Da Little
Tings

Ouch!
That Hurts!

Friends, Enemies,
Lovers & Informants

Food!
Glorious Food

Clothes
Horses

What's In
A Name

The Bank

By Barb McDonald

PART ONE

Thursday – 8:23 p.m. (Hutch's apartment)

“Lo?” Hutch answered his telephone casually, anticipating the voice of his girlfriend Abby.

“Hey.” Starsky answered brightly.

“Oh.” Hutch sounded disappointed. “It's you.”

“Watcha doin'?”

“I'm fixing something to eat.”

“Oh yeah? Whatcha havin'?”

“You don't wanna know.”

“You're right.” Starsky paused momentarily. “So, ah… how ya doin'?”

“Starsky.” Hutch sounded slightly irked – he held the receiver to his jaw and cheekbone with his shoulder while chopping a stalk of celery. “You dropped me off not twenty minutes ago. You know how I am. What's up? Why are you calling me when we just finished an eighteen-hour shift together? What could you possibly have to tell me that you couldn't have told me over the last two days? Quite frankly Starsk, you're the last person I want to talk to right now. I'm tired and hungry and I just want to forget about work for a few hours and relax.”

“Geez.” Starsky replied hurtfully. “I'm sorry I asked.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I need to ask you a favor.”

“Okay.” Hutch continued to prepare his dinner as he conversed. “Go ahead.”

“Well, it's kind of a BIG favor.”

“Starsky!” Hutch said impatiently. He stopped cutting his vegetables and stared into space in search of tolerance.

“Okay, Okay. Take it easy.”

“What… do… you… want?” The blond cop reiterated.

He resumed his preparations.

“I need to borrow some money.” Starsky stated bluntly.

“How much?”

“Four hundred dollars.”

“Four hundred dollars!” Hutch grimaced.

“You heard me.”

“What do you need four hundred dollars for?”

“I saw this great watch.”

“How many GREAT watches does one man need, Starsk?”

“I'll pay you back next payday. I'm a little short. I had to replace the transmission on the Torino , rememba?”

“How could I forget.”

“So, I gotta give the guy the money by tomorrow. He's only got one left in stock.”

“What guy?”

“My watch guy.” Starsky answered as if everyone had a watch guy.

“Oh.” Hutch said with distain.

“Well? Will you lend me the money?” Starsky proposed again.

“No, I won't lend you the money.”

“Ahhhh, come on. Why not? I'm good for it.”

“You can have the money Starsk. I don't LEND money to friends. If you need it that badly you can have it. If you want to pay me back you can. I don't really care either way.”

“You're da best Hutch.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Wanna catch a movie or something?” Starsky suggested changing gears.

“No. I don't.”

“How come?”

“Didn't you hear what I just said? I'm tired and I want to relax. I'm going to have a nice quiet dinner, BY MYSELF, go to bed and read a book.”

“Read a book?” Starsky sounded disgusted.

“Yes. A book. It's a thing with lots of pages with words on them. Libraries have thousands of them.”

“Okay, okay. No need to get sarcastic.” He said gruffly but then digressed. “Have a nice dinner then. WHATEVER that might be.”

“I will as soon as you leave me alone.”

“I'll pick you up tomorrow morning and we'll go to the bank.” Starsky replied oblivious to his partner's ire.

“Can't wait.”

“See ya.”

Hutch hung up the phone and returned to the task of creating the most perfect salad possible.

“A watch guy.” He muttered to himself as he as tossed. “Who has a WATCH guy?”

Friday – 10:02 a.m. (The Torino )

“Wait until you see this watch, Hutch.” Starsky said with excitement as he sped toward the bank before they reported to work. “It's a thing of beauty.”

“All your watches are things of beauty. What's so special about this one?”

“It's all black. Da band is black, da face is black… it's a work of art.”

“If it's all black, how can you see what time it is?”

“Well, it's not ALL black.” He clarified.

“You know Starsky…”

“What?” The curly-haired cop replied wearily. He prepared himself for the lecture that always followed his partner's familiar query.

“You shouldn't put so much emphasis on material things. The cars – the watches. They can't replace the really important things in life.” Hutch expounded philosophically.

“Oh no? Like what?” Starsky sneered.

“Like love and laughter and enjoying your good health. Just being alive and seeing the world in all its glory.”

“Glory?”

“Yes. Glory. Look around you. Take in the beauty of your surroundings. The birds and the flowers.”

“The hookers and the junkies.”

Hutch ignored Starsky's pessimism.

“Breathe in a lung full of…”

“Smog.” Starsky interjected.

Hutch gave his partner a sideways glance and sighed.

“You need to take a step back Starsk, and rearrange your priorities. Smell the roses. Climb a tree.”

“Climb a tree? Are you kiddin' me. I think you're OUT of your tree.” Starsky looked over at his partner with a soured puss. “Please. My priorities are just fine thank you and they're about to get much bedda!”

“Okay Starsky. You go ahead and invest in worthless bobbles and bangles. The things that really don't matter. Go ahead and fall into the commercial trap that our superficial society dictates. You go right ahead.” Hutch threw up his hands.

“I intend to.”

“You'll see.” Hutch jeered. “One of these days, you'll see.”

“You'll see, you'll see.” Starsky mocked imitating his partner's warning like a little brother. “Just let me enjoy the little pleasures in life, will ya, huh? MY pleasures. I don't give you grief about your annoying idiosyncrasies. I like my toys… you like your desiccated liver and wheat germ. Why, I'll never know. But, that's another story. My things make me happy and your things make you happy. And never the twain shall meet.”

“If you think so.”

“I know so, Hutch. Just let me enjoy my stuff okay? I like my stuff.”

“Stuff is just stuff, Starsky.”

