Becky couldn’t describe how she felt.
She might have said she felt numb, but the fact was that she felt equally as if she’d been sliced open, right to the
core of her being. She felt as if she should be bleeding, but there was no wound.
It was incomprehensible, and unfair, and
she still somehow thought that maybe it didn’t have to be true after all. Maybe none of this was real, and she would
wake up, and Anna would be laughing at her for believing something so absurd.
Anna was never coming back.
She could hear Dave and his friend talking
to each other, fragments of conversation.
“I spoke to her mom. She’ll be
over in an hour.”
“We need a picture of that necklace.”
“Are you going to be all right?”
“Get out of here, Hutch. Go get things
sorted out downtown.”
She felt Dave drop down onto the couch next
to her. His hand slipped between her back and the couch, to settle on her hip. She leaned into his shoulder, finding comfort
in the warm solidity of his body. Before long, she realized that he had retrieved one of the shoeboxes full of photos and
was sorting through them. There were pictures of Anna, smiling and laughing and mugging for the camera, but when Becky looked
at them, all she could see was a vision of her friend’s body in the surf, the hair washing over her empty features.
Dragging her eyes away from the photos, Becky
found herself looking at Dave’s lean muscular leg. He’d changed his clothes at some point, though she hadn’t
noticed when. His shorts had been rather carelessly cut down from a pair of navy blue sweat pants, and the edges trailed ragged
threads. She had no doubt they unraveled a little more each time he threw them into the wash.
Starsky had two portraits of Anna in his
hand and was trying to decide which one better depicted her jade necklace, when he felt Becky lean forward and place her hand
on the calf of his leg. He looked down, and saw that she was lightly tracing an old scar with her fingertips. She tilted her
head to meet his eyes, “Is this from…?”
“No, that was another time.”
Her hand smoothed the hair on his leg, before
she settled back against his shoulder again. “I guess there’s a story there.”
She didn’t sound as if she was asking
to hear it, so he simply said, “Yeah.”
“It feels…” Becky paused,
trying to sort through scattered thoughts to find the words that would explain what she was thinking. “It doesn’t
seem right that Anna can just go, and I’m still fine. When something hurts this bad, you think it would leave a scar
for everyone to see, but it won’t.”
All of the things Starsky could think of
to say to her sounded inadequate in his mind, so he sank down into the couch, ignoring the protest from his shoulder, and
prepared himself to simply listen. Both photos and the shoebox had been placed off to the side on the couch, out of the way
for the moment.
Becky said, “I don’t scar.”
She held up a hand, the palm facing Starsky, and said, “See anything?”
He took her hand in his and with gentle humor
said, “It looks like a hand.”
She took her hand back and traced an invisible
line across her fingers. “When I was seventeen, I got cut across here. It was right down to the bone in two places.
If you look very close in the sunlight, you can sort of see a faint line there, but there’s basically no scar.”
He looked more closely but he still couldn’t
see anything. She said, “It was this huge thing, and yet, if you look at my hand you’d never know it ever happened.
I don’t want it to be that way with Anna. I don’t want to walk away from this with no scars, just the same as
She was still staring at her palm. He folded
his hand over hers, closing it. “What happened when you were seventeen?”
Her mouth twisted into something that was
not quite a smile, “Would you believe I got caught up in a bank robbery?”
“This is Bay City. I’ll believe almost anything.”
“I’d just gone in to deposit
the money I’d saved up over the summer…”
Becky hadn’t noticed the men coming
into the bank behind her. One moment she’d been standing in line with all the other people, daydreaming, and the next
a hand landed on the counter in front of her as a man vaulted over and grabbed a teller. She stared at him in surprise, and
then turned as a voice behind her said, “Everyone stay calm, and no one will get hurt!”
“That’s about the time I figured
out that they were robbing the bank.”
“You must have been terrified,”
said Starsky, sympathetically.
She gave him a surprised glance, “Actually,
no.” At seventeen, her first reaction had been to shove her small roll of bills up her sleeve. She was determined that
the bank robbers wouldn’t be taking all of her hard earned wages if she could do anything to prevent it. And then…
“You laughed?” asked Starsky, incredulously.
