This story is the third in a series. The first story is Bound to the Law, which is in the Classics section. The second story is Bound to the Law II: Pierced by Circumstance in Late Models. Comments on this story can be sent to: Dawnrca@earthlink.net
On the drive over there was considerable debate about how to approach Mr. Buchanon. It would have been much easier to question him at his place of business, wherever that was but since it was Sunday his family might be around the apartment, which complicated matters. Neither detective wanted to bring up the subject of his submission in front of a probably oblivious wife. In truth Everett Buchanon was the prime suspect in a murder case even though Starsky did not consider him so. Therefore they could be walking a tricky path between accusing him of a crime and possibly revealing more about his private life than he would want his family to know.
"This whole thing makes me itchy." Starsky fidgeted. His backside still hurt though not nearly as badly as the night before. He was beginning to accept the idea that if they continued with BDSM, he might have this level of discomfort frequently. It was a disturbing revelation and one that demanded further thought. Even if he wanted the two parts of his life to be totally segregated from one another, there was no way around the fact that it was an impossible feat. If he got beaten, he was going to hurt for several days afterwards. That was a given. Could he live with that was the question. He almost wanted to take Everett Buchanon aside and ask him how he dealt with it. How many people had he let in on his dirty little secret? How did he go on with normal activities, remembering what had happened a day or a night before when he'd been tied, or tortured or beaten? It was scary. Starsky had been scared enough on that first Saturday afternoon, coming in out of the rain to meet Hutch in a stranger's home to embark on a totally new adventure in their sex lives. Bondage. Submission. Acceptance that he had no control. Those were nothing compared to the realization that he had to live his regular life as normally as possible even when he was still bearing his master's marks.
"Just as long as you don't scratch." Hutch glanced over at his partner, then back to the road. He was driving the battered LTD since they had detoured over to Leather Jungle after breakfast to retrieve his car before they'd driven into work. The Torino was now parked at Parker Center for the day.
"There's Allansdale Way." Starsky pointed to a street lined with old palm trees. This was the kind of neighborhood where movie stars used to live before they purchased their big houses. Old elegant apartment buildings sat back from the sidewalk, fronted by expanses of lawn and little brick paths. Buchanan's complex proved to be a building whose heyday must have been the roaring twenties. The plasterwork was carved with cavorting nymphs and geometric borders. Marble steps led up to the glass front door accented with ornate gilt framing.
The first dilemma was how to get inside. A peek through the door revealed no doorman sitting inside, so they had to make do with the intercom. Long experience with those infernal contraptions made them leery of announcing themselves. That usually just resulted in the subject in question taking a powder out the back way.
"Think if we ring he'll let us in?" Starsky asked mischievously. He rang a number at random, hoping that some unsuspecting soul would just buzz them in without asking who it was.
Hutch waited expectantly but there was no answering buzz or indignant voice over the speaker. "Number two's not at home." He was just about to press another button, but stopped with his finger extended. Starsky followed Hutch's gaze, looking past the filigree work on the glass front door to the lobby. Everett Buchanan was just coming out of the old fashioned elevator at the back of the room.
"You mean we got lucky?" Starsky squeaked.
"This goes right, partner and you definitely will get lucky," Hutch promised, his voice husky with sex.
"I'm rubbing my rabbit's foot right now." Starsky could feel himself responding to Hutch's words, the ardor in his blood percolating. He knew without a shred of doubt that this was his night to be the aggressor. This only added to the sudden discomfort in the fit of his pants, and he tried thinking about ice cubes and really boring stakeouts to keep his treacherous body in line. It made things infinitely more difficult to interrogate a suspect with a boner.
"Mr. Everett Buchanan?" Hutch asked pleasantly holding up his detective's shield. "I'm Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, and this is Detective Sergeant Starsky, may we have a word with you?"
"What's this about?" The barrel-chested man looked between the two men and then his heavy lidded gray eyes widened with obvious recognition. Starsky realized with a tight little twist in his belly that just as he'd recognized Buchanan as a submissive when he'd seen him across the room at L'Etoile, Buchanan could probably see the same thing in him. The look in the banker's eyes said he knew exactly who Starsky was. It took a hell of a lot of self-control for Starsky to keep a professional decorum. His guts were churning, his mouth dry. Was it that obvious to everyone or was it simply because Buchanan had seen them in the restaurant?
"It's about her, isn't it?" Buchanan whispered hoarsely. "Carlysle? Because of the other night?"
"You've heard she was murdered?" Hutch asked carefully.
"I've been in a quandary all morning. I'm afraid to ask anyone about it, because they'd wonder why I...but my God...who could do that to her? She...I adored her."
"Is there somewhere we could talk to you?" Starsky found his voice at last.
"Yes, this isn't exactly private is it? Not in my apartment, my wife is upstairs, but I had to get away. Actually, I'm almost glad you came, I needed to talk to someone about her." He scrutinized them more closely, "You're cops but you're...?" He let the question dangle, obviously too polite to say what they all had in common.
"That's not the issue right now," Hutch said with authority. "Will you go down to headquarters with us?"
"Am I under arrest?"
"No; you are a suspect but this is just preliminary questioning," Hutch answered, his arms crossed across his chest.
"I... You suspect me of killing her?" He looked anguished. "I would never have touched her like that--ever."
