12

 

All I have is all I need,

And it all comes down to you and me...

 

The manhunt for Evan Jordan became more time-consuming, but was still not generating any new leads. Those who had been tied in to Ben Forest's organization were either unfamiliar with his illegitimate son or were too smart to rat on the son of their former leader. One thing that became obvious to Nedloe and Elliot during their discussions with the former leadership of the Forest empire was that the man had left his minions well remembered in his will, and his "upper echelon'' still policed the lower ranks. Power had merely shifted to Daniel Forest, his younger brother. This man somehow managed to maintain what appeared to be a legitimate law practice for big ticket divorce cases with one hand and pull the strings of his brother's crime empire with the other. All the while, no one could tie him in to anything illegal. But everyone knew him just the same.

Starsky managed to keep his own and his partner's spirits out of the dumps most of the time. The case was interesting, even if it was threatening to topple their entire lives at any moment. The network that had survived the gangster's demise was impressive, and depressingly clean in terms of criminal records.

Thanksgiving rolled around, and Starsky's "little gathering'' had blossomed into a pot luck dinner for sixteen people which included Cecile, Mel, Sally and Paul Pomeroy, the Dobeys, Jim and Dorothy Nedloe and their two sons, Huggy, and Christine Walling. Hutch had been surprised by that final addition, as the distance between the attractive blonde and his partner had been well-defined since the infamous swatting incident. During the Forest investigation, however, the two of them seemed to find more and more reasons to "compare notes''.

"Have you ever actually done a turkey before?'' Starsky asked his partner as they loaded a prodigious bird into their grocery store shopping cart.

"No, but I have a cook book at home.'' Hutch continued pushing the cart toward the fresh vegetables.

"I still think we ought to take Sally up on her offer to do the bird.''

"We're hosting the party, Starsk--which was your idea, incidentally. We will be doing the turkey and the stuffing.''

"Stuffing? I don't know how to make stuffing.''

"Here's a list. Go get this stuff.''

"This is the stuffing list?''

"Yup. I found it in--''

"Same cook book as the turkey?''

"Right.'' Hutch smiled as he began selecting the best-looking tomatoes.

Starsky gathered the supplies on his list, resisting the temptation to stop by the boxed foods and pick up a couple boxes of Stove Top Instant and call it good. He met Hutch near the check-out aisles and dumped his armload in the cart.

"Christine's doing the cranberry sauce, right?'' Hutch clarified.

"Yeah. She said it's her specialty.''

"That was the last item on the potluck list no one volunteered for--you sure you didn't invite her just to get out of making it ourselves?''

"Maybe she said it was her specialty just so she could come--ever think'a that?''

"I'm sure she had to drag the invitation out of you.'' Hutch spotted the shortest line and headed for it. As most short lines do, it moved at half the speed of the line next to it, which was twice as long.

"We should probably be doing that.'' Starsky nodded toward the woman ahead of them who was counting out a massive stack of coupons.

"Clipping coupons? Why doesn't the mental picture of you clipping coupons and bargain-hunting work in my mind?''

"Didn't say it'd be fun. Just a thought.'' Starsky started examining the headlines on one of the tabloids. "We made Expose,'' Starsky announced, calling Hutch's attention to the copy he was holding. The cover screamed: "West Coast Serial Killer Son of Crime Lord''.

"Great. Didn't take long, did it?'' Hutch read the cheesy article over his partner's shoulder.

"Nice photo of Dobey,'' Starsky quipped, referring to a picture of Dobey in motion down the courthouse steps with a hand partially over the camera lens.

"At least they didn't rehash everything about Sandra and me again.''

"Oh, not so fast. 'One of the lead detectives on the case, Sergeant Ken Hutchinson, lost his fiancee to The Bridegroom in April. Some question has been raised as to the appropriateness of Sgt. Hutchinson's involvement in the task force, which has, thus far, failed to apprehend the killer.' Terrific.'' Starsky stuck it back in the rack and moved up toward the register as the coupon queen finally paid for her staggering order and left. He unloaded most of the cart until it came to the assorted items Hutch had in the upper part of the basket. He tossed each one to Starsky, who caught most items with one hand, barely looking at his partner to know they were coming. This seemed to amuse the cashier greatly. You oughtta see us in a gunfight, Starsky thought to himself, smiling a little.

