Bay City Memorial Hospital was almost like something of a second home for the two detectives. It seemed as if they spent a good percentage of their time recuperating from some sort of ailment or physical attack at one time or another. Despite the trials and tribulations of surgery and bad hospital food, the healing part of it actually wasnt all that bad. Some of the nurses were gorgeous and a few of them could even pass for models. How theyd ended up being nurses was a mystery to both men.
Hutchinson was wearing the prerequisite white hospital gown, lying in bed with his leg elevated and bandaged. Although he should have been very uncomfortable, the look on his face was one of pure contentment. The reason for his good spirits being all too obvious, one of the aforementioned nurses, this time a slim brunette, was tending to the changing of his bed linen. And her obvious charms were not lost on the injured officer. He had his arm draped around her neck and shoulder as she leaned over him to change first one, then the other side of the bed.
"Humm. Youre very good at this," he complimented.
"Comes with years of practice, and it doesnt hurt to have an outstanding bedside manner."
Its not your bedside manner thats so outstanding, he thought. Hutch hadnt seen or heard from Cleo since the day hed gone into the hospital for surgery to remove the bullet in his thigh. And while he missed her terribly, he couldnt help indulging himself when the opportunity arose to enjoy a ladys charms, even if they didnt always fall for his magnetic charm and male bravado.
The nurse glanced at her watch. "Ooh jeez, Id better hurry up and get you ready, visiting hours are coming up soon."
"Oh, come on, theres no hurry. After all, my partners seen me in worse positions than this."
Hutch playfully nuzzled her nose, and the winsome nurse was barely able to contain her laughter. With some concerted effort on her part, she managed to finish tucking the sheets under her affectionate patient. She looked at her watch again. "Ive really got to go," she told him. The big smile disappeared from his face and she gently removed his arm from around her neck and helped him lean back against the pillows. "Ill be back later, I promise." As she headed for the door, she blew him a big kiss. When she opened it ,Starsky was just preparing to knock. The comely nurse smiled at him, then brushed past. He stood in the doorway a moment, lecherously admiring her. "Gotta love those nurses!" He remarked when she was out of earshot.
"Yeah, I know whatcha mean, partner. Theyre a sick mans answer to Florence Nightingale."
Starsky closed the door and made his way over to the laid-up blond. He picked up a chair and moved it over towards the bed. With one intuitive glance, he was able to assess his partners overall condition. "Hey, you dont look half bad. Maybe I should get myself shot so I can end up in here."
"Believe me, buddy, thatd be doin it the hard way." He stared at his partner. "So, whats going on with the trial?"
"Well, they picked up Bartok and the rest of his flunkies up in customs just after you got into the hospital. The Feds were able to detain them just on the strength of Carlisles information. Hes in lockup until the trial tomorrow. Yours truly will be sittin in on the proceedings."
"Thats good. Maybe hell get what 's coming to him this time."
"With Carlisles testimony, I think weve got a pretty solid case."
Hutch tried to adjust his position in bed a little and winced with the effort. There was an awkward silence between them that let Starsky know his partner had yet another niggling question on his mind, just waiting to be posed. To make it easier on him he raised the question himself. "Heard from Cleo since you been in here?"
Hutch looked over at him. "I was hoping shed come to see me. But no, I havent heard from her."
"Dont worry, buddy." Starsky put a hand on his shoulder. "Shell be in touch with you. You took a bullet for her, you just dont pick up and leave after someone does that."
"I guess youre right."
The curly haired detective got up from his chair and walked over to the window, leaning his shoulder against the window frame and looking outside. This time the awkward silence was his. He turned to his partner and posed his own question with some hesitation. "Hutch?"
"Theres something Ive been meaning to ask you. Its probably gonna sound really dumb. I mean I think I know the answer, but I just wanted to hear it from you."
"Spill it, Starsk "
"Mind you, Im not knocking the free love movement or experimentation or any of that great stuff. I mean, as far as Im concerned, youve got every right to go out with anyone you want."
Hutch was getting a little annoyed. "Starsky!!"
"Okay, okay. Here goes. In all the time Ive known you, youve only dated blue-eyed blondes and willowy brunettes. Whats the story? Why the three sixty with Cleo?"
Hutch considered his partners question calmly, but rationally. There he stood, clear across the room, looking as if he was about to be struck by a bolt of wayward lightning for his blasphemy. The blond sighed, and instead of getting angry, he threw a spare pillow in Starskys direction instead, which his partner artfully dodged. As the pillow settled at his feet, Starsky looked up at him. "Well?"
