The Swing of Things




        Monday started as usual for Hutch. He awoke naturally at his usual time and had glanced down the hall to see the TV still flickering. A stockinged foot jutting out from the arm of the couch and the deadly quiet from Starsky's room told him that his partner had manage to fall asleep in front of the TV. Again. He'd been afraid of that.

        He's a big boy now, the blond scolded himself. I'm not going to feel bad for not checking up on him and I'm not going to mother-hen him for the rest of our lives. He fought the urge to tuck his partner into bed for a few more hours. One of the hardest things he had ever done was to back off of Starsky's care when the man had became capable of doing things for himself. They had struggled to redefine a life for them both, one that allowed for the other's close company while respecting each person's individual space. Hutch knew now when he had to back off.

        During the middle of his shower Hutch thought he heard the ring of the phone. Maybe it's Pasquini, he thought, feeling a bit of hope. It's too early for most anyone else. Maybe we've got a break in the case.

        He shaved quickly, listening for Starsky's call in case they had to move fast. He finished up and came padding, barefoot and robed into the room while heading for the coffey maker. "Phone?" he asked.

        "Yeah." Came the sleepy reply, muffled under a couch pillow. "What time is it?"

        "Just after 5:45," Hutch replied, plugging in the pot and digging in the refrigerator for some yogurt. "Pasquini?" he prodded.

        "Nope," the drowsy man replied through a yawn. "It was Ms Quincy. She's royally pissed and itchin' for a fight. Her boss must've woken her up with the order to put you 'n me on days. They want to keep an eye on us."

        "What did they use for an excuse?" Hutch asked. "What are we supposed to have done to deserve the step up?"

        "Apparently we're being hunted by the press and we're to report in at 8:00 a.m. 'n keep our mouths shut." Starsky yawned again and sat up, rubbing at his unruly hair. "They don't want the media catching us for interviews and this way they can keep us out of circulation during the day. We aren't to talk to any press at all."

        "Oh, man, I hadn't thought of that." Hutch scowled, sitting on a couch arm with his breakfast. "Just what we need, tabloid press following us around, wanting graphic descriptions. We can't afford to be interviewed. You know if we get our pictures in the paper, we might as well pack it up, we're not that far from home." He took a bite, mulling over the case. "Trudy probably hasn't connected us with discovering the body. Think she'll run if our names are mentioned?"

        "Naw." Starsky shook his head. "It might scare her a little, but she feels like she knows us. If her supplier gets skittish, then we might hit a dead end. All we really did was 'ta stumble on a body and somebody was gonna do it sooner or later. We'd a perfectly legit reason to be there and we're not even suspects. As long as our store cover holds, we should be okay."


        Their arrival at Iverson's at 7:30 a.m. held an chilling surprise. Along with the other arriving employees, Starsky and Hutch were waved away from the entrance of the employee lot by a uniformed officer. Hutch turned the car and parked in the customer lot and both detectives sat quietly as the coroner's van was allowed through.

        "You get the feelin' we're two steps behind 'n facin' the wrong direction?" The darker man asked with a sigh. "Guess we should'a been a little early this morning, huh?"

        "You know, we better do something damn soon to earn our pay." Hutch gave his partner a solemn look. "We're gonna look like fools. Any bets on who just 'retired'?"

        "I figure it's gotta be Jameson," Starsky answered. "He wasn't welcomed with open arms at The Rocket the other night. He could be a weak link in their set up." He paused for a moment. "The station didn't call us in, so we'd better go in as usual."

        "Yeah. Lucky us, to be part of the ignorant masses."

        Both detectives dug out their undercover ID's and prepared to walk around the store with the other confused and concerned employees. The uniformed officer gave them both a quick glance and waved them on. When asked if he knew what the excitement was about, the bored looking officer just shrugged his shoulders and ordered them to move on.

        Starsky and Hutch re-identified themselves at the back entrance and were directed to the employee break room. It was almost full and they found a table in the back. They sat down next to Kathy Winters from the Toy department.

        "Hey, Kathy." Starsky smiled at her, "What's up?"

        Kathy smiled a little sickly at both men. "Oh, Dave. Ken. I don't know for sure, but I've heard that one of the secretaries found a body just a little while ago." She glanced nervously toward the front doors, where more employees were being shown in. "I guess it was on the top floor, in an executive office. I even heard..." She bit off, glancing around again nervously, "I even heard that Lois Jones was in hysterics, they've had to call a doctor in to calm her down."

        Hutch glanced meaningfully at his partner. "Lois is Royston Collins secretary, isn't she?" he asked Kathy.

        Kathy nodded her head. "I guess she must have found the body. Poor thing!"

        "We may have lucked-out on this," Starsky whispered to Hutch. "If Collins was murdered, then we may be able to place the time. Pasquini must have talked to Collins to get us transferred and he's probably the one to arrange our transfer with Ms. Quincy. Homicide may be able to pinpoint a single suspect based on the time element alone."

        They were interrupted by Detective Greg Phillips, who signaled the large, full room for silence.

        "Ladies and gentlemen. I'm Detective Greg Phillips from the Homicide department. I am saddened to inform you that we have had an unfortunate incident this morning and we will need your co-operation. I'm afraid there isn't any information I can give you beyond that. We already have the names and address' of those who arrived to work this morning before and around 7:00 a.m. I would ask that anyone who arrived after that time to come forward and give me your names and address' where you can be reached during the day. We ask that you return home, stay there and we will contact you later." Detective Phillips looked around at the shocked, astonished faces. "I'm sorry, but Iverson's will not be opening for business today. Would the day-shift security guards come up first please, we'll start with you."

