Da Little
Tings

Ouch!
That Hurts!

Friends, Enemies,
Lovers & Informants

Food!
Glorious Food

Clothes
Horses

What's In
A Name


High Tide

By Barb McDonald

PART ONE

“Hutch. You are going to love this. Dis is da best Mexican restaurant in town.”

“Oh yeah? According to who?”

“According to me.”

“That's what I was afraid of… good night.”

Hutch made an about face back toward the door. He was fully intent on making a clean escape from the eatery he and his partner had just entered but Starsky grabbed his forearm.

“No … wait. You gotta at least try it. The enchiladas make you're tongue feel like a hot poker.”

“And that's a good thing?” The blonde cop probed with surprised disdain.

“Yeah.” Starsky sounded insulted.

“Like I said.” Hutch reiterated. “I'm outta here.”

Again he turned and again Starsky restrained him.

“No look. Those people are leaving. We can sit right down.”

“Starsky.” Hutch scoffed as he scanned the small restaurant and scowled. “Besides us and the waitress, they are the only people in here. There are lots of places to sit. If the food is so great, why aren't there more people in here?” Hutch sniffed and made a face. “What's that smell?”

“It's a well kept secret that's why. And, that is the smell of the best food this side of Tijuana.”

“Oh? That's encouraging.”

Pulling on his partner's leather sleeve like a kid coaxing his mother into buying him something, Starsky dragged Hutch into the place.

“Come on… I'm starved.”

“You're always starved.”

“Just try it. Can't you just try it?” Starsky sounded annoyed.

“I have a feeling you don't buy the food here.”

“What's that's supposed to mean?”

“It means this food is for rent, Starsk.”

The curly-haired cop stopped momentarily to give his friend a glassy stare accompanied by a long, nasally sigh. “Come on.” He implored and ushered Hutch to a table. “Here. Sit.”

“If I'm up all night, I swear I'll…” Hutch warned as he held his stomach.

“You'll be fine. You'll want to eat here every day.”

“No I won't.”

“Look here comes the nice waitress.” Starsky folded his hands neatly on the tabletop, sat up straight and beamed a charming smile as the young lady approached.

“Hola chicos.” She greeted.

“Hola.” Hutch returned the welcome politely.

“?Apreciaria usted que algunos beben para comenzar?”

“We'll start with two Corona's.” Starsky replied.

“And lots of water too please.” Hutch added.

“What makes you think you're going to need lots of water?”

“Because you said the food makes your tongue feel like a hot poker. I need something to put out the flames.”

“Gracias Senorita.” Starsky said to the waitress ignoring his buddy's comments.

“Vale. Tendré razón espalda… cutie.”

The waitress commented before she returned to the bar to place the boy's drink order. She turned playfully to give Starsky an alluring glance.

“Did she just call you cutie?” Hutch inquired.

“Yep. I told you this place was great. Let's see what the specials are.” Starsky said as he opened the well-used and slightly stained menu.

“I can hardly wait.” Hutch grunted sarcastically.

“Will you please? You made me eat that organic omelet last night. The thing tasted like a radial tire. The least you can do is eat what I want to eat tonight. It'll be your turn again tomorrow.”

“It wasn't that bad. Besides it was good for you. Lots of natural vitamins and proteins. The bread was great. You have to admit that.”

“No it wasn't. The bread was like wet birdseed.”

“Birdseed is healthy, Starsk.”

“Yeah… for birds… not for grown men.”

“So. Where do you fit in?” Hutch jabbed as he turned sideways in his chair, flung his arm over the back of it and perused the joint.

“Why are you in such a mood?” Starsky queried crossly.

“Mood? I'm not in a mood.”

“Yes you are. You've done nothing but whine since I picked you up this morning.”

“I don't whine, Starsky.”

“YES, you do.” He hissed impatiently, shaking the large menu like a newspaper to keep it from flopping over. “I know there is something bothering you. Just spill it, will you. I don't know if I can stand it anymore.”

“Nothing to spill. I'm fine.” Hutch assured.

The waitress seductively sauntered toward the detective's table and placed they're beers in front of them. Hutch squeezed his slice of lime down the throat of the bottle and immediately took a swig. He savored the sweet bitterness of it. Starsky had his lime squeezed for him. Hutch rolled his eyes at the display of flirtation between the two.

“?Tan, que yo puedo obtener usted?” She asked with her pen poised over her order pad. “Y especialmente usted cara de munéca.”

“Doll face? Did she just call you doll face?” Hutch muttered.

“I don't know. I don't speak Spanish.”

“Well I do and she did.”

Starsky looked chuffed as he began to give his order to the young woman.

“I think I'll have the enchiladas… with extra onions and hot peppers… por favor.”

“Make that two… but hold the onions and hot peppers please.” Hutch added disinterested. “Oh and Miss, I'll have a paramedic for dessert.”

“That's not funny.” Starsky chided. “Look. You're confusing the poor girl.”

“She doesn't look confused to me.” Hutch smiled his most enticing grin at her as if trying to distract her from his partner.

Again the waitress turned to place the detective's order and again she looked back at Starsky and winked.

“Oh no.” Hutch interrupted suddenly. “I didn't think this dinner could get any worse.”

“What?” Starsky seemed peeved.

“Look who just walked in.” The blonde cop whispered out of the side of his mouth.

“Who?”

“DON'T turn around.” Hutch scolded.

“Why not? Who is it?”

“It's Melford.”

“Steve? Steve Melford?” Starsky said anxiously.

“Yes and don't turn around. Maybe he won't notice us.”

“Well, he's gonna notice us. We're the only ones in here.”

In fact, Steve Melford had seen Starsky and Hutch as soon as he entered. He approached their table to chat. He was alone.

“Well… if it isn't my favourite detective… Stutch.” Melford quipped arrogantly as he pulled up another chair and sat down. He chuckled at his own joke.

Hutch forced a snarled smirk.

“Hey Steve. Nice to see ya.” Starsky said with a look of panic. Hutch noticed and wondered why. “You don't want to join us do you?”

The abstract invitation caused Starsky considerable pain as Hutch delivered a swift kick to his partner's shin under the table. Steve was preoccupied with placing his jacket on the back of his chair and didn't notice Starsky jump, wince and sneer a look at Hutch who sneered right back.

“We just finished eating actually Steve. Let's go Starsk.” Hutch said as he placed his hands firmly on the table to assist in raising him out of the chair. He was desperate to avoid Melford's company. “Sorry we can't stay.”

His timing couldn't have been worse as the waitress returned with a full plate of nacho appetizers. Hutch flashed an embarrassed grin at Steve. It made Starsky shift in his chair and chortle uncomfortably. The twosome exchanged wide-eyed glances before Hutch took his seat again. Steve obliviously dug into the salsa with a chip loaded with cheese and jalapenos. He crunched it noisily.

“So. Starsky.” Steve chewed as he talked, sending fragments of corn chip flying out of his mouth. A large piece deflected off Starsky's chin. “I've still got some loose ends to tie up with you on the Castillo case.”

“Castillo case?” Hutch asked cluelessly. “What Castillo case?”

“Aaaaaah. NO!” Starsky interjected. “You must be thinking of someone else Steve.”

“We just talked about it yesterday.” Melford replied as he jammed another cluster of nachos in his mouth. “I know I'm getting older but I'm certainly not senile.”

Starsky looked over at his partner who glared at him with puzzlement. Now it was Melford that was on the receiving end of a kick.

“HEY! That's my leg Starsky. Watch it!” Melford seemed unaware that Hutch was out of the loop.

“What's he talking about Starsk?”

“Um… I… we …ah.” His search for a quick response left him fumbling.

“Me and your partner have been working on the Castillo case together. I thought you knew Hutchinson.” Melford announced tactlessly.

Hutch looked wounded. His stare was so cold Starsky felt a chill. He had to look away and chose his hands to look at instead. He kneaded them nervously.

“Starsk?” Hutch said again impatiently waiting for an explanation.

“Hutch. I was going to tell you.”

“What's going on Starsky?”

“Well, you know your history with Castillo. Dobey thought that…”

“Thought what? That I couldn't handle it?”

“Hutch. Come on. Take it easy.”

