(c) April 2016 by Charlotte Frost


A sequel to The Chapter


Hutch’s ear was getting tired. He’d had the phone pressed against it for an unusually long time, as he was getting Harold Reckner’s entire life story, thanks to Hutch having yielded to Lois’s prompting to find out why Reckner still hadn’t paid his bill after ninety days. She’d thought that hearing from an owner of the business would carry more weight than her periodic calls. Reckner had mentioned something about waiting to get money from refinancing his house, which was delayed, because his brother-in-law was supposed to be handling the refinancing, but he had gotten arrested, and Reckner himself had never recovered from being unemployed for six months a few years back….

Hutch realized he'd been daydreaming, when Reckner finally said, “So, it still might be another month, I’m sorry to say.”

For the third time, Hutch reminded, “Even a partial payment would help. We’ve had to pay our people to spend time at libraries, finding out your family history. Whatever you can do this week would be great.”

“Well, maybe I can send you fifty dollars.”

“Yes, we’d appreciate it.” Hutch glanced at the clock, and was relieved to say, “I need to get to another appointment. We’ll be looking for your check. Thank you.” He quickly hung up.

Since it was past three in the afternoon, Hutch was certain that Lois was watching for his phone line to go dark, if his next appointment had arrived on time. He would have appreciated a few minutes to freshen up, but realized that wasn’t going to happen, when there was the expected beep from his phone.

“Ken, Anne Brookhouse his here.”

Hutch spoke toward the phone. “Show her in.” He assumed it was a cheating spouse case, though Ms. Brookhouse hadn’t given any details on why she wanted to hire a private investigator.

A moment later his door opened, and Lois said, “Ken, this is Anne Brookhouse.”

Hutch came out behind his desk and met her extended hand with his own. “Ms. Brookhouse, I’m Ken Hutchinson. Sorry for the wait.”

She was in her early forties, with light brown hair that fell just past her shoulders. Her brown eyes were red-rimmed, and a well-worn tissue was clutched in her hand. She wore a stylish jacket over a pink sweater, and tan slacks.  Lois closed the door behind them, and she said, “Please, call me Anne.”

Hutch pulled out a chair from the conference table. “Please, have a seat.” As she did so, he reached for his yellow legal pad.  After sitting across from her, he flipped the pad to a new page. While dating the top line, he glanced up with a smile. “It’s April already. Hard to believe.” He wondered if she thought him foolish for starting with small talk.

She brushed at her eyes with the tissue, and merely nodded.

Hutch turned his complete attention to her, and wondered what she looked like when she wasn’t full of melancholy. “How can I help you?”

Her modest chest heaved with a breath. Softly, she began, “First, I have to tell you that I tried calling some other professionals. When I saw your ad in the phone book, I disregarded your firm, because you’ve worked for the police force. But other firms were too busy to handle my case, or too small to want it.”

Hutch furrowed his brow, wondering if this case was going to be completely different than he had anticipated.. “Working for the police is in the past, for my partner and I. Plus, I think the police skills that we possess are what now makes us excellent at our jobs in this civilian occupation.” He pressed, “Is there a reason you dislike the police?”

She gazed him, her plush lips turning to a frown. “They think I murdered my husband.”

It was a moment before her comment registered. Hutch shifted in his chair, and became more attentive. “I think you need to start at the beginning.” He wished Starsky was here, since this was obviously going to be more than a cheating spouse situation, but Starsky had appointments outside the office.

Her gaze lowered to the table. “Blake and I married ten years ago. We’d both been married before. He was from a well-to-do British family that made its money in shipping. He got a job out here, purchasing parts for Artful Shipping Company, and we met at a business party. I worked in catering.” Her mouth corner twitched, as she continued to stare at the table top. “I was hardly in his class, but he noticed me, while I was overseeing the event.” She looked up at Hutch. “We married six months later.”

Hutch found himself thinking how fortunate she and Blake were to have found each other.

“I kept my business for a few years, then sold it. Blake made enough that I no longer had to work, so I spent a lot of time on charity projects.” She lowered her gaze and was silent a long moment. “I know he wasn’t perfect. He traveled a lot for his job. I’m sure he had liaisons. I accept that men have those needs, and I never asked him about it. When he was home, he treated me like the center of his life.”

She swallowed audibly, and Hutch felt he should offer her something to drink, but he didn’t want to disrupt her train of thought.

She continued, “Last July, I was visiting my sister in Oak Valley. When I arrived home in the evening, the block was full of police.” Her voice choked. “Blake had been found dead by our housekeeper. Shot twice with a .38 revolver.”

Hutch watched her struggle to catch her breath, uncertain of how to comfort her. He waited a moment, and then asked, “Why would the police think you were responsible?”

She looked up at him. “He was shot with my gun. I’ve owned a .38 revolver for years, ever since a good friend of mine was raped in college. I kept it in a drawer in my dresser. Also, two months prior to Blake’s death, we’d had a discussion and increased his life insurance policy. It looked suspicious.”

Hutch said, “But you had an alibi, since you were at your sister’s.”

She looked at him sadly. “She’s a drug addict — addicted to various substances. She’s been arrested a few times before. She has a job in the entertainment industry, so her troubles get overlooked. But, unfortunately, the police don’t consider her word very credible.”

Alarmed at the thought, Hutch asked, “Have you been arrested?”

“No. They don’t have enough evidence. I’m not worried about that, because they’ll never have enough evidence, since I didn’t kill him.” Sadly, she said, “I loved Blake. So much.” Her eyes watered, and she bowed her head.

His cop instincts kicking in, Hutch said, “I assume the gun was wiped clean.”

“Yes. It was near Blake’s body. Nothing was disturbed or stolen.” She looked at him sadly, “They focused on me so quickly, that I feel they’ve blinded themselves to other possibilities. They aren’t looking for anyone else. They keep telling me they’re working the case, but there isn’t any progress. I think they keep hoping that something will turn up, which links Blake’s murder to me.” She shook her head. “It’s impossible for that to happen.”

Carefully, Hutch said, “It might not be that they’re fixated on you. It could be that they simply don’t have anything else to go on.” While she nodded, he asked, “Do you have an idea of who might have killed your husband?”

She shook her head. “No. I can’t think of anyone, on a personal level. His ex-wife has happily remarried and lives in Australia. As far as his job, he didn’t talk about it much. I never asked him many questions about it.”

Hutch began to scribble notes, which he’d neglected to do while enraptured by her story. He glanced up briefly. “Then, you’re wanting our firm to investigate Blake’s death?”

“Yes. Any information that you can find out, that can be turned over to the police, can only help me get that much closer to knowing who killed him.”

Hutch smiled gently. “And ending the police’s suspicion of you.”

She shook her head firmly. “I’m not worried about being arrested, since they have nothing substantial to tie me to his death. It’s justice for Blake that I want.”

Hutch was thinking that this was the first large case that they’d had in a while. He wanted to find out as much information as possible, to allow Blake Brookhouse to rest in peace. And Anne to find peace, as well. He said, “To get started, we need a two thousand dollar retainer. I’ll also need a list of everyone you can think of who knew Blake, including relatives, with as many phone numbers and addresses as you can find. It could be that talking to someone who only wanted the best for Blake might end up being the link to the person who killed him.”

She nodded. “I understand. I’ve already gotten a lot of lists together. I’ll drop them off in the next day or two.” She managed a smile. “I just wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable with you first.”

“Of course. I hope I’ve put you at ease that we want to consider all possibilities. Just know that, while we’ll be able to give your case a lot more attention than the police, it can still take a frustratingly long time for us to check out every possible lead, if Blake knew a lot of people.”

She nodded. “I’m prepared to spend ten thousand dollars on getting things started. Once you’ve used up that money, we’ll need to discuss further and see where things stand.”

Hutch was careful not to reveal what a pleasant surprise it was that she was so willing to spend that much money. Lois was due for a raise, as was Kenny. “As soon as we have your retainer, and whatever information you have on your husband’s loved ones and acquaintances, we can get started.”


 When Hutch got home, Starsky was holding the phone to his ear.

“Thanks,” Starsky said. “I appreciate you taking the time to give an update. Maybe we can get out to see her soon.” He hung up, and grabbed an open bottle of root beer, that was on the counter.

Hutch removed his jeans jacket and draped it over the back of a chair. “Who was that?”

“Joe, the broodmare manager. I just thought I’d give him a call to ask him for an update on Darla and Danny. Of course, since he manages the broodmare barn, he doesn’t really hear much about the yearlings. He said he’d give the yearling barn a call, and if we don’t hear anything, no news is good news.”

Hutch opened the refrigerator. “What about Darla?”

“She’s doing great. And Joe wanted to verify that we aren’t planning on breeding her this year, and I said we’re not.”

Hutch grabbed the leftover tuna casserole. “Good. She’s due in… what? A month and a half?”

“Something like that. May 21st.” Starsky leaned back against the counter as Hutch removed the tinfoil from the dish. “But we’ll need to figure out by the end of summer, who we’re breeding her to next year, so she’ll be booked to the stallion, since some of them fill up by fall.”

“We’ve still got time for that,” Hutch said. The bills for two horses were adding up, and there was soon going to be a third. It was going to be at least another year before there would be any chance of Danny racing, and income coming their way. He indicated the casserole. “You want some of this?”

“I guess.”

“It’ll heat up faster if we put it on individual plates.” While Starsky turned to the cupboard, Hutch said, “Looks like we’ve landed a big case, partner.”

Starsky set two plates on the counter. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Could be a minimum of ten thousand dollars. It’s a murder case.” Hutch divided the casserole between the two plates, as he gave Starsky the preliminary information that Anne Brookhouse had relayed.

While the first plate was in the microwave, Starsky asked, “Are you sure she isn’t the murderer?”

Hutch made a “tsk” noise. “She’s going to spend at least ten thousand dollars, trying to prove something that isn’t true? I don’t think so.” While Starsky shrugged, Hutch added, “She genuinely loved her husband. If you would have been there, you would be certain of that.”

Starsky crossed his arms. “Well, I wasn’t there. Because I was out meeting with the Finleys, and they were really interested in us researching their entire family line. They’ve just got to talk to a few other relatives first, to make sure they’re on board with sharing some of the cost.” The microwave beeped. “So, that could be a big case, too.”

Hutch removed the plate and handed it to Starsky. As he put the second plate in the microwave, he said, “Well, surely, they aren’t expecting us to come up with anything right away. Hopefully it’ll take them a while to give us a retainer, so we can get rolling on Anne’s case.”

“Has she paid a retainer?”

“No, but she expects to later this week. That’s when she’ll drop off some lists she’s made of people that Blake knew.”

“Blake’s her husband?”

“Yeah.” Hutch reached to the cupboard for a glass. He took a pitcher of lemonade from the refrigerator. As he filled the glass, he said, “We need to be doing most of the legwork on that, so we can leave the mundane stuff to Carlos and Kenny. Maybe we’ll even need to call in Nick.”

Starsky shrugged. “At least, he’s always seems willing to take on more.” For the time being, Nick was mostly helping with ancestry cases, when needed.

The microwave beeped, and Hutch removed the plate. They both sat down at the table.

Starsky asked, “How do you think we should approach the murder case? Will we need to be traveling?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait until Anne provides the lists of names and contact information, and go from there. She did say that Blake traveled a lot for his job. She assumed he had affairs while away, but she never asked because she never wanted to make anything of it. He treated her well when he was home.”

Starsky swallowed some casserole, and then muttered, “Wonder if it might have been a husband of one of his lovers.”

“There’s a million possibilities. We can’t even begin to narrow anything down, until we see her information. And then we’ll have to decide how to tackle it.”


Three days later, Starsky and Hutch were both sitting at Hutch’s conference table, with the door closed to keep out distractions. Hutch rubbed his neck while looking up at the clock. They’d been at this two solid hours. Anne had stopped by that morning, with a ten thousand dollar check and three long lists of people Blake had known — one of family members, one of friends and golfing associates, since he had been an avid player, and one of his co-workers. The latter was the shortest list, for Anne had known few of them personally, and many on the list were merely names and phone numbers that she’d gathered from other co-workers of Blake’s that she knew had associated with him.

Starsky sighed. “We should have put this stuff on the computer, before we even started.”

“I’ll have Lois do it.”

Incredulous, Starsky asked, “You think she’s going to understand any of this?”

Hutch blinked. The lists had all sorts of notations they had made, plus arrows on one list, pointing to names on another, as he and Starsky discussed and made logical associations, trying to narrow down how many people they would need to contact. In addition, they’d assigned a numerical importance to each name. The “1” people would be interviewed in person, if at all possible. The “2” would be interviewed initially via phone call, and the “3” would be ignored for now, as they didn’t appear to be worthy of having time spent on them, since their relationship with Blake seemed too distant. Lamely, Hutch replied, “We can try.”

“Well, then, you’re the one who’s going to explain all this to her.”

Hutch snapped, “I will. I don’t need your help for that.”

Starsky gazed at him. “We need to take a break. You’re getting grouchy.”

Hutch shot back, “And you’re not?” He watched Starsky’s mouth corner twitch.

After an extended moment, Starsky said, “Tell Lois to order some pizza. Enough for everybody.”

Hutch muttered. “It’s after two. Everybody else probably already ate.”

Starsky grinned. “Then that means all the more for us.”

All thought left, as hot lips covered Hutch’s mouth and pressed.

His heart accelerated, and he felt the coolness of the large plastic mat against his naked skin. The mat had been placed in the living room, the coffee table pushed to one side. He’d arrived home an hour after Starsky, to find the living room arranged thus, a black mask and silk scarf next to the mat, and been firmly told to “undress”. He'd obeyed without hesitation, loving that whatever pleasure awaited was out of his hands.

Now, his eyes were covered by the dark mask, he was naked, on his back on the mat, and was feeling all concerns leave his body as hot breath wrestled with his own. Starsky was naked, as well, and Hutch relished the feel of the eager flesh against him, all along the length of his body.

The lips left, and Starsky’s husky voice held a hint of amusement. “Time to close your gorgeous mouth, until I need to use it for something.” Silk cloth was placed across Hutch’s mouth, and he felt it being secured near the back of his head. There was a grunt of satisfaction. “Hm. What to play with first?”

After some moments of not knowing what was going to happen, Hutch shuddered, and felt his erection firm, as wetness lapped at his left nipple. He heard eager “mmm” noises while Starsky’s tongue explored other areas.

Then silence, for a long time, as Starsky lapped at his scrotal pouch. It made Hutch eager for so much more, and he felt himself straining with need. Then, the gentlest of kisses against his inner thighs. The left… then the right.

A finger stroked the seam between his balls, and then moved down. “Hmph. Look what I found.” The finger probed at him.

Hutch gripped it eagerly.

As the finger continued, Hutch heard a quiet, “I think this hole is wanting a good, strong fucking with a thick, hard prick.”


All touch went away.

Then a firm, “I’ve got a good use for your mouth right now.”

Hutch grunted as he felt himself straddled, and the scarf was yanked down. It was immediately replaced by hard, taut flesh. “Get it hard enough to fuck you, like you want to be fucked.”

Hutch clamped down eagerly, after it pushed past his lips. His tongue searched for the moist tip and teased at it.

“Oh, yeah,” Starsky panted. “Get it all nice and hard for you.”

It was already thick and firm, and Hutch sucked it in worship.

Suddenly, it was pulled away.

Now, a heavy voice. “Only spit for lube, baby. Get yourself all ready for me.”

Hutch brought his right hand up, and inserted his fingers in his mouth. He drooled heavily upon them. Then he removed his hand, and felt saliva drip onto his torso, as his hand  reached down between his bent legs.

“Ah, yeah baby,” Starsky gasped beside him. “Show me how much you want a good, hard fucking.”

With the mask, Hutch could only imagine Starsky watching him, as he fingered himself with the wet digits.

“My cock is getting jealous,” Starsky announced.

Hutch’s other hand reached for his own cock, needing to soothe it.

His hand was batted away. “I’ll take care of that,” Starsky scolded. “It looks good enough to eat, but I’ve got other plans for it.”

Hutch wondered how much longer he was going to have to wait, when Starsky demanded, “Turn over. Get your ass in the air, so I can give it a proper, hard fucking.”

Hutch eagerly obeyed, getting on his hands and knees, and then spreading his legs wide, his shoulders lowered to the mat. He tried to not move his head, so the blindfold wouldn’t be dislodged.

“You’re a wanton slut,” Starsky announced, a note of pleasure in voice.


Suddenly, Hutch’s cock was gripped at the barrel, the pressure clear of the ultra sensitive area just behind the head, and he felt teeth sink into his left buttock. He shuddered and cried out, wishing so much that the fingers would move another half inch to where he was most sensitive.

Starsky grunted with contentment, and then the teeth were removed. “You’re awfully tasty,” he said. “But my cock wants you more than my mouth does.” Then, “Here’s comes your fucking, Hutch.”

His ass cheeks were spread wide, and strong thighs braced against the back of his legs. He was parted by thick, hard flesh, and the hand moved blessedly up his barrel… up and off.

There was only the noise of them both grunting, as the flesh moved forcefully… back and forth.

Then a demand. “I want you to come, baby. My cock wants to feel you come.” The hand gripped momentarily at his the most sensitive part of Hutch's cock, before moving up and off.

“Oh, God,” he gasped.

“Not God,” Starsky said firmly, as he thrust in rhythm with his hand. “Just me loving you.” Then, softly, “Want you to come for me.”

The external stimulation, while his prostate was being internally massaged, propelled Hutch to the summit. One more grip of that skilled hand, just on the right spot, and he cried out, as he felt his male organs quiver and release.

The thrusts stopped, while the hand stroked once more, slowly. “That’s my Hutch,” Starsky cooed, “comin’ so nice.”

Hutch’s upper body collapsed to the mat, as he gasped for breath. Then a hand rubbed at the back of his hair, and he smelled semen.

“Now, it’s my turn,” Starsky said firmly. He gripped Hutch’s shoulders — the left felt stickiness — and began to thrust in earnest. “Oh, yeah, you’re such a fantastic fuck.”

Hutch felt renewed stimulation in his lower, internal regions, but was incapable of responding to it.

“The best fuck I’ve ever had,” Starsky rasped, gasping with effort.

Hutch gathered his strength. “Fuck me,” he demanded. “Fuck me good.”

Starsky’s thrust even more forceful, as his fingers dug into Hutch.

“Fuck me! Fuck me!”

Starsky let out a loud, long yell, his motion slowing.

Hutch let his upper body relax against the mattress.

“Oh, dear God,” Starsky rumbled low in his throat. After a couple of more breaths, he placed his hand on Hutch’s back. “Easy, baby.”

As soon as the flesh withdrew, Hutch’s lower body collapsed, and he rolled to his side. He then reached up to remove the blindfold from his eyes.