 

 

 

 

Hutch took the lead in the turkey project. This meant, however, that he delegated the stuffing duties to Starsky, who was still complaining at the injustice of being the one to have to stick his hands up a dead bird's butt to cram mushy globs of wet bread inside it. Hutch merely cackled a little evilly and informed his partner that life wasn't fair.

Starsky briefly considered stuffing the bird with popcorn-laced dressing, but since a houseful of guests would be counting on it for dinner, he refrained.

The smells of food permeated the old house to all corners, the sound of parades blared from the living room where the guys had moved the TV the night before, figuring many of the guests would want to catch the parades or at least parts of the football games. Cal and Rosie worked on setting the table, as the Dobeys arrived first. Edith brought with her a number of delicacies, including her famous nut bread, a bean casserole and the pasta salad--at Starsky's request. Even if it had nothing to do with Thanksgiving, it never hurt to have a little taste of pepperoni and Italian seasonings. It wasn't long before the Pomeroys arrived, and so Dobey had company in the living room in front of the TV. When Christine Walling arrived, she insisted on joining Cal and Rosie on kitchen duty, helping stir a few last minute items cooking on the stove and carry things to the big dining room table. Cecile arrived shortly after Christine, bearing pies and whipped topping for dessert.

Huggy's contribution to the event was wine for dinner and an assortment of snacks for those souls hardy enough to face eating anything during the football game in the evening.

By two o'clock, the table was laden with food and surrounded by hungry people, including the two young Nedloe boys, who had endured almost all they could take of the smell of food without having any. Rosie, only slightly older than the others, was exercising the newfound maturity of her 11 years, refraining from any preliminary reaching or whining about waiting.

"Before we dive in, does anybody want to say anything?'' Starsky asked. In their family, it was tradition to go around the table, each coming up with something they were thankful for. Not wanting to put the guests on the spot, he left the suggestion open-ended.

"I do,'' Rosie volunteered, much to her parents' amusement. "I'm thankful for Mommy and Daddy and Cal, and for my new teacher in math, because the old one was driving us crazy,'' she rolled her eyes a little, and a quiet laugh ran through the group, "and for Starsky and Hutch moving in here, 'cause now I can come over and visit more often.'' She got a smile and wink from both her adopted uncles.

"I'm thankful for the invitation to join you all today,'' Christine began, a little reluctantly. Shyness wasn't part of her usual demeanor, but she seemed hesitant to speak. She did so regardless. "This is my first Thanksgiving...since my parents died in a car accident last year. I just wanted you all to know that I appreciate sharing today with you.'' Starsky, who was sitting next to her, reached over and took her hand.

"Each year I'm thankful for my wonderful family, the blessings of good health, and all the hard work and dedication of the men in my department,'' Dobey began, "even if a few of them have their tendencies to bend procedure from time to time,'' he continued, looking pointedly toward Starsky and Hutch, who exchanged innocent expressions. "I wish continued safety and happiness for all of us in the coming year.''

"Since this whole case began--and I promise I'm not going to talk shop,'' Hutch hastened to add, bringing another little laugh to the crowd, "I've been spending a lot of time concentrating on what I've lost, the difficult times it's caused...but I am grateful now for the chance to look at all the things I have to be thankful for--wonderful friends who came forward when times were bad, a new home, a job that I both love and hate, but love more,'' Jim, Starsky and Dobey all chuckled on that point, "and for a partner and best friend I couldn't think of the right words to thank. Despite all the bad times during this last year, I feel blessed, and I'm thankful for that.'' Hutch smiled at his partner, who was blushing, most likely to his ears as they lurked under his hair.

"I'm thankful for good friends,'' Huggy began, "who make good customers, that all these cops I hang around with haven't figured out something to arrest me for,'' he scanned the group and found smiles among his law enforcement friends, "and for bein' here today, and meetin' some lovely ladies, which was an added bonus.''

"We're thankful for family and friends, good health, and new neighbors we get along with who're finally fixing this place up,'' Mel spoke for the Pomeroys.

"I guess a lot of what I'm thankful for would sound like I was just repeating what Hutch said,'' Starsky began, "but I am grateful for the friendship of the people here today, because it's gotten me over some rough spots lately. I'm thankful for my family, even though they couldn't all be here and for Hutch, because he's always here.'' Starsky nudged Hutch, who was sitting on the side Christine hadn't claimed. They both grinned.

