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Maxine got to The Pits early enough to find street parking out front. She got out of her car and was as usual, impeccably dressed and coiffed from head to toe. She was wearing another of the many form fitting outfits she favored. This time a Saturday Night Fever inspired number with spaghetti straps that bared her smooth shoulders and accentuated her cleavage. A high side split above the top of her right thigh exhibited just enough of her smooth bare legs to entice. She was unadorned by jewelry, and a smooth silk wrap offered the warmth she needed for a cool evening. As she walked into Huggy’s establishment, the fragrance of the lavender and patchouli she wore lingered in the air. Of course, Huggy noticed her immediately upon entering. He stepped out from behind the bar to do a meet and greet, stopping her in mid-stride. "Hello, hello, hello, Foxy Lady. How may I assist you?"

She smiled at him. "Oh, hi. I’m here to meet someone."

"Ah, just my luck. I guess it’s true what they say about all the staggeringly exquisite ones being taken."

She smiled again, a little embarrassed by his flattery.

"Allow me, I’m Huggy Bear, the proprietor of this humble establishment. Let me show you to one of our better tables."

Huggy put his arm around her lightly and led her to a booth area across from the bar where only candles lit the room. It was far enough away from the bar patrons and their noise to allow for conversation and could also be suited to a romantic interlude if the situation warranted it. Huggy took her wrap from her shoulders and draped it over his arm as she slid into the middle of the booth. "What can I get the lady?"

"How about a Rum Collins, on the rocks?"

"Ah, the lady is not only foxy, but has taste to boot. Rum Collins on the rocks, comin’ right up."

She took out a compact to freshen up her makeup a little, and then a thought occurred to her. "Oh, Mr. Bear."

"That’s Huggy to you."

"Huggy…I’m meeting a guy here. He’s tall, blond, and very easy on the eyes. He’ll be looking for someone sitting in the ‘booth in the back in the corner in the dark’."

Huggy’s eyes perked up. "This tall blond, he wouldn’t happen to answer to the name of Hutchinson, would he?"

"Yes, do you know him?"

"Do I know him? I practically taught him everything he knows about women." Huggy turned back and leaned both hands on the table. "Now tell me something, how does a first class sister like yourself latch on to a no good bum like Hutchinson? And I ask this question with the utmost love and respect for the brother."

"What can I say? He’s a good guy."

"Truer words were never spoken." He straightened up. "I’ll be getting that drink for you, sweetheart. When Hutch gets here, I’ll definitely steer him your way."

"Thanks, Huggy. I appreciate that."

"No problemo."

Angela looked after the tall, angular black man as he walked away and kept her eye on him until he was out of sight. She unconsciously bit her lip, a nervous response to the seriousness of the situation. She very anxious about the kind of reception she’d be getting from the detective. A few minutes later, Huggy returned with the drink she’d ordered and left her to herself. She sipped it slowly-clearly hoping the alcohol would calm her frazzled nerves.

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Hutchinson had nervously tried on several combinations of shirts and slacks before finally settling on a black turtleneck sweater and tan pair of gabardine slacks. He slipped a tan suede jacket on over it, dabbed on some cologne and gave his freshly shaved face a once over in the mirror. Satisfied, he ran his hand over the top of his thinning blond hair and turned to leave.

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Maybe he’s not coming. Maxine thought as she eyed her watch, she looked a little disappointed. It was now seven forty-five and there was still no sign of him. Even Huggy was chomping at the bit when he rejoined her at the booth. "Looks like my man got tied up." He pointed to her glass. "Care for another?"

"Oh, no, thank you. I want to be clearheaded-I mean, you never know, I might have to drive home. By the way, do you have any appetizers?"

Huggy smiled at her, if there was anything he liked better than serving his drink concoctions, it was serving the cuisine his skilled cooks worked up in the kitchen.

"Do I have appetizers?" he repeated. "Now what self-respectin’ eating establishment you know of that doesn’t? One order of hot wings and potato wedgies are on their way to you, tout suite!"

"Thanks again, Huggy."

Huggy headed out to the kitchen just as Hutch was walking in the front door. He looked a little stressed out and was holding a small bouquet of flowers in his hand. Huggy stepped in front of him and put a friendly hand on his arm. "Hold on there. You’re looking good, man, but you’re late."

"I know, Huggy. Where is she?"

Huggy pointed to the booth section. "Back there. Waiting patiently, in the booth in the back…"

Hutch cut him off. "In the corner in the dark…yeah, I know, I know. Where the hell is that from?"

Huggy gave him a ‘you’re not hip to that?’ look and let the blond go past. "If you don’t know the answer to that question, then I feel sorry for the lady."

Hutch didn’t want to appear too eager, so he paced himself as he made his way back to the booth. He found himself noticing how the atmosphere of the room changed the farther away from the bar he got. Huggy had really done a great job making the privacy booths more ‘private’. When he rounded the corner and caught sight of her, he almost tripped. She looked up at him with a mixture of delight and a tinge of regret in her eyes, the flickering of candle flames danced across her face.

"Ken?"

"Hello, Cleo. Or do I call you Maxine?"