"Lookit, if you dont wanna answer the question, just say so, huh?"
"Its not that, Starsk "
"Then what is it?"
"Starsky, you of all people know the crappy luck Ive had with women so far. If I had a nickel for all the times Ive heard, so long, its been great, or sorry, its been nice knowing you, but Ive made other plans, and they dont include you, Id be a rich man. Ive had it up to here with women who are supposed to be my type." Hutch put his hand up to his chin. "Cleo and I just clicked. When I saw her, I made up my mind then and there that the color of her skin wasnt going to factor into my decision about getting to know her. I think thats just a lousy way to judge a person."
Starsky folded his arms. "Well, arent we just the liberal thinker."
"Whats that supposed to mean?"
"Havent you ever heard of promoting diversity and love thy neighbor, Starsky?"
"Maybe, but Ida neverve took you for one of those 60s radical types."
"Look, when it comes right down to it, Id lay down odds that Cleo and I werent gonna end up walking down the aisle, living in a house with a picket fence and having two point three kids, but she sure as hell came close enough."
Starsky picked up the pillow at his feet and threw it back on the bed. "Maybe I need to expand my horizons, too."
The blond detective leaned forward and picked up the pillow, positioning it behind him again. "Knowing you, youd probably end up dating the whole United Nations panel before you found the right one."
Starsky laughed, and the laugh was followed by one of those great big smiles that Hutch could always count on to light up the whole room. It got Hutch to smiling, too.
"So, when are you gettin outta this dump?"
"Doc says I can be out of here as early as tomorrow, if I dont move around too much and aggravate it."
"Great. Ill be here around noon tomorrow to pick you up. We can have dinner at your place."
"Sounds great. Lookin forward to it."
Starsky strutted over to the door. "Ill see ya tomorrow then."
Hutch saluted him as he headed out, and Starsky returned the gesture. When the dark-haired detective got the door and opened it, Cleo Garvey was standing there. She looked just as ravishing and radiant as the first day hed met her in the hotel.
"Well, Ms. Garvey. As I live and breathe!" Starsky exclaimed.
At the mention of her name, Hutch just about vaulted out of bed. He made a nervous attempt to fix his hair and straighten the hospital gown he was wearing. Starsky stood blocking her way for the better part of a minute, admiring her in a newfound light.
"Detective Starsky do you mind?" she asked playfully.
"Oh no no go right ahead," he said with a demonstrative sweep of his hand. "Dont be too long though, hes still a very sick boy."
"Ill be very careful, I promise."
For the moment, Hutch wasnt even able to see her, just hear her voice. That was all it took to send shivers of anticipation through him. Maxine swept past Starsky and he closed the door behind him. Like a wish come true, she walked into Hutchs view and greeted him with a warm smile. "Hello, Kenny."
He reached his arms out to her, and she walked forward and into them without hesitation, avoiding his injured leg. "I missed you," he said.
"I missed you, too." She answered back, kissing him softly on the lips.
He shifted over so that she could find a space to sit beside him. There was an awkward pause as she anticipated the question he was most certainly going to ask her. In an effort to quell her nervousness, she held his hand. "Hows your leg?" she asked.
"Itll be fine. The next time our captains upset with us, well have no trouble walking a beat."
Hutch couldn't wait any longer. "So whereve you been?"
"Oh, Ive been around. Mostly Ive been hanging outside the hospital trying to get up enough nerve to come in."
"Why?" he asked, almost surprised.
"Kenny, Im the reason youre in here. Dont you get that?"
He turned his head and looked into her eyes. "Now you listen to me you are not the reason Im in here. If anything, Im the reason Im in here. If you want to blame somebody, blame Grimes, blame Vincent Bartok, but dont blame yourself."
"Im sorry. Youre right, I know youre right."
Maxine absentmindedly played with the turquoise and silver ring on the third finger of his right hand. She also prayed for a good time to tell him the truth, the whole truth, but it never seemed to come. Considering how he felt about her, did it really make sense for her to tell him what was going on now, just so she could feel better about herself? Nothing made sense to her anymore, her reasons for what she was doing seemed out of place, and amazingly unimportant in the scheme of things.
"Check out times tomorrow. Starskys coming by to pick me up and were going to my place for dinner. Wanna come?" He squeezed her hand and released it.
"I wouldnt miss it for the world, what time?"
"Why dont you meet us here around noon? Then you can follow us to my apartment."
She leaned her head against his and nodded positively. "Okay."
