans really took their German ancestors' precepts to heart and were looking for a few particular prejudiced men. At least that gave Hutch a leg up over some brown haired red neck. He still felt uncomfortable even pretending to allay himself with such bigots.
He drove away from South Main to a less busy street to use a public telephone to call Dobey. The Metro captain was pleased about Hutch's early morning foray, and gave him the go-ahead to contact the manager of the car parts factory. He ended the conversation by telling him that he would be expected to call into the precinct every day at 5:30 PM.
"You miss a call in and the department's on alert, you understand, Hutchinson?" Dobey warned in his usual blustery way.
"Got it, Captain." Hutch smiled to himself, glad he had friends behind him. "And you know if that happens, Starsky'll come after me."
"Take care of yourself, son," Dobey said more gently.
"Plan on it."
Starsky ambled into the empty squad room, finishing the last of his morning jelly donut. Dropping into his usual chair, he swirled the dregs of his coffee in the Styrofoam cup, feeling unsettled. It wasn't just that there were no other detectives in at the moment, it was that there was no tall, blond partner sitting across from him. It had been a long time since either he or Hutch had gone undercover without the other. Except for the three weeks Hutch had been off for his wound, it had been more than a year since Starsky had been on his own. Hutch had been so overly protective of him when he'd come back after his long medical leave following the shooting that it was literally months before anyone left him alone, period. Hutch, Huggy, Meredith, and a barrage of friends had kept their eyes on him until he had actually rebelled, going off on a bender one weekend, just to get them off his back. Thinking back, that was probably why he'd started going to temple, for a bit of solitude. To be with his own thoughts--and God. Not the worst place to be.
Reminding himself that he wasn't actually alone in the physical sense, he did have a new partner--wherever he was at this moment. Starsky opened the top case file on his desk. He'd asked for the preliminary investigation reports on the temple bombing, wanting to get up to speed with the case before joining Micah Bachman on the front lines.
But the pictures. Very few of the official report's photos showed anything but the interior of the ruined building, but interspersed with the police photos were pictures gleaned from all the newspaper and television footage. The now famous image of him and Micah, action shots of the firemen and paramedics doing their jobs, gruesome prints of dead bodies, burned corpses... He flipped the pictures over with a snap, the donut in his stomach churning.
"What 'er ya lookin' at?" Washington came up behind him with his breakfast sandwich, to peer over Starsky's shoulder.
"Brick, you nearly gave me a heart attack!" Starsky groused, gripping the edge of the desk to stop his hands from shaking.
"Well then, stop lookin' at them pictures." Darryl grimaced at an overview of the entire destruction, synagogue still in flames.
"Y'know what the first people on the scene found?" Starsky asked rhetorically. "The emergency door to the community room was blocked from the outside. So nobody could escape."
"Starsky," Washington sighed. "What happened...happened. Nobody can deny it--but you can't let all that hate fester inside you."
"Can you blame me?" Starsky flared, pushing the chair back with a jerk. He sprang to his feet, agitated.
"No, man." Washington held up his hands defensively. "But you can't go out there and watch Bachman's back like this. All tense. You need to find it in your heart t' forgive."
"Forgive!?" Starsky repeated in disbelief, prowling the room from the water cooler to the file cabinet. "They killed six people! And another old man who died of a heart attack after he got to the hospital!"
"D'you remember the four little girls in Birmingham?"
"1963. My Granny Mae-Belle lived in Birmingham, Alabama. We used t'go there in the summer." He collected the pictures back into the file folder and closed it. "A bastard put a bomb in a church. Killed four little girls. Four sweet girls who were gonna go to Sunday school."
"'Cause they were black," Starsky said almost inaudibly.
"Damn." The anger was so tight in his chest he couldn't breathe for a moment. "I was a teenager. I remember."
"Th' only way anybody can get past that kinda pain is t'let yourself forgive." Darryl shook his head. "Or it'll eat you up inside."
"Like cancer," Starsky said obliquely.
"Starsky! Washington!" Dobey bellowed, despite the fact that they were less than ten feet away when he came through the connecting door from his office. "Where is everyone else?"
"Fightin' crime, Cap'n." Washington shrugged, watching Starsky until he sat down again.
"Bachman is having a press conference on Thursday afternoon," Dobey explained. "You two need to be in place by then."
"He's in mourning, Cap," Starsky objected. "We have to let him have private time with his family--nobody's leaving him alone."
"Paper's got somethin' nasty to add ever'day," Washington agreed. "Lots of the people that were there said that the service went faster'n usual that night. The bomb was probably meant to go off while they were still sittin' in the pews."
"I joked with Micah about goin' so fast..." Starsky's voice was choked. "Maybe that's the only thing anyone can be grateful for--those bastards didn't kill the whole congregation."
"All the more reason you need to be at his side at the press conference, to protect him," Dobey instructed, but his tone was gentler. He could tell Starsky was still in mourning, too. "Don't let anyone get near him until those peace conferences are underway."
"There a definite date set now?" Washington asked, taking a bite from his forgotten ham sandwich.
"Bachman's statement this morning said he'd say more at the press conference on Thursday, but that he plans to start the talks right after Yom Kippur--at the beginning of October."
