Author: Rebelcat

Gen or Slash: Gen (yes, really!)

Warning: I define Gen as 'neither guy wants to schtump the other'. If you define it differently, please proceed with caution.

Rating: NC-17

Category: Lemon Challenge Fic, Kink, AltSex, Case Story

Disclaimer: If they were mine, this show would be relegated to late, late nights on pay-per-view cable.

Feedback/Critique: Yes, please!

Beta: Nik Ditty rocks!


Private Party

For flavor, instant sex will never supercede the stuff you have to peel and cook.

~ Quentin Crisp

Hutch stopped in the doorway of the morgue. Starsky bumped into him, treading on the back of his heels. He peered over Hutch’s shoulder, trying to see what had startled his partner.

“Cap? What are you doing here?” It was rare to see the Captain away from his desk.

Dobey gestured at the sheet-covered form on the slab in the middle of the room. “Take a look.”

Starsky exchanged a worried glance with Hutch. Was it someone they knew? As Hutch moved forward to peel back the sheet, Dobey turned away, obviously uncomfortable.

Hutch looked down at the corpse. “Ah... White male, about seventy years old? No obvious signs of trauma...”

“I recognize him,” said Starsky, suddenly. “That’s old Judge Lawson.”

“Lawson?” Hutch tilted his head to the side, recognition dawning. “Isn’t he the one who kept holding you in contempt of court for talking out of turn?”

“Yeah, he was mean.”

Dobey’s irritated rumble interrupted them both. “Never mind that. Look at the rest of the body.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Hutch reached for the sheet again, a door at the back of the room swung open. The coroner glanced briefly at them, then crossed to his desk and retrieved a clipboard. “Yes indeed, a very delicate situation,” he said, cryptically.

“Delicate?” asked Starsky. There was a dead judge on the slab. Presumably murdered. He could think of lots of adjectives to describe that sort of situation, but “delicate” wasn’t one of them.

“Uh, Starsk?” said Hutch, sounding strangled.


“Look at this.” Hutch held the sheet up.

“Oh, my God!” Starsky stepped back quickly.

“Can the profanities,” said Dobey, checking his watch. “I’ve got a meeting with the Chief in ten minutes. The sooner you find the killer, the sooner we can close this case.” Without looking back, he headed for the exit.

Hutch took another peek at the corpse, an expression of queasy fascination on his face. “And the less likely it is that this is going to end up in the papers.”

“Just do your jobs!” snapped Dobey, as he pushed his way through the swinging doors.

Starsky might have been amused by the speed of his exit, under different circumstances. Grimacing, he forced himself to look back at the body. It was in fairly good condition from the head to the waist. And from the knees to the toes – though they were rather blue.

In between, though...

The old man’s penis and testicles had been wrapped around with multiple leather straps, and fastened with a series of complicated looking buckles. The skin of his scrotum was pulled taut, forcing each testicle down and away from the body.

Starsky couldn’t imagine a more hideous torture. He knocked Hutch’s hand away from the sheet and straightened it, glaring at his partner. “Let the Judge have his dignity. Not even a hardcase like him deserves a death like that.”

The medical examiner coughed politely. “Actually, that’s not the cause of death.” He joined them at the table, pushing his glasses up his nose. His nametag identified him as Dr. Mallard.

“Well, I guess not,” said Starsky, his initial shock quickly turning to indignation. “But that’d pretty much make you want to die, wouldn’t it? What kinda sicko would kidnap a judge and do that to him?”

Hutch scratched the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable.

That may very well be recreational,” said Dr. Mallard, severely.

“Rec... uh, you mean he put that on there himself?”

“Or he had a friend put it on for him.”

Hutch leaned over Dr. Mallard’s shoulder, trying to look at his clipboard. “So what was the cause of death?”

“We’ll know better when his blood tests come back. But an initial examination – taking into account the evidence of excessive salivation, abdominal bloating, and the general condition of the body when it was found – would seem to indicate poison. Possibly something from the alkaloid family–”

“No, no way!” interrupted Starsky. “No way did he put that on there himself!”

Dr. Mallard frowned at him. “Why not?

“Because... because Judge Lawson was a judge, that’s why. He’s seventy years old. He’s not some leather freak!”

Dr. Mallard turned to face him and Starsky suddenly found himself feeling like he was seven years old and being called to task for his potty mouth. “Pay attention, Sergeant. Before I became your medical examiner, I spent several years working in an emergency room. There was hardly a night that went by when we weren’t dealing with trauma to that very sensitive area of the human anatomy. People abuse themselves in every conceivable way, and in several inconceivable ways, too. Young and old, rich and poor, men and women.”

Starsky tried to protest, weakly. “Yeah, but...”

“But nothing. I’ll have you know that the last time I saw a contraption like this, a buckle had twisted and the gentleman couldn’t remove it. The constriction in that case was causing considerable swelling and pain. This individual, however, is not showing any signs of that sort of trauma. He would have to have been in an aroused state to get the device on, and there is nothing which would have prevented him from removing it himself. Therefore, we must conclude that he chose to wear it.”

“It does make you wonder,” said Hutch, slowly, “just what he had on under his robes when we saw him last week.”

Starsky scowled at him.

“Judge James Lawson was poisoned, and mostly likely through something he ate or drank,” said Dr. Mallard. “If you two intend to catch his killer, it might be best to focus less on his personal peccadilloes and ask yourselves where he might have been last night, dressed like that.”

“Yes, sir,” said Hutch. “Er...”

“Yes?” Dr. Mallard tapped his pen on his clipboard, looking impatient.

Starsky knew exactly what Hutch wanted to ask. “How did you get it off? That time when you were working in the emergency room, I mean.”

“Ice,” said Dr. Mallard. “Ice, and lots of it!”


“I don’t get it,” said Starsky later. He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on his desk. His sneaker hit the side of the phone, rattling the bell inside.

“What do you mean?” asked Hutch. “We’ve got lots of potential leads. I think we should start with all his current cases, and then work our way back.” He pulled a file off of the top of stack at his elbow and tossed it onto Starsky’s stomach.

“There’s too many suspects,” said Starsky, ignoring the file. “Right now, I bet most of the inmates at the Pen are singing ‘Ding-dong, the judge is dead’. Anyway, that’s not what I meant.”

“Just keep your eyes open for any connection to fetishists, sado-masochism, or poison.” Hutch flipped a page over and scanned the one beneath. “What did you mean?”

“I mean, I don’t get why someone would want to do that. What’s such a turn on about pain?”

“I don’t think it’s about pain,” said Hutch. “I think it’s about psychology. Maybe his mother spanked him too much.” He paused, frowning. “Or maybe it’s just about sex.”

“You mean, like letting some pretty girl tie you down and have her way with you?” asked Starsky, reminiscently.

Hutch gave him a sharp look.

“I don’t mean me,” said Starsky, suddenly realizing what he’d implied. “I don’t mean you, either. I just mean... if you were into that kind of thing.”

Hutch shook his head, and went back to searching the files.


Hutch climbed into the Torino carrying two cups of coffee, a bag of donuts, and the latest edition of the Bay City Times.

Starsky stole the paper from him before he had a chance to sit down.

Hutch’s protest was muffled by the bag of donuts he was gripping between his teeth.

“Did you see this?” Starsky held the paper up. “‘Judge Killed in Brutal Sex Slaying.’ Less than twenty-four hours. So much for keeping a lid on the scandal.”

Hutch carefully balanced the coffee cups on the dash and then traded the donuts to Starsky in return for the paper. Giving the front page a quick scan, he groaned. “There’s got to be a leak in the coroner’s office.”