“Actually, it was more like a giggle,”
said Becky, wryly. “It just all seemed so ridiculous. They were talking in clichés, like something out of a bad TV cop
show. There was this one guy with a ski mask over his face and big plastic goggles on top of it. The other guy had a hat over
his ski mask and a long coat on, and I wondered if they walked all the way to the bank looking like that, or if they got changed
in the phone booth outside, or something. The guy with the hat had his hand in his coat pocket and all I could think was,
‘Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?’”
“So, you laughed and that’s why
he grabbed you instead of someone closer,” said Starsky, as the pieces suddenly clicked into place in his memory.
“Yes, it turned out that it was a knife
in his pocket, not a gun.” Becky stopped, her head tilting up to look at him quizzically. “How did you know…?”
“Hutch wanted to stop at the bank before
we checked in at the precinct…”
Starsky shook his head as he watched his
partner jog across the street towards the white marble steps of the Metropolitan Bank. One whole week into plain clothes and
Hutch still seemed to be missing the point. Today, for instance, he was wearing a brown vest and a wing tipped shirt that
was some kind of pink color. “Apricot,” Hutch had said, irritably, but Starsky knew pink when he saw it. And then
there was that handkerchief thing around his neck. Why the heck would anyone choose to wear anything around his neck when
he didn’t have to?
Plainclothes was supposed to be about blending
in, and being a man of the street. Not about looking like you stepped off of the cover of some GQ magazine.
Starsky slouched lower in the driver’s
seat, his battered leather jacket sliding up his back as he reached for the newspaper Hutch had left on his seat. It had been
folded over to the business and investments section, another detail Starsky found distinctly weird. Maybe he’s secretly rich. He snickered at the idea, and shaking the paper out, proceeded to turn it to the
A black van pulled up in front of the bank.
Starsky glanced up at it, and then froze. The back of the van had popped open and two men in the preferred garb of bank robbers
everywhere had just jumped out. At least one of them was armed with a pistol, and the other had his hands in the pockets of
a long black trench coat. As he watched, they ran up the steps of the bank building, leaving the getaway driver in the car.
Dropping out of sight beneath the windows
of his car, Starsky grabbed for the radio handset and quickly reported a bank robbery in progress. Though the first order
of business had been to call in the cavalry, he would be damned if he was going to sit around waiting for them to arrive.
He opened his door and rolled out on the
driver’s side. A few startled faces appeared in the shop windows as he pulled his gun and crouched behind the car. He
paused a moment to retrieve his badge and hold it up, silently waving them back. He had no doubt more than a few calls would
be coming in on the emergency hotline.
Running in a low crouch, Starsky used the
cars parked along the side of the street as cover until he could dart across and approach the black van from the rear. He
stopped at the rear bumper and took a moment to collect himself before craning his head around the side. A quick glance was
all he needed to see that the lock on the van’s door was still popped up. He blew out a quick breath, relieved.
Keeping his back flat against the side of
the vehicle, he sidled up to the door with as much speed and as little noise as possible. He slipped his fingers under the
door handle. A brief pause, in which he tried not to imagine the driver sitting there with an Uzi prepared to separate his
head from his body the moment he appeared, and then in one smooth move, he yanked the door open. He swung himself around so that his service revolver was pointing into the interior of the vehicle.
The muzzle of his weapon all but impacted
with the driver’s nose, and to Starsky’s relief, the man looked as startled as he could ever have hoped. Keeping
his gaze on the driver, Starsky reached across and removed the keys from the ignition. He pocketed them and withdrew his cuffs.
With the driver now securely cuffed to the
steering wheel of his own van, Starsky took a moment to yank the distributor cap and then trotted up the steps in front of
Leaning against the wall, he peered cautiously
through the double glass doors. He could see Trench Coat standing with his back to the street, and his hands still in his
pockets. There was no way to tell if he was armed, or with what, but he seemed to be shouting wildly at the people inside
the bank. Starsky would have taken odds that, as twitchy as he was, the guy had to be on some kind of chemical or herb. Regardless
of what it might be, it would make him an unpredictable and dangerous opponent. It didn’t help that he also looked to
be more than six feet tall and built like a tank.
