It was no use, no matter what Hutch did, he still couldnt figure out Cleo Garvey. Hed been laying on his bed the better part of the day, just thinking about her. If she was a reporter like Starsky thought, whom did she work for, and how did she manage to infiltrate security during a federally mediated transfer of an important states witness? The questions were mounting fast in his head, but as yet he had no answers. It was five oclock now and Starsky was due to drop by soon. Hed hoped to hear from her by now with a phone call or a visit, but since that hadnt happened, he could only assume that the reason was because she hadnt really felt about him the way he felt about her. It had all been subterfuge to get close to Carlisle, and after she got what she wanted, there was no need for a blond patsy. Hed been played for a fool.
When Starsky and Joyce came through the door laughing and carrying on, he sighed. The sounds of a happy couple wasnt exactly what he needed to hear right now.
"Hey, buddy, I brought company. Hope youre decent!"
Hutch rolled off the side of the bed and put on a game face. He picked up the crutches and eased himself up onto them, hobbling out the bedroom to greet his two callers. "Hey, Starsky, Joyce. Howd the trial go?" He positioned himself on the chair near the kitchen table and leaned the crutches against it.
"It went wonderfully. Carlisles testimony was the coup de grâce." Joyce replied.
The two of them sat down together on the sofa together. A solemn Hutch remained standing.
"Whats the matter, pal? You look like you just lost your best friend."
"Wouldnt be too far from the truth. I guess I really thought Cleo and I had something."
Joyce made some space between Starsky and herself. "Come on, take a load off that leg and come sit down."
Hutchinson did as he was told, planting himself down between them. His melancholy was palpable, but nothing his partner hadnt seen before at one time or another.
"Look, Hutchinson, if ya dont put a smile on that ugly mug of yours, Im gonna make ya regret it." Starsky said, doing his best Bogart.
Hutch had to laugh.
"Thats it, thats what I like to hear."
"I wasnt laughing at your Bogart imitation, Starsk. I was just thinking about my love life. Thats the joke. Seems Ive got no trouble *attracting* the opposite sex, its keeping them thats a problem."
Joyce put her hand on his shoulder. "Come on, a great looking guy like you? It cant be as bad as all that. Even though she and I didnt exactly hit it off, I got the impression that Cleo was a good person, just a little distracted. Im willing to bet shell come around soon."
"I dont know, Joyce. I just feel like theres a window of opportunity you give a person where theyre allowed to explain themselves and be forgiven, and shes missin it. Maybe Im too old-fashioned."
Starsky made a face. "There you go again, beating yourself up."
"Sorry, cant seem to help myself. Guess its the old Hutchinson family guilt complex flarin up again."
"Okay, thats it!" Starsky got up and walked into the kitchen, throwing open cabinet doors, checking out seasoning bottles. Apparently he was taking stock of the contents of Hutchs always well-appointed kitchen. "So what would you like, Sport? Veal Parmigiana? Lasagna? What?"
"Im not really hungry, but lasagna sounds nice. Maybe by the time its ready Ill have an appetite."
"Good enough." He glanced at Joyce conspiratorially.
"Ill give you a hand, Im great with lasagna," she said, joining him at the kitchen counter.
"Ah, yet another facet of your many charms."
"You play your cards right, maybe youll get to know them all."
He cocked an eye at her lustfully. She surveyed the kitchen and found an apron, wrapped it around her waist and bumped him with her hip as she finished tying it. Starsky pulled down the ingredients for the lasagna, while Joyce started boiling lasagna noodles and putting together the filling. Hutchinson, left alone for the moment, reclined on the sofa, clasping his hands behind his head, losing himself again in his own private thoughts.
About an hour later the glorious aroma of the lasagna pervaded the kitchen while its two chefs busily went about setting the table. Joyce took fresh baked rolls from the oven and put them into a cloth-covered basket, then set it in the middle of the table. Starsky put the cooled lasagna on the table with a salad and set three places for dinner. Then the two of them stood back and admired their handiwork.
"Not bad. Not bad." Starsky opined.
"If you must say so yourself. Shouldnt we wake up Prince Charming over there?"
A deep voice came from the direction of the living room. "Im not asleep. As a matter of fact, Im wide-awake and I heard every word you two were saying over there. Including that remark you made about getting it on on top of my kitchen table, Starsky."
"What, who me? You musta been dreamin, pal." He snuck a look at Joyce and then walked over to the couch and helped his partner up into a sitting position. Joyce undid the apron and pulled out a chair to make it easier for him to sit down. Starsky, ever the gentleman, was next to her in an instant to pull out a chair for her. "Madam."
"Why, thank you, sir."
She draped the apron on the back of the chair and sat down, placing a napkin in her lap. Hutch complained a little, but slowly ambled to the table without the aid of the crutches.
Starsky noticed his accomplishment. "Hey, you must be getting better, you did that all by your lonesome."
"Its not half as uncomfortable as it was before, thats for sure."
