Detective David Starsky closed the file drawer, having placed the final folder of the day’s work in its appropriate place. Leaning against the cabinet, he stared at the empty chair across the tables from his, wondering how a room full of chattering detectives and clacking typewriters could feel so desolate with only a single person missing?
He pushed himself upright and hopped to his desk, reaching for the phone. It was late enough in the afternoon that Hutch might have woken up from his medication-induced sleep and probably be pacing the apartment. A bad case of the flu had kept his partner out of the precinct for four days now and the seemingly interminable hours of desk duty had Starsky wall climbing.
Just before he lifted the receiver though he remembered he’d unplugged the phone that morning before he’d left, not wanting Hutch’s sleep to be disturbed. Shit! Oh well, he’d be home soon. As he moved his hand away, the instrument rang. He grabbed it quickly and barked, “Starsky!”
“Uh… yeah, Starsky, this is Jeffrey.” When Starsky didn’t respond right away, the voice went on, “Jeffrey Jeffries. Remember?”
A face with that name popped out of his mental Rolodex and Starsky dropped into his chair, grinning. “Sure I remember, Jeff. How ya doin’?”
“Okay, I guess. But I think my friend, Ray, has run into trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Starsky’s initial humor evaporated because Jeff had always been a good, reliable confidential informant.
“The kind he evidently can’t get himself out of.” Jeff’s voice was taut. “He went into a hobby store yesterday and didn’t come out.”
Starsky pulled a pad of paper and a pencil over. “Where was this?”
“On Park, near Tenth. A place called ‘Smith House Hobby and Toys.’
“Pretty sure I know that place.” Starsky scribbled the information. “They’ve got a great model train layout.”
“Sure do! Ray thinks it’s the best.”
“You say he went in yesterday and didn’t come out? What time was this?”
“Around four.” Jeff took a shaky breath. “And I’m worried. We live together, and… he never came home last night.”
“Has he ever stayed away all night before?” Starsky tried to phrase the question gently.
“Never! We’re a couple, Starsky. We don’t do that kinda thing to each other.”
Starsky couldn’t help but think how tight he and Hutch were and that his answer to the same query would have been nearly those words. “How long did you wait at the store for him? I take it you didn’t go inside yourself, to see if he was still there? Right?”
“No.” Jeff sounded hesitant. “Smithhouse, the owner… he scares me.”
Starsky cocked his head at that. “I thought you were immune to fright. What’s different about this guy?”
“If you know the place, Starsky,” belligerence crept into Jeff’s tone, “you should understand what I’m talkin’ about.”
“I must never have been there when Smithhouse was around I guess. What’s got you so spooked?”
“He’s at least six and a half feet tall, man!” Jeff’s voice actually cracked on the word, ‘tall’ . “Gotta weigh three hundred pounds, too! An’ it looks like it’s all muscle!”
“Big boy, huh?” Starsky continued to write. “Pretty sure he wasn’t there the once or twice I was. I think I would have noticed someone who looked like that. Anything else?”
“He’s weird,” Jeffrey added. “Dresses in his own costumes. Did you know they’ve got a Halloween shop in the back part of the store? Probably do a hellava business in October.”
Starsky smiled to himself. “I’ll bet.”
“Anyway, this giant wears tights, a velvet jerkin, and a fuckin’ cod piece, if you can believe that!”
Starsky laughed out loud. “A cod piece?”
“I’m not shittin’ ya, Starsky. The guy’s some kinda nut case.”
“I don’t think there’s a law against wearing such an accessory.” Starsky smothered another smile. “But I can come down and talk to him, if you want. See if he can tell me where your friend went.”
“Would you do that, Starsky? I’m across the street right now, keepin’ watch. I ain’t seen hide nor hair o’ Ray.”
“I’ll be there in…” Starsky checked his watch, “fifteen minutes.”
“Thanks! I’ll be waiting.”
Starsky hung up the phone, tore the page off the note pad and picked up his jacket. Passing Babcock on his way to the double doors, he put a hand on the detective’s shoulder. “If Dobey asks, I’m going to meet a former snitch named Jeffrey Jeffries.”
At Simmons and Babcock’s reactions, Starsky chuckled. “Poor kid’s parents shoulda been shot, giving him a name like that.” He shrugged into his jacket and stuffed the paper in his pocket. “His buddy didn’t come home last night. I’m going to go see if I can find out where he disappeared to. See you guys tomorrow, hopefully with Hutch in tow, again.”
“Make sure he’s not contagious!” Simmons shouted.
Starsky pulled the Torino to the curb in a vacant parking space half a block from the hobby store. Getting out, he checked the time on the meter and added a dime. Across the street, he spotted a lean, gangly man huddled in a doorway and skipped through the sparse traffic to his side.
Dressed neatly but a bit shabbily in probable thrift store clothes, Jeff appeared to be in genuine distress, his hands thrust deep in his pockets. “They’re slow today.” Jeffries was staring at the store across from where they stood. “Only been two people in and out since I called you. Both bought something because they came out carrying a bag.”
“So tell me what’s going on, Jeff. Does Ray have… business with the owner?”
“No way, Starsky!” Jeff took a step back, a sudden angry flush heating his face. “You know me better than that!”
“I haven’t seen or talked to you in years,” Starsky pointed out. “Not since I was in uniform. You turned me and my T.O. onto a few righteous busts but, after I teamed up with Hutch, you hardly ever called me again.”
“Nothin’ personal.” Jeff ducked his head. “That partner o’ yours intimidates me. He’s so smooth and refined, so handsome and polished.” He turned away, attempting to hide the blush that was quickly taking the place of anger.
Starsky put a hand on Jeff’s arm and turned him back. “Hey, what’s this all about?”
Jeff stared at his feet. “I had the hots for your partner.” He looked up and smiled into Starsky’s astonished expression. “You never knew, did you?”
Starsky shook his head.
“Well, I did.” Jeff’s gaze turned inquisitive. “Are you two… together, yet?”
Starsky had to swallow hard before he could speak. “Uh… what makes you ask?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Jeff shrugged, self-consciously. “Just the way you were always all over each other whenever I saw you, and talkin’ with your eyes.” He shrugged again. “The only guys I knew who did that were… ya know, together.”
“I…” Starsky couldn’t think of anything to say.
“It’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me. You know I’d never try to jam you up. I followed your careers and it was fun, knowin’ I used to be your snitch.” He looked seriously at Starsky before continuing. “Couldn’t believe you made it all the way back, after Gunther.”
Starsky smiled. “Mostly Hutch’s doing. He wouldn’t let me quit.”
“You never had ‘quit’ in ya, Starsky! But his helpin’ you, and makin’ you work for it… that’s something I can believe.”
Starsky was concerned that a former informant might, even unknowingly, give his relationship with Hutch away. “Listen, Jeff, I’m sorry you got the idea that Hutch and I are --”
Jeffries put up his hands, palms outward. “Didn’t mean to get you all uptight,” he broke in. “Really. I’ll never tell a livin’ soul. I swear!” He crossed his heart. “Not even Ray.”
Starsky swallowed his uncertainty. Jeff had always been straight with him in the past. “Okay, sure. Uh, thanks.”
Jeff looked across the street again, his thoughts clearly on the missing Ray.
“So, your friend… what’s his last name, by the way?” Starsky took the piece of paper and a pencil out of his pocket.
Starsky looked at him as if he’d mis-heard.
“I know.” Jeff smiled. “Ain’t it awful? It’s like our mothers knew each other and had no imagination.”
“Okay.” Starsky added the surname to his page. “Ray went in the store yesterday, at about four, and didn’t come out?”
Starsky made a note. “What time did they close?”
“Six. They close early on Wednesdays.” Jeff jammed his hands in his pockets. “I waited right here so I wouldn’t miss him.”
“Would he have had any reason to go somewhere with the owner?” Starsky tried not to sound accusatory. “Maybe they went out the back way?”
“I can’t think of one. He’s only been in there three or four times since our first visit. After that one I told him I’d wait outside.” Jeff shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Ray said it was okay if I didn’t want to go in yesterday.”
“‘Smithhouse’ spelled the way it sounds?” Starsky was writing it down.
“Yeah, like the store, Smith House. First name’s Jimmy.”
Starsky added the information before putting his notes and pencil away. “You wait right here again and I’ll go check it out.”
Scooting between cars, Starsky made his way across the street and entered the store. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the less-than-sunshine illumination. When they did, he looked around at what he remembered was a hobbyist’s wet dream.
There were sections for model cars, others for remote control aircraft, and entire shelves filled with build-it-yourself plane kits. A corner was devoted to miniature houses and all the attendant accessories. A big sandbox on the floor had a ruined fortification in the middle with buckets, shovels, and molds to build castles, shelved around it.
A western area held cowboy and cowgirl outfits, hats and boots, toy pistols with holsters and rifles with scabbards. Bows and arrows were available for the Indian contingent. Washable acrylic paints for decorating your ‘horse’ were arranged in a colorful rack.
The person who was undoubtedly the store’s owner stood behind a glass counter near the front. He was, as Jeff had said, at least six feet six inches in height and could quite easily have weighed as much as the guess. When he straightened up, eying Starsky warily, Starsky noticed the biggest cod piece he’d ever seen bulging on top of the man’s half-yellow, half-green tights. A blue velvet jerkin barely contained well-developed arms and chest. Maybe thirty years old, glacial eyes made him look older and almost unfriendly.
“May we help you?” The man’s tone of voice was as cold as his posture.
