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Part One, Chapter Three

Starsky paused in the squad room door. It was quiet for once, everyone occupied in one task or another. Hutch hadn’t noticed him yet. He was sitting in his usual place, at his desk, typing a report. It was a familiar enough sight, except for the defeated slump of Hutch’s shoulders.

Aw, man…

Starsky was more than half inclined at this point to turn around and walk away. He knew he didn’t want to spend the rest of his career behind a desk, being pointed out to new recruits as ‘that guy who used to be great’. Yet, when it came right down to it, he wasn’t sure he could go through with resigning either. Especially not with Hutch sitting there looking so damned sad. He gripped the envelope tighter, unaware that he was crumpling it in his fist.


He started, and turned to find Evelyn standing in the hallway behind him, smiling. A quick glance back into the squad room showed that Hutch’s head had come up and he was now looking toward the door, his face a picture of pleased surprise.  With a mental shrug, Starsky turned on the usual charm and slid an arm around the policewoman’s waist. Turning towards Hutch, he said, “Hey, how is it that this lady always manages to make a regulation uniform look like something we ought’a be citing her for?”

She laughed and rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek, before freeing herself. “I’d hang around and let you compliment me some more, but I’m on the clock.”

“It’s the story of my life,” said Starsky, agreeably.

Hutch pushed his chair back and stood up to greet him. “Hey, buddy, what brings you…?” He stopped as he spotted the envelope in Starsky’s hand. “Oh.”

Few people knew Hutch well enough to have caught the pained flinch in his eyes, but Starsky saw it, and it broke his heart.  Hutch was still smiling. He patted Starsky on the shoulder as if nothing was wrong after all. “I’d better get back to these reports. I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Yeah,” said Starsky, unhappily. He would have liked to have said more, but the squad room was hardly the most private place for the kind of conversation they needed to have. Besides, Hutch had turned away from him and was already sitting back down at his typewriter. For a moment, Starsky wished he hadn’t invited Becky out for breakfast after all. But what was done, was done. He’d simply have to find time to untangle the knots later.

Walking over to Dobey’s office, Starsky knocked once, and pushed the door open. “Hey, Cap? You got a minute?”

Captain Dobey’s face creased into a broad smile. “Dave! Come in, and sit down. What can I do for you?”

Starsky let himself in, pushing the door closed with his free hand. “Cap, you’ve gotta stop being so nice to me, or I’m going to start wondering what else is wrong that you haven’t told me about yet.”

Dobey made a harrumphing noise, and Starsky grinned, easily spotting the embarrassment his superior officer was trying to hide. “Fine,” he said, sounding much more like himself. “Why the hell are you here, Starsky?”

Just get it over quickly, like pulling off a Band-Aid, thought Starsky. A really, really large Band-Aid, stuck to some particularly sensitive and hairy part of a person’s anatomy. He dropped the envelope in front of his captain, only now noticing how very crumpled it had become in the short trip from his car to Dobey’s desk.

The captain ignored it, and continued to glower at Starsky.

Starsky made a halfhearted gesture at the bent document that was now balanced drunkenly on three corners. “It’s my resignation.”

“I know, and I’m not going to accept it.”

“Cap, I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I know what I’m doing. I’ll never qualify for the street…”


“If I can’t be the kind of cop I want to be…”



“Shut up and sit down.” A thick finger pointed at a chair in front of the desk. Obediently, Starsky sat, laying his cane across his knees. He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, he was cut off by a growl from Dobey.

“I don’t want to hear another word from you, until you’ve heard what I’m going to say.” Having successfully made it through a complete sentence without interruption, Dobey continued. “Thanks to your military experience, you could use the GI bill to go to college. You don’t have to throw away all the years you’ve put into this force, either. You could teach at the Academy. You’ve got a good logical mind; you could transfer over to RI, forensics, crime scene investigation, with some retraining… Will you stop shaking your head at me!”