        The undercover detectives stood with the others. They managed to walk unselfconsciously toward the forming line and both made sure they were last. By the time they got to Detective Phillips, the room had returned to the noisy buzz of speculation and rumor.

        Phillips took their ID and pretended to copy the address down on his list. "You two book it on down to the station," Phillips whispered seriously, not looking at them. "Captain Pasquini wants you to stay undercover for now, but it looks like he's short one man." He looked up at them both. "Fatally short."

        The meaning hit Hutch like a brick. Not Collins, Gainer ! Wide-eyed, he glanced at Starsky. Obviously his partner was just as shocked as he was. They woodenly took their ID's back and strode quickly and quietly to the LTD. Neither of them needed to talk on the trip down to the station. The blond knew they both had the same questions, but no answers. What the hell had Gainer gotten into? Had his cover been blown? And, how safe is ours?


        The partner's found Captain Pasquini standing at his window, looking down into the street. He looked sick and tense. The detectives closed the door quietly and sat down, waiting for the Captain to speak. What do you say to a captain who's just lost a man? Hutch wondered. He didn't think there was much that Pasquini really wanted to hear at this point.

        "Gentlemen, I have lost a detective." Pasquini's voice was a firm, quiet and tired. "I will not lose any more." He turned to look at the men seated in his office. "We are going to close this case, tie up all the lose ends and we are going to get the bastard who killed one of my detectives. We are going to do this right." There was a quiet pause as the Captain sat down at his desk and composed himself for business. "The station desk got a call this morning from Iverson's security that a body had been found in Royston Collins' office. He'd been tentatively identified by office staff as Thomas Underwood, which is the undercover name Detective Gainer used. I was called in by Captain Lang to ID Detective Gainer at the scene. Coroner's best guess at this time is death by repeated blows to the back of the head. He'd been dead some hours. Do either one of you..." Pasquini leaned forward, hands clasped, "...know anything about Gainer's whereabouts since yesterday afternoon?"

        "No, sir." Hutch answered quietly. "Starsky and I hadn't talked to him since the meeting yesterday. We didn't even see him leave."

        Pasquini nodded his head, the news didn't seem to surprise him. "Gentlemen, Gainer was a good man, but frustrating. He was a man who didn't like to guess and was a man of habit. He wouldn't turn in anything until the package was wrapped, bow-tied and it was Christmas day. But I was unimpressed with the way he had been acting on this case. I don't usually interfere with my men's work, as I believe that a lot of police work depends on the intuitions of my detectives. But yesterday I ordered him to turn in a report on everything he knew and suspected by this afternoon. Apparently he must have felt he had some lose ends to tie up at the store. You will back up homicide on this, go through Gainer's desk and apartment. See what notes you can find. Afterwards, turn them over to Detective Phillips and his partner Detective Sanders. Give them all your help on this case, get them up to speed."

        "Did Gainer have any family?" Starsky wondered aloud. "It would help to know before we get started."

        "He was not married, but I don't know if he was dating someone seriously. You could run into someone at his apartment. I'm sure you and Phillips will handle the situation with tact." Captain Pasquini paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "I want to know what Gainer was working on, what he thought he knew. He had a reason for being at Iverson's and I want to know what he was looking for. You are to keep up the undercover assignment, on the off chance you may discover something later."

        Hutch caught Starsky's eye. We'd better tell him about the drug lead. He doesn't need us hiding anything right now.

        Starsky nodded his face looking pained. Yeah, better now than later, but he ain't gonna like it.

        "Uh, Captain..." Hutch started, feeling a bit hesitant. "We had a local dealer contact us last week about setting up shop where we live. We thought it could be useful in the future, so we uh... we, met with the dealer last night... to test the waters. If this pans out, we could see if Wayne is rumored as backing the robberies. This would also be a way to get to Jameson, if he knew we were working with Wayne." Hutch smiled weakly at the Captain. "Call it a hunch."

        "Oh, really?" Pasquini's face darkened as he stared at the two men. He obviously didn't appreciate the surprise information. "Put in an order, did you?"

        "We asked for a starter package, Cap'n," Starsky said. "They'll let us know if they can deal or not, pretty soon. Look Cap'n, it was just a thought... a long shot. We don't even know if Wayne is the main source for our area. We just poked around a little last night and we were gonna tell you today."

        Pasquini turned his chair and stared out the window for a moment. "We may need a way into Wayne's playground after all. Our men were not able to get a tail on Jameson yesterday. He didn't return to his apartment last night and he didn't park at The Rocket or any of his other possible hang-outs. We'll all be very interested to see where he says he was. Follow up on the drug angle, see if you can get to Jameson, but let Narco in on it." Pasquini smiled tiredly. "Where are you supposed to be selling?"

        "At the store." Hutch answered.

        Captain Pasquini was silent for a few more minutes. "How much play money do you need?"

        "Couple'a hundred Cap'n," Starsky replied. "Maybe more later."

        "Dobey told me you two like to play it fast sometimes, push the odds." Captain Pasquini filled out a departmental voucher and handed it solemnly to Starsky, who was nearest. He gave them both a forceful stare. "Call in your positions, make your reports, ask for backup. Don't be heroes gentlemen, we don't need that here."

        Hutch glanced at Starsky and he could tell they were thinking the same thing. They both nodded to the Captain and left.

        We don't need to be heroes, Captain, both detectives had thought. We don't want it either. But they wouldn't shy away from giving what it took. They never had.


