Those Who Share One Shield
You ever had one of those days when you know you love someone, but goddamned if you can stand to be alone with him or her?
I was having a day like that. Hutch's beater was in the shop again so I picked him up in the Torino. He came out of his house with that well-fucked look on his face. I saw Monica, or was it Melody, waving good-bye from the window. Damned if I know where he gets them. They're human Barbie dolls, all long legs, white teeth, and I swear to God that they all had the same hair style, a kind of flip at the bottom and a teased bang in front.
It used to be different. We used to double date and our girl friends spent as much time together as we did. I don't know what happened to him, but I know what happened to me.
I fell in love with my partner.
Well, that's not exactly right. I always loved him. Hell, you couldn't but notice that if you were around us much. I knew he felt that way about me and it was fine. It was soul deep and, for a long time, it met all my needs.
Then I started to notice him. The way he smiled. The movements of his athletic body and the elegance of his hands. You ever look at Hutch's hands? His nails get a little ragged from not always using the pick to play his guitar, but his hands move with a gentle firm certainty that make me think of places where I want them to touch me.
Hutch is a toucher anyway. I mean, I got a heart of mush, but I'm a tough guy. You don't grow up where I did without wearing an attitude sometimes. Hutch gets by without one. He has this award on his wall from the Rape Alliance. They always want him assigned to their cases because he's so good with victims. He's gentle and calm, knows just when to be firm and when it's okay to give them a shoulder to cry on.
I might not be as good with strangers, but I like to touch Hutch. I like to hug him, grab him, and bump him with my hip, lean into him. He makes me feel so good.
It didn't happen in day. Just increasingly, I became aware that my feelings for him included a heated element that was new. The change surprised the hell out of me one day when we were just sort of lying around at my place with a Monopoly game. My back started to hurt because a bad guy had tackled me the day before. He decided I needed a massage. His latest flame was a massage therapist and he was trying to learn all her secrets.
How it would have worked for anyone else, I don't know, but I felt a buzz of energy singing up and down my spine. Then my cock stood up and told me exactly what I felt. Shit! I was dying there. I mean I could have joked around it if it didn't feel so damn right. I'd have to try to lie to him and 'you know' I've never been good at that.
I think Hutch knew. In the days that followed, it seemed as if he was touching me even more than usual and the way it felt was different. I think he wanted to take it a step forward, but neither of us was quite ready to take the risk of making the first move.
You reach a point of frustration, though, and suddenly those risks aren't any big deal. Besides, this was Hutch. The worst that would happen is he would explain to me that he didn't feel the same way and he'd put his arm around me to talk it out.
Somehow, I knew I would survive that, but I hoped that I wouldn't have to try. So, two days ago, we finally said something about it. Hutch gave me that sincere look and said, "Not right, now, Starsk. Let's be sure."
Then he kissed me.
Damn. Hutch knows how to kiss. First, he pinned me with those deep blue eyes. Then his hand cupped my cheek and he leaned close. His other hand was on my ass, pressing me closer. The first contact was just a soft, dry brush of his lips, a feather touch against mine. Then he pulled back to check on my expression, which was stunned. He smiled then and the next kiss pressed against my mouth until my lips parted. He moaned a little and changed angles, our mouths opened and, God, it was so right. Finally just the whisper of his tongue against mine.
I staggered when his mouth left mine and only his hands on me kept me upright. Hutch said, "That was easy, really easy, but we don't want to jump into this."
He reached out and straightened my shirt for me, patted my cheek, and went home. I sagged onto the couch and had to unzip my jeans. I was rock hard and I couldn't believe he'd left me like that, having to take care of myself.
Two days... all I could think about was that today was the third day and we were both off tonight. Then I saw another blonde who was definitely not the massage therapist.
"Who's that?" I asked as he got into the Torino.
"Maya," he replied, "Old friend who is staying with me a couple days. Hey, what's wrong, Starsk?"
"I thought we were going to... you know, make the big leap, tonight?" I said.
"Soon. I mean, I can't just dump her on the street, can I?" Hutch replied. He said, "We've made it this long without it. We can wait until Maya leaves."
Right. Yeah, I felt like a kid who was told that he was not going have a birthday party after all. I looked at Hutch sadly and said, "I guess we can."
Hutch patted my leg and said, "Waiting can be good too."
Only, I was waiting and he was cavorting with Maya.
The coffee smelled strong enough to take the varnish off Dobey's desk and that would take some doing. The old relic had enough on it to survive a thousand years. I grabbed a doughnut out of the box beside the coffee pot and turned a chair around to sit the way I liked. Hutch sat properly. He had a nice back, straight and strong. He was careful of it, worried about slumping and messing up his spine.
"What's up, Cap'n?" I asked.
"Got out of town help coming in on the Scarlet Letter case," Dobey said.
"FBI?" I asked, wincing at the thought of working with some old bureaucratic fart.
Taking another doughnut, Dobey stared at it disconsolately before putting it back. Edith was on his case again about his weight. He said, "Yeah, but this guy is some wet behind the ears, hot shot from New York. It appears that there were some similar killings last summer up there. Caruso was on the case. You also have a ride along. Mr. Brian Kessler... "
"The guy who writes books about serial killers," I asked.
"Yeah, he's related to the Mayor who pulled some strings. You two pick them up at the airport in an hour," Dobey said, putting the doughnut anyway with a sad look on his face.
Rolling my eyes, I matched Hutch wince for wince. I tried to imagine what the so called novelist looked like and kept coming up with a mental picture of a guy in Goth makeup and a tweed suit. As for the FBI agent, at least he wasn't a WASP, maybe even someone to eat Italian food with.
I wasn't really looking at him, at least I was pretending I wasn't, but damn, he was a beauty. He had green eyes, really incredible green eyes framed by lashes like night shaded velvet. His face was elegant, high cheekbones, a sweetly sensuous mouth, and a small, cute nose. His chin was a bit weak, but it added to the little boy quality of his face. He spent most of the flight flirting successfully with the airline attendants. I was amused to see both the best looking man and the most beautiful woman slip him their numbers. Yeah, he was cute enough for them to risk violating airline policy.
We'd met before of course, but not under the best of circumstances. I had ripped into him about a girl's death and he'd already been hurting. He snarled back and we had gotten into a shoving match. Later, I found out what had really happened and felt like a shit. I tried to apologize, but he had cussed me out and left me hanging. He stayed on my mind. I'm picky about whom I sleep with, but not about their gender. I can go either way, but I like them pretty, tall, with dark hair, and certain elegance about their looks. Ricky had all of that. Besides, he had fire, and a jewel-like quality about him, shining, eye-catching beauty that he was. He was hardly still water, but he ran deeper than you would think if you didn't take the time to watch him.
I had hoped that the way I wrote about him in the article had made it clear that I had misunderstood, but Ricky-boy was busy sulking. He did sulk about as well as I did. Right now, he was slumped in his seat, one tennis shoe clad foot in the aisle. His choice of traveling clothes matched mine: old jeans, and properly aged tee shirt. He wore a brown leather jacket and I had gone with black, but that was about the only difference. I spent the last few minutes of the flight wondering if he was wearing eye makeup. He had long black eyelashes that framed the mossy green perfectly.
My old girlfriend, Carrie Laughlin, would have killed to have eyelashes like that. Of course, she might by now. Somehow, being kidnapped by a serial killer, almost raped, and nearly shot had turned her off my obsession. She was doing fashion photography now and must be getting all the great makeup tips.
Yeah, that's me. The dumb-ass that traveled across the country with Mr. Early Grayce, psychopath and sex fiend. Sometimes I still wake up screaming his name. He was seductive in his scruffy and glow-eyed way... I had the urge to grab him and force him into a shower the whole trip. I might have gone for some of that before I finally saw what he really was if Carrie hadn't been along. I always had a taste for good girls and bad guys.
