Chapter 1: Average Guys
“How much is it?”
“Uh…” Dave Starsky frowned as he tried to recall the amount on the meter. “Two fifty.”
“Here.” Candi dug through her purse and handed him a five dollar bill.
“Hey, no.” Dave tried to hand it back. “That’s way too much.”
“No it isn’t.” She set her purse down on the table next to the door. “Dave, nobody else is willing to take me to the store, then wait while I grab some groceries.”
“Well, you work so late – “ He shrugged and smiled at her. “It’s not right to make you get up early and go shopping before you have to go to work.”
“It’s nice of you to carry them upstairs for me, too.” She tucked the five into his shirt pocket and let her hands slide up his chest to his shoulders. “All the way up two flights.”
“Just tryin’ to help a lady out.” Dave laid a hand on her waist.
“Most guys don’t think a stripper’s much of a lady.”
“I’d just say they don’t know you very well.” He’d picked Candi up on several different nights, and she always went straight home. No stops at bars and no men coming home with her. Just the occasional stop for groceries. “It’s not like you’re turnin’ tricks.”
“God, no.” The curls at the nape of his neck begged for attention, and Candi slid her fingers through them. “I’d go back to being a secretary first. I type eighty words a minute, you know.”
“I’d noticed you’re very good with your hands.” Candi had moved until her body was brushing against his, and Dave put his hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer.
“You think I’m good with my hands…” Tilting her head, she pressed her lips to his.
Dave parted his lips and let her tongue in to play with his, sucking at it gently. His left hand slid inside her jacket to capture a soft breast while the other cupped her ass, pressing her firmly against him.
If he shocked her, Candi didn’t show it. One hand was tugging open his shirt buttons and the other was sliding over his hip and around to squeeze his ass. After a few moments, both of them were panting and gasping for air as the kisses and caresses grew more urgent.
Dave was busy nibbling on her ear and grinding himself against her when a sudden chiming made him jump. “What – the – “ He looked around the room. “What the hell was that?”
“The clock – ignore it.” Candi pulled his head back around and kissed him again.
“Wait – “ Breaking free, he looked at the clock. “It’s five? Geez, I’ve got to get the cab back.”
“It can’t wait?” She licked at the hollow of his throat.
“I wish – oh, geez – but no.” Dave stepped back reluctantly, giving her a couple of quick kisses as he went. “The cab has to be cleaned out and gassed up before the morning guy takes it out."
She pouted and he leaned back in for another kiss. Or two. “Then I got some paperwork – I can be back in an hour and a half tops.”
“I’ll be asleep by then.” Candi smiled at the disappointed look on his face. “Tell you what – I’m off on Monday. Why don’t you come by, say around six? I’ll cook dinner for you.”
“Dinner?” He waggled his eyebrows. “Watch out virtue, she’s plying me with food.”
“Maybe I’ll show you the new outfit I’ve been working on. Lots of spangles and sparkles.”
“That sounds nice.” Dave slid a finger along the soft, warm mounds above the lace of her bra. “Keep these warm for me?”
“I’ll keep them nice and warm.” She promised with a wink.
Sighing, he opened the door. “Later, sweetheart.”
Candi gave him a kiss as he backed out the door into the hall, giving him one last swirl of her tongue around his. “See you Monday, Dave.”
“Monday?” Licking his lips, Dave gave her a wobbly grin. “Do we have to wait ‘till Monday?”
The door closed and he stared at it for a minute. Take the cab back? Go get the girl? He weighed the options carefully and had to give in to his paycheck. He didn’t want to live with his aunt and uncle forever.
“Get fired and you won’t be able to buy the wine to go with dinner.” He skipped down the steps and went outside to his cab.
“I’m gonna get lucky on Monday.” Dave sang to himself as he started the cab and drove away. “I’m gonna get lucky on Monday. I’m gonna get – whoa!”
A car had pulled out of the alley in front of him and stopped. Dave slammed his foot down on the brake pedal, bringing the cab to a screeching halt inches from the rear bumper of the other car.
“What’s the matter with you?” He threw the cab into park. Opening the door, Dave got out. “Why don’t you look where you’re going?”
The car doors opened and two men got out. Dave recognized them. “Uh oh.”
“Ready to pay up?” One of them asked as they walked toward the cab.
“Shit!” Getting back into the cab, Dave dropped the gearshift into reverse. Lights from behind blinded him as he turned to look over his shoulder. The cab lurched forward as it was tapped from behind. “Holy shit!”
The night before, he’d been stopped by a pair of men who weren’t interested in a ride. They’d been short and to the point. They wanted a percentage of his nightly take or else. He’d said, just as clearly and to the point, no. If fuck you, I don’t pay protection money to goons like you meant no. Which, in Dave’s vocabulary, it did.
Apparently in their vocabulary it meant we’ll come back again tomorrow and we’ll bring friends.
“Hey, asshole!” One of the men banged a fist on the cab’s fender. “You ready to pay up?”
The cab was sandwiched between the two cars with no leeway to get out. Dave could see two men from the second car coming up along the passenger side. The other two were walking up to the driver’s door.
“Fifty fifty.” Shutting off the cab, he pocketed the keys. He pulled up on the door handle, unlatching it, but held it closed with one hand while raising the other as if he were giving in. Dave waited until the first man was next to the door.
“You’re gonna give it to us.”
“Okay.” Dave opened the door hard and fast, slamming it into him and knocking him down. He jumped out of the cab and took off at top speed.
Unfortunately, the second man avoided his falling partner and ran after Dave. He caught him within a few steps and tackled him.
A heavy weight hit his legs, and Dave stumbled and fell to the pavement. He yelped as the rough surface burned his hands and the side of his face. A knee to the kidneys added to his pain.
“Get him up!” The man he’d hit with the door ordered. “Bring the son of a bitch over here!”
Dave was jerked to his feet and dragged back to his cab.
“Get your paws off me!” He struggled against the two men until the third planted a fist in his gut.
They threw him against the side of his cab and he fell to his knees, clutching his stomach and retching.
“We’re gonna ask one more time –” The man he’d knocked down reached down and grabbed a handful of Dave’s hair to haul him to his feet. “Nicely – for our share.”
Gritting his teeth against the pain, Dave lurched forward, hoping to break the man’s grip and possibly clock him under the chin. His arms were caught before he could connect, and pinned behind his back.
“So, what do you say, kid?” The guy twisted Dave’s head back. “You ready to do business?”
“No!” He struggled, but he was held too tightly. “I don’t pay thugs for – “ The air went out of him in a hot rush as a fist slammed into his stomach.
“Kids today – who understands them?” The other three laughed at his joke as he raised his fist again.
They worked him over slowly, methodically. Their aim was to teach him a lesson without breaking bones. That would be lesson two if lesson one wasn’t effective enough.
Wheezing, Dave hung limp in their grip, long past having the strength to hold himself up. His ribs screamed against every breath trying to come in while his lungs begged for every ounce of air. It was a painful catch twenty two.
So far, they hadn’t hit him in the face; he wasn’t sure why. Marking someone’s face was a sign of disrespect. It wasn’t likely they wouldn’t –
A few million flashbulbs went off in his head as a fist hit his jaw.
There it is…
Another light show as his eye was introduced to a fist at high speed.
“He’s had enough.”
The pavement was getting much closer – closer – closer – close –
“That was asking nicely, kid, the next time you get a few days in the hospital … “
Why’s the bed so hard? An’ wet? Dave felt around for his pillow. The movement brought a ripple of pain along his side.
“Oh… God…” Carefully, he rolled over. He was still out in the street, probably lucky that nobody had run over him. It was still dark, which meant he hadn’t been out for very long.
His mouth was filled with blood, and Dave rolled to one side enough to spit it out, groaning and clutching his aching ribs.
“Get up – got to – get up – “ Feeling his way up the side of the cab to the door handle, he used it to pull himself to his knees. He panted, lying against the door to rest. Short, shallow breaths – Dave moaned as his ribs protested each one.
“Come on – get up – “ Deciding that one big and fast pain was better than a lot of slow ones, Dave forced himself up to his feet in one desperate heave. A sharp cry of pain echoed off the buildings. No lights went on, no windows opened. Nobody wanted to be involved.
He opened the door and fell inside, grabbing at the steering wheel to keep from falling over into the seat. If he lay down, he’d never get up again.
Digging in his jacket pocket, Dave found the keys and fumbled with the ignition key until if finally slid in. Thankfully, the old cab was an automatic. There was no way he’d have been able to manage a stick shift.
“Jesus… “ Laying on the steering wheel, he tried to clear his head. He had to drive at least ten minutes to get to the cab station, and he couldn’t do it if he couldn’t see straight.
On the floorboard was the cooler he kept ice and soda in, but he wasn’t sure he could reach it without ending up on the floor with it.
“Slow – go slow – “ Carefully, slowly, he reached down with his right hand, searching for the ice chest. Normally it was within easy reach – but now it seemed like miles away.
“Slow – slow – slow –“ His ribs were whimpering but they weren’t screaming and he didn’t want to crank up the volume. Feeling around carefully, Dave’s hand hit the money bag that was tucked between the cooler and the radio. It was empty.
“Of course it’s empty, stupid – “ Just past it, he finally found the cooler. “You think they’re gonna kick your ass for free?”
The cooler lid slid aside easy enough, and he scooped up a handful of ice. Pressing it to his face, he rubbed the ice across his forehead and eyes before holding it to his aching jaw.
He hadn’t had his ass kicked this good since basic training. At least these goons hadn’t used combat boots on him. This time. Ice water trickled down his neck and into his shirt, making the muscles there jerk and hurt.
Revived somewhat, Dave sucked some of the ice into his mouth to soothe his cut lip. It was bloody and nasty, but then so was the inside of his mouth. He started the cab and dropped it into drive.
“You’re not callin’ the cops!”
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Dave reached for the phone again.
“I said no!” Frank Rustin, the owner of Bay City Cabs, jerked the phone away once more. “You’re not calling the cops – I don’t want any trouble!”
“You’ve already got trouble!” He groaned as the throbbing in his head shot up another notch, and he continued in a lower tone. “You’ve got hoods hittin’ your drivers up for protection money.”
“And as long as they get it – we’ve got no problems.” The man looked Dave over critically. His left eye was black, his bottom lip split and swollen, and blood was streaked down the front of his shirt. “You look like crap.”
“Thank you.” Dave laid his head in his hands. “Crap was the look I was going for.”
“Look, you learned your lesson.” When Dave looked up, Rustin smiled. “I’ll let you slide on paying back the money – but from now on – you just hand over your share, got it?”
“No, I don’t got it.” He’d gotten the crap kicked out of him and robbed – and this asshole thought he was doing him a favor by not making him pay back the night’s fares? Getting slowly to his feet, Dave headed for the door. “No, I don’t fucking got it.”
“Take a couple days off, Dave!” Rustin called after him. “Get some rest!”
Outside, Dave unlocked his Camaro and got in. “Asshole.” Sinking into the leather seat, he considered giving in to temptation and closing his eyes – eye anyway – for a couple hundred years.
He’d just wake up with a stiff neck to go with his other aches and pains. Turning the key, Dave pulled out of the lot. It hurt his ribs and head – but soothed his pride – to leave a trail of expensive rubber on the street in front of Bay City Cabs.
“David? You’re so late, I thought maybe you had – “ Rosie turned as the back door opened, looking up from the bacon she was frying. “Oh my God – David!”
“I’m fine, Aunt Rosie.” He smiled for her, grimacing as it pulled on his split lip. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Sit down.” Shutting off the stove , she rushed to his side and helped him to a chair at the kitchen table. “You sit down – I’ll get some hot water.”
“Aunt Rosie – “ She was already gone, hurrying out of the kitchen and down the hall. “I just need a shower and some sleep.”
“I’m sitting – I’m sitting.” He crossed his arms on the table, pillowing his head on them.
His aunt was quickly back with bandages and peroxide, gently patting his back before going to fill a basin with water.