Starsky jammed a donut in his mouth, and leaned over to read with Hutch. He chewed furiously for a moment and then said, “Sexually deviant acts such as... hell, half of this is pure fabrication. They don’t know he did any of that! Maybe he just liked to wear kinky fashions.” He paused. “Do you believe him?”

“Do I believe who?” asked Hutch, fastidiously shaking the donut crumbs off the paper.

“Hey, open the door when you do that,” said Starsky. “Dr. Mallard. The coroner. Do you believe that Judge Lawson was really into that masochistic stuff?”

“I think it’s a possibility,” said Hutch, folding the paper. “And if he was, there’s only one place in this town he would have hung out.” He eyed the bag of donuts on Starsky’s lap. “Half of the chocolate ones are mine.”

“Le Dungeon?” asked Starsky, handing him a chocolate donut.

Hutch nodded.

Starsky gave him a disgusted look. “Yeah, I bet you’re just dying for an excuse to check that place out.”

“The only reason we haven’t is because you start twitching every time I mention it. It’s the closest thing to a lead we’ve got.”

“Getting spanked by girls in leather pants ain’t my thing.” Starsky helped himself to another donut.

“No, but apparently it was Judge Lawson’s thing. Just think for a moment. Where was he found?”

“In an alley off Fourth Street,” replied Starsky, unenthusiastically.

“And if you follow that alley back and cross the street, what’s over on Second Avenue?”

“Le Dungeon.”

“They’ve got a liquor license. I’ll bet you ten to one that’s where he got poisoned. And that’s where we’ll find our killer!”

Starsky started to take a bite of his donut and then stopped, suddenly realizing he’d lost his appetite.


Le Dungeon was tucked out of the way, off the main stretch. From the outside it looked like an ordinary nightclub, the kind that had been classy once, but which was now starting to show its age. The light under the red and white striped awning flickered irregularly, and the neon “e” in Le had burned out.

“We’ve got to get into that club,” said Hutch, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel of his Ford LTD.

They had spent the last few days digging through files and staking out the club. Nothing even remotely resembling a clue had turned up. Dobey had taken to eating antacids by the handful.

“Easy,” said Starsky, without taking his eyes from the door of the club. “We just walk in.” His elbow was propped on the door, his chin resting on his hand.

Starsky hadn’t campaigned very hard to use his own car. After all, he pointed out, if people saw the Torino parked outside Le Dungeon, they might think Starsky was the kind of person who actually patronized that sort of establishment. Evidently Hutch’s reputation wasn’t worth protecting to the same degree.

“How do we get past the bouncer?” asked Hutch.

“Flash our badges.”

Hutch nodded at a man leaving the building, wrapped in a long coat, wearing a hat and sunglasses. “And then what? Do you think any of them are going to talk to us if we go marching in there like stormtroopers?”

Now Starsky looked over at him, his eyes wide. “Are you saying we should go undercover? In there?”

“I saw Dobey throw a half-eaten hamburger in the garbage today.”

“I know that, but... geez!” Anxiously, Starsky ran his hand through his hair. “You want us to go in there, pretending to be one of them? They’re weirdoes. And hard to identify weirdoes, to boot.”

The handful of license plates they’d run had turned up nothing but a few unpaid parking tickets. Most people seemed to prefer to leave their cars a few blocks away and walk to the club, and everyone arrived in some disguise or other. Certainly, the really striking ones, like the lady with the flame red hair down to the back of her knees, couldn't look like that in real life.

“Even weirdoes deserve justice,” said Hutch.

“I don’t think we’d pass, anyway,” said Starsky, dismissively. “It’d be like putting you undercover as a Black Panther.”

“I bet Huggy could help.”

“You’d look terrible in an Afro, Hutch.”

Hutch smacked the back of his head. “I mean, with getting us into this club.”

“Ow!” Starsky rubbed the spot. “What if we run into someone we know?”

“Saying they saw us there would mean admitting they were there, too. I think we’re pretty safe.”

“Well...” Starsky glanced back at the club. A girl with short black hair was leaving. Her outfit left little to the imagination. “Okay, but I’m not getting into anything kinky. I’ve got standards, you know.”


The look on Huggy’s face was beyond description.

“See, I told you this would never work,” said Starsky to Hutch. They were standing in the center of a car lot that Huggy was minding for a cousin. Red, white and blue streamers flapped from the antennas of the “good as new” cars, the festive colors only serving to make the vehicles look even more battered and homely.

“No, just give me a minute,” said Huggy. Pursing his lips, he examined them from every angle. He walked right around them and came back to stand in front of them. He shook his head and made doubtful noises under his breath.

Then he sighed. Deeply.

“Well?” demanded Hutch, squinting. The noonday sun was bright, and there was no shade in the empty lot. A newspaper box nearby was blaring something about Satanic Orgy Judge!

“I can procure the threads. Make you look the part. But you’ll never pass as experienced swingers.”

“I can swing!” said Starsky, offended.

“Not like these cats,” said Huggy. “You don’t know the lingo and you’re not going to learn it like that.” He snapped his fingers. “It takes full immersion, if you get my drift. And when white bread like you two is immersed, it gets soggy and falls apart.”

“So we’re new,” said Hutch, determinedly. “We’re just getting into the scene and we’re eager to learn more.”

“Well, that I believe,” said Huggy. He sucked his lips in, thoughtfully. “You’ll need a native guide.”

“A native guide?” Starsky crossed his arms, scowling. “I don’t like the sound of that. Are you saying we should trust our cover to some weir--”

Hutch kicked him.

“Ow!” Starsky glared at him. “Some fine upstanding citizen we’ve never met? What if he’s the killer?”

“If Huggy says he’s trustworthy...,” began Hutch.

She,” interrupted Huggy, “won’t know you’re the Man. I’ll tell her you’re two curious bunnies and that you need someone to hold your hand that first time in the big woods. She’s got a Samaritan streak a mile wide.”

“I guess that’s not so bad,” said Starsky, reluctantly.

Hutch grinned confidently. “I told you we could do this.”

Huggy propped his hands on his hips, and looked back and forth between the two of them. “Right. Which one of you is the top, and which one is the bottom?”


“What the hell was Huggy on about? Top? Bottom? People are going to think we’re gay!” Dismayed, Starsky examined the clothes Huggy had dropped off. “I don’t even know how this is supposed to go on!”

Starsky held up a complicated-looking harness that appeared to be entirely constructed of leather straps and buckles. “How do those guys manage? You’d have to be a contortionist with a degree in rocket science just to get dressed in the morning!”

“Maybe they’ll think we’re bisexual,” said Hutch, trying not to grin. All he had to do to look his part was dress entirely in black. Black leather jacket, black turtleneck... He liked the look, though the black leather pants were a bit uncomfortable. It occurred to him that people might take him more seriously if he wasn’t always in baby blue and plaid.

“That’s easy for you to say,” grumbled Starsky. “You’ve got a girlfriend!”

“Starsky, we’re not going to this party to pick up girls. It doesn’t matter what they think we are!” Hutch regarded himself in the mirror. Abby always said she liked his hair. Maybe he should let it grow longer.

“Oh, God!” Starsky held up a pair of tiny black leather shorts. “I can’t wear these things!”

Hutch held his forefinger under his nose, trying to visualize himself with a mustache.


Reluctantly, he turned and saw Starsky brandishing the shorts at him. Hutch cracked up.

Starsky flung the shorts down. “Yeah, laugh it up, Blondie. You know what? You can be the bottom guy. I’m keeping my dignity.”

Hutch realized that he was in imminent danger of having to wear leather hot pants. And knowing Starsky, he’d end up in the harness as well. He stopped laughing. “We flipped a coin, Starsk. It’s fair. I play the top and you play the bottom.”

