The Swing of Things




        Sunday morning saw the local precinct fully staffed and busy. One of the few people who would have, and had reason to expect, regular Sunday's off sat stone-faced and tense at his desk.

        Hutch, having lost the coin toss, had called the Captain at home in the early morning hours to request the meeting. He and Starsky had reported their suspicions about Jameson. Gainer, who had again claimed the office window, did not comment. He was remote and unconcerned.

        Captain Anthony Pasquini had always seemed a mild, even-tempered and patient man to Hutch. The Detective had cataloged the Captain as the kind of person who rarely raised his voice, or needed to, but this morning he looked just one breath away from exploding. The older man looked ashamed and embarrassed that one of his men had been less than open with information needed by his fellow officers and his superiors. Hutch wondered just how long the man would go before blowing a fuse.

        "Detective Gainer," Captain Pasquini began quietly, heavily, "were you aware of Aaron Jameson's spending habits? Did you have knowledge that he has been spending far more than his salary can explain? Did you have some suspicion that he may have been involved in any criminal element, possibly Daniel Wayne or his men?" Captain Pasquini watched Gainer closely, waiting for his response.

        Gainer studied his nails, refusing to acknowledge the stares of the two detectives or the anger of his own Captain. "I have had some suspicions, yes, but nothing concrete as of yet. I have been studying the situation and have not found anything worth mentioning. If I had felt you two would have been of any use," Gainer added smirking at the two Metro detectives. "I would have told you."

        Hutch's felt his face flush suddenly hot with the implied insult. Just as he opened his mouth to reply in anger, he felt his partner move.

        "Just what the hell is that supposed to mean!" Starsky exploded, suddenly at Gainer's side, eyes rock hard.

        Starsky had grabbed Gainer's arm and jerked him around when Hutch suddenly found himself out of his chair, his own emotions clamped tight. Hutch turned his back to Gainer and put one hand on Starsky's shoulder. His other hand was placed lightly on his friend's middle, not restraining, but reminding. Not now, Starsk, he passed along the touch. You're right, but not now, not yet. Save it for later. Let it go.

        Starsky's eyes never left Gainer, but Hutch could feel the shoulder muscles relax a bit, the intake of a calming breath. "You call an expensive car 'n condo nothing?" Starsky asked Gainer in a calm but deadly voice. "Where did you think he got the money for them? Discover a money tree or somethin'? We were called to catch some jewelry thieves. What the hell have you been doin'?"

        "This is my case, Sergeant Starsky," Gainer replied quietly, obviously trying to pull his dignity around him like a cloak. He brushed his sleeve, as if he had been soiled by Starsky's grip. "I'll decided how it's handled. You knew that coming in."

        "That's enough gentlemen!" Captain Pasquini snapped, on his feet and red-faced. "Sit down Starsky, Hutchinson. We will have no more such outburst in my office." The captain glared at all three of the men.

        "We've been out of the loop on this from day one, Captain!" Hutch protested, fighting to keep control of his temper now that Starsky had calmed down. "Jameson should have been an obvious suspect from the start and Detective Gainer didn't see fit to let us know. What the hell were we doing all this time? Someone should of been keeping an eye on his actions and checking out his spending habits and contacts. Just what the hell..."

        "That's enough, Hutchinson!" Captain Pasquini snapped, glaring at him. "Sit down!"

        "Captain....!" Hutch threw back, determined to make their case. A rough jerk at his sleeve silenced him. Hutch threw a heated glare at his partner, but caught his breath at Starsky's glance. Now I'm going to blow it, he thought with chagrin. We're all on the edge here and I'm not helping.

        A long moment passed as the four men let their tempers cool off and the Metro detectives resumed their seats.