Starsky wondered how he managed to keep any customers with that attitude. Maybe he didn’t like cops and had sensed Starsky’s shield. “In a minute.” Starsky kept his voice level and friendly. “I’m kinda into model trains. Okay if I look around?”
“Be my guest.” The man suddenly exuded better public relations. “I believe we have the best selection in town. They’re to your left.”
“Thanks.” Starsky allowed the man to think he’d never been in before.
Behind a room divider of cubbyholes filled with model kits for PT boats, aircraft carriers, and other WWII vessels, Starsky found exactly what had brought him into the store previously. The display was much larger and more extensive than it had been the last time he’d stopped in though. On a platform at least ten feet long by five feet deep, was the most elaborate functioning model railroad he’d ever seen.
Two separate trains were running, simultaneously, along sets of tracks that threaded through tiny towns, around miniature farms, through mountain tunnels, across trestles and roads, intersecting each other’s routes, but never coming within dangerous proximity. It was a masterwork of engineering and he found himself gazing in admiration.
Behind him, a creaking sound crept into his consciousness, breaking through his rapt concentration on the layout. He turned slowly to see a girl on a large colorfully painted rocking horse.
She was wearing a pink pinafore over a white blouse with puffed sleeves and a white skirt. Her numerous petticoats decorously covered her white-stockinged knees and her feet were clad in shiny black patent leather Mary Jane shoes. Long blonde hair was braided on each side of her head and the braids sported pink bows at the ends. Her face might have been pretty if it had showed any expression but, as she rocked, the eyes that studied him were blank.
“Hello,” he said.
The girl didn’t reply but continued her slow deliberate rocking, forward and back, forward and back. Her appearance put her at seven or eight years old but, if so, she was big for her age. Starsky had never considered himself very good at guessing children’s ages, so he let it go.
Smithhouse walked up next to Starsky and put an arm around his shoulders, turning him back to the railroad display. “Like it?”
“It’s terrific!” Starsky suppressed his instinctive aversion to the guy, allowing genuine respect for this marvel to take precedence. “You build it?”
“My father set up the early versions. But I didn’t think he took it far enough. I’ve been enlarging it ever since he died a little over two years ago.”
In the back of Starsky’s mind, while he listened to statistics about board feet of lumber used, track footage, scale of the rolling stock and engines, he registered the fact that the creaking had stopped and leather soled shoes had walked up to stand next to the hulking figure beside him.
“I want,” Starsky heard her whisper.
“Too soon,” the owner muttered as the arm tightened around Starsky’s shoulders.
“I want!” the child whined, louder.
Almost instantly the big man’s arm fell from Starsky’s shoulders and the huge hand grabbed his bicep, causing a stab of pain through the leather of his jacket and the fabric of his shirt.
“Hey!” Starsky yelped, attempting to pull away.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Smithhouse easily pinned Starsky’s arms to his sides. Even as he tried to say, “I’m a cop,” his voice slurred and his vision lost focus before fading away to blackness.
Ken Hutchinson awoke to pounding on his front door. “Hold your horses!” He stuffed his feet into slippers, dragged on the hooded portion of his sweat suit and stumbled out of the sleeping alcove.
Trailing his fingers through his hair, he opened the door to a serious-faced Huggy Bear and a jittery, distraught-looking companion. He stepped back and gestured his guests inside. “To what do I owe the pleasure, gentlemen?”
“You feelin’ better, Hutch?” There was concern in Huggy’s tone. “Starsky told me it was only a bad case of the flu.”
“That’s what the doctor said, Hug.” Hutch led the way into the living room. “I’ll be back at work tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow may be too late.” Huggy’s face was drawn and worried.
Hutch stopped and turned. “Talk to me.”
Huggy drew the nervous one up next to him. “Hutch, you probably don’t remember this character but he used to be one of Starsky’s C.I.’s, when Curly was in uniform. Name’s Jeff Jeffries.”
Hutch held his hand out. Jeff took it but dropped it right away.
“What’s happened to Starsky?” Hutch’s flu-roughened voice was harsher and more strained than he intended.
“We don’t know,” Huggy admitted. “Jeff, here, says your partner’s vanished, just like his friend, Ray, did yesterday.”
Hutch sat heavily in the arm chair while Huggy and Jeff sat on the couch.
“Jeff came to the Pits about an hour ago because he didn’t have your phone number and they wouldn’t give it to him at the precinct.” Huggy looked pointedly at the telephone on the end table. “Off the hook anyway, right?”
“Starsky unplugged it this morning, before he left. Said he didn’t want it interrupting my sleep all day.”
“Which explains why I couldn’t get through.” Huggy nudged Jeff. “Tell him exactly how it went down.”
When Jeffries began to relate his conversation with Starsky and what had precipitated it, Hutch stood up. “My head’s still muzzy from the medication and heavy sleep. Tell me everything while I make some coffee.” He started a pot, listening closely.
Jeff told him about Ray’s having vanished into the hobby store the day before, his call to Starsky, then Starsky’s arrival at Park and Tenth and his subsequent disappearance.
Hutch poured each of them a cup before sitting back down in the chair. “What time did Starsky go into the store?” His initial concern was escalating and he knew he’d need to keep it in check.
“Two thirty,” Jeff answered.
“And you saw the owner lower the blinds, turn over the OPEN sign and lock the place up about ten minutes later?” Hutch managed to keep his voice level.
Jeff nodded. “They never close that early on a Thursday.”
“The Torino’s still there?” Hutch asked.
“It was when I left to tell Huggy.” Jeff’s tone was apologetic. “Took me over an hour, on two buses, with a walk at the end ‘cause I couldn’t afford a cab.”
“Then it took me another hour,” Huggy said, “when I realized you weren’t answerin’ your phone, to get Anita back to cover the bar for me and for us to get ourselves over here.” He looked at Hutch and shook his head. “Too long, my friend.”
“Don’t count him out, Hug.” Hutch stood up again, covering his growing fear with determination. “Starsky can usually look after himself but I’d much rather run the risk of his anger, if he’s okay, than wait and find out he isn’t.”
He plugged the phone line into the jack, picked up the receiver and dialed. “Captain Dobey, please. It’s an emergency.”
Starsky came to slowly but didn’t open his eyes. He had no idea what drug he’d been given but it had put him out so completely and deeply he didn’t know how much time had passed, or even if it was the same day. His head hurt but not as badly as he might have expected and the injection site in his arm was a minor ache.
He was lying on a flat surface that felt as if it was covered with something slick, maybe vinyl. He was naked and, feeling metallic bracelets around his wrists and ankles, figured he was shackled to whatever he was lying on. Listening harder than he’d listened to anything, since leaving ’Nam, he heard only slow, labored breathing, which wasn’t his.
When he finally opened his eyes he almost wished he hadn’t. The bare had-to-be thousand watt bulb directly overhead made him squint and turn away from the brilliance. When his vision settled down, he scanned the room.
It appeared to be about fifteen feet square, the walls were unfinished cinder block and there were no windows. The ceiling was thick joists with wood planks above. A number of heavy duty eye bolts protruded from the beams and stout lengths of chain hung from a few of them. Without conscious thought, ugly visions of torture skittered across Starsky’s mind.
The room’s only entrance was a door in the middle of the wall at the foot of the tubular-steel-framed cot he was lying on, and about five feet away. As quietly as possible, he tested the strength of the curved foot rail his ankles were cuffed to and it was solid. His wrists were similarly restrained over his head, his shoulders already aching from the stretched position. Trying, without success, to rock the bed, he figured it had to be bolted to the floor.
On the wall to his right, a kitchen sink sprouted a spigot and two taps, so presumably there would be hot and cold running water in his prison. Except that he had no way to get to it.
In the corner between the sink and door stood a large rocking horse. As opposed to the one in the hobby store, this one had no decorations or trim. It was bare wood without a finish of any kind. Except wear. The saddle and head handles were sweat-stained and shiny from what must have been hours and hours of use.
A groan tore Starsky’s fascination away from the toy and directed it toward the back corner of the room, above his head. Lifting up and craning around as much as he could, he saw a man lying on his stomach on a folding cot, clearly the source of the breathing he’d heard.
“Ray?…. Ray Jeffords?”
The man shuddered and moaned but, other than that, didn’t move. He was tall and his arms hung over the top corners of the cot, handcuffed to the frame. His legs were spread, the ankles secured to the bottom corners. He had been sodomized, savagely, it appeared, from the amount of dried blood that caked the buttocks and thighs, and had soaked through the canvas of the cot onto the floor underneath.
“Ray?” Starsky repeated.
Instead of a response from the unconscious man, the door was opened. When Starsky turned to look at the person entering, his jaw dropped.
The ‘little girl’ he’d last seen in the hobby store had become a sultry femme fatale. Her blonde hair was loose and flowed to her waist. She wore a white bustier that stopped at her hips, mesh stockings held up by a white satin garter belt, white high-heeled shoes, and nothing else. Her blonde muff was thick and lush and if Starsky had still lusted after women, this one might have lighted his fire. As it was, all he felt was sorrow.
“Gee,” he said, “you were prettier in the pinafore.”
Her immediate pout was classic. She even tried stamping her foot but the high heel turned her ankle and she nearly fell.
The huge man coming in behind her caught her and set her back on her feet. “Don’t take this one lightly, Sissy. He’s a cop.”
“I don’t care!” she screamed. “I want him and I’m gonna have him!”
