Minnie Kaplan looked around the vice squadroom. A string of multi-colored lights adorned the window facing the hallway and a small, Charlie Brownish tree with two red balls and a strangely shaped candy cane decorated the coffee cart. For a place that was usually a mad house with officers hauling in their daily catch of con men, numbers runners and prostitutes, the room was oddly silent. December 25th was special. Bay City might be the crime and murder capital of California, but there were some days when even that slowed down.
Generally, domestic violence and fisticuffs were the order of the day. Christmas was supposed to be a day of goodness and light, but families crowded together to exchange gifts and eat a roast brought out the worst in some. Minnie recalled her own parents' raging battles over the holiday feast. Her father would drink himself into a stupor while the rest of them watched A Christmas Carol and eat Grammy's pecan pie. Luckily, the cops had never been called out to the Kaplan house on a holiday-Minnie'd always suspected that was Grammy's calming influence-but the "man" had certainly been a regular mediator in her parents' fights on payday when her father spent his money at the liquor store.
So, it was no surprise that the other four officers assigned to work vice on Christmas today were out in the field responding to familial warfare at the Westovers' house. The Westovers were well known to every cop on the force, vice or not, for their weekly rages.
However, someone had to hold down the fort, and that left Minnie on her lonesome, typing up paperwork. She stacked the last of the reports in a neat pile for Captain Spalding. With all luck, there would be no more emergencies until after she got off at seven p.m. And it was-she glanced at her Star Wars wristwatch-ten to six now. Seventy minutes to go before she could drive home, pour herself a cup of spiked eggnog and open the gift Linda had left under the Christmas tree in Minnie's front room.
A week ago, she and Linda had decorated the tree with Mama's old ornaments. Afterward, they'd sat together in front of the fire, arms around each other, admiring the beautiful results. The old glass balls had shimmered in the fire light, and the strands of silver her mama had always carefully preserved year after year didn't look like they'd been bought in 1960. Linda had wanted to string popcorn, but in the end, they both ate so much, the string was only one-foot long.
Minnie grinned in remembrance. Their romance was still new-they'd only come together at the beginning of November. Six weeks of absolute bliss. She was almost scared to think about the new year. Would 1981 usher in new opportunities? A deeper relationship with Linda, or heart ache?
It had been perfect: fun, romantic, and sexy. That is, until Linda left to visit her sisters in Las Vegas for Christmas week. Minnie would have loved to accompany her except she was low woman on the totem pole in vice, and as such, didn't have the option of taking off the most coveted week of the year.
It was all well and good to daydream about spending the holiday with a special someone, but she had work still to be done. Casting a glance at the potluck leftovers at the end of the room, she resolved to wrap up the sliced ham and remains of the sweet potato casserole, at the very least.
Hefting the completed files, Minnie carried them into Spalding's office. She contemplated the bowl of chocolate mints on his desk. He always encouraged the staff to take a handful, but would that go straight to her hips and thighs? Then she wouldn't fit into the tight jeans Linda admired so much.
No, she'd better stick to the untouched dish of carrots and celery on the potluck table. Better for her figure.
In the stillness, Minnie heard the creak of the squadroom door to the hallway far more loudly than usual. "Be right there," she called out.
There was a small boy of about eight or nine years standing just inside the doorway. That was enough of a surprise on its own, even without the redheaded woman beside him.
"Linda!" Minnie exclaimed, giving her a friendly hug. It was the greeting of a colleague, not a lover, but she wanted show some professional decorum in front of an unidentified child. "Where did you come from?" That was an inane question, she knew exactly where Linda had been.
"I found this boy waiting in front of the building," Linda explained, giving him a nudge to walk farther in. "He doesn't speak much English, and your Spanish is far better than mine, but his name is Jesus-" She pronounced it in the proper Mexican ‘Hey-zus'. "And he said Sergeant Starsky came to his class and told him to ask the police if he needed help."
"Hola." Minnie led Jesus to a chair. It didn't take a genius to see that he was probably quite poor, possibly homeless. He wore a Lakers jersey that was miles too large, not to mention not warm enough for December, and threadbare jeans with flip-flops. "Que necissitas?"
