Friendly criticism welcomed at Dawnrca@earthlink.net

PART TWO

Bad Moon Rising
by
Dawnwind

Part Three

True to his word, Micah cancelled nearly all of his obligations on the first two days of October, concentrating mostly on Rosh Hashanah services and matters of his congregation. There was one dinner meeting on Thursday that he felt compelled to attend, with several mayors of cities known to have high concentrations of hate groups. His speech was one of the "canned" ones he could now recite in his sleep, but the mayors all were very complementary and pledged their support to help end the racial violence in their areas. Starsky and Washington stayed extra close to the rabbi that night, but nothing unusual happened, except perhaps that the meal was one of the most palatable in a long time. Al dente pasta with a red sauce and fresh spinach salad made the dry chicken and tasteless vegetables of previous dinners a dim memory.

The museum show did open the day after the shooting, and whether because of high interest in the Holocaust or the vast amount of newspaper and TV news coverage, it had a boffo first day.

Since Washington didn't attend worship at the synagogue with Starsky and Bachman, he got the onerous job of interviewing the suspects. Neither Daniels or Metzger had been very inclined to talk to him the first time he questioned them, but using the details provided by Hutch, the next few interrogations went much more smoothly. Although technically not a suspect, since there was no vehicle found to connect him with the car accident in the canyon, Daniels still proved much easier to crack than Metzger. He'd been questioned twice earlier on, and complained mightily when he was brought back into the police department for a third session. This time, Washington let it slip that Metzger had implicated Daniels. Tobe, never one for casual chatter, lost his usual reserve and spilled. Finally, there was some corroborative testimony that the three leaders of the Brotherhood were directly involved in the bombing. It still wasn't concrete proof, but it was a start. Daniels also supplied information on several of the unsolved robberies, assault crimes and vandalisms that had plagued local police. When finally assured of a vastly diminished sentence due to his testimony, Tobe Daniels finally even admitted to driving the truck that had forced Starsky off the road. Of course, he insisted the brakes were faulty and he hadn't realized that the rabbi was in the car, that he was visiting a friend in the area and had been lost, but he freely admitted that Peter van Geller had vowed to kill the Jewish teacher.

Metzger, showing the toughness that had served him well in two tours in 'Nam, only admitted to being a member of the Brotherhood, and only that when directly asked. He steadfastly maintained his hatred of Micah Bachman had led him to pick up a rifle on the morning of the museum opening and attempt to shoot at him. No premeditation. No assassination plan. The DA had him booked for attempted murder anyway.

Friday night was spent in the Temple Emmanuel. Beth Sharon's congregation squeezed in with Emmanuel's, and for once Micah just sat with the others of his faith, letting Rabbi Sarah Hoffman preside over the service. Starsky sat next to him, the cantor's words transporting him into a calmer state. He was beginning to feel a more positive attitude--they had survived numerous attempts on their lives and come through with flying colors. The talks were only one week away, and all involved were in a high state of anxiety and excitement. This was really going to happen! Perhaps, just perhaps, the rabbi's hopes and prayers were not just na´ve. There could be a change in the hatred and bigotry of hundreds of years. Already, political cartoonist and editorial writers were pushing to have him try his hand at the rift between Israel and Palestine. Somehow, that one seemed even more a pie-in-the-sky sort of dream.

Starsky was more than a little surprised when the service had ended and he realized he'd been daydreaming through much of it. He'd been trying so hard to be a good and faithful Jew of late and felt awful to have tuned out great potions of the service. Micah grinned at him as they shuffled with the rest of the crowd towards the door.

"She's a very good rabbi. That sermon was excellent." He gave his friend's shoulder a friendly shake. "You looked the more relaxed I've seen in a long time, Dave."

"She's very...soothing." Starsky nodded, not wanting him to know he hadn't been paying much attention.

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem." {May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.} was the common greeting heard over and over again. Everywhere there were people pushing past Starsky to meet Rabbi Bachman, the newest celebrity. Deciding that this was probably the safest place Micah could be, unless the Brotherhood tried another bomb, God forbid, Starsky let down his guard and tried to have a good time. There was a boisterous hour with the home congregation welcoming their new friends over coffee and gossip. The women of Emmanuel had outdone themselves with mouthwatering treats and flaky pastries, which Starsky sampled with gusto.

Recognizing a trio of small boys who shamelessly grabbed handfuls of chocolate cookies right out from under his nose, Starsky was finally able to return the Big Bird yarmulke to its six year old owner. The child was delighted, and ripped off his plain black one to place the yellow embroidered one in its rightful place. His mother thanked Starsky profusely, leaving him embarrassed to have kept the little head covering for so long, since she said the child had complained constantly about having to wear a plain one when his brothers had Ernie and Bert on theirs. None the less, he was left with the satisfied feeling that his whole life was turning around and there were better days were ahead.

Micah spent much of his time with Myra Gold, one of the survivors of the temple bombing. Her husband had been one of the unfortunates caught by the wall of flames before the community doors had slammed shut. Burned over eighty percent of his body, he'd stubbornly clung to life for three weeks, but was steadily failing.

"I'm sorry I haven't been able to visit as much as I'd liked, but my schedule has been so full," he apologized, amazed that the old woman had come to Shabbat Shuvah at all. Falling during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it was considered one of the most special shabbats of the year, but he knew most everyone would have understood if the woman had remained at her husband's bedside.

"Rabbi." Myra held his hand gratefully. "You've visited every week. So has Rabbi Hoffman and many others. Jacob knew. We're all so proud of what you've accomplished and I just had to come to give my thanks to God."

Thanking her, Micah promised to get over to the hospital on Saturday for a visit. He was scheduled to preside over noonday services at Emmanuel and planned to see Gold after that.

"Rabbi!" A young man with thick horn rimmed glasses was the next to grab his hand and launch into his praises of the man's accomplishments, so Micah was never quite able to get over to the table for a few treats.

"Hungry?" Starsky teased as they were leaving, nearly two hours after the Shabbat service had ended. Bachman's stomach was growling audibly.

"My 'fans' needed sustaining, too." Micah laughed. "But I wouldn't mind a snack."

"I've got you one better." Starsky handed him a brown sack he was carrying before fishing out his car keys. "The ladies felt sorry for you and packed a bag. Try the little donuts first. I had three."

"I must thank them tomorrow," Micah murmured appreciably, taking a big bite of the greasy delight with happiness. Starsky drove him to his home, the same one he'd lived in for two years with Miriam. The same one that still had a blackened area on the front lawn where a cross had burned. It was always bittersweet to come back to the little white house. He still expected to see a long-legged woman come flying out, her blue-black hair dancing around her beautiful face. Instead, a tall, barrel-chested plainclothes cop got out of his car when they drove up and waited silently until they'd gotten out of the car.

"Rabbi," he greeted politely. Dave Murphy had requested the assignment when he'd heard that Bachman needed a nighttime guard, and he was quite honored to be able to be the man for the job. Jewish on his mother's side, and Irish Catholic on his father's, he knew the value of peace talks to defuse a volatile situation. It had been standard operating procedure for any discussion when he was a child. "Starsky."

"Hey, Murphy." Starsky grinned. "Maybe if you're nice, Micah will give you the last donut. It'll go great with that two AM cup of coffee you need to keep you awake."

"What about the four AM cup?" Murphy laughed.

Briefly touching the mezuzah outside his door and mentally reciting a prayer of blessing, Micah never-the-less smiled at the banter between the two police. "There's some freshly made bread in the cupboard, unless I miss my guess. The housekeeper makes it every Friday."

"Then, you're covered." Starsky held up his hands with a flourish. He kept Micah at the door while Murphy gave the small cottage a quick, but thorough check for intruders or signs of break-ins.

"All clear," Murphy called, as the others walked in.

"Oh, Dave." Micah pointed to Starsky to distinguish between the two. "I promised Mrs. Gold I would go over to Mercy Community Hospital to visit with her husband. He may be dying."

"I didn't realize he was still alive!" Starsky replied, feeling like a schmuck for having wallowed in his own self pities for so long when there were still people having to deal with the tragedies of the bombing. He knew the man had been badly burned and had just assumed he'd died weeks ago.

"Luckily, I don't have any speaking engagements until Sunday evening," Micah continued. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Be here around nine-thirty or ten." Starsky waved as he left the rabbi under the capable guard of Dave Murphy. He climbed into the candy apple red Ford Torino with the slash of white on the sides and revved the engine just once. He'd left it in Bachman's garage when he'd come by to pick him up for the Shabbat services and driven them both over to Emmanuel in the sedate brown sedan they'd acquired after the car accident. It felt really good to be back in his favorite vehicle and he backed the car out of the driveway with a little thrill of happiness. No more disasters. With only one more week to go and only a few more personal appearances to escort Micah to, the end was in sight. Starsky was more than ready to go back to a steady diet of arresting drug dealers and pimps, driving around making jokes with Hutch. That was normal life. Dealing with the hate mongers and bigots hit a little too close for comfort. It was too easy to let some of this get under the skin. He knew his depression of late had been because he'd personalized the case too much. Well, now that was in the past. Only one more week. Just had to take it one day at a time, wasn't that the saying?