“Yes you will, sweetie.” He stroked her arm, his eyes frigid. “All in good time though. We’ve got the whole night.” He motioned toward the rocking horse. “Why don’t you ride for a while, ‘til I’ve got him ready for you.”
Sissy flung her shoes off and stomped to the wooden cayuse, yanked it around so that she’d be looking at Starsky, and mounted. Licking her ruby red lips, she slid way back on the saddle and put her feet up on the pegs, giving Starsky a good view of her assets.
Starsky closed his eyes.
The man giggled. “Don’t matter what you want or don’t want, Mr. Starsky. Your prick’ll do exactly what she needs for as long as she needs it. And you won’t have nothin’ t’ say about it.”
Starsky didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because this was turning into the sickest experience of his life. He tugged fiercely at his wrists but the bent-tube frame of the cot was too sturdy to be affected.
“Struggle all you like, detective,” Jimmy said. “Nobody’s gotten away yet.” The guy busied himself at the sink for a few minutes before he came to Starsky’s head, held his nose and covered his mouth with the fingers and palm of a huge hand. Starsky felt as if his lungs would burst by the time Smithhouse lifted the paw. “I’ll do that as often as I have to until you drink this little potion I have in my other hand. It won’t kill you, I promise.”
“What is it?”
“Just somethin’ to make your limp dick sit up straight and stay hard until Sissy gets tired.”
“Mr. Smithhouse…” Starsky kept his voice as calm as he could manage, “are you both aware that this is kidnapping, and rape?”
The man appeared to think about it before he nodded. “Yeah, I guess we are.” He lifted the glass in a mock salute. “If we get caught, it’ll probably go pretty hard for me, but Sissy there…” He gestured toward the girl. “She’s not quite right in the head, you know, so they’ll go easy on her.”
Sissy stopped rocking and fisted her hands on her hips, glaring at the man. “Whaddya mean I’m not right in my head?” She climbed off the horse and stalked over to him. “What are you sayin’, Jimmy?” She punched him in the arm. “I know what I want and you get it for me.”
“I sure do, Sis.” Without warning, Smithhouse leaned over, held Starsky’s nose again and forced him to drink the liquid.
It tasted vile but Starsky was beginning to think that wasn’t the worst that was in store for him.
“James Smithhouse, Captain.” Hutch held the phone tight to his ear. “That’s the owner’s name listed in the Yellow Pages for the hobby shop. But there’s nothing in the White Pages for that surname.”
Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, he turned to Huggy and Jeff. “Dobey has Minnie checking for the address.” He took his hand away quickly and listened.
Anticipating, Huggy found a pad of paper and handed it to him, with a pen.
Hutch nodded his thanks and wrote down the information. “Got it.” He tore the piece of paper off the pad. “Could you have a black and white meet me there, please?…. Thanks, Captain!”
Hanging up, Hutch grabbed his holster off its hook and shrugged into it. “You two can stay here if you want. I’ll let you know what happens.”
Huggy stepped in front of him, shaking his head with determination. Jeff, attempting to look as if he wasn’t scared shitless, moved next to him. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, blond boy, ‘less Mr. Jeffries, here, and The Bear, accompanies ya!” Huggy folded his arms across his skinny chest. “He was my friend long before he was yours, Hutch.”
Hutch blew out a breath. “I know, Hug.” He pulled on his jacket and gestured toward the door. “Shall we, gentlemen?”
Starsky never knew there was a drug that would make a man’s penis hard even though he was mentally determined to be flaccid. He was experiencing the effects of such a compound now though, in spades!
Sissy was riding his cock with glee, slashing her hands along his thighs as if they were equipped with crops. When she wasn’t doing that, she was dragging her fingernails across his stomach, leaving long, red gouges. Her hips surged forward and back whenever she wasn’t raising herself up and lowering herself down onto his manhood. She was so energetic, Starsky thought she might tear his rod completely off during one of her gyrations.
When he could force his thoughts away from the gruesome situation, Starsky stared at Jimmy who was leaning nonchalantly against the wall near the door. While the drug had been taking effect and Sissy had rocked on her hobby horse, the hulk had left the room.
He had returned after about fifteen minutes, in an outfit straight out of the Arabian Nights. Barefoot, he was wearing only harem pants of mustard-colored material, tied at the waist and gathered at the ankles. His huge arms were clad in bicep cuffs and numerous bracelets; heavy rings circled most fingers. At least a dozen gold chains draped his neck and hung nearly to his navel. The decorated arms were folded across his massive, hairy torso and he seemed genuinely interested in the activities taking place on the cot.
Without warning, Sissy stopped moving and her eyes flew open wider. “Oh, shit!” She lowered herself more firmly onto the shaft inside her.
Jimmy came off the wall and was at her side in a flash. “What is it, Sissy?”
“He’s the one, Jimmy! He touches my magic spot. Nobody else has since…” She grabbed Jimmy’s arm while she bore down harder on Starsky’s erection. “There… there… there! That’s it, that’s the place. I can come whenever I want now. Tell me we can keep him, Jimmy! Please? Please, please, please!”
As she began to rock again and plunge herself onto him, Starsky wondered if she was more unstable than he had thought.
“Kinda dry inside, ain’t she?” Smithhouse commented, possibly in response to the grimace on Starsky’s face. “I try to get her to use lube but she says she likes the sandpapery feel.” He shrugged, showing a total lack of concern, and lowered his voice, whispering into Starsky’s ear. “Wouldn’t want that desert tunnel peelin’ the skin off my wick, pal.” He straightened up again and steadied Sissy in her wild throes of passion.
After what felt, to Starsky, like half an eternity of painful rubbing abuse to his organ that refused to go slack, Jimmy grabbed Sissy under the arms and lifted her off the red, raw meat. “He ain’t gonna come for you, baby, and you’ve just about worn yourself out.”
Her legs cinched around his waist, her arms clung to his neck and she sobbed, either in rage or despair. Starsky couldn’t decide which.
Patting her back, Jimmy carried her out of the room.
Starsky tore at his restraints but the only result was more abrasions. In the corner, Ray moaned softly. “Hang in there, Ray. My partner’s coming. He’ll get us out of this. Just hang on.”
Hutch leaned in the driver’s window of the patrol car parked behind his LTD. “Give me a few minutes, fellas, but be ready if one of us shouts.”
“You got it, Hutch.”
Hutch approached the old Craftsman house cautiously. Lights showed through the lace-curtained front windows along with the flickering blue tones of a television. The lovely home had been meticulously maintained and was a credit to its redefining-itself-neighborhood.
Climbing the porch steps, Hutch knocked on the screen door while Huggy and Jeff stayed at the bottom of the stairs. Footsteps crossed the hardwood floor inside and a face appeared around the pulled-back curtain covering the inside of the glass inset. “Yes?” a female voice queried. The porch light came on.
Hutch held his badge and I.D. up. “Police, Mrs. Swanson. I need to talk to your tenant, James Smithhouse. May we come in, please?”
She studied the identification, looking back and forth from it to Hutch’s face. Apparently satisfied, she undid the chain, unlocked the dead bolt and opened the door. Reaching forward, she unlatched the screen and pushed it outward. “Come in, come in.”
Hutch entered the house and waited while Huggy and Jeff followed him.
The reasonably tall, well-endowed, pleasant-looking landlady closed the door before leading them into the large living room. She gestured to a sofa and matching arm chairs. “Please, sit down, gentlemen.” She was the epitome of a warm, welcoming hostess. “May I get you something to drink.”
“No, thank you, ma’am,” Hutch replied. Huggy and Jeff remained standing, too. “I need to talk to Mr. Smithhouse.”
“Oh, Jimmy and Sissy haven’t been here in a while.” She waved an unconcerned hand. “They have another home somewhere else but I don’t know where. They only stay here when they can’t get away from the store until late because of a delivery or pick up. Or when their two evening employees don’t show up and they can’t leave ‘til closing. Times like that.”
“But…” Hutch was confused, “this is their official place of residence.”
“Yes, it is.” Her smile was conspiratorial. “I think it has something to do with taxes and needing an address in the city.” She motioned again to the overstuffed furniture. “Won’t you sit down? I so rarely have company and it would be nice to talk to someone other than my upstairs tenants.”
She seated herself in a bent wood rocking chair next to the fireplace and, with a shrug of impatience, Hutch motioned Huggy and Jeff to sit. He chose the wing back chair near Mrs. Swanson.
“You have no idea where their other house is?” Hutch tried to keep the anxiety out of his voice.
“None, I’m afraid.” The woman laced her fingers in her lap and looked intently at Hutch. “What do you think Jimmy and Sissy have done?”
“Who is Sissy, ma’am?” Hutch asked.
“She’s Jimmy’s sister, of course.” Mrs. Swanson coughed lightly and put her hand to her lips. “Retarded, don’t you know.”
Hutch exchanged a quick look with Huggy and Jeff before turning back to the landlady. “No, we didn’t.”
“Sweet little thing, I guess. Although I don’t understand why he’d want her to dress like she was still eight years old. I believe she’s twenty-five.” The landlady tsk’ed a few times. “That doesn’t seem right to me but then I’m just the old lady who rents them my basement.” She picked at the doily on the arm of Hutch’s chair while she rocked gently. “I’ll ask again, what have they done?”
“I don’t know that they’ve ‘done’ anything, ma’am,” Hutch said, making an effort to stay calm. “I just need to talk to Jimmy.”