“Take it easy? Are you kidding me man!” Hutch barked angrily. “I thought we were partners. I thought I could trust you Starsky. What happened to ‘me and thee' huh?”

“Of course you can trust me.”

“NO. IT SEEMS I CAN'T!” Hutch was standing now and heading for the door. “I'm outta here.” He waved his hand behind him in disgust.

“Hutch wait… HUTCH!”

Melford watched the confrontation unfold in front of him without much interest. His focus was still on the appetizers. He glanced up at Starsky as he rose to catch up with Hutch.

“Hey. Where you going?” Melford asked panicked that he'd be stuck with the tab. “We need to talk. I want to wrap this thing up. I'm way behind on my other cases because of your partner's emotional problems.” He complained.

Starsky stopped in his tracks and turned to face Melford again.

“Steve.” He pointed. “You can take your other cases and stick them up your arrogant ass!”

“Nice talk Starsky.” Melford replied as he watched the detective punch open the door to leave the place. The waitress returned and placed two enchilada platters on the table.

“HEY!!! Who's going to pay for this?” Melford yelled after the duo.

The waitress pouted when she realized the curly-haired cop was gone.

 

PART TWO

He was on his second beer when Starsky began pounding on the door of Hutch's Venice Place apartment. The blonde detective had centered himself on the sofa and put his feet on the coffee table and decided to stew about the situation. He hoped enough alcohol would make him forget and ease his disappointment in his partner's covert activities. He was so angry it made his eyes water.

“Hutch?” Starsky inquired from the small landing outside Hutch's door.

“Go away Starsk. You don't want to deal with me right now.”

“Hutch. If you don't let me in I'll let myself in.”

“You do and I swear I'll shoot you myself!”

“Come on. Let me in. Let me explain.”

“Nothing to explain. Go home Starsky.”

“I'm not leaving until I talk to you face-to-face.”

“You've got a long wait then.” Hutch shouted.

“I'll use the key.” Starsky threatened.

Hutch always kept a spare on the top of the doorframe.

“Don't do it. I'm not in the mood for your … “

The sound of the key unlocking the door cut Hutch's warning short. He shot out of his seat to prevent Starsky from entering the small bachelor apartment but he was too late.

“Get out!” Hutch ordered.

“Will you stop acting like a spoiled child and let me explain.”

“Go to hell.” Hutch barked as he returned to the couch to sulk.

He knew the only way to get Starsky to leave was to remove him physically and he wasn't ready to do that. Not yet.

“Look it. I wanted to tell you but I wasn't sure how you'd react. Now I know and I'm glad I didn't. I was just trying to spare you the aggravation.”

“Spare me the aggravation?”

“Yes.”

“Starsky, I can't believe you took on this case without telling me. You know what that bastard did to me. AND MELFORD? That guy's as slippery as a greased pig. Why didn't you just leave it alone and let somebody else take it or at least give me a chance.”

Hutch's face was hot pink with fury.

“I took it because Dobey asked me to and because I knew Melford had already been assigned. I wanted to keep an eye on it. I knew Melford would do a half-assed job and I had to be sure this would be the end of it.”

“The end of it? The end of what?”

“I wanted to put Castillo away. I didn't want it hanging over your head any more.”

“Well, isn't that nice and neat.” Hutch implored sarcastically. “You lied to me Starsky. You've been working with Melford behind my back for what – weeks, months?”

“Yeah.” Starsky retorted crossly. “And evenings and weekends and whatever other time I could get.”

“Don't do me any favours, okay partner.”

“You can be such an asshole sometimes.” Starsky hissed as he began to loose patience.

“Get out Starsky!” Hutch pointed. “Get out now, before I throw you out.”

“Hutch.” Starsky appealed as he held his hands out in front of him.

“You heard me.”

“Okay. Okay. I'll go. But, you gotta know I did this for you. I did it because I didn't want you to get hurt again. I did it because....”

“Because what?” Hutch hissed.

“Because I care about you okay. I love ya man.” Starsky stated shyly.

Hutch did not react to his partner's confession. It wasn't a revelation. He knew how Starsky felt about him. His partner meant everything to him as well but the fact that Starsky said it out loud took him aback.

“Ah, come on Hutch. Don't be so ungrateful. Can't you see I was just trying to help.”

“Ungrateful! Relationships are built on respect and trust and we don't seem to have either right now. Maybe we never did.”

“So you're saying we're not partners anymore? Is that it? Is that what you want?” Starsky begged the question angrily.

Hutch did not answer. He took a swig of his beer and focused on the bottle. He began to pick at the label, peeling little bits off and flicking them onto the floor. His blood pressure thumped through the sides of his neck. All he could feel was rage. There was nothing more to say. Not right now anyway.

Starsky sighed loudly. His frustration seemed to glow like a halo around his entire body. He stared at Hutch who refused to make eye contact. Reluctantly, Starsky turned toward the door. He looked back to see if Hutch would try to stop him and make amends but he did not budge from his pouting position. Finally, Starsky gave up and left Hutch behind to reconsider his threat to end it all. He hoped that once Hutch calmed down he'd be able to approach him again. It was just too hot right now. Starsky would pick Hutch up the next morning like he always did. If Hutch was waiting for him, he'd know that everything would soon be water under the bridge. If he wasn't… well, Starsky would cross THAT bridge when he came to it.


PART THREE

It was August 1967. Starsky and Hutch were fresh out of the academy. The men had hit it off during training and knew intuitively that they were soul mates. From their first exchange it was uncommonly easy. It felt as if they'd always known each other. Neither man had experienced anything like it before – instant chemistry. After their year of instruction they hoped to be assigned to each other after graduation. That didn't happen despite their requests to their superiors.

The fact was, the twosome had earned themselves a reputation in cop school for breaking rules and creating mischievous havoc. They got away with it because their instructors knew they were smart and savvy. They knew that they were just the type of recruits that would excel. Once they had spent some time apart and got some street experience under their utility belts they would be partnered. The plan was that when they made detective they would be paired. Starsky and Hutch were not aware of this though and were bitterly disappointed when they first read the roster.

Starsky was stuck with the class idiot named Brad Annis and wasn't too happy about it. The guy's name couldn't have been more appropriate. The young cop was cocky and thought he knew more than he actually did. Brad thought he was an expert on everything. His arrogance drove Starsky nuts.

Hutch, on the other hand, was partnered with Hector Castillo. Unlike Starsky, Hutch couldn't have been happier and he and Hector settled into their day-to-day routine. Hector was cut from the same mold as Starsky and Hutch and didn't mind breaking rules and taking the obligatory consequences. He was funny and bright and a great guy to be around. Hutch loved him and they became pretty tight.

After work though, Starsky and Hutch would spend most of their off time together. They'd often raid the clubs around town and sew some oats. Hector would tag along occasionally even though he had a wife who tended to keep him under his thumb.

Occasionally, Rene Castillo would accompany the boys to the discos and Hutch became quite fond of her. If he'd had a sister, Rene would have been his ideal. They even looked alike. She had white blonde hair that she wore short. Her eyes were navy blue fragmented by crystals of teal and were as big as quarters. She was tall and fit and often gave the boys a run for their money on the tennis court.

Despite their full social lives, after six months on the job, Starsky had about had it with Brad and threatened to quit. Starsky liked his job and performed it well but he just couldn't stand spending his twelve-hour shifts in the same car with Bozo the Clown. Whenever he got down about it, Hutch would remind him of all the work they'd do once they made the higher ranks. They planned to clean up Bay City and simply become the best cops the department had ever produced.

So, they both settled into their lives as uniformed police officers – Hutch with Hector and Starsky with Brad. It was all very mundane and unexciting until one evening as Starsky ate his mandatory Friday night pizza at home, he got a frantic call from Hutch.

“Lo?” He answered lazily.

“Starsk… I, …she, oh God.”

“What happened? Whatsa matter?” He inquired with a smidge of concern.

“It's Rene, Starsk.”

“Yeah. What about her?”

“She's been murdered. Oh my God, she's dead.”

“What?”

“Someone strangled her. She's gone.”

“Where's Hector?”

“I don't know, I just… he… I.” Hutch stammered.

“You at home?”

“Yeah.”

“I'll be right there.”