“David, sit up, and look at me.” When he raised his head, Rosie peered into the sapphire eyes. “Did they hit your head?”
“Just my face.” He couldn’t help smiling. Her face was so serious, her mouth pulled down into a frown.
Rosie ran her fingers through his hair, carefully searching for any bumps or cuts. Outwardly, she maintained a calm face – but inside she was crying. She and Al had never had children of their own, and just as she had resigned herself to not being a mother – David had come to live with them.
Even though David had been twelve years old, she had mothered him as much as possible. As much as he would let her. He had not been the perfect, quiet little child she had dreamed of when she had been a young girl in Okinawa, but she loved him more fiercely than she had ever imagined she would love a child.
“I’m okay, really.”
“You are not okay.” Rosie began to gently wash away the blood on his face. “We will clean you up and then you will call the police.”
“I’m not sure it’d do any good.” Closing his eyes, he sighed as the warmth eased some of the pain.
“Of course it will.” She insisted. “You have been beaten and – did they take your money?”
“Took it all.”
“And robbed.” The scrape on his face was carefully cleaned. “The police will find them and put them in jail.”
“What happened, Dave?”
Dave opened his eyes to see his uncle standing in the kitchen doorway. “People were asking for money and I wasn’t in the giving mood.”
“They mug you?” Al sat down at the table. “Or was it a shakedown?”
“Shakedown – ow!” Dave flinched as his aunt put peroxide on his scraped cheek. The move made his ribs send a reminder that they were bruised and battered and moving was not the smartest thing to do.
“David?” Rosie set the bottle aside, concerned at the way he hissed his breath in between clenched teeth. “Where else are you hurt?”
“Check the boy’s ribs.” Al got up and went to the hall closet to get an old sheet.
Rosie unbuttoned the bloody shirt and helped him pull it off. She gasped at the bruises that covered his ribs and stomach.
“They’re just bruised up, Aunt Rosie.” The guys were pros. His ribs weren’t broken because they didn’t want them broken. “I’m all right.”
“It looks very bad.” She shook her head. “We must call the police.”
“Won’t do any good, Rosie.” Shaking out the sheet, Al began ripping it into wide strips.
“Why?” She looked up at him. “There was a crime and they will solve it.”
Dave loved his aunt, but her simple faith in the police made him smile and shake his head.
“I should’ve warned you, Dave.” Al tossed the strips onto the table. “I figured they were getting their cut from the owner – not the drivers.”
“You knew about this?” Dave looked up at him. “You knew about this and you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t think – “ He ran a hand through his hair. “I just didn’t think.”
Dave took a good look at his uncle. At the slump of his shoulders and the worry on his face. “You’re payin’ them?”
“Last year, this guy moves in and sets up a protection racket.” Al sat down at the table again. “He’s got the muscle to back it up – so everybody pays.”
“I’m not payin’ for the privilege of working crappy hours in a beat up old cab.”
“You’re paying this man, Al?” Rosie turned to her husband. “But that is not right.”
“It’s the way things are, honey.”
“Since when?” Dave demanded. “You came out here to get away from this crap, remember?”
“Sometimes it follows you.” Reaching out, Al brushed back a strand of black hair that had escaped from the tidy bun Rosie kept it in.
“Stand up, David, and let me wrap your ribs.” Rosie patted his shoulder lightly.
Using the table for support, Dave got slowly to his feet. He lifted his arms out of the way as best he could so that his aunt could wrap his ribs. “I can’t believe you’re not standing up to this guy.”
“I did. And they busted some windshields – set a car on fire – so I paid.” His uncle shrugged. “I’m still making money. This guy’s just dipping his beak a little.”
“My father would have stood up to this guy.”
“And that’s why your father’s dead!” Al slapped his hand down on the table.
“David. Al.” Rosie finished pinning the bindings and stood up. “Al, that was very disrespectful toward David’s father.”
Rosie stood barely five feet tall, and she never raised her voice, but both men fell silent.
“I’m sorry, Dave.” Al shook his head. “I shouldn’t have said that. Mike was a great guy – I’ve got nothing but respect for him, you know that – I loved him like he was my own brother.”
“I know.” Dave sat down again. The tight wrapping had helped to ease the ache in his ribs. “Thank you, Aunt Rosie, I feel better.”
“You’ll feel better with breakfast and rest.” Opening a drawer, she took out a bottle of aspirin. “And two of these.”
“I can’t argue with that.” He held his hand out for the aspirin. “Or these.”
Al poured a cup of coffee and slid it across the table to him. “What happened?”
“They stopped me night before last and said they wanted me to pay them a cut of my fares.” Washing down the aspirin with a swallow of coffee, Dave continued. “I said no, so they asked me again tonight.”
“And they took your money?”
“Don’t worry about it.” His uncle poured himself a cup of coffee. “I’ll cover it for you.”
“The boss said I didn’t have to pay it back.” Dave made a face. “This time.”
“Well that’s one less thing to worry about.”
Rosie set a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him, gently patting his shoulder as she did so. “It is a little cold, but still good.” She set another plate in front of Al before going back to the stove.
“Dave, why don’t you come back to work for me?” Al asked. “Then you won’t have to worry about any of this.”
“That would be perfect.” Rosie sat down at the table with her own breakfast plate. “You can learn all about the car business. Al will retire some day, and you can take over.”
“I’m – I – “ Dave didn’t want to disappoint his aunt, but working for his uncle seemed too much like some kid working for Daddy because he couldn’t hold down a real job. “I dunno – I like driving a cab.”
“David, the hours are awful – you work all night and in a very bad neighborhood.” She turned to her husband for support. “David was very good selling cars for you, wasn’t he?”
“He was – it’d be good to have him back.” That was the truth and then some. David had started working for him when he was sixteen and had quickly become his best salesman. The damn war had interrupted a promising career.
“I kinda like driving a cab.” Dave pushed his eggs around with his fork. “I meet a lot of interesting people. Tonight I took a lady to the store and helped carry her groceries upstairs for her.”
“You were always a good boy.” Rosie patted his hand. “You’ve become a good man.”
Good thing I left out the part about the tonsil hockey. “Thanks, Aunt Rosie.”
“I thought about getting in touch with Joey – see if he could get this guy to lay off.” Al said quietly. “But I didn’t want to end up owing him a favor.”
“He couldn’t protect his friend.” Dave shoved the plate away. “What makes you think he can protect us?”
Al knew that Dave blamed Joe for his father’s death. It didn’t matter to him that Joe hadn’t known what was going to happen or been in a position to stop it – he pinned the blame squarely on Joe Durniak.
“The boss told me to take a couple of days off.” Dave ran his fingers over his swollen jaw. No way he could take on those guys in the shape he was in. “That’ll give me time to figure out what to do.”
“Rosie, honey – “ Al turned to his wife and gave her a sheepish smile. “I couldn’t find my blue tie with the little red stripes – I was going to wear it today.”
“Al, I don’t know what to think of you sometimes.” Getting up from the table, Rosie patted her husband’s shoulder lovingly. “I will find it for you.”
Al moved closer to his nephew after she’d left the kitchen. “Dave, I know what you’re thinking.”
“I’m just taking a few days off.” He looked down at the tabletop.
“Look at me – look at me – “ Al waited until Dave looked back up. “These guys play for keeps – they’ll put you in the hospital, or worse.”
“So I’m supposed to just tuck tail and run?” He hissed. “Pay up like a good boy?”
“You gotta do what you gotta do, Dave.” Standing, Al laid a hand on his shoulder. “I just don’t want to have to call your mother and tell her she’s gotta buy you a box.”
Dave slumped back in his chair and watched his uncle walk out of the kitchen. What am I gonna do?
On the one hand, he could go back to work for his uncle and close his eyes to the fact that his uncle was paying gangsters to protect him from them. On the other hand, he could go back to work driving a cab and pay the same gangsters to protect him from them. On another hand, he could go back to work driving a cab and not pay the gangsters to protect him from them, and end up in traction. On the other hand – he was out of hands.
“I should’ve done the GI Bill thing and went to college.” Dave sighed. “I’d be livin’ the life of leisure with no worries.”
“As you can see, in this instance, all charges against your client will be dropped.”
Ken Hutchinson frowned as the professor finished. “But, sir – “
“Yes, Mr. Hutchinson?”
“But, he’s guilty.” There were a few snickers from behind him, and he felt his face get hot. “Isn’t that – “
“You must always use the law to benefit your client.” The professor tapped his book. “In this case, sloppy procedure by the police allowed the client’s attorney to have the evidence thrown out. With no evidence, there was no case.”
“I can see that, but – “ He closed his textbook. “But if you know your client is guilty – “
“Even if your client is guilty – ” Addressing the entire class now, the professor held up one of the law books he kept on his desk. “You must defend your client to the best of your ability – you must take advantage of any and all laws that will help you. To do otherwise is to cheat your client of the best possible defense – as well as leaving yourself open to disbarment.”
“What about justice?”
Clearly irritated, the professor turned to him. “The law is not about justice, Mr. Hutchinson. The law is about providing your client with the best possible legal defense – ergo – your job is clear.”
The timer on the professor’s desk buzzed, indicating that the hour was up. He set down the law book and shut the timer off. “Class dismissed.”
Getting up, Ken pulled his jacket off the back of his chair and shrugged into it. He picked up his textbook, running his fingers over the lettering on the cover. Ethics And The Law. “Looks like the two things are mutually exclusive.”
Outside the building, Ken pulled his jacket around himself as the cold air hit him. Spring in Minnesota was still considered winter in most places. He walked past groups of students, ignoring friends who called out to him. He was in a funk, and he wanted to stay that way.
More and more, he was becoming disillusioned with his studies. The farther he got into pre-law – the less he liked it. It was less about helping people and more about twisting the law – tangling it around until it was a mockery.
Walking up the stairs to his frat house, Ken went inside and upstairs to his own room. He threw his book on the desk and collapsed into the chair. He couldn’t even look forward to working at his father’s law firm. Not that he ever really had.
Over Christmas break, he’d worked at his father’s office, his father saying it would be a better experience than going to Vail with his friends. It had been an experience all right. He’d had a front row seat to see his father neatly twist the law into a bow to get a client off just in time for Christmas.
The son of one of his father’s best clients had gotten drunk and caused an accident that had left two people dead. Because someone else had purchased the beer they’d gotten drunk on – the boy driving was somehow not responsible for the accident. The boy’s father had sent over a bottle of champagne for the legal team to celebrate their victory. There was no word on how the victim’s families viewed the outcome.
“This isn’t what I want to do. I want to help people.” Ken looked up at his poster of Raquel Welch. “Tell me the secrets of life, Raquel, how can I help people?”
Raquel didn’t answer. She stood frozen, forever poised to flee the dinosaur just out the camera’s range – or maybe a group of horny cavemen who liked the way she looked in that fur bikini.
He’d considered joining the district attorney’s office after he graduated – but his father had put his foot down on that idea. When he passed the bar, Ken would be joining his father’s firm. Period. End of childish rebellion.
“Would it be simpler if I was a caveman?” Looking up at Raquel in her fashionable fur ensemble, Ken smiled. “My father would probably want me to only kill one kind of dinosaur. Hutchinsons only kill woolly mammoths, my boy.”
He picked up the catalog for summer courses and thumbed through it. “Maybe I could be a doctor. I could set broken bones and stitch up cuts. Dr. Hutchinson. How are we doing today? I’m doing fine, Dr. Hutchinson. Mom would like that.” And his father would give him that look that said he was such a disappointment.
A knock on his door made him sigh. “Go away.”
The door opened, and one of his frat brothers stuck his head inside. “Hey, Ken, there’s a protest over at the Delta house.”
“I don’t feel like protesting the war right now, Rick.” He shook his head. “I’m thinking about switching my major. How’s pre-med sound?”
“Yeah, sure, like your dad would let you.” Rick snickered. “Come on, it’s gonna be cool.”
“What good does protesting do?” The war in Vietnam was something that Ken felt was wrong, but he didn’t believe that walking around carrying signs and singing Give Peace A Chance was going to do a lot of good.
