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Bad Moon Rising
Helmut van Geller died in the early hours of Friday morning, throwing his grandson into a twisted anger. He refused to mourn the old man's passing, deciding instead to prove that he was his grandfather's true successor. He vowed to kill as many Jews as he could, to validate the work Helmet had done in WWII. He'd worked in a concentration camp. Peter van Geller had been raised on stories of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of eugenics and science by Hitler's death squads. He'd gone to sleep listening to tales of horror, rape, and murder and believed that everything his grandfather had ever done had been in the noble pursuit of preserving the ancient Aryan race. That the majority of the world condemned Hitler's practices and had strived to punish the Nazi war criminals just made Peter's resolve stronger. His grandfather had survived so much, only to be felled by a damaged heart. Well, he would never be forgotten...not while there were still van Gellers in the world.
Pushing the office workers to get out as many flyers as possible, van Geller and his cohorts planned their next attack. Adams had begun romancing a young, pretty TV news intern to glean any inside information her station got on when and where Bachman might be. The rabbi was big news and the media followed him constantly. The innocent college student easily gossiped about the stories she was helping with and supplied Adams with places and dates where there were to be press conferences and media events to promote the peace conference. All that was necessary was to select the perfect time to kill the Jew.
Hutch collated papers, folded flyers, Xeroxed articles and did anything else he could to keep busy, but he was growing frustrated as the days passed and he hadn't learned much more to tie van Geller to the temple bombing. There was never any time when he was alone in the offices and he hadn't ever been allowed into the back room. He'd love to have one undisturbed hour to search the inner sanctum, as Metzger called it, but the opportunity never presented itself.
Van Geller wasn't around in the following week, due to his Grandfather's funeral and family obligations. Albert Sherman was most in evidence, coming in early in the mornings and disappearing into the back office almost immediately. Hutch was immensely curious about the man, who seemed more like a scholarly professor type than the co-founder of a hate group. The few times he'd exchanged words with Hutch had shown him to be intelligent, well read and friendly--a vast difference from the mercurial and sinister van Geller. John Adams was easier to read. He was the brawn. He'd obviously been taught who was good and who was bad in his little black and white world and operated on those few instructions.
Albert Sherman smiled to himself, settling into a chair in the back office. He liked having the place to himself. Peter could be such a maniac at times, unable to sit still, planning grandiose schemes one minute and sunk in depression over his grandfather's death the next. It wore Al out. He certainly sympathized with the man's grief, but it had begun to adversely affect his work at the Brotherhood. Frankly, some of Peter's plans scared him. Total global annihilation of an entire religious group was out of scope with the abilities of one local group, no matter how quickly membership was growing.
Raised to look down on what his parents had described as dirty people, Al still did not share van Geller's obsessive hatred of the Jews. Al cared less what so-called "dirty ones" did than what he could do to make money. And amazingly, the Brotherhood was making money. Not only had Helmut van Geller established a hefty bank account for the group in his grandson's name, but some of the members who actually had jobs were donating funds to help the cause. Sherman had joined early on because of his friendship with van Geller, he'd never expected that there could be a satisfactory economic outcome. The bomb had sanctioned their work. There were members coming out of nowhere, many with cash in hand. Adams was in charge of membership, he conducted "secret" meetings in a variety of locations and ferried the names, and more importantly, the money, back to the main office. They had chosen the 1412 South Main former deli precisely because it looked seedy and shabby. Peter wasn't into aesthetics, in fact he was a slob at heart, so renovations had never been instituted. That made "volunteer" and below minimum wage earning staff believe they were working for the good of the cause, and not for a profit making enterprise.
Opening the bankbooks, Sherman allowed himself another satisfied smile. And there had been a profit. With Peter's mind on his late grandfather and Hitler fantasies, Al just carefully siphoned small amounts of money into different accounts nearly every day. It wasn't hard. He had no intention of sticking around when the police began to sniff more closely in their direction. With a nice cushion, he could disappear and find other work. His college fascination with bombs and how to rig detonating devices was paying off in a big way. There was every reason to believe that someone else would be even more willing to pay a successful explosive expert large amounts of money. The one thing that still twinged his conscience was Miriam Bachman's death. Her newspaper photos had shown her to be a beautiful, vibrant woman. He wasn't really sanguine about killing women. Apparently that was a flaw he was going to have to correct. Successful men didn't care who they stepped on. Or blew to bits.
With a physical shake, Al turned on the faucet to get a glass of water, not noticing the office door opening.
"Mr. Sherman?" Margaret, the gray haired "office manager," stuck her head in. "I was looking for..." She glimpsed the bankbook on the paper strewn table. "Did Peter need some bank withdrawals? I can do that for him."
"No, no, Margaret," Sherman soothed, knowing the woman had never liked him. "He's so filled with grief lately, he needed some money for the funeral--I was going to take it to him personally."
"Why didn't he...?" she began to question, then stopped herself. "Poor Helmut--Peter adored him."
"He did," Al agreed. "Now I have to get over to First Savings before I see him, so I'd better be going."
"Certainly." She ducked her head, not wanting to be suspicious of one of Peter's best friends. "Tell him I'm thinking of him."
Feeling the eyes of every office worker on him, Sherman pocketed the bankbooks, and walked out the front door.
Hutch glanced up from his current job of counting stacks of pamphlets before distribution. He knew that workers came in daily to carry the pamphlets off to unknown locations to hand out. What he wouldn't give to follow Albert Sherman off to where ever he was going. It would probably provide a lot more information for his ongoing case than this.
"He's so dedicated," Elsa commented. "Goes to the bank nearly every day while Mr. van Geller's not here."
Mentally filing that away, Hutch wondered if he could guess which bank it was. There were only four in the greater Waverly area. He'd get the detectives on that tonight.
In one of his nightly phone calls to the precinct, Dobey had filled Hutch in on what they'd learned about Albert Sherman. He had an engineering degree from MIT and had extensive knowledge of chemicals and explosives. This was the first useful bit of information they'd been able to uncover, leading a circumstantial trail of evidence to the Brotherhood, but they needed a lot more than that to prove the group's involvement in the bombing. So far, investigators had been unable to come up with any evidence that any of them had ever purchased the plastique used in the inferno, or to even link them with the dark sedan several witnesses had recalled speeding past the synagogue moments before the blast. There was a small checking account found in the name of Peter van Geller, but it in no way contained the amounts necessary to fund plastique purchases, or any other substantial crimes. Where the money was coming from was still a mystery.
Hutch did make sure that Starsky and Washington doubled the security around Micah on any outdoor personal appearances, having overheard more than once van Geller's vow to kill the rabbi as soon as possible.
The Alliance for Peaceful Co-existence found its numbers and therefore, the workload, growing exponentially as days passed. Not only had even more anti-Semitic groups agreed to participate in the peace talks, but volunteer workers were practically coming out of the woodwork to help. In just over a week, the small Victorian house was bursting at the seams, when there had seemed to be space in abundance the first day Starsky had visited the headquarters.
"You ready to go?" Washington clumped down the front stairs, consulting a typed list of the rabbi's day's activities. He'd virtually taken over the job of getting Micah where he needed to be when he needed to be there.
"I am," Starsky agreed, getting up from the window seat. "But where's your shadow? Or are you his shadow?"
"As dark as Ah am, Ah must be his." Darryl chuckled. "He's coming directly. We got a lunch meetin' with that reporter from the Times, a two o'clock with the Jewish Women's League and a cocktail pah'ty with Senator McCallum... Then, we were supposed to go talk to the PTA at Lincoln School, but it's been changed t'next week."
"Geeze, Brick, it wears me out just hearin' about it," Starsky groused. "C'mon, Micah." He sighted the man on the stairs, reading while he walked. "Read it in the car. You fall on the stairs and it'll be all over the news at five--'Rabbi pushed down the stairs in his own Headquarters. Dissention in the Ranks.'"
"Dave, the only dissention around here is you." Bachman tucked the bound report under his arm. "I've heard you complaining about the schedule."
"I never thought I'd be undercover at an afternoon ladies' tea." Starsky laughed, referring to one of their venues from the day before. "D'you remember anything at the academy 'bout cuttin' crusts off a'sandwiches, Brick?"
"Musta skipped that class." Washington glanced around the neighborhood in a seemingly casual manner as they headed out of the house and over to the car they were using for the day. Starsky's darling, his bright red Torino with the white slash down the side, was considered far too recognizable a car to be driving Bachman around in. Washington saw no suspicious people or activities as they piled into a nondescript Ford, but he was always on the alert. There had been nearly daily threats on the rabbi's life and a letter bomb was intercepted only two days ago, luckily before it exploded.
"You check the car?" Starsky asked, his hand poised to insert the key into the ignition. Micah had stopped in the driveway to talk with Moses Reinhart, and was out of earshot.
"Went over all three cars this mornin', Little Davey." Washington leaned against the car door, his eyes on the rabbi giving his brother-in-law last minute instructions before they left. "An' I even gave both yours and mine the once over, jus' t'be on the safe side."
"You're gettin' as paranoid as the rest of us." Starsky started the engine, turning on the air conditioner. The late September weather was beginning to heat up, the sky blue and cloudless, when it wasn't brownish with smog.
"Ah think it's a contagious disease, mahself." Darryl waited until the rabbi had settled himself in the back seat before pulling on his own seatbelt.
"I feel like a politician." Micah put his head back on the upholstery, scratching his chin under his red beard. "That was never my intention."
"I think you found a second calling, so to speak." Starsky drove carefully through midday traffic, turning the car to familiar streets. Huggy Bears' The Pits might not be a very upscale establishment, but it had the attraction of a trustworthy proprietor and decent food, at least in Starsky's opinion.
"You three look like the opening line to a joke," Huggy Bear greeted as they entered The Pits. "Y'heard the one where a rabbi and two cops go into a bar?"
"What's the rest?" Washington laughed.
"I'll have to think on it."
"How 'bout the one about the giant skinny frog who owned a bar." Starsky flicked the lapels of Huggy's neon green suit. He wore a lemon yellow shirt underneath and matching yellow shoes.
"Starsky, my man, I'll have you know that this is the height of fashion."
"In another universe," Starsky agreed.
"Huggy, we're supposed to meet a reporter?" Micah broached.
"Looks like you're the first... Can I offer any beers 'til he gets here?"
All ordered soft drinks and sat down to wait, idly watching a competitive game of pool between two older men in suspenders and Panama hats. The jukebox blared the Doobie Brothers, making conversation almost impossible.
"Hey. Starsk." Huggy's words were overly loud in the sudden silence as the song ended and he paused, self-conscious.
"Hutch's chick, Angela's, been around asking for him. Y'know he dropped her like a hot potato the night o' the bombing and I don't think he's called her since."
"Angela's a ding-a-ling," Starsky proclaimed, taking a sip of the Coke Huggy handed him. "Tell her he's outta town."
"Will do." Huggy passed out the other drinks.
"That must be him." Darryl pointed out a tall, thin man with a shock of spiky jet black hair that contrasted sharply with his fair skin and blue eyes. A true Black Irishman. Washington went to intercept him and escort him to the table.
Andrew Cleary easily recognized Rabbi Bachman, and David Starsky, for that matter. Their pictures had accompanied several of his articles, even when he was writing about the opposition. Introductions were made all around, and chairs shuffled to make room for the reporter. He'd brought a cassette recorder and set it up in the middle of the table.
The interview didn't actually start until after lunch orders were made, pleasantries exchanged and the jukebox volume turned down. The questions Cleary asked were probing, but not all that different than a dozen reporters had already asked and most of Micah's responses were heartfelt but rehearsed. He had his rhetoric down by now and expounded easily on his anti-prejudice and pro-communication bandwagon. In fact, although no one had told Cleary ahead of time, one of the reasons he'd gotten an "exclusive" interview with the man of the hour was because of the reporter's odd distinction. He'd been the first to speak to the Brotherhood.
"Thank you, Rabbi, I have to say I really support this your work--we need some sort of positive teaching right from the first grade. So that prejudice never starts up." Cleary turned off his cassette recorder with a click.
"I agree. I'm hoping that if we're successful with these talks, some of these programs will fall in line." Micah nodded, munching on his dill pickle. "We need money, though."
"Doesn't every organization?" Cleary made a few last minute notes on his note pad.
"Speaking of other organizations," Starsky spoke up. "Off the record, what can you tell me about the Brotherhood? And impressions you got after talking to 'em?"
"I told those other detectives I only talked to him twice." Cleary frowned, annoyed that the subject had been brought up again. "The manifesto came in the mail."
"You'll have to admit we've got an interest in them," Micah said, trying to sooth ruffled feathers.
"Could you identify the voice if you heard it again?" Starsky persisted. "If we had a man in custody?"
"Do you?" Cleary asked with sharp interest.
The reporter hesitated, slipping his notepad into his pocket. "I don't think I can help you."
"I realize you want to protect your sources, but they..." Micah's voice broke, but he reined in his emotions.
"Killed his wife," Starsky bit off the stark words.