Starsky threw the half eaten slice of pizza back into the box, grabbed his jacket and keys and scrambled out the door. He jumped into his red mustang convertible and screeched out of the driveway toward Hutch's tiny house on the canal. Within ten minutes he was busting through Hutch's door to find his friend at the kitchen table drinking a finger of scotch.

“Hey.” Starsky said simply, somewhat out of breath.

“Hey yourself.”

Starsky ambled across the room placing a firm hand on Hutch's shoulder as he passed him. He leaned his derriere against the counter and crossed his arms and then his ankles. He took a moment to collect himself after his frantic race to Hutch's and blew out of his mouth as if he was inflating a balloon. When his lungs finally ran out of air he paused momentarily.

“So, tell me what happened?”

Hutch looked perfect in his police blues. His shoes were polished to a black sheen. His shirt and pants were crisply pressed. Even though he was upset and had just left a murder scene, he looked as if he'd just walked out of a police recruitment poster. It was a complete contrast to Starsky whose boots were always scuffed and his uniform shirts usually rumpled and missing buttons. Not Hutch. He was always immaculate in his blues. He began his story with yet another exhale.

“I went to pick up Hec for our shift but he wasn't there. So, I went up to the door to knock. There was no answer. The door was unlocked so I went in. And, there she was. Sprawled out on the floor. I tried to revive her…CPR, you know, but it was no use. She'd been dead for awhile. Maybe two or three hours. I called the station to report it and waited for them to show. Then I came home and called you.”

“And Hector? Does he know?”

“I don't know. We haven't been able to locate him.”

“Well, was it a robbery? Who would want to kill Rene, Hutch?”

“I don't know.”

“But, what do you think? I mean, who do you think did it?”

“Starsky!” Hutch sounded impatient. “I – don't – know.”

“Okay, alright.”

Starsky hesitated again before speaking.

“You okay?” He asked quietly.

“No. I'm not.” Hutch murmured. “Where's Hector Starsk? Why wasn't he there when I went to pick him up for work? He's never late. He's always been there before. Why wasn't he there tonight?”

“Do you think he had something to do with it?”

“No. I don't know. He couldn't have …maybe.” Hutch confessed as he finally made eye contact with Starsky.

The boys were interrupted when two men appeared at the entrance of Hutch's door. Starsky had not closed it when he arrived. They were dressed in suits and Starsky and Hutch recognized them from around the precinct.

“Kenneth Hutchison?”

“Yes?”

“You're under arrest for the murder of Rene Castillo.”

+++++++

After his arrest, Hutch spent the next several months fighting for his life. Hector Castillo had accused Hutch of Rene's murder and testified against him at the trial. According to Hector, Hutch's motive was jealously – that he, Rene and Hutch were caught in a deadly love triangle. Hutch's manhandling of the body during his futile attempt to resuscitate Rene didn't help his case either.

Starsky stood by his buddy through the whole ordeal. It was hard on Hutch who felt betrayed and hung out to dry by his partner Castillo. He suffered from deep depression. It was a dark time and he survived primarily through the support of Starsky. It actually cemented their relationship and the two simply became brothers.

In the end, the jury found Hutch innocent, citing a lack of evidence. But, even though his nightmare was over, his reputation had been toyed with and he wondered if it might affect his career. He wondered if the trail might prevent him from making detective at all. He went on short-term disability to recover from four months in a holding cell. He couldn't afford the bail. His treatment while incarcerated was dismal to say the least and once the inmates found out Hutch was a cop he became the victim of a brutal attacked taking a shank to the upper thigh and forearm. The weeks turned to months and they took a devastating toll on Hutch. He lost a tremendous amount of weight and was weak. His mental state too was fragile. After several months of therapy, he eventually got back in the game and learned to deal with the trauma. But, the experience was scaring in more ways than one.

After the trial Hector asked to be transferred to another precinct. After all, he and Hutch weren't exactly friendly. The last time they saw each other was the last day in court. As soon as the innocent verdict came down, Hector left the courtroom and Hutch never saw or spoke to him again. And, they never crossed paths.

Needless to say, when Hutch finally returned to work, he was partnered with a new recruit who knew nothing of the turmoil. Paul Jetter settled in as Hutch's partner for the remainder of his term as a plain clothed police officer. Starsky and Brad finished out their terms as well. But, when both Hutch and Starsky were promoted to detective, Brad was left behind. He remained a cop on the beat. It was what he did best. Besides, he had no aspirations to gain higher rank. He was happy where he was. He was partnered with another grad of the academy.

Like most things, with time it all blew over and life went on. Rene's murder went unsolved but Hutch always knew that Hector had killed her. It was Hector, in fact, who murdered her in a jealous rage. The only problem was, Hutch couldn't prove it. The events of that summer of '67 haunted him for years. Besides his forced addiction to heroine, it was the worst experience of his life.

Over the years, Hutch's murder trial seemed to fade into the woodwork. He never talked about it again and Starsky never brought it up either. There was no reason to. It happened. It worked out. Move on. But, through the grapevine, Hutch learned that Hector had remarried and when Starsky and Hutch learned that Castillo's new wife had been murdered, red flags went up all over the department.

Knowing Hutch's difficulty the first time around, and fearful of what Hutch might do to Castillo if they ever met face-to-face, Dobey asked Starsky to assist Steve Melford on the case. The murder occurred in Melford's jurisdiction and the case simply fell onto his desk. But, now the cat was out of the bag and Starsky knew he'd made a mistake in not telling Hutch. He should have. And, now he just might have to pay the price for his deceit.


PART FOUR

The alarm blared. It made Starsky jump and he frantically felt for the clock to turn it off. When he was finally successful by knocking it onto the floor, he opened his eyes. His face was pressed into his pillow but he still managed to read the large, red, digital numbers that seemed to burn his retinas. It was 6:30 a.m.

The fact was, Starsky felt like he'd not sleep at all. After his argument with Hutch the day before, he returned home. He spent the evening watching television. But, even though Starsky stared at the tube, he didn't comprehend what he was watching. The pictures were simply company as he mulled over the dicey situation he'd gotten himself into. Before he knew it, he'd sat through the late, late show. He finally went to bed at 3:15 a.m. He might as well have stayed up because he tossed for several hours trying desperately to fall asleep.

A new day was now upon him and all Starsky could feel was dread as he sluggishly sat up and swung his bare feet onto the floor. He sat on the edge of the bed resting his forearms on his knees. He rubbed his face and scalp vigorously making his hair appear wilder than it already was. He blinked rapidly in a feeble attempt to wake. Several moments passed and after a series of weary groans, Starsky finally made his way to the shower.

He resolved to start the day like any other. He'd shower and shave; have two cups of black coffee, get dressed; and then pick up Hutch. But, as Starsky proceeded through his morning routine he couldn't help but wonder if his partner would be there to start the day with him. Starsky's stomach flipped and churned as he got into the Torino. He started it up and drove to Hutch's place. His nauseousness peaked just before he reached Hutch's street. Would he be there?

Precisely at 7:45, Starsky turned the corner and was relived to see Hutch waiting at the curb. He was wearing his black and white baseball jacket and he had his hands stuffed into the pockets. Hutch's flaxen hair glowed like a light bulb in the morning sun. He stared straight ahead as apposed to watching for his friend to arrive like one waits for a bus. As Starsky got closer he could see that his partner was still peeved, but Starsky didn't care. The fact that Hutch was there at all sent a wave of relief through his body. That was the first step. He stopped in front of his partner and Hutch got in. Then they drove off.

“Mornin'” Starsky greeted casually but his salutation was not reciprocated.

He glanced at his rearview mirror. An uncomfortable silence rang through the car like the deafening sound of a foghorn.

“Ah, I see. The silent treatment huh?” Starsky said. “Okay. Alright.” He began sheepishly. “I'm sorry. Okay. I was wrong. Now, let's get some breakfast. How about some breakfast hmm?”

“So, that's it?” Hutch muttered.

“What's it?”

“You know Starsky…” Hutch started and then stopped.

“What? Whatsa matter?”

“What's the matter? You, I…” Hutch let out an aggravated growl.

“What?”

“Is that all you can think about…breakfast?” Hutch finally said.

“Well, it's not all I think about… if you know what I mean.”

“You hurt me Starsk. You really hurt me.”

“Oh come on. Get over it. We'll get Melford off the case and you on. It's as simple as that.”