Dobey sighed heavily. “I’m extending your leave for another six weeks. If you’re still determined to quit after that, then I’ll accept your resignation.” He scowled at the man sitting on the other side of his desk, Of all the stubborn, mule-headed… He was suddenly struck by the fact that Starsky had neither kicked his door shut, nor propped his sneakers on his desk. There had been many large changes lately, but somehow the small ones were no less unsettling.

“Thanks, Cap.” Starsky rose from his chair, leaning on the arm. “Look, I don’t know how busy things are right now, but I’d like to borrow Hutch for an hour.”

Dobey reached for a file on his desk and flipped it open. Waving a dismissive hand at Starsky, he said, “He’s all yours. I can’t do a thing with him lately, anyway.” As Starsky opened the door, he could hear his captain muttering imprecations against both of them, under his breath. He nodded, satisfied. Dobey was back to sounding like his usual cranky self - one down, one to go.

Starsky dropped a hand on Hutch’s shoulder. “Hey, let’s blow this joint.”

The blond head lifted to look inquiringly at him.

Starsky snapped the fingers of his right hand impatiently. “C’mon, you’ve been sprung. I’ll buy ya breakfast.” Work with me here, buddy.

Hutch leaned back in his chair. “Starsky,” he said in tones of long-suffering reason. “I’ve already had breakfast.” He thought he knew what his friend was up to, and he had no intention of playing along. The resignation had been handed in. It was done. There was nothing to discuss.

“Then I’ll buy ya lunch.”

“It’s too early for lunch.”

“Then… then that other thing: bunch.”

“Brunch.” Hutch gave Starsky a look that clearly said I know what you’re doing and you can mangle your words all day; I’m not buying it.

“What?” Starsky sounded outraged. “D’ya need an excuse to eat these days? I can’t believe you’re turning down a free meal!”

“I know the kinds of places you like to eat at. Most of them don’t serve anything even remotely resembling real food, so it doesn’t matter if it’s free or not.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll have you know, you ain’t the only one I asked out to breakfast this morning.” Starsky glowered at him.

“Oh?” Hutch wondered if he’d been wrong about his friend’s motives after all.

“She’s downstairs filling out a missing person’s report on her roommate,” said Starsky with a shrug. “I said I’d pick her up after I was done here. I thought you’d wanna come, you know; get a breath of fresh air and all that.”

“A girl, huh?” Hutch relaxed and smiled.

Sensing that he’d won, Starsky returned his smile. “Yeah, she’s kinda cute. Not at all your type, but, you know…” It would be very interesting to see Becky’s reaction on first meeting Hutch. You could tell a lot about a girl by the way she acted around the Blond One.

“Starsky, I’m married!”

Starsky’s smile widened. “And ain’t that a wonderful thing.”


Becky handed the last of the paperwork over to the policeman behind the desk and sat down on a wooden bench near the door to wait for Dave. She liked him, and she hoped he liked her, but that wasn’t really the feeling she had been getting from him this morning. It was more like… She glanced over at the glass doors and eyed her reflection. All five foot, one and a half inches of it – it wouldn’t be the first time a guy had looked at her and seen ‘little sister’ rather than ‘potential date material’. Not to mention, she was still in her old dog-walking cords. Not at all like that woman coming through the door right now…

That woman was wearing a black leather jacket trimmed in tufted pink fur. She had a low-cut black denim mini-dress on under it and high-heeled boots that came all the way up to her knees. Now, admittedly, she was also wearing handcuffs and being escorted by a uniformed police officer, but that unfortunate condition didn’t seem to detract much from the admiring male attention she attracted when she walked into the room.

Becky couldn’t remember any man ever looking at her like that, but then again, she’d never have had the nerve to wear an outfit like that either. Anna, on the other hand, had once gone to a costume party dressed as Eve, wearing nothing but a whole lot of body paint and some strategically placed fig leaves.

The more Becky thought over the events of this morning, the more insecure she felt. She knew what Anna would say, if she was here now. She’d be telling Becky that she had been letting her mouth run away with her again. Dave didn’t need to know all that stuff about the cats and their scent glands. Whatever had possessed her to start talking about that, back at the cottage?

