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"Miami Lines"

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By the summer of 1980, Detective Dave Starsky, with his partner, Ken Hutchinson’s, unflagging support and encouragement, had, against all odds, made a complete recovery from James Gunther’s assassination attempt and was back at work. However, with all the media attention the shooting had generated, and the subsequent prosecution and recent conviction of one of the most powerful crime figures in the nation’s history, the cases they were able to pursue had become, to Starsky’s way of thinking, depressingly boring.

“Why’d I work so hard to make it back, Hutch?” Starsky was afraid his voice sounded whiney but he couldn’t help it.

“Maybe so that you could sit in the courtroom in your re-instated dress blues and look the bastard in the eye when the guilty verdicts were read?”

Starsky admitted the truth of that statement with a shrug. “Yeah, but look at what we’ve had since then.” He gestured to the files on their desks. “B&Es, slam dunk murders we close in two hours, plastic-gun holdups… it’s almost insulting.”

“Give it time, Starsk. It’ll get better.” Hutch’s smile was rueful. “It has to.”

Through the closed door to their captain’s office, Dobey’s mild bellow was heard. “Starsky! Hutchinson! Get in here!”

Starsky perked up because the gravelly words sounded more anticipatory than angry. “From your mouth to God’s ear?” He got up, opened the office door and ushered Hutch in ahead of him.

Dobey sat at his desk with what Starsky thought could almost be a gleam in his eye.

Another man, tall, lean, brown-haired, gray-eyed, dark-suit-white-shirt-black-tie-shiny-black-shoes-clad, rose from the farthest guest chair and held out his hand. “Clive Timmons, Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Starsky shook the proffered hand, then Hutch, before Starsky looked at Dobey. “You wanted to see us, Capt’n?”

Dobey motioned to the second guest chair. “Sit yourselves down and listen to Agent Timmons.”

Hutch sat in the chair while Starsky perched on the arm.

Timmons re-seated himself, picked up a briefcase, removed a folder, and passed it to Hutch. “Guillermo Julio Jesus Martinez.” While Hutch opened the file and Starsky scanned over his shoulder, Timmons continued. “We believe this man is responsible for the deaths of four undercover agents from the DEA and FBI as well as the disappearances of many others from anti-drug agencies in at least three South American countries. He’s a force unto himself and reacts with ruthless determination whenever one of his supply lines or operations comes under too close scrutiny.”

“Why have we never heard of him?” Starsky kept his tone light. No matter how he felt about Feds, in general, he didn’t want to antagonize the person who might be able to dig him and Hutch out of their doldrums.

“I wouldn’t expect you to read too many Miami newspapers.” Timmons set his briefcase back on the floor. “And we’re not in the habit of giving cross-country briefings.”

Starsky raised an eyebrow. “Miami?”

Timmons nodded. “My SAIC sent me here to find two experienced undercover officers who would be unknown in Florida, with the skills and… chutzpah to go as deeply into Martinez’s operation as possible, get the goods, and help us bring him down.” He looked at Dobey. “From what your captain has told me…” He turned back to Starsky and Hutch. “You’re the two we need.”

Hutch looked sharply at Dobey. “I take it you’re in agreement with this, sir?” Starsky could tell from the tone of voice that his partner didn’t like what he was hearing.

Dobey laced his fingers on top of his desk. “The chief thinks it’s a good idea and so do I. Especially since you two won’t be able to do any undercover work around here for a decade or two.” He nearly smiled. “This could be a golden opportunity to add more fallen criminals’ names to your impressive resumes. I know the chief’s already thinking of ways our cooperation with the FBI, once you successfully complete the assignment, will enhance his status and position.”

Starsky was aware, by the rigidity of Hutch’s posture, that his partner wasn’t yet in favor of the proposal so he kept his instant enthusiasm under control. “You have to give us a little more than what you’ve said so far, Agent Timmons.” He gestured to the folder in Hutch’s hands. “We assume our participation would be voluntary, right? That we’re not committing to anything by just talking to you?”

Timmons looked as if no one had ever turned down an opportunity to work covertly with the FBI before. “Of course.”

Starsky nodded. “Good. So let’s see, what all do we need to know, Hutch?”

“The questions I hear you thinking sound good to me, Starsk.”

“Okay!” Starsky relaxed, just a little before he returned his full attention to Timmons. “How long’ve you been trying to get this guy, what’s he into, and how well prepared were the people you previously tried to plant?”

“Answer those, Agent Timmons,” Hutch immediately added, “and I’ll have a few more.”

Timmons nodded at Dobey, as if in acceptance of something the two had already discussed, before turning back to Starsky. “All excellent questions, Detective.” He reached for the folder and Hutch handed it to him. “First answer: five years. Second answer: anything he can get his dirty paws around but his primary interest has always been drugs.” He flipped the file open to the beginning. “He was born in Ecuador, the son of a minor coke dealer. He was educated at Yale before he headed back to South America where he gathered others of his ilk to his banner, and began acquiring lands, labs and personnel. His holdings cover a great deal of property in his home country as well as Paraguay and Uruguay. He made it a point to avoid the Colombian cartels’ territories and they haven’t bothered him very much.”

“Yale, huh?” Starsky allowed some sarcasm in his voice and nudged Hutch. “Guess they’ll let anybody in as long as their money’s good.”

“I wouldn’t know, buddy,” Hutch said, wry overlaying tense, “I was a Harvard man, myself.”

Starsky chuckled. “Oh, yeah. I forgot.”

Dobey scowled. “Knock it off, you two!”

Timmons ignored all three of them and flipped pages. “He’s in the U.S. legally as a representative of his many legitimate businesses, all centered in Miami.”

“How convenient,” Hutch muttered.

Starsky leaned lightly against his partner’s shoulder and kept his tone smooth. “Okay, the guy’s a player. What else ya got?”

“How much more do you want?” Timmons’s voice sounded strained.

“Everything!” Hutch’s tone betrayed his displeasure. “We are not going in there blind! How many years has he been doing this? How old is he?”

“Probably all his life,” Timmons admitted. “And he’s thirty-five.”

“Shit!” Starsky got up and began to pace. “He’s younger than we are, Hutch!”

Hutch caught his eye and smiled thinly. “See where we could have been if we’d just applied ourselves, Starsk?”

Starsky absorbed the unhappy expression on Hutch’s face, glanced at his somber captain, the agent, then back at Hutch. He shrugged off his irritation and sat back down on the arm of his partner’s chair. “Go on, Agent Timmons. We’re still listening. I have to warn you though, Hutch’s going to be a hard sell. We’ve been on a few undercover operations that turned into near cluster-fucks and we’re not looking to repeat those.”