Starsky grinned at him, while still gasping. “You’re a gorgeous fuck, baby.” He reached to the scarf that hung at Hutch’s neck. “Love loving you, so much.”

Hutch managed a nod, and then let his consciousness give way to satiation.


“Okay, Milton,” Hutch said into Starsky’s car phone, as the Corvette pulled into an empty space at an upper middle class townhouse complex. The top was down, for the warmth of spring was in full expression. “We’re excited to hear it. Thanks.” Hutch hung up, just as Starsky turned off the motor. “Says the book is on schedule to be printed in June, and they expect it to hit the stores on Friday, June 20th.”

They got out, and Starsky said, “That’s great. I guess. Terrifying, too.”

Hutch snorted. “Yeah.” There was no stopping the book now, and the general public having access to some of their inner most secrets.

Starsky looked at the many buildings that surrounded the large parking area. “What are we looking for?”

Hutch glanced down at the paper he had placed on top of his notebook. “Unit A102. The building’s address is 10368.”

They both looked around, and then Starsky moved to the right. “It’s over here.”

Hutch followed, seeing 10368 on top of the building they were approaching. “Unit A102,” he reminded.

They found the unit a few minutes later, and Starsky rang the bell.

They waited, and eventually heard footsteps approach the door. Since there were two of them, and both were dressed in jeans, Hutch didn’t think they would be mistaken for salesmen.

The bolt was heard sliding back, and then the door opened a few inches. A man in dark hair and thick glasses stuck his head through the narrow opening. “May I help you?”

“Are you Bill Weston?” Starsky asked.

“Yes. Who’s inquiring?”

“We’re private detectives, investigating the murder of Blake Brookhouse, and would like to talk to you.”

The door opened wider. “Blake. God, yes, come in.”

There were introductions, and Hutch asked for water when offered something to drink. In his experience, those being interviewed were more open, if one accepted their hospitality.

Weston sat in an arm chair, opposite the sofa where Starsky and Hutch sat, and rubbed his hand back through his hair. “God, that was so awful, Blake being murdered. We’ve been golfing buddies for seven or eight years now. Played pretty much every weekend, when he was in town.”

Gently, Hutch asked, “Do you have any idea who might have wanted to kill Blake?” He and Starsky had been telling everyone that they couldn’t reveal who had hired them, as that was confidential. Plus, it gave each person an opportunity to talk about Blake’s wife, if they felt inclined.

“His wife, Anne, told me that the police suspected her, but I’m sure she didn’t do it.” Weston looked up. “Why would she? From what I saw, they adored each other. He always spoke so fondly of her. That would break my heart, if it turned out she did it. But she’s always had such an integrity about her, that I believed her when she said she didn’t.”

Hutch silently agreed with that assessment.

Starsky said, “Can you think back to some of the conversations you and Blake had, on the golf course, that might have seemed like nothing at the time, but could mean something, in retrospect. Something he said about anyone at work? Anything like that?”

“I’m sure glad you’re asking questions. The police called me, but they just sounded rushed and seemed eager to cross me off their list. Even though I was surely one of Blake’s best friends, I don’t think the phone call even lasted five minutes. Just said to get in touch, if I remembered anything that might be useful.”

“Here’s your chance to brainstorm out loud,” Starsky prompted.

Weston sighed. “Unfortunately, I tried to think back over various conversations, the weeks after he died, but I just couldn’t think of anything that sounded the slightest bit suspicious, or worrisome.”

Hutch asked, “Mr. Weston, did you and Blake ever talk about any affairs he had, while he was out of town?”

“No. I guess I figured he had flings when he was away. He was a handsome man, had money… it would be easy enough for him to find sex, if he wanted it. But I never asked, and he never offered up anything along that line.”

“What did you talk about?” Starsky asked.

“Mainly golf. We both loved golf. Talked about types of clubs, balls, good games and bad games we particularly remembered. Other people we’d played with, or might want to have join us in the future.” He looked from one to the other. “Golf was our escape from work, so we rarely talked about work.”

“So,” Hutch ventured, “he never expressed any concerns about anything? His personal finances? His family? His job?”

Weston cocked his head. “I guess it was sort of an unwritten rule that we didn’t talk about negative stuff.” He presented a wry smile. “Now, I sort of wish we had. If somebody had wanted him dead, maybe he would have mentioned that something was concerning him.”

Starsky said, “So, nothing about finances? Anything along that line?”

“Oh, just when one of us might have heard things about a particular stock or mutual fund… things like that. Just ordinary stuff. That’s why his murder was so shocking. Never could have imagined somebody like Blake being murdered.” Weston’s eyes lowered sadly. “Maybe I never knew him at all.” He suddenly looked up. “You know? Maybe I just never knew him.”


When they were back in the Corvette, Starsky sat gazing at the steering wheel, the car yet to be started.

Hutch waited.

Starsky turned to look at him. “You know, that’s the whole reason I’ve wanted my book published. Like we’ve always said, if we’re both killed in some accident, or something, people will know about us.” Sadly, he added, “I don’t want anyone to ever say, ‘I guess I never really knew them at all. Never knew why they loved each other so much.’”

Hutch was eager to assure, “I don’t see how anyone can possibly feel that way about us, when they read your book.”

Starsky’s expression grew more thoughtful. Then, “I wonder if Blake had a whole secret life, and nobody ever really knew him.”

Hutch reminded, “Somebody knows who murdered him, even if it’s only the murderer.”

“Yeah.” Starsky inserted the key into the ignition, and turned the motor.


They both looked behind them, where the direction of the voice had come from.

Weston was walking briskly up to them, breathless, as he approached Hutch’s side of the car. “I’m glad I caught you. I’d forgotten I had this in a drawer.” He handed Hutch a leaflet. “This is probably nothing, but it’s something that Blake kept score on, our last golf game together. It was windy, and our score card blew away, after we’d played the first hole. So, he pulled this out of his pocket, to write down our scores. Gave it to me, since I won the game and had a few pars — one of my best days.”

Hutch accepted the leaflet and leaned toward Starsky, so they could both see it. It was a brochure for a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. A phone number had been written on it. Hutch looked up at Weston. “Do you know whose number that is, scribbled on it?”

He shook his head. “No, don’t recognize it. Looks like it has the same area code as the hotel. It’s probably nothing, but just in case….”

Hutch nodded. “We’ll check it out. Thanks a lot.”


Once back at the office, they both moved to Hutch’s desk, and he picked up the phone. He pushed the “speaker” button, and then dialed the ten-digit number that was written on the brochure.

Starsky sat on Hutch’s desk, as the phone was answered, “Peyton’s Dry Cleaning.”

Hutch looked at Starsky in surprise, as he said, “Dry cleaning?” This obviously wasn’t going to turn into a viable lead.

“Yes, this is Peyton’s Dry Cleaning. May I help you?”

“Uh, yeah,” Hutch said, looking at the direct line on the hotel’s brochure, which was below the toll free number. “Uh, can you tell me how far you are from the Prestige Hotel in Omaha?”

“We’re a couple of blocks away, but you don’t need to come here, if you have dry cleaning. We do all of Prestige’s dry cleaning. Just let the desk know you have dry cleaning, and when we do picks-up at eight in the evening, we’ll come to your room. Your clothes will be returned around seven the following morning.”

“Oh, okay. Thanks.” Hutch quickly hung up, and looked at Starsky with a shrug. “That’s a dead end.”

Starsky had an earnest look on his face, and he held out his hand. “Let me see that.”

Hutch handed the leaflet to him.

Starsky gazed at it. “Something’s wrong with that number.”

“What? What do you mean?”

Starsky cocked his head, staring at the brochure. He scratched at his chin. “Where would Blake have gotten the number to the dry cleaner?”

“Probably from somebody at the hotel.”

“But why would they give him the direct number? Why not just tell him to call the front desk, if he needed dry cleaning services?”

Hutch considered that, amazed, as he often was, at how Starsky could pick up on such small details. “Maybe he didn’t realize they had dry cleaning services, and looked in the phone book, and wrote it down.”

Starsky frowned. “Any major hotel chain is going to have to access to dry cleaning services. I mean, if Blake was a seasoned traveler, he would have asked the desk first, before looking in the phone directory.”

Hutch shrugged. “Well, there could be any number of reasons.” Starsky was still gazing at the brochure. “What are you thinking?”

Starsky scratched at his head. “Okay, let’s say he used the dry cleaning services, and realized that something was in the pocket of his clothes — maybe his wallet — and when his clothes were returned, that item was no longer in the pocket. So, maybe he tells the front desk he needs to get in touch with the dry cleaner directly, to see if maybe something fell out of his clothes. Something like that.”


Starsky scratched his head again. “Well, if the hotel and the dry cleaner both have the same area code — are just two blocks away from each other — why would the hotel have included the area code in the phone number? I mean, if you’re going to give someone a local number, you just give them the seven digits. You don’t include the area code, since you don’t need it to dial locally.”

Hutch tried to follow that train of thought. “So, you’re thinking….”

“He wrote down this number when he wasn’t in Omaha.”

Hutch considered that. “But why would he have a brochure for an Omaha hotel, if he wasn’t in Omaha?”

“I dunno,” Starsky muttered after a moment, while continuing to stare at the number.

Hutch tried a possibility. “Let’s stick with the missing wallet theory. Maybe he realized after he left Omaha, that he was missing his wallet — or, whatever it was the was in the pocket of his clothes. He had picked up a hotel brochure when he was there, so he had it with him, and he called hotel, to get the number for the dry cleaner, and since the hotel knew he was calling from out of town, they gave him the dry cleaner’s number with the area code.”

“Yeah,” Starsky said unhappily. “Maybe.”

“It certainly wouldn’t have anything to do with him being murdered.”

“Probably not.” Starsky sighed and tossed the leaflet to Hutch’s desk.

Still, despite that concession, Hutch had the feeling Starsky wanted to pursue the subject further. He reminded, “The secretary at the corporate office is supposed to be sending us all Blake’s expense reports.” They’d had to wait until she left the four-story building, and then bribed her with a hundred dollar bill, before she’d agreed to provide them with information on all the places Blake had traveled to, the twelve months prior to his death. That was just a few days ago, and she’d said it would take her time to make copies when no one was watching, so Hutch thought it could be a few weeks before they received anything. And that was assuming she hadn’t blown them off. “So, let’s wait to see if Blake was actually in Omaha recently.” Hutch indicated the leaflet. “These big hotel chains can have their brochures all over the place — like, at airports, especially in nearby cities.”

Starsky insisted, “But he had a phone number for a dry cleaner in Omaha. Just feel like it has to mean something.”

“Let’s first see if he was even there, when we get the expense reports.”


The following week, they were in Starsky’s office, and had Nick on the speaker phone. Nick said, “So, it’s six o’clock Tuesday night.”

Starsky asked, “Anything the little whippersnapper needs for her first birthday?”

“Uh, let me ask.” There was Lanette’s voice in the background, and then Nick said, “She’s growing out of her clothes. So, clothes for a one-year-old.”

Hutch put in, “Any particular color?”

“Any shade of red looks really good on her.”

“Okay, will do.”

“See you Tuesday,” Starsky said, and then cut the line. He moved some papers out of the way, so he could write on his calendar.

Hutch said, “Can’t believe she’s already been in our lives a year.” Tuesday was five days away.

“Yep. We’ll have to make sure we pick up something for her.”

Lois stuck her head through the open door. “Here’s your mail.” She handed Hutch various envelopes that she had already opened. “That big one looks like it’s for that Brookhouse case.”

Hutch put the manila envelope on top, and pulled out it’s contents. It was a stack of paper, a half inch thick, stapled into various groups.

“What is it?” Starsky asked, rising from his chair.

“The expense reports from Blake’s secretary.” Hutch tossed the other mail aside, and began leafing through the documents.

“Was he in Omaha?” Starsky moved to stand hear Hutch.

“Tampa Bay,” Hutch read, and then flipped to the next set. “Toledo, Ohio. Boston. Phoenix. Omaha.” He pulled that stapled group from the stack. There was a listing of meals, gas, and other expenses, with the dates and amounts. “He was there in April, right about a year ago.”

“So… three months before his death?”


“Are there any dry cleaning charges?”

Hutch was amazed that Starsky was still thinking about the leaflet, from a few days ago. “No. There’s a room charge for the Prestige Hotel.” He glanced at Starsky. “Dry cleaning would be on the hotel bill, surely. They probably mark it up, rather than have the client pay the dry cleaner directly.”

“Yeah.” Starsky sat in the chair next to Hutch, his expression calculating.

Hutch studied him. “You’re wanting to find out out about that phone number.” He would have preferred that Starsky forget it, as a phone number to a dry cleaning service seemed so irrelevant, but he was hardly going to argue with his partner’s instincts, when they’d often proved successful.

“We need to go out there,” Starsky said. “We have a much better chance, getting any kind of information, if we do it in person.”

That was always true. For starters, they could hand out cash, as an incentive. Still, Hutch pointed out, “We’ve got so much going on — with this case alone — I can’t see both of us being away from the office to go there.”

Starsky mused, “Omaha is… where? The middle of the country?”

“Yeah. I think it’s on the border between Nebraska and Iowa.”

“Maybe I can get an early flight, and return the same evening. If not, I can fly out first thing the following morning.”

Hutch nodded at Starsky’s phone. “Why don’t you have Lois see what she can find out.”


Hutch pulled out a chair at the restaurant.

“Thank you,” Anne Brookhouse said, as she sat down.

Hutch took the chair opposite her. “I’m glad you were able to have lunch with me.”

She smiled. “Certainly, I’m eager to hear anything you’ve been able to find out.”

Hutch thought she had a lovely smile — so much more appealing than we’d she first come to his office, still visibly upset over her husband's death. “As I told you on the phone, we’re a long way from having anything in the way of suspects, but we’re feeling good about the people we’ve been able to eliminate. We’ve been thorough before crossing them off the list.”

“I’m sure you have,” she said.

Hutch felt himself smile at her compliment.

The waiter appeared, and they both ordered, her choosing only a side salad, and Hutch opting for a taco salad.

When they were alone again, Hutch said, “My partner is in Omaha today, checking a small detail he wanted to pursue, in case it turns into anything.”

“My,” she said, “all the way out there, to chase a small detail?”

Hutch’s smiled broadened. “Like I said, we like to be thorough.” Then he sobered. “I trust his instincts. When something is bothering him, I don’t want to discourage him from checking it out thoroughly.”

She tilted her head at him. “You were partners with each other, on the police force, correct?”


“You two must get along remarkably well.”

Hutch wondered how much more she was going to ask about their relationship. Once Starsky’s book is published, everyone will know. “We do. We’ve pretty much learned to dismiss the things that aren’t worth arguing over.”

Anne’s expression was suddenly sad. “I thought Blake and I had a good relationship. As good as one can have, when the husband has to be away so much.” Her mouth hinted at a smile. “But maybe, in your case, absence isn’t needed to make the heart grow fonder.”

Hutch nodded, feeling his heart flutter with the truth of her words. “We genuinely enjoy each other’s company.” He reached for a pitcher of water. “In fact, if there still weren’t so many angles to work on this case, I would have gone to Omaha with him.” He quickly realized how that might sound, and assured with a smile, “Instead, I have the pleasure of your company.” He topped off her glass, and then his own.

After she sipped, she asked, “So, are you and your partner both married?” She was looking at the ring on his left hand.

“Yes,” Hutch replied. He then decided to say, “To each other, actually. Not legally, of course.”

After an extended moment, she said, “Oh,” her mouth forming a perfect O.

Hutch decided that he liked the bright shade of her moist lipstick. He then realized that she was uncertain of what else to say. “I hope that doesn’t bother you.”

She fiddled with her silverware. “No. Of course not.” Then an uneasy smile. “I’m glad you feel you can be open about it.” Then, a self-conscious laugh. “Just never would have guessed. You don’t seem like… the type.”

Hutch wondered if she was disappointed, and if she’d felt an attraction to him. Since she hadn’t met Starsky, Hutch added, “Neither is he. I mean, you wouldn’t ever guessed, looking at him.” He shrugged. “Anyway, it’s something that’s worked out well for us, for quite a number of years now.”

The waiter brought their salads.

They both took a few bites, and then Anne said, “So, what did your partner want to check out in Omaha?”

Hutch dabbed at his mouth. “There was a phone number to a dry cleaner, written on a hotel brochure that had been in Blake’s possession.” Hutch realized how foolish it sounded, that it could be anything important. “It’s just the way the number had an area code, even though it was just a few blocks from the hotel.” He shrugged, feeling self-conscious that she might think they were frivolously wasting her money. “Just seemed odd, that it would be written down with the area code, when an area code wouldn’t be necessary to call from within the city.”

Her expression was perplexed. “But what would that have to do with anything concerning Blake’s murder?”

Hutch made sure his voice sounded confident. “One thing we learned, as detectives who successfully investigated many murders during our years on the police force, is that sometimes the smallest detail, out of place, can lead to the biggest break in a case.”


“Thanks.” Starsky handed the cab driver cash. He moved to the entrance of the Prestige Hotel, glad to be free of any luggage. He wouldn’t be getting home until after midnight — and that’s assuming his flight out was even on time — but at least he wouldn’t be spending the night out of town.

He sat down on one of the sofas in the lobby and grabbed a newspaper from the desk. He pretended to leaf through it, while waiting for the lone person at the counter to complete his business. He was well aware that he wasn’t sure what he was looking for, and that his time here could be extremely short, depending on the answers to his inquiries. But he had to make sure that the ten digit phone number wasn’t going to result in any kind of lead.

The patron moved away, and Starsky went briskly to the counter.

“May I help you, sir?”

Starsky produced a piece of paper with Blake’s name on it, his own card, and a fifty dollar bill. As he shoved it before the clerk, he quietly said, “I’d like to know anything you can tell me about this man. He should have stayed here sometime last April.”

Without a word, the well-dressed clerk punched buttons on his computer. It was over a minute, but he finally said, “He checked in April 23rd and checked out April 25th.”

“Can you tell if he ordered dry cleaning services?”

The man studied his computer. “I don’t see any dry cleaning services. He ordered some HBO movies. Had room service the evening before he left. No, no dry cleaning.”

Puzzled, Starsky asked, “If he had, would it show on the bill?”

“Yes, it would.”

“Is there any reason a patron would have contacted your dry cleaning service directly?”

“We subcontract out our dry cleaning services, but the client’s business is always with the hotel, not the dry cleaning service directly.”

Starsky nodded, all the more puzzled. “Can you give me a printout, from his stay here?”

The man shrugged, and pressed a button.

Starsky asked, “Can you tell if he stayed here at another time?”

As the man clicked more keys, he said, “We switched to a new computer system, January of last year. We won’t have a record prior to that, on this computer. We’d have to check our paper records, and you’d have to submit your request in writing.” After a moment, he said, “The only stay we have on record for Blake Brookhouse is last April.” He moved a few steps away to take a page from a computer printer. As he tore off the perforated edges, he asked, “Anything else?”

