Pelting down the street at full sprint, Starsky bowled over an elderly lady whose arms were laden with wrapped packages of every size and color. "Oh God, Ma’am," he said, helping her back to her feet, "I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you."
"That’s the trouble with you kids these days," the woman griped. "Always in such a hurry. I had some fragile pieces in there. I hope none of them were broken."
Pulling out a business card, Starsky handed it over to her. "If there were, give this to the cashier and tell her to call the number on this card. You’ll get everything replaced. I guarantee it."
"Well, that is very nice of you, Sergeant Starchy," she said, squinting at the tiny letters on the card.
"Starsky, Ma’am. Are you sure you’re okay. You don’t hurt anywhere?"
"I am not as fragile as I look, my dear boy," she said, pulling herself up to her four foot eleven inch height.
"There goes Frosty the Snowman," Hutch said, catching up to the small group. "It’ll be Feliz Navidad south of the border with all that cash and the blow he managed to hang on to."
"Damn feds," Starsky grumbled. "Oh, excuse me, Ma’am."
"I’ve heard worse, son, believe me. I could tell you words that would straighten your hair."
Surprised, Starsky gave a brief chuckle while Hutch just rolled his eyes and shook his head. "If we’re done, here?"
"You’re sure you’re all right, Ma’am."
"For the third time, young man, I am perfectly fine. I will do what you said and go to the cashier and have her check the gifts. I’m most worried about the silver bells. They scratch so easily, you know."
Still mumbling about her bells, the woman made it back inside the store.
"Nice tackle there, Mean Joe Green," Hutch snirked.
"Can it, tuna. Let’s see if we can catch up with the Snowman."
"Forget it, Starsk. He’s long gone by now. He knew it was a setup the second Morietti opened his big fat trap."
"Yeah, telling the idiot that he was lookin’ forward to a white Christmas has to go down in the Hall of Fame of Dumb."
Hutch chuckled. "Right next to Babcock telling Dobey he was late ‘cause his grandma got run over by a reindeer."
"Thought Dobey was gonna bust a gut for sure on that one," Starsky agreed, grinning. "So, whadda we do now, Sherlock? The Feds are out a hundred grand and the Snowman has enough blow to turn this entire city into a winter wonderland."
"I say let it snow."
"Sure. We know who the Snowman’s biggest customers are. We play like the little drummer boy in a quick need of a fix and follow the chain right up to the big man himself!"
"Go tell it on the mountain, dummy."
"The plan was to get Frosty out in the open, by himself. And it woulda worked too, except for those damn feds. We go huntin’ him down now with all that muscle of his, you’ll be tellin’ your friendly neighborhood dentist that all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth. Along with other assorted body parts."
"You got a better plan, mushbrain?"
Starsky grinned. "As a matter of fact, Ollie, I do. Who’s the Snowman’s biggest rival in this city?"
Hutch thought a moment, then snapped his fingers. "Myron Goldstien."
"Santa Claus," Hutch mumbled.
"Exactly! Now, do your best pal a favor and follow me. No questions asked."
"Why do I hate it when you say that?"
Grabbing Hutch’s arm, Starsky dragged him back to the Torino without answering the question.
"You guys are nuts! Not that half the city doesn’t already know that, but…you guys are nuts, man! True loony tunes!" Huggy whipped the bar rag off his shoulder and set to polishing another set of just rinsed glasses. "Nuts!"
"It was his idea," Hutch helpfully pointed out.
"Yeah, and you tried like real hard to stop him. I know you, Hutchinson. Like two peas in a pod you are."
"Huggy, it’ll work! I know it will! Frosty is so damn jealous of Santa that all it would take the right words in the right ear and bam!"
"Bam is right, my moronic brother! Bam in my nose! Bam, bam in my eyes! One bam and my ribs are history!"
"It don’t gotta be like that, Hug. Just listen, please?"
"Do you hear what I hear?" Huggy asked Hutch, who shook his head in the negative.
"Your one step from Cabrillo State partner just said the word ‘please’ in my presence! Will wonders never cease?"
"C’mon, Huggy. We really need your help with this."
"Sell that sleigh ride to somebody else, Starsky, cause the Bear ain’t listenin."
"Two ‘pleases’ just means you’re gettin’ more desperate, m’man. Sorry, but I happen to like my body the way it is. Fine, mine, and quite divine."
