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***EPILOGUE***

Kenneth Hutchinson was puttering in his kitchen, lovingly putting the finishing touches on what looked to be a very elaborate candlelit dinner for a very special someone. He was clearly dressed to impress, wearing a caramel-colored cable knit sweater over a pair of snug jeans and a pair of tan Frye boots. His blond hair was freshly layered and coiffed and he was wearing the most expensive cologne he owned. As he checked the heat under a saucepot on the stove, he heard a knock at his front door, and hurried over to answer it.

"Just a minute!" he called out, wiping his hands on a nearby towel and tossing it into the bathroom as he passed by.

When he opened the door, David Starsky and Huggy Bear Brown were staring back at him. His disappointment was evident as he craned his neck to look past them and down the stairs. Seeing no one else in sight, he turned to them, a half-smile on his face. "You’re not exactly who I was expecting," he said blandly.

Starsky appraised his friend's appearance. "We can see that. Mind if we come in?"

Hutch didn't even have a chance to answer before the two men were brushing past him and walking into his apartment. He shut the door after them and watched as both Starsky and Huggy,who was implacably dressed as usual, made a beeline for his kitchen. Huggy sniffed the air inquisitively and opened the oven door a crack to see what was on for dinner. Hutch noticed that his partner was holding an oddly shaped brown bag in his hand and was curious enough to ask him what it was."What’s in the bag, Starsk?"

"Oh, I brought over some vino. You know, to make up for draggin’ you along the past two weeks."

"Hey, like I told you before, don’t worry about it, Starsk. It’s in the past, forgotten." He checked his watch, standing very near the front door with one hand on the doorknob as he did.

"Yeah, I know, but I still feel kinda bad about it though. You know, draggin' you all the way out there on somethin' personal."

Huggy lifted the lid on the saucepan of the something on the stove, sniffed and covered it. "Hey, Hutch, my man Starsky here is bein' as close-lipped as a monk about the whole thing. What's the scoop?"

"Ah, well, Hug, let’s just say that Starsky kind of got…ah…overly involved in the investigation."

Starsky slid the bag off the already chilled bottle of wine and set it down on the kitchen counter, then he took down some wineglasses from Hutch’s cabinet and started to pour. "It was really nothin’, Hug."

"Come on, Starsky, come clean. What happened? Some chick reel you in?"

"It was nothin', Hug."

Hutch sucked his teeth. "'Nothing', he says. Would you call nearly getting married to someone you've only known for a few days and almost becoming an instant father nothing, Huggy?"

The black man whistled. "No, I'd definitely call that gettin' carried away."

He leaned against the counter. "But you've got to tell me, Starsky…why? How?"

"Well, there were a few things the young lady neglected to tell me."

"More like you didn’t care to find out." Hutch tossed back.

Huggy smiled. "You know what they say about true love, Hutch. It’s blind."

"Yeah, more like deaf and dumb, if you ask me." The blond man consulted his watch again. "Hey, you guys, I hate to rush you, but I have a date coming over in about three minutes and I really would like you two not to be here when she gets here. You know what I mean?"

Starsky took his glass of wine over to the couch and sat down, apparently not ready to leave just yet. "I was out of the loop for a while, man. You ever hear from Kraft about who it was that actually wasted Angel’s parents?" he asked. Huggy poured himself a glass of wine and motioned to Hutch to see if he wanted some, but got a declination.

Hutchinson answered him, but exasperatedly. "It was just like he thought. Apparently Emerson needed a lot of money to pay off some heavy debts, so he borrowed the cash to pay off some guy, a mercenary, to do some hits for him. Whoever he got rented the truck under an assumed name; did what he got paid to do and then ditched the truck afterwards. Kraft's men found it abandoned in some alley somewhere not long after we left the city. They dusted it for prints and checked it for a match with the flecks of paint we found on the Beamer. When they got a match on the paint, but no record on the prints, they could only assume that the guy who did Angel's mother was the same one who pretended to be the pool man at the estate. The way they figure it is, Colchetti either left his glass unattended at the bar or the guy must have waited around for a good opportunity to slip him the poison before he left. However it happened, it was a pretty cold deal. And thanks to Sharon, Emerson got off easy for his part in it. On the up side, with both parent's dead, and her stepmother getting ready to do hard time, Angela stands to become a very rich young woman. Looks like you missed out, Starsk."

"That’s the breaks. So, you think they’ll ever catch the guy?"

"Not a chance, he’s probably out of the country by now."

"Long gone, huh?"

"Yeah, like I wish you were," Hutch said under his breath.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about the situation between you and Angela. Basically, you did something for her that neither her father nor Emerson was able to do."