"I know this will come off sounding insensitive, but no matter how tragic was for you, the paper has a responsibility to print both sides of an issue," Cleary said wearily.
"Why print their damned ugly filth on the front of your paper? That Manifesto was a vile piece of shit," Starsky spat. "It's enough that they have a forum for their hate, d'you have to put 'em on the front page?"
"Starsky," Washington cautioned softly.
"I don't make decisions on where the articles are placed." Cleary would rather not let the murderers have their side heard either, but as a reporter he'd always tried to be fair, and he hadn't chosen to be the one the Brotherhood had called.
"No, you just put your name under 'em." Starsky pushed his plate away, the hamburger only half eaten. He'd lost his appetite.
"Detective, they aren't words I want to hear, either. I think the only reason I got the story is because I was there at the desk when the Brotherhood called in. I don't even know the guy's name. There are three Brotherhoods in the LA area; none of 'em will agree to an interview." The reporter sighed. "If we don't acknowledge their words, how can the rabbi fight them?"
Out of argument, Starsky slumped in his chair listening to the jukebox while his partner ushered the reporter out of the bar. A tune by Earth, Wind, and Fire ended and the next selection began.
"There's a bad moon risin', trouble's on the way..."
Starsky grimaced at the truth in the music, Cleary's words striking home. It was important to bring racism into the light where it could be examined and hopefully dissected, changed into understanding and reason. But, what else could be uncovered when that rock was turned over?
Starsky missed Hutch, especially here at Huggy's where they'd often had a few beers at the end of a long shift, hashing out the day's headaches and triumphs. Lately, he felt all out of triumphs. The next few weeks until October ninth seemed like a long dark tunnel to be crawled through like a prisoner escaping from a camp. Endless, emotionally draining and potentially dangerous. His phone calls to Meredith were becoming one of the few bright lights in his life, and even those weren't daily, since her schedule was as demanding as his.
Micah was unsettled by the disagreement between Starsky and Cleary, but on the whole, felt pleased by the interview itself. With any luck, the paper would run his story on the first page, at least partially balancing the scale with the Brotherhood.
After leaving the Pits, there was just enough time to drive the forty-five minutes on the freeway to reach the Jewish Women's league, read over the speech one more time and step behind the podium.
Having heard this particular speech at least twice already in the short time he'd been guarding Bachman, Starsky slipped out of the hall to telephone Dobey. With the Senator's cocktail party, there was no way he could be at the precinct at five-thirty for Hutch's call and he regretted it deeply. There were days, such as this one, where he looked forward to that brief connection to his best friend all afternoon. A perfect day was one in which he got to speak with both Hutch and Meredith within a few hours of one another.
Washington was a good man. Starsky valued him as a partner and enjoyed his friendship, but nothing compared to his kinship to Hutch. They needed few words to communicate, which could be a little difficult on the telephone, but was essential to their survival when they were together.
He lingered outside the lecture hall until little blue haired ladies came tottering out, all remarking on their admiration of "that handsome young rabbi."
"Bailed on me, huh?" Washington elbowed him out of his reverie with a smile. "Next time Ah get ta hang out in the lobby."
"It's a deal." Starsky stifled a yawn. "How much time we got before the Senator's wing-ding?"
"Long enough to change my clothes, I hope." Micah finally pulled himself away from the chattering women, stuffing the speech into his jacket pocket. "This thing is formal."
"Well, Little Davey'll have t'wait in th'car," Darryl quipped, tugging on the other man's disreputable leather bomber jacket.
"I'd be happy to." Starsky faced the rabbi. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"Didn't I?" Micah asked innocently. "There's so many details. Anyway, Mother Reinhart is a friend of McCallum's. She's bought suits for everyone."
"Really?" Washington grinned, his dark face alight. "She know mah size? Ah'm hard to fit."
"I was told that everything was arranged," Bachman soothed, heading towards the parking lot.
"I wish I was told," Starsky grumbled.
Sure enough, back at the Victorian, there were three dark suits waiting for them, with good fits on all the different body types. Micah had a slender frame with long legs, but was no match for Brick's height and breadth. There was no difficulty telling which suit was for whom. While struggling to produce a decent Windsor knot on his tie, Starsky was struck again that everyone he worked with was taller than he was, even by just a bare inch in the rabbi's case. Darryl was quite delighted with his new clothes and preened until the other two told him to shut up.
Moses Reinhart left to pick up his mother, promising to meet the others at the Senator's Topanga Canyon home. If all went as planned, the Senator's influence, both economic and political, could be a welcome asset to the peace conference.
Rush hour traffic, was, as usual, an oxymoron. The cars inched along the San Diego freeway across the LA basin to the canyons where the wealthy people resided. The late afternoon heat combined with the frustrating stop and go nature of the traffic made for an uncomfortable ride, despite the car's AC working on overtime. Starsky could feel sweat trickling down between his shoulder blades under his new cotton shirt and lightweight wool jacket. He shifted his weight, trying to ease the itch in the middle of his back, finally catching sight of the green sign signaling the desired offramp. He inched the car over to the far right lane with a relieved sigh. He hadn't eaten much lunch and his belly was growling. There should be lots of goodies to snack on while watching Micah's back and then he could get home before nine or ten. Maybe he'd order a pizza.
The streets angling up the canyon walls were twisted, treacherous one lane affairs, with cars parked haphazardly wherever there was wide space to spare. Washington read off the directions, peering through the tangle of eucalyptus trees at the houses set back off the road on stilts.
"Ah can't imagine why anybody'd live up here when you can get a nice little place in a flat suburb..." Brick shook his head. The sun was low in the sky and here under the canopy of tall, aromatic trees, dusk was fast approaching.
"Micah, have you been here before?" Starsky downshifted, the car protesting the incline they were traveling.
"I didn't used to hobnob with the upper echelon, Dave," Micah answered. "Miriam's mother grew up with the man." He pursed his lips with the wave of emotion his wife's name still left.
A series of blind left hand turns demanded Starsky's attention and he drove with single-minded focus. The light was dim and he had a hard time seeing what was ahead, one time having to stop and back up into a shallow culvert to allow another car coming down the street to pass. The narrow lane angled sharply down to the right to a steep sided ravine, underbrush growing right up to the edge of the cement. There were no houses on that side of the car in this stretch of road. Above them, to the left, houses hung precariously to the edge of vertical cliff sides like prehistoric beasts lurking in the treetops. The only evidence of their existence were almost invisible driveways that snaked upwards into the woods.
With heart-stopping suddenness, a half ton pick up truck roared out of the driveway Starsky had just passed, slamming into the rear of the car with a violent jerk.
"Son of a bitch..." Starsky was thrown back into the seat, his hands gripping the steering wheel reflexively. The truck renewed its assault, pushing the Ford ever nearer to the precipice with vengeance. "Micah, hold on, I don't think this guy I kidding." Starsky panted, fighting to keep the car on the road. "Brick, can you get the license? Who is it?"
Gravity won out, the car's weight working against their favor. The dark truck rammed them a last time, sending the Ford's front wheels off the safety of the road. There was a moment of sick inevitability for all just before the car began sliding through the tangle of scotch broom and poison oak. Starsky pressed franticly on the brakes to stop the car's momentum, but a grinding lurch threw him against the driver's side door, his shoulder hitting the window with a crack. Washington and Bachman grabbed onto whatever handholds they could find to survive the out of control hurtle down the canyon.
In the end, it was a tightly packed grove of eucalyptus trees that saved them. The fender and front end accordioned upon impact, the car jerking to a bone rattling halt.
His fingers still clamped painfully around the steering wheel, Starsky took a shuddery breath. "Anybody hurt?" he called. When there was no immediate answer, he turned his head, wincing at the pull on strained neck muscles. "Micah? Brick?"
"I'm okay." Micah opened his eyes, drawing air into his pleading lungs. "Just banged up."
"Ah'm good, too. Mah neck hurts, but it ain't nothing." Washington released his seat belt, twisting around to try and turn the door handle. Even this amount of movement rocked the car precariously.
"Careful." Starsky rubbed his bruised shoulder, but made no mention of it. "There's a tree on this side, I don't think th'door'll open."
"We may be stuck here until help arrives." Micah sighed. He began to pray softly, thanking God for their deliverance.
Switching on the television, Hutch warmed up some leek soup for a late supper in his tiny kitchen. He'd spent the early evening with a few of the Brotherhood's office workers, drinking beers at a neighborhood bar. It, too, seemed to be an enclave for white supremacists and as usual, he had to hide his disgust at the rampant racist comments in the conversation. But he wanted their trust, encouraging his fellow office workers to confide in him. Unfortunately, the only gossip around the place was that van Geller had inherited his grandfather's house. Sam Metzger was curious as to what Nazi artifacts might be hidden in the place, and expounded on a theory of stolen Jewish fortunes and art masterpieces. As interesting as that was to speculate about, it didn't get Hutch any nearer to solving who had bombed Beth Sharon. He left after a few hours, picking up his car from the dingy back alley behind the Brotherhood storefront.
His nightly call to the police department had been somewhat more encouraging. Investigators had managed to track down where the plastique had come from, but were unable to obtain a name or address of the purchaser. A court order was being obtained to subpoena the company's records.
The baseball game between two east coast teams was a wash and Hutch flipped to the ten PM news out of boredom.
"President Carter has vetoed the bill Congress okayed in a dramatic turnaround." A perky brunette anchorwoman read the copy. Hutch stepped back into the kitchen to rescue his boiling soup, the woman's words a buffer against the loneliness in the little studio apartment. "In local news, Rabbi Micah Bachman, the proponent of a peace conference between religious leaders and hate groups, was involved in a car accident this evening on his way to a political fundraiser."
Hutch, his back to the TV, raced around the kitchen island to stare at the screen as Micah's picture popped above the woman's head like an absurd caption balloon in a comic strip.
"Initial reports say that neither Bachman, the driver, or other passenger in the car were badly injured, but all were taken to hospital by paramedics for evaluation." Her image was replaced by footage of a mangled car being hauled out of the canyon on a wench. "And in related news, police in many communities around the LA area have reported a rise in racially motivated crimes, especially those against Jews."
His first instinct was to run to whatever hospital Micah, his driver, and passenger had been taken, but common sense won out. He had no idea where they might be and even if the Brotherhood had no reason to be watching or following him, there was every certainty that they were keeping tabs on Bachman. It could be incredibly dangerous for Hutch to be seen with his friends, and for all their sakes, he needed to keep away for now. It didn't lessen the guilt he felt at not being able to help, however. He knew that Starsky and Washington had been in that vehicle with the rabbi; Dobey had told him where they were going when they'd spoken at five thirty.
Feeling ineffectual and cut off from his friends when they needed him the most, Hutch checked each network's nightly news for any more information he could glean. Every anchorperson repeated essentially the same thing; after all no one had been killed and there really wasn't much news potential to be gained from a car accident.
His soup forgotten, Hutch popped the top of a beer, waiting for some word that could ease the pain in his chest. He missed Starsky with a pang, hating this extended separation. They worked best together, when they could bounce ideas off each other, using each other's strengths to their advantage. He felt cut in half, not a whole person any longer. He tried once to phone the detective squadroom, but no one there had any more current information than he had gotten off the television. Leaving the telephone on the floor by the couch, he finally fell asleep as Johnny Carson started his monologue.
The jangling ringing brought him out of a dream, surfacing from frightening, unsettling dreamscapes of frantic searching through empty, burning buildings like a swimmer coming up out of a wave. "H'llo." He mumbled into the phone.
"Oh, God, Starsky." Hutch let out his pent up fears with a whoosh. He sat up straighter, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "What happened? Are you hurt?"
"We're all okay. I'm at home," Starsky assured, pressing an icepack on the back of his neck and left shoulder. "Some asshole forced us off the road up in the canyons."
"Damn." Hutch sent up a prayer to whatever guardian angel worked overtime to protect Starsky. It didn't matter that Jews probably didn't believe in guardian angels, Starsky very obviously had one or he wouldn't have lived this long. "Did you see him? Get a license?"
"Brick said he was a blond, but I didn't see anything but trees coming at us." Starsky closed his eyes, the delayed reaction after his adrenaline rush leaving him exhausted and trembling. "It was close, Hutch. If we hadn't of hit a tree the car would have just plowed down the canyon."
"This has to stop. You can't take much more of it, and my nerves sure can't," Hutch vowed. "We have to get together with Dobey--something has to give."
"I'll set it up with the Cap, and get back to you tomorrow," Starsky agreed. "I'm just really tired right now."
"Get some rest. Did you eat?" Hutch asked, belatedly realizing he hadn't.
"No!" Starsky groused. "An' I was lookin' forward to all those little pigs in blankets and shrimps on toothpicks."
"Starsk, I don't think a catered party at a senator's would have pigs in blankets."
"Well, those little melon things wrapped in bacon," Starsky described hungrily.
"Prosciutto with melon." Hutch smiled to himself; this felt right, like old times. "And since it was a party for a rabbi, they probably didn't have that either."