Getting up from the stool, Hutch grabbed Starsky’s arm and pulled him away. "Good try, buddy, but you knew it wasn’t gonna work. Huggy isn’t cut out for this kind of thing. Between you and me, I think he’s starting to slip a little in the information department."
"Hey! Wait! Watch what’s comin’ outta that whitebread mouth of yours, Hutchinson. You know damn well how much I go through for you two turkeys. Ain’t I proved it enough already?"
"Yeah, Huggy, but this is the easiest job you’ll ever have, and when the feds get back their money, we’ll make sure that your greensleeves have pictures of the Presidents on them, if you can dig what I’m saying."
Huggy’s eyes widened. "Well why didn’t you say that in the first place, you idiots? The Bear can always use some extra green as long as it’s clean and no one’s mean."
"That was bad, Hug," Starsky said, pinching his nose. "Really bad."
"So dig it a grave already and tell me what you two got on your so called minds already."
Three heads swiveled on three necks, but as the bar wasn’t opened yet, no one was there to overhear the plan.
Starsky came in closer. "Like I said, Frosty is insanely jealous of Santa. Sure, Frosty’s got most of the inner city territory, but Santa’s got the bored housewives out in suburbia, plus half of LA. There’s even talk of him spreading his wares all the way over to San Francisco. "
"Damn," Huggy whispered. "That’s a lotta blow."
"And a lotta green," Hutch added.
"Now the one thing that Frosty has that Santa doesn’t is this gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous wife. Like dat an like dat and dat," Starsky continued, outlining the perfect female shape and kissing his fingers in homage. "’s far as anyone can tell, she’s in deep with him, too, god knows why, but anyway…. It’s the one thing that the Snowman can lord it over his rival, and lord it he does, every chance he gets."
"What, they got conventions or somethin’?"
"Or something," Hutch answered.
"So Hug, all you gotta do is play daddy for twenty minutes, tops. We’ve already got your ‘kid’ for you, a good actor we’ve dealt with before. He won’t do you wrong, guaranteed. And you’ll have heavy cover all around. Couldn’t be safer if you were the President."
"Don’t you go scaring me now," Huggy said, reminding them of the various assassination attempts, and successes, in supposedly safe places.
"Anyway, once Frosty is found, you’ll get called in with the kid, right. Just walkin’ down the street, lookin in the store windows and stuff kids do. When you get the signal, the kid looks up to you and says "’Daddy, I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.’"
"That’s it. The idiot’ll be so mad, he’ll fall right into our trap, blow, cash and all. Then we use that jealousy to catch the bigger fish, Santa Claus, and we’ll decrease the amount of blow on the streets."
"For awhile, anyway," Hutch replied.
"Awhile is better than nothing," Starsky said. "Plus, the plan is so innocent, come on, using a kid?, that the up and comers ‘ll be hesitant to step in to the vacuum left behind until they can figure out what the angle is."
"Maybe," Hutch allowed.
"It’s genius!" Starsky exclaimed, slapping both Huggy and Hutch on the back.
"Maybe, but Starsky, if it backfires on us, we’ll be living away in a manger until we can find new jobs, if we ever do."
"Look on the bright side, Hutch. If that happens, which it won’t, at least this’ll be one time when we’ll be home for the holidays, right?"
"Joy to the world," Hutch said, rolling his eyes.
"Aww, c’mon, Hutch, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal," Starsky schmoozed, lifting an arm to put around his partner’s shoulders.
"Do it, Starsky, and I swear I’ll Deck the Halls."
"Not my halls," Huggy warned.
"Not yours," Hutch replied. "His. And it won’t be his halls I’ll be decking, either."
It took a minute, but Starsky carefully lowered his arm and crossed his legs for good measure. "Fine. Be that way. Just see who’s gettin’ nuttin for Christmas."
"And that would be worse than an ant farm, how?"
"At least you didn’t get a Christmas tree by the horseshoe pits, pally!"
"Enough, Mr. Grinches. Outta my establishment until you can act human... or at least as human as you usually do. I’ll have a think or two on that plan of yours and let you know in a day or two, ok?"
The way the two partners and best friends glared at one another as they stalked out of The Pits, Huggy Bear knew it was going to be yet another silent night.