Starsky crossed his arms, stubbornly.

Hutch walked over to the bed and picked up the shorts. “Look, this isn’t so bad. They’re just short-shorts. You’ve got some blue jean cut-offs that don’t cover much more than these.”

For a long moment, Starsky simply glowered at him. Then, slowly, he unfolded his arms and took the shorts from Hutch. “I wish they didn’t have that big silver zipper right there. That’s like an invitation to the ladies to just undress me on the spot.”

Hutch wisely kept to himself his doubts about whether it would be ladies or gentlemen wanting to undress Starsky. Instead, he said, “Remember, we’re only doing this so we can catch that killer.”

“I won’t wear those other things,” said Starsky, with a nod at the studded leather straps.

“Okay,” said Hutch. “But what about a nice black leather vest?” Fishing it out of the pile, he held it up. “See? I bet you’d look foxy.”

Starsky’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Don’t patronize me.” He grabbed the vest out of Hutch’s hands, making the chains sewn to the front rattle loudly. “I’ll wear this. I’ll even wear the damn shorts. But if any of this gets out to the guys at the precinct, you’re a dead man, Hutchinson.”

“What about shoes?” ventured Hutch, after a moment.

“You can pry my Adidas off my cold, dead feet.”


“We should have run this by Dobey,” said Starsky, nervously. He had borrowed Hutch’s tan trench coat and was wearing it with the collar turned up, but even with that, he felt very naked. The night air was chilly on his bare legs. “We should be wired. And we should have back up. Lots of back up.”

“I thought you didn’t want anyone to know,” said Hutch, pulling his sunglasses down to scan the street. It was hard to see in the dark.

“I don’t!” Starsky turned around in a complete circle. “Where is this person, anyway? Huggy said she’d meet us outside...”

“Hi!” said a cheerful voice. “You must be Huggy’s friends.”

Starsky yelped. Hutch turned so quickly, he almost tripped over his own feet.

They’d both spotted the girl and just as quickly discounted her. She was pretty enough, with short mousy brown hair, but she looked like a school teacher. And not even the mean kind of school teacher who hit people with rulers and handed out lines, but the mild kind who smiled a lot and let her students get away with murder.

Hutch recovered first. “Yes, I’m Ken.” He held out his hand. “And you are...?”

She shook her head, smiling. “No names. That’s the first rule of Le Dungeon.” She looked them both over, curiously. “Boy, you two really are green, aren’t you?”

Starsky gave her his most charming smile. “Pleased to meet you.”

She ignored his outstretched hand and looked at Hutch. “Do you really let him speak any time he likes?”

Hutch blinked. “Uh, I’m not supposed to?”

“Discipline is very important in a working master-slave relationship,” she said, sweetly. “Slaves are much happier when they have rules and consequences. It gives them a sense of security.”

“Hey!” said Starsky.

Hutch nudged him with his elbow. “You heard the lady. No talking. Slave.” He had to fight to keep a straight face.

Starsky glared at him with open hostility.

“Le Dungeon is not a sex club,” said their guide, a look of suspicion crossing her face. “If you two are just hoping to get laid, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

“No, no,” said Hutch. “We really want to do this right. We just don’t know where to begin.”

“What have you done so far?” asked the girl, with an air of professional curiosity.

“Er...” Hutch looked at Starsky, his cheeks turning pink.

“Handcuffs,” said Starsky.

“Right, uh... handcuffs,” repeated Hutch.

“Sounds like fun,” she said. She gave Hutch a speculative glance, and then looked at Starsky. Turning back to Hutch, she said, “Have you ever heard of the concept, ‘topping from the bottom’?”


Their guide introduced them to the owner of the club, apparently the only person on the premises with a name.

“Carter Winston,” he said, shaking their hands. Winston was a large man with broad shoulders and a florid face. Unlike the guests, he was conservatively dressed in a suit and tie.

Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances, unsure if they were expected to give their own names. “Hi.”

Winston didn’t seem to notice their unease. “Always glad to welcome new members. I take it the young lady here has filled you in on the rules?”

“No names?” guessed Hutch.

“Complete confidentiality. We have some high profile patrons, and we try to ensure their privacy. Membership is by invitation only, and of course there’s a fee...”

Starsky snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, that judge that died a couple blocks over. Didn’t he come here? It was in the papers.” That name – Winston – sounded familiar. Maybe if he kept the man talking, he’d remember where he’d heard it before.

Winston lost his smile. His voice was frosty as he said, “You shouldn’t believe everything you read.”

Starsky forged ahead. Something about Winston reminded him of a bloated, self-satisfied toad. He wanted to poke holes in the man, deflate him a little. “I guess not. First they were saying he was into kinky sex, and then it was kinky Satanic sex, and this morning it was kinky Satanic Nazi sex in which everyone ritualistically drinks hemlock at the end of the ceremony...”

The temperature in the room was plummeting quickly. Hutch elbowed Starsky.

“Ow!” Starsky gave him an affronted look.

“I don’t think Mr. Winston knows anything about that,” said Hutch, primly.

Starsky made a face at the insincerity in Hutch’s voice. It was obvious his partner didn’t like Winston any more than he did. If only he could remember where he’d heard that name before...

“As I said,” said Winston, frowning, “complete confidentiality is the rule. We do not gossip about our guests.” He left, leaving them alone with the girl.

“So the judge was a guest of this club, then,” said Starsky.

The girl shook her head. “Try to keep your friend out of trouble,” she said to Hutch. “There’s only one reputable place like this in town. You really don’t want to get banned.”

As they followed her into the main lounge, Starsky poked Hutch. “Where are all the disreputable places?” he whispered.


The ‘no names’ rule threw an unexpected wrench into their plans. Any mention of “Judge Lawson” or even “Jimmy” simply garnered blank stares.

Starsky discovered he was allowed to speak after all, but only to other “subs”, a term he assumed was interchangeable with both “bottom” and “slave”. Hutch was getting entirely too fond of that last term. Starsky made a mental note to himself to kick some Hutchinson ass when he got out of this place.

“Did you hear about the guy who was killed?” said Starsky to a skinny black man wearing a horse’s mane and tail and not much else. He was tethered to the banister of the stairs near the front door.

The man gave him an appreciative look. “I haven’t seen you around before. You’re cute.” He wiggled, swishing his tail from one side to the other.

“Uh, thanks.” Starsky paused a moment, distracted. How was that tail attached? There was a strap around the guy's waist, but the tail seemed to be situated... lower. “I mean, it’s been in all the papers. They were saying he liked to dress up like a Nazi and have parties.”

“What? You into the Nazi thing?” The man’s eyes lighted with sudden comprehension. “Oh, right! You came in with that big blond dude, didn’t you? He’d make one sweet Nazi. Look, I’ve got a cousin with a sideline in costuming, if you ever need uniforms.”

“Er...” Starsky was at a complete loss. Nazis! If his mother knew, she’d be blistering his ears. And did this guy just mention a cousin? Surely he couldn’t mean Huggy... It’d be too much to suppose that all the tall skinny black men in Bay City were related to each other.

“Anyway,” continued the man, “I knew the dead dude. I mean, not knew, not like that. But I saw him. He was into cock and ball, strictly S and M, no role-playing at all. Who’d have guessed he was a judge?”

A tiny blonde woman walked up at that point and untied the black man from the railing. She was wearing chaps. “We’re going for a ride.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Starsky’s jaw dropped as the man turned and for the first time he got a clear look at exactly how that tail was attached. And where.

That couldn’t be comfortable, could it?

Recovering, Starsky took a deep breath. If the guy was happy and the girl was happy, then he supposed it was nobody else’s business but their own. He had a feeling, though, that the NAACP would definitely not approve.