However, I'd change my preferences for Ricky. That is, assuming that he was a good guy by virtue of his job. He was a real beauty, green eyes to die for, wavy dark brown hair with sable highlights, the kind of mouth that begged a kiss, a face that was all fine lines and diminutive features except those great big soulful eyes. His body was good too. He's my height or perhaps an inch taller, lean to the point of almost being too thin.
Our hands touched as we both reached for the overhead luggage a few moments later. He really looked at me for the first time and I saw a smile dance around his lips. His eyelashes fluttered as his gaze scalded me with its casual assessment.
"Hey, there. Didn't really notice you," Ricky said.
I'll bet. Too busy flirting with Barbie and Ken. Aloud I said, "I'm sure you had your mind on the case."
"Sure," he said.
I looked around for a pair of California cops, expecting suits. Instead I saw a pair of men leaning against a pillar, deep inside each other's body space. One had dark curly hair, rough exciting features, and dimples. Smile lines framed his eyes and he wore the expression of a naughty grade school boy, playing hooky from school. His partner was cool, blond, and tanned, with a placid face that brimmed with intelligence. A formidable chess player, I thought.
The one with dark hair moved first. I had the feeling he always did. He had a supple odd grace, like a half-grown puppy. He made the air zing around him, expresso in human form.
"Dave Starsky," he said, holding out his hand.
I liked his handshake. Hot hand, hard calluses from handling guns, he was strong, but not showing off, just vigorous and eager. His partner had finished his quiet observation and was now ready to join us.
"I'm Brian Kessler," I said.
I watched both of them examine their beautiful new colleague. He and Starsky had similar accents, East Coast, not West Coast. "Ricky Caruso, Special Agent, FBI."
I could hear the pride in his voice. It was all still new to him. I had checked him out of course. Mediocre career as an uniformed cop in East Bridge, New York, and then he suddenly seemed to have found not only a burning ambition, but the means with which to accomplish it. He had finished his degree in criminal justice, whipped through a Master's program and right into FBI academy. I was curious as to what had changed him, as my search of the records didn't give me any clues.
The tall, blue-eyed blond moved in with a self-contained grace. He held out his hand to Ricky first, meeting those big green eyes with a deep sincere look. "Kenneth Hutchinson," he said. Me, he looked at with a wince. He said, "Mr. Kessler, I've heard of you. I don't want to be an asshole, but this is a police investigation. I hope the stories I've heard about your amateur sleuthing are exaggerated."
I shrugged. I'd dealt with cops with attitude before. I said, "Believe me, I respect the job you do and I won't get in your way."
Mr. Dark and Active gave me a indigo-eyed look and asked, "So you gonna make a movie of this one too?"
They were getting ready to release a movie based on the book I'd written about Early Grayce and were hyping it on all the talk shows. In fact, I was scheduled to do one here. The studio was picking up the tab for my entire stay, which was cool. I liked not being broke and I was very willing to let them spend their money on researching my next book.
Shrugging, I replied, "See how it goes. I hear that you two have a reputation for solving cases in unorthodox ways. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to see that in action."
"Not likely," Starsky growled.
If I didn't have a red-hot lust for that pretty FBI agent, and if it was not all too obvious that he and his partner were deeply and completely involved, I might go after him. Hell, I like to be on top, but I'd even bottom to that boy!
Giving Detective Starsky one of my patented limpid eyed innocent stares, I said, "I'm just going to observe."
Turned out that Ricky Caruso and I had matching tastes in luggage. Our hands touched again as I reached for the shoulder bag that I thought was mine. Our eyes met as the heat of our hands touched.
Damn, those eyes... labyrinth eyes, like an ocean cove, sunlight rippling over mysterious depths. His cheekbones were sharp. He's foreign seeming, but I can't place his looks. When the shadows caress his face, he almost seems alien, aelfsciene as they said in olden years, elf-shining. His lips are the color of a preserved rose, but I can tell they are as rose petal soft as a dewy blossom in the morning. His mouth is so precisely formed. Baby-doll lips... like someone painted them carefully on a porcelain face.
None of that was going to help me write my next book. Ricky Caruso was a major league distraction.
The wry amusement in his expression pulled me back to the fact that we are standing in the middle of luggage claim, both of us holding onto a worn brown leather bag. Swiftly checking the tag, I realized it was his and let it go. Gracefully he grabbed mine as it came by and handed it to me. I said, "Thanks, Caruso."
Tossing back the shimmer of brown silk that passed for human hair, he said, "No sweat. I prefer Ricky. Caruso sounds like something my old boss bellowed at me constantly."
He grinned at me, sides of his mouth crinkling, dimples revealing themselves. Of course, he had dimples! He gave me a flash of large white teeth, well formed and straight. Sunlight danced in his eyes. Suddenly, I wished I were a painter instead of a writer.
Starsky was smirking when I stood up. His partner was also looking at me curiously. I grinned at them both and said, "I think I'm going to enjoy my stay here."
Well, that was interesting. The writer was a sloe-eyed, oddly handsome guy that reminded me a little of Hutch... not that they looked alike other than having a certain smart sexiness about them, but that was just evident in both of them. He was tall, had dark hair cut in some spiky fashion statement, and had blue eyes or maybe they were hazel. He had a large nose that looked a bit crooked as if it had been broken and set wrong. He was tall and built like a swimmer. He carried himself as if he was a lazy man, but I could see his eyes observing and evaluating everything around him. He was an interesting guy.
The FBI agent was nothing like what I expected. He was young and had the kind of looks that everyone calls pretty. He had big wide-set green eyes, little chin, sharp cheekbones, and a broad forehead. He was pale skinned and had brown hair that tumbled in a lock over his forehead. His nose was small, a bit upturned, and was creased over the bridge. He was as tall as Hutch, a little over six feet. He was lean, would have been gangly, but he carried himself well. What caught my attention was the courting dance that was taking place before my eyes. Made me wonder what outsiders saw when they looked at the way I was acting with Hutch. I mean, I always loved Hutch, but now I just wanted him so bad that I couldn't stand it.
Only a cop would understand how strange it is to be on a stakeout with a partner. You sit in the dark, talking about nothing and anything to keep awake. No sane person would work these hours and the time is spent in a strange mix of boredom and tension, but that's not how I felt. Hutch made it a stolen pleasure. His musical voice anchoring me and telling me that I was safe and loved. When I look back, that was when my love began to clamor for physical expression, for kisses and more.
I wondered what would happen between Kessler and Caruso. I even wanted to help. If it turned out for them, maybe it would turn out for Hutch and me.
The writer and the FBI agent took the back seat. Both of them were tall men and I could see them folded up like pretzels in the cramped rear of the Torino. Hutch turned around and asked, "So, about your case in New York, Caruso?"
I saw Caruso's hand go up and push the loose wave of his hair back from his forehead. He leaned back, closing his eyes. Slowly, he rolled his head back and forth against the upholstery of the seat. He said, "I almost caught him. We had this task force going because it looked as if the MO matched some unsolved cases in Washington State. Same fucking trademark, a Scarlet A cut in the chest deep enough for a bleed-out."
"The victims are all prostitutes, street walkers, mostly in their teens," chimed in Kessler. "Caruso went undercover on the streets, posing as a pimp. He had a lead on the killer when that asshole of a mayor pulled half the people off the stakeout because the presidential candidate was in town."
"While I was questioning a girl who had a narrow miss with someone who matched the unknown suspect, another girl was dying at his hands across town," Caruso said. His lashes shaded his eyes and he swallowed hard; I could see the lump travel down his long throat and his head jerked faintly as if in negation of the memory.
"God, she'd been lying there for hours when someone finally called it in. She was one of the invisible people, a crazy woman of the streets. If someone had checked on her sooner, she might have lived. He was sending a message to us... that he was right and no one really cared about these people," Ricky said, voice shaking with passion. "I vowed that I would get this devil and put him where he would never kill again."
Yeah, I understood the feeling. This was the first FBI agent that I ever liked. I hoped he wouldn't lose the passion he felt. He struck me as a good kid, just damn young and hot-headed. Take that last from an expert. Takes one to know one.