Dobey was visibly less than pleased with Starsky for having revealed that information but didn’t say anything.

Timmons closed the file and stared at each of them. “We believe Martinez brings about two hundred kilos of heroin, cocaine and marijuana into this country every six months. Heavy on the heroin.”

Starsky sat up straight and knew his usual ‘cop’s inscrutable face’ betrayed his shock, and corollary anger. A swift glance at Dobey showed a flush of the dark skin and Starsky realized that Dobey hadn’t been prepared for the amounts, either.

It was conceivable that the in-depth check the FBI had done on him and Hutch had gone deeper than usual and they were using Hutch’s years-before forced addiction as a way to get under both their skins and as an incentive for Hutch to want this job more than he might, otherwise. It nearly boiled Starsky’s blood to know that could possibly be the case but, if it was, it was too late to call them on it. He nailed the agent with a rock hard glare. “That’s… a lot… of smack.”

Beside him, Starsky could feel Hutch draw in on himself, clearly wracked with memories. Starsky wanted to put his arm around the blond’s shoulders but this was not the time or place.

“As to your third question, Detective,” Timmons went on, seemingly unaware of the consternation he’d caused in his three listeners, “each of the agents had as deep and impenetrable a cover as we and the DEA could devise. They should have been bullet proof. I have no idea about their South American counterparts.”

“Not even protective vests are a hundred percent effective, Timmons,” Starsky pointed out. “As you very well know.”

Timmons lost a little of his bluster. “Yes, Detective Starsky, we’re aware of that.”

Starsky had the feeling that Hutch was ready to tell the agent to find someone else so, in preemption, he touched his partner’s shoulder and stood up. “Can we have a minute, Cap? Agent Timmons?”

Dobey gestured to the hallway door and Timmons nodded.

Starsky led the way to an empty interview room. When the door was closed behind them, he turned to Hutch, trying to keep the need out of his voice. “I want this, buddy.”

Hutch slumped against the table. “Yeah. I guess I knew that.”

“If we can do it, without getting killed, I could use it as leverage for a promotion. The commission has let the rumor get around that they might accept a minimum number of years on the force, plus meritorious cases, in lieu of a college degree.”

“I’m well aware of that, Starsk.”

“We could get off the streets, babe. You wouldn’t have to worry about me all the time.”

“I like worrying about you.”

“I know, but it really gets to be a drag.” He tried one of his lop-sided grins to salve any potential hurt. “Sometimes.”

Hutch opened his mouth, plainly ready to apologize for hovering. Before that could happen, Starsky jumped in. “You want it, too, Hutch. I know you do.” When the blond didn’t respond, Starsky hurried on. “Forest had his own connections, he didn’t get his shit from Martinez, but it’s all part of the same deadly corruption.”

Starsky could see the horror and fear that still lived deep in Hutch’s psyche, possibly always would, and stepped forward, putting a gentle hand behind Hutch’s neck. “We can do this. Together, we can do it.”

“You feel that strongly about taking the case?”

“Yeah…. I do.”

Knowing that someone could be watching them through the one-way mirror, Starsky didn’t take Hutch in his arms, as he desperately wanted to. He waited patiently until Hutch finally nodded.

*******

“Now that you two have agreed to be part of our operation,” Timmons said, once the four of them were seated in a conference room, “I’ll have every spec of information we’ve gathered on Martinez UPS’d here overnight. You’ll need to study all of it.”

Hutch flipped through the sparse number of pages in Timmons’s folder. “Good to know there’s more than this.”

“Give the guy a break, Hutch,” Starsky said, trying to lighten the mood at least a little. “He probably couldn’t have packed it all in his luggage.”

Timmons actually smiled. “You’re not wrong about that, Detective.”

Starsky felt himself and Hutch being carefully studied and wondered what that was all about, as he divided the file’s pages in half and gave Hutch his share.

“You’ll probably have to change your appearance somewhat,” Timmons speculated. Starsky and Hutch looked up at him. “There is a certain amount of cross-pollination between East and West Coast organizations and we wouldn’t want anyone recognizing you right off the bat.”

Starsky spent a few moments thinking about possibilities. “It’ll have to be things we can maintain ourselves.”

“Yeah,” Hutch agreed. “Theatrical makeup, cheek padding, or fake noses wouldn’t work.” He shot a quick rueful glance at Starsky. “I’ve had some experience with those things. Too many chances for problems over any length of time.”

Starsky shrugged off the less-than-happy memory but a calculating look that had suddenly appeared in Hutch’s eye made him want to change the subject. “We’ll think about it and get back to you. What’s next?”

“Wardrobe. The FBI will provide everything you’ll need to look as if you belong in our hot, humid, rather pastel environment.” He stared with undisguised disapproval at Hutch’s hip-length leather coat and Starsky’s bullet-holed bomber jacket.

“But we come from somewhere else, right?” Starsky fought the urge to gather his beloved garment around him. “What about Seattle? Leather’d be okay there, wouldn’t it? We don’t want to show up perfectly attired right away, do we?”

“Good point.” Timmons made notes. “Your regular clothes will most likely suffice for a Seattle origin. Once you become… acclimated to the Miami scene, you can switch to the clothes we’ll give you.”

Dobey leaned his elbows on the table. “What about their covers?” He stared at Timmons for several seconds. “My boys aren’t going to Miami without every chance of coming back. I won’t have two vacant desks in my squad room after this.”

Starsky nodded, grateful for Dobey’s support. “Especially since you’ve been trying to get somebody on the inside for quite a while. This Martinez guy’ll be suspicious as hell of anybody new in town buying big chunks of dope.”

Timmons shook his head. “As I said, we’re reasonably sure none of the plants was discovered due to failure of the backgrounds or documentation that were created. We think each of them did something wrong, blew their own covers. Besides, each went in on his or her own.”

“‘Her’?” Hutch asked.

Timmons opened his briefcase and pushed a thin file across the table. “DEA lost one of its best operatives.” He gestured to the folder. “It’s all in there. But she had insisted on going in by herself. We don’t know what happened; she simply vanished.”

“Pilot error’s always a great CYA conclusion.” Starsky knew the irony would be detected but didn’t care. He and Hutch were going to be putting their lives on the line. Under the table, Hutch patted his thigh in support.

*******

That night, Starsky locked the front door of his apartment behind them and quirked a grin at Hutch. “Okay, spill it! What did you think of as a way to change your appearance.”

Hutch shed his coat and holster onto the coat rack and casually, too casually, Starsky thought, walked into the kitchen. By the time Starsky had divested himself of his jacket and weapon, Hutch came back with two uncapped beers. He handed one to Starsky, wandered to the sofa and sat down. “I was thinking of going bald.”

