Hutch came out of the bathroom, ready for the day, and glanced into the bedroom, seeing that the noise of the shower hadn't awakened his partner. For a normally high-spirited man, Starsky was very tranquil in sleep. If Hutch had slept in that bed, it would've looked like a battleground by morning. Starsky hadn't moved since he'd been dropped into it. Or maybe he was too exhausted to move. He tired much too easily now. And Hutch knew that, left to himself, he would've spent the whole night poring over the miserable case. That was another reason why the blond had wanted his partner right under his nose for the next few weeks. If the damn fool insisted on charging into the lion's den, Hutch at least wanted to make sure he wasn't half wiped out by the time he got there.
He checked the time, quickly fixed some breakfast, and when the smells also failed to rouse Starsky, he went in to waken the man. "Hey," he said, gently shaking him by the shoulder. "Come on, time to wake up. Hey, Starsk. Come on, babe. Another glorious day in Smog City."
Starsky stirred, cracked open his eyes, squeezed them shut again, yawned, then blinked a few times and made a concentrated effort to open his eyes and keep them open. Hutch noticed that what he'd thought were shadows cast by the long lashes were in fact dark smudges under the eyes. Lately, Starsky didn't bounce back as fast as he used to, either. One late night, and now he looked like he was just coming off a whole week of allnighters.
His partner knuckled his eyes, the image of a pouting, sleep-tousled child, then happened to glance at the clock and all traces of the endearing look vanished. "What the hell! Why didn't you wake me when I told you to? You know I had more to read. Dammit, Hutch! You want me to look like a dummy at the briefing? That's the last time I'll let you talk me into -- "
"Hold it, hold it," Hutch interrupted the tirade. "Everything's under control. I studied the whole damned file. Now, you can shower, shave and eat, and I'll give you the rundown in the meantime, okay? You'll be fine at the briefing."
"Oh." Starsky simmered down. "Okay."
Hutch watched him, comparing, with a wrenching tug inside, the time when his partner could jump out of bed, a bolt of irrepressible energy, to now, as Starsky slowly persuaded his sleep-dulled, scarred body into facing another day. He wanted badly to reach a hand, offer to rub the stiffened muscles, but he had heard the message loud and clear the day before. He shoved his hands deeply into his pockets instead.
Starsky swung his legs off the bed and looked up at him with a frown. "How much sleep did you get?"
"Enough," Hutch hedged. None was more like it, but he was sure it didn't show. "Get a move on, will you? If we're late, Rizzo's bound to have a smart-ass remark. I already think the jerk's teeth belong in his throat, and I just might oblige him."
"Tonight, you get the bed," was all Starsky said. He brushed past Hutch and headed straight for the coffee.
We'll see about that, Hutch didn't say. "You think you see right through me, huh?" A smug, crooked smile was his only answer.
Captain Dobey looked like he had also spent a long night. He grumbled a greeting when the two detectives stepped into the briefing room, not raising his head from a duplicate of the file Hutch wished he'd never seen.
The New Yorkers weren't around. It was a good time to clear up an issue. "Captain," Hutch said, "why was Rizzo taken off his own case?"
"What do you think? The man was under for three years, hardly a break. Mallory thinks he's on the edge of burn-out. Nothing that should affect you two."
"Guess not," the blond said. "Coffee?" He definitely wanted some himself. He'd been all but mainlining it since the night before and was already high-strung on caffeine, but he needed it to last through the day.
"None for me," Starsky answered.
Dobey's grunt Hutch assumed to be a 'yes,' and went to the coffee machine in the hall. As he was persuading the temperamental machine to cough up his order, he saw Mallory and Rizzo walking toward him. Mallory was talking in hushed tones and trying to close the distance between them while Rizzo scowled and kept stepping away from his superior. Hutch wondered how hard it was to exert authority over the obviously difficult man. He didn't envy Mallory his job.
He got his two cups of coffee and went back to the briefing room, Rizzo and Mallory following shortly. Without much preamble, they all settled down to discuss the case. Hutch stayed out of it, listening and filing away the information carefully, but determined not to preempt Starsky as he had done the day before. The discussion was mainly between the two captains anyway, establishing the parameters of the case.
Finally, Dobey turned to his detectives. "All right, you've had time to hear it all and think it over. One last time, do you want it?"
Hutch kept his mouth shut and let Starsky answer. "Definitely," his partner said.
Dobey leaned back and waved his hand between Starsky and Rizzo. "Get on with it then."