"What do you know about the perp?" Hutch asked. He was still turned around in the seat belt to talk to Caruso.
Caruso's eyes were still lost in distressful memories. He shivered and Kessler reached out to pat his shoulder. They briefly exchanged glances, eyes locking. The FBI agent said, "Yeah, well, fact was that she was still alive when I hit the crime scene. All that blood and she was so cold that they didn't know it. I lifted up the tarp they had covered her with and she opened her eyes. Asked me, 'why?' Hell, if I knew. She died on her way to the hospital. Seventeen years old... a whore on the streets since she was fourteen."
I could see we had to let him talk it out. Finally, Caruso brushed something away from his eyes and started again. He said, "The informants I developed said that a white pickup with a canopy cover had been seen. The driver was a middle aged white male, light brown hair, medium build, and medium height. Just a john, they said, but the same one who had been seen picking up some of the other victims. After that last murder, he was not seen again. We would have got him if the ass holes in the FBI and city hall hadn't pulled the men off that corner where the girl was taken. We needed every one of the officers and agents that were assigned. The way I looked at it; they were saying that one well-fed politician were so much more important than that girl or all of those girls. I fucking hate that."
I liked Ricky Caruso and Kessler seemed okay too. Maybe my opinion of FBI agents and crime writers would change. Hutch said, "We'll drop Mr. Kessler off at the hotel, let you both get checked in and then, Agent Caruso."
"Call me Ricky... " the young FBI Agent said, "I'm not a stuffed shirt, just a street cop who got lucky."
We were within a block of the hotel when Emma-Lee, the dispatcher called. "They found another one, guys. Harborview Park just off Warner street."
Putting the light on the roof, I grinned into the mirror and said, "Well, Mr. Kessler, you are going to have more of a ride along than I thought we would give you."
The scene at Harbor View Park was what I had come to dread and expect from the killer. When I worked for Tony Scalli, I saw some terrible scenes, horrible accidents, a few domestic violence things that were bad, but for the most part, I never had to get that close to the crime scene. I was an uniformed cop and not trusted to avoid trampling the evidence. It kept my innocence; I didn't have to look so I didn't.
About me, I'm Italian, just a regular guy who grew up in a family of cops. Sometimes I think if my dad had been a plumber that I'd be one too. When I worked in Chicago, I can't say I was the best cop on the beat. I used to make the Commish, Tony Scalli, pull his hair out and he didn't have much to spare. In my defense, I was young. I was only twenty-two when I graduated from the academy. I was the baby of the family and I guess it shows at times. I was my mother's darling, good looking (you want me to be honest, right?), reasonably intelligent, good at sports and music, and to boot, I was a lover, the favorite of my grandmother and aunts cause I was quick with a kiss and a hug. I was always bringing them flowers and pretty rocks.
When I got a chance to transfer to New York, it seemed like a chance to start over and fresh. I grabbed at it as I had been in more than my fair share of trouble in East Bridge. Tony Scalli was cool about it too. He wrote me a good recommendation and brought me into his office for one last Uncle Commish lecture. This time I even listened. He told me I could do better or I could end up being a bad cop. That hurt. I never wanted to take advantage of anyone and I'd never take a bribe or anything like that, but he had a point. I wasn't living up to my potential. I shook his hand and he surprised me by hugging me hard and saying I was a good kid. Wow, I'd thought he hated me.
After I transferred to New York, something happened in my head, a burning ambition to be more than my dad and brothers. I can't explain it. I never was more than a lazy student, content to keep that B average so dad would let me drive and I could stay on the football team. I guess what did it is falling in love. Yeah, me, Ricky "I got girls taking numbers" fell in love.
Well, I was a little surprised to say the least. My love was not even a girl. It was a guy, my partner. Man, I freaked when I heard my partner was gay, but I didn't want to say anything. My old boss had read everyone a number on that theme so I knew better than to complain even if I was going to take some ribbing for it.
I was already to be professional but distant, but Matt King was not someone that you could be indifferent too. He was smart, funny, brave, and ambitious. He had red hair and hair greener than mine, freckles and a smile that just made you feel good. He and I were the exact same height and weight. His face was rounder than mine, but we both had small features and big eyes, pointy little ears and soft mouths.
His legs were long. He was a runner, a basketball player, a poet, but he loved being a cop. He was on the short list for promotion, but his real hopes were to be accepted at the FBI.
Matt changed me. First, he persuaded me to enroll in four-year college to get my degree. Next, he got me to go to the gym for more reasons than to be a "Hot Cop".
Soon, it was 'when WE apply to the FBI academy'. I used to go to his place to study, watching the pretty guys come and go from his life as I watched the matching girls move on from mine. I remember lying on his living room floor in front of the fireplace on a sheepskin rug. My face was turned to him and we were just talking shit then he reached out and just touched me with his fingertips. I felt them tremble on my skin and I looked into his eyes, realizing that he was in love with me.
All those pretty girls and I never saw a one that wanted me the way Matt did. It freaked me out at first and he stopped touching me for a while after that. He looked scared that I was going to complain or something, but it was Matt. He was my best friend. Hell, I loved him. One day I asked him if he wanted to kiss me. Just wanted to see if what I was feeling was real.
He did. It was. Hey, I didn't give in easily. He had to seduce me a thousand times and there were still things I had never let him do such as being inside me. It was real though. Matt made me happy. He called me back when I got sulky and cautioned me when my legs flew ahead of my brains. He was smarter than I was and a good cop. I just tried to live up to his standards.
One day, we were called to this lawyer's office. Seems that a guy objected to the way the attorney was handling his divorce and was making threats. Matt was trying to talk him down and suddenly the guy pulled a gun out of nowhere and just started shooting. I took a hit, but Matt got it bad. I remember my arm shaking as I got it up to shoot, but before I could fire the murdering son of a bitch put a bullet in his own brain.
Matt died in my arms. I was doing the right thing, direct pressure on the wounds; the hot blood was welling up between my fingers. I was screaming, "Call for help. Call for first aid!"
Matt's eyes got that faraway look and he said, "Ricky, I'm gonna be watching you, love. Don't let me down."
After that, he couldn't talk, he was struggling to live. I knew he didn't want to leave me, leave life that he loved so well, but that worthless piece of shit had put two bullets in my lover's lungs. He drowned in his own blood was how they explained it.
I felt dead inside. No one really understood. Matt had protected me by not letting it be known what we had going. I was chicken enough to be okay with that, but now it left me with a hole in my heart about which I could tell no one. I put my grief into work and school. It was like Matt had given me his brains because I pulled the long hours to turn in the grades.
It seemed as if Matt was beside me every step of the way. The day I graduated, his family was there alongside mine. I guess they knew after all what we meant to each other.
I'm not the kind of guy who likes to be celibate. At first, I went back to dating the same kind of women I always did before. Then, I started looking for Matt, seeking out discreet relationships mostly with other guys who were not out of the closet. I never found anyone who moved me as he did, but I found out that I liked the sex just as much as I liked doing it with women. Hey, like they say, doubles the chance for a hot date.
So here I was, on my second big case, the first one where I was the agent in charge and when I saw the body, I walked to the trashcan and threw up my lunch. Some one told me that the cuts were almost like the blood eagle that marked sacrifices in the Norse culture. I don't know about that. The cuts form a deep scarlet letter, throat being the apex and the legs of the 'A' going out over the sides of the breasts with the crossbar between. The cuts go down to the bone. He knows what he's doing. He never nicks the lungs or cuts a major artery.
Kessler remained blank faced. I noticed how cool he was before, detached, professional. He handed me some tissue and an Altoid to take the nasty taste away. I was grateful. Glad that he didn't say anything and that Starsky and Hutch pretended they didn't notice. I had things under control now and walked back to the scene. I suppose they wondered why I carefully checked for a pulse even if the body had been dead long enough to cool down. Brian kept a respectful distance back and made notes on a regular note pad. He didn't get in the way or jabber at us. He was a good guy.
