“Deal” - distribute cards to players in accordance with the rules of the game being played.
You learn a lot your first six months in uniform. The new guy carries the coffee. The new guy drives. The new guy never picks the restaurant.
You learn that you have no idea how much a gun weighs until you wear one strapped to your hip all day. That running in standard issue black oxfords is a bitch, and if you ever make it out of uniform, you’re going to buy the best pair of sneakers you can find and never take them off.
What no one tells you is that arresting someone you have history with – no matter how ancient – is a really bad idea. No, that one you have to learn yourself.
2. The Bluff
"Bluffing" - or pretending to have better cards than you actually do - is a fundamental strategy of poker. A player who bluffs usually bets higher than his/her cards warrant.
“I done it, okay?” Jimmy leaned back against the cruiser, handcuffed around wrists so thin Starsky thought he could slide out of them if he tried hard enough. “You got all the stuff back, why you gotta bring me in?” His voice was a thin whine.
“You had a gun. That’s armed robbery.” He’d caught Jimmy five blocks from the store, his pockets stuffed with gold chains, diamond rings, and a sapphire brooch he claimed belonged to his grandmother. “Now shut up and let me read you your rights.”
“Come on, Davey, you know the gun’s not real.” Jimmy kicked at the pavement with the toe of a dirty sneaker.
“Doesn’t matter. You admitted you robbed that store. And my partner over there just watched me frisk you and find the stuff. So I got no choice. And don’t call me Davey.” He stood in front him and wrapped one hand around Jimmy’s arm, ready to open the car door. “I see you walking away from a 211 call, halfway across town from your place, what am I supposed to think? I’m just doing my job, Jimmy.”
Jimmy leaned forward and his breath was hot on Starsky’s neck. “Shit, man.” His voice held an edge of meanness now. “You never used to care where I got my money. Especially not when I had my mouth wrapped around your dick. Cut me a break, okay?” He braced his hands against the car and rocked his hips into Starsky.
Starsky’s breathing sped up and he fisted a hand into Jimmy’s shirt. “I don’t owe you nothing,” he spit out. “A few blow jobs don’t earn you a get out of jail free card.”
Jimmy lifted his chin towards Starsky’s partner, Frank Tucci, standing ten feet away, looking bored. “He know how you like it?”
The threat was there, but that’s all it was, Starsky thought. Who’d believe a two-bit punk anyway? He pushed Jimmy into the back seat. “You got the right to remain silent . . .”
In the locker room at the end of shift, Frank asked him about Jimmy. “You and our perp seemed kinda cozy – you got something to tell me, kid? You know him from somewhere?” Frank was forty, knew he’d never make Sergeant, and went through partners like cheap socks. They gave him Starsky a couple months ago and he still hadn’t figured him out yet. Part kid, part conman, part hard-assed cop.
Starsky lifted a clean t-shirt out of his locker, pulled it over his head slowly. “I’ve seen him around, that’s all.”
Frank nodded, he liked to keep his life uncomplicated. “Lucky catch, kid.”
3. The Showdown
“Showdown” - in all poker games, if more than one player remains after the last betting round, remaining players expose and compare their hands to determine the winner or winners.
Starsky was comfortable in the witness stand. He was good at it, he knew. He’d learned that testifying wasn’t so much about telling the truth, it was about making the truth believable. He smiled at a middle-aged woman in a pale print dress in the back row of the jury box, and she shifted in her seat, blushing faintly.
Late afternoon sun drifted into the room from two high windows. He sat up straight and ran a finger around the inside of his collar and asked for a drink of water. The ADA was done with him, now it was the defense attorney’s turn. Starsky still couldn’t figure out why Jimmy’s case even went to trial. He confessed, for crying out loud. And the store owner ID’ed him. The rest of it . . . well, that was just talk. Jimmy was good at that.
She stood and waited patiently while he drank from the paper cup the bailiff handed him. She’s beautiful, Starsky thought. If you like your women sharp around the edges.
“Officer Starsky, do you know what the Fourth Amendment is?”
What the fuck? “Sure, the one between the Third and the Fifth?” The woman in the print dress covered a laugh behind long, thin fingers. He smiled widely at Jimmy’s lawyer, the same smile he’d used to get out of trouble his whole life. Broken windows, broken dates, broken hearts.
She tugged down her linen jacket with both hands. “So you’re saying the police academy doesn’t teach the rules of search and seizure?”
“Oh, that Fourth Amendment. Sure, we learn what the police are allowed to do.”