"Okay, smarty, what'd you think they served?"
"How would I know, I wasn't there."
"Yah, neither was I." Starsky sighed. "G'night, Hutch."
"Good night, Starsky. Go to bed."
"Thanks for calling. I know it's against orders."
"Screw orders. I knew you'd be sittin' there stewing."
"I don't appreciate hearing that you're back in the hospital, on the news, for the second time."
"You and me both." Starsky gave a mirthless laugh, hanging up.
Hutch felt groggy and out of sorts in the morning. After Starsky's phone call, the searching dreams had reclaimed him, so that he wakened sweaty, his heart racing. He recognized them for what they were: stress induced anxiety dreams, and he'd had them on and off for many years. The tension of police work often intensified them, but he'd now had them every few days for the last two weeks and he was beginning to feel exhausted during the day. His sleep wasn't restful, which made it harder than ever to tolerate the extreme prejudice of his co-workers at United Aryan Brotherhood. He felt the urge to shout out that they were all stupid and deluded. This idea gave him a brief chuckle, thinking how quickly he'd be booted out on his keister after that.
Van Geller appeared in rare form, as well, ranting about trivial printing errors on a new pamphlet that proclaimed that America should be for Americans.
Hutch kept his own council, wondering who exactly qualified as truly American. Indigenous Indians? He was well aware they didn't figure into van Geller's narrow little world view in the least.
"You want me to change the heading and reprint it?" Hutch asked as innocuously as possible.
"Yah. Who printed it this way in the first place?" van Geller growled, his murderous expression at odds with his usual preppy attire.
Sherman peered at the green pamphlet. "Tobe did that batch yesterday."
"Little turd." Van Geller threw the offending document on the table. "Chambers, yah, change the heading and fix up that piece of crap. Tobe won't be in today." He stomped in to the back office with Sherman trailing behind.
Taking up the original 'American for Americans', Hutch made a few corrections to the wording on the cover and went across the room to the word processor to set up a new prototype to show van Geller. Behind him, there were only a few office workers in this morning working quietly on their own projects. No one had made more than a peep when van Geller was in full rant, indicating to Hutch that they were uncomfortable, but used to the man's mercurial moods. Elsa and the older woman, Margaret sat close together, conferring on their work, while Bob Richman fielded phone calls.
Satisfied with the changes he'd made on the pamphlet, Hutch began to Xerox a few copies. He realized that even above the sound of the copy machine, he could hear voices coming from the back office and was amazed to see that the door was ajar. Sherman must not have shut it completely when he'd followed van Geller inside.
"I can't believe that damn turd didn't kill the Jew." Van Geller was still shouting, "It was easy enough up on those twisty roads."
His breath catching painfully behind his sternum, Hutch realized he was getting the first real proof that the Brotherhood was trying to kill Bachman. It had to have been Daniels driving the truck that forced Starsky and the others off the road! Glad he still had his back to the office workers, he stilled his face to avoid showing any outward anger.
"That was only one chance," Sherman soothed in a much quieter voice.
Hutch was glad he'd finished copying and was now folding the pamphlets as slowly as possible.
"There'll be others. Peter, you get too worked up about this. Got to have a clear head to plan out an execution."
"Papers didn't help much!" van Geller continued. "Look, they're all over the front page--we didn't get a mention anywhere." He rustled the Times with fury, reading, "'The rabbi is a personable, charismatic young man with a vision. Despite the tragic death of his beloved wife, he still forges ahead with his dreams of a less prejudiced world.'" He grunted in disgust. "What absolute shit. Don't know why we sent the Manifesto to that hack. Cleary gets no more of our proclamations."
"Well, it was just bad luck that the accident happened the same day he'd given an interview," Sherman placated. "But next time, maybe we can use some of that kind of publicity to our advantage."
"I have to think about it." Sherman stood, his voice coming nearer to the door. Hutch finished his folding in a hurry, carrying the pamphlets back to the table where the women worked.
The front door swung open to admit Adams, Metzger, and another man Hutch had never been introduced to just as Sherman and van Geller came out of the back.
"Chambers, you finish that work?" Peter asked abruptly.
Hutch wordlessly handed over the papers, trying to act as obsequious as he knew how.
"Now, that's more like it." The smile on van Geller's face would have made Dotty the waitress swoon. "I'm really impressed with the way you've been working out, Chambers. John, he's getting to be a really good man to have around here. Find him more things to do."
"Sure thing, Peter," Adams agreed amiably, reaching out to shake Hutch's hand in congratulations.
"Long time no see, Fredricks," Sherman greeted the newcomer.
"Hey, van Geller, look what John's done." Fredricks folded back the sleeve of his chambray shirt to reveal a swastika tattooed on his forearm.
"You did that?" Van Geller admired the design. "I had no idea you were so talented, Johnnyboy. Where'd you learn?"
"My brother's been making some good money at this, gets all kinds--like Hell's Angels into his shop. He's been training me as an assistant," Adams answered with pride. "I can only do black for now, but he'll be teaching me colors soon."
"I'm gonna get one, too, this weekend," Metzger announced. Hutch joined the others examining the man's tattoo, but he wished he could walk away. What kind of person would want such a hated Nazi sign indelibly inked into their skin?
"I think that's a real useful thing to know." Peter rubbed his finger over the symbol. "C'mon in the back; tell me more about it." He turned to the back door, then stopped. "Oh, Sam, get those pamphlets Chambers fixed printed out and start distributing them. And throw out this newspaper." He retrieved the day's paper from his office and tossed it ceremoniously into the trash can. "Keep up the good work, Chambers."
"Thanks, Mr. van Geller." Hutch almost touched his finger to his forelock, but felt that would be going too far. "I'll take out the trash," he said to Metzger. "Need to stretch my legs."
"I'll finish up this printing," Sam agreed. "Throw that lot in the dumpster to the right of our cars out back."
Glad he needed no excuse to go out and check out the bumpers of the Brotherhood's cars, Hutch took his time dumping the trash into the receptacle as he scrutinized the five cars. None looked new, although van Geller's large black sedan did fit the whispered joke around the office of 'Nazi staff car'. The others were not as battered as his own loaner, but none of the other three had obvious signs of a recent accident. Undoubtedly, if Daniels had been involved in the crash, he'd have gotten rid of the car by now.
Wishing the rest of the day could move as fast as the morning had, Hutch helped with the never-ending mailings and then accompanied Adams, Metzger, and Fredricks to Dino's for a late lunch.
"You like working with the Brotherhood?" Adams asked seemingly casually after Dotty had brought over four sandwiches and soft drinks.
"Still not used to all that paper work," Hutch admitted ruefully. "But the people, everyone sharing the same philosophies and ideas--that's what I like."
"Yah, 's'not often you find a group of people who can join for a common goal and achieve it." Metzger stressed excitedly, "I really feel like van Geller knows where he's going and I'm following him every step of the way."
Right into prison, Hutch thought privately, biting into his grilled cheese on wheat.
"On Saturday afternoon we're havin' a barbecue at my place." Adams liberally sprinkled salt over his French fries. "Come on over, Chambers, let's get better acquainted over a couple beers."
"Sure," Hutch agreed with what he hoped was enthusiasm. At the very least it would give him a chance to search Adams' home for incriminating evidence.
"John's gonna do a swastika on my bicep," Metzger said proudly. "Like he did for Fredricks."
"Didn't hurt at all," the burly man proclaimed. "Now, the battleship on my belly hurt like a son-of-a-bitch."
Tattoo talk continued until the end of the meal and even on the walk back to the to the Brotherhood offices. Hutch had always been mystified why anyone would want a permanent record of their drunken foolishness on their body and had resisted the urge to get a tattoo in his college days when his frat brothers had adorned themselves with Greek letters. He sincerely hoped that Adams wouldn't offer to practice his new skills on Hutchinson flesh. He amused himself for the rest of the afternoon by thinking up different ways to politely refuse without making it sound like he found the Nazi symbols particularly repellent.
By five thirty, he was at home and excited to be able to give Starsky some really relevant information, even if it didn't directly pertain to the temple bombing. Both partners were pleased that there was finally some sort of break in the case and Starsky promised to get Tobe Daniels' home and more importantly, his car, under police scrutiny as soon as possible.
Needing to get to the temporary Temple Beth Sharon set up in the gym of a Jewish high school by sunset, Starsky was in a hurry, but did tell Hutch that there was a meeting set up with Dobey at an out of the way restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway. Once directions were imparted, he hung up, promising to talk more on the morrow.
Early morning tendrils of fog still clung to the coast line as Hutch drove down the curving highway to meet Dobey, Starsky, and Washington by seven a.m. He'd already jogged this morning, wanting to be clear headed and logical in his effort to explain to his boss why he felt this undercover wasn't working out. Sure, he'd finally gotten a juicy clue, but the titular leaders of the Brotherhood were too paranoid to reveal their secrets to a relative newcomer in their organization. He was beginning to feel he'd be more useful in another capacity. And to be truthful, he'd far rather send the afternoon quaffing beers in Darryl Washington's backyard than John Adams'.
The restaurant was one of the many franchises that line highways across the United States, luring patrons into a sense of familiarity, since each place was a clone of the last one twenty miles down the road. However, there was the added benefit that few people here were regulars, and the employees would take no notice of the four detectives.
Spotting Dobey sitting in a back booth, Hutch told the restaurant's hostess he was meeting the portly black man and walked past the counter crowded with folks eating breakfast.
"Captain," Hutch greeted.
"Sit down," Dobey invited. "Starsky and Washington will meet us soon. Hungry?"
"I'll wait." Hutch shook his head. "Listen, I just don't think this is working out like we'd hoped. I'm cooling my heels, addressing envelopes when Starsky and Washington are in danger. That accident was too close. I want..."
"If you're trying to get out of this undercover, it isn't the right time."
"How would you know?!" Hutch snapped in consternation. Looking up, he saw a huge black man and shorter man with dark curly hair crossing the parking lot, deep in conversation. Knowing Starsky's body language as well as he did, he could see that his best friend was moving stiffly, favoring his left arm. As the two came through the entrance, Starsky immediately caught his eye, their peripheral awareness of each other still instantaneous after nearly two weeks apart. Despite this, Hutch still felt out of the loop; Starsky and Washington looked comfortable with each other, having shared experiences, and he realized he had an odd sense of jealousy. It wasn't that he hadn't encouraged the two to work together while he was undercover, it was that he was alone while they had the other for back up.
"Hey, Blintz, long time no see," Starsky hailed lightly. "What's on the menu? I'm starved."
"Ah'm for pancakes." Darryl had snagged one of the huge plastic volumes as he'd passed the waitress, and was already scanning the brightly colored pictures of the fare.
"Sit down, you two," Dobey said gruffly. "I'll get a carafe of coffee."
"That's what Ah lihke 'bout you, Cap'n." Washington grinned. "Y'always take care of yer men."
"How are you doing?" Hutch asked Starsky, again noting his wince when he sat down in the booth.
"Fine," Starsky stressed, indigo blue eyes locking onto sky blue ones. "Nobody got hurt in the accident and that's the way I like it. What 'bout you?"
"I'll be a lot happier when I'm out of the Brotherhood," Hutch answered, then stopped as the waitress came over with the coffee. Breakfasts were ordered all around and coffee poured.
"You're gettin' out?" Starsky asked with interest.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Dobey negated. "He's valuable on the inside..."
"I'm licking stamps and working a Xerox," Hutch complained, knowing he sounded peevish. "If I'd wanted to be a secretary I sure as hell wouldn't have gone to the police academy."
"Probably get better pay, too," Starsky said out of the side of his mouth.
"I heard that." Dobey pointed a stubby finger at the younger man. "Hutchinson, quit griping, and get back to the point. That tip you gave us last night panned out..."
"But Daniels'd already reported his four-by-four stolen the day before the accident," Washington finished. "So's we can't find the truck, so far."
"Did you question Daniels?" Hutch asked, taking a sip of the scalding coffee.
"Not much of a talker." Starsky raised his eyebrows. "But the Brick put a little of the fear of God into him."
"Don't think he was real partial to bein' questioned bah a Negro and a Jew." Washington grinned nastily. "He seemed a mite uncomferble in our presence. Ah couldn't rightly figure out why."
"Daniels isn't much of a talker under the best of circumstances," Hutch said, still amused picturing the interrogation. "Did you recognize him?"
"The whole thing happened so fast." Washington rubbed his neck, still experiencing a twinge of whiplash. "Ah saw a flash o' blond hair for a second, then we was off the road, bouncin' down the hill, headin' for the trees. Car hit those trees so hard Ah thought we'd had an earthquake." He frowned, an expression that would have certainly put the fear of God in a lot of people. "Coulda been Daniels, but Ah ain't sure 'nough for court."
Hutch inwardly cringed at the vivid description Brick had given. He remembered back to the first time he'd ever met the man. Washington's patrol car partner had been murdered. His description of the crime had been so real it had burned an indelible image in Hutch's brain, and he could still picture Cutler falling dead from a bullet wound in the chest. And he'd never even met the man. Starsky was shot by the same sniper only a few days later, which had only cemented the image in his memory.