The sand and rocks didn't retain tracks but I looked carefully anyway, watching Starsky and Hutch work out of the corner of my eyes. They were some kind of team. Oh, man, it made me feel so cold inside to watch them, so lonely...
I had that with Matt, that unspoken communication, that way of finishing each other's sentences. The way they seemed to share a hidden language known only to each other. I'd had that... and I had it taken from me.
So the kid heaved in a trashcan... it was nothing I hadn't done when I was young and green. Starsk and I just went to work. I went to question the beachcombers who had found her. Starsky went looking for evidence they might have missed. After a few minutes, Caruso came over and joined us, covering inch by inch of the beach in a careful manner.
I had finished with the interview... not very enlightening. They had taken one look and run screaming for the phone. They didn't see anyone or observe a vehicle. They were just a pudgy middle-aged couple on holiday from Omaha. They had been looking for those Japanese fishing buoys made out of glass to take home as souvenirs. I guess they would have a tale of the horrors of the big city to take home instead.
We'd have them checked out, of course, but I thought they were exactly who and what they said that they were. I took their information, asked them to hang around and then went to see how Starsky and Caruso were doing.
The medical examiners had claimed the body and were getting her out of there. Wincing, I plucked a tiny crab from her hair. They wouldn't need that to determine time of death. I walked over and put the minuscule creature back in a tidal pool. I couldn't do anything for the girl, but I could save this tiny life. I watched it freeze in confusion, its nearly transparent legs pausing in midair and then it scurried for the cover of an algae encrusted rock.
Just as I turned around, Ricky Caruso's voice, gone higher in excitement and roughening, yelled, "I think I have something."
Blood on the rocks. Splatters that may have fallen from the victim, but the way the sharp piece of rock looked, the blood on the rock might have come from the man carrying her. There was a shred of rubber from a tennis shoe sole and some scuffle marks where he might have fallen. One single wisp of her hair clung to a mass of kelp.
"Good job, Agent Caruso," I said.
The way he beamed at me, it was clear he wasn't used to being praised. He had to be at least twenty- six, but there was something of the teenager about this young FBI agent. He said, "Get the evidence lab down here so they can preserve as much of the scene as they can."
Starsky had wandered off, but soon ran back and said, "Hey, I think I got something. Bum over there thinks he saw a white pickup truck with a dark colored canopy pull up on the beach. He thought it was funny that the guy pulled onto the loading dock and didn't have a boat."
"Bastard didn't even bother to dump that truck. Have you talked to the baby pros around here to see if they've seen him?" Ricky asked.
"Yeah, but we can try again. The last time it was just the first victim. I think they will be feeling more like talking now," I said.
I looked at the beach scene, bustling with the efforts of the evidence team and shook my head. It was a violation. I didn't understand it. All these years investigating violent crimes and still none of it made not one whit of sense to me.
All four of us were subdued on the way back to the hotel. We made plans to hit the streets and talk to the 'girls' again in the evening. Maybe they would feel comfortable talking to Ricky who looked much younger than he possibly could be. I wish Dobey could have spared a few more men. I didn't want to live with the feelings that Agent Caruso had... that endless feeling that I could have done more.
The hotel had given us adjoining rooms. I only wished that we had one of those convenient connecting doors. However, Caruso must have still been brooding on the past. He showed up at my door, freshly showered, dressed in black denim, very form-fitting jeans and a black silk tee shirt.
His words as I greeted him were "Okay, maybe I misjudged you. The article turned out fair. You said why we screwed up and I liked what you wrote about Carla-Lee Stouts. You paid more attention to her in death then anyone paid to her in life."
Shrugging, I said, "I understand how you felt. I wasn't sure what had happened and I was a jerk. I should have known you were hurting."
Ricky's smile was an extraordinary thing. He had large, straight, toothpaste commercial white teeth. He had dimples of course. Someone with his cross between elfin features and a cutely stubborn little boy would have to have dimples. He moved with a restless grace, sprawling into an armchair and said, "You got to see those Seattle cases. I didn't get to go because I was too much of a rookie. What do you think? Same guy?"
I liked being asked for my opinion. I asked, "Are you too 'on duty' to have a drink? Maybe some cheese and crackers to settle your stomach?"
"I guess I'm off right now. Just a beer though, I don't drink a lot of hard stuff. I'm over the queasiness. I'd like a cheeseburger and some fries. I don't like fancy food," Ricky declared, relaxing with a voluptuous wriggle into the armchair. He threw his head back, a curl of that wild hair spiraling down over his broad forehead.
After we ate, Ricky moved over to my bed. He appeared to be totally unaware of the picture he made, lying propped against my pillows. I was uncomfortably aware of my dick, hard in my jeans at the sight. He reached down and unbuttoned his jeans, rubbing his washboard stomach.
"I don't eat like that much anymore. My partner, my former partner, was trying to get me to eat healthier," Ricky said wistfully.
There was my answer. It was right there in his eyes, in his expression. That partner was more than just a work buddy. I remembered reading about the incident... not my venue. I go for the stories about stranger killers for the most part, although I'll take the bizarre family murder if it catches my eye. I realize this makes me sound odd, but I'm not morbid. I'm just a little obsessive about figuring out what makes killers tick.
Testing the waters, I sat on the bed. Ricky glanced at me cat curious but didn't move away. I said, "You asked about Seattle? Yes, I'm sure it was the same guy. I think the remains of the Green River Task force scared him off. Washington State's main exports are Boeing airplanes, Washington apples, and serial killers. They're still finding bodies every once in awhile that could be more of Bundy's victims or further relics of Mr. Green River."
Craning his head up at me, Ricky commented, "The task force didn't catch their man though. I want this guy. I want him so badly."
Watching Ricky's hand dig into my bedding, I had no doubt of that. I said, "We got off to a bad start that first time. I'd like to rectify that. I'm not a vulture, Ricky. I'm looking for answers to what makes these guys tick." Smiling at myself, I admitted, "Or maybe to Life, the Universe, and Everything"
"Matt... my old partner liked that book. I have his copy," Ricky said, "I'm not much of a reader, but I read the books that he did. Makes me feel that he's still around nagging me."
I heard the catch in his voice. So this Mr. Beautiful, but Callow had another face. "Are you in a relationship now, Ricky?" I asked.
Sitting up, Ricky said, "No, I don't think I'm looking either."
His eyes met mine again and I sighed. Okay, so your heart is buried in New York City. Well, Ricky Caruso, you are young, alive, and too fine a piece of ass to grieve forever. The game was on. I played hard; I want to tell you. Carrie left me. I didn't leave her. I'm not a fickle man. I take them one at a time and I'd be willing to commit to the right one.
"Starsky and Hutch should be here soon," Ricky said, standing up. In front of the mirror, he combed his hair, checked his reflection and nodded. He said, "I'm pretty good at talking to girls."
I bet that he was.
To save time, I went to Hutch's place. The blonde was gone. I thought we had time to do something. I'd told Caruso it would be a couple hours before we picked him up. Grabbing Hutch, I kissed him. He cooperated and acted like he enjoyed it, but when I started to press hard into him, the back of my head prickling with excitement, Hutch pushed me gently away. He said, "Come on, Starsk, we want our first time to be good. That requires time and concentration. You think once we get into bed, we're going to want to get out in a couple hours."
Yeah, that sounded reasonable and logical, but my dick wasn't listening. It was screaming that it needed Hutch. I gave it a cold shower instead. Poor thing probably wasn't going to speak to me for a week. Man, I never knew my partner was a cock tease. I should send flowers to all those blondes he dated. Who knows what kind of deprivations he put them through?
We grabbed a bite to eat at Mama's Place, my new favorite Italian Restaurant. Even getting shot and held captive in one couldn't permanently put me off eating Italian.
Hutch was eating a salad, poking at it as if it might come to life and attack him. I said, "So what do you think of the kid?"
"Not bad for a rookie. Think FBI agents get worse as they age?" Hutch replied, taking a bite of the abused greens.