“We’re just going to sit around and sing, maybe smoke a little.” His friend grinned. “There’s going to be plenty of chicks.”
“Ah, so it’s really a party disguised as a protest?” Most of the protests were.
“Hey, man, any excuse to party is all right by me.”
Looking at the books on his desk, Ken knew he had a test the next day and a paper to turn in. All for a major he was coming to hate with a passion. “What the hell, let’s go.”
“Get your guitar, man.” Rick picked the guitar up and handed it to him. “You know the chicks love to hear you sing.”
“And what do you get out of it?”
Laughing, Ken pushed him toward the door.
There was a pleasant buzz in his head, and Ken leaned back, sipping from his glass of wine. The girl snuggled into his side was very into tracing his face with her fingers. Debbie? Darlene? Donna? Oh well. She was pretty and blonde, and very friendly. That much he could remember.
The party was in full swing, with plenty of wine and grass being shared. He didn’t care for the feeling he’d gotten from pot the few times he’d tried it in the past, so he’d skipped hitting the pipe or any of the joints being passed around. There was enough secondhand smoke in the air to help him feel tranquil and relaxed, and he did like those feelings.
Around the room were little pockets of anti-war talk, enough to classify the party as a protest, he supposed. But mostly it was a quiet little party. The blonde – Dixie? – moved to press her lips to his and Ken kissed her back, a long slow kiss with just the right amount of tongue to make it interesting.
The sofa rocked as someone sat down on the other side of him. Someone loud.
“Man, I was really freaked for awhile about it, but it’s cool now, you know?”
“You really got one? Man!” Another voice, just as loud, replied.
It wasn’t a pleasant conversation to make out by. Ken opened his eyes. His friend Lewis was sitting next to him and Rick was sitting on the floor in front of the couch. “You guys mind keeping it down?”
“Lewis got a draft notice.” Rick told him.
“You did?” Ken avoided the girl’s lips for a moment. “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing.” Lewis shrugged.
“Nothing?” Sitting up, Ken ignored the pout from – Dedra? – and focused on his friend. “How can you be so calm? I’d think you’d be freaking out over this.”
“My dad has probably already fixed it. So why freak, man?”
“Yeah.” Rick took a long hit off the joint he held before passing it to Lewis. After a few lung torturing moments, he blew the smoke out again. “My dad’ll take care of it for me if it happens, so what is there to worry about?”
“What, me worry?” Lewis said, making him and Rick both giggle. “Ken, man, relax. Your dad has probably already fixed it for you, too.”
“You can’t just fix this kind of thing.” Both of them looked at him and giggled again, making Ken feel like he was the only sane person in the room. “This is the government.”
“Yeah, man, and the government makes rules.” Lewis handed the joint to the little blonde at Hutch’s side, knowing his buddy was too straight to toke. “And lawyers love to play with the rules.”
“This is different, there’s a war going on.” There was no way his father could ‘fix’ something like a draft notice. Was there? “With a war – “
“Let’s not talk about the war.” A redheaded girl walked over and sat down next to Rick. “Play us some songs, man.”
“Peace, man.” Rick winked at him. “It’s about getting a piece.”
Unwinding the blonde’s arms – Deena? – from around him, Ken picked up his guitar. He strummed slowly to warm his fingers up, waiting until everyone settled comfortably around him before he began to sing.
“For every thing, turn, turn, turn,
There is a season, turn, turn, turn,
And a time for every purpose under heaven.”
“Come back to bed.”
“I wish I could.” Ken pulled a pair of clean jeans on. He had less than twenty minutes to get dressed and get across campus to class. Grabbing the books he needed for his morning classes, he looked regretfully at the pretty girl in his bed. “I really wish I could, but I’ve got a test this morning in Civil Procedure.”
”We could test something else.” She sat up and let the sheet fall to show her naked breasts.
“Ah… oh… “ Resolutely, he turned and opened the door. “I hate my life.”
Outside, Ken ran across campus. If he could get to class a little early he’d have a chance to look over his notes for the exam. An exam he should have studied for instead of going to the party last night. A grin covered his face. Too bad it’s not an anatomy test, I studied that most of the night.
The clock on the wall read ten minutes till the hour when he skidded into the classroom. Maybe he could cram enough information into his head in ten minutes to get a passing grade. There was an empty seat next to Lewis, and he sat down and pulled out his notes.
Lewis was blinking sleepily and reading over his own notes.
“Hey, man, how are you doing?” Ken thought that Lewis had seemed pretty calm last night, but he was probably worried about the draft notice this morning.
“Nah, I think I got enough studying in before the party last night.” Lewis held up his notes. “Got a copy of Lamont’s notes just in case.”
“I meant about the draft notice.” Ken looked down at his notes. Luckily, he took damn good notes, with plenty of detail.
“I talked to my dad this morning. It’s all taken care of.”
“Taken care of?” He turned to Lewis. “What do you mean?”
“It’s fixed, man.” Lewis glanced up from the notes and saw the look on Ken’s face. “Hey, man, don’t worry. You know your old man can fix it for you if your number comes up. He’s got more pull than my old man does.”
“You can’t just – “ Other students shushed him and Ken lowered his voice. “You can’t just fix this kind of thing. If you’re drafted, then you have to go.”
“Yeah, right, man.” Lewis laughed. “Your dad has probably already fixed it for you.”
Looking back down at his notes, Ken tried to study them, but he couldn’t shake the idea out of his head that his father might have somehow ‘fixed’ things for him.
“All right, class, put away your notes.” The instructor got up from her desk. “Books and papers under your seats.”
Obediently, Ken put his notes inside his textbook and set it under his seat. He took the exam paper the instructor held out.
“This is for one third of your grade.” She walked past him, handing out exams to the others. “If you’re failing at this point and you fail this test – it’s over.”
Ken looked down at the test. Nothing came to him. Not a single word. His grade in this class was already on the edge of falling from a high C. Failing this test would kill his grade point average. Never mind that it was required for pre-law, or that his father would never let him hear the end of it.
Sighing, he read through the questions looking for any that would spark his memory. “I should have skipped the college thing.” He sighed. “I’d be an average working guy without any worries.”
Up next: Dinner And A Show
Chapter 2: Dinner And A Show
“I’m sorry, Dave.”
“You’re sorry?” Dave held the beer bottle to his swollen jaw.
“We’ve been trying to catch the guy.” John Blaine eyed the black eye and scraped face. Not too bad, and it could have been far worse. “So far there’s just the little fish out on the street. We haven’t been able to get to him.”
“His boys won’t talk?”
“They just sit there and wait till their lawyer bails them out.” John took a drink of his beer. “Have I told you how much I hate lawyers?”
“Not in the last five minutes.” He laughed, grimacing as his jaw twinged in pain.
“Lawyers have their place.” Al said. “Preferably under a bus.”
“No shop talk, John.” Maggie called from the kitchen window. “You promised.”
“Yes, dear.” He said meekly, winking at Dave.
They were sitting in the backyard, the gate between their backyard and the Blaines’ standing open. Al was at the barbeque grill, minding the steaks there, while Maggie and Rosie worked in the kitchen.
“Maybe I can help.” Dave offered. “After all, these guys are going to come after me again once I go back to work.”
“Dave.” Al pointed his barbeque tongs at him. “These guys play for keeps.”
“I know that.”
“He’s right, Dave.” John took another drink of his beer. “Don’t think that everybody has caved in and paid up.”
“They had to set a few examples. I know how it works.” Dave shrugged. “But you know I can help with this. They know I’m not a cop – so maybe I can get them to let something slip. Maybe get their boss’ name.”
“I don’t know, Dave.” John didn’t like the idea at all. He’d watched Dave grow up right next door and felt almost like he was an uncle to the boy. He and Maggie had never had kids, which might be for the best, all things considered, and there were times that Dave had filled that void in their lives. Putting him in danger wasn’t something he wanted to consider doing. “You’re a civilian – you shouldn’t be involved.”
“And that’s a weak ass argument.” Dave took a drink of his beer. “I’m gonna get my ass kicked again – how much more involved can I be?”
“You could come to work for me.” His uncle said as he flipped the steaks over.
“There you go, go to work for your uncle.”
“You want me to be a coward? Between the two of you, I’ve had – almost – “ He got up from his chair and went to lean against the fence. “You’ve both kinda been like – you know – my pop – and I can’t believe that you’d want me to just roll over. I know he wouldn’t.”
Al and John looked at each other. He had them there. Two men without a son, both doing their best to raise one. They’d tried to instill values and integrity in the rebellious, wounded boy – maybe they’d been too successful.
“We’re not asking you to roll over.” Al told him. “We just don’t want you to get yourself hurt – or killed.”
“I’m not looking to get myself killed.” He walked back to his chair and sat down again. “I just got back from a war zone – surviving and getting home was all I could think of. But if I’ve got to give in to someone like this – I gotta wonder why.”
“Dave, I’ll talk to my captain – but I’m not promising anything.” There was no doubt in John’s mind that his captain would tell him no. “But if he says no – then you forget going back to work for the cab company – deal?”
“Deal.” Leaning forward, Dave shook his hand. “We’re gonna get this guy.”
“Dave…” Sighing, Al flipped the steaks again. “Why don’t you go see if your Aunt Rosie and Aunt Maggie are ready to eat?”
“Sure.” Putting down his beer, Dave went into the house. “Hey, dinner’s ready!”
“Don’t worry, Al.” John fished a cold beer out of the ice chest and took it over to him. “There’s no way that Captain Sullivan will agree to let Dave help us.”
“I hope the hell not.” Popping the cap off, Al took a deep drink. “His mother will kill me.”
“His mother’s going to kill me.” John muttered.
“Relax, Blaine. We’re sitting right here watching the kid.” His partner told him for what felt like the thousandth time. “We’ve got him wired and there’s three cars out here to keep an eye on him.”
“I know, I know.” And a dozen things could go wrong.
When he’d suggested the idea to Captain Sullivan, it had been only because he’d assumed that the idea would be immediately shot down. Instead, Sullivan had said he’d think about it. John hadn’t worried – it sounded like a polite way to say no. Three hours later, Sullivan had called him into his office to discuss the specifics, and two nights later here they were.
“His mother’s going to kill me.” John said again. “And then Rosie and – if there’s anything left – Maggie.”
“Shut up, John.” His partner said. “He’s stopping.”
A man and woman coming out of a café had flagged the cab down, and it pulled over to pick them up.
Dave was a little nervous, but excited as well. It felt good to be doing something about the goons that were holding people up. Bet Pop would be proud of me. The tape itched where it was stuck to his chest and belly, and he was sure to lose some hair when it came off, but it made him feel a bit like James Bond.
He’d played meek and mild for Rustin when the man had questioned him. Told him that he was from New York after all and knew how things worked. He just wanted to make a living. The cab owner had smiled and patted him on the back before telling him to get his ass to work.
There’d only been routine pickups so far, people going out and people coming home. But it was getting late and his friends should be showing up soon. Dave tried not to glance in the rearview mirror too much. John had assured him they’d be tailing him and he had to trust him on that.
After he dropped off the couple at their apartment building and pocketed his quarter tip, Dave had only gone a few blocks when a dark sedan pulled out in front of him. Another one quickly cut him off from behind.
“Here we go. This is them.” He said quietly.
John gripped the steering wheel tightly. Beside him, his partner checked in with the other two units. Everyone was in place and ready.
Two men got out of the car in front and walked back to the driver’s side of the cab. Dave bit back a grin when he noticed they did so a little more carefully this time. John had told him to stay in the cab, and he did so, rolling down the window as the men got closer. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that two more men had walked up to the passenger door.
“You ready to cooperate?” One of the men leaned in the open window. “Or do we need to ask a little less nice this time.”
“Hey, I’m willin’ to cooperate. I just need better terms.” He looked up at the guy and gave a sheepish grin. “I gotta make a living, too, you know.”
The guy laughed. “We all gotta make a living, kid.”
“Hey, cut a vet some slack. I’m just getting back on my feet.”