With their hands clasped neatly between them, they slid down on the bed and lay next to each other, happily sharing one pillow. Of course right then there came a knock at the door.
"Come in." They answered in unison.
The duty nurse, an older woman wearing a stiffly starched uniform and hair to match, opened the door and poked her head into the room. "Sorry to interrupt, but visiting hours are over." She checked her watch for good measure. Your, ah, guest will have to leave."
"Oh well, sweetie," She turned to him. "Guess well have to continue this tomorrow."
Hutch released her hand to let her go, but before turning it loose, he kissed it. "Ill see you then."
The duty nurse didnt leave until shed seen the woman out the door. Then she turned to her blond patient authoritatively. "You get your rest, young man. Youve a big day ahead of you tomorrow."
Hutch turned to look at her, did she knew something he didnt? "Yes, maam." He answered obediently.
The nurse turned off the room light and closed the door when she left. Like a ten-year-old boy, Hutch pulled the covers over his head and promptly went to sleep.
A preliminary hearing wasnt a very exciting affair in and of itself. Its main purpose for being was to determine whether or not the suspect in question had actually committed any crime. The judge assigned to the case was one William Houghton, a jovial tugboat of a man whod had the displeasure of seeing Vincent Bartok in his courtroom once or twice too often. All of the previous cases against Bartok had ended up dismissed, either for lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, or both. Houghton hoped that this time the prosecution had built a case against him that would stick.
There were no field reporters around, no members of the general public or victims of the defendant allowed in the courtroom for this hearing. The judge considered the din they created getting to and from their seats distracting and took away from the proceedings. A pretty bailiff opened the door to the courtroom and looked out into the corridor, locating a solemn group of men waiting impatiently in the hallway, she motioned for them to come forward. "The judge is almost ready. Please come in and take your assigned seats."
Starsky was already inside the courtroom, eyeballing his watch and waiting for Drummond and his men to show up with Carlisle. Thanks to Bartok's capture, transporting him went safely, despite the absence of his partner. He watched with focused interest as several men in tailored suits entered the courtroom and made their way to the prosecutors desk. The infamous gangland boss was with them, looking disgruntled, but very accustomed to the whole process. The four of them walked past the detective and seated themselves at the defendants table, talking animatedly amongst themselves. Starsky strained to see if he could make out what they were saying, but he wasnt able to.
Not long after Bartok's counsel had found their seats, Federal agents came into the courtroom, escorting a heavily guarded Jonathan Carlisle. Starsky kept his eye on Bartok while the group found spots sitting behind the prosecutors desk. Bartok was dressed elegantly in a Nino Cerruti suit, but was looking nothing like the haughty man whod arrived in town just a few days ago. He flashed Carlisle a crooked smile. The latter did not make eye contact with the former as he sat down next to his counsel. One of Bartoks attorneys winked at Starsky, to whom he tossed a condescending smile, then leaned back against the railing.
The pretty bailiff disappeared into the judges chambers to check on his readiness. The court reporter, a young woman in her twenties, arranged her workspace, putting in paper, adjusting her chair and so forth. Having been to many of these, the detective was getting ready to prepare himself for a long, boring proceeding, until one of the men whod come in with the Feds tapped him on the shoulder. "You must be Detective Sergeant Starsky. Im Phil Melton," he said, offering his hand.
Melton was short, balding, and his suit didnt fit him well. But he was sociable enough. His hair was combed to the side of his head, possibly an attempt to hide a receding hairline and try to look a bit younger. The suit was an ill-fitting grey number, paired with spit shined patent leather shoes. He stuck his hand out at Starsky so forcefully that he couldnt help but to shake it.
"Nice to meetcha."
"Same here. So, you here for the hearing, huh?"
He thought that shouldve been obvious. "Sure am."
Melton sat down on the bench beside the detective. "Im a research clerk with the law firm handling the case. Those guys up there are the partners. Real pros."
"Ive never seen em before. Ya mind tellin me whos who?"
"Sure, no problem." Melton pointed out each attorney at the prosecutions desk. "That silver haired guy there in the pinstripe suit, thats Graham Withers, hes got about twenty five years in, he was on the last lawsuit ten years ago when the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Swears hell win this one. Next to him, thats Brent Taylor, his partner, he does a lot of the legal wrangling and research. The other guy on the right, thats Philip Donner, hes senior partner, works on a lot of these high profile cases, but only when theyre interesting, if you know what I mean." Meltons forehead crinkled. "Hmm, theres somebody missing though, a new associate, her names Joyce Carlson. I thought sure shed be assigned to this one."