“As simple as that.” Hutch sniffed as he scanned the grimy city scenery through the passenger door window.

“Yeah, now let's grab some pancakes? Hm? What do you say? Do you feel like a nice stack of blueberry pancakes with lots of syrup and butter?”

“Stop the car.” Hutch ordered bluntly.

“What? Why?”

“Just stop the car.” Hutch said with more force.

“But, we're…”

“STARSKY! STOP THE GOD DAMNED CAR !”

Starsky drew the Torino to a screeching halt. The sudden lack of momentum sent Hutch into the dashboard then right back into his seat again. They both waited for the dust to settle. Hutch turned his torso in the seat to face Starsky. But, it was Starsky who lashed out first.

“What do you want me to say Hutch? I can't say anything else but I'm sorry. And, I am. I'm really sorry!”

“You just don't get it do you?”

“No. I guess I don't. But, I got the sneaking suspicion you're about to tell me.” Starsky retorted with snarky tone.

Hutch shook his head woefully before he refocused on his partner again.

“There is more at stake here than just an apology.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Like our friendship; our partnership.”

“What do you mean by that?” Starsky's irritated state was suddenly replaced with concern.

“What I mean is that we have to rebuild. You went behind my back Starsky. I know you did it to protect me. I know I didn't exactly handle all that stuff with Castillo very well back then. I know. But, what I'm not sure of is if I can trust you anymore. I don't think we can work together the same way we used to.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“All I'm trying to say is…” Hutch paused and closed his eyes tightly. He seemed to want to choose just the right words. “…you're going to have to work a little harder to regain my confidence. It's not going to be like it was and probably won't be for a long time. It may work out. It may not. But, don't pretend that nothing has happened. Don't think that you can just say you're sorry and everything will fall back into place because it just won't fly this time.”

“I'M going to have to try?” Starsky replied somewhat peeved – placing his hand flatly on the center of his chest. He raised his eyebrows and cocked his head.

“Yes.” Hutch confirmed.

“And, what about YOU?”

“What about me Starsky.”

“YOU'RE not going to try? Is that what you're saying. That it's all up to ME? Our whole partnership is dependant on me groveling at your feet for forgiveness? Is that it Hutch? Is that what you want? You want me to beg… is that it?”

“Don't be ridiculous.”

“I'm not being ridiculous. If anyone's being ridiculous about this whole thing it's you!”

“ME?” Hutch dismissed.

“You're the one making a federal case out of nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“YES! NOTHING!”

“Oh Starsky. Let's just drop it then okay. I've had enough.” Hutch offered with distain. “If you're going to be that way about it then I accept your apology all right. Are you satisfied?”

“No. We gotta finish this thing right here and now.”

Starsky grabbed the stirring wheel. He held it so tightly his knuckles turned white. His patience had run out and when that happened it was wise to take cover. Hutch realized it and pursed his lips as he dropped his head then focused his stare out the window again. He waited for Starsky's inevitable lecture.

“Now. I'm going to say this once more and you're going to have to take it or leave it.” Starsky said firmly. “I am sorry I lied to you about working with Melford. I am sorry about what happened to you ten years ago. And, I'm sorry you feel like you can't trust me. But, you know you can Hutch. Deep down you know that I'm the best friend you got. You know it. We've been through a lot together, more than we should have maybe and we are not going to end this partnership over a bad decision on my part. It'll never happen again. Okay. Now accept my God damned apology and let's go have some God damned blueberry PANCAKES!”

Hutch felt Starsky's stare burn into the side of his face. He seemed to ponder Starsky's entreaty momentarily before he locked eyes with him. A passive grin seemed to take over his complexion and he chuckled submissively.

“Okay.” Hutch finally surrendered.

“Okay?” Starsky retorted with surprise.

“Yeah. Okay. You're right. Maybe I've blown this thing way out of proportion.”

“You really have you know.”

“Yeah. I guess I have. Let's get some pancakes then. Okay? How's that?”

“I guess it's fine.” Starsky replied slightly dumbfounded by Hutch's sudden change of heart.

“We okay then?” Hutch said calmly as if the previous twelve hours of upset hadn't occurred.

“I've always been okay Hutch.” Starsky murmured with repugnance. “I don't even have to work this hard with my girl friend.”

“Well…” Hutch smirked. “I'm not your girlfriend.”

“Sometimes I wonder Hutch. Sometimes I truly wonder.”

As the duo continued their drive into work, things seemed to simmer down somewhat. Hutch knew Starsky's plea was sincere, but he still felt a little uneasy. After they'd eaten, they drove to the station to meet with Dobey. The closer they got to work the tighter the knots in Hutch's stomach tightened. The thought of taking over the Castillo case scared him to death. The truth was, Hutch was afraid of it all happening all over again. He wasn't sure how he'd react when they caught up with Hector. Maybe it was that he didn't trust himself and was merely taking his rage out on his partner. He knew Starsky was the only one who could withstand his wrath. He was a convenient battering board. But, could he do it in the end? Could Hutch perform his duty without prejudice? Starsky had been right all along – Hutch should stay as far away from this case as he possible could get. Now, he'd set sail into stormy seas. He just prayed he wouldn't drown.

 

PART FIVE

The meeting with Dobey was tempestuous. The Captain repeatedly rejected Starsky's argument that Hutch should replace Melford on the Castillo case. Hutch stayed unusually silent hoping that, in the end, Dobey would not allow it. He sat motionless in the leather chair in the corner of Dobey's office occasionally peering up from under his brow at the fireworks that flared between his partner and his superior. But, Starsky being the persuasive chap that he was, convinced Dobey into to replacing Melford with Hutch. He begrudgingly called Melford to give him the news as he watched Starsky and Hutch leave his office and begin their investigation.

“Thanks for all your help in there buddy.” Starsky scoffed as the duo walked down the hallway toward the parking lot. He was perplexed as to why Hutch had been so remote back in Dobey's office.

“You didn't need any help, Starsk.” Hutch complimented as he placed his hand on Starsky's shoulder. “You did just fine on your own.”

“Yeah well, whatever. I hope you're going to be a little more useful when we hit the streets.” The curly-haired cop huffed as he plowed through the swinging doors that led outside.

Hutch followed his partner without uttering a sound. He knew Starsky had had enough and didn't want to upset him anymore than he already was. The tide had turned. Hutch didn't want Starsky to know that he was scared – that he didn't want to take on this case anymore than he wanted the plague. But, after his temper tantrum the day before, he'd made his bed. Now he'd have to sleep in it. Hutch had to put on a brave face and suck it up. Now he had no choice but to do what he did best – solve murder cases with his partner no matter how it affected him personally.

Starsky had briefed Hutch on what he and Melford had gathered so far over their pancakes that morning. After the murder of Mrs. Carmela Castillo, Hector disappeared unlike the first time around. This time, there wasn't anyone convenient to blame. But, he couldn't have gotten far. As soon as the body was discovered an APB went out on Castillo and his escape to another country was unlikely. After five weeks, Starsky and Melford had narrowed Castillo's whereabouts down to just a few blocks. But, alas, he'd always managed to somehow elude capture. And, the evidence they'd gathered at the murder scene was more than enough to convict him. All they had to do was find him and bring him in.

“Where to?” Starsky asked from behind the wheel of his car. He was still a little miffed at his partner's silence during their meeting with Dobey.

“To where ever you and Melford left off, I guess.” Hutch sounded distant and unenthused.

“Do you want to see the crime scene?”

“Sure…whatever?”

“WHAT IS WITH YOU?”

“What?” Hutch was caught off guard by Starsky's sudden attack.

“Yesterday, you chew me out for taking on the case without you. You tell me you don't trust me anymore. Then I plead your case to Dobey, without any help from you I might add, and now you don't seem interested. What is going on with you Hutch? I can't figure you out. Whatsa matter? Huh? You're up – your down. You're hot – you're cold. I'm trying to do what you want me to do. You're really testing me here buddy, you really are! ”

“I know. I know.” The blonde cop sounded lost and confused. “I'm sorry… I just…”

“You just what? What the hell do you want Hutch?”