        The pair made their first stop at Narco and filled one of the detectives in on Trudy's setup. Hutch did the honors, knowing how Starsky felt about her. They weren't surprised to find Trudy Coates was on the list of local dealers associated with Daniel Wayne and his organization. While reticent with their own information, both of the Metro detectives got the impression that she was on Narco's possible 'contact' list. They were promised Narco's full co-operation.

        The next step was to cash in the departmental voucher for the $250 Pasquini had authorized them. Since Starsky was the sure connection to Trudy, Hutch hadn't even pretended to jockey for the cash.

        Which left the one job neither man had been anxious to start, the inventory of Detective Gainer's desk. They both grabbed quick sandwiches and coffee before tackling the awkward job.

        It had taken them both only a few minutes to complete the painful business of collecting Gainer's personal items. The Robbery squadroom had been still and silent during the procedure, paying quiet homage to the passing of a fellow detective. A man's whole career and all it boils down to is one large, brown cardboard box, Hutch pondered. I almost with we could have known him better, even if we didn't see eye-to-eye.

        They had been assigned one of the smaller interrogation rooms to go through the box. They sorted the items between them and settled down to reading and scanning. Hutch was struck by Gainer's neatness. A day-book, filled with small, almost typewriter-quality handwriting spoke of a man who had a passion for neatness and order. Instead of half sentences and odd words or phrases in the margins, Hutch found only full sentences and otherwise pristine paper.

        Pages and pages of beautiful print, Hutch observed. Just like my handwriting used to be… a million years ago. He'd chided Starsky about his 'inferior' handwriting once, in their early days.


        Both Cadets were putting the long night to good use, cramming for the upcoming Police Academy exams scheduled in the next couple of days. This could be a make or break proposition and both Kenneth Hutchinson and David Starsky had been determined to earn top score. It was a favorite, but serious, game which the third part of the famous 'Corsican Brothers' had refused to play. John Colby much preferred to spend his free time with the ladies. To the rest of their class' amusement, the two contenders for top honors always chose to study together. Whether it was simply to work together, be supportive, scope out the competition, or psyche each other out, no one could quite decide. It was certainly debatable if the two Cadets themselves knew or understood the reasons they chose to tackle their assignments together.

        "Come on, Starsky!" Hutch grumbled tiredly, rubbing his eyes and trying to read the musted and smudged notes. The blond cadet been having more trouble than usual in one of the more important fieldwork classes and hoped that borrowing Starsky's notes might help to pull him through. Starsky's notebook was packed with fast-paced and cramped handwriting. Short, cryptic remarks and sentences that ran down the side of the page and ended up here and there were typical. "How the hell can I read this stuff?" Hutch complained. "You know, don’t you, that neat and legible handwriting is the sign of an orderly and disciplined mind? 'A necessity for policework'." Hutch quoted his favorite professor. "This stuff is chicken scratch. Now, what does that say about the way your mind works?" Hutch tossed the papers down, feeling more than a bit superior, if frustrated.

        Starsky shrugged, intent on his own book. His current work lay scattered around and across the table they shared. "Listen, Hutchinson, it's a fact of life. If anyone's got the time to organize, outline 'n turn out notes like some damn printing press, then he's not thinking." Starsky grinned at the other cadet. "A cop has to be constantly moving 'n studying what he's hearing and seeing, tying it all together in his head. Clues don't get strung about in a nice, orderly fashion you know. You're going to be lucky if you trip over some of 'em. It takes inventiveness, instinct and gut feelings to go from one to another. Those notes there," Starsky tapped his papers with a pencil, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, "reflect a mind grabbing information 'n going places with what it's got. Perfect for the action-packed life of a cop. Besides, if your 'pretty' notes are so much better than mine, then how come you're not using 'em?"

        Hutch realized, to his chagrin, that Starsky was right. His own notes might win a handwriting competition, but all they truly said was that he had understood very little of the instructor's lesson. Hutch vowed to himself that he'd spend the rest of the night, if necessary, learning to read the results of Starsky's break-neck thoughts and sudden inspirations.

        By the early morning hours Hutch had grudgingly come away with a new admiration for the curly-haired cadet's quick and thorough mind. But no way was he going to tell him that, the proud blond decided, although he had a sneaky suspicion that his fellow cadet already knew.

        In later years, Hutch had found himself leaving his own brand of cryptic, lopsided and haphazard notes. No time to be neat anymore, not when you've finally gotten hold of something and are close to pinning down the bad guys. He smiled to himself. Good thing Starsky and I can decipher each other's cryptic scratchings. No one else would ever be able to figure it out. Of course, that didn't stop him from taking a dig at Starsky's writing once in awhile, for old time's sake.

        But all this precision just documents the obvious and boils down to nothing. He sighed to himself. Wanting to test his impression, Hutch slid the daybook over to the other detective. "Tell me what you think," Hutch asked.

        Starsky put down his file and glanced through the last few months of the daybook. He shrugged and tossed it back. "Dates, places and times of fellow employees arrivals and departures. A basic list of their work habits. We could'a gotten that from scannin' the time cards and talkin' to their supervisors. Looks like he didn't leave anything but 'meat and potatoes' detectin' behind." Starsky handed him his own file. "He's got a copy of the employee files of all the Jewelry lab technicians and the cleaning schedules for that area, but he hasn't put in any notes, or written anything down. It's all just standard stuff as far as I can tell." The darker man also sighed.

        "Six weeks and he's got nothing here," Hutch remarked, his frustration growing. "He's got almost everyone listed, so we have no idea who he supposed to have been interested in. But you notice who's missing in all this?"