Someone had come to stand behind Starsky, so he said, “Just one other thing. Where would I find the dry cleaning place?”

The man handed Starsky the printed bill, and then gestured. “Go right out the lobby, and walk two blocks, and take another right. It’s next to the sandwich deli.”

“Thank you very much.” Starsky eagerly turned away.


Anne had become more melancholy, as their lunch wound down. Once the waiter cleared away their plates, she ordered coffee. After a sip, she held her cup, looking off into the distance. “I thought my life was as perfect as a life could possibly be. I had no worries.”

That piqued Hutch’s curiosity, and he gently asked, “What about your sister? You told me that she was a drug addict.”

She looked at him. “I’m afraid I was blissfully ignorant. I didn’t realize how bad her problem was, until the year or so before Blake’s death.” Then, in a near whisper, “I wish I knew how to help her.”

“She has to want to get help,” Hutch offered lamely. He yearned to comfort her distress. “It’s nothing you’ve done, that caused her to turn to drugs. To get addicted. You can’t help people that don’t want to be helped.”

“It’s like she’s lived in a whole different world from me.” Anne shook her head. “It’s a wonder we grew up in the same house together.”

Hutch assured, “I think it’s that way for a lot of siblings. Even though they grow up in the same environment, they can, internally, have completely different experiences.”

She gazed at him, another smile forming. “Sounds like you have a story of your own to tell.”

“I think we all do.” Hutch took a sip of his water.


The moist smell of cleaning chemicals greeted Starsky as he entered Peyton’s Dry Cleaning. He went up to the counter, and pulled Blake’s picture from inside his jacket. To the elderly woman at the counter, he asked, “Do you know this man?”

She barely glanced at it and shook her head.

Starsky reached into his pocket, and tossed a fifty on the counter. “Does that help your memory?”

She looked at the photo, and muttered, “Sorry, I don’t know him.” She looked to her right. “Jim.”

A younger man — perhaps her son — came up to the counter. She pointed to the picture. “This man wants to know if you recognize him?”

The man gazed at the photo, and then at the fifty. Reluctantly, he said, “Sorry, no.”

Starsky pulled the hotel leaflet from his jacket, and laid it on the counter. “Why would that man have put your phone number on this brochure?”

The man and woman exchanged a knowing glance. Then the man shrugged. “Don’t know.”

Starsky pulled another fifty from his pocket. “You get a hundred bucks, if you can give me a reason why somebody would have written the phone number of your business on this brochure.” He thought of something that could prompt a response. “You into selling drugs, or something?”

The man asked, “Are you with the police?”

Starsky shook his head. “Private investigator.” He pulled out his wallet, and then handed over his card.

The woman said, “We used to have someone work here. We fired her, last summer, I think.”

“Yeah? Go on.”

“She was… offering services. To men at the hotel. They would call here. We fired her, when we found out the real reason they were calling.”

Starsky left the two fifties on the counter. “Thanks very much.”


Hutch and Anne stopped next to her Bentley. She said, “I’m so grateful that you called me for lunch. I haven’t gotten out much, since Blake’s death.” She smiled warmly at Hutch. “Thank you.” She unlocked the door.

“Any time.” He held the door while she got in. “I’ll keep you posted on the case.” He pushed it closed.

Her eyes met his. “I look forward to it.” She took her sunglasses from the dashboard and put them on.

Hutch watched her drive away.


Except for the light over the stove, the house was dark when Starsky arrived home. He began unbuttoning his shirt, as he made his way down the hall, to the master bedroom.

Hutch said, “Your plane was on time, huh?”

“Yeah.” Starsky turned to the bathroom, and switched on the light. “You sound wide awake.” It was nearly one in the morning.

“Yeah. I was just… thinking.”

Starsky relieved himself, and then moved back to the bedroom to shed the rest of his clothes. “About what?”

Hutch’s upper body was perched on an elbow. “I had lunch with Anne Brookhouse, to catch her up on the case.”


“I want so much for us to find out who did this. She just seems so alone. She’s lost her husband, her sister is a drug addict. Her mother died years ago. She got involved in a lot of charity work when she was married, but she’s pretty much let all of that go, due to mourning her husband.” Abruptly, he asked, “What did you find out?”

Naked, Starsky kicked away his clothes. “The reason Blake had written down the dry cleaner’s number was because one of the young employees there was doing prostitution on the side.” He sat down next to Hutch’s covered form. “When the dry cleaner owners found out, they fired her.”

“So, you were right. That number did mean something unexpected.”

“Yeah,” Starsky sighed, “and it was good to have that confirmed. But I can’t imagine that it would have anything to do with Blake’s murder.”

“How did the area code tie in?”

Starsky shrugged. “He may have written it down before coming to Omaha. Maybe he found out from someone that special services were available from the dry cleaner.”

Hutch sighed. “I sure hope Anne never asks us about other women, just like she never asked Blake. I’d hate for her to have to hear those sorts of details.”

Starsky studied Hutch, evaluating his tone and body language. “Does Anne know about us?”

Hutch shifted on the bed, settling onto his back. “Yeah, it came up at lunch. Why?”

Starsky muttered, “Another one of your little crushes.” He moved to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

Firmly, Hutch said, “She’s paying us a lot of money, to investigate one of the biggest cases we’ve ever had.”

Starsky grabbed his toothbrush and stood in the bathroom doorway. “Your defensiveness isn’t making me change my opinion.”


When Starsky entered the office a few mornings later, Lois smiled widely at him. “So, how did the birthday party go?”

“It was great," Starsky replied with amusement, "considering the birthday girl didn’t really understand what was going on.  Though it was clear that she was enjoying being the center of attention. There’s probably a whole roll of film that I’ll show you, when it’s developed. Thanks for the blankets. Lanette liked all the different colors.”

“She’s very welcome. Toddlers are fun to buy for.”

“Not sure she’s quite a toddler,” Starsky said with a grin. “Though she is starting to try to walk. But she usually falls over after a few steps.”

“They grow up fast, don’t they?”

“That’s for sure.”

Lois held out a piece of paper. “Here’s a chronological list of the out of town trips that Blake Brookhouse made. But I didn’t find anything unusual in the expense reports. It was all normal, travel-related stuff.”

“Yeah, okay,” Starsky said, accepting the sheet, and determined not to feel disappointed. They’d known this case was likely to last months, if not longer, and after all that time, they still might not have a firm suspect.

Lois asked, “Is Hutch planning on coming in, after his first appointment this morning?”

“I don’t know,” Starsky replied, moving away to his office. “Probably depends on how it goes.”

There were so many people to interview, who had known Blake, that he and Hutch were conducting most of them separately, so they could cover more people more quickly. Starsky was handling a lot of telephone work, doing interviews with the acquaintances that they’d given secondary priority to, and from those initial interviews, would decide if they should be interviewed in person, later.

Carlos and Kenny were both on their phones this morning, in their cubicles, working their more ordinary cases, which consisted of the usual share of cheating spouses, and running down witnesses for law firms.

As Starsky sat in his office chair, he thought back to the other night, when Hutch had been concerned that Anne Brookhouse never have to hear the details of her husband’s indiscretions. His mouth corner twitched at the idea of Hutch feeling so protective of Anne. Obviously, there were some feelings there that were going beyond a professional level. Though Starsky had never met their current largest client, he had no doubt Anne was attractive. At least, if she knew about his relationship with Hutch, then she knew that Hutch was unavailable.

Of course, Hutch would insist that she was still mourning her husband.

One day, Starsky thought, she’s going to be past mourning.


After being in the office later than normal, in early May, Hutch came home to find Starsky sitting on the floor, next to the train tracks. He was holding a locomotive. “When did you get in?” Hutch asked, noting that there weren’t any signs of dinner.

“Maybe an hour ago,” Starsky said, placing the locomotive on the track. After Hutch knelt beside him, he said, “When I was talking with Billy Taylor, we got to talking about model trains. He’s a fanatic. Has them all over his basement. I stopped at the hobby store afterward, and picked up this new beauty.”

Taylor was someone who had accompanied Blake Brookhouse on a few out of town trips, and he still worked at Artful Shipping. It had taken some doing to get an appointment with him. Hutch asked, “What else did you learn from him?”

Starsky released the train and turned to face Hutch. “That he and Brook were two completely different personality types. He said they got along all right, when they needed to, but Taylor is more a spontaneous, free-spirited type of guy, and Blake was more by-the-book. The exception, Taylor said, was that Blake had married down.”

Hutch shifted with discomfort. “Taylor felt that Anne wasn’t good enough for Blake?”

“More or less. He didn’t appear to have anything against Anne; he just felt that Blake would have been the type to marry someone more in his social and financial class.”

Hutch didn’t see how anyone could feel that way about Anne, as she wasn’t in any way unsophisticated. “Did he have any theories on who might have killed Blake?”

Starsky’s expression grew troubled. “That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. Talking to him, he didn’t say anything direct. Just that he wished he knew who killed Blake, because Blake was a good guy, didn’t deserve to be murdered, all that. But in retrospect….” Starsky frowned, and he gazed at the wall.

“What?” Hutch prompted.

Starsky’s picked at a fingernail. “I feel like he was trying to tell me something. Like he was wanting to say something, without really saying it.” He shook his head. “Can’t put my finger on it.” He nodded toward the tracks. “I thought if maybe I focused on something else, it would come to me.”

Hopefully, Hutch said, “Maybe if you talk it out.”

“I mean, he was just saying that that Blake was worth a lot of money, and I said that all the insurance and property went to Anne, but Anne was at his sister’s the day of the murder. And Taylor said that didn’t mean she couldn’t have hired somebody, but he was real quick to say that he didn’t think Anne had it in her to do her husband in. But then he said, something like, ‘You never know what people are, what they’re truly thinking and feeling inside.’” Starsky looked up at Hutch. “You know, just like a general statement, that could apply to anybody.” He cocked his head. “But I feel like he had somebody in mind. But obviously, he didn’t want to come out and say so.”

Hutch could take a stab at one conclusion. “Maybe he was talking about himself. That he felt nobody really knew him.”

Starsky sighed. “Could be. In which case, it wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with the murder. Maybe he just felt that Blake got more attention in the company than he did, because Blake followed all the rules. The whole teachers pet thing.”

“Maybe, then, the next step is to follow up with anyone who might have known Blake and Taylor both, so we can eliminate Taylor.”

“Yeah.” Then Starsky asked, “How come you’re so late?”

Hutch smiled. “We got that undercover job at Nielson Distributing.” That had been been in the planning stages for a while. “They’ll pretend to hire Kenny for the assembly line, for at least a month, and see what he can tell them about the company morale, and if he can find evidence of employees stealing items off the line, and that sort of thing. So, Kenny and I discussed it for a couple of hours. We’ll have to wait a few days to get his background information in place. Only a few owners will know he’s undercover, because they want him to report back on the interview process, to see how their hiring people are doing.”

“Oh, that’ll be a good job then.”

“Yeah. Kenny’s pretty excited to get away from the office for such a prolonged time. That’ll leave Carlos with all the telephone and surveillance work, so we might need to see if Nick wants to help.”

Starsky said, “If the Finleys give the go-ahead for tracing all their ancestry as far back as we can go, we may have to hire someone else.”

“When do you think you’ll get a go-ahead from them?”

“Not sure. I left a message for them yesterday. Haven’t heard back.”

Hutch’s stomach growled, and he looked around. “No dinner?””

“Why don’t we order Chinese?”


Hutch’s eyes cracked open, and he was just able to see the outline of furniture in their bedroom. The clock read 7:20 AM. He decided that it was Sunday, and he could blissfully fall back to sleep. He settled back into the warmth of the covers, aware of Starsky’s nearness. He drifted, remembering their enthusiastic lovemaking last night. Sometimes, they still had the energy for something intense and long-lasting.

The phone rang.

Hutch groaned at the disruption of peace. He waited, hoping it would go away.

It rang again.

Beside him, Starsky moaned, and Hutch struggled to get up on an elbow and reach for the phone. “Hello?”

“Sorry to wake you so early,” a male voice said, “but I thought you’d want to know: Darla had her foal last night. It’s a filly.”

Hutch quickly shook his head to clear it. “She foaled already?”

Starsky was instantly sitting up, leaning near.

“Yes, she was a couple of weeks early, but that’s not abnormal. She and her foal are fine.”

“We’ll be out there in a couple of hours to see her. Thanks.” As he and Starsky both leapt to their feet, Hutch said, “It’s a girl.”


While Hutch drove them to the farm, Starsky said, “Man, what a nice surprise, huh? We’ve been so busy with work, that I’ve hardly even thought about Darla.”

“Yeah. Being surprised like this with an early foal, is better that than wondering when she’s going to deliver, as her due date approaches.”

“I think it was supposed to be May 21st.”

“Yeah, so that’s exactly two weeks early. The guy said it was normal.”

Starsky rubbed his hands together. “Man, we own three horses now.”

“Yeah. And no chance of earning anything from any of them, until at least another year.”

Next spring, Danny would be a two-year-old. Starsky said, “Hopefully, everything will go great with Danny, and he can start racing as early as possible.”

Hutch snapped his fingers. “Damn! We forgot the video camera.”

Starsky reached to the floorboard. “You have your camera here. We can at least get stills.”


“Hi, there,” a man greeted them, as soon as they entered the foaling barn. “You’re here for…”

“Deep Waters,” Starsky said.

“That’s the Storm Bird filly. We had three foal last night, so it was a busy night.”

“We don’t want to keep you from your work,” Hutch said.

The man pushed back the door to the third roomy stall. “Here she is, with her little chestnut filly.”

Darla was next to a wall of the large stall, and her long-legged foal was on her near side, easily seen.

Starsky drew a breath. The foal was a rich, dark red, that would likely lighten with age. She had a blaze down her face. One of her forefeet was white.

Starsky’s heart pounded in recognition.

“If you’re okay with her,” the man said, “I need to tend to the newest one.”

“That’s fine,” Hutch replied, taking Darla’s halter. “I’ve been around horses.”

“Let me know if you need anything.” The man stepped out, and then slid the stall door closed.

Hutch grinned at Starsky. “She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?”

Starsky grasped Hutch’s sleeve. “Hutch,” he said in a hushed voice. “That’s the foal in my dream. That’s Flying Waters.”


The filly suddenly darted behind her mother, and Darla jerked her head, prompting Hutch to let go of the halter. Darla then nuzzled her newborn, as she began to nurse.

“My dream,” Starsky rushed to explain. “Remember when I had that dream, of a chestnut filly, and she was at a racetrack or something? And the feeling in the dream was that everything worked out, even after it seemed like it wouldn’t? And, remember, I got up to check the Stallion Register to see if it was possible for a bay and dark bay to have a chestnut foal?”

Hutch furrowed his brow, as they both watched the filly nurse. “I sort of remember something like that.” He looked at Starsky. “Are you sure you really dreamed about her?”

“Yes! She looked exactly like that, except she was older. She had a blaze, and a white front foot. And, in the dream, I knew her name was Flying Waters.”

“What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know.” Starsky’s voice was suddenly choked. “I just feel like it’s Terry Roberts, watching over us. Even though she wasn’t in the dream, she was in that other dream I had, a long time ago, that gave us the idea for the therapeutic riding center.”

Hutch slipped his arm around Starsky’s waist, and Starsky returned the gesture, leaning his head against Hutch’s shoulder. Hutch said, “We’ll just have to see what’s in store for us all, huh?”

“Yeah. She really is beautiful.”

Hutch reached to stroke Darla’s face. “You’re a good momma.”

After a few moments of absorbing Hutch’s warmth, Starsky said, “I’ll go get the camera.”


Hutch was at his desk when the phone beeped. “Hutch, it’s your sister on two.”

“Thank you, Lois.” Hutch pushed the second line. “Lannie. What’s up?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, but I need to pick up Melinda from Mom’s. Mom’s car didn’t get done today, like the garage promised, and Nick took my car, because his is in the shop. He needs a new one.”

Hutch was grateful to have an excuse to leave the pile of work on his desk. “Sure, no problem. Where are you?”

“I’m at my leather shop.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in less than half an hour.”


She was waiting outside, and he paused at the curb, so she could get in.

Hutch suddenly felt self-conscious. He was almost never alone with his sister. While pulling away from the curb, he nodded at the envelope of photographs on top of the dashboard. “There’s some photos of the new foal Darla had last week.”

Lanette reached and pulled the two dozen 3x5 photos from the envelope. She started to leaf through them. “They sure are long-legged when they’re born, aren’t they?”


“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Girl. A filly.”

“Who’s the father?”

Hutch wondered if Lanette was making conversation, or really wanted to know. “Some fancy horse that stands stud in Kentucky for something like a fifty thousand dollar fee.” He quickly added, “We were able to breed Darla for less than half that.”

He glanced at her just long enough to see her expression of disbelief. On a high note, she asked, “So, do they guarantee the foal will win a certain number of races, or something?”

“God, no. Nobody knows how good or bad a foal will turn out to be. Or if it’ll be born healthy or crooked. Have a competitive spirit. All that.” He decided, “That’s part of what makes it fun. That little filly could be one of the greatest horses ever. Or a horse that never wins a race. Probably something in between.”

She continued to leaf through the photos. “Hard to believe they cost that much money, when you don’t know the outcome. Just like gambling.”

“Yeah,” Hutch had to admit, “but, with racehorses, the anticipation goes on for years. And the payoff, if there is one, can stretch out over a long time. We sure enjoyed racing Darla. She added something special to our lives that we never expected.” He wondered if he were sounding overly sentimental. “Maybe that excitement will continue on with her son or her daughter. Or both.”

Lanette put the photos back in the envelope. She was looking out the side window. “Seems like you and Dave have had a lot of unexpected things in your lives.”

Hutch realized she was talking about Wildenstein’s book. “That’s for sure,” he said levelly, wondering what she was going to say next.

After a long moment, she glanced at him to ask, “Did you say that Dad knew about the alien thing?”

“Yes. He read the manuscript for David’s book, and it included that chapter.”

“Did he think it was freaky?”

Hutch was pleased to say, “No, he actually handled it quite well. He even mention to David a couple that Mom and Dad knew, who told about something happening to them when they were driving along a country road. I don’t remember any details though.”

She looked fully at him. “Do you really think you and David were abducted by aliens?”

“I don’t know. Neither of us has any conscious memory of it. Only the hypnosis session. But it’s a fact that David was cured of the incurable.” Hutch realized his voice was suddenly heavy. “Whatever actually happened, we’ll always be grateful for that. More than I can ever express.”

“Maybe he didn’t really have that virus, in the first place. Maybe there was a mistake by the hospital, and it was something else that made him sick.”