Starsky waited for Hutch to respond to his rant. It took several moments for Hutch to finally surrender. He pulled his knee up underneath him and leaned his left arm along the back of the seat. He turned to face Starsky. The leather on his jacket squeaked as he held his other hand out to make his point. His gaze was eerily intense – his eyes electric blue.

“Starsky…I'm scared.” He confessed. “I know at first I was mad at you. But, then when I got to thinking about it last night, I realized you were right. Truth is I don't know how I'm going to deal with all this. Especially when we catch up with Hector. I'm not sure how I'm going to react when I finally meet that bastard again. I'm sorry Starsk. This whole thing's got me spooked. I'm ambivalent about this whole thing. I don't want to work on this case, I really don't. ”

“Huh.” Starsky huffed with slight puzzlement.

“Now, I know I said I did but it's a bit of a sore spot with me ya know.”

“Yeah.” Starsky hesitated. “Well then, you're not going to like what else I gotta tell ya.”

“Oh no. There's more.”

“Yeah, ah…one of Huggy's people saw Hector in a liquor store near Howland Canal and Dell a couple days ago.”

“Starsky.” Hutch suddenly sounded alarmed. “That's right around the corner from my apartment.”

“I know.”

“Well, if you knew that, then why didn't you tell me before?”

“Because, I didn't want you to think that Castillo was staking you out. I thought it might, I don't know… upset you.”

“Upset me? Up, up, upset me?”

“Yes. Upset you.” Starsky reiterated

“Well, do you think he has been staking me out?”

“Frankly…yes, I do.”

“And, you didn't think that maybe it was in my best interest to tell me that the man that almost sent me to the electric chair was in my very own backyard?”

“I had you covered.”

“You were using me?” Hutch sounded suddenly enlightened – as if a light bulb just went on in his head. His eyes widened. “Not only did you lie about working on the case in the first place but you and Melford were waiting to see if Castillo would surface and come after me.”

“Well, the thought had crossed our minds.” Starsky admitted sheepishly. He crumpled the right side of his face as if in anticipation of being hit.

“Starsky…” Hutch waved his finger at his partner. “I really can't believe you sometimes.”

“Take it easy. If you were ever in danger I would have rode in there like the cavalry. You know I wouldn't let anything happen to you… come on, give me a little credit, will ya?”

Hutch took a moment to lower his blood pressure before he spoke again. He dropped his hand onto his thigh making a loud slapping sound.

“Don't you think that if he'd been hiding out in my neighborhood for the past five weeks that I just might have run into him?”

“Castillo's a clever guy, Hutch.”

“Yeah. But, five weeks.” Hutch sounded bewildered.

“Look. We know he's been hiding out somewhere at the beach. He's been spotted there several times. But, when Steve and me answered the calls, he'd managed to give us the slip. Actually, it ain't hard to give Melford the slip. The guy's as slow as a frozen slug.” Starsky remarked sharply. “And, you know Hector. If he doesn't want to be found he's not going to make it easy for us. The man's a pro at deception.”

“That's for sure.” Hutch snickered uncomfortably.

“He knows we're on his tail. He's playing with us. And, now that you're in the game, he's going to be about as easy to catch as an oiled eel, ya know what I mean?”

“Yeah.” Hutch muttered as he pulled at his lower lip with his thumb and forefinger, deep in thought. Now that he knew Hector was in his neighborhood he found himself a little more intrigued if only as a defense mechanism. His wave of uncertainty seemed to change to constructive ire.

“So? Can you handle it?” Starsky probed. “You with me?”

“Yeah.” Hutch submitted. “I'm with you Starsk. I'm with you.”

“Look. I know you're scared. If it was me, I'd be scared too. But, you know that we are the only cops that can get this guy. Me and thee right?”

“Right. Me and thee.”

“So, do you feel like a day at the beach?” Starsky cracked.

“Sure, but I didn't bring my pale and shovel.”

“Neither did I, but we're just going to have to wing it.”

“You know Starsk.” Hutch said thoughtfully. “I'm thinkin' we should beat Mr. Castillo at his own game.”

“Huh?”

“Time to go undercover. Way under cover.”

“Aaaah. Dats the Hutch I know. Now I'm getting your drift.”

“Actually Starsk… I was hoping you were going to catch my wave.”

“Hang ten man. I'm hip.”

“No you're not.” Hutch quipped drying.

“I always thought I was.” Starsky replied hurtfully as he tore out of the parking lot towards Hutch's home turf.

+++++++++

The detectives knew the only way to catch Hector was to make themselves unrecognizable. So, the rest of that afternoon was spent at local thrift stores collecting what they'd need to disguise themselves. But, it would take more than just a change of clothes. The pair were a distinctive looking duo.

Hutch was tall and solidly lanky with hair as white as platinum. His Nordic appearance almost made him shine – he simply glowed like a torch. Starsky, in contrast, was compact and deceivingly powerful. His complexion was dark and his hair was wiry and as rich as sable. But, more than that, Starsky was merely a standout due to his infectious personality. He had a certain carriage that was unmistakable, not to mention a smile that could generate enough wattage to power Cleveland. They simply stood out due to their good looks and unique style. Castillo would be able to see them coming from a mile away and Starsky and Hutch knew it.

No, they'd have to somehow blend into the Venice Beach crowd. So, they went to drastic measures to achieve a complete makeover. Hutch found a rather convincing wig. It was shaggy, long and brown. It looked surprisingly real. He also stopped shaving, giving his face a more rugged appearance. He wore a pair of cut off jeans, a loud Hawaiian shirt and carried a surfboard. He'd go barefoot and try to mask his forceful gate taming it to a lazy saunter. To top it off, he wore mirrored sunglasses.

Starsky had no choice but to see a barber. There he had his hair considerably lightened and his scalp shorn almost down to the wood. The last time his hair was that short was when he entered boot camp in the army. He lengthened his steps considerably to camouflage his patented short, choppy stride. He'd go undercover as a lifeguard. Dobey arranged it through the department and Starsky donned the red shorts and jacket of the SCBW. He unzipped the jacket to reveal a rather hairy but toned set of pecs and abs. He also wore the standard pith helmet and shades.

Fearful that Castillo might have Hutch's apartment under surveillance, the detectives rented a room in a building right next to the boardwalk. By the time they left the run down apartment the next morning, they had been transformed from two street wise, under cover cops to a gnarly beach bum and a rather studly, lifeguard recruit.

Hutch seemed more comfortable now and Starsky had settled too. The waters were now calm and the two focused on the job at hand. They'd decided it would be best to separate disguising them even further as the two were rarely seen apart. They set up a timetable and rendezvous points for the week so they could regroup and collect whatever information each had found. A complicated schedule was set up for returning to their rented room as well. They in no way wanted to look like they were associated with one another.

Starsky set out first. He melted into the throng with ease. Sauntering down the strip he gracefully side stepped passing roller bladers. His senses were honed as he began his search for Hector Castillo. He knew several snitches in the area and decided to start with them. After that he'd take his perch on a previously determined lifeguard watchtower. By the time Hutch emerged from the apartment an hour and a half later, Starsky had all but disappeared into the carnival atmosphere of the Southern California ocean front community.

Hutch too wandered into the crowd and began his assignment starting with the local venders and artists. He was armed with a recent photo of Hector and he flashed it around without bringing too much attention to himself. When the day was through, he'd manage to pick up several solid leads.

A woman who sold customized T-shirts had seen Hector the day before. She said he looked disheveled and in need of a square meal. She said he seemed friendly enough and that he was a frequent visitor to her stand. The woman informed Hutch that Hector now went by the name Miguel and she assumed he was homeless… a sand hobo.

When the sun went down, Hutch returned to the rented apartment. Starsky followed at his scheduled time of 9:00 p.m. They would compare notes, get some sleep and start all over again. As Starsky entered the room Hutch was just getting out of the shower.

“Oh my God!” Starsky remarked with shock. “That is some sun burn you've got there, Hutch.”

“Yeah. Hurts like hell too.”

“You look like a pink raccoon.”

“Very funny.”

Starsky couldn't help but laugh. Hutch's face was the colour of Bazooka bubble gum except for two white circles around his eyes where his sunglasses had shielded the rays. His back and shoulders were flaming crimson too and had already started to blister. The tip of his nose resembled the flashing light the duo affixed atop the Torino.

