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Starsky & Hutch

PAST & PRESENT

================

 

TIME BELONGS TO NO ONE MAN EXCLUSIVELY

September 10, 2001

7:00AM

The lone grey Cadillac sedan made its way slowly up the narrow path that led onto the grounds of the Bay City Police Academy. The Academy sat on two hundred acres of private land and nestled amongst lush, green foliage, the landscaping providing its recruits with both an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere as well as the necessary security. Cadets and seasoned officers alike revered its peace and quiet and sense of privacy. Which, considering the scheme of things, was as it should be.

As the sedan pulled into the parking lot, its engine was quieted and driver stepped out. He sported a head of thick, curly hair, closely cropped, with salt and pepper strands intertwined throughout, ending at the temples. After grabbing his brief case and securing the car, he slipped on a pair of shades and then strode out of the parking lot. The sedate grey sedan he’d driven today was an extreme departure from the type of transportation he might have chosen for himself twenty or twenty five years ago. But a lot of things had changed since then. And while the Academy hadn’t physically changed much since the years he’d gone there, he was well aware that over time buildings deteriorate, departments move, and people retire. He consulted a directory to find his way around the grounds. His immediate goal was finding the Administration office.

When he got inside the right building, he quickly found out that he wasn’t the only one there. Other faculty members and staff were there waiting to be assisted, most of them busily filling out forms or other paperwork while they waited. He searched the periphery of the room and located the desk of the faculty secretary. She was a black woman who appeared to be somewhere in her late forties. Her salt and pepper hair was pinned behind her head in a matronly bun. She looked up as he approached her desk. "May I help you?"

He offered her his hand. "I’m David Starsky, I’m here to take over the "Interpersonal Communication class from Captain Millbrook."

"Oh, is that so? I thought you’d be starting with us sometime back."

"Well, a family situation came up that couldn’t be helped. And the captain was nice enough to hold the position open for me."

"No need to explain, you did what you had to. Do you have the paperwork we sent you in the mail?"

The former detective nodded and rooted around in his briefcase for the paperwork he’d had the foresight to fill out while he was still in New York. Thankfully, they were the last of many forms he’d had to put his signature on after having to put his mother’s house up for sale two years ago. He handed the papers to the woman and stood peering at her over the amber lenses he wore.

She took the papers from him and started going over each page of the forms silently, checking them for completeness. When she noticed he was still standing above her she paused to address him. "I’m sorry, please have a seat. It’ll take me a minute to go over these."

"Oh, okay." he said, and did as she indicated. He pulled off his shades and placed his briefcase beside his chair. His eyes drifted across the room and he spent the down time retracing the thirty some odd years that had passed since his feet had graced the Academy’s halls. He remembered the recruitment process, followed by six months of rudimentary courses that had had nothing at all to do with what he would really experience out on the streets, in between that, military-like disciplinary tactics that would have killed a someone less disciplined. After that he’d spent a year riding the streets in a blue uniform before finally being partnered with a senior cop.

He’d set high standards for himself back then, and his goals as an instructor weren’t any less lofty. His determination to introduce the students who would be under his tutelage to the real world as he’d experienced it, was comparable to the convictions he’d held when he was a cop. In his estimation, it took a good street cop at least a year to develop the skills and acuity necessary to be able to make the kind of life or death decisions they were forced to on the street. If he was even partially successful in imparting those basic survival instincts to the students in his charge, instincts he’d gained from almost eight years in the trenches, maybe the next batch of cadets might breathe a little easier. He was of the opinion that his coming from a ‘street’ background had had more than a cursory effect on his career and that it was one of the reasons why he was still here on the planet. The secretary’s voice soon interrupted his moment of reflection.

"Mr. Starsky…Mr. Starsky?"

"What? Oh…ah…yeah?"

"Your paperwork looks to be in order." She rose from her seat. "If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your office."

Starsky stood up, grabbed his briefcase and followed the woman as she led him out of the Administration Building and over to the Faculty Building. The Faculty offices were located inside a tall brick building whose outer walls were covered in Walthamensis ivy, a landscaping touch he remembered from his training days. The secretary continued down a long hallway until they reached the door of a vacant office. The nameplate on the door was empty. She pulled a ring of keys off her wrist and after trying a couple of them, successfully selected the one for that office.

"There you are." She said as she opened the door, flipped on the lights and tapped the spot on the empty plate. "Your name should be in there by tomorrow."

He stepped into the office and looked around. The room had typical police issue décor, replete with the standard esteem building mottoes and pictures of the alumni of the Academy on the walls. In the middle of it sat a large mahogany desk with a matching chair; behind that was a spectacular view out of a large picture window. He turned to the woman and smiled at her. "Thanks a lot. I really appreciate your help."

"No problem, Mr. Starsky."

He winced at the ‘mister’ reference. "Look, I’m probably gonna be here a while, and we’ll probably cross paths more than once. Why don’tcha call me David?"

"Of course…ah…David. You can call me Georja, that’s with a "j"."

"Great to meet you…Georja with a "j"." He offered her his hand again.

She stepped forward and shook his hand warmly. "Coffeepot’s over there." She pointed to a corner of the room. "If there’s anything else you need, just let me know. I’m at extension 7442."

"Thanks, I’ll remember that."

Georja nodded and left him to get settled, closing the door after her. He turned to face the office that now belonged to him. He noticed that someone had taken the time to supply him with a copy of the course syllabus and some other informational materials. He rested his briefcase against the side of the desk and sat down in the chair, letting his body sink into the soft leather. A telephone set was positioned to his right. He picked up the receiver and dialed his new home number by heart. He was both relieved and excited when the phone rang and his wife answered.

"Hello?"

"Hey, babe, it’s me."

"David?"

"Yeah. What’s up?"

"You tell me. Did you get an office? The whole kit and caboodle?"

Starsky leaned back in his chair and swiveled back and forth, smiling at the sound of Hannah’s voice in his ear. "Yep. Everything’s great. What’re you doin’?"

"Just putting some finishing touches on the new place."

"That’s good. Michael around?"

She hedged a bit. "Um, Michael’s out right now."

The note of hesitation in her voice blew right past him. "Out doin’ what?" he asked.

"I don’t know. He’s nineteen years old, David. Don’t you remember what you were doing when you were nineteen?"

"Yeah, I was probably up to no good. That’s exactly why I wanna know what he’s doin’."

"It’s okay, honey. Really. Everything’s under control."

"I just rather him be at home helpin’ you with the house, then out runnin’ the streets. At least until he decides what he’s gonna do with himself, he should at least be around to help you out."

"He’ll be all right, David. Don’t worry about him so much." She paused to let her words sink in. "So tell me about your new office."

"Well, so far so good. But gettin’ here, that wasn’t the hard part. There’s no tellin’ how these kids are gonna react to some old guy tryin’ to teach them survival skills."

"You’ll do fine, sweetie, and you are definitely not ‘old’. Look, I’ve got dinner on the stove, so I’ve got to go. Why don’t you call me later, after you’ve gotten settled in some more?"

"No problem…and hey…honey?"

"Yes, David?"

"I love you."

"Love you more."

Starsky hung up the phone and righted himself in the chair. His first class was at eight and it was seven thirty now. Thirty minutes until judgment day. The pot of fresh coffee brewing across from him beckoned. He got up and poured himself a cup.

======

JUST REMEMBER I LOVE YOU, AND IT’LL BE ALL RIGHT

The destructive bullets of James Gunther’s assassins had taken years, not days to accomplish their mission. While the ambush on the two detectives who most threatened his organization may not have been a complete success, the end result was the same. The partnership was over. The aftermath of the shooting foreshadowed a cataclysmic chain of events that the two officers had been powerless to prevent. Somehow both knew in their hearts that the partnership wouldn’t last beyond Starsky’s horrible injuries. After that was gone, the only thing left to preserve was their friendship. And there was no way in hell they were going to let Gunther jeopardize that.

CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE, NO ESCAPE FROM REALITY

September 14th, 1979

Morning

Detective Kenneth Hutchinson saw it coming, but like a deer caught in the glare of oncoming headlights, he never bothered to really prepare himself. When his partner came back to the station on limited duty, he was still holding onto the faraway hope that his partner would return to full capacity. Told himself that it was only a matter of time before things were back to normal. Nevertheless, the words he’d spoken in the hospital on that fateful day kept resounding in his head:

The body can only withstand...The body can only withstand…can only withstand…can only withstand…

Now that his best friend in the world was sitting in front of him, he couldn’t allow himself such dark thoughts. So what if Starsky hadn’t been the most diet conscious or athletically inclined person in the world? (the man had history of treating his body like a human garbage disposal and had turned or sprained his ankle during more than one foot pursuit) He’d still been about the most robust and healthy person he’d ever seen, despite all the unhealthy things he did to himself. There was no reason to believe that he wouldn’t improve to the same level he was before, more or less. But what Hutch couldn’t have foreseen, was that his slowly mending partner would try his damnedest to hide any existence of pain from him. He just never complained, and that further fueled Hutch's hopeful optimism, so as far as he was concerned, there were no limitations on Starsky's recovery. Even though under the surface, even as he denied it to himself, the man was so attuned to his partner’s physical and mental state that he acknowledged every grimace and felt every twinge of pain as if they were his own.

As for David Starsky, he had been under the impression that ‘soft duty’ meant just that, ‘soft’. He soon learned that those words shouldn’t be taken quite so literally. For him even the slightest exertion, pulling a file, typing up a report or getting up for a cup of coffee, sometimes amounted to a Herculean effort that caused him excruciating pain in his chest and lower back. He was at work pondering a solution to his predicament when the first of the two calls that would change the course of their lives came in.

Both of them were sitting at their desks drinking coffee and poring over old reports in the squadroom on the day the first call came in. It was patched in from the operator’s station directly to his extension with little fanfare. The conversation was relatively brief, but the message it imparted was considerable. When he was done he looked over at his partner, saw that the blond’s eyebrows were upturned in the form of a question mark as he anticipated the sharing of information. The detective would much rather have broached the call’s subject matter to him privately rather than in the squadroom, to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing scene, but he try as he might, he couldn’t ignore those beseeching blue eyes. As it was Hutch nearly choked on his coffee.

"Who was that?" he asked, casually sipping from his cup.

"That, my blond friend, was our old instructor at the Police Academy. He heard about what happened with Gunther and he wants to recommend me for a position."

"He wants to recommend you for a what?" He actually gulped, nearly choking on his next sip of coffee. He wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve, eyes wide.

"You heard me. He thinks I’d be a good candidate to take the exam for instructor."

"I don’t believe it. John Millbrook? From the Academy?"

"The one and only."

"Starsky, you’re kidding me. I hope you told him he was out of his mind." Then a thought occurred to him, and he put the coffee cup down. "What did you tell him?""

Starsky waited a moment before he answered. "I told him I’d think about it."

Hutch went quiet. He’d think about it? Is that what he said? Before the shooting Starsky wouldn’t even have given an offer like that one a second thought. He was flustered. "I’m just surprised, we never really talked about this."

"What’s to talk about? I said I’d think about it. I didn’t say yes."

"Starsk." Hutch insisted.

"Look, don’t worry your pretty little blond head about it. I’m not goin’ anywhere, not just yet anyway."

And with that, the curly-haired detective quietly returned to scouring over his share of the reports. What the blond didn’t know, but would soon find out, was that other surprises lay ahead.

=======

September 14th, 1979

Friday Evening

Quitting time finally ticked around and given the choice of spending a dateless evening alone at their respective apartments and enjoying each other’s company, the two detectives chose a quiet, relaxing evening at Starsky’s place. The darker of the duo reclined with his feet propped up on the arm of his couch, while his fairer associate took up residence in a wicker chair across the room. The blond passing his time by tuning up his favorite guitar. As he twisted the tuner knob tightly on the E string to produce the desired pitch, the phone rang at the same time, throwing him off. He plucked at the string and a tinny squeal that sounded something like a angry wet cat made them both wince. Starsky made a sour face at him as he leaned over to answer the phone.

"Hello, Starkinson Convalescent Home." Hutch tittered at the reference.

There was silence on the line. "Hello?" Starsky repeated into the receiver.

Finally there was a voice. "David? Oh, it is you! It’s mother."

Starsky sat himself up on the couch as soon as he recognized her voice. He’d heard this sound of panic and exasperation in her voice once before, but that was on the day the police had come to their home to inform her of her husband’s death. The creases in his forehead and the crinkles forming at the corners of his eyes alerted his friend that all was not well. He kept his concerned eyes on Hutch as he spoke to her."Ma? What’s wrong?"

"I called the station, it’s been three weeks you’ve been back to work now. So why I haven’t heard from you?"

"Aw, Ma…I’m sorry, I had a lot on my mind, I guess I let a few Friday’s get away from me. I’m really sorry." Starsky gave his partner a helpless look

."A few you say? So tell me, Mr. Forgetful, are you all right?"

"I’m fine, just fine, Ma. A little tired, that’s all."

"If I’d known you still weren’t well, I would’ve flown down to take care of you, you know that."

Hutch was getting anxious. He moved out of the wicker chair and took a seat on the coffee table in front of his friend and tapped the curly haired man on the foot with the tip his shoe. "What’s going on?" he whispered, his brow creasing.

Starsky put his hand over the receiver and whispered back. "It’s my mother, she’s upset because I--"

But he wasn’t able to finish. After a brief pause, his mother came back on the line."What would you say if I asked you to come to New York and be with your mother for a little while?"

"That’d be okay, I guess. Is something wrong?"