Putting his foot on the accelerator, Starsky roared down Wisteria Avenue and made a right onto Morning Glory. He never noticed the man watching Bachman's house.

~~~

Saturday turned out to be one long rant from Peter van Geller at the North Main offices of the Waverly chapter of the United Aryan Brotherhood. Beer bottles were thrown, curses hurled and the newspaper continually ripped until the entire place was covered with confetti. It might have made for a jolly decoration had it not been for the frightened faces of the office workers and the shards of broken glass glittering amongst the bits of paper.

It wasn't until Albert Sherman showed up and managed to calm his friend down that any work was done, and most of that was just cleaning up the mess. Whatever Sherman said to van Geller in the little back room, it cleared the air considerably, and shortly after noon, he announced that the place would be closing for the day so that whoever was planning to could attend Adams' usual barbecue.

The reason for van Geller's mood was the headline news that police were now focusing their investigations on particular suspects, who were not named at this time. Under Andrew Cleary's byline was a story implying that a certain suspect had been supplying important information in return for immunity and witness protection. It did not take a rocket scientist for the workers at the Brotherhood to figure out who had to be talking. Peter van Geller planned to kill Tobe Daniels and string him up next to Micah Bachman as an example of what happens to traitors.

Sincerely glad that he'd been of such use to the ongoing case, Hutch went along to Adams' house with hopes of overhearing more evidence of criminal activity. If he could just find some plastic explosives or wires, something to prove a bomb had been made. That would go so much farther to convict the murderers.

The party was in full swing by the time Hutch arrived, and for whatever reason, there were lots more women present this week. In fact, due to the rising temperatures, Adams had erected a medium-sized kiddie pool on the brown lawn and filled it with water. Two blond haired women in bikinis were dabbling in the tepid water to the obvious delight of many of the beer drinkers stationed in chaise lounges nearby.

Several men waved friendly hands as the blond detective walked in, calling out hellos and salutations.

"Hot enough for ya?" John Adams greeted Hutch with a beer so cold it numbed his hand when he took the bottle.

"October heatwaves are always a surprise." Hutch took a swallow of the German brew. "Even when they come every year."

"Hey, Chambers! The game's about to begin. Could be the one that clinches 'em for the World Series." Fredricks beckoned him from the darkened den.

Like the previous weekend, Hutch would have enjoyed himself a great deal more had there been a great deal less discussion of crude ways to dispose of ethnic minorities. In fact, because of his now familiarity with most of the men around him, he found it even more disturbing to listen to their casual talk of beatings, rapes, and cruelty. He actually liked some of these people, but their mindsets were so disturbing he felt contaminated. After getting enough gossip about recent illegal acts against Jews to put half the barbecue guests in jail, Hutch made his excuses and left.

The radio weatherman was predicting the heat to increase for the next week, with warnings about fire danger in the dry brush of the hillsides. So, it was no surprise that his little studio apartment felt like the inside of a sauna when he let himself in. After opening all the windows, he took a cool shower, and ate a Popsicle standing nude in front of the open refrigerator. Dressing in jogging shorts and a t-shirt, he picked up the phone to call the department.

"H'llo?" Starsky answered. Hutch was glad it was Starsky on the line. He hadn't talked to him in several days because of his duties with Bachman.

"Frank." Hutch hated that he was still playing the silly Frank Chambers charade after all this time. There had been so many times in other phone calls when he'd gotten caught up in emotion and used the other person's proper name, that had there really been a tap on the line, the listener couldn't possibly be fooled. "Van Geller is getting really antsy. He just about ripped the Waverly office to shreds this morning."

"Sounds like you're having loads of fun on the job."

"I haven't heard exactly what his plans are, but after what he did to Beth Sharon, I wouldn't rule out another bomb."

"You have any proof of that?" Starsky asked.

"No, but I've come to think that's his style. No subtlety. Just mass destruction."

"God, I hate this." Starsky leaned his forehead against a fist, slumping over the desk. His head hurt, his stomach churned like lava from an active volcano and he had the over powering urge to get blindly drunk. "I wish you hadn't gone undercover with them... I wish we could all just walk away."

Wondering what had brought this mood on, Hutch wished he could talk more freely to his friend. "Starsk..." He stopped, knowing he should be using the undercover name, but to hell with it. "How can you say that? We need this peace treaty. The violence is getting worse every day. Somebody's gotta end this kind of hatred. And I think Micah just could be the man to do that. What those guys at the Brotherhood talk about repulses me. I can't stand reading their vitriolic rhetoric, but I'm glad I'll be part of putting them out of business."

"But it won't end," Starsky said softly. "It never does. People die, and then somebody else gets up and knocks another person down."

"What happened?" Hutch questioned, really surprised Starsky had let him ramble on as long as he had.

"Nothing at all." Starsky pulled out a pen and paper. "What have you got to give me?"

Relating the facts he'd learned at the barbecue, Hutch was still certain that something big was bothering his partner. Starsky sounded subdued, an adjective very few people would ever have applied to the curly haired detective. In fact, Starsky ended the phone call almost abruptly, with only the sketchiest of good-byes. There had been no jokes, or teasing whatsoever. Totally unlike Starsky's norm.

Sitting in his stifling little studio, Hutch resolved to take a drive as twilight seeped in to darken the smoggy skies. It was still weeks before daylight savings time ended and true darkness didn't hit until nearly seven thirty. After stopping at a vegetarian restaurant nearer to his old neighborhood than to Waverly, Hutch found himself cruising through more and more familiar streets. Just two blocks over and one to the left was Starsky's house. So close. He knew it wasn't entirely safe, nor prudent to visit his friend, but he was positively certain what Starsky needed right now was a friend.

Luckily, he knew the neighborhood well. If there was someone watching the house, he knew ways to avoid them and never be seen. The street behind Starsky's house had one of those alleys where tenants left their cars and garbage cans in lieu of garages. Parking two blocks away beside the local park, Hutch strolled past teenaged couples necking in the semi-privacy of the darkened playground, heading towards the alley. It was now past nine o'clock, and the air was cooling off, the weather perfect for walking. He took his time ambling up the roadway, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. He didn't notice any unusual cars, or persons lurking in the shadows, and he gained the back stairs to Starsky's house without incidence.

They were rickety stairs, which had been so seldom used he wasn't sure they'd bear his weight. Starsky's street put their garbage out front, and parked their cars in their driveways. The only reason Starsky might ever have to use the back stairs was for a fire escape and the need had never arisen. Thus, the disrepair. They also creaked. Loudly, which alerted the house's occupant.

"What the hell..." Starsky stood at the back door leading from the kitchen, wearing ragged jeans cut offs and a UCLA t-shirt, his Baretta in hand. Hutch obligingly froze in mid step until his partner recognized his blond hair in the dark. "Shit, Hutch, I coulda shot you," he slurred, sucking in a frightened breath. He stepped back into the kitchen, holding the pistol limply, the barrel drooping towards the floor.

"Yah, in your condition you could have." Hutch plucked the gun from his friend's hand, following him into the house. "If the clip was in. What'er you doing with a gun?"

Starsky looked around blankly, as if he'd forgotten. The remains of the weapon's working parts were strewn across the kitchen table along with a large number of empty beer cans. "Cleaning it."

"Drunk?" Hutch gathered up the clip, holster and cleaning rags and deposited them in the front closet. "Not the smartest idea. How much have you had?"

"Like you should talk," Starsky retorted taking a long swallow from his latest beer. He'd bought a six-pack on his way home and had made plans to kill the entire thing before he went to sleep. Or perhaps it was to let him sleep.

Willing to concede that he'd been drunk on more than one occasion, probably more often than Starsky, in fact, Hutch didn't say anything, but collected the empty cans and dropped them into the kitchen trash. He started a pot of coffee and rummaged around until he found some cheese and bread. Dropping a liberal dollop of butter into a small frying pan, he added the bread and cheese when the butter started to sizzle.

"What'er you doin?" Starsky asked the more obvious, not even wanting to go into why Hutch had disregarded orders and come over to his house. He was way too tired and drunk to think that one through. And he was frankly glad to have his friend there.

"Making grilled cheese. You haven't been grocery shopping much lately, have you?" Hutch tossed limp lettuce and rotten fruit on top of the beer cans before flipping the sandwich over to let the cheese melt evenly on the stove.

"Jus' havin' dinner out every night with Micah," Starsky muttered. "The Shriners... The Ladies' Aid whatever...lotsa chicken n' rice. N' ya can' have dairy n' meat together...or, uh...no shellfish, y'know...it's tref."

"Yah, I've heard that," Hutch said dryly. He slid the grilled cheese onto a plate, added a dill pickle and placed it in front of his partner. "Eat." He poured a cup of coffee for each of them, watching Starsky start in on the food. "What brought on this binge?"

"I felt like havin' a beer," Starsky said defensively, but his eyes betrayed him. They were twin pools of pain, the blue so muddied they appeared the color of night sky.

"More like five, and that's not like you."

"The bombing claimed another victim." Starsky broke the pickle in half, having eaten a portion of his sandwich, but he made no move to eat either half. "Micah spent the afternoon at the hospital with him--uh, Jacob Gold....I really didn' think anybody burned all over their body would last so...long."

Hutch realized with a jolt that he had probably seen Gold being wheeled into Mercy hospital on that horrible night. "I'm sorry."

"It's not like I knew him or anything..." Starsky took a tentative bite of the pickle in his hand, then put the rest on the plate. "But, God, Hutch...he was burned over his entire body..."

"And it nearly was you."

"No." He shook his head. "I was too far away from the main blast."

"Starsk, you were in the building. Everyone in that place could have burned except for quick thinking, and the emergency crews arriving." Hutch felt his stomach lurch with the horrible images crowding in. "It's perfectly all right to feel...frightened."

"That's not what I feel." Starsky jumped up, restless, pent up energy erupting. "Anger. I'm so angry it burns inside of me all the time. I want to kill those bastards you sit next to every day. I want to do something...more than follow Micah around like a lap dog, keeping him out of danger. And none of it has done a damn bit of good. Have we stopped anything? Huh?"

"Nobody was seriously hurt in the car accident; no one was shot at the museum."

"Dumb luck," Starsky sneered, but there were tears in his eyes. "Today there were protesters in front of Emmanuel Synagogue, yelling at Micah when we went in. They threw things at the car."

"I'm sor..."

"Don't waste your breath! How would you feel if you went to your church, any church, and people were tryin' to prevent you from goin' in? It's like the Nazis really did set up camp in the good ol' land of the free and home of the brave." He dropped heavily onto the couch, covering his face with a hand. He didn't want Hutch to see the tears on his cheeks.

"Starsky, obviously nothing I can say could make you feel any better," Hutch said softly, sitting down beside him.

"Thanks for coming over." Starsky managed to get the crying under control after a few moments. "I really thought things were turning around yesterday, and then they all came crashing down today."

"We're all tired." Hutch rubbed his back. He was sitting to Starsky's left and could see the heavy bruising on his arm. "Brick really did a number on you, didn't he?"

"Don' know his own strength," Starsky said shakily, but his fury was spent and all he was now was exhausted.

"Have you seen anyone watching the house?" Hutch asked, glancing at the front windows.

"My house? Naw. Sometimes I know people watch us at the Victorian--n' not just newspeople. But I haven't been followed."

"That's good." Hutch nodded, reluctant to leave, but knowing he should. "You gonna get some sleep?"

"Soon. Oh, I got something to show you." Starsky padded across the room in his bare feet to pick up a small packet of photographs. "I finally got these developed." It was almost as if he'd forgotten what was on the roll of film when he'd dropped it off a week ago, but seeing the first photo had unleashed a powerful surge of emotions he'd thought were buried. Even now, showing them to Hutch, he could feel the grief twisting inside, worming itself around his organs and spine, imbedding itself in his very core.

It had been such a glorious day, Labor Day weekend, 1980. Bright blue skies, warm breezes. Starsky, Meredith, the Bachmans, Hutch and Angela had spent the day on the beach. Starsky had taken an entire roll of photos--Meredith, her hair in tiny braids decorated with beads, running along the beach, large dark eyes alight with happiness. Micah and Miriam sitting contentedly under a brightly colored umbrella, looking up at the camera with joy on their faces. Hutch, his head back, laughing at some joke Starsky had made. A series of action shots of a wild sand volleyball game. Then, a group shot, all six crouching in the sand waiting for the camera's automatic timer to go off.

"It was a great day. Nice group of people," Hutch remarked, his throat tight. These were probably the last photos ever taken of Miriam Bachman. She'd died five days later. And Meredith had gone to Washington D.C. only one day after the Sunday picnic, and he'd never even been told she was leaving. No wonder Starsky was drunk. He had a yearning for a couple of beers himself.

"I should give some of these to Micah," Starsky said, separating the duplicates into piles. "He says we should forgive...them, try to understand them. But Hutch, I don't know if I have it in me."

"Starsky, you are one of the most generous and fair-minded people I know." Hutch gazed at a beautiful photo of Miriam, her hair blowing back in the wind, holding aloft just grilled hot dogs. She had a teasing, mischievous look in her eye, and he remembered that she'd playfully stuffed the kosher dog into her husband's open mouth a moment later. "But it takes time."

"How much?"

"That I don't know."

Hutch stayed the night. He wasn't exactly sure when he'd fallen asleep on the couch, because he certainly hadn't planned on staying, but when he woke up, it was morning. Starsky was sprawled across his velvet bedspread, still wearing denim cut offs, snoring loudly.

"Starsk," Hutch called. "Get up." They'd talked far into the night, about the case and about everything else. Just the little discussions that pop up at midnight and seem so important until morning when it's hard to quite remember what the point was, exactly. There were the remains of the pizza Hutch had ordered on the coffee table and he absently closed the box, disliking the look of a cold pizza in the morning.

"Ooh." Starsky rubbed his forehead, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Hangover?" Hutch asked unsympathetically. "I'm going to take a shower and get out of here."

"Boy, you're just a ray of sunshine in the morning." Starsky wandered into the living room and ate a slice of cold pizza. He flipped on the TV, just as the weather girl announced that temperatures were already breaking records across the state and were projected to do so for two to three days more. It was hot.

Washington called while Hutch was still in the bathroom to inform Starsky that the leaders of the Brotherhood were being rounded up for preliminary questioning and he was needed down at police headquarters ASAP. No rest for the weary. Starsky downed two aspirin, and took an abbreviated shower after Hutch let himself out the back door.

With no real plans for the day, Hutch wished he was able to sit in on the interrogations of van Geller, Adams, and Sherman, but that would really be treading on dangerous ground. Since he'd already potentially damaged his cover by going over to Starsky's house, he vowed to stay as far away from all his friends as possible for the duration of the assignment. Starsky had come out of his funk by the time they'd eaten half a pizza and watched part of creature features at midnight, so Hutch was a lot less concerned with his friend's state of mind when he left in the morning.

Starsky arrived at headquarters just in time to witness van Geller's arrival, with his lawyer trailing in his wake. The tall, good looking leader of one of the most notorious hate groups in the LA area was decidedly angered by his summons and let anyone in earshot know it. Dobey came out to escort him to an interrogation room, receiving a cold shoulder from van Geller, who hadn't spoken directly to an African-American since his high school days, when he'd been forced to have a black quarterback on his team.

"Don't think he's real thrilled to be here." Washington inclined his head at the trio disappearing into an unmarked door.

"No more than I am," Starsky grunted. "You wanna be bad cop, or should I?"

"Aw, Little Davey, now who would evah think you're the bad one?"

"Hey-- Hutch always plays good cop. I've been known to scare a statement outta a perp in under ten minutes," Starsky said indignantly, putting on his fiercest face for Washington.

"No bet here. Between you, me, an' the Cap'n, Ah'm disinclined to think he'll talk to any one of us at all." Washington stated the unfortunate truth.

"Let's see, that probably lets out Sam Wong, too, huh?" Starsky walked down the hall to peer through the one way glass at van Geller talking furtively to his lawyer as Dobey came out of the room.

"Won't talk to you?" Starsky asked.

"He's requesting a white cop, to use his words." Dobey looked disgusted, crossing his arms angrily.

"That leaves Anderson and Myers." Starsky sighed rubbing his still aching forehead. He was beginning to regret downing nearly an entire six pack of beer.

"Ah'll see who's free." Washington turned to go back into the squadroom.

"This ain't right." Starsky determinedly yanked the interrogation room door open. "He'll get questioned by one of us, whether he likes it or not."

Recognizing David Starsky, van Geller did not like it at all. Starsky's skin color might have been correct in van Geller's opinion, but his religion was not, and the police were unable to get any useable information out of him. Albert Sherman came across as much more cooperative and polite than his associate, but he also volunteered absolutely no information and both Washington and Starsky were aware of the understated power hinted in the mild mannered man's eyes. He was a force to be reckoned with, just as Hutch had thought. John Adams acted as if he were completely unaware of anything they were talking about, except to interject that he'd like to meet the person who had bombed the temple. When told they had two statements saying that he was one of the perpetrators, he laughed, just as van Geller had.

All in all, the entire day's work was for naught, not that Starsky had expected otherwise. The members of the Brotherhood had to be good at keeping secrets or there would have been a lot more street talk about the identities of the bombers. There had been almost no word from the usual snitches, according to Huggy Bear. Nobody on the street seemed to know who had bombed the temple. Unless investigators could find a link between the Brotherhood and the plastique, there was the distinct possibility that the van Geller and friends could remain uncharged for the bombing and that disturbed Starsky greatly.

At home, at last, late Sunday night, Starsky stared moodily at his phone, knowing it was far too late in Washington D.C. to be calling Meredith. She should be tucked up in her bed, hopefully wearing his police academy t-shirt, dreaming sweet dreams of romantic suppers with him. At least he certainly hoped so. Unable to call her, he searched through the photos still strewn across the coffee table, selecting his favorite of her. She was sitting cross-legged in the sand, the high cut of her bikini showing a lot of hip, leaning into the curve of his arm. He was looking at her with an expression of awe, not believing his own good fortune, one arm around her waist, the other playing with one of her tiny braids. Starsky knew Hutch had taken the picture and was very grateful that he had. He was just tracing a gentle finger down the photograph to touch Meredith's face when the phone jangled, startling him.

"Dave Starsky here."

"Well. I'm certainly glad, cause, honey, that's who I wanted to be there."

"Meredith!" he exclaimed. "I was just looking at your picture."

"My good side?" she teased.

"All your sides are good." He grinned, cradling the phone against his cheek as if he could pull her closer to him that way. "Inside and out."

"I don't think we should be going there at this time of night."

"No?" He pouted, disappointed. He propped her photo up with his knee so he could look at her. "Why are you awake? It must be two a.m. there."

"Nearly," she agreed. "I had a bad dream about you. You were...I don't know, in danger. Something bad was going to happen."

"Darlin', I'm a cop, that's a given."

"No, I'm serious, David."

He knew when she used his full name that she was upset. "Mer, I'm fine. It's a nasty case, but my part of it will be over soon. And if we could just get something on van Geller, he'd be behind bars in a New York minute."

"You're in Los Angeles," Meredith corrected, her heart still pounding harder than usual from the disturbing images of her dream. She couldn't reconstruct any one thing that had frightened her so or even remember the exact nature of the dream, just that Starsky had been in grave danger. "The minutes aren't any different there."

"Just hotter. It's seventy-five degrees at eleven o'clock at night." Starsky sighed. "I think I'm melting."

"Not on my account, I hope." Meredith couldn't help the sexual nature that was always creeping into their phone calls. They caught each other so seldom there was a tremendous amount of unfulfilled desire on her part. "I could cool you down. Maybe some ice cubes?"

"Ice cream," Starsky said. "Chocolate."

"With a cherry on top?"

"Right in the middle." He licked his lips, knowing exactly what little dark cherry he wanted. "Lots of chocolate; I could just lick it up with my tongue."

"Myself, I want some vanilla," she smirked. "With some hard sauce poured over the top."

"You don't put hard sauce on ice cream," he protested, laughing. "That's for English desserts, like plum puddings."

"How would you know?" she argued good-naturedly.

"English neighbors--they always invited me over for Christmas Eve supper. I know hard sauce."

"Well, are you melted now?" Meredith sucked on her lower lip, grinning into the phone.

"Far from it," he admitted, his erection jutting up in front of his khakis. "How'm I gonna get to sleep now?"

"By dreaming of me."

"That'll just keep me awake." Starsky blew a kiss into the receiver. "Thanks for calling. I hope your dreams get better."

"After this, they're bound to." She returned the air kiss, still thinking about her dream.