A few more reflections on family, friends and good health were shared before the squirming children, and a vociferous growl from Starsky's stomach signaled that it was time to say a final grace, carve the turkey and let the party begin.

Dinner was delicious and left everyone groaning sufficiently. Slowly, the table-dwellers dispersed to the living room or kitchen depending on whether their destiny was cleaning up or watching football. Since both Christine and Sally turned out to be football fans, Cecile, Edith and Dorothy volunteered for the kitchen duty. Rosie and Cal were excused based on prior servitude before dinner. Starsky and Hutch flipped for who would take kitchen duty, since adding two more would have been more a hindrance than a help. Hutch seemed delighted to "lose'' the toss, since Cecile was

among those who would be sharing cramped quarters around the sink.

Since dinner had been a rib-expanding event, it had been decided to have pie and coffee in the evening during the final hours of the football game. Cecile surprised Hutch a little by drafting his partner to help serve dessert. She said since Hutch had already done his duty, he should be able to relax and it was Starsky's turn.

"These pies look great,'' Starsky commented, adding artistic swirls of whipped topping as Cecile placed each piece on the plates.

"Dave, I had an idea. Last week, I came by to see Ken, and he showed me his paintings. They were really excellent.''

"That's what I try to tell him.'' Starsky aimed the spray can and created another swirl.

"Remember Ken and I went to that opening at the Barrington Gallery? Well, I helped my friend get her show there--Lucy Barrington is a close friend of mine. I'd really like to set something up for Ken, but I know he won't go for it.''

"Did you ask him?''

"Yes--I even told him I thought he could sell some of his stuff.''

"What'd he say?''

"What he always says-- 'oh, get serious'. Well, I am.''

"What exactly do you want me to do?''

"I'd like to set something up and surprise him. If he once could see that his work was well-received--''

"Don't do that, Cecile. He isn't going to appreciate it like you think he will.'' Starsky stopped what he was doing and turned to face her. "His art is very...I don't know, private to him, I guess. He's real hesitant to show it to anybody.''

"Because he thinks everything he does is only mediocre at best. Like his singing--he gets nervous about doing that too, but listen to how good he is.''

"Just because he's good doesn't mean he'd enjoy being shoved out on stage at Carnegie Hall. I don't think he's going to enjoy having his paintings shown, and he's not going to like someone going behind his back. Besides, you'd have to get your hands on the paintings first, and he'll never go for it.''

"Dave, come on. He told me that his job could be threatened if this whole drug thing comes out. He might not appreciate it at first, but if he could catch on as an artist, still make a living--I think he'd feel a lot more...more of a sense of worth about himself if the worst happens. Think about it--wouldn't it be easier than for him to have to sit around unemployed and let you support him?''

"That wouldn't be the case for long, knowing Hutch.'' Starsky turned back to topping the desserts.

"I'm serious about this. If you would just let me take, say, six or eight canvasses--''

"Without Hutch's permission?'' Starsky shook his head. "He'd kill me.''

"He'd thank you if this worked. And I feel very confident it will. Please?''

"Cecile, I can't just hand over his stuff without asking.''

"You're not giving me his diary to print on the front of the newspaper. These are paintings, for God's sake. It's not like they're kinky nudes or something. He doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. Please help me give him this chance. You know he never believes in himself the way he should.''

"What makes you say that?'' Starsky was surprised at the observation, considering how little time Cecile had actually spent with his partner.

"He's just very...I don't know...shy about praise, and you can tell he genuinely doesn't think he deserves it. If he could once see how his work was received--and if the worst does happen with the job--Dave, we could be giving him an opportunity for a whole new, very wonderful life.''

"I don't know, Cecile. I still don't feel right about this.''

"Just let me take a few canvasses to Lucy. If she doesn't want to do a show, Ken never has to know. If she does, after he cools off a little, he'll thank us both. Please help me do this for him.''

"Pie just about ready?'' Hutch entered the kitchen, and both almost physically jumped. "You two look guilty as hell. Been eating the whipped topping out of the can again, Starsk?'' He picked up a couple of plates and headed toward the living room.