"Does anything have to be wrong? No, son, I just…" She stopped in mid-sentence. He could hear her softly sobbing as she took the phone away from her lips.

"Ma? Ma…?" He looked at Hutch and shrugged. After a moment she returned to the line, sniffling.

"David, is Kenneth there? Let me speak to him."

"Yeah Ma, sure, sure, he’s here," Starsky responded, handing the phone over to the blond man, thoroughly confused. "She wants to talk to you."

Hutch took the receiver from him and put it to his ear. "Hello, Mrs. Starsky? This is Ken."

"Hello, dear. How are you?"

"I’m fine, just fine."

"That’s good. How is David? I mean, really, how is he?"

He assessed the man briefly and responded. "Oh, you know David. He’s a pretty tough guy. He’s been a little tired lately…but he’s doing okay, just like he said."

"Did he tell you? I asked him come to New York, Kenny, I thought you should know."

Hutch panicked. Those were the words he hoped never to hear. He turned away from his partner’s increasingly inquisitive eyes. "New York? Why? What’s wrong?"

"Normally I wouldn’t ask, you see?"

"But I still don’t understand…" Hutch moved off the coffee table and into the kitchen with his guitar clutched in his free hand. "What’s going on?" he whispered, obviously concerned that his friend would overhear him.

"If I could find Nicky, I wouldn’t ask David to come, you see? But I’m not having any luck finding him. Not much luck, you see?"

"Yeah, I see."Hutch raised his head, the phone still close to his lips. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. If Starsky left Bay City it was entirely possible that he might not see him again. Ever. They were best buddies, partners and all that, but this request was from his mother, and Hutch knew better than anyone what that meant. Starsky wouldn’t deny her anything. The blond man walked back to where his partner was sitting and handed him the phone. "She needs you, buddy. You’d oughta go." His lips trembled slightly as he said the words. His world felt like it was crumbling to pieces. He sat down slowly in the wicker chair and started to absently strum a tune on his guitar. Starsky put the receiver back to his ear. "Hello, Ma?"

"David…I need to you to come home, Kenneth said he understood."

He swallowed hard. "When do you need me to come, Ma?"

"So you’ll come then?"

"You know I will."

"How soon can you leave?"

"As soon as I can get a flight out. How long should I plan to be gone for…?"

"You’ll know when you get here, son."

Hutchinson watched silently as Starsky said his good-byes and finally hung up the phone. The curly-haired man sat up very straight on the couch and then turned to him. He looked like he was going to cry. "Hutch?" His heart broke as he looked over at him. "Yeah, Starsk?"

"Did she tell you?"

Hutchinson joined his friend on the couch, setting his guitar across the table and putting his arm around Starsky’s shoulder. "Yeah, buddy, she told me."

"Guess I’ll be buying an open-ended ticket." He let go a half-hearted laugh. "Don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back."

Hutch rested his head against his partner’s dark curls, hoping that somehow they would be able to draw strength from each other through touch. He didn’t know for sure if it would work, but it was worth a try.

==========

September 17th, 1979

Monday

Captain Dobey and Huggy met Hutch and Starsky at the airport on Monday morning. Both men felt that this occasion was a rare and solemn one and they wanted to help the blond man see his partner off in high style. After Starsky’s luggage was whisked away by the skycap, the two black men kept a respectful distance away, out of respect for the partner’s privacy and their long-standing friendship--that is until Starsky noticed them hanging back.

"Come on, you two, get over here," he demanded in a playful tone. Both men obeyed. Starsky reached out his hand to them, but neither one could seem to make it over to him to shake it. Finally Huggy found the courage and stepped up, characteristically ending Starsky’s conventional handshake and hug with a more Afro-centric show of affection of his own. He stood back and smiled at his friend."I’ll be seein’ ya, my man. Don’t forget to tell your Momma that Huggy Bear said hello."

"You bet, Hug. You’ve been a good friend. I won’t forget."

Huggy bit his lip and hung his head, stepping back to let Captain Dobey have a chance to express his sentiments. Not surprisingly, the big man was very close to tears. Hutchinson watched the black man with downcast eyes, his hands buried deep in his jacket pockets.

"Starsky…" Dobey took Starsky’s left hand in his own and placed his other hand on Starsky’s forearm. He struggled to find the right words to convey how he felt, but they would not come.Starsky put his slim hand on top of Dobey’s thick one. "It’s okay, Cap. I feel the same way." Captain Dobey gave him a quick, manly hug and stepped back, working hard to stifle the huge lump in his throat as he did.

Hutch came forward next, his face sullen and his head bowed. Starsky had only to look into his eyes to comprehend the extent of the emotions his friend was feeling. The connection between them was so strong that when the blond looked up at him, he saw all the anger, hurt, fear, and regret plainly etched on his Nordic face. Starsky put a comforting hand on his partner’s shoulder. "Look, if you don’t quit looking so sad, you’re gonna have me chokin’ up, and I’m not gonna be any good to anybody back home."

"I’m sorry, Starsk. I can’t help it."

"I’ll be back, I promise."

"I wish I could believe you."

"You’d better believe me. This is not over, not by a long shot. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Willya do me a favor?" He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out his car keys, dropping them into Hutch’s hand.

"Anything, pal." He looked at them and clutched them in his palm.

Starsky put a hand on his shoulder. "Take care of the Tomato, huh? Put a coat of wax on it and polish it up every so often? I’d sure hate to have it languishing in some garage, especially after you spent all that dough getting it fixed up for me."

"You got it, buddy. It was the least I could do. I’ll even go you one better, I’ll take care of your plants for you, how about that?" He lowered his eyes. "I just wish I could do more."

"You’ve done plenty already."

Hutch felt an overwhelming urge to hug the man, but stifled it and shook Starsky’s hand instead. The same impulse swept over his partner, but instead of ignoring it, he went with it and pulled his partner into a great big, warm, farewell hug.

=======

September 17, 1979

Five o’ Clock pm

 

After he got out of the cab, David Starsky stood in front of his mother’s house for a long time. It really hadn’t changed much from what he remembered as a boy. In fact, everything was still pretty much the same as it had been, at least from the outside. It had the same wood frame facade, the same elaborate picture window out front and towards the back, it seemed like the exact same porch swing set. When the cabdriver finished setting his bags on the stoop for him, he paid the fare and watched him drive off. He picked up his bags and carried them from the stoop to the front door, pressed the buzzer and waited for what seemed like an eternity before a young woman wearing a sky-blue nurse’s uniform appeared to open it. Their eyes met and he felt an instantaneous, but very subtle spark cross between them. She peeked out at him.

"Can I help you?"

"Hi…ah...I sure hope so."

She opened the door a little wider. "You’re David, aren’t you? Mrs. Starsky’s son?"

"Yep, that’s me, how’d ya know?"

"I have my ways," she said mysteriously. "Come in." And she stepped aside to let him in.

Starsky grabbed his luggage and walked past her into the living room. He set the suitcases down on a chair and took a minute to survey his surroundings. Everything was in the right place, from the childhood photos on the mantle, to the piano in the living room. One of the pictures he saw was of him and his younger bother, Nick. There was a photo of the both of them with their dad, smiling and proud. There was also one of his mother and father looking joyous, probably taken mid-1940. Yet another was of himself in cadet blues, graduating from the Academy. The last photograph was a more recent one of him and Hutch. He picked that one up and focused on it, then smiled. The nurse’s voice interrupted his reverie.

"Excuse me, I thought you might like to know that your mother’s waiting for you. She’s in the kitchen."

"The kitchen? What’s she doin’ in there?"

"What do most mothers do in kitchens?"

He laughed and trailed behind her, anticipation building as she led him into the kitchen. Mrs. Starsky was standing with her back to them when they came in. She was wearing a print housedress with a ruffled apron neatly tied over it. Her attentions were focused on the stirring of a pot of something over the stove that smelled heavenly. Starsky winked at the nurse and put his finger to his lips, prompting her for silence as he stood behind his mother and placed his hands over her eyes and said."Guess who?"

"Hmm, let me see, Nicky?"

"Nooo. Try again…"

"Al!"

"C’mon now, use your imagination. Do I really sound like Uncle Al?"

"Well…maybe not. One more time..."

"Go for it."

"Hmm…you’re wearing the sandalwood soap I sent you for your birthday last year. Is it David?"

He removed his hands and waited for her to turn around. A big smile lit up her face at the sight of him. She hugged him with all of her might and he hugged her back. "You came!"

"’Course I did, Ma…what’d you expect from your sonny boy?"

She squeezed him even tighter and kissed him all over his face. Hannah bowed her head and smiled, then respectfully left the two of them alone. When Mrs. Starsky finally released her son she dutifully returned her attention to the pot cooking on the stove. He remained behind her, looking over her shoulder and holding onto her waist, deeply inhaling the smell of the food she was cooking. "Mmmm. Whatcha cookin’ Ma? Smells great!"

"It’s an old family recipe. We’ve had it many times over many years."

"Ma…I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but that smell ain’t one of them."

"Who’s the authority around here? David Michael Starsky, I swear."

"Uh huh, Ma, you remember what you always told me and Nicky, no swearin’ in the house, remember?"

She playfully rapped him on the knuckles with the spoon she was holding and he released his hold on her waist, then he jumped back. Still chuckling, he moved over to the dining room table and sat down. "Gee, Ma, you’re a sight for sore eyes. How’ve ya been?"

"I’ve been fine, but these old bones have seen better days."

"Yeah, I saw the live-in nurse. When did you start needing one of those?"

"Nurse?" She thought for a moment. "Oh, you mean Hannah. Yes, she’s a lovely girl, very sweet, like the daughter I never had. Sometimes I forget that she’s a nurse. They assigned her to me when I had to go into the hospital for a little bout of clumsiness I had."

Starsky sprung forward in his seat, concerned. "What happened? And how come you never said anything to me about it before? When did they assign her to you? For how long? Come on, gimme the details."

"I didn’t want to worry you over something so minor, David. It was just a few scratches. I was clumsy, that’s all. You and Kenny have enough of worrying at work without me calling you for every little thing that happens to me. After what you both have been through…well, I…I just didn’t think it right to trouble you with anything that trivial."

Starsky got up from the table and walked over to her, taking her carefully by the elbow. Intense. "Ma, you gotta tell me if somethin’s wrong. I don’t care what it is, or what’s going on with Hutch and me. Nothin’s too trivial when it comes to your well-being. You got that?"

"Yes, I understand, baby. I promise you it won’t happen again." She turned to him. "By the way, Hannah will be staying here with us for a while. I’ve put her up in the room you and Nicky used to share. You can have the guest bedroom next to mine. Is that all right?"

"Sure. No problem."

"How are you feeling?"

"Oh, I get some pain on and off when I have to reach up and grab things off a shelf, and I’m a little more tired than I’m used to getting. But other than that I feel swell."

She studied him, and with the seriousness borne of a loving and concerned mother, embraced him and placed her cheek on his chest as he held onto her. She could hear his heart beating beneath his chest, a wonderful sound. She slipped her hand underneath the back of his shirt and carefully examined his back. She closed her eyes and gasped slightly as her fingers came upon the scabrous exit wounds left by the assassin’s bullets. She cringed, stood back and looked into his eyes, but they were still holding onto each other. "First your father, now you and Kenny. I can’t imagine what I’d have done if those men had done to you what those murderers did to him." She bowed her head and tears began to fall down her cheeks. "I don’t think I could’ve survived with both of you gone."

"Hey, hey, look at me, Ma." He lifted her chin with a finger. "I’m still here. They didn’t get me, and that’s what’s important, right?"

"That’s right, I know you’re right." She let him go and collected herself, then wiped her face and hands with a dishtowel. "I’ll put supper on, that’s what I’ll do. You go on back now and meet Hannah-she’s a sweet girl. I think you’ll like her."

He smiled despite himself. What is it about mothers? How do they seem to know exactly what’s going on in their kids heads, even without asking? She continued. "Yes, you go on in there and get to know each other. I’ll call you when supper’s ready."

"Okay, Ma. Will do." Starsky walked out of the kitchen, down the carpeted hallway, past his mother’s bedroom and the two bathrooms. He seemed to remember that his old bedroom was on the left-hand side of the hall. When he got there he stood in the open door of the room, not saying anything at first, just watching the young woman walk back and forth between her suitcase, the closet and the dresser. After a few minutes he cleared his throat, and she stopped in the middle of the room.

"Hi there."

"Hello."

"Mind if I come in?"

"No, not at all. This was your room after all."

"Hey, whaddya know about that? I almost didn’t recognize the place." He stepped in and looked around. Decades before, this room had been all boy, spilling over with baseball equipment, toys and model trains. Now, thanks to the subtle feminine touches of a woman, it bore he and his brother’s old room not even the slightest resemblance.

"Sorry if it’s different from the way you remembered it."

"That’s okay, I haven’t been back here in ages. It might as well be useful."

"As long as you don’t mind."

"Not at all, Nurse...ah. Look, seein’ as how my mother says you two are thick as thieves, would you mind me calling you Hannah?"

"Of course not." she answered, walking over to him, her hand extended. "We were never formally introduced anyway. My name’s Hannah Kaplan. I work with Doctor Kaufman at Mount Sinai Hospital. Do you remember him?"

"Oh sure, I remember ole Doc Kaufman, he’s the first guy to see my bare backside from birth to grade school. How is the old guy?"

"He’s fine." She chuckled at the ‘bare backside’ remark and then returned to the job of unpacking.

He straddled a chair across from the window, leaning his arms and chin on the back."So, how long a stretch you in for?" he asked.

"Oh, I don’t know, as long as I’m needed, I guess."