Hutch watched both men slide lower in their chairs and prop their feet on the large table heedless of the superiors in the room. Their actions were almost mirror images of each other. The tableau intrigued him. There really wasn't all that remarkable a resemblance between his partner and the New Yorker, only a passable one that needed artificial help, but their body languages were similar enough to surprise even him. Street-trained, both of them. Cocky, jaunty, stubborn, fighters both. He knew what was behind Starsky's exterior. Rizzo was an enigma he didn't care for, but had to get to know now. He leaned onto his elbows on the table, the picture of concentration, while his partner looked almost detached. It was standard operations. Starsky usually sat back and absorbed the overall feel of a situation on an instinctive level, while Hutch catalogued details meticulously.
"I know what Caporetto's been doin' for three years," Starsky started out. "Now, I wanna know him."
Before answering, Rizzo reached for yet another cigarette, paused with the pack in his hand and looked at Starsky. "You don't smoke. Caporetto does. Here." He slid the package across the table. "Might as well start now."
Starsky grimaced at the pack, then pulled himself up and reached for it. Before he even knew what he was doing, Hutch slapped his hand on the pack, an inch ahead of Starsky's, and sent it sliding back toward Rizzo. "No. Caporetto will quit. You have a couple of weeks to make a production of it. After that, pollute your lungs all you want." Both Rizzo and Starsky glared at him. He ignored Rizzo's look and returned Starsky's. Okay, so I'm mother-henning. Too bad, buddy. If you don't remember your lungs now look like the switching yards of Grand Central Station, I still do.
Suddenly, his resolve to stay unobtrusive vanished. Starsky's anger was something he could deal with later. If he couldn't deal any other way, he would just have to suffer through it. Establishing Starsky's cover securely was much too important. No, vital. And Starsky seemed too willing to accommodate Rizzo, too careless of his own welfare. "While we're on the subject," he said to the New Yorker, "what other habits does Caporetto have?"
"Meaning you can't be under for three years and stay pure as the driven snow. For example, coke is the latest social amenity on this coast. What does Caporetto do if he's served some? What about the harder stuff?"
"Hutch," Starsky interrupted in a soft but prohibitive tone.
The blond turned to his partner. "We have to know."
After a second of obstinacy, the dark blue eyes granted he was right. Starsky addressed Dobey. "No disrespect, but maybe this is a good time for you captains to go get some coffee or somethin'."
"Mallory?" Dobey looked ready to remove his own authority from the room.
Mallory was studying Rizzo. "Should we, Tony?"
Rizzo made a sound between a laugh and a snort. "Whatever I say now, you'd have your answer, wouldn't you? Not nice, Jake, not nice at all."
Mallory locked eyes with his subordinate, making Hutch wonder about the working relationship between them, then he made a move to leave the room. "Too late, Jake," Rizzo said. "Oh, siddown, will ya? Anything about me left to shock you anymore?" Mallory sank back into the chair, looking unhappy.
Rizzo turned to Starsky. "Caporetto fits in, okay? Not hard junk, but grass, coke, well, he doesn't cringe. You're just gonna have to take each situation as it comes up, but if you blow my case because you're too prissy, I'll skin you alive."
Hutch couldn't help jumping in. "Can the threats," he snapped. "You're not impressing anybody. Your case is back in New York. This is Starsky's, and he'll call the shots as he sees fit."
Starsky mumbled something under his breath. Hutch could swear he'd said, "Don't I wish."
Mallory interceded. "I think we're all getting unnecessarily bogged down in details. Of course nobody is asking Detective Starsky to compromise himself. Of course he's free to make his own decisions. In the long run, the discrepancies between Caporettos won't matter. New York is quite a distance from LA. Who's going to take note of every detail when they don't even know him here?"
The blond already had his mouth open, but Dobey took over. "Maybe no one. But better safe than sorry. I've seen covers blown over the most insignificant things. Let's try and leave nothing to chance. Go on, Starsky."
Hutch decided to leave the ball where Dobey had passed it and not exasperate Starsky any further, but what came out of his partner's mouth was too general for his taste. "Anything else I should know?"
Hutch found himself talking again. "I want to know something. Captain Mallory, yesterday you said there was little or no personnel traffic between the coasts. What do you mean by 'little'?"
"Oh. There's a courier. Makes two or three runs a week. Shouldn't be any trouble. He won't have many reasons to see Caporetto."
"Not good enough. Rizzo, does this courier know you by sight?"
"Talked to him a few times, yes, but -- "
Hutch wasn't about to be mollified. "Bust the man, on anything," he told Mallory and went back to Rizzo. "Make sure the next one doesn't know Caporetto from Adam."
"You're a whiz at givin' orders. I don't run the personnel bureau, how am I supposed to -- ?"
"Come on, Rizzo. You've earned, what, 'respect,' right? If you can't manage a simple maneuver, I'm going to have serious doubts about the rest of this case you say you've got all locked up."