"Mi Mammi," he began, launching into a long tale of woe about deportation, poverty, and homelessness. Not an unusual story. Minnie herself remembered months when her mother barely had enough money to pay the rent after her father died, much less feed four kids. She saw Jesus' attention drift to the table laden with food as he talked.
Linda perched on the edge of a desk, listening with a troubled expression. "His father was deported?" she asked quietly.
"You got the gist of it," Minnie nodded, walking over to the potluck to fill a plate with ham, sweet potatoes, guacamole and chips. "And their turkey of a landlord had them evicted at Christmas time!"
"Asshole," Linda whispered under her breath, catching Minnie's eye.
Minnie felt all-powerful love in that quick glance. Her fears had all been for nothing. Linda was her reality-after they dealt with more pressing issues.
Jesus shoveled in the food so quickly, it was a wonder he didn't choke. Minnie suspected he hadn't had a meal in quite a while.
"Donde esta tu madre?" Linda asked in her careful Spanish.
His mouth still full, Jesus gestured to the left, rattling off that she had a cough and couldn't walk as fast as he could, so he'd left her on a bus stop bench to rest. He paused to take a breath between forkfuls, miming a rounded belly.
"Tu madre esta embarazada?" Minnie exclaimed, horrified. This complicated matters. Did she need medical care? As it was, getting her into a shelter on Christmas would be impossible with all beds in the usual places already claimed this late in the day. "When is the baby due?" she asked in Spanish.
Jesus shrugged, staring longingly at the box of iced sugar cookies.
"It's rarely freezing in Bay City," Linda said over her shoulder, selecting a candy cane striped cookie and one decorated like a green star for the boy. "But it's below fifty degrees out there. She needs help now."
"Sugar, you don't have to tell me that." Minnie frowned. She couldn't leave the squadroom completely unsupervised, could she? "If she's in her last months, it could be critical."
Jesus chowed down on the cookies as if they were the last ones on earth.
"Ho, ho, ho!" a voice called out, accompanied by a rapid tattoo on the wooden door frame. "Rumor has it you have..." Starsky burst into the room, all grins and charm. He wore a knit cap festooned with reindeer antlers and a red nose perched right above his eyebrows. "Cookies." He looked down at the boy, eyebrows raised. "And a kid."
"Sergeant Starsky!" Jesus said in accented English. "Sergeant Starsky came to mi escuela."
Squinting at the boy, Starsky nodded. "You look familiar, what's your name?"
"Jesus Concepcion," he said proudly, puffing out his skinny chest. "You say I can be a policia."
"Si." Starsky laughed. "More cookies?"
"Si." Jesus grinned, revealing a gap in his teeth on the right side.
The tiny fact proved Minnie's theory of his age. Her sister Mariah had studied to become a dental hygienist, and filled her head with more toothy information than Minnie had ever thought would come in handy. Now she knew better. "I could call the 99th Street Dining Room," she mused. "They might have a suggestion..."
"They've finished serving dinner by now," Linda put in, resting her chin on her hand.
That gave Minnie a few moments to unabashedly admire her. Linda was wearing holiday finery-a red and green striped pullover that really emphasized her magnificent curves and a pair of green Ditto Jeans. The piece di resistance was a choker adorned with felt holly leaves around her neck. Made Minnie want to dance her around, removing one piece of clothing with each turn. Linda could pirouette so prettily, and on toe.
"The perfect holiday meal," Starsky said, stuffing a one-antlered iced reindeer into his mouth, and handed a reindeer with a full rack of antlers to the boy.
Jesus basically swallowed his whole.
"You can polish off a cookie faster'n me, pal." Starsky nodded in admiration.
"Wait a minute." Linda jumped up, clicking her fingers. "Where's Hutch?"
"Waiting for cookies-or pumpkin pie, his particular favorite," Starsky explained, one eye on Jesus. He walked over to the potluck table and handed him two more cookies as if interested to see if they'd be eaten just as quickly. "We finished slogging through Christmas gone wild down on 100th-drunken Santas, elves hittin' each other with candy canes, and a Christmas tree robbery."
"Someone stole a Christmas tree?" Minnie asked, momentarily distracted. "From the lot on the corner of Washington?"