“You went to Vietnam?” The guy asked. “That war’s a mess.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Tell you the truth, kid. I’d like to. I’m a vet myself.” Shrugging, the guy reached in and grabbed Dave’s collar. “But the boss wouldn’t like that, you understand?”
“I shoulda stayed in New York.” Dave said. “Went to work for Durniak and made some real money.”
“Durniak?” John said in surprise. His partner’s eyebrows went up.
“Durniak?” The goon let go of Dave’s shirt. “What’d you know about Durniak?”
“Joey? He’s my uncle.” Dave shrugged as if everybody had a gangster for an uncle. “I coulda went to work for him, but I thought I’d come out here and try the straight and narrow, make my mom happy, you know?”
The guy leaned back and looked at the men with him. They shook their heads. For all they knew this kid was full of shit, but they didn’t want to tangle with Durniak. He leaned back in the window. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Dave.” He smiled up at the guy. “You gonna call him?”
John pulled his gun out. This was not going according to plan. He knew a little about Dave’s background from Al, and he knew that Durniak had had something to do with Mike Starsky’s death, but he didn’t know exactly what.
“This may go sour.” His partner muttered. He’d pulled his gun out as well and had his hand on the door handle. They were a block back, but they should be able to get to the kid before he got roughed up too bad.
“You know, why don’t you take me to meet your boss?” Dave suggested. “I’m intereseted in making some money – more than I can make driving a damn cab.”
“What about your mother?” The guy asked.
“Well, I won’t tell her if you won’t.” Dave grinned.
If the kid was full of shit, he was doing a hell of an acting job. On the other hand, he had some balls. “Tell you what kid. I’ll tell the boss. We’ll let you know.”
“You do that.” Dave pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket. “Here. For now here’s my money. I’ll pay up and you don’t slap me around – that’s the deal, right?”
“Say it, say it, you son of a bitch.” John glared at the guy leaning in the cab window, trying to will him to say what they needed to get on tape. “Come on…”
“No?” Dave looked up at the guy, surprised to find the money still in his hand. “What? You gonna beat me up anyway?”
“Listen. We’ll let tonight go.” Motioning for the two men on the other side of the cab to get back in their car, the guy patted Dave on the shoulder. “We’ll talk again.”
“But – “ He watched as they walked back to their cars and drove off. “Well that didn’t work worth a shit.”
“Damn it!” John put his gun back. “All they had to do was say yes and take the money!”
“Think maybe they spotted us?” His partner ran a hand through his hair. “Maybe they spotted the tail?”
“They wouldn’t have stopped him if they had.”
“Well, hell.” Dave looked around, trying to spot the car John was in. “I guess I just go on back to the station now?”
John flashed the lights at him, letting him know he’d heard him and was agreeing.
“All right then.” Starting the cab, he headed for the cab station. “It’s been a fun evening here on the Dave Starsky Variety Show. Please tune in tomorrow night for another exciting evening.”
“The kid’s a comedian.” John’s partner said. “He oughta join the force.”
“That’s a thought.”
“I was kidding.”
“Here we go again, ladies and germs.” Dave said as a familiar dark sedan pulled out in front of him. He stopped and glanced up in the rearview mirror. No second car. “The other guys – where the hell are they?”
John was wondering the same thing. “Everybody stay sharp.”
“Hey, kid.” The guy from the night before walked back to the cab and leaned in the window.
“Nice night. You come here often?”
“Park the cab.” The guy walked back to his car.
“Park the cab?” Dave shrugged and eased the cab over to the curb as the sedan pulled up out of the way. “Not the response I was looking for. Though I suppose it coulda been worse. The you come here often line might have gotten me an indecent proposal.”
“What the hell are they doing?” John watched nervously as Dave got out of the cab. His partner shrugged.
“Come on, kid, I ain't got all night.” The guy opened the back door of the sedan. “Get in.”
“No!” John scrambled to get out of the car.
“We going somewhere?” Dave walked up to the car, trying to not let his nervousness show. His knees were wobbly and his heart was pounding so loud that John could probably hear it through the wire. “Usually I get dinner and a movie before I go home with a date.”
“Just shut up and get in, kid. The boss wants to talk to you.”
“A command performance?” Hoping his laugh didn’t sound too nervous, Dave got in the car. He forced himself to look forward. John had promised a tail and he had to keep the faith. “So early in my career, too.”
The door closed and the guy got back into the front seat.
“John!” His partner grabbed at him. “Get back in the car!”
“David!” John watched the sedan pull away. “Damn it!”
“Get back in the car!” The other man ordered again. “We’ve got three cars – we can tail him!”
“Oh, Jesus…” Getting back in the car, John pulled out to follow the sedan. Dimly he could hear the other two units checking in. One slip up – if they were spotted – David could get his brains blown out before they could get to him. “Tell them to be careful!”
“I am.” His partner assured him. “The kid will be all right, John. He’s a sharp one. If it starts going bad, he can handle himself.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Dave hadn’t been this nervous since the flight out of Vietnam. He’d kept waiting for it to turn back. All the way back to the States he’d kept waiting for someone to say there’d been a mistake and he had to go back to the war.
“So, you boys from New York?” He waited and nobody answered.
Folding his hands in his lap, he concentrated on relaxing as much as he could. He’d just come back from a war zone – sitting in a comfortable car shouldn’t be half as nerve wracking. Except he was on his way to meet with a mob boss and wearing a wire. Dave swallowed hard.
I wish I was somewhere nice. Sitting down to a family dinner like a normal person.
“Kenneth, dear, not that I don’t love having you home for dinner, but you really should let me know when you’re coming.”
“That way I can be sure that Cook makes enough.”
There was enough food on the table to feed six people – or more. Ken smiled at his mother. “I’ll call next time.”
“That’s a good boy.” She went back to her crab salad.
“Roger Wheaton stopped in today.” His father said. “He and Cheryl would like for us to come out for dinner this weekend.”
“I hope you made an excuse for us?” A look of distaste crossed her face. “They’re both so… well… not people I want to associate with.”
“I understand, dear.” His tone held the same distaste as her expression. “However, he is one of my best clients. Don’t worry, dear, we’ll spend just enough time to satisfy politeness.”
“If we must.”
His parents continued to talk about various upcoming social events and other safe topics. There was no talk of business at the table, unless it was a particularly good victory or something of that nature.
“Kenneth, how is school?” Leaning back, she allowed the butler to remove her salad plate.
“Everything is fine.” He smiled at Walters and the man ignored him as if he were part of the furniture. It was hard to tell who was snootier around here, the staff or his parents. That’s what you got for hiring an English butler.
“Remember to keep your grades up.” Lawrence took a drink of his wine. “You belong on the Dean’s list.”
“Uh, yes, well…” That wasn’t happening this semester, and he’d live with the fallout all summer. “One of my friends, Lewis, he uh… he got a draft notice the other day.”
“Kenneth.” His father gave him an irritated look. “We don’t discuss the war – especially at the table.”
“I was just wondering what would happen.”
“You shouldn’t worry about it. I know Lewis’ father.” Walters set a plate in front of Lawrence, and he picked up his dinner fork. “That boy won’t be going anywhere.”
“The deferment is easy enough to get. The boy is in law school, after all.”
“The veal is dry.” Vivian sighed. “I gave strict instructions on how it was to be cooked.”
“What – what if I get one?” Ken ignored the look his mother sent his way.
“And why is the asparagus limp?” She lifted a green stalk with her fork.
“B – but – “ The words were trying to back up in his throat like they used to do. “How do you know?”
“Kenneth, you’re upsetting your mother.”
Ken looked at his mother – she was frowning at her plate. She wasn’t upset with him, she was too busy criticizing the meal as she always did. “Father, did you fix it somehow?”
“Don’t worry. My son won’t be going to Vietnam. You’re too important.” Lawrence smiled slightly. “Let someone else go.”
“Someone else?” He dropped his fork. “How am I more important than anyone else?”
“Kenneth, you’re a young man from a good family with a bright future.”
“I agree with your father.” Vivian finally spoke up about something besides the food. “This way some boy with no future can have a career in the military instead of being a general laborer.”
“If he doesn’t die first?”
“Kenneth!” His mother gasped and laid a hand to her throat. “Really!”
“Kenneth, enough of this, you’re upsetting your mother over nothing.”
Picking up his fork, Ken began to eat. The only thing that would upset his mother was if he weren't there for the annual mother and son fashion show at her garden club.
The rest of the meal passed in silence.
“Give me a Jack Daniels and coke.”
“Give me an ID.”
“For God’s sake – “ Ken pulled out his driver’s license. Will I always have a baby face? I’ll be fifty and still getting carded. He laid a five dollar bill on the bar. “Just keep them coming.”
The bartender handed the license back. Setting a glass on the bar, he filled it with ice, poured a shot of Jack Daniels over it and then filled it with coke.
The first two went down quickly, and Ken nursed the third. He didn’t feel like going back to the campus and hitting the hangout where everyone went for beer. He wanted to be alone for a while.
Somewhere between numbers four and five, someone walked up and leaned on the bar beside him.
“That’s me.” Turning, he saw a man about his father’s age. Please don’t let him be hitting on me.
The name rang a bell. “You know my father?”
“Right. We went to school together.”
“That’s right.” Now Ken remembered meeting the man a few years ago. “Sit down.”
“Thanks.” He waved at the bartender. “Get me a beer, will ya?”
“Didn’t you move to California?”
“Bay City.” Nodding, he took a drink of the beer the bartender set in front of him. “I’m here to pick up a prisoner.”
“Prisoner?” That sounded intriguing.
“A guy who killed a woman in Bay City was arrested here. I get to be the lucky guy to take him back.”
“You’re a cop.” Now, Ken remembered his father introducing him to Luke. The two of them had grown up and gone to school together. That was before Luke’s father made ‘some poor business decisions’ according to his father. “My father said you were going to be a lawyer and then – “
“And then my old man made some mistakes.” Luke laughed. “It’s okay, kid, I can imagine what your father told you.”
Ken’s face grew hot, and he knew he had to be blushing. He took another sip of his drink to cover his embarrassment.
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”
“Ken, I read people for a living.” Luke set his beer bottle on the bar. “I can tell something’s on your mind.”
“It’s just school. You know how it is.”
“You know, Ken, I’m not family or a school buddy or a teacher. You can tell me whatever you want – I’m not going to judge you.”
Luke’s eyes were kind and understanding, and Ken found himself pouring out the whole story. School and the contradictions between the law and justice. About his father’s law practice and how they were twisting and perverting the law for their clients. And now the issue of the draft.
“I’m only too aware of how people use the law for their own purposes.” Luke said when Ken finished. “And I can’t say I’m surprised by your father. When we were in school, we used to argue about the right way to do things.”
“He’s always wanted me to be a lawyer – join the firm.” Ken pushed his drink back. “I thought that maybe if I were a lawyer that I’d be helping people. But it looks like I’d only help the people for the right fee.”
“If you want to help people – if you really want to help people – you should consider becoming a cop.”
“What are you, crazy?” Imagining his parents’ reactions, Ken laughed. “I’d have to be crazy.”
“No, seriously. Listen.” Luke leaned on the bar. “This guy I’m here to get, he was a pimp and he started using. Then he started dealing drugs to help support his habit.”
Ken found himself leaning forward and listening eagerly as Luke told how the guy’s life had spiraled out of control until one night he slit the throat of one of his girls when he found her sneaking into his stash.
“The guy has a brother here, so it was a simple matter of tracking him down.” Luke finished. “Back in Bay City, he’ll get life. That’s the end of his career as a pimp, pusher, junkie – and murderer.”
“That’s – that’s exciting. I mean – “ Ken tried to imagine the feeling of taking someone like that off the street and putting them in jail. Forever. “And that’s helping – that’s really helping. That’s not twisting the law around to keep someone out of jail that deserves to be there.”
“Ken, if you’re really serious about wanting to help people, if you want to do some good in this world – “ Luke pointed a finger at him. “Become a cop.”