        "Now if we can all settle down," Captain Pasquini said, glaring at the two angry men and his stone-faced detective. "Let's get down to business. Daniel Wayne is the manager of The Rocket," Captain Pasquini began, talking only to the partner's. "It is one of the more popular night spots at this end of town. We've had some reports here and there that there is more than a 'little' action going on there, prostitution, drug shipments and gambling ,but we've never been able to get anyone inside. This seems to be the first tie-in I'm aware of between an Iverson's employee and his group." Pasquini paused for a moment, not looking at his own man. "How do you two want to handle it?"

        "Hutch and I'd like to run this case a little longer, Captain," Starsky replied, a determined look in his eyes. "Jameson will give us a new angle to work on. There's bound to be something we can find out about him that Gainer wouldn't be able to dig up from his position." He flashed a challenge at Gainer, but the man was again shutting them out. "We've just gotten started in looking at Douglas Kirk."

        "We'll need to know anything Homicide finds out about Kirk, anything at all," Hutch added. "Whatever information we get, we could bounce around the store, see who reacts. Maybe there's a connection between the two we're missing and that might draw it out."

        "Has Homicide been able to talk to the family yet?" Starsky asked. "There must be something there we can use."

        "They talked to them yesterday." Captain Pasquini answered. "They're working on the reports now. Maybe you two ought to go down and see that my copy is on its way up." Captain Pasquini dismissed them with a wave, his posture radiating anger.

         Time to leave Gainer to his fate, Hutch thought with more than a touch of spite. It's about damn time he got his butt chewed off. Just wish Starsk and I could be a fly on that wall!

        "Can you believe that guy, Hutch?" Starsky fumed once they were out in the crowded hall. "He'd hold out milk money from his own kids! I can't believe the sonofabitch! Man, no wonder that guy works alone, who'd want him? He acts like he's royalty or somethin' and we're the dirty serfs. Like he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth!"

        "More like a silver spoon up his ass," Hutch replied in disgust, heartily agreeing with his friend's frustrated rant. "I've met his kind before, Starsky, so take my word for it. They'll just drive you nuts trying to deal with them. There's no use waiting any longer for Gainer to decided to play nice with us. We are just going to have to do it all on our own."

        "Yeah? Like we haven't so far?" Starsky muttered darkly.

        They came upon the Homicide squad room, only mildly crowded and noisy. Neither man recognized anyone from the previous meeting. Hutch shrugged and walked up to the nearest desk to introduce himself. He told the detective what they were after and was informed that Captain Lang had the reports in his office at that moment. They would have to see him. A knock on his door got them invited in.

        "Hello Gentlemen." Captain Lang greeted the two, handing Starsky a file as they entered. "Captain Pasquini told me you'd be picking this up today."

        Hutch perched on the edge of Starsky's chair and watched as his partner flipped through the file. Captain Lang sat quietly as they both scanned the various reports.

        "According to this report, he was married 30 years ago, had two children and was divorced after 10 years," Hutch read aloud over Starsky's shoulder. "Wife got custody of the kids and was awarded alimony and child support until the last one turned eighteen. The wife and children lived in this area until five years ago when she and the kids moved down to Florida. No history of any trouble. No unaccounted for cash in the bank, deposit box or apartment."

        "Which accounts for his quiet life from age thirty-five until today." Starsky muttered leafing through the report pages, "Why nothin' before then?"

        Captain Lang leaned forward on his desk, looking thoughtful. "We've called up all the appropriate federal agencies and they're running a check. It may take a few days to hear back from them. The ex-wife says he had no family. He'd told her he was an only child with no relatives. Parents were dead and he never talked about his childhood."

        "Sounds like a 'dead' birth certificate to me." Starsky muttered, speed reading through the reports. "I don't see one listed among his important papers. Maybe he was just a sloppy record-keeper."

        "Yeah, we caught that." Captain Lang nodded tiredly. "Man wants a new identity, he goes down to the nearest cemetery and gets the name of a kid who was born near his own birth date, but died early. Then he sends to the state for a copy of the birth certificate for two bucks and uses that to get all kinds of new ID. After establishing himself again, he gets rid of the certificate because it lists parents and birth location. New 'legal' identity, traceable only to a certain point."