Glancing at Hutch, Starsky conveyed a sort of I-told-you-so without ever saying a word. "We believe you wouldn't harm her, we still need to ask some questions. Where can you talk to us if your apartment is off limits?"
"Can we go to my club? That's where I was headed. They have...private rooms." He laughed nervously. "Well, that came out wrong. They have places where we can talk privately."
"Terrific, we'll drive." Starsky gestured to the car with a grimace. "The city's finest accommodations."
Except for Buchanan's quiet directions, the ride over was silent. His club turned out to be one of the ritziest in the city, a building Starsky doubted he would have been allowed inside under any other circumstances. They had a well-known policy excluding those of the wrong color or religion. The doorman practically sneered when Starsky and Hutch followed Buchanan into the inner sanctum, but let them through without comment.
After Buchanan had ordered a whiskey on the rocks for himself, they were entrenched in a small room with heavy draperies and leather furniture. Just the place for a discussion about a dominatrix.
"I had nothing to do with her...death," Buchanan began without preamble. "When I heard the news this morning I was distraught. She was amazing...but you must have known?"
"We had met her, nothing more," Hutch stressed. "We need to know an exact time table of your whereabouts and what you did with her."
"When did you get together? At her house or at the restaurant?" Starsky added.
"I've gone to L'Etoile with her before," he answered, talking a healthy drink of the alcohol. "We met at her home and got to the restaurant about eight o'clock. We stayed an hour or so."
"What did you have to eat?" Hutch asked, pulling out a pad of paper to take notes on. As usual he couldn't locate a pen. Starsky produced the one from his leather jacket pocket that he kept specifically just for Hutch. His blond partner flashed him an apologetic grin and started jotting down what Buchanan told them.
"She ordered duck and wild rice," he said, verifying what the coroner's report had said. "She always orders for the both of us. I eat what's left."
Starsky held his tongue, feeling vaguely queasy. Was this what submission was supposed to be like? Totally submerging any shred of decision making and bowing to the dominant's every whim?
"After you left?" Hutch prompted.
"We went to her place. Do I have to describe what we do there?" He sounded desperate and Starsky didn't blame him. The last thing he'd ever want to do is have to disclose intimate details of what he and Hutch did together.
"Not everything, but it is necessary to know what you two were doing in the hours before she died."
"I swear I had nothing to do with that!" he cried out, his thick fingers clutching the tumbler so hard Starsky was afraid it would break. "How could I kill her? My mistress?' He turned towards Starsky, his face bleak and trembling. "You understand, don't you? You're like me, I know. I wanted to spend every moment with her...I would never raise one finger to hurt her."
"We need proof, though," Starsky said shakily. "We have your fingerprints at the scene." They hadn't actually identified all the dozens of latent prints found in the playroom, but Buchanan's were sure to be amongst them. Starsky shivered inwardly, his belly a vat of acid. He didn't want to be like Buchanan, pathetic and terrified at the same time. Just because he let Hutch dominate him, did that put him in the same category with the quaking Buchanan? Starsky wanted to bolt from the room, but he didn't let any of the emotions roiling under the surface show on his face. "Tell us what you did after you went to Carlysle's home."
"She...tells me what to do." He faltered, finishing the drink and wiping his face with a cocktail napkin. "Could I get another drink?"
"Not until you've answered our questions," Hutch said sternly. Buchanan was a true submissive, just Hutch's demeanor and authoritarian manner was enough to bring him in line.
"I get undressed," he said softly. "At the door. Not allowed inside with my clothes on."
Starsky shivered, swallowing the saliva that pooled in his throat. He could almost tell what the man was going to say next and feared that he'd be unable to listen to the whole litany of Carlysle's domination over Buchanan.
"Go on," Hutch encouraged.
"She told me to wait on my knees in the playroom. At the back of the house, while she changed."
"What was she wearing before?"
"But you saw her?" He flinched at Hutch's glare. "A low cut, very tight, black velvet dress and high heels. She changed into a leather pants suit--like Cat Woman would wear. She nearly always wore that when...I was there."
"Did she have a mask or anything covering her face?" Starsky asked.
"No," he looked confused, then continued his narrative. "She ties me up and..." He almost whimpered. "Do I have to tell you the rest?"
"No," Hutch conceded. "Did she mark you in any way?"
"I don't like the whips. The last domme I went to whipped me; I was afraid my wife would see the marks, so I left her."
"Did you mark Carlysle?" Starsky asked in Hutch's wake.
"I couldn't." Buchanan raised his glass as if hoping there was more in it, then put it down again. "I...she only ties me up. That's all. I never touch her."
"In her datebook, she has written 'P.B.' at 7pm' is that you?"
"She called me..." He blushed, a pink flush giving credence to the nickname. "Pink Bunny," he whispered. "I had to answer to it; she said slaves don't have proper names."
"Was that it? How long were you together?" Hutch demanded quickly, glad to have the nickname confirmed. If this case had to go to court, they needed concrete proof, not just their own guesses about the facts. Of course, he'd hate to have to pull some of the other notable figures on Carlysle's list into the daylight. She'd had some powerful clients.
"I left just after eleven. She was alive. She was...so beautiful. So alive." Tears wetted his cheeks, and he used the cocktail napkin to blot them up. "She was the best domme I ever went to."
"You've been to others?" Starsky seized this remark.
"Yes, two. One just before Carlysle and one years ago."
"What were their names?" Hutch leaned forward, causing Buchanan to shrink back.