“What happened to your shirt?” Starsky asked, trying to stifle his amusement.

“I took it off.”

“I can see that, but why?” He said as he moved closer to take a better look at the carnage the sun had done to Hutch's skin. He poised his finger to poke at it.

“Don't touch it!” Hutch warned with alarm.

“I won't, I won't. What were you thinkin'?”

“The damned wig was so hot. Besides, all the other surfers weren't wearing shirts so I thought I'd blend in more if I didn't either.”

“Yeah, but Hutch. The other surfers don't have ivory white, baby skin like you do. You're going to glow in the dark tonight. You're gonna keep me awake.”

“Oh shut up. I'm in enough pain.” Hutch groaned as he sat at the bottom of the bed and gently patted himself dry. “You come up with anything today?”

“Yep. Sure did.”

“What did you find out?” Hutch said grimacing from the agony of his scorched flesh.

“Hector now goes by Miguel.”

“Yeah. I got that too.”

“He's been around Hutch. He's here. It's only a matter of time before he makes a mistake and then we got him.”

“I think a few more days should do it.”

“A few more days and you'll be broiled, basted and served for dinner.” Starsky snickered. “It smells like rotisserie chicken in here.”

“Are you done?” Hutch sneered at his partner's unsympathetic ribbing.

“No. But you are. Hey Hutch, with your nose so bright… won't you guide my sleigh tonight?” He jabbed.

“Okay. Alright. I'm going back to my place.” Hutch announced obviously tired of the way the conversation was going. “I've got some good stuff in the medicine cabinet to cool this sunburn. Besides I forgot to water my plants.”

“I don't think you should go back home, Hutch. We're so close. You could blow it for us if you go home now.”

“Starsky. I'm a professional.”

“A professional what? Shish-ka-bob?”

Hutch gave his partner a droll glance.

“I'll be discrete. Besides, it'll only take a couple moments and then I'll be right back.”

Starsky shrugged and started to strip for his shower. Hutch threw on a loose shirt, his wig and his partner's new lifeguard jacket.

“Hey! That's mine.” He protested.

“Don't you know by now that what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot.”

“I'll see you in about 15. Order a pizza, will ya?” Hutch instructed as he moved gingerly toward the door to leave.

“And, I suppose I am paying for said pizza?”

“Of course. You're the one with the job. I'm the beach bum remember. And no anchovies this time.”

“You're no fun.” Starsky chided as he placed his toothbrush in his mouth and proceeded into the bathroom. He began to sing a rendition of The Beach Boys “Surfin' U.S.A.”

++++++++

When Hutch exited the building, he was glad to feel a cool ocean breeze waft over him. It felt good after a day of scorching heat. He looked around to see if anyone was around or had noticed him. When he was satisfied that he was undetected, he turned up the street toward his apartment building. It was only four blocks up and three blocks over. It was an easy walk and a nice night to boot. He planned to stop for some beer on the way back to the rented room. Then he and Starsky could make plans for their next move.

It was a moonless night. It helped in Hutch's covert trek back home. He turned onto his street ever watchful of anyone suspicious or if he was being followed. He saw that he wasn't and proceeded to his front door. He jogged up the flight of stairs to his second floor apartment, whistling to himself as he went. He grabbed the key from atop the frame and unlocked the door. He entered his home but refrained from turning on any lights. That would certainly give him away.

“Hello plants.” He whispered as he walked into the kitchen to fill a jug with water. “Did you think I'd forgotten about you?”

He winced as he moved. His back felt like it was being stuck with a million needles. And his nose seemed to glow like a beacon. It throbbed like a bee sting. As he leaned over the sink to fill the jug he felt a presence. His heart began to beat wildly and he turned to look over his shoulder. Hector Castillo's face flashed in front of him and then he heard the smashing of glass. Hutch fell to the floor in a heap. He was unconscious before he hit the floor. His face lay in a pool of his own blood.

“Long time no see, old buddy.” Hector chided.

He stood over Hutch's still body holding the neck of a shattered wine bottle.


PART SIX

Starsky knew something was wrong when the pizza arrived before Hutch did. He ate a slice in a feeble attempt to distract him from the obvious, but it was no use. He knew. He knew that either Hutch had caught up to Castillo or Castillo had caught up with Hutch. He hoped the ladder was not the case.

Changing into his regular street closes including his khaki safari jacket to conceal his weapon, Starsky left the rented room. He scrambled down the stairs and out into the still active boardwalk. He started to jog slowly up the street keeping his wits about him as he went. He was cognizant that he may give himself up. But, he had no choice. He had to find Hutch. He raced toward the Venice Place apartments. He covertly moved to the street entrance of the building and before going in, took one last look around. He went inside.

Trying to prevent the staircase from creaking as he scaled them, Starsky climbed softly and slowly. He drew his gun. An eerie silence filled the place. It was dark and strangely cool. He reached the landing to find a locked apartment door. Instinctively, he reached for the spare key. It wasn't there. He placed his ear to the door. Nothing. He grimaced and cursed silently, uncertain of what to do next. He reached for the doorknob but suddenly changed his mind deciding instead to return to the street and access Hutch's apartment through the back alley and up the fire escape.

Back on the street he hugged the walls of the structure making his way round it to the rear. He hopped onto a dumpster and then swung himself over to the fire ladder with athletic agility. He pulled himself up the rungs with only his arms. Finally he raised himself high enough and he could finish his accent with the help of his feet. He reached the landing beside Hutch's balcony and silently lowered himself onto it. He crept toward the sliding door and peered around the edge of the wall into Hutch's place.

The apartment was dark and seemed empty. Starsky jimmied the latch and slowly slid the door open and went inside. With his gun drawn, he moved through Hutch's bedroom and into the small living area. Nothing. He checked the bathroom only to find it abandoned as well. It was like Hutch never made it home. As he walked back around the front of the couch he could see something on the floor in the kitchen. It looked like a small animal and it made Starsky's heart jump. When he got to the kitchen his shoes crunched as he walked over the chards of glass. He knelt down to see exactly what the mass of fur was.

“Oh no.” He murmured.

Starsky picked up Hutch's wig. It was soaked with blood. But, before he had time to panic the phone rang. He rushed over to it and picked it up. He was still in the dark.

“Hello!” He said angrily, confident that Hector's voice would answer him.

“Hey Starsky! It's been a long time. How are you?”

“Where's Hutch?”

“Oh. He's right here. He can't come to the phone right now though. He's feeling a little under the weather I'm afraid.”

“You touch one hair on that blonde head of his and you'll have to deal with me personally.” He threatened.

“Well, it's too late for that. Sorry Starsky. Still a mother hen, huh?”

“You listen here you dirt bag.”

“No. You listen!” Hector said firmly – his tone changing drastically from cordial to vicious. “If you want to see your partner alive again, you've got some serious work to do.”

“Oh? What's that?” Starsky barked.

“I want a passport and a plane ticket to any country that will take me. I'll leave that up to you. Someplace warm with an ocean view would be nice. I'll call you at your place tomorrow night. Be there with everything in place Starsky, or I mean it, he's dead this time. Do you understand me… he's dead!”

“Hector! HECTOR?”

But, Castillo had hung up leaving Starsky holding the hand piece of the phone blaring its abrasive dial tone in his ear. He pulled it away from the side of his face and stared at it. It echoed through the room growing to a deafening hum. He slammed the receiver back onto its cradle and picked up the entire unit and threw it onto the floor in heated frustration.

“Damn it!” He spat.

After his mini temper tantrum, Starsky tried desperately to regain control and tackle the situation at hand. He stormed toward the light switch and finally turned on the lights. Only then could he see the full picture of Hutch's abduction.

What was left of the broken wine bottle lay on the kitchen table as if on display. It didn't take much imagination to figure out how Hector had rendered Hutch helpless. Its jagged edges protruded like razor teeth. Below the table oozed a large puddle of congealing blood that was surrounded by glistening fragments of green glass. There was also a sicken smell of souring wine as what was left in the bottle was splattered against the cupboards and hard wood. Starsky could only image the harm the bottle had inflicted on his partner. But, it was odd that there was no trace of blood anywhere else in the small, open concept apartment. Hector had been thorough. He was a wily one.