The waitress returned with large plates filled with steaming food and distributed them to the correct placemats. Starsky began to butter and jelly his toast with great energy, but Hutch could see the expression on his face was stony and he wasn't enjoying the topic of conversation in the least.
"This is why I want you to stay with the Brotherhood." Dobey's voice dropped to a dramatic whisper with the last word. " So we can nail these bastards."
"But I'm not getting anywhere," Hutch argued. "They don't trust me."
"But they will, son," Dobey assured. "Soon."
"Do you know something I don't? Adams invited me to his house for a barbecue."
"Well, Ah think that's real neighborly." Washington's words and his sarcastic tone at odds with one another.
"If Hutch thinks he's not getting anywhere, maybe he's right," Starsky put in, uncharacteristically reasonable. "After all, he's the one on the inside."
"Thanks," Hutch said, glad that someone was taking his side. Unfortunately, Dobey had the last say. Hutch played with his scrambled eggs, finally taking a bite.
"We need to give it more time." Dobey wolfed down his sausage links. "There's still two more weeks until the talks and we certainly can't let down our guard now."
"Can I go on record saying that ain't nobody happy with this arrangement?" Starsky bit savagely into a piece of toast, echoing Hutch's thoughts exactly.
The barbecue proved quite edible, in fact Hutch was impressed with Adams' skill over a grill. His skills at tattooing proved less deft, although Metzger was pleased enough and two others stepped forward to get their own Nazi insignia. No one pushed Hutch into joining the 'initiated' in ritual tattooing or any such nonsense, and his brief search through the small house while on his way to the john revealed nothing. In fact, had the conversation centered more on the upcoming baseball playoffs and less on the annihilation of the Jewish race, it would have been like a dozen other backyard get-togethers Hutch had attended in his life.
Van Geller never made an appearance but there was quite a large group of men eating hamburgers and downing beers. All to a man were blond, or at least light haired brunets, and Hutch was surprised to note how many he had never met. Obviously, the office workers only represented a small portion of the Brotherhood's membership. They must be holding meetings he was unaware of, unless most of the get-togethers were nothing more than barbecues like this one. Perhaps he had been brought into the inner circle without even knowing it.
Circulating amongst the groups, he tried to learn as many names as he could, but it was a daunting task. Hard enough under usual circumstances to learn a large number of names quickly, his usual method of linking a name with a physical appearance didn't work as well in this instance, since most were fair, blond, between 18 and 45 and all had the same ugly attitudes regarding racial differences.
He was finishing off a beer and going back for seconds on his burger when he overheard Albert Sherman talking to two men with the overly defined muscles of professional body builders. He slowed his preparations of the burger, spreading too much mustard and ketchup on the bun to listen to the exchange, appalled by what he heard.
"We did two shops in one night," the first man boasted, his shoulders and upper body so over developed that the lettering on his Gold's Gym T-shirt was stretched until it was illegible. "Busted in the windows, dumped pig's blood all over the walls..."
"Were the owners there?" Sherman asked.
"Nah, it was one in the morning. But I know they was Jews 'cause the one place sold bagels and those candle holders they use at Christmas."
"You're a dunce, Camden." The second man, pecs and triceps well defined but slightly less muscle bound, slugged him in the bicep hard enough to fell a lesser man, but Camden hardly took notice of the blow. "They don't have Christmas."
"What'd they do? Don't they give out presents?"
"It's called Hanukkah for their kind," Sherman explained in a condescending tone that was evidently lost on his two companions. "It's not the same at all. Are you going out again?"
"The game's on!" came a shout from the house and in the general stampede to get in to see the Giants play the Dodgers, Hutch wasn't able to hear the rest of the conversation.
Swallowing against the raw burning at the back of his throat, Hutch dumped his hamburger in the trash. He recalled hearing reports on the news about the increase in crimes against the Jewish community, and now could identify two of the perpetrators. He endeavored to learn the names of both men before the baseball game was over and he could leave without looking suspicious. Whether the group was still wary of a newcomer or no one actually knew the body builders well, all simply referred to them as Jake and Camden. "Like the Yard," one joker laughed.
"Don't like baseball?" Sherman asked, seeing Hutch standing at the back of the room.
"Sure, doesn't everyone?" Hutch laughed. "The American past time."
"You just have an odd look on your face, something not to your liking?" Sherman asked shrewdly.
Schooling his face to a more bland expression, Hutch shook his head. "Don't know what you mean, unless it's that umpire. He's called two bad ones in a row."
"I don't think you were paying the least attention to the game." Sherman's round glasses glinted from the early evening sun pouring through the side windows. "You're scanning the crowd, like you're checking out my friends."
"Trying to get to know people." Hutch shrugged innocently. "There's a lot of men here I've never seen in Waverly."
"That's our main office, but not the only one," Sherman said carefully, eyeing the tall blond man as if he too were checking him out.
"I'd just like to get in on the action--this paper work is getting old."
"What kind of action are you referring to?"
"I've heard a few things today." Hutch didn't turn away from the other's scrutiny, hoping his face betrayed nothing. "Getting out in the community. Maybe striking a blow for our side."
"All in good time. When Adams feels you're ready," Sherman answered.
John strode up at that moment, handing out more German beers. "Having a good time, Chambers?"
"It's been great." Hutch toasted his long neck, clinking it with Adams'. "Thanks for inviting me."
"We do this nearly every Saturday." Adams took a long drink from the bottle. "Helps relieve the tension, especially if we have any night work to do."
"Night work?" Hutch asked calmly.
"Chambers wants to get in on some action," Sherman told his partner.
"I'll see what turns up." John gave Hutch a broad smile. "You've shown what you can do in the office..."
"You know where I'll be." Hutch laughed. "Anything special coming up?"
"Bachman's gonna do a speech at the museum, but we got that covered," Adams answered, although Sherman looked annoyed at this revelation. Hutch was uncertain whether Sherman was angry that Adams had told Hutch, or because he'd implied that someone else was involved.
Once the baseball game ended, it was easy to slip out with most of the departing crowd, and Hutch drove home with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. There was a lot more to the Brotherhood than he'd realized. How had they gotten so powerful and stayed under the police department's radar for so long? The vaguely nasty feeling he got speaking with any of the Brotherhood members always made him want to go home and wash off their residue. Luckily, because of the early morning meeting with Dobey, he hadn't needed to check in at five thirty, since the game had gone long past that hour. Sundays were the one day he wasn't required to call in unless he needed to, and this was one Sunday he did. He only hoped he'd get Starsky instead of their irascible boss.
"Hey," Starsky answered after one ring.
"Waiting up for me, Frank?" Hutch smiled to himself.
"'S'not late, but I got other stuff I could be doin' on my day off." Starsky smirked. "There's a double feature on at the Rialto, an' I hear my old partner's girlfriend Angela's been lonely lately."
"Oh, god," Hutch groaned. "I never called her."
"I had Huggy tell her you went out of town for an extended stay," Starsky told him dryly. "So, what's goin' on? Get any good barbecue yesterday?"
"Pretty decent burgers, and a lot of gossip." Hutch filled him in on the conversation he'd overhead and every name he could remember from the guest list.
"Damn," Starsky whispered, copying down the information. His head was pounding, a headache appearing out of no where, echoing the pain and tension he still held in his neck from the accident. "How're we gonna stop this, Hutch?"
"By doing as much as we can and getting as much help as we possibly can," he answered honestly. "Rome wasn't built in a day, Starsk."
"Not exactly the best choice of words; they didn't like the Jews either."
"Sorry. How's your shoulder? Still hurting?"
"I'll live. How'd you know?"
"'Cause I know you." Hutch sighed. "You're not eating well, you don't sleep, except in cat naps, and you're letting all this get to you, but won't let anybody else do the work."
"Gee, I could say the same about you, but I don't want to be accused of bein' a mother hen." Starsky shook out two aspirin from a bottle next to his piggy bank.
"Point taken." Hutch chuffed a laugh. "Good to see you, buddy"
"Don't stay away so long the next time." Starsky reluctantly cut off the connection. He wouldn't be enjoying the rest of his day off, not armed with the information Hutch had given him. He called up records to see if any of those named had jackets in the department's files. Enlisting the unit secretary's help, he had her research where the break-in to a bagel shop might have occurred, and as a last thought, called a pizza to be delivered into the squadroom. It was going to be a long night.
Monday was so monotonous Hutch almost fell asleep folding more of the ubiquitous pamphlets until Margaret graciously changed places with him and gave him phone duty. This proved little better, although it kept him awake, the vile nature of most of the callers' rants enough to fuel his nightmares for months to come. More of the same--kill that rabbi. Kill niggers. Kill anyone who violates their cozy little white bread world in any way, because God forbid they should go out of their way to change their way of thinking about the rest of mankind.
Van Geller, Adams, and Sherman were excited about the public appearance Bachman was to make on Wednesday. A showing of paintings and drawings done during the forties by concentration camp survivors was opening at the Pacific Coast Art museum. There were even a few pages of Anne Frank's diary on display. The rabbi was expected to make a short speech in front of the building and cut a ribbon to open the exhibit.
This would be the first time Bachman would be so out in the open and accessible. There were sure to be dozens of police in attendance, but that hadn't stopped the notorious assassins of the past. Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in front of cameras, and Sirhan Sirhan downed Robert Kennedy in front of his Democratic Party supporters. It made the killing all the more real, and in the public eye. In van Geller's mind, it was the perfect vehicle to announce their deadly intent.
As Monday was also the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Starsky and Bachman were in the synagogue most of the day, and Hutch talked to Dobey at the early evening phone call. This heightened his frustration, because he felt too far removed from the action to affect the eventual fearful outcome of van Geller's actions. Fearing the worst, Hutch insisted that Dobey try to get Starsky and Washington to cancel the appearance, but the captain admitted they'd already tried. All felt it was too dangerous to be so out in the open, but Micah had insisted he couldn't be hidden away forever. If he was going to get his message across, he had to show he was unafraid and willing to talk to the general public.
After getting Hutch's message, Starsky resolved to talk to Bachman again, and try to knock some sense into his head. As they were now less than twenty four hours away from the event, he had serious doubts about his ability to change the rabbi's mind. He followed Washington into the Victorian, still surprised at the constant crowd of people in the little house.
Although Micah Bachman was the most famous member of the clergy on the board of the Alliance for Peaceful co-existence, he was by no means the only one. There were Catholic priests deep in conversation with Methodist ministers, rabbis discoursing with Baptists and nuns chatting with bald headed black detectives. Wait, that was Brick. Starsky caught his eye and motioned that he was going upstairs. He skirted a small group of fierce looking boys with nearly bald heads and chains hanging from their leather jackets. Skin heads, who had shown their bravery by coming forth and renouncing their former racist ways, incurring the wrath of their comrades. They had proven to be valuable allies, publicly announcing their goal of peace and bringing in more members of hate groups.
"Micah," Starsky called out, seeing that the man was hunched over his desk, writing some speech, as usual.
"Dave, I know what you're going to say." Bachman put down his pen, rubbing his tired eyes. "But we've done half a dozen appearances lately and whether or not the car accident was provoked, nothing else has happened."
"We know the car was pushed off the road," Starsky said tightly. "And Hutch has heard van Geller say he's gonna try an' kill you tomorrow."
"Dave, this one is important to me." Micah took a deep breath. "It was set up a long time ago, before...all of this. Miriam was on the committee that set up this exhibit. Her great-uncle is--was one of the artists they're featuring."
"I'm just worried about you," Starsky said lamely.
"And you do it so well." Micah smiled at him. "But you're getting tired."
"Aren't we all?"
"Yah. I think this week, maybe we could take some time out to relax, I will cancel a couple of things on Thursday or Friday morning. It's Rosh Hashanah, after all. Then, only one more week till the talks."
"Thanks for small favors; those ain't the ones that could get you killed."
"I never thought going to temple could get my wife killed, either." Micah looked down at the gold wedding band he wore on his left hand.
"Why did your wife die then, and we survived the bomb and a car accident?" Starsky asked sharply. "What kind of God does that? How do you accept that?"
"Dave, we can't second guess God. His ways are not for us to understand." Micah shrugged, touching his yarmulke, the outward sign of his faith. "I don't know why or how some are chosen to live and others to die...We can only accept God in our lives and try to live according to his teachings."
"But why?" Starsky straddled a chair backwards, gripping the back as if he wanted to wrestle with it. "If Jews are the chosen people as it always says in the Holy writings then why is all this crap continually dumped on them? Huh? Can you tell me why?"
"You're asking the questions of the ages, Dave. How can anyone answer them?" Micah sighed. "Scholars study the Talmud for decades without ever coming to a consensus on any of it."
"So now I rank up there with rabbinical scholars," Starsky said cynically. "Then, if they're like me, they're damned angry."