The ADA tapped his pencil and frowned at Starsky, warning him not to fuck up the easiest case he’d ever tried.
“So explain again to the court why you stopped my client the morning of May 15th.”
Starsky cleared his throat. “Like I said before, a call came in that Freeman’s Jewelry had just been robbed and the suspect escaped west on Fifth Street. We were close by so we took it.”
“Did the dispatcher give a description of the suspect?”
“White male, approximately thirty, wearing jeans.”
She moved closer to the stand. “What color hair?”
“We didn’t have that information.”
The ADA made a move to stand and the judge waved him back.
She looked at him for a minute, eyes narrowed, her head tilted a little to one side. “Oh, I thought you did. What about the color of the suspect’s shirt? Was he wearing a jacket? A hat? Did you have that information, Detective Starsky?”
“Not at that time, no.”
“Was my client running when you stopped him? Because I could understand how a man running down the street might attract your attention.”
“No. He was walking.”
“Then it was just a lucky guess?”
He looked over and saw the beginning of a smirk on Jimmy’s face. “I had a hunch.”
“Oh, I see. A hunch.” She moved back a few steps and the sound of her high heels echoed in the courtroom. “Exactly which amendment are hunches covered under?”
“Objection!” the ADA shouted.
“I apologize, your Honor.” She smiled at the judge and Starsky knew he’d just been played.
Judge Malone nodded and told her to move on.
“So it’s your testimony, Officer Starsky, that you just happened to pull up beside my client, got out of your car and decided to frisk him? Was he the only thirty year old white male in Bay City wearing jeans?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then explain to the court why you stopped and searched James Minsky five blocks east of the jewelry store in question?”
Because he’s never paid for anything he could steal, never asked for anything he could take . . .
He slapped some money down on the bar for the beer and made his way to the bathroom. When he came out, Jimmy was at the door, blocking his way. He grabbed Starsky’s arm and pushed him up two steps and out the back door into a tiny alley.
Jimmy shoved him against the brick wall and leaned in, bracing one arm beside his head and let the other trail down Starsky’s chest, then around to his hip.
His hand fell away from his hip and cupped Starsky’s erection.
“We’ll get caught,” Starsky said and blew out a low breath.
“Then you’d better
fucking be quiet,” Jimmy answered and dropped to his knees . . .
She didn’t wait for an answer. “My client has no record, does he?”
“None that I know of.”
“Then why? Exactly what made you stop my client and search him?”
Starsky was silent, staring at his hands. She knows about Jimmy and me.
“Officer Starsky?” she repeated. But it wasn’t really a question anymore, because she knew he couldn’t answer. Not if he wanted to keep his job.
“Your Honor, I move that the charges against my client be dropped. The search of his person was a clear violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. There was no probable cause for search and seizure. All evidence resulting from this search should be excluded, as fruit of the poisonous tree, including the eyewitness identification.”
ADA O’Neill was out of his chair. “Your Honor, this is outrageous! Mr. Minsky confessed to the robbery.”
“Only after he was searched by Officer Starsky.”
The judge sighed loudly. “Officer Starsky, you are dismissed. However, please wait outside. You may be called back to the stand. We’ll take a ten minute recess while I consider the motion.”
Starsky stood slowly, ignoring the angry glare from the ADA, walked off the stand and out the heavy doors at the back of the courtroom. He sat down on a bench in the hallway, and leaned his head back against the wall.
“Sorry to bother you . . .”
Starsky looked up, startled. There was a man standing in front of him. “Yeah?”
“Do you know if they’re almost done in there?” He pointed toward the closed doors of the courtroom. “I’m waiting for my wife.”
He looked at the doors for moment, until his mouth caught up to his brain. “Juror?”
“Defense attorney. Vanessa Hutchinson.”
“Sharp claws, ice water running through her veins?”
The man laughed. “Yes, that sounds about right.”
Starsky moved to the end of the bench and the man sat down beside him. “It shouldn’t be long—your wife is in there trying to get the charges dropped.”
“Ah. That’s known in our house as Plan B. He must be guilty.”
“As sin.” They lapsed into silence. Starsky shifted on the bench and his leg began bouncing up and down. “You a lawyer too?”
“Not for a few more years. First year law student at UCLA.”
Starsky raised one eyebrow. The guy looked at least twenty-five, maybe older.