“At least MY stuff is good stuff! Your stuff is just plain weird.”

Friday – 10:16 a.m. (The Tornio)

Starsky sped down the avenue and pulled into the bank parking lot. In one graceful motion, he flung open the door with just enough force to give him time to get out before the momentum slammed the door shut again. He danced across the pavement toward the bank entrance only to realize that his partner lagged behind.

“Come on, come on wouldja!”

“I'm comin', I'm comin. What's the hurry? The bank's not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, but my guy might sell my watch. That's our next stop. So, let's move it, okay.”

“Dobey's going to have a fit when we walk into work two hours late.”

“Aaah… Dobey Shmobey.” Starsky scoffed. “What's he going to do, fire us?”

Hutch finally caught up to his partner who couldn't stand still. His anticipation of yet another trinket was all too exciting. Hutch was somewhat embarrassed by Starsky's giddiness. He looked around to make sure no one was watching. Sometimes he felt more like his babysitter than his best friend.

“You know Starsky…”

“Now what?”

“You don't always have to drive like a bat out of hell. No wonder you had to replace your transmission. You really need to slow down.” Hutch chastised as the pair walked in through the glass doors of the bank. “It's like in this book I was reading last night. It's all about patience and meditation and …”

“Just get me my money, will ya.” Starsky interrupted then ushered his buddy to the back of the line-up where two older ladies stood.

The place was cool and shiny. It was a perfectly square space cut in half by a mahogany teller's counter at the precise height for comfortable, customer leaning. At each end was an opening so employees could get to their stations with ease. There were two female tellers working feverishly stamping and shuffling papers. Behind them was a manager. He was an older, experienced-looking gentleman – a typical banker type, blue suit and all. Directly opposite him, was a doorway that led to the vault. It was partially visible and looked impressive and virtually impenetrable.

The line moved up and the pair took one step forward. Hutch fumbled around for his wallet and a pen. Starsky stood closely behind him. His chin almost rested on his partner's shoulder.

“Starsky.”

“Um?”

“Step back. You crowding me is not going to get us to the front any faster.”

“Oh.” Starsky resigned and pulled back from his partner. “Sor-ry.” He made a face.

“Get me a withdrawal slip wouldja?”

“Ah. Yeah. Sure.”

Starsky broke from the line and made his way to the desk that held the neat display of banking paperwork. He whistled but the tune wasn't much more than air and unrecognizable. He perused the desk and found the pocket that held the withdrawal slips. But, his light mood instantly turned dark when three men that milled about the parking lot distracted him. They were young and suspiciously skittish. And, despite the summer temperature, wore long over coats. Another man sat in the driver seat of a car parked just outside the front entrance of the bank.

“Hutch?” Starsky said in an attempt to alert his partner. He never removed his eyes from the adolescence. “Hey Hutch!” He tried again without any response.

“HUTCH!”

His outburst caught the attention of the other's in line and one of the tellers as well.

“What!” The blond cop finally answered. He was still preoccupied with finding a pen on his person.

“I think we got trouble with a capital ‘T'.”

“What?” Hutch looked over at his partner and then saw exactly what Starsky was focused on. His heart skipped a beat.

Before the duo could react and prevent the inevitable, the gang attacked like a swarm of angry bees. They burst through the doors into the bank and pulled out sawed-off shotguns from under their coats. Instinctively, both Starsky and Hutch drew their weapons in choreographed unison.

“EVERYBODY GET DOWN!” Hutch ordered causing several of the ladies to yelp with shock.

Patrons and employees hit the ground as if they'd just heard an air raid siren. The men began shooting. Starsky took what little cover he could behind the small kiosk but Hutch was left unprotected in the middle of the floor. The noise was deafening. The scene chaotic. All hell broke loose.

Hutch semi-crouched as he took aim at the on coming thieves but he was simply a sitting duck. With bullets whizzing by his head one caught him above his left eye. It knocked him backward. He was unconscious before he landed flat on his back – his head crashed against the polished marble floor.

“HUTCH!” Starsky screamed over the Malay.

His momentary lack of focus cost him as a sharp pain suddenly filled his senses. His left wrist seemed to explode and it gushed with blood, immediately rendering it useless. He dropped his gun and he too fell to the ground in debilitating agony. He clasped his forearm tightly and sucked air through his teeth.

“Don't move mister.”

Starsky looked up only to see the barrel of a rifle in his face. Holding it was a teenager. He couldn't have been more than seventeen. He was tall and fair with dark shoulder length hair and the greenest eyes Starsky had ever seen.

“My partner.” Starsky panted with desperation.

But, the boy didn't respond. He continued to hold Starsky at bay as the other two hurdled the counter and began stuffing pillowcases with cash. Starsky glanced over at Hutch who lay still. Blood oozed from his forehead. He looked dead.

“COME ON! COME ON!” The teen yelled impatiently at his cohorts.

They continued to collect the loot, seemingly ignoring the ringleader's plea. It was the sirens in the distance that got their attention.

“HURRAY! COPS!”

Now, their mission seemed to shift into full throttle. They frantically stuffed their bags. Bills flew in the air and fluttered to the ground like confetti. The people in the bank remained on the floor face down with their hands covering their heads. One woman began to cry. The sirens got louder.

“LET'S GO! COME ON. LET'S GO!”

But, the black and white cars had already stormed into the bank parking lot. The teen in the getaway car panicked. He put the pedal to the medal and sped toward the street almost hitting a pedestrian. He was halted by two cops who had planted themselves in the driveway exit. They stood behind the open doors with their guns drawn.