"Um--Mistress Sabrina and Caress."
"When did you start coming to Carlysle?" Starsky interjected not giving any indication that he recognized one of the names.
"Early in January. It was the best decision I'd ever made. I can't believe she's...gone. What will I do now?"
"Where were you between midnight and three a.m.?" Hutch persisted.
"Is that when she...I was at home, in bed with my wife."
"Can she verify this?"
"Oh, God, you can't ask her about this. She's a fine Christian woman, in the ladies aid guild. This would ruin her; she'd divorce me." He was pleading, the despair plain on his face. "She doesn't know what I do."
"Can she verify that you were home with her?" Hutch said tonelessly. "We would only tell her it was part on an ongoing investigation into the death of someone you worked with, but we need to know."
"Am I a suspect?" he asked again, "Do I need my lawyer?"
"Do you want one?" Hutch asked shrewdly. "Do you want to be cuffed and taken down to headquarters?"
As soon as the words were out of Hutch's mouth, Starsky knew he shouldn't have said them. The slight flush that colored Buchanan's heavy cheeks was arousal. He definitely wanted to be cuffed by the handsome blond detective.
"Answer Detective Hutchinson's questions," Starsky snapped, a sudden surge of possessiveness coloring his words. He had no doubt that Buchanan would pick up on it.
"If you have to tell my wife, my marriage is ruined," he said so quietly Starsky had to strain to hear him. "But I'm telling the truth. I left at eleven. I didn't see anyone else there and my mistress was alive."
"Can you describe how she was murdered?" Hutch took up the interrogation once again.
"The news said a sword..."
"What did it look like?"
"Like?" He frowned, the tears still visible on his face. "I don't know."
"How was she situated when she died? Where was the sword?" Starsky machine-gunned the questions to keep him off balance.
"I don't know. I don't have a sword. I don't own a gun. I swear she was alive."
"We may have to talk to you again but for now you're free to go," Hutch said abruptly. "We will strive to keep your wife out of it, but don't leave town until the investigation is concluded."
"I understand," Buchanan whispered, watching Hutch with all the signs of a man caught up in a rapture.
"We'll be in touch; we have your home number, but I need your office as well," Hutch said neutrally.
"California First Bank," the man supplied, confirming Starsky's assumption that he was a banker. It was the clothes, total banker attire. Even today, on his day off, he was more formally dressed that Starsky ever managed even when he had to testify in court. A pale blue Izod shirt coordinated perfectly with darker blue slacks and a Member's Only jacket. The picture of a rich man relaxing at his club. Although Everett Buchanan didn't exactly look relaxed. He still wore the stunned expression he'd had when they'd approached him at the apartment building. More and more however, he seemed to be gravitating towards Hutch as if held sway by his presence, which irritated Starsky no end. He wondered idly if the club would revoke the man's membership if they found out about Carlysle. Or maybe the place was full of dominants and submissives, ready to break out the whips and collars on a Friday night. There was already enough leather in this one room to quality as a hang out for the more serious leather clad bondage types.
"Starsky?" Hutch's slightly annoyed tone showed he'd spoken the name more than once while Starsky was daydreaming. "Let's get out of here."
The doorman muttered what sounded suspiciously like good riddance when they left. Starsky had the overwhelming urge to track mud on the flawlessly clean floors or toilet paper the front drive. Something very juvenile to dishevel the man's condescending manner, but he accompanied Hutch out to the car only turning back to briefly stick out his tongue at the astonished doorkeeper.
"He didn't do it." Hutch banged his fist on the roof of the car.
"No' Starsky you were right'?"
"You were right," Hutch sighed reaching out to ruffle his hair. Starsky leaned into the long fingers for a second before sliding into the car. "That leaves the other alternative."
"Caress and Domi-trex unless there's someone out there we just haven't heard about yet."
"He said he left Caress to go to Carlysle. I cannot believe one woman would be so petty as to kill another over something as trivial as that."
"You consider it trivial..." Starsky mused. "She may not have."
"C'mon, Starsky. It's her business, not a love triangle."
"I dunno, I was kinda getting some weird vibes off ol'Everett in there, and it was makin' me feel real territorial."
"Really?" Hutch asked with a bemused expression. He quietly laid one hand on Starsky's blue-jeaned knee, staking his territory without saying a word.
"So now what?" Starsky asked to keep his mind off the weird thoughts he kept running into in the back of his brain. He hated being this intertwined in the case. It sent his objectivity out the window and left him over identifying with the victim. And some of the suspects.
"The two women."
"Caress or Domi-trex...a'course, Buchanan threw in a new one there," he lowered his voice dramatically, "Mistress Sabrina. Bet she's a witch, huh?'"
"You must be a riot at parties," Hutch deadpanned.
"Eeeny, meeny, miney moe." Starsky ticked off on his fingers. "Catch a dominatrix by the toe, if she hollers, let her go..."
"Somehow that rhyme takes on a whole different meaning." Hutch gave a snort of laughter, putting on sunglasses before starting up the car. "I wouldn't let her go unless she gave her safeword."
"Caress is closer and since Buchanan mentioned her, I think she's the first stop."
"You're driving." Starsky settled back, feeling unaccountably tired despite having gotten a good night's sleep. They had managed to obtain copies of the business licenses for the women in question, and had both been startled to find that Caress' legal name was Jeanne Tatsumi. A Japanese last name to go with the Katana sword?