"Day of Atonement," Starsky said.
"Oh, and Starsky, I talked to Hutch just now."
"We're setting aside a secure line for him-- You and I are the only ones whom he'll be in contact with." He smiled slightly. "That number is designated as his brother Frank's."
"That mean you two are kin?" Washington snickered, waggling a finger between his partner and captain. "Y'all look so much alike. Take after yer mama or daddy?"
"Quit kidding around, Washington," Dobey chided sternly. "Hutchinson will be calling around 5:30 every afternoon, so one of us has to be waiting."
"Sure, Captain," Starsky agreed, glad there'd be some regular communication from Hutch. "I'll be here."
"Then earn your pay and get out on the streets for the rest of the day." Dobey shooed them off. "Criminals aren't taking an off day just cause you're finishing your breakfast."
"Most important meal of the day." Washington finished his sandwich, taking a long swig from a bottle of orange juice. "Course, I'd worry about little Davey, eatin' donuts an' coffee."
"You're eating ham," Starsky pointed out, feeling like exerting his Jewishness, deliberately neglecting to mention he'd eaten ham plenty of times. He tossed his Styrofoam cup in the trash, heading for the door.
"Yah, now what is it with these food laws ya'll have?" Washington asked, following.
On Wednesday morning, The Brotherhood surprised everyone with their manifesto, printed "exclusively" in the LA Times under the byline of Andrew Cleary. Stating their intentions to reclaim California, and the entire US for "God fearing White Christian People", they proclaimed they planned to stop Micah Bachman's talks and rekindle a "Third Reich regime to destroy all Jews." The story was immediately scooped up and reprinted in every other local newspaper by late afternoon, the national wire services speeding it across the country, each succeeding reprint adding ever more sensational details.
Immediately, hate groups of every stripe lined up along an invisible dividing line, some for the outspoken group, but a surprisingly large portion vocally against them. The Klan, seeking to appeal to a wider population, with forced busing of black children to previously segregated schools now wide spread through the south, denounced the United Aryan Brotherhood for their Nazi-like tactics, although they refused to politically allay themselves with Micah Bachman's minions. In the LA area, there were numerous calls to the Alliance for Peaceful Co-existence, the hastily coined name for Bachman's growing organization.
Hutch sat slumped at the counter of Dino's Diner, the afternoon edition of the paper spread out in front of him. He'd read several versions of the story through out the day, but this one included the comments from the Klan leader. He snorted in disgust, never having thought he might actually agree with anything that hate monger would say. "Nazi-like tactics," he repeated under his breath.
"Don't you just love it?" Dotty asked, her face alight with mischief, leaning over the counter.
"All this." She swept her hand across the front-page article, the side bar comments and updates on the temple bombings.
"Pretty remarkable," Hutch said evasively.
"I know who wrote that," she whispered conspiratorially. Since there was one other patron in the diner, a little old woman who was eating in the farthest booth from them, Hutch wondered why she whispered.
"You do?" He took a calming breath, launching into his cover life for real. He'd contacted the factory, been "hired" and "fired" in less than twenty-four hours, and moved into a tiny studio apartment furnished with a few cheap pieces of furniture garnered from the department's warehouse of unclaimed stolen merchandise. Now was the moment of truth. Would Dotty believe he was sincerely interested in joining the Brotherhood? "I kinda agree with some of what's written here."
"Most folk do," she nodded, the pencil behind her ear threatening to fall. She rescued it with a long, brightly manicured nail. "Too many furriners around here-- Wops, kikes, nigras..."
"But you said you know who wrote this?" Hutch sounded as interested as he could muster.
"Well, yes, but y'know, they're keepin' a low profile, if you know what I mean."
"Understandable. I'd really like to meet them."
She crossed her arms, separating herself from him by leaning on the refrigeration unit behind the counter. "Now, I don't know you real well, seen you here the other day, but that don't mean you ain't some reporter tryin' to get on my good side."
"Just interested." Hutch backed off. "You said you knew them. I'm like minded--I can go elsewhere."
She switched topics by offering him coffee. He agreed to a cup and ordered a piece of gelatinous lemon meringue pie. The slice she slid in front of him had a bilious yellow color no real lemon ever achieved. He took a tentative bite, washing it down with a decent coffee. He reminded himself never to order dessert here again; even Starsky couldn't stomach this. The breakfast had been far superior to the pie. He toyed with his fork, reluctant to eat more possible nuclear waste.
"It's awful early in the afternoon for you t'be off work. You get that promotion you were talkin' about?" Dotty restarted the conversation.
"You've got a good memory."
"Useful in my profession." She tapped her order pad.
"I guess so." Hutch nodded. "How much do I owe you?"
He pulled a handful of cash out of his pocket, carefully counting the exact change and adding a ten percent tip.
"You didn't get any promotion, did you?" she asked sympathetically.
"Got fired," Hutch spat. "Boss said he was tired of me being late. He's the one who switched me from nights to days--never late a day in my life when I worked nights."
"Sorry." She tapped the keys of the cash register, dropping his money into the drawer, leaving out the last quarter. "Keep the tip, looks like you could use it."