Starsky almost choked but managed to swallow without spraying brew all over the place. “What?” He crossed the room in three strides and sat next to the blond. “No, babe, no! You can’t do that. I don’t think I could get through the day if I didn’t know I could run my fingers through your silky locks at night. Your hair’s your halo, Hutch. It reminds me, every time I see it, that you’re my guardian angel.”

Hutch blushed furiously and took Starsky’s hand. “It’d only be temporary, Starsk. It’ll grow back.”

“Yeah, but…” Starsky ran the fingers of his free hand into the golden strands.

Hutch leaned into the caress. “Think about it for a minute.” He gave Starsky a lecherous grin. “You’d get to shave my head every morning.”

Starsky put his beer down and applied both hands to Hutch’s beloved head. Lightly, he explored each curve and bump under the baby-fine covering. “Hmmmmmmmm.”

Hutch, clearly reluctantly, pulled away. “What about you?”

Accepting the necessity of discussing the situation fully, Starsky picked up his bottle again and sat back. “I was thinkin’ I’d go with a really short haircut, like I had in my army days. Barely long enough to curl.”

Hutch nodded. “I’m only familiar with women’s hair…” He plastered a simpering expression on his face and raised his eyebrows suggestively. “But I’m pretty sure I could keep your short ‘do’ in line.”

Starsky smirked in remembrance. “‘Course you could.” Then he ran a finger across his upper lip. “A Ramon ‘stache, too.”

“That’ll work.” The forefinger of Hutch’s left hand gently moved Starsky’s aside and took up the tender back and forth motion.

Starsky put his displaced hand to Hutch’s cheek. “What about a VanDyke on you? With your bald pate, it would really change your look.”

“Good idea.” Hutch covered Starsky’s hand with one of his own. “Glad we’ve got some time to grow our own facial hair. I wouldn’t want to have to depend on stick-ons where we’re going.”

“No way!”

*******

Over the next two weeks they memorized the covers that were being added to and deepened every day, and learned all they could about Martinez’s organization. During that time Starsky discovered that shaving his partner’s head was the most erotic thing he’d ever done. The very first morning he tried to do it, they ended up back in bed before he’d completed half the job. The sheets had to be put through two wash cycles to remove all the shaving cream and cum.

From then on they went about things more slowly and, after the second day, taking care of each other’s changed appearance became their morning ritual: shower together, then shave and clip away.

For Starsky, the act of lathering his partner’s beautiful head and face before carefully removing the unwanted tiny, soft golden hairs that had grown over the previous twenty-four hours never failed to arouse him. And, thankfully, he wasn’t the only one. After Hutch trimmed Starsky’s hair, relieved the cheeks and throat of stubble, and groomed the ‘stache, it was a rare day that didn’t see those activities being followed by hand-jobs, bjs or frottage. Even a good fuck or two, sometimes.

“Oh, babe,” Starsky muttered one morning when they were lazing in each other’s arms after a particularly athletic dual-satisfaction session. “I’m lovin’ this billiard ball…” Starsky gently stroked the naked scalp. “But I really do miss having your tresses to latch onto when you do me like that.”

“‘Tresses’?” Hutch stared at Starsky, plainly trying to look offended. “Isn’t that a bit girly?”

“I don’t think so, pal.” Starsky lightly cuffed the back of Hutch’s head before renewing his caresses. “Your hair’s usually so soft and… glowy…” Hutch snickered. “Shut up, I’m rhapsodizing here… in my mind, ‘tresses’ fits.”

Hutch snuggled. “Well, I’m too wiped out right now to argue.”

“Good.” Starsky tightened his arms around the lean body. “Whaddya think of the names they’ve given us?”

“Dale Shaffer and Kyle Hilton.”

Starsky chuckled. “We sound like a hotel chain.”

“Almost.” Hutch considered for several more moments. “It’s good that they’ve kept the same initials… makes it easier to remember than, oh say, Rafferty and O’Brien.”

Starsky grinned. “Never could keep them straight.”

“Or Tyrone and Marlene.” Hutch began tickling Starsky’s ribs.

Starsky yelped. He rolled over, covering as much of Hutch’s squirming body as he could, and tried to contain hands that suddenly seemed octopus-like. “Cut it out, Hutch! We’re gonna be late.”

“Who cares? We’re not working for the Feds yet. We’re still on our own time.” Hutch freed his hands and cupped Starsky’s face, a thumb tracing the upper lip and brushing the short dark hairs there. “Apparently…” He gazed with longing into Starsky’s eyes. “I’m not as wiped out as I thought I was. Care for a rematch? ”

In answer, Starsky devoured the waiting mouth.

*******

The night Huggy came over with dinners, Starsky wished he’d had his camera ready as the look on their skinny black friend’s face was priceless.

“That is not a good look on you, m’ blond brother!” Huggy studied Hutch with squinty eyes before turning his stare on Starsky. “An’ I ain’t seen hair that short on you since you came back from ‘Nam!”

Starsky took the picnic basket and carried it to the dining table. “Extreme circumstances, Hug.”

Huggy followed, studying each of them again. “I dig. And now I understand why neither of you’s shown your face in my fine establishment lately.” He handed the Igloo he was still carrying to Dobey who began setting out side dishes and beers.

“I imagine undercover gigs are pretty scarce these days,” Huggy went on, once the food had been distributed, “but do you really think lookin’ like a skinhead and his close associate is gonna fool anyone around here?”

“That’s not what we’ll be trying to do, Hug,” Starsky said.

It only took a second for Huggy to put two and two together and when he did he raised his expressive eyebrows. “Ah… then you won’t be using these brilliant disguises in sunny Southern California?”

Hutch shook his head. “Nope.”

“Okay, so I’ll ask. Where?” Huggy took a bite of his burger.

“You’re finding out about this in strictest confidence, Huggy,” Dobey said, his voice firm with warning.

Huggy pretended offense. “Aw, come on, Harold. You mean I can’t tell all my unsavory clientele that Starsky and Hutch are goin’ undercover somewhere other than Bay City?”

“Huggy -” Dobey actually sounded worried.

“He’s kidding, Cap.” Hutch put a calming hand on Dobey’s arm, probably hoping to deflect a rise in his superior’s blood pressure. “You know Huggy would never do anything to jeopardize Starsky or me.”

“An’ if you don’t already know that, Captain,” Huggy said, “we’ve wasted the last five years of our lives!”

“Quit it, guys,” Starsky held up both hands. “We’re all on the same page, here.”