        "Aaron Jameson, the man we should'a been told about right off and April Sims, his store informant," Starsky replied, looking as if he had tasted something sour. "If he didn't mention them , there's no telling what he had up his sleeve. Hutch, we'd better drop all this stuff off with Homicide. I have a feeling if we find anything, it's gonna be at his place. He was too paranoid to leave anything around here. Let's see if Phillips is free. Man!" his partner bust out savagely. "I hate not being in Homicide on this. This is now a double murder case, 'n you know it's gotta be tied into the jewel robbery, but we're second fiddle now to Captain Lang's men. We'll be lucky if they let us have the time of day once they feel we're steppin' on their toes."

        "I don't think so, Starsk," Hutch replied honestly. He knew what his partner meant. No department likes to work with another any more than necessary. It all boiled down to protocol, pride and whether the Captains got along. "I liked Greg Phillips. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and he didn't kick up a fuss about us visiting April Sims."

        "He also hasn't seen us since then," the detective answered, gathering Gainer's lose files. "For all we know, we're both on his shit list."

        "Maybe not," Hutch replied, feeling Philips was worth the defense. "I was pretty impressed with what I saw. He didn't seem like a glory-hog, just did his job and was pretty laid back. I haven't talked to Sanders though. You know what the new guys can be like. Let's go see if they want to 'tag along'."


        Homicide Detectives Greg Phillips and Robert Sanders were at their desks. They appeared to be slogging through the familiar process of witness lists, crime scene notes and all the other 'standard procedure' routine work generated by any Homicide case. They both looked haggard and were working quietly, reflecting the seriousness of a Detective's death.

        Sanders, the younger partner, was obviously not pleased to see the two detectives from Metro. He flashed them and the cardboard box a dark look as they came in. Sanders sat stiffly at his typewriter at their approach, but he seemed to wait for Philips to take the lead.

        His toes are being stepped on, Hutch noticed with slight amusement. New guys are always overly sensitive to cross-cases. He's afraid we'll end up taking credit for their work.

        Phillips just glanced up at them tiredly and waved them over to the nearest chairs. "So, how'd it go guys?" he asked as if he knew the answer. "Find anything interesting?"

        Starsky slid the box under the table and straddled a chair next to the friendlier detective. Hutch settled on the edge of the table, trying not let his amusement show. Sanders was trying to glare at Starsky.

        Thank God for one thing, Hutch smiled to himself, I never had to try to look 'severe' with freckles....

        "Think we'd find anything?" His partner asked, obviously curious as to the answer.

        "Really? No," Phillips replied a bit sadly. "Gainer had worked Homicide for awhile when he first started here. He was never known to be a team player." The older man sighed, obviously not liking to bad-mouth the dead. "He didn't get along with anyone and went through a lot of partners. He never asked for help and was careful to keep his sources and notes hidden, even from his current partners. He always acted like the rest of us were out to steal his brownie-points. It got so bad that he was transferred to Robbery, where he could run solo without hurting anyone. It wasn't a step up for him and he knew it. It just made him worse."

        "Well, we struck out with his notes, that's for sure," Hutch remarked. "They read like a set of fake books a person saves to show the IRS. Everything's there, but what Gainer himself was following up. We're thinking of heading on to his apartment. You guys want to tag along?"

        It was, of course, a trip to be conducted under Homicide's jurisdiction and Hutch asking them along was just another way of asking if they were ready to go yet. Hutch glanced at his partner and notice him fight off a smile. Detective Sanders must have taken it as a claim on Homicide's territory as he flushed red at the question. Sanders had glanced sharply over at Phillips, apparently expecting him to make some kind of grand-stand over procedure.

        Not much of a 'share the work' type yourself yet, are you, Sanders? Hutch thought. The good ones usually drop that attitude quickly, if they have the right teacher. It's a good thing he's with Phillips. Phillips seems to be just the one to teach him the value of team-work, on all levels.

        Phillips eyed the box of items from Gainer's desk and looked over at his partner, eyeing the report-in-progress. "Yeah, I think we can handle that 'bout now. Sanders can take Gainer's items down to storage-lockup and I'll grab a few odds and ends here. We'll meet you out back in the parking lot in, oh, say ten minutes. Your car or mine?"

        "Yours!" Starsky interjected quickly and loudly, smiling at Phillips. "I wouldn't put a serial killer 'n the back of Hutch's car. It would be cruel 'n in-human." He chuckled at Sanders' shocked look. "Or maybe we should show Sanders your car, Hutch. Let 'em know what to drive when he goes undercover as a penniless derelict."

        "That's 'inhumane,' Starsky," Hutch huffed, passing the box over to Sanders. "And it's better than being chauffeured in a moving embarrassment everyday. At least I don't have a fit everytime someone gets their fingerprints all over it."

        The blond tuned out Starsky's automatic reply as they made their way through the department's door. He flashed a glance at Sanders who was leaving with the box, looking perplexed. Don't take this job too seriously, kid, Hutch thought to the younger man, or you'll end up a tight-ass like Gainer. Make good use of the lighter moments, they get fewer and farther between.

        He knew that he and Starsky could look at odds with each other to those who didn't know them well. Most partners worked out a healthy working relationship without becoming real friends. With him and Starsky, their friendship and partnership were one and the same thing and it worked itself out in strange ways sometimes. It was the jokes, puns, tricks and personal humor that kept them sane and in tune to the other's moods and thoughts. Plus, it tended to drive Dobey crazy, which was always bonus if you were quick to make yourself scarce afterwards.

        True to his word Phillips met them in the lot after ten minutes, which gave the partners time to play 'pick the car'. Phillips led the two detectives over to his car, missing Starsky's aggrieved look as they both realized Hutch had won, having picked Phillips' 'probable' car out of the lot. They piled in and Phillips called in his impending trip to Dispatch as soon as Sanders joined them.