“I – I don’t know – “ He laughed nervously. The idea was intriguing as hell, but there was no way he could do that. “I don’t think I could do that.”
“Listen, you ever come out to Bay City, I’ll write you a letter of recommendation for the Academy.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Don’t I?” Smiling, Luke dropped the money on the bar to pay for his beer. “Listen, kid, like I said, I read people for a living – and I can read you like a book. You want to help people and you want to do what’s right. You’d make a hell of a cop.”
“My father would never let me.” Ken sighed. It had been a fun fantasy, but that’s all it was.
“You’re what? Twenty two? Twenty three?” The kid had a baby face, but Luke was pretty sure he was at least twenty two.
“Twenty two.” He looked Ken square in the eye. “It’s time you made your own decisions. It’s your life, Ken – not his.”
Luke walked out of the bar, leaving Ken sitting and wondering if he was right.
Could he stand up to his father and walk away from the life his parents had planned out for him? What would it be like to arrest someone and take them off the streets so they couldn’t hurt anyone again?
I wish I was somewhere dirty and gritty. Getting ready to take some piece of scum down.
Up next: Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Chapter 3: Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
The sedan pulled up to a large warehouse and stopped.
Why do mobsters always hole up in warehouses? Do they watch too many old gangster movies? Dave asked himself. Why not in a nice hotel? One with room service?
The driver got out and opened Dave’s door. “Get out, kid.”
“What? No red carpet?” Getting out, he glanced around, trying to spot another car behind them. Or anywhere. Nothing. What, me worry?
“Turn around and put your hands on the car.”
“Why – “ He was grabbed and spun around to face the side of the car. “Hey! All you had to do was say please.”
Rough hands moved over his body, patting him down and searching for weapons. He jumped as the hands went up the inside of his thighs. “Hey! At least buy a guy dinner first!”
“Wiseass.” The guy slid his hands down one leg and then the other. He stopped when he hit something strapped to Dave’s right ankle. “Well, well, what’s this?”
“Crap!” John tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “Did they find the damn wire?”
“They shouldn’t, we taped it down his belly pretty good.” His partner peered through the binoculars at the sedan in front of the old warehouse. “The guy’s down at his feet anyway.”
Crap! It might not have been his smartest move, bringing along the old .38, but he hadn’t wanted to be completely defenseless. “That’s a gun. You’ve seen ‘em in the movies, right?”
“Listen, kid – “ The guy pressed the barrel of the .38 under Dave’s ear. “I could just blow your fucking brains out and tell the boss you tried to get wise with me.”
“We’ve got to get in there!” John dropped the car into drive again.
“What? You expect me to come out here with no protection?” Dave turned his head enough to glare at the guy. “You guys beat the hell out of me once – how’d I know you wouldn’t take my money and beat the hell out me again anyway? Do I look that stupid?”
“Trust.” The guy tapped the gun against the side of Dave’s face. “Nobody trusts nobody no more.”
The others laughed as he stepped back and motioned Dave to go inside.
“John, wait – “ His partner grabbed his arm. “It’s okay, the kid handled it.”
“I’m going to kick his ass when we get back.” John wiped at his face, not surprised to come away with sweat on his fingers. “Where the hell did he get a gun?”
“What are you, kidding me? This is Bay City –“ His partner laughed humorlessly. “You can get a gun anywhere if you’ve got the money.”
“Can I have my gun back?” Dave held his hand out.
“Get inside.” The guy pocketed the gun and gave him a shove. “If you’re a good boy and I don’t have to kill you – I’ll give it back.”
“Now who’s the wiseass?” Shrugging, he went inside the warehouse.
It was dark inside, but there was a dim light coming from the back. “You guys forget to pay the electric bill?”
“Just go straight back.” The guy nudged him again.
“All the way to the back?” Knowing that John was listening, Dave tried to tell him exactly where he was in the warehouse. “I’m not gonna fall over anything, am I?”
“Nah, all the crates and stuff are stacked over against the walls.” The guy said helpfully.
“Ah, okay. Over there under the windows?” He looked to both sides. “On both sides?”
“Yeah, you’ve got a clear path, so stop worrying.”
“You walk around in a dark jungle for a year – you start worrying about things you can’t see.”
“I was in the Pacific during the war.” The guy told him. “I hated the fucking jungle. Nothin’ but bugs and snakes and gooks.”
“Made a New York winter sound like a good time.” Dave agreed. Great, I’m identifying with Joe Goon. “That an office back there?”
“Just another ten feet or so.”
“Good job, kid.” John grinned.
His partner nodded in agreement as he lifted the mic to his lips. “This is Victor Alpha. You guys get that?”
“Got it. This is Victor Baker. We’re taking the north side – we’ll see if we can get in through the windows on that side and use the crates for cover.”
“Victor Charlie here, we’ll take the south side and do the same.”
“Blaine and I will wait until you’re in position and then go right in the front door.” Miller looked at Blaine who nodded in agreement. “Get ready to call in backup as soon as we go in.”
“Boss, this is the kid.”
Dave stopped inside the small office, just in front of the desk that dominated the room. He waited for the man to acknowledge his presence. The time for being a smartass was done – this guy looked old, maybe his father’s age or older – and the old mustache Petes didn’t put up with wisecracks.
The man laid aside his pen and looked Dave over. There was something familiar about the kid, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “How do you know Durniak?”
Dave got the impression that the guy might have checked back east. He gave it less than a second’s thought. Might as well tell the truth, why the hell not? “Joey knew my father. Growing up, Joey was like my uncle.”
Joe Durniak as somebody’s uncle? The man leaned back in his chair. Again there was the nagging feeling that the kid looked familiar. “Who’s your father?”
“Was.” There was no reason not to give his father’s name. He was long dead, and it had been a mob hit. If the old guy knew anything about it, he’d know that. “Michael Starsky.”
The man sat forward so fast his elbows hit the desktop. “You’re Mike Starsky’s boy?”
“Yeah. So?” Confused as to why his father’s name got such a reaction, Dave tried to move the conversation along. The tape holding the wire to his chest was itching like crazy. “You gonna cut me in?”
“You’re in kid.” The man stood up and held his hand out. When Dave took it, he cupped it with his other hand, shaking it enthusiastically. “I shoulda seen the resemblance. It was bugging me, but I just couldn’t pin it down.”
Coming around the desk, the man took another look. The eyes and the smile were eerily familiar now that he knew who the kid was. “Sorry, it’s been a lot of years. Your pop was a hell of a man, kid. A legend. It’s too bad about what happened.”
“Thanks.” He didn’t get the guy’s sudden friendliness, but he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“What the hell is this guy talking about?” Blaine’s partner asked.
“I have no idea. All I know about Dave’s father is that he was killed by mobsters – he was standing up to them over something.” John shook his head. “This guy’s acting like he was the capo de capo or something.”
“Whatever it is, it’s working. Baker and Charlie are in position.” Miller drew his gun. “You ready to go inside?”
“Careful and quiet.” He cautioned. “Radio silence from here on out until I give the signal.”
The other two units rogered their understanding and the radio went dead. John eased the door open just far enough for himself and Miller to slip inside.
“I want to make a little money, you know?” Dave told the other man. “You know, I feel like I’m being disrespectful, I never did get your name.”
“What’s the matter with you boys?” He glared at the men who’d brought Dave in. “You forget your manners? Sorry, kid, I’m Frank Monteiro.”
“Mr. Monteiro.” Dave held his hand out again, shaking Monteiro’s firmly. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
“Monteiro?” John stopped and looked wide eyed at his partner. He got an equally astonished look in return. Monteiro wasn’t a mover and shaker in the mob world anymore, but he’d been the right hand man in Parenti’s organization until a few years ago. If they could get him to talk, they might be able to eventually bring down that entire organization.
Dave had heard of Monteiro. He was one of the old mustache Petes who’d been smart enough to step aside for the younger men moving up. No doubt he was out in Bay City as a way to keep his fingers in the pie until he decided to retire to a condo in sunny Florida. “I tried the straight and narrow route and found out it’s also the poor and broke route.”
“That’s the story of life, kid.” Monteiro smiled at him. A connection to Durniak was worth its weight in gold. He wasn’t as ready to step back and take the smaller jobs as he’d let Parenti think. “I can sure use you.”
“Good. Now can I have my gun back?” He looked Monteiro straight in the eye. “This guy over here took it – which I understand – but now that we’re all on the same team, I’d like it back.”
“Sure. Danny, you got the kid’s gun?”
“Yeah, boss.” Danny handed the .38 to Monteiro. “I’m not bringing nobody in that I don’t frisk first.”
“Always the smart thing.” No sense pissing off his help. “You’re doin’ your job.”
When Monteiro handed the gun to him, Dave tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. “And what will my job be?”
“I’m gonna give you a territory and plenty of help.” He motioned to Danny. “You and Danny seem to have built a working relationship, he can help you out.”
John crouched down outside the office door, listening to Monteiro outline exactly what he expected, from muscling the businesses, to how much to collect, and how much of the share was his. John almost fell over when Monteiro added how much was to be sent to Parenti back in New York.
On the other side of the door, his partner’s mouth dropped open. This was more than they ever dreamed of getting out of this. Shutting down a protection racket was one thing – but this would lead to possibly toppling Parenti’s organization and hurting the mob. The FBI would step in and handle the big stuff – but it was still a hell of a moment.
John lifted the radio. “Now!”
Miller kicked the door open. “Everybody down! BCPD! You’re all under arrest!”
Dave dived behind the desk as Danny pulled out a gun and pointed it at him. He clawed at the .38, pulling it out of his waistband and bringing it up into line just as Danny came around the end of the desk. “Drop it!”
There was a moment when Danny looked him in the eye, and he thought the man would drop his gun. The moment passed and Danny raised his gun. Dave pulled the trigger on the .38.
“Dave!” John pinned Monteiro against the desk. “Dave!”
“I’m all right.” He got up slowly, staring down at the body.
The other men had run out the back door of the office before John or his partner could stop them. They ran right into the waiting arms of the other two teams, and never got off a shot. They were in cuffs and sitting outside even before sirens began to wail in the distance.
“Good job, Dave.” John patted him on the back. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He’d killed a man, but it had come down to kill or be killed, and he didn’t have a problem putting it into the proper perspective. “This isn’t the first time I’ve had to shoot someone, John.”
“I know that. But this is home and that was – war.”
“What makes you think this isn’t?”
“It’s a different kind of war.” He leaned closer. “Speaking of wars and guns. Give it to me.”
“The gun, give it to me.”
“It’s mine.” Dave shook his head.
“Is it legal?” John gave him a knowing look. “Dave, give it to me.”
“It’s sort of legal.” He handed it over. “I need that for protection. I’d have gotten shot if I hadn’t had it in there.”
“And you could have gotten yourself killed when they found it, too.” Emptying the bullets out, John dropped the .38 into his jacket pocket. “Then your mother would’ve killed me.”
“Don’t forget Aunt Rosie and Aunt Maggie.” Dave grinned.
“They’d be on me like a pack of avenging angels.”
“Why did knowing who my father was mean so much to Monteiro?” Dave watched as the man was put into the back of a black and white unit. “It was almost as important as finding out that I might be connected to Joey.”
“The way your father was killed, possibly? It’s no secret that he was standing up to the mob and they killed him for it.”
“You’d think that’d get me less respect, not more.”
“Not true, Dave. Your dad had guts. They respect that.”
“They respected him – “ Dave turned to stare out into the darkness. “But they killed him.”
“From what I’ve heard, your father took a few of them down with him.” John laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. “And I know that I respect that in a man. I hope I go down with a fight when it’s my time.”
“Yeah. I guess.” In the long run, his pop was still dead, so what did it matter?
“I think that your father would be proud of you.” As much as he wanted Dave to be his own son, he’d always made it clear that he was not trying to replace Michael Starsky. “He’d be proud of what you’ve done here tonight.”
That made him feel good, and Dave turned back to John. “I guess he would be, huh?”
“I know I am.” He smiled at him. “Come on, let’s get you back to your cab before somebody steals it.”