"Min! We have a situation here," Linda reminded urgently. "Doesn't Hutch know that nice woman-his Little Brother's mother? She started a group to support Spanish speaking families?"
"Maria Ramos?" Starsky nodded, perusing the diminished cookie selection. He looked over at Linda. "What'd you want from her?"
"Jesus and his mamacita were evicted. We need to find some place for them to sleep," Minnie answered, waving as Sid Campos and his partner Mick Nevins hauled in Billy Westover and his son, Billy Jr., both sporting matching black eyes. "Sid, we're on a case, keep the place warm while we're gone."
"Hey, that's not-" Nevins started, grimacing. He shoved the Westovers into chairs.
Campos elbowed the younger man and nodded cheerfully. "Merry Christmas, ladies, Starsky. I for one, am glad to be out of the cold."
"Wait." Linda held up a finger. "If Jesus hasn't eaten lately, it's an even bet that mama hasn't either."
"Food coming up." Starsky piled four slices of ham, three rolls, two deviled eggs and one fat tamale on a paper plate, and slipped a couple cans of soda in his jacket pocket. Last but not least, he snagged a piece of pumpkin pie, complete with a dollop of Ready Whip on top.
"Para mammi?" Jesus asked, his dark eyes wide. "Gracias, tank you!"
"You're welcome." Linda took his hand, helping him to his feet. "How far is mammi?"
Behind them, Billy Jr. called his father several epithets Minnie felt were not appropriate with a child in the vicinity. She hustled them out into the hallway.
"Bus," Jesus said in English, pointing to the left as the doors to the squadroom down the corridor swung open.
"Starsky, I'm hungry, where's my--" Hutch called out, stopping abruptly at the sight of the crowd.
"Reinforcements!" Minnie proclaimed, suddenly joyous. She couldn't have explained why if she tried, but the quiet evening at home she'd been dreading had turned into something entirely different. She had her love, she was needed, and she was grateful she could give. "There's a bus stop two blocks down."
"I don't need a bus," Hutch said.
"Got your pie." Starsky shoved the pastry into Hutch's hands. "We're on a rescue mission, to find Jesus' mom."
"Mary?" Hutch asked, clearly befuddled.
"Wouldn't be surprised," Linda said with a grin. "They came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger..."
"Sounds crowded," Starsky commented, herding them to the police garage.
"You must have gone to Sunday School regular," Minnie said, looking over Jesus' head at her lover.
Linda grinned back at her. "Since the three of us looked exactly alike, we could sneak in and out at will. The teachers were endlessly confused. But I did love the Christmas story."
"I thought you were in Las Vegas visiting Iris for a couple days," Starsky said.
"And Francine," Linda agreed. "We had a great time, ate my mother's famous rum cake, watched Miracle on 34th Street, but I decided to leave a day early."
"Missing friends?" Hutch asked, eating a forkful of pie.
"You could say that." Linda grinned at Minnie.
Better than spiked egg nog, Minnie thought.
As they approached the Torino, Jesus gasped in excitement. "Red and white car. I seen it at mi escuela!"
"And now you get to ride in it." Starsky unlocked doors, waving the group inside. "Jesus, no crumbs on the seats." He frowned as Hutch claimed shotgun. "No pumpkin either."
"Jesus appears to have eaten all his cookies," Linda remarked, climbing in the back to crowd in with Minnie and Jesus. "But you still have one in your pocket."
"Insurance, for later," Starsky started up the engine, glancing over his shoulder at the three in the back seat. "Hutch serves stuff like Brussels sprouts and butterfly bones instead of real food, even on Christmas."
"I've been meaning to tell you for years that I sincerely doubt butterflies have bones," Hutch commented loftily.
"Mammi!" Jesus jabbed a finger on the car window, bouncing with excitement. "You save her!"
"I see someone," Minnie called, peering through the darkness to the bus stop up ahead. Naturally, the streetlight that should have illuminated that little corner of civilization had burned out, but she could just see a figure hunched over on the bench.
"She must be freezing," Hutch said. "Jesus, cual es su nombre?"
"Maria, y mi Poppi es Jose," he replied, pulling at the doorknob before Starsky had even stopped the car.
