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***CHAPTER ELEVEN***

Angel was sitting by herself in the backseat of the Dodge, her knees drawn up to her chest with plenty on her mind. It was early and no one else was awake except for herself and a few birds positioning themselves up in the trees outside. Dull light from the climbing sun filtered in through the wooden slats that made up the walls of the garage, which warmed the inside of the car, somewhat. The sound of skittering claws on the dirt flooring underneath it alerted her to the fact that she wasn’t entirely alone. But meeting up with some creature indigenous to the area was the least of her concerns right now. She had more pressing matters on her young mind. She lowered her head onto her arms and fought off the ever-present urge to cry. After a few minutes of relative silence, she thought she heard someone calling out her name. The voice was muffled, but it sounded as if it were nearby. She picked her head up and saw a face peering at hers through the car window.

"David?"

She reached over and opened the door for him and he slid in beside her, the worried look on his face slowly disappearing. "Yeah, last time I looked in the mirror. What’re you doin’ out here?"

"I needed someplace to think."

"And your room just wasn’t big enough for ya, huh?" He looked well rested to her, much better than he had the day before.

"Something like that." she answered, then looked away. Trying to tell him how she felt about him before had been an almost painful experience, and his rebuffs stung. She didn’t think she would be able to handle anymore of that treatment from him, so she hadn’t said anymore about it. Now keeping her distance seemed to be the only sensible thing to do. The only problem with that was that whenever he did come near her, she always felt that connection again. It was so palpable and immediate and real that she didn't know what to do about it. She hoped the dispassionate smile she’d greeted him with was enough to disguise her true feelings, yet at the same time she was chafing to bare her emotions. What a dilemma, she thought. She smiled at him again, this time more warmly. "What are you doing out here?"

"Looking for you. I knocked on your door to take you for a walk before breakfast, but you didn’t answer."

"I’m sorry, this whole thing has been really got me down."

"It’s okay, don’t be sorry," he said, then he intuitively pulled her close to him so that her head was lying against his shoulder and his arms were around hers. There was a beat. "You know, I had a dream about you last night."

"You did?" She turned to face him a little. Interested.

"Yeah, I thought it was kinda strange, ‘cause normally I don’t remember my dreams. I mean all the little details, you know, like what I dreamed, who I dreamed about, how it ended. But this was one I couldn’t seem to shake off."

"What was it about?"

"You and me."

"Really?" She listened to him, choosing not to focus on his face directly, in case she was making the wrong assumptions about what he was saying. She concentrated only on the nice rumble of his chest as he spoke. It was a comforting, soothing sound.

"Really. And you know what else?"

"What?"

"The dream had a happy ending."

She heard something different in his voice. He didn’t sound tense or unsure like he had before in the car, he sounded relaxed and confident, like he knew exactly what he wanted. She looked up and found his eyes, which were a very intense blue right now, and just about melted into them. The next thing she knew his strong but gentle hands were cupping her cheeks and drawing her face closer to his, and before she knew it, their lips were touching. He planted several kisses on her lips, not wishy-washy ‘I like you’ kisses, but passionate, grownup ‘I love you’ kisses. The kind that made you all warm inside and turned your insides to butter. As his kisses intensified and grew more urgent, she closed her eyes, allowing the sexual tension between them to increase tenfold, until neither he nor she felt they would be able to contain themselves.

A decision had to be made about how far they would go, and it seemed the cramped confines of the car had made it for them. They parted ways reluctantly, slumping down into the back seat; their faces close, breathing heavy. He looked at her and saw a patina of perspiration glistening on her skin and upper lip, and that sight, along with the mixture of his cologne and her perfume, filled the interior of the Dodge like an aphrodisiac. Now she altered her position beside him ever so slightly, just enough to catch her arms around his waist and lean against him at the same time. When their breathing evened out, she blew lightly into his ear and he flinched.

"Hey. You’re treading on dangerous ground doin’ that."