Just past Trench Coat’s shoulder, Starsky
could see a familiar blond head. He moved a little more to the front, trying to get a better look inside. Hutch came into
view, and their eyes met.
Hutch was standing loose, a little to the
front of a small knot of very scared people. He gave no sign that he was aware of Starsky’s presence, except that his
eyes flickered very briefly to his left.
Starsky got the message. The second bank
robber, the one he now thought of as Goggles, was over on that side of the bank, probably behind the counter and grabbing
money for all he was worth. Despite Hutch’s subtlety, Trench Coat must have sensed something, for he swung around to
look towards the doors. Starsky ducked back out of sight, pressing himself against the side of the building. There was no
way he could go in through the front. Those double doors would slow him down too much, and Trench Coat would spot him in an
instant. It was too big a chance to take with armed men and potential hostages everywhere.
Dropping down over the edge of the steps,
he ran into the alley beside the bank, searching for another way inside. He spotted a fire exit about halfway down the side
of the building and charged towards it, gun in hand. There was no handle on the outside of the door, and he was just beginning
to wonder how on earth he could get it open, when it suddenly opened by itself and he found himself face to face with a pair
of very wide eyes.
He heard a voice squeak, “Another one!”
The door started to swing shut, and without
thinking, Starsky jammed his hand into the opening. The heavy metal frame crunched down on his knuckles and he roared.
“Goddammit! Police!” He yanked
the door open with such force that the small man on the other side came with it and tumbled into the alley.
“Don’t hurt me!” The man
scrabbled backwards on all fours, coming up against the wall of the alley.
“I’m a cop, you moron!”
Starsky shook his right hand and then stuck the knuckle in his mouth, trying to alleviate some of the pain.
“You don’t look like a cop,”
said the man, doubtfully.
Removing his hand from his mouth and forcing
his bruised hand into a fist, Starsky jerked a thumb down the alley. “Just get outta here!”
Turning away, he made his way cautiously
into the building. The sound of running footsteps told him that the small man had taken his advice, and Starsky forgot about
him immediately, his mind entirely focused on the situation before him.
The fire door opened onto the first floor.
There were a number of offices here, and confused people were starting to gather in the hallway. Tucking his gun back into
his holster and holding his badge in plain sight, Starsky quietly directed them towards the fire exit. He stopped a young
woman at the rear of the crowd and pulled her aside.
“Can you tell me where those stairs
go?” Within a few minutes, he had gathered a rough sense of the layout of the building from her, and he sent her on
her way with the rest of them.
Having managed to get at least some of the
civilians to safety, Starsky quietly padded up the stairs. At the top of the stairwell was a door, with a wire-embedded glass
insert. He stopped below the level of the window, and slowly lifted his head just high enough to peek into the room.
He found himself looking into the area of
the bank directly behind the counter. Goggles was a few feet away with his back to the stairwell door, waving his pistol at
a very nervous bank teller. She was trying to comply with his instructions, shoving handfuls of bills into his duffel bag,
but her hands were shaking so much, she kept dropping the money. He screamed at her, and gestured sharply with his weapon.
She fell to her knees and tried to collect the money from the floor.
At that moment, they all heard the sound
of sirens. Every head in the room shot up and turned towards the front door. Starsky didn’t need to see Hutch to know
that his partner would be seizing the moment for all it was worth. Barreling through the stairwell door, Starsky launched
himself at the gunman on the other side. Goggles had no time to react before Starsky was on top of him, snatching away his
pistol with one hand and landing a solid punch in the middle of his face with the other. He was a little surprised at how
quickly the man went down, but he wasn’t inclined to waste time wondering.
His cuffs were on the getaway driver outside,
so he ripped away the semi-conscious robber’s goggles and used them to secure the man’s hands behind him. Then,
stuffing the confiscated pistol behind his back into waistband of his jeans, he stood up to see how Hutch was faring.
Evidently things hadn’t gone so well
on Hutch’s side of the counter. From the look of things, Trench Coat had knocked down a number of people in the process
of grabbing a teenaged girl and holding a knife to her side. A young woman scrambled to her feet and ran for the door, while
a middle-aged man helped an older lady up. Quickly, the area around them cleared. Hutch was standing with his legs braced
and his pistol aimed directly at Trench Coat, who had his arm wrapped around the young girl’s chest. As Starsky watched,
he brought the knife up and held it directly against her throat. She looked like a child, pressed against his massive form.