        "Did Forensics run his prints?" Hutch asked, knowing the probable answer.

        Captain Lang sighed and shook his head. "No, not since we had a positive body ID to start with. I've contacted Forensics and they're doing it now. Maybe we can find out what name Kirk started life under and if we're very lucky, what he was running from." Captain Lang massaged the back of his neck and waved them toward the door. "Say 'hello' to Captain Pasquini for me when you take the file up."

        Both men were silent as they made their way back to Robbery with the file. They both knew that a prior history for Douglas Kirk could mean one of two things: one, that his past was shady and so was he, or two, that it was used against him as blackmail.

        So far, the blackmail theory seems more likely, Hutch thought, smiling a bit as he recognized that his own bias was showing. Guess I'd just hate to disappoint April by having to tell her that her beloved teacher was on the take.

        They dropped the report on Pasquini's desk, the Captain and Detective Gainer gone from the office. Hutch was just as glad not to have to face either one of them, or walk into the middle of a dressing down. Neither he nor Starsky talked on the way down to Hutch's car, but the blond knew from vast experience that his partner was busy with an idea.

        "Hutch," the darker man said as soon as he was sprawled comfortably in the LTD's passenger seat. "I think it's time we branched out and got into something more lucrative than just guardin' window dummies." He gave Hutch a mischievous look.

        Uh oh! "And you were thinking of...?" Hutch asked suspiciously, keys halted halfway to the ignition.

        "What if we were to decide to open up our own little pharmaceutical business at work," Starsky suggested. We might get a peek at Trudy's supplier. That could lead right up to Daniel Wayne and The Rocket. Maybe even..."

        "...a nibble at Jameson if he's using." Hutch finished. He started up the car and turned for home. "It's a long-shot, Starsk. And the Captain isn't going to like us going in first, on our own and then asking for his permission and backup."

        "Yeah, well, I'm sure the Captain can adopt to our way of thinking," Starsky remarked with a shrug. "'Sides, we don't even know if we can get in that way. If Trudy turns us down, we won't need the money or the backup. We may need the connection later." Starsky flashed a crooked grin at his partner, "And if we can start bringing in some extra bread, I know of this really hot candy-apple red Torino, with this sexy white stripe, that would be perfect for our new image."

        Hutch gave his partner a dark look. "Not with my share of the loot, you don't!"


        The one good thing about this apartment is that you couldn't ask for a better view of the street, Hutch thought, relaxing in the breeze from the open window. It was Sunday night and in this corner of the city the streets were packed. Traffic was thick, fast and loud with the heavy thrum of the local rock stations and the sidewalks were crowded people from all walks of life. Hutch was enjoying his bird's-eye view.

        He could see most of way down both sides of the block and that included the Play-Time strip-club and most of it's small parking lot. Even on Sunday, Hutch could see that they were doing a good turn-around in customers. Hope Trudy's working tonight, he mused, listening to the murmur of the evening. We're going to have a hard time tracking her down at home. She's always been secretive about where she lives. And I'm sure she wouldn't want to talk business there anyway.

        "See anything interesting?" Starsky asked from the hallway, not quite dressed.

        "Just life passin' us by, partner," Hutch replied, his attention still on the scene outside. "What are we looking for tonight? Something heavy, or are we starting slow?"

        "We'd better start slow, maybe some pot or hash," Starsky said after a bit of thought. "We can always work ourselves up to the good stuff later. We just gotta make sure she understands we don't want to do business here, in this area, unless you really want to start turning people away from our door."

        I don't even want to think about getting into something like that, Hutch thought with a grimace.

        "We packin' tonight?" Starsky inquired, reaching for his jacket. "Or do we go in naked?"