Caress was utterly beautiful in a china doll, exotic way. Barely five feet tall, she had the face of a Geisha minus the white mime paint. At first glance Starsky couldn't believe someone that tiny and fragile looking could possibly dominate a full-grown man. Then she flashed those black almond shaped eyes at him and the full force of her power slammed into him. She might be small, but like a poisonous spider she radiated a tough, undefeatable strength. This was no delicate Japanese flower but a pint-sized warrior ready for battle. It took no stretch of the imagination to think of her wielding a whip over the portly Buchanan's bare back.
Holding up their badges in perfect unison, Starsky and Hutchinson introduced themselves according to regulations. Just by looking at Caress, there was no doubting she was a stickler for regulations. Even so, she appeared less than impressed.
"What possible reason could you have for disturbing my peace?" she demanded, holding the front door of her green house open only part way.
"Ma'am," Starsky began politely, but standing close enough to invade her personal space, "you may have heard about the death of Elizabeth Carlysle this morning?" Despite his bravado, he was more than glad to have Hutch's solid presence backing him up. The tiny woman was more terrifying than some gun-toting career criminals he'd met.
Caress' unwavering gaze pinned him in his place like a frog being pithed in a high school science class. She simmered anger, then without warning her resolve wavered for just a moment. For a split second her full bottom lip trembled, and tears sparkled in her jet eyes, but just as quickly her face resumed its tough facade as if nothing had happened. She blinked, then held the door open wider. "I didn't want to believe it. Come into my home. What does this have to do with me?" Her manner of speaking was extremely formal, but there was no trace of any Japanese accent. She was probably all American, as evidenced by the plain T-shirt and jeans she wore.
Her house was a perfect mix of East meets West. A couch upholstered with a peach raw silk printed with a faint pattern of fans covered one side of the room and the rest of the furnishings seemed to echo the colors taken from the couch and an ornate peach and pale blue Chinese rug on the floor. Pictures of geishas, samurai and lovely ladies in kimonos decorated the eggshell colored walls and a huge curved sword was mounted in a place of honor over the fireplace.
Starsky glanced over at his partner, noting the handsome weapon festooned with red silk tassels. It wasn't the same as the one found in Carlysle's sternum, but it was certainly very similar.
"We've been in contact with the last client Carlysle...entertained on Friday night, before she was murdered," Hutch explained. "And he was also a client of yours."
"Was there any animosity between you and Carlysle?" Starsky tossed in quickly, vastly uncomfortable standing there in the Oriental palace. "Any competition?"
"Between Carlysle and I? Hardly." She laughed so haughtily even Hutch seemed to shrink back. "I would never kill another human, if that's what you're implying. I abhor killing. Pain and torture are a different matter entirely."
"Yes, ma'am." Starsky swallowed, determined not to let this tiny little thing intimidate him, but unlike his initial reaction to Carlysle, he had no fantasies about bowing down before Caress. She was too damned frightening, but with a strangely human side that peeked out every once in a while. "Did you know Carlysle?"
"I knew her." She looked up at him, her black eyes like twin bottomless wells that he could so easily drown in. She placed a miniature hand on the flat expanse of his T-shirt covered abdomen and slid her palm up his body, and gave a small shove. "Sit down, Sergeant."
Starsky couldn't help but do so, her push propelling him back onto the couch. Hutch followed suit without any help from the domme. Was it really that obvious that Starsky submitted to his partner?
"I trained Carlysle." Caress touched Hutch's blond hair with a butterfly caress. "You could be her brother. She was one of my best friends, and you will never begin to understand the depth of my grief at her loss. But I grieve in private. It is up to you to catch her killer." One hand pressed against her lips as if she was imposing her own formidable will on her own emotions. Starsky noticed she wore a ring on nearly every finger, each with a different semi-precious jewel. Her hand flashed with faceted color, the over-all effect dazzling to the eye, especially since she was dressed in such an ordinary fashion.
"You were her teacher?" Hutch asked softly, trying not to break the mood. Starsky could see his own surprise reflected in his best friend's eyes--Carlysle could have broken Caress in two with one hand tied behind her back.
"Carlysle was my friend." She finally got her emotions under strict control, sitting down daintily in a large overstuffed chair that only emphasized her tinyness. "For many years she'd been active in the scene, and as I began to train her as a domme, she attracted more and more subs. I wasn't in competition with her--far from it, I was happy and supportive that she'd found her place."
"Then the fact that Everett Buchanan left you for her didn't anger you?" Hutch questioned.
"On the contrary--I realized Everett wasn't happy with my level of domination. A really good domme knows her sub's heart." She looked straight at Starsky. "My slaves receive strict, heavy discipline and most learn to beg for more."
Starsky met her obsidian gaze, not daring to disagree with her assessment of her own services. She was without a doubt the scariest and most seductive woman he'd ever met. Carlysle had been a pussycat next to this exotic beauty.
"Carlysle had her own strengths but whipping wasn't one of them," Caress continued. "There's an art to swinging the arm so the tip of the lash strikes the skin just so, leaving a perfect welt in just the spot you desire."
Shifting in his seat, Starsky could feel the heat rise up over his still bruised butt. Hutch had been using a strap, which left no real welts and for that Starsky was truly grateful.