His voice was cold and reserved hostility seemed to roll off him like heat waves. Now was the time to put out the flames.

"Have we met before?"

She’d caught him off guard. "What?"

"Have you and I been formally introduced?"

It didn’t take long for Hutch to realize what she was trying to do. He decided to play along, if nothing else to see where she would lead him. "Ken Hutchinson. But I’m sure we‘ve met before."

"No, I don’t think so. I think I would have remembered meeting you." she replied. "My name’s Maxine Garvey."

Hutchinson grinned as he sat down, purposely staying some distance from her. "Well, it’s nice to meet you, Maxine." He handed her the flowers he’d brought. She took them guardedly. "Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?"

"What would you like to know?"

"Everything."

"Okay, I was born in Connecticut on New Year’s Day."

"Keep going."

"I’m a writer."

"Aha…a writer, and what sort of things do you write?"

"Magazine stories, mostly."

"Anything else I should know?"

She cleared her throat and started to laugh a little. "I’m a photographer."

"Who exactly do you write and photograph for?"

She looked into Hutch’s eyes and saw no warmth there. What she did see was a man seeking retribution, not reconciliation. Despite her wish to re-establish communication and get reacquainted, he wanted to interrogate. So if he wanted to play hardball, she could play hardball with the best of them. But when the interrogation was over, and he found out all he could about her, the prospect of anything good happening between them would be over.

"If you must know, I work for Inside magazine, Detective Hutchinson. We do exposÚs on the backgrounds of criminals." Her tone was deadly serious.

Now Hutch’s tone was getting more and more pointed by the second. "Just where do you get off, lady? Did you think I liked being suckered into being a part of your little exposÚ?"

"Do you actually think I planned that? How I could have known you’d show up that night and come at me with that irresistible, ‘can I help you ma’am?’ look on your face. Maybe I should have blown you off. But would you seriously have let me do that?"

He knew the answer was no. The ice was broken. Hutch’s temper started to cool and he leaned back. "I kind of stepped right into that one, didn’t I?"

"You tried to help me out. There’s nothing wrong with that."

"So you think we still have a chance?"

"I should be asking you that question. How do you feel?"

"Well, I..."

Just as he was about to answer, Huggy came back in with the appetizers, setting the mouth-watering tray of chicken wings and potato wedges in front of them. "Ah, I see you found your blond angel. Tell me, can I get you two anything else? It’s on the house."

Hutch picked up a potato wedge and took a small bite out of it. "Thanks, Hug, why don’t you bring us back a bottle of your best wine?"

"You got it. Say, I been meaning to ask, how’s the leg?"

"It’s much better, thanks for asking, Hug."

Hutch winked at Huggy indicating to him that he should be off fetching his best from the liquor cabinet right away. As soon as he was gone, he turned to Maxine and looked into her eyes.

"So?" she inquired hopefully.

"So, what?"

"So, what’s the answer to the question?"

"How about this?" He moved in very close to her and started whispering something very suggestively in her ear. Judging by her facial expressions and laughter whatever he was proposing must have been inviting.

"Ooh, honey, if I could blush." she giggled, playfully nudging him with her shoulder.

"So what do you think?" He leaned away from her slightly.

"At this point, I’m not doing a lot of thinking."

"Hmm. So, your place or mine?"

They kissed. As their lips parted and they opened their eyes, Huggy was standing beside them, wearing a big grin on his face.

"I’ll say one thing, Blondie, you do work fast."

Hutch was thoroughly absorbed by the warmth of her hazel eyes. "Beat it, Hug, I’m busy."

"Your wish is my command, sahib." He replied, setting the bottle of wine down on the table, and then slipping quietly away. When he got back to the front counter the phone was ringing. One of his waitresses, Diane, stopped to pick it up. "You’ve got the Bear’s place."

"Hey, Diane. It’s Starsky. Is Huggy there?"

"Sure, he’s right here. One sec’." She handed the phone off to Huggy. "It’s Starsky."

"Thanks, Diane." He grabbed the phone and put it to his ear. "This is Huggy Bear."

"Hey, Hug, this is Starsky, is Hutch there?"

"Yeah, Starsky, he’s here, but I don’t think he’s exactly in a talkin’ mood."

"So he’s hittin’ it off okay with Maxine, huh?"

"Boy, is he. I should be so lucky."

"Well, tell him I got a message for him from Cap’n Dobey. Tell him it’s important."

"Okay, Starsky. You want I should bring him to the phone?"

"Yeah, wouldja mind?"

"Sure thing, Starsk, I’ll go pull him away from one of the great loves of his life. I just hope it’s worth me getting slugged over."

"Huggy, will ya just go get him please?"

"Okay, okay, don’t get your knickers in a bunch."

Huggy laid the receiver down on the counter and rushed back to the booth where Hutch and Maxine continued to make out. Huggy scrunched one eye closed so he wouldn’t see what they were doing and cleared his throat to get Hutch’s attention."Excuse me…sorry to intrude on your interlude, but your good buddy Starsky is on the horn. Says it’s important."

"Tell him I’ll call him back."

"No can do, Hutchie, he’s passing on an edict from the top."