"I know the type." Starsky supposed. "Probably started out as a secretary, seen a lot of cases in her day and came up in the ranks, right?"
"I dont know much about her background. I havent even really formally met her yet. But I hear her opening and closing statements are legend. Its said shes got a great way with words."
Two male bailiffs now stood sentry at the main doors, ready to keep order should any problems occur. They both stepped aside in unison as the doors came open and a woman entered. Joyce Carlson was unbelievably beautiful. She was dressed to the nines, from the shoes on her feet, to the line of her suit. In her hand she carried a thick manila document folder and under one arm, a black leather valise. All activity in the room ceased. Both Melton and Starsky had to turn around to see who could have such a powerful presence as to silence an entire courtroom. She glided in. At first it looked as if she were about to join the gallery, but she continued her strut past the last bench.
When she stopped at the end of the aisle, every eye, including Starskys, was on her. By the time she got to the gate, all males within range, including the two male bailiffs who were at the door when she came in, vied for the chance to assist her. Even the defense attorneys got up to offer assistance. But only Starsky was close enough to her to render the service.
He smiled his most disarming smile as he swung the gate open for her. "Do you mind if I stare at you up close, instead of from across the room?"
Despite his corny come on, she had to stop and regard him. There was something about him that intrigued her. Without knowing why, she gave him a gracious smile and continued past the swinging doors, taking a seat next to her colleagues. She turned again briefly to study the courteous gentleman standing behind her, who was still absentmindedly holding one side of the swinging door open. She caught his eye and gave him one those, come hither winks, and then turned back around. Mesmerized, Starsky finally let the doors settle back into place and returned to his seat. Melton saw the whole exchange and proceeded to congratulate him on it. He gave him a wink and a nudge. "Youre a sly devil. Already makin a move on her."
"I wasnt even tryin."
The detective hadnt been this taken with someone hed just met in a long while. He didnt even know her formally, much less socially. She flashed him another curious glance and offered a second engaging smile a few seconds later. Starsky could only sit there, watching her in wonder. Carlson set her valise down on the table and warmly addressed her associates. "Sorry, men, Im late, you know I usually pride myself on getting here well before the gawkers." Her tone was familiar, yet businesslike.
The heavyset man seated next to her turned around and greeted her with a smile. "Nonsense, Carlson, youre right on time. Exactly what I like to see."
"Glad to hear it, G.W. Makes my morning."
Withers and Taylor slid down some on the bench, while Donner took the manila folder from her and laid it on the table. Still terribly curious about the strange man seated behind her, she looked back once more to check him out. Yep, he was staring at her. Her eyes lingered on his for a moment. She cocked an eyebrow and then returned her gaze forward.
Melton was beside himself. "Ooh, did you see that? She looked straight at me!"
"Ya think so, huh?" Starsky replied, laughing.
Even though there seemed to be a spark there, Starsky was well aware that he probably didnt have an ice cubes chance in hell with her, and he was taking all of this in stride. There was no doubt she was intelligent, brilliant, and obviously classy. She probably wouldnt even know how to begin to take him seriously if they ever actually met. He watched her stand up and smooth her skirt down, then she donned a pair of bookish-looking glasses and sat down again. Very classy.
A hearing that had begun at eight that morning stretched to a session that didnt end until around three that afternoon. Starsky was tired, but he pulled up in front of Memorial at four oclock, running up the walk and waiting patiently for the elevator. When it arrived, he stepped in and pressed the button for the fifth floor, his hand hovering above the close door button for a second. He heard footsteps running in the direction of the car.
"Wait, oh, wait a minute! Hold the elevator!" An out of breath female voice pleaded.
He pressed the hold button and waited for whoever it was to get there, and was a little surprised to see who it was. None other than Hutchs lady friend, the mysterious Ms. Garvey! Her face was glistening with perspiration as she charged into the elevator car. She held onto the railing with her left hand, putting the other hand on her chest to try and calm her frantic breathing. "Detective Starsky hello."
"Hi. In a hurry?"
"Ah yeah, well. Ken mentioned you were coming by to pick him up."
"Oh, he did? Did he also tell you we were going to my place for dinner?"
"As a matter of fact," she answered him cockily. "He did."
Starsky pressed the button and the elevator doors closed.