"So there was no competition between you--just two dommes working side by side." Hutch raised his blond eyebrows. "So, where were you between midnight and three a.m."
Caress gave no indication this question angered her; her face was a perfect mask. "In my bed. I can even give you a witness to that."
"Yeah?" Starsky spoke up. "Who?"
"Someone you will believe without question," she said primly. "But you must first promise me one thing."
"Lady, we don't have to do..." Hutch stood menacingly.
"I knew you were the more dominant of the two." She gave him a fey smile when his blue eyes blazed cold fire. "Sit down, Sergeant. My slave works in a very public office and cannot..." she stressed the word with tight consonants, "be subjected to ridicule, scorn or condemnation. You will not use her name in any report."
Even Hutch was silent, but finally Starsky jumped into the breech. "Who is this slave you were with? We'll make our own decisions about her character."
"You know her and work with her," Caress said simply. "I know your minds are now revolving like hamsters on a wheel trying to figure out to whom I'm referring, but first I must stall a moment longer."
"Listen, Caress, we haven't got all day," Hutch spat out between clenched teeth. "You say you didn't kill Carlysle, you claim she was your friend, which we have only your word on, and yet there, right in front of us, hangs a twin to the sword she was killed with."
"If the scabbard was empty you might have a point," Caress pointed out calmly. "But, the sword is in place. That is a real samurai sword and if the blade cleared the scabbard, I would have had to let the weapon taste blood, but I have not, and will never do so." She laughed strangely. "It's not my kink."
"So who is your witness?" Hutch snapped, obviously annoyed to have been so blatantly played for a fool.
"Have you heard of a full time master/slave relationship?" she asked obliquely.
"No." Starsky's heart gave a lurch. There was so much to this BDSM universe he had to learn. Beside him, Hutch nodded his head. "What's this got to do with the case?" Starsky continued.
"My slave is my slave whether we are in the house together or not. She is always under my control and protection--always. I will not tolerate hearing anything negative about her once you discover her secret."
"I'm aware of how that kind of relationship can work, but I've never heard it stated like that before," Hutch said. "You obviously love this woman, but if she's your slave, wouldn't she lie for you?"
"Not without suffering the consequences of her actions." Caress stood, her perfect black hair swinging out like a cape behind her. "I will go fetch her from her duties. We talked about this the moment we heard about Carlysle. My slave has agreed to speak privately but not on public record. You will understand why when you meet her."
"We're waiting." Hutch's anger was visible in every line of his body, the corded blood vessels in his neck pulsing with tension. He obviously didn't like the way Caress so easily manipulated every sentence. Once she had walked out of the room, he exploded off the couch, pacing like a caged animal. Starsky stifled a smile at the absurdity of it--usually he was the one who railed against whatever obstacle was in their path, not his calm, methodical partner.
"She getting to you?" Starsky asked lightly. "What is this full time business anyway?"
"I'll tell you more later, but basically what she said, the master and slave are always in the roles--they never completely drop out, although realistically, in day to day living, it's a lot like a marriage. There has to be a lot of love and trust to keep the relationship going."
"Boy, that sounds..." Starsky started to say hot but changed his mind. "Hard." After the word came out of his mouth he realized he did mean both contradictory terms.
"Gentlemen." Caress had returned with a pretty brunette with a wide silver collar around her neck. She was dressed in tiny jogging shorts and a dark blue sports bra. Starsky got the impression that the clothing was for their benefit, that normally she spent a large part of her time inside the house nude. And he did recognize her; she was an assistant District Attorney by the name of Lisa Hartman. He'd once dated her about a million years ago when he was new to the detective squad and she was defending the indigent and homeless.
"L-lisa," Starsky stuttered, glancing over at Hutch. The big blond shared his stunned expression, both trying not to stare when Lisa sank to her knees beside Caress. Starsky was trying to wrap his brain around the thought of kittenish Lisa and the tiger tough Caress. He shivered, remembering that Caress said her slaves accepted harsh, strict discipline and actually begged for more.
"She may only speak to answer questions, but after the interrogation is finished, I will grant you a few moments to talk together," Caress said with a hint of humor.
"Uh, yes..." Hutch cleared his throat. "Lisa, Caress--your mistress says you were with her on Saturday morning between midnight and three a.m., in bed. Is this correct?"
"Yes." Lisa straightened her spine, her chocolate brown eyes shifting momentarily to her mistress before going on. "Mistress had a client in the early evening. He left at ten thirty, then we had a session in the Chamber..." her inflection capitalized the name of the room, "before going to bed at twelve thirty, I believe. I didn't have a chance to look at a clock until after we were in bed for a while, and then I noticed the numbers glowing in the dark, twelve thirty."
Starsky gulped, knowing the feeling. Even in vanilla lovemaking he was sometimes amazed to discover long stretches of time had passed, but in the two BDSM sessions he'd had so far, it was if he'd been on a different planet in a whole different dimension. "Could Caress have left without your knowing it?" Starsky asked, pleased that he could still manage to be a part of the investigation instead of the innocent rube he felt like. An assistant D.A. into bondage! A girl he'd dated turning out to be submissive, just after he'd discovered the same thing in his own life. No wonder they hadn't worked as a couple!
"No, because I was..." Lisa's voice, not very loud in the first place, was barely above a whisper, nothing like the confident, aggressive volume she used in the courtroom. "Was in punishment. Mistress had cuffed me to her own person."