Munch, munch, munch, Hutch always chews properly. He says I eat like a dog and that I'm going choke one of these days. Not likely since I don't have a gag reflex to speak about. Might come in handy if I ever got Hutch to bed. I'd been practicing on a cucumber. I know that sounds stupid, but hey, I figured that was what we would do and I didn't want to act like I was inexperienced even if I was.
I said, "No, I think Ricky is a fluke. The geek detector must have been broken when he applied. I even like the writer. He's got class. Maybe, we'll be in his next book or even a movie. I wanna play myself. What about you?"
"I think it would help to solve the crime first," Hutch remarked.
"Oh, yeah," I said.
Wow, Caruso was going to make the little girls melt. He was wearing black jeans and a black silk tee shirt that looked as it was painted on his skin. He said, "If you don't mind I'll introduce myself as a new pimp in town."
"Watch the local talent then," I cautioned. What the hell, Caruso had worked in New York; he should be okay.
Hutch zeroed in on Angel. Man, she looked bad today. Black eye, bruise on her cheek. Angel was pushing seventeen and had been on the streets most of her life except for brief stints in foster care and juvenile detention. I was surprised to see her alive still in most ways. She was doing the big H these days. Ugly track marks spread like vines up her arms. She was red eyed and sniffling. Even so, she still looked like a Puerto Rican Shirley Temple, all waif-like and dimpled.
Producing a candy bar from some place, Hutch said, "Hey, Angel, when you going to get off these streets?"
"I'm going to die here, Hutch. Hey, you know those assholes at Children's say I can't see my Tommy anymore. They're gonna take my rights away. Now, what do you say about that?" Angel asked, her mouth trembling.
"I'm sorry. Do you remember the last time we talked to you about Carlita?" Hutch said.
"Oh, her, that fat stupid cow... she was stupid. You got to be smart to work the streets. You got use your judgment," Angel said.
"What about Maria, Maria Garza? You and her were pals," Hutch said.
"What do you mean 'were'? I just saw her last night. We're going go to the concert next week. Player said we could," Angel said.
Player was Angel's pimp, a viper-like nineteen-year old, a retired gang member, determined to live the good life from of his stable of young girls. He was a good looking boy, part Indian and part Mexican, who charmed them into believing they were all pulling a good joke on the johns and that sexual exploitation was a normal part of loving and supporting your man.
Hutch leaned down so he was less intimidating to this five foot tall and less than ninety-pound girl. He said, "I'm sorry, Angel, I just assumed the news was out."
"No, no, no, she was going to get out! She was. Man, she was gonna go for treatment! She was trying to talk me into doing it too," Angel wailed.
I looked away as the tough young woman dissolved into tears. Man, I hated this. I really hated this. Hutch had his arm around her and was gently talking to her. I, on the other hand, had spotted Player and I wanted to have a talk with him.
Before the thin young gangster could get away, I grabbed him by his greasy ponytail and hauled him into the alley. I asked, "What do you know about Maria? Who was the last john?"
"Fuck you man, I'm going sue your ass," the boy threatened.
"What? Because you're clumsy?" I asked, slamming the kid back against the wall.
"Whoa, man, get some ice," Player said. He said, "Hey, Maria was pissed and I wasn't watching her. I think Ging was working around here some place. Why don't you ask her?"
"You're slime," I said, shoving him away. I stomped away feeling like shit. It's not like Player is the real problem. Get rid of him and a dozen more spring up.
Hutch had talked Angel down. She was still softly sobbing, but he was walking her toward my car. I have to say the first thing I thought was that I hoped she didn't throw up in it.
After we dropped Angel off at the shelter, where I hoped she would stay, we went to the Denny's where we'd said we would meet Ricky. Brian was there, drinking coffee and making notes. I noticed for the first time that he had an earring in his right ear. It was a ruby or at least it was a red stone. What do I know from a ruby?
Caruso was late; Hutch and me were getting nervous. It wouldn't help our reputation with the FBI if we lost their new golden boy. Brian had filled us in on Caruso's promotion. Apparently, he had solved a kidnapping case involving the kid of a very rich and famous man. Got the kid, the money, and the perp all bagged. It might have been beginner's luck, but apparently, he had an angel on his side. Hey, we could use some luck!
When we were just about to go looking, Caruso came through the door with almost a swagger in his step. Even without knowing the kid too well, I could tell he had something. I didn't recognize the thin frightened looking girl who clung to the FBI agent's hand as if it was her last hope. She had long black hair, big doe-like eyes and a thin, pretty face. She was very pale with dark circles under those enormous eyes.
"Sorry, I'm late. Phoebe was hard to persuade to come in," Ricky said, ushering the teenager into the booth.
The girl was wearing a loose white blouse and a tight black fake leather miniskirt. The neck of the blouse fell lower almost revealing a bra-less breast. Before she could tug at it again, I saw a red scar that ran like a lightening bolt deep beneath the thin cover of the fabric. She huddled, staring about her like a captured mouse.
I could feel Hutch's rescuer instincts come to full force. Ricky plopped down, looked around, made eye contact with the waitress who returned as if she had a ticket to heaven. You never saw so many water glasses filled or coffee cups freshened. I think she was ogling the lot of us and Ricky was just one more attraction. Ricky said, "Get me a burger and fries for the girl and I'd like a chocolate milkshake and a piece of apple pie with ice cream. You want a shake, Phoebe, or a coke?"
"Shake, please," the girl said timidly. She pulled at her neckline again and Ricky took off his worn brown leather jacket to tenderly put it around her. She looked at him and blushed, big brown eyes lighting up. She buttoned the jacket up to the top and sat a little straighter.
Hutch leaned across the table and said, "I'm Hutch. The guy with all the curls is Starsky."
"I know. Ging wanted me to talk to you, but I was scared. She said you were good guys, but my dad was a cop and... "
The girl didn't complete her sentence, but I could fill in the details. I shifted in the booth, uncomfortable with my thoughts. I knew why many of these kids were on the streets, especially the kid prostitutes. A lot of them figured that if they were going to be used as sex toys that they might as well be paid for it. Stuff like that makes me mad, makes my insides boil. I want go and beat every one of the creeps senseless. Hutch feels the same, but he can still take the time to talk to the kids. Me, I'm too shaking angry to be much help with it. I buy them burgers and shakes. Hell, I've bought enough tennis shoes to single-handedly jump-start the economy.
Her bone thin hands worked constantly, tearing a napkin into smaller and smaller pieces. She caught her breath and said, "Ging said that there was a new daddy in town and that he looked as if he might be a good guy. She brought Ricky to meet me and the next thing I knew I told him what had happened. I didn't think he was a cop. He doesn't look like a cop."
Glancing over at the silk-shirt clad Ricky with the jeans so tight that all his assets showed, I could agree with that. He looked more like a model or a TV star. Ricky reached over and held the girl's hand, looking deep into her eyes. He was seductive, but I don't think he really knew he was doing it.
Phoebe clung tight with one hand and then said, "I guess you saw that scar. When it happened, I told the hospital that it was a knife fight, but it wasn't. I was... working. I get high before I start cause that makes it easier, like it isn't real or something. I like being numb... numb is good."
There was a long silence as she dropped her eyes and tears fell down her blank mask of a face. Ricky's hand rubbed her arm and finally she said, "That night I saw someone new. I didn't think about it. It was a slow night and Harley was going to be pissed if I didn't bring in more money. This guy said if I went with him for the night, he would give me four hundred dollars! He asked me to ride in the back of the truck because he didn't want his neighbors to see he was bringing a girl home. Man, that thing really stank. He'd used some kind of cleaners but it still stunk badly. I made myself a speed-ball and then it didn't matter. Speed-balls are so cool, like being on a really fast roller coaster ride so everything is just a blur and your heart is racing. Nothing really matters when you got that going for you."
There was a long silence as Phoebe contemplated her one true love. Man, I don't understand drugs. Every day, I get up and I'm alive, feel the sun on my skin, look forward to the day, to joking with Hutch, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Just the taste of a chilidog or the way it feels to chug down a cold coke on a hot day is enough for me.