"Y'know the worst part?" Hutch picked up the quarter, rolling it between his fingers. "A damned Jew got the floor manager position-- I worked there two years and they pass me over for him." He gave a silent apology to Starsky for talking like that.
"Listen...I don't know if I can help you in the money department, but maybe I could talk to a friend of mine." She gave him a full-length appraisal. "Nice tall, blond guy like yourself, that's exactly the kind of man he likes workin' for him."
"You're not talking about anything kinky, are you?"
This received a throaty chuckle. "Honey, you'd be good for that kinda work, too. Peter's...like-minded, as you said. You'll like him."
Sincerely doubting that, he folded the paper, letting only the Brotherhood's manifesto show. "You mean he wrote..."
"Whatever you say. Be here tomorrow, maybe noon?"
He nodded, starting to leave.
"Wait," Dotty called. "What's your name, Blondie?"
"Ken Chambers," Hutch introduced himself. "And thank you for trusting me. I'll be here tomorrow, promise."
Elated, Hutch headed back to his spacious studio apartment. It was on the second story of a building so precarious looking, even a minor earthquake would probably tumble it like a house of cards. He stopped at the corner market for a few groceries, and indulged in a straggly looking fern, never quite able to resist a needy looking plant.
He had just over an hour before he needed to check in with the police department, and spent the time giving his place a lived in look. The empty beer cans, old magazines and pile of dirty laundry he'd brought from his Venice home really gave the apartment the authentic feel. The department had provided mail with the address printed on it, and even a realistic looking dunning notice from a defunct credit card service threatening him with repossession of his TV. Starsky would have teasingly pointed out that his usual beater of a Ford would have fit right in, but he'd started driving a gray Pinto with a rusty bumper.
The housekeeping took very little time and Hutch turned on the TV for company, trying to feel at home in his new apartment and new persona.
Picking up the secured line on the first ring, Starsky glanced at the clock; it was five twenty five. Hutch was right on time. "Starsky," he barked.
"You're supposed to be Frank," Hutch teased.
"How come Dobey an' me hafta be the same brother? Can'cha have two?"
"He made these rules, not me." Hutch laughed, glad to be talking to someone whose company he enjoyed. Even second hand contact with the Aryans felt dirty.
"Well, they're kinda stupid," Starsky complained amiably, just as happy to be talking to his friend. "How're you doin'?"
Recounting his meetings with Dotty and the plan to meet with van Geller on the morrow, Hutch tried to think of some way to continue the conversation. "What's the reaction to the shit printed in the paper this morning?"
"You mean the birdcage liner?" Starsky asked tightly. "All I need to do is get a bird."
"Starsk, don't let it get to you." Hutch sighed. "They're sick people, and we're gonna put them in prison."
"Yah, that'll stop them--in an enclosed population where anger breeds," Starsky answered cynically. "That's the answer."
"Which is why what Micah is doing it so important."
"We'll be at his press conference tomorrow and the peace talks are set to start on October 9th, after Yom Kippur."
"Good. Not soon enough."
"Hutch...don't let 'em get to you."
"Couldn't happen, buddy. I've known you too long."
"If being paired with you in the academy didn't make me prejudiced, nothing could."
"Hanging up now."
"G'bye, Starsk," Hutch said into the empty apartment after the connection had been broken.
Hutch arrived almost exactly at the appointed hour for his meeting with hate. Dino's was full of the lunch crowd, the counter crammed with bodies shoving burgers and the soup of the day into their mouths, but Dotty spotted him when he walked in and waved him over.
"I saved you the back booth." She motioned to the empty table by the kitchen door. "Peter should be here real soon."
Thanking her, Hutch slipped into the padded bench facing the door. He made a show of scanning the menu, keeping his eye on the patrons coming and going through the glass doors with the large script D on each side.
Peter van Geller came through at five after twelve and stood surveying the room as if coming to some sort of decision. Dressed in a blue polo shirt and khakis, he still gave off the aura of some past football captain; there was no obvious sign of a man who could cold-heartedly bomb a synagogue full of people. He gave a perfunctory nod when Dotty pointed him back to Hutch's booth.
"Ken Chambers?" van Geller asked. "Dotty says you're interested in The Brotherhood."
"If you mean do I want to join with others who think like I do, then yah." Hutch held out a hopefully friendly hand, but van Geller chose to ignore it. "I read your article in the paper. I agree with you one hundred percent."
Sitting down, the head of the Aryan Brotherhood scrutinized Hutch's face for several unnerving moments. "You'd certainly fit right in. But how do I know you really believe in the truth?"
The truth? Hutch thought with disbelief. "I think this country's gone to the Jews. Good Americans need to reclaim our constitutional rights from these...hook noses." He had to grope for a derogatory tem, but van Geller didn't seem to notice his hesitation.
"Well, lots of people can spout the rhetoric, but what do you have to really contribute to the cause?"
"Time." Hutch related his now familiar story of having been passed over for a Jewish co-worker, and admitted that he had no job, but added that he didn't expect the Brotherhood to pay him. "I want to get back some self respect. When I read what you're planning to do, I said, there's someone who knows what he wants. That's the kind of person I want to get to know."