"Starsky!" The rabbi spoke sharply. "Anger turns so easily into hate."
"And you don't hate them?" Starsky said obliquely, although both knew whom he meant.
"Yah, I've heard your speech." Starsky closed his eyes, drawing in a tight breath. "I hear that thump of air against my ear drums and then feel the blast, over and over again, like a needle caught in a grove. If I could just put that needle back at the beginning of the record and start it over..."
"But we can't." Micah scratched his chin under his gingery beard. "We can only move forward, honoring our dead by preserving their memories and not defiling their names with thoughts of anger and hatred."
"Harder than it sounds."
"Much." He nodded. "Now, I will ask you a question." Micah looked at his friend, as if memorizing his face. "Why do you think you were spared?"
"Which time?" Starsky laughed bitterly. "I've cheated death so many times I sometimes wonder when I actually will go."
"Then you obviously are precious in God's sight, and are meant to do a special job."
"I think I'm just too tough to die." Starsky rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. "I still don't understand why she had to die then."
"Neither do I," Micah said slowly. "It was meant to be."
"It's not fair." Starsky checked his watch, mentally calculating the time on the East Coast. "We got time before that PTA thing?"
"Yes, since that's not 'til late this afternoon," Micah reminded, going back to his speech writing, "The Lion's Club thing is first."
"I'm gonna call Washington." Starsky laughed suddenly aware of his unintentional pun. "D.C. not Darryl."
"Send her my love." Micah smiled, knowing who Starsky wanted to talk to and glad that he was able to do so. "And tell Brick I love him, too."
"I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole," Starsky wisecracked. "And I'm only a six foot Pole."
"You wish," Bachman groaned. "Now get out of here."
Finding a free phone in an empty room down the hall, Starsky dialed the correct combination of numbers to connect him with a woman an entire continent away. Luck was with him for the first time in days; Joan Meredith was in her condo working on a presentation.
"Hey," Starsky greeted, a smile in his voice.
"Hey, yourself." Meredith grinned in return, pushing her paperwork onto the chrome and glass coffee table.
"I really needed to hear your voice right now. Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing all of you."
"I miss you too, but I've seen more of you than I like on my TV."
"What can I say? I'm famous."
"You're infamous, and that's not such a good thing." She sobered. "David, it's scary. I was so sorry I missed your call after that car accident. What is going on?"
Giving her a condensed version of the ongoing case, he related the recent revelations Hutch had uncovered about the Brotherhood. "Nearly half the names he gave me came up with records--assault, B & E, vandalism... I don't know what to think, but they may really be carrying out their plans of a second Holocaust."
"Oh, God, how can that be happening?"
"Every day there are more and more crimes with Jews as the victims. Hutch says van Geller has a lot more followers than we first realized. We didn't think they were that big, or powerful." He clenched his teeth, the flashback of the bombing coming back strongly again. "It was like they got lucky." He shook himself free of the image, surprised at his own choice of words. "With the bombing, but now I think it's way more complicated than that."
"Even the D.C. papers said there'd been some big breakthroughs in that case."
"The company that bought the C5 plastique turned out to be a dummy corporation and the paper trail ends there. Another witness came forward with a partial plate number on the car, which matched and added to the fragment we already had but the computer hasn't found any match with a car--the plate was a phony."
"And what about your accident?"
"Every indication points to Tobe Daniels being involved, except again, no car. He claims that it was stolen--personally I think it's already flat as a pancake in some scrap metal yard. And Brick didn't get a good enough look to make a positive ID."
"All this is really scaring me."
"Hey, I'm not havin' a great time either, but we got less'n two weeks left. Micah thinks once the talks start, a lot of this'll stop."
"I don't believe that."
"Neither do I, but I try. Faith, y'know."
"It's powerful, but this is like an evil force. The violence feeds on itself until it's unstoppable." She shuddered. "It sucks you in."
"Sounds like we should call in Luke Skywalker and a coupla Jedi knights to fight the dark side," he teased, trying for a lighter vein. "Honey, I don't know what'll happen, there could be rioting in the streets or maybe Micah really is the messiah come to bring peace..."
"Don't joke, it's...disrespectful." She cut him off, hurt and angry.
"Meredith, I'm bein' as careful as I know how to be. My job is to keep Micah safe, and so far, between Brick and me, we've been successful. Ain't gonna stop the winning team now."
"I don't want anything to happen to you--any of you." She gulped, tears in her voice.
"I'm not crying--I want to, but I won't. What I'd really like to do is get on a plane and fly back there right now." Meredith wiped a shaking hand across her eyes.
"No," Starsky insisted. "I like you right where you are, thousands of miles away where it's safe."
"Oh, you have an odd idea of safety, Blue Eyes. D.C. has one of the highest murder and drug related crime rates in the country." She gave a cross between a laugh and a sob, getting her emotions under control.
"Yah, but you know how to handle yourself there--isn't that what you're takin' the classes for?"
"And getting straight A's," she boasted.
"They don't give out letter grades in those kind of seminars."
"Hmm, well, then I wonder why that professor asked me 'round for a little afternoon tutorial then." Meredith dripped a dollop of honey into her voice.
"You didn't," he countered, sitting up straighter.
"It's later today--I guess he must want to discuss my performance in class."
"What kind of performance?"
"Maybe he thinks I was bad."
"How bad?" Starsky warmed to the game.
"I...wore a really short skirt and when I dropped my pencil, I had to lean over really far to pick it up." Meredith grinned, she was actually wearing old, ragged sweats and gym socks, but the fantasy was much better.
"Were you wearing panties?" he questioned, beginning to really enjoy himself.
"I was in such a hurry, I forgot them." She reached up under her sweatshirt; she wasn't wearing a bra and her nipples were beginning to harden with the word play. "You'd better be alone this time, mister."
"I am! It's Micah's private line; keep going." He could feel his groin growing uncomfortable against his jeans and shifted in the chair.
"Well, I'm just afraid that the professor might want to punish me." She gave a dramatic sigh. "When I leaned over, everyone could see right up my skirt."
"What you do?"
"I put my hand between my legs, but my fingers just slipped right in." She pushed the waistband of her pants down to bare her clitoris, breathing harder.
"Were you tight?" His penis was swelling, he wanted so badly to release it from his pants, but there were limits to how far he was willing to go when someone could walk in at any moment. He wished he'd had the foresight to lock the bedroom door.
"Oh, yah. Maybe you should punish me, instead," she cooed, as if it were a novel idea. "I need a firm rod."
"Grandpa always said spare the rod and spoil the girl," Starsky agreed. "I have the perfect thing, all prepared."
"I can't wait." She pouted. "I want it now."
"You'll have to take a rain check." Starsky rubbed the crouch of his pants longingly.
"But I'm all ready wet." Meredith swirled a finger between her moist lower lips, her whole abdomen tingling.
"Get protection." He began to laugh, the tension from the earlier part of the conversation relieved. "Maybe you need some rubbers."
"Maybe you do, Mr. Po-liceman," she drawled. "I do so miss you."
"I'm counting the days 'til you come home." Starsky sighed. He could hear someone walking down the hall and was glad the X-rated part of the phone call had concluded. "I think they're looking for me, gotta go."
"Stay safe," she prayed.
"I will," he vowed.
Out in the hallway, Washington was calling his name and he hung up the phone. He was always having to hang up on the people he wanted to talk to most, and it rankled.
"I'm here." Starsky poked his head out of the room, nearly smacking his partner in the face with the door.
"Time's awastin', Loverboy," Darryl smirked. "We got a luncheon with those Lions."
"Gee, I hope it's not more than rubber chicken and limp green beans," Starsky groused, hoping he'd get a little limper very soon, because his jeans were still uncomfortably tight in the front.
It was the kind of day that made visitors from out of state believe in the myth of constant California sunshine. Though it was the last day of September, the temperature was close to 80, wind mild, sky deep blue where is wasn't covered in a haze of smog. Just perfect for a gala museum opening.
The walled courtyard of the Pacific Coast Art Museum was decked with fluttering banners and a garland of balloons arched over a small stage set to one side of the main entrance doors. Caterers were setting up buffet tables with kosher foods, especially those popular in the Jewish New Year, such as honey for dipping bread and apples.
Security was already heavy, uniformed guards and police checking the ID's of every one who even claimed to be working on the premises. Unfortunately, once the event started, there was much more chance for slip ups. Formal invitations had not been sent out, and while mostly patrons and members of the museum were expected, the general public could also attend, as the rabbi's appearance had been heralded in newspaper and local magazine articles.
To circumvent the onslaught of the media, Bachman and his entourage arrived early to tour the exhibit before it was officially open, slipping in through the freight dock.
Micah and Moses Reinhart were effusively greeted by the museum staff and whisked off to discuss the morning's schedule, leaving Starsky and Washington in the marble floored rotunda.
"Y'think we should tag along?" Darryl asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "Or are we lurkin' in the lobby again?"
"There's enough uniforms around this place to warrant a president's visit," Starsky observed. "Keep your eyes open, but I don't think we have to worry inside the building. Out there is another thing--once this shindig gets started, that's when the shit could hit the fan."
"Jest a cock eyed opt'mist, now ain't ya?" Darryl asked dryly, still looking back down the hall where the rabbi had gone. "Ah'll jest wait here for 'em."
"I'll check out the layout of the exhibit hall." Starsky wandered down the wide corridor, mentally checking out security measures and reasonably satisfied with the museum's efforts.
Over a curved entry hung a wide blue banner proclaiming Images of our Past. Memories of the time of the Holocaust.. Not sure he wanted to see the paintings, Starsky hung back, memories of his own parents' tight, pinched faces when they had told him how his grandfather and several relatives had died flooding in. He'd been twelve years old and they had died before his birth, but the frightening words his parents had spoken still crowded his brain. Bergen-Belsen. Auschwitz. Just places, but terrifying, their names burned into the minds of all who'd ever heard the horrible stories of Nazi atrocities. He really didn't want to see death and anguish right now. There'd been far too much of it in the present, thank you very much.
Peering into the gallery, he could see a large mounted photograph of Anne Frank, her face glowing with inner joy, dark hair flipping at the ends as if she'd been caught in mid skip. A picture so familiar that even those who had never read her diary thought of her as an old friend. The words she'd written nearly forty years before were emblazoned on the wall, a reminder of eternal hope in a world gone wrong. "Because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. July 15, 1944."
Small overhead spotlights drew the visitor into the room where they illuminated printed commentary on the walls. Not just Anne's words, but snatches of carefully preserved letters and documents describing life in the ghettos, and on the farms, of Jews who hid in cramped attics and others who changed their names and religions to hide in plain sight. Stories of the fortunate who had immigrated to America, and those who had perished. Interspersed between the writings was artwork: paintings, sketches, collages and photographs depicting the era.
At first, the artwork was quiet scenes of regular life. Starsky especially liked a shadowy portrait of a sad eyed woman with her hands poised above the Shabbat candle, her dark cloud of hair and black lace head covering like wings on either side of her face. Hung near by, a tiny ink sketch caught two children sitting side by side on a stoop, their clothes showing utter poverty, but their faces alight with joy to be cuddling a wiggling puppy.
As the hard years of war progressed, so did the paintings, their images increasingly haunting. One was a chiaroscuro of blacks, and grays; a long dark tunnel with endless lines of hunched people trudging inside. Monochromatic photographs froze the faces of Krakow, Berlin, and Paris. None of Hitler, or any of the Gestapo. Just simple shots illustrating life during the German occupation, with the Jewish population all wearing six pointed stars on their clothes. Others captured clandestine Jewish services, woman with old fashioned wigs and long skirts praying with their children, and small groups of men crowded together, phalatilies tied to their arms.
A large upright box was simply littered with broken glass, a twisted doll and a ripped yarmulke, reminding the viewer of the horrible Kristalnacht. Starsky felt his throat tighten at the sight of the little scrap of fabric. He'd never remembered to get the Big Bird yarmulke back to its rightful owner.
More and more of the writings mentioned the concentration camps, the artwork following suit. A deep purple silk flower was planted resolutely in barren dirt, the stem intertwined with real barbed wire. An unframed oil on canvas of a woman, her face turned away, but the numbers on her arm stark against her gaunt wasted flesh.
Starsky reached out a hesitant hand to the canvas, the look of shame and sadness in the woman's posture distinctly reminding him of his Aunt Chava. She had been a lovely woman, with a lively wit and deep blue eyes like his own, full of mischief. But what had happened in the concentration camps had marked her soul. She'd never let anyone see the numbers imprinted on her, although Dave could remember seeing his uncle's whenever he'd rolled up his sleeves in the summer.
The exhibit was a vivid reminder of the anguish and pain these people had endured although there were no actual images of physical torture or violence. Instead, there was an overall evocative sense that hope had somehow survived in these death camps. Despite the gas chambers, cruel experiments and senseless murder of nearly an entire generation of people, a handful had kept hope alive. Like Pandora and her box, hope had been nurtured, kept close until the time when it was possible to hold it up again in the light, free once more. The last paintings portrayed the liberation of the camps, people caught between joy and fear, uncertain of their future. A stark, grainy photograph of skeletal bodies standing near the open camp gates grabbed the eye. Starvation and desolation had stripped away their gender, leaving just bare humanity. People forged of steel, strong with determination to persevere against adversity and triumph over the evil that had imprisoned them.