Dobey and Huggy visibly swallowed their irritation and Hutch sent him a look of silent approval. “Now…” Starsky stuffed a couple of fries in his mouth. “We’re going to need a little help, Hug. Here and… maybe elsewhere.”

*******

After the meal was finished and the debris cleaned up, everyone stayed at the table with fresh beers.

“Edith says she’ll be happy to take care of the plants, Hutch.” Dobey cast a look at Starsky. “Could you take the few you have over to his place so that she doesn’t have to split her trips?”

Starsky cocked his bottle. “You got it, Cap’n.”

“What about your cars?” Huggy asked.

“They’ll both be at Merl’s.” Hutch didn’t look as if he was pleased with the idea of his beloved trash heap being in the auto mechanic’s hands for an extended length of time but he’d evidently made peace with it.

Starsky grinned. “Merl will make sure the batteries stay charged and the tires don’t go flat.”

“Just how long’s this little assignment gonna take?” Huggy sounded as if he was beginning to question the whole operation.

Starsky lifted a shoulder. “No idea, Hug. Probably a couple of months, at least.”

“In that case…” Huggy clicked his beer bottle against Dobey’s. “I’m sure Anita and Diane wouldn’t mind helping Edith with the plants. And give the two apartments a vacuum once in a while.”

“Thanks, Huggy,” Dobey said. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate that.”

“You guys need me to keep the rents paid or anything?” Huggy asked.

“I’ll be taking care of that,” Dobey said. “This is a Federal deal, as you might already have begun to suspect, and their checks will come to me. I’ll see that all their bills get paid on time.”

Huggy nodded. “That’s good. I know they’ll sleep better knowin’ that, Cap.” He cast beady eyes at Starsky and Hutch. “Wherever it is they’ll be sleepin’.”

“Which brings us to the main topic.” Starsky appraised their friend. “Do you have any cousins in Miami, Hug?”

Huggy blinked, apparently completely surprised, then turned thoughtful for a few moments. “If you’re referring to the one in Florida, as a matter of fact… I do.”

Starsky glanced at Hutch and exchanged silent hope before they both sat forward.

“Tito.” Huggy took a swallow of beer. “It’s my understanding that he’s had some difficulty with the straight and narrow, if you know what I mean.” No one bothered to comment since his meaning was crystal clear. “Been the guest of a couple of counties and even the state once but I believe he’s got himself straightened out now.”

“In Miami?” Hutch asked.

“Last I heard.”

“Do you have any way of getting in touch with him?” Dobey asked.

“I do if Aunt Matilda knows where he is.” Huggy apparently had another thought. “Listen, this ain’t gonna get him into trouble again, is it?”

Hutch shook his head. “Not if we can help it!”

“We need Tito to give us a name, Hug,” Starsky said. “Someone we can contact in the drug business.”

“Someone that’s not necessarily in the organization we’re going to be trying to infiltrate,” Hutch explained. “But someone we can establish our bona fides with, who’ll hopefully introduce us into the Martinez organization.”

Huggy sat back, his thin lips compressed to a straight line. “Would this be Guillermo Martinez, by any chance?”

Dobey was clearly surprised. “You’ve heard of him?”

Huggy nodded. “Unfortunately. Tito’s, mentioned him.”

“Not in a positive way, I take it.” Hutch cast a wary look at Starsky.

Huggy looked at each of them. “Tito’s scared shitless of the guy. Says he’s the badest dude he’s ever heard of. Won’t go near him, or his crowd.”

Starsky put a hand on Huggy’s arm. “We don’t need him to do anything except find us a name we can ask for when we get there. Tito won’t have to get anywhere near Martinez. I promise.”

Huggy appeared satisfied. “Okay, good. I‘ll get in touch with Aunt Matilda tomorrow. What’s your cover gonna be?”

“We’ll be dealers from Seattle,” Hutch told him. “Looking to buy more product than we can get in our own neck of the woods.”

“Risky.”

“Yeah, Hug, we know.” Starsky didn’t like stating the obvious but he had no choice. “Tell Tito we don’t need anything except a name from him. The lower the level this person occupies the better, too. We’ll work our own way up, once we have a way in.”

“I’ll see what I can do, fellas.”

“Thanks, Hug.”

*******

On their second day in Miami, they walked out of their hotel, crossed the street and stood on the walkway that bordered a lovely beach. The sun beat down relentlessly and, after a few moments, Starsky looked at Hutch’s shining pate. “We have to get you a hat, babe. Your head’s gonna fry without one!”

Hutch ran a hand over his baldness. “You’re right.” Reaching out to ruffle Starsky’s really short hair, he gave up and draped his arm across leather-clad shoulders. “You, too. Otherwise the sun will burn right through to your scalp.”

Scooting between cars, Starsky led the way back across the street and past one upscale shop after another. He opened the door of the first clothier they came to and ushered his partner inside.

For an hour they tried on most of the possibilities in the store with Hutch settling on a fedora-style made from some sort of extremely finely woven reed material. Starsky chose what the salesman called a ‘skimmer.’ Starsky donned the very expensive sunglasses he’d pulled off a Foster Grant display, stepped back, and appraised their altered looks. “We’re going to have to lose the leather sooner than we thought, Hu… uh, Kyle. These chapeaux just don’t fit with cowhide.”

Hutch doffed his hat and looked over the rim of his own new sunglasses. “Right you are, Dale.”

*******

The day after the purchase of their head coverings and shades, they shifted seamlessly from leather and jeans to cotton draw-string pants, bright, pastel shirts and linen sport coats. Having to wear his boat shoes without socks grated on Starsky’s nerves but he got used to it.

Dominic, the concierge at their hotel was a member of Timmons’s team. He’d been in place for weeks so that no one would be suspicious of a new hotel employee starting his job on the same day two Seattle dealers came to town.

They introduced themselves quietly while Dom cheerfully gave them a map and directions to the local dog track. Starsky folded the page and put it in his pocket. “Thanks, Dominic.” Before he turned away, he appraised the fresh-faced agent, trying to sound like a ‘player’ for the benefit of anyone who might be listening. “Are Kyle and I correct in supposing you can get us anything we want?”

Dom put on a most professional-concierge smile. “Anytime you want it, gentlemen.”

“Thanks.” Hutch shook the agent’s hand. “Come up to our suite tonight when you get off work. We may have a few requests.”

Dominic nodded. “Yes, sirs!”

Starsky led the way to the hotel’s garage where he climbed behind the wheel of the red Ferrari the FBI had provided. It had been confiscated from a Chicago mafia-type and Starsky knew he wouldn’t be feeling as bereft as he’d thought he would without the Torino. Starting the powerful engine, he caressed the gear shift knob. “Oh, you beauty.”