~~~

Hutch heard about every minute of van Geller's police interrogation, including extremely biased and derisive descriptions of Starsky and Washington. It made his skin crawl, and it took every ounce of strength he had to remain in the room after Sherman and Adams joined in the conversation. There were repeated threats of violence against the police, Jews in general, and Starsky, Washington, and Bachman specifically.

Even after the demonic trio had retreated to their lair to hatch more plans, thumping and bumping could be heard as van Geller threw things, shouting angrily about their lack of success with killing the rabbi.

"He's going off the deep end," Elsa observed. "I don't want to work here anymore; we could get caught up in his delusions."

"Honey, we already are." Hutch's inner self cried out to go call Starsky, to warn him. He knew Starsky could take care of himself, and between him and Washington they'd done a very good job up until now, but with only four days until the peace talks were about to start, van Geller could dispense with any sort of subtlety in exchange for full frontal attack. "I've got two job interviews lined up this week. Even if they don't pan out, I'm bailing out of here."

"I bought a paper this morning to look at the want ads." Elsa looked down at her hands; they were shaking. "I'm so afraid these days... I can't sleep. What if I try to leave and he won't let me?"

"He's not that kind of man!" Margaret protested, pressing a cup of water into the girl's hand. All three paused as a particularly violent bump hit the office door, and moments later Sherman and Adams left abruptly.

"Is there anything we ought to know about?" Hutch confronted the two men, sensing Elsa, Margaret, and Tom, the silent envelope stuffer of the day, standing behind him.

"Nothing that should concern any of you." Sherman pushed up his glasses, looking them over imperiously. "We're in a hurry."

"Well, with all of you getting hauled down to police headquarters, I'm wondering what's going on," Hutch continued, with murmured assents from the women.

"Chambers, you started here knowing there'd been a little illegal activity," Adams retorted. "Nothing has changed."

"You call bombing a temple a little?" Hutch reined in his anger, not wanting to blow his case now. "I'd call it a lot. No, that didn't bother me as much as wondering if I'm going to get implicated in something I had nothing to do with-- If they charge van Geller, what happens to the rest of us?"

"Those were only preliminary questions; they didn't have any solid facts and nothing they could pin on us," Sherman explained, as if to a two year old. "The day-to-day work of the Brotherhood will go on. In fact, we will prevail."

"If you have major plans, we want to know about them," Hutch insisted.

"We don't operate like that," Sherman sneered.

"Only the people involved know what's going on," Adams added. "C'mon, Al, there's a lot to do."

"Are you going to be able to stop the peace talks or not?" Hutch stepped aside, still facing the hate mongers.

"We haven't been successful in bringing down Bachman, that's true," Sherman conceded. "So, we're trying a few different tactics; that's all you need to know. Good bye." He followed Adams out, letting the door bang shut with a loud slam.

"The day-to-day work won't get done if there's no one left to do it," Elsa whispered. "They can't treat us like this."

"Margaret, I won't be in on Tuesday until noon." Hutch gave his prearranged excuse for his "job interview." He'd planned on saying he'd gotten a job to explain why he would no longer be working at the Brotherhood after Friday. "Tell 'em I can stay late if necessary." He handed the silent Tom a pile of addressed envelopes with a sincere desire to bolt the United Aryan Brotherhood and never return.

~~~

Standing in direct sunlight was stupefying, the heat like a giant hand squeezing whatever intelligent thought he might have right out of his brain. Starsky wiped a weary hand across his dripping neck, glancing around to keep Bachman and Washington in his sight. He was glad the bomb squad had responded in record time. He didn't think he had the presence of mind to defuse a cartoon style bomb with an alarm clock timer and two pieces of Acme dynamite like Wyle Coyote used to leave.

Micah had spent Tuesday morning inspecting the convention center where the peace talks were to be held. There were two meeting rooms, a main hall for the entire group to convene, and a smaller room for office work. It was perfect. Moses Reinhart had done most of the coordinating with the convention center staff and was proudly conducting the little tour for Micah, and two other protestant ministers. Starsky and Washington had tagged along behind, as they usually did, but Starsky could hardly keep his eyes open. The heat had affected his sleep, he'd hardly gotten three hours all together. Washington looked worn out too, but he pointed out that he'd grown up in the Deep South where sleeping naked in the heat without even a sheet was perfectly normal.

"I wasn't naked," Starsky protested.

"Ah didn't say you were. Ah said Ah was," Washington teased. "But Ah kin imagine you were, too."

"I don't want you imagining me naked."

Oh, Little Davey, Ah do it all the time," he teased, leering down at the shorter man.

"Pervert."

"Officer! Sergeant!" A harried looking convention center official came running up to them, his red face bathed in sweat. When he had gotten their attention, he blathered, "A call just came in saying there was a bomb! In my convention center."

"Micah! Moses!" Starsky grabbed their arms, while Washington went for the two ministers. "Outta here, now." He walked them towards the door, with the bespeckled man following behind, wringing his hands like a girl in a melodrama. "There's a bomb threat."

After they'd exited the modernistic granite-sided building, Starsky found the closest patrol car--these days there were always a few wherever Micah was--and made a calm call to dispatch for the bomb squad. Before they arrived, he and Washington made a quick sweep of the rooms they had visited, but found no suspicious boxes or packages, so left the harder work to the professionals.

That was where he stood now. Waiting, bareheaded, in the direct sunlight of ninety degree heat. Whatever professionalism he'd maintained before the squad's arrival was evaporating, his over active imagination recalling the temple bombing with vivid clarity.

After ten agonizing minutes, an apparition in full bomb squad regalia, his face shield disguising his identity and huge gloved hands holding a lead box, walked carefully from the building. His brethren in bomb disposal escorted him to the specially prepared truck and the box containing the defused bomb was placed inside. A successful end to the threat. Starsky felt as if he had stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and looked down, his insides quaking like Jello. But he couldn't let the others see that, and managed a completely coherent discussion with the bomb squad captain before he left to make his report.

~~~

Ken Hutchinson had known it was dangerous in the extreme to be anywhere near there, but he really didn't have a job interview, and Dobey had told him where the peace talks would be, so he'd driven by the convention center. Just to get the lay of the land, so to speak. He truly hadn't expected to be able to see his friends, but naturally had driven by just as the bomb squad was exiting the lobby unmistakably carrying a bomb disposal box. Had he not been able to catch a glimpse of Starsky, Washington, and Bachman talking near the parking lot, he would have stopped the car in the middle of traffic and jumped out. As it was, he allowed himself a second trip around the block, past the park-like grounds and around past the parking lot once more to watch Starsky and the other two men confer with some uniformed patrolmen. All appeared safe, unharmed, and if the gesturing was any indication, Starsky was in rare form.

"Who the fuck checked security around here this morning?" Starsky shouted, mostly to hide the terror still coursing through his veins.

"We had the building searched just after Mr. Mulvaney opened." The officer pointed to the little man who was describing the bomb threat phone call to another policeman.

"Not very thorough, were they?" Starsky roared.

"Starsky," Washington said insistently.

"WHAT?" He turned his attention to his partner, still in a temper.

"Since th'bomb squad found th'bomb in the wirin' behind the wall paneling, an' you an' me didn't see it either, Ah don't think yellin' at this fine off'cer jist doin' his job is helpin' any," Washington said calmly.

"It's helping me," Starsky said tersely, taking a deep breath to compose himself. "Sorry, Cortez... Is there anything else you can tell me that might be of some importance?"

"There were only two deliveries before you all arrived," Cortez began carefully, still uncertain of the change in Starsky's questioning. "One was the usual drop off of paper goods the center uses--toilet paper, paper towels, the like-- Mulvaney knew the guy who off loaded the stuff, and they chatted. The other was a plant service."

"A plant service?" Starsky repeated, not quite following.

"You know--the people who take care of potted plants in buildings, water 'em, fertilize 'em, replace the dead ferns. A plant service." Cortez shrugged. "Except they didn't stay very long, and the plants didn't look like they'd been watered or anything."

"Very good, Cortez," Starsky crowed. "Now we're getting somewhere!"

Leaving his partner to get the names of the two companies who had visited that morning, Washington located the rabbi sitting by himself on a bench.

"Ready to go?"

"I'm having a few doubts this morning, Brick." Micah rubbed his hands together. "I know that education and dialogue between the hate groups and their so called enemies is a positive step, but I'm beginning to wonder am I just inciting more hatred? None of this...the bomb threat, any one of the other threats we've received, would have occurred if I hadn't started this."