Starsky nodded that he understood. As he sat there watching her putting her things away, he couldn’t help but be captivated by her beauty. From the large brown eyes set on a plain, but beautiful face, to the head of dark brown curls that spilled evenly down her back, to her amazing smile, not to mention her heavenly figure, she was breathtaking. As she passed by the bedroom window once more, her hair caught the waning light just right and he could swear that it shimmered. He was sure by now that his mother had matchmaking on her mind when she’d sent him back to meet her. "My mother tells me you’re going to be here for a while, but she won’t say why. Can you tell me anything?"

"Nothing I’m afraid. Besides, I’m sure she’ll let you know when she’s ready."

"Oh, so you two are in cahoots."

She laughed then said, "Something like that."And then glanced at him. "Your mother told me that you’re a detective in California."

"Well, she’s only half right. I was a detective in California."

She sat down on the bed across from him, a serious expression taking over her face. "Was? Don’t you think you’ll be going back?"

"I don’t know. I told myself, my partner and everyone else back there that I would. But to tell you the God’s honest truth, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t see life on the streets gettin’ any easier; in fact, it’ll probably get tougher. I just don’t know if I want to go back to that kinda life."

"So, say you didn’t..what would you do?"

"I don’t know. Before I left California to come here, I got an offer to study for an instructors position at the same Police Academy where my partner and I did our training. When they called me, I didn’t know what to say, so I told them I’d think about it." Starsky hung his head. "The thing is, I don’t know if I’m ready to do somethin’ that drastic. My partner and I go back a lotta years, and doin’ something that would mean ending a great partnership."

Hannah regarded him sympathetically. "Well, I’ll tell you something I always tell my patients. It’s better not to dwell on it. Let your mind go elsewhere. The answers you need usually come when you least expect them. Right now the most important thing is for you and your mother to enjoy each other’s company, reminiscence about the good times and have some fun. When the time is right, you’ll know what to do." She got up and her hand on his shoulder. "I mean, just having you here has put a beautiful smile on her face. She hasn’t done that in quite a while."

The assurance in her voice made him believe she might be right. He was silent for a few moments. Then his mother’s warm voice summoned them from the kitchen. "David? Hannah? Supper’s ready!"

He shot up from the chair and both of them headed for the door at the same time, colliding.Starsky caught her by the arm before she lost her balance. He smiled at her apologetically. "Sorry, guess I’m pretty hungry. After you."

"Thanks." She replied, gathering herself and heading out the door.As she sashayed out in front of him, he couldn’t help but notice the attractiveness of her backside as it moved beneath the fabric of her uniform. She certainly did wonderful things for the material. The nursing profession would be proud. He rolled his eyes up at the ceiling and back down again, his heart catching happily in his throat as he admired the view. Feeling his eyes on her, she turned to him. "Are you coming’?"

"I’m right behind you." he answered, a gleam in his eye and enthusiasm in his step.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Starsky had done a wonderful job of setting the dining room table. Nothing was too good for this once in a lifetime occasion, even her best china and crystal, which were usually only brought down for the high holidays. A Starsky son had returned to the fold, for whatever the reason and she was ebullient. She even finished off the table setting with the family silverware."Don’t just stand around the both of you. Sit, sit."

She watched proudly as her eldest son pulled out a chair for her and afterwards dutifully rushed over to seat their guest. He seated himself and tucked a napkin under his chin, picked up a spoon and started to fill his plate when he stopped himself, looked up at his mother and the surprised look on her face. He suddenly remembered that no one at the Starsky home ate before grace was said. He looked to his mother."Sorry Ma, you wanna say grace?"She nodded, closed her eyes and they all joined hands. "Dear Lord, thank you for the generous bounty before us. Thank you for allowing me the gift of having my son here with me." She squeezed his hand. "And for the kindness and caring of one of your angels here on earth, Amen.""Amen." They finished. Starsky smiled reverently at his mother."Come on, come on, what are you waiting for? Dig in before it gets cold." She urged them.Sitting at the dinner table having supper with his mother and her nurse, David Starsky counted this day as one of the happiest of his life since before the shooting. When Hannah’s eyes met his from across the table, he vowed to himself that he’d do anything in the world to have that face staring back at him and saying that she loved him, and on that day he’d be even happier.

======

DUST IN THE WIND

Three Weeks Later

1979

Same old song 
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see
Dust in The Wind
All We are is Dust in the Wind-Kansas

When David Starsky left Bay City for New York, every cop and receptionist at Metro station felt his absence, in particular a blond detective by the name of Ken Hutchinson. Most of the time as he walked through the corridors, he’d be deep in thought and oblivious to the people and things going on around him. His mind would wander absently to remembrances of his best friend, and he’d think about how much he missed the man’s innocent, childlike point of view or the crazy schemes he’d try to get them involved in. He thought it odd that the very traits that annoyed him most about the guy-- were the very ones he missed. Those annoying foibles seemed trite now that he wasn’t around.

He also remembered his partner’s mulish insistence that he not be treated any differently than he had before the incident and his almost daily assurances to him that nothing had changed. Despite them, Hutch still found himself being overly cautious around him and felt obligated to hold back on some of his particularly biting barbs and criticisms. Jokes he wouldn’t have thought twice about playing on his partner before seemed forbidden now that the unthinkable had happened. What it came right down to was that he couldn’t help but treat him differently. Starsky had changed. He was different. He wasn’t the same lighthearted, free spirit he was used to being around.

The transformation had become even more apparent to him during Starsky’s first week back at work after being released from the hospital. It was the way he avoided making decisions, passed on assignments and generally misused his ‘recovering from the "incident"’ excuse. After a while, Hutchinson began to wonder whether what he was saying was true or just getting convenient to say.

When Starsky got the offer from Millbrook in the beginning, he’d been surprised and even a little disappointed. But he fully understood his friend’s situation. The burden of choice wasn’t as difficult to bear for him as it was for Starsky. How hard must it be to quit a job you’ve trained almost your whole life for and try to do something else with it? He and Starsky had been working together for a long time and it was almost like they were joined at the hip. Through it all they’d overcome brotherly rivalries, petty jealousies over women, threats of extinction by their enemies and job disillusionment just to get to the point where they were now. Now they had to trust that the bond between them was strong enough to withstand a possibly lengthy separation. They had to believe that their deep love and concern for each other would get them through this and that nothing could change the terms of their friendship. Not time, nor distance.

Now the biggest decision of Hutchinson’s adult life hinged on the answer to two of those annoying what if questions. What if Starsky decided stay on the force? Would his decision be based on the assumption that he could do the job just as well as he’d done it before? Or would he base it on some misguided sense of loyalty to his partner? The other issue dealtl with Starsky’s piece of mind. Would he come to the conclusion that life was too short and his time here on earth too precious to continue risking it on a daily basis for the little gain it held? Hutch laughed to himself. Starsky had once made an apt comparison about the two of them being like bugs in a toilet bowl that someone kept flushing. Little did he know how right he'd been. Now it looked like those two little bugs were finally getting tired of swimming upstream.

DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT. I’M NOT THE ENEMY

(Eight weeks after Starsky leaves for New York City, 1979)

Hutch was sitting at the end of the desk in the squadroom where he and Starsky had spent the majority of their almost eight years together on duty. He was turning a little pink and red piggy bank that usually sat at the end of their desks over and over in his big hands, trying desperately not to fix on the chair that his partner used to occupy. Then he set the bank down, leaned over the desk and stared straight into its big, round cartoonish eyes. "What the hell am I supposed to do now, you big lug?"

He sighed heavily, forcing himself to get up from his chair and get on with the day. It took all the effort he could muster just to walk over to the coffee pot for a cup of coffee. In the middle of pouring it, Captain Dobey came into the squadroom and he was talking animatedly to a pretty female officer. Hutchinson was about ready to return to his seat when he looked up and saw the portly black man motioning to him from his office door. "Come on in, Hutchinson, I’d like you to you to meet someone."

Hutchinson rolled his eyes. He was certainly in no mood to meet anyone, especially not if the lady cop Dobey was with was there for the reason he thought she was. "Sure, Cap." He shuffled in behind Dobey, his actions driven more by habit than of his own volition.

Dobey slowly closed the door to his office as the detective took a seat in front of his desk. Hutch noticed that the female officer was leaning against Dobey’s inner office door, looking poker faced. She kept staring at him as if she were trying to read him with a look. He watched Dobey go around his desk and sit down. The big man clasped his hands in front of him and rested them on the desk blotter. He smiled at both of them and chose his words carefully before he spoke. "Well, Hutch, how’ve you been?"

"I’ve seen better days, Cap," he answered, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. He was itching to be anywhere but sitting in front of the captain. "Look, no disrespect meant, Cap', but can we hurry this up?"

"Just hold your horses, Hutchinson. I’ll get to it in due time. In the meanwhile, you just sit there and listen." He motioned to the female officer. "I want you to meet Detective First Grade Elsa Karlsson. She just transferred in from Fillmore Division."

Officer Karlsson stepped away from the inner office door with her hand extended to shake the blond man's. He set the coffee cup down on Dobey’s desk to take it.

"Detective Hutchinson." She addressed him matter of factly. "Detective Karlsson." He responded icily., Then she released his hand abruptly, and repositioned herself against the door.

Dobey watched his man closely and came to the realization that he was growing enormously weary of dealing with Detective Hutchinson’s unpredictable mood swings and his indifferent behavior towards his work of late. Sure, he’d expected him to be down in the mouth about his partner’s being gone, but wasn’t two months long enough to lay those feelings aside and get on the business of life? Out of respect for the longevity of their partnership, he’d held back on his admonishments, but as of today, he intended to let him know just how unprofessional he was being. , he couldn’t allow any more acts of insubordination at this late stage of the game. After all, wasn’t that more Starsky’s style? He crooked his finger at the detective as he spoke. "You should know that Detective Karlsson over there has been assigned to be your temporary partner until such time as your other partner decides when he’s going to return to duty."

Hutch’s temper was simmering and threatening to boil over. "Returns to duty? Captain, it’s been two months now, do you seriously think that Starsky’s coming back? And anyway, like I told you before…I don’t need a new partner!"

"Hutchinson, we both know that your partner has a tendency to be over zealous when it comes to his job, he shouldn’t have come back as soon as he did. I’m of the opinion that this visit to his mother’s was just what the doctor ordered. When he comes back he’ll be good as new and ready to come back to work." He glared at his man. "Besides that, there’s no way I’m going to let you work out there alone…we still don’t know how many tentacles Gunther’s got out there, you need someone to back you up."

"I don’t think so, Cap’n. I’ve been going over the whole thing in my mind ever since Starsky left and I’ve come to a decision. Either I go it alone or I quit the force. It’s that simple."

"And what if Starsky comes back?" The captain replied.

Hutch leaned forward in his chair and looked Dobey squarely in the face. "I don’t think he will…but…" He paused just long enough to glance at the female officer, then back at Dobey. "If you think that, then you really didn’t know him as well as I thought you did." Then he got up to leave.

Now it was Captain Dobey’s turn to hit the ceiling. He stood up. "Sit down, Hutchinson!" Hutch did. "Look, whatever Starsky's decision is, you’ve still got a job to do, that is if you intend to stay on the force. As I see it, that’s a decision you’re going to have to make for yourself, and soon. But until such time as you do, Detective Karlsson here is your partner! So I suggest that you both get acquainted and get your tails out there on the street! Have I made myself clear?"

"Crystal!" Hutch answered hotly, picking up his coffee cup and storming out of the man’s office.

The female detective raised her eyebrow and pulled herself away from her post at the inner door, keeping her eyes on the door that the blond cop had just blown through.

Captain Dobey nodded at her and said, "Detective Karlsson."

She looked at him and he saluted her, his lips forming the words ‘good luck’ as she stepped out of the door and closed it behind her. Outside the captain’s office she watched the fuming man grab a leather jacket from the back of a chair and head for the squadroom door. She started to follow him, but pulled up when he backtracked and made a beeline for a piggy bank sitting at the end of a desk. He clutched it tightly under his arm and then strode out of the squadroom quickly. Karlsson was bewildered. Now that’s an odd thing for a seasoned police officer to want to take with him onto the streets, she thought. But she didn’t say anything to him, just shrugged and trailed him out.

She tagged along behind as he sprinted out of the building and over to the police-parking garage, stopping beside a bright red Gran Torino with a white swish painted over the top and sides. She shook her head in disbelief as he opened the driver side door and tossed the piggy bank into the back seat, the coins in it jostling noisily as they settled to rest. He slid into the car and as an afterthought remembered to unlock the passenger side door, leaning over and pushing it open to let her in. She stood gaping at the car for several seconds longer than she should have and he let her know it. "Are you getting in? Or would you prefer to run alongside while I drive?"

The biting Hutchinson sarcasm had returned, and it was delivered unchecked and without consideration of the person to whom it was directed. Nevertheless it did the trick; it jerked Karlsson out of her shocked state long enough for her to get inside the car. Hutchinson put the Torino’s key in the ignition, started the car and turned to look at her, then put the transmission in gear and pressed on the gas. He backed up and shifted into drive all in one smooth move. There was nothing but the sound of squealing tires as he sped out of the lot.

They were racing down the street at sixty miles an hour, with officer Karlsson gripping the armrest and the edge of her seat for dear life. Everyone she’d spoken to before she transferred down to Metro had told her that Hutchinson was on the edge and the last thing she wanted to do was say or do something that would make him any crazier. He just might kill them both.