        Hutch thought for a moment. "Better go in naked," he responded. He could feel a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. "We're not carrying any cash to speak of and Trudy might want to get friendly. A gun might put her off. If you're really lucky, you might even get to find out where she lives. A personal tour." Hutch teased, knowing full well that that was the last thing Starsky wanted at this point.

        "Well, at least I have someone interested in me." Starsky snickered, opening the front door. "Not like a certain blond secretary that comes to mind, one that seems to have a blind spot for a certain detective I know."

        "Hey, Sarah's very interested," Hutch retorted, grabbing his jacket and following his partner. "She's just a cautious lady, that's all." Well, at least I hope that's all, Hutch hoped. Somehow, someway I'm going to get Miss Sarah's attention. He grinned to himself.

        Hutch thought it was a great night for a walk. The cool evening breeze had blown the smog away from the city and the moon was a bright, thin slash in the sky, barely seen over the street lights. Not quite time to howl, Hutch grinned at the thought. Working the evening shift had never failed to get his adrenaline flowing. He could feel the old rush working it's way back into his system, like he was eighteen again.

        Starsky had always said that a clear evening, a brisk breeze, a bright moon and fast music made him eighteen again. Hutch had thoroughly seconded the notion, knowing full well that his eighteen and Starsky's eighteen had been worlds apart.

        My eighteen was football, homecoming, drive-ins, band practice and girls, Hutch reflected. My biggest worry was keeping my grades up to Father's standards and whether he would let me have the car on the weekend.

        He knew that Starsky's eighteen meant working with his uncle on weekends, struggling through a school that didn't encourage his kind of brilliance, gang wars, protecting those of his friends who were weaker from the streets and dating. Never one to back off, Starsky's biggest worry had been surviving to nineteen as he fought the madness with the heart of Zorro, the Lone Ranger and a father long dead. Yet Hutch knew that Starsky's memories of eighteen were as sweet and as magical as his own.

        Hutch glanced at his partner and could even now see a bit of the eighteen-year-old in his friend's body, his stride and the glint in his eyes. It's been a long time getting back to life for you, Starsk, Hutch thought fondly, but more than worth the wait. For us both.

        They got within half a block of the strip club before they could hear the blaring back-beat of the club's sound system. It fairly vibrated the sidewalk, even from that far away. As Hutch got closer, he could see that the parking lot was not only full, but busy with couples and those just hanging around, intent on their own business. He and Starsky made their way through the crowd hanging around at the front and entered the building.

        Like other strip clubs, it was dark, smoky and loud. A large stage took up one entire wall and the bar took up the other. There was a heavy crowd seated at the close-packed tables and Hutch scanned the room, noticing Starsky doing the same. It was full of the usual crowd of loners, couples and the club-owned working girls. They both ordered beer at the bar and carried it to a just emptied table near a half hidden door by the stage.

        It was a show they had both seen many times before, in many different places. Tall or short, thin or heavy, the dancing and stripping girls all made the same body-jiggling bumps and grinds. The music was so loud that conversation was almost impossible, which left watching the girls and drinking the liquor as the only way to pass the time. It's not exactly the opera, but at least it's a diversion, Hutch though, settling down with his beer. Wonder if we should ask about Trudy now, or wait and see if she shows.

        Suddenly the music stopped. The absence of sound was such a sudden shock that the audience froze, as if startled. Hutch noticed that even the waiters and waitresses stood still and near silence settled across the room.

         What the hell? Hutch looked questioningly at Starsky, who only looked confused and shrugged back.

        The lights dimmed to almost black and with a sudden crash of cymbals, the spotlight flashed upon the figure posed on center stage.

        It's Trudy! Hutch thought, startled at her sudden appearance. She was faced away from the audience, hands covered in satin-black opera gloves posed provocatively on shapely hips. Her long brunette hair hung lose and wavy down her back, covering the milky white skin revealed by the skintight black evening gown.