On the other hand, would it have been any better if the girl was black and the man was white?

Yes, he decided finally. He didn’t know why, but somehow that would be better. Except for the tail thing. Nothing in the world could make that look right. On anyone.

Starsky wandered off to find another person to interview. The three girls in feather masks looked interesting, and he was almost certain he’d seen them kissing each other earlier.


There were three bouncers, though it took Hutch a few minutes to identify them all. They were uniformly large men in matching jackboots and leather vests. They looked bored, and Hutch guessed they didn’t have much to do on a typical night. Unlike the downtown party clubs, which were chaotic and noisy and prone to burning down unexpectedly, this establishment had an atmosphere more reminiscent of his parents’ country club. People were mingling politely, chatting, and sipping drinks. Any moment now they were going to break out golf clubs.

Suppressing a smile at the image of half-naked and leather-clad golfers, Hutch ducked into a hallway off the main entranceway. Might as well check out the lay of the land.

The building was huge. He had a vague memory of reading somewhere that it had once belonged to a railway baron back in the eighteen hundreds. As he looked around at the intricately carved moldings and brass light fixtures, Hutch wondered what the original inhabitants would have thought of the use their home was being put to now.

A muffled pounding caught his ear, and Hutch peeked around a corner just in time to see Carter Winston stomp down the hall and open a door. There was a man waiting in the alley on the other side.

Hutch heard Winston say, “Didn’t I tell you not to come here any more?”

“Aw, Car! I’m short on bread, man.” The man was shuffling from one foot to another, rubbing the insides of his arms.

Winston’s voice lowered to a furious growl. “You were supposed to be on a bus out of town two days ago!”

“Well, you see, what happened...”

“Shut up!”

Hutch ducked out of sight just as Winston turned. There was a pause, and Hutch imagined he could feel Winston’s suspicious little eyes scanning the hall.

“Get into my office,” said Winston, abruptly. “And stay there! I’ll deal with you after closing.”

Hutch heard a door slam. Leaning around the corner, he found the hallway empty.

He was in the middle of trying to identify which of the doors might lead to Winston’s office, when a large hand suddenly landed on his shoulder.

“Looking for something?” asked a bouncer.

“The bathroom?” tried Hutch.

The bouncer rolled his eyes in disbelief. “Of course you are. Bathrooms are back that way. Party rooms are all upstairs. Don’t go sticking your nose in where it ain’t wanted, or it’s liable to get chopped off.”

Hutch thanked him politely for the advice and headed in the direction indicated. He’d have to wait until later to get a better look at Winston’s twitchy little pal.


Hutch found Starsky making a beeline for the snack table.

“Hey, canapés!” exclaimed Starsky, happily.

“At least try to stay in character,” hissed Hutch, pulling Starsky aside.

“What character?” asked Starsky, trying to grab a tiny tuna sandwich. “You’re the bossy repressed one who likes to make all the rules. Me, I’m the fun-loving laid back guy in the sexy shorts. Seems to me there’s no acting required.”

Hutch slapped his hand away from the platter. “Don’t eat those. They might be poisoned.” He paused. “Repressed? Did you just call me repressed?”

“If they were poisoned there’d be people dying all over this room.”

Just then, an older woman at the far end of the snack table said to her companion, “You’re killing me!” But as she was laughing loudly, Hutch had to assume she was speaking metaphorically. Unless she was a masochist... and into that kind of thing...

Hutch decided to focus on the real issue. “I can’t believe you think I’m repressed!”

“What I can’t believe,” said Starsky, making another attempt at the canapés, “is how classy this place is. I mean, there’s a coat check. And free food. And everyone’s really pretty normal, except for the way they’re dressed.” This time he succeeded, grabbing a sprig of grapes.

A familiar voice interrupted their conversation. “You two should go and explore the rooms upstairs. You’re welcome to watch any of the scenes, just so long as you remember to stay out of them. I think you’ll find them very educational.”

Starsky dropped his grapes. Their guide had undergone a complete transformation. Gone was the prim schoolmistress, and in her place was a woman in a white wig, six inch heels, and a black leather cat suit. She had to have been sewn into it; there was no other way she could have got into it otherwise. His eyes widened as he realized that her tail was actually a long braided whip. The matching black leather handle was fastened at her waist.

He couldn’t decide if she was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, or the most terrifying.

“So... uh. No audience participation?” asked Hutch, his voice cracking.

“Not without an explicit invitation,” she said. She waved a gloved hand at them. “Go on, boys. Scoot!”

“Upstairs?” asked Hutch, still staring at her.

“Any room you like. Go, go, go! I’ll meet you up there in a few minutes.”

Starsky seemed incapable of movement, so Hutch grabbed his elbow and pulled him a few steps backward. They collided with another couple. There was a moment of confusion as they kept tripping over each other, until they realized that the other two men were connected by a long chain. Effusive apologies were exchanged as they untangled themselves.

The stairs were elaborately carved in dark wood, and covered with red carpet. They led up from the center of the room to a veranda.

“Wow,” said Starsky. He stopped halfway up the staircase, and leaned over the banister, trying to look back down into the lounge. “Wow.”

“I’d like to know how she keeps sneaking up on us,” said Hutch.

“Do you think she uses that whip?” said Starsky, glancing questioningly at him. “On people?” He shifted uncomfortably, trying to adjust himself in his shorts.

“When we get home,” said Hutch. “We’re going to talk about why you think I’m repressed.”

Starsky was too busy trying to get another glimpse of the cat woman to take issue.

“Any suspects so far?” asked Hutch.

“No one and everyone,” said Starsky. “How do we know the guy will even be here tonight?”

“It could be a woman. Some of them are... You know.”

“Yeah,” said Starsky, his voice rich with implications about a particular girl in a black cat suit, with a whip for a tail.

“Winston’s hiding something,” said Hutch. “But I wasn’t able to find out what. He tried to put a friend on the bus two days ago, right after the murder hit the papers. We need to find out who Judge Lawson was with that night. Who did he talk to?”

“Who bought him drinks,” said Starsky. “Who gave him a hemlock laced suicide snack.”

“Well...” Hutch turned and continued up the stairs. “Let’s make some friends. Why don’t you pick a door?

“Eenie, meenie, miney...” Starsky pointed at the nearest door. “Moe?”

Hutch opened the door and instantly all thoughts of Judge Lawson’s murder were banished.

“Oh dear God.”

“Is he having... fun?” asked Starsky, hesitantly. He felt like he’d just walked into Hell’s anteroom. A blond man was tied naked and spread-eagled to an x-frame, clothes pins hanging from both his nipples. He was groaning loudly, as if in excruciating pain. It didn’t look like anyone’s definition of fun, except the man with the clothespins was also sporting an enormous leaking erection.

“I don’t know.” Hutch couldn’t tear his eyes away. He didn’t want to stare, but the scene was so outrageously horrifying that he couldn’t help himself.

A woman, dressed like a debauched housewife, was attending to the blond man. She ignored their whispers. Reaching into a bag at her side, she pulled out another clothespin. She brought it close to the man’s face, snapping it loudly.

“How do we know any of this is consensual?” asked Starsky, worriedly. Maybe she was the killer, and they’d just walked in on a crime in progress.

The woman stepped back and looked at her victim with open contempt. “I don’t think you deserve all this attention. I think maybe I should just stop right now.”

“No, please!” wailed the man.

“Please what?” she demanded.

“Please don’t stop!”

Hutch relaxed slightly. “Sounds consensual to me,” he said to Starsky. Slipping into lecture mode, he added, “Human sexuality is a really strange thing. There’s a lot of different variations, and you know, this could be a way to cope with some deep-seated psychological issue.” He was trying to intellectualize the experience, to turn it into an exercise in anthropology.