"I’m not afraid," she said boldly, resting her left hand on his chest, watching it rise and fall as he breathed. "Tell me something. Have you ever done the deed outdoors?"

"You’ve gotta be kidding me. If that’s not a loaded question, I don’t know what is." He kissed her on her forehead. "I plead the Fifth."

She sucked her teeth. "Aw, you’re just a ‘fraidy cat."

"Naw, I just don’t like answerin’ loaded questions. If I say yes, then I’m kinky, if I say no, then I’m afraid. How’s that fair?"

She laughed. "Who’s trying to be fair?" She looked down at his hands holding hers and kissed the back of one of them. Then she put her forehead next to his. "Well, what are we going to do now?"

That was another loaded question.

"Hmm, well, if you talkin’ about what we’re going to do about the investigation. I’ve got a theory, and my theory is that…well…I got no theory. Like Hutch said, somebody’s gotta make a move. It’s like playin’ chess. The player who makes the most right moves, wins, the player who make the most wrong, loses. I just hope whoever it is makes one before we’re due to leave."

She lightly poked him on the arm and gave him a "that’s not what I meant and you know it" look. He took the hint.

"Um, on the other hand, if you‘re talkin’ about the two of us and what’s gonna happen next, I gotta a little theory on that, too." She poked him in his stomach again and he grunted, turning serious. "Okay, okay, look, all kiddin' aside, we both know where this is going. And I’d be a fool to sit here and tell you that I don’t feel something for you. But I’d be also be kiddin’ myself if I pretended that just because this is what we want to do that it automatically makes it right. Life just ain’t cut and dried that way."

"Is life always so difficult for you?"

"A lot of the time." He glanced at her sideways and pursed his upper lip. "But when you look at me like that you make it awfully hard, ah, difficult for me to stick to my principles, you know?"

"Uh huh. And I like a man with principles…sometimes." She got lost in a thought for a moment. "Hey, you know what? I just thought of something, there’s this great place I know of not far from here. It’s really peaceful and quiet and there’s a lake nearby. I used to go there when I wanted to 'commune' with nature. Would you like to go and see it?"

"Hold on a minute, Mrs. Robinson. Are you trying to seduce me?"

"Without a doubt, Detective."

He grinned, opened the car door and they got out. They left the closed off space of the garage and walked out into the open air, both stealing glances in the direction of the house.

"Do you think they’ll miss us?" she asked him.

"Probably. And it’s safe bet that Hutch’ll come lookin’ for me. He has this rare talent for showin’ up or callin’ me at the worst times, if you know what I mean."

Angel’s cheeks tinged a little red and she put her arm around his waist. "Is that so? Then we’d better hurry before he gets started looking, hadn’t we?"

They laughed and he laid an arm languidly across her shoulders as they made their way down a hedged pathway that he assumed led to the spot she’d described to him. He wasn’t exactly sure how all this had happened so quickly. Maybe it was the devil on his shoulder whispering in his ear, urging him on, or maybe, just maybe, he was really in love. Love affected a man in strange ways, changed his thought processes, affected his decisions and made him take chances that he would never take ordinarily. It sometimes made him do things that a man not in its throes would never contemplate. He had no doubt that Hutch would try to convince him to wait it out. But David Starsky had never been a man who liked to wait.

***CHAPTER TWELVE***

The automatic sprinklers had switched on in front of the estate, leaving the spacious front lawn sparkling. The dark man was sitting in his jeep again, but this time in front of the estate. He was wearing a blue uniform in place of the brown one now. Working with little effort, he jerked a long handled pool net and a bottle of chlorine from the rear of the jeep and put both next to him on the front seat. He exchanged the standard brown cap he usually wore for a light blue one to match the uniform. To his chest, he applied a fabric logo that had "Sunclean Pool Cleaners," stitched in blue letters on a white background. He also applied a similar logo to the bill of the cap he was wearing. With the supplies in his arms he got out of the jeep and made his way to the front gate, announced himself and was let onto the grounds without difficulty.