"We're not a big organization, but we have big plans." Peter leaned back in his seat, still suspicious of this blond haired man. "What we did last week was just the beginning."
"I could help out in any way," Hutch offered. "Pamphlets, driving, whatever you want, as long as it helps make a change."
"Well, Chambers, I like your enthusiasm." Van Geller nodded. "Let's have some lunch and get to know each other. If I still like what I see at the end of the meal, you'll be in on a probationary period. But I expect hard work, and a willingness to do what needs to be done."
Both ordered burgers and fries, Peter beginning to expound on his theories as he ate. Hutch was both repulsed and fascinated by the way the man's mind worked. He was one of the most normal looking sociopaths he had ever come across.
After the meal, van Geller walked Hutch down the sidewalk to the nearby storefront. "We're keeping a low profile." Peter waved a hand at the newspaper-covered windows.
Hutch nodded, then took a closer look, realizing that the papers were now all recent editions. Every inch was covered with different versions of the Brotherhood's manifesto, from newspapers across the country. One was even from the International Tribune, the journal read by English speaking people across the globe. For a small time anti-Semitic group, they had made ripples in a far bigger pond than expected.
"Right now, we need to block that asshole Bachman's peace talks." Van Geller opened the door, showing Hutch into the small front room. Several other men and one or two women, all so blond and Aryan that Hitler could have used them for breeding stock, were industriously stuffing envelopes, working a small Xerox machine and talking on the phone. "You can start by helping Tobe here." He clapped a lean faced man on the shoulder. "He's getting out the word about who we are and what we believe in."
"Hey." Tober Daniels gave Hutch the once over and went back to sticking address labels onto envelopes.
"I thought that was why you went to the papers," Hutch said, confused. "Your manifesto reached across the world, man."
"But did it reach the right people? You may have noticed we didn't put in the full name of our organization." Van Geller smiled smugly, "Can't be too careful. There could be spies everywhere."
Knowing Peter was feeling him out, Hutch nodded in agreement. "You don't want the cops knowing what you plan in advance."
"Exactly, man." Van Geller handed him a pile of flyers. "Get to work, there's lots to be done.
The Alliance for Peaceful Co-existence had been headquartered in an old Victorian donated by the family of one of the bombing victims. Since they had scarcely had time to move in before the press conference, everything was in a state of organized chaos. People Starsky didn't recognize were rushing about with hastily Xeroxed papers, while others tried to create a professional looking area where Bachman could deliver his statement in front of the invited cameras.
There was, unsurprisingly, security at the front door, checking identification. Both Starsky and Washington flashed their police badges and were ushered upstairs into Bachman's private "office," which had obviously once been a child's bedroom. There was pink bunny wallpaper on the wall.
"Detective Starsky," Moses Reinhart greeted him. Like Starsky, he still bore marks from the bombing only seven days earlier. His left eye was still bruised, the gash across his eyebrow healing. "Glad to hear you're on the team."
After introducing Washington, Starsky went over to where Micah was hunched over a desk, correcting his written statement with a red pen. "Micah?"
"Dave!" The rabbi stood to give his friend a hug. "Why didn't you come talk to me after the funeral?"
"Didn't want to intrude." Starsky perched on the edge of the desk.
"You wouldn't have." Micah tapped his pen on the papers. "I really need those about me who care. I couldn't do this otherwise."
"That's why I'm here." Starsky waved his arms around to include the room. "Nice house, but your wallpaper could use some work."
"Hey." A hint of Bachman's old sense of humor glinted in his green eyes. "I like bunnies."
"Just don't let the press up here then, cause pink rabbits lack a certain seriousness."
"Sometimes that's exactly what I want." Micah sighed, his heart still so full of grief he found it hard to form words. "Miriam would have loved this house. It's exactly the kind of place she always wanted." His voice broke and he bit back a sob. "She's with me every minute; I can't stop thinking about her." He reached over and touched Starsky's dark curls. "Hair. I... Her hair was always there. In our bed, I'd feel it against my cheek...black curls escaping from her clip. And then it was covered with blood." He dropped heavily into the chair, tears on his cheeks. "How did this happen? I was only a few feet a way from her. A few feet, I could have touched her if I'd reached out my arm...You saw her, didn't you? At the coffee urn?"
"Yah, she was talking to some other women." Starsky tried to get the image of the three women laying under the rubble out of his head. He, too, could still picture Miriam with her gorgeous hair mated in blood.
"Did you talk to her?" Micah asked hopefully. "I didn't say anything to her before she died. I hadn't really spoken to her all evening, just chatted about the coffee."
"No. I went to get a cookie." Starsky wanted to get Micah out of his memories. It was too close to the time of the press conference for him to be breaking down like this.
"I don't think I told her I loved her that day," Micah whispered.
"Micah, she knew. She always knew," Starsky assured him.
"'Scuse me, Starsky?" Darryl Washington stood in the threshold, his huge frame filling the doorframe. "It's nearly time for him to go downstairs. There's cameras and reporters ever'where."
"Give us a minute." Starsky waved Washington away, shielding the rabbi's tears from him. "Are you gonna be able to do this?" he asked seriously, letting Micah dry his eyes and collect himself. "It can be postponed."