"What?" Starsky squeaked.
"You were cuffed together?" Hutch clarified.
"Yes," Caress affirmed. "My slave had been willful during the day, and I had addressed some issues that evening. She was punished, marked, and then cuffed to me for the night. It was quite a pleasant evening." She stroked the kneeling Lisa's hair, winding one strand around her finger. Lisa was smiling, and gave a tiny nod. "Show them the marks, child," Caress commanded.
Starsky's cock jumped forward, straining the limits of his Levis, but to be truthful he wasn't sure why at first. He wasn't cold-blooded enough to want to see a former lover's welts, didn't get off on the image of Caress beating Lisa with a whip, but he was completely aroused in spite of himself. Maybe a tiny, infinitesimal part of him wanted Hutch to play out the scene just described?
Lisa stood gracefully, turning around and pushing the waistband of her shorts down. Her buttocks were marked with five parallel welts that looked incredibly painful even twenty-four hours after they'd been placed. Starsky knew he had very little to complain about on his own butt. She also had a tattoo of a whip coiled around two handcuffs in the small of her back just above the marks.
"Thank you," Hutch said distantly. "You've made your point--those are obviously fresh. And I doubt that Miss Hartman's statement will come up in any written reports. So saying, do you know of anyone in the BDSM world or anyone at all who would have reason to kill Carlysle in such a brutal way?"
"One calculated to direct your inquiries at me?" Caress asked with a cocked eyebrow. At Starsky's stunned exclamation, she laughed. "I know the news didn't specify the type of sword used, but Sergeant Hutchinson's interest in my katana confirmed my suspicions. Someone used a Japanese implement of death to implicate me because it is well known that I collect Asian art and use...certain Japanese techniques in my torture play, but a samurai sword is not a toy, and I did not use it to kill my friend Carlysle."
"Well, can you think of anyone at all?" Starsky pressed.
"Carlysle was well liked on the scene, but there are a few people who take their positions too seriously...I don't name names."
"Does the name Domi-trex mean anything to you?" Hutch asked.
"Domi-trex is another domme--obviously from her name," Caress smirked, "but I don't associate with her. We run in different circles, you might say--she's into pony slaves and I am not. Beyond that I don't know if she and Carlysle knew one another--I doubt it, but I'm not one hundred percent sure."
"May I speak, Mistress?" Lisa had adjusted her clothes and knelt once again at Caress's red Keds.
"You have information for these gentlemen?"
"I belong to a support group for slaves...it's a satellite of MAST."
"MAST?" Hutch repeated.
"Masters and Slaves Together," Caress clarified.
"I know a former slave of Domi-trex." Lisa's hands were clenched together, her lawyer self and slave self in obvious conflict. "I wouldn't normally say this about another mistress, but Domi-trex is known for being cruel, vindictive and aggressive. If she didn't like someone, you knew it."
"I knew she wasn't well liked, but I haven't heard specifics," Caress said in shock. "You never said."
" At first I took it to be gossip." Lisa was speaking only to her mistress now; her face turned adoringly up at Caress. "But the more I heard, the more I believed. Everyone said the same basic things, until I began to compile a sort of unwritten file on her. It's all up here," she pointed to her head, "but from everything other players and especially other slaves say, she's just short of evil to subordinates."
"You think her capable of murder?" Starsky asked.
"She reportedly had said things about other dommes." Lisa was now the lawyer, her intelligence and knowledge of the criminal world apparent. "She could have easily gone out to get a sword that would implicate my mistress, but why she would want to murder a well-liked and popular dominatrix is unfathomable."
"Because Carlysle had been on the scene for such a short while and was so immediately popular," Hutch surmised.
"That as a motive for murder?" Caress frowned disapprovingly. "A domme must have complete control of her or his own emotions and actions in order to deal with the slaves under her safely and sanely. There's no sanity in murder."
"None at all," Lisa whispered.
"But, you think Domi-trex is a viable suspect?" Hutch asked the assistant D.A.
"I think I need to leave you three alone to talk. You have ten minutes," Caress said archly, her hand in Lisa's hair again, only her grip wasn't so playful this time. "But slave?"
"We need to talk further about this. I want to hear every word said about others so I can inform them if need be and there will be no more keeping private files in your head, do you understand?"
"Yes, Mistress." Lisa's lips were parted in awe-struck adoration. "Will I be punished?"
"I expect so." Caress nodded to the two detectives. "If you two want to return under less business-like conditions, I would be amenable to some joint play." She stalked from the room, her head held high.
"Does everyone know?" Starsky muttered but nobody was paying much attention to him. Lisa was able to provide them with lots of information on the mysterious Domi-trex whose real name turned out to be Dominique Texera. She had been in the scene for many years, but recently her behavior had changed for the worse. Slaves and subs had abandoned her because of her disregard of safe and consensual play. However, any motive as to why she might have killed Carlysle was only speculation and Lisa's file, for all it contained some juicy gossip, was mostly hearsay.
"Thank you, Lisa." Hutch flipped his notebook closed. "We would never out you."
"Thank you. I was scared shitless when my mistress told me your names." She held out a hand to Starsky. "But in a funny way I was also glad it was you. I know I can trust you two more than some others."
"Are you really happy like this?" Starsky asked.