“Don’t worry about it. I know a cop.” He laughed as he followed John back to his car.
“What do you mean, I’m fired?”
“Just like I said, you’re fired!” Rustin pointed at the door. “I’ll mail your check – now get the hell out!”
“What the hell did I do?” Dave watched as Rustin emptied out his locker into a box.
“What did you do? Are you a retard?” The man slammed the locker shut and tossed the box at Dave’s feet. “You got cops crawling all over the place!”
“I just helped you out! Saved you money – and you’re firing me?”
“Hey, I told you I didn’t want trouble – “ Rustin jammed a finger into Dave’s chest. “And you are trouble!”
“I’m trouble? I’m trouble?” Dave slapped the man’s hand away. “You’re an idiot!”
“Get out! If they come after you – I don’t want them finding you here!”
“This is what I get for doing a good deed.” Muttering to himself, he went outside. Tossing the box into the backseat, Dave dropped into the driver’s seat. He started the Camaro, revving the engine up a few times to make it scream before tearing out of the lot and down the street.
He didn’t feel like going home and talking to his aunt and uncle about what had happened. He wanted to be alone for a while. Spotting a bar that said it was open twenty four hours a day, Dave pulled over in front of it and parked.
There was a slender black man washing glasses behind the bar. “Your face looks low enough to step on.”
“Never mind stepping on it, just give me a beer to fill it with.” Dave sat down at the bar and tossed a five on the scarred wood. “And keep them coming.”
“Whatever you want, my man. The Bear is here to please.” He filled a mug with beer and set it on the bar.
The first two went down quickly before he slowed down and nursed the third. Somewhere between number four and five, John sat down next to him.
“Hey, Huggy, gimme a coffee, will ya?” John hollered back into the small kitchen behind the bar.
“On its way.”
“What’s the matter, kid?” He turned to Dave. “We got the bad guys.”
“Yeah.” Dave took a swallow of his beer. “And I got fired.”
“The owner, he doesn’t want any trouble. He thinks if they come looking for me to get even, they should look somewhere else.”
“Tough break.” Huggy set a cup of black coffee on the bar, and John took a careful drink. “You’re not cut out to be a cabbie anyway.”
“Looks like I’m cut out to work for my uncle.”
“You should consider becoming a cop.” John winked at Huggy. The other man shook his head and went back to washing glasses.
“What are you, crazy?” Imagining himself in uniform, Dave laughed. “I’d have to be crazy.”
“You’ve got the feel for it, Dave. You got Monteiro to say exactly what we needed him to say. Not only that, you got him to give up his boss!”
“Yeah, well – how hard is it to get them to do that?” He took another long drink of his beer.
“It’s harder than you’d think.” John tapped the bar with his forefinger. “I’ve known guys who’ve been cops for years who couldn’t pull that kind of info.”
“It did feel good to lock them up.” A smile covered his face as he remembered Monteiro and his boys being handcuffed and hauled away. “People shouldn’t have to pay jerks like that just to make a living.”
“You’ve got a real strong sense of right and wrong, Dave. And that’s exactly what we need.” John took another drink of his coffee before pushing the cup back. “It is a war some days, and we need all the good soldiers we can get.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Do that.” Getting up, John slapped him on the back. “You could do some real good out here.”
Huggy picked up the cup, pushing John’s money back. “Your money ain't no good here today, man.”
“Thanks, Huggy.” He wasn’t surprised that Huggy knew about the bust. The man must sleep with an ear to the ground – if he slept. “Take good care of Dave here for me, will ya?”
“I’ll watch over him as if he were my own.” Huggy promised.
“Better watch it, Huggy.” Dave laughed. “No good deed goes unpunished.”
“Ain’t it the truth?”
There was a party going at his frat house by the time he got back. Nothing unusual there. Ken sat down and let the music relax him. It went nicely with the Jack and Coke he’d had earlier, and he found himself grooving along.
Just as he was considering getting up and going upstairs to get his guitar, he caught a bit of a conversation.
“So you get the signs ready, and then we’ll meet up at the library.” Connie was saying. “Then we’ll march from there to the ROTC building.”
“What for?” Ken asked her. “They’re students just like us.”
“They’re baby killers!” Connie shouted at him. “Warmongers!”
“Right on, man!” Someone shouted.
“They rape and kill and murder innocent civilians!”
“How can you believe that all our soldiers are doing things like that?” Hutch looked around at the others in the room who were agreeing with Connie. “What about Lewis? Do you think he’d do anything like that?”
There was a ripple of laughter in the room. Ken looked around at them. “What?”
“My old man already got me out of it, remember?” Lewis laughed. “Come on man, like one of us will ever go?”
“Yeah, 'cos man, the world needs more lawyers!” Rick hooted.
There was more laughter.
Ken got up and walked outside. The cool air hit him in the face, and he took a deep breath, trying to clear his head. Too much was going on, and he didn’t feel like he fit in here any longer. Parties and protests – talk of changing the system – only to take advantage of the loopholes it offered?
He set off at a brisk walk, not sure of where he was going, only that he didn’t want to be here.
If not here, then where? And doing what? His mind was spinning. Too much had happened in the past few days for him to get a handle on it all. If I stay here, will I end up like my father? Polite dinner conversation and using the law to screw people out of justice? Why can’t –
A scream interrupted his thoughts. A scream that was quickly cut off. Stopping, Ken listened again. Recently several girls had been attacked on campus and the man had yet to be arrested. There was the sound of scuffling in the bushes off to his right.
Running toward the sound, he saw a man wearing a mask holding a girl down, struggling to keep her from screaming while he tore at her clothes. The girl’s blue eyes were wide and frightened as they met Ken’s over her attacker’s shoulder.
“Get the hell off of her!” Ken grabbed the guy and pulled him off the girl.
“She asked for it!” The guy threw him off. “She wants it!”
“Does she? I doubt that.” He rushed the guy and grabbed him again, expertly bringing him to the ground and holding him there.
The girl was sitting up, clutching her torn shirt around herself and crying.
“Go get help!” Ken shouted at her. “Get the police!”
“I – I don’t – “ She looked down at her ripped clothing.
“Go get help – now!”
“Okay – okay – “ Getting up, she ran off down the path toward the center of campus.
“You’re not going anywhere, buddy.” The guy struggled, but three years of wrestling paid off, and Ken held him down easily. “How’s it feel, huh? I think I’ll tell them you asked for it.”
“Get the fuck off me!”
“Just as soon as the cops get here.” Ken grunted as the guy threw his head back and hit him in the forehead. This was a little harder – and more painful – than the controlled matches he was used to. But a lot more satisfying in the long run.
“Over there – he’s over there!” The girl’s frantic voice came from up the path.
“Hey!” Ken shouted. “I’ve got the guy – hurry!”
The guy began struggling with renewed energy, and it was all Ken could do to keep him pinned down until the campus police arrived. They quickly cuffed the guy and dragged him off toward the waiting car.
“Good job, kid.” One of the officers helped him up. “We’ll need both of you to come with us. We’ve called the police, and they should be here pretty quick.”
“Sure.” Ken brushed the dirt off his clothes. “Say, do you have a blanket or something for her?”
“We’ve got one in the car.” The officer led the girl to the car and got her a blanket out of the trunk.
When she stood staring and unmoving, Ken took the blanket and wrapped it around her. “Come on, it’ll be all right.”
“He didn’t – he didn’t – “ She looked up at him. One side of her face was turning an ugly black and blue. “I didn’t want him to – “
“I know.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “He was lying, I know that.”
Ken didn’t want to subject her to sitting in the same car with her attacker; instead, he borrowed a coat from one of the security officers to put on her and then wrapped the blanket tightly around her. She was shaking, and he was afraid it wasn’t only from the cold.
Two black and white squad cars pulled up within minutes. A pair of officers moved the girl’s attacker to one of them and it left for the station. One of the other officers approached Ken and the girl.
“Sir? We’ll need the both of you to come downtown.”
“Sure. We’re ready to go, aren’t we?” Ken asked the girl. She didn’t answer but let him lead her to the other police car.
At the station, Ken watched with fascination as people were brought in and put through processing. From where he sat, he could see criminals being fingerprinted and booked. Statements were being taken, and uniformed officers came and went constantly.
“Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.” The officer said as he finished taking Ken’s statement. Reading back over it, he was impressed with the detail. Most witnesses had vague impressions of what happened. It all happened so fast was practically its own key on his typewriter.
“Oh, you’re welcome.” Ken shook his hand. “I’m glad to help.”
“I wish she was.” The other uniformed officer that had been on the scene sat down at one of the empty desks.
“The girl?” He looked around, finding her sitting on a bench across the room, crying and rocking. “What’s wrong?”
“She doesn’t want to press charges.”
“But – then – “
“Yeah, the guy walks.” The officer looked disgusted. “The detectives are trying to get together the info we have from the other cases to see if we can hang on to him with what we’ve got. Otherwise, we have to let him go.”
“But I saw him.” Ken tapped his chest with a finger. “I saw him attacking her – holding her down.”
“And I wish that was good enough, Mr. Hutchinson. I really do.” The officer told him. “But he says it was consensual, and it just got a bit rough. If she doesn’t say otherwise – we’ve got no choice in the matter.”
“That’s – “ Everything he hated about the law. “Where is the damn justice?”
Getting up, Ken went to the girl and sat down beside her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name.”
“Jenna – it’s Jenna.”
“Jenna. I’m Ken.” He smiled at her. “Strange having to introduce ourselves, isn’t it?”.
“The whole night has been strange.” She said softly.
“Jenna, I know that this is hard for you. But you have to tell them what happened.”
“How would you know how hard it is?” Her voice was bitter, and tears began to run down her face again.
“Because it’s hard for me to see you this way.” Gently, he wiped the tears off her cheeks. “I don’t even know you, Jenna, and it’s hard for me to see you hurt and frightened.”
She looked into the baby blue eyes, surprised at the compassion there. “You know what they’ll say? That I wanted him to do it.”
“I know. But we know that’s not true.” He’d seen her struggling with the man, and he was happy to tell anyone and everyone that Jenna hadn’t asked for what had happened to her. “I saw what was happening, and I’ve told them everything.”
“I’m scared.” Jenna looked down at her hands, at her dirty fingers clutching the blanket.
“But if he’s not in jail – “ Her eyes shot back up to his, and Ken felt guilty for manipulating her. “Won’t you be even more frightened?”
Her bottom lip trembled. She was terrified by the thought of going back to her dorm and knowing that he was back out there. Waiting for her…
“He’s attacked other girls, Jenna.” Ken reached for her hands and held them in his own, shocked at how cold they were. “You can stop him from ever doing this again. Isn’t that worth the hassle?”
“Will they lock him up?” Jenna asked softly.
“Yes.” He smiled at her. “We’ll get him locked up for a long time.”
“Okay.” Her smile was wobbly, but it was there.
“Come on, let’s go talk to the officers and tell them what happened.” Getting up, Ken led her back to the desk he’d been sitting at and tucked the blanket around her as she sat down.
The officer began slowly, knowing that she was in a fragile state. “First, let’s get your name.”
Ken sat next to her while they took her statement and then helped her into a police car so that they could take her to the hospital for a full exam. Jenna hadn’t been raped – Ken had gotten there in time – but she still had injuries that needed medical documentation.
“Thanks, Mr. Hutchinson.”
He turned to find the officer that had taken their statements standing behind him. “My pleasure.”
“You should consider a career in law enforcement.”
“That’s the second time I’ve heard that today.” Ken laughed.
“Your statement was detailed and full of pertinent information.” The officer told him. “And you were great with her. Handling victims is an important part of the job.”
“You could have gotten her to give a statement.” Ken felt his face coloring. “I was just – here.”
“No. I couldn’t, and I didn’t.” He shook his head. “And neither did my partner. We were gonna send for a female officer to talk to her and hope she could get her to press charges. Lucky for us, you had the right touch.”
“I have a sister.” The thought of someone abusing his sister made his skin crawl. “I’d want someone to help her.”