The detective stared straight ahead, having the good sense to keep quiet and take out his aggressions on the road with Starsky’s car rather than on his passenger. He swerved sharply down a side street that eventually turned in to the back entrance of Huggy Bear’s bar, The Pits.. He parked there and turned off the engine. Karlsson released her tense hold on the car’s upholstery long enough to breath a deep sigh of relief. "Where are we?" she asked him warily.

"I thought I’d introduce you to a friend of mine, partner."

There was a particular disdain to the way he said the word, ‘partner’. She didn’t know why he held such contempt for the word, or her for that matter. But if they were going to get along, if they had to work together, she was going to have to find a way to get at what was bothering him, or at least trick him into telling her. They got out of the car and she followed him into the building.

======

NO PLAN IS PERFECT

1979

As usual The Pits was the place to be, a bustling hub of conversation, good food, drinks and dancing that its proprietor, Huggy Bear Brown, always seemed to be in the middle of. That was when he wasn’t supplying his two favorite detectives with the word on the street. The two newly thrown together partners approached the bar as he was coming out of the back room, holding a crate of liquor in his arms. He smiled at them, put the crate down on the floor and then reached his skinny hand out to the blond cop.

"Hutch, good to see you, my man!" He pulled the detective close for a shoulder-to-shoulder hug.

"It’s good to see you too, Hug." Hutch answered, stepping back.

"And pray tell, who is this lovely lady?"

"This my new partner."

There he goes again. Karlsson ignored his emphasis on the word this time and offered the tall black man her hand."I’m Elsa Karlsson, nice to meet you…ah…Hug-gy, is it?"

"Huggy’s my name, profits my game, knowin’ the word on the street is my claim to fame. Please, follow me while I show your loveliness to the best seat in the house."

The moody blond didn’t follow them. "I’ll let you two get to know each other. I’m gonna go get a beer."

Huggy led the female officer to a small table well away from the noisy entrance, while Hutch found a stool at the bar.

"Suit yourself, turkey!" He yelled over at him. "But don’t be surprised if the pretty lady and I aren’t here when you get back!"

Hutch brushed off Huggy’s comment with nothing more than a shrug and set about ordering his beer. His anti-social behavior didn’t bother the black man one iota, as it left him free to move in for a more private conversation with the female officer in his company. "Do my ears deceive me, or do I detect a Swedish accent?"

"My parents are from Norway, yes. But I’ve been in the United States for four years now, so I am very familiar with the King’s English."

"Four years you say, so how do you like our fair city?"

"I love it here," she answered, then motioned toward the sulking blond man at the bar with her head. "But I do not know if he and I are going to get along."

"Old Hutch givin’ you the cold shoulder?"

"Yes. His Captain Dobey mentioned to me something about his partner leaving. But I still do not understand why he is so angry at me."

"What did Dobey tell you about the man?"

"Not very much. All I really know about him is that he can drive a racing car very fast, and that he is very fond of a little pink and red pig doll that sits on his desk."

Huggy chuckled. "Well, my man Hutch has some pretty heavy issues tossin’ around in that blond noggin of his. So if he acts a little crazy, that’s why."

"Hmm. What happened?"

"Well, a...mutual friend of ours was ambushed and almost killed about five months ago. He made it, but it got Hutch thinkin’ hard about the future. And like most dudes, instead of talkin’ about his troubles, he sulks or gets angry."

"Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Why did it happen?"

"It was a pretty complicated situation, but what it boils down to is that they were two cops who were bad for someone's business, and that someone was a powerful dude who thought it would be in his company's best interest to put a contract out on them. When the hit happened, my man Starsky was directly in the line of fire. He got shot up real bad. Hutch didn't think he'd make it."

"Oh my God," she gasped. "How horrible."

"It was touch and go there for a while, but he pulled through like a champ."

"So he is all right now?"

"Near as I can tell. He came back to work on desk duty, but I don’t think he was too happy about it, being as how he’s the ‘gotta be where the action is’ type. He was probably sittin’ in that squadroom doin’ some heavy thinkin’ about life in general himself."

She glanced over at Hutchinson, who was still trying to drown his miseries in his glass of beer, understanding him a little more. She turned back to Huggy. "Was the decision about whether he should stay on the force or not?"

"Yeah, that and about them breaking up the partnership. Those two mean a lot to each other, they’re a team."

"So Detective Hutchinson is being cross with me because his partner might want to quit the force?"

"Yeah. Hey, I’m no psychology major, but it seems to me he’s more pissed at the guy who put out the hit on them. And he’s probably a little angry with himself for letting it happen. But angry at you? I don’t think so. Not really. I just think he’s pissed because you’re Starsky’s replacement."

"That’s all very unfortunate. But why should he be cross at all?"

"Okay, it’s like this. He and Starsky wanted to hold the partnership together until they decided it was time for it to end, not when somebody else made the decision for them. The way Hutch sees it, in the physical sense; Starsky’s decision is already made. There’s only one thing that could hold him there now."

"Detective Hutchinson?"

"Bingo."

"There must be a way to get through to him. To tell him that I’m not the enemy."

"Well, I’ve known these two guys for a long time, and Hutch can be a pretty easy guy to get along with. He just gets stubborn sometimes and doesn’t want to hear the truth."

"Is there anything I do to make the transition easier?"

"You’ve just gotta be there for him. Hutch is not the kinda guy who’s gonna let you know what’s on his mind all the time, especially if it’s somethin’ personal. Now if it’s somethin’ to do with the job or his partner, then that’s a thoroughbred of an entirely different hue. Then you’d just better get outta his way, cause he’s gonna let you know what’s what, and if you don’t, in all likelihood, all hell’s gonna break loose. That's just the way he is."

"So it will just take time then?"

"Yeah. And don't worry. From what I’ve been told, the two of them didn’t hit it off so well themselves at first. Getting to know the real Hutch ain’t easy, but if you really want to be his partner, and a good friend, you won’t let that macho exterior of his get in the way of doing what you have to do. Just don’t go out there expecting any miracles at first."

"Thank you. I really appreciate your candor."

"No problem, lovely lady. And good luck." He patted her hand.

Karlsson got up from her chair, touched the black man on his shoulder and walked over to where Hutchinson was sitting, his head hanging down and his beer only half-finished. She stood a safe distance away from him and waited until he saw the tops of her shoes, and then looked up.

"What do you want?"

"I’ve now become acquainted with your friend Huggy Bear. Are you ready to leave?"

"No. I want to finish my beer."

"All right, then I will join you."

His brow furrowed. "No…on second thought, let’s go."

"All right."

Hutch got up from the stool and she followed him out of the bar. He purposely sped up his pace on the way out the door, hoping she’d have trouble keeping up with him. She didn’t. When they got to the Torino, Hutch got in first, and this time she didn’t bother waiting for him to open the passenger door. He paused for a moment, waiting for her to get in, then started the car and pulled off. She catches on quick, he thought.As they sped down the alley she finally addressed him pointedly about his driving technique. "Tell me Sergeant Hutchinson, do all policeman drive their cars the way you do?"

He thought about it for a moment, knowing there was at least one person he knew of who did, but he didn’t say his name. "No, just me," he answered, and he steered the Torino out of the alley, pulling it seamlessly into traffic, seemingly without looking.

"Good." She answered defiantly.

======

Tuesday, September 10, 2001

7:50AM

Starsky flipped on the florescent lights in the semi-dark classroom. As they flickered on and lit up the interior, he could smell the scent of chalk dust and warm mimeograph paper.  The room had the same bright lighting and the same hard, uncomfortable desk chairs as when he had been a cadet. The only difference this time, was that he would be experiencing it from a another vantage point, that of instructor. He looked at his watch; it was ten minutes of eight. He laid his briefcase down on the desk and walked over the window, stopping to look outside. In the distance, a few yards away from the building he was in, he saw about twenty rookie officers in sweats running in formation on a hill, and below them in the parking lot, several new recruits were being checked in. For years now, the cycle had continued, the Academy still churned out its cadets like so much clockwork. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that those enthusiastic young men out there on the hill were he and Hutch? His mouth opened and he said the name. Hutch. It was a name he hadn’t spoken out loud in maybe fifteen years. Hutch. How many years had it been since he’d last talked to him? Ten? Twenty? He and Elsa were at his wedding, but that was back in ’80. After that, the former detective had been so kept so busy seeing to his mother’s needs, that he was only able to keep in contact with the man through the occasional card on the holidays, or a phone call when he was able to spare the time.

Then Hannah had their baby, an experience Hutch hadn't been able to share in because he was taking his lieutenant exams the same day as the birth. But he did manage to fly up for his mother's funeral for a week and take a peek at the new kid on the block. That had been something. But after that it was like he'd dropped off the face of the map. What had happened to the two of them between the passing of Starsky's mother and his decision to return to Bay City? A whole lot, a whole heckuva lot. Marriages and births, death and taxes and life, that’s what, he looked at his watch again. It was five to eight. What was that Latin phrase he knew for time flies? Tempus Fuget? Boy, does it, he thought.

=====

Monday, September 10, 20017:30AM

Hannah Starsky stepped back to admire her latest decorating handiwork. She thought it was beautiful. She had just finished hanging up Mother Starsky’s drapes in the living room window. They were pulled aside with swatches of the same color fabric to let the sunlight into the room. She was so involved with her task that she didn’t notice that her nineteen-year-old son Michael had come down the stairs and snuck up behind her, giving her a loving squeeze around her waist. He put his cheek next to hers and looked at the drapes along with her

."Mom, those look really nice."

She wrapped her arms around his. "Thank you, baby. But what are you still doing here? I thought you started at the Academy today."

"Yeah, ya got me." He released her from his embrace and walked over to the coffee table.

"Aren’t you going?" She turned around to face him. Michael Starsky was as dark, handsome and curly-haired as his father and had the same keen sense of humor.

"Yep, eventually." he answered, picking up a magazine and plopping himself down on the couch, throwing his feet up on the coffee table.

Hannah put her hands on her hips. "Michael…what’s the matter with you? I thought you were serious about joining the police force!"

"I am, Mom, really I am, but um--there’s just one small little detail."

"What small little detail?"

"Promise you won’t be mad at me?"

She walked over and stepped between his legs and the coffee table. "No, I can’t promise you that. C’mon, what gives? What’s the small detail?"

He crinkled up his face and held the magazine up in front of his nose, then lowered it to see what his mother’s reaction would be. "I never told Pop I was joining."

Hannah’s mouth dropped. "You mean you never told your father about wanting to join the police force…?" She closed her eyes and slapped her forehead with her palm. "Good God, Michael, what’s the matter with you?"

"I’m sorry. I just never could get up the nerve to talk to him about it. Not after you told me what happened to him and how he felt about the whole thing."

"I would never have helped you get in if I’d known you hadn’t talked to him about it. Now you’ve put me in a spot."

"Well, that’s not all…" he said, scratching his head absently."

"What else could there possibly be?"

"Ya know that instructor position Pop started on today?"

"Yes. Oh, don’t tell me."

"Yep. Pop’s teaching my first class this morning. That’s why I can’t go. He’s gonna strangle me alive."

"You should’ve thought of that before you applied. Now you’re going to have to go through with it."

"Aww, Mom."

"Don’t ‘Aw, Mom’ me, Michael Kenneth Starsky, if you’re going to be an officer of the law, you’ve got be more forthright than that, and you know it." Hannah picked up her son’s feet and guided them off the coffee table. "Now, you get up, you get dressed and you get going. Go ahead, face the music."

"Yes, ma’am." Michael sucked his teeth and pushed himself up off the couch, dragging himself upstairs and into his room. When he got there, he went directly to his bedroom closet, reached in without looking and pulled his cadet uniform out of the back of it, where it hung proudly, though hidden behind his other suits, shirts and various and sundry items of barely used sports equipment. The young man nervously bit his lip as he reverently removed the uniform jacket from its hanger and slipped it on. He slid the trousers off and stood on one leg, pulling the pants up, and then hopped around and pulled the other side up and zipped. The shirt and tie were next, followed by the jacket and the buffed-to-a-gleam shoes. After he’d given everything he had on a last minute adjustment, he moved over to the full-length mirror on the back of the door. His reflection greeted him with a smile. Out of the corner of his eye, a framed picture of his father smiled the same toothy smile back at him. Well, here goes nothin’, Pop. He collected himself, ran his hand through the brunet mass of curls on his head, then took his car keys from the top of the dresser and ambled down the stairs, kissing his mother goodbye on his way out the door.

IT’S ALWAYS TOUGHEST ON THE ONES LEFT BEHIND

===========

1984

It was one in the morning, and Ken and Elsa Hutchinson were at Marina County Hospital awaiting the anticipated birth of their second child. Their first child, whom they’d named David--after his former partner, slept soundly on his mother’s bed, nestled comfortably on top of the covers, his little body wiggling about every so often as the tried to get comfortable. He was aware that his wife needed all the rest she could get, so he went over and lifted his sleeping son off the bed, cradled him in his arms, and let the boy’s head loll gently against his neck. His eyes stayed on Elsa, who was bravely enduring the long and somewhat strenuous labor and handling it like a trooper. Everything was going well, and the baby wasn’t in any distress. He wandered over to the hospital window and looked out into the moonlit night, the gentle blip, blip, blip of the baby monitor a gentle contrast to the machine monitoring Elsa’s contractions. He was looking forward to the birth of his second child, much like he had the first. They were both momentous occasions. And he should have been wildly ecstatic about both. But for some reason being in a hospital always reminded him of that first day at County with his partner. As this thought crossed his mind, little David rooted at his neck as if he was seeking out his mother’s scent. He leaned his own cheek towards his son’s smaller one and settled him with it.