Hutch felt himself deflate. He really couldn’t blame her for searching for a logical explanation, so he made a point of keeping his voice level. “That is as far fetched as being abducted by aliens, if you would have known just how sick David us. He almost died,” Hutch said flatly. “Was in the hospital for a couple of months. After having just recovered from a long hospitalization, because he was gunned down.”

Quietly, she asked, “Is all that going to be in that book of his that’s supposed to be published?”

Hutch nodded, feeling himself soften. “Yes. Our hope is that, whoever reads it, will come away understanding just how we came to love each other so much.” He realized he felt odd, saying the word love in front of his sister.

“But nothing about the alien thing will be in it?”

“No. We were advised that it would invalidate the rest of the book, since most people wouldn’t be able to take the UFO part seriously, so we took that chapter out, and David’s agent is also Daniel Wildenstein’s agent, so that’s how that part ended up in his book.”

“Is your book going to have your real names?”


“Why? Aren’t you worried that people are going to quit doing business with you, when they find out you’re gay?”

Hutch restrained a sigh. “Some of our clients know that, anyway. As well as some of the businesses we work with. If it comes up, we don’t hide it.” He looked over at her. “But, yes, we expect there will be some backlash. In fact, Milton — David’s agent — who is gay himself, thinks that the gay community will dislike it, because there’s mentions of various girlfriends. He’ll says that gays will think that we’re trying to show how ‘normal’ we are, and that we didn’t come into a relationship with each other the way, I guess, most gays do. We were never interested in other guys. Still aren’t.”

When she was silent, he admitted, “So, it is a little scary, thinking about it being published. But more than that, we wanted our story told.”

She drew a breath, but remained silent.

Hutch felt more cheerful, when he added, “Besides, Milton has pointed out that if it gets much publicity, one way or another, then that will mean people are reading it, and it’ll increase sales all the more. I don’t think either David nor I have ever been able to decide whether that will be a good thing or a bad thing. Whatever happens, happens.”

They were silent for a few moments. Then Hutch nodded at the envelope of photos. “If you want to talk about unexplained things, David dreamed about that filly before she was even born.”

“What do you mean?”

“He had a dream, before she was even conceived, that we’d have a chestnut filly with a blaze and a white foot.”

“How do you know he wasn’t exaggerating? It’s easy for people to say they knew something ahead of time, after-the-fact.”

“Because I remember him telling me about it, one morning.” Hutch relented, “I really don’t remember the finer details, but if you would have seen that look on his face when we walked into Darla’s stall… he wasn’t exaggerating.”

Levelly, she asked, “What do you think it means?”

“Don’t know,” Hutch admitted with a soft chuckle. “We already have her name, because it was the name she had in the dream. Flying Waters. We’d thought about it before, for Darla’s first foal, but since he was a boy, we wanted something more masculine, so we chose Depth Charge.”

“Well, since you had thought of it before, it’s doesn’t seem odd that he would have associated the name with a horse in a dream.”

“Yeah, but he knew she would have a blaze and a white front foot, and he was right.” He felt silly, trying to convince his sister of the legitimacy of the dream, when he himself had no idea if Starsky had really dreamed it as vividly as he said. He just felt protective of his love’s belief in that dream.

The fell into silence. Lannie was picking at lint on her slacks, when she said, “We’re probably going to need to buy a house. The condo is getting to be too small.”

Hutch looked over at her with a grin. “Yeah, I imagine so, with Melinda probably moving around more.”

“Yeah, she can pretty much walk. And Nick always has so many files and papers all over. He needs an office. She’ll need her own bedroom, before long.”

Hutch wondered, “Would you want Mom to move in with you? She can then be sort of a permanent babysitter.”

“We haven’t decided yet if we want to ask her. It’ll be nice to have her around, in some ways. In others, it would make things really difficult, if we decided she was around too much. Actually, though, I don’t know that she’d necessarily want to. I think she likes being around her friends and stuff at the senior community.”

“I tend to think she’d, all in all, prefer to be with her granddaughter more. Mom is only going to get older, and might not be able to get around as easily. If you need any financial help, getting a house, she’d probably want to do that, too.”

“I don’t think we’d qualify for a loan, without her help. I don’t make enough, and Nick doesn’t have a steady income, and it’s hard to prove anything, with his self-employment income.”

Hutch was surprised that she was talking personal finances with him. “If the firm can be any help at all, let us know. We can always vouch for Nick’s income, whatever it takes to make a deal work.” He realized he was offering to lie, to help them get a house, but immediately rationalized that that sort of thing went on all the time. “Are you guys interested in a certain area?”

“I don’t want to be far from my stores, but I’d like to be a little more suburban, for Melinda to grow up in a decent area. Maybe Sierra Heights, or an area like that.”

Hutch nodded. It would be slightly closer to their work, if a little farther from their home. But Nick and Lannie definitely wouldn’t be able to afford a house there, without help.

She sighed. “But Nick really does need to get a new car, so we’ve got to get that squared away first.” Then she muttered, “We never seem to get ahead.”

“I don’t know that many people do, when they’re raising a family. But you know David and I will also help out, if it’s necessary, and Mom probably will, too.” As he said those words, Hutch realized that, perhaps for the first time, he felt a real sense of family.


Starsky was bent over, his weight on his elbows, which were atop Hutch’s conference table, that he was standing beside. Hutch was sitting in a chair, and they had an array of handwritten papers spread between them, as they’d never gotten around to having Lois put the Brookhouse case on the computer, especially since they themselves couldn’t figure out the best way to organize it.

“So,” Starsky said, drawing a line through a name on the list, “this guy was in jail when Blake was murdered, for assaulting somebody at a parking garage, who had made a dent in his Cadillac.”

“Temper, temper,” Hutch muttered.

“Yeah. So, we’re down to three people on our ‘Priority 2’ list, that can now move to ‘Priority 1’, based upon something they said over the phone, so we need to interview them in person. They’re all in other states. South Dakota, Missouri, and Nebraska.”

“Interesting that Nebraska comes up again. Is that person in Omaha?”

Starsky leaned closer to the page that had any known addresses and phone number beneath the names. “Yeah,” he said with surprise. “Interesting coincidence. He’s a supplier of parts for the cargo ships. Omaha sits right there on the Missouri River, at Nebraska’s border with Iowa.”

“Let’s check him out first,” Hutch decided. “What did he say when you interviewed him on the phone?”

Starsky had to go to another stack of papers, and find the page with his notes for that particular phone interview. “Les Stevenson is a manager of the shipping parts company. He met with Blake a few times, though only once in Omaha. The other times he flew out here to meet with him. They usually discussed the pricing for the coming year, and any new brands of parts that might become available, and that sort of thing. Blake was in charge of quality control for the ships, so he was involved with approving parts that his company bought from the supplier.”

Hutch prompted, “So, what moves this guy to the Priority 1 list?”

Reading his notes had jogged Starsky’s memory. “There was something about his tone. Just sort of disaffected, you know? Distant, in a phony way. Like he was trying to sound like a businessman who only cared about business, and hearing about another businessman’s death was ‘too bad’, but he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. Except, I wasn’t buying it. Just got the feeling that talking about Blake being murdered bothered him more than he wanted to let on. Want to talk to him in person, so I can study his mannerisms.”

“Well, those three states are close enough together, that you could probably catch all three guys in one two-day trip, if they’re available.”

Hopefully, Starsky asked, “Don’t you want to come?”

“I don’t know, buddy. We’ve got so much going on here.”

Starsky grimaced, reminding, “We’ve always got a lot going on here. That never changes.”

“Well, let’s first see if we can get appointments with the three within the same few days. Maybe I’ll fly out with you, and we can interview Stevenson together, but maybe split up to do the other two.”


After a couple of weeks, they were finally able to get appointments with the three men, within two days of each other. After flying into Omaha, Starsky and Hutch left the airport in separate rental cars, Starsky to interview Horton Nelson in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Hutch to do the same with William Forks in Springfield, Missouri. They met back up in an Omaha motel that night, and both reluctantly agreed that their interviews didn’t raise any suspicions that Nelson or Forks were involved in Blake’s murder.

The next morning, they traveled together to a restaurant in Omaha, where Les Stevenson had agreed to meet with them. Stevenson was a tall six feet, five inches, about their age, with thick red hair. He was in a suit and immediately lit a cigarette when he sat down at the table.

After the introductions, Stevenson said, “I was surprised you wanted to meet with me. I thought I’d answered all your questions over the phone a while back.”

“We had a few more,” Starsky said.

Stevenson blew smoke out of his nose. “I’ll admit that the only reason I was willing to take time to meet you here is because this is a rare restaurant that allows smoking. It’s banned at the office, and at most places around here. I look for any excuse to get away and light up.”

The man couldn’t be faulted for his honesty. Hutch shifted in his chair, mentally reviewing the discussion he and Starsky had had last night about how to approach this interview. “There’s been a few things that have come up in our investigation since Starsky here last talked to you. We just want to run them by you.”

The man nodded, and muttered to the waitress that paused at their table, “A martini, please.”

Hutch told her, “Budweisers for us.”

She nodded and moved on.

Hutch said, “First, we’d like to ask if you’ve ever heard of someone at Artful Shipping Corp named Billy Taylor.”

Stevenson’s mouth contorted in a few directions, making it clear that he was dragging out his answer. He took a puff of his cigarette, and then said, “Billy Taylor might have been the name of the man that was with Blake Brookhouse when they met with me here in Omaha, a year ago. I can’t say that I remember for sure. Blake did most of the talking.”

Starsky asked, “Would you say that they got along all right?”

Stevenson grinned, as though delighted. “You thinking this Billy Taylor guy might have killed Blake?”

Carefully, Hutch asked, “That amuses you?”

Stevenson shrugged. “Just seems weird. A co-worker. What benefit would he get? What, was Blake in his way for some big promotion, or something?” he chuckled, and then shoved his cigarette in his mouth.

Starsky shifted in his chair, leaning on the table with his elbows. “Whatever the man’s name, when he and Blake met with you last April, did they seem to get along all right? Anything odd about them that you might remember?”

The waitress brought their drinks. “A cheeseburger,” Stevenson told her, then, “That okay with you guys?”

“Sure,” Starsky said.

After the waitress wrote it down and moved away, Stevenson took a sip of his martini. Then he said, “Can’t say that I remember anything that day I spent with them. I just remember that there was two of them. Like I said, Blake did most of the talking.”

“What was the other guy there for?” Starsky asked.

“I don’t know. If they told me, I don’t remember. I guess I thought maybe he was an apprentice or something, learning the ropes from Blake.”

Hutch swallowed and placed his beer bottle back on the table. “You said you spent the whole day with them?”

“Much of the day. We probably had lunch, then went to the docks, where our office is. Probably went to a bar for drinks, and then had dinner. Maybe at his hotel, the Prestige. That’s usually where corporate people stay who have fat expense accounts.”

Starsky’s expression was suddenly earnest. “Mr. Stevenson, have you heard anything about the dry cleaning service the Prestige Hotel uses?”

 A slow grin spread across Stevenson’s face, as he looked from one to the other. “You fellas know about that? What? You want me to set you up for some loving tonight?”

Surprised, Hutch asked, “You can arrange that?”

Stevenson stubbed out his cigarette, and reached into his pocket for another. “I don’t need to arrange anything. I can just give you the number of the dry cleaner. You have to call them direct. The hotel doesn’t have anything to do with it, thank goodness. Otherwise, they’d be wanting their cut, and the girls would cost more.”

Hutch’s recollection was that Starsky had said that the dry cleaner fired the one girl that they’d found out was accepting calls for her “other job” at the cleaning establishment.

Starsky grinned, nodding at Stevenson. “Sure, I’d love some recreation tonight.” He glanced at Hutch. “I wasn’t expecting an opportunity like this.”

Stevenson nodded at Starsky’s hand. “I see you’re both married. Nothing quite like getting something on the side.”

“Right on,” Starsky said. “So, are you familiar with the girls?”

“Some of them. Now Mindy, she’s my favorite. Don’t go getting any ideas about her.”

Intrigued, Hutch asked, “You’ve got exclusive rights to her?”

“Oh, I don’t mind if you borrow her. Just don’t be setting your sights on her, if you know what I mean.”

Hutch blinked. “Well, considering that we’ll be headed back to California tomorrow morning, I don’t know how either of us can be setting our sights on her.”

Stevenson seemed to shake himself. “Oh, right. I’m so used to talking to businessmen that travel here regularly, I forgot that you guys don’t expect to be back.”

“So,” Starsky said, “what’s so special about Mindy?”

Stevenson glanced around, then lowered his voice to a whisper. “She likes it up the back end. Even more than getting it up her cunt.”

Hutch doubted it, but rubbed his hands eagerly. “So, you help the dry cleaner set up visitors with the girls?”

Stevenson waved his hand. “No, no. I just make sure anybody coming here for business with the company I work for, knows there’s some snatch available.” He grinned. “It’s just good manners to make sure everyone is aware of the hospitality that the city has to offer.”

Hutch wasn’t sure he was going to want his cheeseburger.

Starsky leaned closer. “So, did Blake Brookhouse like Mindy, too?”

“No,” Stevenson replied immediately. “She wasn’t his type.”

“Who did he like?”

Stevenson puffed his cigarette and shrugged. “He was just here the once. I don’t know who went up to his room.”

Puzzled, Hutch asked, “How do you know it wasn’t Mindy?”

Stevenson gazed at Hutch a long moment, frowning. “Mindy doesn’t know anything about Blake, if that’s what you’re wondering. She was with me that night Blake was in town.”

“The girls come to your place?” Starsky asked.

“Na. They have rules about that. They will only come to a hotel room, like the Prestige. They feel expensive rooms mean clients willing to pay more, and are less likely to be, you know, weirdos.”

“So, for you to see Mindy or any of the other girls,” Starsky said, “you have to get a room at the Prestige?”

“Expensive as hell,” Stevenson said sourly. “But when I get the itch, it’s worth it.”

Hutch couldn’t see a ring on the man’s left hand. “Are you married?”

“Na, divorced. Twice.” He grinned. “I like variety.”

The waitress brought their food, and gave them each a plate with a cheeseburger and fries.

After she left, Starsky rubbed his hands together. “So. How do we get ourselves some loving tonight?”

Stevenson reached into his sports coat and pulled out a pen. He wrote on a napkin, and handed it to Starsky. “That’s the number to the dry cleaner. Just call them and say you’d like some hospitality tonight, and give them your room number. It’ll cost you a couple of hundred.” He snorted with amusement. “Put it on your company’s expense tab.”

“A couple of hundred is a lot,” Hutch said, noting that the number was seven digits.

“They’re nice girls. Not like tramps. Classy.”

“What’s the area code here?”

“402. But it’ll be a local call, so you don’t need it.”

“Oh, right,” Hutch said. He glanced at Starsky. “Don’t know how my wife will feel about this.”

Stevenson chuckled. “She doesn’t need to know.” He suddenly snapped his fingers, his eyes lighting up. “I just remembered! That man that was with Blake last spring. I started talking about them getting themselves a girl for the night, and that younger guy, he was getting all jittery and talking about how he had a girlfriend back at home.” He slapped his knee, laughing loudly. “I told him, ‘She’s not going to know that you’ve put it elsewhere. Besides, the whole point of having a thankless job that requires a lot of traveling is to get yourself something in every city you visit.’ If it wasn’t for that perk, nobody would accept a job that keeps you away from home so much.”

“Yeah?” Starsky prompted. “So, did that other guy turn down getting a girl?”

“God, no! That’s why I remember it now. He was acting like he wasn’t sure he was interested, but once he turned the corner on the idea… man, suddenly he’s all excited, especially when I told him the girls would do anything he wanted. Practically had his boner hanging out, in the hotel lobby.” Stevenson nodded. “I bet what I taught him that night was far more important than anything Blake taught him, about being a traveling businessman.”

“No kidding,” Hutch said, hoping he sounded convincing. He had no appetite in his burger.

Starsky fidgeted in his chair. “Man, I wasn’t expecting to get laid on this trip. Do you think the girls will come during the daytime?”

Stevenson shrugged. “Probably. I’ve never tried to in the daytime. I’m a working man.” He laughed, and then puffed on his cigarette.

Starsky glanced at Hutch, and then began to rise. “You know, I think I’m hungry for something else, besides a burger.” He indicated the napkin in his hand. “Thanks so much for this.” He nodded at his burger, which he hadn’t touched. “You’re welcome to it.” He pulled some bills out of his pocket, and tossed them to the table. With deliberate irony, he said, “Thanks for your information.”

Hutch silently joined Starsky in making a quit exit.  Behind them, Stevenson laughed.

It wasn’t until they were in their rental car, that they both let out sighs of relief.

“I thought I was gonna be sick,” Starsky said.

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“Don’t know if we’ve talked to anybody that sleazy since our cop days.”

Hutch indicated the napkin clutched in Starsky’s hand. “Do you remember if that’s the same phone number that was on the brochure?”

“Yep, it is.  Just without the area code."

“So, what have we got?”

“He seemed awfully possessive of Mindy.”

“I noticed that, too.”

“I think we should see if we can get her to come to our room, and talk to us.”

“He seemed to want to dissuade us from that. I’m not sure I believed him, when he said she wasn’t Blake’s type.”

“Right. I am pretty sure that was Billy Taylor, who came here with Blake. It had to be, since Taylor said he traveled with Blake sometimes, and Blake was only here the once.”

“Maybe, when we get back home, we need to ask Taylor if he knows about the dry cleaning service.”

“Yeah, funny how that seems to be the center of Blake’s activity, when he was here in Omaha.”

Hutch rubbed at his chin. “So, the dry cleaner was obviously lying to you, when you were here before.”

“Uh-huh. I believed them, too. Seemed like an ordinary dry cleaner establishment. Told me they fired the gal that was taking calls for ‘services’ needed at the hotel.”

Hutch considered that. “Maybe that’s the explanation they always use, in case a cop inquires.”

“Yeah. Anyway, I say we need to get Mindy to come up to our room."

“Yeah. Let’s go.”


Peyton’s Dry Cleaning said they would have Mindy at their room at four o’clock. It was now a little after two.

Starsky said, “We should probably call the office and see if anything is going on.”

While Starsky sat down in a chair with a magazine, Hutch reached for the phone. He dialed for an outside line, and then called the office number.

“Starsky and Hutchinson,” Lois greeted.

“Hi Lois. We just wondered if there’s anything we need to know about, before we return tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, Ken, Anne Brookehouse called, all upset. She said her sister overdosed, and she’d like you to call her.”

Hutch felt his heart clench. “Oh, no.”

Starsky put down the magazine and moved near. “What?”

Hutch grabbed the pen next to the hotel stationary. “What’s her number?” To Starsky, he said, “Anne’s sister overdosed.”

Starsky asked, “Is she all right?”

After writing down the number, Hutch asked, “Do you know if her sister is going to be okay?”