Starsky watched it all unfold and knew what was in store. He knew the gang would have no choice but to hold them hostage. His mind swam with escape scenarios, but he knew there was only one way out. Negotiation. With Hutch in desperate need of medical attention and with his own wrist bleeding profusely, he was going to have to keep his wits about him. He was going to have to play it smart and put his training to full use. He glanced over at Hutch. His body was sprawled out as if he was making a snow angle. Starsky's heart raced.

Friday – 11:22 a.m. (First Federal Bank)

They were surrounded. With the onslaught of police, the gang of boys had scattered like a herd of spooked deer. Each one took a post near a window or door as if they were in a Western movie. The bags of money were abandoned behind the counter in heaps. They began shooting at the officers that formed a circle around the entire bank. Each blast sounded like a canon being set off in a cave. The gang leader, who still stood over Starsky, shouted at his comrades.

“STOP SHOOTING YOU IDIOTS!”

They ceased fire at his command.

“We're going to need all the ammo we can get. Save it!”

“You're going to need a whole lot more then ammo kid.” Starsky said as he gazed up at his assailant. His face was pasty and sweat ran down the sides of his cheekbones and dripped off his jaw.

“Shut up.” The boy spat.

“Robbing a bank is one thing.” Starsky continued to taunt. “But, killing a cop… that's a whole other ballgame.” He huffed, the pain in his hand now turning to numbness.

Again, he looked over at his downed partner. Hutch was getting whiter by the second. His breathing was shallow. Starsky had to get to him.

“Cop?”

“That's right kid. This ain't your lucky day. Me and him… we're cops.”

The teen suddenly turned pale and a look of panic took over his complexion.

“If he dies. You're up for murder one.”

“SHUT UP, I SAID.” The teen shouted frantically.

“You're done kid. It's over. There's no way out.” Starsky kept up his attempt at diversion.

“It's not over until I say so.” The teen insisted.

“Let these people go. I'll stay here.” Starsky began to barter. “You're in enough trouble as it is. Let the ladies go at least. And, my partner. You don't want a murder on your head kid. You really don't.”

The teen looked down at Starsky then scanned the bank and the people who littered the floor like sacks of dirty laundry. He looked at Hutch and the pool of blood that now drenched his flaxen hair. Then he looked out the window at the sea of cops, on-lookers and police cars.

“Take my advice kid.” Starsky urged as he fought to remain cool.

“STOP CALLING ME KID!”

“But, that's what you are.” He shrugged.

“I'm a man. I'm eighteen!”

“A real man would do the descent thing and let these people go. It's the money you want and I'll make sure you get it. I promise. But, these are innocent people and you need to let them go. ”

Again, the teen looked around the room. He seemed to mull over Starsky's offer.

“Okay.” He finally surrendered. “Everyone can go except you and your partner.”

“But, he needs a doctor.” Starsky replied urgently. “He's going to die.”

“He stays.” The boy answered with resolve.

Starsky struggled to his feet. He felt unsteady. He took a few seconds to regain control of his respiration and tried to overcome the shock of his injury. He couldn't feel his left hand at all now. He couldn't move his fingers. But, his wrist and forearm throbbed with shooting pains so sharp he felt like he was being stabbed over and over. He took a deep breath to compose himself.

Despite his agony, he had to take charge and right now he had to jump on the kid's decision before he changed his mind. He glared at the boy before turning his attention to the others in the bank.

“Attention everyone.” He said as calmly as possible. He still held his left wrist tightly. “This nice young man says you all can go. Now, I want everyone to slowly stand up and make there way out of the building.” Starsky instructed. “Quietly and slowly okay?” He reiterated. “No need to rush. Everything's okay.”

Cautiously, the two tellers and their manager popped their heads over the counter. They looked around the place like prairie dogs scanning the desert for danger. The two older women who stood in line had trouble rising and Starsky went over to help them up. The sight of Hutch, who remained on the floor motionless and bleeding, took them aback. One woman tried to give aid to him but Starsky stopped her.

“Go on now.” He said gently. “I'll take care of him.”

“Thank you young man.” She replied gratefully. “I'll pray for you and your friend.”

Starsky smiled warmly at her as he guided her toward the exit. He waved everyone else out as if they were traffic at an intersection. The bandits watched him go through the motions, keeping their guns pointed directly at him.

“THERE COMING OUT!” Starsky shouted a warning to the police. “HOLD YOUR FIRE.”

 

Friday – 11:35 a.m. (First Federal Bank)

“Hutch? Hey Hutch?”

Starsky had finally gotten to his fallen partner after he'd evacuated the others from the bank. He now knelt by his partner – sat on his heels above Hutch, Starsky rested Hutch's head between his thighs. Blood soaked his jeans. He'd removed his jacket and laid it over Hutch's chest in an attempt to keep him warm. Shock was setting in.

Now that he could see the injury closely, he was relieved that it was merely a crease – just superficial. It looked much worse than it actually was. But, the bump on the back of Hutch's skull caused when he hit the floor was another story. It was the size of a tangerine and it worried Starsky more than the gunshot wound. He was sure Hutch had a concussion and knew that once he got his partner awake, he'd have to keep him that way. He just hoped he would be able to remain conscious himself, as the bleeding from his wrist had not yet stopped. It had Starsky concerned and he was starting to feel the effects of bleeding out.

Starsky tore the sleeve off the arm of his shirt. His injury made every move difficult and painful. It was obvious that his wrist was broken and almost useless. But, he persisted. When he had the strip of cloth free, he held it tightly to the four-inch wide dent over Hutch's brow. He held pressure on it until he finally stopped the gush of blood and then tied the sleeve around Hutch's head like a bandana. Starsky tried again to awaken him.

“Hey Hutch?” He said as he leaned directly over him. “Can you hear me? Hutch?” He tapped the side of Hutch's face. “Hey?”