        It was a quiet journey. Hutch was trying to think of some small talk when Phillips broke the silence.

         "Gainer never talked about his private life much," the older detective said, "but I checked his files and found him listed as single. I know he dated for awhile there, but don't know if he's been seeing anyone seriously. We could run into someone in the apartment. If so, we'll have to be careful in how we handle the situation. If we push it, we may end up doing more paperwork in order to get a search warrant, depending on who's listed on the lease."

        "I did call the landlady," Sanders chimed in with a touch of pride. They were the first words Hutch had heard from him that day. "Gainer was the only one listed on the lease and the landlady wasn't aware of anyone else living with him." Sanders leaned sideways in the seat to see the two in the back and smiled. "She seemed surprised that we would think she would 'allow such a thing.' But I was able to talk her into letting us in anytime we needed to look at the apartment."

        "Well," Hutch responded with a grin, "sounds like we have a charmer here, guys." He watched Sanders ears start to turn pink.

        "Hey, Phillips," Starsky said, getting into the teasing, "how did such an ugly guy like you get the department Romeo for a partner?"

        The elder partner smiled as he pulled up to an almost-overgrown apartment complex. "They had to balance us out somehow, guys. You can't let a lady-killer like Sanders run loose without something to hold him back. And I'm just the guy to do it."

        The three men turned their chuckles in to straight faces, as they exited the car. It was a short walk to the building and they found it a quiet area. It was shaded from the streets by a jungle wall of shrubbery and trees, with dark stone paths running from one building to another. The 'Manager' sign led to a bright and cheerful office.

        The landlady agreed to let Detective Sanders and 'his men' in without hesitation. It was always a solemn occasion, entering a dead person's apartment, but entering the department of a dead detective was even more sobering.

        Like your mother telling you to put on clean underwear, everytime you go out, Hutch pondered, taking a first look around. You never know when someone's gonna see the private side of you. The things that you really wanted to stay hidden. It struck him as he looked around that he had never worried about what others were going to think about him when he was gone. Starsky wouldn't let anything personal get out. By the time he got through with my belongings and my life, everybody would think I was clean-freak and a saint. He hadn't realized until now what a comfort that was.

        Phillips cleared his throat uneasily. "Well, gentlemen, I suggest we split up. Starsky, Hutchinson, you two take his desk, since you're the ones most familiar with his work notes. Sanders and I will run a rough inventory through the rest of the house, just in case. Let us know if you find anything."

        The Metro detectives found Gainer's work desk situated in a corner of his bedroom. It, like the rest of the house, seemed more like a hotel room rather than a place where someone lived. Everything was neat, clean and it it's place. Not a hair or sock out of alignment. Hutch sat in the desk chair and Starsky sat cross-legged on the carpet, pulling out the bottom drawer.

        The desk was neat to a fault. A blotter, phone, address book, pencil, notepad and desk calendar were all neatly arranged on the top. Hutch lifted the blotter and checked out the underside. If Gainer was paranoid about his work notes, no telling where he could have written things down. He replaced the blotter and started on the calendar. Where would one tight-assed, paranoid cop keep his secret work notes? And will we need a decoder ring?

        His partner had pulled out and was looking through what looked like current bills and phone records. "Nothing here," Starsky said, tossing the paperwork back into the drawer.

        It wasn't until he got to the third drawer that Hutch felt a tug on his sleeve.

        "Hey, look't this! I've found his journal." The detective glanced through a plain colored, hard-bound book. Hutch could see what looked to be Gainers' close-packed writing.

        "No kidding?" He replied, waiting for Starsky to finish scanning the pages. He asked sarcastically, "What's it say on the front, 'Daily Journal'?"

        "Yep," the detective answered, turning toward the last entry. "No foolin'. It's all the stuff he should'a been keepin' at the office. Who he saw, what he thought and a list of informants with address' 'n numbers in the back. Hey Phillips!" Starsky bellowed, getting up and headed for the front room with Hutch close behind.


        "We've got it!" Starsky replied, waving the journal. "Hutch 'n I'll need a copy of the past couple'a months, 'n we can do that back at the department."

        "Good enough, guys," Phillips smiled tiredly. "Let's go. We can do the rest later. Lets get the hell out of here."

        The trip back was faster. The four of them managed to badger the main office staff into making four copies of the last three months of the journal. They picked up Gainer's box from storage/lockup and took over one of the interrogation rooms.

        The journal proved a day by day account of Gainer's personal discoveries and theories. In it they found the names of April Sims, whom Gainer had listed as his informant at Iverson's. Aaron Jameson consisted of several pages. Apparently the man had a rocky credit history, but he had built up an ever increasingly lavish lifestyle. His spending patterns had been erratic, but he seemed to have curtailed his bigger splurges after the robberies started. The biggest surprise was when they came upon an entry dated three weeks before the last robbery. Gainer had trailed Jameson to a strip-club called 'The Play-Time', where Gainer had witnessed an apparent drug transaction that involved the club bouncer. Gainer had noted that money had not been exchanged at the time, so he couldn't testify to anything in court.

        "Damn!" Starsky exploded slamming his fist on the table, making everyone jump. "Look! We were right there in the *same* neighborhood. All those weeks of nothing goin' on and we could'a been playing that angle!"

        "What angle?" Phillips asked, staring up from his copy. "What the hell are you talking about?"

        Hutch told them the whole story about Trudy Coates and her laundromat deals.