Outside he could hear tires squealing and sirens wailing as the cavalry finally made its appearance, late, as usual.
Without taking his eyes from the scene in
the middle of the room, Starsky waved an arm behind his back and hissed, “Get out of here, all of you!”
A manager took charge and began hustling
people quickly down the stairwell. On the other side of the counter, the remaining customers also began to dash for the door.
Trench Coat paid no attention to them. Instead he looked towards the counter and screamed in a voice startlingly high for
his bulk, “Jamie, w-what th’hell?”
Jamie, formerly known as Goggles, trussed
securely on the floor out of sight, showed no signs of regaining consciousness. Starsky leaned with deceptive casualness on
the counter, his own weapon now trained on Trench Coat as well. He said, “I’m afraid your buddy’s a little
tied up at the moment.”
The large man’s shoulders jerked convulsively,
and his grip on the knife tightened.
Hutch sent him a look that clearly said,
Shut up, Starsky. To Trench Coat, he said, “Let the girl go. It’s over.”
His voice was so calm, he might have been commenting on the weather.
Trench Coat’s hostage stared fixedly
at Hutch. She wasn’t shaking or crying, a fact which made Starsky wonder if she was in shock. Then he saw her hand slide
slowly up to her neck, as if to push the blade of the knife away. Trench Coat didn’t seem to notice her movement.
“You’re gonna lemme walk out
of here, or I’ll cut her! I will, man! I’ll cut her!” His voice was shaking, hysteria warring with rage.
The smallest of tremors shook the hostage,
and then she stilled again. Her fingers now rested against the side of her neck, between the knife and her throat.
“No way, man,” said Hutch. “You
don’t want to do that. That would be murder, and it could get you the death penalty.
Don’t do it.” His voice was gentle, even sympathetic, as if there was nothing he wanted more than to help
the man in front of him. “I can see you’re hurting, buddy. You need help. You should let us help you.”
Trench Coat wavered. Starsky held his breath,
as the moment teetered on a delicate balance. Hutch continued to talk quietly, his tone promising all manner of comfort to
the drug addled man in front of him, if only he would let his hostage go. The knife moved a few inches away from the girl’s
It would have worked. It should
have worked, except that the cavalry chose that precise moment to get noisy.
The bullhorn sounded from outside. “Police!
We have you surrounded!”
One moment, in which Hutch’s eyes flicked
over to Starsky’s and they shared a single thought.
Several things happened more or less simultaneously.
Trench Coat slashed the knife across the girl’s throat with one hand and, placing the other hand directly between her
shoulders, shoved her forward into Hutch’s arms. Hutch’s shot went into the ceiling as he caught the girl. Starsky
fired a bullet directly into the bank robber’s shoulder, as he vaulted over the counter.
The force of Starsky’s shot spun Trench
Coat around and caused him to drop his knife, but rather than falling, he staggered and regained his feet to charge at Hutch
and the girl. Starsky dropped his head and drove it directly into the bank robber’s stomach, intercepting his trajectory
and knocking them both off balance. Before he was quite aware of what had happened, Trench Coat had him by the throat with
one hand and was lifting him off the ground. He tried to bring his gun around, but the other massive hand was clamped tightly
around his wrist.
He heard the bark of Hutch’s gun then,
but the body in front of him only jerked and the hand around his neck tightened its grip. He stared into the eyes of the bank
robber, pupils so dilated that it seemed as if his irises had turned as black as night, and Starsky wondered, as the static
began gathering in the periphery of his vision, just what kind of drug this guy was on.
Then Hutch barreled into both of them and
the force of his charge knocked all three of them through the interior doors of the bank onto the lobby floor. Starsky was
pinned underneath, unable to free himself from the weight. A knee caught him in the stomach and he curled up in pain, trying
to bring his arms up to protect his head. His gun was gone, lost in the scuffle.
Suddenly, they both rolled off of him, and
he pushed himself to his knees just in time to see Hutch land a spectacular roundhouse punch on Trench Coat, sending him flying
through the last set of doors. As he tumbled backwards, Trench Coat managed to grab hold of Hutch’s neckerchief, and
he pulled the blond detective with him, head over heels down the steps.