“I don’t know,” Lois replied. “She didn’t say, and I didn’t have the heart to ask her. She just really, really wanted you to call her, and I said you were out of town, working on the case….”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll call her now.” Hutch hung up, waited a moment, and then dialed an outside line, and then the number he’d written down. “God, I hope she’s going to be all right. For Anne to lose her sister, after losing her husband….”

The phone was picked up on the second ring. “Hello?” asked a quiet, tentative voice.

“Anne, Ken Hutchinson.”

She began to cry. “Oh, Ken, I lost her. My sister is dead.”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.” As Starsky moved nearer, Hutch put his hand over the receiver. “Her sister died.”

“Ah, geez,” Starsky said.

“Was it suicide?” Hutch asked gently.

“No, no. I’m sure it wasn’t. She probably just took the wrong combination….” She released a few sobs. “I don’t have anybody left.”

“Anne, I’m so sorry. I wish I was there.” Hutch felt a squeeze on his arm, and said, “We’ll stop by and see you when we’re back in town. Should be late tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, I’d like that. I appreciate it, Ken.” He heard the effort to pull herself together. “So, are you finding out anything?”

“I’m not sure. We’re running down a particular lead, but whether it’ll lead to murder….” The last thing he ever wanted to tell her was the details of her husband’s indiscretions while out of town, since she’d refused to know about such things during their marriage.

“I’ll leave you to it. I trust that you’re trying your best.”

“We definitely are. That’s why we came out here.”

“I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning, Ken. Thank you for caring.”

“Certainly.” Hutch hung up, wondering if she was hoping he’d come to see her alone. Starsky had never met her, so this was an opportunity for that to finally happen.

“Man, what rotten luck,” Starsky said.

“Yeah. She thinks it was an accidental overdose.”

“So, we’re dropping by tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah.” Hutch’s mouth corner twitched. “About time you met her.”


They turned on the TV, but Hutch found himself not following the late afternoon talk shows. He couldn’t help but feel that he’d let Anne down, by not being available when she needed him most. She didn’t even have a shoulder to cry on, after the devastating loss of her sister.

There was a knock at the door.

Starsky moved to the television and turned it off. Hutch went to the door and opened it.

A tall, slim, dark-haired young woman stood there, dressed in a miniskirt, heels, and a sweater draped around the shoulders of her tight blouse. She smiled at him.

Hutch stepped back. “Mindy, come in.” He was glad Starsky was here, because there was no way his hormones could otherwise turn down what was offered right in front of him.

“Hello,” Mindy said with a brilliant smile, as she moved past. Then, “Hello,” to Starsky.

Starsky’s eyes moved up and down, and Hutch knew he was feeling likewise.

“Uh, wow,” Starsky said.

She removed her lightweight sweater.

“Uh,” Starsky indicated a chair, “why don’t you have a seat here.”

She glanced at the bed with puzzlement, but said, “All right.” She moved to sit gracefully in the chair, crossing one leg over the other.

“Uh,” Starsky touched the sweater, “please put that back on.”

Hutch said, “We’d like to talk first, and don’t want to be distracted.”

Starsky blushed. “Yes, you’re very distracting.”

She wrapped the sweater around her shoulders. “Well, all right. Talking first is fine. Whatever floats your boat.”

“Uh…” Starsky reached for his wallet. He pulled out some bills. “First, here’s your two hundred dollars.”

“Thank you,” she said, placing the bills into her small purse.

Starsky glanced helplessly at Hutch.

Hutch stepped in front of Mindy. “Mindy, uh, this is going to be an easy assignment, because you can remain dressed, and leave in just a few minutes.”

She looked from one to the other. “Huh?”

Hutch took out his own wallet, and pulled out a card. “We’re private investigators from California.”

She frowned, holding the card, but not looking at it. “You mean you’re cops?”

“No, no. Private investigators. Someone is California is paying us to investigate a murder.”

She became alarmed. “Murder? I don’t know anything about a murder!”

Starsky held out his hands in a calming gesture. “We don’t have any reason to think that you do. We’re just checking out some leads, and one thing led to another. We’re hoping you can just tell us anything you might know about a couple of people.”

“Look, I don’t ask questions of my clients.”

“That’s fine,” Hutch said, making his voice soothing. Then he said, “We’ll give you another fifty, if you can just try to think through what we ask you.”

Before she could reply, Starsky asked, “Do you know someone named Les Stevenson?”

She looked from one to the other. “I know a Les. I don’t know his last name.”

“Chain smokes,” Starsky offered.

She frowned. “Yes. He’s a creep. Why?”

Hutch asked, “Does he bother you?”

Her eyes focused on him. “What if he does? What are you going to do about it?”

Hutch looked helplessly at Starsky, for neither had the power to offer any kind of solution or assistance.

Starsky asked, “Is he possessive of you?”

“He tries to be. He’s crazy. Talks like I shouldn’t see other men who might like me too much, like he does.”

“Has he ever hurt anyone?” Hutch asked.

She shrugged. “Not that I know of. He just likes to talk big. At least, that what I’ve always assumed. I don’t even like to see him, unless I really need the money.”

“Who is it that he thinks likes you too much?”

“Nobody in particular. That’s why it’s so irritating. I see all kinds of men. He gets himself all worked up, talking about other men liking me ‘too much’, and that’s what gets him horny, I guess. It’s all in his head.”

Hutch didn’t think her information was doing anything for their case.

Starsky asked, “Can you think back to spring of last year, and remember somebody named Blake Brookhouse?”

She shook her head, sighing. “I see so many men, and it’s always just first names. There’s no way….”

Hutch offered, “Blake isn’t a common first name.”

“Then he might have used any name,” she said. “Sorry, but there’s no way I can remember back that far.”

Starsky drew a breath. “Mindy, we’d like to ask you about the dry cleaning service.”

Her brows knitted together. “Are you guys really cops?”

“No,” Hutch said. “We’re just looking for information for our case.” He took out his wallet, found a fifty, and handed it to her. “It just helps us to have some background. Do you know how long the dry cleaning service has been doing this?”

“I don’t know. I just walked into their place one day last fall, after school had started, with clothes I needed dry cleaned, and they asked if I’d like to make some money. I didn’t like the idea at first, but they said it would just be wealthy businessmen, at this hotel. Minimal risk of getting a creep, or getting stiffed.” She shrugged again. “Keeps the college tuition paid. Once I get my degree and a real job, I won’t have to do this anymore.”

Hutch looked at Starsky, who shrugged.

“Thanks for your time.” Hutch nodded at the door. “You can go.”

She looked from one to the other. “Are you sure you don’t want anything else?”

Hutch found himself considering what would be so easy to obtain.

“Yes,” Starsky said firmly. “You can go.”

“Okay,” she said, gathering her purse. “Thanks, guys. Call for me anytime.” She moved to the door that Hutch held open for her.

“Bye,” Hutch said, and closed the door behind her.

Starsky approached Hutch, and spoke around a heavy breath. “Is my memory faulty, or did we once hang around scantily clad women without it being a big deal?”

“Your memory isn’t faulty,” Hutch said, moving past him.

Starsky grabbed his arm. “If you’re not here, I would have had her on the bed and been banging her in less than two minutes.”

“Ditto,” Hutch muttered, glad that Starsky had had the strength that he hadn’t, to tell her to leave.

Starsky stepped closer and looked at Hutch with smoldering eyes. “Make me forget her.”

They threw their arms around each other, and kissed passionately. And then moved to the bed.


It took Hutch a while to recover from the triple whammy that Starsky had eventually given him. As he lay under the covers, staring at the wall after darkness had fallen, he was aware how blissfully sated his lower regions felt.

Anne Brookhouse had no such outlet.

Starsky’s voice was behind him. “You’re thinking about Anne Brookhouse, aren’t you?”

Hutch rolled over to face Starsky. “She doesn’t have anybody to turn to.”

“You can’t be her savior.”

“I know.”

“She’ll find love again. She’s got a lot going for her.”

“Now, she has another funeral to plan for.”

Starsky reached out with a finger, and ran it down Hutch’s nose. “She does. You don’t.”

That was a truth that Hutch couldn’t deny.

Eventually, they made love yet again.


 They were up early, had room service for breakfast, and then cleared the table to spread out the files they had brought with them. They had an hour before they had to leave for the airport.

Starsky said, “You know, I guess it really doesn’t matter if Mindy saw Blake or not. She said that Stevenson imagines other men getting too close to her. So, if on the off chance that he murdered Blake, that would have to be the motivation, huh? That he’d decided that Blake liked her ‘too much’?”

Hutch was shaking his head. “Blake was murdered in California. I can’t imagine Stevenson being so whacked that he’d decide, after one visit, that Blake was a rival for his fantasies of Mindy’s attention, and then traveled all the way to California to shoot him.”

Starsky frowned. “Yeah.” Then he reminded, “But we do know he traveled to California sometimes to meet Blake.”

Hutch sat back in his chair, contemplative. “Refresh my memory. What was the reason you thought Stevenson should be interviewed in person?”

“He didn’t sound genuine to me on the phone. But he also didn’t sound anywhere near as sleazy as he was to us yesterday. He sounded dismissive, standoffish, but also more bothered that I was asking questions, than he was letting on.”

Hutch crossed his arms. “Based on what we know now, why would he have been bothered that you were asking questions?”

Starsky thought for a minute, and then shrugged. “I don’t know. Unless he associates Blake with the dry cleaning service, which means Mindy, and he was afraid that the dry cleaning service was no longer a secret.”

Hutch leaned forward, folding his hands. “But he readily told us about the dry cleaning service, once you asked about it. He was delighted that we were interested.”

“Once we were out here. Maybe he just felt different, talking about it before, to someone so far away. Once we were here, and he saw we were married… maybe it titillated him all the more.”

Hutch shifted in his chair. “Yeah, he sure loved telling us how he convinced whoever was with Blake to cheat on his girlfriend with a prostitute.”


“From what he said, are you sure the man with Blake was Billy Taylor?”

“I feel it had to have been. Blake and Billy Taylor being out here together, last April, jibes with everything else we know about them.”

“Okay,” Hutch decided. “Let’s say that Billy Taylor murdered Blake. What would be his motivation?”

“Well, Blake was murdered in July, a few months later. It may or may not have anything to do with this trip.” Starsky gave an exaggerated shrug. “Suppose Taylor’s girlfriend found out he was with a prostitute, left him, and therefore Taylor blamed Blake for having introduced him to Stevenson, and therefore the prostitution ring?” He looked at Hutch helplessly.

That did all sound rather ridiculous.

“You know,” Starsky said, “one thing we haven’t seriously considered is a work-related murder. That Blake was murdered because of something going on in the company.”

“That’s because anyone related to his work, we’ve talked to, hasn’t led us anywhere. The only leads that have amounted to anything at all, all revolve around here in Omaha and the dry cleaning service.”

“Yeah,” Starsky acknowledged with a distant expression. Then he leaned forward. “Blake was in charge of quality control, for the parts that his company purchased. That’s a powerful position. His say-so can cost others a lot of money, if he decides to discontinue using their parts, or whatever.”

“Yeah, but we haven’t come across anybody indicating that there’s been any kind of shake-up or any changes, in Blake’s company or any that he did business with.” Hutch wanted to get back to another train of thought. “Weren’t you bothered by something, when you interviewed Billy Taylor?”

Starsky mused, “Yeah. Felt that he was thinking of somebody in particular, when he said something about how you can never really know a person.”

Hutch drew a breath. “Okay, let’s say he was referring to Blake. How would that come about?”

“At work, he knew Blake to be a man happily married to Anne. He comes out here with Blake, they meet up with Stevenson, and Taylor finds out about the dry cleaner, sees how Blake doesn’t think anything of cheating when he’s out of town, which is something Taylor wouldn’t consider, even though he’s not married, but just has a girlfriend, so maybe he’d put Blake on a pedestal, and then was severely disappointed.”

Hutch grunted. “He wouldn’t murder Blake for letting him down, especially when he himself ended up getting laid that night.”

“According to Stevenson,” Starsky pointed out.

“Yeah, but I believe Stevenson. When he suddenly remembered that about Taylor, his sleazy happiness about it was too strong to be made up.”


“We’ve got to interview Taylor again,” Hutch emphasized. “Find out what he has to say about the dry cleaner. Also, ask him if Blake had, say, changed his mind about any of his major suppliers, and didn’t renew their contract with them, or ended up not doing a contract that he’d previously promised.”

Starsky looked directly at Hutch. “Since we’re planning on seeing Anne when we arrive home this morning, we also need to ask her if Blake said anything to her about a shake-up at work. It may have seemed like just ordinary work stuff to her, and she never considered that it could have anything to do with him being murdered.”

Hutch heard his own voice softening at the mention of Anne. “Yeah.”


As they pulled up in front of Anne’s house in Starsky’s Corvette, Hutch reached up to the rear view mirror with his left hand and turned it toward himself. With his right, he smoothed his hair, grimacing.

“What’s the matter?” Starsky asked.

Hutch flexed his right shoulder. “Must have done something to my shoulder. Might have been when I reached to the overhead bin on the plane. Hurts when I reach up.”

Starsky grinned. “Or maybe, it was some bedroom acrobatics. But I suppose it’s impolite of me to remind you of that, when we’re in front of Anne’s house.”

“Knock it off,” Hutch said levelly, while opening his door. “Come on.”

Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy from continuous crying. Starsky did think she was a beautiful woman, without being extravagant, and let Hutch do most of the talking, which took place in gentle tones, while they sat on a love seat together. Starsky was content to wander about the room, keeping his ears tuned to their conversation.

Finally, after spending a lot of time talking about her sister, and funeral arrangements, Hutch said, “Uh, Anne, since we’re here, we’d like to ask you some things about Blake’s job, if you think you’re up to it.”

“All right,” she said.

Hutch looked up at Starsky, and Starsky decided to lead the questioning, and stepped near the love seat. “Do you recall Blake saying anything about his company deciding to discontinue buying parts from a long-time supplier, or something along that line?”

She sighed. “Blake and I almost never talked about his work.”

Starsky pressed, “Well, did he ever come home, particularly agitated, or annoyed about something that had gone on? Or something that somebody did or said, in his company, or any that he did business with?”

She looked away with a thoughtful expression. “Well, sure, there were times when he seemed under a lot of stress, but nothing that I’d consider abnormal for a position like his.”

“But you don’t remember any specifics, about anything he said?”

She looked at Hutch, who prompted, “Even the smallest detail could be really important.”

She slowly shook her head. “I just don’t have any memory of a particular conversation. Since I didn’t know hardly any of the people that Blake might talk about concerning his job, the names didn’t mean anything to me.”

Starsky asked, “What about Billy Taylor? Does that name ring a bell?”

She brightened. “Yes. I even met him once, I think. He was picking Blake up, so they could go to the airport together, where they had a flight.”

“Do you know to where?” Hutch asked.

She shook her head again. “Blake traveled so much, that I can’t associate any particular person or conversation with any particular city. His office should be able to provide some of his travel records.”

“We have all that,” Starsky assured her. “We just wondered if you might recall any details. Particularly anything concerning Billy Taylor.” He decided to tell her, in a by-the-way tone, “He’s a real fanatic about model trains.”

She gave a small laugh. “That’s the first time I’ve heard anything like that. That’s not the sort of thing that Blake would share with me about someone. When he was home, we were focused on each other.”

Hutch reached to squeeze her hand, and then stood. “Thanks.”

She asked, “Do you think you’re getting somewhere?”

“We’ve got some leads that have some possibilities. Nothing that appears firm, at this point.”

She nodded. “I know you’re doing your best.”

“That we are,” Hutch replied.


Early Monday morning, Hutch made one push at the barbells, with their fitness trainer, Wallace, standing over him in the workout room of their home, and then lowered his arms in defeat. “I can’t do this, this morning. Did something to my shoulder a few days back.”

“What did you do?” Wallace demanded.

Hutch pushed himself into a sitting position, while catching a smirk from Starsky, who was on the exercise bike. “We had a flight out of town.” He made a slight reaching motion with his right arm. “Maybe when I was putting our luggage in the overhead bin. Must have pulled something.”

“All right.” The middle-aged, no-nonsense Wallace indicated the bike. “Switch places then.”

With a sigh, Starsky extracted himself from the bike and went to the barbells.

While Wallace stood over Starsky, he barked over his shoulder at Hutch, “Faster!”

Hutch pedaled faster, feeling sweat break out on his brow.


Once showered and dressed, they left in Starsky’s Corvette for Billy Taylor’s house. Starsky had spoken with enthusiasm when setting up the appointment, telling Taylor that he was eager to once again see his collection of trains.

Taylor lived in a more modest neighborhood than where the Brookhouses had resided. Since Starsky had set up the expectation, Taylor, who was thirtyish with dark hair, and wore thick rimmed glasses, led them down to his well lit basement, where various model trains and tracks dominated the sparsely furnished area. There was a desk in one corner, with various model train magazines scattered over it. Along the wall was a small bulletin board, with a few sloppily pinned photographs and other notices. A large cobweb hung from the lamp in the center of the room.

Hutch was content to stay in the background, and idly thumb through the magazines, while Starsky eagerly told Taylor about the new engine he’d purchased since their prior meeting.

Finally, when there was the barest hint of a lull in their conversation, Starsky casually said, “So, you know that my partner and I are investigating the death of Blake Brookhouse.”

“Right,” Taylor said, one hand resting on a back pocket of his jeans.

“I was wondering,” Starsky went on, “if you had a girlfriend last year, when Blake was still alive.”

Hutch watched the surprise cross Taylor’s features. “Well, yeah, but they never met.” His eyes went from Starsky to Hutch. “Why do you think she had anything to do with Blake’s murder?”

“We don’t think anything like that,” Starsky assured. “We’re just wondering if you still see her.”

He shook his head. “No. God, no. We weren’t right for each other. I broke up with her… I don’t know, maybe a year ago.”

“Are you seeing anyone now?”

Taylor shook his head. “No. Why?”

Starsky casually moved away from the trains and toward the messy desk. “Just wondering.” He caught sight of the bulletin poor and tapped a photograph. “Is that her?”

“No,” Taylor replied, “that’s a girlfriend from a long time ago.” He smiled. “My first real love.”

Hutch watched as Starsky eyes went from the photograph to a small piece of paper pinned to the board. Hutch was too far away to see what the paper said, and Starsky moved a few steps away from the bulletin board. His voice was apologetic. “Billy, I’m afraid we need to ask you a really personal question.”

Taylor shrugged awkwardly. “All right.”

Hutch could see that Starsky wanted to turn his attention back to the bulletin board, so he decided to take over the interview. “Uh, Billy, do you recall being in Omaha last April, with Blake?”

“Sure. We met up with a representative of one of our major suppliers there.”

From the corner of his eye, Hutch watched Starsky study the bulletin board, so he stepped directly in Taylor’s line of sight, to keep the man’s attention. “So, you know about the dry cleaner?”

