Da Little
Tings

Ouch!
That Hurts!

Friends, Enemies,
Lovers & Informants

Food!
Glorious Food

Clothes
Horses

What's In
A Name

Til Death Do Us Part

By Barb McDonald

 

ACT ONE – SCENE ONE
Monday, October 16, 1979 – 3:47 p.m.

“Zebra Three. We have a robbery in progress. See the man at North Arden and Beverly.”

Detective Ken Hutchinson grabbed the radio hand piece and gave his affirmation to the police dispatcher. After replacing it, he rolled down his window and placed the cherry atop the roof of the car. It began to flash before it even reached its perch.  He flipped the switch below the dashboard that set off the siren. Hutch must have done this ritual a thousand times in his career as a police detective. It was automatic. He then looked straight through the windshield towards his destination and tried to squint away the glare of late afternoon. He eventually gave up and slipped on his Ray-Bans. The breeze from the open window whipped his platinum hair wildly.

His partner Dave Starsky tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he picked up speed and checked his rear view mirror at the same time.

“That’s the fifth one in two days.” Starsky sighed.

“Well, you know what they say Starsk. No rest for the weary or the thieves.”

Starsky gave Hutch a droll look and then refocused on the road. It wasn’t just the perps that were becoming tiresome. Lately their partnership was growing weary. It had been three weeks of 24/7 and they were certainly in need of a break from one other.

“You know Starsk.” Hutch continued philosophically, “You should learn to lighten up a little – appreciate your surroundings – smile.” Hutch jabbed in response to his partner’s leer.

“You know Hutch.” The curly-haired cop snapped sarcastically. “I could do that if my surroundings were a little less full of you and your phony, cheery attitude.”

“Zat so?”

“Yep.”

“What is your problem lately?” Hutch flared exasperated. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

 “YOU!” Starsky blasted gripping the wheel even tighter. “You are what’s wrong with me!” As the argument escalated so did the speedometer.

“Slow down will you. You’re gonna kill somebody for Christ’s sake!”

“Ah sit on it and spin.” Starsky snarled.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch.” Hutch muttered.
He sniffed impatiently, rolled his eyes and turned to look out the side window. Anything to avoid eye contact with his other half.

“What’sat?” Starsky inquired as he tweaked his ear toward Hutch without taking his eyes off the road – his eyebrows arched in anticipation of his partner’s retort.

“I’m getting really tired of your whining.” Hutch continued.

“MY whining!”

 “Yeah! Your whining….. there he is.” Hutch digressed as he pointed to a man waving at them frantically on the sidewalk ahead.

Typically, Starsky slammed on the brakes of his gleaming red Torino and brought it to a screeching halt, ending the wail of the siren. He proceeded to exit the vehicle before it came to a complete stop. He glared over at his counterpart as he passed in front of the car. Hutch was still sitting in the passenger seat. He flung his sunglasses onto the dashboard and slowly opened his door and stepped onto the curb ignoring Starsky’s dramatics.

“Asshole.” Hutch whispered under his breath.

They approached the storekeeper who started babbling before they even reached him.

“Okay… okay. Calm down.” The blond detective asked, holding out his hands and pushing his palms toward the ground trying to compose the man. “What happened?”

By this time a crowd had gathered. Starsky stood quietly scanning the neighbourhood seemingly uninterested in the man’s story.

“They cleaned my out!” The merchant whimpered. “It’s all gone. All of it!”

“Alright. Did you see who they were or where they went?”

“There were two.”

“White? Black? Tall? Short?” Hutch continued impatiently.

He was getting tired of asking the same questions over and over. And he was also getting tired of doing the questioning. It seemed all so mundane and he wondered why Starsky never took the reins.

“Two white guys. One had red hair with a navy blue jacket and black pants and the other one had blond hair with a black leather jacket and jeans.”

“Huh.” Starsky sniffed in Hutch’s direction. “Looks like your unimaginative outfit.”

“What?”

“Nothin. Nothin.” Starsky muttered as he continued to peruse the block.
“Let’s just get these guys and go home alright?”

“Fine with me.”

“Okay. Which way?” Hutch looked for directions from the storekeeper.

“I think they split up. One went straight up that alley over there and the other one up that street. And, hurry up will you – they’re going to get away God damn it!”

“Street or alley?” Hutch asked Starsky politely.

“Street.” Came his casual reply.

Well, at least they could agree on something, Hutch pondered as he dodged a shit-brown Ford Fairlane while crossing the road to the opening of the alleyway. He glanced over at Starsky who had just reached the corner. The crowd that gathered watched the two detectives and their pursuit as if it were sporting event.

Hutch drew his .357 magnum from its holster as he ran. He had hit full stride by this point. He was light-footed and moved gracefully. The high school track and field training showed.

He ran up the driveway and threw himself against the corner of the building where another alley crossed it about 100 yards up. He quickly peered around its edge being cautious of what may be ahead. There was nothing. He slowly moved into the second driveway and stalked it catlike. He hid behind a dumpster for his next choice of cover.

Starsky sped up the street with his blue and white Adidas SL 72’s hitting the sidewalk like wet pancakes. His characteristic flutter stride was extremely efficient. His feet moved so quickly, they were a blur. He stopped at the opening of the second alley where it met the street. He too, hugged the corner of the building and took a peek around its edge. Nothing. He pulled his gun and held it upright with both hands. The barrel of it brushed his temple.

As he rolled into the dark driveway he saw it. First the glint of light off the gun and then the black jacket and jeans stepping out from behind the garbage bin.  Starsky squared himself and fired two quick shots. He gave no warning.

Hutch was unconscious before he hit the pavement. His gun flew out of his hand and hit the opposite wall of the alleyway. The clatter sound echoed down the narrow passage way into Starsky’s disbelieving ears. Hutch’s cheekbone bounced off the asphalt and his body settled into a crumpled heap. His right arm sprawled unnaturally behind him and his left hand lay palm up below his chin.  Blood began to flow from his torso. The alley fell silent. The scene started to spin and the temperature rose. It seemed like the walls of the alley were closing in on the two men.  

Upon hearing the shots, a new crowd began to form. Starsky looked at his left hand. It held the smoking gun. It was as if the steel of the gun had turned to sludge. It seemed to ooze through his fingers and drip to the ground.

“Hutch?” He said quietly.
As Starsky pushed himself into a panicked run toward his partner, he called out his name again. When he reached the fallen detective, he knelt down beside him. The knees of Starsky’s jeans soaked up the blood. He could feel the warmth of it. He carefully turned Hutch over and placed his head on his thigh for support.

“Hutch?” He whispered. “I’m sorry… I didn’t … Oh God.”

Starsky put his ear to Hutch’s chest to see if he was breathing. Then he placed his hand over the two bullet holes in Hutch’s abdomen. The pressure forced blood from Hutch’s mouth.

“Oh my God. Hutch. Don’t die. Oh God, please don’t die.”

Starsky could feel his heart leap and pound against the lining of his jacket. Sweat beaded on his upper lip and forehead and it trickling down to his brow and into the corner of his eyes. The salty liquid stung.

“SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE!” He shouted at the spectators.

Hutch was limp in Starsky’s arms.

“Oh God. Oh God…. Hutch.” Was all Starsky could say as he rocked his partner like a baby.

He stretched Hutch out so he could keep better pressure on the wounds. There was so much blood. It oozed between Starsky’s fingers. He checked Hutch’s neck for a pulse again but now could not find one. Panic set in. Again he listened for a heartbeat. There was none.

Starsky immediately centered himself over his partner and began CPR. He blew puffs of air into Hutch’s mouth spraying blood onto his white T-shirt. Then he pumped his chest violently – his sticky red stained fingers interlocked. The crowd watched. Hutch was motionless and his face was the colour of putty. His mouth open, he instinctively gasped for what breath he could. Starsky could hear sirens in the distance. The atmosphere was surreal.

“Oh thank God. They’re coming. Come on Hutch. Come on buddy – hang in there. Don’t die…” Starsky fought back tears of terror. “Please don’t die on me.”

He continued his first aid. As he pumped, more blood spurted from Hutch’s flesh. It rivered onto the cement and seeped into Starsky’s shoes. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Step aside mister.” Came the strange voice.

Two paramedics pulled the dark haired detective away.

“He’s not breathing.” Starsky said panting from his vigorous attempt at resuscitation, his lips rimmed with a coating of Hutch’s regurgitated blood.

The attendant placed his stethoscope on Hutch’s chest.

“If he wasn’t before he is now.” The paramedic assured as he glanced up at Starsky. “It’s OK. We’ll take care of him from here. You did real good mister. Real good. You probably saved his life.”

“He’s my partner. We’re cops.” Starsky explained as he pulled out his ID. “I shot him.” He confessed.

“Oh geez.” The paramedic winced.

“Oh my God. I shot my partner.” Starsky repeated as if trying to convince himself.

One of the ambulance attendants handed him a towel to wipe his mouth and then tried to console Starsky, but he pulled himself away from the milieu. He moved backwards, still focused on Hutch, until his back hit the far wall of the alley. The area was still spinning and hot as Hates. He leaned against the dirty, red brick and slide down into a crouch. He buried his face in his blood soaked hands and shook his head in disbelief. When he looked up, Hutch was tightly wrapped on a stretcher and being wheeled to the waiting ambulance – its open back doors ready to swallow him.

With all the mental and physical strength he could muster, Starsky pulled himself out of his personal hell and jogged to the emergency vehicle. He climbed in beside the gurney and helped with all the medical paraphernalia that was now attached to Hutch. With the red flashing lights reflecting off the alley walls like fireworks, the ambulance moved out of the dark driveway and into the early evening sunlight. When it did, the siren sounded. The crowd began to disperse.

 

ACT ONE – SCENE TWO
Monday, October 16, 1979 – 8:16 p.m.

“How is he?” A burley black man inquired.

 He’d barreled down the hallway of the emergency department like a bull elephant. Starsky called Captain Dobey to tell him what had happened but the details were sketchy as the detective talked in incomprehensible fragments. He spotted his detective sitting in the corner of a chartreuse vinyl couch. It was one of six that were scattered around the hospital waiting room.

Starsky sat upright and stared into space. He was still covered in Hutch’s blood. His breathing was short and extremely slow and exhaustion was etched on his face. People peered at him over the tops of their magazines. Starsky was like a car wreck, they didn’t want to look at him but they just had to.

“How is he?” Dobey tried again.

But the cop seemed to be in a self induced spell. There was no answer. The captain took a seat next to him and turned slightly to try and get some sort of response.

“Starsky? Where’s Hutch? What happened?” Dobey questioned.

There was still no response.

“Excuse me, sir?” A small voice interrupted the captain’s one-way conversation. He looked up at a tiny nurse who seemed fearful of Starsky. She made sure she stayed clear of him.

“Yes Miss?”

“May I speak with you for a moment?”

“Certainly.”

The nurse and Dobey moved over to the front desk where an amicable discussion took place. Dobey nodded and glanced over at the detective several times. Then he walked back to the couch and took his place again.

“Listen Dave. I want you to go and get cleaned up OK? I want you to do it now!”

Starsky slowly turned his attention from the linoleum to the palms of his hands and then back to the floor again. Captain Dobey placed his enormous paw on the sleeve of Starsky’s worn leather jacket, hoping to coax him to the men’s room. But the detective pulled away violently and sprang to his feet. The other people in the waiting room again peered over the tops of their magazines like a “Kilroy Was Here” sign. Starsky glared at his captain who seemed embarrassed by the detective’s sudden bolt.

“Come on Dave.” Dobey pleaded as he glanced around the crowded room with embarrassment.

“I shot him captain. I shot Hutch.” Starsky declared. “I could have killed him. I was so stupid… I…”

Dobey stood and approached the officer cautiously then steered him back to the couch. They retook their places.

“Listen Dave. Get a hold of yourself and get cleaned up. That’s an order. Do you understand?”

The captain’s eyes burned into the side of Starsky’s face. He knew Starsky was fragile but he also knew that a man sitting in a hospital waiting room covered in blood was unacceptable.

Without a sound Starsky submitted and slowly rose from the sofa and shuffled toward the washroom. Several nurses and orderlies watched in relief as their previous requests had been ignored.

The small room off to the side of the main waiting room looked like it had previously been a broom closet. It had a very small industrial toilet and a sink so small you could barely get both hands into it. The walls were painted hospital green but there was a cheery reproduction of the Blue Boy on one wall and on the other a poster that warned of the dangers of smoking marijuana.

Starsky began to wash. He pooled cold water in his cupped hands then pushed his face into them subliminally trying to rub away his anguish. When he finished, he leaned against the edge of the sink with one hand and pinched the top of his nose with the thumb and forefinger with the other in concern. He caught his reflection in the tiny mirror but he could not look himself in the eye.

Several moments later the dark haired cop emerged from the lavatory. He had removed his leather jacket, which revealed an empty holster. The knees of his jeans were black and several other patches spotted his clothing. His T-shirt looked like it had been spattered with blackberry juice. Some colour had returned to his face. The cold water helped. The events of that morning haunted him. He seemed in a trance. Starsky returned to his corner in silence.

“Where’s your gun?” Dobey asked.

“Huh?”

“Your gun Starsky – where is it? And where is Hutch’s for that matter?”

Starsky casually peered under his arm.

“I guess it’s still in the alley.”

“What?”

“I remember dropping it when…” Starsky could not continue.

“And Hutch’s?”

“It must be there too.”

The captain clumsily got to his feet and lumbered to the front desk to use the phone. He ordered a black and white to search the area for the weapons. When he hung up he returned to Starsky’s side.

“We had an argument.” The detective began to declare without provocation.

“What do you mean? You two argue all the time.”

“I said some nasty things to him captain. Real bad things.”

“Dave.” Dobey comforted.

“We were just getting on each others nerves, you know. I told him that I didn’t want him around me anymore… thing is, I meant it at the time and now…”

Captain Dobey sat on the edge of the couch with his forearms resting on his thick knees. His fingers were laced together tighter than stitching in a baseball. He continued to listen to Starsky as if he were a priest in a confessional.

“What if he dies?”

“He’s not going to die. You know Hutch. He’s tough… he’ll pull through just fine.”

“But what if he doesn’t? He’s hurt real bad captain. Real bad.”

The two men’s eyes met. Starsky’s face winced and finally the tears began to flow. Dobey didn’t know what to do so he just placed his hand on the detective’s shoulder sympathetically.

 

ACT ONE – SCENE THREE
Tuesday, October 17th, 1979 – 4.53 a.m.

“Are you Detective Starsky?”

“Yeah.” The cop answered with trepidation.

“Your partner is out of surgery now.”

“And… how is he?”

“Are their any members of his family present?”

“No. I’m as close as it gets.”

“I see. Well, come down to my office and I will explain.” The doctor moved aside and held out her arm giving direction. She was still dressed in her surgical scrubs.

Starsky moved with her down the hall. Dobey was asleep on the couch. The waiting room held very few people now. It was quiet. The detective probed questions along the way but she would not answer them until she reached the privacy of her office.