Hutch got in on the passenger’s side, a cautionary look on his face. “Starsky…”

Starsky lifted his hand from the shifter and smiled at his partner. “Relax, Hutch. I’m gonna mentally cream my shorts for a minute and be done with it. I promise I won’t give you a single worry about me bein’ behind the wheel of this… fantastic machine. I’m cool.”

Hutch gestured out the windshield. “I think you have to put it in Drive before the tires will turn, though.”

Starsky patted Hutch’s thigh and pulled out of the garage. Unerringly, they found the dog track, parked and went inside. Half the day’s races had already been run so Starsky bought tickets for the ones that were left before they began walking around.

Tito was exactly where Huggy had told them he’d be: standing by himself at the rail in the backstretch. Starsky leaned casually to Tito’s left, Hutch to his own left. They didn’t want to intimidate the clearly nervous young man by bracketing him, but they needed to talk without being overheard.

“Hey, Tito,” Starsky said, as unthreateningly as possible. “Huggy says, Hi.”

Tito didn’t even glance at them. “Hi back.”

“You have a name for us?” Hutch asked, his voice calm and soothing. “This is the only time you’ll ever see us, Tito. A name is all we need.”

Tito still didn’t look at them. “Morgan. Don’t know if it’s first or last.”

Across the track, the starting gate lifted and a race began. Instant cheering from the homestretch grandstand made Starsky have to raise his voice a little. “And where can we find this Morgan?”

The speedy greyhounds tore past them and Tito pantomimed exhorting a particular dog while he whispered: “Bus station. Men’s room. Noon, every day.”

On the far side of the course, the sprinters crossed the finish line to cheers and groans. Starsky straightened up and made a show of tearing his tickets in half. “Thanks, Tito.”

“We owe you, buddy,” Hutch added.

Starsky slung an arm around Hutch’s shoulders. “Let’s go put a grand on ‘Golden Boy’ in the next race, Kyle. I got a feelin’ he can’t lose.” They left Tito stationed at the rail.

*******

At eleven forty-five the following morning, Hutch went inside the men’s room of the Greyhound station. A moment later, he opened the door again and shook his head at Starsky, meaning there was no one else currently in residence.

Starsky nodded and sat on a bench, paging through a copy of the Enquirer. As minutes ticked past, two men separately entered and exited the ‘Hombres’ while Hutch remained inside.

At exactly noon a scruffy character walked into the station and headed straight for the men’s room. Starsky got up and followed. Closing the door behind him, he leaned against it.

Hutch held out his hand to the man. “Do I have the pleasure of addressing Morgan?”

Morgan was skittish, glancing nervously between Hutch in front of him and Starsky behind. “Who’s askin’?”

“We are,” Starsky said. “He’s Hilton, I’m Shaffer.”

Hutch picked up the man’s hand and shook it. “We’re not here to cause you any trouble, Mr. Morgan. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“Tito sent us.” Starsky grabbed the hand as soon as Hutch let go. “He said you might be able to help us out.”

“For a price, of course,” Hutch added.

Morgan began to relax a little. “New in town?”

Starsky nodded. “And we’re lookin’ to make some connections.”

Morgan smiled. “I know people.”

*******

That night, Dominic came to their suite at eight o’clock. “You made contact?”

Starsky got a beer out of the fridge and handed it to him. “Sure did.”

Dom clicked his bottle against Starsky’s, then Hutch’s, and sat down. “That’s great. So, here’s the way Timmons has things planned for when you start making buys. The manager of the First Union Bank, just around the corner, has agreed to be the conduit for the money you’ll need.”

Starsky sat on the sofa next to Hutch. “That’s convenient.”

Dom drank a few swallows. “After you’ve made the exchange, bring the merchandise back here; I always have UPS packaging in the supply room. We’ll bring everything up here and box up whatever you buy. A genuine UPS truck and one of our agents, in their uniform, will come to pick it up. To anyone watching, it’ll look like the box is on its way to Seattle when, in fact, it will go from the UPS terminal at the airport straight to the property room in the basement of the Federal Building in Timmons’s own personal car.”

The look in Hutch’s eyes said he was impressed. “Your boss sure seems to know what he’s doing.”

Dom shrugged and emptied his bottle in one long pull. “We’ve been after Martinez for a long time. He damn well better know what he’s doing!”

*******

Two weeks later they hit Morgan’s limit. “A kilo? I can’t get that much. My connection can’t handle that!”

Hutch shrugged. “Well, introduce us to someone who can, then.”

“You know people, remember?” Starsky added.

That evening, at the concierge desk, Starsky passed the information to Dom. “Tomorrow we meet a man named Carlo.”

“Finally!” Dom said under his breath, as he pointed out places of supposed interest on a street map of greater Miami. “Carlo’s one of Martinez’s minor lieutenants. You’re in!”

“We hope,” Starsky whispered while Hutch pointed to the map.

“Jai alai!” Hutch said loudly. “I’ve always wanted to see a match. Haven’t you, Dale?”

*******

For a month, ‘Shaffer and Hilton’ courted Carlo, buying larger and larger amounts of coke and ‘H.’ “We got no use for maryjane,” Starsky said at one point. “Too much of that stuff is grown in our own backyard.”

Hutch threw an arm around the short, pudgy man’s shoulders. “Our customers want only the best, Carlo. And we hear you’re the man who can provide that for us.”

Carlo puffed himself up as much as his diminutive stature allowed. “You heard right, fellas.”

But Carlo eventually hit his limit, too. “You want how much?” His voice actually broke on the final words.

“That's right.” Starsky patted Carlo’s flushed cheek. “We need five kilos, each, of the best coke and smack you can get.”

“Shit,” Carlo muttered. “I’ll have to set you up with Olivera for that.”

“Well, set away,” Hutch urged.

*******

Dominic was nearly beside himself. “Olivera is Martinez’s top lieutenant! Wait’ll I tell Timmons. When and where?”

“We don’t know yet,” Starsky admitted. “Carlo says Olivera’s really cautious.”

“Carlo’s going to give us a call and let us know.” Hutch accepted the ticket packet Dominic had put together as cover for their conversation. “Let’s go see the water-skiers in the Everglades, Dale!”

*******

Olivera turned out to be not only cautious, he insisted Starsky and Hutch be thoroughly searched before allowing them into his plush office in a beachfront high-rise. Their weapons were confiscated. When they were seated across a massive desk from the lieutenant, Olivera questioned them relentlessly about their background and what they’d been doing in Miami since their arrival. Starsky and Hutch were grateful that Timmons and his unit had been as detailed as they’d been. Olivera took extensive notes and said he’d check Hilton and Shaffer out. If they passed, he’d be in touch. As they left the office, their weapons were returned.