“Dry cleaner?” He gazed at Hutch innocently.

Hutch wasn’t falling for it. “Yes, the dry cleaner. You know, the one that offers services besides cleaning clothes.”

Starsky stepped away from the bulletin board, and said casually, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We indulged, while we were there.”

Taylor turned to glance at Starsky, and then released a snort. “Yeah. Blake already knew all about it. And Les — the representative from our supplier — he seemed to know a lot about the girls.”

Starsky moved to stand next to Hutch. “Yeah, lots of guys that travel figure out where to find girls. It’s not like their wives or girlfriends back home are ever gonna to know.”

Taylor nodded. “So, what about it?”

Starsky shrugged. “Did your girlfriend find out you’d been with a prostitute? Is that why you broke up?”

“I told her,” Taylor said emphatically. “I was wanting to break up with her, she didn’t want to, so I told her what I’d done in Omaha, so she wouldn’t want anything more to do with me.” He grinned. “It worked.”

Oh, Hutch thought. That wasn’t the reaction they'd been hoping for.

Starsky didn’t appear fazed, and casually asked, “Do you think Anne Brookhouse found out about her husband’s infidelity?”

“I don’t know,” Taylor muttered.

Hutch wondered where Starsky was going with that. But it was Taylor who spoke again. “It’s not really infidelity. I mean,” he shrugged with exaggeration, “when you’re traveling. It’s what guys do.”

He sounded as though he was trying to convince himself, and Hutch could see Les Stevenson’s mark on Taylor’s morals.

“Have you been back to Omaha,” Starsky asked, “ since that trip a year ago?”

Taylor was thoughtful a moment. “No. Les usually comes here, when he needs to sign contracts, and things like that.”

Hutch had a thought. “Has Les ever mentioned a girl named Mindy?”

Taylor snorted. “I think that was her name. He acted like he was real tight with one of the girls, and I wondered how that was possible. The one that came to my room seemed to want to just be entertaining enough to get paid.”

Starsky asked, “Do you know if Mindy visited Blake that night you two were there?”

“I don’t know any of their names. I just think that Les mentioned a Mindy. I don’t even remember the name of the girl that came to my room.”

Starsky stepped close to Taylor and nudged him. With a grin, he asked, “You been able to see other girls, when you go to other towns?”

Taylor squared his shoulders, even as he deadpanned. “Well, not at the dry cleaners. Usually, I have to look in the phone directory and call an escort service.”

Starsky rubbed at his nose. “I wonder how the dry cleaner thing got started in Omaha.”

“I don’t know,” Taylor replied. “Weird, huh? Blake and Les didn’t seem to think anything of it.”

Starsky held out his hand. “Thanks, Billy. You’ve helped us clear up the Omaha angle.”

Taylor shook it, seeming relieved, and then shook Hutch’s hand.

Hutch said, “But if you happen to remember anything that might help our case, be sure and let us know.”

“Sure,” Taylor smiled. “I’ll do that.”

“And thanks,” Starsky added, “for letting me see your train collection again. It’s really cool.”


As soon as they were in the Corvette, Hutch asked, “What was on the bulletin board?”

Starsky sat back, after turning the ignition. “You won’t believe it.”

Hutch waited.

Starsky used his hands as a frame. “On a little piece of paper, was a ten-digit phone number that I’ve become awfully familiar with the past few months.”

Hutch blinked. “You mean….”

Starsky nodded. “Yep. It was the phone number to the dry cleaner in Omaha. With the area code.” He eased away from the curb.

Hutch felt his mind racing. “Just pinned there on his bulletin board.”

“Yep. Like he wanted to keep it handy for later reference.”

A moment later, Starsky steered the Corvette into the parking lot of a church, which was empty on this Monday morning. He turned off the motor, and stretched his arm across the back of Hutch’s seat. “Billy has that number way out here, with the area code, because if he calls from outside Omaha, he needs the area code.”

Hutch mused, “Just like, when Blake had the number written down on that hotel brochure, it had the area code.”

“Which means he wrote the number down when he was somewhere other than Omaha. When Les Stevenson gave us the number, he only wrote the seven digits, because we were in Omaha, and didn’t need the area code.”

Over a long moment of silence, Hutch sighed, “None of which means anything, in terms of Blake being murdered. All it means is that, when Les Stevenson was out here, he gave out the dry cleaner phone number to people that he knew would be traveling to Omaha at a future point, in the name of hospitality.”

Starsky tilted his head. “But why would he give them the number before they traveled to Omaha? When we talked to Les, he sounded like he was introducing Billy to the idea of having a prostitute come to his room. I mean, I didn’t get the impression that appointments with the girls were being set up ahead of time. For that matter, seems like it could be risky, in terms of somebody out here finding out. You know, the phone number would be on the company phone bill.”

“Unless any such calls were made from home.”

“Then the wives or girlfriends could see it on the phone bill, and ask about it.”

“I wonder if that dry cleaner phone number is on any of the Brookhouse phone bills.”

Starsky looked over at Hutch. “Do you know if Anne handled the bills in their marriage?”

“I don’t think so,” Hutch said. “I’ve seen some copies of checks that had Blake’s signature. I’m pretty sure he handled that stuff.”

“So, Anne would never be suspicious.”

“Right. Though, you know, she made a point of not being the suspicious type, anyway.”

Starsky bit his lower lip. “We’re on to something, Hutch. There’s a reason why the dry cleaner keeps coming up. It has to mean something.”

“Well,” Hutch drawled, as thoughts entered his mind, “one thing we know from our cop days, once someone breaks one law, they usually find it easy to start breaking others.”

“Meaning, the dry cleaner might be involved in something other than prostitution.”

“Gambling? Drugs?”

Starsky hit the steering wheel with his hand. “I just didn’t get any sense of that, when I visited the dry cleaning establishment, my first trip out there.”

“But then, you didn’t think they were doing prostitution, either, and there’s no question of that now.”

“That’s because they had such a ready answer. Just that one employee that was using their phone number to set up meetings with johns, and they’d fired her when they found out. It made sense. Seemed so valid. I didn’t get the sense that they were hiding anything.”

“But you only talked to one person there.”

Starsky was thoughtful for a long time. “Actually, it was two people, but you have a point. Maybe the two people I talked to didn’t know anything about it. It’s just that, the lady seemed to have some authority. I mean, how can johns be calling there, and some of the employees just plain not know anything about it?”

“Maybe the dry cleaner has two phone lines, and only the big boss answers the second line.”

Starsky snapped his fingers. He picked up his car phone, punched in three numbers, and said, “Yes, I’d like a phone number in Omaha, Nebraska.” After a moment, he said, “Peyton’s Dry Cleaning Service.” Hutch grabbed a pen from the cup holder between their seats and picked up a folded newspaper from the floorboard. He started to write, as Starsky repeated the number that Information gave him.

“Thanks very much,” Starsky said into the phone, and hung up.

Hutch held out the newspaper to him.

Starsky looked at the number. “Yep. The last three digits are a different number than the one we’ve known about before.”

“So, this is the real number for dry cleaning services.”

“But they answer the other number as the the dry cleaner, right? Remember? When we first called the number on the brochure, didn’t they answer Peyton Dry Cleaning, even though that’s the number for the prostitution business?”

Hutch thought back, remembering that first phone call. “Yeah. I asked them about dry cleaning services and how far they were from the hotel. They answered my questions like they really were a dry cleaning service.”

“They have to,” Starsky said decisively. “To throw any cops off their trail. They can’t know how someone got a hold of the special number, so they have to play it straight, until they know what the call is about. Anyone calling about the girls is going to understand that.”

“All right. Let’s say all our speculations are correct. Just what the hell does any of this have to do with Blake’s murder?”

Starsky scratched his head. “Well, it seems pretty obvious that Billy Taylor didn’t murder him, because of blaming Blake for making him cheat on his girlfriend.”

“Right. He seemed sincere that he was the one that broke it off, and he liked having the prostitution thing as a reason for her to wash her hands of him.”

“And Les wouldn’t have any reason to murder Blake, since we don’t have any evidence that Mindy paid any particular attention to Blake, and Mindy is the only reason that even vaguely strikes me as a motive for Les to kill somebody.”

Hutch said. “We might be back to square one, and need to examine the corporate angle. We didn’t ask Taylor about anything going on at work last year.”

Starsky muttered, “It crossed my mind, but I wanted to save it to ask Billy at another time, if necessary. Wanted to keep to the dry cleaner train of thought, for now.” Starsky shifted in his seat.

Hutch watched him. “What?”

Starsky didn’t look at him. “We need to ask Anne for their residential phone records.”

Hutch felt his stomach churn. “Dear God, I don’t want her to know anything about what Blake was doing out of town.”

“I know. But what if, like, Blake had called that number in Omaha, from home, lots of times? Maybe he kept that phone number around, like Billy Taylor does. That would mean there’s something going on, other than prostitution.” More gently, Starsky added, “We need to check it out.”

“Yeah,” Hutch acknowledged unhappily.

Starsky brightened. “Let’s have Lois call Anne and ask for her phone records, going back a year before Blake’s murder. It’ll just be a standard thing, to see who Blake was calling. Anne doesn’t need to know that we’re looking for something in particular.”

Hutch drew a heavy breath. “Yeah. Okay.”


Late on a Friday night, Starsky sat on the sofa, the television on, but turned low, as he’d barely registered anything on the screen. He’d been watching inattentively since getting home a few hours ago. He took another sip from his glass of whiskey.

Finally, there was the sound of the garage door opening. A few moments later, Starsky heard the door open from the garage to the laundry area. Then footsteps through the foyer and into the kitchen.

Hutch entered the living room with his guitar case. “Still up, huh?” He reached to set the case in the corner of the living room, and then placed his left hand against his right shoulder, as he straightened.

He’d been doing a lot of that lately. Starsky muttered, “You need to see a doctor.”

“Yeah, I know. If I hadn’t taken a bunch of painkillers, I don’t think I could have gotten through the performance tonight.” Hutch flexed his shoulder. “I’m not sure that it’s muscular. Should have gotten better by now.”

“Then see a doctor.”

“I keep forgetting to tell Lois to set an appointment.” Hutch’s eyes narrowed, as Starsky took another sip from his glass. “What’s going on?”

Starsky nodded at the 12x18x15 cardboard box next to the big-screen television.

Hutch stepped over to it and bent down. “What’s this?” Then, “From the publisher?”

“My book,” Starsky stated simply. “The copies we ordered.”

Perplexed, yet happy, Hutch asked, “You haven’t opened it?”

“Too scared.” Starsky finished off the glass.

Hutch’s face transformed into a tired, gentle smile. “Ah, buddy.” He reached to the box with both hands, and then aborted the movement, and used his left hand to push the box toward the sofa. He plopped down next to Starsky.

Starsky felt Hutch’s mouth against his hair, as he heard the quiet, amused reminder, “There’s nothing to be scared of, if nobody reads it.”

Starsky snorted.

“Shall we?” Hutch prompted.

“Go ahead.” Starsky knew he wasn’t in any condition to help.

Hutch held out his hand. “Pocket knife.” Then, after glancing at Starsky, he took it upon himself to reach into Starsky’s left pocket.

Starsky’s nerves were too numb to feel ticklish.

Hutch drew out the knife and pulled open the largest blade. He cut into the tape along the top of the box, and then along the sides. He left the knife on the coffee table, and then tore open the flaps.

There were two stacks of hard-backed books, the top ones showing a soft buff background, dominated by a picture of them both standing on top of the Torino, their arms around each other’s shoulders.

Hutch picked up the top book from the first of two stacks, and settled next to Starsky. The Story of Us was the title above the picture. Below it, in smaller print, was The Intimate Story of a Highly Successful, Highly Unusual, and Very Real Partnership. And below that, by David Michael Starsky.

The cover blurred before Starsky’s eyes. “I’m a published author.”

Hutch kissed his forehead. “And a very good one.”

“All I wanted to do, was leave something behind for somebody to find, when we’re no longer around. Now, everybody can know our most intimate story.” He pointed to the subtitle with an unsteady finger. “It even says intimate.”

Hutch kissed his forehead again. “It’s a story worth knowing.”  Then he added, “Whatever might happen, because of this, I’m in it with you all the way, partner.”

Starsky felt a wave of emotion wash through him. “I wish Ma was here to see this.”

Arms wrapped around his shoulders. “Ah, buddy. If Terry knows what’s going on with us, then don’t you think your mother does, too?”

“Don’t know.” What Starsky did know was that the liquor had removed any defenses.

He curled against Hutch and cried.


Standing in front of a crowd, playing a guitar, was a cakewalk compared to this. Hutch felt naked and exposed, as he stood in the circle of chairs at their re-arranged office on this Saturday afternoon, the following week, which seated more than a dozen relatives, friends, co-workers, and most trusted business associates. Some had small paper plates, which contained the provided snacks.

Starsky was looking inside the front cover of each book, to see the person it was autographed to, and then walked over to that person, to give it to them. It was left to Hutch to explain about it, since few had known it was being written.

“So,” Hutch concluded from the center of the circle, “in addition to wanting to give you all your own personalized copies, we also wanted to make sure you were aware of its publication ahead of time, in case you hear anything said about it. Obviously, the nature of our relationship is one that can attract controversy, and we didn’t want any of you to be caught off guard, on the unlikely chance that someone might ask about your association with us.”

He watched as some leafed through the book.

Huggy said, “My man, Starsky, the author.” They hadn’t seen Huggy in well over a year, and were touched that he’d made a point of showing up, especially since he tended to stand out from the rest of the group. He didn’t appear to have aged at all.

“Yeah,” Starsky said, while handing Tom Placing his autographed copy, “not something I would have expected, either.”

Captain Dobey, on the other hand, appeared as though he had aged a great deal, since they last saw him, and looked very tired. “Am I mentioned anywhere?”

Hutch replied, “I’m sure you are, since we talked about a lot of cases. It’s just that the publisher does their own editing, and we haven’t had a chance to take stock of what was kept in and what was taken out.”

Starsky put the empty box to one side, and then said, “You’re in there, Cap’n. I remember seeing your name when I was leafing through it.”

Dobey presented a pleased smile.

Hutch heard, “Ken,” in a sharp whisper. He turned to see his mother pointing to the cover, and went over to where she was sitting. Lorraine asked, “How come you aren’t listed as an author?”

“Starsky wrote it,” Hutch replied. Behind him, he heard others in the room begin to talk with each other, now that the formalities were over.

“But you talk like you both wrote it.”

“Well, it’s ‘our’ book, because it’s about us. But Starsky is the one who wrote the whole thing, so he’s rightly the author of record. I wrote a chapter, but the editor just included parts of it with another chapter.” She seemed dissatisfied with his answer — he could imagine how much she wanted to tell anyone who would listen that her son wrote a book — and he pointed out, “It doesn’t really matter to us, whose name is on it. What belongs to one of us belongs to both of us.” He made a point of keeping his voice level when he added, “If you read the whole thing, I think you’ll understand what I mean by that.” He didn’t have much hope of her understanding, however.

After Hutch straightened, their lawyer, Tom Placing, came to stand beside him. “I’ve just browsed through this a little. It took real guts to write this. David really put his heart on the line.”

“Yeah. We’re a little nervous that there will be some fallout — maybe clients dropping us, and stuff like that — but I think his courage in telling our story will prevail. People need to see that relationships don’t always follow the rules that everyone always told you.”

Dobey walked up to them, shaking his head with a soft chuckle. “Never thought Starsky would have a book in him.”

Hutch smiled warmly, despite his concern at how poor Dobey looked. “Yeah, neither did I. Or he, for that matter.”

“But the subject matter inspired me,” Starsky announced, stepping up to their group. He opened his copy to the first few pages. “It’s dedicated to Hutch, because I pretty much felt that that’s mostly what I was writing about.”

Hutch bowed his head, not wanting to get any more emotional than that, while around others.

Placing said, “My wife loves me, but I can’t imagine her ever writing a book about me.”

There were chuckles of agreement from others.


 It was business as usual, the following week. When Lois brought the mail into Hutch’s office on Tuesday, she was holding out a manila envelope. “This is from Anne Brookhouse.”

“Thank you,” Hutch said, eagerly accepting it.

“Oh, and, I got you a doctor’s appointment for three weeks from today.”

“Three weeks?” Hutch asked unhappily. His shoulder was now interfering with his sleep, if he slept on his right side, which he liked to do.

“They said they’d try to get you in earlier, if they had a cancellation.”

“All right, thanks.” As Lois left, he tore open the envelope, and found a stack of bills, with a handwritten note clipped to it. Ken, I found a file cabinet in the basement, where Blake had been keeping old bills. I had no idea he was hoarding so much paperwork! There’s a lot to clean up. But I’m glad I found these for you. I’ve marked the phone numbers that I’m familiar with. Yours truly, Anne.

He briefly wondered if she’d wanted to know what the numbers were that she hadn’t been familiar with. Most likely, she assumed they were work related and nothing to be concerned about. At least, he hoped so.

The door between his office and Starsky’s was open a few inches, and Huch could hear Starsky on his computer, since he was now deeply engrossed in setting up the work needed to do on the ancestry case for the Finley family. They’d come in with a fat retainer check just yesterday. “Starsk?”

Starsky responded with a grunt, signaling his lack of desire to be interrupted.

Hutch went to the door. “I’ve got the Brookhouse phone records that Anne sent.”

Starsky kept his gaze on the computer. “Anything interesting?”

“I don’t know, I just got them. Thought it would be faster if we went through them together.”

With his back still turned, Starsky muttered, “Why don’t you have Lois group the numbers by the ones that were called the most frequently? That’ll save us time.”

Hutch gave up and went back into his office and sat down. He started leafing through the phone bills, seeing where Anne had made notations. He caught a Nebraska area code. Then another, then another. After leafing through the next bill, he firmly called, “Starsky!”

There was a noise of moment, and then Starsky appeared in the doorway. “Did you find something?”

Hutch separated a few of the bills, and tossed them to the other side of his desk. “Take a look at those. The Nebraska area code shows up repeatedly, April through July.”

Starsky picked them up and sat down in nearest chair. “What?” He leafed through a few.

Hutch continued to go through his stack. “I don’t think he called that Omaha number less than four times, any of those months.”

Starsky was slowly shaking his head. “But he only went to Omaha once, in April.”

Hutch suddenly realized, “That was work related.” He looked up from the bills, and saw a startled expression that matched his own. “What if he was going to Omaha frequently, and most of the time, it had nothing to do with business, and Anne didn’t know any different?”

Starsky scrunched his face. “But why would he go all the way to Omaha to get laid? If he wanted more side action, there’s plenty of call girls here in California.”

Hutch nodded. “Right. There’s no way he was calling that phone number, this many times, to get sex. That number has to have another purpose.”

Starsky’s mouth was open. “But what?”