They both stepped out of the elevator at the same time, almost as if they were in a race to get to Hutchs room. Starsky got to the door first, knocked and then walked in. Maxine, just this side of exasperation, huffed and walked in after him. When they got in, another nurse, not the pretty one whod made up his bed earlier, was helping Hutch to get dressed. He was trying to button the front of his shirt, supporting himself on one of a pair of wooden crutches--the other was leaning uselessly against the bed. He turned when they came in. "Hey, Starsk. Hey-y-y, Cleo!" he said, smiling.
Starsky went over to give his buddy a encouraging pat on the back, but Maxine had other ideas. She walked in front of him to be the first in line for a hug. In her eagerness to get to him she almost knocked the blond off his one crutch. Starskys hand was still cast out in space. He drew it back and shrugged. Hutch laughed and held onto her, wobbling. "Whoa there, lady! You going to put me back in here if youre not careful."
"Im sorry, Im just so glad to see you up and around."
"Im glad to see you, too. So, Starsk, what took you so long? I was beginning to think youre werent gonna show up."
"Sorry, pal. Hearing ran longer than I thought."
"No harm done. By the way, whats on the menu for tonight?"
"Huh? Oh, I ordered Chinese."
"That sounds good. Howd the hearing go anyway?" Hutch inquired, trying to slip on his jacket. Maxine quickly assisted him.
"Ill brief you on the ride over."
The nurse rolled a wheelchair over and waited for him to sit down and Maxine didnt miss a beat. She put her hand on the top of the chair. "Id like to take him down. Is that all right?" The nurse nodded and stepped away, happy to busy herself with the task of returning the room to its unoccupied state. The reporter dropped into place behind Hutch and Starsky handed him the other crutch. "Thanks, partner." He turned to her. "You ready?"
"Ready, " she answered, giving him a kiss on the back of his neck when he sat down.
"Hey, that tickles."
Starsky made his way toward the door and held it open wide enough for them both of them to get through. When they reached the elevator, Hutch tugged at his shirtsleeve. "Oh, I forgot to tell you, Starsk. I invited Cleo to have dinner with us. Hope you dont mind."
"No, no, why should I mind? The more the merrier, I always say. As a matter of fact, Ive got someone waitin in the car that Id like you to meet."
Hutch let go of his sleeve and the three of them began the trip down in the elevator. He was curious as all get out. "Anybody I know?" he asked finally.
"No youll find out."
Hutch gave him a look, and then settled back in the chair.
When the elevator doors opened, Maxine rolled the wheelchair out of the elevator, through the electric glass doors and down the slight incline that led to Starskys car. Starsky ran ahead of them to get to the car first.
Hutch propped the crutches under his arms, preparing to stand up. Starsky gestured for him to wait as he opened the passenger side door with a flourish. He wanted his date to step out in style. Hutch slowly rose to his feet and leaned his weight on the crutches. Once he was on his feet, an orderly came down and took the wheelchair away, wheeling it back into the medical bay.
Starsky offered his right hand to his mystery guest and helped her out of the car. There was a glimpse of a hand as it reached out of the open car door to take his. Then came forth a pair of marvelous legs, followed by a face and figure that a lot of women would give their eyeteeth for. She stood and faced the stunned blond man, extending her right hand to him to shake. When she spoke, her voice was sultry and sweet. "Im Joyce Carlson. You must be Hutch?"
He didnt answer her right away.
"Well, I say, old chap, dont leave me hanging," she said in a mock British accent.
"S Sorry." Hutch looked up at her, then at Starsky. He was amazed, surely his partner hadnt managed to secure the company of one of the loveliest females this side of paradise in only a few hours. He must have had a sort of an amused, shocked look on his face, because Starsky didnt appear to appreciate it. Balancing himself expertly on the crutches, he finally took her hand. "Nice to meet you, Joyce. But my friends call me Ken."
She turned to Starsky and smiled. "You didnt tell me he was so charming."
"Believe me, there was nothin to tell. He aint all that charmin."
Maxine wasnt as enthused about meeting Carlson as the guys seemed to be. Shed already made up her mind about Starskys date. She didnt like anyone who could grab Hutchs attention so easily. When their eyes met, she offered the woman few words and only a perfunctory smile.
"Hello," she said coolly.
"Hello," Joyce answered.
Then Starsky, smiling all the while, folded the front seat forward to let the women get in back. Hutch lowered himself slowly into the car with his partners help, then carefully stretched his long limbs out in front of him. Starsky handed him back the crutches and closed the passenger door, then ran over to the driver side, the smile still broad on his face as he slipped the key into the ignition and pulled off down the street.