She closed the door behind her and asked Starsky to take a seat.

“I prefer to stand. I’ve been sitting out there for hours. How is he?”

“Officer Hutchison is a very sick man.”

Starsky stared at the physician and blinked his eyes with guilt. He stayed silent to allow the doctor to continue. Now he was afraid to ask any more questions.

“He has lost a tremendous amount of blood, you see.” Her East Indian accent was sweet and smooth. “The bullets ruptured his spleen. It was too damaged to repair so we removed it. It also creased his liver.” She continued as she watched Starsky sink into a sitting position in the chair across from her desk.

“We have stopped the bleeding and retrieved both bullets.” She explained. “We have repaired the internal wounds. Hopefully we won’t encounter any problems.”

“Problems?”

“Infection is the enemy now.”

“Can I see him?” Starsky asked quietly after a short pause.

“Yes. When he is out of recovery and into I.C.U.”

“I.C.U.?”

“Intensive Care.”

“ Oh yeah… okay.” Starsky whispered falling into a daze once again. “Thank you, doctor.”

“I’ll have a nurse take you to see your partner when he is settled.”

 

ACT ONE – SCENE FOUR
Tuesday, October 17th, 1979 – 7:13 a.m.

Starsky peered into the sun lit room and was hit by the odor of disinfectant. The half-drawn curtain blocked Starsky’s view of his partner and he was reluctant to enter. He was afraid to see what he had done.  But, he took a short step forward and approached Hutch timidly. The room was semi-private but there was no one in the second bed. Hutch seemed laid out like a corpse in the bed next to the window.

The ticking and hissing of the ventilator took Starsky off guard and when he finally got the courage to look at Hutch he felt like he’d been kicked in the gut with a frozen boot. What had he done? Why did he shoot without any warning? What was he thinking? Starsky’s head swam with questions and self-doubt. How could this have happened?

He sat on the hard chair next to Hutch and stared stupefied at all the tubes and probes that were attached to him. Hutch’s head was tilted back slightly because of the breathing tube which was taped to his upper lip and nose.

His usually neat and squeaky-clean hair was tangled and smelled of antiseptic. His arms were full of needle holes and bruised from the punctures. It seemed as if every orifice was filled with plastic tubing.

Starsky took Hutch’s hand and was shocked at how cold it was. He pulled the blankets up to cover Hutch’s chest and then resumed his seat for a long vigil.

“I’m sorry Hutch… I’m so, so sorry.”

The breathing machine plodded on like a metronome and it eventually lulled Starsky to sleep.

 

ACT TWO – SCENE ONE
Friday, February 16th, 2001 – 7:23 p.m.  (THE LOS ANGELES HILTON HOTEL)

The ballroom glittered. Men uncomfortably mingled in rented tuxedos and the woman flirted shamelessly. They were in either the classic black dress or full-length gowns that dripped of sparkling beads and sequins – nothing in between.

There was a crystal ball that hung over the crowd in the center of the space that added glitz. The band was in full swing and played a silky rendition of “The Shadow of Your Smile”. A small section of the floor was roped off for dancing and it was filled with couples who leaned on each, cheek-to-cheek. The rest of the room held round tables and chairs that awaited guests for the evening meal. No one was sitting, but rather clinked glasses and stood around talking and laughing and eating hors d’oeuvres that wondering waiters offered.

On the stage was a podium and four empty chairs. Above the hardwood a banner dangled which read “Happy Retirement – From the Bay City Police Department.”   It was the first thing Starsky noticed when he walked through the doors to the gala.

He too, was in a monkey suit. He spied the room for his fellow cops and joined in on several conversations on his way up to congratulate Captain Dobey on his retirement. He hadn’t seen Dobey in quite sometime and was anxious to greet him. He fumbled through the crowd smiling and nodding at the people he recognized. Then finally, he spotted the large man and made a beeline for him.

“Captain!”

“Starsky!”

“How are you Cap?” Starsky grinned as he embraced Dobey and then leaned over to kiss his wife Edith.

“I’m fine. Just great!”

“Good, good. You haven’t changed a bit. Not a bit. Great to see you, Cap!”

A short uncomfortable pause wafted between them as the obvious question lingered. Starsky glanced around the room as if looking for someone.

“He never replied to the invitation, Dave.”

Starsky immediately stopped the search and sighed semi-relieved. At that point the lights flickered on and then off and on again. The crowd was asked to take their seats for dinner.

Captain Dobey steered his wife toward one of the tables at the front of the room and asked Starsky to join them. He obliged. Calvin Jr. and Rosie were there too, and now adults. Starsky gushed over Dobey’s kids and gave them the old “last time I saw you, you were this high” line. They all took their seats and the table of ten introduced themselves around and the group talked casually over salad and rolls awaiting the main course of prime rib and fingerling potatoes. Starsky couldn’t help but watch the door in hopes that Hutch would miraculously appear. It preoccupied him and Dobey couldn’t help but notice.

After dessert and as coffee was being poured, the ladies excused themselves to freshen up before the speeches and honours. Captain Dobey took the opportunity to move next to Starsky and begin the friendly interrogation.

“So, how have you been?”

“Just great.”

“Thanks for coming up for this. It means a lot to me. Things going okay in San Diego?”

“Yup.”

“Starsky?”

“Yes Captain?”

“What happened?”

“Happened? What do you mean?”

“Where’s Hutch?”

“Hutch?”

“Dave.” Dobey seared a look into his former detective’s face.

“It’s a long story, Cap.” Starsky tried to discourage the conversation.

“We’ve got time. Last thing I heard, Hutch quit the force shortly after he came back from long-term disability and then you transferred to the San Diego PD.”

“Yeah.”

“And…” The Captain encouraged.

“We worked a bit with Captain Mitchell, but it didn’t work anymore. Hutch and me… we just… I don’t know. I was really hopin’ he would be here tonight.”

“Nope. He never replied I’m sorry to say. I would have loved to see him.”

“Well, I’ve been on the SD force for almost 19 years now – with the same partner for 14.”

“Good man?”

“Yeah. We get along okay.”

“But…”

“It’s never been the same. Hutch was my soul mate, you know. I was closer to him than …” Starsky couldn’t finish. The guilt still showed.

“I know.”

The two men looked over the room again and sipped their coffees and poked at their blueberry cheesecake.

“So, you haven’t talked to him?” Dobey asked.

“We kinda lost touch… after the… well, you know.”

“That’s too bad. I was hoping…”

“Hoping?”

“Hoping that I could get you two back together on a case.”

“You’re retiring Cap, what are you worrying about a case for.”

“It’s the Riche Case.”

“Riche? Haven’t heard that name since me and Hutch busted him back in the 70’s.”

“He’s been released.”

“Oh really?”

“I’ve handed it over to your old pal Mitchell and he’s asked me to ask you.”

“Ask me what, Cap?”

“If you two could take it over.”

“Riche hasn’t done anything has he?”

“There’s been several murders in Brentwood matching his M.O. You and Hutch were the only cops that could catch him and make it stick.”

“Yeah, but captain. I’m five years from retirement myself. I haven’t even talked to Hutch in almost eighteen years now. I don’t even know where he is.” Starsky claimed.

“Well, I had to ask. Mitchell really wants you guys. He thinks it’s the only way to get Riche off the streets for good.”

The ladies returned to the table looking touched up and ravishing and the men stood for them and held their chairs.

“Give it some thought.”  Dobey encouraged. “Will you, Dave?”

Starsky avoided eye contact.

“I’ll be in my office cleaning out Thursday and Friday… if you’re interested… and Starsky?”

“Yeah?”

“Settle this thing with Hutch. Life’s too short… you know?”

“To tell you the truth Captain. I’m ready for it, I’m just not sure he is.”

The reprehension of accidentally shooting his partner years before was like a black shroud that veiled Starsky’s entire being. It strangled him. It had changed him and it changed Hutch too. But, maybe the Riche case was what they needed to mend fences. Maybe, he could get Hutch to finally absolve him. The last two decades had slipped by so fast – enough was enough. It was time for atonement.

The speeches began and the four honorees received their gold watches for their years of service to the BCPD. Applause rang through the hall, but all Starsky could think about was Hutch and how he was going to find him.

 

ACT TWO – SCENE TWO
Sunday, February 18th, 2001 – 11:43 p.m. (NO-NAME BAR – HOLLYWOOD BLVD)

“I think you’ve had enough mister.”

Hutch leaned over the bar and grabbed the bartender by the vest and squeezed.

“I haven’t even started yet.” He whispered.

“Okay, okay. No need to get sore.”

The proprietor poured Hutch the vodka he’d asked for and as he tried to put the bottle away, Hutch snatched it and slammed it on the bar top.

“I’ll take that.” He declared softly but with definite conviction. He downed the drink and then crunched the ice that followed.

He rose from his barstool to find a table and stumbled as he moved across the tiny dance floor of the tavern. A hooker and her john leaned against each other and swayed to Patsy Cline’s “Crying”. The rest of the pub held a smattering of patrons who were obviously regulars. They simply minded their own business and focused on the alcohol that kept them company.

When Hutch finally found his new resting-place, he fell into the chair and almost sent himself overboard. When he tipped he got his balance by placing his fingertips on the floor that was covered in peanut shells. To say that this place was a dive was an understatement. He continued on with his party of one.

By this time, the bartender had summoned the bouncer and told him to remove the blonde-haired stranger and as the hulking man approached him, Hutch clenched his fist with anticipation.

“Excuse me, sir?” The bouncer said nicely.

“Yeah?”

“I think you should leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere, asshole.” Hutch said as he gulped a mouth full of vodka.

“We can make this easy or difficult. It’s up to you.” The bouncer stood over Hutch ready and waiting for whatever Hutch decided.

“Like I said, I’m not finished yet.” Hutch glanced up.

“And I say you are.”

There was a momentary pause and the patron’s attention was tweaked as they too waited for Hutch’s reaction. There was a calm before the storm. Then, with a swift elbow to the bouncer’s groin, Hutch was on his feet and throwing a two fisted blow to the back of the man’s neck. The bouncer recovered quickly and was joined by his friends and by then Hutch had no chance. Before long they had him in the back alley and up against the wall. The blows came fast and furious. The scene was a blur and Hutch found himself laughing – as if taunting his adversaries. There was no pain. That would come later. When they felt they had made their point, they threw Hutch into a pile of trash. He continued to chuckle but his being was shrouded in pain.
“Thanks for all your help in there, Starsk.” He muttered deliriously. “I really appreciate it, old buddy.”

 

ACT TWO – SCENE THREE
Monday, February 19th, 2001 – 1:13 p.m. (BOWL OF CHERRIES BAR & GRILL)

“Hey Hug.”

“Well, well… if it isn’t my old friend Starsky. Back from San Diego.”

Huggy Bear sauntered out from behind the bar. He was as hip as ever and even though he was incredibly lanky twenty years ago, Starsky was surprised to see that his old informant-slash-friend had lost weight. He was dressed in a khaki-coloured, linen short-sleeved shirt and slacks a shade darker. He wore a black baseball cap backwards that bore an Andre Agassi logo. His shoes were black patent leather with a wide toe and heavy sole – no socks. The two men embraced.

“Man. It’s been a long time.” Huggy claimed stepping back to check out his old comrade.

Starsky still donned his worn leather jacket over a T-shirt and jeans. Only now the jeans were from the GAP, the jacket from SAK’s Fifth Avenue, and the T-shirt from Armani. Instead of the classic Adidas SL-72’s, he wore a pair of fairly new Vans.

“Yes it has.” Starsky replied.

“You haven’t changed a bit, man. How the hell are you?”

“Little grayer, you know.”

“How’s Rachel?”

“She’s good but we’re not.”

“Oh no. Don’t tell me.”

“Life of a cop, Hug. Takes its toll on a marriage.”

“Too bad. Really sorry to hear that Starsky.”

“It’s okay. It’s been awhile.”

Huggy aimed the detective to a table and asked one of his waitresses to bring them some beer. Starsky looked around the place nodding approvingly.

“Dis in nice, Hug. Glad to see you doing so well.”

“Thanks. We just finished it.”

“Well it looks great… just great.” Starsky smiled and took a sip of his beer.

“So… ummm… where is Mr. America?” Huggy posed the inevitable question.

“I was hoping you knew.”

“That bad, huh. You two still on the outs?”

“He never forgave me, man.” Starsky confided as he wiped beer foam from his lips. “It’s been 20 years and he’s never forgiven me.” He thought a moment then chortled. “You always hurt the ones you love.”

“Ain’t that the truth?”

Starsky returned the comment with a faint smile.

“Have you forgiven yourself?” Huggy begged the question catching Starsky off guard.

“What do you mean… no, you’re right I guess I haven’t. I guess I can’t until he does.”

“I don’t think Hutch is mad at you or hates you. I think he’s just… disappointed.” Huggy shrugged.

“You think I let him down?”

“Well, I remember you being pretty hard on yourself over the shooting and I think Hutch found it hard dealing with that. Maybe he separated himself from you so you could have some time on your own without him around as a consent reminder of what happened. Next thing you know, time passes and twenty years is gone. It happens.”

“Interesting theory… Dr. Bear.”

“Splitting like you did, didn’t help either. It really hurt him.”

“I know.”

“Sorry Starsky. I haven’t seen Hutch in what… eight, nine years now.” Huggy leaned back to give it more thought. “He came in here a bunch of times after he left the force. Then one day he was gone. I tried to call him lots of times, but he never got back to me. I figure he’d call me when he was ready. Never was, I guess.”

“Huh.” Starsky sniffed.

“Why you look’in for him now? What’s up?”

“Couple things.”

“Yeah… like?”

“Well, first, I just gotta settle this thing between us. Him bitter – me guilty. I miss the hell out of the guy. I really needed him when Rach left. It would have been so much easier if Hutch had been there, you know.”

“I hear you.”

The two men’s conversation dangled. They both shook their heads.

“Went to Captain Dobey’s retirement party last week.” Starsky said, brightly changing the subject.

“No kidding. Finally hangin’ them up, huh?”

“Yup.” Starsky took another sip. “Way over due. Says John Riche is out. Thinks he’s been behind the recent murders. Wants me and Hutch to investigate.”

“Hmmm.”

“Got any idea where Hutch is. Got a number at least?”

“I know he bought a condo closer to the beach a couple years ago. I’ve got the number and address, but I’m not sure if he’s still there.”

“I’ll give it a try. It’s a place to start at least.”

“You can use the phone at the bar as always.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got my cell with me.”

“Well, aren’t we the modern man.”

“Gotta love this electronic age.” Starsky winked sarcastically.

Starsky downed the rest of his beer and stared at the phone, trying to rummage up the courage to call his former partner. Huggy noticed his friend’s hesitation.

“What have you got to lose?” He asked with raised eyebrows.

“Nothin’ Hug. Not a thing.” Starsky began to dial.

You have reached Hutchinson Investigations. Please leave a message.”