Hutch sighed with frustration. “I’d love to call the number again, but I don’t know what to ask. They’ll assume it’s for dry cleaning services, unless I say otherwise.”

Starsky spread his hands. “Okay, let’s slow down and think this through.  Les Stevenson talked like Blake only came out to Omaha the once. So, let’s go with that, and say that if Blake went to Omaha at other times, it had nothing to do with work.”

“But how could he have spent so much time there, been away from work that much?” Hutch indicated the phone bills. “Some months, he’s called that number as many as seven or eight times.”

“Okay,” Starsky mused, “let’s say him calling the dry cleaner in Omaha had nothing to do with actually going to Omaha. What would be the reason for that?”

“Maybe the dry cleaner was pimping for girls here in California?” Hutch shook his head. “That’s too far-fetched.”

“Yeah, the dry cleaner can’t risk an operation like that, working out of that little store. It’s too risky, with other employees finding out, and stuff like that.”

“Okay,” Hutch said. “Then that leads to all the phone calls having nothing to do with prostitution. What else is going on at the dry cleaner?”

“Gambling and drugs are the usual suspects.”

“But that still begs the question, why would Blake need to get involved in Omaha, if he was into gambling or drugs? It’s a hell of a lot easier out this way. More supply and more customers, for one thing.”

They both sat silent.

Hutch tried to think back to the beginning of the case. He said, “Tell me again, why your initial phone conversation with Les Stevenson bothered you enough that you wanted to talk to him in person.”

“He was trying to come off like a nonchalant businessman who didn’t particularly care that another businessman had been murdered — even someone he knew. But I felt like it bothered him more than he was letting on.”

Hutch pursued, “Bothered him because… he was scared?”

“Could have been,” Starsky muttered. “It’s just that, he didn’t seem scared at all, when we were talking to him in Omaha.”

“Because our conversation focused around when Blake was there for work, and the prostitution service. So… what if Blake was involved with the dry cleaner for reasons outside of work, and Les knew about it? And whatever those reasons were, it also scared Les?”

“Okay.” Starsky nodded slowly. “I’m following that. We just don’t know what that reason is.”

Hutch decided, “Let’s bring Billy Taylor into it. Let’s say he has the dry cleaner’s phone number on his bulletin board, because maybe he calls it frequently, for the same reason that Blake called that number frequently. What would that reason be?”

Starsky gazed at Hutch’s desk. “When I first talked to Billy, I got the feeling he was thinking of someone in particular, when he said that you never know what people are really like.”

Hutch suggested, “Maybe, in a sense, someone scared him, too.”

Starsky gazed at Hutch. “Why would they all be afraid of someone?”

The intercom on Hutch’s phone beeped.

“We’re busy,” Hutch quickly said toward the phone.

“Ken, I thought you’d want to know that Nick is asking for David. Line one.”

Hutch looked at Starsky, who shrugged while saying, “It can’t hurt to take a break.”

“Okay,” Hutch said to the phone, “Thanks.” He pushed the speaker button, and then line one. “Hey, Nick, I’m here with your brother. We’ve got you on the speaker, if that’s okay.”

Nick’s voice sounded amused. “That’s fine. I just want you to know, older brother, that you can’t dance worth shit.”

Hutch had no idea what that meant, and Starsky spoke from his chair, “What?”

“You’ve got this chapter in your book about being a dance instructor. How can you be a dance instructor when you can’t dance worth shit?”

“I can, too, dance,” Starsky protested. “Ask Hutch.”

Hutch realized that it felt good to smile. “Somewhat.”

“I can’t deal with all the emotional stuff,” Nick went on. “But I really liked that chapter. It was different.”

Starsky said, “That’s because I wanted to show some of the crazy things that can happen undercover. I’m actually surprised the editor left that chapter in, because it wasn’t as much about Hutch and my relationship.”

“It was fun,” Nick insisted, amused.

Hutch well remembered the work needed to perform his ‘duties’ while undercover, but it was a bit harder to recall what happened with the case. After a moment, he said, “That was where instructors were having sex with clients.”

“I don’t remember specifics,” Nick said, “just the idea of you being a dance instructor was hilarious.”

Starsky grumbled, “I didn’t get to have sex with anybody. But Hutch got to nail one of the female instructors there. Then got blackmailed for it.”

That fact clicked in Hutch’s brain. Startled, he looked at Starsky and saw the same expression of recognition, as Starsky whispered, “Blackmail.” Then, loudly, toward the phone, “Glad you liked it, Nick. But we got to go. Talk to you soon.”

“All right. Later.”

Hutch quickly clicked off the telephone, and then grabbed the phone bills. “They were being blackmailed. You think?”

“That’s what they all have in common. They had sex with the girls, and then were told to pay, or else maybe their spouses, or their bosses, would be told about it.”

Hutch blinked, his enthusiasm fading. “But nobody tried to blackmail us.”

Starsky shrugged. “We didn’t have sex with Mindy when she came to our room.”

“But even if we had, there’s no way she was carrying some kind of tape recorder on her person.”

 “Maybe there’s tape recorders all ready set up in some of the rooms. Maybe they only do it if the client is in certain rooms. Remember, the dry cleaner only sends girls out to certain hotels. Maybe they’re paying off the maids to not touch the recorders when they clean, if they know where they are.” He abruptly added, “Maybe that’s why the one girl was fired. She was trying to collect money for herself, and wasn’t turning on the tape recorder.”

Hutch said, “I wonder if Les might have been in on that part of it. Maybe he wasn’t being blackmailed, but maybe he knew it was going on, and he was being paid or being threatened to stay quiet about it. And maybe when Blake was murdered, that scared him about how far it could go. And maybe Billy Taylor paid them off, and that was the end of it for him, because he didn’t seem particularly uptight, talking about the dry cleaner.”

“But maybe they kept milking Blake, because they knew he had money.” Starsky sighed heavily. “But why would the blackmailers murder Blake? They can’t get money out of a dead man.”

Hutch leafed back through the bills. “Maybe all these phone calls are him arguing with them. Maybe, if they kept coming back for more, he was threatening to go to the police.”

“Maybe it’s time we called the Omaha police.”


A cloud cover had come over the city, and a breeze had picked up, which was a welcome relief to the sweltering heat, now that the calendar had kicked over to July. Hutch spotted Anne at the entrance to the outdoor seating area of the restaurant, and waited for the waitress to bring her to his table, which was set apart from the others.

She was wearing a white summer dress that accented her curves, and matching hat.

He stood as she approached. “Anne.” He reached to clasp her hand. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”

She smiled up at him. “Likewise.”

“What can I get you?” the hostess asked.

“Iced tea will be fine.”

Hutch pulled out a chair, and Anne sat. She looked around. “This seems rather secluded.”

“I wanted privacy for us.”

She folded her hands on the tabletop. “So, you apparently have some news for me?”

“Well,” Hutch hesitated, “I have some good news, some bad news, and some so-so news.”

She tilted her head. “I guess I’d prefer the bad news first.”

Hutch shook his head. “I’d prefer to start with the good news.”

“All right.”

“The firm is going to be returning some of your upfront payment. Even though we spent many hours on this case, and had some expenses, we haven’t used up the full ten thousand.”

Her eyes widened. “You know who killed Blake?”

He hated to disappoint her. “That’s the so-so news. I’m so sorry to not be able to give you a definitive answer, but there’s not much point in my partner and I working further on this case, because the Omaha police have already been working it, in a sense.”

“Omaha police?”

“Yes. They have a man in their jail which both we and they think likely killed your husband. It’s still going to take some time to prove it. I mentioned to them that you found many of your husband’s financial records in your basement, and they’ll likely be asking for those.”

She leaned forward eagerly, and laid her hand on top of his. “Who is it that murdered Blake?”

Hutch wet his lips. “That’s the bad news. In order for me to explain the details,” he hesitated, his heart pounding at the hurt he was going to cause, “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to tell you some things about your husband that you’re not going to want to hear.”

She looked away with a sad expression. “Oh, I know I kept my head in the sand. I just didn’t see any point, otherwise. He gave me a good life. Left me set up for a continued good life — without him.”

Hutch nodded, feeling that her outlook made it all the more difficult to give her details that she didn’t deserve. The waitress brought the iced tea, and Hutch took his opportunity to drink his water. They both turned down the waitress’s inquiry about wanting anything else.

While Anne looked off into the distance, Hutch said, “The man in jail in Omaha is named Rick Young. He owns a few small businesses in Omaha, including a dry cleaning service.” He hesitated, and then said, “He also has some, shall we say, backroom businesses going on, that are unlawful. One is a prostitution ring. According to what the Omaha police have found out, he would have the girls have sex with business clients staying at the hotel where his business performed dry cleaning services. Some of the rooms were bugged, and the… activities… were recorded. Young would then threaten to send the tape to their wives or bosses, unless a fee was paid to keep quiet about what had happened in the motel room. They have proof that Young had his henchmen murder a man in Cleveland, who threatened to go to the police. We suspect that the same thing happened to Blake.”

Anne slowly shook her head. “I don’t know what to make of this. Blake was killed with my gun, so somebody had to know that I kept it in the house.”

“Our best guess is that Blake might have mentioned owning a gun, if Young threatened him harm. So, perhaps a henchman sent to do the job decided to find that gun and kill him with it, to help turn away suspicion that it was an outside job. The Omaha police are hoping they can get that henchman to cooperate, and tell exactly what happened, in exchange for a lighter sentence.”

She put a hand to her forehead, her head bowed. “Poor Blake. He was murdered because he spent time with a prostitute?” She looked up. “He was such a handsome man. He should never have had to pay to have a woman come to his room.”

Delicately, Hutch said, “For businessmen, it usually is much more discreet to hire a working woman, because such women are as eager as the men to not have anyone know what went on.” He drew a breath, “It’s just that, in this case, that desire for secrecy was the very thing that, ultimately, got Blake killed.”

She bowed her head again, and opened her purse. As she removed a few tissues, Hutch said, “In order to convict Rick Young of Blake’s murder, and the murder of the man in Cleveland, the police have to gather enough evidence to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Young is the one who had Blake and the other man killed. I just want you to be prepared for the fact that that can take a long time. But, ultimately, I have to believe that justice will be served.”

She dabbed at her eyes and nodded her head. “I had no idea who killed Blake. Now that I know, at least, who was behind it… I don’t know what to think. It seems like such a ridiculous thing that he was killed over.”

“The thirst for money can drive people to ridiculous extremes.”

Her eyes were drier, as she gazed at Hutch. “It’s so ironic. I wasn’t one of those little girls who dreamed of marrying Prince Charming and having him whisk me away to his castle, where I could live a carefree life. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.” Her mouth corner twitched. “For a time, anyway.” She looked away. “Now, that’s all over.”

He longed to offer her comfort. “Anne, you’re a very beautiful woman, who I no doubt has a long and prosperous future ahead. I know you’re still in mourning, but you’re going to be all right.” He smiled warmly at her. “That, I know for certain.”


An hour later, Hutch halted the LeBaron in front of 11265 Fairfield Street in Sierra Heights, which had a “For Sale” sign. Starsky was parked across the street, and Hutch got out of his car and walked over to the Corvette, which had the top down. As he approached, Starsky said, “We beat them here.”

That was apparent. Hutch got into the passenger side of the Corvette.

“How did she take it?” Starsky asked.

“With dignity, like she always does.  She wasn’t outraged, or anything like that. Just… quietly accepting.” Hutch turned toward Starsky. “How did it go for you?”

“Had to turn on the charm, but a few of the smaller bookstores said they would carry my book.”

“Oh, good.”

“Yeah. And I talked to Milton earlier today, and he said that he’d sent out free copies to various people he knew, hoping someone would write a review. Of course, he said just because someone writes a review isn’t any guarantee that it will be a good one.”

It always seemed like such a roller coaster, hoping people would buy The Story of Us, while also being relieved that, apparently, nobody had yet.

An unfamiliar car pulled behind Hutch’s LeBaron. Starsky said, “That must be the realtor.”


The woman in the car appeared to be looking into her briefcase.

Starsky said, “You were really restless last night, baby. When is your doctor’s appointment?”

“Tuesday. Already told the guys in the band that I wasn’t going to be able to play anymore, until I see the doctor. It hurts too much, even with downing lots of medicine.”

“Yeah, you’d better stop self-medicating, until you know what it is.” After a long pause, Starsky asked, “So, did Anne give any indication of what she’s going to do, now that she knows why Blake was murdered?”

Hutch wasn’t sure if he was sad or relieved, when he replied, “She’s probably going to sell the house, move away. She’d like to move somewhere where she knows people. She has a high school friend that she’s stayed in touch with, in Texas. So, she’s checking into that.”

Nick’s white Ford turned onto the block. Lanette was in the front passenger seat, and Lorraine in the back. They’d obviously found a sitter for Melinda.

They all got out of their cars, and introductions were made. Then the realtor led the way to the door of the house, and retrieved the key from the lock box. They all went inside.

It had three bedrooms, with a roomy, open kitchen, and a den area, in addition to the living room.

“This is marvelous,” Lorraine said, as they all stood in the kitchen. “It’s just what you need for a growing family.”

“It’s great,” Lanette agreed. “But we’ve got to talk about the finances. It won’t do us any good to get something that we can’t afford. We don’t need the stress.”

Lorraine said, “I’ve already told you that I’ll help you out.”

The realtor asked, “Would you like me to step out, so you can talk privately?”

“Thank you,” Nick said.

“I’ll be on the front patio,” she said, and moved to the door.

After the realtor left, Lorraine insisted, “This is a wonderful house. It’s a wonderful neighborhood for Melinda to grow up in. There’s no reason for you to be worried about affording it, when I can help you out.”

“Mother, we’d just like to have some financial independence.”

“It’s not like you would need to pay me back, so you wouldn’t be strapped for cash. It would be a gift.”

Nick looked at Lanette. “That’s a good point. Why not let family help us out? Besides, Lorraine will probably be here a good part of the time, babysitting Melinda.”

“That’s right.”

Hutch figured that meant they’d decided not to have Lorraine outright live with them. Or maybe they had asked, and she’d decided she still wanted to keep her own place at the senior community.

Lanette said, “But, Mom, we don’t want to put you in a situation where you get strapped for cash. You’re in good health. You could live another twenty years or more.”

Starsky said, “I’m all for you guys getting this house. You’re about to burst out of your condo unit.”

“Yeah,” Lanette said, “but there’s other houses that aren’t as expensive.”

Hutch put in, “We can verify Nick’s income for any amount you need.” Still, he thought it made more sense for them to accept Lorraine’s help.

“This is for Melinda,” Starsky pressed. “She’s the future of the family. We all want things to work out for her. Besides, why get a cheaper house when it’s not what you really want? If you’re going to take a step this big, you may as well get what makes you happy.”

Nick spread his hands. “It’s the Hutchinsons that are the financial wizards of the family. I say you three get together, and figure out how much of a mortgage we can afford, and then from that, figure out how much we need from Lorraine, that isn’t going to jeopardize her future. Then, if we need further help from Hutch and David, they can do what they can.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Hutch said. He gentled his voice. “Besides, you can’t ever be absolutely certain of a secure future. You’ve got to do what makes sense at the time, and deal with things as they come.” He couldn’t help but add, “If you’ve read David’s book, it shows that you never know what’s around the next corner, but nor should you ever assume the worst case scenario. Life is too short for that.”

Starsky glanced at Hutch with a grateful smile, and then stepped closer to him to loop his arm around his waist.

Nick said, “Honestly, David, I’ve tried reading those chapters where awful things have happened to you, and I can’t finish them. I can’t stand the thought of all that stuff happening to my brother.”

“It’s okay,” Starsky was quick to assure.

Hutch supposed he understood that, as well. He glanced at Lannie, wondering if she might have a similar feeling. She said levelly, “You guys haven’t exactly had a life that you can apply to other people.”

Starsky smiled and shrugged. “We’re just people. Just maybe a little more aware of whom we love and how much we value that.”

Lorraine said, “I loaned my copy to a gentleman I play cards with. He hasn’t returned it.”

Which meant she hadn’t read it. Hutch wondered why he would have expected otherwise. He’d never known if she’d read more than a few chapters of Starsky’s manuscript, when he’d offered it to her a couple of years ago, when she was visiting from Minnesota. He shied away from acknowledging the old hurt that he was feeling.

Starsky quipped, “A gentleman at the community center? Sounds like romance might be in the air.”

Lorraine waved him off, and the others grinned.

“So, we agree?” Nick prompted. “You Hutchinsons get together and figure this out, and we’ll go from there. I need to get to a surveillance job for my company.”


That night, Starsky beckoned Hutch to rest against him, his head on Starsky’s chest. “I hate when I’m annoyed with your mother.”

“I’m glad you didn’t let it show.”

Starsky snorted. “How ironic is it, that we were so unsure about having our story ‘out there’, and not only is nobody buying the book, but our own family members aren’t even interested in reading it.”

Hutch couldn’t help but smirk at the irony of that. He then said, “We know Nick read some of it. It’s hard to tell if Lannie did. It’s not like she’s going to show any feelings about it.”

“I ordered a bunch more to send to other relatives. The only sales that book is going to have are the copies we bought ourselves, and maybe none of the relatives are going to read it, anyway.”

“Give it time,” Hutch soothed.

They were silent a while, and then Starsky asked, “How is that undercover job going with Kenny?”

“He’s finding out a few things. The client wants to keep him on through the end of this month.”

“I hate being short a person in the office, now that this Finely case is going to be an ongoing project, maybe for years.”

“It’s job security for Kyeesha.”

“Yeah, but maybe we should hire somebody else. We’ve been doing more of the legwork for jobs than we should be. I’ve reached the point where I hate being out of the office, because I have so much to do there. We’ve got a total of five ancestry cases ongoing, though the others are smaller jobs that aren’t near as involved as the Finleys. It’s just hard to justify spending time on them, when the Finleys are the ones paying us a lot of money.”

“All right, I’ll tell Lois to run a help wanted ad. We just don’t have room for another desk.”

“Then maybe we’ll have to keep them out in the field.”

“We’ll see.” Hutch recalled, “I think I saw a ‘Office For Rent’ sign for one of the offices down the hall. If we have to, maybe we can work something out along that line”

Starsky kissed the top of Hutch’s head. “So, you guys are meeting at Lorraine’s tomorrow morning, to figure out how they can buy the house?”


“I hope your mother doesn’t make any more cracks about how she’s so disinterested in reading about you, that she gave our book away.”

“Maybe she’s hoping the ‘gentleman’ will be impressed with all the things her son did, and want to talk to her about it.”

“How could they have a conversation?” There was an edge to Starsky’s voice. “If she doesn’t know anything about what you’ve done and experienced in your life, she can’t participate in a conversation about your exploits in the book.”

Hutch patted Starsky’s leg, beneath the covers. “She might have read it. Dad read it, and he didn’t have much to say, either. You know my family is like that.”