Starsky pushed his chair in for him. "So with any luck youll be back in the squadroom sooner than we thought."
"Hey," he said, putting a napkin over his lap. "Dont rush me."
Starsky took the seat closest to Joyce and the two men picked up their utensils to start eating. As the two men prepared to dive into their plates, a look of surprise came over the counselors face. She instinctively pulled their plates away from them, effectively interrupting the movement of food from fork to mouth. "Dont you guys bless your food before you eat it?"
Starsky looked somewhat perplexed. "Oh, yeah, all the time," he answered, his voice affecting sincerity.
"Sorry, Joyce. I guess Starsky and I are so used to eating on the run that that little practice kind of fell by the wayside." Hutch answered earnestly.
"You guys." She sniffed. "Okay, Ill say it. Close your eyes."
Starsky screwed up his face into a pout, held his folk in his hand and waited.
"Come on." She urged him.
Soon realizing his meal was going to be held hostage and he had no choice, he closed his eyes with an, Oh, all right, if you insist look on his face. Hutch closed his eyes as well. Once she was confident they wouldnt start eating before she was done saying grace, she pushed their plates towards them. "Lord, bless this food we are about to eat, and please bless these two guys, because in their own weird and wonderful way, theyre doing your will and making this world a better place to live in. Amen."
"Amen." The two men said in unison.
Starsky looked at her expectantly. "Now?"
She nodded. "Yes, now."
She shook her head and smiled as they plowed into the meal.
It had been four weeks since the Bartok trial had taken place, and just a little more than five since Hutch had heard from his missing love. The window of opportunity hed given her was passing her by, and he was beginning to think he wouldnt be able to forgive her even if she did show up. He was working in the office on this day, going over the reports for some old cases and getting them ready for the dead file. Starskys spot across from him was vacant for the moment, so he had a little time to himself.
He stacked the last file folder neatly on top of the others, and then pushed the entire stack to the side. He glanced over at the crutches that were leaning on the corner of a nearby chair and heaved a sigh. The sight of them served as one more painful and reminder of her. Hed almost thought about turning them in to the hospital now that the pain in his leg had diminished to a dull ache.
The arrival of three uniformed officers and his grizzly bear of a captain, Harold Dobey, soon intruded upon his solitude. The big man pushed through the squadroom door using his shoulder, as his hands were occupied with the task of carrying in his breakfast. His fare of choice for this day was a greasy bacon and egg sandwich that would have made Starsky proud, and a large cup of Coke to wash it down with. Loaded down as he was, he didnt seem to notice the stifled snickers being held back by the officers in the room, including Hutchinson. He stopped in front of his office door and immediately acknowledged the detectives unexpected presence. "Hutchinson, what are you doing here? I thought you werent supposed to be back here for another week."
"Got bored, Cap. Couldnt take sitting at home another week."
"Well, make sure you take it easy. I wouldnt want you to have a relapse or something."
Hutch smiled. "Ill make sure I dont overexert myself filing. Thanks, Captain."
Dobey headed for his office door, realizing too late that unless he somehow acquired telekinetic abilities, the door wasnt going to open by itself. One of the officers stood up to help him, but he motioned him back. "I can do it." He grunted. The officer sat back down. Now all eyes were on him. Dobey shifted the cup of Coke to his left hand and put the sandwich in his mouth, paper wrapper and all. Then with his freed right hand he successfully opened the door. He turned, took the sandwich out of his mouth and gave the officers a cocky I knew I could do it, grin. "Tell your partner I want to see him when he gets here." He indicated to Hutchinson before closing the door.
"Will do, Cap."
Hutch was pouring himself a second cup of coffee when his partner walked in, armed with his usual exuberance. In his hand he was carrying a magazine, and there was a huge smile pasted on his face. Hutch looked over at him as the man pulled up a chair and straddled it.
"Whatre you so goddamned happy about?" Hutch asked, setting his coffee cup down on the table.
"Got something to show ya. By the time youre done readin it, I think youll be pretty happy, too!"
"I doubt it. What is it?"
The dark haired man opened up the curled magazine and confidently handed it to his partner. "Take a look. I think youll find its a good read."
Hutchinson at first gave the rag no more than a perfunctory glance. The magazine, aptly titled Inside, was a fairly innocuous publication he remembered seeing on the newsstands, but never found interesting enough to plunk down any change for it. It was definitely Starskys cup of tea, though. The headline jumped out at him: The Bartok Trial: Memoirs of a Mob Informant or The Double-Edged Sword Of Criminality, photos and exposé by Maxine Garvey. He was confused, who was Maxine Garvey?
"Is this the article on Carlisle?" he asked.
"And Maxine Garvey is "
Hutchinson put the magazine down as if it had a curse on it. Starsky picked it up again and thrust it back at him. "Read it!"
"I-dont-want-to-read-it." he insisted.
"Read it," Starsky commanded, "or Im gonna read it to you."
Hutch refused to comply, folding his arms across his chest and staring directly at his partner.