“That’s what we all want.”
There was a whooping behind him, and the officer turned. His partner was holding the door open. “We got him!”
“What?” He went up the stairs, with Ken following him.
“His prints came back! He’s got warrants for aggravated assault, burglary, and armed robbery!”
“Yeah!” He grabbed his partner in a bear hug. “That’ll nail the son of a bitch!”
“What’s – “ Ken was surprised to find himself in the center of several police officers. They were slapping him on the back and shaking his hand. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Didn’t do anything? You caught the guy!”
“I did? I did?” He smiled. “I guess I did.”
“Everybody get back to work!” A voice bellowed over the commotion. “You think that’s the only crime we’ve got waiting to be solved!”
The officers scattered, and Ken found himself looking up at the precinct captain. The man extended his hand as he came down the stairs. “Thanks for your help.”
“Oh – you’re welcome!” He shook the captain’s hand firmly. “It feels good!”
“It does, doesn’t it?” The man smiled. “We’ll take you back to campus now, Mr. Hutchinson. The DA will be calling you in a day or two to discuss your testimony.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.” Ken watched the captain walk back to his office. He felt great. Like he was going to burst. “I can’t wait.” I don’t want to leave!
The sergeant in charge of the desk looked up as the doors opened. “Hey, it’s the wrestling champ!”
“Hi.” Ken walked over to the desk. “I got a message to come down and talk to one of the detectives.”
“Upstairs, second door on your right.” He jerked a thumb at the stairs. “Good work the other night.”
“Thanks.” Going up the stairs, Ken returned the waves of several of the officers on duty. He knocked on the door and someone inside yelled at him to come in.
“Mr. Hutchinson.” The detective got up from his desk. “You didn’t have to come down, you could have called back.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“We’re not going to need you to testify. The guy cut a deal with the DA’s office.”
“What?” The good mood that had buoyed him up for the last two days burst, letting him hit reality with a thud.
“Seems he knows some things – “
“Of course he does – “ Ken raked a hand through his hair. “The law is being twisted around and used to – “
“No, nothing like that.” The detective assured him. “He’s gonna do time, and a lot of it. But he rolled over on a murderer.”
“I – I don’t understand.”
“It seems he has some information on a couple of murders we’ve been trying to solve.” The detective handed him a file. “He asked for a deal, and it’s too good to pass up. This guy’s a rapist and a thief – but a murderer?”
Ken had to agree that it was better to catch a murderer than to see how many years they could pile onto a rapist’s sentence. The pictures in the file made him gulp and hand it back. “He’s still going to jail, though?”
“It’ll be a long time before he sees a view without bars in the way.”
“Two for one then.” The good feeling was back. Smiling, Ken got up and shook the detective’s hand. “If you need me for anything…”
“Don’t worry, we’ll call you.” He nodded. “And you did a hell of a job – if you ever want to get into police work – just let me know.”
Downstairs, Ken was surprised to see Luke Huntley leaning on the main desk talking to the sergeant. “Luke, hey there. Thought you were going back to Bay City?”
“I am. Just as soon as they bring my prisoner out to me.” The other man held a hand out, shaking Ken’s firmly. “I hear you did a hell of a job subduing a rapist the other night. Good job!”
“It was nothing, I was just in the right place at the right time.” He laughed. “Oh, hell, I’m lying – it feels damn good.”
“Doesn’t it?” Luke took an envelope out of his jacket pocket and handed it to him. “When you get to Bay City, give this to the folks at the Academy and then come look me up. I’ll make sure you have a place to stay while you get settled in.”
“I haven’t decided to join the force.” Shocked, Ken stared at the envelope. “Let alone decided to move all the way to Bay City.”
“Oh? Haven’t you?” Luke patted him on the shoulder as he walked away.
Ken looked up to see the sergeant grinning. “Really. I haven’t. I – I mean – I – really.”
Parking in front of his frat house, Ken went inside to find a party going. There’s a real shocking development.
“Hey, man!” Rick got up off the couch. “I heard you were helping the fuzz.”
“That’s what I was doing, Rick.” He winked. “Helping the fuzz.”
The sarcasm went over Rick’s head. “Helping that chick was pretty cool, but I don’t know if I’d want the hassle.”
“Me either.” Lewis agreed. “Let someone else handle it.”
“Let someone else handle it?” Ken looked at his friends. “Let someone – you know, you’re right.”
“Hey, man, why don’t you get your guitar?” Rick looked over his shoulder at the girls sitting on the couch. “The chicks are waiting.”
“Sorry, Rick.” He patted him on the shoulder as he walked past. “I don’t want the hassle. Let someone else handle it.”
Upstairs, Ken began to pack.
His hands shook slightly as he tucked the flaps in on the box he’d just packed.
“Kenneth!” Lawrence Hutchinson stormed into his son’s room. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Walters, if you’d have these boxes put in the attic for me?” Ken said to the butler, relieved that his voice had stayed steady.
“Very good, sir.” The butler kept his glee carefully hidden under his proper British butler exterior as he left the room.
“I asked what you’re doing.” Lawrence ignored the butler as if the man didn’t exist. “I got a call at my office today from your advisor. He called to let me know that my son had dropped out!”
“That was very nice of him.” Ken walked around the room doing a last minute check of the drawers and the closets. “Considering his busy schedule.”
“Very nice – “ Gaping, it took a minute to for Lawrence to get back to the issue at hand. “Why have you dropped out?”
“I’m going to Bay City to apply to the Police Academy.” The words came out easily enough, but then he’d practiced them while he’d packed up his room at the frat house, while he’d driven home, and while he’d packed up here.
“You will not quit school!” His father shouted at him. “And you will not join the police force!”
His father was shouting, something he’d never heard before. The realization that his father was so angry that he would resort to shouting made Ken smile.
Walking to his father, Ken looked him in the eye. “Yes. I am.”
The shocked look on his father’s face made this the most satisfying moment of his life. This was the first time he’d ever stood up to his father, and it felt great.
Lawrence could barely speak. “You have a duty to your family! Duty and responsibility! Do you have any idea how important it is to uphold the Hutchinson name?”
“No.” Picking up the last of his bags from the bed, Ken left the room.
He was halfway down the stairs before his father shouted at him again.
“What if they don’t take you? Have you thought of that?”
“Actually, no. I haven’t.” Smiling, Ken realized that for the first time, there was no clear stopping place for his life – only wide open road ahead of him.
“You’re running off across the country and you don’t even know if they’ll accept you?”
“Mother is in her room with a headache, Father – “ Ken walked to where Walters waited to open the front door. “I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate raised voices in the house.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Hutchinson.” Walters swung the door open as he approached.
“Thank you, Walters.” The butler’s face was impassive as always, but Ken thought he saw a sparkle in the brown eyes. “It’s been fun.”
The door closed behind him and Ken walked over to the car he’d purchased after he’d sold his Karmann Ghia. The LTD was ugly and bigger than a boat, but it would handle pulling the U-Haul trailer over the mountains and it had room for the rest of his stuff in the backseat.
Pulling out of the driveway, Ken realized he had no idea what he’d do if the Bay City Police Academy turned him down. The thought scared and excited him at the same time. He turned up the radio and pointed the car toward California.
“Luke, there’s a car in the driveway.”
“What?” Getting up from the kitchen table, Luke peered out the kitchen window. Sure enough, a dirty car with a trailer hitched to it was sitting in their driveway. “I’ll see who it is.”
He grabbed his holster off the chair, strapping it on and pulling his robe on over it. More than likely it was just somebody who was lost, but you never knew these days.
Outside, he walked carefully up to the car. It appeared to be empty. Minnesota license plates. No, it couldn’t be. Luke peered through the driver’s window, smiling as he saw Ken Hutchinson asleep in the front seat.
Laughing, he tapped on the window. “Ken – hey, wake up.”
Ken jerked awake, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes.
“Why didn’t you ring the bell?”
“It was three in the morning.” He yawned. “I think. I don’t know if I reset my watch.”
“You should’ve rang the damn bell.”
“So, is that offer of a place to stay still open?” Ken asked hopefully.
Luke opened the car door. “Get in the house! What’s the matter with you, sleeping in the driveway?”
“Well, I didn’t want to wake anybody up.” He got out and sidestepped the playful swat Luke aimed at him.
“Just get in the house.”
Dave trudged up the back steps and into the house. He was tired all the way down to his toes. He’d gone back to work for his uncle and sold cars eight hours a day – after he’d hit the pavement each morning looking for another job.
The long days with a topping of rejection were wearing him down. Not rejection on the car lot – he could sell cars in his sleep – but on the job front. Nobody wanted to hire a vet with no real skills. He could do two things: sell cars and shoot people. His career path was limited, according to one of the personnel agencies he’d worked with. Apparently there were no jobs where he could sell cars and shoot people.
Lately, Dave had begun to think he should leave off the Army time when he filled out an application. Too many prospective employers looked at that and asked if he’d been in Vietnam. When he said he had, they always got this funny look on their face. As if he might go psycho right there in their lobby.
“What’s that smell?” Stopping, Dave inhaled the wonderful scent filing the warm kitchen. “Is that lasagna?”
“David, come into the living room, please.” His Aunt Rosie’s voice drifted down the hallway.
He opened the oven and peeked in, grinning at the sight of the huge pan his aunt made lasagna in. “I know my pasta.”
“I’m comin’!” He shut the oven door and rubbed his stomach in anticipation of dinner. “How much longer does it have to cook? I swear I could eat a – “
He stopped as he walked into the living room. There were blue and black streamers draped everywhere and a large handmade banner hung over the TV. Congratulations Cadet Starsky!
“What’s – “ He stared at the sign. “What’s this for?”
“Congratulations, Dave!” His uncle slapped him on the back.
“I’m proud of you, kid.” John was there as well, shaking his hand. “I knew you could do it.”
“What did I do?”
“Here.” Rosie handed him an envelope. “This came for you today.”
The envelope had Bay City Police Academy typed neatly in the upper left corner, and his name was showing through the clear window. “Oh.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you put your application in?” Al looked over his shoulder. “Go on, open it.”
“What if it says no?” Panic hit him. Why the hell had he done this? “This could be sayin’ they don’t want me.”
“Dave, just open it.” John hid his smile. He and the other men who’d worked with Dave to grab Monteiro had written letters of recommendation for him when they’d gotten word that he’d applied to the Academy.
He didn’t plan to tell Dave about it. After all, the kid hadn’t told a soul he’d applied. If not for an old buddy of his who worked in admissions at the Academy, John wouldn’t have known. He wouldn’t have known that Dave was accepted either. He winked at his wife.
The envelope wobbled in his hands, and Dave realized that he was shaking. “It’s probably saying thanks but no thanks.”
“David.” Rosie brushed her fingers along his forearm. “Please, open the letter.”
“All right – “ He looked up at her. “Here goes nothin’.”
Ripping the envelope open, he scanned the letter looking for the bad news. “David M. Starsky… thank you for… your qualifications… pleased to welcome you – ” He blinked. It was still there. “Pleased – to – welcome – you – “
“Congratulations!” They surrounded him, slapping his back and both Maggie and Rosie kissing his cheeks.
“They accepted me?” Dave sat down on the sofa, still staring at the letter. “I can’t believe it.”
“I can.” John sat down next to him. “You’re a vet – a decorated one at that. They know you’ve got the discipline and you’ve been tested under fire.”
“I didn’t realize that was an important experience.” He joked, finally looking up from the letter. “Maybe I’d have taken a moment to enjoy it.”
“You helped lock up those mobsters, too.” Maggie sat on the arm of the sofa and slid an arm around John’s shoulders. “They can see you’ve got what it takes. I’m so proud of you, Dave.”
“Thanks, Aunt Maggie.” Dave looked at the letter again. Maybe he should have this framed.
It had felt good sitting at the station house and giving his statement, watching Monteiro and his boys getting printed and locked up. The camaraderie had reminded him of being with his unit in ‘Nam. Depending on each other because each other was all they had.