When told, Dominic couldn’t have been happier.

*******

Over the next month, Starsky and Hutch toed whatever lines Olivera chose to draw, paying for and taking delivery of larger and larger amounts of illegal drugs.

“You really think this continues to be necessary, Olivera?” Hutch heaved a huge sigh one afternoon while a thug with an obvious mismatch of brains and brawn, roughly patted him down.

“Wouldn’t wantcha t’ get complacent, now would we, Hilton?” Olivera kept a keen eye on his thugs until both shook their heads and straightened up. He led the way into his office.

Starsky and Hutch seated themselves while Carlo uncapped Dos Equis for everyone and passed them around. “May we carry our guns now, Mister Olivera?” Hutch took a swallow of beer. “Dale and I are starting to feel really quite naked without them.”

“If you don’t trust us by now, Olivera, when will you?” Starsky allowed a little sarcasm to creep into his voice.

“If Mr. Martinez didn’t trust you,” Olivera replied, “you’d both have been fish food the week after you got to town.”

Starsky, a mystified look on his face, glanced at Hutch before staring at Olivera. “Who the fuck is Martinez? We thought this was your operation!”

Olivera put his feet up on the corner of his desk. “Mr. Martinez has known everything about you both since the day after you checked into your hotel.”

“Okay…” Hutch sat back and sipped his beer. “But we’ll ask again, who the fuck is Martinez? And what about our guns?”

Olivera considered for a few seconds. “Sure, you can have ‘em from now on, I guess. As long as you realize and remember that, whatever you’re packin’, ours outnumber yours.”

Starsky raised his glass in acknowledgement and downed the liquid. “You didn’t answer the first question though.”

Olivera’s smile was more of a smirk. “Maybe you’ll meet Mr. Martinez… one of these days. In the meantime, how much you want tomorrow?”

Hutch sipped his drink. “Twenty. All coke.”

Olivera’s feet came off the desk with a thunk. “Kilos?”

Hutch emptied his brown bottle. “No, Mister Olivera. Ounces.” Then he laughed, apparently thinking better of his sarcasm. “Of course, kilos.”

Olivera sat forward. “That’ll cost ya.”

Starsky put his empty bottle on the desk. “Didn’t think you were gonna let us have it for free, amigo.”

“Lemme talk to Mr. Martinez. I’ll get back to you.” Olivera stood up.

Starsky and Hutch rose as well. “By tomorrow, Olivera.” Starsky made sure his voice was more firm than ever before. “We’ve got customers back home that are gettin’ tired of you givin’ us the nickel and dime treatment.”

Hutch leaned across the desk and offered his hand. “We’ll hear from you tomorrow, right?”

Olivera pasted a great big but slightly nervous looking smile on his face and took the hand. “I’ll let you know.”

“Good.” Starsky threw an arm across Hutch’s shoulders and they walked out.

*******

A week later, at ten a.m., sufficiently after their morning ablutions and resulting activities, an ‘air conditioning repairman’ knocked on their door. The weather had been exceptionally hot and humid and Starsky and Hutch had lost no opportunity to bitch to Dominic, hotel management, Olivera, and anyone else who’d listen, about the inefficiency of the A/C in their suite, on the off chance they and their accommodations were still being monitored. Dominic didn’t think so but you never knew.

The tech affixed tiny wireless microphones - brand new technology courtesy of the Department of Defense - to the small of their backs and provided equally small transmitters which he attached to their belts. After tests were made, verifying that everything was working perfectly and every word was being heard and recorded in the nondescript van parked one street behind the hotel, the guy packed up his equipment and left.

Starsky slipped into a loose pink shirt, leaving the tails out and the top three buttons undone. Hutch reached forward and ran his fingers into dense chest hair, making Starsky shiver. Knowing they were already being recorded, Starsky kept his tone light. “Today’s the day, Hutch.” He held a light-weight cream-colored linen jacket out for Hutch to don over his turquoise shirt and holstered Python. As his partner slipped into it, Starsky ran a hand gently across the still-strange bald head.

Hutch turned, caught the hand and kissed the palm.

They weren’t being video taped so as long as whatever they said was innocuous, Starsky felt touches were appropriate. And needed. He pulled Hutch’s head toward him and kissed the crown, allowing his lips to linger on the smooth, soft skin before letting go and stepping back into his role. “I thought Olivera’d have a kitten when you said twenty kilos.”

Hutch nodded at the memory. “Me, too. Not sorry he told us the next day that it’d take a week to get that much together though.” He caught Starsky’s other hand and brought it to his lips. “Gave us more time to do a little sightseeing. Martinez insisting that the meet and exchange take place at his house was an unexpected bonus.”

“I was afraid Dominic was going to hug you when you told him.”

Hutch laughed. “Timmons has probably already picked out his new office in the Federal Building for when he gets the promotion he’ll undoubtedly be offered.”

“No offense, Timmons,” Starsky said. “You’ll have earned it!” Knowing Timmons was probably cursing on his end of the communications, Starsky put his arms around Hutch’s waist. “We should come back here early for the trial, Hutch. Take some time for ourselves. Lots of places we haven’t seen yet.”

With love in his eyes, Hutch kissed him soundlessly. “We’ll do that.”

Starsky enfolded Hutch tightly, worked his right hand under Hutch’s loose shirt, and covered the microphone.

Realizing that Starsky didn’t want their words overheard for the next little while, Hutch snaked his hands under Starsky’s shirt and muffled his mic as well.

“We’re putting an awful lot of faith in Timmons and his guys.” Starsky kept his voice to a whisper, muffled mics or not.

“True. But he hasn’t given us any reason to doubt his abilities so far. We just have to believe he’ll be there with the phone booth when we need him.”

Starsky drew back a little and smiled into brilliant blue eyes. “A little Superman reference there, partner?”

Keeping one hand firmly over the mic, the fingers of Hutch’s other hand traced a scar. “Sort of feels like a great big ‘S’ here to me.”

Starsky fought down a shudder. “Your name’s Kyle, not Clark, but I get it. Timmons’ll hear every word that’s said so he’ll know exactly when to show up with the cavalry.”

“Let’s hope so.”

Stepping away, Starsky rolled his shoulders once and straightened his collar before slipping into his holster and putting his jacket on. For effect, he shot his cuffs, even though he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, before he grinned at Hutch.

“We’re finally getting to meet the big guy on his home grounds, Starsk.” Hutch’s eyes sparkled. “Nervous?”

Starsky saw the anticipation he was feeling mirrored in his partner’s expression. “Probably about as much as you are.”