Hutchinson Investigations? Starsky raised his eyebrows and glanced over at Huggy who returned the look with curiosity. He tapped the phone on his forehead. He had trouble finding the words.

“Hutch? Yeah… ummm…  it’s me, Starsky. I’m in town and I want to talk to you – I need to talk to you.” He paused momentarily. “So, I’m… well, I’m coming over.” Starsky peered at his watch. “It’s almost 2 o’clock on Monday. So, I guess I’ll see you when I see you.”

“He’s still there.” Starsky announced after he hung up. “No answer so I’m going over there. His machine says Hutchinson Investigations. Did you know about that?”

“Nah. That’s news to me.”

“Okay.”

“If you need me, you know where I am.” Huggy reassured Starsky.

“Thanks Hug. I’ll be back for a burger later. We’ll catch up.”

“I’ll be waiting, and… bring Hutch with you.”

“I’ll try Hug. I’ll try.”

Starsky semi-saluted his friend and made his way up the stairs and out of the establishment. As he reached the pavement he realized how lucky he was to find Hutch so easily. But he had a knot in his stomach that felt like a giant sponge soaked with gasoline. He stopped on the street and scrounged around for his keys.
The candy apple red Ford Grand Tornio he and Hutch screamed around the city in 20 years ago was now scrap metal. Starsky’s new vehicle reflected his new, more mature image – a Redfire Metallic Grand Prix GTP coupe with custom alloy wheels, camel-coloured leather seats, and 240 horses under the hood.

 

ACT TWO – SCENE FOUR
Monday, February 19th, 2001 – 2:46 p.m. (HUTCHINSON RESIDENCE – VENICE BEACH)

When he pulled up in front of Hutch’s apartment building, Starsky couldn’t help but notice a lime green early 80’s Lincoln Crown Victoria. It was bashed in on one side and the left headlight was missing. It was scratched and had a smattering of dents and dings. The car had Hutch written all over it.

“Some things never change.” Starsky chuckled to himself as he made his way through the front door and up to Hutch’s place. 

When he got to the top of the stairs he timidly knocked. His stomach tumbled with anxiety as he tried to prepare for what was behind the door. There was no answer. He tried again with a little more force.

“Hutch?” He called. “Hutch you in there? It’s me, Starsky.”

Still nothing. He reached for the top of the doorframe to feel around and see if Hutch still had an extra key hidden there. If he wasn’t home he would wait.

“Bingo.” Starsky muttered as he slipped the key in the lock, opened the door and peeked into the living room.

The odor of stale beer hit him like a soggy towel. Bottles were scattered about the apartment. The floor was littered with dirty laundry, old pizza boxes and unopened mail. The answering machine blinked with unattended calls.

“Did I miss the party?” He mumbled to himself. “Hutch?”

Starsky meandered through the condo admiring it and its view. The ocean was so blue it looked surreal. He walked down the hallway and stumbled across the bedroom. He glanced through the half open door where he finally found Hutch. He was sprawled on the bed on his back like he’d fallen asleep in the middle of making a snow angel. All he wore was a pair of semi-white shorts. He seemed passed out rather than asleep. Starsky noticed his bloody knuckles first and then his battered face. 

“What the…?” He said puzzled.

He stood over his former partner debating whether or not he should wake him. Starsky felt Hutch’s forehead checking for heat – cool as a cucumber. He carefully cleaned up some of the scrapes and cuts with a damp cloth. Hutch never budged.

“What have you gotten yourself into, buddy?”

Starsky took a next to Hutch’s bed. He picked up a magazine and felt like he was in a dentist’s office. His mind spun with questions as he stared over at his former partner. Hutch had gained a little weight but overall still looked in good shape. The six-pack was gone, but Hutch was closing in on sixty so that wasn’t a surprise. There was a little less hair on top, but it was still as platinum as ever and neatly cropped. Then there were the scars. First, the two perfectly round bullet holes in Hutch’s abdomen that Starsky had inflicted 20 years ago and several other surgical track marks.

Starsky put the magazine down and scanned the place again. He got up and started to tidy up. This would take some time.

 

ACT TWO – SCENE FIVE
Monday, February 19th, 2001 – 6:04 p.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

The clattering of dishes woke him. Hutch raised his head from the pillow and tried to see where the racket was coming from. He gave up when the pain kicked in. He squeezed his eyes closed and massaged his forehead then opened his baby blues and tried to focus. He let his head fall back again. Rolling out of bed and landing one knee on the floor, he pushed himself into a semi-standing position. He gently probed the bruises on his face and winced. He flexed his hand to make sure it was still in working order, then shuffled into the living room.

Hutch expected to find his cleaning lady Rosa and was astonished to see the back of Starsky hunched over the kitchen sink with his hands in the suds.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Hutch quarried with suspicion in his tone.

Starsky stopped mid-dish and froze. He felt like a kid who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He pasted on a smile before he turned to face his old friend.

“I guess you didn’t get my message.”

“Message?” Hutch sounded confused. “What message?”

“I called earlier from Huggy’s.”

“Oh… no…well, I got in late last night….” Then he stopped his explanation abruptly. “Why the hell am I explaining to you?” Hutch scolded himself for making excuses. “Where did you come from… what are you doing here, Starsky?”

“Well… I’m here to apologize, Hutch. I’m here to make amends.” Starsky explained sheepishly as he watched Hutch shake his head, turn and walk into the bathroom seemingly disinterested in Starsky’s plea. Hutch’s snuff sent waves of anxiety through Starsky’s body and he suddenly felt self-conscious. Isolated.

He placed the tea towel on the counter and sat at the kitchen table wondering what to do. Should he stay and try again? His hopefulness had turned to disappointment. But, he decided his friendship with Hutch was worth fighting for so he would remain to face him again whether he wanted to be faced or not.

Starky could hear the shower and the toilet flushing and the tap in the bathroom sink all running at once. Several minutes passed before Hutch finally emerged from the steamy room. Wearing a fresh pair of semi-white shorts he paced across the room rubbing his hair dry with a towel. He took a seat on the other side of the table then finally looked up at Starsky with an icy stare.

“Well, go ahead.” Hutch sniffed. ”Apologize.”

Starsky leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table and laced his fingers. He paused briefly for effect before he began. He had one shot at this and he wasn’t about to blow it.

“Hutch.” He said squarely. “I AM sorry. All these years I’ve beaten myself up over what I did to you and now all I want is your forgiveness. Can you do that? Can you forgive me?” He appealed. “I was careless. I lost my concentration… I blew it and I am so, so sorry I caused you this much pain.”

There was an uncomfortable moment-of-silence, as Hutch seemed to mull over Starsky’s speech.

“I miss you… damn it Hutch, I need you.” Starsky continued. “I’ve been lost for twenty fucking years, man. Please forgive me. Please.”

He waited anxiously for a response. After a long pause, Hutch took a deep breath and stared at his hands. He leaned back in his chair, stuck out his lower lip and pondered. He looked skeptical.

“Hutch?” Starsky demanded an answer.

“I forgive you.” Came Hutch’s calm reply.

“Oh, thank God.” Starsky sighed with relief. “You had me going there. Make me work for it why don’t you?”

“Starsky?”

“Yeah?”

“What took you so long?”

 

ACT THREE – SCENE ONE
Monday, February 19th, 2001 – 8:12 p.m. (BOWL OF CHERRIES BAR & GRILL)

“Well… look who’s here.” Huggy gushed as Starsky and Hutch entered his brand new tavern.

“Hey Hug.” Hutch greeted him shyly.

He held out his palm to shake his friend’s hand and was pulled into an embrace instead. Hutch’s gentle, charming smile was still as fresh and friendly as ever. The platinum blonde hair was as fair as it had always been but his frame was a little heavier. His age was starting to show, but all in all, Huggy saw the same man he knew twenty years ago. He noticed Hutch’s facial bruises but decided not to inquire.

“Have a seat gentlemen. Anything you guys want this evening is on the house.”

“Burger for me Hug, heap of fries and a side of slaw.” Starsky spoke up. “And a pitcher of beer too please.”

“And you, Mr. Hutchinson?”

Hutch thought a moment and ordered the soup-of-the-day and a salad with house dressing on the side and his own pitcher of beer.
“Wow, we need two jugs? Guess we’re in for a long night.”

Hutch simply raised his eyebrows and grinned at his partner’s comment.

“Nice place, Hug.” Hutch complimented.

“Our man is moving up in the world, huh.” Starsky beamed.

After they reminisced for awhile, and they’d had several glasses of beer, the food arrived. Starsky was ready to leave the small talk behind and discuss his and Hutch’s immediate futures and their not so immediate pasts. He bluntly began his in-depth inquisition.

“So, Hutch.” Starsky said between mouthfuls of creamy cole slaw. “What happened to your face?” He chewed.

“Got in a fight last night.”

“Oh yeah? Anyone I know?”

“Nope.” Hutch said coldly.

“Are you in some kinda trouble?”

“Nope.”

“Come on, Hutch. What’s going on with you? You’re all cut up and bruised. Your place is a mess. What’s the scoop?” Starsky said pointedly.

“Look Starsky. I haven’t seen or heard from you in what… eighteen years. Back off. I’m not the good old Hutch you used to know okay. Things change.”

“Hey. They don’t change that much.”

Hutch concentrated on his dinner and poured himself another glass of beer.

“Hutch?” Starsky insisted on his partner’s full attention. “I know it’s been a long time. I know. I’ve been guilty and you’ve been bitter but can’t we put all that shit behind us. I know you. I know when you’re hurtin’, I know when you’re happy and I know when you’re angry. I don’t care how long it’s been. I know you Hutch. I know you.”

“No Starsky. You KNEW me.”

“And…”
“And, nothing. I’ve changed. Are you trying to say you haven’t?”

“Yes. Yes that is what I am saying.” Starsky pointed at himself with his fork and leaned over the table. “Deep down, I can honestly say I’m the same person I was 20 years ago.”

“Well. I don’t have anything left ‘deep down’. I HAVE changed. So let’s just move on shall we.”

Hutch had finished off Starsky’s pitcher of beer and raised his arm at a wondering waitress to bring another.

“Haven’t you had enough?” Starsky said frankly.

“I can never get enough. What are you my mother?” Hutch glared. “For Christ sake, what is this… an intervention?”

Starsky was wounded. He was sure that once Hutch had forgiven him they could resume their relationship where they had left off. It was painfully becoming clear, that this would not be the case and Starsky was taken aback. Time would heal, he hoped, and patience was the key.

Both men continued to eat their suppers and drink their beers when the prickly silence became deafening.

“Went to Dobey’s retirement party last week.” Starsky announced, desperately changing the subject.

“Oh yeah?” Hutch answered seeming uninterested.

“Nice party. Had a good time. He looks good. Little gray… but good.”

“Good.”

“Yeah and he mentioned something about Captain Mitchell.”

“God I hated that son-of-a-bitch.” Hutch recalled.

“Who Dobey?”

“No Mitchell.”

“Oh.”

Yet another bout of silence.

“Hutch?”

“Yeah?” He said finally making eye contact with Starsky.

“They want us back. They need us.”

“Who does?”

“The Department.”

“Come on.” Hutch grunted doubtfully.

“Mitchell wants us to work for him on the Riche case.”

“Riche? He’s in prison.”

“Not anymore.”

Hutch stopped mid-chew, put down his fork and wiped his mouth of dressing with his napkin.

“He’s out?”

“Yep. Same old MO around town, too.”

“No kidding.” Hutch took a bite of romaine lettuce and followed it with a swig of beer. “Riche is back on the street, huh?”

Starsky saw a spark and stoked it.

“So what do you say? You and me back on the streets. Just like old times. Come on Hutch… how ‘bout it.” Starsky pumped.

“Aren’t we a little old to be chasing criminals. Shouldn’t you be behind a desk somewhere waiting for your pension to kick in?”

“Hey. Come on. We’re not that old.”

“Speak for yourself.”

Hutch shrugged and downed yet another glass of beer. He played with his food seemingly deep in thought, then locked eyes with Starsky.

“Riche. huh?”

“Yep. Dobey’s cleaning out his office this week. We could go pay him a visit… say good luck?” Starsky continued to feed the fire. He waited for Hutch’s reaction.

“Guess I should wish old Dobey a happy retirement.” He smirked.

“Atta boy!”

“Okay, well… I’m outta here.” Hutch smacked his lips and started to rise from his chair abruptly ending the conversation and the reunion.

“Wait a minute. That’s it? Where are you going?” Starsky exclaimed in shock. “What do you mean you’re out of here?” He held a chunk of his hamburger inside his cheek like a chipmunk. He looked like a squirrel that had just been spooked.

“Got things to do, Starsk.”

“What things?”

“Business.”

“Business? You mean Hutchinson Investigation business?”

“Something like that.” Hutch was standing now putting on his jacket.

“Can I come?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow then?” Starsky asked with a hurt tone.

“I’ll meet you down there.”

“Oh, okay… I guess. I thought we were gonna, you know… have some fun tonight – reminisce.”

“Some other time, old buddy.” Hutch began to walk out and waved to Huggy as he passed. He looked back at Starsky who was left to eat alone.

“See you tomorrow. Round noon, okay?” Hutch yelled back.

Starsky waved an approval and glanced over at Huggy and shrugged. It was returned. He watched Hutch vanish through the smoky haze of the tavern like he’d been engulfed in the dry ice of an amateur magic act. Starsky’s appetite disappeared with his partner.

Then he stood, pulled the napkin from his neck and threw on his jacket like he was wrestling with it. He scrambled out the door after Hutch. His curiosity getting the better of him, he ran to his car and followed the taillights of the yellow cab Hutch had flagged.

 

ACT THREE – SCENE TWO
Tuesday, February 20th, 2001 – 3:24 a.m. (THE LEOPARD LOUNGE – VENICE BEACH)

“I think you’ve had enough, mister.”

Hutch leaned over the bar and grabbed the bartender by the vest and squeezed.

“I haven’t even started yet.” He hissed.

“Well, we’re closing up. You’ll have to find somewhere else to finish you’re little party.”

“Shit.” Came Hutch’s simple reply. 

The previous Sunday night was about to repeat itself hopefully without the beating.

“Did I tell you…” Hutch leaned in to confide in the bartender. “… my old friend Detective Sergeant David Starsky came to visit me today?” Hutch almost sang the words.

“Yes you did sir. Several times.” The bartender said, fed up and disinterested.

“Well, did I tell you that he shot me twenty years ago? Did I tell you that?” Hutch babbled. “No warning. Just shot me. Pretty bad too. Took me a long time to recover from that. Did I mention that?”

“Yes sir, you did.” The barman was getting annoyed now. “Listen, I’m going to call a cab and get you home okay, sir?”

“Sure, sure.” Hutch slurred.

“I’ll take him home.” Came a steady voice from the back of the place.

Starsky stood and walked directly behind Hutch. He’d appeared out of nowhere and put his hands on his partner’s shoulders.

“This must be the famous ‘partner’.” The bartender said sarcastically.