"But if you stop even one of the people who've agreed to talk with you from doin' somethin' to another human bein', isn't that enough?" The big detective folded himself nearly in half to sit down on the little green park bench beside Bachman.

"I've said it before, Brick, you could have a career in public relations." Micah laughed. " You're right, of course. I'm just feeling frightened of the responsibility, I suppose. Perhaps it's like cold feet before a wedding."

"Well, Ah wouldn't know anything 'bout that, but, Rabbi, you've been chosen--it's obvious to all of us, an' if you didn' have doubts, then Ah'd be worried." Washington clapped a large hand on the other man's shoulder, nearly shoving him off the end of the bench. "Why, even Jesus had to pray a lot those last few days. Oh, sorry, shouldn' a' mentioned him, huh?"

"Perhaps not kosher," Micah laughed, "but I know what you meant. And prayer is always a good answer. Especially since tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and there's a big service at the synagogue tonight."

Starsky headed across the tarmac to his friends, flipping closed the little notebook he'd taken down names in with a snap. He looked pissed off.

"Little Davey, we should get back to the Victorian. The rabbi's gettin' a sunburn standin' around like this," Washington pointed out, actually somewhat fascinated at the red color the fair skinned man was turning.

"Did you check the car?" Starsky asked seriously.

"The bomb squad did before they left." Washington nodded, having watched the experts check the vehicle over for explosive devices with interest. He opened the car doors to let in the cooler air before they got in.

"This was a big, fat warning," Starsky growled. "I'd be very interested if it turns out to be a real bomb. 'S like van Geller's tauntin' us. He coulda killed us, but he's just teasing it out, provin' he could get to us anytime."

"Apparently he's right, too," Micah said in a soft voice. "Even with all the precautions you take, he's broken through many times."

"Micah, never go anywhere alone," Starsky stated firmly. "You can't let 'em stop you when the end is this close."

"Jist three more days," Washington agreed. "We stick together like the three Musketeers."

"Can I be D'Artagnon?" Micah made a swashbuckling stab in the air to lighten the mood.

"Michael York's part?" Starsky looked at him critically. "I guess so, cause you're not exactly the Richard Chamberlain type."

"Naw, he was a priest, after all," Washington agreed, climbing into the passenger seat while Starsky started up the engine to get the AC working. "Ah guess that makes me Oliver Reed--Porthos."

"Suits you," Micah agreed from the back seat. "Fierce but gentle."

Washington grinned appreciatively at this description. "And Davey's Athos."

"Which one was he?" Starsky asked absently, concentrating on driving around the ever-present camera vans, all currently broadcasting live coverage of the rabbi's recent brush with death.

"Frank Findlay--lotsa curly hair." Washington had seen the movie and its sequel numerous times. And if he was Athos, that meant he got to fantasize about Faye Dunaway. Not bad.

"That'd be me," Starsky nodded. "But my ma always said I was more the Paul Muni type."

~~~

These days, Hutch felt like he got all his knowledge about Starsky's life off the news. Driving back on the freeway towards Waverly, he listened to the all-news station report the recent bomb threat at the convention center. No casualties, but it had been a real bomb. The latest information released from the detective in charge of the case said it was the same plastique that had been found at the Beth Sharon Temple bombing. Police were investigating both cases with renewed vigor.

Not really wanting to go back to that cramped little storefront and print out endless scatological pamphlets with his friends in real danger, Hutch had to constantly remind himself that it was only for a few more days. Then he'd never have to listen to "solutions" to the overpopulation of wetbacks, sand niggers, and cursed Jews ever again.

He'd had the reoccurring dream the night before, and it nagged at his brain. What was it about? Once more he'd been franticly searching, terrified that he wouldn't be able to find whatever it was he was looking for. Even in his dreams the heat was oppressive, like a physical weight on his chest. He'd awakened achy and hot, like he was coming down with the flu. It made it all the harder to face the Brotherhood again.

To get his mind on something else, Hutch turned his attention to the gorgeous, foul-minded Elsa. Maybe he could take something else away? She was in a confused state of mind presently. What if he could start her thinking in a different way? His own personal peace talk? What made Elsa so prejudiced, and could she be persuaded to consider another ideology? It gave him something positive to think about for the afternoon.

"How was the job interview?" Margaret asked when Hutch had settled in to join them at them current enterprise: a short, two-paged newsletter to hand out at the rally planned on the morning of the peace talks. None of the "news" was unbiased, or even factually correct, but what else would one expect from the Brotherhood?

"Good. Won't know until next week if I get hired." Hutch was handed a pile of photographs to sort for the articles.

Margaret was editing the already written editorials, while Elsa and Fredricks were attempting to fit the copy and photographs into a pleasing arrangement that looked both professional and interesting to the eye. Hutch added his two cents worth, all the while examining the photographs. Polaroids, most of them, they would certainly copy badly, but now they were a virtual chronology of the past few weeks. The first one showed the synagogue burning, with few people around, most of whom seemed intent on the back windows. Taken before emergency personnel had gotten there? Who had taken this?

There were several shots of the rabbi at various appearances, and a few that showed other "inferiors" such as a prominent black lawyer, an Asian doctor, and one of Starsky and Washington. On the back, someone had written, the police department will hire anyone. There was no way Hutch was going to let that one get printed. He couldn't prevent them from putting Bachman on the front of their travesty of a newspaper, but he wasn't going to let them subject all his friends to ridicule and hatred. He slipped the picture into his pocket for safekeeping.

There was lots of work to fill the hours, especially after Sherman came in with several changes on the newsletter and a completely new flyer he wanted printed for the protest rally. As five o'clock approached, Hutch began to get concerned; he usually left by five to get home in time for his nightly phone call to the precinct, but this didn't look possible tonight.

"Hey, John," Fredricks called. "We gotta get somethin' t'eat if we're all gonna work late. How 'bout people goin' out a few at a time for dinner?"

"That's okay with me." Adams shrugged, he was beginning to feel hungry himself. Both Sherman and van Geller had gone off to who knows where, leaving him in charge. It seemed like a reasonable plan of action; in fact, he didn't care if everyone went off to dinner together.

This proved to be the most popular idea, and nearly everyone trouped over to Dino's diner for an early meal. Margaret stayed behind to put the finishing touches on the newsletter so she could walk it over to the printer's before six o'clock. Hutch was vastly relieved. If he ordered quickly, he could slip into the back where there was a bank of payphones by the restrooms. Just a brief message to "brother Frank" was all that was needed.

By happenstance, there weren't enough tables together to seat the entire group, so Adams, Sherman, and Fredricks claimed one table. Silent Tom and Bob Richman took booths at the counter, leaving Elsa and Hutch with the couples' table in the middle of the room.

"Mind eating with me?" Hutch gallantly pulled out a chair for the lovely woman, admiring the way her blond hair caught the overhead lights, shimmering like the hair of an actress in a shampoo commercial. Only, hers wasn't augmented or dyed, it just was naturally slivery blond.

"Not at all, kind sir." She dimpled. Ken Chambers was incredibly handsome, but he had an aloof, almost impersonal air about him that had put her off. Suddenly, he seemed much more accessible and friendly.

When Dotty arrived, both ordered without much more than a glance at the menu. After all, they ate at the tiny establishment several times a week and were more than familiar with the bill of fare. Hutch then excused himself to slip back to the bank of phones.

He was vaguely disappointed that it was Dobey and not Starsky who answered at police headquarters, but just exchanged a few words since he had little real information to impart. Dobey told him Starsky had temple obligations that night and he rang off quickly, relieved to know where his friend was, at least.

"Sorry about that," Hutch apologized to Elsa. "I'm still trying to get a third interview with a really nice place--but didn't want to do it at the Brotherhood."

"I understand." She smiled at him, forking up lettuce and tomatoes from her little house salad. "I got an interview myself, but when I got there...I did it at lunch time today...the receptionist was...black."

"And you couldn't go through with it?" he questioned carefully, inwardly appalled.

"My old boyfriend told me never to talk to black people," she confessed.

"Why?"

Elsa waited until Dotty had delivered plates of chicken to both of them. "Are you making fun of me?" she responded, stung.

"No, honestly." Hutch was glad that there was enough ambient noise that the other Brotherhood members couldn't hear them talking softly. "I just wouldn't want prejudice to stop you from getting a good job. Did you want to work there?"

"I think so." She ate some more of the salad, considering his words. "You think that's why I can't get a job?"

"Elsa, why do you...distrust people with darker skin...or Jews, say?"

"Ken! How can you say that?" She stared at him, appalled. "I don't understand you at all. They're bad."

"But why?" he insisted. Then, so it wouldn't seem like he was pushing, he made an effort to concentrate on his food.

"They just are." She shook her head. "You're confusing me. Jews are...evil, everyone knows it. And blacks are ignorant, base..."

"If blacks can be lawyers, judges, and doctors, how can they be ignorant?" Hutch proposed. "And that cop that van Geller hates so much, Starsky, he's Jewish? Why would the police hire someone who was evil?"

"I don't know." Elsa ducked her head, the glorious silvery hair falling around her face like a veil. "I've just always been told that."

"By whom?"

"By everybody...mostly boyfriends. You've said you hate your landlord, and somebody else...both Jews. How can you accuse me like this?"

Wanting to tell her it was all an act, Hutch considered carefully what to say next. He wanted her to start thinking about her biased words, but couldn't completely step out of his own undercover persona. "I dislike a few people who are Jewish, yes, but...I try to look past some of that to see that we are all just people underneath. We're not that different, if you get to know others."

"You sound like that...Bachman." She pushed back from the table, but made no move to leave. "I don't think we should be talking like this. You're being a traitor to the white race."

"I'm sorry if I offended you," Hutch answered sincerely. "I just want you to be able to succeed--get a job you want. But to do that, you may have to change a little."

"Thank you, Ken, for thinking about me," she replied frostily, avoiding his gaze, picking at the salad again. "But I don't need your kind of help."

When the group rejoined to head back to the Brotherhood, Elsa Hottstedder begged off, saying she wasn't feeling well. Hutch was sorry to see her go, and was stunned when Fredricks and Richman made crude and offensive remarks about her so called "headache." He trailed behind to distance himself as much as possible from their comments.

Margaret had stayed long enough to tell them that the newsletter would be finished at the printers in an hour and she was heading home to her cats. The head lieutenant had also returned from his mysterious afternoon's business, but didn't stay long. After overseeing that a few more projects were completed, Sherman announced that he and Adams had to be somewhere before seven, but they wanted one of the others to stay behind to pick up the newsletter, bring it back to the storefront and lock up. Richman proposed that he go get the printing while Fredricks locked up, but the other man vetoed that notion, saying he had other matters to attend to. In the end, Chambers was left in charge of the office after the rest left.

Amazed at his good luck, Hutch waited until he heard cars roar away from behind the building before carefully easing open the door to the back room. He had to find evidence to the bombing or three weeks of undercover work was for naught. And to be truthful, he didn't ever want to set foot inside the Waverly storefront ever again, no matter what Dobey said or did. This was his last night. Hutch was disgusted with the lot of them. How Bachman thought he could get through their shuttered, narrow little minds was beyond his scope of imagination.

The little room was a pigsty. The television was perched so precariously on top of a pile of old, cut up newspaper, Hutch was afraid to come near it, in case it fell on him. There was paper everywhere, the chaos no doubt reflecting the true nature of van Geller's unfocused thought patterns. Margaret had said he was growing more and more unstable. If he couldn't even keep his thoughts under control, who could trust the man? Approaching the main table, with its monumental pile of paper, Hutch tread cautiously, still expecting one of the other men to return unexpectedly. He stepped on a small photograph, the color catching his eye.

Stooping to pick up the picture from under the table, Hutch realized it was a photo of Micah and Starsky. His heart pounding in his ears, he recognized the clothes they were wearing and the location of the picture. It had been taken that morning, while Starsky and Micah stood waiting for the bomb squad to search the convention center. Starsky was half turned away from the camera, adjusting his sunglasses, obviously listening to something Bachman was saying.

Forcing himself to be calm, Hutch picked carefully though the litter of paper on the round table. After all, he'd known the Brotherhood was watching his friends. He'd even seen other clandestine pictures of them. So why did this one set his internal alarm bells off? For heaven's sake, even he'd been watching Starsky and the others while they were unawares.

Still sifting through the clutter, he uncovered half-written speeches, discarded versions of pamphlets he himself had corrected and any print article mentioning either the Brotherhood or Bachman. Van Geller must sit back here with his scissors, like the old time newspaper morgue guys, snipping out articles relevant only to himself. Hutch finally discovered an unmarked manila envelope under an early draft of van Geller's manifesto. Shaking out the contents, he felt the chicken and dumplings he'd had for dinner try to make a reappearance. Swallowing forcefully, Hutch examined the documents and photos he'd found. The first picture had been taken only seconds after the one he'd picked up off the floor, but Starsky and the rabbi were both turned towards Washington, who had his hands on his hips. The other three images were shots of each man alone, taken on different days and times. Bachman with his head bowed, standing behind a podium. Washington staring back over his shoulder at something off camera, his face in a scowl. Starsky looking tired and tense, standing next to the striped tomato. The list of addresses that accompanied the photos made his blood run cold. At the top was the address to the Alliance Victorian, then Bachman's house, and the convention center. It came as no surprise that van Geller knew Bachman's house number, since he'd once burned a cross on the lawn there. But the fourth notation was Starsky's home, the house number and street as familiar as Hutch's own. That address had a big red circle around it, and doodled six pointed stars around that.

Debating whether to take the paper with him, he realized that he still had no evidence about the temple bombing. In order for a competent judge to issue a search warrant, he had to provide the court with sufficient evidence of a crime. He didn't have anything. Shoving the list and photos back in the envelope, Hutch secreted it back under the pile on the table, visually searching the room for anything he could use to hang van Geller. His gut was telling him that Starsky was in danger, though, and he couldn't concentrate on the matter at hand.

The noise of a car pulling up behind the building solved his dilemma, and he just had time to sit down in the front office before Richman returned, carrying several boxes.

"Chambers, there's ten more in the car, can you give me a hand?"