        Phillips rubbed his face and shrugged. "Welcome to the world of Lonnie Gainer, gentlemen. God's gift to police work." He paused a few moments. "Well, as far as I can tell, we don't have much more than what we started with. We're just playing catch-up. Gainer knew Jameson was into something dangerous and might be connected to Daniel Wayne and his organization. Someone or something was paying his expensive bills. Jameson either made his connections or drug purchases through Ms. Coates, who seems to be the largest local supplier in the store's area. Could be Jameson made quick lunch trips to the laundromat or strip-club to make his connections, then was back at the store in time for his next meeting."

        "Jameson must have some kind of access to the security department, right?" Sanders asked, then looked sheepish, like he was afraid he had sounded stupid. "I mean he's the head honcho's secretary, right? Then wouldn't he have a way to get to what the security department was doing?"

        "And Gainer was also looking into the death of Douglas Kirk," Hutch mused aloud. "I read the last few entries. He was sure Jameson must have been blackmailing Kirk to do something with the jewels and Kirk backed out. We know that Kirk had access to the jewelry coming in from overseas, but his information on the actual shipments was sketchy. He would spot-check the items and he and his technicians would sort them for shipment, but other than knowing what store was getting what, he didn't have anything to do with the shipping arrangements or security procedures. He just locked the stuff up until he was told to get it ready to go."

        "It's gotta be somethin' April saw," Starsky continued. He tossed his copy on the table and stretched. "She said he started yellin' when she noticed somethin' in the vault. What was Kirk like to the other employees? The technicians? Did he have screaming fits?"

        Phillips nodded to Sanders, letting him take the lead.

        "Well, uh," Sanders began, obviously trying to remember the reports, "Kirk had about twenty employees working for him and we've just be able to talk to about 13 of them. The others are on vacation or off for the weekend. They don't seem to know much, other than Kirk was tense and nervous the last few months and they all seemed shocked that he and April apparently had a 'falling out'." The younger man glanced at his partner, as if wondering if he should continue. Phillips just nodded. "So far, no one noticed anything weird about the merchandise coming in. And some of them were kinda glad that April wasn't hanging around anymore. They seemed to be kinda stuck up about their lab and a lot of them didn't think she was qualified to be there."

        "Just jealousy as far as we can tell," Phillips cut in. "They didn't seem to have anything against her personally and it didn't seem to have anything to do with her messing around with anything she shouldn't have been into."

         "It must be Jameson." Hutch added after a few minutes silence. "He's got to be the connection. Jameson and Liston go overseas. They make all the big purchases. They come back, without the merchandise. When the stuff arrives, they don't see it or handle it. It goes straight to Kirk's department. If Jameson was doing something, he was doing it under his boss' nose, without having touched the stuff and he needed Kirk to pick up the ball from there."

        "Liston and Collins both know we're under," Starsky interrupted. "Liston may have let us in, but that doesn't mean he's not the security leak, or that he and Jameson didn't set all this stuff up together."

        "Could Liston be in on anything shady?" Phillips asked. "He could have some connections we don't know about. What's the word on him?"

        The Metro detectives shrugged. "We haven't seen anything so far and Gainer doesn't seem to have anything on him," Starsky replied. "If Liston was the source, or had some connections, he's visible enough that we'd have been able to find some kinda of mark on him somewhere. But we can't rule him out."

        "What I don't understand," Sanders sighed, tossing his pencil down on the table, "is why drag Kirk into anything anyway? If you have a source for the shipment information, why would they need Kirk? You just steal the stuff. What was so special about those items? What were they, priceless moon rocks or something?"

        "Fakes," Hutch answered. "I figure they must have been fake to have tipped April off. Something was wrong with a least one piece. But other than that..."

        "Kickbacks!" Starsky exclaimed suddenly, startling the room by jumping to his feet. "Listen! If you steal jewelry, unless you can deal it yourself, you gotta have a fence. That fence isn't gonna give you more than squat compared to the retail value of the item. Right? Then he passes it on and he gets his profit and so on. But the guy who originally stole it always gets the shaft. He can't sell or pawn it legally, but he took the heat to get it. Same with the big guys, as they have to take a lower price than what the next guy can get. But to steal fake or sub-standard stuff would be real stupid. No money anywhere in that. So what if the shipments that were stolen weren't taken for their value, but to hide the fact that they weren't valuable at all?"

        "I'm lost." Sanders replied, looking confused and more than a little defensive. "None of that makes any sense."

        "No, no, look," Starsky continued, pacing with excitement. "Jameson and Liston go overseas. They shop around and order massive quantities of the real good stuff. The store pays part now, part on delivery, when the items are inspected. But Jameson makes a deal, say, without Liston knowin' 'bout it. He arranges for 'em to throw in fake or damaged stuff and he and the supplier split the difference between what the store paid for and the cost of the stuff they really sent. Big bucks with deals this big. More cash than you'd get from a fence for those same items. Kirk knows it's comin' in and'll pass it along, making sure it all gets shipped to the same store. That store never gets the stuff, 'cause it gets robbed on the way in. Jameson gets a wad of cash and gets home before the stuff even arrives. The fake stuff has gotta be stolen, so no one finds out the store didn't get what it paid for."

        "Which would explain why nothing's been found." Hutch smiled, picking up on his partner's brain-storm. "If they're fakes, there's no use bothering with them. Just chuck them in a box or toss them in the ocean. We know Jameson spends more than he makes. He has a drug connection. He probably owes Daniel Wayne some big money. He comes back from overseas with the money to pay Wayne off, blackmails Kirk into playing along and somehow tips Wayne off to the shipments. Wayne has the connections and the manpower to pull the robberies off and gets to pocket Jameson's kickback money, keeping Jameson in place to run the scam over and over again."