“Get off me!” Hutch shrugged as if trying to rid his back of a fly.

“Hutch it’s me, Starsky.”

“I know it’s you. Leave me alone.”

“I’m taking you home.” Starsky insisted.

“Like hell you are.”

Hutch stood and threw a wild punch at his friend who skillfully ducked to avoid the blow. The swing knocked Hutch off balance.

“Come on… cut it out. I’m not going to fight you. Just let me take you home okay? You’ve had enough.”

When Hutch had regained his dexterity he caught Starsky in the gut with a right upper cut. This too, threw Hutch over board. Instinctively, Starsky cracked Hutch on the chin with a swift left jab. Hutch was unconscious before he landed squarely on Starsky’s waiting shoulder. He lifted him like a fireman would a victim and shifted his partner like he was a large bag of dog food.

“What’s his tab?” He asked the bartender who seemed relieved that the situation was under control.

“Forty bucks should cover it.”

“Here’s a fifty.” He threw the bill on the bar top. “Keep it.”

The bartender nodded and watched the two men leave the bar.

 

ACT THREE – SCENE THREE
Tuesday, February 20th, 2001 – 4:16 a.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

It took a great deal of effort to get the six-foot, two hundred pounder up and into his apartment, but Starsky was up to the task. He was fully committed now. By this time, Hutch was like a man made of wet noodles and was far more cheerful then he was in the bar.

“You’re my best friend. Did you know that Starsk?” Hutch whimpered melodramatically. “I missed you.”

“You did, huh?”

“Yeah. I did.” Hutch admitted through the fog of his now dulling inebriation.

“That’s nice.” Starsky said as he struggled to push Hutch threw the front door and into the bathroom.

He slapped down the toilet seat and plunked Hutch on top of it. He placed his hand on his chest to stabilize him as he turned on the taps in the shower. Hutch’s eyes were closed and he grinned insipidly. He seemed content but sober was Starsky’s ultimate goal.

“Come on Hutch. Time for a shower.”

“But I don’t want a shower.”

“Well you’re gonna.”

“But, I’m not dirty.”

“No, but you’re drunk.” Starsky announced as he pulled Hutch’s T-shirt off as if Hutch were a child.

“I’m not drunk.” Hutch sounded insulted.

“Yeah. You are.”

“No I’m not.”

“YEAH… you are!”

“Am not!”

“Hutch.” Starsky stopped the conversation cold. He stopped disrobing his partner at the waist and encouraged him to get in the tub. He left Hutch sitting on the toilet and put a chair up against the outside of the door to keep him captive.

“Don’t make me come back in there Hutch… do you hear me?”

Starsky could hear his partner moving about the bathtub singing “Who Let the Dogs Out” and barking. Initially, it made him laugh but he knew this was a serious problem. Hutch had been addicted before and he was not relishing the thought of another drying out especially since he’d just reentered Hutch’s life. Could their friendship survive another codependency or would it just make it stronger.

Codependency? Who was he kidding, Starsky thought. His relationship with Hutch was a codependency. It was an addiction in its self. Even though they’d not been together in two decades, each man still needed each other to exist. He’d thought of Hutch everyday and was convinced that his cohort did the same. He pondered his revelation as he made his way to the kitchen.

He prepared some extra strong coffee then waited for Hutch to finish. By the time Starsky had waded through the first section of last Wednesday’s newspaper, Hutch was asking to be released.

“You can let me out now Starsky.” Hutch protested impatiently.

“Are you going to be good?” He patronized.

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure because I don’t want to do this again.”

“Open the God damned door!”

“Now, now – let’s not get nasty.”

Starsky casually poured another cup of coffee for his friend and sauntered toward the bathroom where he removed the chair, leaned against the doorframe, held out the Java like a peace offering and cautiously opened the door. Hutch stood with his hand against the edge and leered at Starsky. He did not except the coffee, but rather walked by him in a huff.

“What’s going on Hutch?” Starsky confronted. “I hope this is something that doesn’t happen very often but you know what, I found you in the same condition… oh no let me correct myself, I found you in worse condition just yesterday.”

“Fuck you Starsky. This is none of your business and what the hell do you care anyway?”

“I care okay… I care. Maybe too much.”

“Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it.” Hutch paused to regroup. “Besides, I don’t want you to care alright!”

“TOO FUCKIN’ BAD!”  Starsky’s fuse was spent.

The anger he felt radiated from his face and Hutch felt the heat. When Starsky got mad his eyes defined the real meaning of the word. They turned from navy blue to a brilliant aqua – the colour of a flame at its base. The stare was so hot it was frozen.

Hutch knew this side of Starsky all too well and realized he was no match for him. He knew his partner could only be pushed so far. Defeated and sitting on the couch, he let his head fall onto the back of the cushion in submission. He gazed at the ceiling.

Starsky approached quietly and with care. He took several deliberately deep breaths to calm himself before he started to speak again. He sat on the coffee table in front of Hutch ready for yet another confrontation if necessary.

“You’ve got a drinking problem, Hutch.” He said bluntly.

“Yeah? So what.”

“So… I don’t like seeing you this way.”

“Why do you care Starsky?” Hutch begged the question again. “What has this got to do with you? You can’t just waltz in here after all this time and expect me to be your best pal again. You just can’t. It doesn’t work that way.”

“YES IT DOES!” Starsky blasted. “I never stopped being your best friend – your brother. You just wouldn’t let me. I tried man… I tried.”

“Yeah you tried alright.” Hutch snipped.

“I did!”

“Damn it Starsky you were so self absorbed by your own guilt it swallowed you up. Even I couldn’t get through. It was you, always you.” Hutch ranted. “You never cared about me. You only cared about how what you did to me affected you.”

“So what you’re saying is that this is all my fault.”

“YES! THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING! “ Hutch inhaled deeply then released a long sigh. “God damn it Starsky. I needed something to dull the pain when you decided to abandon all we’d worked for. Jesus Christ! How could you do that? How could you just leave me here?” He paused a moment. “You know, I never thought anything could come between us. I really didn’t. But when push came to shovel Starsky… you just bailed… on both of us… you’re fucking coward.”

Hutch grabbed his towel and rubbed his head to dry his hair leaving Starsky breathless and with no retort.

“I need a drink.” Hutch announced as he started to rise from the sofa.

“No way!”

“I’ll have a drink if I damn well want to and you’re not going to stop me.”

“Try me.” Starsky warned as he firmly put his hand on Hutch’s knee.

Their eyes locked and Hutch stayed seated shaking his head knowing full well Starsky meant business. He looked away exasperated.

“You’ve taken your last drink Hutch and you might as well get used to that fact right here and now. I’m not bailing this time. I’m here to stay.”

“You think so huh?”

“I know so.”

 

ACT THREE – SCENE FOUR
Tuesday, February 20th, 2001 – 10:40 a.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

“Captain. It’s me Starsky.”

“Well hello. Glad to hear from you.”

“Listen, me and Hutch are taking on the Riche case like you asked.”

“Good… great. You found him?”

“Yes.”

“And…”

“Well, we have some shit to get through and we won’t be able to meet with Mitchell until next week. Can you let him know?”

“I can do that. Everything okay? Need any help?”

“I’ve got a little problem here. Nothing I can’t handle. I just need for you to give me a bit more time to get my ducks in a row. Hutch needs some time too. He’s well… we just can’t get to it until Monday.”

“I understand.”

“Thanks Cap.”

“And Starsky… “

“Yeah?”

“Good luck and I’ll talk to Mitchell first chance I get.”

“Thanks. Good luck to you too.”

“You and Hutch come around for dinner sometime okay. Edith and I would love to see you.”

“Sure thing Cap. Sure thing.”

 

ACT THREE – SCENE FIVE
Tuesday, February 20th, 2001 – 2:33 p.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

“Gawd. I feel like a piece of chewed up string.” Hutch repugnantly declared as he entered the living area of his place and stretched himself out on the sofa. He placed a damp cloth on his head and grunted.

“Want some coffee?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Starsky had a stockpile of the stuff ready for his partner’s awakening.

“Here you go.”

Hutch sat up and took the steaming cup and took a sip.

“I guess we’re in for a long week, huh?”

“Yes we are. But I’m up to it if you are.”

“I don’t know if I can do it Starsk.” Hutch declared wearily.

“You did it before… you can do it again.”

“It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t.”

“Did you hear me say it was easy. I never said anything about it being easy. When have we ever done anything that was easy?” Starsky smirked.

Hutch lay back down on the couch and prepared himself for his journey to hell and back.

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE ONE
Monday, February 26th, 2001 – 8:56 a.m. – One week later (POLICE HEAD QUARTERS)

“Starsky and Hutchinson here to see Captain Mitchell.” Starsky said to the receptionist who sat outside Mitchell’s office.

She picked up her phone and announced the visitors and told them to go right in. When they entered Dobey’s old office, Captain Mitchell was standing behind Dobey’s old desk with a cup of Earl Grey tea in one hand with the other outstretched to shake the hands of his new homicide team.

Mitchell was an extremely well groomed man with impeccable taste in clothes and a two hundred-dollar haircut. He was medium height, medium weight and medium aged. He was mostly average except for the obvious effort at external beauty and his thirst for power  – not to mention the ambition to be Chief of Police.  He was a walking contradiction. What he lacked in character he thought he made up for in looks. It was a transparent façade.

Mitchell and Hutch had butt heads in the 70’s when they both worked the streets but Hutch hoped this would not affect their present working relationship. He couldn’t even remember what caused the incident. All he recounted was Mitchell’s cocky attitude and a devious drive to win. But, Hutch knew people changed and he was willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He approached the captain with a smile and shook his hand firmly.

“You guys look great! Welcome a board.”  

The pair glanced at each other acknowledging the previous week of sweats, temper tantrums and general all around chaos. By Saturday the discomfort of detox had pretty much run its coarse and both Dave and Ken seemed almost human by Sunday morning. It was a horrific week, but it served its purpose to strengthen a fragile friendship. Not all the wounds were heeled but they were starting to itch.

“Good to see you too captain. It’s been a while.”

“Yes it has. Thanks for coming down. We are at our wits end with this case and then Dobey suggested getting in touch with you two.”

“Well, we hope we can help. It’s been a long time since we hit the streets.” Starsky exclaimed.

“I’ve just got some paper work for you guys to fill out. Your transfer Starsky and your re-instatement Hutchinson.” The captain passed them the papers. “You can fill them out later. I’ve got AV1 set up to go over the Riche case. Adams and Horowitz have been taken off the case. So it’s all yours.”

“Okay.” Starsky said simply.

As the three men walked down the corridor of the station, old colleagues and acquaintances greeted the veteran sergeants. They looked around the place and noticed that, they had entered a time capsule. Even the posters on the walls were the same. They were still painted baby shit ochre and bore bulletin boards covered in most-wanted flyers, missing person sheets and the occasional lost dog sign. The odor was still there too – a combination of stale air, drunk-tank puke and burnt coffee. Starsky breathed deeply and pounded his chest like a chimp.

“Isn’t this great, Hutch?”

“Oh yeah. Never thought I’d smell that again. MmmMmm good.” He joshed.

“Yeah. Ain’t it sweet.”

The two chortled and continued down the hallowed halls to the new and improved audiovisual department where the reminiscences would end and the work would begin.

When they entered the darkened room, Detectives Brad Adams and Stan Horowitz greeted them. Adams was the lanky Viking type – very fair and fit. He looked a lot like Hutch did when he first joined the force. But, the young man was green as Kermit the Frog and his lack of confidence showed. Horowitz on the other hand, was swarthy except for his brilliant clear eyes that resembled a Siberian Husky’s. He too was tall and in shape. Horowitz had more experience and was definitely the alpha of the team. 

They seemed defeated and ready to hand over the reins to the only cops that were successful at incarcerating John Riche. Introductions were made and all five men took their seats and pulled out their notebooks.

The slide show started with a quiet click. They depicted gruesome murder scenes that the two cops recognized immediately. All the victims were middle-aged, upper class women with blonde hair who were placed in the seated position at the head of their dining room tables. Their necks were slashed from ear to ear and their heads jammed into plastic bags. The victim’s hands were primly folded on the tabletop as if in deep discussion. “I’m back” was written in blood on the highly polished surface of the furniture.

“As you can see gentleman, these murders have Mr. Riche’s signature all over them.”

“How the hell did this guy get out?” Starsky whispered to Hutch who stared at the pictures horrified.

“Pure technicality Dave.” Mitchell said.

Starsky was surprised he was overheard.

“Clerical error to be specific. His parole hearing papers were misread and his lawyer jumped all over it. He’s been on the streets for over a month… and we think he’s responsible for these three murders.”

“You think he’s responsible?” Starsky quipped. “Of course he’s responsible. This isn’t a copycat. The MO is too old.”

“You are correct sir.” Mitchell spewed his best Ed McMahon impression. “But… we still have to prove it.”

“Names?” Hutch asked without taking his eyes off the screen.

“Their complete files are on your desks. The women are Emily Jesper, Francesca Milano and Wilma Franklin.” Detective Adams piped-up. “All reside in Brentwood – all socialites – all divorced.”

“What else do you know?” Starsky probed.

“Not much. We can’t even figure out entry. Or exit for that matter. The guy’s like a phantom.”

“Yeah. We know.”

“His pattern is the same though. Every Friday night at 10:30. God… the guy is so predictable… it’s damned frustrating.”

“I hear you.” Starsky nodded. He looked at Hutch as though he was asking if he’d heard enough. His partner returned the gesture. “Okay. We’ll read the files and get this guy. Five days til Friday. That should be enough time wouldn’t you say Ollie?”

“I believe that would be ample Stanley.”

Horowitz, who had not yet uttered a word, seemed perturbed by their flippant demeanor at he and Adam’s expense.

“Listen you assholes. Brad and I have been working on this night and day for the last three weeks. The only reason you guys are back on this case is because you got him the first time round.”

The five men were standing now.

“Are you talking to us?” Starsky asked politely, but ready for the confrontation. His cockiness shone.

“Yeah I’m talking to you.”

“Well you know what they say?” Hutch challenged Horowitz.

“Know. What do they fuckin’ say Hutchinson?”

“Three strikes and you’re out.”

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE TWO
Tuesday, February 27th, 2001 – 7:56 a.m. (FRANKLIN RESIDENCE – BRENTWOOD)

“Dis must be da place.” Starsky said as he pulled into Wilma Franklin’s circular, cobble stone driveway.

He and Hutch just spent the last several hours going over Adam’s and Horowitzs’ files. They didn’t seem terribly organized or thorough. Starsky and Hutch knew Riche inside and out and decided to start the investigation from scratch starting with the latest murder and working they’re way back. 

The Franklin home was majestic, with immaculate landscaping. The mason work was superb, and had obviously been done by a master craftsman. Its age showed, but this only added to its charm. Ivy climbed the walls and gave the place a New England feel. The only thing that was out of place was the yellow tape with “Bay City Police Department” branded on it in black, block letters and the two police officers that stood guard just outside the massive oak front door.