“Yeah, I know, I get that look all the time. Took a few years off –even thought about being a cop for a while . . . but Vanessa . . . “
“You’re not missing much, believe me. Bad hours, bad food, and my partner won’t stop calling me kid. I’m twenty-six, for crying out loud.” And then Starsky was telling him how he wasn’t going to drive a black and white his whole career, how what he really wanted was to be a detective, and how he figured he could take the sergeant’s exam in another three years, if the bureaucracy and the uniform and his partner’s bad breath didn’t kill him first.
And the whole time he was talking, the other guy was nodding and damned if he didn’t look a little, well, wistful. Which eased out the lines in his forehead and made him look even prettier than he already was.
“I’m Dave Starsky,” he said quickly, because it was suddenly important that he not leave without telling him that.
“Ken Hutchinson. Hutch to most people.”
“Not to her, I bet.”
Hutch winced and Starsky wondered if he’d gone too far.
“No, not to her.”
Then the doors swung open, and people began streaming out of the courtroom. ADA O’Neill was the last to exit, and Starsky jumped up when he saw him.
“So?” he asked. “How’d we do?”
O’Neill, his face flushed, said to him angrily, “Good work, Starsky. Minsky got off.” He turned and headed toward the elevators without waiting for an answer.
When Starsky turned back to the bench, Hutch was already gone.
4. Dead Man’s Hand
“Dead man’s hand” - a two-pair poker hand, namely aces and eights. The hand gets its name due to the legend of it having been the five-card-draw hand held by Wild Bill Hickok at the time of his murder (August 2, 1876)
Ten forty-nine. His shift was almost over. If they could get through the next eleven minutes without a call, he still had a chance of making it to the cabin tonight. Then maybe Terry wouldn’t act mad all weekend. She never came right out and said she was mad, she’d rather flush the toilet while he was in the shower or add spinach to the lasagna. “Please, just yell at me and get it over with,” he’d told her once, picking at a plate of lukewarm lima beans and liver. She’d kissed him quickly as she walked by, but the next morning, his underwear had turned a pale shade of pink.
The weekend would be good for them, he thought. Maybe he’d read the new Spenser book she bought him for his birthday. Go fishing. Finally fix the porch swing.
Hell, who was he kidding? He’d be bored, just like he was every fucking weekend they spent there. He’d learned to hate their Saturday night ritual of Monopoly and sex. He’d hinted one night that maybe they should try cribbage sometimes. And a new position. She looked up from the stack of homework papers she was correcting and said, “Maybe you should try coming home before midnight sometimes.” He hardly went straight home anymore—Huggy had a bar stool waiting for him every night. The burgers weren’t half bad. Neither was Huggy. Some habits were harder to break than others.
“Zebra-five. 187 at 42 Prospect Boulevard, Apt 2201. Please respond.”
Simonetti sighed loudly. “This is Zebra-five. We’re in the area. ETA, five minutes.”
“Terry’s gonna kill me. I promised her I wouldn’t work late.”
“Complain to the victim.” He straightened his tie again, picked lint off his brown corduroy jacket.
The man never met a corpse looking less than perfect. Starsky took the turn too fast, sending his partner banging up against the door.
Simonetti rubbed at his shoulder and stared out the window. “Asshole,” he muttered.
“Your transfer to IA ever comes through, you’re gonna have work on that potty mouth,” Starsky answered.
42 Prospect was pretty upscale. The doorman was wearing a uniform that reminded Starsky of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Marble floors. Fresh flowers everywhere. He waited for Simonetti to say something heartfelt in the elevator on the way up to the twenty-second floor. Murder brought out the deep thinker in him.
Between the fifteenth and sixteenth, Simonetti shook his head. “Unfortunately, money doesn’t buy immortality.”
God help me. “Your perm looks a little tight today, Simonetti. Toni change its formula again?”
“I got some old Readers Digests I can lend you. Enrich your word power.”
The doors slid open and he was spared Simonetti’s muttered curse.
Bernie Glassman met them at the apartment door. “Hey, Starsky, good to see you.” He nodded at Simonetti.
“What do you have for me, Bernie?” Starsky asked.
“Female, around thirty-five. Quite the looker – if you ignore the hole in her chest. Looks like a .45. ME and CSU on its way. She’s in the bedroom. Follow me, boys.”
Starsky paused in the living room and let out a low whistle. It was decorated in “Early Sterile.” White walls, white sofa, white tables. The only color in the room was a large abstract painting hung over the white marble fireplace – angry splashes of red across a black background.
Starsky looked up at the painting. “Who makes this shit, Bernie?”
“Geniuses and chimpanzees, Starsk. Damned if I can ever tell which.”
“Who called it in? Husband?” Simonetti asked, impatient.
“Ex-husband. He’s waiting in the kitchen. Seems pretty shook up.”