        "It might work for one or two robberies," Phillips added, scratching his face thoughtfully, "but you couldn't keep it up very long. I don't think they make the buying trips that often. And keeping track of the incoming and outgoing shipments would get to be a monster."

        "Well, Kirk's death means that someone didn't want him around anymore," Starsky remarked. "Either he was backing out on his part, or his part was over. As nervous as he was toward the end, he must have known he was in danger. He may have been kicking about being blackmailed, wanted a bigger cut of the cash, or was afraid he'd be taken out."

        "Any idea on when we'll have a reply on the fingerprint check for Kirk?" Hutch asked Phillips.

        Phillips thought for a moment. "I know the prints were sent out first thing this morning. It takes awhile. If we're lucky we might hear something by tomorrow afternoon."

        "What about Jameson? Where does he say he was last night?" Hutch questioned.

        Phillips looked at his notebook. "Detective Sumners was to talk to him this afternoon, let me go and see where he is and what he's got." The elder detective left the room and the other three took advantage of the break to stretch and move about. It wasn't long before the detective returned smiling.

        "Gentlemen, I think we've found something," Phillips announced, looking pleased. "According to Sumner's report, he talked to Jameson first thing this morning, careful to not let him know he was one of the first on our list. It seems Jameson has been spending quite a lot of time in the company of Ms. Marcia Quincy." Phillips nodded toward the undercover detectives. "That Wally friend of yours was right when he saw them in the car together. I guess they've been dating on the sly for some time and last night he apparently stayed the night. He stayed the entire evening and night it seems. He has an alibi for Sunday from about 3:00 p.m. 'til 6:30 a.m. this morning."

        "She's Head of Security of the local Branch of Iverson's," Starsky told Sanders with a grin as he saw him check his notes. "Our beloved boss, 'n one step down from Royston Collins. She only handles the in-store stuff, which doesn't cover the jewelry transportation."

        "And if anyone could get the security information needed to rob a shipment, Quincy could," Hutch added. "If she felt it was to her advantage. But I would have guessed that she wouldn't have settled for Jameson. She's more likely to cultivate someone with more clout. Like a board member. Jameson couldn't do much for her at the store."

        "But she would make our connection," Phillips remarked. "It's a pretty convenient alibi for them both. But Sumners seemed to think Ms. Quincy was none too happy to have been used as an alibi for anyone. Seems she doesn't like her playmates known around work and is afraid it'll get around. Looks like Mr. Jameson may be out one girl friend."

        "So, where do we go next?" Sanders questioned.

        "It's after 6:00 p.m. now." Phillips sighed and stretched. "We'll let the evening shift trace down all the other store employees and take their statements. Give them something to do. You and I'll call it a night." He stood and started to gather his things, nodding toward Starsky and Hutch. "You guys keep your ears open at the store tomorrow. I hear they'll open as usual, so you'll get to field all the gossip. Maybe we can put both ends together and get this done the easy way for once. Just watch your backs."

        They all parted company amicably after checking in all of Gainer's belongings.

        "Time for dinner!" Starsky announced to his partner as they made their way to the visitors lot. If anyone asked, they were just here paying off Ken's parking tickets.

        "You just ate, Starsk," the blond replied with disgust. "I saw those candy bars in the hallway, you know. If we wait for awhile, we could check around the Play-Time and have a late bite at home."

        "I said dinner ," Starsky replied with force, taking his place in the LTD. "Not a 'snack', not a 'bite', but a full-fledged, sit-down-'til-I'm-wedged-in-the-chair meal. I need something heavy, with lots of meat and calories. Besides, we shouldn't be out and around tonight. Trudy will get nervous if we push."

        "Yeah, you're right." Hutch sighed. "We'd better take a break if we're going to be house-sitting for awhile. And early dinner and straight home then. And since it's your night to cook, I vote it's your treat."

        "Fine," Starsky replied with a mischievous glance. "But don't be surprised to find you're on a new diet consisting of water, a small salad and a an orange slice for dessert."


        After a dutch dinner of steak, potato and salad, the detectives made their way back to their apartment for the evening. Starsky had relented and they came home with a box of donuts, his treat, for dessert. They had settled down to a quiet evening of TV and reading. The smaller man had seemed thrilled with the evening's TV lineup, claiming he had missed all the good stuff by working nights.

        After finding a comfortable reading position while sharing the lumpy couch with his partner, Hutch ignored both him and the TV and blissfully escaped into the written word for the evening, munching contentedly on a whole-grain, low-sugar donut.

        It was just after 10:00 p.m. when they both jumped at the timid knock at the door. Glancing around quickly, Starsky made sure everything was ready and took in Hutch's nod. He opened the door to find Trudy standing shyly in the hallway.

        "Hey, doll!" Starsky gave her a brilliant smile. "Come on in."

        Hutch moved over to the windowsill when he saw it was Trudy. No use me getting close enough to make her nervous, he thought. She's definitely Starsky's girl.

        "Hey, Guys! Only got a few minutes." Trudy gave them both a smile. As usual, her eyes were all for Starsky, who waved her toward the couch. She glanced around, obviously taking in the sad state of the apartment and their meager belongings. She nodded slightly to Hutch, then took a seat on the couch. She absolutely beamed when Starsky settled next to her. "I talked to my people and they are interested in some new areas," she said. "They were real interested in seeing what you guys can do around the store."

        "That's great!" Starsky put his arm around her shoulders, giving her a half hug. "Ken and I really appreciate you goin' to bat for us. What's the set-up?"