Nothing doing. Hutch was out cold. He would come to when his body was good and ready and Starsky realized there was no point to his encouragements. He turned his attention back to the teenager.

“So what now, kid?” Starsky asked wearily – his wound now taking its toll on his energy.

“If you call me kid one more time…” The boy rushed at Starsky and pressed the barrel of his gun to his temple, “I'll blow your head off.”

“Okay, okay. Take it easy.”

The teen eased off.

“So, what next?” Starsky asked again bravely. “You got a plan?”

“Yeah. I got a plan.” The boy didn't sound very confident.

“Well? What is it?”

“I want to talk to whoever's in charge out there and I'm going to use you to do it.”

“Well, I suppose I could call my boss. But, I'm not pleading your case until my partner and I are taken care of.”

“You ain't got a hope in hell.”

“Neither do you junior.” Starsky said angrily. “Now, if you want me to get you out of this mess I'm going to need some help. If I don't get this wound tended to and now, I'm going to be laid out just like my partner here. I'm bleeding to death, man. Can't you see that?” Starsky's eyes blazed with laser blue as he locked eyes with the kid.

The boy looked at Starsky and Hutch and then at his friends who seemed to beg the young man for guidance. They looked puzzled and terrified – a deadly combination.

“Now, I'm willing to stay and negotiate for you.” Starsky offered intensely. “But, we need a doctor.”

“Nothing doing.” The teen proclaimed. “No doctor. I could care less if you both die.”

“If we die. You die.” Starsky's stare was freezing.

“Then I guess we all die.” He answered coldly.

The kid's statement drew frightened glances from his cohorts.

Friday – noon (First Federal Bank)

“Hello? Captain?”

“STARSKY!” Captain Dobey bellowed. “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?”

“Well, I'm ah…”

“And, where's Hutch?”

“Well, he's…”

“If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.” Dobey interrupted. “BE ON TIME!”

“Yeah, but Captain…”

“Don't ‘yeah-but' me Starsky. We've got a situation and I need you and Hutch to take care of it.”

“What's the situation?”

“There's been a hostage taking at First Federal and I want you and Hutch to get down there and settle it.”

Starsky rested his mangled arm on the desk he was sitting at, trying to keep it as still as possible. The blood seemed to drain out of his body like wine from a bottle. The room was beginning to spin. He struggled to stay coherent. But, he was becoming weaker and weaker by the second. He was unsure of how much longer he could last. He peered over at Hutch who remained sprawled out on the floor. He still showed no signs of movement.

“Captain,” Starsky began. “I've got some good news and some bad news.” He glanced up at the kid who sat on the edge of the desk with his rifle still pointed at Starsky.

“What's the good news?” Dobey sounded skeptical and unaware of his officer's peril.

“Hutch and I are already at First Federal.”

“And…the bad news?”

“We're the hostages.” Starsky stated bluntly – his voice was unsteady and onerous.

“WHAT!”

“Look Captain. It's a long story. But, we need to make a deal here. Hutch has been shot and so have I.”

“WHAT?” Dobey blasted again.

“Hutch is going to be okay. But, I think I might be in trouble.”

“What happened?”

“Hutch has a crease over his eye and a nasty bump on his head. I took one in the wrist. I'm bleeding pretty bad. It won't stop. I'm not feeling too good Cap, so we don't have much time.”

“What do you mean we don't have much time?”

“I mean... I'm bleeding to death!”

“What are the terms?” Dobey asked – his ire turning to concern.

“All they want is an unwired car and 24 hours head start.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“Captain?” Starsky probed.

“You know we don't deal with kidnappers.”

“I know.” Starsky sounded faint. “But, if we don't deal now… I'm a goner. I don't think I can hold on much longer.”

“What about Hutch?”

“He's… out for the … count.” Starsky's voice faded.

Again, silence hung in the air. It was louder than a church bell at noon. It lingered longer than Starsky could. He dropped the phone receiver before his head hit the desk blotter with a sickening thud.

Sunday – 1:22 p.m. (Bay City Memorial Hospital)

His eyes fluttered. Bright sunlight appeared and disappeared as he opened and closed them. His head pounded. He could hear the sound of his heart pulsing in his ears. It felt like an on-coming herd of buffalo. His arm too, throbbed with a dull ache as if it was being repeatedly stabbed with a spoon.

“I thought you were never going to wake up.” Hutch murmured. His voice was as smooth as glass and as comforting as an old pair of slippers.

“Where… where am I?” Starsky asked as he tried to sit up.

“No, no.” Hutch said as he placed his flattened hand on his partner's chest. “Lie back down, Starsk.”

It didn't take much for Starsky to obey. He felt awful. The last time he felt this badly, was the morning after his thirtieth birthday party when he indulged in half a case of beer, four B52's, a bottle of red wine and six whiskey shooters.

“Hutch?” Starsky whispered pathetically.

“Yeah. I'm here.”

“I feel like I shoulda had a good time last night.”

Hutch sniffed an amused chuckle.

“You okay?” Starsky asked.

“I'm fine.” Hutch grinned at his partner's unselfishness. “I've got a monster of a headache, but I'm okay.”

With great effort, Starsky was finally able to fully open his eyes. He glanced over at Hutch who sat in the chair next to Starsky's hospital bed. There was a pristine, white bandage over Hutch's eye that covered what looked like seven or eight stitches. Beneath that was a shiner that any prizefighter would be proud of.

“You almost didn't make it buddy.” Hutch said.

“Huh?”

“Your wrist.”

“My wrist?”

“Yeah. You were shot in the wrist remember?”

“What day is it?” Starsky quarried as he became more and more cognizant. “Where the hell am I?”

“It's Sunday afternoon and you're in Memorial Hospital .”

“Oh. Aaaaah, my arm.” He grimaced when he tried to move it.