"Ken?" Elsa whispered.

The blond man turned away from the window at the sound of his wife’s soft voice. She’d worked hard on removing most of the traces of her Norwegian accent, but it sometimes resurfaced when she was excited about something or when they were being intimate.

"Hey, how’s my girl?" he answered, walking over to her.

"I’m okay…how are you?"

"You’re having the baby, and you ask me how I’m feeling?"

Hutch put their three-year-old down next to his mother on the bed and she touched his hand as he did. He leaned close to her and stroked her hair, a serious look on his face. He knew by now there wasn’t any use in him pretending there was nothing wrong. Much like his friend and former partner, Elsa could see right through him.” You’re thinking about him again, aren’t you?"

"Yep."

"You miss him a lot, no?"

"I miss him a lot, yes." he replied, a sad smile on his face.

"Why do you not call him then?"

"Aw, I wouldn’t know what to say to him. It’s been a long time since we last talked, you know? We haven’t even said hello to each other since he got married. To top it off, I was so busy with exams when little Mike was born I couldn’t even fly over and see him." He answered, finding a spot on the bed next to her.

"He’s your friend, *min kjćrlighet. From what you’ve told me of him, he is a very forgiving person, no?" (*Norwegian for ‘my love’)

"It’s not his reaction I’m afraid of Elsa, it’s mine." He took a breath. "I don’t know what it is, but whenever I think about calling him, or even consider going to find him, something gnaws at my gut, like some kind of parasite. It’s a weird feeling, and I hate it, I hate feeling like that."

Elsa sat up in bed as much as she could and he helped her fluff up the pillows behind her. She winced a bit during a small contraction, but regained her composure before he noticed. "This is a good time to call him, I think." She regarded her protruding belly and then looked up at him. "When our son was born, it was a good time then also."

"I guess you’re right." he relented, his hand moving over her belly. Before he could take his hand away, Elsa clamped down on his hand and gripped it with all of her might as a strong contraction built up and increased in intensity. Tears began to form in Hutch’s eyes that were not just the result of the pressure being inflicted on his fingers at the moment. In his heart he knew she was right and it tore at him. The birth of his second child heralded yet another new chapter in his life, and it was up to him to make the effort to include his partner in it.

======

Monday, September 10, 2001

First Class--8:00 AM

It was now eight o’ clock. Starsky watched quietly from his desk as the new recruits with freshly shorn haircuts began filing slowly into his classroom. As they took their seats, he observed each one of them with an astute eye. Subconsciously he noted the ethnicity and gender balance of the group. As he was watching something he saw made him blink. Had he really seen what he thought he’d seen? His eyes followed a fair-haired young recruit as he headed for a front seat in the middle row. Tall and good-looking, he was a dead ringer for someone he knew. But that wasn’t possible, was it? He looked down on his desk and checked the roll sheet. Sure enough, there was an entry for a cadet with the last name of Hutchinson. He blinked again, hoping his brain would make sense of what his eyes were seeing. The confused man scanned the page further, and saw yet another surname that he recognized near the bottom of the list--in the S’s, right after the R’s. There it was, plain as day, Starsky, Michael K. The detective looked up from his desk. In true Hutchinson form the blond son of Kenneth Hutchinson had arrived on time for the early morning class, while Starsky’s own offspring floundered into the classroom five minutes later. The elder Starsky’s deep azure eyes bore into his son’s own as he watched him take his seat.

Michael had never once mentioned to him that he was the least bit interested in becoming a cop, so his being there was a rude awakening. As the former detective thought about it, he wasn’t even sure that he wanted him to be there, not after all that had happened to him over the course of his own career. He stood up, ran a hand through his hair and gathered his thoughts. He was somewhat unsure of how to begin, not only because teaching was new to him, but also because there were other things on his mind, like the fact that he had some questions for that son of his, and also a healthy curiosity about the Hutchinson boy. He guessed the best way to get started was to get all of them comfortable by wishing them a good morning, so that's what he did.

"Good morning everyone."

"Good morning, sir." They greeted him.

"Um, my name is Detective Sergeant David Starsky, and I’m a former police officer with the BCPD. You all know what the course is called, ‘Interpersonal Communication.’ And I know what you’re thinking, ‘cause frankly, I thought the same thing. To me, the whole thing sounds like some pretty fancy terminology for what we everyday Joes in the field call gettin’ along with folks." He noticed that everyone was sitting as straight as arrows. "C'mon, this is not brain surgery, people. The first thing I want you all to do is relax, this is not military training." The group chuckled, and everyone relaxed a little more.

He dug his hands into his blazer pockets. "Look, I’m gonna to be up front with you all and tell you that when I trained here I was never any great shakes as a cadet, especially when it came to going by the book. I’d feel like I was cheatin’ you if I tried to teach this class as if I had been. But what I’m going to try to do is give you some real world experiences to go with the book learning you’ll get. Then I’ll answer any questions you might have about that and we’ll go from there."

He picked up a piece of chalk and wrote his name out on the board. "For roll call, I want you to raise your hand and tell me your name and I’ll mark you present. If you want, you can shoot some questions my way at the same time."

One of the young women raised her hand and he acknowledged it. "Yes?"

"Detective Starsky, Lori Backus, sir. Are you saying we won’t be following the course syllabus then?"

"Well, yes and no. What I’m sayin’ is, anybody can put a book in front of you, ask you to read it, and then have you spit out what you remember. I wanna do you one better." He took off his jacket and pushed up his white shirtsleeves. "What we’re going to do is follow the basic simple outline of the syllabus, have tests and a final, but I’m also going use my own experiences from the street as examples on how to handle things and hopefully show you what it’s really like out there."

Another hand shot up, a black recruit. "Roland Jones, sir. Can you tell us how long you were you on the force, and what made you leave it to become an instructor?"

"That’s a good question, Roland." He answered and his eyes found his son’s. He marked the cadet’s name on the roster. "Let’s see, I joined the force in about sixty-eight, right after I did my stint in the army. I took basic courses right here in this same classroom alongside the man who would later on become my partner. Looking back on it, I think we taught each other more about ‘interpersonal’ communications then any instructor ever could’ve. Anyhow, after we finished training, I was assigned to a senior officer from Metropolitan Division in Bay City, and after six months to a year of  that we ended up being assigned to each other as partners. That partnership lasted about eight years."

The hand of the young blond boy darted up and Starsky was glad to see it. He pointed at the young man anxiously. "You in front."

"David Hutchinson, sir. Isn’t eight years kind of a short partnership? I mean, my father and I know officers who’ve been partnered for twelve to fifteen years or more and  they usually don’t break up until death or retirement. Sort of like a marriage."

Starsky looked unsure for a moment. David. Was it a coincidence? The same last name and the same white bread looks? He checked the name off. "Well, David, I’d always tended to think what happened was that our luck just ran out, things caught up with us and we weren’t prepared for it. Sometimes that happens."

Question answered, Hutchinson’s hand went down, and Starsky knew if he didn’t find out about him soon, he’d spend the rest of the class wondering. Then Michael’s hand went up next and he cringed a little. He hoped the boy would have the good sense not to mention his last name.

"Ah, sir, Michael Starsky…" No such luck. The rest of the class turned to stare at him with questioning eyes. But in true Starsky fashion, he was oblivious to the questioning stares. "Like what kinda things, sir?"

"Well, when you’re a good cop, and I mean a really good one, sometimes…a lot of times, you make enemies. My partner and I were really good cops and we’d made our share of enemies over the years."  Starsky sat down in his chair, allowing long packed away memories started to flood forth. "That’s all I’ll say for now."

A different hand went up. "Jennifer Potter, sir. What was your partner like?"

He thought for a moment, smiled a little. "He was the kind of guy a cop wishes for in a partner, someone who’d lay down his life for you, and you for him. He was a friend first, then a policeman, and that’s the kinda partner you all should hope for when you get out of this place." For the next twenty minutes the elder Starsky let the questions and answers flow until he had collected the names of all fifty students in attendance. He appointed the Hutchinson boy as class sergeant and had him pass out copies of the formal course syllabus, along with one of his own creation. He looked up at the clock and made a decision to release the class at ten minutes to the hour.

"For homework, I want you to take notice of your everyday interactions with people. What they say, how you respond to them, whether you listen, that kind of stuff. Just make notes on what goes on and turn them into me tomorrow when you come in. Then we’ll go over your responses. I have some business to take care of, so I’m going to dismiss the class a little early, hope you don’t mind." No one did. He saw Michael getting up to leave and the boy knew what was going to happen. He’d been praying that his father would forget he was in the room. “Cadet Starsky, I’d like you to stay." No such luck.

After the rest of his class had filed quietly out the door, the elder Starsky closed it. He walked over to the front of his desk and sort of sat and leaned against it at the same time, with his arms crossed in front of him. Michael gave him a sheepish grin."Hi, Pop."

"Hi, Pop? Hi, Pop? Is that all you’ve got to say?"

"I’m sorry, pop?"

"Damn right, you’re sorry. What’re ya doin’ here?"

Michael was fidgeting in his chair like a five-year-old. "Well, ya see Pop, I…"

"Does your mother know about this?"

"She’s the one who helped me get in."

"I don’t believe it. Of all the…how could she?"

"It wasn’t her fault, Pop. She didn’t know I hadn’t talked to you about it yet."

Starsky felt his chest tighten. "I need some air." He stuffed the roster sheet in his briefcase, grabbed it and motioned for his son to follow him and he obeyed. Once they were outside he felt like a rational human being again. He took a breath. "Just when were you gonna tell me about this? Or were you?"

"I dunno when. What can I say? I guess I got scared."

"Not scared enough, I guess." He stopped talking when he reached his car. "Your mother and I are definitely gonna talk about this when we get home." He looked at his watch. "You’ve got another class in five minutes, so you’d better get hoppin’."

"Okay, Pop." He replied, turning to leave.

"Oh, and Mike…"

"Yeah, Pop?

""I got a little assignment for ya. We’ll call it your first rookie undercover assignment. Give you a chance to test your instincts."

"Uh, huh?"

"That recruit named Hutchinson, did you see him?" The boy nodded his head. "Well, I want you to see what you can find out about him…without gettin’ him suspicious. You think you can handle that?"

Michael smiled widely. "Sure, Pop, sure. I’ll do my best!”

He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. "Good. Now get going."

"Okay, Pop. See ya!" The young man ran off enthusiastically.

Starsky tracked the boy until he was just a speck disappearing between the gulf of the two large buildings in front of him. The former detective fished his car keys out of his jacket pocket and got into his car, setting his briefcase down on the floor in front of the passenger seat. He laid both arms across the steering wheel and rested his head on them. He had so many reasons why he’d never encouraged his only child to follow in his footsteps and they were all good ones. But why not a cop? He was a cop, and his father before him. Why shouldn’t Mike want to be one? He admitted to himself that the notion made him proud but also a little scared. If he chose to let him go through with it, all he could do would be to give his son the facts and let him make his own decisions. He raised his head, started the car and drove off.

=======

David Kenneth Hutchinson was an impressive looking young man;  standing head and shoulders above a group of attentive females gathered round him at lunchtime. He appeared to be in his element and very used to the adulation and attention that his Nordic good looks and engaging personality provided him. Despite what would be considered by most as an impediment, he was bred of honest, sensible parentage and seemed, all in all, to be a pretty levelheaded young man. His father, once a police officer himself and now a lieutenant with the Greater Metropolitan Police Department, had wholeheartedly encouraged his son’s plans to join the police force. To his father it was only natural that his only son would want to follow in his footsteps, he condoned it, as long as the young man was aware of the inherent dangers of the job and the precautions necessary to stay alive in it.

======

Michael Starsky was in a pickle. He couldn’t think of a thing to say to Mr. Popularity over there that wouldn’t sound like the babblings of a complete idiot. But what do you say to a guy who looks like that? Not that he was any slouch himself in the looks department. In fact, it was quite possible that if he’d gone over there with intent he might have snatched away his fair share of the ladies and given the guy a run for his money.

He looked over the blond boy’s way again and noticed that the Hutchinson Admiration Society appeared to be taking a recess. The amiable-looking cadet was waving goodbye to the last of his throng of female admirers and it actually looked like Michael might get a chance to introduce himself. Only one female cadet remained once the crowd dispersed, and this one linked her arm possessively into his as they walked past the building where Michael stood watching them. When they went by, he stared at their backs for a moment before finally coming up with something to say to get their attention.

When in doubt, the direct approach seemed best, so Michael did just that, he ran up behind them and tapped Hutchinson on the shoulder. When they turned around to face him, Michael’s enthusiasm was briefly suppressed by the irritated look on the female cadet’s face. Her expression landed somewhere between mild annoyance and the urge to kill. Hutchinson just appeared amused. "Excuse me. Sorry to bother you." Michael apologized.

"What do you want?" The female asked, just slightly beyond infuriated.

"I just wanted to ask him a question." He pointed to the blond. "Do you mind?"

David ran his hand through his blond hair and put his arm around the young woman’s shoulder. She smiled up at him. He looked to Michael expectantly. "Well, what’d you want to ask me, dude?"

"Well, ah…" Michael’s searched for something, anything that wouldn’t sound dim-witted. "We’re in the same class together you see, and I was, ah…wondering if you wouldn’t mind being my study partner for the homework project?"

Hutchinson grinned. "Hate to break it to you, man, but I’ve already got a study partner." He squeezed the shoulders of the young woman beside him, and she giggled.

"Oh.”