"No, I want it to be today." Bachman stood, taking a deep breath before retreating to the attached bathroom to splash water on his face. He finger combed his reddish beard, regarding his pale face in the mirror. "I need to show them I'm not down for the count."
"Then let's get this over with." Starsky grimaced, not looking forward to the next few minutes at all. He'd never liked dealing with the press. They had a way of changing what you said, so that your very meaning came out wrong. Oh, there were good reporters out there, who didn't let biases and innuendo cloud their stories, but by in large the press had already shown themselves to be after the sensation in the bombing. The human side kept getting lost in the shuffle.
As Washington had said, the front room was wall to wall reporters, TV cameras and arc lights looming over the smaller men and women of the print world. Moses Reinhart helped clear a path so that the rabbi and Starsky could traverse the room to the small podium set up in front of the red brick fireplace.
Despite his tears only moments before, Micah Bachman was a man in charge when he stepped behind the podium. There was no hint of his overwhelming grief, just a sense of a man who had lost a great deal, but knew what needed to be done. He thanked the press for coming, introducing his "team," mentioning Moses, Starsky, Washington and a few others by name. Then, after digging into his back pocket, he pulled out a small calendar, the sort given away in many stationary stores, and held it aloft.
"According to my calendar here, today is Citizenship day--September 17th, 1980. Now, I don't know if this was proclaimed by Congress or Hallmark, but personally I plan to celebrate this new found holiday." He looked at the people in front of him intently, giving the impression he was speaking personally to each one. "How do I accomplish this? There are no parades or barbecues planned, as far as I know. But I will start by reaching out to my neighbor. In Jewish traditions the commandments say, 'Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.' Our Christian friends' philosophies say it just as simply: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' For many people, none of these things are easy." He paused for a breath.
Watching from the sidelines, Starsky was impressed; if any one could bring opposites together, it was Micah Bachman. The press was listening avidly, their usual cynical faces wanting to hear the hope in his words.
"I have never felt hate before..." Bachman continued. "But my heart has been stabbed since my wife's death seven days before..." For the first time, there was a strain in his voice, but his next words were stronger, suppressing the emotion. "But can I hate these people? No, I truly say I cannot. I don't know them. To condemn them for what they have done without knowing the cause would truly be bearing false witness. On the other hand, can I love them? Not just the people who have hurt me, but the rest of my neighbors? I will try. Do they love me? Obviously some of them do not--and that is why we must continue to fight to change the way people think. Because we must love each other--but not only that--we must understand each other, support each other through the good and the bad. Some people did very bad things to me and mine, but I cannot--must not--reciprocate. I want to get to know them, guide them, and learn why they hate. In learning why they hate, maybe I can help them turn it around to love. Because if we don't love each other, how can we love ourselves?" He sighed, glancing down at the little calendar on the lectern. "And if that sounds like Hallmark wrote it, so be it. Maybe Citizenship Day is a greeting card holiday. But I say then, greet one another. Shake the hand of someone you wouldn't normally talk to. Black, white, Asian, American Indian, Jew and gentile, we must all live here together. Despite the dreadful circumstances of last week, I plan to go forward with my plans for peace talks between hate groups and religious leaders. Anyone who is interested is welcomed to join. We will commence on October ninth. I urge you all to support us. Communication is the key to universal understanding. Thank you."
Micah had barely finished his last words when the reporters pounced, most demanding to know about the investigation into the temple bombing. His standard response was that the LAPD was doing their utmost to solve the crime, but he had no new information to relate.
The press were not satisfied and surged closer, until both Bachman and Starsky couldn't have moved around them if they'd tried. Reinhart managed to squeeze around the side of the room and open the front door.
"Thank y'all fer comin'," Washington announced loudly, herding several reporters towards the door. "We look forward t'readin' all about it in your papers. G'bye."
This diversion was enough to let Micah escape up the stairs to his offices, but when Starsky joined his partner, the men and women of the media just found a new target.
"Detective Starsky, you were at the temple." A microphone was thrust in Starsky's face. "Do you support Rabbi Bachman's views?" Half a dozen reporters poised anxiously for their next quote.
"How do you feel about the people who did this?" another voice demanded when there was no answer forthcoming. Starsky, uncomfortable with the intense scrutiny, backed up, bumping into the formidable bulk of his partner.
The first thought Starsky had was that he'd like to string them all up by their gonads or maybe put their heads on pikes, but he knew that didn't exactly jibe with Micah's love-your-neighbor spiel. "I'm not currently involved with the investigation, so I couldn't comment on what they've discovered," he commented blandly, mentally cringing.
This non-answer only spurred on the reporters, who leaned forward for another volley. Starsky was glad he could feel Washington's solid presence at his back.
"Detective, you spent the weekend after the bombing secluded in your home. Were you avoiding the press, and if so why?"
"I had a concussion," Starsky snapped with more heat than he'd meant to.
"I think ya'll need to make yer deadlines," Washington said diplomatically, moving purposely around his partner. "The door is behind you. This press conference is over."
When the room had been finally emptied of media, cameras and sound equipment, Micah ventured down the stairs, a smile on his face. "I think that went very well, all things considered." He held out a hand to Darryl, giving the detective's a shake. "I think you may get promoted to public relations, Detective Washington."