“Good. Let’s go nail this turkey!”

*******

Although they’d never been there, Olivera’s directions, reinforced with Timmons’s information, had been clear and Starsky had no trouble finding the place. The mansion was sequestered behind high walls and guarded by at least a dozen heavily armed men who constantly patrolled the grounds, according to FBI surveillance.

Driving up to the tall gates, Starsky saluted the grim soldier on the other side. “Shaffer and Hilton. Mr. Martinez is expecting us.”

Wordlessly, the man pushed a button on the gatepost and the two sides swung open. Nodding his thanks, Starsky drove through, watching in the rearview mirror as the iron bars closed behind them. “Here we go, partner.”

As he navigated the turns comprising the half mile of crushed-shell driveway, Starsky chuckled, partly for the benefit of the listening Feds and partly to let Hutch know he was having the time of his new life. “We’ve always heard that crime doesn’t pay, right, buddy?” He waved a hand that encompassed the palatial grounds, the profusion of flowering plants, the stately palm trees, and the impressive structure in the distance.

“That’s what they say.” Hutch looked and sounded relaxed. Only Starsky recognized the controlled tension. “Let’s go prove the adage correct.”

Starsky parked next to a Maserati and, by silent mutual agreement, he and Hutch tossed their hats over their shoulders into the tiny back compartment. They didn’t need anything on their persons that could possibly get in their way for the next little while. Starsky got out, walked around and joined Hutch at the base of the broad stairway. At the top, Olivera waited for them.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Olivera’s expression was unexpectedly ominous, his voice taut. As soon as Starsky and Hutch mounted the final step, Olivera raised his hands, palms outward. “Assume the position.”

Starsky stopped in his tracks and erased the smile he’d plastered across his face. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hutch do the same.

For five seconds no one moved and Starsky didn’t breathe, before Olivera burst out laughing. “Scared ya, huh? Gotta keep ya on your toes.” He stepped aside and motioned to the tall, glass double doors behind him. “Come on in, Willie’s in the solarium.”

Starsky remained rigid until Hutch put his left arm through his right elbow and motioned for Olivera to precede them. “After you.” The “sucker” he muttered was for Starsky’s ears alone and Starsky squeezed the hand tight to his side.

Still grinning, Olivera pushed through the impressive entrance and led the way through the cavernous, multi-roomed ground floor to a window-walled space at the back. “Mister Martinez will probably give you the grand tour as soon as the transaction’s been taken care of. This house has been featured in every architectural magazine in the world.”

Starsky made his tone sound impressed. “Imagine that.”

Hutch hid a smile and took his hand back. “Be nice,” he whispered.

The solarium was bigger than any room they’d passed and Starsky couldn’t help but whistle softly. Walls of glass overlooked a massive swimming pool which was surrounded by lush plantings and green lawns that appeared to stretch to Fort Lauderdale.

“Welcome to my home, boys.” The man who had spoken rose from a deeply cushioned rattan couch and walked toward them. “My name is Guillermo Martinez.” He shook Starsky’s hand. “You’d be Shaffer.”

Starsky expected a challenge and wasn’t disappointed; the strength in the man’s fingers, palm and forearm were impressive. Prepared though, he returned the tight grip with one of his own.

Martinez pivoted to Hutch. “And you’d be Hilton.”

Hutch accepted the offered appendage and didn’t flinched either. “Mister Martinez.”

Apparently taking the standoff good naturedly, Martinez turned and led the way to a grouping of casual furniture that half-circled his rattan couch in the middle of the huge room. Carlo and another underling were already seated around the large, glass-topped cocktail table. In the center was a dome-covered tray.

Martinez lowered his six-foot-four-inch, heavily-muscled frame onto the couch and waved Starsky and Hutch to arm chairs across from him. Once everyone was seated, he stared, first at Starsky, then Hutch, with a look that probably made most men question their desire to be in his presence.

Starsky returned the appraisal with calm unconcern, knowing Hutch was doing exactly the same.

After almost three silent minutes - Starsky was mentally counting - with Olivera and Carlo getting progressively more restive, Martinez visibly relaxed. He motioned over his shoulder and a servant materialized from the shadows. “Tequila, Miguel.”

The man bowed, went to a bar in the corner, poured drinks and brought them, along with a fresh bottle, back on a wheeled cart. He parked it next to Martinez before he handed each member of the circle a drink. With another slight bow, he left the room.

Martinez held his glass up, clearly prepared to propose a toast. Olivera, Carlo, and the other man lifted theirs, as did Starsky and Hutch. “To a closer association with our new friends!”

Olivera and the other two knocked their drinks back with blatant pleasure.

Martinez waited, his unblinking dark eyes clicking back and forth between Starsky and Hutch.

Starsky shifted his gaze to his partner and the intense sky-blues looking back at him held no reservation, no hint of anxiety. He could hear Hutch in his mind: We’re in this together, babe, and we’re about to take the final step in closing down an operation nearly as powerful as Gunther’s was. For Martinez’s sake, Starsky voiced the question anyway. “You ready, partner?”

“More than.” The determination in Hutch’s tone would have been heard only as unemotional acceptance to anyone except Starsky.

Nodding once, Starsky tossed the drink down his throat while Hutch did the same.

“Excellent!” Martinez swallowed his own portion of searing liquid and put the glass on the cart next to his elbow. “Now, Olivera tells me you two want twenty kilos this time. All coke.” He surveyed Starsky, then Hutch. “Is that correct?”

Starsky glanced at Hutch again and they both shrugged. As one, they leaned back in their chairs and crossed their legs. “If letting us have that much doesn’t put a crimp in your other operations,” Starsky said.

“But…” Hutch added, his voice cold. “Don’t think you can pass off inferior product on us. The stuff we’ve been buying is good, so we’ll expect the same quality in the whole twenty kilos. I have a test kit in my pocket.”

“Understood.” Martinez nodded as if he had anticipated nothing less. “The price will be as already agreed upon. Again, correct?”

“Correct.” Starsky showed his teeth in what the others would hopefully consider a smile. “Two million dollars.”

“Bank-banded?” Martinez asked.

“Do you care?” Hutch brushed invisible lint off his immaculate slacks.

“Not in the least.” Martinez waved a nonchalant hand. “Mint bills spend as readily as used. I was only curious as to where you got the money I presume you brought with you.”

“That’s our concern.” Hutch cocked his head. “Isn’t it?”

“Of course it is.” Martinez sat forward and, with a flourish, whipped the cover off the tray on the coffee table. “Now that we’ve solidified our agreement, what do you say we celebrate?”

In the middle of the tray was a mound of white powder, some of which had already been cut into parallel rows. Next to the pile was a cup containing short straws, and a safety razorblade.