"On his disappointed look he added. "Um, tell you what, my schedule’s pretty tight right now. But how about you and me get together for a beer sometime? I’ll see if I can fit you in." He laughed and eyeballed the young woman suggestively.

"Ah, that’s okay, maybe later."

The blond man shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘suit yourself’ and then continued walking and talking with the girl, leaving Michael behind.

"Strike one, Pop," he whispered to himself.

======

Esther Starsky was in her backyard pulling weeds from her garden, she was shaded from the sun’s rays beating down  from the sky by the big sun hat she wore. Gardening had been a favorite hobby of hers for many years, but the effects of her recent illness were making it difficult for her to continue enjoying it. It was a minor setback she simply took in stride. She simply worked within her limitations. She was in the middle of pulling a stubborn weed from the soil it was rooted in, when her mind went blank and she began staring at the plant in her hand. She watched the sprouts disperse into the air for nearly a full minute without moving.

"Mrs. Starsky?" A small voice broke through the dimness. "Mrs. Starsky, are you all right?"

It was Hannah. "Oh, yes, I’m fine." she said, dismissing the episode. "Just got a little distracted."

Hannah gently helped the woman up and led her inside the house to her bedroom. "I think you should come inside and get some rest. The sun’s pretty hot today. We don’t want you getting sunstroke, do we?"

Mrs. Starsky shook her head and obediently pulled off her hat and set it on top of the dresser. She lay down on her bed like a small child and was asleep in a few minutes. The nurse did not move from her spot in the doorway until she heard the woman’s steady breathing.

David Starsky was in the living room of the house sitting in his father’s old chair reading a book. Hannah walked in and stood behind the chair, unsure of how to approach him, but knowing she would finally have to tell him what was going on with his mother. He sensed her presence and lowered the book he was reading.

She was about to turn around when she heard his voice calling to her. “Hannah?"

She walked back around to the front of the chair to face him. "Hi, there. I ah, I ah, just wanted to ask you something."

"Shoot."

"Have you noticed anything different about your mother lately?"

"Not really. I mean, she’s a little forgetful sometimes, but other than that, no. Why?"

Hannah looked down at her hands. "Oh, nothing, I was just wondering if you had."

"Oh, okay." Starsky returned his attention to his book. But Hannah remained there, watching him quietly for a moment. She thought he looked especially handsome today, so very relaxed and calm. Maybe that’s why she found it so hard to tell him something she knew would disrupt his mood. In her eyes, he was still as much a patient as his mother was. Getting over the trauma of healing from multiple gunshot wounds and the stress of making decisions about his career couldn’t be much of a walk in the park. Now Starsky was looking up from his book and staring at her. "You still here?" he asked disarmingly.

She wasn’t really listening to his question, so it kind of caught her off guard and she blurted out, "Oh, I’m, ah…I’m fine."

Starsky could spot a white lie from fifty yards away. He put the book down and got up from the chair. Then Hannah turned to leave, and he caught up with her, tugging at the sleeve of her uniform.

"Wait-a-minute, wait-a-minute! Where ya goin’ so fast?"

"I have to go. Nurse’s rounds at the hospital start in a half an hour."

"Never mind the rounds. I need to talk to you. C’mon."

His abruptness surprised her, and her eyes were wide as he led her by the arm past his mother’s room and outside to the house’s narrow back porch. He sat her down on an old swing where his father had proposed to his mother about thirty-seven years ago. Hannah half-heartedly tried to escape, jostling the swing and causing it to sway back and forth. He held her gently still. "You sit right there. And don’t move, okay?"

She didn’t move. And the swing stopped rocking.

"You’ve been here for what, two months now?" he asked.

"Something like that." she answered, her eyes cast shyly ahead of her.

"My mother thinks of you like family. When are you gonna start treatin’ me that way?"

"I can’t. You make me nervous."

"I make you nervous," he repeated.

"Yes."

He sat down near the corner of the swing, trying to get a handle on the concept. "And just how do I make you nervous?"

"I don’t know. The way you stare at me sometimes, when you think I’m not looking. It makes me, I don’t know, uncomfortable."

"And why is that?

"Hannah didn’t answer. She was playing a game with him. She knew all too well the reason why he watched her so intently sometimes. It was the same reason that she found herself visually seeking him out whenever there was more than one person in the room. Neither one of them wanted to publicize their feelings just yet, it just didn’t seem appropriate. Because of her capacity as Mrs. Starsky’s nurse, she felt it was necessary to restrain her emotions in order to remain professional. She didn’t know what his reasons were. She looked at her watch and jumped up from the swing. "I really have to go, David. I’ll see you tonight at dinner. Okay?"

"Okay. But we’re going to talk about this, promise?"

"I promise."

He stayed on the swing long after Hannah had gone back into the house, fairly rooted to the spot, angrily going over in his mind what he might have said or done wrong. Maybe he’d come on a little too strongly, scared her off or something, he wasn’t sure. He knew they liked each other, so that wasn’t it. Maybe she just wasn’t ready to start a relationship yet. He shrugged it off then got up to go back inside and read the rest of his book. "Women." he whispered under his breath.

 

========

Later that same afternoon, Mrs. Starsky woke up. She looked around her room, feeling alone and a little disoriented. It took a minute for her to realize she was in her own bedroom. Once she figured it out she relaxed. She got out of bed and walked over to a full-length mirror, crinkling her forehead. "No, no. This just won’t do." She said to herself, fussing at her sundress. She moved over to the closet and rummaged through it for a few seconds before coming out carrying an armload of dresses. She laid them across the bed, carefully smoothing out each one, assuring that she’d be able to evaluate them all. As she tracked the lot, her eyes lingered on a one that she thought was particularly striking. It was a knee-length, A-line dress with a beautiful grouping of spring flowers roaming through it. She picked it up and started dancing around the room with it in her arms, holding it close to her body. Then she disappeared behind a lacquered Japanese-inspired dressing divider to try it on.

When she emerged from the divider, it was obvious that the mistress had long outgrown her frock. But that didn’t seem to discourage her; her delight seemed not to lie in the fit of the dress, but in the finding of the proper hose and shoes to go with it. She poked in her dresser and found some hosiery that satisfied her eye, and slipped them on Turning in the mirror she supposed that she looked nice enough to go out on the town.

She turned in front of the mirror to a tune only she could hear. At first in small circles, then wider until she began to feel dizzy. The room  turned into a swirling flurry of cream-colored curtains and spinning shapes. As she came to a stop she lost her balance and sent one of her favorite bedroom lamps crashing to the carpet. The noise brought in Hannah, who had just returned from her rounds, and her son, who came bounding in from his bedroom. When they got there, she was sitting on the floor, sobbing and trying to pick up the pieces of the lamp base that had broken.

Starsky dropped down beside her and held her hands away from the broken shards. "Ma! Ma! What’s wrong?"

She stared at him blankly. He looked to Hannah. "What’s wrong with her?"

Without answering, Hannah helped the woman off the floor and sat her back on the bed. She was still holding a shard from the lamp in her hand, mumbling something to herself over and over. It sounded like ‘it was very pretty’ to him.

The nurse offered him a half-smile. "It’s what I wanted to tell you earlier today."

"What?"

Hannah moved some stray curls from his mother’s forehead. "Your mother’s suffering from dementia, David. Slowly but surely, she’s forgetting faces, names, dates and places. Her memory’s been declining for at least three months now."

Starsky got to his feet and walked over to his mother’s bed. He sighed heavily. "W…why didn’t she tell me?"

"Because she didn’t want you to worry about her. She even swore me to secrecy." She reached over and put her hand on his shoulder. "I really wanted to tell you."

Starsky nodded. He took the shard out of his mother’s hand carefully. Then he covered her hand with his own. She acknowledged it with a smile and then turned to look at him, momentarily aware

"David? Baby, is that you?"

"Yeah, Ma, it’s me."

"When did you get home? I thought you were still playing over at that nice Mrs. Crane’s house."

"No, I’m here, Ma. I’m right here."

The simultaneously confused and hurt expressions on his face made Hannah want to take him in her arms and hug him. He looked into her face and her warm, caring smile greeted him. In that instant, words that could not be spoken aloud were instantly exchanged between them. Hannah helped the disoriented woman to get comfortable and he waited for her. When she was done, he followed her out of the room and they walked outside to the porch. Shaky, he steadied himself on the porch railing and then spoke. "Is she…is she going to get any better?"

"I’m afraid not, David. They don’t have a cure for this yet. The doctors don’t know fully what they’re dealing with."

"So that’s why she wanted me to come up here."

"Yes, that was one of the reasons."

"H…how did this happen? I mean could it be life-threatening?"

"I’ll answer your first question first. The first time she became aware of that something was wrong was after some of her neighbors found her wandering on the street two months ago. She didn’t know where she was or how she’d gotten there. She’d fallen and her legs and arms were badly bruised and scratched up from the concrete. After they bandaged her up in the hospital, she started to exhibit more signs of senility. That’s when she was diagnosed. Shortly after that I was assigned as her live-in nurse.”

“In answer to your second question, yes, this disease can be life threatening, if she’s not properly cared for. You may want to consider a nursing home for her--when and if the symptoms become more severe."

It was frightening for him to hear how easily Hannah slipped in and out of medical mode. "A nursing home?" he asked incredulously.

“David, I know you love your mother, but it’s very difficult to care for a older parent. It takes a lot of time, patience, and money. And I know you were thinking about going back to Bay City soon. You may want to think seriously about what you really want to do now that you know. I’ll be here for another few more weeks, so you’ll at least have that much time to decide how you’re going to handle this."

"I already know what I’m going to do. I have disability money coming to me. I don’t know how much, but I can find out. If I have to stay here, I’ll do that. There’s no way I’m sending my mother to a nursing home if I can help it."

"Whatever your decision is, David--I’ll help in anyway I can, you know that."

"Thanks." Starsky didn’t know what else to do, so he did what he felt was right at the moment. He hugged her. And surprisingly, she didn’t pull away from him.

NOBODY EVER SAID IT WAS GOING TO BE EASY

======

JUNE 1984

It was late and Ken Hutchinson had been relentlessly studying the materials for his lieutenant’s exam for the past two hours. Exhausted, he finally put down his study notes, took off his reading glasses and rubbed at his temples. He could hear his wife speaking in a low whisper trying desperately to quiet their baby daughter, Katharina, in the children’s room. She was wailing so uncontrollably that he knew she would eventually have to pick the child up. He wondered how her older brother slept through it, but he guessed that the boy was well used to it by now. When the crying stopped, he turned around in his chair and saw his wife standing in the hall doorway with the baby girl in her arms, two mute witnesses to his quiet frustration. She started over to him.

"I’m sorry. Did she disturb you? I tried to get her to go down, but she wouldn’t."

Hutchinson smiled at his wife and child, and his features relaxed. "No, no. I’m just tired. I should have been in bed an hour ago."

"I’ll nurse her and put her down. Then I’ll make us both some tea. How does that sound?"

He checked his watch. It was eleven p.m. "Make that tea to go and you’ve got a deal. How about I meet you in the bedroom?"

Elsa came over to him and kissed him on the cheek. "It will only take me a about fifteen minutes."

He leaned over and kissed his baby daughter on her forehead as she gurgled and made an attempt to reach for him. "You go to sleep now. Don’t keep Mommy away from Daddy too long, okay?" The baby cooed and smiled, then clung fast to her mother. Both of them laughed. "She is just being a bad little girl tonight, because she knows that her mamma and pappa are trying to make a date with each other."

Hutch waved goodbye to his daughter as her mother carried her out of the room. He turned his attention back to his books briefly and yawned. No more studying tonight. He pushed himself away from the desk, stacked his books neatly on top of it and turned off the desk lamp. The tall blond went to the bathroom, pulled off his shirt and tossed it in the laundry hamper. He took careful note of his bleary eyes and the pallor of his fair skin in the bathroom mirror. At Elsa’s insistence he’d shaven off the mustache he’d grown several months ago. She’d complained that it made him look older than he was. He’d steadfastly protested, but she told him that if he liked it so much, he could grow it back when he took a captain’s position. He told her that would never happen and she’d replied emphatically, "Good!"

He shrugged off his jeans and underwear, took a shower, brushed his teeth, tossed on some cologne, not too much, it was bedtime after all, and pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms that hung on the back of the door. He extinguished the bathroom light and made his way into the bedroom, where Elsa was waiting for him in bed, the two cups of tea waiting on the nightstand beside her.

"What took you so long?" she asked.

"Getting old, takes me longer," he answered.

"Not from where I’m sitting.

"He took a flying leap onto the bed without warning,  grabbed her around the waist, and then started tickling her nonstop. They were both laughing so hard they almost forgot that there were children sleeping in the next room. "Shush." he admonished her--when he could stop laughing himself.

"No, you shush."

"You’d better get up and close that door before the kids hear us."

"Why don’t you?"

"’Cause I’m dog-tired, that’s why."

"Humph. Then I will do it. But only because you’re tired." She got up from the bed, walked over to the door and shut it quietly, then ran back and jumped in beside him, pulling the covers up to her waist. "So how are you coming with your studies?"

"I am failing miserably."

"You are not."

"Yes, I am. I can’t concentrate on anything. I forget what I’ve read two seconds after I’ve read it." He leaned back against the headboard. Hannah reached for one of the teacups and handed it to him. "Here, drink this, it’s one of the teas from my country. It will help you sleep."

He took the cup but smiled lasciviously. "I know something else that will make me sleep."

She laughed. "Later, *hjerte. Right now, we must talk."

"Figures." Hutch sipped some of the tea. "What about?"

"What do you think?"

"Oh. That."