I was nervous! protested Becky silently to her absent friend. She wished Anna would come back. She was always so much better at this sort of thing. And so what if Becky’s dates had inevitably ended up falling for Anna instead? She could hardly blame them.

Kicking the heel of her sneaker against the leg of the bench, Becky dislodged a small brown insect with long antennae. Curiously, she leaned over the arm to watch it run across the floor and disappear behind the baseboards. When she sat up again, she saw Dave coming down the hall followed closely by a tall blonde man.

“Becky, this is my part… my best friend, Ken Hutchinson. Hutch, Becky.” Starsky said as she stood up from the bench.

Hutch shook the girl’s hand. She looked up at him with a slightly puzzled expression, but said nothing except, “Hi.” He decided that she probably hadn’t been expecting Starsky to add a third party to their breakfast date. She seemed cute enough; hopefully she wouldn’t be as flaky as some of the women Starsky had been prone to picking up in the past.

I know him from somewhere, thought Becky. That instant of recognition came without any other useful information attached, so she shelved it for the moment. Maybe it would come to her later.

“We didn’t keep you waiting too long, did we?” asked Starsky as he placed a hand on her back and steered her towards the door.

Becky shook her head, “No, not at all. This is an interesting place and there’s a lot to see. Although, I think you’ve got a little bit of a roach problem.”

“You saw a roach?” His eyebrows rose.

“Just one and it was pretty small. I know they’re really hard to get out of public buildings. When you think about it, they’re amazing animals. Did you know a roach can live for a week without its head?” Becky stopped abruptly as she looked from one man to the other and noticed the matching bemused expressions on their faces. “Oh, geez, I’m sorry!” She could vividly imagine Anna giving her a smack upside the head, if she was here now.

“Sorry for what?” asked Starsky, a deliberately innocent expression on his face, as he watched Becky’s cheeks turn red.

“I always do this.” She was in agony, but decided it would be best to come clean about her problem and deal with it. Maybe he wouldn’t mind, too much. “I talk about things that no one wants to know about. Like when I was telling you all that stuff about the cats this morning. It’s too much information. I’m sorry…”

“Oh!” Starsky grinned widely, and nudged Hutch with his left hand, still gripping his cane. “Hey, you won’t believe what I’ve learned about cats today…”

“Oh no!” wailed Becky, blushing furiously, “Don’t!”

“But it’s cool!” Starsky gave her a reassuring squeeze around the waist, as he continued to talk to Hutch. “Did you know cats have these scent gland things all over their faces? You think they’re just being friendly and saying hello, but actually they’re tagging you with kitty graffiti so all the other cats know they got there first. Everywhere they go, they’re saying, ‘My chair, my couch, my human; mine, all mine!’”

“Starsky, I really didn’t need to know that…” Hutch’s tone was pained, but he was smiling. He held the door open for them as they made their way out of the building.

“So,” said Starsky to Becky, who could not possibly have turned any redder. “Can roaches actually live without their heads for a week? How do they know where they’re going?”

Becky looked at him suspiciously, but he sounded genuinely curious. “I guess they bump into things a lot.”

Starsky snickered. “I can just see that.” Releasing her waist, he used his right hand to act out the erratic movements of a headless roach, while at the same time mimicking the reactions of the other roaches in an exaggerated version of his own New York accent. “Hey, buddy! Watch where yer goin’! Are ya tryin’ ta cause a pileup?”

“You know,” said Becky, feeling her embarrassment ease as she laughed, “Roaches aren’t the only insects who can do that. If you behead a queen ant, she’ll keep on laying eggs, and the workers will keep on trying to feed her, until she starves to death.”

“Hey, that’s neat,” said Starsky, enthusiastically. “How did you find out all this stuff?”

“I read it…” He’s really interested, thought Becky, wondering. He doesn’t think it’s dumb.

“Careful,” said Hutch, warningly. “Next he’ll be asking to borrow the book.”