But then the woman reached down and snapped a clothespin directly onto the man’s left testicle. He howled.

Starsky whimpered, and grabbed Hutch. “Can’t we just arrest them all? We can figure out who’s guilty when we get back to the station.”

Snap! Another clothespin joined the first.

By the sixth clothespin, Hutch was holding on just as tightly to Starsky. “Arrest them? They’ve got more handcuffs than we do, Starsk.”

More clothespins. There were so many now that the man looked as if he had a porcupine between his legs. The woman casually ran her fingers through the pins, making her victim warble.

“You’re right. And they’d do bad things to our balls. They’d never be the same!” Starsky sounded close to tears.

The door opened behind them.

“Oh my,” said their guide. “You picked an intense room, didn’t you?”


“That’s torture!” said Hutch, shock turning to outrage. They were back out on the balcony above the stairs, and he was quickly deciding that psychology be damned, there was no way any of this was right.

“Yes, it is torture,” said the girl. “But only in the nicest way possible.”

Starsky choked. “Nice!”

She ignored Starsky, and spoke to Hutch. “I know that mistress. She’s very experienced and very careful. And of course her sub can bring the entire scene to a complete stop any time he likes.”

“How?” asked Hutch, unable to imagine any way that man could have defended himself, bound the way he was. He was two steps away from pulling his badge and going back into the room to rescue the fellow, and to hell with the murder investigation. This whole place needed to be shut down.

The girl's forehead wrinkled. “Haven’t you two heard of safewords?”

They shook their heads.

“Oh dear, Huggy was right. You’re a catastrophe just waiting to happen.”

“Hey!” protested Starsky.

It was as if Starsky wasn’t in the conversation at all. “Before they began the scene, the boy and his mistress discussed exactly what was going to happen. They agreed on a code word he could use, if he felt like things were getting out of control. He knows exactly how much he wants, and if it gets too much, he can ask her to slow down, or even stop everything.”

The girl leaned over and patted Hutch on the arm. “Look, why don’t I borrow your friend for a little while? I can play out a nice simple scene, and explain as I go. I won’t use any hardware on him. Nothing freaky.”

“Hutch?” said Starsky, uncertainly.

“I, uh, I don’t want him to get hurt,” said Hutch. “I mean, I’m kind of fond of him.”

“Trust me, he’ll be so grateful to you by the time I’m done.”

Starsky waited expectantly for Hutch to refuse. There was no doubt in his mind what Hutch would say.

“Well...” Hutch bit his lip.

Starsky grabbed Hutch’s arm. “Hutch, we have to talk.”

“One moment,” said Hutch to their guide.

Starsky hustled him off to the end of the balcony. Grabbing Hutch’s jacket collar, he said, “No. No, no, no, no! And in case I wasn’t clear before. No!”

“You’re blowing our cover. Wait... did you just call me Hutch, a moment ago?” Hutch’s nose was almost touching Starsky’s.

“She wants to hurt me!”

“But you’ll have a safeword!”

“My safeword is No!”

Changing tactics, Hutch rubbed Starsky’s arm, reassuringly. “C’mon. You’re not afraid of a little girl like that, are you?”

Starsky glanced over at their guide. She smiled benignly at him.

“She’s got a whip. I like my skin, you know. I like it in one piece.”

“But you also like her. Don’t try to deny it.” Hutch looked pointedly down at Starsky’s crotch.

Starsky immediately tried to cover himself. “That’s just adrenaline!” Why did his body keep betraying him like this? It had to be the shorts. They were pressing in... places... that did bad things to him. Because God knows, he was not turned on by the girl with the whip.

“Well...,” said Hutch, reluctantly. “I suppose we could just go back to staking this place out. I mean, a few more weeks... maybe Huggy will come up with a lead.”

Starsky bit his lip.

“I’m sure we’ll catch the guy who killed Judge Lawson eventually. You know, after he’s murdered a couple more judges.”

“You’re a real bastard, Hutch.”

Hutch grabbed Starsky’s shoulders and shook him gently. “I’ll be right there the whole time. I won’t let her hurt you, I promise. And just think – you do this, and no one’s going to question our cover. We’ll be in! Maybe they’ll finally start talking to us.”

Starsky stared into Hutch’s beseeching eyes. Hutch had been convinced from the beginning that this club was the answer to finding Judge Lawson’s killer. His instincts were usually good.

If there was anyone in the world he trusted without reservation, it was Hutch.

And... the girl was kind of cute. Or she would be, if she lost the whip. And the white wig. She could keep the cat suit, though.

Starsky took a deep breath, and squared his shoulders. “Okay, I’ll do it. My safe word is going to be ‘kitten’.”


There were days when Hutch was sure he was going straight to Hell for his sins. And this was definitely one of those days. But it was necessary. They were undercover. Sacrifices had to be made.

“Ah, here’s an empty room!” the girl said, cheerfully, throwing open a door at the end of the row.

Another woman, this one dressed in a nurse’s uniform, stopped and said, “Are you going to play with the new guys?”

Hutch did a double take. Hadn’t he seen her at Memorial last week?

“Strictly for demonstration purposes,” said the girl, playing with the end of her tail.

“Great! I’m sitting in on this one, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not!”

Another person stuck his head around a corner. “Did I hear right? Are you putting on a show for us?” He was a large man in army fatigues, and as he came around the corner he was accompanied by two... recruits, Hutch supposed. A man and a woman. Though there wasn’t an army on Earth that would ever dress its soldiers in anything quite that constricting. And revealing.

Hutch felt something deep inside curl up small and begin to whimper. Stage fright? He realized that he’d never known before what real stage fright felt like.

Grabbing Starsky’s arm, he whispered, “Let’s call this off.”

Starsky’s eyes were wide, and he looked terrified. But at Hutch’s words, his jaw firmed. “No.”


He was staring at their guide. “It’s not so bad, Hutch. I let a pretty girl play with me for a bit, and then we go back to asking questions. It never hurts to have witnesses, right?”

Witnesses. Hutch had to admit Starsky was right. Unless every last one of these people were in on the crime – which didn’t seem quite as implausible as it should – nothing bad was going to happen to Starsky while they were all watching.

‘Bad’ as in fatal, anyway. ‘Bad’ as in humiliating, embarrassing, that was almost certainly guaranteed.

Starsky suddenly jumped and gave a surprised yelp. Hutch realized that a passer-by had just pinched his partner’s ass. “Hey!” he said, glaring over Starsky’s shoulder at the offender.

The man held his hands up and backed up a step. “Sorry, man!”

A woman smacked him on the arm. “Behave yourself! You know better than to touch other people’s property. You’re going to get us thrown out.” To Hutch she said, “I’m really sorry. He’s got impulse control issues.” She sounded genuinely ashamed, as if her new puppy had just piddled on the rug.

Hearing the disapproving murmurs in the crowd around him, Hutch realized that the man had crossed a real line. Apparently this kind of behavior was not tolerated.

This place really was just like his parent’s country club.

Starsky crossed his arms. “That’s right,” he said to the man, who was now staring at his toes like a guilty child. “The only person allowed to do that to me is him.” He jerked his chin at Hutch.

An entirely inappropriate giggle almost escaped Hutch. He turned it into a cough. His nerves were getting the better of him.

The man’s – mistress? – looked relieved, and the tension on the landing dissipated.

Maybe, decided Hutch, this wouldn’t be as bad as he thought.

The room their guide had found looked like an ordinary sitting room, except for the fact that the couches and chairs had all been pushed to the sides. And there was – bizarrely – a trapeze hanging from the ceiling.