"Yes-s-s, that. Did you think I would let you forget?"

Hutch set his cup of tea down on the nightstand. "Elsa, this is not what I had in mind when I said I wanted to make a date."

"This is the only time that I have to talk to you about it. You’re either studying for your exam or you’re on duty. We must talk about this now."

"Okay. Okay."

"Have you tried to contact David?"

"You know I have. I try constantly."

"Lately, I mean." There was a long period of silence. She took a sip of her tea and waited for him to answer.

"No, not ‘lately’." he finally answered.

"When did you last try?"

"Elsa, I really don’t want to talk about this now. Do you mind?"

"Yes, I  mind. I think he is the reason you are having such a difficult time with your studies."

"Oh, and you know this for a fact, huh?"

"Yes. So now I see that your friend Huggy was right. You can be so very stubborn when it comes to hearing the truth."

"Oh, so now you’re going to Huggy for marital advice. Great!"

"Now you are angry with me."

"I am not…angry. It’s just that I have tried to call Starsky, and I just haven’t had any luck reaching him."

"And you’ve written him as well?"

"Yes, mother, I’ve written him several times and each time there’s been no reply. It’s like he dropped off the face of the earth or something."

"Admit this to yourself, you are worried about him. And this possibly would explain your lack of ability to concentrate, would it not?"

"You just a regular Sigmund Freud, aren’t you?" He tweaked her cheek.

"I don’t understand your meaning. Sigmund Freud was a psychoanalyst who lived in Vienna in 1860." She deadpanned.

"You still take things way too literally, Elsa." He kissed her on the lips. "But I love you anyway."

He leaned in close to her and whispered something in her ear. She closed her eyes and almost let the warm feeling of his breath against her skin and the baby kisses he delivered to her neck overwhelm her. But she wasn’t finished with him, so she moved away from him slightly.

 "Now stop that, please. We are still talking."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot." Hutch sat back, arms folded in mock defiance. "That’s definitely what we were doing. But I’ll have you know that it’s against my better judgment."

"Please promise me that you will try to find out what’s happened to him starting tomorrow."

"If I promise you, will you stop talking?"

"I promise."

"Okay, I promise I’ll do some detective work in my free time and try to find out where the guy is."

"Scout’s honor?"

"Aw, c’mon."

"You have to swear, or I won’t believe you."

"Oh, all right." He put up three fingers of his left hand and put his right hand over his heart. "I swear I will do my best to find the man who is unknowingly ruining any chances of my making love to my wife tonight. There, all right, I said it, are you satisfied?"

She slid down on the bed, reached over and pulled the handsome blond man down on top of her. "Not yet." She answered. "But you still have plenty of time to try." And with that, he planted a long, slow kiss on Elsa’s lips, and she all but disintegrated in his arms.

Hutch pulled the chain for the lamp on his side of the bed, and she pulled hers. Their eyes did not leave each other as they did it. Soon the bedroom was almost fully bathed in darkness, and their only guides for the evening were the light from a full moon shining through their bedroom window, and their passion for each other.

========

AFTER THE DANCE

Marvin Gaye

JANUARY 10, 1980

Two life-changing events took place after David Starsky left Bay City to come to New York. First, he met Hannah Kaplan, his mother’s care nurse, and he learned about his mother’s slowly advancing dementia. It might have been a devastating blow, except for Hannah’s help, and so the detective was able to make the necessary adjustments in his life that would allow him to remain in New York and take care of his mother. Hannah was a priceless gem of a human being to have around. She made it a priority to see to both their needs-from making sure any medicines his mother needed were on hand, to helping him get situated in town to where he could spend more time preparing for the teaching position in Bay City if he ever wanted to go back there. During this trying time, she and David nurtured a dependence on each other that over time, he hoped would evolve into much more.

The former detective was in the backyard tending to his mother’s garden when Hannah came out onto the porch. Since he was wearing nothing more than a pair of khaki pants and a pair of brown leather sandals, she couldn’t help but notice him and admire his well-developed and manly chest. Her heart did flip-flops where she stood. She waved to him. "Hello, David."

"Hiya, Hannah. What’s up?"

"Well, I just came back from the hospital. I spoke to Dr. Ketchum, he’s going to refer your mother to a specialist." She walked down the porch steps toward him. He laid the water hose down on the grass and then went over to the spigot to shut off the flow. "They say anything about her prospects?"

She linked arms with him as they walked back toward the house. "Just that you shouldn’t worry too much. This disease progresses very slowly. Your mother may not see any major symptoms for years." They walked up the steps and stopped on the porch.

"This is all new territory for me." He confessed. "I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to handle all of this."

"You will, David. Trust me." She put her hand on the screen door to open it. He put his hand on the doorframe and stopped her. "How about we go for a walk in Central Park? It’s a beautiful day out."

"What? You want we should feed the squirrels?"

"Whatever happens."

"Sure, why not?" she answered. "I’ll go change into something more casual. You might want to think about putting on something yourself. I’d hate to think of all those lovesick females I’d have to save you from if I let you go out in public looking like that. Not that I’m complaining or anything."

"Right." He smiled at her. "I’ll put on a shirt."

"Thank you," she answered. Then she went inside and he followed her.

The park was a veritable sea of green--lots of green trees, green grass. The day was clear and warm. The birds were singing, the sun was shining and all seemed right with the world. David Starsky was at a hot dog stand set up near the Kiddy Park, buying two sauerkraut dogs and two sodas, while his date for the afternoon waited for him on a park bench nearby. After he paid for their food, he walked over to where she was sitting.

"Did you get mine with everything?" She asked him.

"Sure did, including the onions." He frowned when she wasn’t looking. The last thing he wanted to do was try and kiss a girl with onion on her breath. And he was going to try and kiss her today. He handed her a hot dog and a soda and sat down next to her. She took a bite of hers and he took a bite of his. They chewed and waited.

"You know, I’ve been thinkin’..." They both started.  They laughed.

"You first." she offered.

He took a napkin and wiped his mouth. "Okay. Aren’t you the least bit curious about what I wanted to tell you on the porch a few weeks ago?"

It had been almost a month to the day since the handsome detective had pulled her aside on the porch. She’d stopped him cold back then, but she wasn’t about to do anything that foolish today. She set her partially eaten hot dog down, snapped up a napkin and dabbed at the mustard on the corners of her mouth. "I think I know what you’re goin to say. But why don’t you tell me?"

"What!?" He slammed his free hand down on the bench in mock offense. "So what were you gonna do? Keep me in suspense?"

"Oh, David, I had to wait for the right time. You had to know everything about your mother before I could think of doing anything for myself. If I’d done it any other way, it wouldn’t have been right, at least for me."

Starsky put his hot dog down on the bench beside hers and took her hand. "You know you’re absolutely beautiful? My mother’s a lucky woman to have you to care about her." Then he paused. "And I’m a lucky man to know you."

"So, what’s the deal, Mr. Lucky?" she asked him teasingly. "Are we going to waste time doing the mating dance? Or are we going to get down to the real nitty gritty?"

"My, my, my. I do admire a lady who knows what she wants."

"I admire a man who knows how to get what he wants."

Starsky smiled, closed his eyes and their lips met. After a while he thought it wasn’t so bad kissing a girl with onions on her breath after all.

==========

COPS NEED LOVE TOO

LATE 1979

It took a few months for Ken Hutchinson to warm up to the idea of having a female officer in the car with him on a daily basis. But once he figured out she wasn’t there to try and take the place of his best friend and former partner, he actually warmed up to the idea, even learned to enjoy it, at least a little. And what man wouldn’t? Elsa Karlsson was a leggy, blue-eyed blonde, highly intelligent, with an understated but warm sense of humor. She had a very likable, engaging personality, and what’s more, she listened to him. She rarely argued unless she had a valid point, and she shared her ideas about the job with him when she thought it appropriate and necessary. And most importantly, she knew her job.

He’d watched her come to work in her pale yellow Saab everyday for the past three months. Whereupon she would meet him in the squadroom, walk over to the coffeepot, pour a cup of coffee for the both of them, and then sit down beside him, ever mindful never to occupy his partner’s old spot. This morning wasn’t any different. He took the cup from her without looking as she handed it to him. She sat down and cradled her cup in the palm of her hands beside him.

"How are you today?" he asked politely.

"I am fine. And you?"

"Feelin’ great, Elsie, just great." Until recently, he would only address her by her last name, now he’d taken to calling her by a derivative of her first.

"That’s good, yes?"

"That’s very good."

The blond detective took a sip of his coffee and set the coffee cup down on the desk. He straightened the papers in front of him and dropped the pencil he was using back in the pencil cup in front of him. She watched him quietly for a moment. "So, Detective Hutchinson, what’s on our agenda for today?"

"Hum? Ah…oh…Dobey’s assigned us to patrol the Pacifica area. There’s been a rash of store robberies out there. He wants us to see if we can find out if anything’s going on."

"Do you want to take my car or yours?"

"Um, my car’s at the shop again. Bad head gasket."

"You want to drive?"

"If you don’t mind."

"Not at all." She was still drinking her coffee and he waited for her to finish before he stood up. He was feeling very gentlemanly this morning, so when he grabbed his jacket he opened the door and let her go out of the squadroom door first.

When they walked out to the station parking lot and she handed him her keys, he came around and opened the door for her. She cocked her eye at him. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I’m doing? I’m opening the car door for you."

"But you’re…you’re breaking our rule."

"It’s no big deal, okay?"

Elsa always felt a little uncomfortable when her partner did things that went against the arrangement they had with each other. And he’d been doing it a lot lately, she noticed. One of the conditions she had to agree to concerning their partnership was that she agree to forego such chivalrous practices as opening car doors for her or him letting her go through doors first. Only because he’d said that he thought it might be a hindrance to them when they were in dicey situations together. His thinking was that in police work, it was very important that she behave, as backward and chauvinistic as it sounded, just like a man.

She allowed him his show of gallantry this one last time, despite his flouting of the rules, and didn’t say anything more to him about it. But if it happened again, she was calling him on it. He sprinted around to the driver side of the Saab and got in. When he put the key in the ignition, she glimpsed at him. He was wearing a big smile on his face, maybe the biggest, happiest smile she’d seen him wearing in a long time, and she wondered what was going on with him. "Are you all right?"

"Sure I am. Why shouldn’t I be?" He started the car.

"Oh, no reason."

The smiling continued as he pulled the car out of the parking lot.

The drive to Pacifica took only about forty-five minutes. He parked the car on a narrow road overlooking a craggy ocean bluff. Off to the right was a view of the bluest ocean he’d ever seen, and off to the left were tracts of luxurious homes, some or most with pools. In the middle of this affluence was a small convenience center; it included a dry cleaner, a wine shop, a fire station, a jewelry store and a post office, among other places of business.

He found the seat release under the base of the Saab’s bucket seat and leaned it as far back as it would go, put on his shades and turned to her. "Might as well get comfortable, partner. It might be a while before we see anything."

She did as suggested and reclined in her seat, staring up at the off white ceiling of the car.

He looked over at her. "Anything the matter?"

She continued studying the ceiling. "No." "C’mon, what is it?" "I’m very confused about something."

"Confused? About what? The assignment? That’s easy, we’re here to--"

"No, no, not that!" She cut him off. She was livid. "First you adamantly insist that I become accustomed to being treated like a man. So to keep the peace, I honor your request. Because of my upbringing it is very difficult for me, but I do it. Now you want to open doors for me suddenly and buy me lunches. If you cannot follow the rules that you yourself have set, I’m wondering if perhaps I should not consider transferring to another department."

Hutch sat up immediately, almost bumping his head. "Whew, I thought it was…I mean, oh, no. Don’t do that! Everything’s going so well now. I wouldn’t want you to do anything like that!"

"I only agreed to it because I thought you were right. The fact that I am a woman should never affect our working relationship."

He turned his attention outside the window shortly, and then back to her. "I understand what you’re saying, and I don’t want that to happen either. Believe me, I really do enjoy working with you." Still distracted, he glanced out of the window again. There was a truck pulling into the parking lot of the convenience mall. Nothing unusual, but he wanted to keep his eyes open.

"So, it’s agreed then, we will continue to abide by the terms of our earlier agreement?"

"Hum? Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah, that’s fine."

Two men in blue uniforms got out of the truck and went into the liquor store, they were inside for a few minutes and then came out with a large wooden crate, which they took back to their truck and drove off with. He leaned back in the seat again.

"Is anything happening over there?" she asked.

"No. Not yet anyway."

"Perhaps we should get out and walk around."

"Good idea." Hutch got out of the car and without thinking about it, ran around the side to open the door for her. She glowered at him through the window. The poor guy had forgotten already. He slapped his forehead and opened the door anyway. She got out and folded her arms across her chest. "This is becoming very difficult for you, isn’t it?"

"C’mon, it’s not that serious. Let’s go, over there. "He walked on ahead and she followed him. Cars were whizzing past them at sixty plus miles per hour and there wasn’t much distance between them and three tons of speeding metal. Hutch took hold of her by the elbow and pulled her to his right side. He looked very serious, as if he were trying to make up his mind about something

"Hutch, I’m not kidding, if you’re really having problem with this…I can always…"

"Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, I am having a problem with you being my partner. But it’s not what you think." He looked down at his shoes as he walked, the breeze from the passing cars blowing his blond hair out of place. Elsa put her hand on his arm and stopped him in his tracks.

"Then what is it? You must tell me."

He sighed heavily. Then raised his head. Over to the far right was a small park with a picnic table and a set of benches. "Let’s go over there, we can talk and keep an eye on the mall at the same time."