"Okay, Turkey Buzzard, if youre gonna be stubborn, Ill read it to ya. Mind you Ill be skippin past the appetizers, sos I can get to the entrée."
Hutch cocked an insouciant eyebrow upward.
Starsky began to read: "Okay, here goes. This article could not have been realized without the dedication and perseverance of some very courageous individuals. Due to the nature of their professions, these individuals shall remain nameless, but for the sake of decency, I feel an obligation to right a great wrong that was done to one of them in the name of journalism. This shining individual whom I must acknowledge, is someone who might have been considered a knight in shining armor in another age, but in this day and time might be deemed somewhat of a bleeding heart."
Hutch winced at this description of himself, but Starsky continued on.
"This person, in the face of danger, risked his life for the life of another and expected nothing in return. For his unselfish act, you the reader reaped the reward of reading this exposé and I got to write it. But what was his remuneration? There was none. So, in an attempt to correct this dreadful oversight, I would like a chance to express my appreciation. If this individual is willing and open to receive it, a message will be communicated to him that will require a response, positive or negative, that will indicate to me whether or not the bond formed was irreparably breached or whether it is repairable. It is up to him. P.S. Until contact is made, just know, I am in your debt and as always, UYS. Signed Maxine Garvey, BKA "Cleo"."
After Starsky finished reading Hutch was able to come down off his high horse long enough to reach for the magazine his partner was holding out to him. The blond looked it over from the cover to the postscript. Then he put the magazine down on the table, careful to avoid knocking over the unstable stack of files. "Well, I dont see any message."
"Ive got it."
"Youve got the message? Howd you get it?"
"Easy. Joyce. Joyce has a subscription to Inside magazine. She read Maxines message and knew exactly who it was for. She called me at home."
"Okay, youre so smart, whats the message?"
"Okay, get this, according to Joyce Cleo, I mean Maxine, wants to meet with you."
He tried to appear nonchalant. "Meet with me where?"
Starsky leaned in close to the blond detective and whispered conspiratorially in his ear. "She wants to meet you at Huggys tonight, in the booth in the back, in the corner, in the dark."
"At Huggys okay, what time?"
"Oh, ah seven oclock. She said to come dressed to impress."
Hutch stood up. "Okay, got it. Oh ah by the way the Captain wants to see you."
"Oh, yeah? What does he want?"
Hutch shrugged, grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and headed for the door. Starsky noticed that he was moving with just a bit more of the grace of his former self now. He picked up the magazine and started to reread it, then looked up. "Hey!"
Hutchinson stopped at the door. "What?"
"Let me know how it goes, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." He agreed, answering without much conviction, and then departed without a second thought.
The door to Dobeys office opened quietly, and when the big man caught sight of Starsky sitting there, blatantly reading a magazine, he almost exploded. He knew good and well that Hutchinson had relayed his message. Mildly incensed, he decided to give the man a good scare and teach him a lesson at the same time. With his eyebrow raised in playful irritation, he walked up behind the detective, bent down to ear level and then whispered, "Starsky."
The detective was so deeply engrossed in the article he didnt even notice that the captain was trying to get his attention. He dropped the magazine on the desk and stood up over the chair. "Yeah, Cap?" he answered a little shakily.
"In my office, NOW!"
Starsky stepped over the chair awkwardly and followed the rotund black man into his office. Dobey was already back in his chair, finishing off the last of his breakfast when he walked in after him. He looked up at the detective and wiped the residue from the sandwich from his mouth. "Didnt Hutchinson tell you I wanted see you?"
"Ah, yeah, he sure did. I guess I got distracted. Sorry."
"So tell me something I dont know." He downed the rest of the Coke. "Where is he?"
Starsky stood there quietly, waiting for him to finish his drink.
"Well, dont just stand there looking obtuse, sit down."
Starsky sat down obediently. "Ah, he left for an ah appointment. Whatd you want to see me about, Cap?"
"I wanted you to try and talk your partner into staying at home and taking it easy for a few weeks. Why he came in to work today is beyond me."
"Ah, you know Hutch, its hard to keep him reined in."
"Well, be that as it may let him know hes got two weeks off with pay. I want him back on the job in tiptop shape. Hes no good to the department or me at half capacity."
"Youre right about that, Captain!" Starsky enthusiastically agreed.
"Itll also be a chance for you to get off the streets, too," he added, smiling deviously.
"I mean I'm putting you on clerical detail for two weeks."
Starskys eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open. "Clerical detail!? Youve gotta be kiddin"!"
"Nope. You saw that stack of files on the desk out there. Thats a months worth of reports that didnt get filed while your partner was laid up in the hospital."
Starsky sulked. "Thanks a lot, Captain."
The mischievous grin that crossed Dobeys lips as one half of his top team rose to leave was undeniable. Serves him right, he thought, after some of the stunts the two of them have pulled on me.
Starsky closed Dobeys office door and picked the magazine up from the desk, noting that Hutch had left his crutches behind. He grabbed them and left the squadroom in a funk.