        Trudy held the pose for a soundless beat of three and very slowly, with a slight wiggle, turned to the front of the stage. There she paused, hands still on hips, as the audience took in the sight of a silent screen beauty from the past. The music started again, consisting of a single, slow drum beat. And then leisurely, in the manner of her forebearers, Trudy Coates proceeded to strip sensiously down to her tassels and g-string, with style, grace and more than a touch of art.

        Trudy held her final pose for a final count of three, then the drum beat stopped. She leaned gracefully in the detective's direction, slowly bent over and picked up her discarded dress. Both men were gifted with an exceptional view of the total 'assets' of the big-breasted lady. Giving a wide-eyed Starsky a wink, she stood, draped the black dress across her shoulder and slowly sauntered off the other end of the stage to sudden, thunderous applause and catcalls.

        A few seconds after her departure the loud blare of the music started again and the next dancer made her way out to the front. The club was once again loud, dark and smoky.

        "Well," Hutch said, with a catch in his voice. He caught himself and cleared his throat, staring into his beer to hide the flush of his face. "There is something to be said for doing some things the old-fashioned way."

        "If that was the old way, when did they change it?" Starsky asked, rough voiced and wide-eyed. "And why? I mean, hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And that ain't broke." Starsky looked appreciatively toward the stage. "Do you think she'll stop by, or will we hav'ta send a message back?"

        "After the flash she gave us?" Hutch replied with amusement. "I don't think she'll forget we're here, Dave, or that she plans to ignore us."

        They only had to wait about ten minutes before a fully dressed Trudy wiggled out the employees' door and took a seat at their table. Starsky signaled for the waitress as Trudy made herself comfortable.

        "Oh, man!" she squeaked, grinning from ear to ear. "What a blast to see you guys out here! Man, I've been trying for ages to get you guys to come and wouldn't you know it, just when I was about to give up, here you are." She paused just long enough to order her usual order and take another breath. "Well, what did you think, too slow or too quiet? You know, no one ever says anything 'til it's over and I never know what they think the best part is and it's very important for a true artist to get specific audience feedback on her performance and you know you just can't trust the other girls to let you know 'cause they are very particular about sharing their secrets so what'd'ya think of the whole thing from a man's perspective?" She finished breathlessly, beaming at Starsky.

        Starsky gave Trudy his most charming smile, but his eyes looked to Hutch with a plea. He couldn't follow her fast enough to catch the question, Hutch thought in amusement. He's probably still thrown by her strip tease.

        "It was fine Trudy, just fine." Hutch smiled behind his beer, seeing his partner nod in relief and agreement. "You are a true artist."

        "Yeah, I know, they all say that but what did you like about it, 'cause I really need to know, 'cause I'm due to work up another routine real soon before they all get tired of the old one, but I don't know what parts to save and what parts are totally boring when it comes to the male point of view, as I'm not a real good judge of what guys like so what?" Trudy rambled, flashing a grin at Hutch, but continuing to watch Starsky.

        Thankfully the waitress arrived with their orders, giving Hutch a change to replay her sentence in his mind.

        "Trudy, with a gorgeous woman like you, you can't go wrong with keeping it slow and simple." Starsky, replied, slipping his arm around the girl. "Have, you got time to visit for awhile, or are we bothering you?"

        "Oh my, I don't go on again for another twenty minutes so I've got time to shoot the breeze with you guys, did you come all the way down the street just to see me I hope?" Trudy ran on, barely drawing a breath. "And don't say you didn't 'cause then I'd really be disappointed when I've been nagging at you so long to come down and watch."

        As Trudy took a larger breath, Hutch cut in before she could get started again. "Dave tells me you're into a little business in this area," he asked as quietly as he could, considering the background noise. "Thinking of moving on?"