~~~

Leaning his head back on the vinyl upholstery of Washington's mustang, Starsky let the air conditioner blast ice cold air straight into his face. He just wanted to melt into the seat and not move for about a month. At least until after the peace talks were over.

"That's it. I'm taking a vacation to someplace really cold this year," Starsky complained.

"Heat waves, bomb threats, and religious holidays all in th'same day too much for ya, Starsky?" Washington teased. He fiddled with the car radio before starting up the car, the mustang filling with the sound of Blondie's "Call Me," which improved spirits and set heads to nodding along with the music.

"You buy that VCR you were talkin' about?" Starsky asked with his eyes closed against the late afternoon sun.

"Yep, figured out how t'program it an' ever'thang; then Ah got home t'other day an' Ah'd taped a chick movie stead of the game. Set it on the wrong channel." Washington shrugged, driving onto the 405.

"I saw it, real slow." Starsky enjoyed the Blondie song in silence, then grimaced as the DJ announced a "golden oldie" as "Bad Moon Rising" started up. "Man, this song is everywhere." He shuddered. "Change the station."

"'Earthquakes and lightening...'" Washington sang along. "Yes, sir, Sergeant Starsky, anythang you say, Sergeant." He kind of liked the Creedance Clearwater song, but obliged his partner and changed to an all-news station in time to hear that there was a brush fire burning out of control in the San Vicente Lake area, above San Diego. "Sounds like the song was right."

"Who'd write a song about disasters anyway?" Starsky spotted the turn off to his neighborhood and pointed it out, despite the fact that it wasn't the first time Washington had driven him home. He was supposed to attend services at Emmanuel Synagogue for Yom Kippur, but for once didn't have to go in a bodyguard capacity. Dave Murphy had expressed an interest in attending with Micah, since he hadn't gone to temple in many years, leaving Starsky relatively free for the evening. Since the rabbi was officiating the worship service, he usually arrived early, taking Starsky with him. Thus, today Starsky didn't have to be anywhere until six-thirty.

"Thanks, Darryl." Starsky jumped out of the car when it pulled up in front of his house.

"Watch your back, Little Davey," Washington called. "Make sure you keep yer eyes open."

"And my mouth shut?" Starsky smirked, but he heard the warning in Brick's tone loud and clear.

"Sounds 'bout right. You pickin' me up tomorrow?"

"At eight." Starsky headed up the front steps as the sleek black mustang roared off. Opening his front door was like sticking his head into a preheated oven. After having been shut up all day in ninety-five degree heat, the potted plants were drooping, ferns lying limply along the bookshelf. Feeling like a bad plant daddy, Starsky took a few moments to water the greenery. Hefting the watering can, he shifted his muscles under his shoulder holster. It was glued to his back with sweat, his Hawaiian shirt soaking wet anywhere the holster touched him. Stripping off the heavy leather, he dropped it to the floor and pulled off his shirt as well. He debated taking a quick shower, but his stomach won the fight. It was traditional to fast for Yom Kippur, meaning he had less than an hour to get something to eat before driving to the synagogue. He splashed water onto his face and chest until his dark curls were dripping, then found a light cotton Henley shirt in the bureau drawer and pulled it over his head. Slipping the shoulder holster back on with a sigh, he buckled the strap to his belt and selected a blue and white striped long sleeved shirt to wear over the gun. Maybe it smacked of paranoia, but he didn't feel safe going out without his weapon, even if it meant wearing too many clothes in this heat.

There was just enough time to stop at his favorite dive of the month, Burrito Barn, for a quick dinner before going over to the synagogue. He wanted something to fill him up if he had to fast for 24 hours and planned to wolf down a bean and beef burrito, hold the cheese, and a large Coke while navigating the Tuesday evening traffic.

The Torino's air conditioning was no match for the greenhouse effect. Even after turning it on full blast, the car's interior was searingly hot, the steering wheel too hot to be touched. Directing the frigid air onto the driver's side, Starsky drove with his fingers barely gripping the wheel until the leather covering had cooled enough for him to grasp it without burning his hands. The car's powerful engine roared down the streets, arriving at the destination only two miles away in just a short time. He could have almost driven the route in his sleep, having come regularly every few days during the last three weeks. Without Hutch to complain about his diet as much, Starsky had indulged in favorites with pleasure. The parking lot at the pseudo Mexican hacienda was crammed with cars, but Starsky managed to nose the Torino into the last empty spot behind a green VW bus.

Burrito Barn was packed with customers trying to stay out of their own kitchens and beat the heat, but that just made the restaurant unbearably hot. The outside temp was hovering around 95, so it had to be ten degrees higher inside the building with all the people waiting for their dinners. A small baby started to wail, his cries strident and hungry.

Joining the lengthy line, Starsky shifted restlessly from foot to foot, sweat dripping uncomfortably down his back. He didn't need to study the menu printed on the back wall, he knew it by heart, and it was way too hot to be standing here for half an hour waiting for his turn. Having just about decided to leave and try the drive-thru McDonalds, Starsky turned, nearly running into a massively muscled blond haired man to his left.

"'Scuse me, just leaving," Starsky muttered, but froze when a second man to his right clamped a hand tightly around his upper arm.

"That's right, you were. My boss'd like to meet with you," Jake said into the shorter man's ear. "Too bad you gotta miss your dinner, the burritos here are great."

Not wanting to make a scene in the crowded restaurant, Starsky ignored the lump of fear filling his throat. He'd never thought the Brotherhood would go after him. "Hey, guys..." He plastered on a fake grin. "This is nothing that can't be talked out, huh? Doncha want to get one of these burritos and have a peaceful meal?" He slid his left hand under the edge of his striped shirt, going for the Barreta holstered under his right arm.

"Pull that piece an' you get my pigsticker between two ribs." The man on his left was so close no one else could probably see the knife, but Starsky could feel the point touch his skin even though his clothes. "C'mon, cop, it's time to take a ride."

Camden almost lifted Starsky off his feet, propelling him towards the exit, with Jake directly behind them. As the trio reached the door, an enthusiastic teenaged boy blasted through the entrance, slamming the door into Jake's arm. Starsky sucked in a lungful of air against the pain as the knife broke the skin just at waist level. Jake jerked his hand back quickly, but the slight wound had been enough to draw blood.

This isn't happening, Starsky thought, trying to pull free as they stepped off the front walk, but the immensely strong Camden just picked him up bodily, shoving him violently against a black undistinguished sedan parked at the curb. His knees buckled, the wind knocked out of him, which gave one of his captors enough time to shove him into the back seat and use his own handcuffs to secure his hands. This was all done in the space of five or ten seconds, far too quickly for anyone in the parking lot to possibly have seen anything. Once the car was moving, a pillow case was slipped over his head and tape wound around his neck to secure it. A foot on his back kept Starsky sprawled on the carpeted floor, the car's sudden motion causing nausea to well up.

Starsky's mind skittered away from what was happening to him, trying to come up with some sort of escape plan. But his mouth was dry, partly from fear and partly with the intrusive thought that he really wanted a jug of water or one of those Big Gulps of Coke from Seven-Eleven and it kept interfering with his ability to effectively work out a plan. This much was clear: he was trussed up, being driven God-knows-where, nobody yet would be missing him, and there was blood slowly dripping down his side from the knife wound. Just terrific.

~~~

Unable to shake the conviction that something awful was about to happen, possibly/probably to David Starsky, Ken Hutchinson drove immediately over to his house once he'd been able to get away from Waverly. If Bob Richman had noticed his distracted manner while they were unloading the boxes from the printers, he hadn't made any mention of it, and Hutch had waited impatiently until he'd locked up the building to depart.

Hutch even risked calling both the squadroom and Starsky's home as the uneasy feeling persisted, but Sergeant Myers had assured him that Starsky was gone for the day according to the duty roster. There was no answer on Starsky's phone, not surprising, since he never remembered to turn on his answering machine, Hutch tried to reassure himself. After all, Dobey had told him that Starsky was attending Yom Kippur services with Micah. So, really, there couldn't possibly be anything to worry about. Except that little voice inside him kept telling him there was. The photographs, and more importantly the red circled address, were ominous warnings.

Parking his battered Pinto nearly a block away, Hutch approached the house carefully, taking the front steps. Since he'd scared the dark haired man by coming up the back steps on Saturday, he didn't want to risk getting shot in the head this time. Using his own key, Hutch let himself in and surveyed his friend's house. Starsky's eclectic decorating sense always amused him. The room was bright with primary colors, a profusion of potted plants tucked up on shelves and hanging from the ceiling. The wild assortment of knick-knacks that cluttered the bookshelves, including a ship in a bottle, a gumball machine and a stoplight that actually worked, showed Starsky's love of the unusual and absurd. Nothing was out of place, and if Hutch's detective skills were still in working order, Starsky had only recently left. A quick search of the house revealed the discarded Hawaiian shirt and the water spatters not yet dry in the bathroom sink. Vastly relieved, Hutch sagged down onto the couch, idly noting the packet of photos scattered across the coffee table. He glanced over his shoulder into the kitchen. The pizza box was still on the kitchen counter, Starsky had hardly cleaned up since he'd visited two days before.

Leaning back on the sofa cushions he let himself relax, the exhaustion from weeks of bad dreams catching up with him. He'd just wait here until Starsky returned. That little niggling dread that something really bad had happened persisted, but he firmly told himself that he was imagining things.

~~~

It was a long drive from Waverly, but the scenery was enough to warrant the trip. The rolling hills were golden brown after the long dry season, the live oak and eucalyptus the only visible green. It was no wonder that October was a prime brush fire month, the ground parched and grass brittle in the arid heat. Heat shimmered across the blacktop frontage road, even thought it was after six p.m. Albert Sherman had lived in California long enough to appreciate the natural beauty, but he still much preferred the more colorful abundance of an East Coast autumn. John Adams dozed in the passenger seat, his head hanging back with his mouth wide open.

Taking the second driveway off of the main road, Cutting Ave, Sherman drove carefully down the gravel road towards a metal gate. He located the remote control Peter had given him and activated the on button, watching with amusement as the gate magically slid open to let the car pass.

"Cool," Adams murmured, wiping sleep out of his eyes.

Van Geller had been spending nearly all his time out at his grandfather's house to ready the property for the next phase of his plan, and the improvements were evident. An eight-foot storm fence enclosed the entire property, with curls of barbed wire decorating the top. As the car neared the house, it was easy to see several unfinished sheds beyond, in what used to be the large back yard. Two or three dumpsters were placed strategically around the construction site for easy disposal of debris.

"Looks like he's really serious about this," Adams remarked, his blue eyes bright, imagining the possibilities.

"He's delusional if he thinks the local authorities will sanction this," Sherman muttered to himself.

"What?" John asked, climbing out of the car to admire the view.

"The first time the police come out here, they're gonna shut him down." Sherman pursed his lips. He'd hoped he had at least a few days to finish what they'd started. He hated to leave a project half-assed but there was no way he was going to be arrested or even questioned by the police again. The money was nearly all transferred to private accounts that only he was privy to. It looked like he might have to be ready jump ship at any moment.

"What'd you think?" van Geller greeted them as they started to the front door.