“It's broken. And, you lost a heck of a lot of blood too. They had to give you a transfusion. You're going to be pretty weak for the next couple of days. Doc said you'd being feeling bad when you woke up.”

Starsky pressed his head hard into the pillow and exhaled. It was all coming back to him now. He stared at the ceiling trying to overcome his pain. Then his attempt at calm changed to fury.

“THAT KID!” Starsky barked abruptly. “Where's that kid? When I get my hands on him I'm gonna…”

“Easy partner.”

“What happened? Where is he?”

“He got away.”

“He what?”

“He and his friends got away, Starsk.” Hutch shrugged casually as if he truly didn't care. “Dobey said it was the only way to get to you. He said you told him you were bleeding to death, which you were I might add, and he gave in to them. He gave them the car and the 24 hours head start. No one's been able to catch up with them yet. Last I heard anyway.”

“Damn it!”

“Let's just be glad it all worked out and no one got killed.”

“Yeah but...”

“Well, what did you expect Dobey to do?” Hutch interrupted his friend's protest. “Let you die in there? He did the right thing, Starsk.”

“Damn it!” Starsky hissed again.

“Why are you so upset? I'm okay, you're okay. That's all that really matters isn't it?”

“That kid would have let us die, Hutch.”

“But, we didn't.”

“Well, I don't like having a shot gun pressed to my head. That kid is dangerous and I intend to catch him before he DOES kill somebody.”

Starsky's eyes glazed over with madness. It was an expression Hutch had never seen in his partner before. It scared him.

“You're not going anywhere. You just relax, okay?” Hutch said nervously.

“Help me up.” Starsky began to rise.

“I'm not helping you do anything. When you've recovered we can think about tracking the kid down, but right now you need to rest.”

“Hutch.” Starsky insisted. “Help me up!”

“NO! Now, calm down.”

Hutch stood and leaned over his partner. He physically had to restrain him. But, Starsky struggled back. Uncharacteristically, he fought his friend and Hutch had to be more forceful. His face became etched with concern as Starsky became more and more agitated. He thrashed wildly.

“Starsky! Settle down!” Hutch demanded.

“Let me up!” Starsky ordered furiously. “LET ME UP!”

Hutch was surprised at his partner's strength and how much effort it took to keep him from breaking free of his grasp. Finally, Hutch was able to reach over and press the call button for the nurse. As the confrontation began to spiral out of control the nurse entered the hospital room.

“Is there a problem?” She asked before she was aware of the scuffle.

“GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO CALM DOWN!” Hutch shouted as he pressed on Starsky's shoulders with all his might.

Without further urging, the nurse rushed toward the station for a sedative.

“Starsky!” Hutch said urgently. “Take it easy! Calm down!”

“I'm warning you Hutch… let me go!”

The pair continued to wrestle until the nurse reappeared with two orderlies. They took over for Hutch who was in no shape to be in a tussle in the first place. The orderlies pounced on Starsky who had simply lost it.

“Don't hurt him!” Hutch blasted them. “Watch his arm.”

They successfully subdued Starsky who frantically tried to escape their hold on him. Hutch stood aside helplessly. The nurse administered the shot. They held Starsky down until it took effect. With puzzled concern, Hutch locked eyes with his partner before Starsky fell under the spell of the drug. Out of breath, Hutch watched the orderlies release his partner and leave the room without a word. The nurse placed her hand on Hutch's shoulder.

“He'll be alright now.”

She too exited the room, leaving Hutch more worried then before. He'd never seen Starsky so distressed. It was torturous. He straightened his shirt and slowly returned to the chair next to the bed. After straightening Starsky's robe and sheets he pulled the blanket up around his neck. Hutch exhaled a troubled sigh and wondered if in fact his partner would be all right.

Monday – 3:43 a.m. ( Bay City Memorial Hospital )

Darkness seemed to settle on Starsky's chest like a shroud made of lead. Both the sedative and painkillers had worn off and he finally awoke with a jolt. A film of perspiration covered his body. The room was quiet. Only the sound of a distant female voice wafted through the air and hovered over him like a chiffon scarf in a summer breeze.

He struggled to orient himself. At first, he'd forgotten where he was. It took several moments for him to finally realize that he was still in the hospital. As he stared at the ceiling tiles, the kid's face haunted him. Determination to track him down was all consuming. It totally engulfed his being but he wasn't sure why. All he knew was that he had to find him and bring him in.

As his eyes became accustomed to the dimness, he scanned the room for his partner. But, he was alone. Hutch had gone home. He too had some recovering to do. Starsky knew his partner would return in a few hours. If he was going to leave the hospital to begin his search, he'd have to seize the moment.

Starsky began to take deliberate breaths to prepare himself for his rise from bed. His wrist and arm throbbed. They were encased in a heavy case. A sling held his battered limb tightly to his body for support. He sucked air through his gritted teeth preparing for the pain to come before he made his effort to move. In one swift motion he pushed himself up right and swung his legs over the edge of the bed where they dangled as if he were sitting on a dock. His sudden thrust made his head spin and he felt nauseous.

Gingerly, he placed one bare foot on the floor and then the other. He stood in the darkness, trying desperately to keep from falling over. It took several moments of concentration to gain his equilibrium. Then, with all the grit he could muster, he forced one foot in front of the other toward the closet that he hoped held his clothes.

There they were. A faded pair of jeans, a thin, blue t-shirt and two sweat socks shoved into a pair of SL76 Adidas. And, hanging off to the side, his aged leather bomber jacket. That was all he needed, except for help getting dressed.

But, with agonizing fortitude, Starsky managed to put on his clothes in brilliant silence. He ignored the blood that coated his jacket like week old strawberry jam.