“Well, he’s not here.” Her tone had finality in it. Then, as if attempting to prolong the visit of her guests, she leaned forward. “Are you sure you won’t have something to drink? And some cookies? I made them this morning.”
Hutch stood up. “No, ma’am, thank you. Uh, could we see their rooms?”
Mrs. Swanson, Huggy and Jeff all stood up at the same time.
She appeared unhappy. “Oh, I don’t think so. That wouldn’t be right.”
“Please, Mrs. Swanson,” Hutch begged. “My partner’s disappeared, along with a friend of Mr. Jeffries, here,” he gestured toward Jeff. “I need to find Mr. Smithhouse and ask him some questions.”
“If you bring back a warrant, Detective…” Mrs. Swanson folded her arms under her ample bosom, “I’ll be happy to take you downstairs.”
“I probably can’t get one tonight,” Hutch told her, realistically. “Please?”
“I’m sorry.” She sounded as if she really meant it. “My tenants expect privacy and I make sure they get it. I hope you can understand.”
“I’ll get the warrant, Mrs. Swanson,” Hutch threatened.
“You do that, dear.” She smiled, sweetly. “Until then, I hope you all have a very pleasant evening and I wish you could have stayed longer.”
Ushering them to the door, she locked and chained it behind them.
When Jimmy came back into the room, Starsky knew play time was over. The jewelry had been shed and the look in the man’s eyes was plain scary.
“That was Sissy’s part of the activities, Detective.” Jimmy moved purposefully to the sink. “Now it’s my turn.”
From the cabinet underneath, he pulled a garden hose that might have been ten or twelve feet long, a container of dish washing liquid and a hot water bottle, with tube, shut-off valve and long, perforated head attached.
Starsky closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. The red rubber device looked exactly like the one that had hung on the back of the bathroom door when he was a kid. Ma, like many women of her generation, was a great believer in enemas as the cure for most minor illnesses. He had hated, and been demoralized by every experience he’d ever had with the thing.
Starsky heard Jimmy squirt a lot of liquid into, presumably, the bag, then fill it with water.
“I never stick my pecker into an unclean cavity, Mr. Cop.” Jimmy left the sink and padded to the side of the cot. “Open your eyes!”
Starsky focused on the leering face of the giant standing over him. “Please don’t do this,” he heard himself say. Why, oh why had he opened his mouth? He’d been determined not to take any part in the proceedings, to live through it the best he could, mute. But his heart had spoken and he couldn’t stop the words. “My partner’s looking for me and he’ll find this place if you don’t let me and Ray go, right now.”
Jimmy stepped back half a pace and his gaze raked up and down Starsky’s abused body. “Partner, huh? Wonder what you mean by that.”
With one huge hand, he flipped Starsky over onto his stomach, his arms and legs twisted painfully by the tight restraints. Fingers spread his butt cheeks apart and entered him roughly.
“Hmmmmm,” was muttered into Starsky’s ear. “Think you been used, old man.” Straightening up, the giant let out a wicked laugh. “Not like I’m goin’ to, but I’m already gettin’ a rush out of your knowing something about what’s comin’.”
Starsky clamped down on any additional words, he knew they’d be useless and simply feed Jimmy’s perverted pleasure.
“I didn’t feel any scars.” Smithhouse sat down on the edge of the cot. “Which probably means he was easy with ya, stretched you out all nice and civilized before the first time. Am I right?”
When Starsky didn’t reply, the self-absorbed maniac began pawing Starsky’s flanks, buttocks, and thighs. “Probably used plenty of lube, too, huh? So ‘s not to hurt ya much. Bet he slid in all slow an’ gentle, makin’ sweet love to you, right? Whispering endearments, tellin’ ya how much you were gonna love havin’ him fuck ya?”
He slapped the right butt cheek sharply. “Well that ain’t gonna happen tonight, cop. I’m goin’ in hard and fast. I’m gonna ream out any feelings you think you’ve got for your partner and replace ‘em with me and my stallion cock.” He stood up, laughing. “Even if you live through tonight, I’ll make sure your dyin’ thought, whenever you croak, is of me!”
Hutch, Huggy and Jeff sat in the LTD, Hutch having already thanked the officers and asking them to return to their beat.
Dobey’s tired voice rasped through the radio’s speaker. “I’ll get Babcock and Simmons on the warrant first thing in the morning, Hutch. Judge Kyle’s pretty liberal and I think he’ll understand our concerns. Mrs. Swanson’ll have to let you search the rooms then.”
“Why can’t we get it tonight, Captain?” Hutch was nearly vibrating with frustration. “Starsky’s been missing for hours!”
“We’ve got no probable cause, Hutchinson,” Dobey growled. “Smithhouse is a respectable businessman. The fact that he seems to have two separate residences, one of which is unknown, is no reason to issue a warrant to search his rented rooms.” He took a deep breath and lowered his voice. “You have no witnesses, no real information that leads you to believe something’s happened to Starsky, or this Ray Jeffords.”
“Captain!” Hutch exploded. “When have either Starsky or I gone missing that it’s turned out good?”
“Simmer down, son.” Dobey was audibly attempting to ease tensions. “We’ll do everything we can in the morning but, until then, I suggest you go home and try to get the sleep you probably still need. Besides…” he added, as if it had just occurred to him, “if Starsky can get to a phone, that’s where he’ll call.”
“Yeah, okay.” Hutch knew he was defeated for the moment. His mind was spinning its wheels because his thoughts couldn’t find any traction. “Thanks, Cap’n.”
Hanging up the mic, he half-turned and looked over the seat back at Jeff. “What does Ray buy when he goes in the hobby store?”
Jeff shrugged. “Not much of anything, usually.”
“Then, why --?” Hutch began to ask.
“He’s checking on the girl,” Jeffrey said.
“Sissy?” Huggy turned to look at Jeff, too.
“I thought you and he were…” Hutch didn’t finish the thought.
“Oh, we are! It’s not what you think, guys.” Jeff sat forward. “You see, what Mrs. Swanson told you about Sissy wasn’t a surprise to me. Ray has a daughter named Ella who’s retarded. She lives with her mother in San Diego. Sheila never missed an opportunity to blame Ray and his ‘sinful sickness’ for the girl’s mental condition, divorced him and moved away.”
Lifting his shoulders in futility, he stared at his hands fisted in his lap. “It tears him up when he thinks about Ella.” He raised his head and looked beseechingly at Hutch. “He goes in the store once in a while, I think, because he wants to make sure Sissy’s doin’ okay. That she’s happy.”
“And does Ray believe she is?” Hutch asked.
“He told me he honestly can’t tell. She rides a rocking horse most of the time, or plays in a huge sandbox, building and then wrecking castles. She’s never spoken, to anyone, that he’s heard.”
“I wonder why Jimmy doesn’t put her in one of the special schools they have now for people like Sissy,” Hutch mused.
Huggy nodded. “He’s gotta have enough money, if he owns a successful business and can afford to live in two different places.”
“Makes me think he’s keeping an eye on her,” Hutch said. “Doesn’t want to let her out of his sight for some reason.”
Jeff nodded. “Ray says Jimmy’s always watchin’ her. Even when he’s with customers, he seems to have eyes in the back of his head where she’s concerned.” He physically shivered. “I was already spooked by the guy, then Ray told me that.”
“What time does the place open in the morning?” As a reflex, Hutch checked his watch.
“I’ll be there!”
“Nothin’ more we can do tonight, Hutch.” Huggy sighed deeply.
“I know.” Hutch was resigned but not happy. “You two want to come back to my place?” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “Unless you want to go home, Jeff.”
“I got nothin’ and nobody there.” Jeff sounded tired. “Might as well go with you. I want to be there when you find Starsky. I got him into this, I want to help get him out if I can.”
Starsky tried to stop shivering, without much success. He was sitting on a bedpan that Jimmy had dragged out from under the cot, just before lowering Starsky’s legs from the chains that had held his feet spread and his body, shoulders to heels, elevated.
The warm water and probable dish liquid had flowed into his intestines from the hot water bottle hooked to another one of the bolts. The masochistic giant had let the fluid work for what had seemed like hours to Starsky’s neck but was probably no more than ten or fifteen minutes, before releasing the chains and allowing him to fall off the cot and void the mess into the stainless steel container.
“You got spunk, cop, I’ll give ya that.” Smithhouse sneered while Starsky sat and trembled. “The way you kicked me when I unlocked your ankle took guts. Hope I didn’t break it. Don’t want you thinkin’ about anything except what I’m gonna be doin’ t’ you in the next few minutes.”
Hauling Starsky’s slack body back onto the bed by the chains, Jimmy picked up the modern chamber pot and smiled chillingly down at him. “What you didn’t know was how many others have been where you are, and have tried every desperate thing they could think of.” He shook his head, plainly self-satisfied. “I was ready for whatever you did.” He stroked Starsky’s thigh. “Nice try, though.” With one last possessive touch, he turned toward the door. “Don’t go nowhere while I’m gone now, ya hear?” Chuckling at his own joke, he left the room with the bedpan.
“Hang in there with me, Ray,” Starsky encouraged the still unconscious man in the corner. “Hutch is looking for us. Just hang on.”
Within minutes, Smithhouse was back and slid the empty pan under the cot. Pulling Starsky’s legs off the bed again, the guy manhandled him into a kneeling position on the floor, his arms twisted cruelly from being still handcuffed to the bed frame. Humming an unidentifiable tune, Jimmy moved to the sink.