"All right, baby-blue, you've got it," Rizzo came back, and let Hutch know he had calculated accurately. The man took challenges no better than Starsky did.
Dobey asked some more questions, Starsky had a few comments, and Hutch kept track to make sure all bases were covered. Then he thought of a subject nobody had touched on yet, and chances were, left alone, they wouldn't. "Rizzo, I take it Caporetto's not married?"
"Avoids it like the proverbial plague."
"So what are your sexual patterns?" He ignored the choking sound Starsky made in the process of sipping long-cold coffee.
It seemed to throw Rizzo as well. "What?"
"You heard me. Come on, if Caporetto's been living like a monk for years, Starsky should know better than to go eyeing all the skirts. If you've been jumping into every available bed -- " He cut off abruptly, something occurring to him.
Rizzo looked amused at the pause. "That bother you, Blondie?"
Hutch returned the look coldly. "As a matter of fact, it does. My partner has a chest full of bullet and surgery scars. Unless you also have them, or you're in the habit of just unzipping for the occasions, yes, it bothers me. Someone might have a big mouth."
Rizzo sobered, casting a glance full of curiosity at Starsky. "I keep it simple, find someone not likely to become a problem and stick with it. If it gets uncomfortable, I go on to somebody else. Routine."
Hutch got an idea he liked. "Would Caporetto go for a smart, wise-cracking, uprooted New Yorker? Dark and shapely?"
"Sounds too good to be true."
"Linda?" Starsky asked.
Hutch nodded. "Nice and safe. It'll give you another contact with the outside."
Starsky turned to Dobey. "Cap'n?"
"It's a good idea. Baylor's not on any important case right now, and she works very well undercover." Dobey glimpsed the expression on Mallory's face. "Before we bring in anybody else, though, let's discuss it." Both captains got up and retreated to a corner of the room.
An officer in uniform opened the door. "Detective Hutchinson, there's a Mr. Bear out here to see you."
Hutch remembered the phone call he'd made early that morning. He also remembered he'd forgotten to tell Starsky about it. "Be right back," he said and stood up.
"What you want with Hug?" Starsky asked, sounding annoyed at not knowing the answer already.
"You have your connection into the fold, I need mine. Know anybody better than Huggy?"
As he left, he heard Rizzo snicker. "Mr. Huggy Bear, huh? And I thought the City was weird."
Being inside a police station made Huggy Bear grouchy. As soon as Hutch stepped out into the hallway, the black man protested, "If one wants a favor, one should be gracious enough to ask it on The Bear's own turf, y'dig?"
Hutch pulled him into a remote corner. "Listen, then forget. The five captains of the Marruzzi organization, Joseph Labruzzo, Frank Colombo, Vito Luchese, Carlo Genovese, Stefano Gambino. Know any of them?"
Huggy took time out to whistle. It was just as well that the names weren't spoken in his establishment. "All, by reputation. Count me out," he said decisively. "Do yourself a favor, too, and stay outta whatever it is."
"Can't," Hutch said shortly. "I need an in with one of them. I'd like to pick and choose, but I'll settle for anyone you can manage."
Huggy set his jaw with determination. "I'll manage nada, m'man. You ain't jus' talkin' street here, you talkin' a goddamned government. I'll start forgettin' right now, if you don't mind. I'm gone."
Hutch startled him by grasping his arm none too gently and holding him in place. "Does that mean you won't or you can't?"
Huggy looked pointedly at Hutch's grip on his arm. "Won't. Period."
The pale eyes were shards of ice. "It's a bit late in the game for me no start putting on the pressure, but make no mistake, I will."
The black man was taken aback. It had been many years since the blond had stopped being a cop to him and had become a close friend. Right then, Huggy was looking at the cop again. He didn't care for the about-face at all. He glared at Hunch in return, trying to calculate how far he dared to challenge the man.
Hunch continued in clipped tones. "Find me enough of an in to get me into the vicinity of the Family and keep me there, that's all, you're out."
Something occurred to Huggy. "Only you? What about your darker side of the force?"
"He's got one already," Hutch snapped. "He's in."
"Ah-ha," said Huggy. There was no sense in trying to be the immovable object to Hutch's irresistible force in this case; he'd only be sorry. "Should've said so. Okay, okay, ease up." Hutch relented enough to release him. "Luchese's big. Too highbrow for me. Gambino runs the narc side of the house. I couldn't get you a foothold there. He plays too close. Labruzzo's into unions, Colombo into bookie operations, protection rackets. Possible, possible...."
Hutch shook his head. "No, not skirting the edges. I mean in."
"Then your best bet is Genovese. Gamblin' and prostitution. The man runs a club, The Familia, out at the Marina. All the top men are constantly in'n outta there. How're you at runnin' gamblin' tables?"