Then, with the skill of a cat burglar, he moved to the doorway where he scouted the corridor for sentries.

There was only one nurse to be seen. She perused a medical chart as she spoke on the phone. Starsky laboriously crouched and slipped out of his hospital room and down the hallway to the stairway. He stealthily opened the door and closed it without a sound. He hobbled down four flights to the street. The area whirled like an eddy in his brain, but Starsky shook off his dizziness. He pushed on into the cobalt blue of predawn.

Monday – 6:10 a.m. (Hutch's apartment)

“Mmm…lo?” Hutch answered his phone groggily.

“Detective Hutchinson?”

“Yeah… ah… yes?” He sputtered a morning cough.

“This is Doctor Landis.”

“Yes. Yes doctor.”

“I'm afraid we've lost your partner.”

“He's… he's dead?” Hutch sounded dazed – his throat dried up and a wave of blood rushed to his face.

“No, no. I'm so sorry.” The doctor quickly retracted. “He's gone. We can't find him.”

“What do you mean you can't find him?” Hutch's shock immediately changed to alarm.

“He's not in his room. When the nurses changed shifts this morning, and did their rounds, Detective Starsky wasn't in his bed. His clothes are gone.”

“What? What kind of hospital are you running down there, doctor?” Hutch was now on the move, dressing himself as he talked on the phone.

“I'm terribly sorry.”

“If anything has happened to him…if he so much as skins his knee, I'm holding you personally responsible!”

“But, we…”

“You knew he was unstable. Didn't the nurse inform you of the incident yesterday? I should have stayed with him.” Hutch chastised the doctor and himself at the same time.

“I can assure you that we did our best too…”

“To what?” Hutch stopped in the middle of his living room to confront the man. “I don't believe this.”

“We have several of our staff out looking for him as we speak. He's not gotten far I'm sure.”

“You don't know my partner Doctor Landis. He is a very resourceful person. If he doesn't want to be found, he won't be.”

“I'm so sorry Detective Hutchinson.”

“I know, I know.” Hutch resigned. “Keep looking and I'll be in touch.”

“Where will you be?”

“Where this whole mess started… the bank.”

Monday – 7:18 a.m. (Hutch's car)

Hutch raced his uniquely customized Ford to the First Federal bank. He knew why Starsky had left the hospital. He knew he was hell bent on tracking down the kid. He also knew that the investigator in Starsky would take him back to the scene of the crime. But, he was vexed as to why his partner was so disturbed. Why was he so intent on leaving the hospital? His concerns left him with a knot in the pit of his stomach.

Hutch pulled into the empty parking lot. The bank would not open for a few hours. Hutch hoped he'd intercept his partner. He stopped his car in a covert space around back and peeked at his black eye in the rearview mirror and shook his head with disgust at its unsightliness. He got out of the car and placed his Ray Bans on his face to cover his shiner. Just as he began to make his way to the front of the building he saw him. Shuffling down the main street was Starsky. He scanned the neighborhood as if fearful of being followed. He looked paranoid and disoriented.

“STARSKY!” Hutch yelled out.

The curly-haired cop stopped in his tracks. He looked like a deer in the headlights as he saw Hutch start his sprint toward him. To Hutch's astonishment, Starsky turned tail and ran off in the opposite direction.

“STARSKY!” Hutch called again. “WAIT!”

But, Starsky just accelerated his frantic escape as Hutch made chase. It went on for several blocks until Starsky turned into an alleyway. Sweating profusely and in dreadful pain, he hunkered down beside a dumpster. He grasped his arm above the elbow and winced. He rocked back and forth trying to overcome his sudden dash.

Hutch pulled into the alley several steps behind and stopped in the middle of it. Breathing heavily, he moved forward cautiously. He held his hands out to the side as if he was walking a tight rope. He removed his sunglasses and his eyes darted around the scene – up and down and from side to side.

“Starsk?” he said quizzically.

There was no answer. As Hutch moved closer, Starsky bolted again but Hutch was able to nab him. He grabbed Starsky by his right arm and spun him around. The men faced each other and locked eyes.

“What are you doing, Starsky?” Hutch asked with sincere confusion. He tried to quell his anger. “It's me… Hutch.”

“I know.” Starsky puffed defensively.

“Well, if you know, then why are you running away from me?”

Starsky just stared at his friend. It was like he didn't recognize him.

“Okay, come on.” Hutch ordered. “I'm taking you back to the hospital. You're not thinking straight.”

“No.” Starsky planted his feet, preventing Hutch from budging him.

“Don't make me force you. I will if I have to.”

“I'm not going.”

“What is the matter with you?”

“Nothing.”

“Starsky, look at yourself. You can hardly stand. You're in no shape to be running around out here.” Hutch reasoned vehemently. “Now, when you're feeling better and that arm of yours is on the mend and you've come to your senses, we can both go after the kid, okay?”

“No.”

“No? What do you mean…no?”

“He'll get away. He's already two days ahead of me.”

“Us Starsky.” Hutch corrected. “He's two days ahead of us.”

“If we don't pick up his trail now, he's gone. We won't have a chance.”

“Does it really mean that much to you?”

“Yes. It does.”

“Enough to put your life at risk?”

“Yes.”

“Why? “ Hutch sounded at a loss. “What's got you so fired up? Yesterday you're fighting with me and today you're running away from me. What's going on Starsky? Why is it so important for you to catch this kid?”

“BECAUSE HE DIDN'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT US!”

“Starsky…” Hutch replied sympathetically, slightly caught off guard by his partner's violent response.

“He was just going to let us die.” The curly-haired cop blasted.

“But, we've come up against his kind before. What's so different about him?”

Hutch held his friend squarely in front of him. Each hand was placed firmly on his partner's shoulders. Starsky's head fell forward woefully.