The dark man taken great care to note the actual schedule of the pool cleaning service and so as not to overlap with them, came one day earlier, explaining that there had been a change in scheduling. Once inside he looked around the interior, seemingly unaffected by its grandeur. Another turn of his head and he saw his subject, who was mixing his early morning drink at the bar. Not far away from him were the glass doors that lead out to the patio and the pool. After assuring the butler that he was fine on his own, he was left to do his work.

Starting with the large pool and saving the Jacuzzi for last, he mentally and visually keeping track of his man from outside. The only critical thing he had to do before he left was to make sure the guy intended to actually use one of the pools. When he was finished cleaning both, he put the empty bottle of cleaner into a sack and went back into the house with the pool net in his hand, leaning it against his chest and the side of his neck as he walked in. Colchetti looked up from his drink when he entered the room.

"Hey, you all finished out there?" he asked.

"Sure am. You’re clean as a whistle now."

"Good, I was just thinking about going in for a bit."

A slight, but barely noticeable smile crossed the dark man’s lips. "Great morning for it, sir. Wouldn’t mind trying it out myself, if I had one. I hear it's good for relaxing the muscles, you know?"

"Sure is. Too bad you have to work or I’d invite you in."

"Yeah, just my luck. Well, I’ve got to go on to my next job. See you next time."

"See you. Have a good day."

The pool man nodded goodbye and adjusted the net on his shoulder, then disappeared into the foyer.

Colchetti took a sip of the scotch and soda he'd mixed and went outside. The warm air hit him like a slap in the face as he left the air-conditioned room for the brace of the heat outside. He went into the cabana and slipped into a pair of swim trunks, bringing the drink out with him. He set the glass down on the tile and sniffed at the pool water. The smell of chlorine was faint, but not overpowering. He flicked on the switch and the Jacuzzi came to life. Another sip of his drink and he stepped into the pool.

The undulating water and the liquor worked together like a depressant, lulling him into a state of drowsiness. He was not aware of the hand that slipped the deadly toxin into what remained of his drink, nor did he notice when his assassin departed. He did, in his last conscious moments; startle awake as the patio door slid almost quietly shut behind him. Momentarily alert, he looked around, and seeing no one, he reached for and drank the last of the scotch. Before long the toxin took hold of him, his arms and his legs getting heavy as unconsciousness enveloped him. After his heart stopped he slipped under the surging water. His demise was quick and quiet--there had been no chance to scream.

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Later that morning about a half a dozen police units and the city coroner’s wagon had arrived to take up both sides of the tree-lined street outside Colchetti’s lavish mansion. Parked not far away was Frankie Brown’s pale green Dodge Dart. The two out of state detectives, Starsky and Hutchinson, stood poolside with Captain Benjamin Kraft inside the patio area of the estate. Mrs. Colchetti, her body convulsing and straining as she wept uncontrollably, sat not far away. Her stepdaughter blankly stood waiting just inside the patio entrance, watching silently as a team of policemen went about their grisly work. Kraft regarded the detectives’ reappearance into his affairs with a level of amused interest.

"Didn’t think I would see you two again so soon."

Starsky winked. "Good thing we stuck around, huh?"

"Yes, well. All I can say is, things were quiet before you and your partner showed up."

 

"So what happened? Who found him?" Hutch asked.

Kraft took his sunglasses off and began cleaning them with a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his jacket. "It appears to be an accidental death by drowning. He’d been drinking. According to his wife he has one or two shots each morning before he goes to work. She’s the one who found him." He pointed to the redhead sitting on a chaise with her head in her hands, the very picture of the anguished wife.

Hutch looked over at the woman and then felt Starsky pat him on his arm to get his attention. "Wanna go see a dead body?" he asked with childlike glee. Hutch frowned, but followed him. They went over to the stretcher, lifted a corner of the sheet and looked under it. Colchetti’s body lay on the stretcher, his skin pale and wrinkled, his mouth frozen open with a fine line of white foam oozing from his nose and lips. They quickly covered the body. Both men shuddered and stepped back.