"Doesn't look like any of those cabins are livable yet," Sherman grumbled. "What happened?"

Peter laughed, it was a reversal of their usual roles; he was calm and Al was grumpy. "The builders had some problems, but it just delays the inevitable. But the garbage was carted away this morning, so it looks real neat now."

"But we have a delivery tonight," Albert stressed. "Where are you going to put it?"

"Al, Al...don't wig out about it."

"What did you tell the builders you were constructing?" John had gone out the back door to inspect one of the little dwellings. They were basically large garden sheds, five in all.

"A hotel--bungalows. I'm starting small, but once real, right thinking Americans understand what I'm doing, I know more people will join us." Van Geller spoke passionately, a fire in his blue eyes. "This camp will be the first of its kind in the US, modeled after those famous institutions in Europe."

A ringing phone could be heard from inside the house, and Peter dashed back inside to grab up the hand set. "Great! We're waiting," was all he said before hanging up. "They're on their way already." He rubbed his hands together with excitement. "Johnny-boy, did you bring what I asked for?"

"Sure thing. Peter." John grinned, the anticipation showing on his ruddy face. "It's in the trunk."

"Great, I want it set up in the garage."

~~

"And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness."

Listening to the familiar words from Exodus, Micah Bachman felt a certain kinship with his ancestor. People were always talking about him, too. Right or wrong, no one group could quite decide whether his dreams would come to fruition. He'd had a case of nerves after the bomb threat that morning, but now felt much more confident. Communication between disparate groups was vital if there was ever to be a common goal to teach the younger generation to love and support one another.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he began the next prayer as the reading ended, hearing the murmured voices of the congregation with contentment. Temple Emmanuel had a far more modern architecture than Beth Sharon had had, but he was beginning to feel more comfortable here. A high vaulted ceiling with glass skylight inserts let in all available light, giving the whole room a glow even at near dark. Micah enjoyed a rare moment of true happiness. Glancing out at the assembled crowd, he caught the eye of Dave Murphy in the front row. Other friendly faces reflected his smile back at him, but he didn't see the face he'd been expecting to see. Where was Dave Starsky? Before the service had begun, he'd given half a thought that the detective must be running late, but here it was nearly through and he still wasn't here.

Suddenly impatient for worship to be over, Micah felt a wave of cold sweep through his body. Where could Starsky be?

Excusing himself from the departing congregation, Micah ran back to the office he was sharing with Rabbi Hoffman, Dave Murphy right on his heels.

"What's wrong?" Murphy asked concerned, shutting the door to give them some privacy.

"Starsky never got here," Micah explained grimly. He dialed Darryl Washington's home number on the off chance that he'd know where Starsky was. The resulting answer frightened him, and terrified Washington.

"Ah'll check his house an' talk t'headquarters," Washington assured, visions he'd rather not be having already dancing in the back of his brain. "Jist sit tight, Rabbi, Ah'll get back t'you as soon as I can."

Dialing Starsky's number, Washington gave a fervent prayer that his friend had just fallen asleep, or maybe there was a huge traffic jam on some freeway that had prevented him from making it to the synagogue on time. Except that Darryl had left Starsky off at his house at shortly after five and it was now seven thirty five. Only a major logjam would have kept Starsky on the freeway that long, and he could have found a phone in that case. No, something bad had happened.

The telephone was on its third ring by the time Hutch had awakened, realized where he was and located the phone on the wall near the kitchen. "Hello," he answered breathlessly, hoping it was Starsky.

"Hutch?"

"Washington?" He recognized the voice instantly.

"Where's Starsky?"

"I just missed him, I guess," Hutch replied, but the alarm bells were sounding again. "He went to temple."

"Except he didn't get there," Washington explained quietly, but his terror had just kicked up a notch.

"Oh, God," Hutch whispered. "I'll meet you at headquarters."

~~~

The car's motion finally ceased, but crouched in the space behind the front seats, David Starsky had no idea where he was or what his captor's plans were. The car door opened and a rough hand jerked Starsky out, dropping him into the bare dirt. Riding curled up on the floor had put his feet to sleep, and he struggled to his knees, trying to ignore the painful pins and needles as blood rushed back into his lower extremities.

"Kinda scrawny, ain't he?" Camden laughed.

"Makes ya wonder about LA's finest," Jake commented derisively.

"Took you two long enough to get here." Peter van Geller strode from the house with Sherman and Adams in his wake. He grinned, looking down at the man kneeling before him. It gave him such a heady rush to have such power over another human being. He felt god-like, like his guru, Hitler. The weight of this man's life rested in his hands and he could do anything he wanted to sway the balance one way or the other.

"Traffic, y'know." Jake yanked the prisoner up by the handcuffs that bound his hands. The action stretched Starsky's cramped muscles, sending pain shooting up and down his chest from the knife wound.

Starsky blinked in the glare of early evening sunlight when the pillowcase was removed, recognizing the men standing around him. Van Geller, Sherman, and Adams.

"Larry, Curly, and Moe--the three stooges do the Klan," he muttered, as usual smart-mouthing when he should have kept silent.

Adams' backhand sent Starsky reeling into the hulking figure behind him, his original kidnapper. Camden just righted the man without a change of expression.

"You don't talk to him that way, Jew," Adams sneered, now anxious to get another couple shots at the dark haired cop.

Tasting blood in his mouth, Starsky licked his split lip, glaring at his captors. "What'd you want with me?"

"Set an example." Van Geller grinned even more malevolently. "T'show that dumb kike you work for that he doesn't mess with us. Jews are nothing, and his so-called peace talks are gonna stop, or there'll be vengeance like he never imagined. The streets will run red, and he'll think the devil's come back from hell."

"Ain't gonna happen," Starsky retorted, knowing that he wasn't going to like the consequences if he spoke, but when had that ever stopped him before? "You think you're the devil reborn? You're nothing but a two bit Hitler wanna-be..." Whatever else he was about the say was cut off by a hand around his throat, his breath gurgling in his lungs as he began to panic from lack of fresh oxygen.

Taking a step back from the group, Sherman turned his eyes away from the view of Starsky's bluish, astonished face. This was going further than he was willing to condone. He tried to put a finger on when they'd crossed the line from printing salacious pamphlets and become torturers and murderers. Yes, the bomb had been his idea and his design, but a bomb was so much more impersonal. He could get away with saying he didn't realize there would be anyone around when the bomb was deployed, or delude himself that he hadn't actually seen any of the people killed by his explosion, so it didn't matter. But it did matter. The murders still rankled inside his soul. They might be Jews, but they looked and talked a lot like him and his friends. And he had killed Miriam Bachman. A beautiful woman who'd worn a wedding gown nearly identical to his younger sister's. "Stop him, Peter, goddammit!" he shouted, slapping at Camden's hand around Starsky's neck.

"Let him go," Peter ordered the body builder, watching dispassionately as the prisoner once again sprawled limply on the sun-baked ground. "We need to keep him around for a while, at least."

Taking great heaving breaths of air to re-supply his starved cells, Starsky began to be really afraid. The few glimpses he gotten of the surrounding area showed him they were far from central Los Angeles, in the foothills somewhere. If and when Hutch and the others realized he was gone and started looking for him, it would take them a long time to find this place. Would he still be alive when they arrived?

"Stand up," van Geller demanded, waiting until Starsky had managed to regain his feet without the use of his hands to balance. "You're Prisoner Number One at the new and improved American Auschwitz. I'm the head commandant, and you will give me absolute respect or the punishment will be swift, as you've just witnessed."

Makes it sound like I was just an innocent bystander, not the one assaulted, Starsky thought cynically. Surveying the five men ringed around him with distaste, he had the sudden impression he was in a deep valley surrounded by five towering mountain peaks and there was no way to escape. It seemed like eons ago when Hutch and Washington had been teasing him about his height, or lack there of, but he would have given anything to have them right next to him about now, if only because they were taller.

"Do you understand?" Adams inserted, giving him a shove that nearly threatened his precarious equilibrium.

"Yes, sir," he hissed through gritted teeth.

"Don't you have some...administrative work to do?" Sherman suggested, somewhat timidly. This was not the time to piss van Geller off. "Since he is prisoner number one?"

"Yes, yes ,yes...how could I forget?" Peter trilled gaily. "Bring him along to the garage."

Camden and Jake each took one of Starsky's arms, propelling him forward. He could hear Adams asking about the living accommodations, since the huts weren't finished yet, but wasn't close enough to hear van Geller's reply.

There was a brief photo session, with a battered looking Polaroid, and a discussion about whether to shave his head, in case of lice. Adams pointed out that this was standard procedure in Poland and Germany, but the argument was shelved when it was discovered no one had an electric razor. Starsky was just as happy to keep his long hair, thank you very much, and scowled in the photo. Much ceremony was made of printing his name in a large ledger and filling in personal details such as height and weight.

Up until then, his hands had still been bound behind him with his own handcuffs, but finally Adams unfastened his left hand, securing the empty cuff to a water pipe along the garage wall. Starsky jerked his right arm in vain, knowing how sturdy the police issue cuffs were. He wasn't going anywhere unless he could pull the water pipe off the wall. That would probably cause a flood, as a potential side benefit. This train of thought kept him occupied for the few minutes he was left alone while the others busied themselves across the room with some sort of equipment.

The garage was littered with the usual assortment of tools and cast off garden furniture most garages contained, and Starsky calmed himself by mentally choosing the hammer and saw as weapons. He'd been relieved of his gun after Camden and Jake had shoved him into the car, but the shoulder holster was still heavy across his shoulders, his Henley shirt now as sweaty as the Hawaiian shirt had been. Despite the setting sun, it had to be eighty or more degrees inside the garage, the dusty air thick when he tried to breathe in deeply with his raw throat.

"I'm ready," Adams announced. "Camden, get a good grip on his arm."

Starsky was ready this time and lashed out with his right leg, kicking a small pile of firewood logs at the bodybuilder, but this didn't improve his situation at all, since he was bound to the water pipe and couldn't move fast enough to escape the resulting blow to the ribs. His chest aching, he was captured and held fast in Camden's unrelenting grip. Jake took a tight hold of Starsky's left arm pinning it down on the workbench. Because of the angle of Camden's body, Starsky couldn't see what they were planning to do to him as a loud buzzing noise filled the garage, a lot like a dentist's drill. He yelled loudly when he felt the first sharp pricks of the tattoo needle into his forearm. They were imprinting a number on his arm, like his Aunt Chava's!

"NOOO!" he yelled, using every once of strength to jerk away, the tattoo needle skittering across the sensitive skin of his wrist.

"Hold him down, I can't work if he's wiggling around like that!" John protested sourly. He'd been trying to ink in a simple number one, but the movement had jostled his hand so it had a slight curve more like a number six.

"You can't do this to me," Starsky protested, but Camden had regained his hold and he could hardly move. The machine's whine deepened as the tattoo needle once again bit into his skin, leaving an indelible mark. "This isn't Germany! Hutch'll come after you, I swear!"

"Shut him up," van Geller said impatiently. "This is taking too long and I'm hungry."

The upper cut to his jaw silenced him, and he slumped bonelessly in his massive captor's arms to allow John Adams to finish inking in the hideous numerals.

~~~

The next few hours were ones Hutch would rather have forgotten. No one had seen Starsky since Washington had left him at his house and no one knew where he'd gone.

Micah had been instructed to return to his home with Dave Murphy and additional manpower was sent over to cover all approaches to his street. With the multitude of freeways in the greater Los Angeles area, there was no one particular logical route from Starsky's home to the Temple Emmanuel, so squad cars were sent out to search a variety of routes to and from both destinations. But there were too many variables--if he had stopped, if he had been forced off the road. It would take all night to adequately search every mile. Hutch even covered the streets he knew Starsky frequented most often, but found nothing. The darkness only hampered their search, and he returned to police headquarters very discouraged.

Hutch couldn't sit still. He was a restless bundle of nerves, edgy and tense with a single purpose: to find Starsky before those bastards did something too terrible to contemplate. He knew all too well the kind of threats van Geller had made regarding his plans for Micah Bachman.

Washington watched with a combination of understanding for what Hutch was going through and an overwhelming guilt that he should never have let David Starsky out of his sight.

"Did you see anyone? Anything?" Hutch questioned for the hundredth time.

"No, Hutch, nothin'," he said miserably. "We thought it was the rabbi they were after. We... Ah did worry about Davey bein' alone, but... Hutch, he was gonna change clothes an' drive to the temple."

"We know he did that much." Hutch took a breath, his head pounding with tension. "Why were you worried?"

"The same reason you were--are. He jumps off cliffs without a net. An' he's been..."