Hutch said, "Phoebe, where did he take you? Was it a house?"
"It must have taken almost two hours. The canopy's window was all blocked up, but there was a crack between it and the truck. I had my face pressed to it to get some air. I couldn't see much, but I saw one sign, Agoura Hills. I saw that and then it wasn't much longer," the girl said.
The waitress interrupted with the food. She was trying to flirt with Ricky who paid her mild attention. There was a frown on Brian's face as he watched. Hmm, the guy was very interested in Agent Caruso. I had noticed a little posturing and wondered what the history between them was.
Kessler paid the bill, picked up the whole tab. I could like this guy. He gave the waitress a huge tip, stood up, whispered in her ear, and she frowned, cast a longing look at us all before disappearing.
"That should take care of interruptions," Brian said.
Ricky grumbled, "Hey, she was flirting with me. What's so bad about that?"
Hutch smiled and said, "Nothing, Romeo, but now is not the time."
The food disappeared down the girl like magic. She had eaten the last crumb of fry and half of Ricky's pie before she stopped. "Oh, I feel better. I haven't worked since it happened. Ging has been helping me, but I didn't want to eat all her food."
"You want some more?" Ricky asked.
"To go?" Phoebe asked.
"If you want," Hutch broke in, "But I have a better idea. I have a friend who runs a home. You could be safe there."
"Safe. Safe would be good," she agreed, rubbing that scar.
Phoebe was a girl who gives what she is paid to give. She said, "We got out in his garage and went downstairs. When I saw the room, I knew I was in trouble. He had the floor covered with a tarp. There was a hose hanging from a hook. There was a table thing with straps in an X-shape. I tried to get away, but he was strong. He tied me to the table and cut off all my clothes. He was talking crazy about the Blessed Virgin and purification. I remember there was a big picture of Mary on the wall with a bleeding heart. He had a bunch of knives... oh"
Her face pressed against Ricky's shirt and those thin shoulders shook with misery. The young agent looked more uncomfortable than even I would have been in the same fix, but he was trying. He patted her back and said, "I know this is tough, Phoebe. You wanna go someplace else and talk?"
At her nod, we packed up and all crammed into the Torino. We ended up at the shelter in a cramped meeting room, but there wouldn't be any one bothering us here and it looked like a good place for Phoebe.
Curled in a ball on the couch, Phoebe still wouldn't let go of Ricky. His silk shirt was becoming soggy with her tears and mucus. It would have been funny except for what the girl was saying, especially with Caruso trying to do a Hutch and not being that good at the comforting role.
"He cut me. I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. I knew I was going to die and then... well, he had this intercom and someone was ringing his doorbell. He went upstairs and didn't come back," Phoebe said.
The girl continued, "I thought I was dying, but after a while I figured I wasn't that badly hurt. It was a shallow cut. Those cuffs were big and my hands are small, smaller than my wrists. I used to piss off the cops because they couldn't keep me in handcuffs. These were harder to break out of, but I managed. My clothes were no good, but I found some overalls on a hook and put them on. I just grabbed a whole roll of paper towels and stuffed them all inside to make the bleeding stop. There was a lot of smoke in the hills. I guess it was the firemen who made that guy leave."
Caruso asked, "Phoebe, would you know him if you saw him?"
"Yeah... I guess." she said, "He had gray hair, bushy eyebrows and one blue eye and one brown. I remember that because I'd never seen anyone like that before. He was taller than you," (She pointed at me and then pointed at Brian) "Not as tall as him."
"What happened next?" Ricky asked, his voice catching.
Phoebe said, "I ran and ran until I got to the big road. I didn't see a sign... I just kept trying to get a ride, but I guess I looked crazy. I didn't have any shoes and there was blood seeping through those painter's overalls. Finally, some fat lady with two big dogs stopped. She was freaked out when she saw all the blood and brought me to emergency. Even called Ging for me. I guess she got disgusted when I said it was a knife fight. I don't know why I said that. I guess I was scared and all those questions... cops usually scare me. The kind with uniforms especially."
I looked at Hutch and he looked at me. Bingo! Caruso had scored and now we just had to win the free throw. We had to find one chubby lady with dogs.
By the time the girl had finished talking, I think the guys had forgotten that I wasn't a fellow cop. Soon, they were at headquarters, frowning over a big map. There were pins where the two bodies had been found and a yellow question mark over the Agoura Hills. An uniformed cop had been dispatched to fetch the hospital records in the hopes that the Good Samaritan had left her address.
"He could of dumped them in the park," Starsky muttered.
"No, he's got a thing for water and public places. Gets a thrill from almost being caught. Wants us to stop him, I guess." Hutch said.
"Yeah, that's right. There was salt water in the wounds of each victim. He washes them with it or pours it over them. Purification?" Ricky shot in. "He does that when they are alive... the bloody bastard! That one... that girl who lay there and lay there... "
So much pain in his voice, I know how it felt to be helpless. I remember staring into the suffering face of that cop that Early Grayce shot as that crazy son of a bitch held a pistol to my head, trying to get me to do his killing for him. That scene plays repeatedly in my head. Sometimes I dream that I did shoot. Sometimes I dream that the bullet exploded in my own head.
Starsky patted Ricky's arm. That surprised me. I'm a good observer, better since I went through hell with Early. Starsky touches Hutch a lot, but not anyone else unless they are people he knows and likes. I guess that he saw a kindred soul in Ricky Caruso. They were a lot alike. You'd think that it's all there on the surface because they are talkative, rough spoken, and loud. It isn't so. There's passion in them both, deep feelings that roiled to the surface because there was so much of them.
When the blue eyes locked with the green, I saw a silent appraisal and then Ricky said, "We'll get them this time. I think we have quite a team."
Damned if he didn't include me in that 'we'. I was proud.
It was late before we left off for the night. Starsky and Hutch took us to the hotel. Ricky had a car coming in the morning so he could get around on his own. They'd split-up now, looking for more clues unless the woman that had helped Phoebe was found.
I lured him into my room. I could tell he was in emotional pain; I thought it was the case. Ricky might not like me saying that girl's death was his fault, but he blamed himself. I was ready to explain it to him, tell him I had been wrong and that he did the best that he could. I poured him another drink, this time a stiff shot of whiskey.
Gulping the shot, Ricky collapsed backwards and muttered, "Starsky and Hutch... God damn it, do they even know how lucky they are?"
Sitting up, the guy I was lusting after pulled off his jacket. Or tried to. He was caught in the sleeve. I had a feeling I knew why he didn't drink much. He couldn't hold his liquor. I helped him out of the coat and he said to me in a slurred voice, "You want me? Seen ya looking at me. You can have me... just got to... oh, man, I'm gonna be sick."
It wasn't a total disaster. I managed to get him into the bathroom and over the toilet bowl, before he vomited. You know how they say if you want to know if it's love imagine the object of your passion in the most base situation possible and see if you still want them. I must have passed the test because as I helped Ricky brush his teeth, I was regretting the drink that I'd given him. He wanted a shower and I went in with him to make sure that he didn't fall. He was just as I expected and more.
We nearly matched in height, lean, spare flesh over long, lithe muscle. He had very little body hair, not even in his pits. He was sleek in his way. The bones were grace notes beneath soft skin and firm flesh. He had hollows and gentle swells like an ocean on which I so desired to sail. You never saw legs such as he had, so long and hard with muscle. Thighs like steel and unexpectedly lushly fleshed buns. I was the one who was most at risk of falling... if only he wasn't drunk.
After the shower, he was cuddly, pulling me down on the bed so we lay side to side and wiggling inside my arms. He started to laugh about some thing Starsky had said to Hutch and I thought I really was going to get lucky. Then he started to cry and I held him while he talked about his partner, Matt, and loving him the way that Starsky and Hutch loved each other. I ended up rocking him to sleep and jacking off in the shower.