"Of course, they are," Linda rolled her eyes.
"Hey, hey, hey, little man." Minnie grabbed the boy's arm before he launched out of a moving car.
As the headlights swept over the woman, she leapt up, dashing behind the bench in alarm. Jesus finally made his escape, scrambling over the curb to her.
"You're sure he's not related to you?" Hutch laughed, nudging Starsky. "You have identical ways of vaulting from the car."
"Mammi!" Jesus swept her into his arms.
"M'hijo, mi corazon," Maria murmured.
Minnie let mother and son greet one another, standing quietly next to Linda. Their thighs touched, very slightly, such a casual thing, but so important. Linda dropped her hand down, brushing her knuckles against Minnie's. It was clear she wanted the contact, too.
Maria Concepcion was tiny, not much taller than her son, with a long black braid hanging down her back. She straightened, one arm around Jesus' shoulders. "Gracias," she said, her teeth chattering. "Gracias por ayudar a mi hijo."
"Policia," Jesus explained. "Linda y Minnie. Sergeant Starsky y Hutch."
"Let's get you in the warm car," Minnie urged. "We have someone we want you to meet."
It was nearly eleven o'clock before Minnie unlocked the door to her little bungalow. Linda toted her overnight bag in, kicking off her heels just inside the door. Minnie took a moment to plug in the lights on the Christmas tree. The small box wrapped in red-striped paper from Linda was still nestled under the branches.
"Home at last," Linda sighed with a fond smile.
"You really think that?" Minnie grinned, running her hand across Linda's back and under her sweater. Now that they were alone, she couldn't keep her hands off her lover. It was more than difficult some days to hide what they felt about one another.
"Mmmm, this is exactly why I caught the early flight back," Linda murmured, kissing her with a lot of tongue.
"And here I thought you missed me," Minnie chuckled, her lips tingling from Linda's peppermint lip gloss. "I couldn't have dealt with Jesus and his mama so well without you."
"Y'know, I doubt that." Linda tugged her hand, leading her to the couch. She tossed the red and green holiday pillows onto floor. "You've run that precinct for years. You know all the secrets."
"I didn't remember about Maria Ramos." Minnie held onto her hand, resting her head on Linda's shoulder. She wanted to kiss more, but sitting there, cuddled into each other on the sofa, was awfully nice, too. "Even though I do know a secret about her."
"Hmm?" Linda ran her finger around the curve of Minnie's ear, causing tingles all up and down her spine.
"Uhh-you keep doing that and all the cells in my brain will leak right out." Minnie shivered with increasing arousal, feeling the heat spread through her limbs. Her groin was all buzzy. "Maria's seeing Paco Ortega."
"Well, I like that fine!" Linda sat up with a grin. "There were so many people in that little house. I saw Paco, but I saw a few other people I knew, too." She turned toward Minnie, swinging her legs into Minnie's lap. "Maria Ramos has created a community to deal with Mexicans without papers-she's been a God's send. Maria...Concepcion, that is," she giggled when Minnie ran her fingers around her ankles. "Maria couldn't be in better hands."
"And Starsky found a Little Brother, I'm thinking." Minnie bent her head, sticking out her tongue to suck Linda's big toe.
"Oh, oh...you know I'm ticklish there!" Linda squealed, wiggling her foot.
Minnie grinned fiendishly, tightening her grip. "Then you shouldn't put your feet in my lap." She raised Linda's leg, knowing her lover could do the splits and wouldn't find the stretch painful.
Linda pretended to squirm, but she was laughing too much to escape. Minnie moistened her tongue and lapped Linda's slender foot from heel to toe. She loved Linda's feet-they showed the hard use from years of ballet. Toes bent and callused, a long scar where she'd cut her left foot while dancing and yet continued the performance.
Letting Linda's leg curl over her shoulder, Minnie considered ways to unfasten Linda's jeans. This would probably be easier on the bed, but she liked spending time together in the living room, with the glow of the multicolored Christmas lights. Felt like they were a married couple, in their home. Even though nearly every stick of furniture, all the dishes, the sheets, and ornaments on the tree had been her mother's. She'd never changed any of the décor. Maybe it was time to start?