Starsky looked at his partner. "All I can say is this is one helluva way to go."

"You’re telling me."

A few seconds after they'd checked the body, a man wearing a white lab coat and carrying a black leather medical bag entered the premises. He was short, a little on the heavy side and nearly balding topside. Judging by the permanent scowl on his face he probably didn’t enjoy his work a great deal. But what sound person would? Knowing that the sight of dead bodies didn’t bother the city-bred Starsky as much as they did him, Midwestern-bred Hutchinson left his partners’ side to attend to less morbid tasks. Indeed, Starsky watched the examiner with almost clinical coldness as he opened his bag, took out a few of the tools of his trade and began swabbing the bottom of the dead man’s drinking glass. He deposited the glass and the swabs into two small plastic bags with care, then sealed them off and proceeded on to uncovering and examining the body.

After a minute of observation, Starsky said, "Hello there," and then took out his badge. The man stepped back, glanced at it, and nodded a greeting to him without looking up again. Starsky jammed the badge back into his jeans pocket and folded his arms. After a few more minutes he said, "Got anything?"

"Nothing yet, the glass appears to have been drained and cleaned of any fluid. I’m hoping to pick up more when I get it to the lab."

"Got a guess on the time of death?"

"The skin's good and wrinkled, nice shade of blue. My guess is sometime between eight and eleven this morning. But like I said, I’ll know more after I get both to the lab."

"So he was in about three hours," he said, more to himself than to the examiner. "That’s good to know, thanks."

"Welcome."

Starsky put both hands in his pockets and left the examiner to resume his examination uninterrupted. On his way back to where his partner was standing, he caught sight of Angel. She was still standing in the doorway of the patio on the other side of the glass. Her arms were folded neatly across her chest. She looked sad, but her eyes were curiously dry. No tears were being shed for her dead father. Maybe she thinks he deserved what had happened to him, he thought. When he got back to his partner and the captain, the blond man was just starting to write something down on the notepad he was holding. He stopped when Starsky got there.

"Find out anything?"

"Not much. He says there might be something in the lab results when they get them back later, but the glass was clean, not a drop of liquid left in it. Like it was wiped." He thoughtfully jerked his head in Mrs. Colchetti’s direction. "Anybody talk to her?"

Kraft coughed into his handkerchief, folded it and put it back in his breast pocket. "Sure have. She says she came home from a shopping trip and found him like that. Called us immediately. She was fairly calm when we got here. Didn’t lose it until we him out of the pool."

"Delayed reaction, huh?"

"You might say that. Anyway she’s clean…for now. So, you gentlemen want to wait around for us to finish up? Or you want to try talking to the widow yourselves?"

Hutch shook his head. "If you’ve already got a statement from her, we’d like to take a look at that later, if that’s all right. We don’t want to upset her anymore than we have to, at least not today. Anybody question the help about unusual visitors?"

"They told us there were just a couple of delivery people, the gardener, the pool man. You know, the usual people. But they left before anything happened. The head butler even saw Colchetti going out to change his clothes to get into the pool after the last service guy left."

"So, Cap’n, now do you believe there’s something strange going on here?" Starsky asked him.

"Frankly, Detective Hutchinson, the whole situation serves to give me pause."

"Ah, I’m Starsky." He jerked a thumb toward his partner. "He’s Hutchinson."

"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that," he said apologetically.

"That’s okay," The blond man smiled, the sunlight bouncing off his fair hair. "We’re used to it. Ah, Captain, we’d be grateful if you’d let us know when the lab test results come. You know where to reach us, don’t you?"

"Roger on that."

"Okay, we’ll see you later then."

The captain shook their hands and left them to ponder the ramifications of the most recent developments. Starsky blinked up at the sun, then over at the body, then at his partner.

"So, you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?"

"That depends…"

"On what?"

"On what, if anything, the PPD’s lab man finds in that glass."

"You read my mind. I’m starvin', let’s take her home."

"Right."

CONTINUEDŽ