"More than I can describe in words." Lisa's pretty heart shaped face shone with love. "I was floundering a few years ago...and Dave, you had nothing to do with that!" She giggled with a tinkling, merry sound. "When a former boyfriend introduced me to the scene, I was hooked from the first time a cuff was wrapped around my wrist." Starsky could easily relate to that, but he wasn't sure he wanted to tell her.
"So you played around awhile and found Caress?"
"Yes, she proposed to me soon after we met." Lisa made it sound like they were married and not in what most of America would consider a severely perverted partnership. "Which was so scary...being a slave twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week...but I'm not whipped everyday. Last Friday was special. I don't wear a collar at work--but I always have her marks, and certain other private things on my body, even in court." She dimpled. "Even the last time, when I was questioning Hutch about his less than legal entry into that suspect's domicile."
"I knew you had a hint of dominatrix in you that day," Hutch teased. "This works for you? Even though you both have lives and work? You can maintain the dynamics?"
"I won't lie, it's a struggle; if I come home from a long week with horrible cases, and she wants an instant slave girl worshipping at her feet, I'm not always up to it." Lisa shrugged. "But you have give and take in any relationship--even one like mine. It makes me happy."
"That's terrific." Starsky gave her a quick peck on the cheek, ready to be out of there and the topics that were too close his own reality for his taste.
"What about you?" Lisa asked, hands behind her back like a good slave, but her lawyer face still in place. "Why are you so interested? Why would my mistress think you'd come over to play?" Before either of them could speak she touched the silver chain half-hidden under Starsky's red turtleneck t-shirt. "Is this why?"
"Lisa," Starsky started, not knowing what to say. They knew her secret, what would it hurt if she knew theirs? Mutual blackmail material? So many people were beginning to worm their way into his private life.
"Starsky?" Hutch asked silently if he should say anything.
"We're takin' steps in the general direction you're headed," was all Starsky would say before he clasped her hand in mutual solidarity before turning to leave.
"Good bye," Hutch said for both of them.
"I don't like this." Starsky was in high gear, his restless energy overflowing like a plugged drain. Hutch had to stifle a laugh at that mental image. If he ever got Starsky into a compromising position again, plugs were going to feature prominently in the play.
"What? That one of your former girlfriends is living with a woman? That you weren't quite man enough for her?" Hutch laughed aloud.
"Just quit it," Starsky snarled irritably. "You know what I mean. Buchanan saw right through me--us. So did Caress. What if IA figures this out? We're whipped, out on our asses, stripped of badges and guns--and yes, the puns were intentional."
"Simmonetti and his ilk are not in the scene. Buchanan, Caress, and Lisa are. They see things others might not."
"I don't want to wear this chain anymore." Starsky yanked futilely on it, but it was locked around his neck. "Too many people see this. It's like wavin' a red flag in front of their faces."
Hutch's heart clenched in his chest. He swore he could feel a fist--Starsky's fist--squeezing his heart until it bled. "You don't have to wear the chain if you don't want to, Starsk."
"Oh, Hutch." There was the same stricken expression in those blueberry dark eyes as the night before when they'd argued. Starsky closed his fingers around the cold, unforgiving steel links, looking over at Hutch helplessly. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."
"I asked you when I gave it to you if you were willing to wear it in public," Hutch said quietly, trying so hard to be reasonable when his heart was gushing blood into his chest. "You have every right to decide when and where you want to wear it. We're not full time, not even close to it."
"Can we talk about this later?" Starsky whispered. "Really talk when the investigation is over?"
"That would be good." Hutch pulled a key out of his pocket and held it out, but Starsky shook his head, hand still grasping the chain and got into the car. When Hutch had been driving for nearly ten minutes, he risked a glance at his partner. Starsky was huddled on his side of the car, arms crossed over his chest. He was practically wearing a no trespassing sign, but Hutch was willing to breech his defenses anyway. "One question?"
"Yeah?" Starsky sounded weary.
"What you said to Lisa. Was it true?"
"I don't know. I think so--can this just get shelved until later?"
"Sure. I agree we need to talk. Someplace neutral."
"Some cookie cutter diner like a million others where we're not regulars."
"It's a date," Hutch agreed and earned the first smile from Starsky since they'd gotten in the car.
"Like high school, when it was so simple. Guys liked girls with big racks, girls liked the football captains, and you were so lame if you didn't get a date to the winter formal."
"Did you?" Hutch asked, consulting a map while stopped at a red light to find the cross street for Domi-trex's house.
"What?" Starsky wasn't even following his own ramblings.
"Get a date for the winter formal? Rented tux, bow tie, stiff collar...?"
"Had a date," Starsky nodded, his fingers toying with the heavy silver links around his neck. "She stood me up."
"Aw, Starsk." Hutch sighed in dismay, the mood having shifted so abruptly into melancholia. He turned the corner indicated on the map and headed south. "Sorry."
"Lemme guess: tall, blond, and farm grown." Starsky's smile was half-mast, but it was a good attempt.
"How'd you know?"
"Hutch, until me, most of your dates were tall, blond, and gorgeous. Makes me wonder what you see in a dark, Jewish kid from New York with bowed legs."
"You're not short."
"Did I say I was?"
"It was certainly implied." Hutch reached over and grasped the closer of the two jeans clad thighs sitting next to him. "It was definitely the bowed legs."
This time Starsky's grin was coy, the humor creeping back into his eyes.
Encouraged, Hutch continued to list his lover's attributes. "Then there's one spectacular ass, and a smile that could brighten the world."