“Come on.” Hutch implored. “What's this really all about? What's going on?”

Hutch bent his knees and tried to make eye contact beneath Starsky's furrowed brow. He was distraught.

“I just…” Starsky fumbled awkwardly, seemingly afraid to uncover the truth that simmered just below the surface.

“You just what?” Hutch urged patiently.

“For the first time…”

“Yeah.”

“Well, for the first time… I thought I was going to die.” Starsky finally raised his head as tears flooded his navy, blue eyes. “All these years. You and me out there with all the crap and the criminals. I thought we'd seen it all. I thought I could take anything… do anything. I had myself convinced that I was invincible. Then, a couple days ago, I realized I was going to die…and, there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it.”

“But, you did do something about it.” Hutch comforted. “You saved the other people in the bank. You saved me. You saved yourself.”

“I was so scared.” Starsky continued to vent. “I've never been that scared before, Hutch. I still am and I hate it. If there was one thing I knew for sure… it was that I'd be okay. Now I don't have that anymore. I'm out of control. I don't want to be scared.”

“Nothing wrong with being scared, Starsk.” The blond cop rationalized. “All in a days work right?”

“If I don't get that kid, I'll never... be able to…”

It was the last thing Starsky could rally from his exhausted body before he collapsed into his partner's arms.

Two weeks later – Monday 10:49 a.m. (Police Headquarters – Squad Room)

“You ready, Starsk?”

“As ready as I'll ever be.”

It was Starsky's first day back at work. His wrist had been refitted with a smaller more practical cast that allowed him to do just about anything. The hand felt good and well on its way to fully healing. But, his anxiety still lingered. He kept his nervousness from Hutch who's own injuries were now fading. The duo were about to hit the streets for their first shift after their period of convalescence.

“Your car or mine?” Hutch asked as he pushed open the swinging door that lead to the corridor of the police station.

“Mine of course.” Starsky replied with angst. “Why do you always ask me that? You know what my answer is. You know I hate dat thing you drive.”

“You should try it one of these days, Starsk. You might like it.”

“Please. There is no way I'm getting behind the wheel of that thing. I have a reputation to uphold, you know.”

“Oh?” Hutch quarried as the pair walked side-by-side toward the garage. “You mean the reputation for driving the most ridiculous looking thing on four wheels.”

“Why do you do that?” Starsky sneered hurtfully.

“Do what?”

“You know I love that car.”

“Like I was trying to tell you before Starsk. Don't love anything that can't love you back.”

“You know? You are somethin' else.”

“I am?”

“Yes. You are. You love things too, Hutch.”

“Oh yeah. Name one material thing that I love. Just one.”

“Okay…your guitar.”

“You got me there, Starsk. You got me there.”

Hutch clucked his tongue against his cheek as the pair reached the Torino. It gleamed like a garnet in a jeweler's showcase. The sun bounced off the roof, blinding them as they conversed over top of it. They got in and Starsky started her up. He slammed it into gear and screeched out of the parking lot and onto the street. The smell of burnt rubber hung in the air.

“Where to?” Starsky wondered.

“Not much happenin'. Let's just cruise a bit. I'm sure something'll turn up.” Hutch smirked. “It always does.”

“Really.” Starsky agreed.

The pair rode their usual route. They both sat in silence – scanning their beat with eagle eyes. The radio crackled with idle talk between the dispatcher and other police cars. Starsky and Hutch treated it merely as background noise – not giving it much notice. It was just a regular day in the city.

Hutch had not confronted Starsky about his vendetta against the kid, or his revelation of immortality. Starsky had not mentioned it since that day in the alley and Hutch didn't plan on bringing it up unless Starsky broached the subject first. He hoped the trauma was behind him.

“Pull over here will ya, Starsk.” Hutch asked after an extended pause in conversation.

“Where? What for?”

“I gotta go to the bank. Rent's due.”

Starsky's face changed from total relaxation to terror.

“You okay, Starsk?”

“Yeah…yeah, I'm fine.”

But, he was lying. Despite his reservations, he pulled into the bank parking lot anyway. When he came to a stop, he left the motor running and stayed seated behind the steering wheel. The engine purred at idle.

“You coming in?” Hutch inquired as he opened the door to get out.

“No. I'm ah… I'll wait here.”

“You're going to have to go into a bank sooner or later.” Hutch said – recognizing that his partner was procrastinating.

“Let's make it later then okay?”

Hutch got out of the car and slammed the door. He leaned over to peer through the open window. His forearm rested leisurely on the roof.

“Ah come on Starsky. It'll be okay. What about that watch? Don't you still want to buy that watch? We just got paid. You don't need a loan from me anymore.”

Starsky rolled his eyes and exhaled. He pondered his partner's logic for a moment.

“Okay.” He scoffed hesitantly. “Alright.”

“Atta boy.” Hutch encouraged. He tapped the car roof resolutely and stood up right. He headed for the bank.

Starsky reluctantly turned off the motor and got out of the car to join Hutch who was several steps ahead of him. Starsky jingled his keys in his hand as he eyed the area for anything suspicious. He did a three sixty pirouette before focusing on the building in front of him. The closer he got to entering the bank, the faster his heart beat. Hutch stopped at the door to wait for him.

“Come on Starsk. It's okay.”

“Yeah, yeah. I'm comin', I'm comin'.”

The detectives walked into the bank. It was busy and the line-up was long. The place buzzed with Monday morning activity. The pair melted into the crowd. Starsky continued to stake the place out for anything abnormal. Hutch ignored his partner's neurotic behavior.

“Grab me a withdrawal slip wouldja, Starsk?”

“What is this? Déjà vu? Get you're own withdrawal slip.”