Their conversation effectively cut short, Cecile didn't have time to work Starsky over again about letting her take the canvasses. She felt sure that they would be shown at the small Barrington Gallery. They were good, and Lucy was a friend. Cecile managed to give Starsky enough significant stares during the evening that she knew he felt the pressure to go along with the plan. If he mentioned it to Hutch, he knew as well as she did that he'd squelch the concept in its infancy.

Hutch followed the Nedloes outside when they were ready to leave, and Cecile homed in on Starsky one more time when he started carrying dirty dishes to the kitchen.

"David, please, help me do this for Ken.''

"I don't know,'' he responded, hesitantly.

"Just let me take six of them. I can sneak them down the back stairs if you can keep him out of the kitchen. Sometimes, when you love someone, you have to do something that will be good for them that they don't necessarily agree with. If Ken loses his job, he's going to lose a lot of his self-respect. Unfortunately, that happens. If he had something like this happening in his life, it would help fill that void.'' Cecile looked at him pleadingly, and with a sick feeling known as his better judgement gnawing at Starsky's stomach, he told her to go ahead and get the paintings she wanted to take. As soon as he'd agreed to it, he regretted it. But a lot of what she said was true, and Hutch should have that opportunity to be recognized for his talents.

The last of the guests, including Cecile with her secret cargo safely in the trunk of her Cadillac, finally left near midnight. Most of the dishes had been washed, and all that remained was to pick up a few pieces of debris from the football watchers, move the TV back to the TV room, and move the furniture back to its original pattern.

"That was a pretty good party.'' Hutch leaned behind the TV and re-connected it in its usual spot.

"Yeah. I was surprised to hear about Christine's parents. I didn't know that about her. Kind of explains why she was such a pain in the ass when she first made detective.''

"Must've all happened at the same time--job change, the accident. That's rough. The ice seems to be breaking between you two now.''

"If she doesn't sue me for harassment, I might ask her out sometime.''

"I think that was a defense mechanism, don't you? She had to be a little uneasy in a squad room full of men. And you and your newspapers are going to get in trouble one of these days.''

"I didn't mean anything by it.''

"Not all women go for that.''

"You, being an expert.'' Starsky rolled his eyes as he pushed one end of the living room couch back into place.

"I have my moments.'' Hutch dropped into the chair he was moving. "I'm glad they finally all went home.''

"I thought you said it was a good party.''

"It was. But it was a long party. Listen...'' he paused. "Silence.'' A peaceful smile crossed Hutch's face.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It was fun, though.'' Starsky sat on the couch and picked a popcorn puff out of the crease between the cushions, tossing it on the coffee table in front of him.

"How's your mother?'' Hutch knew it had weighed heavily on his partner's mind all day, and now he seemed even more pensive.

"I called her this morning. She said the doctor thinks it might be an ulcer--if so, it isn't heart. She's supposed to find out Monday.''

"That's great. I mean, not that she has that, but that it isn't anything worse.''

"I hope that's all it is.''

"We'll keep good thoughts for that, then.''

"Hutch--I meant what I said at dinner--about you always bein' there? I didn't want to get all soapy and sickening, but...I still wanted you to know that...that you're as much my family as anybody back in New York. Probably more.'' He looked up to see Hutch smiling.

"Ditto for me, buddy.'' Hutch slumped in the chair. "Sandra would have probably had Elizabeth in time for today.'' He rubbed his eyes, and Starsky realized he had been holding back tears. "I'm sorry. I promised myself I wouldn't do this today.''

"Do what? Miss Sandy? Mourn your daughter? That's natural, babe. Nothin' to be ashamed of.''

"I was just wondering, you know, what it would be like...'' Hutch took a deep breath. "What it would be like to hold my daughter. She was a concept before...and now it seems like...more real somehow because she would have been here now.'' He stood up. "I think I'll turn in.'' Starsky stood up also and walked over toward his partner.

"So much has happened, it makes it seem like a long time. But it was only April that she died, buddy. I still miss her, too.'' Starsky rested a hand on Hutch's shoulder. "Holidays are hard when you've lost somebody. The first set of 'em after Terry...I hated every minute of it. Not because everybody, you especially, didn't bend over backwards to make it nice for me. Just because I wanted her there and she wasn't.''

"Thanks.'' Hutch mirrored Starsky's gesture, resting his hand on the other's shoulder.

"For what, pal?''

"Being here, I guess. For caring so much.''

"That comes easy, buddy. I'm just givin' back what I get.''