"Depressed," Hutch stated flatly, his eyes focused on the ugly pink and red piggy bank Starsky kept on their communal desk. "He's so fragile right now I'm afraid he'll break into little pieces."

"He tol' me you worried about him." Washington gave a little smile. "I just keep thinkin' I shoulda gone in the house with him, or somethin'."

"That wouldn't have done any good," Hutch pointed out. "Whatever happened, happened after he left."

"Yah." Washington settled himself into a chair, rubbing the palms of his large hands together. "Right before he got out of the car, we was listenin' to the radio and 'Bad Moon Rising' came on."

"He hates that song."

"Remember that night we went to Huggy's? He said it felt like someone was walkin' over his grave. My Granny Mae-Belle woulda called that a prem'nition."

"He's not dead, Brick," Hutch said fiercely.

Dobey came bursting through the door connecting his office with the squadroom, talking loudly. "We got a search warrant for the Brotherhood offices."

"I'm going," Hutch announced. Finally, some positive action.

"I don't think that's such a wise idea, son." Dobey frowned at his best detective, aware how hard the inactivity was on him. "You're undercover..."

"Fuck that," Hutch growled. "It's blown to kingdom come. I've been in that room. I know where the secrets are hidden. They did this to Starsky, Captain..."

"You know he'll jist follow you if y'don't let him come," Washington observed wryly.

"If any of the Brotherhood are there and recognize you...don't start anything," Dobey warned, shaking a stubby finger under the blond detective's nose.

"Not a chance." Hutch started for the door, with Washington and Stu Myers behind him. "I want it all legal, tied with a big red bow that will hang that bastard van Geller and his cohorts up by their necks. They should rot in hell forever."

A thorough search at the 1412 South Main storefront turned up the pictures and addresses Hutch had already known were there, showing prior intent to kidnap Starsky. The detectives spent a long time bagging nearly every piece of paper in the building, taking away books on white supremacy, Hitler youth and every pamphlet Hutch had ever worked on. There were some of the mailing lists he'd used for addressing envelopes, but not all of them, by far. Unfortunately, nothing of any real consequence was found that in any way linked van Geller, Sherman, and Adams to the bombing. Also, Hutch realized belatedly that he hadn't seen any records of bank accounts or bankbooks. And he knew perfectly well they existed.

"We need to search their houses," Hutch said quietly to Washington. "I know where Adams' place is, and we've got the addresses for Sherman and van Geller's. There's due cause, since they could be holding Starsky there."

"So we don't even need a warrant," Washington agreed.

"At this point, I couldn't care less if we do need one. C'mon." Hutch led the way, only to be blocked as Dobey came in the front door.

"Hutchinson, Starsky's car was found."

Any last ray of hope Hutch was harboring in his soul dried up at the news. "W-where was it?"

"Parked at a burrito place about two miles from Starsky's house," Dobey supplied. "And the counter crew know him personally, they say he comes in all the time--but nobody saw him tonight."

"How kin that be if his car is parked there? And why didn't they notice that big red parade float in the lot all night long?" Washington pressed.

"Apparently the place was jammed with customers at about 5:30, roughly when he would have been there from what you say, Washington, and nobody saw the car because it was parked at the back of the lot behind the cook's VW bus."

"Which hid it from the street until the cook left," Hutch said in almost a whisper. "It was Burrito Barn?" Dobey nodded his assent. "I passed right by there when I was driving around looking for him."

Spurred by the discovery of Starsky's car, Hutch and Washington headed for van Geller's home. It was the most logical place to find any clues to Starsky's whereabouts and any incriminating evidence against van Geller himself. Other units were dispatched to Sherman and Adams' home, but nothing was found. No Starsky, but also no van Geller, Sherman, or Adams. They returned to police headquarters drained and weary just before dawn.

"Where could they all be?" Washington asked perplexed. "Kinda suspicious that all three of 'em's gone."

"It's more than suspicious. They have him for sure, but where?"

The locations of several meeting places and the addresses of members had been found and were currently being searched, but Hutch didn't hold out much hope that anyone but van Geller, Adams, and Sherman knew where Starsky was. He knew how they worked; the need to know was on a day to day basis. As far as those three were concerned, very few people needed to know much of anything.

Curving his hands around his umpteenth cup of overly strong coffee, Hutch could feel his nerves screaming under his skin. He was so exhausted that he was afraid if he just closed his eyes for a minute, he'd fall asleep standing up. There had been little progress in the search for David Starsky, but he refused to let himself think the worst. Starsky was a survivor, he'd proven that more than once recently.

"Hutch, man, you're gonna fall over--go home, get some sleep," Sam Wong said sympathetically.

"I can't. Not now." Hutch focused on the shorter man, wishing he could focus his thoughts as easily. "There's something I'm missing. It's like I know something important, but I can't remember what it is."

The jangling phone interrupted his train of thought, banishing even the smallest fragment of memory he'd been pursuing. "Brick? Can you answer that?" he called a trifle too loudly.

"Sure thang." Washington was just glad to silence the noise. "Detective squadroom."

"I need to speak with a Detective Washington," a familiar voice said.

"Well, that's me. What'd you need?"

"My name is Andrew Cleary--we met...?"

"Y'sir, ah remember. Ah'm sorry, Mistah Cleary, but we're not releasin' any statements to the press right now."

"No, I have something you and Rabbi Bachman need to see," the reporter said urgently. "It was delivered to my office before I arrived this morning."

"Yes?" Washington asked cautiously, beckoning to Hutch.

"It's a picture of Detective Starsky and a note addressed to the rabbi." Cleary held the disquieting photo in his hand. "And since there isn't word one about an officer missing in the morning edition, I suspect you don't want this information all over the place."

"We'll be ovah directly," the big black man said urgently. "Have you shown those to anyone else?"

"No, I called you the minute I found them."

"Good. Sit tight, we're comin'." He hung up the phone, seeing Detective Wong. "Sammy, call Rabbi Bachman an' tell him t'have Murphy drive him ovah t'the LA Times buildin', and meet us in Cleary's office. It's important."

"What?" Hutch asked when the other man had gone off to make the call. "What did Cleary tell you?"

"He's had a message from the bastards who grabbed Starsky."

If they broke speed limit laws driving across town, no squad car took notice, and none of the other cops would have blamed them. A missing partner was a fear all police held. Their job was dangerous enough having to deal with drug dealers, crazed people holding guns, and domestic disputes without having to worry about someone kidnapping one of their own.

Bachman and Murphy had the luxury of having been a lot closer to the Times building, so all four arrived at almost the same time, and went into the building together.

"Micah," Hutch greeted solemnly. "Sorry to call you out on your holiday."

"Hutch, Starsky's safety is paramount; wild horses wouldn't have kept me away," Micah vowed, just glad there was something he could do to aid in the search.

Once ensconced in a private meeting room, Andrew Cleary brought out the items he'd only told one other person about--his editor. Only he had handled the photo, and he had resisted the urge to open the note. Hutch did that first thing, using tweezers to extract the folded paper from the envelope and slide it into a plastic baggie. That way the rabbi could read the missive and still preserve any fingerprints the writer might have left.

"'We have David Starsky, '" Micah read in an unsteady voice. "'He is prisoner number one. There will obviously be more, one a day, until the unpeaceful talks cease to exist. Striking a blow for power of the righteous, and believers in a white, Christian America. '"

"Well, I can tell you van Geller wrote that." Hutch tried to ignore the pounding of his heart against his ribs going twice as fast as usual. "I recognize his verbose style."

"What about the Polaroid?" Washington had followed Hutch's example and placed the picture in a baggie, but Starsky's scowl was still easily seen.

Frankly, looking at it made his heart ache, but Hutch picked up the evidence bag and examined the photo carefully.

"Looks like they roughed him up some," Cleary observed, having already had nearly an hour with the picture. "Some bruises on his face and he's got his hands behind him like he's tied up."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed. "He's in some kind of garage or warehouse, there's pipes behind him and a cinderblock type wall." He wanted to hold onto the proof that Starsky was still alive--or at least had been when the photo was taken--until he was found, but let the others all take a good look at the image to see if it sparked any clues to his whereabouts.

"Listen," Cleary said in the silence while the rest were digesting the recent onslaught of information. "I promise I won't use this until your investigation is successful in finding him. The last thing I want to do is endanger Starsky's life, but I need some quid pro quo here--an exclusive once it's over?"

"Don't worry, Cleary." Hutch stared down the black haired reporter, having the same reaction to the man's slightly bristly personality that his partner had had. "You'll get your exclusive, but I swear, you let any of this slip ahead of time and I'll throw your ass in jail for obstructing justice and any other offense I can think of."

"An' ah'll help," Washington added.

~~~

It was hot.

Like fire. Like an oven.

Why was he in an oven?

Oven? Where did that come from? Hansel and Gretel. Oh, yeah, the witch put Hansel in the oven to cook him. Satisfied with the explanation, Starsky rested for awhile longer, but eventually the uncomfortable position he was lying in roused him again.

It was so damned hot, and his hands were pinned behind him, painfully tight. How could he possibly have slept like this? Damned air conditioner must have died in the night.

Shifting his weight didn't help. Trying to move his hands into a less painful proved impossible. They were caught--bound together?

Taking in a swift lungful of searing air, Starsky came all the way to consciousness, remembering the night before's events. Van Geller's goons had grabbed him at the Burrito Barn. They'd handcuffed his hands and... He didn't want to think about some of the other things right now. Instead he opened his eyes to take a first look at his prison.

Blue metal walls, sour, bitter smell. About six feet long and three or so feet wide, maybe three and a half feet high. The blue metal was blisteringly hot when he brushed an arm against the wall.

Registering that he was no longer wearing his over shirt or holster, but still at least decently dressed in a torn Henley shirt and jeans, Starsky looked up at the ceiling of his cell. Blue metal above him as well.

A dumpster. He'd been thrown in a dumpster. In some trivial recess of his still-addled brain Starsky recalled a British flight attendant Hutch had once dated telling him they called them "skips" in England. Now, why had they been discussing dumpsters in the first place? Skip, skip, skipping...like Dorothy and the Tinman on the yellow brick road.

Random thoughts skipped around his brain, disconnected non sequiturs that kept him from focusing on the gravity of his current situation. It was Yom Kippur--well, that explained why he was so hungry; it was traditional to fast on Yom Kippur. Except, he didn't think that God would mind if he just had some water. Maybe fruit juice? A daiquiri with a little yellow umbrella like the one Angela had when they'd gone to that dreadful Luau place--he'd brought Cynthia along, and Hutch had been with Angela. Or had that been the Angela he'd dated two years ago? Redhead with big breasts? And Hutch had been with Kathy McGrath. Yeah, McGrath--like the crime fighting dog. Or was if McGraff?

Who was Dorothy? He didn't remember Hutch ever dating a Dorothy. But he was the cowardly lion. He was scared. Van Geller had put him in this blue metal oven to roast until he was dead. And he didn't want to die.

Dorothy, Dotty... Hutch had told him about the waitress at Dino's. She could serve him up a big plate of pancakes and bacon--no make that hash browns and lots of ice cold orange juice. He swallowed in anticipation, his throat raw and bone dry. It was hard to bring up enough saliva to moisten his tongue.

A Popsicle. He wanted a Rocket Popsicle with cherry, grape, and garish blue concentric rings of icy fruity flavor. No, not blue.... Yellow brick, the van Geller garage had been constructed of yellow brick, not blue metal. He flinched when he tried to sit up, again pressing his bare forearm against the heated metal walls. Flashing pain shot up his arm to the elbow, causing him to cry out. The skin was burning, like a hot iron had been placed on his arm.

Don't think about it. Sherman or Adams will come back to get him. They couldn't leave him here to die, handcuffed inside a Dumpster in ninety-nine degree heat.

Dorothy! Dorothy was the weather girl on Channel 8 News. She had predicted ninety-nine degree heat today--on Wednesday. Today was Yom Kippur, Wednesday, October 7th. He was supposed to go to temple with Micah. Boy, he'd wonder what happened, huh?

But Steroid Camden and Muscles Jake had picked him up instead, and he'd never gotten a burrito. He'd die for a burrito right now. No, that wasn't right, not die...but his stomach growled for one. Keep focusing on the facts, so he could tell Hutch when he was found. Focus on being found-- They'd driven him here. Where was here? A dusty, dry patch of dirt in front of a gray house, with lots of cars parked in front. Steroid Camden's dark blue sedan, a green Falcon, and a black Mercedes. Mercedes. Mer. Mermaids floating in cool ocean waves, black braids tipped with little colored beads... Mermaid Meredith.

Oh, God, Meredith. What was she going to think? He'd deserted her. He couldn't call to tell her where he was. She'd come back and find his house empty. Maybe, if he could write her a note? No, he had to call her. "Meredith!" he cried in a hoarse voice.

Nobody would hear him. Nobody would come. He wanted a beer or a Coke...yah, a really big Coke, with a scoop of ice cream in it, like his mother used to make in summer time. Now, it was really hot in a New York summer. Humid, smelly, unbearable heat. Everyone knew California had a dry heat. Easier to bear, dry heat. He was so dry, there was hardly any moisture left in his body. What happened when there was no sweat to cool off the body and no water to drink?

Don't think about that. Focus on the facts. But the heat was unrelenting, burning holes in his thinking, unraveling his thoughts. It was too hot. How long had he been here and how long before Hutch found him?