Both of us were so tired that I didn't even complain about going home instead of hanging out with Hutch. I was burned. Seeing those kids bothered me more than I can say. Especially Phoebe. I know I'm going to end up going back to talk to her. I know I am going to have to find out who her father is and what he did to her, although I can guess. After that, well, I hope I can get Phoebe to take the stand because a guy like that shouldn't be a cop, right?
The following morning we checked in with Captain Dobey and called the hotel. Caruso was going to continue talking to kids and Brian was going with him.
Hutch and I went back to talk to Phoebe. She had stayed at the shelter and looked better already. Maybe that close brush with death had scared her enough to make her realize her way of life was a lousy way to die instead.
On a side note, she wasn't willing to talk about her dad yet but we'll keep working on it. Going over and over the details, we finally decided to take her for a ride along the route that he probably would have taken from the corner on Hollywood Boulevard to Agoura Hills.
Finally, we hit a lonely stretch of Superior Avenue and she thought it might have been here where her Good Samaritan picked her up. Just then, dispatch called with the woman's name and address, Jean Kellerman, 10300 Ima Loa Court. Bingo! We raced to take Phoebe back to the shelter and radioed Caruso and Kessler to join us for the interview.
A fence that must have seven feet tall surrounded the little house. The dogs were big chunky things that looked like someone shaved a St. Bernard and did a face lift on them to get rid of the most of the jowls. I was a little nervous, but they seemed friendly enough. Hutch and Ricky appeared to think they were cool.
Kessler said, "Great Swiss Mountain Dogs... I was assigned to write a blurb about Westminster dog show the year they were first shown."
"That's right," beamed Jean Kellerman, who was a brawny lady wearing a tee shirt with guess what? A picture of a Great Swiss Mountain Dog on it. She had short blond hair, a square plain face and dog hair. Dog hair everywhere. It was on her jeans and all over her shirt; there was even some short black and white hair mingled with her own no-nonsense do.
Frowning as he does when he's impatient, Hutch said, "Ms. Kellerman,"
"Jean will do fine. Is this about that little girl? Is she okay?" the woman asked, petting one of the huge dogs that leaned against her. "Why don't you come inside and pull up a crate? I'll make some tea."
The house was clean enough, but smelled of dog. The pair of them padded in afterwards and one of them decided he was in love with Brian. He kept pushing his head under Brian's hand to be petted and uttering great canine sighs of contentment. I heard a staccato rumbling and then I saw Caruso break up, just throw his head back and let loose with the most charming laugher I'd heard short of Hutch. The pooch had his paws up, trapping Brian and licking him with a determined air.
Ms. Kellerman came back with a tray and saw the problem. "Off," she barked like a marine sergeant and then, "Byron, crate!"
The dog went into this big plastic box thing and his owner shut the door. "He really likes you," said the woman. "The bathroom is down the hall, first door, if you would like to cleanup."
Oatmeal cookies with raisins mounded on a plate. Hey, the day was getting better. As she held the plate out to me she said, "Take two. I think you'll like these. I add just the tiniest bit of orange zest to them. Really makes them extraordinary."
They were good. I stuffed my face with cookies and let Hutch ask the questions. Caruso kept pace with me, a happy guy with cookie crumbs trickling down his shirt.
Ms. Kellerman had a good eye and ear for details. Not only that, but she had seen the pick up truck or at least a white pick-up with an ill-fitting canopy. She said, "Yes, he's so rude. I walk early in the morning and late at night. I always have a flashlight and keep to the side of the road, but I think he's swerved to try to hit me. Here. I'll write down the address."
Now we were rocking. I could see Ricky Caruso bouncing in his chair. Man, he was eager to be at them. Hell, was I ever that young? We said our farewells and decided to have a look at the house and the truck if it was there.
Hutch called it in. Our suspect lived on a cul-de-sac called Wild Goose Court. His name was Christopher Clarke and he worked for a computer company as a programmer. He tele-commuted most days according to the receptionist. The truck was missing when we pulled up, but an hour later, it rolled into the driveway and into the garage.
"We'll have to get a warrant to search the car," Hutch said.
"What if he's got a girl in there," Ricky said.
"No, man, it's the middle of the day," I protested.
"Any law that says killers can only come out at night?" Ricky asked.
"Guess not," I agree, looking at Hutch.
Before any of us could say more, Brian Kessler had slipped away from us. He was fast and had used a universal remote that was three kinds of illegal, on the door. Ricky bit back a laugh and said, "Guys, that was an illegal entry into a home. As officers of the law, I think this is a hot pursuit type of situation."
My kind of cop. Clear headed and willing to stretch a rule. We all booked out of the car and went to find Kessler. The gunshot made us all jump. Ricky leapt ahead of us, yelling, "FBI" as if was a battle cry, but we were close behind.
The kid just barely missed being shot. He flattened against the wall, eyes wide as a fawn's with tension. I could see that Kessler was down, bleeding. I couldn't tell how badly he was wounded. Ricky ducked out enough to exchange shots with the gunmen and then turned to say, "Cover me, I'm going grab Brian."
Hutch and I were ready; aiming a steady covering fire to keep the man pinned. The girl's wail went on and on. She had to be unhurt to sound off like that so loudly and continuously.
The shooter was a cool customer and a good shot. I wondered where he got his skills? An untrained man wouldn't calmly exchange shots like this without something going wrong. I heard Hutch calling for back up, a SWAT team and an ambulance.
Hutch yelled, "Clarke, you know that there's no way out. Put down your weapon,"
I glanced at Caruso and saw that he was handling the wound all right. I heard him say, "Don't die this time, Matt, don't die."
Looking down, I reminded the kid, "Ricky, keep the pressure right over the wound. It doesn't look too bad. Just stay calm."
"Yeah, okay," Ricky said with a shaky voice.
Clarke shouted, "She is the great whore of Babylon. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea. She must be purified and die!"
"She's a kid," said Hutch, "She's just a little girl."
"She is a demon," said the man. "They are whores who ruin you and bring you down. Seduce you. Take your family from you. Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."
Sirens were wailing nearer. I thought I had a clear target. My vision narrowed to a patch of arm showing in the doorway. I fired and I saw him fall. His hand reached for the gun and I shot again, aiming for the hand, but instead hitting the gun and sending it skittering out of reach.
Hutch and I moved together, not taking the chance that the man had another gun. I glanced behind me and noticed that Ricky was minding Kessler, but had his gun ready to back us up if needed. All of our carefully timed and cautious approach was for nothing. My shot had taken out a good part of his forearm and smashed his hand. He had passed out and didn't regain consciousness even when they loaded him on the ambulance.
There was my partner, the blond knight, wrapping yet another teenage waif in a blanket. Other than a bump on her head, she was fine. The room was just as Phoebe described. I don't think the crime lab was going to have any problems here.
Hutch and me stuck around long enough to make sure the job was done right. Ricky was with us for a while, but I could tell his attention was someplace else. Hutch said, "Ricky, we have this. I think Brian might like waking up to someone he knows."
As Caruso was leaving, I heard Hutch say, "He might not be your partner, Ricky, but maybe there's a reason why your lives keep crossing."
"Maybe," Ricky agreed. His eyes went from Hutch to me and back again and he said, "You guys have any idea how lucky you are to have each other?"
Hutch looked at me with those guileless blue eyes and I was drowning in happiness. He said, "Yeah, I think we do know."
Brian looked so pale and still in the bed. His shoulder was bulky with a cast and there was an IV feeding into him. I leaned forward and stroked the hair out of his eyes. He wasn't Matt. I'd never get Matt back, but he was Brian and I think Matt was nagging me again, telling me to go for it. Go for the gold as I had when I applied to college and then to the academy. I'd always love Matt, but he was dead and I was alive. Matt would have wanted me to experience life fully and love was part of that. I think I could love Brian if he still wanted me.
Carefully, I leaned down and kissed his forehead. I only meant to reassure myself that he was still alive, but it woke him up. Brian said, "You have rotten aim, Ricky Caruso, bring that down here."
That mouth was made for kissing. His good hand pressed against the back of my head and he was drinking me in. One of us was moaning from the kiss. No, it was both of us. The sound vibrated between us, a sound coming from deep in our hearts and his hand stroked my hair.