"What’s that?"

"You showed her what it was like to be unconditionally loved."

"Huh, yeah, I guess I did. Didn't I?"

Hutch nodded and then watched in dismay as Huggy exited the kitchen with the bottle of wine and refilled Starsky's glass, and then plunked himself down on the couch. Hutch was about to hint that they should leave one last time, when there came another knock at his door. He went over and opened it, and this time the luscious Cassandra stood beaming back at him. She’d flown all the way out to Bay City to be with him for a few days. She was wearing a chocolate brown jumpsuit zipped low to reveal a comely bosom. A visual that was further enhanced by the mass of flowing brunette curls that fell off her shoulders in generous waves. A medium sized overnight bag sat at her right. She smiled at him as he stood there enthralled.

"Hello, Ken. Sorry I’m late. How’ve you been?" she purred.

"Fine. Fine. How was your trip?" He crooked his arm at the elbow and leaned against the inside of the door.

"Good, good."

"That's great," he answered, standing there gazing at her, apparently unaware that he hadn't invited her in yet.

"Um, is it okay if I come in?"

"Oh…ah…I’m sorry, sure. Come on in," he said and leaned over to pick up her bag. As he stood up she walked by and he inhaled her perfume, the scent further spellbinding him. Starsky and Huggy Bear looked at each other approvingly and stood as she entered the room. Hutchinson sidled up to her to make the introductions."Cassandra, you’ve met my partner, David Starsky."

She stepped forward and extended a hand to him. "Yes, it’s nice to meet you again, Detective Starsky."

Starsky took her hand. "Same here. But you can call me David."

"All right, David."

"And this exotically dressed gentleman to your right is our mutual friend, Huggy Bear."

Huggy took her other hand and kissed it. "Charmed, I’m sure."

She drew her hand back and glanced at the table setting. "Will the two of you be staying for dinner?" she asked, letting Hutch know with a glance how much she disapproved of the idea.

"Ah, no, they were just leaving. Weren’t you guys?"

Starsky looked at his half-finished glass of wine. "Well, ah. We would like to finish up before we go."

"Oh, but of course." she answered.

Hutch put her bag down next to the couch and wrapped an arm around her waist, guiding her away from the prying eyes of his inquisitive friends into the kitchen. With a moment to themselves, he turned and took her into his arms, kissing her lightly on the lips. "Don’t worry about those two," he said in a low voice. "Starsky just came by to get debriefed on the case we were working on out there. As soon as they're finished they’ll be on their way. Then we can spend some magic time together." He smiled.

"Well, as long as they’re not staying." she said, pouting and touching his full bottom lip with her index finger. "Because I have plans for you when we're finished with dinner."

Hutch raised an interested eyebrow and snuggled up to her, now more determined than before to get rid of his unwelcome guests. As he and the young lady made their way back into the living room, both men looked up at them. Hutch noticed that their glasses were both now very empty. "Well, I guess you guys will be leaving now."

"Well, you know, Hutch…Huggy and I were just talking it over, and we were thinkin’ maybe we might stay for dinner after all. ‘Cause whatever you’re cookin’ sure smells good."

"That is, if the little lady doesn’t’ mind." Huggy added.

Hutch looked at Cassandra and he at her. Her eyes were polite daggers. He knew what he had to do.

"I’m afraid that’s not possible guys. Cassandra and I have other plans."

Something menacing in Hutch’s tone made Starsky lift himself up from the couch, and as he did he furtively motioned for Huggy Bear to follow his lead. The blond man started toward them with his date’s arm fixed around his waist, physically forcing his partner and their friend back towards to the front door. When they reached it, he opened the door, patiently waiting for them to leave. "I’ll see you on Monday, Starsky."

"Aw, c’mon, Hutch. You wouldn’t throw out your two best friends, wouldja?"

"Two starving best friends?" Huggy added.

Hutch gave them an almost sympathetic look, as though he might change his mind. Then he took a look at the beautiful woman standing next to him and made his decision. He nodded and said, "In this case, yes." And then promptly helped them out the door, making sure that it was closed.

"That's really cold, man." Huggy shouted at him through the closed door. Then walked off.

When they were finally alone, Hutchinson turned to Cassandra and started to kiss her, only to have to stop mid-way through as the door opened again. Starsky slid his face into the space between the door and the jamb. "You sure you won’t change your mind?"

Hutch put steady pressure on the door with his left hand without looking until it was closed again, still keeping his eyes glued on the ravishing creature in front of him, and said, loud enough for Starsky to hear, "Goodnight, Starsky." Then he locked the door and kissed his companion for the evening passionately on the lips.

FREEZE-FRAME.

END

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