Starsky hugged Hutch closer. “I’m just so glad that you aren’t.”


It was late Tuesday afternoon when Hutch got into his car, and sat back with a heavy sigh. Finally, he was able to leave. He’d been at the medical facility for nearly four hours, being sent from one area of the complex to another. He’d been poked, podded, x-rayed, and finally been loaded into a fancy MRI machine.

He wondered how Starsky was going to take the news.

He didn’t want to deal with this.

He looked at the car phone. He’d gotten a chance to call Lois from a pay phone in the complex, to tell her that he was going to have to cancel an appointment with a client, because he wasn’t sure when he was going to be back. He thought he should call again, which might mean talking with Starsky, though he preferred to break the news in person. It was possible that Starsky might not be there. He didn’t always know Starsky’s schedule anymore, because Starsky had his own thing going with the ancestry jobs.

He picked up the phone and dialed the office number.

“Starsky and Hutchinson,” Lois answered.

“Hey. I’m finally done at the doctor and just checking to see if anything is going on, before I go home.”

“Ken, I’m so glad you’ve checked in. Anne Brookhouse called. She’s leaving for Texas on a flight tonight. She wanted to say goodbye, if you’re available.”

Eager so have something else to think about, Hutch said, “Please call her and tell her that I’m on my way to her house right now.”

“All right.”

Hutch quickly started the motor, and drove out of the lot.


Starsky eased the Corvette into the garage, next to the LeBaron, and reached up to the visor to press the garage door button. It slowly closed behind him, blocking out the darkness of the summer night. He’d tried to call Hutch’s car phone to tell him he was going to get something to eat while out, but Hutch had never answered.

Starsky turned off the motor and let out a heavy sigh. They definitely needed to hire at least one other person. He and Hutch both were working long hours as an ordinary thing.

He left the Corvette and entered the house. The living room and kitchen lights were out, save for the light over the stove. The hall light was on. So, was the light in the guest bedroom.

Puzzled, Starsky moved down the hall and entered the bedroom that was lit.

Hutch was sitting on the edge, his head bowed, looking grim.

“What are you doing in here?” Starsky asked worriedly.

Hutch swallowed. “I have something to tell you,” he said softly, staring at the floor.

Hutch had been at the doctor today….

“It’s going to hurt.”

No. Starsky drew an unsteady breath, as a vise squeezed around his heart.

“It’s going to hurt a lot.”

Starsky’s throat felt strangled and his heart beat rapidly.

Hutch looked at him, his mouth in a straight line. “I was with Anne this afternoon.”


With her. I’m not sorry. I wanted to… soothe her. Comfort her.”

A vise of a different kind replaced the first. No, no, no.

“It’ll never happen again, because she’s left town. For good.”

No. Starsky’s nerves felt that they were going to jump out of his skin.

“I wish I could feel that you didn’t need to know. But I had to tell you.”

“SHUT UP!” Starsky’s chest heaved.

Hutch blinked at him, and swallowed.

Starsky turned away, tremors surging through his body.

“I didn’t intend for it to happen,” the quiet voice continued behind him. “But I’m not sorry that it did.”

STOP, Starsky silently pleaded.

“I’ll sleep in this room, until you say otherwise.”

The placid, logical discourse was unbearable. Starsky whirled around. “GET OUT!” He pointed at the door.

Hutch looked like he was going to speak.


Hutch hesitated, and then left the bed and moved past him.

Starsky was shaking so badly, that he barely registered Hutch’s car leaving.



Finally, after driving aimlessly for an hour in the darkness, Hutch pulled into a gas station, next to one of the pumps. He laid the top of his head against the steering wheel, and let out a heavy sigh.

Was everything now ruined? Because of one moment, when he’d simply wanted….

He shook his head back and forth, while it rested against the steering wheel. Of course, Starsky would be hurt and angry.

But Starsky loved him. He would forgive. Had even said, outright in his book, that he didn’t feel that their relationship could demand fidelity. There were two many situations where such an intent could go awry….

Abruptly, Hutch left the car and went about the motions of filling his car with gas.

Maybe this was a trespass that Starsky would find unforgivable. Maybe Hutch’s sheer honesty — especially that he couldn’t pretend that he was sorry he had given Anne something she had wanted and needed — was going to be the end of them.

He would have no one to blame but himself. Could his actions alone destroy everything? Their successful business, the family bonds they had nurtured, their relationship? Destroyed it so thoroughly that Starsky’s newly published book was now a lie?

Hutch went up to the clerk’s window and paid. He merely muttered when the clerk made friendly conversation.

He walked away without saying thanks.

He got back in his car.

Where should he go?

Hey, Lannie and Nick. I know things are really crowded, until you close on your new house, but can I sleep on the sofa? David and I had a little tiff, because I did something Really Bad.

This wasn’t a little tiff.

He had committed a grave sin. And he still couldn’t find it within himself to be sorry.

He had held her, helped her undress, which she had done eagerly. Kissed her breasts and neck as he slid into her….

It had felt so warm, knowing he was making her feel loved in a way that she hadn’t in a long, long time.

Was that so terrible?

He’d had something that she wanted. He’d obliged her. It had had nothing to do with Starsky. Nothing at all.

Surely, he can understand.…

Once he was over his hurt and anger. If he ever got over it.

Where to go, in the meantime?

Was he homeless?

He had a home. One where he was always welcomed with loving arms. But not now. He had ruined that.

But it was still his home.

He and Starsky had always tried to stick to one rule in their relationship. They didn’t go to bed angry with each other.

That wasn’t possible now. At least, not tonight.

Hutch felt determination filter through him. If that rule was going to be violated, it wasn’t him that was going to violate it.

He put his key in the ignition and started the car.


The lights were out, except for the light over the stove, and the light in the guest bedroom. Had Starsky expected him back? Was the bedroom light a message that Hutch indeed needed to sleep there? Or, had Starsky simply not bothered turning it off, because that room was where he had received the worst possible news, regarding their relationship?

The door to the master bedroom was closed. Hutch knew there was no way Starsky was asleep. He wasn’t going to violate that barrier. He had done what he could — had been as honest as was humanly possible — and now the ball was in Starsky’s court, to determine what happened from here.

Hutch went into the hall bath and relieved himself. On the off chance that Starsky hadn’t heard his footsteps, he would certainly hear the toilet flush. Hutch then went into the guest bedroom, flipped off the light, and closed the door to a few inches. He wanted it known that he wasn’t blocking Starsky out.

He undressed in the darkness, and crawled beneath the covers. The mattress felt firmer, and more supportive to his shoulder, than their water bed.

He didn’t want to tell Starsky about his shoulder. He didn’t want sympathy to interfere with the more immediate issue.

Hutch tried to relax. He ended up staring at the wall.

He leafed through defensive chatter in mind, which turned into hope that he could be forgiven, which turned into remorse that he and Starsky had such a solid code of honesty, that he couldn’t have simply kept this from him, and chosen not to hurt him. At one point, he wiped at a tear that leaked from the corner of his eye. He didn’t examine its reason.

The wind blew, and the bushes rattled against the window.

His mind blanked out, as he studied the shadows along the wall, that wavered with the wind.

At one point, he was aware that something in the room had changed. Perhaps part of his mind had fallen asleep, for he wondered if it were a dream.

One shadow solidified.

Starsky was standing in the room. An open robe was draped over his nudity. He sat on the edge of the bed, his back to Hutch.

Hutch remained silent.

Gruffly, Starsky said, “I’ve come to realize that, as much as I want to think that you’ve hurt me, you haven’t. I’m not hurt. I’m angry. Angry at myself.”

Hutch drew an audible breath, feeling his own anger over-ride his relief. He started to push himself up on the mattress, but aborted the attempt, when it hurt his shoulder. Instead, he seethed to Starsky’s back, “How dare you. How dare you blame yourself for my actions.”

“I saw this coming,” Starsky stated simply. “Saw how much you cared for her. Didn’t do anything to try to discourage it.” He bowed his head, voice lowering to a whisper. “I love watching you feel things. The rest of your family doesn’t feel openly. I value, more than anything in my life, that I get to bear witness to what you think and feel.”

Hutch knew that he didn’t deserve that kind of worship. He quickly challenged, “It wouldn’t have mattered. You couldn’t have stopped this. You didn’t know that she was going to call to say that she was leaving to live in Texas. You didn’t know that I was going to see her. It just… happened.”

“I could have insisted that you not see her alone. If I would have insisted on something like that, you would have agreed, even if you didn’t want to.” Pause. “You wouldn’t have violated an agreement like that.”

Hutch countered, “You should never have to demand anything like that, from me. I’d never demand it of you.”

Starsky’s shoulders slumped. “Touche.”

“This had nothing to do with you.” To Hutch’s own ears, that sounded so trite. “It really didn’t.” His voice softened. “I just… just wanted her to feel cared about. Valued. Just for a few moments. Her husband, that she loved dearly, has been gone over a year. She liked me. I had,” Hutch felt his throat thicken, “had want she wanted.”

“She wanted your cock, and you gave it to her.”

Hutch closed his eyes.

“Did you use a rubber?”


Levelly, Starsky stated, “Then you knew what you were going to do when you went over there.”

“She provided it.” Hutch didn’t like how it sounded as though he was accusing Anne.

“Then she played you. She knew what she wanted from you when she called.”

He didn’t like the sound of that, either, but couldn’t deny such a characterization. After a long moment, Hutch pleaded, “Does it matter? It happened. As much as I wish you didn’t have to know, I can’t take it back.” He stuck to his guns. “I don’t want to take it back. I’m not sorry that, for a few brief moments, I made her feel loved and cared about. But it was a moment that’s over. She’s paying a realtor to take care of selling the house, and other people to see to her things. She doesn’t want to ever come back. She wants to start a new life for herself.”

“So, you both took what the moment offered, since you knew it was ‘safe’, since there wouldn’t be any complications about what to do with your feelings for each other.”


“How convenient,” Starsky muttered.

“I didn’t want to tell you and burden you with it,” Hutch said. Then he matched Starsky’s mutter when he said, “Sometimes, I wonder if our honesty is going to be the end of us.”

“Don’t,” Starsky pleaded. He finally turned to look at Hutch in the darkness. “Don’t think that there’s something wrong with our degree of intimacy.”

After being uncertain of what to say, Hutch went awkwardly for humor. “Wouldn’t want to make your book into a lie.”

Starsky’s voice was barely intelligible. “Doesn’t matter, if nobody reads it.”

Starsky moved to lay down beside Hutch, on top of the covers, facing him.

Hutch waited.

Starsky released a sigh. “I want this behind us.”

He was being let off, so easy.

“Is there anything more that you need to say about it?”

“Don’t think this was about you,” Hutch insisted. “About anything you did or didn’t do.”

Starsky seemed to roll that around in his head for a while. Then, with finality, “I know your heart is pure.”

Hutch wasn’t sure what to say. His punishment should have lasted longer.

Starsky seemed to know his thoughts. “I don’t want to waste time, trying to make you feel lousy, when we both know we’re going to make up eventually, anyway.” He slid closer, so that Hutch felt the whisper of his breath. “Life is too short.”

Hutch moved to kiss him, but felt the pain in his right shoulder, and sighed instead, settling back.

Concerned, Starsky asked, “What did the doctor say?”

Hutch thought he needed to assure, “I’m going to live.”


“Yeah. But I have a partially torn rotator cuff.” He looked away. “It needs surgery.”


“Yeah,” Hutch said, hearing the fatigue in his own voice. “Arthroscopic. I should be able to go home the same day.”

“Well, that’s good then.” Starsky sounded puzzled.

“It could be a lengthy recovery. It’s going to be in a sling, making it hard to write or type, for six weeks or whatever. I’m going to need physical therapy, to get the full range of motion back in my shoulder.” He shook his head. “I keep wondering how I did it. I think that flight back from Omaha. I remember reaching to the overhead bin, and feeling something in my shoulder. Just kept thinking I’d pulled a muscle. Doctor says it might not have been anything in particular, and that genetics can have something to do with it.”

“So, when is your surgery scheduled?”

“I haven’t schedule it yet. Wanted to talk to you first. Buddy, this means there’s going to be a lot of things that I can’t do, for a lot of weeks. And we’re already so swamped at work….”

Starsky placed his hand on Hutch’s chest. “It’s gonna be okay, Hutch. We’ll get past this, just like we do everything else. I’ll be supporting you every inch of the way.”

“I just don’t want to be a burden — to you or myself.”

“Hutch, the surgery is necessary. Let’s schedule it as soon as possible.” Starsky stroked Hutch’s forehead. “It’s going to be okay.” Then, softly, “We always take care of each other. That’s never going to change.” Gentle kisses were planted all about Hutch’s face.

Hutch couldn’t handle that degree of compassion, especially after everything that had gone on the past twelve hours. He felt tears spill over his eyes.

“Ah, baby.”

The tears were kissed away.


Starsky perched the video camera on his shoulder. “Maybe you can make them run a little bit.”

With his right arm protectively against his body, Hutch trotted toward Darla and Flying Waters — nicknamed Bri by the stable hands — in the big broodmare pasture, waving his left arm to “shoo” them into a canter.

Starsky followed them with his camera, in the bright morning sunshine.

Other mares and foals were lifting their heads to watch.

“Look at all the others,” Lanette said with a chuckle. She was holding Melinda, who watched the activity with wide eyes.

Nick said, “I don’t know anything about horses, but she really is beautiful, for being such a leggy little thing.”

Starsky assumed he meant Bri, who’s overly long legs allowed her to keep up with her mother. Her white blaze and front foot were reflected by the sun, as were her red coat. “Yeah,” he said, keeping the camera to his eye, as Darla and Bri slowed to a trot, in a wide circle around them. He thought Bri was, by far, the most beautiful of the few dozen foals in the pasture.

Another mare suddenly kicked up her heels and whinnied, and then took off at a gallop, her foal following.

Nervously, Lorraine asked, “What she’s doing? Did we scare her?”

Hutch trotted back up to the group. “No, no. She’s teaching her foal how to run. All these mares are racehorses. They've been bred to run for centuries.”

“Yeah,” Starsky added with enthusiasm, “and everybody on this farm knows who the Storm Bird foal is. Bri is like a novelty, being by a fancy Kentucky stallion.”

Hutch added, “I read in one of the trade journals that Storm Bird yearlings are going for big prices at the Kentucky auctions.”

“Are they any good at racing?” Lanette asked.

“His first crop just started racing last year, as two year olds. He’s already got some stakes winners. I bet they’ve hiked up his stud fee.”

Starsky was so glad that they’d come here, after having talked the family into a Sunday morning outing. Hutch’s surgery was on Wednesday, and Starsky felt it was good for his love to get a few hours of relief from his worry about the lengthy recovery.

They’d already visited Danny in the yearling pasture, a couple of miles away, and he was now as tall as an adult horse. In less than two months, he would be sent to a training farm to be broken to saddle, learn to gallop around a track, and how to stand in a starting gate. They’d called Darla’s trainer, Mike Hawkins, to ask his advice on where to send Danny, and he had immediately suggested the same farm where Darla had been broken, which was only twenty miles away. They give their youngsters a great foundation, Hawkins had gushed. They have a starting gate that the yearlings can practice standing in, and the training track is near a highway, so they get exposed to lots of noises. They can’t make them run any faster than each individual horse is capable of, but I’ve never had one from there come to my barn with any behavioral issues.

Lanette said, “So, Darla has that yearling, and this new foal. Will she have another one next year?”

“No, we gave her break,” Hutch said. “At the vet’s suggestion.”

Starsky realized, “But we need to breed her next year, so she can have a foal the following year. Hutch, we’ve got to figure out who to breed her to. The best stallions get booked up before fall. It’ll be August in a few days.”

Hutch thought of his cousin’s horse crazy teenage daughter. “Maybe we need to talk to Julie again.”

Starsky snapped his fingers. “I know. That will be your main job when you’re recovering from surgery.” Excited about the idea, he added, “You pick out Darla’s next mate, Hutch. I want you to make the decision this time.” He enjoyed the way Hutch’s mouth fell open.

Nick moved next to Lanette, and clasped Melinda’s arm. “See the horses?”

She pointed and made a similar sound.

“Horses,” Nick emphasized. “There’s lots of pretty ones, aren’t there?”

A chestnut mare, with her bay foal, was grazing nearest their group. Lanette pointed and said, “That’s a red horse.”

Melinda smiled gleefully, while staring at the mare. “Horsie!”

“That’s right,” Nick approved. Then to the others, “Let’s hope she’s not demanding a pony when she’s five.”

The others chuckled. Nick continued, “With a new house and a new car that we’re going to be paying for, for years, the last thing we need is a pet large enough to have to be boarded.”

Lanette noted, “I think she’ll want a puppy before she wants a pony.”

Melinda squealed, “Puppy!”

Nick said, “There aren’t any puppies here. These are horses.”

Starsky slipped his arm around Hutch’s waist, and indicated the video camera. “I’m glad we’ve got some more footage of Bri, when she’s little like this. Just think if she grows up be famous or something.”

“If she or Danny are even half as good as their mother was, I won’t have any complaints.”

“Yeah, but remember what Tom Placing said. Bri is already worth a lot of money as a future broodmare, because of her bloodlines, regardless of how she turns out as a racehorse.” Starsky quickly added, “Not that we’d ever sell her.”

“Considering how the Storm Bird progeny are doing, I guess we lucked out paying just twenty grand to breed to him.” Hutch smiled at Starsky. “Turned out to be a smart investment.” With his left hand, he tweaked Starsky’s nose.

Lorraine had been looking toward them, and now glanced down at her feet. “We need to watch where we step.”

Hutch declared, “A little horse shit never hurt anybody.”


“Shhhh,” Nick scolded. “Don’t swear in front of Melinda.”

“Sorry,” Hutch said. Then he glanced at Starsky with a wicked smile and whispered, “Not really.”

Starsky squeezed Hutch’s side. He loved that Hutch was feeling so ornery.


Monday morning, they were working in earnest. In Hutch’s office, they had various papers spread out before them, as they tried to plan jobs around Hutch’s surgery in two days, considering the pair of new investigators they had hired.

Hutch’s phone beeped. “David, Milton Bloomberg is on line two.”

“All right, thanks, Lois,” Starsky said.

With a sigh, Hutch straightened and turned to his phone. “I’ll put him on speaker.” He pressed a button and greeted, “Hi, Milton. David is here. I’ve got you on the speaker.”

“How are you, Milton?” Starsky called from the other side of Hutch’s desk.

“I’m doing excellent, especially since I have some news.”

“What’s that?”

“Are you aware of the local afternoon talk show on Channel 14? It’s called We the Issues.”

Hutch replied, “We almost never watch afternoon television.”

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Starsky added.

Milton said, “The producer of that program read your book. They want to have you both on the show.”




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