"Just Darryl, sir." Washington shrugged embarrassed. "Or you kin call me Brick like Davey does."
"Well, I think a solid Brick is exactly what we need around here."
Working silently next to Tobe, Hutch watched as Peter van Geller disappeared into a small back room. For nearly an hour Hutch and Tobe stuffed and addressed envelopes without speaking. It was boring, repetitive work and the cop began to wonder if he was in danger of falling asleep on the job before he got any useful information.
"Where'd these lists of names come from?" Hutch asked casually. There were mostly British and Germanic last names in long columns. Daniels had more than ten pages of names, and by the look of it, several of the envelope stuffers in the room had approximately the same number by their piles.
"Van Geller just get's 'em." Tobe shrugged. "Don't ask too many questions."
"You agree with everything he says?" Hutch cracked his aching wrist, this was worse than writing out arrest reports.
"Be stupid not to, I expect," was the taciturn reply.
This was such an oddly worded answer, Hutch didn't know how to respond. He folded another twenty flyers before attempting to draw the other man out. "I can't stand to see those Jews taking all the jobs. Even my landlord sounds like a Jew--Klein. I'd move but I haven't got enough dough."
"You live over there on Mayflower?" A sandy haired man to Hutch's left looked up. "58 Mayflower?" When he nodded, the man continued. "I usta live there; that guy's a shyster. Typical Kike--he'll raise the rent on you every month if he could."
"Lived there a few months since I broke up with my old lady, an' he's already tried it," Hutch improvised, getting sympathetic murmurs from everyone in the room.
This sparked a lively discussion between all the office workers that included every single cliché in the prejudiced person's handbook--that--take your pick--all Jews, blacks, sand niggers, were taking over jobs, good neighborhoods and schools. All Americans would be better off if these free loaders just went back to where they came from and killing was too good for most of them.
It literally made Hutch sick. He felt the bile rise in his throat and had to force himself to walk casually to the water cooler to get a drink. The water soothed his throat, but his stomach felt raw. Especially after the striking blonde woman at the Xerox machine voiced her opinion that "colored bitches" should be sterilized so that they couldn't produce any more whelps. If Hutch had met the blonde at a bar he would have been instantly attracted by her high cheekbones and model's figure, but the garbage spewing from her mouth was so offensive he wondered if that was why she was stuffing envelopes here and not gracing the front office of some high priced attorney or businessman.
"Elsa's right. I work at the county hospital." The oldest man in the room spoke up. "You can't believe how many of them are having babies--ain't half as many white babies born. We ain't gonna be a majority for long."
"Something's got to be done," Tobe agreed, but gave no suggestion on what.
Trying to remember the names he'd learned so far, Hutch was otherwise disappointed. He hadn't been able to question anyone regarding first hand knowledge of the temple bombing, but all the workers were quite vocal in their support of it. It was quickly evident that none of them had any specific inside information. Van Geller must have some second lieutenants whom he kept as close confidantes.
Just as Hutch was speculating on their identities, van Geller and two others burst out of the back room, carrying a small portable television with them.
"Everybody's got to see this!" a thin man with wire rimmed glasses announced. Hutch recognized him as the man he'd seen van Geller with at the diner for breakfast on Tuesday.
A beefy, red faced man with a marine style buzz cut, which showed off his surprisingly tiny ears, positioned the TV on a table amongst the stacks of envelopes and plugged it in. All the office workers gathered around, pushing their chairs into place so they could see the screen. When van Geller turned it on there was just hiss and snow that slowly solidified into a still photo of Micah Bachman. An off camera voice was explaining that the press conference was just about to begin when the picture changed to a live shot of Bachman walking up to the podium. Hutch sat up with interest when he recognized Starsky and Washington on either side of the rabbi. He hadn't seen his friends in several days and realized with a pang how much he missed them. He hated being separated from Starsky when they were undercover. It made him feel very alone.
"Fucker," van Geller said vehemently, flipping the bird at Bachman's televised image. "Fuckin' do gooder, thinks that he can change the world. Jews deserve only one thing..."
"Peter, don't you want to listen to what he's saying?" the bespeckled man asked reasonably.
"No." His laugh was such a weird sound that it sent shivers down Hutch's spine. "I'd rather kill him." Even some of the other office workers in the room looked askance at their leader, proving to Hutch that most were unaware of his suspected part in the bombing.
"Can I love them?" Micah Bachman said earnestly on the television. "Not just the people who have hurt me, but the rest of my neighbors. I will try. Do they love me? Obviously some of them do not..."
"He's got that right," the big man with the buzz cut sneered, as the camera panned to include the men grouped around the rabbi listening avidly, giving Hutch another glimpse of his friends. He began to fear for their lives.
"There's that cop again." Van Geller tapped his finger on the glass screen, seeming to actually touch Starsky's dark curly hair. "And now he's got a big nigger with him. We need to find out when the head Jew is gonna have another one of these gab fests." Peter rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Can't let him have all the glory. John--that's your job. We need some insider info..."
"Peter, we need to take this in the other room," wire-rims warned, inclining his head at the group of office workers.