Starsky had an unfortunate flashback to the one and only time he’d seen “Behind the Green Door”. There was that end bit in which the trapeze artists were spraying semen, rivers and rivers of it, all over Marilyn Chambers. But that couldn’t be what the girl meant to do with him. It was just a trapeze. Hanging there, perfectly innocently, the way a trapeze always hangs in the middle of your grandmother’s sitting room.

The girl walked into the center and turned with a flick of her tail. “Come here.”

Starsky glanced once at Hutch, and then moved over to stand in front of her, his hands folded behind his back.

There was no reason for him to feel so intimidated, he thought as looked down at her. Hutch was right. She was just a girl.

“You too,” she said, looking at Hutch. “I’m not going to yell all the way across the room while I’m explaining what I’m doing.”

He shuffled awkwardly over to stand next to Starsky. Behind him, people filed into the room, finding places to sit around the perimeter.

She looked at Starsky. “I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want you to answer me honestly.”

“Okay,” he said.

Her voice sharpened. “What was that?”

“Uh... yes?” asked Starsky.

Her eyes creased, almost as if she wanted to smile. “Yes, what?

Ah-hah, thought Starsky. He snapped his shoulders back and brought his feet together to stand at attention. “Yes, ma’am!”

“I can’t hear you!”

Hutch flinched and stepped back.

“Yes, ma’am!” Starsky bellowed, pleased that he’d caught onto her game. This might actually be fun.

“Don’t move!” she commanded. “Keep your eyes on me.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“At ease!”

He settled back into his customary stance, his hands folded behind his back and his feet comfortably shoulder width apart.

“I think you were in the military,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Learned to like a little discipline, did you?”

Starsky choked, but nonetheless managed to say, “Yes, ma’am.”

He was fighting not to laugh, apprehension and anticipation warring with each other inside of him. What was she going to do to him? Was it going to have anything to do with that whip? Because he really didn’t want her to use it.

Not at all.

Starsky felt a stirring in his groin and tried to think of something else.

She crossed her arms. “I think you need more.”

Oh, boy, thought Starsky, unable to stifle a grin.

“Did I tell you to smile?”

“No, ma’am,” said Starsky.

“You disobeyed me.” She shook her head. “I’m disappointed.” Walking behind him, she examined him closely. “Sloppy, very sloppy. I don’t think your feet are far enough apart.”

Starsky moved his feet a few inches out to the sides.


He moved them a little more.


A bit more and Starsky’s legs were straining. He wobbled, but managed to catch himself in time.

“Not bad,” said the girl. “How long do you think you can hold that position?”

“As long as it takes, ma’am!”

She smiled behind Starsky’s back. By the time she walked around to the front of him, her expression was stern again.

“No matter what happens, you will hold that position, do you understand?” She unwrapped her whip from around her waist and pulled it through her hands.

“Uh... are you...?” began Starsky, nervously.

She shook her head sadly, and he immediately realized his mistake, snapping his jaw shut. Saying nothing to him, she walked across the room.

There was an assortment of items laid out neatly on the table beneath the window. Some were just what they’d expect – handcuffs and ropes. Others were strangely prosaic. Wooden knitting needles, and elastic bandages, and – oddly enough – a spatula.

The girl selected two bandannas, one green and the other black. To Hutch, she said, “It might seem very basic, but a blindfold can be one of your best tools. When he can’t see, his senses are heightened and his imagination takes over.”

Hutch saw her tuck one of the knitting needles into the back of her pants, concealing it from Starsky’s view.

She came back and stood in front of Starsky. Pulling the green cloth taut, she said, “And this will remind him not to speak out of turn.”

“Wait!” said Hutch, stepping forward. “How can he use his safeword when he’s gagged?”

“Very good question!” She smiled at him. “Can you think of a solution?”

Throw a coat on Starsky and leave immediately, thought Hutch. But Starsky was still standing there, rock solid. He probably wouldn’t appreciate having Hutch play mother hen.

“I suppose he could use a gesture,” said Hutch, reluctantly.

“Show him your safe gesture,” commanded the girl.

His hands still folded behind his back, looking straight forward, Starsky unfolded his middle finger.

“Oh, I can tell you and I are going to be best friends,” said the girl, happily.


Gagged and blindfolded, Starsky was no longer having fun, no matter what his cock thought. He couldn’t see what the girl was up to, and he wasn’t sure where she was. All he could hear was the occasional creak of the floor boards, and then suddenly she was right there, and just as suddenly she was gone again. Every nerve in Starsky’s body was alight with electric anticipation.

And oh God, why wouldn’t she just finish things? His legs were killing him, and his cock was trying to drill a hole right through the zipper of his shorts.

He felt something brush lightly over his shoulders and twitched helplessly. Was that her whip?

He heard a whistle and a crack and he felt himself begin to sweat.

But Hutch was here and he’d promised not to let anything bad happen. The girl was saying something now. What was she saying?

She was explaining that whenever you work with a whip you should always use it on yourself first, so that you have a precise idea just how much force is being applied. That there are all different kinds of whips and floggers and that it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing. Practice on a pillow before you try it on a person.

Something cracked just behind Starsky’s ear and he flinched, absolutely convinced he’d felt the tip of the whip sting. She was still talking, sounding just like any one of his instructors in basic training.

Maybe she’d lied. Maybe they were all in on the murders and at some point while he’d been blindfolded, Hutch had been abducted, and the next thing you knew they’d be attaching clothespins to his balls...

A hand settled on his crotch, and Starsky almost fell over.

Hutch was fascinated. Starsky was breathing heavily, turning red in the face, sweat making tracks down his forehead and soaking the edges of his blindfold, and yet the girl had hardly touched him. She’d swapped her whip out for the knitting needle and was stroking him with it.

When she tugged down his zipper, Starsky’s knees buckled.

“Straighten up!” she barked, and he struggled gamely to comply.

Shaking her head, she said, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to manage. You’re weak!”

Starsky looked as if he agreed with her.

“Put your hands up,” she ordered. “Hold on to the bar over your head.”

Starsky reached up blindly, and after a moment of fumbling, found the trapeze.

She nodded. “Not bad.” Looking over at Hutch, she said, “It’s attached to a pulley in the corner, but we won’t need to adjust the height this time. See how his feet are flat on the floor, while his elbows are straight? We want to make the boy uncomfortable. We don’t want to cause him unnecessary pain.”

Hutch nodded, wordlessly, wondering just what kind of pain was necessary.

Starsky’s zipper was hanging open now, and Hutch wasn’t sure where he was supposed to be looking. Staring at Starsky’s crotch seemed rude, but on the other hand, they were supposed to be undercover as lovers. One would presume he wouldn’t be shy about seeing him naked...

Hang on. What was that?

“You wore underpants?” said Hutch, startled. “Since when do you wear underwear?” The pristine white cotton bulging at Starsky’s crotch stood out in ludicrous contrast to his black leather shorts. There was laughter from the spectators around the room.

Starsky growled something at him, furiously, his jaw working around the gag.

“Quiet!” The girl’s voice cracked like her whip and instantly there was complete silence in the room. She turned on Hutch. “You are responsible, not him. That’s part of being on top. It’s your job to instruct him, to show him what you want from him. You carry the entire burden, and when things go wrong, you’re the only one to blame.”

Hutch blinked. He’d thought of playing the top as simply a matter of being the lucky person who got to give the orders.

Her voice softened. “That’s why you have to watch him all the time. You have to be ready to change the game the minute he starts showing signs of genuine distress. Sometimes things might go off the rails, and then it’ll be your job to stop on a dime and comfort him. Your pleasure always comes second to his.”

Hutch could have sworn he heard a smugly satisfied grunt from Starsky.