"Most definitely yeah." Hutch wished he could lean over the gearshift and kiss that pointed nose, lavish those ears with one hundred more endearments, but they had arrived outside a small house going to seed on a suburban street. Domi-trex's domicile.
When all was said and done, the arrest of Dominique Texera was anti-climactic. From all appearances, although the murder of Elizabeth Carlysle had been planned fairly skillfully, Domi-trex's mental condition had deteriorated after her one desperate act. When she opened the door it was obvious that the woman was severely mentally disturbed and Starsky almost felt sorry for her. Her appearance was such a shock both detectives widened their eyes in surprise. No one had prepared them for that--Domi could have easily been Carlysle's sister. Blond and tall, she didn't have the sensual elegance and seductive power the murdered woman had had, but the resemblance was uncanny. But now her blond tresses were bedraggled and uncombed, her full lips cracked and blue eyes bleary. Even if she was cleaned up and dressed in a sexy outfit, she had a coarse, cheap look that put her in a whole different class than Carlysle.
"D-domi-trex," Hutch began with a stutter, still amazed by her resemblance. "We're here..."
Finally realizing that the two men were cops and not some clients coming to be disciplined, Domi made a frantic attempt to slam the door in their faces. Starsky easily strong-armed the door, shoving his foot in the space. She had grabbed a whip hidden just inside, holding it aloft with expert form. The partners double-teamed her, coming at her from both sides, both escaping the kiss of the lash as she slashed her hand down. Hutch grabbed her wrist, wrenching the whip from her grasp and pulling her hand behind her back. The irony was not lost on him as he handcuffed the dominatrix. Neither detective had even drawn his gun, but both knew without a doubt that the woman had wielded her last whip. She was on her way to prison.
"You want to go to the playroom?" Domi asked with a pitiful attempt at seduction. "We could have some fun with these cuffs..."
"Miss Texera, you're under arrest," Starsky intoned formally, reciting the Miranda from memory. He had an unsettled feeling; it had ended too easily. Just last night he had seen the spot where Carlysle had died with a sword piercing her breastbone. Now, it was barely 24 hours later and they were arresting the murderer. He should have been jubilant at the fast turn around; instead it only made him sad. The world of dominants and submissives, of leather fetish wear and scary disciplinary implements, seemed tainted by this murder. Oh, he knew most people would have thought him cracked that he wanted such a dark, perverted world to be free of nastiness, but when he'd opened the red door to the little house Hutch had rented for their first session, he'd been dazzled and giddy with excitement like a little kid on Christmas morning. Now, the blinders were off his eyes, and he could see that this was just like any other segment of society. There was evil everywhere.
"She took everything!!" Domi screamed, her face distorted like a Halloween fright mask. "She stole my life...took my slaves.... she was a witch...did voodoo in the night and took it all away!" The last word wailed into the sky and she shrieked inconsolably so that it took both detectives to get her into the car and call for back up to search her house for the murder weapon.
"She's strong." Hutch leaned against the car door, feeling the vehicle pitch and shake with Domi-trex's violent tantrum inside.
"Could easily have shoved a big sword like that katana into the victim," Starsky agreed, his insides trembling with exhaustion, hating to term Carlysle in the detached vernacular of victim. He had to work hard to appear in control and professional when all he wanted was for Hutch to spirit him away to some idyllic hideaway and fuck his brains out. He no longer wanted to think.
"Hey, Starsk." Hutch let his hand rest on his partner's thigh under the cover of their shared desk for just a second. "You ready to go?" Domi-trex had been booked and photographed, fingerprinted and questioned. Her prints matched ones found at the site and she was now in the process of being evaluated by a psychiatrist. She was mentally unbalanced, her lawyer already proclaiming that it was temporary insanity, but the D.A. was pressing for murder one. Starsky's brief phone call to the assistant D.A. at her home probably had nothing to do with the swift carriage of justice.
"Yeah, I wanted to go about three hours ago." Starsky sighed, already missing the tiny warmth that had been on his leg for so short a time. He stood, heading out of the squadroom. "Listen, I was thinking...?" Despite his early desires for sex and lots of it, he'd now veered in the other direction and wasn't sure how to say what was on his mind without sounding like he was brushing Hutch off. "Maybe we need a breather? I'd like to go home, sleep in my own bed."
"Alone?" Hutch asked slowly.
"Yeah." Starsky ducked his head just enough so Hutch couldn't look straight into his eyes. "Just for one night--we can talk tomorrow, huh?"
"Whatever you want, champ." Hutch smiled, but the sadness in his face almost broke Starsky's heart.
"How 'bout Denny's, 'bout two? The one by Merl's. I need to have him look at my brakes," Starsky proposed just a little too heartily. "We can get a back booth an' the lunch crowd'll be gone by then."
"Sound's great." Hutch hooked his letterman jacket over his shoulder, following the dark haired man over to his car. "Starsky."
"Hmm?" Starsky paused in the act of zippering his leather jacket.
"I-I don't want to lose you," Hutch said softly, glad they were outside, away from prying eyes and ears. "Whatever happens, always know I love you."
"Oh, Hutch." Starsky swallowed the lump that swelled his throat. "It's not like that. I just need to think. We got to work stuff out, but...you can use those handcuffs'a yours on me any time."
"You can count on that." Hutch's smile lit the dark street.