A small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk and peered curiously through the wrought iron fence. Most of the neighbours were aware of Wilma’s murder by now and only morbid straggler’s remained.

The detectives made their way up the stairs, flashed their badges and entered the house where Ms. Franklin’s murder had taken place.

“I wish we’d seen this place Saturday morning.” Hutch muttered as he roamed through the foyer.
“Yep. This scene is colder than a witch’s tit.” Starsky agreed. “Let’s check out the dining room shall we?”

“We shall.” Hutch said cheerfully as he motioned like a matador to allow Starsky to pass him and lead the way down the marble hall to the dining area.

Nothing had been touched except for the removal of the body. The officers had already visited the morgue the previous afternoon and inspected the corpse and had noticed several hairs out of place, so to speak. The fact that Wilma was much younger than she appeared and that she was not really a blonde surprised the partners. Riche was very particular about his victims and this profile was starting to spring a leak.

The two men milled around the room like they always had. It was like riding a bike. Their eye for detail was as tweaked as ever, they inspected every inch of the place and then some.

The two separated and continued their own investigations of the place. Hutch remained in the dining room as Starsky found his way to the kitchen where he inspected every surface, including the top of the fridge and the contents of each cabinet.

When he rejoined his partner he caught him bent over with one hand on the antique buffet and the other hand rubbing his stomach. Hutch shivered slightly as perspiration formed on his brow. Starsky approached his friend to give support.

“You okay?” He asked quietly.

“I will be. Just give me a few minutes. It’ll pass.”

“Hang in there buddy. You’re doin’ great.”

“Yeah… thanks.” Hutch winced as he straightened up and shook off the DT tremors. “Easy for you to say.”

With an encouraging pat on the shoulder Starsky steered Hutch into the living room to continue the exploration. From there they searched the second floor, then back down to the entrance. They moved out of the house and separated again. The back and side yards seemed in order. They regrouped in the front tract of perfect grass.

“Anything?” Hutch asked as he peered over his partner’s shoulder at his notebook.

“Yeah. Couple things.”

“And they would be?”

“Well, Adams and Horowitz were right. There’s no forced entry and besides the method of death that’s about the only thing that matches the MO.”

“Never know Starsk. People change.”

“People do. Animals don’t.”

“You don’t think an old dog can learn new tricks?”

“Only old cops.” Starsky joked. “What about you?”

“First thing I want to do is get the hand writing checked. See if that’s the same at least.”

“I can’t believe A & H didn’t notice these discrepancies. I mean this is rookie stuff.” Starsky sniffed.

“A & H?”

“Adams and Horowitz.”

“Oh.” Hutch shrugged. “Do you think they’re hiding something?”

“No. I just think they’re stupid.”

Hutch chuckled at his comrade’s bluntness.

“Just can’t get good help these days.”

“We are only a couple hours into this case and there’s not much adding up here.”

The two men stood and took one last look around then faced each other.

“Where to next?” Starsky asked.

“Too early for a drink?”

“Hutch.”

“Come on Starsk. You can’t blame me for trying can you?”

“I think we should do a few interviews around here and then work our way back to …” Starsky checked his notebook ignoring his partner’s request, “Francesca Milano’s house.”

“Awe. Do we have to?”

“What’s the matter Hutch? Not having fun yet?”

“Can’t remember the last time I had this much fun.” He grumbled sarcastically.

“I’m having a great time.”

“I know you are.” Hutch postulated.

The next several hours was taken with no less than seventeen unfruitful interviews with Mrs. Franklin’s gardener and pool boy, twelve neighbours, a UPS delivery man and a couple who were walking their dog at the time of the murder. All but one had conversed with Adams and Horowitz.

They returned to the Grand Prix and slipped inside it like they were being swallowed by the car’s carmel-coloured, calfskin seats. Starsky started her up, checked the rearview mirror and powered out into the street with a shrill of the tires.

“You haven’t changed one bit?” Hutch snorted.

“Whaaaat?”

“Can’t you drive anything that isn’t red?”

“I like red.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“Besides, it isn’t red it’s Redfire red.”

“What?”

“Redfire Red.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Dats da name of da colour.”

“The name of the colour is Redfire Red?”

“Yeah.”

“Who came up with a stupid name like that?” Hutch chided, his face soured as if he’d just sucked a lemon.

“Betta then that pea soup can you drive.”

“Oh really.”

“And… I’ll have you know…” Starsky ignored his friend. “I bought a Harley Davidson two years ago and it’s not red, it’s black.”

“Oh. I’m sure it’s not just black. It’s probably Black Midnight Black or something clever like that.”

“No.” The detective rebuked. “It’s just plain black.”

“Just plain black, huh.”

“Yes… and it’s a beautiful thing.”

“Like I said.”

“What?”

“You haven’t changed a bit. I missed you buddy. I truly did.”

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE THREE
Tuesday, February 27th, 2001 – 8:12 p.m. (BOWL OF CHERRIES BAR & GRILL)

“Hug!” Starsky bellowed as he and his partner entered their new favourite haunt. “Burger, heap of fries and side of slaw.”

“Jeez, can’t you even sit down before you order?” Hutch complained.

“I’m hungry.” The detective pouted as he rubbed his belly.

“And I’m thirsty.” Hutch confessed. “Huggy! Pitcher of beer over here please.”

“Oh no.”

“What do you mean ‘oh no’?”

“Coke.” Starsky corrected his partner. “He’ll have a Coke and so will I. Thanks Hug.”

“Ah crap. Just one beer… come on Starsk. One beer can’t hurt.”

“Listen. There is no way you are falling off this wagon while I’m around. No way.”

Hutch sulked as he watched Huggy saunter over with a tray that held two ice filled colas.

“There. Isn’t that nice? It’s the real thing.” Starsky cracked.

Hutch gave his associate his best Elvis sneer.

“And what would you like to eat my man?” Huggy asked Hutch.

“Got anything that might resemble food?”

“Aren’t we in a bad mood.” Huggy sniffed.

“Ah, don’t mind him Hug, he’s just had a long day is all.”

“I see.” Huggy empathized. “You poor thing.” His sympathy was as phony as Captain Mitchell’s dye job.

“What do you want to eat Hutch?” Starsky forced the question.

“Not hungry.”

“Bring him a toasted western and a house salad.”

“Dressing on the side.” The blonde cop piped up. “And easy on the butter too.”

“Okay. Comin’ right up.”

As he swigged his soda, Starsky pulled out his notebook to peruse the day’s observations. Hutch watched him but made no effort to retrieve his recordings. He finally reached for his drink, sipping it like it was medicine.

“So?” Starsky probed.

“So what?”

“What do you think? Got any theories?”

“Yep.”

“And they would be?”

“Are you ready for this?”

“Shoot.”

Hutch glanced at his partner and winced slightly.

“Sorry. Bad choice of words.”

“Yeah.” Hutch agreed then regrouped. “Riche… did not kill Wilma Franklin. How’s that for a theory?”

“That’s a good one.”

“Took me all day to come up with that one.”

“Ah ha.” Starsky nodded approvingly. He smiled up side down and stuck his lower lip out. “Well, my friend, at this point – I would tend to agree with you. But…”

“But what?”

“But, tomorrow is another day. And another murder scene.” Starsky almost seemed joyful at the prospect.

“We’ll find the same thing at the Milano and Jesper scenes.” Hutch assured. “A big fat zero.”
“When you’re right, you’re right.”

“Damn right, I’m right.” Hutch pronounced as he chomped a cube of ice. He shifted in his seat to sit sideways and flung his arm over the back of the chair. He crossed his legs and perused the place casually.

“We will have to investigate Milano and Jesper though right?” Starsky asked with a sideways glance.

“Well, yeah… of course.” Hutch resolved. “But at the end of the day, we are going to have to find our old friend Riche.”

“That’s the point isn’t it?” Starsky said as he watched his meal placed in front of him.

“The point is Starsk.” Hutch leaned toward the center of the table, “I don’t think he’s going to be that hard to find.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Nope. And do you know the first place I’m going to look?”

“No where?”

“The phone book.”

Starsky grinned widely as he chewed enjoying every word that spewed from his partner’s lips. The camaraderie they’d once shared flooded the recesses of his brain. He couldn’t help but feel utter glee.

“I’ll bet you one hundred bucks he’s listed.” Hutch continued.

“He’s only been out a month.”

“So?”

“Yeah.” Starsky conceded. “You’re right. We’ll check the new listings first thing.”

“Damn right, I’m right.” Hutch sniffed conclusively.

“But when we find out for sure that Riche isn’t the killer, then who do you suppose is?”

“That’s when the fun begins old buddy. That’s when the fun begins.”

“You have an idea don’t you?”

“I still have my intuitions Starsky. My senses haven’t dulled that much.”

“Yeah. So who do you think is behind all this?”

“Just need a few more details and I’ll tell you.”
“Aw… you can’t tell me now?” Starsky swallowed his last bite of hamburger, popped a French fry ort in his mouth as he listened intently.

“Patience my friend. You must be patient.” Hutch wagged his finger mockingly.

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE FOUR
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 7:53 a.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

“Directory assistance for what city please?” The robotic voice echoed into Hutch’s ear.

“Bay City.”

“For what name please?”

“John T. Riche.” Hutch articulated as he winked at his partner who sat atop the kitchen counter munching a Danish and chasing it with a sip of coffee. He grimaced, in anticipation of its hotness.

“I have several listings for that name, sir.”

“I’ll take all of them please. And, I also need listings for that name in the surrounding counties.”

“I’m sorry sir I cannot give all of that information at one time. Could I transfer you to one of our Customer Service Representatives.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“What’s going on?” Starsky asked impatiently.
“I’m on hold. Waiting for a Customer Service Representative.” Hutch made a face.

“Sounds serious.”

The two men stared into space briefly as they waited for someone to help them. Hutch picked at a hangnail and Starsky finished his breakfast. It wasn’t long before Hutch broke the silence.

“Yes. Hello. This is Detective Ken Hutchinson of the BCPD. I need all the telephone listings for a John T. Riche in Bay City and surrounding counties?”

“Do you have an e-mail address Detective Hutchinson?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I can e-mail you that information within the next several moments if you wish.”

“Could you provide addresses as well?”

“Yes sir.”

“Excellent. My address is zebra3hutch@aol.com.” He glanced over at Starsky and shrugged. His partner grinned back at him.

“The information is on the way, sir.”

“Thank you very much.” Hutch said pleasantly as he hung up.

“Zebra3hutch?” Starsky questioned with whimsy.

“Yeah. What’s your e-mail address?”

“dstarsky@yahoo.com”

“Well my name is a little more common then yours.”

“Right.” Starsky agreed with a sentimental smirk.

“Well it is!”

“I’m not arguing with you.”

“Why are you so intrigued by my e-mail address for Christ’s sake?”

“Zebra three?” Starsky quipped.

“Yeah. Zebra three. What’s the big deal?”

“This from a man who hated being numbered by society; the man who insisted on being a person – an i-n-d-i-v-i-d-u-a-l.” Starsky sarcastically enunciated. “The man who gave our dispatcher so much grief about the ten fours and two elevens?”

“I told you man. I’ve changed.”

“That’s for sure. You almost made me choke on my donut.”

“I thought it was a Danish.”

“Danish, donut – whatever.”

“Let me log-on and I’ll print out the stuff and we’ll get going.” Hutch instructed trying to change the subject.

“Fine by me Zebra three Hutch.” Starsky chortled. “I’m going to gas up. I’ll meet you in the car.”

Starsky exited the apartment, leaving Hutch shaking his head and chuckling to himself about his pal’s round of playful harassment. He missed the banter they’d shared a lifetime ago and was starting to enjoy it again. He had missed his partner, but was finding it hard to admit. He was starting to realize that Starsky’s timing couldn’t have been better. If he hadn’t shown up when he did, Hutch wasn’t sure how long he could have lasted. He really was in trouble.

As he pondered, “You’ve got mail” interrupted his thoughts. He clicked, printed and then grabbed the page from his HP. He shut down the computer again, threw on his black baseball jacket with the white leather sleeves and walked out of the his place to meet his partner.

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE FIVE
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 8:43 a.m. (THE GRAND PRIX)

“You’ve still got that jacket?”

“Yeah.” Hutch said as he glanced down at his torso admiring the coat. “I love this jacket.”

“Hmmm.”

“What.”

“You just keep on surprising me, that’s all.”

“I do, do I?”

“Yeah.” Starsky surmised. “What’cha got there?”

“Print out of guys named Riche.”

“How many are there?”

“Not as many as I thought. But, we do have our work cut out for us.” Hutch announced as he straightened himself in the seat of the Grand Prix and put on his seat belt. “Well, what are you waiting for… let’s go.”

“Okay. Where to first?”

“Got a hunch about this listing in Burbank. Let’s try that one first and work our way back.”

“Okay.” Starsky huffed remembering the day-to-day grind of police work.

“What’s the matter?”

“I hate this part.”

“Hey. You started all this.”

“I know, I know.” The curly-haired detective sighed.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky.” Hutch said seriously, focusing on the road ahead.

“Well, I already feel lucky.”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“We’re back working together aren’t we?” Starsky said.

“Yes we are partner. Yes we are.” Hutch agreed. “But that’s enough of the sap okay, my stomach is still a little queasy. And… by the way… you owe me a hundred bucks”

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE SIX
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 10:04 a.m. (1345 WILMINGTON ROAD – BURBANK)

The apartment building at 1345 Wilmington was somewhat disheveled and seemed vacant. This did not surprise the detectives though. This was typical of where an ex-con might live after several years of incarceration. 

“What number?” Starsky called back at Hutch as he climbed the stairs of the building’s front stoop.

“302.” Hutch replied glancing down at the printout.

As he did he tripped over a break in the sidewalk. It made Starsky chuckle, but he continued on without flinging a single wisecrack. Hutch just looked back at the bump and shook his head. He collected himself and followed his partner through the front door of the apartment building.

The place only had three floors and had no elevator.  The smell in the stairwell was revolting and seemed to cling to the two cops like plastic wrap.

“What IS that smell?” Starsky protested with a wrinkled face.

“I don’t know, Starsk. But one murder at a time okay.”

“Yes. That’s it. It smells like a dead body.” Starsky snipped brightly as if he’d just been enlightened.  “This can’t be good.”

“I just hope it’s not coming from apartment 302.”

Slightly out of breath, the men reached the third floor. They glanced at each other remembering how easy it used to be. Hutch held his heart mockingly. They looked left then right trying to figure out which way the room numbers went.

“This way.” Hutch pointed.

“God. It’s getting worse.”

Hutch ignored his comrade, focusing on the hallway that resembled a cave’s tunnel. The wallpaper was shredded and hanging like wet toilet paper. Mildew covered the walls and carpet, only adding to the nauseating stench of the building’s rotting cavity. How could anyone live here? And, if they did, whey hadn’t they report this nastiness.

Hutch could feel the tightness in his stomach getting more and more taut as he moved down the hallway toward apartment 302. He pulled his gun from its holster.