Over his aching shoulder, Starsky watched as the hose was attached to the sink’s faucet, the nozzle screwed down tight and the cold water tap turned on. It was then that he noticed the drain in the center of the cement floor. He knew the next procedure was not going to be any more enjoyable than those that had come before.
“Gonna wash you out now, cop!” Jimmy walked back to him with the nozzle of the hose in his right paw. “Bottoms up!” With his left hand under Starsky’s stomach, Jimmy lifted Starsky’s butt, shoved the brass fitting into his anus and twisted it open.
For the first time since he’d been abducted, Starsky gave vent to the pain and shock.
Hutch walked out into the greenhouse, a bottle of beer forgotten in his hand. Behind him, he could hear Jeffrey Jeffries trying to get settled on the couch. Huggy had already fallen, fully clothed, on the bed.
“Why didn’t you take backup, Starsk?” Hutch stroked a leaf of his large fig tree. “Or, better yet, wait ‘til I came back to work tomorrow?”
Absent mindedly, he picked a few dried blooms from the African violet, dropping them into the mulch basket, before moving to the Boston fern and pinching off a dead frond. “No, guess you couldn’t do that. Not with Jeff being so worried about Ray.”
Diligently, he watered each plant, making sure they got as much of his distracted attention as he could give them. With Starsky missing though, he was aware that they were getting short shrift.
Using the mister, he carefully sprayed water over his maiden hair fern before sitting down on the bench. “Where are you, babe?”
“Given up on beggin’ me not to fuck you, cop?”
Starsky was so cold his teeth were literally chattering. And he knew it wasn’t a purely physical reaction; he was as scared as he’d ever been. Usually, when shit happened, it was without warning, no chance to let genuine fear set in first. This was completely different.
Jimmy had flushed him out thoroughly before turning the cold, hard stream on Starsky’s lower body and legs, washing all the offending waste material down the convenient drain. If Starsky thought he’d been humiliated by enemas before, he had a brand new category of that emotion now.
His apprehension grew worse though after Jimmy roughly dried him off and flung his body back on the bed, face up. The huge man plainly took great delight in dropping his loose trousers and giving Starsky his first look at the prodigious member that was about to violate him.
Starsky had read about massive cocks before. He’d even seen a porn video that starred John Holmes, of the legendary twelve inch pre-erection length. But he’d never heard of a man hosting not only a foot long dong, but one that was at least three inches in diameter when flaccid. And that’s exactly what Smithhouse was fondling.
Jimmy grinned, baring his teeth and looking for all the world like a shark. “Never seen one like this, have ya?” He yanked on himself, stroking roughly, and the organ began to grow and stiffen.
Starsky was nearly mesmerized. He watched the thing become too huge to contemplate before closing his eyes. Between breaths, he was flipped onto his stomach, his hips were lifted and his knees shoved under his chest.
Jimmy climbed onto the cot behind him. His massive hands squeezed Starsky’s butt cheeks and thighs in grips that would undoubtedly leave bruises. If he lived long enough to develop bruises. “Nothin’ to say, Detective?”
Starsky kept his eyes and mouth shut as fingers rammed into him, the nails and hard knuckles scraping the walls of his tract. It was instant agony but he managed not to make a sound.
After they’d mauled his insides as far up as they could be jammed, the sausage-size fingers were withdrawn and, before Starsky could mentally prepare himself, the cock replaced them in one cruel thrust. It tore through his sphincter muscle and ripped into the channel.
“This is gonna be the last thing you ever think of,” Jimmy promised. “Me, ridin’ you like you were a mare in heat. My shaft tearin’ you up, and wipin’ out every memory of your partner. This is me, sucker, comin’ home!”
Screaming didn’t help but it was all Starsky could do while Smithhouse pounded into him ruthlessly. ‘I’m so sorry, Hutch’ was his last conscious thought.
The phone rang before six a.m. Hutch dashed in from the greenhouse and grabbed it. Huggy stumbled out of the bathroom and Jeff pushed himself up off the couch. All were still dressed in yesterday’s clothes.
Dobey sounded worn out but more energetic than he had the night before. “Minnie stayed all night, Hutch, and has found seven missing persons cases where the family member filing the report thought Smithhouse Hobbies might be a place the MP had visited.”
“And the cops didn’t check it out?”
“Of course they did!” Dobey snapped. “But their investigation turned up no witnesses to the missing people going in there and no suspicious activity in the store.” Dobey sounded almost as frustrated as Hutch felt. “They put surveillance on for a while but nothing came of it so they had to back off. Too many other cases, no way to justify wasted manpower on a stakeout that was going nowhere.”
Hutch tried to think rationally. “When was all this?”
“The disappearances she found have happened over the past two years,” Dobey told him. “Last time anybody sat on the place was a month ago.”
“Jimmy could have been aware that he was being watched,” Hutch thought out loud, “and made sure he didn’t do anything suspicious until the eyes were pulled off him.”
“Told you he was a scary dude,” Jeff muttered.
“What about the warrant, Cap’n?” Hutch pulled his holster off the peg.
“Already got it! Babcock and Simmons are on their way back from Judge Kyle’s home even as we speak. Stop by here and pick it up, then get on over to Mrs. Swanson’s.”
“Be there in twenty minutes! Oh, and Captain, thank you. I’ll bet you stayed and helped Minnie, didn’t you?”
“Couldn’t have her slaving away all by her lonesome,” Dobey huffed.
“Please thank Minnie and the guys for me, too, will you? I can’t believe you all did that.”
“Believe it, Hutchinson!” Dobey growled. “But I’ll tell them.”
“Pizza and beer are on Starsky and me when this is over, sir.”
“We might just hold you to that, son.”
Starsky came to with fingers again in his ass. This time though, they were smaller digits and their entry didn’t hurt nearly as much. They seemed to be coated with something soothing, too.
“I’m gonna make you well, baby,” Sissy cooed in his ear. “Take all your pain away so you can give me a long ride later.”
Starsky turned his head and opened his eyes. Sissy’s face was only inches from his, her expression one of anticipation and happiness.
Getting up from the chair she’d obviously gotten from outside the room, she placed something on the floor, went to the sink and filled a glass with water.
Starsky noticed she was dressed in white flannel pajamas imprinted with adorable bunny rabbits. Her feet were enveloped in fluffy slippers. He could hardly believe this was the same person who had wantonly indulged her lust the day before. Or was this still the same night? He had no way of knowing.
Bringing the glass back, she helped Starsky lift himself on his elbows enough to drink it all.
“Thanks. See if you can get Ray to drink some, too. Please?”
She had to think about that for a minute but finally went back to the sink and drew another glassful. Moving to the cot in the corner, she turned the man on his side and dribbled the liquid into his mouth. After a few seconds, he roused some and was able to take the glass to his lips and swallow every drop.
Sissy put the glass in the sink, walked back to Starsky, sat on the chair and picked the ‘something’ off the floor. It was a tube of ointment. She squeezed a white substance onto the first two fingers of her right hand before delivering the salve to Starsky’s torn rectum. “You’re gonna be just fine, honey. This stuff’s a miracle. Wait ‘til you feel what it does for your sword.”
“Sissy,” Starsky whispered. He didn’t want to draw Smithhouse’s attention if he could help it. “Unlock my wrists, please?”
She stood up precipitously, knocking the chair over, capped the container of ointment and moved away from the cot. “Oh, I couldn’t do that. Jimmy would kill me.”
“No, he wouldn’t.” Starsky got himself onto his elbows again and shifted to keep her in his limited field of view. “If you let me up, I’ll make sure he never hurts you again.”
“He doesn’t hurt me!” she shouted. “He’s my brother. He’s good to me!” Her voice was becoming shrill. “Jimmy always gets me what I want!” Backing toward the door, she screamed at him. “I’ll tell him what you said. Don’t you think I won’t. And he’ll be mad. Maybe mad enough to kill you, too.” She put her hand to her mouth, undoubtedly realizing what she’d said. “Even if I tell him I want to keep you, he may be mad enough to kill you.”
“Sissy…” Starsky began again, as calmly as possible. “I didn’t mean --”
“Yes, you did,” she protested. “You want to run away.” She had backed to the entry by this time. “But Jimmy won’t let you escape, nobody ever has. If he doesn’t kill you, he’ll keep you here, so I can ride you whenever I feel like it.” Turning, she smiled at the hulking form that had materialized in the doorway. “Isn’t that right, Jimmy?”
Smithhouse pulled her to his chest and wrapped his arms around her, stroking her back. “I sure will, little sister. For just as long as he lasts.” He sneered at Starsky over her shoulder.
Starsky dropped back onto the cot.
“Go get dressed, sweetie.” Jimmy hustled her out the door. “We don’t want to be late opening the store. I have a feeling we’re gonna have cops dropping by for a friendly visit.”
The light went out just before Starsky heard the door close and the dead bolt slam home.
“We have the warrant now, Mrs. Swanson.” Hutch held the document up so that she could read it through the door’s small window.
“So I see.” The chain was removed and the bolt withdrawn quickly before the door was opened and she pushed the screen outward. “Please come in, Detective.”
Hutch, followed by Huggy and Jeff, walked into the house. Handing her the folded paper, Hutch’s voice brooked no objection. “We need to see the rooms now.”
“Yes, of course, Detective. The stairs are right this way.” Walking toward the rear of the house, she talked over her shoulder. “Jimmy and Sissy have their own private entrance outside, next to the porch, but this will be faster.”
The door to the basement was off the large kitchen. She unlocked the knob and opened it, flicking on the light at the top of the stairs. Stepping back, she gestured for them to precede her. “I never use these steps when they’re here. I respect their privacy.”