Becky’s eyes widened and she looked at Starsky. No one had ever been interested in her collection of trivia books before.

Starsky’s expression was hopeful, and utterly irresistible. “Could I?”

How could she say no?


Hutch leaned on the green Formica counter of the small diner, waiting for the woman behind the register to finish adding up his bill. How had he ended up paying for this? It was Starsky’s doing, but the exact string of events that had led to this outcome was too convoluted for him to unwind right now. He smiled at the two dark heads bent together over the table in the corner, planning in detail an investigation into the disappearance of Becky’s roommate.

There was something bittersweet about her enthusiasm, though, and he knew Starsky felt it, too. Becky was still innocent enough to believe that her friend was alive and well, and that this was all an interesting adventure that would ultimately result in a happy ending. The two detectives, however, had seen enough in their years on the street to know that there were no guarantees.

An impatient sound behind him refocused Hutch on the task at hand, and he turned around to accept his change from the scowling woman. As he was pocketing the money, the door of the diner jingled and two men walked in, arguing intensely under their breath.

Hutch froze momentarily, then turned and purposefully headed back to the table where Starsky and Becky were sitting. Starsky caught the look in his eye, and said, the tilt of his head barely indicating the two men who were now settling into a booth near the back, “Them?” They were both largish individuals, in jean shirts. They seemed tense, and the younger one kept glancing around the diner. Starsky deliberately avoided their gaze, turning his head slightly away.

“Yeah.” Hutch frowned. He rested his chin on his hand, shielding the side of his face.

Starsky had no trouble reading his friend’s expression. For some reason those two bothered him, but he hadn’t yet figured out exactly why.

“East side?” Starsky suggested. It was a long shot, but he had to start somewhere.

Hutch shook his head, and then came back with, “Tommy Early’s gang?”

This time it was Starsky who shook his head. However the mention of Early, who’d recently been convicted of trafficking heroin, led him to a new train of thought. Those two were clearly brothers. Add to that something he’d heard a few weeks ago about the… “Courthouse?”

A glint of recognition kindled in Hutch’s eyes. There’d been an incident at the courthouse two months ago, in which a man involved in nasty divorce proceedings…

“Attacked his lawyer,” finished Starsky, his thought processes mirroring Hutch’s.

“Tried to kill him with a chair leg.”

“And then a stapler.”

“Pushed a bailiff down the stairs.”

“And then his brother drove up the front steps in a van.”

“What?” asked Becky, looking back and forth between Starsky and Hutch. They had dropped into some sort of conversational shorthand. “What are you talking about?”

Neither of them seemed to hear her. Starsky was snapping his fingers as if trying to recall something. “Brad… Brad…”

“Brad Ritchie.”

“And his brother’s Dan.”

Becky twisted around in her seat, trying to see who was in the diner that might possibly have prompted the sudden conspiracy at her table. Her chair scraped against the floor. One of the men in a booth at the back looked up at the noise. His eyes skimmed past her to land on Hutch, and then widened abruptly in recognition.

A second later he was out of the booth and charging for the back door of the restaurant, the other man on his heels. Hutch jumped to his feet with a shout. Becky caught the table, before he could knock it over. She watched, astonished, as he vaulted over the counter on his way to the back door.

Hutch barreled past the cashier, ignoring her angry exclamations. Heaving a silverware cart out of the way, sliding on scattered forks and spoons, he managed to reach the door just behind the second man. It swung back in his face, stalling his headlong rush for a brief moment, before he caught his balance and propelled himself through it.

His long legs easily ate up the distance between himself and his prey. He hit the man’s back and took them both down to the ground, hard.

As Brad fell, he shouted, “Dan!”

His brother halted, and looked back. The blond cop had Brad pinned, pressing his face into the ground with one hand and trying to grab his arm with his other. He glared at Dan, daring him to come back and try to take him on. Dan blanched and said, “Sorry, bro. You’re on your own!”