"The voice of reason as usual, Sherman." Van Geller gave him a ghastly smile, refocusing on the TV screen. Bachman was announcing the date of the upcoming peace talks and thanking his audience. He switched the television off with a vicious jerk, but Hutch was later to see the reporters question Starsky on a late night news report. "C'mon, boys, we got things to plan." The phone began to ring as he urged the others to get back to their mailings, because they had to combat Bachman at every turn.
"Mr. van Geller?" Elsa had answered the phone, and looked terrified to be speaking directly to him.
"Yah, baby?" He smiled in an oily, lounge lizard way, his demeanor changing so rapidly, it was like watching a chameleon change colors.
"It's the hospital, I think your grandfather..."
He grabbed the receiver from her, listening to the speaker on the other end with a pale face. Hutch had never seen a man switch emotions as quickly as van Geller could; it was startling and creepy. Everyone in the room was staring at their leader with apprehension.
When he finally put down the phone, van Geller looked drained. "My grandfather's had another heart attack--it's bad."
"I'll drive you down there," John offered, taking his friend's arm. "C'mon, Sherman'll stay here with the troops."
"He's a fighter, Peter, he'll beat this," Sherman placated, pushing his glasses up him narrow nose. "Call us with the news."
"Yah, yah..." With that, van Geller and John left out the front door, leaving the office workers looking lost.
"Keep on going, we need to get those flyers out as fast as possible," Sherman instructed brusquely. "Elsa, take whatever's finished to the post office right now, Peter'll feel better if some are already out when he gets back."
"Yes, sir." She and the other woman began to pack the finished envelopes into a box and soon departed. Sherman returned to the back office, taking the television with him.
"Who were those two men with van Geller?" Hutch asked. "And what's with his grandfather."
"I forgot how new you are." The man who'd said he used to live in Hutch's building introduced himself as Sam Metzger. "That's Albert Sherman and John Adams. They're his right hand men, the only ones who know much of anything around here."
Folding more flyers, Hutch smiled to himself; finally some names he could use. "And the old man?"
"Helmut van Geller--I heard he's really old SS."
"You mean he was a Nazi?" Hutch asked in true surprise.
"Born in Germany," Tobe Daniels supplied.
"I heard he actually met Hitler," another blond man put in with awe. He raised his arm in the Nazi salute. "Heil!"
"He raised Peter," Metzger continued. " Taught him all he knows."
Well, that explained a lot. Aloud, Hutch asked, "He's had a second heart attack?"
"Sounds like it," Metzger agreed. "Too bad, I really liked him. Had a good heart, really salt of the earth kind of guy."
Starsky dashed madly down the halls of the precinct, pushing past two patrolmen bringing in a string of prostitutes, and slammed through the detective squad room doors just as the private line was ringing for the second time.
He snatched up the phone, answering breathlessly, "Frank here. That you, Ken?"
"You sound out of breath, Frank." Hutch stressed the name, knowing Starsky hated it.
"Naw, just had to run a coupla blocks to get here on time, is all." Starsky settled into his chair, a goofy grin on his face.
"Saw you on TV today--and all I can say is, don't quit your day job."
"Thanks a million. Don't know what I'd do without the support of friends like you," Starsky answered dryly. "Speaking of day jobs, how's your new one?"
"More productive than I expected for the first day."
"So you got in? Spoke to that guy van Geller?"
"Yah, he's a dangerous man--spooky, one minute he's your best friend, the next he's talking about killing."
"I don't like you havin' to deal with him," Starsky said more seriously.
"Starsk, don't worry, I got the right camouflage. The place looks like a breeding group for Nazi central. Everyone who works there is blond haired and blue eyed--or at most, light brown hair. I haven't seen so many blondes since the Hutchinson family reunion." Hutch related the names of the workers that he'd met. "But after van Geller, the next in charge are John Adams and Albert Sherman. Check for priors on them, first. I wouldn't be surprised if the ones working up front are just a bunch of out-of-work folk with severe right wing leanings, but not involved with murder."
"Hutch, just take care of yourself."
Wanting to say the same thing in return, Hutch held his tongue. He knew Starsky would just bristle and claim he wasn't the one in the thick of things. "You okay, Starsk?"
"Me?" Starsky gave a little snort of laughter, but there was a tense edge to it. "Just dandy. Micah was a mess about five minutes before the telecast, then he just turned on the charm, and gave a hell of a speech. I couldna done it in his shoes."
"I liked what I heard," Hutch agreed. He finished giving his partner any information he could think of about the United Aryan Brotherhood and then with a regretful goodbye, hung up.
Starsky dropped the receiver back into the cradle, wondering if he had the strength to get up and drive home. Despite his cocky words to Hutch, he still felt like he was walking through molasses most of the time, and would really like to curl up and sleep for about ten years. Calculating the time difference between Los Angeles and Washington D.C., he dialed the number of the condo Meredith was renting while she was on the East Coast.
"Hello?" She answered after two rings.
"Hello yourself." Starsky put a smile into his voice, imaging her face, the light in her large dark eyes, touch of his hand on her brown cheek.
"Blue eyes!" she crowed. "I was just thinking about you, you must be psychic. I saw you on the TV."