After searching every nook and cranny, no indications surfaced as to where Hector had taken Hutch and Starsky finally realized that his time was running out. He begrudgingly left the apartment. Back on the street, he hailed a cab to take him to the station. There he would brief Captain Dobey and retrieve his car. As he rode toward headquarters, Starsky couldn't help but scan the streets for any sign of Castillo. Anxiety swept through his body like a tidal wave.

+++++++

“I lost him.” Starsky stated bluntly as he entered Dobey's office without knocking. His demeanor was businesslike and intense.

“Lost him? Lost who?” The captain replied with irritation at the intrusion. He was just on his way home.

“Hutch.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean Castillo's got him. He hit him over the head with a wine bottle at his apartment and took him… somewhere.” Starsky explained squarely – his arms flew up into a shrug and he let them fall sloppily to his sides where his hands slapped against his thighs.

“Whose apartment?”

“Hutch's.”

“What was he doing there? He was supposed to be undercover! He was supposed to stay clear of his place until you two caught Castillo. I knew I shouldn't have let him on the case.”

“I know. I know. It's a long story Cap, but it's not important now.”

Dobey accepted Starsky's point and stood to listen to more.

“Castillo called me while I was at Hutch's. He told me what he wants.”

“And, that would be?” Dobey blared as he took off his suit jacket and returned to sit behind his desk. Starsky took a seat in front of him.

“He just wants a passport and plane ticket to anywhere that will take him.”

“WHAT?”

“He just wants a passport and plane ticket to anywhere that will take him.”

“I heard you the first time. But, we can't do that.”

“Why not? He said he'd kill Hutch and I believe him, Captain. He'll do it. He will kill Hutch.””

“But you know the department's policy on kidnapping.”

“I don't give a crap about policy. We're talking about my partner's life. Hutch's life! And, you're talking about procedure?”

“Starsky. We don't deal with terrorists and Castillo knows it. So does Hutch.”

“But, Captain…”

“No buts Starsky. You're going to have to convince Castillo to turn himself in and release Hutch unharmed.”

“Are you kidding me? There's no way he'll buy into that. You're sentencing Hutch to death if we don't deal.”

Starsky's stare was focused on Dobey like a hawk on its prey. He scowled in anticipation of his superior's decision. Dobey leaned back in his chair to contemplate. It squeaked loudly. He knew Starsky was right and let out a resigning sigh.

“Do what you need to do.” He said, but then pointed his finger directly into Starsky's face. “But, I don't want to know about it. You're on your own.”

“Thanks Captain.” The detective replied as he rose from his seat and turned to leave in haste.

“And, Starsky!”

“Yeah, Captain.”

“Bring him home.”

+++++++

His face stung. He partially opened one eye and tried to open the other but couldn't. It was swollen shut. The entire right side of Hutch's face and head was black and blue and coated with dried blood. A wide streak of what looked like hot fudge ran down his neck and was soaked up by the shoulder of his shirt and Starsky's lifeguard jacket. Heat still radiated from his skin.

He struggled to become cognizant. His head felt so heavy he found it almost impossible to lift. When he was finally able to raise his chin off his chest and peer up from under his brow he realized he was sitting on the floor with his arms tied behind him to a post. He was shocked to see that he was in his own apartment only inches from where he'd been attacked several hours before.

The sun was just coming up and its rays flooded the room with hues of orange. The morning glow was comforting but only until Hutch realized his predicament. He knew he wasn't alone and was not fazed when he heard Castillo's voice. He almost expected it.

“You're partner's not the brightest bulb in the marquee is he Hutch?” Hector commented from the couch where he sipped a steaming cup of coffee.

“He has his moments.” Hutch grumbled roughly – still groggy from his blow to the temple.

“Well. We all have our moments don't we.”

“What do you want Hec?” Hutch wearily confronted. “Haven't you had enough fun with me yet? First Rene's trial and now this.”

“I'll tell you what's been fun pal. It's been watching you and Starsky and that other weasel Melford fumble around this neighborhood trying to find me. It's been an absolute hoot! Especially your sad attempt at disguising yourselves. Come on Hutch… a lifeguard and a beach bum? You insult my intelligence. You really do.” Hector chuckled.

“We try.” Hutch was fading. “So, fill me in. Where have you been all this time? Just for the record.”

“Don't you know that the best place to hide is in plain sight?”

“Plain sight?” Hutch said trying to focus – his head bobbing uncontrollably.

“I've been here all along.”

“Here?”

“In this building. Right next store man. Right – next – door.”

Hutch managed to raise his head high enough to make eye contact with his captor. The look on his face was of disbelief and it made Hector grin deviously.

“That's right old buddy. I've rented the apartment right across the landing from you for oh… five weeks now. You work too hard Hutch. You're hardly ever here. It's made my life so much easier. And, the key to your apartment on the doorframe? Now, that's a stroke of genius my friend.” Hector chastised sarcastically.

“Don't flatter yourself. You're no friend of mine.” Hutch retorted with ire.

“But, you've been such a help to me all these years. You've always been there when I needed you.”

“So. There was no one convenient to blame this time, huh?” Hutch struggled to remain conscious. “You killed Carmela and Rene too. And now what? You're trapped. Now, you've got no place to go. Except death row, that is.”

“You're the one that's tied up buddy. And, as for having no place to go? You're partner is organizing that as we speak.”

Again, Hutch did not respond but rather forced himself to look at Hector with an ominous glare.

“Yep. He's getting me a passport and a ticket out of here. Too bad you can't join me. I've asked for someplace nice and warm with an ocean view.”

“We don't deal with kidnappers.”

“Well, you better pray that Starsky and Dobey will this time Hutchie my boy… or they'll be planning you funeral instead of my vacation.”

Hutch could stay awake no longer and lapsed back into unconsciousness. Hector shook his head with apathy and sprawled out on the couch. He turned on the television and finished his coffee.

+++++++++

Starsky spent the day making phone calls to government agencies and departments to get a passport and asylum for Hector Castillo. It took a great deal of persuasion but as always, Starsky managed to get his visa and a boat to Guinea leaving from San Francisco. It was the only place that would take Castillo and it would cost the department $10,000 – a sum for which Starsky did not get approval. He'd pay it himself if he had to. Freedom did not come cheap, but it was a small price to pay for Hutch's life. Using the photo they already had, Starsky had the passport prepared and armed with the rest of his paperwork he left the police station to return home to intercept Hector's call. It was 3:24 p.m.

Despite his fatigue, he couldn't help but analyze the situation as he drove. He was sincerely puzzled. But, his task of organizing Hector's demands had side tracked his attention. Now that all was in order, the detective in Starsky surfaced like a breaching whale.

The fact that there was no blood anywhere else in Hutch's apartment gnawed at him. How could that be? A cut to the head generates a tremendous amount of blood severe or not. Starsky surmised that Hector could not have gotten far. He was a little guy and a disabled Hutch would have been a load for anyone. He had to be there. Castillo had to have Hutch somewhere in close proximity to Hutch's apartment. With a tire-burning screech, Starsky spun the Torino into the opposite direction and made a beeline back to Venice Place.

Several blocks away he parked the car and went the rest of the way by foot. If Castillo was in the area, Starsky's candy-apple red Ford with the wide, white stripe would certainly alert him. Now his gut feeling was raging through his body like a tropical hurricane. He was certain that if Hutch wasn't actually in his apartment then he wasn't far from it. Castillo had always chosen the most obvious routes to elude capture before, why would he change a tried and true pattern. Starsky now realized that Hector had been hiding in plain sight all along.

He returned to the alley behind Hutch's place and again, hopped on the dumpster, swung himself over to the fire escape and up to the small balcony that held a jungle of plants. With the agility of a cat, he silently made his way to the edge of the glass sliding door. He peered around the edge of the frame and looked inside. With sweat flowing from his body like sap from a tree, he saw him. Hutch was sitting cross-legged on the floor leaning up against the beam that stood between the kitchen and living room. He was semi-conscious. But, Starsky couldn't see Castillo. His heart thumped so loudly he feared it would give him away.