“Okay, okay. Don't get huffy.” Hutch replied slightly taken off guard by Starsky's sharp rebuttal.

“I'm not getting huffy.” The curly-haired cop defended. “You know I'm on the edge here. Give me a break.”

“No, I don't know you're on the edge Starsky.”

Hutch raised his eyebrows to force his point.

“Well you should know. You're my best friend.”

“I'm sorry.” Hutch scoffed. “I forgot to read your mind this morning.”

But, the pair's edgy banter was not given a chance to escalate. The firing of a shotgun interrupted them with sudden intensity. It made both of their knees buckle. The sound ricocheted through the bank making everyone hit the deck. Screams and gasps flew into the stale air like a flock of flustered crows.

Starsky and Hutch looked back at the entrance where the shot had been fired and were stunned to see their old friend the kid standing there with the butt of his rifle placed on his hip. From behind, his gang rushed past him toward the teller's counter.

“EVERBODY STAY CALM AND NO ONE GETS HURT!” The kid announced confidently.

The two cops fought their instinct to pull their weapons. They were not about to repeat the painful incident from two weeks before. Starsky stared at the kid wondering if he'd recognize him. His nightmare had materialized and it sent waves of fear through his body. His breathing accelerated as beads of sweat formed on his upper lip.

“Take it easy, Starsk.” Hutch whispered.

Starsky heard his partner's attempt to calm him but he could not remove his eyes from the kid. They focused in on him like a hawk to its prey. The longer he stared the more empowered he felt. It was as if his courage was being regenerated from just being in the presence of his enemy.

“HEY KID!” Starsky yelled across the crowded bank floor.

Hutch gave his partner a double take, surprised at his partner's sudden bravery. He was also ecstatic that Starsky had managed to over come his fear and had returned to the solid professional he'd always known. The kid turned toward the cop and his eyes widened.

“Yep. It's me.” Starsky nodded and winked.

Now it was the kid who turned tail and Starsky sprang into full stride after him. Hutch pulled his gun and stormed the counter. With the abandonment of their ringleader, and without cover, Hutch easily took charge of the three hoods. He pushed the boys into the vault and closed it.

“Call the police.” He instructed the bank manager as he too sprinted out of the bank and onto the street.

Adrenaline pumped through Starsky like water through a fire hose. The kid was a half a block ahead of him but that did not deter him from the chase. With unyielding will, he pushed on slowly gaining ground. Hutch lagged a ways behind but he could see Starsky several blocks ahead of him in dogged pursuit.

The kid led Starsky through alleys and parking lots. He pushed people aside and almost got hit by a car in his desperate attempt to get away. None of his maneuvers fazed Starsky who sped toward his intended victim. As the boy began to tire, he slipped into an arcade and raced to the rear hoping to escape out a back door. Starsky followed him and caught up to him, tackling him to the ground like a linebacker.

He pulled the kid to his feet and threw him against a wall. Then he rushed his terrified victim, grabbed him by the lapels and lifted him off the ground. He punched him in the jaw as arcade patrons looked on.

“You would have let me die!” Starsky shouted. “You would have let my partner die!”

He held his cast against the kid's throat and swung a right cross to the teen's cheek. The kid hung limply from Starsky's grasp when Hutch finally entered the arcade and pushed his way through the crowd.

“STARSKY!” Held yelled as he grabbed his partner by the back of his jacket. “Let him go!”

But, Starsky continued his rage-filled attack. He threw Hutch to the side like he was a rag doll. Hutch regrouped and wrapped his arm tightly around his partner's neck to try and control him. He managed to pull him away as the kid slid to the ground unconscious.

“STARSKY! THAT'S ENOUGH!”

With his chest rising and falling from his race through the streets, Starsky finally came to his senses. He stood over his tormenter with clenched fists fighting to control his temper.

“Call an ambulance.” Hutch ordered as he released his partner and knelt over the kid.

“It's over Starsk.” He said as he looked up at him. “It's all over now.”

Wednesday 8:53 a.m. (Police Headquarters – Squad Room)

“Well, here it is.” Starsky announced as he entered the squad room and made his way to his section of desk.

“Here what is?” Hutch asked, never removing his eyes from the report he was typing.

“My new watch.”

“Oh yeah? Let me see.”

Starsky stretched his right arm across the table and waved it under his partner's nose as if it were tempting. He smiled broadly. Monday's run-in seemed to have returned him to normal. Hutch was glad to see the partner he knew and loved.

“Huh.” Hutch sniffed neutrally.

“Well, what do you think?”

“Nice.”

“That's it! That's all you can say about it. Nice?”

“Yeah. It's just a watch, Starsky.”

“Just a watch? It's a Black Panther. Only the finest, most accurate time piece ever made.”

“Do you have any idea how many watches you've showed me over the years. All of them supposedly THE finest and THE most accurate. You've seen one; you've seen them all. What's the big deal? I truly will never understand you're fascination with watches.”

Hutch shook his head and turned his attention back to completing his report. Starsky pulled his hand back to his side of the desk and looked down at his new treasure lovingly. He did his best to ignore his partner's apathy.

“Dobey wants to see us.” Hutch said as he pulled the piece of paper out of the typewriter with a loud rip.

“What does he want?” Starsky replied wearily.

“Something about being late.” Hutch winked. “Why do you suppose that is, Starsky? I mean, a man who owns as many finely crafted time pieces as you do, is always late.”

“Because, I've been taking your advice, Hutch.”

“Oh? What's that?” He glanced at his partner cautiously.

“Something about slowing down and smelling the roses.” Starsky jibbed playfully.

“Welcome back, Starsk.” Hutch smiled.

“Glad to be back buddy. Glad to be back.”

 

THE END

 

 

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