I broke away and accused, "That was so stupid. Why the hell did you do that?"
Smiling, he said, "I'm not an FBI agent or a cop. The worst thing I could get charged with was breaking and entering. You want to tell me that you weren't going to go in if there was the slightest chance he had a living victim?"
The Commish would have pinned me in the same verbal half nelson, but Brian didn't mean it the way Tony Scalli would have. I shrugged and said, "I won't tell you that. So, that's why you did it? So I wouldn't get in trouble?"
Brian looked wearily at me and replied, "Yes and no. I did for myself as well. I screwed up too. If I hadn't been so caught up in my own belief that I had an insight into the heart of darkness, there might be not have been a trail of bodies left behind Early Grayce. Together, Ricky, we saved a life. You know if we were Chinese, we'd have to stay together for the rest of our lives because of that. It's a rule."
I thought he was bull-shitting me, but he had a deadpan way of speaking that made it hard to tell. I asked, "Is that so? Are you making that up?"
Brian tried to shrug, but his shoulder hurt him too badly for that. He said, "Maybe, maybe, I'm making it up, but do you really, really want to take that risk? I mean if fate brought us together for a reason, should we fight it?"
Leaning over his bed, I studied his face and said, "I don't want to fight it, but when you get out of this hospital, I'm going make you show me what you can do with those lying lips of yours."
"Sounds good to me," Brian said, his hand reaching for mine.
I sat there with him, holding on like that. For the first time since Matt died, I didn't feel empty anymore. I was going to be okay.
They say that sometimes having is not so good a thing as wanting. Anyway, Mr. Spock seemed to think so, but last time I checked, neither Starsk or I had pointed ears and, man, waiting seven years to have sex is taking Tantric yoga way too far. I know I'd been driving my partner crazy, but, hey, I like teasing Starsky. Besides, I meant it about doing it right.
You only get one first time and I wanted it to be as perfect as we were able to make it. Vanessa, my ex, and I didn't wait for marriage and I barely remember the first time. Most of the time, I think we married because I wanted to be married. I wanted that perfect love that they speak about.
How the hell was I to know that my perfect love needed to shave twice a day or he would have five o'clock shadow by two p.m.? That he drove a hot car and still liked to play juvenile jokes? That he was impatient, hot headed, and forgetful? How was I to know that he would look at me with perfect trust in the deepest blue eyes that you ever saw? That his wiry body and tight ass would thrill me a long time before I realized what I was feeling?
Loving him was easy. The only thing that surprised me was that not everybody saw him the way that I did. Desire grew more slowly and even after I recognized my feelings, I argued with myself, and tried to rationalize it away, I didn't tell him. Somehow, I thought that he could never feel the same.
Wrong. Couldn't have been more wrong. I let him make the first move, which was no great reach. My partner is not known for his patience or subterfuge. He's like some sudden rainfall in the desert that just sweeps over you, but leaves a surprising sweetness in its wake.
After we left headquarters, it struck me that either of us could have been shot. My search for the perfect time and method could have ended with us never making love. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Better yet, grab Starsky and head for go, payday for us both.
As soon as we were at my place, I growled, "You want to know what I've been doing for the last three days?"
"Screwing your latest blonde?" Starsk replied.
"She's gay," I said, "Maya is gay."
"What?" my partner asked.
"You heard me," I said, swinging him around and pressing him into the wall for a kiss. One of my hands found his fly and took care of that. My hand rested on his furry belly before making its way around to knead his ass. He moaned and sagged.
If I didn't love him so damn much, I'd be scared to have so much power over him. I peeled off his shirt and threw it towards the chair. He reciprocated with mine. Between kisses and undressing, we made the world's slowest journey to my bathroom, knocking a couple things down in the process.
Reaching around him, I turned on the shower, inadvertently throwing a blast of cold over us. Spluttering, Starsk laughed and said, "Is that a message?"
"This is," I answered and I kissed him again, pressing him against the shower stall.
The lid stuck on the bath oil, Kama Sutra for men, that I had purchased for the occasion. Starsk took it and said, "Let me get... "
The lid came off for him all right, spilling most of the oil over my chest, splattering my chin, and making that shower floor a real hazard. He looked at me and said, "Oops."
"It's okay," Damn bottle cost me seventeen dollars, but hey, what's money?
A moment later, we were spreading the oil over each other, hot water flowing down our bodies, hands sliding over each other. How often had I touched Starsk? A million times? I had patted his fanny in the locker room of the gym, wrestled with him, held him, and hugged him. You would think that his body would seem so familiar as to be no more arousing than my own.
No. It wasn't like that. His lips sucked on my skin, right on the side of my collarbone. It was an odd spot, but it became erogenous because of his concentrated focus. He slid and I caught him. His face was ruddy with desire. His eyes wide as if the sight of me must be absorbed totally, imprinted on his soul. No one ever looked at me like that before. No one ever made me feel as loved.
Both of us were so hard that it wasn't going to last. I said, "At least, let's finish this in bed."
"Yeah," Starsk agreed.
Getting out of that oil-slicked tub was difficult. We both almost fell, but finally managed. We kept stopping to kiss and when we finally reached the bed; there was no plan. I don't know what Starsk thought we would do, but I thought we would try many things. Instead, we could not stop kissing and touching. The oil and the shower had made both of us slick. My leg covered his. Our cocks were hard against each other and our bodies were pistons, driving us harder and harder against each other. It was just going to happen like this, groping each other like teenagers, no art, no science, just passion and love. Always love.
My body arced away from him as I came. He followed me over, murmuring my name again and again. I held him close and finally got my hand on his cock, but the moment I touched him, he came screaming my name. We didn't fall apart then. We rested in each other's arms, side by side, just looking at each other, gently touching and stroking, kissing softly.
Starsk frowned as we moved over to a drier spot and said, "What's this?"
I'd forgotten I left it there. He drew the book out and read the title out loud, "The Joy of Gay Sex"
"You know I like to be prepared," I said.
"A regular Boy Scout," Starsky remarked, as he thumbed through the book.
"So we gonna try all these things out?" he asked, as he looked at the pictures.
"Maybe, maybe not," I said, "I wanted to make this perfect, Starsk."
"It was," he said, "being with you made it better than any book or video or experience could make it. And we got time, partner."
"Forever" I said.
OTHER DISCLAIMERS: Starsky and Hutch are the property of Aaron Spelling. Thanks Aaron!
Brian Kessler is borrowed from the movie Kalifornia, directed by Dominic Sena. David Duchonvy played the character. His character and the plot mentioned belong to the film writers and producers. Brian played a writer researching a story by visiting the sites of serial or multiple homicides. He and his girl friend, Carrie, post a 'share a ride' ad, which is answered by a crude young man and his dizzy trailer trash girlfriend. As they move from place to place, having a lot of sex along the way, the movie reveals that the ride-along is Early Grayce, a psychopathic killer and thief. Brian and Carrie finally figure it out and are held captive by Grayce. There are plot details from the movie spoiled in my story.
Ricky Caruso was a delightful young uniformed cop on the Commish, an ensemble police show. He was played by a very beautiful and fresh Nicholas Lea. Ricky pulled stunts that would have gained him the stunned admiration of Starsky and Hutch. The Commish and Captain Dobey could have been in a support group together, mind the doughnuts, please, if they did. I saw Ricky in the show as being an eternal Dennis the Menace sort, but as a loyal, passionate friend and very caring. This Ricky is how I see the character if he had been allowed to grow and develop.
Notes: Time Frame: I moved Starsky and Hutch into the present. This story is for my friend and beta reader, Karen-Leigh, who keeps me strong and gives me focus. I'd start two hundred stories and hardly finish one if she didn't nag. Much Ado about Nothing.
Summary: A killer is stalking the streets of LA. Can Starsky, Hutch, Ricky, and Brian, catch them before another girl becomes a victim?
Characters: Ricky/Brian Kessler(Kalifornia)