The girl turned back to Starsky. “All right, soldier! I see you’re standing at attention already. Excellent!”

He’s got no responsibility, because I’ve got all of it? wondered Hutch. He reminded himself that this was just a role they were playing. In real life they were partners. Equals.

Though I do like to boss him around sometimes, thought Hutch, reluctantly. And he lets me. But that didn’t mean they had anything in common with the other people here.

Did it?


Starsky was in another place entirely. Wave after wave of pleasure was swamping his senses and it was all he could do to hang on. She had ordered him not to come, and he tried desperately to obey, but it was terribly hard. He was terribly hard. He heard himself groan and couldn’t stop it. If he hadn’t been gagged, he thought he might have begged. His nerves were buzzing, and he was so close to losing it, he could feel his whole body beginning to shake...

And then a crack. Something stung the inside of his thigh, a bright spark of pain, jolting him back to the present with a muffled yelp. He couldn’t see through the blindfold, but he could easily imagine her, his personal tormentor, wielding that whip, encased in black leather. “Good soldier,” she whispered in his ear, her hand brushing down his chest, almost low enough, but not quite.

She kept him right on the brink, never letting him fall over the edge.

Starsky could feel dampness on his cheeks, and didn’t know if it was sweat or tears. He was sorely tempted to just extend his middle finger, sit down right where he was, and jerk himself off. And then beat Hutch to death for bringing him here.

But it felt so damn good.

Starsky tightened his grip, his nails digging into his palms.

“When you decide he’s had enough, you can segue into more traditional gratification...” The girl’s voice faded into background noise.

Hutch couldn’t tear his eyes away from what was happening. Every teasing touch of her hand, every stinging snap of the whip – he felt it as if it was all being done to himself as well as to Starsky.

The girl’s voice took on an impatient note and he realized that she’d just asked him several times whether he wanted to finish off Starsky himself.

Hutch shook his head, frantically.

She gave him a curious look, and then shrugged. “Shy, huh? Well, you can also opt to let him stew for awhile. Not every session has to end with an orgasm. In fact, a lot of people prefer to skip that part of it altogether.”

Hutch heard a panicked sound from Starsky, muffled behind his gag.

The girl smiled. “It could be fun. If we attach a cock ring right now, you won’t have to worry about him losing that lovely erection. You can even parade him around like that for a while. He’s enough of an exhibitionist, he might enjoy it.”

Starsky whimpered pathetically.

“No,” Hutch finally managed, his voice hoarse. “No, that’s fine. You can finish him.”

She smiled brightly and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “You’re very sweet!”

Hutch was quite certain he was anything but sweet. He had talked his partner into participating in sadomasochistic sex in front of strangers, and worse – he himself was completely turned on by the whole scene.

When the girl wrapped her leather gloved hand around Starsky, Hutch felt his own groin throb.

When Starsky gave a rattling groan that seemed to come from deep in his chest, Hutch found himself echoing the sound.

And when Starsky spilled over her fist...

Hutch disgraced himself utterly.

His heart pounding, he was very glad now that he’d opted to wear the black leather pants. It didn’t seem to show. But when he looked up, the girl was regarding him with an amused expression that suggested she knew everything.

For his part, Starsky was hanging limply from the bar with his eyes closed, panting.

“At ease, soldier,” she said. “Put yourself back together.”

Hutch winced in sympathy with Starsky as he brought his arms down. He was struggling with the zipper on his shorts, when his knees suddenly buckled.

Hutch caught him under his arms and heaved him up. “C’mon, buddy. You’re all played out.”

The girl patted Hutch’s cheek, affectionately. “Thank you. Your boy was an absolute pleasure to work with. Very uninhibited and easy to read.”

“Uh...” Hutch floundered for a moment. Then the lessons he’d learned in childhood kicked in and he found himself saying, “It was our pleasure.”

Her eyes sparkled. “I’ll leave him to you, then. Take a few minutes for yourselves, and then come down to the lounge. I’ll find you!”

The man in the army fatigues stood, pulling his recruits up with him. “Good show, man!” To his tiny army, he said, “Ten hut! March!” They left, stepping in unison.

Glancing around, Hutch realized that the other spectators were also leaving. Though not without a grin and a wave, a kind word or two, and in one case, the tip of a top hat. It seemed he and Starsky had made it. They’d been accepted.

Hutch dragged Starsky stumbling over to one of the couches.

“I think I’m in love,” said Starsky faintly.

“With who?” asked Hutch.

“Who do you think, dummy?” Starsky leaned back on the overstuffed brocade couch and stared at the ceiling. “I think I just had a spiritual experience.”

“You had an orgasm,” said Hutch, dryly. “Starsky, that woman just abused you in front of half a dozen spectators.”

“Yeah, and I know whose fault that is.” Starsky opened his eyes, and looked at Hutch accusingly.

This responsibility thing was entirely overrated, thought Hutch. “Hey, you agreed --.”

“I wonder if she does private sessions,” interrupted Starsky. “I wonder if she’s got a boyfriend.”

“She thinks you’re gay.”

“I can be converted!” Starsky sat up, grinning. “I’ll tell her it was never that good between us anyway. I’ll tell her you’re mean to me. You steal my lunches, and say bad things about my car.”

“That’s really going to impress a woman who flogs people for fun.” Hutch stood up. “C’mon, loverboy, time to get back in character.”

“Yes, master,” said Starsky, grinning.

Finding a bathroom was first on Hutch’s list of priorities, well before interviewing suspects. He was sticky and sweaty and extremely uncomfortable. The last time he’d come in his pants, he’d been a teenager and had snuck into a dirty movie. He wondered what kind of psychological baggage he was carrying around, that he could be at all turned on by the sight of his partner being sexually tortured.

Or maybe it was just the girl.

Starsky was right. She was hot, in a very disturbing kind of way. Not that he had any desire to have sex with her.

Or with Starsky, thank God.

In fact, Hutch decided, right now he’d happily commit to a life of celibacy.

“You were looking for a bathroom, oh master?”

His thoughts interrupted, Hutch turned to find Starsky smirking at him.

“Stop that!”

“Stop what? I’m in character.” Starsky nodded at the bathroom door. “C’mon. You look like you need to splash some cold water on yourself. Wouldn’t want you to spontaneously combust.”

He had a point, thought Hutch a few minutes later, as he examined himself in the gilt framed bathroom mirror. His face was flushed and his ears had acquired a hue more usually seen in the tomato section of the produce aisle.

Unzipping, he dampened a small towel and began trying to clean himself up as best he could.

“Wow,” said Starsky, sounding impressed. “She got to you too, huh?”

“Did anyone ever tell you it’s rude to stare?”

Starsky suddenly glanced toward the door. “Zip up! Someone’s coming.”

Hutch quickly tucked himself back in as the bathroom door swung open. There was a fraction of a second in which he recognized the man Carter Winston had let in through the back door of the club.

And then abruptly, shockingly, Starsky’s hands were on both sides of his face and Hutch found himself in a lip lock with his partner. My partner’s kissing me, he thought, blankly. He’s kissing me. Why is he kissing me?

“Whoa! Don’t let me interrupt.”

Through a mass of curly hair, Hutch could see the man throw his hands up and back out of the room. As the door swung closed, Starsky moved his lips to Hutch’s ear. “Is he gone yet?”

Hutch straight armed him back into the sink. “Yes! What the hell was that?”

Starsky bounced off the porcelain rim and grabbed his collar. “That was A. J. Winston. Didn’t you recognize him?”

Hutch stared at him baffled. “Why would I? I’ve never seen him before tonight.”