“What’s his story?”
“Said he flew in from Washington tonight, took a cab straight over and found her dead in the bedroom.”
Simonetti smirked. “That’s what they all say. Ex-husband still has a key?”
“Apparently,” Bernie answered. “Easy enough to check.”
“Well, well, well . . .” Simonetti said, nodding.
Starsky held back a groan. Simonetti had learned everything he knew about detective work playing Clue.
Ex-husband in the bedroom with a .45.
“Who is she?” Starsky asked Bernie.
“One Vanessa . . .” He checked his notebook. “ . . . Hutchinson. The ex says she was a lawyer with Brooks and Mapother downtown. Criminal cases, mostly . . .”
Officer Starsky, do you know what the Fourth Amendment is?
Ken Hutchinson, Hutch to most people.
Not to her, I bet.
No, not to her.
“. . . been dead a while,” Bernie was saying, “at least twelve hours from the look of things. If his alibi stands up . . .”
“Simonetti, you meet the crime scene guys when they get here. I’ll take Hutchinson.”
Hutch was sitting alone at the kitchen table, his head cradled in one head. Starsky’s first thought was that Hutch hadn’t changed that much. His hair was longer, a little darker maybe. A few more lines around his eyes.
In the months after Jimmy’s trial, Starsky had spent too many hours perched on a bar stool thinking up ways to run into Hutch again. Huggy finally suggested Starsky could drive over to UCLA and rear-end him on his way home from class. Starsky laughed and asked if he really needed a car for that. He knew he’d been flirting wildly that day in the hallway outside the courtroom, and he was pretty sure Hutch knew it too. In the end, he gave up trying. Hutch was married and Starsky was . . . what he was. Anyway, Hutch didn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d settle for a blow job in the alley after a few beers.
Starsky opened cabinet doors until he found a half empty bottle of brandy under the sink. He poured some into a white mug, set it on the table in front of Hutch, and sat down opposite him. “What happened?”
Hutch lifted his head and looked at him for a moment, blinking slow and confused. Then Starsky saw something else there, a flash of recognition.
Starsky pointed to the mug, pushed it closer. “Drink.”
He drank it in one long swallow, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “I know you.”
“Dave Starsky. We met in the courthouse a long time ago. You were waiting for your wife.”
“I remember.” His hand shook as he loosened his tie, but he managed to get the top button of his shirt undone before he let his hands fall back to the table. “You made detective – like you wanted. I’m glad.”
For a moment, Starsky was back in the courthouse hallway, talking and laughing and all the time wondering how to keep Hutch from walking away. After a long pause, he covered Hutch’s hand with his and said, “Tell me what happened. What were you doing in DC?”
Hutch glanced down but didn’t move his hand. “I live there now. I moved a few years ago when Vanessa and I got divorced. I needed . . . a change.”
Start by letting the witness talk about something mundane, John Blaine always told him. It gives them an anchor in a sea of hurt.
Hutch’s voice grew stronger as he continued. “I took a job at the Justice Department. Special Prosecutor. It’s interesting work. Organized crime, mostly. Turns out I’m pretty good at putting the pieces of a puzzle together.”
“Why did you come back today?”
“Vanessa called me last week. Said she had to see me. We argued . . .” He pulled his hand out from under Starsky’s and ran it quickly through his hair.
“Did she say why she wanted to see you?”
“Something to do with a case she was working on. I agreed to come for the weekend – fly in tonight, go home Sunday. Any more time than that, and I start wanting to kill her.” He closed his eyes.
Starsky waited. “What happened when you got here?”
“She was supposed to pick me up at the airport but she never showed up. There was no answer when I called, so I took a cab and let myself in. I only went in the bedroom to find her address book. She used to keep in the night table drawer. I thought I’d call around, see if anyone knew where she was.”
Bernie appeared at the kitchen door. “The ME is here, Starsky, he wants to see you.”
“Give me a minute,” Starsky said as he pushed himself back from the table and stood up. He rested one hand Hutch’s shoulder. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Hutch’s alibi seemed solid. In the bedroom, the medical examiner confirmed that Vanessa had been dead between eight and twelve hours, and a quick phone call to Delta told them he’d been on that night’s flight from Washington into LAX.
Simonetti was clearly disappointed.
“C’mon, Starsky. He just happens to walk in on her dead body? Says he hasn’t seen her in what, four years? What are the chances of that?”
“What are the chances of you not being a total fuckhead about this?”
“I say let’s shake Hutchinson and see what falls out.”