Anne Frank's words once again greeted the visitor. "The time will come when we'll be people again and not just Jews. April 11, 1944."
"How do you like it?" Micah's words startled Starsky.
"It's amazing. I didn't know... It's sad, but not depressing. Some of it's almost happy." Starsky shook himself to dispel the lingering dreamlike state he'd entered while in the exhibit rooms. "Which one did your...in-law? Miriam's uncle, do?"
"Her great-uncle Mordecai Steinberg painted the very first one and two over there." Micah pointed back to the beginning of the display.
"Mordecai?" Starsky grimaced at the name, identifying the pictures. The one with the veiled woman over the candle that he'd liked, and two companion pieces of a family celebrating Passover, one in a comfortable home with the proper dishes for the holiday and food for all, the second showing the same family celebrating their own Passover in some hovel, with a sprig of parsley and a cup of salt water all they had to eat. The family resemblance was there, in the faces of the women in every picture. Surprised he hadn't noticed it the first time, Starsky nodded. "I see Miriam's face."
"I see her face everywhere," Micah said simply. "When I'm awake, when I'm asleep. She would have been so proud of this. It's all she wanted, and more..."
"Micah, how do you get up in the morning?" Starsky sat on one of the viewing benches, looking up at the tall, bearded man. "What keeps you going? This has to be tearing you apart, but you keep on going, making all this happen."
"Because I have her spirit to keep me strong. She encourages me, helps me see the finish line, and I know we're going to attain our goal."
"Or die trying," Starsky sotto voced.
"O ye of little faith, I believe the Protestants say."
"Don't look at me."
"Ah thought Ah'd find you all here." Washington walked over, stopping to examine a few paintings along the way. "Nice, in a really sad kinda way. This one's got the impressionist style, an' he's..." he pointed to great-uncle Mordecai's work, "influenced bah the Dutch school."
Both Bachman and Starsky stared at him with their mouths open.
"What?" Darryl countered.
"Been holdin' out on us, Brick?" Starsky pointed an accusing finger. "Read the exhibit guide while you were waiting for the rabbi?"
"Nah." He grinned. "You didn' think Ah jest played football in college, didja?"
"It crossed my mind." Starsky shrugged. "You did have a scholarship, after all."
"I think that's pretty impressive," Micah agreed. "But you obviously took a few art history courses."
"Heck, Ah majored in it. Did a year in Italy." Washington let out a belly laugh at their amazement. "Cum laude. There ain't much call for it, though..."
"Okay, just supposing you're actually tellin' the truth." Starsky tried to wrap his mind around the huge detective touring the great art museums of Europe. "Don't tell me you can paint, too."
"Can't hold a brush with both hands," Washington admitted. "S'why I like t'look at 'em."
"Tell me," Micah asked. "Did you go to the Uffizi? I've always wanted to see that. And the Roman ruins."
"Mah favorite is Pompeii," Darryl said. "The mosaic work and the frescos are amazin'; the colors still beautiful after all these centuries."
"And are there really pornographic scenes?" Micah prompted, caught up in the travelogue.
"What the heck are you two talkin' about?" Starsky groaned. "We got to start this ribbon cuttin' ceremony soon."
"You have t'go there, Rabbi," Darryl encouraged. "There's one room that has a border with naked bodies and it don't take no imagination to guess what they're doin'."
"Travel is always so broadening," Micah stated, leading Washington down the corridor towards the front hall. "So, do you have any books on this?"
Starsky threw up his hands in utter confusion, following behind, like the fifth wheel on a Cadillac.
By mid morning, the museum garden was crowded with people waiting for the ceremonial opening. Many of the visitors, although by no means all, wore yarmulkes and as Hutch scanned the crowd, he was amused by the sour expression on Albert Sherman's face. It was the only thing about the day that was amusing, by his reckoning. If the Brotherhood had it's way, Bachman would be shot in less than an hour, and that action would quite possibly ignite a racial war the likes of which Los Angeles hadn't seen since the Watts Riots in the mid sixties.
Hutch had no clear plan of how he could stop what was happening without stepping out of his undercover role and he knew Captain Dobey didn't want that. Except that, if any of his friends were in danger he was going to help them, no matter what the cost. It was a dilemma that was gnawing in his belly, threatening to expel the bowl of shredded wheat and yogurt he'd eaten for breakfast.
His assignment, according to Sherman, was simply to remain anonymous, circulating through the crowd, keeping his eye out for any cops or officials who could disrupt their assassination plans. Except, Hutch was very aware of his lowly status in the hierarchy. No one had told him who the gunman was, so he didn't know which of the Brotherhood members to shadow. He knew for certain it wouldn't be Sherman. He was too valuable to be pulling the trigger. Thus, Hutch stood to one side of the buffet table, the smell of the food doing nothing for his queasy stomach, and watched for faces he recognized. It was a daunting task, there were potentially far more of the Brotherhood he didn't know than those he did.
The temperature was rising, and the crush of people in the walled in courtyard only added to the humidity. Hutch could feel his chambray shirt sticking to his body as sweat dripped down his armpits. In this heat, even normal, sensible human beings might start to riot, and with the dry month of October only one day away, grass fires were definite possibilities, as well. The day just kept getting better and better.
The trumpeting sound of a ram's horn heralded the guest of honor to the small stage erected near the front of the building. The shofar, a traditional instrument of Jewish lore, sounded for several long seconds before anyone spoke, the tone haunting and eerie. When a balding museum official finally tried to start the program, his first words were drowned out by applause as Bachman attained the stage, followed closely by Starsky and Washington. Hutch recognized Moses Reinhart and his mother already sitting in the VIP chairs set up to the left of the stage.
Glad to see his friends, if only from a distance, Hutch kept his attention focused on the stage, but sweeping the surrounding crowd with his eyes for any glimpse of a rifle. Both Starsky and Washington looked less stiff than they had on Saturday, and while most of the others on the stage were dressed in business type suits, Starsky remained true to form, wearing jeans and a red plaid cotton shirt jacket style over a blue t-shirt. Hutch recognized the plaid shirt as one of his own.
"L'Shanah Tovah," Micah Bachman called out. "That means for a good year--a greeting used during this New Year holiday in the Jewish calendar."
"Can't even stick to English," Albert Sherman muttered, standing just behind Hutch's right arm.
"I am truly proud to be a part of this special exhibit, which was one of my wife's special causes. Much of the artwork hung in the gallery has never been publicly displayed before, and most of the artists are now dead. But we honor their work, and the special dedication of their families who kept these pieces hidden until it was safe to show works by Jewish artists. I know that none of you would ever even think to ask the religion of the artist when viewing a painting or sculpture but many pieces were destroyed during the war because the artists were Jewish. So, we must all hold these few examples precious, knowing what an arduous journey they had to get here. Welcome to Images of our Past, Memories of the Time of the Holocaust." Micah turned away for a moment, listening to something Starsky whispered to him as the president of the museum came forward with an oversized pair of shears.
The shot seemed to come out of nowhere, punctuating the end of Bachman's sentence like a deadly exclamation point. Had he not inclined his head to Starsky's seated level, the bullet would have drilled him right between the eyes.
A second shot came closely on the heels of the first one, but Washington was already in motion, slamming his body into the rabbi, and in turn, into Starsky with the same moves that had earned him MVP at Georgia Tech. Bachman tumbled over Starsky's knees, the Brick's body check propelling both of them over the side of the stage, onto the lawn behind. The museum's president ducked behind the podium, still waving the enormous scissors in the air. A third shot cut the shears neatly in two.
His heart pounding in his chest, Hutch spun around, franticly searching for the gunman. Already uniformed cops were converging on a blond haired man, and when the seething masses of terrified people parted briefly, Hutch recognized the shooter as Sam Metzger. There was no way for him to escape; Swat team members had sprung out of no where, bristling with deadly weaponry.
"Let's get a move on. Now." Sherman grabbed Hutchinson's arm, pushing him through the churning tide of humanity running for the exit. "We don't want to be questioned, do we?"
Skirting the museum by going around to the back side, they somehow managed to escape notice by the police who were concentrating on what they considered a lone gunman, and so Hutch and Sherman were able to get to their car without incident.
"Did you know that was going to happen? That he was essentially going on a suicide mission?" Hutch demanded, his nerves screaming inside to know how Starsky and Bachman had fared.
"Metzger's a crack shot. He served his country in 'Nam, and he knew the risks," Sherman explained, keeping a wary eye out for police as he started the car. "He volunteered for this mission."
"He'll be held without bail!" Hutch protested. Unfortunately, he'd actually kind of liked Sam. "Did he hit the ra...Jew, do you think?"
"I saw that big nigger run like a rabbit, and everyone else fell, we can only hope we bagged a few kikes," Sherman boasted.
Luckily for Micah, Metzger's prowess with a rifle was not as spectacular as advertised. And thanks to Washington's phenomenal reflexes, no one was shot.
Crawling on his knees, Starsky stared over the edge of the stage at the activity across the lawn. People were still running everywhere, but it was easy to spot the center of the turmoil. Black flak jacketed SWAT teams were searching a blond haired man who lay prostrate on the grass.
"Davey, you okay?" Darryl asked anxiously, patting his limbs for injury.
"Lemme go, Brick," Starsky protested irritably. "You just about dislocated my shoulder, but I guess thanks would be in order. How's Micah?"
"Feel like I've been hit with a Brick," The rabbi punned weakly. "But it's better than a bullet any day." He waved away his hovering mother and brother-in-law, standing up to view the gunman's arrest.
"Any one recognize him?" Moses Reinhart asked, his arms around his visibly shaken mother.
"I don't." Micah shook his head, brushing grass off his suit.
"Hopefully, I may know someone who does," Starsky muttered, glancing up at his partner. "We'd better go call Dobey."
"Gentlemen, please..." A blue uniformed officer with a military bearing gestured to them. "You'll be safer inside the building. We're shutting down the exhibit for today."
"Damn," Micah groused. "I wish this hadn't happened."
"Micah," Esther Reinhart snapped. "Listen to the man, do you want to be laid out next to your wife?"
"Yes," he said so softly that only Starsky who was standing nearby heard. "Sometimes I want to be laying right next to her."
Snapping on the car radio as he drove, Albert Sherman adjusted the dial to an all news radio show. After only a few moments of uninteresting weather and traffic news, a report about the museum shooting came on.
"This just in, there has been a shooting at the Pacific Coast Art Museum this morning. Details are sketchy at this time, but the intended victim appears to have been celebrated Rabbi Micah Bachman, who's peace talks between religious leaders and hate groups are set to begin on October ninth. No one was shot, but police did apprehend a suspect in the shooting. His name has not been disclosed."
"Damn." Sherman slapped the steering wheel in an uncharacteristic show of anger. "I was sure Metzger hit somebody. They were rolling around on the stage like bowling pins. It was kind of funny."
Privately, Hutch was considerably relieved that his friends had once more escaped serious harm, wondering how long they could keep this up. There had to be a breaking point sometime. "What's your next move?" he asked cautiously, giving half an ear to the radio in case they gave any more pertinent details, but the newsreader had shifted to a rape of a young Jewish girl from the valley.
"I have to think." The man took one hand off the wheel to push his glasses more securely up his nose. Hutch had to say one thing for Sherman, he was an extremely conscientious driver. After riding with madman Starsky for all these years, it was somewhat novel to drive within the speed limit and obey all traffic laws. "Obviously we are approaching the problem all wrong--going after the rabbi hasn't worked. He's still alive and the damned talks are still progressing."
"Maybe you won't be able to stop him," Hutch suggested meekly.
"I'm beginning to agree with you, Chambers." Sherman pulled into a familiar driveway. He had barely turned the key in the ignition when John Adams came running out of his house, nearly dancing with frustration.
"Why the hell did you let that asshole do the shooting?" he demanded.
"Take it in the house, John," Sherman directed. "Where's Peter?"
"He ain't very happy, that's all I can say," Adams spat.
"Is he inside?" Sherman asked calmly, any sign of temper gone under a cool fašade.
"He called; he'll be here soon." The burly man turned his attention to Hutch, acknowledging him. "What did you see?"
"Take it in the house, John," Sherman commanded, more sharply this time. "No need for the neighbors to know all our business."
Once seated on the leather couch, with beers for Adams and Hutch, the morning's events were described and dissected by all three. When van Geller arrived ten minutes later, his anger was so palpable that it filled the room like the smell of ozone after a violent thunderstorm.
"This was not what I expected. Can you explain what went wrong before I start blowing away a few Jews by myself? And I'll have just enough ammo to waltz through the doors of that police department and drill Metzger an extra hole to shit through, since that's about all he seems to be good for," van Geller seethed. "What happens if he starts to talk, huh?"