“Of course you have!” Starsky shook him, twice, and then dropped his collar, evidently wanting his hands free for gesturing. “It was that big blackmail ring. He got away. Two years ago! Right before Christmas, when you were... er. Oh.” He looked embarrassed. “You were laid up with a broken leg.”

“And, apparently, you forgot I wasn’t in on the bust!”

“That’s because you usually are!”

Hutch felt a staggering sense of relief. “You kissed me so he wouldn’t see your face and recognize you.”

“Of course!” Starsky looked shocked at the idea that Hutch might have thought it was anything else.

“You realize I’ll be having nightmares about your lousy kissing.”

Starsky punched him lightly on the shoulder. “You’re a lousy liar.”

“Tell me about this guy,” said Hutch.

“A.J.’s been on the wanted list for the last couple years. But he wasn’t anyone important in the ring, so I guess no one’s been looking very hard for him. He was just muscle.”

Hutch snapped his fingers. “You said A.J. Winston?”

“You think Carter’s his brother?”

“Maybe when he turned up recently Carter gave him a job.”

Starsky bounced lightly on his toes, beginning to get excited. “And maybe Judge Lawson recognized him.”

“Or maybe he recognized the judge and decided to try to blackmail him.”

“Sure, but an old hardcase like the judge, he wouldn’t play ball.”

“Yeah, but poison? That’s not A.J.’s style.” Starsky frowned. “Where would a three-time loser get his hands on hemlock?”

“I’ll bet Carter could track some down, with connections like his.” Hutch heard more footsteps outside the bathroom. The door opened, and the first thing he saw was the nose of a revolver pointed directly at him. Then he realized the man holding it was Carter Winston.

Winston moved into the room, flanked by A.J. and one of his men.

“See?” said A.J., triumphantly. “They’re cops. I told you I recognized that one!”

“Yeah, I’m a cop,” said Starsky. He tilted his head toward Hutch. “But he’s not. What’s going on here?”

“I’m not stupid,” said A.J. “You’re Starsky and that means he’s Hutch. I’ve heard about you guys!”

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance. Then, reluctantly, they raised their hands, backing up against the far wall next to the radiator.

“They’re here about that old judge. I’ll bet you anything, that’s why they’re here,” said A.J., speaking so quickly he was almost babbling. “They figured out where he died, and then they figured where he must’ve been. They didn’t buy all that Nazi Satanist orgy stuff the papers are all talking about...”

Speed freak? Hutch mouthed at Starsky.

Starsky shrugged. He was trying to figure the odds of jumping Winston right now. Under normal circumstances he’d assume the man would be reluctant to shoot them right here, since the sound of gunshots might draw attention. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and in a place like this, people might not react to gunshots at all. They might just assume it was all part of a game.

Winston finally spoke. “A.J., you’re an idiot!”

“Hey,” A.J. began.

Winston nodded once at his man. He was a big fellow, over six feet tall with a nose that looked as if it had been broken repeatedly and never set properly. The bouncer grabbed A.J. and shoved him over to stand next to Starsky and Hutch.

“What are you doing?” howled A.J.

Winston moved the gun a fraction to point directly at A.J. “Family loyalty only goes so far, little brother. You should have taken the bus out of town when I told you to. I have to stop you before you destroy my business.” To Starsky and Hutch, he said, “I’m sorry, gentleman. I do believe you’re legitimate guests, but thanks to my brother, you’ve also become a liability to me.”

Starsky looked at Hutch. Then he looked back at Winston. “Why do you think we’re legitimate guests?” When in doubt, always keep the villain talking.

Winston frowned. “I saw some of your performance.”

“You – what?” Starsky glared at Hutch. “You didn’t tell me he was there!”

Hutch shrugged helplessly. “I didn’t notice!”

“You mean – he saw – that’s disgusting!”

Winston’s face was growing redder by the minute. “Quiet!”

“You know,” said Hutch, calmly. “Killing a police officer is a federal offence.”

“So is killing a judge!” Winston raised his pistol.

The door swung open. “Oh, here you are!” said a cheerful voice. “I’ve been looking all over for you guys!” It was the girl in the cat suit.

Seizing the moment of distraction, Starsky leaped forward, reaching for Winston’s gun. From the corner of his eye he could see Hutch making his move.

Someone screamed. Starsky identified it as A.J., just as his hand hit the barrel of the gun, knocking it up into the air. There was an ear-splitting crack, and he felt plaster hit the back of his head as he tackled Winston.

And then another crack, but this was a different sound. A familiar sound. Starsky and Winston hit the floor together and rolled up against a bathroom stall. He caught a glimpse of Hutch struggling with the broken-nosed bouncer.


The bouncer sudden let go of Hutch and fell back against a sink, swearing and holding his hand.

It was the girl with the whip.

“Back off!” she shouted.

Starsky twisted Winston’s wrist, feeling the bones grind together under his grip. Winston yelped and dropped his gun. Straddling his captive’s back, Starsky forced his arm up between his shoulder blades and grabbed the gun.

Then he sat back to enjoy the show as that little girl backed a huge bruiser into a corner all by herself.

She was a goddess.

“Oh, close your mouth,” snapped Hutch. “You’re drooling all over the bad guy.”

Starsky glanced over and found Hutch sitting on the floor, holding a bloody nose and glaring at him.

“Would someone mind telling me what’s going on?” asked the girl.


Dobey was not impressed when he heard where they had caught the Winston brothers. They opted not to tell him exactly how.

“I distinctly remember telling you – no private parties!” he shouted.

“It wasn’t private,” said Starsky.

“There were lots of people there,” confirmed Hutch.

“All of whom left before the units arrived, including you, Starsky!”

Starsky shrugged. “I came right back, didn’t I?” Right after he’d changed into something more respectable. Good thing he had a change of clothing in the car.

“We have no witnesses, no names...” continued Dobey.

“They were hard to identify,” said Hutch.

“Especially the ones with masks on,” said Starsky.

“But it doesn’t matter,” said Hutch. “Because A.J. and Carter are doing their best to put each other behind bars.” And so far they seemed far too wrapped up in hating each other to remember Starsky’s performance that night. Hopefully they never would.

Dobey slammed his hand down on the desk. “Don’t tell me what doesn’t matter! I know what doesn’t matter! And the rule is, no private parties! Especially not in sex clubs!”

“It’s not a sex club...” started Hutch. He wanted to explain how he’d learned that it was all really about taking control and accepting responsibility.

“Get out!”

Starsky and Hutch fled before Dobey could start throwing stuff at them.

Out in the hallway, Starsky homed in on the snack machine. He checked the coin return. “Actually, I do have the name of one witness.”

“Oh, yeah?” Fishing through his pockets, Hutch came up with a quarter. As he fed it into the slot for Starsky, he asked, “Who?” It was a good thing, he thought, that he didn’t have any psychological dependencies like the real patrons of Le Dungeon. He had no desire to wield control over somebody.

“Remember the foxy lady with the whip?”

A package of peanuts tumbled down. Starsky made a grab for them, but Hutch was a fraction faster. “You got her number?”

“She’s really sweet in real life, Hutch. Did you know she’s a teacher?”

Hutch opened the package and held them out for Starsky. “So what’s her name?” It was nice that Starsky was as well balanced as he was, too. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do.

“Terry Roberts!” said Starsky, around a mouthful of peanuts. “Can I have some more?”

“No,” said Hutch, putting them away in his pocket. “You’ll spoil your dinner.”

“Okay,” said Starsky, cheerfully. “You’re the boss.”

“What? No, I’m not!”

“Oh, do want me to say ‘master’ instead? That might get a little awkward in the locker room...”


Eyebrows raised expectantly, Starsky held out his hand. “More peanuts, please?”

Hutch gave him the whole package.