"All right," she agreed.

They walked over to the table and sat down on top of it instead of on the benches. He cleared his throat. "Well, okay. Let’s see, what’s it been? About three months since we started working together?"

She nodded.

He smiled. "I know it must sound pretty ridiculous, but everyday for those three months, I’ve been trying to pretend that you don’t exist."

"What are you saying?"

"I’m saying I must’ve tried at least a dozen times to get to you leave on your own. None of it worked and today I figured out why."

"Why?

"This is gonna sound harsh, so don’t take it the wrong way, okay?’ She nodded. "When you first got to Metro, I didn’t want to work with you. I just couldn’t handle the thought of working with any other partner besides David Starsky. I hated Dobey for transferring you in to take his place, and I disliked you in particular. After I realized you were here to stay, I just learned to accept it."

She laughed. "So I grew on you?"

He barreled on without responding. "I kept trying to find fault with you so that I could keep on hating you, it was so much easier that way. But the more I searched for things to hate you for, the more I…I realized that there wasn’t much of anything to find. You’re a smart, caring, educated and capable woman. The only things you’re not, are my former partner or a guy. So I came up with the chivalry rule. I thought it made sense at the time. I thought maybe if I could take you down a notch, I wouldn’t have to worry about you so much."

The smile dropped off her face. "You were worried about me?"

"Oh, yeah, I worry about you all the time. Especially when we’re undercover." Hutch took off his sunglasses and patted her hand. "What I’m trying to say in my own plodding, rambling way, is that I care about you, and I don’t want anything to happen to you. All right?"

She pulled her hand away from his and shot up from the bench abruptly, getting as far away as she could from him as quickly as possible. "What does this mean, your telling me this? What am I supposed to say?" She stood very close to the edge of the bluff, holding herself and shaking her head fervently. "This was not supposed to happen. This was never supposed to happen!" Her eyes were tearing up and she inwardly commanded the tears to stop.

Hutch hopped off the picnic table and rushed over to where she was standing. She was angry and he hadn’t expected that kind of reaction. "Hey, hey, hey! If it’s that’s how you feel about it, forget it!"

She hung her head. "That’s just it, Hutch…I can’t forget about it."

"What’re you talking about?" he asked.

"I don’t know what I’m talking about…" She stopped to wipe tears away. "I just don’t know how to do this. I guess I have been so busy keeping how I feel about you to myself for so long…I wasn’t ready for you to be the one to tell me this. Are you not afraid of jeopardizing our partnership?"

"Look, Elsie, I’m not asking you to quit the force, or marry me or anything like that. All I’m asking you to do is not let the job get in the way of anything that might happen between us."

"That sounds easy enough. But what happens now? Do we just go on like before? Does anything change?"

"Sure, we change."

"I’m not sure what you mean."

"Well, I’ll tell you what I hope it means. I hope, that if we play our cards right, it means that one of us will be putting up a vacancy sign on their apartment. Who that’ll be is up for discussion."

She gasped audibly. "Are you talking about living together?"

"It’s a big first step, but somebody’s got to make it. Whaddya say?"

"Oh…I don’t know what to say."

"Then say yes, Elsa."

She took his hands in hers and kissed them. "Yes. Of course, yes."

=========

LET’S GET MARRIED

Al Green

Kenneth Hutchinson didn’t usually smoke unless he was nervous or undercover, but he needed a cigarette right now. After six months of working together and dating, he’d finally asked Elsa Karlsson to marry him, popped the question, done the deed. His pulse was racing abnormally fast and his brow was as sweaty as his palms when he finally got up the nerve to do it. The thought of marrying someone again after the experience he’d had with Vanessa scared him to death, but the thought of losing Elsa to someone else scared him even more.

They’d been living together for a while before he felt right about his decision. Now the wedding plans were being made, flowers were being ordered and venues reserved. The wedding would be a small one, just family and close friends. He wasn’t fond of fiascoes like the one he and Vanessa had blown through years earlier. Besides, where had that money and the marriage ended up? Spent.

Elsa was sitting at the kitchen table making out invitations when he walked in and sat down next to her. He picked up one of the embossed white and gold linen envelopes and studied it for a second, then set it down, looked at her and smiled."Are we having fun yet?"

"No, we are not." She was the portrait of exasperation.

"W…why not?" he asked, laughing.

"This is not funny. Do you know how difficult it is to invite only twenty-five people to a wedding?"

"But we agreed it was going to be small and intimate, right?"

"I know. But you try telling my cousins, my nieces and my nephews that they can’t come to our wedding. I have a very large family."

"So they’ll come to the reception and eat free food and dance instead. What’s not to like about that?"

"Humph." She flipped through the address cards and serendipitously landed on the S’s. A familiar name caught her eye, ‘Starsky’. She took out the card and tapped it against the tabletop, then showed it to Hutch. He took it from her, and then gave it back after reading the name. "Do you think he’ll come if we invite him?"

"I hadn’t really thought about it." She knew he was fibbing. He’d thought a lot about whether his old friend would come if invited to their wedding.

"He is your best friend."

"I thought so. But what kind of friend doesn’t call you for almost a year?"

"He’s probably very busy. So you will invite him then."

"You have a skewed sense of logic, Elsa. Remind me not to argue with you when we get married."

"I won’t." She answered playfully, then started writing Starsky’s name and address down on one of the invitations. As she finished the y on his partner’s last name, the telephone rang. And after some jockeying by the both of them to see who would get to the phone first, she answered the offending device. It was now noticeable from her profile that she didn’t have quite the same trim figure she’d had when they’d first met. Her tummy protruded a bit beneath the top she wore and she looked to be about three or four months pregnant. She spoke into the receiver while keeping her eye on him. "Hello?"

"Hello. I’m looking for Detective Ken Hutchinson. Is he there?" It was a man’s voice.

"May I ask who is calling?"

"This is David Starsky. I’m an old friend of his." Elsa’s mouth dropped open. "One…one moment please," she stuttered. The receiver went straight from her ear and towards Hutch. "What’s wrong? Who is it?" he asked tentatively.

She didn’t answer, just kept on waving the phone vigorously in front of him. He finally got up to take it, and she anxiously looked on.

"Hello?"

"H…Hutch? It’s me. Starsky."

The blond’s forehead furrowed, then smoothed out, and he took a deep breath, his eyes got wide with excitement. "Starsky? Is it really you?" He couldn’t believe it.

It’s really me, man!"

Elsa grabbed hold of Hutch’s arm and stood near him, eager to be in on their conversation.

"Damn, man. We were…we were just talking about you."

"My ears must’ve been burnin’, huh? Who’s the sweet voice belong to?"

Hutch looked over at Elsa. "That’s Elsa, Starsk. Guess what? We’re getting married."

There was a short pause. "You and sweet voice? That’s great. I’m happy for you. Congratulations. When’s the big day?"

"November 11th. You’re invited, Starsk. The invitations are going out today.

"So when’s the due date?" he asked slyly.

"The what?

"C’mon, pal. Don’t play innocent with me. I know you. There ain’t no way you’d tie the knot with a chick unless someone was holding a gun to your head. So either her Dad owns a Browning, or she’s got a bun in the oven, am I right?"

Hutch laughed and shook his head. His best friend knew him all too well. But he was only half right this time. "It’s not like that, Starsky. Elsie’s special. I think she’s really the one."

"Glad to hear it, pal."

"So, what’s going on with you? I missed you, buddy."

"Are you near a chair? It’s a long story."

Surprisingly, Starsky managed to relay to Hutch in a half and hour what had taken him almost a year to experience. He told him about his mother’s illness, why he hadn’t been able to call sooner, his indecision about the position in Bay City, and lastly, about meeting his own special someone, Hannah Kaplan.

When he was done, it was Hutch who had to take a breath. "Whew. Man, I can’t believe it."

"Neither can I."

"I’m sorry to hear about your mom."

"It’s okay. We’re gonna get through it. Hannah’s helped us out a lot."

"So I guess we’ll get to meet Ms. Right at the wedding, huh?"

"You bet. So, how far along is your lady?"

Hutch laughed again. "Almost four months."

"I’ll bet you’re excited."

“Excited? More like scared out my wits. But I’m happy."

"That’s all the matters, man. Well, I gotta get off the horn. It was great talking to you. Tell your lady I send my love. I’ll see you at the wedding, okay?"

"Sure, guy. Can’t wait."

"Later." Hutch hung up the phone slowly and put his arm around Elsa. She looked at him as he stared beyond her and out of the kitchen window into the distance.

"Well, what did he say to you?"

"He said he’d come. He’s really coming."

If he thought he needed a cigarette before, he really needed one now.

=================

LET’S GET MARRIED

Al Green

The sun was just setting and the air was warm and calm when David Starsky pulled up in his rental car with Hannah and his mother sitting beside him. Other guests had already arrived and were emerging from their cars. Most of them were driving rentals as well, as evidenced by the agency license plates. He took in all the scenery as he parked. The place looked like a Mediterranean villa, with terraced grounds, terra-cotta stucco, red tiled roofs and  an expansive veranda, it was a magnificent sight. A string of cove lights lit the walkway that led up to the wedding site.

The former detective got out and promptly attended to seeing his female companions out of the car. He was wearing a handsome dark blazer over a pair of tan slacks and a white shirt. Hannah was wearing a pastel colored suit with a matching purse and shoes, while Mrs. Starsky wonderfully pulled off a coordinated solid colored flowered suit with a contrasting hat, shoes and purse. "This is wonderful, David. Just beautiful." Hannah remarked.

"When Hutch said small and intimate, I guess he meant by filthy rich standards."

"This is a beautiful spot. I think it’s going to be a gorgeous wedding." His mother said, looping her arm around his. "Just beautiful."

"I think so too, Ma." He put his other arm around Hannah’s waist and they walked up the lighted path. When they got up to the wedding site, they saw a blond man and several other guests standing around talking and drinking, the blond’s back was turned away from the entrance when they came in. He knew it was Hutch. The wedding officiant, dressed in his ceremonial best, stood beside him. When the blond man saw the eyes of the group he was with turn away from him, he turned to see what they were looking at.

When their eyes met, Starsky was not prepared for the rush of emotions he felt upon seeing his best friend again. And neither, it seemed, was Hutch. "Starsky?" He asked incredulously. Then he handed his drink off to one of the guests and walked over to the three of them. At first cautiously, then as he got nearer, quickening his pace.

"Starsky!" A big smile lit up his face. Hutchinson singled Starsky out from amongst the threesome, like he had some sort of tunnel vision going. It was as if no one else existed in that space. He embraced the man with such force that his tallness almost overpowered the slightly shorter man. Starsky felt himself becoming a little flustered and embarrassed under all the attention.

Hutch knew how much Starsky hated soapy scenes, but right now he didn’t care, he was so glad to see him. And  though the swarthy man’s first impulse was to pull away, he ignored it. He loved this guy, and after so much time gone between them, the last thing he wanted to do was alienate him. He tacked on a big wide grin and hugged him back. "Hey, buddy! I’m glad to see you too!" He laughed. "But leave me some breathin’ room, willya?"

The man excitedly pulled himself away, filled with emotion. "Sorry, pal. How’ve you been? Can I get you a drink?"

"Sure, beer if you have it."

Hutchinson exuberantly walked his three guests over to the refreshment area and led them to the bar where they sat down on barstools. He poured he and his friend a cold beer and set the glass down in front of him, putting one arm around Starsky’s neck and the other around Mrs. Starsky’s waist. He bussed her on the cheek and hugged her. "Sorry for ignoring you, Esther. It’s just I haven’t seen this guy for a what? Almost a year?"

She kissed him back. "That’s all right, Ken. Think nothing of it. I understand."

Starsky sat with his shoulders and neck hunched over the bar and Hutch’s big hand holding him firmly in place. The blond man still hadn’t acknowledged the presence of the other person beside his friend, even though he was sitting within arm’s reach of her. Hutch took a sip of his own glass of beer and finally lifted his hand. The darker man released a breath and took a swallow of the beer in front of him.

"So, where’s the lovely lady who won my partner’s heart?" He finally asked.

Starsky put his arm around Hannah and leaned back far enough so that Hutch could see her. "Take a gander over this way, Blondie. Kenneth Hutchinson, meet Hannah Kaplan."

Hannah reached over to shake Hutch’s hand and when he kissed it, she blushed a little.

"Well, well, well. It’s nice to meet you, Hannah."

"It’s nice to meet you, too. So what do I call you? Kenneth, Ken or Hutch?"

"My father’s the only one who calls me Kenneth, so I guess we’d better go with Hutch."

"That’s what David calls you, isn’t it?"

"Right. But he hasn’t called me that in a long, long time." He hinted.

"Aw, we’re not gonna go there again, are we?" Starsky sighed.

"You remember what you told me before you left?"

"Yeah, I said I wasn’t going anywhere…just yet…but…"

Esther put her hand on Hutch’s arm. "It’s not his fault, young man. Give him a break, why don’t you? He’s allowed to see his mother."

"Can’t fault a man for that," he agreed.

"So where’s the blushing bride?"

Still getting ready I guess. You know what they say about the fairer sex. What takes us twenty minutes, usually takes them an hour."

"Right. Hey." He pointed. "Somethin’s missing."

"What?"

"That little bit of peach fuzz over your upper lip that you used to so brazenly call a mustache."

"Oh, oh…that. Elsie asked me shave it off."

Starsky laughed. "Not even married yet and already she’s bossing you around, huh?"

"What can I say? She asked me."

"You haven’t changed a bit."

"How’s that?"

"You’re still a pushover."

 

 

 

Continued