        "First thing, guys, is I'm out of it." She glanced uneasily at Hutch, who flashed her a sweet smile. "I don't know you guys from Adam when it comes to buyin' and sellin' and you'll make your pickups from Troy, he's the night manager of one of the 24-hour porn shops down on the strip 'n Troy is expecting you 'bout 1:00 a.m. to get you started so don't be late 'cause it makes him real nervous so be real nice and don't get smart with him." She paused and drew a breath and both of the guys found themselves gasping with her. "It's right down on the strip and it's called the Midnight Sexpress down on Mitchell, it's, you know, real easy to find, but don't be obvious or try to talk to him while he's busy, just tell him you're Dave and Ken, Trudy's friends and you wanna know if he's got any of the really kinky magazines, then he'll know who you are 'n what you want."

        Starsky flashed Hutch a quick glance. They had both caught the name of the shop. It was the same porn shop Jameson had gone to Saturday night to make his connection to Daniel Wayne's men. We just got a key to the treasure chest! He grinned. Time to go for broke, Starsky.

        "Listen, doll, we've got some definitely interested people and some nibbles at the store, but we don't wanna step on any toes," The darker man said to the lady, keeping his tone light. "We think we've got a clear field, but there's a guy at the store we saw..." He let the sentence go, gesturing toward Hutch to catch the other end.

        "If we've got competition, Trudy, we'd like to know it now," Hutch said quietly, now looking seriously at the girl. "We wouldn't appreciate having to share territory."

        Trudy suddenly stiffened. "I don't know who you're taking about, you two are the only ones I know who even come close to covering that..." She began, starting to wring her hands. She glanced pleadingly toward Starsky.

        She knows something about someone at the store, Hutch thought. She's scared to let us in. Or she's been ordered to stay quiet.

        Starsky, with an arm still around her shoulder, gave the girl a pat on the back. "It's a big-wig named Jameson, Aaron Jameson, that we're concerned about." He shrugged, "If he's in the big time, heavy stuff, we just want to know to stay out of his way, leave his customers alone. We wouldn't want to piss him off by undercutting him."

        Trudy relaxed a bit, studying the floor. Obviously trying to decide what she could or should say. She sighed. "Listen guys, he's heavy, but not with the drugs, as far as I know, you've got a clear field and you don't have to worry about cutting in on him or anything like that, since he doesn't sell, but...." She suddenly cut herself off and glanced at Starsky.

        "You mean he works for the boss too?" Starsky asked casually. "All of us just Mr. Wayne's employee, huh? One big, happy family."

        It was as if a balloon suddenly deflated and Trudy relaxed back into Starsky's arm.

        She's off the hook now, the blond mused, Starsky's said the magic word. She knows that we know about Wayne.

        "Yeah," Trudy replied, looking totally relaxed. "He's Wayne's man too, but he's into something big 'cause they're treating him with kid gloves at The Rocket, but he was kicked out of there awhile ago and I was told he wasn't to get any drugs through me anymore, even though the boss used to say let him ride as much as he wanted, I guess he's been cut off 'cause the boss wants him clear 'n clean for some reason."

        "He bought through you?" Hutch asked, giving her a small smile. "He liked your show too, huh?"

        "Couldn't tell by me," Trudy said. She sat silent for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Actually, he used to come by at lunch to the laundromat to order from the menu and come in just long enough at the club to pickup from Jay-Jay at the door. He must have thrown some really wild parties now and then as he really racked up the tab there for awhile and now he's suddenly something special. But anytime you guys wanna branch out around here, you all let me know, 'cause I'm still interested in cutting down and if Jameson gets put back on the 'good-times' list you can have him and good riddance." She glanced at her watch. "Aw, man! Gotta go and get ready for the next show, but you all know where to find me, so come back down and see me dance again real soon, 'cause I gotta new act I'm workin' on." She patted Starsky's knee and stood up.

        The darker man got up with her and walked her to the door.

        "Walk me down, Dave?" Trudy asked him, slipping her hand into the crook of his arm.

        "Sure, doll," Starsky answered, throwing a whadda'ya-gonna-do shrug at his partner, as he escorted Tracy out of the apartment door.

        Hutch watched from the window as the two made their way down the street to the strip-club. They walked slowly and he could tell they were talking by the way they moved. He left the window to wondered around the room, picking up their evening mess and placed Starsky's left-over donuts on the counter for his breakfast. He surveyed the room, feeling a bit lonely.

        I could make a comeback as 'The Invisible Man, Hutch thought with a touch of self-pity. Either they totally ignore me, go out of their way to hassle me, or they can't wait to get away from me. So far, this hasn't been one of the more fun undercover assignments.

        Unable to stand still, he wondered over to the window. He could just make out the form of Starsky among the still crowded sidewalk, obviously on his way home. He could see by the set of Starsky's shoulders that the man was unhappy and feeling low.

        Come on Hutchinson, can the self-pity crap, He chastised himself, suddenly embarrassed by the direction of his earlier thoughts. This is hardest on Starsky, leading her on like this. She started out as his friend and now she has to be a case. He knows it isn't going to get any easier, the farther in we go.

        He had just returned to the couch when he heard Starsky at the door. "So? How was the walk? Did she say anything more about Jameson?" the blond asked casually.

        His partner gave him a half smile, as he settled on the arm of the couch. "Nah. Just walked her back to the Play-Time. She was wantin' to know if I liked the stuff I took home the other night. In fact," Starsky grinned wickedly, "she offered me a 'sample' of some of her other wares."

        "Oh, really?" Hutch yawned broadly, glancing at his watch. "And you're back after what, 15 minutes? Well, I can see you're back up to speed." He yelped and ducked as a couch pillow barely missed his head.