Linda twisted while Minnie was considering a joint shopping trip, maybe to Swedish Design. Flipping her other leg over Minnie's left shoulder, Linda crossed her ankles together, forcing Minnie closer.
"Hey!" Minnie yelped, grabbing a kiss.
"I have plans!" Linda aimed her forefinger under Minnie's short, gray-pleated skirt and toward her crotch. Slipping under the elastic of her bikini briefs, she found the clitoris.
"Ooo," Minnie sighed, little bubbles of arousal sliding through her blood like champagne.
Linda relaxed the tight hold with her legs, dropping them down so that she straddled Minnie. She stroked the warm, moist spot between Minnie's thighs, occasionally circling the groin to caress the tops of her legs.
Minnie whimpered, impatient, her desire increasing with every second. She felt poised to take flight, her entire being suspended, as if she would have floated away without the support of Linda's legs. When Linda curved her finger, centering on Minnie's throbbing clit, Minnie stiffened, grabbing Linda's wrists. The orgasm was fantastic, a thousand pleasures exploding in seconds.
"You have quite a way with your finger." Minnie chuckled, pulling Linda's hand to her mouth. She sucked her own juices off Linda's finger, watching as Linda's eyelids lowered.
She moaned with arousal, a sweet smile curving her lips.
"But I can't reciprocate when you're wearing those tight slacks."
"You like?" Linda grinned lazily. She stretched, untangling her legs from Minnie's, and stood, pirouetting, just as Minnie had imagined. "Frannie, Iris, and I went out shopping, bought identical outfits for Christmas, and went to a photographer." She pranced over to her suitcase and rummaged around for a moment. Brandishing a rectangle box, Linda carried it back to the sofa. "A present, for you."
"You already got me something," Minnie protested, thinking of the gift she had for Linda. Would it measure up? Would she like it? It wasn't even actually wrapped.
"This is nothing, doll." Linda handed her the box and unbuttoned the waistband of her slacks. "Open it."
"When I want to open you?" Minnie pretended to pout.
"Gifts now-because I see that what I left here is still under the tree, and then a little more fun." Linda slid her Dittos off but didn't remove the stripey sweater, which Minnie was amused to note, matched her underpanties.
"I have a little something for you-" Minnie opened the box, but her eyes were on Linda's long shapely legs and pretty feet. Who knew she'd become enamored of toes after all these years? "Oh, you look fantastic!" Nestled inside the box was a photograph of three identical redheads: Linda, Francine and Iris, the Baylor sisters. Minnie had actually met Iris, before Linda transferred from the Ramparts division. Francine used to work at a strip club that Starsky and Hutch had investigated. Iris was a dancer in Vegas.
"I'm the one..." Linda began, pointing down at the triplets.
"Nope! I don't even have to guess, you're on the right." Minnie tapped the photo. She could tell-she wasn't even quite sure how. Maybe her heart was looking through her eyes? She just knew immediately.
"Yes." Linda giggled, kissing her. "Now what is this mysterious present Santa Min brought me?"
Minnie set the picture on the round end table which was covered with framed Kaplan family portraits. "You have to close your eyes," she cautioned, strangely nervous suddenly. Padding into the spare room where she'd hidden the gift, she hefted the glass bowl. Walking carefully so that the water didn't spill, she carried it to the Christmas tree and set it beside the box from Linda that she hadn't opened yet.
Linda was sitting dutifully on the couch with both hands over her eyes, tapping her foot restlessly.
"You can open them now!" Minnie spread both hands like a prize presenter on a game show.
"What?" Linda peered under the branches, her eyes brightening. "You bought us a pet?" She dropped to her hands and knees to examine the fancy finned goldfish. "What's his name?"
Minnie realized she'd been holding her breath, the air coming out of her in a whoosh. "I'm so glad you said "us"," she whispered, sitting down beside her.
"Oh, Minnie Mouse." Linda cupped her hands to Minnie's cheeks, kissing her passionately. "Maybe I haven't said it...ever, but you're the one for me. We're two, I hope for a long, long-"
"Long time," Minnie finished, adoration welling up. "I want-I'd been thinking about goin' shopping together, maybe buying stuff-"
"Like furniture?" Linda laughed delightedly. She patted the arm of the old floral sofa. "This is the first something of our own! A goldfish. Then we can get a new couch, a new bed..."