Hutch hurried down and opened the door at the bottom. Huggy, Jeff and Mrs. Swanson were close behind him.
The large open space of the original basement had been divided into living quarters. Hutch opened several doors onto two bedrooms, a bathroom and closets. One of the bedrooms was furnished in brown and black leather, definitely masculine. The other was feminine, frilly in pink and white.
“Take the bedrooms,” Hutch told Huggy and Jeff, as he headed toward the desk in the corner of the living room. “We’re looking for anything that will give us their second address. Bills, contracts, invoices… anything!”
“Right!” said Huggy and Jeff, simultaneously.
Starsky didn’t know if he’d been asleep or unconscious but moaning brought him around. When he heard it again and had determined that the sound wasn’t coming from him, he lifted his head toward where he remembered the cot was. “Ray?… Are you Ray Jeffords?”
“Yeah,” a voice replied. “Am I blind?”
“Probably not.” Starsky tried to put comfort and support in his tone. “We’re in a windowless room, maybe a basement.”
“Who are you?”
“My name’s Dave Starsky. I’m a cop.”
“I know who you are.” Ray’s voice was weak but steady. “You’re Jeff’s hero. He talks about you all the time.”
“What are you doing here? Did they get you, too?”
“‘Fraid so,” Starsky admitted. “I walked right into their little trap when Jeff told me you’d disappeared into that store.”
“I’m sorry.” Ray’s breath hitched and he moaned again.
“Don’t try to move around, we’re both pretty well tied up. And it looked like you were hurt badly.” Starsky attempted to move his hips in order to lessen the pressure on his raw cock which was trapped painfully underneath him.
“Don’t tell me they did you, too.” Ray must have heard the groan Starsky thought he’d kept behind his teeth.
“If by ‘did’ you mean The Sissy and Jimmy Rape Show,” Starsky hissed through clenched jaws, “you’d be correct.”
“Aw, shit!” Jeffords’ words were choked. “I guess they meant it when they talked about others.”
“I think you’re right. They seem pretty accomplished so I’ll bet they’ve been at this for a while.”
“Any idea where we are?”
“I was hoping you knew, Ray.”
“Not a clue.”
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait ’til my partner finds us then.” Starsky put as much conviction in his voice as he could muster.
“You really think he will?”
“Lemme put it this way, buddy, he’s never let me down.”
Hutch pulled the LTD to the curb in front of the Torino, half a block from ‘Smith House Hobby and Toys.’ Getting out, he ran back to the red car and ripped two parking tickets off the windshield. “Dammit! Why didn’t somebody run the plate and find out a cop was missing? I need to have a talk with the people in Traffic.” He stuffed the items in his pocket and led the way to the store just as the CLOSED sign was turned over to OPEN.
“Good morning.” A smiling Jimmy opened the door for them. “May we help you?”
Hutch scanned the place quickly, took out his I.D. and badge. “Detective Hutchinson. My partner came in here yesterday afternoon and hasn’t been seen since.”
Smithhouse stepped back as if stunned. “I’m sorry to hear that, Detective.”
Hutch watched Huggy and Jeff begin to move through the store together, Jeff sticking on Huggy’s heels and glancing nervously back at Jimmy.
Hutch pressed forward into the huge man’s personal space. “You’re going to be even sorrier if I find out you know anything about it.”
Smithhouse affected ingenuousness. “Now, what could I know?”
The patently fallacious attitude set Hutch’s Bad Dude sensor off the scale. “That’s exactly what I’m here to find out.”
The guy moved around the glass counter and stood behind a display of MatchBox cars, all in their original packaging.
Hutch’s eyes made individual snapshots of everything he saw, storing them in his near-eidetic memory: the business license on the back wall, a colorful calendar from Matel, a schedule of deliveries and pickups, menus from local eateries, an employee roster along with official worker compensation notices. All very business-like and proper.
“Hey, Hutch,” Huggy called.
Hutch hurried over to where the Bear and Jeff were looking at the intricate train layout, which hadn’t been turned on yet.
“This woulda drawn m’ man like a magnet,” Huggy said, sotto voce.
Feeling eyes boring into his back, Hutch turned slowly, as did Huggy and Jeff. Sissy was staring at them, her eyes a mile deep and totally empty while she rocked on her wooden steed.
Smithhouse wandered over, bent down and threw the switch that lit all the miniature lights around the tracks and started the rail cars moving. “You fellas like my display?” His manor was personable and helpful.
“I don’t like anything about this place, Smithhouse.” Hutch didn’t attempt to hide his feelings. Before Jimmy could respond, he headed for the door, Huggy and Jeffries trailing.
Out on the sidewalk, Hutch handed his car keys to Huggy. “I know you have to get to The Pits, Hug, so I’ll ask you to take the LTD. Keep it there until Starsky and I can come pick it up, okay?”
“‘Course, m’ brother.” Huggy sounded as tired as Hutch felt. “But what are you and Jeff gonna do?”
“Did you feel it in there, Hug?” Hutch gestured toward the shop. “That guy’s filth and the store reeks of things I don’t even want to think about. He’s got Starsky and Ray stashed somewhere. I’ll bet my pension on it!”
“No argument from me, Blondie. But I gotta ask again, what are you gonna do?”
“Watch him,” was the only thing Hutch could say. “He’ll make a mistake and I’ll be there.”
Huggy climbed in the LTD, fired it up and rolled down the window, putting his elbow on the sill. “Call me if you need me.”
“Thanks.” Hutch put a hand on Huggy’s arm. “I really mean that.”
“I know you do.” Huggy patted his hand. “Give my love to Starsky when you find him.”
“Mine first, if that’s okay with you.”
When Huggy drove off, Hutch dug his spare set of Torino keys out of his jacket and let Jeff and himself into the car. Firing up the motor, Hutch turned the A/C on for a while, to cool off the second-day-in-the-sun interior. He picked up the radio mic and keyed it. “Zebra Three to control. Patch me through to Captain Dobey, please.”
“Hold for the patch, Zebra Three.”
“Dobey!” rumbled out of the speakers after a few moments.
“Hutch here, Cap’n. Jeff and I are in front of the hobby store. We’ve been inside and the owner professes he knows nothing about Starsky or Ray.”
“What did you expect? A confession and an escort to wherever he’s got them hidden?”
Hutch had to smile at that. “Maybe I was hoping…”
Dobey laughed. “What can I do?”
“Could you send a black and white over here? If something breaks and I need to check it out, I’d like to have eyes on the store when I’m gone. I do not trust Smithhouse.”
“I’ll get one over there right away.” Dobey clicked off.
Hutch hung up the mic and sat back.
“You want a cup of coffee, Hutch?” Jeff asked. “There’s a shop right across the street. It’s where I waited for Starsky.”
“Yeah, that’d be good.” He reached for his wallet.
Jeff put out a hand and stopped him. “My treat. It’s the least I can do for everything you and Starsky have tried to do for me and Ray.”
Hutch shrugged. “You can thank us after we’ve gotten both our partners back.”
Jeff jumped out of the car and hurried across the street. Hutch never took his eyes off the storefront, almost feeling Jimmy watching him.
“Starsky?… Uh, Dave?”
The plaintive voice woke Starsky from a very troubled, pain-filled sleep. “Yeah, Ray, I’m here.”
“Didn’t figure you’d left without me.” Ray’s tone of voice almost managed a note of teasing.
“Hang onto that sense of humor, buddy.”
“I’ll try.” Ray sounded strung out and very weak, as if making a joke had taken the last of his strength. “What time do you think it is anyway?”
“No idea. When they left, Jimmy was saying they had to open the store on time. I got the feeling he was thinkin’ my partner would be the first person in the door.”
“And if he is? Or was, since that was probably a long time ago?”
“Don’t know.” Starsky truly had no idea how to answer that question. “If Jeff managed to hook up with Hutch, he knows it’s two of us missing, so the department’s probably started turning over lots of rocks. And believe me when I tell you this, Ray, my partner’s the best cop I’ve ever known. He’ll find us.”
“Even if you’re blowin’ smoke, that’s good to hear. I’m shiverin’ something awful, and I think I’ve got a fever. Probably from where Godzilla ripped me up inside.”
“Go back to sleep, if you can. We may both be needing it before too long.”
“Zebra three, Zebra three…”
Hutch grabbed the mic and clicked the lever. “Zebra three here, so ahead.”
“Hold for Captain Dobey.”
A few seconds later, Dobey’s voice sounded almost excited. “We may have something, Hutch.”
“I’m all ears, Cap’n.”
“That piece of paper you guys found in the Smithhouse apartment? The thing that looked like a coded bank account number?”
“I remember, Cap, what about it?”
“Minnie and her team broke the code, and it corresponds to a local credit union. The name on the account is J. Smithhouse and the address is in a wealthy area west of downtown. 761 Fillmore Street, Apartment 6.”
Hutch lifted the mars light off the floor at Jeff’s feet, clicked it on and handed it to his passenger. “Stick this on the roof, Jeff.”
Grinning, Jeff did as requested.
“Thanks, Cap.” Hutch started the Torino and flicked on the siren. “We’re on our way. Please ask the squad car to stay here though, okay? If this is a wild goose chase, I don’t want to lose Smithhouse in the confusion.”
“You got it! Call me when you know anything.”
“Buckle up, Jeff,” Hutch ordered. “I’m not as good a driver as Starsky and I don’t know this car very well. Don’t want to get you killed.”