        "Oh." Trudy replied, taking her gaze from Starsky, she looked Hutch over quietly. "Well, if Dave trusts you, I guess I can too. Yeah, I run some 'goodies' in the area and make a good profit at it too, but it's cutting into my artistic career and I'm gettin' a little tired of hanging around all the time 'cause a girl likes to get out and do some cultural things once in awhile too, you know?"

        "Yeah, I told Ken all about it," Starsky added. "We've been thinkin' 'bout your offer and we appreciate it 'n all, but we're wonderin' if you were set up to get us connected for a different location."

        Trudy shot Starsky a sharp glance. "What do you need another connection for? Another location? I mean, I'm already set up, all the business you could want right here, I mean I don't want to turn over my whole area or anything but you could start small and I could switch some of my regulars to you guys..."

        Starsky gave Trudy's shoulders a hug, immediately gaining her attention. "Nothin' personal, hon, but we just don't like messin' in our own nest, if you know what I mean."

        Trudy studied him for a minute, then leaned back and sighed. "Yeah, I guess I do, 'cause I don't deal 'round where I live either. To bad you guys aren't interested in local territory 'cause I really am gettin' tired of the whole laundromat thing, like I got nothin' better to do with my spare time then sittin' an' waitin' for the cash to come in 'n keep track of the orders."

        "Can you get us set up with your source?" Hutch asked, hoping he wasn't pushing the issue too hard. But if he did, he knew Starsky was in a good position to keep it friendly. "All we can do is a beginner's package at the moment, pot and hash for starters. Dave and I only have a couple'a bills to burn and we need to save up for the big stuff." Hutch continued, seeing that although she looked tense, she didn't act like she wanted to run. "Unless you want to carry us for awhile, until we can get the first shipment sold." He added with what he hoped was a wistful tone of voice.

        Trudy was quiet for a moment longer, a serious, stressed look on her face as she suddenly studied her nails. She glanced around the club, obviously checking out the clientele.

        "You guys really got a market?" Trudy asked timidly. "I can't afford to recommend you and have you guys get busted for pushin' 'cause I don't know who you're dealin' with and have you trip me up in any way, I'm not even sure I can do anything but supply you myself 'til you go big-time and I was lookin' to get out of some of this, not add to my work load."

        Starsky glanced at Hutch. Better not push, Starsky's eyes seemed to say. Starsky smiled at the girl. "Hon, we're not in a big hurry, a few days will do. We've got a couple'a good leads where we work. We'll be satisfied to start small-time first, then work our way up if we have to. Ken and I would rather work with your supplier though, so we can make our own deals. We're not against working through you, we just don't want you to take our heat in case we hit a snag somewhere."

        "Yeah, well," Trudy murmured with a sigh, suddenly looking older and worn. "I gotta go now and get ready for my next set 'n I gotta lotta people comin' in for their stuff tonight. I'll pass the word along. See what my people want to do. Let you know." She was using shorter sentences and Hutch got the feeling that maybe he had pushed too hard. She cast a shy look in Starsky's direction, leaning to pat his knee, leaning over to whisper in his ear.

        Starsky did not glance at his partner, but shrugged at the girl he half-held. "Could use some bennies and a joint or two." Starsky said to the girl, obviously replying to the whisper. "I'm gettin' a bit low, but I'm on the flush side tonight, doll." Starsky gave her a shy grin.

        "You just take this up to Jay-Jay, the bouncer." She returned the grin and started to write on a napkin. "He'll fix you up, hon, 'n I'll even let you have it wholesale 'n I'll let you know later 'bout the other stuff." She leaned over to Starsky, placed the folded the paper into his palm and kissed him on the cheek.

        "Sure, doll. You know where we live." Starsky patted her arm. He quietly slipped a few bills out of his wallet and folded them into her palm in return.

        Trudy tucked the bills into her cleavage, blew him a kiss and disappeared through the stage door.

        "Well. I guess I don't rate 'First Class' service around here." Hutch said dryly, a bit put out that Trudy obviously didn't trust him. It's just her way to come on to Starsk, he thought. Either that, or I've got 'Cop' tattooed somewhere on my forehead.