"Like that." Minnie clasped Linda's hands, swinging them as if they were about to sing London Bridge. Imagine, buying a bed together-two women. What would the mattress clerk think? "It's all I dream about. I love you."
"I know," Linda replied smugly. "Does that make me Han Solo?"
"I don't see the resemblance." Minnie chuckled. They'd recently seen Empire Strikes Back together although Minnie had seen it when it first came out. "But this little guy-all shiny and gold, like your hair. I saw the fish and had to get it. I almost named it Linda. I'm really not sure how to tell if it's a boy or a girl."
"Neither do I." Linda watched the fish swim around the little ceramic castle, the fronds of the green underwater plant swaying in the tiny waves. "Min-Lin is a little too silly."
"Hey, my cousin's name is Remalan," Minnie put in. "Her mother was Remy and her father Alan."
"We steer completely clear of portmanteau names then," Linda concluded. "Hmm, gold and shiny. What about C3PO?"
"Perfect!" Minnie nodded. Didn't matter that it was nearly December 26 already and she'd have to work tomorrow even if Linda had another day of vacation. This was what Christmas was all about-spending time with a loved one, and sharing joy.
"Last gift...and it sort of goes along with getting a pet together, family photos..." Linda trailed off, placing the box in Minnie's lap.
Resisting the urge to rip the paper off like a five-year old, Minnie slit the taped edge with her thumbnail and unfolded the wrapping with care. The box inside contained two girl figurines, one pink cheeked with reddish hair, the other darker skinned with black hair, holding hands. The caption on the base proclaimed Love in all colors.
"It's beautiful!" Minnie touched gold lettering, tears in her eyes. "Where did you find this?"
"I was wandering in a gift shop only a week or two after we first got together." Linda patted the dark-haired girl and then the red-haired waif. "Seemed like an omen that I couldn't pass by."
"Seems like we get a lot of omens," Minnie mused, kissing Linda's fingers before planting one on her mouth. "Met Mary and Jesus on Christmas day, although Joseph was out of the country. I was thinking, if we get a new sofa, there may be another family who needs the old one."
"I think they'll need a lot of things in the near future." Linda ran her fingers along the rows of braids on Minnie's scalp. "I can't tell you how happy I was that baby wasn't due for a couple months."
"Amen to that, sister. With the collective might of Maria Ramos' group, not to mention Paco's clout with lawyers for undocumented folk, we may be able to get Jose back in time for the baby's birth," Minnie agreed. "And I don't mind dropping by Toys R Us for some baby items after we buy the couch-"
"And our new mattress," Linda reminded, poking her in the spine. "Sorry to tell you, but that old one is lumpy."
"Oh, you think so? What about right here, on the felt tree skirt my grammy made?" Minnie gently propelled her back until Linda was lying under the Christmas tree.
"Very comfy," Linda giggled, using one of the felt poinsettias for a pillow. "Just right."
"And yet another gift I have to unwrap!" Minnie teased, easing down Linda's red and green striped bikini panties. "What wonders are inside?" She caressed the clitoral area, not quite touching the tempting target.
Linda responded as Minnie had hoped, her breathing going light and rapid, her skin pinking up. "Please?" Linda whispered.
"You do like the tongue action." Minnie smiled, spreading her legs a bit more to get space to lick the thick little bud. Tasted salty and warm. She was always reminded a bit of a margarita, without the brain freeze.
Linda's breath caught, and she gasped, fingers fluttering on Minnie's head before settling on her shoulders. Minnie blew gently on the bright pink clit and lapped just a little faster, knowing exactly what Linda liked.
Linda cried out, her thighs quivering. "Oh, yeah, that's what I wanted from Santa Min this year," Linda said when she had regained her wits.
"We two queens of Bay City are..." Minnie crooned to the tune of We, Three Kings. She would have been happy to lie there with Linda, under the tree, until morning.
"Should C3PO be watching this?" Linda kissed her, glancing over at the goldfish swimming lazily around his bowl.
"Next time, we'll do it in the bedroom," Minnie said.
"On the new mattress," Linda added.