When they entered the room they were hit with a wall of odor. It was so vile the detectives felt like a seven-foot linebacker had just tackled them. The place was clouded with flies and garbage filled the place. The body was face down in the middle of the room. The back of its head was crumpled resembling a deflated volleyball. The pool of blood that surrounded the upper half of the man was now congealed and had the look and feel of chocolate syrup. 

The cops approached cautiously, holding their breaths so they wouldn’t pass out. Hutch reholstered his weapon.

“Do you think its’ Riche?” Starsky asked between tiny sips of air.

Hutch knelt to retrieve the wallet that lay conspicuously beside the murdered man. He opened it and found it cleaned out of cash. There was a Red Cross card that read ‘John Riche’.”

“It’s him alright.” Hutch confirmed.

“How long do you think he’s been here?”

“A long time Starsk. A heck of a long time.” The blonde cop sighed. “Too long to have murdered Jesper at least.”

“This doesn’t make any sense, Hutch.” Starsky exclaimed as he circled the body taking in every angle. “Why would someone murder John Riche and leave him here to be discovered.”

“Whoever did this wanted it to look like a robbery.”

“Robbing a derelict isn’t very profitable.” Starsky mumbled.

Hutch pulled out his cell phone and contacted the coroner’s office.

“We need a crime team at 1345 Wilmington Street … Burbank.” Hutch ordered. “Apartment 302.”

The detectives continued to mill around the room hunting for clues being careful not to disturb the murder scene.

“Do you think whoever is behind this is responsible for the Jesper, Milano and Franklin murders?” Starsky asked.

“Yep. Don’t you?”

“Absolutely.” Starsky agreed. “But he’s in deeper than he wants to be. This guy’s an amateur. He’s trying to cover his steps but missing, you know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” Hutch resolved. “But, I’ve got a feeling he wants us to think that. This is more obvious than a three legged horse.”

“We’ve got a copy cat on our hands.” Starsky summarized as he stood over the body with his hands on his hips. He let out a lung full of air through his nose.

“Yeah.” Hutch concurred. “I just hope who ever it is, is on his ninth life.”

 

ACT FOUR – SCENE SEVEN
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 1:23 p.m. (POLICE HEADQUARTERS – MITCHELL’S OFFICE)

“What have you guys got so far?”

“Well captain…” Starsky began after chewing then swallowing a bite of his corned beef on rye.

The two cops had grabbed lunch at a local deli and decided to fill in Captain Mitchell as they ate.

“We found Riche.”

“You’ve arrested him already?”

“In a manner of speaking and I’ll tell you one thing, he wasn’t hard to find which kinda worries me a bit.”

“Oh yeah, why’s that?” Captain Mitchell asked.

“Why’s that? What the hell were Adam’s and Horowitz doing the last three weeks? Not to toot our own horns here Mitch, but it took us less then 48 hours to find him. Hutch found Riche listed in the phone book for Christ’s sake. So I think your detectives have some explaining to do.”

“So, where is he?”

“Where’s who?”

“Riche.”

“Oh.” Starsky popped. “He’s in the morgue.”

“He’s Dead?”

“Yeah, Mitch – you know - not alive – expired … murdered.” Hutch curtly interjected.

“HEY!” The captain barked. “Who the hell do you think you’re talking to Hutchinson?”

Hutch wiped a smudge of mustard from the corner of his mouth, raised his eyebrows and then bowed his head to mask his ire.

“What else?” Mitchell asked Starsky after removing an icy stare from the top of Hutch’s flaxen head.

“What else? What do you mean what else?”

“What… else… have… you… got?”

The detectives took a moment to glance at one another in disbelief.

“Excuse me sir.” Starsky said putting down his pickle and leaning his chest against the front of his superior’s desk. He slurred through the dill juice. “Don’t take this the wrong way but… are you thick or something? Riche is DEAD. He’s been dead for over two weeks. Do I have to spell it out for you?”

“No detective. I don’t think that is necessary.”

“Well then what are you asking me?” Starsky shoved the remainder of his sandwich in his mouth as he sat back in his chair mumbling to his partner. “What else have you got, he says.”

“What I mean sergeant, is if you’ve established that Riche couldn’t possibly have murdered Milano, Jesper and Franklin – then who did?”

“That is this afternoon’s work.”

Hutch chortled at Starsky’s jab.

“So what’s next?” Mitchell inquired ignoring the twosome’s insolence.

“We still have to interview everyone from the Milano and Jesper cases. Hopefully that will lead us somewhere.”

“Okay. Good. Get to it then.” Mitchell said as he resumed his paperwork.

Yet another glance passed between Starsky and Hutch. They grabbed their food and exited Mitchell’s office. They went to their desks to finish lunch but did not utter a word. They were suspicious the walls might have ears and did not want to talk about the case in the squad room.

It had come down to just the two of them again. They could only trust one another. It was kismet. The footing of their relationship that had previously felt shaky was now solidified. Starsky and Hutch were, once again, partners.

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE ONE
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 2:55 p.m. – (RICHMOND RESIDENCE – BRENTWOOD)

“Good afternoon.” Hutch greeted through the wire mesh peephole of Victoria Richmond’s front door. “I’m Detective Ken Hutchinson and this is my partner David Starsky. We’re investigating the murder of your neighbour Francesca Milano? May we take just a moment of your time?”

“I’ve already spoken to several policemen about it. Is this necessary?” She protested. “Don’t you have my statement on file?”

“Yes ma’am we do.” Starsky continued. “We just have several other questions to ask. May we?”

Mrs. Richmond hesitated but conceded and cautiously opened the door. As the two cops entered the foyer of her home, they produced their badges. They were guided into the sitting room and offered coffee.

“No thank you.” Starsky responded politely. He placed himself in a large leather chair that made him feel like a baseball in a catcher’s mitt.

“I’ll have a cup.” Hutch accepted still trying desperately to fight off the after effects of detox. “Black please.” He pulled out his PALM Pilot and poised his electronic pen.

Starsky looked over with envy. He still used the old-fashioned way… pencil and paper.

“Now. Mrs. Richmond. We know, from reading your statement that you were home at the time of Francesca’s murder. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“And, it also says that you didn’t see or hear anything unusual that night?”

“Yes.”

“Were you friends with the diseased?”

“Oh my God, no!”

Hutch stopped sipping his coffee and held the cup to his mouth surprised at the woman’s reaction. He glanced at his partner.

“Why’s that ma’am?” Starsky asked. He too seemed intrigued.

“I don’t socialize with women like that.”

“Like what?”

“Women who use their ex-husband’s money to entertain a different man each evening makes me… well, sick.” She stated forcefully.

“Could you elaborate on that ma’am?”   

“Well. It’s just like I said. It’s no wonder she was murdered.”

“Excuse me?”

“What I’m saying officer, is that tramp invited strange men into her home almost every night of the week. Even on SUNDAY!”

“I see.” Starsky said. “And this offended you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because her ex-husband is my brother. And she seemed to enjoy parading her men in and out of her home like a turnstile.”

“Were you friends with Ms. Milano when she and your brother were still together?”

“I never approved of his marriage to her. She’s not of our… how shall I put it… social standing. She’s from Mexico.” Mrs. Richmond whispered. “She knew from the beginning that I didn’t like her and yet she insisted on buying the house right next door. Don’t you see what kind of person she is… was? Vindictive and petty and well… a bitch. She didn’t even take my brother’s name when she married him. I don’t know what he ever saw in her.”

“Okay. Then let me ask you this?” Hutch took another mouthful of coffee and began. “How long was she married to your brother?”

“Oh. Only seven months.”

“Do you think she was a gold digger, Mrs. Richmond?”

“Well of course. Don’t you?” She blurted. “She took my brother for everything he had.”

“How can we contact your brother, ma’am?”

“My brother resides out of the country Mr. Starsky.”

“I’m Starsky… he’s Hutch.” The dark haired cop pointed out.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I’m not very good with names and faces.”

“What country would that be?” Hutch asked.

“He lives in Canada now and has for the last six months. What was left of his money goes a lot further up there.”

“Could I have his address please?”

“What do you want with him?”

“Just routine ma’am.” Hutch assured.

“He lives in Vancouver. I can get it for you.” Mrs. Richmond yielded.

“Thank you.” Hutch decided to change the direction of the conversation. “Where were you, exactly… in the house I mean, at 10:30 the night of the murder… ummm, Friday the ninth?” He said peeking at his notes like he needed glasses.

“I was in bed reading.”

“Was your husband with you?”

“No. He was out of town on business that week.”

“I see. May we see your bedroom and its proximity to the crime?”

“Don’t you believe me?”

“Of course we believe you Mrs. Richmond. It’s just standard procedure. Just part of our investigation that’s all.”

“The other officers never asked to see my bedroom.”

“Just what exactly DID they ask you Mrs. Richmond?”

“Oh…” She contemplated. “… if I’d seen or heard anything. If I knew the victim. And that was all really. They didn’t ask to come in or anything. They just talked to me at the door.”

The cops looked at each other affirming that Adam’s and Horowitz were anything but thorough.

“It’s our case now, and we’d like to cover all the bases.” Starsky said.

“Well, I think I should wait for my husband before I allow you upstairs.”

“It’ll only take a moment ma’am.” Hutch curled his most charming grin. His enchanting smile always worked on women especially when he wanted something. His professional cop look waned to that of a cherub when there was unorthodox police work to be done. Both men had lady-killer smiles.

“Well. I guess it will be all right.” She succumbed. “It’s up the stairs and the third door down on the left.”

Hutch gave Starsky a cavalier wink showing that he still had what it took. Starsky returned it with a simple raise of his eyebrows.

“Thank you so much. We’ll show ourselves out afterwards.” 

The twosome only took several moments to realize that Mrs. Richmond’s bedroom was clearly unsuitable for witnessing anything as far as her neighbour was concerned. Her window looked onto a courtyard on the opposite side of the building. The Milano house couldn’t even be seen from that angle. They made their way down the stairs toward the front door to exit. Mrs. Richmond handed Hutch a piece of paper with her brother’s information on it. They thanked her for her cooperation and left the home.

“Do you think her brother has anything to do with this Starsk?”

“Nope.”

“Yeah. You’re right. There’s nothing here.”

“Just a touch of Peyton Place is all.” Starsky muttered as he and Hutch walked toward the car. “Hey Hutch?”

“Yeah.”

“How many Mexican women you know have blonde hair?”

“Not many.”

“Guess she bleached it then.”

“Yup. But Riche wouldn’t stray from his pattern.”

“That’s what I’m thinkin’. This copycat thing is starting to bother me. I mean, who knows about Riche’s MO anyway? It’s someone who either knew about the crimes from reading about it in the press twenty years ago and knew he was out of prison or it’s someone on the inside.” Starsky outlined as he opened the door to the drivers seat.

“You think it’s a cop?” Hutch asked over the roof of the Grand Prix.

“Could be.”

“Yes. It could be. A little obvious though, don’t you think?”

“Maybe.”

Hutch checked his list of people to contact. He added Peter Richmond to his notes and his phone number and address in Vancouver.

“You had a hunch at Huggy’s the other night. Who’d you have in mind?” Starsky asked as he stared at his hands that were placed atop the steering wheel.

“Mitchell.”

“It figures.”

“Why?”

“You’ve never liked the guy, Hutch.”

“So?”

“Just saying.” Starsky defended.

“I’m not suspicious of him because I don’t like him. Give me more credit than that.” Hutch grunted. “I’m suspicious of him because this whole thing seems… I don’t know, so contrived.”

“What do you mean?”

“Us being asked to take over this case. Mitchell taking over for Dobey. The simple fact that Riche is dead and Adams and Horowitz not finding him. The copycat theory – the not so MO. This has stunk from the get go. I just hope we aren’t being set up to take the fall.”

A pause dangled uncomfortably between the two men.

“Come on Starsk. BC has a very large police force with plenty of talent to choose from. Why us?”

“Because we were successful the first time round that’s why us.”

Yet another hesitation lingered in mid air.

“Do you think we should take the captain out for dinner?” Hutch smirked manipulatively, changing mental gears. “You know for old times sake?”

“You mean question him?”

“Well, we can’t exactly drag him into an interrogation room and flash a bare light bulb in his eyes now can we.” Hutch summarized.

“Nope. Guess not.”

“God. Turn on the air conditioning will you? I’m roasting in here.”

Starsky started the engine and leaned over to flip the switch and pump up the coolant.

“What’s next?”

“Let’s see.” Hutch returned his focus to his PALM Pilot. “A Mr. Simione. He’s Ms. Jesper’s neighbour. Wonder if he has anything to add?”

“I doubt it. But we’ll ask him anyway.”

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE TWO
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 4:02 p.m. (THE GRAND PRIX)

“So… ah… Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I play with your PALM Pilot?”

“No you can’t play with my PALM Pilot. Get your own PALM Pilot.”

“Well, does it have any games on it?”

“Yes it has games but that isn’t why I bought it.”

“Oh no?”

“It’s not a toy Starsky. It’s a tool. When you own your own business you can buy stuff like that and use it as a tax right off.”

“Oh come on, let me play with it.”

“NO! I’ve got all my important information in there. My e-mail addresses and phone numbers and all my notes. If you play with it you’ll erase everything.”

“No I won’t. I know what I’m doing.”

“Maybe later. You can’t play with it now… you’re driving.”

“Ah… you get all the fun.”

“Oh yeah.” Hutch blurted cynically. “I’ve had nothing but fun for twenty years now. Fun, fun, fun. It’s been a real hoot. My life has been a Beach Boy song.”

“I didn’t mean to rehash what happened. I’m sorry okay. How many times do I have to say it?”

“I know. I know you’re sorry Starsk.”

An uncomfortable pause wafted between the two men. Several moments passed before Starsky spoke up again.

“So… ah… Hutch?”

“Yes?” He sounded irritated.

“What happened after… you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“I saw the scars. What happened?”

“Ah Starsky. You don’t want to hear all about that do you?”

“No, you’re right, I don’t WANT to hear about it but I think I should, don’t you?”

“Well, if you insist.” Hutch took a deep breath before he began to rhyme off the list of his medical procedures.

“During the emergency surgery back in ’79, the doctors had to do a lot of exploring and they did a lot of damage. So in ’82, I had to go back in to have re-constructive surgery on my abdomen. Then two years after that I had to have my gall bladder removed.”

Starsky winced. The discomfort he felt made him squirm in his seat.

“Then three years ago, I had appendicitis. So,” Hutch sighed, “I’ve been on prescription drugs for almost twenty years straight. After my doctor cut me off I turned to beer and then the harder stuff. I had to have something.” Hutch reasoned.

“Oh man.”

Yet another hesitation in the conversation split the air.

“So… ah… Starsky?” Hutch decided to change the subject.

“Ahum?”

“Bring me up-to-date on your life. I heard you got married.”

“Yes. Me and Rachel got married in ’85. She left me a couple years ago. One two many 48-hour shifts.  I thought we had it good. I thought it was working. I guess she didn’t.”