“We have no reason to hold him. We’ll tell him he has to stick around for a few days, that’s all we can do.”
Starsky turned away and Simonetti stepped in front of him. “We should question him downtown . . .’
Starsky pushed him out of his way. “No. And if you have a problem with the way I’m handling things, talk to the Captain.”
Hutch stood in the hallway watching them, hands shoved deep in his pockets. “Can I go?”
Starsky nodded and followed Hutch to the living room. Simonetti was right behind them.
“Don’t leave town, Hutchinson,” Simonetti snarled.
Starsky leaned in towards Hutch. “He just loves saying that.”
Hutch picked up his coat and suitcase from beside the sofa. “I’ll be at the Ramada. On Wiltshire. The doorman can get me a cab.”
“We’ll be in touch,” Simonetti said.
For once, Starsky didn’t argue.
Terry was gone by the time Starsky got home that night. She left him a note, enough food to feed the fish for a month, and her lawyer’s phone number. She also left dinner warming in the oven. Spinach tofu lasagna.
The next morning he found Ollie – the teddy bear he’d won at the carnival on their first date – hanging from the shower rod, a black nylon stocking tied around its neck.
Starsky buried Ollie at the back of a closet, gave the fish tank to the kid next door, and told his lawyer to give Terry everything she wanted. Everything but the Torino.
5. Calling the Clock
“Calling the clock” – a method of discouraging players from taking an excessively long time to act. When someone calls the clock, the player has a set amount of time in which to make up his mind; if he fails to do so, his hand is immediately declared dead.
He and Simonetti never did find Vanessa’s murderer. They had a few leads, heard a few rumors, but each one fell through every time they thought they were getting somewhere. The law firm gave them Vanessa’s client list, but no access to the files. Their best guess – and it was only a guess – was that she knew her killer. The doorman didn’t remember letting anyone up, so it was likely he arrived with her through the parking garage. She’d often been seen at restaurants with several clients – all male, all rich, all older – but they could never prove any one of them was more than just that. A client.
Hutch had gone back to DC a week after the murder. Starsky missed the funeral – arranged by Vanessa’s sister and sparsely attended – when Terry arranged a meeting with their lawyers at the same time.
Hutch still called Starsky every few weeks, asking if he had any news, but the conversations were short, the pauses awkward.
Then last week, Hutch phoned to say he was coming into Bay City Friday night and wanted to see him.
“God, no. Make dinner reservations somewhere. We need to talk.”
Starsky would’ve shaved his legs if he were a girl. Instead, he bought a new denim shirt and a bottle of expensive sandalwood aftershave. I am a girl, he decided.
“You what?” Starsky put down his chopsticks and stared at Hutch.
“I want to hire you. As a special investigator. I’ve already cleared it with the department. They agreed to give you a six month leave.”
“Just me? No Simonetti?”
“No Simonetti. I happen to know his transfer to IA will be approved next week.”
“Can I kiss you?” He felt a slow blush crawl up his neck and distracted himself by moving around the egg roll on his plate.
Hutch just smiled. “Not yet. You have to agree first.”
Then Hutch reached across the table to brush away a piece of rice at the corner of Starsky’s mouth, and it sent a jolt right to his dick Starsky had to swallow before he could speak. “What exactly would I be investigating?”
“The Justice Department has been looking at someone for a
long time. We have hearsay evidence, a truckload of files, some very
interesting wiretapped conversations, but nothing conclusive. Every time we get
close, a witness refuses to testify or worse, disappears.”
He really wanted to ask Hutch if his lips were as soft as they looked but settled on,”Where do I come in?”
“We have a tip we’d like you to follow up on. We think your contacts would be helpful and frankly, we need a new approach.”
“Would I be working under you?”
Now it was Hutch’s turn to blush. “I’d move here for the duration, so yes, you’d be working with me.”
“Who’s the guy?”
“Probably someone you never heard of . . . he likes to keep a low profile. His name is James Gunther.”
Starsky tapped a chopstick against his plate, frowning. “I know that name.”
Hutch leaned in, interested. Starsky wanted to tell him to move back, since for some reason, there was all this heat coming off Hutch and it made it hard to for him to think straight.
“I remember – he was on Vanessa’s client list.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I remember we kept trying to get an appointment to talk to him. His lawyer finally called the Commissioner and told us to back off. So we backed off.”
“So you’re interested?”
Starsky knew they weren’t just talking about the case anymore. “Yeah, I’m interested.”
Hutch smiled and leaned in again. “Good. Now, about that kiss . . .”