"You and I both went over that with him--he's now a prisoner of war. Name, rank and serial number."
"They've questioned Tobe three times, did you know that? What if the two of 'em start spilling their guts about our operation? Our whole plan will be dead in the water. That god-damned Shylock better be in a coffin before those fuckin' talks, or..."
"Peter." Sherman's voice cut through the rant like a sword. "I may have a plan."
"Later. Now, there was a lot of security around that museum. I think one of our mistakes has been to go after Bachman when he's scheduled to do a public appearance. After all this time, the police--and more importantly his personal bodyguards--are beginning to suspect that something may occur. I really don't know why the place was surrounded by enough uniforms to guard Fort Knox, but it was."
"This was going to be the coup," van Geller yelled. "An old fashioned execution, to show the world that we aren't all talk. That manifesto meant something to me. What have we done so far? Some petty ass vandalism, terrorizing old kike biddies. This is not a war, it's a kiddy amusement park!"
"He wasn't vulnerable enough," Sherman said quietly, steepling his fingers.
Drinking his beer in small sips to make one last longer, Hutch made no noise. He didn't want his presence noticed for as long as possible. Foreknowledge had prevented disaster at the museum; if he could learn more intimate details about the Brotherhood's organization, maybe he could shut them down.
"Well, what would make him more vulnerable, genius man?" Peter's face was contorted with anger, his usually handsome features twisted and red.
Hutch wondered what Dotty the waitress would think of her Prince Charming now.
"C'mon, let's get some sandwiches in the kitchen; I'll tell you what I have in mind."
"I don't want a sandwich." Van Geller turned away, looking surly.
"I got bratwurst," Adams cajoled.
"John, monitor the TV, see if you can find out where they're holding Sam, or when he'll be arraigned," Sherman said. "I'll bring out sandwiches for you two. C'mon, Peter."
"You think you're in charge, all of a sudden?" Peter snapped. "Whose money pays you, huh?"
"Have something to drink." Albert handed his friend a coke. With van Geller's unstable moods, he didn't want the man drunk so early in the day. It was getting harder and harder to keep Peter under control. When Helmut had been alive, the old man's presence had been a calming influence, but more often now Peter was like a raving lunatic, ready to explode at any moment. Earlier in the year, his ideas had been constructive, even inventive, but he hadn't been able to get the Brotherhood beyond the storefront nickel and dime level. Sherman knew it was his bomb that had turned things around, and he was planning to assert more control at the helm.
Fiddling around in the kitchen, Albert heated some bratwurst, getting out condiments and chips while van Geller perched on the edge of the counter and drained his coke.
"What's your plan, Al?"
"Who's always with Bachman?"
"That little curly haired Jewboy, the cop. And that big dumb ass spearchucker."
"Exactly. That cop has been there every time since we fired up the cross on the rabbi's lawn. He's our stumbling block."
Smiling broadly, the former football captain nodded. "You wanna kill him?"
"Possibly--but I think we may get even more leverage if we use him as a bargaining tool," Albert mused. "If they want talks, we'll give them negotiation of an unpeaceful kind, and let the chaos begin."
"I like the sound of that--like we hold the keys to power over the whole city." Peter laughed. "But I thought you said we shouldn't mess with the cops."
"I did," he agreed. "There's a time and place for everything, and we need to deal with the problem now or we can't move forward."
"And the big nigger?"
"He's a newcomer, mostly back-up for Starsky. Once we get the Jew cop out of the way, the he'll probably just scurry back to headquarters for more orders, leaving Bachman on his own." Sherman placed the lunch items on a tray, carrying it out into the living room where Adams was watching a game show.
"Any more news?" Sherman queried, handing out plates of bratwurst sandwiches.
"Naw, we missed the earlier news, it was ending when I turned on the TV."
"The afternoon paper comes out in about two hours," Hutch put in, taking a tentative bite of his sausage. He had never liked much German food, and this was one of his least favorites. He couldn't think of a graceful way to get away from Adams' house without looking suspicious. There was no reason for him to want to go back to Waverly any time soon; there were more than enough office workers to distribute pamphlets and field phone calls. He hadn't been able to casually stroll past the kitchen to hear what Sherman and van Geller were discussing because Adams kept talking to him. At first he'd tried not listening, straining his ears for what might be going on in the other room. Then, Adams dropped a present in his lap and he wasn't even paying attention. Disgusted with his two partners' inability to kill the rabbi, John had begun to expound on his ideas on the subject. Most of them involved large amounts of explosives and fire. Very proud of his part in the bombing, Adams was describing his part in driving the car to heave the deadly package through the street side windows of the synagogue.
Catching his breath, Hutch had stared at the man beside him on the leather couch when the other two returned to the room. He'd missed his opportunity! How could he bring the subject up now?
"After this morning's fiasco, I think we need to be extra cautious in our approach," Sherman said, taking a hearty bite of his own sandwich and washing it down with beer. "I have a few plans in the early stages, but nothing that can be discussed with the group."
"But, Sherman, why was that place crawlin' with the fuzz?" Adams put in. "It looks like they knew we were comin'."
"As I said before, I think they're just becoming aware of the threat we pose, and in a funny way, that's a good thing. The cops are taking us seriously."
"It was my manifesto," van Geller said proudly.
"Chambers, you didn't get to do much today, but what were your impressions?" Sherman directed his gaze at Hutch, his narrow face serious. "Any suggestions? Even criticism? I think you can consider yourself a valued member, now."
"Thanks," Hutch managed, considering what to say. That he thought they were all vicious, bigoted assholes wouldn't be politically correct under the circumstances. Nor safe, either. "I haven't had...any experience with this kind of operation. I only know how to use my fists. But can I ask a...potentially dangerous question?"
"About what?" Peter asked suspiciously.
"You three were involved in the temple bombing, weren't you?"
"Why do you want to know?" Sherman put down his plate, his actions controlled and tight.
"Because that one worked." Hutch thought fast. "What did you do differently there? What exactly didn't work today?"
"Good point." Sherman nodded, his body relaxing. "This should be something we all think about. It may be that a certain amount of spontaneity is what works best."
Wondering how he could use the word spontaneous with a planned bombing, Hutch just shrugged, taking another bite of the bratwurst.
"I've got a meeting," van Geller said by way of good-byes. "You need a ride, Chambers?"
"You going past the office in Waverly? That's where I left my car." Hutch wasn't thrilled about riding in the same car with a man he considered a sociopath, but it gave him some time to learn more facts about any of the crimes he'd been involved with. It was beginning to look like the Brotherhood was responsible for everything from vandalism to murder. He vowed that he'd see van Geller and his cohorts behind bars if he had to pursue them for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, van Geller just ranted for the entire ride, going off on his usual paranoid delusions, imagining a dire conspiracy of Jewish citizens who were planning to kill him before he could assume his role as General in a white crusading army. The man was clearly not in possession of all his brain cells, and worse, he was as volatile as nitroglycerin.
Glad to get away from van Geller, Hutch sketched a wave as the black Mercedes drove away. It was only one-thirty in the afternoon, hours before he was supposed to call in to the department. He craved information on Starsky's whereabouts like an alcoholic needing his next bottle of Muscatel. Their separation was wearing him down, gnawing at his sanity. His sleep was so disturbed lately he hardly wanted to go to bed at night, afraid to confront more of the terrible lonely corridors, empty and endless. What was he searching for in his dreams?
The thought of a short nap was appealing. He'd probably be less apt to dream if he lay down in front of the TV and just fell sleep for an hour in the afternoon. Climbing into the battered pinto, Hutch headed for his crummy apartment.
"No more meetings in hospitals," Captain Harold Dobey groused, trying to ignore a nurse carrying a bag of blood down the hall. He maintained his composure by crossing his arms across the vast expanse of his belly, before giving a furtive tug at his too small checkered vest.
"Hey, do I ever plan this?" Starsky complained plaintively, wincing as he rotated his left shoulder. His arm was black and blue down to the elbow from when Washington had tossed him over the edge of the stage. "Nobody got shot. You have to admit that's pretty terrific. And it's all due to the big man, Darryl Washington."
"Heard mah name?" Washington walked up bearing two cups of vending machine coffee and several candy bars.
"Good work, Detective," Dobey complimented.
"Couldn't let Little Davey get hit bah a bullet."
"How could I have been shot?" Starsky countered, grabbing one of the Snickers. "They were aimin' at Micah."
"Cause you're a magnet." Washington towered over him, looking down sternly. "Since the first year Ah've known you, you've been shot probably half a dozen times."
"Not true." Starsky ate the candy bar in two bites, he was so hungry. "That was a bad coupla years, an' the Italian restaurant shooting was before we ever met."
"I was sure around when that asshole Brenner shot you," Washington reminded.
"And you got it in the leg in that shoot out at the barn, didn't you?" Dobey added helpfully.
"You had to throw that one in!" Starsky unconsciously rubbed his right leg; he'd been shot in the calf approximately two years ago.
"And some of those times ya got more'n one bullet at a time," Darryl said to prove his argument. "And then we come to last year..."
"I think everybody here knows what happened last year," Starsky grumped, never having lumped all his shootings together. It was an impressive and scary list.
"So, admit it, you're a bullet magnet."
"None of that was my fault."
"Have I left any out?"
"Well, as a matter of fact..." Dobey began.
"Boys, are we arguing again?" Micah asked mildly, coming out from behind a curtained exam room. He'd been witness to many of Starsky and Washington's mock arguments and knew it was more to blow off steam and pass the time than anything else.
"All checked out?" Washington asked, handing him the remaining cup of coffee and a candy bar.
"No concussion, no internal injuries. I know my name, the date and time, and this is all getting very old."
"Tell me about it," Starsky agreed. "Three times in three weeks. My insurance is gonna pitch a fit." He dropped the candy wrapper in a nearby trash bin.
"So, what are you going to do about this Brotherhood?" Dobey questioned, back in his Captain-of-the-Detective-Squad mode, "to keep Micah safe from ANY harm until next week?"
"We have to come up with somethin' different than we've been doin' so far." Washington said, leading the way out of the ER.
"I think I know somebody who might have some answers," Starsky said mysteriously, "Guess who I saw in the audience at the museum before the Brick started tossin' people around."
"Ungrateful," Washington muttered, but both detectives and the rabbi looked at Starsky in anticipation.
"Was he with the Brotherhood?" Dobey asked.
"Hard to tell, but at a guess I'd say yah. I saw a guy in glasses nearby, but there were a lot of people around him..."
"Glasses--uh, that's Albert Sherman." Washington remembered the descriptions Hutch had passed along.
"I think we should haul brother Ken in for questioning, don't you, brother Frank?" Starsky grinned impishly at his Captain.
Dobey nodded, considering the implications. "Not into our precinct--use one that's closer to Waverly."
The sound of the incessantly ringing doorbell roused Hutch from a sound sleep and he sat up abruptly, staring dumbly at the front door. He had no idea what time it was, but the sun was still shining.
"Ken Chambers? This is the police. Open this door!"
"Coming!" Hutch caught his breath, running for the door before the cops burst in. "What's this about?" he asked the two blue uniformed patrol cops standing on the ratty welcome mat . He didn't recognize either one, which was probably a good thing.
"You're wanted for questioning at the station. Come with us," the older of the two responded. He had the rounded belly of a beat cop who spent too much time at the diners and donut shops on his route.
"Lemme get some shoes on." Hutch held up a bare foot. The officer nodded, waiting until Hutch had laced up his running shoes and grabbed his keys before escorting him out the door.
The ride in the patrol car was mercifully short; Waverly wasn't all that big a city. Only five minutes after they'd left his apartment on Mayflower Street, they were pulling up in front of a small stuccoed building with a red tiled roof.
The desk sergeant had obviously been alerted that he was coming, because Hutch was quickly whisked past the main room where two under aged boys were being questioned about a stolen car and into an acoustically tiled interrogation room. Dobey, Washington, Bachman, and Starsky were already sitting around the table in the midst of eating a belated lunch.
"Looks like a hardened criminal t'me," Starsky deadpanned. "How many priors?"
"You won't be able to pin anything on me," Hutch retorted by way of greeting until the beat cops had left, shutting the door behind them. Hutch was more than relieved to see Starsky and Bachman all in one piece and looking remarkably healthy. The rabbi did have a bruise on his left temple, and probably a few other places, but Metzger hadn't shot him, which was the most important thing.
"Let's get down to business here," Dobey said gruffly. "No need to have you hanging around the police department longer than necessary. Starsky says he saw you at the museum. What was going on?"
Impressed that his partner had picked him out of an estimated crowd of three hundred or more people, Hutch just nodded in Starsky's direction. "Van Geller wanted to use this as his entry into the big times--it was going to be like Kennedy's assassination, or something. All on TV, in front of the world. I didn't know in advance who was supposed to be the shooter--they're beginning to trust me, but not that much. I went with Sherman as an extra pair of eyes, I guess."