“Any kids?”

“No. We tried.”

“Sorry.” Hutch said.

“Hey, I think it’s a good thing now.”

“What about your partner in San Diego?”

“Blair? He’s a good man.” Starsky answered casually. “Been together for twelve years now.”

“So what did you do for him when you left? Did you leave him a nice neat note too?”

“Ah come on Hutch…  that’s not fair.”

“If you say so?”

“Me and Blair never had what we had.” Starsky confessed.

“Oh no?”

“No.” He confirmed. “We could have it again Hutch.”

“I hope so Starsk. I really do.”

“So… ah… Hutch?”

“Ya.”

“Can I play with your PALM Pilot?”

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE THREE
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 4:34 p.m. (THE SIMIONE RESIDENCE – BRENTWOOD)

“Looks like nobody’s home.” Starsky muttered as he pulled along the curb in front of Mr. Simione’s upscale home like a plane coming in for a landing.

“I’ll check.”

Hutch got out of the car and jogged up to the intercom that hung outside the intricate gate that stood guard at the bottom of the driveway. He pressed the button several times, but there was no answer. He peered through the wrought iron for any sign of movement, but the place was definitely vacant. He walked back to the car and got in.

“Must be on vacation or something.”

“I guess.” Starsky said. “Now what?”

“Why do I always have to decide. Why don’t YOU make the next move?” Hutch stampeded taking his comrade totally off guard. “I can’t be expected to drive this investigation all by myself. I thought this was a partnership? Why don’t you take the fuckin reins for a change? Some things never change.”

“Jeez. Take it easy.” Starsky flinched. “Just asking ‘now what’ is all.”

“You know Starsk? This was your idea God damn it. I was cruising along with my life until you showed up. Now I’m the one asking the questions and taking the notes and … and steering this thing. All you’re doing is chauffeuring me around. Hell. I can drive myself!”

“Alright. Alright.” 

“Well, do your share damn it.”

“I AM DOING MY SHARE!” Starsky blasted. “And you know what? If I hadn’t come along when I did Detective Hutchinson, you’d still be spending all your waking hours sucking vodka like a baby with a bottle. So, don’t give me that ‘my life was cruising along’ crap.”

“Well, it was!”

“Bullshit!” Dave shouted. “Now what’s next?”

Hutch sighed and shielded his eyes with his hand. He shook his head and grinned.

“Feeling better now that you’ve gotten that off your chest?” Starsky asked timidly.

The blonde cop bobbed his head and chuckled at his dramatic outburst.

“I can take it you know Hutch. I know you’re still hurtin’, but there’s nothing you can say or do to break us down this time.” Starsky preached. “I’m here for the duration. ‘Til death do us part and all that.”

“I’d take death right about now.”

“Don’t you say that!” Starsky barked.

Hutch raised his hand in submission. He realized what a stupid thing that was to say.

“Can we call it a day?” Hutch surrendered.

“Yeah. Sure we can.”

They started to drive back to Hutch’s place. Starsky was still living in a hotel room and was eager to get some alone time. He was still fearful that Hutch might fall off the wagon if he let him out of his sight, but the trust factor loomed. He had to test him at some point. They rode silently for several miles.

“I’m sorry Starsk.” Hutch blurted. “I’m just feeling really bad. My head aches and my stomach is churning. It’s frustrating me and I’m taking it out on you. I’m tired of feeling sick. I’m tired of being tired.”

“I know.”

“I’m glad you’re back.” Hutch finally conceded. “It might not seem like it to you. But, I am glad.”

“Me too.”

“Listen.” Hutch digressed.

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you check out of the hotel. Then you can come and stay with me.”
“I could. You sure about that?”

“Yes. Truth be known, I’m afraid if you don’t baby-sit, I’ll end up back at square one.”

“Okay. Whatever you think is best.”

“Let’s grab some Chinese and go over what we have so far and regroup in the morning.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Starsky agreed. “Are you sure you can stomach Chinese food right now?”

“No. But I’m willing to try.”

“Won Ton soup might be the ticket.”

“Won Ton soup it is.”

“All I want… is Won Ton Soup…” Starsky began to sing. “And yoooou… to eat it with meeee…”

“Honey yeah-yeah… get me home.”

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE FOUR
Wednesday, February 28th, 2001 – 8:23 p.m. (HUTCH’S CONDO)

“Feeling better?”

“A little bit.”

“Soup helping your stomach any?”

“Yeah.”

Hutch leaned back in his chair and sipped the rest of his warm ginger ale. He watched his partner wolf down his chow mien and what was left of the chicken fried rice.

“So. What next?” Starsky winked and chased it with a sarcastic smirk and a swallow of Dr. Pepper.

“Very funny.”

“I’m just kidding. You’ve got no sense of humour anymore.”

“I know when something’s funny, Starsk.”

“Okay.” The curly-haired cop yielded.

“I think I’m going to give Peter Richmond a call in Vancouver. Get that done anyway. I’ve got to call the lab about the handwriting sample too. Takes a lot longer to get things back these days.”
“No, no. Allow me. I’ll call Richmond.”

“It’s okay Starsk. I can do it.”

“No. I insist. You relax. You’re right. I’ve gotta pull more weight.” Starsky stood and pulled his napkin from the front of his shirt. He rubbed his tongue over his teeth to clear his mouth of his final bite. He smacked his lips and moved toward the phone. “What’s da numba?”

“Just a second.”

Hutch pulled his PALM from the breast pocket of his jacket that was flung over the back of the sofa and scanned through the info until he got to the data that Victoria Richmond had given him.

“It’s ahhh… 604-555-7234.”

Starsky dialed. He smiled insipidly at Hutch who finished off his soda with a slurp. Starsky continued to play with the bits of food caught between his teeth as he waited for someone to pickup. Hutch started to clean up the dishes.

“Hello. May I speak with Peter Richmond please?”

“This is he.” Came the reply.

“Good evening Mr. Richmond. My name is Detective David Starsky of the Bay City Police Department. I was wondering if you could spare a moment of your time?”

“Well, what’s this about?”

“It’s about the murder of your ex-wife.”

“Yes.”

“Well, sir, I was wondering if you could tell me when was the last time you spoke with Francesca?”

“I haven’t seen or spoken with her in several months.”

“Are you aware of the circumstances surrounding her murder?”

“No. I’m not aware of any details. I was informed of her murder by my sister.”

“So. You’ve had no contact with the deceased for sometime then?”

“Correct.”

“Do you know of anyone who might hold a grudge against your ex-wife or anyone you might suspect?”

“No sir.” Peter Richmond replied simply.

“What about you Mr. Richmond? Did you have any issues with Ms. Milano?”

“No. Our separation and divorce were completely amicable.”

“Amicable. Well, that’s very good sir. Unusual, but good. I know from personal experience that divorce can be very trying at times and the fact that you and Ms. Milano separated on good terms is good to know.”

“Yes… well, is there anything else? I’m just on my way out.”

“No sir. Thank you. If we have anymore questions, we know where to contact you.”

“Good night officer.”

“Good night.”

Starsky hung up the phone but did not take his eyes from it – deep in thought. Only the clattering of dishes chipped the air. Finally Hutch broke the spell.

“So? Anything?”

There was no answer.

“Starsky?”

“Huh?”

“What did he say?”

“He ahhh… he said their divorce was amicable. No problems with it at all. He seemed very matter of fact about it.” 

“Doesn’t exactly coincide with his sister’s viewpoint does it?”

“No. It doesn’t”

“Well, sometimes relationship spectators don’t have their facts right. I mean it’s pretty plain that Victoria was not a big fan of Francesca’s. But, that doesn’t mean that the relationship wasn’t affable right?” Hutch reasoned.

“I guess.”

“You don’t sound very sure.”

“No. I’m not quite sure if I believe him or not. I hate doing interviews over the phone.” Starsky griped. “I need eye contact.”

Hutch nodded in agreement.

“Well, I’m going to unpack some stuff and take a shower. Okay with you?”

“Sure. Make yourself at home.”

“Laker’s game is on. Wanna watch that for awhile?”

“Yeah. I’ll turn it on.”

“Amicable.” Starsky muttered quietly to himself as he grabbed his suitcase and headed for the bathroom. “An amicable divorce. Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.” 

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE FIVE
Thursday, March 1st, 2001 – 8:12 a.m. (POLICE HEADQUARTERS)

“Good morning.” Captain Mitchell greeted as he entered the police squad room.

As he moved to the back corner where Starsky and Hutch had planted themselves he glanced at each cop’s paperwork and computer screen as he passed.

“Hey Captain.”

“And how are things going with you boys?”

“It’s goin’.” Hutch replied sternly without peering up from the sea of paperwork he was rifling through.

“What’s on the agenda for today then?”

“Well actually Mitch, we were just talking about you.” Starsky grinned.

“Oh yeah? What about?”

“Well. We’d like to take you to dinner. Our treat. Sort of get reacquainted and bring you up to date.”

“We can go over the case in my office if you like.” Mitchell offered.

“No. No. We want to take you out… sort of a thank you for giving us a chance and getting us back together… you know.”

“Okay Starsky. Sounds fine. When?”

“We’ll drop by your office around six tonight if that’s okay.”

“As a matter of fact, tonight is the only night I’m free.”

“Not for long.” Hutch mumbled to himself.

Mitchell did not hear him.

“Great. We’ll see you tonight then?”

The captain affirmed politely but seemed somewhat suspicious of the plan. He exited the squad room and was swallowed up by the busy hallway that seemed to have an endless flow of people traffic.

“That guy makes my skin crawl.”

“Come on Hutch. He’s okay.”

“I thought you were a better judge of character than that?”

“I can only judge a person’s character when they have one.” Starsky quipped.

Hutch sniffed a chuckle. He slapped his file folder shut, leaned back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head.

“Handwriting analysis came back.”

“And…”

“No match.”

“That figures.” Starsky shrugged.

“So, what do you say we get the rest of these interviews done, just for the record.”

“You really think he had something to do with this?” Starsky pointed at the door with his chin.

“There’s something there Starsk. Mark my words, there’s something there.”

********

Yet another tour of Brentwood filled that Thursday. They talked to twelve people both on the phone and in person about the Jesper murder but the officers knew that Mitchell was the key to this killing spree. They knew that Riche was a cover for something far deeper. The going-through-the-motions of that afternoon was just that – semantics.

After finishing the interviews, eleven cups of coffee, forty-seven pages of reports, seventy-nine miles, a dried up hot dog each and five pit stops the partners found themselves back at the ranch to take their superior out for a dinner they didn’t want to go to. They wearily shuffled down the hall of the police precinct toward Mitchell’s office.

“I hope my second wind kicks in soon.” Hutch sighed – fatigue etched on his face.

“Really.”

“Well here goes nothin’.” Hutch knocked on Mitchell’s office door.

“Come in.”

Starsky poked his head in and asked if the captain was ready to go. He was and they did.

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE SIX
Thursday, March 1st, 2001 – 8:23 p.m. (CHEZ MAX RESTAURANT)

After comparing divorce stories and catching up on the past fifteen years, the men got down to brass tacks. Hutch had stayed fairly quiet throughout the evening, letting Starsky take the lead. Half way through their entrées the subtle inquisition began. 

“Well. Things are coming together on this case, Mitch.”

“So fast? Dobey wasn’t wrong about you two.”

“Thank you.” Starsky gushed bashfully.

Hutch gave no sign of receiving the recognition. He was totally focused on removing all the flesh from his crab as if it were a mind-bending puzzle. 

“So, you’ve come up with a suspect then?”

“Yes. Yes we have.”

“And he would be…?”

“Well, we know these killings are copycats.” Starsky diverted. “I mean the fact that we found Riche dead, and dead for several days, was the kicker. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Mitchell seemed intrigued with the report thus far as he cut his steak and ate it with superb table manners. He sipped his red wine.

“Now, Hutch and I don’t pretend to be super cops, we just do our jobs and eventually we can crack just about any case. You know, just good old-fashioned hard work.” Starsky then leaned in for effect. “Frankly Captain, we haven’t had to work that hard and right now the way I see it … this case stinks like a garbage dump in August.”

“Stinks? What do you mean, it stinks?” Mitchell swallowed hard and placed his knife and fork gingerly on the side of his plate. He tapped his mouth with the tip of his linen napkin. Hutch glanced up to witness the captain’s reaction.

“We believe that who ever murdered these women had to know the MO.” Starsky continued. “Now this is a twenty year old MO, so we are pretty sure it’s not a private citizen. That would mean that this person would have had to get their information from the press. It is unlikely to us that a private citizen would do that… save a twenty year old MO for them to use just in case they might need it as a cover in the distant future. Do you see where I’m going with this, sir?”

“No. I’m not sure I am.”

The partners looked at one another and rolled their eyes. They used their renowned telepathy to communicate and agreed to force the question. Hutch went ahead and threw the first punch.

“What Starsky is telling you Mitch, is that we believe the murderer is a cop.”

“A cop! Not one of my men, surely?”

The twosome stayed fast and did not indulge Mitchell’s dramatics. Instead, they burned stares into his face as if a subliminal interrogation light bulb blistered. The suspicion on their faces was no longer hidden. There was a moment of silence before the captain finally tuned-in.

“ME? You think I murdered those women?”

Their accelerated conversation alerted several of the patrons and a waiter that passed them carrying a tray of surf’n turf. He almost dropped it on Starsky’s head.

“Do you have alibis for each night of the murders, Captain Mitchell?”

“I can’t be-fucking-lieve this!”

“Answer my partner’s question Mitch.” Hutch said squarely.

“I don’t know what I was doing.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I mean I have to check my… you’re kidding me right. This is a bad joke.”

“No sir. This is no joke.”

“What’s my motive?”

“That is something we intend to find out.” Starsky stated. “I think we should start our questioning right now, don’t you Hutch?”

“Yes. I believe we should.”

“Listen you two…” Mitchell pointed. “I will not be a scapegoat just so you guys can look good. This is outrageous. Hutchinson has hated me from the start.”

“Exactly. You brought us on to take over this case from Dumb and Dumber. Out of all the detectives on this force, why us? We were in mothballs for God’s sake. We figure it’s your way of diverting attention. In other words, why would a murderer hire his own executioner?”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Why did you hire us Mitch?” Hutch fired point blank.

“Look it. I needed you guys so I could look good. I’ll admit that. There WAS no one else. I mean, after Horowitz came back from vacation in Vancouver he totally lost focus. The guy was…”

“Excuse me?” The sergeants asked simultaneously.

“What?” Mitchell asked in a state of confusion.

“What did you just say?”

“I said there was no else.”

“No. About the vacation… Horowitz was on vacation?”

“Yes. He got back from a week in Vancouver about a month and a half ago.”

Suddenly Mitchell found himself alone at the table. Starsky and Hutch were up and out of the place so fast they were a blur. It was like a Loonie Toon episode. He looked around the restaurant and found the entire clientele staring at him as if he’d just had a drink poured on his head by an insulted woman.