Jeff snapped his seatbelt in place.
Speeding through the city, Hutch made good time getting to Fillmore Street where he killed the siren and had Jeff take the light off the roof. He looked at the stately houses and tall apartment buildings while he slowed down approaching the address. “This is bullshit,” he muttered, stopping the car in front of a huge Victorian structure. “Too many potential witnesses!” He gestured around at the luxurious apartment buildings and estate homes. “Look at this street, Jeff. There’d be no privacy in a neighborhood like this, no way to get kidnap victims out of a car or van and into that house. Somebody would hear or see something. Especially if we’re talking about eight or more abductions.”
“But this is the address on the account,” Jeff pointed out.
“Stay here!” Hutch jumped out of the car and ran up the front steps. He rang the bell repeatedly and waited impatiently until he was let in. After only about five minutes, he hurried out and back to the car.
Hutch got in quickly, buckled up and started the engine. “Smithhouse pays for a mailbox only. The landlord says there are five apartments and he took me quickly through the whole house to show me. There’s never been a number six and no Smithhouse has ever lived here. An employee of the hobby shop comes by to pick up the mail once a week.”
He checked the traffic and pulled a U-turn. “We’ve been suckered.” He grabbed the radio mic and keyed it. “Zebra three, patch me through to Captain Dobey right away, please.”
“Dobey,” a tired voice growled.
“It’s a fake, Cap. Smithhouse set this up as a dodge a long time ago for whenever cops started getting too close. He’s not here and never has been.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Dobey sounded defeated. “What do we do now?”
“I need to get back to the store. I still think that’s where we have to focus.”
“Zebra three, Zebra three,” broke into Hutch’s last words. “I have an emergency patch through from Unit Fourteen.”
“Go ahead, Fourteen,” Hutch snapped.
“It’s Saunders, Hutch,” the uniform left at the store said. “Smithhouse is gone.”
“What happened?” Hutch increased his speed and hit the siren again. Jeff hastily threw the mars light back on the roof.
“Two guys showed up in a blue Datsun. They ran in the store as if they’d been summoned in a hurry. My partner, Jake, and I waited a while, then decided to check it out. When we got inside, Jimmy and his sister were gone. Smithhouse had called the two guys, they’re his regular evening-hours staff, and told them to report right away.”
“How long ago did this happen?” Hutch concentrated on not getting into an accident, while listening intently to the officer.
“Right after you left, apparently. Bill Stevens, the senior replacement, said Jimmy and Sissy split about fifteen minutes before Jake and I went in. We put out an APB on the van’s license plate and description, which we convinced Stevens to give us.”
“Nice work, Saunders.” Hutch’s hands were white-knuckled on the steering wheel.
“And before I could get a patch through to you,” Saunders said, “it was found! We’re there now. The van’s parked at the edge of a huge K-Mart lot half a mile from the store, and the door to the engine compartment’s still warm. Hasn’t been here more than ten minutes.”
“Anybody see where Smithhouse and Sissy went?”
“We haven’t talked to anyone yet,” Saunders admitted. “I wanted to call you right away. But Jake thinks they kept a second vehicle here, one we don’t know about. There’s a pretty big fresh oil stain in the slot next to the van, as if a leaky pan spends time here. It’s possible they make the switch every day, morning and evening.”
“You could be right,” Hutch reluctantly agreed. “The bastard’s been ahead of us at every turn.”
“Jake and I’ll question everyone we can find. Maybe somebody can give us a description of the new vehicle.”
“Let me know right away,” Hutch demanded.
Hutch hung up the mic, concentrating on his driving while trying to get his thoughts in order. “Jimmy’s probably had all this planned for months, knowing he couldn’t keep snatching people forever without repercussions. Maybe had that coded piece of paper lying around in Mrs. Swanson’s basement, with the phony address easily decrypted from it, leading to that Fillmore Street dead end. Anything to make us waste precious time!”
Slamming on the brakes and throwing Jeff forward against his seatbelt, he pulled to the curb.
“What th’…” Jeff blurted.
Hutch waved him to silence as he grabbed the mic again. “Zebra three, get me Captain Dobey again, please.” He turned off the siren and motioned for Jeff to take the light off the roof. “I hope I’ve just thought of something.”
“Captain, would you ask Minnie to check property records in the city and outlying areas within, say, thirty miles, for the name, Schmidthausen, James Junior?” He spelled the surname.
“Hang on a second. You can explain it to me while she’s looking.” Hutch was put on hold but before he had a chance to get too impatient, Dobey was back on the line. “So tell me how you came up with this, Hutchinson.”
“I just remembered the business license on the back wall of the store, Cap. Under the title, ‘Smith House Hobby and Toys,’ was the name, James Schmidthausen, Junior.”
Dobey’s phone rang and Hutch was put on hold again, this time for about thirty seconds. When Dobey came back his voice sounded upbeat for the first time in twenty-four hours. “She got it, Hutch!”
Hutch motioned for Jeff to look in the glove box and find something to write on, and with. While Jeff did as requested, Hutch pulled the car back into traffic.
“The official owner of the business is the name you gave us. The residence address is 89903 Sycamore Lane, all the way out in Chelsea Heights.”
“That’s in the county, isn’t it, Captain?” Hutch asked the Torino for more speed.
“It sure is.” Hutch could almost see Dobey nodding. “I’ll call the sheriff and ask him to send as many patrol cars as possible to meet you.”
“No sirens, please, sir.”
“I’ll make sure they understand it’s a hostage situation, Hutch. Just take care of yourself and bring our boy home.” Dobey’s voice was a bit choked.
“Count on it!” Hutch clicked off and hung up the mic. He hit the siren again and Jeff flung the mars light onto the roof one more time.
“Ever been to Chelsea Heights, Jeff?” Hutch wove through afternoon traffic which was scrambling to get out of the flying red car’s way.
“Never even heard of it. You really think Starsky and Ray are out there?”
“I’d bet on it!” Hutch chided himself for allowing so many distractions. But this fit all the parameters, and it felt right. “It was a wealthy area for a long time. Huge estates with lots of acreage, home to those with money enough to have a quiet place away from the city, but close enough to get to work without a really long commute.” He drove for a few minutes with determination, making sure he wasn’t taking any wrong turns.
“The area started falling out of favor when the rich got richer and began wanting to get farther out of town. If I remember correctly, many of the houses are no longer occupied, tied up in inheritance squabbles or just not marketable to those who now want second homes in Vail or Jackson Hole.”
“Nobody’s ever satisfied, are they?” Jeff sounded sad.
As they raced out of town, Hutch noticed sheriff’s vehicles on parallel roads and behind him. Picking up the mic again, he keyed it. “Zebra three, please tell the county cars around me that they’re more than welcome but ask them to follow my lead when I turn off my lights and siren.”
“Understood, Zebra three. The message will be relayed.”
Starsky figured he must have fallen asleep again because the sound of the door opening, then the brilliant light being turned on, startled him wide awake.
Squinting, he looked around to see the angry figures of Jimmy and Sissy standing just inside the room. They hadn’t changed from their store attire and their costumes looked absolutely ridiculous to Starsky now.
Tears were streaming down Sissy’s face while she marched to his side. “You’ve ruined everything! Cops came to the store and now Jimmy says we’re going to have to leave.” She fell on Starsky, pummeling his back, shoulders and head with her fists. “And it’s all because of you!”
Jimmy seemed to take his sweet time coming to the cot and hauling her off.
Peeking over his shoulder, Starsky saw him carry her to the rocking horse, place her gently on the saddle and stroke her hair once. “Ride, Sissy. Just ride for a while.”
“I don’t want to ride this thing any more, Jimmy! I wanna ride him!” She pointed at Starsky, her pretty face contorted into an exaggerated pout.
“You will, li’l sister. I promise. Just let me stiffen him up for you.”
She brightened immediately and began to rock the wooden horse violently. “You mean it?”
“Sure I do, honey. But, look,” he motioned into the corner, “I see our other friend’s awake. Would you like to ride him first?”
She stuck her lower lip out again and rocked harder. “No! I only wanna ride the cop. He fits me perfect.” Her face broke into a scary smile. “Why don’t you fuck the other one while I ride him? We haven’t ever had fun at the same time before, Jimmy.”
The huge man appeared thoughtful. “That’s a really good idea, Sis. But that’ll mean I have a lot more prep work to do.” He lifted her off the horse and set her lightly on her feet. “Why don’t you go change into your red outfit while I get both of them ready?”
“Really, Jimmy? I can wear the red?” Her expression was child-like with delight.
“You bet. You’ll look especially pretty tonight.”
She turned and skipped out of the room, giggling.
“You’re going to kill her, aren’t you,” Starsky asked.
On his way to the sink, Jimmy shrugged. “Can’t keep her under control any more.” Shaking his head in obvious resignation, he began to take his equipment out from under the sink.
Ray started crying.
“Shut up, you wimp,” Smithhouse shouted. “I’m gonna fuck you so hard this time you’ll never wake up! Plenty of room left in the yard.”
“Give the guy a break, Jimmy,” Starsky urged. “Let him go why don’t you? You’re going to be leaving town anyway. My partner’ll never stop looking for you if you stay here. Let Ray go, he can’t do you any harm.”
Jimmy turned his scathing glare on Starsky. “I notice you’re not askin’ me to let you go.”
Starsky put his head down on his twisted arms. “I know better than to waste my breath.”