After several days of working for his uncle and getting repeatedly turned down for other jobs – Dave had figured what the hell and driven to the Police Academy to apply for the next class. He really hadn’t expected to get accepted.
“You should have seen his statement, Al.” John leaned back against Maggie, smiling affectionately up at her. “Detailed – pertinent – articulate. Although we couldn’t use certain words like scumbag and dirtball.”
Al laughed. “Nothing wrong with a little colorful language, John.”
“That’s not what Captain Sullivan would say.”
“Do I have to cut my hair?” He’d been letting his hair grow out again. “The Army made me cut it all off before I came home – had to be regulation.”
“Maybe a little. There’s regs to follow, but not quite as bad as in the Army.” John laughed as Maggie leaned down and ran her fingers through the dark curls.
“Aunt Maggie!” Dave batted her hand away.
“They won’t make you cut off those pretty curls.” She gave his hair one last ruffle with her fingers. “Don’t worry, the girls will still come running.”
Rosie brought him the phone. “David, your mother wants to talk to you.”
He looked up at the gentle brown eyes filled with love, and he took the phone with one hand, motioning for her to lean down with the other.
“What do you need, David?” She leaned down. “I did not spill the beans.”
Dave pressed his cheek to hers, whispering in her ear. “Love you, Aunt Rosie.”
She gave him a quick kiss on the forehead before going back to the kitchen, her cheeks flushed red.
“Ma?” Dave lifted the phone to his ear, grinning as he watched his uncle follow her. A little kiss and cuddle was going to follow – they were still doing soapy scenes after twenty years. “Hey, Ma, it’s Davey. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
He frowned. “No, I’m not getting married. What do you mean, why not? Ma!”
John laughed. “Every mother’s dream.” Getting up, he took Maggie’s hand. “Let’s give Dave some privacy.”
“Rosie and Al are in the kitchen.” She reminded him.
“So we’ll look for privacy on the front porch.” He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her against his side.
“Ma – of course I know a girl – I know lots of girls.” Dave fell back against the sofa cushions. “Yes, they’re nice girls! Ma – I had a date just last night with Candi. Yes, her name is Candi.”
He rolled his eyes. “No she’s ah... a… she types eighty words a minute. What does it matter if she cooks? Ma…”
Dave held the phone out from his ear for a moment. When he heard a pause in his mother’s lecture on the qualifications for a wife, he jumped in. “Ma, I joined the Police Academy – I mean I got accepted to the Police Academy.”
There was sudden and total silence from New York City.
“Ma, did you hear me? I start on Monday. Aw… please don’t cry, Ma. I thought you’d be happy.” He laughed. “Sorry, I have trouble telling the happy crying from the not happy crying. No, that’s not why I need a wife!”
All roads led back to wives, it seemed. “So you’re happy then? Really? Of course I thought you’d be proud.” He rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, I think Pop would be proud, too. I know he did, Ma, I loved him, too.”
A smile covered his face. “I love you, too, Ma.”
Up next the finale: I Stick My Neck Out For Nobody, Sweetheart
Chapter 4: I Stick My Neck Out For Nobody, Sweetheart
Ken walked into the empty classroom, not surprised to find he was the first one there. He was only a half hour early. Automatically, he headed for the first seat in the first row and sat down. He took his pen out of his shirt pocket and laid it on the desktop next to the new notebook he’d just purchased. Great, now I only need to kill twenty nine more minutes.
He’d never been so nervous in his life, and at the same time, he was excited and impatient for things to get started. Joining the force felt right. It felt like what he’d been born to do.
Just in case the Bay City Police Academy didn’t agree with him, Ken had found a job at a drug store not far from the Huntleys’ house. Helping people find the aspirin or the cough syrup wasn’t the highest paying job he’d ever had, but it was the most satisfying. It had also helped fill the time while he waited to hear if he’d been accepted to the Academy or not.
While Luke and Doris had applauded his initiative at finding contingency employment – they’d put their foot down when he began looking for an apartment.
Luke had pointed out that he would be living in the Academy dorm if he were accepted and would only end up paying rent on an apartment he wouldn’t even be living in. If he wasn’t accepted, well then he could find an apartment somewhere.
Ken had agreed that it was the smart thing to do. The money in his new account at Bay City Bank and Trust – The Friendly Bank – would last him that much longer. He was thankful once again that his grandfather had set up a stipulation in his trust fund that he had to work every summer – somewhere other than his father’s law firm or for one of his father’s friends.
There was a nice little nest egg built up from summers spent working various jobs, everything from a lifeguard to a grocery store stock boy – all honest money earned the hard way.
Other cadets began to drift into the room. A few smiled and nodded at him, but most ignored him, moving to fill the seats around him. They all looked exactly like Ken had expected a police academy cadet to look. I don’t fit in here.
Hoping to settle his nerves, Ken began making a list of what he would need in an apartment. Plenty of light for his new plants, for one thing. New plants to replace the ones left behind at the frat house, for another. The poor things were probably already dead. Maybe he should have shoved them into a box and let them take their chances on the road with him.
Dave walked into the classroom, not surprised to find it was almost full. He was running late again. Automatically, he headed for the last seat in the last row and sat down. He scrounged through his pockets and took out a stubby pencil. He laid it on the desk next to the old Big Chief tablet Aunt Rosie had found in a box of his old school things. Great. Now how do I kill the last five minutes?
He’d never been so nervous in his life, and at the same time, he was excited and impatient for things to get started. Joining the force felt right. It felt like what he’d been born to do.
A few other cadets rushed in, ignoring him as they took the last few seats. They all looked exactly like Dave had expected a police academy cadet to look. I don’t fit in here.
The guy in the front row caught his attention. Clean cut – blonde – five bucks says he has baby blues – looked like an ad for the Boy Scouts. That was the guy they wanted. Not some kid from New York whose pop was friends with a gangster.
Trying to settle his nerves, Dave started making a list of what he wanted for his car. Center line chrome mags to replace the ones his little brother had sold, for one thing. A new paint job to cover the scratches left by his brother, for another. That’s what he got for letting Nicky borrow his car when he’d visited Bay City last year.
“All right, cadets.” An officer in uniform walked into the room. “Congratulations on taking your first step toward becoming a Bay City police officer. We’ll see how many of you are here for the next step.”
There were a few nervous laughs. Dave settled back in his seat. He’d seen this before and knew pretty much what was coming. His drill sergeant in basic training had given him a preview. Complete with pushups.
“I’m Sergeant Wiles. I’ll be one of your instructors for this portion of your training. By the end of this training – you will know the law – you will be expert marksmen – or you will be history.” He sat down on the edge of the desk. “Now that you ladies know who I am and why I’m here – let’s find out who you are and why you’re here. Starting with you, blondie.”
Ken had already anticipated being first. That was one reason he always sat in the first seat in the first row – to get things like this over as quickly and painlessly as possible. “I’m Ken Hutchinson.”
“Stand up!” Sergeant Wiles barked. “And face your fellow cadets!”
He shot to his feet and turned so that the others could see him. Keeping his eyes carefully trained on an invisible spot over their heads, just as he’d learned in his public speaking class, Ken took a deep breath and started again. “I’m Ken Hutchinson, and I’m here because I want to help people.” He was proud of the fact that he didn’t stammer.
There was laughter and snickering from the others. Ken quickly sat back down, eyes forward and face red.
Now that wasn’t very nice. Dave looked around at his classmates. Several of them were still snickering at the poor sap who wanted to help people. Why the fuck are they here then?
“Next!” Wiles snapped when the next cadet didn’t get to his feet quickly enough. “Don’t make me wait all day!”
Dave slumped back in his seat, listening as each cadet got up and gave their cookie cutter statements. To enforce the law – to protect and to serve – to defend justice – they had no idea what it was like out there.
When his turn came, Dave stood up and looked over his fellow cadets again. He had been going to say he was here because he figured being a cop had to beat driving a cab.
Instead, he pointed to the blonde guy in the front row who was still staring straight ahead as if he was watching his own private movie on the wall. “I’m gonna help him help people.”
Ken turned. A slightly scruffy guy in an Army jacket was still standing. A rush of gratitude filled him, and he smiled.
Dave grinned back at him before sitting down.
“Well, it looks like there’s just two of you ladies who knows why you’re here.” Wiles gave the cadets another once over. “Except for Colby here, who’s looking for direction and thinks I’m an information kiosk.”
The sergeant stood up and walked to the front row of desks. “The rest of you think you’re in some bullshit TV show.” He looked them over, a smirk on his face. “Elliot Ness doesn’t work here, ladies. I do.”
“You ladies are going to hate me – and that’s exactly what I want –“ Wiles grinned as a trim blonde woman in uniform walked into the classroom and leaned against the back wall. “And as much as you hate me – you’re really gonna hate my partner.”
“If you’re here so you can drive fast and carry a gun – do everyone a favor and get the hell out now –“ Wiles stalked along the first row. “You’re here to bust your ass – learn the law – and protect the citizens of Bay City. You die for them if you have to – “
Stopping, Wiles looked down at the clean cut-blond kid in the front row. ”If you’re lucky – if you’re really lucky – you’ll find a good partner – “ He lifted his gaze to the guy in the last row wearing an old Army jacket, before looking over to his own partner. “And maybe you’ll both make it to retirement.”
Ken signed the form and shuffled it to the bottom of the pile. Apparently the ton of paperwork he’d done when he applied to the Academy wasn’t enough. Someone sat down at the table, making it jiggle, and he looked up to see the guy from class who’d sided with him.
“Hi, I’m Starsky.” Dave held his hand out. “Dave Starsky.”
The guy’s accent was an odd blend of east and west coast. Ken took his hand and shook it. “Ken Hutchinson.”
“So, Hutch, you really wanna help people?”
“Yes, I do.” No one had shortened his name like that since Jack had, back in high school. “Do you really want to help me?”
“Well, Starsky, it’s a deal then.”
Starsky smiled widely. “Great! I get to be Bogie, though.”
“You know, Casablanca? Humphrey Bogart and Claude Raines?” He dropped his voice and did his best Bogie. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Hutch searched his memory. “I’ve heard of Casablanca – I’ve never gotten a chance to see it.”
“You’ve never seen it? What? Were you deprived as a child?” Starsky sighed over the sad life of his new friend. “Come on, Hutch, let’s grab a room. John told me which ones are the best.”
“Yeah. Here.” He pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Hutch.
Unfolding the paper, Hutch found a list of assigned roommates. Partway down the list he found Starsky & Hutchinson. He’d forgotten for a moment that they would be living in a dorm.
“’Less you’ve got somebody else you’d rather room with?”
He looked up at the quiet question to see Starsky looking at him, face open and trusting. Had anybody ever done that before? Hutch didn’t think he knew anyone who wore their emotions out in the open like that. “No, no, I don’t know anybody out here.”
“You know me.” He smiled.
The smile was contagious, and Hutch smiled back.
Gathering his papers, Hutch got up and followed Starsky out of the break room. “Where’d you get this list?”
“I swiped it off the bulletin board.”
“You did what?” He looked around and then shoved the list into his pocket. “Are you trying to get into trouble?”
“No, just trying to get the jump on the other guys. Unless you want a crappy room?”
“No, but that’s not the point.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Starsky patted him on the back. “We’ll stake out a room, we’ll put the list back, and later we can catch the early show at the Lux.”
“The early show?”
“Casablanca – they show it three times a day.” They’d reached the dorm area and he looked at the room numbers. “You like popcorn, Hutch?”
“Popcorn – you know, my name’s not Hutch.” He didn’t know what to make of this whirlwind that had befriended him. “What would you think if I called you Starsk?”
“That’s okay.” Starsky shrugged. “Nobody else ever has, but it’s okay if you want. So you like popcorn, Hutch?”
“Yeah, sure I like popcorn.”
“Good.” He stopped as he found a room number John had recommended. On the end of the corridor so it was quiet, and close to the side door so he could slip out easily. “You can buy.”
Hutch started laughing as he followed Starsky – Starsk – into the room. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
“Exactly.” Starsky smiled confidently.