He tried to hide his discomfort and resumed eating his meal as if everything was normal. His face burned with embarrassment as the blood rushed from his racing heart into his brain. The art deco decor swirled around him. What the hell was that all about he thought? He intended to find out. He left his half-eaten dinner, paid the check and left.

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE SEVEN
Thursday, March 1st, 2001 – 9:13 p.m. (THE GRAND PRIX)

“This is Detective’s Hutchinson and Starsky. We need an address for Detective Stanley Horowitz BCPD.” The blonde cop barked into his cell phone to the police dispatcher. 

His adrenaline overflowed.

“You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’ Starsk?”

“Richmond hired Horowitz to kill his wife, dig up an old Mo and used Riche as cover. Jesper and Franklin were innocent by-standers. So was Riche for that matter.”

“Great minds think alike.”

“Really.”

The radio interrupted the men’s conversation announcing that Horowitz lived on Sequoia Avenue. Starsky picked up speed and felt like he’d fallen back twenty years. He felt like a young man again. It was a feeling he’d forgotten. He hadn’t realized how much he missed it.

“Take it easy, Starsk. He doesn’t know we’re coming.” Hutch lectured. “What is this a 70’s TV cop show? Slow down will you? Who do you think we are – The Dukes of Hazard?”

“Okay, okay. You are no fun anymore.”

“What do you mean I’m no fun anymore? I always told you to slow down even back then. This isn’t anything new! Remember the time you drove me into the side of that truck. You almost broke my neck! I just don’t want to do THAT again.”

“You sure know how to spoil everything.”

“Look it. If we come barreling up his street he’s gone. So just cool it, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Starsky grumbled.

He slowed to an even keel. The traffic was unusually light. A sprinkle of rain started to fall. It made the road glisten and the tires started to sound like they were traveling along a continuous strip of Velcro.

“Should be right along here… there.” Hutch pointed. “Turn left right here.”

“Turn right here?”

“No turn left here.”

“Oh. Sorry, I can’t see a thing.” Starsky stated.

“What do you mean you can’t see a thing?”

“Well, I’m supposed to wear glasses when I’m driving.”

“So why aren’t you?”

“I lost them.”

“So added to your propensity to drive like Steve McQueen on steroids, you are also blind.” Hutch blasted.

“Yes.” Starsky admitted simply. “You got a problem with that?”

“Oh, no. No problem… Starsky?”

“Yeah?”

“From now on, I’ll drive!”

“Over my dead body!”

“That can be arranged.” Hutch concluded.

*******

The street lamps shone off the surface of the pavement and blinked as the Grand Prix broke through their reflections. Both detectives were now silent but each felt that intense feeling they always experienced right before a confrontation with a suspect. It was like the calm before the storm, only the calm was anything but. The prelude was filled with pulsing testosterone and the clenching of teeth.

Starsky pulled into Horowitz’s driveway and the men got out of the car. They quietly closed the doors and walked up the front steps of the home. Everything seemed tranquil. They rang the bell and readied themselves for a tussle.

A pretty woman answered the door. She held a dishtowel in her hand. Her body was silhouetted against the glare of the kitchen light. The television was on and Hutch could swear he heard the theme song from “The Fugitive”.

“Mrs. Horowitz?” He asked politely.

“Yes?”

“This is Detective Starsky and I’m Detective Hutchinson.”

“Oh my God… no!”

“Ma’am?”

“What’s happened? Is Stan alright?”

“Your husband isn’t home then?” Starsky questioned as he peered past her into the living room.

“No. Has he been hurt? Where is he?”

“He’s fine Mrs. Horowitz. We’d just like to know his whereabouts.”

“Jeez. You scared the shit out of me. When a cop comes to your door its usually bad news, you know?”

“Sorry ma’am… so… where is your husband?”

The partner’s pulled up their collars to avoid getting wet. The rainstorm had kicked up a notch.

“He left about a half hour ago.” She held her hand to her breast as if comforting her heart like a puppy.

“Where did he go?”

“Union Station.”

“Why?” Hutch probed.

“An old college buddy of his is coming in to town.” She explained. “They were going to go out for a drink.”

“Thank you.” Starsky said hastily as he and Hutch turned and scrambled down the stairs of the porch.

“Is there any message?” Mrs. Horowitz called after them.

Starsky slipped on the slick grass when he rounded the front of the car and landed on his butt drenching his jeans. He disappeared for a moment but regained his footing and threw himself into the driver’s seat.

“That was graceful.” Hutch cracked.

“Damn it! I banged my elbow on the bumper. Shit that hurts.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” Starsky winced and sucked air between his teeth as he turned the key in the ignition.

“How fast can you get to the train station?”

“Depends.”

“Oh yeah? On what?”

“On if you are going to nag me about my driving.”

“Pedal to the medal Steveo.” Hutch granted permission. “Let’s go!”

“Steve McQueen.” The curly-haired cop sniffed. “I can drive better then him.”

“In your dreams Starsky, old man. In your dreams.”

 

ACT FIVE – SCENE EIGHT
Thursday, March 1st, 2001 – 10:02 p.m. (LOS ANGELES TRAIN STATION)

For a Thursday night the terminal was busy. Union Station buzzed with people. The crowd seemed like mosquito’s floating above stagnant water. Nothing distinguished them from each other, just a mass of faceless beings laden with bags and pulling gigantic, over-stuffed suitcases. Most seemed to wander aimlessly. Several derelicts slept on benches while others solicited spare change.

The two officers left the car double-parked at the Alameda Street entrance – its flashers blinking rhythmically suggesting urgency. They waved their badges in the face of the security guard that tried to tell them to stop elsewhere. He backed off.

“I’ll check the tracks.” Hutch announced as he directed himself through the underground tunnel that led to the departure area. “Call for back up.”

“I’m headed to arrivals.” Starsky said as he pulled out his cell to make the call to police headquarters.

The two men separated.

Hutch pushed his way through the throng trying to focus on the face of every person he could. As he moved toward the trains, he became more and more anxious – fearful of what might happen next. His stomach surged with emotion that felt like tiny firecrackers being set off inside him.

Finally he broke through the crowd and began to scale the stairs two at a time. Once he surfaced onto the platform, he stopped momentarily to get his bearings. He stood in one place then slowly spun 360° surveying the rows of lined up trains.

The landing was one of seven that were edged by a track on each side. Hutch was on the platform between track three and four and about 100 yards from the end of the station. There was nothing but empty stairwell entrances and a curtain of rain through the archway that lead to the rail yard, so he turned the opposite way toward trains that were being boarded.

The loud speaker blared inaudible instructions on departure times and wishes of bon voyage. The words of the announcer hung like mud in the cool evening air. 

A stream of people waited patiently in line to board a train several tracks over and at this point Hutch realized that some of the trains were full and starting to leave the station. He argued with himself, wondering if he should stop them and have them searched.

Then his thoughts were halted by Horowitz’s familiar face. The three people that waited in line in front of him provided camouflage and just when Hutch was about to call his name, they made eye contact.

The detective picked up speed and rolled into a jog. Horowitz bolted. He dropped his luggage and made a beeline for the trains that lumbered out of the depot. The trains that several moments earlier were stationary now seemed like a herd of steel elephants.

Diesel fuses floated into Hutch’s nostrils as he pulled his weapon from its holster. The noise of the engines was of raw power and it tore through the air like a siren. It made the officer’s insides rumble.

“Freeze! POLICE!” Hutch shouted as he crossed a vacant track and then onto the next platform. The crowds that milled about the trains hit the deck.

Horowitz ignored the warning and continued his dash. If Hutch let a train get in front of him, the perp was history. He madly ran in front of one train and was almost blown off his feet by the sound of its horn chastising him. Then another, and another. He finally reached the second last dock.

He’d seen Horowitz disappear behind the caboose of an Amtrak coach. The train it was connected to had begun its journey so Hutch squared himself for what lay beyond. He yelled another warning just as the coach exposed the man. Hutch aimed and fired.

To Hutch’s horror, it was Starsky that fell to the ground. The plate glass window he was standing in front of shattered. A shower of sharp particles splashed off the downed cop like water deflecting off rock.

“Starsky?” Hutch murmured. “Oh shit.”

Hutch’s feet felt like they had been bolted to the concrete. The blood drained from his face as he stared across the track at his partner who was in the fetal position facing away from him. His ears burned as his blood pressure rose.

“STARSKY!”

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he managed to set himself in motion toward the fallen detective. His body seemed weighted and it was difficult to move but he eventually reached his comrade’s side where he crouched and placed his hand on his shoulder.

“Starsk?” Hutch’s gentle voice was as smooth as cream.

A moment of utter terror set in as he thought his friend was dead.

“Yeah…” Came a quiet response. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Starsky flipped himself over onto his back and began to brush the glass shards from his jacket and hair. Once Hutch realized his partner was unscathed, he fell back onto his rear and propped his forearms on his knees. He let his head fall between his shoulders where it bobbed like a fish floater on the surface of the water. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed an enormous sigh of relief. 
  
“Oh thank God… I thought I killed you.”

“You almost did.”

“I’m so sorry Starsk. I saw Horowitz go behind the train…” Hutch panted. “… and then there you were. You okay?”

“I think so.”

“Oh jeez. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Take it easy. I’m alright.”

“Yeah but…”

“But what?”

“But… “ The two men helped each other off the ground. “I almost shot you. I almost killed you Starsky.” Hutch oozed remorse.

“Well you had your chance and you missed it.”

“Ah, come on.”

“Come on what?” The dark-haired cop asked. “You fired – you missed. No big deal.”

“No big deal? What do you mean no big deal?”

“It just proves one thing, Hutch.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“I’m a much betta shot then you are.”

 

EPILOGUE
Saturday, April 28th, 2001 – 7:20 p.m. One Month Later (DOBEY RESIDENCE)

“That was fannn…tastic.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it David.”

“Hutch and me don’t get meals like that very often.”

“It was very good Edith. Thank you.” Hutch said graciously.

They’d just finished a roast beef dinner with all the accoutrements.

“Why don’t you three men go sit in the living room and I’ll serve your coffee and dessert there.” Mrs. Dobey offered.

“Okay. Sounds great.” Starsky gleamed. “What’s for dessert?”

“Starsky. Don’t ask that. Just wait.” Hutch scolded his partner like a mother would her child.

“Why can’t I ask?”

“Because it’s rude, that’s why.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Show a little courtesy will you. Don’t you want to get invited back?”

The three men – Starsky, Hutch and Dobey, made there way to the comfort of the sofas as the two partners rambled their familiar banter back and forth like a tennis match.

“Well, of course I want to be invited back.”

“Then just relax and wait for Mrs. Dobey to give you your dessert.”

“It’s carrot cake with cream cheese icing Dave.” Edith called from the kitchen.

“There! You see.” Starsky said smugly.

Hutch shrugged, giving up on educating his partner in dinner guest etiquette. He sighed deeply. They settled in the living area. Harold Dobey sat in a large leather chair, his usual place and Starsky on one couch and Hutch on the opposite one across the room. A coffee table stood dutifully between them.

“I’m proud of you two.” Dobey blurted.

“Thanks Cap.” Starsky gushed. “But, we were just doing the job you hired us to do.”

“It’s not just that. You guys came together and despite the fall out you came through. You made me look good.”

“Well, you took a chance on us and we appreciate that too.” Hutch stated as he received a steaming cup of coffee from Edith. “Thank you.”

“So what’s happening with Horowitz and Richmond?”

“They are still working on getting Richmond extradited and Horowitz should be standing trial within six months. The evidence is there, there shouldn’t be any problem making it stick.” Hutch summarized.

“And Mitchell?”

“What about him?”

“Has he hired you two back full time?”

“Well, we kind of have other plans, Captain.” Starsky smiled like the cat that swallowed the rat. Hutch returned the grin.

“Don’t tell me? You two are finally tying the knot.” Dobey chortled.

“Very funny, Cap.” Starsky drolly retorted. “No… we have something else in mind.”

Dobey laughed at his own joke thinking it was much funnier than the two detectives did. He eventually regained control.   

“So what are you going to do then?” Harold chuckled.

“Zebra Three Investigations.” Hutch announced then took a bite of his cake and chased it with a sip of coffee.

“What?”

“Our own company Cap.” Starsky confirmed proudly. “We just got our licenses yesterday, well Hutch already had his… this cake is great!” He added to no one in particular.

“Well that’s great. Good for you.”

“Here’s our card.”

Hutch handed Dobey their spanking new business card. It had three zebras standing side by side and underneath them was “Zebra 3 Investigations” in a tasteful font. And underneath that was the phone number and e-mail address.

“Very nice.”

“Thanks Cap. Already got a job too.” Starsky sounded excited.

“That’s excellent boys.” Edith Dobey piped up her support.

“Things are goin’ good Cap. And me and Hutch have you to thank.”

“My pleasure.”

“And, we bought you something to say thanks.”

“Oh you didn’t have to do that.”

“We know.”

Hutch pulled out a small package wrapped in gold foil paper and handed it to the Captain.

“What is it?”

“Open it dear.” Edith encouraged.

Inside was a velvet box that encased a tiny set of gold handcuffs.

“It’s a tie pin Cap.”

“Thank you.” Dobey seemed touched.

“What do you buy the retired Captain who has everything right?” Hutch queried.

“Just a little something to remember us by.” Starsky said.

“Oh I’ll remember you alright. You don’t have to worry about that. After all the shit you two put me through!”

“Harold!”

“All the fake radio disturbances, and the fat jokes and stealing my food and disobeying orders…” Dobey blared.

“Captain, captain. Take it easy. You wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, admit it.” Starsky implored.

“No way, you two just about sent me around the bend a couple of times.”

The two private detectives sat in their seats like they were in the principle’s office. They let Dobey calm down before Hutch spoke.

“Well, thank you so much for dinner Edith. It was delicious.”

“Oh do you have to leave already?”

“Afraid so ma’am. Me and Hutch have work to do.”

“Well you boys stay in touch, okay?” She said maternally.

“Of course.”

The foursome walked to the front door. Starsky and Hutch gave Dobey a firm handshake and hugged Edith and slowly left their home spouting good-byes and salutations.

“You ready to take on the world, Stanley?” Starsky asked his partner as they approached the Grand Prix.

“As ready as I’ll ever be Ollie.”

They fell into their seats, buckled up and peeled out of Dobey’s driveway toward their first private investigation.

“Starsky?”

“Ahuh?”

“You do realize we are going to have to get rid of this car.”

“What? I just got this car three months ago. Why?”

“Well, it’s a company car now and frankly… I hate it.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

 “Starsky… it’s red.”

 

THE END

 

 

Da Little
Tings

Ouch!
That Hurts!

Friends, Enemies,
Lovers & Informants

Food!
Glorious Food

Clothes
Horses

What's In
A Name

This website is a fan endeavor. All material is drawn from advertising sources and is intended for
entertainment purposes without commercial profit. No copyright infringement is intended. Site designed by barbwiredesign.com