        "I keep tellin' ya, Ken," Starsky began, an amused twinkle in his eye, "some warmth and personality could take you a long way in this world. It's just a good thing I'm on this case." Starsky opened the napkin Trudy had given him and studied the cryptic writing. "The lovely lady offered to get me anything I need on the cuff, but rather than take advantage of her offer, this dealer-to-be decided to make a purchase instead. And speaking of such, I'll go meet my new friend Jay-Jay."

        Hutch sat quietly and watched his partner make his way up to the bar. Starsky leaned over the bar and spoke to him. The bartender just pointed a bored shoulder toward a man standing in a dark corner. Starsky walked over to the man, who was seemed unsurprised to see him. The large, muscular man glanced at the paper and snapped a reply, then turned and walked through a storage room door by the bar. Starsky leaned back against the dirty, dark wall and waited. Hutch relaxed into his chair and sipped at his beer. He'd been afraid Starsky and the bouncer would have to take a walk to the stash and following a man who was only going to pick up some bennies and a few joints would have looked like over-kill if he had been spotted.

        It was only a moment before the bouncer returned and slipped Starsky something small and invisible in the dark. Starsky nodded at his partner and Hutch got up to follow. Without a word, both detectives headed for the door and home. Hutch really hadn't wanted to stay and see Trudy's next act if it wasn't necessary, it was too much like peeking on a friend and he knew that Starsky probably felt the same way.

        He would have been more comfortable not having to come here at all, Hutch mused. He's fond of her and now he's got to use her to get the job done. Hutch suddenly felt weary, knowing how it felt to betray a trust, even such a small one.

        The streets were still busy as they made their way back to their apartment. It was dark and fairly quiet in the room. Hutch flicked on the shabby lamp by the couch and moved to close the window, cutting out the rest of the world while Starsky made his way to the kitchen.

        "So, what did you get from Santa, Starsk?" Hutch asked, hoping to lighten the prevailing mood.

        Starsky dug the package out of his jeans pocket and Hutch walked over for a look. It was a small popcorn bag wadded up into a an even smaller package. It was held it open toward him. "Enough bennies to keep anyone hyper for a couple'a days and six… no… seven joints." Starsky jiggled the bag for a better count. "All wholesale." The smaller man sighed, suddenly tired looking. He opened the refrigerator and stuffed the popcorn bag behind some leftovers. "You wanna beer while I'm in here?" he asked.

        "Naw, just think I'll head on into bed," Hutch replied, catching thestart of a yawn. "One of us could end up working dayshift tomorrow and if it's me, I want a little shut-eye first."

         "'Kay. Night," Starsky said quietly, giving his friend a quick pat on the back as he made his way to the couch with his beer. He flipped the TV on, the light off and settled himself comfortably on the couch with the local channel guide.

        "You know, Trudy reminds me a lot of Sweet Alice," Hutch said quietly from the hallway. "Both are sweet ladies who deserve better than what they've settled for. They've gotten their priorities messed up, though." He watched his friend settle into the comforting darkness, knowing he was listening. "Neither one of them is asking for a way out, you know, no matter how many openings we give them. They make their own decisions and have already chosen sides. We just do our jobs, best we can."

        "Yeah, I know," Starsky answered softly in the TV flickered darkness. "It's just such a waste of talent. You'd think she could'a been a movie star or a real dancer or somethin'. She really was good out there, Hutch. Graceful and everything." The other detective was quiet for a moment, then shifted to a sprawl across the couch. He flashed an understanding smile at his friend. "And unless you wanna get drawn into a real good vampire movie that's startin' in a minute, you'd better hit the sack now."

        "Gosh, decisions, decisions," Hutch replied with a chuckle. He turned for his room, knowing his cue to leave. Giving up on people. It never does get any easier, does it Starsk? I guess we should hope it never will.