"So, you didn't see this guy..." Starsky consulted the preliminary arrest records he'd gotten. "Samuel Metzger? He didn't come with you?"
"I'd have tried to get the word to you guys if he had," Hutch answered. "All I know about him is that he was in 'Nam, and reportedly a good shot. I've worked with him in the office and gotten to know him, but they're all too paranoid there to tell more than a handful of people what's going to happen at any given time."
"When did you know he was the shooter?" Dobey asked.
"Probably about the same time as everyone else did--when he fired the shot," Hutch explained. "He was quite a ways behind me."
"How th' hell did he get on the grounds with that elephant gun?" Washington growled. "Ah thought there was security checkin' that kinda thing."
"That's the big mystery of the day," Starsky agreed. "Who else was with you?"
"Albert Sherman." Hutch reached over and filched a handful of corn chips from Starsky's bag. Washington chuckled to himself, some things never changed. "And, I'm getting a bad feeling about him. I used to think van Geller was in charge of the roost, but he's unstable--roaring one minute, paranoid the next. Sherman has the brains, the organizational skills, and the know-how to be running everything, using van Geller as a front."
"And he has a degree in chemical engineering, and knows explosives," Washington added, remembering the background check they'd done on him.
"Speaking of which." Hutch sighed. "I didn't get absolute confessions from any of them, but Adams told me he drove the car and tossed the bomb into Beth Sharon, and implicated the other two."
"Damn," Washington swore.
"Then why can't you just bring them in right now?" Bachman spoke up for the first time, preferring to let the police discuss their business undisturbed. "If you know all this? Doesn't that prove they were involved?"
"We can't prove anything." Starsky gritted his teeth; they were so close. "Hutch's testimony counts for a lot because he's a cop, but it's hearsay. He heard Adams say he was involved. Did the others say anything at all?"
"I asked Sherman directly if they'd bombed the synagogue. His body language spoke volumes, but he only tacitly implied that they'd been in on it. Van Geller did claim ownership of the manifesto."
"So, we've got nothing?" Micah asked incredulously.
"It's all circumstantial," Dobey said. "We know how the plastique was paid for, but can't trace it back to the Brotherhood. And it's disgusting, but no actual crime to get that sort of bigoted raving printed in the paper."
"But if you did arrest all three of them, could you charge them with anything?" Micah persisted.
"Very little." Hutch shook his head. "And I'm sure van Geller has a really good lawyer--he's got money from somewhere. He'd slide out from under us so quick he wouldn't spend a night in jail. They've been very careful to delegate the crimes out to others--except for that bombing."
"We can hold Metzger for a long time," Dobey agreed. "And police were able to arrest those two bodybuilders you told us about, but they're already out on bail."
"We need solid ev'dence linkin' those bastards conclusively to the bombin'." Darryl took a last suck on his watery coke, the ice having long since melted.
"First degree murder, for all three. That's the only charge I want to hear," Starsky said vehemently.
"Six counts," Micah said softly. "But doesn't Metzger link us back to the Brotherhood?"
"Claims he was doin' it on his own," Starsky answered, still reading the arrest reports. "It's also unfortunately not a crime to belong to a hate group."
"Sherman said they consider him a prisoner of war." Hutch stressed the last word. "Van Geller was worried that he'd talk, but Metzger considers himself one of the good guys caught by the enemy--he'll clam up."
"What 'bout usin' Daniels 'gainst him?" Washington asked, a speculative look on his fierce dark face.
"Why, Brick, I didn't know you had a streak of deviousness!" Starsky gave him a genuine grin. "I like it. Hutch, give us every bit of inside dirt you can think of to con these two into thinkin' that the other's squealed."
"That's the kind of good solid police work I like to see." Dobey leaned back, tugging on his vest. He'd eaten too many chips.
Whether it was the relief of seeing his friends and being able to coordinate their efforts to bring down the Brotherhood, or just having caught a cat nap in the afternoon, Hutch had one of the best night's sleep he'd had in a long time. He was beginning to feel part of the team again, and not just a cog pulled out of the essential machinery and jerry-rigged to fit into another engine. He even celebrated by stopping by Dino's for breakfast and ordering a Spanish omelet. Breakfast was by far the best meal they served.
"Getting' to be a regular around here, Ken," Dotty greeted, placing the plate of steaming eggs in front of him.
"Yah. I like working with van Geller and the others." Hutch took a tentative sip of his hot tea. "But, it's getting' harder to pay the bills. I gotta get a job."
"Not much around here if you don't work for the factory, huh?" Dotty asked sympathetically, filling out the bill for him.
"And they're certainly not going to hire ME back," Hutch agreed. "But I've put out a couple o' feelers to other places, and I think I've got some interviews next week."
"Good for you." Dotty grinned, primping just a little in front of the handsome man.
"Did you do something to your hair?"
"Colored it; it's a different shade for me." She patted her overly permed, very bright red hair. Frankly, it would be different shade on a punk rocker.
"Very becoming," Hutch complemented, concentrating on his eggs. Luckily, the loquacious waitress was called away to another table.
"Chambers." The very way Adams said the name sounded like a challenge. He slid onto the stool next to Hutch at the counter, his body language aggressive. "You were spotted at the police department yesterday."
"They hauled me in," Hutch protested. "Can't exactly say no."
"What was that about?" Adams demanded.
"My brother Frank...he's out on parole for shootin' a guy, and when one of the cops recognized me at the museum shooting, they thought maybe he was somehow involved."
"Where's your brother?" Adams asked, interested in the story despite himself.
"Now, that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question," Hutch said with a disgusted growl, eating his omelet sullenly. Starsky's tale of Frank's exploits was actually convincing Adams! He'd have to remember never to admit this to Starsky, it would give him delusions of grandeur.
"So, the cops haul you in for your brother's stuff?" Adams reiterated, still angry.
"All the time. I guess I'm easier to find than he is." Hutch washed the last of the eggs down with his cooling tea. "I learned a long time ago how to bullshit the cops--they never get anything out of me, even if I did know where that good-for-nothing was."
"Van Geller's shootin' sparks after hearing that you were talking to the police. You'd better go over there and talk to him yourself."
"Sure," Hutch agreed evenly. His stomach was flip-flopping the omelet around inside, but he'd never let Adams know how nervous he was.
The little office was in an up-roar, van Geller shouting obscenities and throwing pamphlets at anyone in his sight line. Elsa and Margaret were crouched against the wall, hugging the ringing phone without answering it, while Fredricks hovered around the crazed man's periphery as if planning an attack, but not quite sure how to go about it.
The minute Hutchinson and Adams walked in, the whole room froze like a wax works tableau. Fredricks was the first to move, as if freed from a spell. He smiled welcome at Adams, both of them looking warily at their leader.
"Chambers," van Geller sneered. "I didn't think you'd ever show your traitorous face in here ever again!"
"What exactly is it that you think I've done?" Hutch asked calmly. The phone was still ringing, the noise grating on the nerves. "Elsa?" he said without breaking his eye contact with van Geller. "Can you get the phone?"
Immediately, there was almost silence as she whispered to the caller.
"Let's take this in the back," van Geller hissed, jerking open the door with his right hand and grabbing Hutch's arm with his left. He pulled him into the cramped little back room, shoving him into a chair. "You think you can talk to the police without anybody knowing?"
Without saying a word, Hutch produced the faked arrest reports Starsky had prepared for Frank Chambers and handed them over to van Geller. "My brother's wanted for shooting a guy at a fair. He was standing up on a podium, talkin' about compassion and racial equality and Frank shot him in the arm. The police recognized me there at the museum, and figured Frank was in on it. I convinced them he wasn't."
Holding the arrest report as if it were a poisonous snake, Peter stared menacingly at Hutch. "How do I know you're telling the truth?"
"If I'd said you were behind this shooting, don't you think the police would have gotten here before I did?" Hutch asked reasonably. It was his first time in the 'inner sanctum' and he tried to get a good look around while talking. The place was nothing more than a hybrid kitchen/office, strewn with the usual papers, pencils and files that any office might have. No huge pictures of Hitler or red and black Nazi banners gracing the walls. "For that matter, they've still got Metzger. How do you know he isn't singing like a bird?"
"'Cause I know him better than I know you. You could be some infiltrator spying on us," van Geller accused, not realizing how correct he was.
"If that's how you feel about it, then I can just go now." Hutch stood, heading for the door. "I can get paid money for stuffing envelopes at some business, I don't have to stay here and be insulted for nothing."
"What's your brother do?" Peter studied the arrest report more closely, changing his tactics completely. Hutch took a slow breath, knowing the worst was over. Whenever van Geller shifted moods, he seemed to completely forget whatever he was going on about before. "He sounds like our kind of people."
"He does very little, worthless little shit," Hutch swore. "I've gotten in more trouble because of him. The police hound me whenever they think he's involved in anything. He's not good at much except hiding."
"I'd like to talk to him." The blond ex-football captain brought forth the smile that had gotten half of the cheerleading squad into his bed. "I might have a job for him."
"If he ever calls me back, I'll tell him, right after I blast him for getting me picked up again."
"He younger'n you?"
"Typical. Better to be an only I think." Van Geller lapsed into silence, then waved Hutch off. "Go get that last load of mailers done. There's lots to be done before next week."
"Sure." Hutch paused, taking a last look around the room. It was a mess. If he ever got a chance to search the place, he wouldn't begin to know where to look for bombing evidence. Probably buried under copies of the onerous manifesto.
His heart still pounding faster than his usual resting rate, Hutch was more than happy to get back to the mundane printing, collating, and folding that comprised his day of late. Elsa kept giving him amazed glances out of the corner of her eye, as if she had expected him to be dead after an interview with van Geller.
"It's okay, Elsa," he soothed. "Nothing happened. I get picked up by the police all the time; it's nothing new."
"Mr. van Geller just really scares me," she confessed. "When I first came here I thought he was so good looking--but now, he screams and shouts..."
"Has he changed a lot? In the last year?"
"It's been hard for him--what with his grandfather's death.." Margaret stole a look at the door, speaking in a whisper. "He's gotten worse. He always did have an irrational temper--even as a child, but now..."
"You've known him a long time?" Hutch asked.
"I've known Helmut, his grandfather, for many years--since he came over from Germany just about. We were..." Margaret colored, her cheeks a pretty pink. "He was an older man and I was very taken with him. I really liked to hear him talk about the Third Reich, and the glorious promises that Hitler made."
Another sociopath heard from, Hutch thought. He began to make corrections on a half-finished pamphlet before setting up the printer.
"But then he had to care for his grandson, Peter. And that boy was such a handful." She sighed. "Sometimes he scares me, too. Nobody ever thought that Peter would amount to anything, until Helmut funded this place, and Peter seemed to find his place in the world."
"And he's really going places now." Fredricks nodded. He'd been fielding a barrage of phone calls and finally the ringing bell was momentarily silenced. "Van Geller might have a quick temper, but he's got his head in the right place. He understands the needs of the working man. A good job without some spick or spade looking over your shoulder."
"'Bout time somebody shows the im'grants where to go, and that's back where they came from," Margaret agreed.
Not counting immigrants from Germany, apparently, Hutch thought ironically, pretending to be more interested in getting the margins straight on the copies he was printing, listening without looking at her.
"He's still grieving, poor thing. " Margaret paused, pouring a cup of coffee from the pot plugged in next to the Xerox machine. "I'm sure things will settle down soon. He was so excited after that temple was bombed, but now, I think his plans don't seem to be working as well."
"You know he planned the bombing?" Hutch hit the copy button and fifty copies of a blue treatise on Sterilization of Unwanted Racial Minorities began to spit out.
"It was his idea. That Albert Sherman always hogs the spot light, but Peter knows what he's doing."
"He still scares me," Elsa said in a soft voice. "If there really is going to be a war, I don't know what I'll do. I can't kill people."
"Van Geller will know what to do. Some people will have to die to get the country back on track," Fredricks remarked before answering another phone call.
That said, the two women turned their backs on Hutch, going back to their work. He was left with dozens of questions. Had the man radically changed recently? He'd known Peter van Geller so briefly before the death of his grandfather, he couldn't begin to compare his behavior before and after. But if what Margaret said were true, van Geller had been unstable since childhood. And being raised by a man who praised the work of that monster Adolph Hitler would crack even the most stable person.
In the next few days, van Geller seemed to get a second wind. His eyes shone with excitement whenever he ushered his two top lieutenants into the back room, and Sherman and Adams would only stay a few moments before leaving again. There was a charge of electricity in the air, some plan was afoot, but no one was telling the office workers yet. Hutch wondered if his police interview had pushed him back down the ladder of hierarchy, or whether van Geller was just too paranoid to share his ideas until the last possible moment.
Because Starsky was busy with Bachman, Hutch spoke with Dobey in his nightly call-ins and had very little to report. The most amusing part of his day was thinking up excuses why brother Frank had still not called van Geller requesting a job. The Brotherhood leader was vastly interested in the black sheep of the Chambers family and pestered Hutch several times a day for an introduction to meet with the fictitious man.