“Yeah, you do.” Smithhouse turned back to his tasks, carefully making up his potion for Starsky and preparing the hose and hot water bottle for Ray. Starsky knew the sadist was dragging things out so that he and Ray would experience as much terror as possible.
High heels clattered down a staircase and Sissy burst into the room.
Starsky strained to look over his shoulder and could hardly believe it was the same woman. She was wearing only red stockings and a scarlet satin garter belt, plus red high heels. A claret velvet robe trailed from an elbow. She had unbraided her hair and it was wildly disarranged. Her lips were a crimson slash across her angry face.
“Company, Jimmy! They’re all around the house! I saw them outside every window. When I ran down here they were comin’ in the front and back doors.”
As her last word echoed around the room, Hutch’s tall frame filled the doorway behind her. “Police, Smithhouse. Freeze!”
Hutch pulled Sissy out of the room and into the arms of uniformed officers behind him. Taking his shooter’s stance, the .357 held in rock steady hands, Bay City’s own Norse god of vengeance pointed the powerful weapon at Jimmy’s massive chest.
Starsky drank in the sight of Hutch in all his Viking magnificence. The blond hair was wind blown and the beautiful face was flushed with relieved triumph.
Uniforms poured into the room and surrounded Smithhouse, securing his wrists behind him.
Hutch’s blazing blue eyes lost their fear and showered Starsky with love. He didn’t seem to care who might notice the blatant emotion either. After only a moment, he turned to the officers still crowding the entry. “Get a rescue helicopter out here now! Tell them we’ve got an officer down, and a civilian badly injured.”
Presuming the order would be followed, Hutch holstered his weapon and moved to Starsky’s side, sitting next to him. He placed his hand gently on a bare shoulder, and Starsky knew his partner had felt the shivers he couldn’t control. “Blankets!” Hutch grabbed an officer’s arm. “I need blankets here, and over the man in the corner!”
Hutch dug in his pocket, took out the handcuff keys that fit both their pairs and began, gently, to release Starsky from his tangled captivity.
“Jimmy must have the keys to the ankle cuffs, Hutch.”
“Don’t worry, partner,” Hutch crooned, “I’ll find them.”
Starsky cocked his head and looked, almost jauntily, over at the corner captive. “See, Ray? Didn’t I tell you?”
TWO MONTHS LATER
“That was your final session with both doctors today, right Starsk?” Hutch brought two glasses of wine from the kitchen. “You don’t have to go back for follow-ups?” He gave one goblet to Starsky, who was slouched on the sofa, his feet on the coffee table. Hutch sat down beside him and clicked their glasses together.
Starsky took a small swallow. When he replied, his voice was low and tight. “I’m supposed to see the shrink once a month for a while, but they both think I’m ready for street duty again. Like I told you when I got back to the squad room and gave Dobey the paperwork, no more typing other guys’ reports and filing shit.”
Hutch tapped his glass to Starsky’s again. “Just checking to make sure I heard right. And, hey,” he went on, brightening. “I talked to Jeff today. He called while you were at your appointments and I forgot to tell you, what with Dobey and all the guys planning your Back On The Street party.”
“How’s Ray?” Starsky was staring at his glass.
“Doing great!” Hutch waited until Starsky looked at him before he smiled. “They’ve decided to get married. Unofficially, of course,” he added, quickly. “We’re invited.”
“Two weeks from Saturday.”
“We should go.” Starsky’s tone didn’t have the happiness Hutch wanted to hear.
“Definitely!” Hutch sipped his wine slowly, sensing that Starsky had things he needed to talk about.
“What do you think will happen to Sissy?”
Hutch thought about how to make things as painless as possible for his partner. “I doubt that she’ll be prosecuted, Starsk. More than likely, she’ll be committed for a very long time.”
“She and Diana Harmon can be roommates.”
“Now that’s a scary thought.” Hutch couldn’t suppress a shudder and drank deeply. “You have the strangest sense of humor, sometimes, pal.”
“One of the things you love about me, I hope.”
“One of the countless things.” Hutch tried to swallow the sudden lump in his throat by taking another sip of wine.
“What about Smithhouse?”
Hutch wasn’t sure he wanted Starsky to know the latest, but there was really no way to keep it from him, what with the department grapevine. “There’s a rumor floating around that his lawyer’s going to try for the old ‘heard voices in his head’ defense.”
Starsky nearly choked on his vintage grapes. “Are you shittin’ me?”
“I kid you not.”
Starsky considered seriously for a while. “Well, after I’ve had some more sessions with my head doc, if the D.A. will give me about a week on the stand, I’ll make damn sure the jury doesn’t buy that load of crap.”
“I have every confidence in you, partner.” Hutch touched his glass against Starsky’s again and they both finished their drinks.
“What was the last tally?” Starsky put his glass on the end table.
Hutch had no trouble catching the fly ball. “Twelve.”
“Thought that’s what I heard Dobey say.”
“The coroner believes the bodies may go back as far as two years.” Hutch set his empty glass on the coffee table. “Probably ever since the father died. Speculation is he was her first… live rocking horse.”
Starsky shook his head. “That’s just wrong.”
His partner’s eyes held such pain and despair Hutch wanted to gather him in his arms but resisted. Starsky needed him to be a bulwark right now.
“And Jimmy’s been providing mounts for her ever since.” Starsky physically shuddered. “Does the coroner think they were all… abused… like Ray and I were?”
“Difficult to tell. Too much decomp. According to the graves though, they hadn’t buried anyone in a couple of months. It’s likely that no one will ever know what made Sissy pick Ray, then you, only one day apart, after she’d gone for eight weeks without a… a ride.”
Starsky put a shaky hand on Hutch’s knee. “I told the shrink everything, Hutch, I didn’t hold nothin’ back like I wanted to. She’s really helped me get a handle on it, but… I honestly don’t know if I’m ready to tell you yet.”
“You don’t have to, Starsk.” Hutch picked up the hand and held it tightly in both of his. “I read your report.”
“You did?” Starsky drew back. “Aw, Hutch, I didn’t want you --”
Hutch pulled his partner to his chest. “I’m sorry if I overstepped, babe, but I needed to know what they both did to you. More than what was in the clinically worded medical report.” He stroked Starsky’s back. “I can’t help you heal, love, if I don’t understand what you went through.”
“I didn’t put everything in my report.”
He said the words so softly Hutch barely heard him. “Oh.” Hutch wasn’t sure he wanted to hear anything more than the horrors he’d read.
“He hurt me bad, Hutch…. I never thought it was possible to live through that kind of pain.” He choked off a sob. “The mental part was even worse though, the part I didn’t write down, him shoving his foul stick where only you’d been before. He told me he was going to erase you, from both my body and my mind. When I died he wanted me to be thinking only about him.”
“How did he know --?”
“Must have heard something in my voice, when I told him you’d be searching for me.”
Hutch settled Starsky more comfortably in his arms and leaned back. His partner was physically healthy again but the psychological agony he’d gone through must have been worse than Hutch realized. It had kept them apart, sexually, since Starsky had left the hospital.
“Can you tell me about it now, babe?” Hutch gently stroked Starsky’s back. “Like I said, I did read the report, but if you can talk about it, tell me what you left out, it might help.”
When Hutch began to think he’d pushed his partner too far, Starsky carefully disentangled himself and got to his feet. He reached down for Hutch’s hand, drew him up and led him to the bedroom.
Not allowing Hutch to do anything, Starsky undressed him, then himself, slid under the covers and held them up. It was all the invitation Hutch needed. Lying on his back, Starsky threaded his fingers into Hutch’s hair and pulled his head down to his chest. “Touch me, Hutch.”
Hutch drew in a breath, hardly daring to believe what Starsky had just said. “Are you sure?”
“No,” Starsky almost choked on the single syllable. “I may have to ask you to stop, but I’ll try not to.” He ran the fingers of this free hand down Hutch’s cheek. “If I’m ever going to feel whole again, I’m pretty sure it’ll have to be your fingers and hands, your mouth and that glorious cock that do the trick.”
“No tricks involved. Just my complete and total unreserved love.” Hutch ran his left hand lightly across Starsky’s stomach and down his hip. When Starsky went rigid, Hutch stopped. “We’ll go as slow as you need. We’ve got the rest of our lives.”
“I want you inside me, Hutch,” Starsky whispered. “More than ever before. I need to feel you there, loving me in the same place he tried to ruin. But I know I’m probably gonna freeze up when it comes right down to it, so I’m asking you to believe, beforehand, it’s not you, Blintz. It’s me.”
“Did the doctor say it would be okay?”
“He says my body’s healed. The shrink says it’s my mind that’s the quagmire.” Starsky’s hand gripped the back of Hutch’s neck. “I know I need your help to get out of it.”
“I love you, Starsk.” Hutch laid gentle kisses along a stubbly jaw. “I love you more than I can ever demonstrate or explain in words. And I’ll make love to you as much or as little as you can accept, for as long as necessary, until you’re ready.”
“I wish I had your way with words, Hutch, but I don’t.” Putting his hands on either side of Hutch’s face, he leaned up and kissed him.
Hutch held the lip-lock happily, following Starsky’s head when it fell back on the pillow. He let Starsky’s tongue be the first one to venture out and encounter lips more than willing to part. Starsky’s hands were the first to explore farther than shoulders. It was Starsky’s hips that rose to meet his and Hutch held his own desire in check so that Starsky was the first to groan with need.
A simple toy horse,
plus fair maiden and ogre,
produce a nightmare