"I know something. What I don't, I'll learn from the best. The Professor is still around."
Huggy took a step back and studied the detective. In a tux, with hair trimmed and combed, wearing a nicer expression than he did at the moment, any club owner would be happy to display him at one of his tables. "Okay. You work on that and I'll work on gettin' you an intro. Some brothers with IOU's to me work there, mostly in the band. Let's see. How about if you just came in from Reno?"
"No, too many mob connections between here and Nevada. This cover has to last. Mexico?"
Huggy shrugged. "With your Spanish, it'll do. Let me know the details so I can introduce you properly."
"I'll get back to you." Hutch started to walk away, then paused and came back to pat the black man on the back, all friendliness now. "I appreciate it, Huggy. Thanks, and I owe you a big one."
If you live to pay off, Huggy thought. He knew it was the closest thing to an apology he was going to get. With another shrug, he left.
Dobey had persuaded Mallory to include Linda Baylor in the case. Hutch hadn't yet returned. Rizzo's slitted eyes were studying Starsky, who was brooding. In fact, to Dobey's eyes, the carelessly sprawled man looked on the verge of boiling over. Over Hutch.
The currents between the two men were painfully obvious to the captain. Starsky wanted the case so badly that he could taste it. His partner was plain scared. Starsky had what he wanted, and Dobey wished he could understand that the only way Hutch could handle his going into danger again was by trying to control all factors. But Starsky wouldn't see it that way, especially at this point when he thought he had a lot to prove.
Dobey wondered what they would think if he revealed than he hadn't been keeping them off the streets because he was waiting for Starsky to get over the shooting. Contrary to popular assumption, he was waiting for Hutchinson to get over it. He had seen the blond man during the days Starsky had been near death, knew by experience how he'd felt. It still hurt to think about Elmo. And he'd had a family to keep him together. Also, maybe death, the finality of loss, was actually simpler, mourning easier than constant dread of what could be, again, any moment.
Rizzo's voice broke his reverie. "Doesn't he ever let you do the driving?" the man asked Starsky with a motion of his head toward the door, a sneer on his face. "What part do you play in the partnership?"
Bad move, Dobey thought. Rizzo had just alienated Starsky as well.
"How we choose to work is none of your business. Keep your mouth to answer my partner's questions and maybe you won't find out what part I do play."
The answer was so predictable that Dobey could've mouthed the words alongside his detective. However, he knew that the remark had hit home for Starsky. He decided to wait until he saw what the fallout was going to be before he committed his men irrevocably to the case. A faultline was no place to put a critical reactor.
Hutch chose that moment to come in. "Carlo Genovese," he told Rizzo. "Can you get Caporetto assigned to him?"
"Gee, Blondie, I'll do my best, considerin' this is the first time you asked instead of orderin'. Anythin' else?"
"Not at the moment."
Rizzo straightened. "Now I've got something to explain. You might know your jobs, but I see none of you know shit about this organization. Not where it counts. All these 'families' that have roots in Southern Italy work on three basics, all interconnected. Favors, respect, loyalty. The roots go back so far that nothing you can do today will ever break the basic chain. Accept the fact that you're never going to get Poppa Marruzzi. He'll be insulated. You can't touch him unless his consigliere, that's counselor to you, turns traitor, and no consigliere has ever committed that sin. All you will do is to cripple him, put his caporegimes out of commission. His captains, that is. So he won't be able to function anymore. You're a fool if you hope for anythin' else." He motioned at Starsky to pay attention. "Go easy until you understand the mind-set. The most important word you'll ever hear is 'omerta.' Learn it, understand it, respect it. It is the ten-century-old law of Sicily, the Code of Silence. It's the axis everything turns on. You ask anybody to break it before you know exactly what you're doing, and you're dead."
Hutch spoke up, "What does -- "
"Dead," repeated Rizzo.
Dobey decided it was time for a long break. "Obviously, we have a lot to learn from you, Rizzo. We better start fresh tomorrow." Mallory nodded his assent as well, and they all started gathering up the paperwork.
Hutch rushed off to corner Minnie and charm her into putting overtime at the records computer. Back in the squadroom, he found out that Starsky had just left for the day, and hurried to catch up with him. He saw his partner heading out of the building, and took the steps three-four at a time. He was level with the man at the door and about to pass him, but Starsky grabbed him by the arm, shoved him back to step through the door first.
Hutch's immediate reaction was a stab of irrational panic. Then he froze, only then realizing what he couldn't help doing consciously for the first few days Starsky was back on duty had since become a habit. Obviously, it had been irritating the hell out of his partner. He would have to control himself. If he worked real hard at it, one day the garage would become simply a place again.
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