Hutchinson finally pulled himself away from the irresistible allure of Maxine's neck. "I’ll be just minute. Be here when I get back?"

"You know I will."

The blond slid out of the booth and followed Huggy out to the bar area. He picked up the phone with a sweep of his hand and put the receiver to his ear. "Speak to me, Starsky, and make it fast!" he said, a hint of annoyance in his tone.

"Great to hear your voice too, pal. Guess you and Max made up, huh?"

"What do you think?" he answered sarcastically. "What’s the message from Dobey?"

"The Cap’n asked me to talk you into taking some time off. I know what you’re gonna say…but I think you should really think about it…"

Hutch’s eyes widened, "Oh, yeah? How much time off?" he asked, sounding pleased and excited.

Starsky didn’t sound too happy in contrast. He’d thought Hutch would protest profoundly. "Two weeks, and guess what?"

"What’s that, pal?"

"Guess whose stuck on clerical detail until you get back?"

"Minnie?"

"Guess again."

"Starsky…who?" he urged.

"Me, you dummy. I have to file those reports that have been backing up and sittin’ on your desk. Not to mention the ones that’ll come in while you’re on vacation."

"Well, if it’s any consolation, I feel your pain, buddy." He checked his watch. "Look I…"

"Yeah, I know, you want to get back to your date, and I don’t blame ya. Gimme me a call when you get in, okay?"

"Sure thing. I’ll talk to you later. Good night."

"Good night."

Hutch handed the receiver to Huggy. "Thanks, Hug. Look, I think my guest and I are going to get outta here. Put the wine and everything on my tab, willya?"

"Sure, sure. I got you covered. See you on the flip side, man."

Hutchinson made his way back to the booth area for the second time that evening. When he got back she was still sitting right where he’d left her. He leaned over the table. "Ready to go?"

She nodded her answer and raised her right hand out to him. He took it and helped her slide out of the booth. Then she stood next to him with an inquisitive look on her face. Then he realized what she wanted. "Oh, that was my partner on the phone. Our captain’s giving me a few weeks off to recuperate."

"You think you’ll need any help with that?"

He pulled her to him and hugged her. "I 'll need all the help I can get."

The two of them walked to the front and sought out Huggy.

"Hey, Hug!"

"You two ready to make tracks?"

"Yeah, Hug, do me a favor, keep an eye on my car for me?" He threw his keys over. "I’ll be back for it tomorrow."

"Sure thing, man. Have fun."

"Don’t worry, we will." Hutch answered, winking at Huggy as they left the bar. They laughed all the way across the street to her car. She shook the car keys and threw them over to him, and he helped her into the car and they drove off into the night.

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Maxine opened the door to her apartment, and he waited for her to free her key from the lock before stepping in. He looked around, and was clearly impressed with what he saw. The apartment was painted in a sort of an off-yellow color with white siding along the ceilings and the baseboards. Most of the furniture was khaki in hue and detailed with shams edged with a diaphanous skirting. It was very pleasing to the eye.

"You’ve got a very good eye for color." he complimented her.

"Do you like it?" She closed the door and then took off her wrap, laying it across the sofa.

"Sure do. Does journalism pay that well? Maybe I should consider changing my line of work."

"Depends on what kind of journalist you are."

She sat down on the sofa and motioned for him to join her. He sat down next to her.

"Well, I’d probably be no match for you."

"Damn right." She drew herself to him and kissed him. When he did not return the kiss, she drew back. "What’s the matter?"

"I was just wondering…"

"Wondering what?"

"How did you get into Carlisle's penthouse?"

She smiled and put her arms around him. "Mamie does have her ways."

He practically gasped. "You were the cleaning lady?"

She nodded and smiled.

"I was wondering why the cleaning woman was coming on to me."

"You met another one of my alter egos, too."

"Don’t tell me, in the coffee shop? The bag lady."

"You got it."

"You know, you’re pretty good, maybe you ought to think about joining the department."

"No way, I’ll leave that detective stuff to the big boys."

"One more thing."

"What’s that?"

"What’s U.Y.S.?"

"U.Y.S, sweetheart. Under your spell."

"Oh, yeah." He replied, then slowly leaned her body against the arm of the sofa. She inhaled in anticipation of his touch and a warm feeling gathered in the pit of her stomach. She closed her eyes as he kissed her, his lips following a path that led from her lips and down her neck, to over the tops of her shoulders. He stopped and looked at her as she slowly opened her eyes.

"What’s the matter now?"

"Nothing. I think I…"

She put her hand to his mouth. "You don’t have to say it. I feel the same way. But tell you what, if you want to wait until we’ve gotten to know each other better before you say it, I’ll understand." She cuddled next to him, nestling in the bend of his arm.

He was speechless as he gazed into her wanting eyes, and it was all he could do not to take her right then and there. They would lie together in each other’s arms for most of the evening, kissing and talking. He was still looking for that committed, long-term relationship to happen, but he wasn’t going to press for it, not just yet. If it was right, there’d be lots of time for them to spend together like this, and plenty of time for commitment, if there was to be any. For now, they were content.

 

 

Continued