Then he appeared. Castillo emerged from the left and crossed the room toward the kitchen. He ignored Hutch as he passed as if he was a piece of furniture. Starsky quickly pulled himself out of sight and pressed his entire body flat against the brick. He drew his gun and held the barrel up to his cheek. Again he peered into the apartment but this time he locked eyes with Castillo. For a few seconds, time stood still as both men seemed frozen by each others stare. Starsky made the first move and squared himself to shoot but Castillo bolted and ran out the front door and down the stairs to the street. Starsky smashed the locked balcony door and danced through it to chase down Hector. He yelled out Hutch's name as he raced through the apartment but he got no response.

With his feet barely able to keep up with his upper body, he scrambled down the stairs to the street. Castillo was already a block ahead of him. Starsky went into high gear and sprinted down the street at top speed. The foot race lasted for several blocks until Starsky caught up to and tackled Hector with a thud. Hector's face scraped along the pavement tearing open his chin, cheek and nose. Starsky peeled him off the ground by his collar and threw him against a wall as a crowd began to gather. He pulled out his handcuffs.

“You are done like dinner, you bottom feeder.” Starsky huffed.

“You're in good shape, Starsky.” Hector said out of breath. “I used to be able to out run you without even breaking a sweat.”

“I didn't have a reason to catch you before. And, you better pray that Hutch is okay or I'll show you a side of me you truly don't want to deal with.” Starsky threatened as he dragged Hector over to a lamppost and cuffed his hands around it.

“Stay right there!” Starsky ordered as he turned to run back to Hutch.

He raced back down the street and up the stairs into the apartment where Hutch sat still tied to the post. Starsky knelt in front of his partner and gently raised Hutch's head by the chin. He was a mess.

“Hutch?” Starsky said trying to revive his friend. “Hey Hutch? You okay? Hey.”

“Where have you been?” Hutch muttered without opening his unscathed eye.

“Oh. I've been here and there.”

“Could you maybe untie me now.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Anytime buddy. Anytime.”

 

EPILOGUE

“Yeah, but did you have to smash the glass? That sliding door is going to cost a fortune to replace.” Hutch complained as he and his partner entered the Mexican restaurant they had patronized several weeks before. They made their way to a table and sat down.

“Well, it was locked.”

“Yes Starsky. I realize that. But, couldn't you have gone back down the fire escape, instead of destroying my greenhouse door?”

“Castillo would've gotten away if I went back down the fire escape.” Starsky explained, ticked that Hutch seemed ungrateful for being saved. “Maybe I should have just left you tied up and bleeding. Then I wouldn't have to listen to this.”

Hutch had spent the week in the hospital under observation. It was a just precaution the doctors insisted upon with a head trauma such as his. He lapped up the nurse's attention and made the best of his bedridden vacation.

It was only when Hutch returned home and saw that his apartment was in ruins that his head truly started to ache. Starsky picked him up from the hospital and drove him home only to have Hutch hit the roof when he found that the glass balcony door had been shattered. Not to mention the mess Starsky had made when he turned the place up side down searching for clues as to where Hutch might be. Castillo too had managed to rummage through the place and tear things up. And, the blood on the kitchen floor would be no easy clean up either. The place was a disaster area. So, to calm him down, Starsky offered to buy his buddy dinner. It would distract him for a little while anyway.

Hutch was healing well and planned to return to work the next day. His bruises were still colorful and his eye still swollen. A large bandage stretched from his ear to the top of his head covering a row of twenty stitches. His once hot pink sun burnt face was now peeling like the skin of an onion. He looked like he belonged on the set of a horror flick.

The same waitress approached them with two menus and she was obviously glad to see Starsky again even though he looked much different with shorter, lighter colored hair. But, when see passed the folder to Hutch see gasped.

“!Ah mi bondad! ?Qué sucedió a usted?”

“I cut myself shaving.” Hutch replied dryly at her reaction to his slightly mangled features.

“Usted cosa pobre. ?Duele?”

“It still hurts a little bit.” Hutch said hoping to soak up as much sympathy from the girl as he could.

“You are such a phony.” Starsky commented snidely. “Two Corona's, por favor.”

The young lady smiled at Starsky and shook her head sadly at Hutch and turned to get the boys their beers.

“I can't believe I agreed to come back to this place.” Hutch said looking around with a soured puss.

“Oh will you relax. Can't you just be happy you're alive and enjoy the good things life has to offer?”

“Like a plate of lethal enchiladas and a trashed apartment?”

Starsky threw his partner another sideways glance then turned his attention to the waitress who returned to the table with a tray holding two bottles of Corona, two glasses, a basket full of corn chips and a bowl of salsa. Again she insisted on squeezing Starsky's lime for him. He obliged and the two shared an extended, flirtatious exchange. Hutch watched with indifference but couldn't help but grin at the display. If the two were any hotter for each other they would have burst into flames.

After the twosome had concluded their playful ritual, they ordered their dinners. Starsky did opt for the enchiladas but Hutch chose not to partake. He was feeling better, but not tiptop enough to indulge in iffy foods. He ordered a house salad and another beer.

The meals came and the partners ate. Their conversation dried up and Starsky sensed that Hutch was somewhat out of sorts. There was more on his mind than just his disheveled home.

“You're salad okay?” He inquired while holding a large bite of food in his cheek like a squirrel hording nuts for the winter.

“Fine.”

“You want another beer?”

“Nope. I'm good.”

“Water?”

“No. I'm fine Starsk.” Came Hutch's short reply.

“Well. What's the matter? Something's on your mind. You haven't complained in over twenty minutes.”

The blonde cop smiled broadly at his partner's jab. He realized that he'd slightly over reacted to the state of his apartment. He picked at the lettuce on the plate seemingly deep in thought.

“So?” Starsky probed. “Spill it. What's up?”

“You know?” Hutch began and then put down his fork. He wiped his mouth with his napkin and placed both elbows on the table. “I just can't figure it.”

“Figure what?” Starsky said seemingly more interested in his meal than his friend's troubles.

“Why me?”

“Why you what?”

“I mean. I'm a good person. I serve society by being a good cop. I put in a good days work for a fair day's pay. I pay my taxes. I put my life on the line everyday for the people of this city. I'm an up standing person, Starsk.”

“What's you're point?”

“Why did Castillo target me? What did I ever do to him? We were friends Starsky. Good friends. I… I trusted him.”

“I don't think it had anything to do with you, Hutch.”

“What are you talking about? The man almost ended MY life… twice!”

“What I mean is…” Starsky finally stopped stuffing food into his face. He swallowed dramatically, leaned both forearms on the table and bent forward giving the impression that he was about to let his partner in on a secret. “It was nothing personal.”

“Come again?” Hutch's eyes widened.

“Castillo would have done it to who ever his partner was. It could have been me just as easily as you. HE isn't a good person. HE wasn't a good cop. HE didn't pay his taxes. It was about him not you. You were just the unfortunate victim of circumstance.”

“Circumstance?”

“Yeah.”

“But… but…I”

“Look. It's over.” Starsky interrupted his partner's fumbling retort. “You can rest easy now. Castillo is going to prison. You don't have to worry about him anymore.”

Hutch took in a deep breath and then let it out slowly. He leaned back in his chair and stared across at his best friend.

“Why is it that if something bad is going to happen it happens to me and not you?” He pointed.

“Bad things have happen to me too.” Starsky remarked as if he'd been insulted.

“I was the one who got the plague. I've been shot, and stabbed and kidnapped. I've broken my leg and even when YOU double clutched us into a truck, I was the one with the injuries. You barely got a scratch!”

“Aren't you ever going to forget about that?” Starsky pointed with frustration then sighed and regrouped. “Look Hutch, there are some things in life you just can't control. Are you going to finish your salad?”

“What?”

“Your salad. If you're not going to eat then pass it over.”

“You sure know how to live dangerously.”

“Hey. I'm not the one who looks like a losing boxer da day afta?”

Hutch couldn't argue with that. He leaned back heavily in his chair and watched Starsky take his plate and scrape its contents on top of what was left of his enchiladas. He made a face when Starsky proceeded to mix the food into a makeshift Mexican stew.

But, despite Hutch's disgust he couldn't help but smile. Yes, his partner was somewhat lacking in etiquette; yes, he was aggravating at times. But, Hutch wouldn't want it any other way. Those very traits were what made Starsky so endearing. The waters were now calm – the tide ebbed. They would report for work the next day and continue their careers, their friendship and their lives.

 



THE END




 

 

 

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