He turned to run, heading for the van parked out front of the diner, as Brad cursed angrily and tried to twist free of the cop on his back.

Starsky knew he couldn’t hope to run either of the fugitives down. However, he also knew that the back door of the diner led into a blind alley. It was possible that they might head up the fire escape or try to climb the chain link fence in the back, but with Hutch on their tails, they probably wouldn’t have the time to think of either of those two options. No, the odds were good they’d be coming right around the side of the building and onto the street.

As Hutch ran for the back door, Starsky headed with grim deliberation towards the front. The glass doors opened next to the alley, and he positioned himself with his back against the brick building, listening intently.

He heard a grunt and a thud as Hutch tackled one runner. The second pair of feet halted briefly, and for a moment Starsky was afraid that the man would turn back to help his brother, but self-interest won out in the end and the feet sped up, heading directly for his corner.

Starsky waited until he judged the moment correct and then he swung low. His cane connected with the other man’s shins just as he cleared the alley, and momentum sent the perp flying onto his face. As he tumbled past, Starsky grabbed his hand, twisting the wrist behind. This action pulled him off balance, so that instead of neatly dropping a knee between the downed man’s shoulders, he ended up falling gracelessly on top of him. It didn’t matter. He had the man in a joint lock, and with a slight adjustment of his grip, he was able to twist the arm painfully up behind the man’s back. His captive tried to struggle, only to have Starsky give his wrist another agonizing wrench. Obediently, he went limp, panting.

By the time Hutch emerged from the alley with his prisoner in tow, Starsky was sitting comfortably on the other man’s back, his legs stretched out to the side, and a megawatt grin lighting up his face.

Brad spotted his brother and began cursing him again, until Hutch gave him a shake and ordered him to shut up. Dan said nothing, his attention entirely focused on the pain in his shoulder. He was convinced it would be dislocated if the guy on his back pulled any harder, and he didn’t want to give him any excuses.

Hutch threw the elder Ritchie across the hood of the Torino, and proceeded to read him his rights. He kept half an eye on Starsky, but his friend seemed to have matters well under control. Cuffing Brad to the door of the car, he took a moment to request a black and white to transport the two fugitives back to the station. Then he made his way back to Starsky.

Hutch stopped and looked down at his very self-satisfied friend. “Mind if I take him off your hands now?” he asked, casually.

“Aw, I dunno. I was thinking of keeping him. Turning him into a doorstop, or something.” Starsky gave Dan’s wrist another yank, eliciting an agonized yelp.

Hutch grinned. “Now, Starsk, you know the department frowns on that kind of thing…”

“Hey, man,” pleaded Dan. “Can’t ya just arrest me already?”

Starsky reached up, quite naturally allowing his friend to clasp his forearm and pull him back up onto his feet. It was a small gesture, but after months of having Starsky push him away, it meant the world to Hutch. He couldn’t stop smiling, even as he let go of Starsky and yanked Dan to his feet, pushing him over to the car where his brother waited.

Starsky retrieved his cane and followed him.

Brad scowled at the sight and muttered at his brother, “You let a crippled cop take you down? What kind of pussy are you?”

Hutch smacked the back of his head, bouncing it off the side of the car.  “Shut up!” he barked.

“Hey, don’t dent my car,” protested Starsky. Leaning against the car, he said to Hutch, “There, ya see? I didn’t have to go charging after them like you did, like a maniac. I caught the bad guy because I anticipated his moves. I used my brain.”

“Did it hurt?” asked Hutch, all solicitude.


“Using your brain, did it hurt?”

Starsky shot him a dirty look, but inwardly he was celebrating. This was the Hutch he knew and loved.

Becky watched the scene unfold from the door of the diner. Dave looked entirely in his element, and Ken was almost giddy. She’d never seen anything like it before. They worked together so smoothly, you’d think they could read each other’s mind. No wonder Dave had seemed so sad when he told her he was resigning from the police force. It didn’t seem right to separate him from Ken.

She decided she’d have to ask him about it, when she had a chance.

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