~~~

"I don't know what to do." Micah Bachman sat in Captain Dobey's office. "There's two more days. If I continue with the talks then he--van Geller..." It felt good to positively know who was causing the grief and suffering. "Will grab more people and possibly kill them. How can I let that happen?"

"Rabbi." Washington had long come to admire this gentle man, and realized how hard his decision was. "You stop the talks an' van Geller does win. You can't let that happen either."

"Brick, you want me to go forward with the talks?" Micah worried his chin under the beard, the grief over Miriam's death full blown that morning with Starsky's life so tenuous. "That would be as good as telling them I don't care what happens to the people who get hurt."

"It will be telling the Brotherhood you don't bow to their threats," Hutch said wearily. "We'll find Starsky before Friday."

"How can you be so sure?" the rabbi demanded.

"I'm sure we'll find him," Hutch replied. "There's no other answer to give. Keep on with your work, Rabbi, that's what Starsky wanted."

"I'm not so sure that's true." Micah smiled sadly. "He was a bit pessimistic about the whole affair."

"Then, don't listen to him." Washington smiled at his memories of Starsky's complaints. "Listen to us. An' when he's back, he'll tell you we was right."

Sam Wong stuck his head in the room. "Hutch, fingerprints on the letter were ID'd as probably van Geller's. They matched ones we found at the office and his house."

"Good."

"An' the picture?" Washington asked.

"Adams', I think. We didn't have any of them on file, so we just had to match all three of 'em with the most common prints we found at their respective houses."

"Did the office workers get rounded up?" Hutch asked, both dreading and curious to face his former co-workers. They'd be angered by his deception, and disinclined to talk to him, but he desperately needed to know if they had any tiny fact that might be useful to him.

"Two women and three men are here for questioning."

"You're going to tell them you infiltrated their ranks?" Micah asked incredulously. "What if gets back to their leader?"

"It's a chance we need to take." His insides were quaking, but he couldn't let anyone else see how frightened he was. "Maybe we can force van Geller out into the open, where he'll make a mistake. Rabbi. Go back to your work, keep preparations going forward so you're ready on Friday morning."

"The press...how long are you going to keep this from them?"

"As long as pos'ble," Washington declared. "It ain't none of their business."

A quiet knock on the door heralded Dave Murphy's arrival, and Bachman left with his bodyguard, to tell the members of the Alliance for Peaceable Co-existence about the disappearance of one of their own.

Walking back to the squadroom, Hutch sat down at Starsky's desk, surveying the assortment of files piled to one side, wishing they could give him the answer to solve the whole case. Find Starsky and solve the bombing all in one swoop.

"Hutch?" Washington interrupted the other's ruminations. Hutch was still sure he'd forgotten some vital piece of the puzzle. "We should call Meredith b'fore she hears it from somebody else."

"Oh, Lord," Hutch groaned, not wanting to make that particular phone call in the least. "I don't know where she's staying in D.C."

"Little Davey kept her numbers right there." Washington opened the desk drawer, pulling out a sheet of paper covered with doodles and hastily written phone numbers. There was the outline of a curvy woman next to a series of numbers with Washington D.C. area codes. It felt intrusive to be going through Starsky's private papers, especially something so intimately connected with his girlfriend.

"I'll talk to her." Hutch nodded reluctantly. "Start questioning the office workers, but leave Elsa Hottstedder and Margaret Larsen for me."

"Sure thang-- Ah'll be jist as nice as peach pie; they'll talk their heads off to me."

"Oh, yah, I'll believe that when I see it," Hutch snorted, already dialing the first combination of numbers on the sheet. What would he tell Meredith? How could he tell her that van Geller could kill Starsky because he was a Jew, as easily as anyone else would swat a fly?

There was no answer at what he assumed was her condominium, so he dialed the second number. A switch board operator answered, promising to locate Sergeant Joan Meredith in her seminar after Hutch had explained the urgency of the message. There was the usual annoying Muzak playing for several minutes before a breathless voice came on the line.

"Hello? Hutch? What happened?"

"Meredith, I'm sorry for interrupting your class, but Starsky's missing." He wished there were a less abrupt way to say the frightening words.

"Nooo," Meredith moaned, her heart contracting. "How long?"

"Since last night, around six."

"It's...." She struggled to add the time difference onto the hours he'd been missing, but couldn't quite make the math work in her terrified state, "More than eighteen hours. Hutch, why didn't you call me sooner?"

"We've been looking, but we know now who took him..."

"That bastard you were undercover with..."

"Yes," he admitted.

"I'm leaving for the airport now; I'll get the first west bound plane. I don't know when there's a flight--I won't even stop to get my clothes, I just need to get there. I can..." Her voice broke, the tears so close to the edge she couldn't speak for a moment. "Hutch, find him. Tell him I'm coming."

"Meredith, is there anyone else there? Can you get another officer to drive you?" Hutch stayed on the line long enough to help her arrange transport to the airport and someone to stay with her until then. Hanging up, he felt like he'd ripped her heart out. If so, it lay next to his, somewhere with Starsky. Someplace dark and terrible, where demons lurked. "Where are you, Starsk?" he said aloud.

Margaret Larsen. She was waiting to be interrogated. She'd known Peter van Geller since his childhood. Surely she would know some small detail they'd overlooked. Maybe know a special place? A private place where he could imprison a man. And if his note were to be believed, more than one person. It made him sick to imagine such a place.

If Margaret Larsen knew of such a place, she wasn't about to tell a man she now considered a traitor. Her astonishment at Hutch's real identity hardened her sweet face. He didn't want to hammer a woman he considered deluded but kind, but his overwhelming fear for his partner's life caused him to bombard her with questions until her blue eyes were hostile and filled with tears.

"How could you do this to Peter?" she demanded over and over. "You misused his trust in you."

"He never had any trust in me. Or in you, Margaret," Hutch countered. "If he did, wouldn't he have told you more details of the operation? You ran the goddammned office. You printed out those hateful pamphlets-- What did you think was his objective?"

"Education," she spat. "To get out the word."

"With bombs, death threats, and guns? We found enough weapons at his house to stock a small arsenal. What kind of education is that?"

"Protection. The Jews hate us. They could rise up anytime and kill us in our beds." She turned her back to him, the wooden chair scraping against the linoleum. "If Tobe and Sam Metzger really did what you've accused them of, which I doubt, then more power to them. But Peter didn't direct them, or order them; it was their own initiative. They think for themselves."

"The same way you do. Parroting propaganda Hitler wrote over forty-five years ago." Hutch knew he'd never get any useful information out of her. She'd been indoctrinated for too long, her mind couldn't be changed. "If you thought for yourself, you'd see past the blinders to the fact that Peter van Geller is insane. Margaret, you even told me that yourself, in not so many words."

"I never said any such thing. And if you continue to badger me, I want Mr. Klineschmit, Peter's lawyer here." She straightened her flower-sprigged skirt. "Am I being arrested, or may I go?"

"You may go." He signaled the silent female officer guarding the door to let her leave. "An' bring in Miss Hottstedder."

"She was beginning to really like you." Margaret gave a parting shot. "She'll spit in your face."

After a day like this one, that wouldn't surprise Hutch in the least. Steeling himself for another angry encounter, he turned to watch as Elsa hesitantly entered the interrogation room. Standing just inside the door, staring intently at him, she took his breath away. The high cheekbones, sultry blue eyes and long slivery blond hair should have gotten her jobs gracing the cover of fashion magazines. How sad that prejudice had so stunted her life that she was reduced to stuffing envelopes in a storefront office.

"What are you doing here?" she spoke finally, rubbing her palms against her full green skirt.

"My name is Detective Sergeant Ken Hutchinson of the LA police department," Hutch said carefully, introducing himself as he'd done to Margaret. "I was undercover with your organization to find out about the bombing of Temple Beth Sharon."

"And you think Mr. van Geller did it?" she asked astutely.

"What do you think?"

"Well, this explains a lot." She waved her hand to include the whole department. "Why you were feeling out my politics at dinner."

"Will you sit down?" he asked politely. "You're not under arrest. We just want to ask you about the activities at 1412 South Main."

"You were there," she said bluntly, her face angry but also confused.

"Did you ever overhear any conversations that led you to believe there was more going on than just propaganda? That illegal activities were being sanctioned?"

"Of course, everyone knew that," she answered after a moment. "You did, too."

"That was why I was undercover," he reminded her. "What activities were you aware of?"

"Ummm...do I have to answer that?" She shook her head. "Mr. Sherman said we should always call Mr. Klineschmit."

"If you want your lawyer, you may call him, but you are not under arrest and nothing you say will be used against you in a court of law."

"I've heard the police would force it out of me." She raised her chin in defiance. "Maybe rape..."

"Do you think I would do that to you? There's a female office in the room at all times." Hutch indicated the silent, steely-eyed Officer Peterson standing by the door.

"I used to think I trusted you. That you were one of the good guys." Elsa pushed the long pale hair off her face. "Now I don't know good from bad."

"I was always one of the good guys." Hutch nodded encouragingly. He'd always hoped he could persuade Elsa to see the other side. "You were right. Peter van Geller may be insane and I have reason to believe he may have kidnapped a friend of mine."

"Who? A Jew?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, I have friends who are Jewish, and friends who are black." Hutch realized he wasn't conducting this interrogation very professionally, but it seemed to be keeping Elsa's interest and maybe the more casual atmosphere would cause her to talk more freely.

"When I was a little girl, I knew a Jew," she said softly. "Nanette. How was I supposed to know she was bad? That wasn't a Jew name. I played with her at school, and I liked her. My papa beat me black and blue..."

"So, you were more careful to find out about people after that?" Hutch said slowly.

"I tried, but it didn't work very well with you, did it?" She stared at him suddenly, realization on her face. "You know that cop--Starsky, and the peace talks guy. That's who you work for, huh?"

"Yes."

"Mr. van Geller was willing to give little bonuses to any one who could prove they'd...helped the cause, he said. Vandalism, stealing...saying bad things about people to the press. I couldn't do it, but I know T..." She hesitated to name names.

"Tobe Daniels?"

Elsa nodded, ducking her head so her hair hid her expression. "He was going to used his truck to force the...rabbi off the road. Just to cause a little accident. And...there were lots of other things." Once she started talking, Elsa was determined to finish. She'd worked at the Brotherhood for over six months. She'd heard and witnessed many of the petty felonies and misdemeanors, but seemed to have no more knowledge of the bombing than any of the other peons. Van Geller's truly amazing feat wasn't that he'd bombed the temple but that he'd managed to keep it a relative secret from the others in his organization.

"Thank you, Elsa," Hutch said sincerely, when she'd indicated she was done. "Is there anything else you'd like to add? Officer Peterson will have your statement typed up and you can sign it."

"Can I ask you a question?" She again rubbed her hands on the silky material of her sleeves, leaving damp palm prints. "Am I prejudiced?"

"Yes, I would say so," Hutch agreed. "Everyone has some degree of prejudice, but you've let it take over your life. You can't get a job where there are black people--or talk to people who are different than you are. How can you get ahead that way?"

"Is there a way to undo that?" she asked obliquely. "If I wanted to, I mean?"

"Just make up your mind to," Hutch said simply, feeling a ray of optimism for the first time in this miserable day. "Go out of your way to talk to someone you would have avoided before."

"Or attend those peace talks," she said softly.

"That would work, too." He stood to escort her out. "If you ever need to talk, you have my number here--and I'm in the book, under Hutchinson."

"I thought Chambers was a nice name." She straightened her shoulders, shrugging off his light touch on her arm. "I guess everything I thought was wrong." Almost out the door, she turned back. "What happened to your friend? Starsky?"

"He's missing, and no one knows where. Van Geller took him, and plans to kill him. If you know anything about that, please tell me."

"I was just an office worker." She shook her head. "But, John Adams would know. He did all the real dirty work--I once heard he found...."

"Yes?"

"He found girls for Mr. van Geller--and he didn't treat them nicely."

"Van Geller, or Adams?" Hutch closed the door, holding his breath for more revelations.

"Van Geller hurt women. Lots of them."

PART FOUR