"Don't tell me they showed Micah's speech way out there!" he groused, but smiled just the same. This time a real smile, happy that she'd been thinking of him when he was thinking of her. "Not psychic, just linked to you."
"Oh, that's it, like a Vulcan mind meld." She was an avid trekkie, and had insisted they watch old reruns of Captain Kirk and Spock on many occasions. "But you looked thin, on the TV."
"I doubt that; I heard the camera adds ten pounds," he joked, wishing they could talk about anything else besides his work.
"What, are you vain?" she teased, hugging a velvet sofa cushion against her since she couldn't have him.
"Maybe, a little, with you." Starsky tucked the phone between his shoulder and ear, leaning against the desk. "I mean, when I'm with you, everybody's lookin' at that beautiful chick with the short cop..."
"The short cop? Who have you been talking to."
"Mer, I'm partnered with Brick while Hutch is undercover." He'd given her a brief overview of the assignment in a phone call a few nights ago.
"Oh, well that explains it." She laughed. "Honey, Hutch looks short next to that man. Next to me, you look just fine."
"You look fine anytime." Starsky doodled the outline of a woman on a discarded sheet of paper. "What've you got on?"
"Your police academy T-shirt."
"No kiddin'?" He was thrilled. "I wondered where that was. What else?"
"Nuthin' much, honey." Meredith lingered on the last word with every ounce of Georgian drawl her southern grandma had ever taught her.
"Boy, I wish I was there," he said longingly.
"Where are you?" she asked, suddenly aware of the drift their conversation had taken.
"In the squad room."
"David!" she squealed. "The operator, or anybody could be listening!"
"They're not. I swear. I'm alone." He looked around the empty room. "Nobody's here."
"Well, if you want to continue this...conversation," she emphasized the word, "I suggest you call me back when you get home. I'll give you thirty minutes."
"Not accounting for traffic, are you?" Starsky stood, ready to sprint out as soon as he hung up.
"Gives me just time to draw a bubble bath and light a few candles," Meredith teased. "Bye!" She blew an airy kiss.
The dark haired detective beat his own best record in the squad-room-to-parking-lot dash.
The phone was ringing as soon as Starsky unlocked his front door, but it was just a telemarketer calling about a free subscription to the newspaper. He slammed the receiver down in frustration, only to have it ring immediately, tingling the palm of his hand.
"Meredith?" Starsky asked breathlessly.
"Wore you out, poor boy?" she purred.
"Just getting worked up." Starsky balanced the phone on his shoulder, unfastening his shoulder holster and dropping it to the floor. Just hearing her voice was arousing him, and he didn't want any encumbrances. "Did you start that bath?"
"Honey, the water's warm and full of bubbles." Meredith stirred the water with one hand, licking her lips. "You'd better take your clothes off and join me, the water's fine."
"Give me a minute!" He laughed, struggling to keep the phone to his ear and get his jacket off.
"I gave you thirty, already." She smiled, hearing the bumps and thumps as her lover stripped off his clothes.
"One more won't hurt." He groaned, picturing her long, lean body in the bath. "Did you use lots of that pink stiff-uh-stuff that makes all the bubbles?"
"There are bubbles everywhere."
"On your breasts?" Starsky felt his groin grow even harder at the thought, fumbling with the buttons on his fly. He finally slid his jeans off, falling back onto the couch.
"I've got a sponge and I'm rubbing it over my belly, and circling my breasts," she answered. "D'you want me to wash my nipples?"
"Yes." He pictured her pert, round breasts topped by dark little nubs, like black cherries, sweet and tart in the mouth. He sat with his legs spread wide, his penis standing at attention between his thighs as if waiting for some sort of signal.
"They're so hard when I rub my finger across the tops," Meredith continued, actions duplicating her words. "I feel all tingly and I want to wash between my legs."
"Sounds good." He was beginning to pant, gripping his manhood. "Rub hard down there."
"I am." She had never thought out the mechanics of phone sex before, and it was getting more and more difficult to hold the phone and finger herself. She desired her man to be there, squeezed in to the bathtub with her, his thicker fingers rubbing the throbbing nub between her thighs. Spreading her legs wider for better access, she increased the speed of her rubbing, her whole body responding with heightened urgency until she was vibrating like a violin string during a concert. "I'm...so close, Blue Eyes.... Are you big?"
"Like a flag pole on the fourth of July." He stroked his length, needing release, but enjoying the verbal foreplay.
"I wish that were coming inside me instead of my fingers." Her whole being was moving in a rhythmic rocking, the water splashing on the sides of the tub echoing the waves of passion pounding through her body. "Push it in..."
"I need you, Meredith." Starsky squeezed his penis, the erection both painful and fantastic as the blood pounded in his groin. His head was buzzing, sparks shooting off behind his closed eyelids. "Come, baby."
"Yes." She gasped, aching her back until her head touched the back of the tub, every nerve ending exploding at the same time. She slid her fingers into her wet vagina, the muscle walls contracting tightly around them. "I love you, Dave."
"Me, too, Meredith." Starsky leaned against the couch cushions, his penis limp in his curled fingers. He was spent, but imagined there was a long legged woman curled up next to him, her fingers still wrapped around his member. "I miss you."