Martinez set the cover aside. “Go ahead, fellas, do a line or two. My treat.”

Starsky had thought he was prepared for this meeting but nothing had been said in their briefings about having to partake of the product. He felt his partner’s tension and silently drew in a deep breath, prepared to back Hutch to the death.

“Go fuck yourself, Martinez!” Hutch grabbed the edge of the coffee table and sprang to his feet, upending the table and creating a mini snowstorm in the circle of furniture. “My partner and I won’t deal with clowns who use.”

Starsky rose slowly to stand, shoulder to shoulder, with Hutch. He put the most resolve he’d ever managed on his face and glared at Martinez.

Olivera, Carlo and the other man jumped up, their hands reaching under their jackets but, unexpectedly, Martinez smiled, gestured for the others to relax, and settled back into the cushions of the couch. “Good.” He appeared unfazed, even satisfied.

Seeing their boss’s reaction, the three lieutenants straightened their coats and sat back down.

Martinez widened his smile, showing a great many perfect teeth and Starsky felt his skin crawl. “That was a test… and you passed. Now we can do business.” The friendly expression turned hard-edged and icy. “You see, I don’t deal with users, either.”

Starsky put a hand gently on Hutch’s forearm and the contact settled them both. “You play fast and loose, Martinez.” Starsky sat back down.

After a moment, Hutch did the same. “And you’re wasteful.” He gestured to the cloud of white powder that was settling around the overturned table as well as on all their legs and shoes. “If that was real.”

“A stage prop.” Martinez dusted the white stuff off his knees. “I’d never risk losing product like that.” He poured himself two fingers of tequila from the bottle on the cart, then passed the bottle around. “Another drink, gentlemen? To getting past the nitty gritty and on to the actual exchange?”

Everyone downed his second drink. Olivera righted the table, kicked the tray and its spilled accessories aside, and set his glass on it. Starsky, Hutch, Martinez and the other two lieutenants put their empty glasses aside as well.

Starsky dug out his keys and tossed them to Olivera. “If your friends outside haven’t jimmied the trunk of our car yet, you should go bring in the suitcases that are there.”

After a nod from Martinez, Olivera left the room. Martinez looked at Carlo. “Bring over the goods.”

Carlo got up and went behind the bar, returning with a huge padlocked duffle bag which he hefted onto the coffee table. With due deliberation and some ceremony Martinez worked the combination, removed the lock, opened the zipper and spread the sides so that the contents were displayed to Starsky and Hutch.

Hutch sat forward and took his test kit and a folding knife out of his jacket pocket. Digging part way down into the contents of the bag and choosing one of the bright, white plastic-wrapped packages at random, he slit a hole in the covering, capturing a tip-full of the contents. He then inserted the substance into a vile. With an eyedropper, he added two drops of liquid from a second container, capped the tube and shook it. When the white turned a deep, rich purple, Hutch exchanged a nod of acceptance with Starsky.

Martinez beamed. “The best cocaine money can buy, gentlemen.”

Olivera took a roll of tape from his pocket and sealed the slit in the brick while Hutch put his testing equipment away. Finally, everyone sat back and appeared to relax.

Carlo hurried into the room, lugging two hard-sided, obviously heavy suitcases. He zipped the drug-loaded bag, set it on the floor, and replaced it with his burdens.

“Now…” Hutch began as Martinez leaned forward, reaching for the new pieces of luggage. “Here’s the deal, Willie...”

Into the pause, gunfire erupted outside. Starsky sprang up, drew his Beretta, and covered Olivera, Carlo, and the other lieutenant before they could draw their guns. Hutch rose quickly, unholstered his Magnum, and pointed it at Martinez.

Starsky deferred to Hutch. “Would you like to do the honors, partner?”

“No, Starsk. I think we’ll let Timmons have that pleasure. After all, we’re only guests in his jurisdiction.”

Agent Timmons and his flak-jacketed agents burst into the room at that moment, guns drawn. Rapidly, they spread out around Starsky, Hutch and the others.

Martinez rose to his feet exuding outrage. “Just who the fuck do you people think you are? This is my home! You can’t come in here.”

“Guillermo Julio Jesus Martinez…” Timmons displayed his identification and what was presumably a warrant while an agent spun Martinez around and cuffed him. “You are under arrest.”

Starsky and Hutch holstered their weapons and stepped out of the way. With the large number of people in the room it could have looked chaotic but things were actually quite organized as the agents searched Martinez and the others, removing and bagging a considerable number of guns and knives in the process. All were read their rights and led from the room, Martinez now screaming his protests in English and Spanish. Each piece of luggage was re-secured, sealed, tagged, and carried outside.

Timmons came over and placed a hand on Starsky’s left and Hutch’s right shoulder. “I’m no prognosticator but I see Lieutenants’ bars in your futures.”

Starsky glanced at Hutch and saw the same surprise in his partner’s eyes as he knew showed in his own.

Timmons grinned. “Captain Dobey told me if you guys pulled this off, he’d see to it that your police commission lived up to its implied promise.” He stepped back, as satisfied an expression on his face as Starsky had ever seen a Fed display. “We’ll debrief at my office first thing in the morning. I’m sure, with all the driving around you’ve been doing, it’ll be easy to find the Federal Building. You can give your statements about today at that time. Then, until the trials are ready to begin, you’re free to go home and polish up those new badges.”

“Thanks, Timmons.” Hutch shook the offered hand.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to leave the Ferrari behind, Detective Starsky.” Timmons reached for Starsky’s hand.

“No problem. If we weren’t ditchin’ these threads I’d be afraid the Torino would smell that fine Italian job on me. Even if she does though, I’ll deal with it.” Timmons and Hutch laughed and Starsky put his arm around Hutch’s shoulders. “Let’s get outta here, partner.”

Threading among the agents going busily about their activities, Starsky swept his gaze around all the opulence they passed on their way outside. “I guess crime does pay, Hutch.”

“Maybe for a while, Starsk. But, thankfully, not forever.”

Starsky paused after passing through the propped-open double front doors and, perfectly in sync, Hutch stopped with him. After a few moments, they started down the steps.

“My ‘stache and your VanDyke come off as soon as we get back to the hotel, Hutch.”

“Works for me, babe. And I’ll re-grow my hair as quickly as possible.”

“Can’t be too soon!”

Starsky climbed behind the wheel of the Ferrari and started the powerful engine. On the way out the curving driveway, two ‘Miami hats’ sailed out the red car’s windows, accompanied by heartfelt laughter.

*******

For Lieutenancies?
Think we can do it again?
Oh, why the hell not?

 

END