Snatching up his gun from the floor, Starsky
scrambled after them, throwing himself recklessly down towards the tangled forms on the sidewalk. He gasped in relief to see
Hutch groggily trying to push the unconscious form of the bank robber off. Then he saw the blood on his partner’s shirt,
and the spreading dark stain on the sidewalk. He grabbed Hutch, as several uniforms pulled Trench Coat away, his hands searching
for wounds until Hutch shoved him away.
“Starsky, stop. I’m not hurt!”
He held his frantic partner at arm’s length. “It’s his blood, and…” The reassuring smile vanished
and he was suddenly up on his feet shouting at the paramedics and waving an arm back up towards the bank. “There’s
a girl up there who needs medical attention. She’s got a serious knife wound!”
A paramedic immediately headed up the steps
at speed, his partner following him with some of the heavier gear slung over his back.
Starsky stood as well, and grabbed Hutch’s
arm, preventing him from following the medics. “Is she…”
Blue eyes swung around to meet him. “She
caught the knife with her hand. He didn’t touch her neck.”
Relief flooded through Starsky. “Does
it count as saving the girl, if she saves herself?”
Hutch frowned unhappily, and Starsky easily
identified the guilt that darkened his expression. “I should have handled that better. If she hadn’t got her hand
up there, she would have died…”
“Shut up.” Starsky draped his
arm across his friend’s shoulders, and steered him through the crowd towards their car. “You did great. Man, I
think the way you were going, you could have talked Mohammad into givin’ up his mountain. That guy was going to surrender.
It was just bad luck that they decided to start in with that whole ‘We have you surrounded’ jive.” His eyes
suddenly landed on Hutch’s bare neck, which was now beginning to darken with some nasty looking bruises. “Hey,
does that hurt?”
Hutch’s hand quested up towards his
neck, and he hissed as his fingers came into contact with a welt. “Ow.”
“I think that guy’s still got
your hanker – neckerchief thingy.” Starsky stopped and began to turn back towards the bank. “You want me
to get it back for ya?”
This time it was Hutch who grabbed him. “No!”
Starsky cocked his head and looked at him
Hutch colored slightly and said, “I
think you’re right. I’ve been overdressing a little.” He tried to shrug, but stopped as the bruised muscles
in his back protested. “Besides, having something like that around your neck just waiting to be grabbed… that’s
kind of a hazard in this job, don’t you think?”
“So, no more necker-things? No ties?
No bolos? No kravitz?”
Starsky tried to snap his fingers with his
right hand and then winced as his damaged knuckles made their presence known. “Then maybe I won’t have to be embarrassed
anymore, bein’ seen with you on the street.”
He laughed at the outraged expression on
Starsky finished telling his tale, Becky shook her head, wonderingly. “Ever since you introduced me to Hutch, I’ve
been trying to figure out why he looked so familiar. I had no idea he was the one who tried to save me during that bank robbery.”
“And me,” said Starsky, pretending
to be hurt. “I was there, too.”
Becky leaned against his chest, feeling the
deep vibration of his voice. “But I don’t remember you.”
Starsky thought about that, and about her
words from earlier. “You know what? I think the important thing is that we both remember what happened. You don’t
need scars, or blinking neon lights above your head telling everyone that you’ve been wounded inside, all you need to
be able to do is tell people about it.” He rested his cheek on the top of her head. “You won’t ever forget
Anna, and you can make sure no one else does, either.”
She sighed, and he felt her shudder in his
arms. “I can’t see her face anymore. All I see is the way she looked…”
“Shh…” he said, soothingly.
“That’ll stop. She’ll be back. You just need to give it some time.” He reached over to the side and
retrieved the shoebox of photos. He searched for a moment, and then found the one he was looking for. “Remember the
story you told me about this one, the Christmas party where half the guests ended up in the bay and the coast guard showed
up? What did Anna say about parties?”
A small smile crossed Becky’s face
as she answered, “It’s not a real party unless someone throws up, someone falls down, and something gets broken.”
She looked at the picture, and for a moment it seemed as if the horror had receded just far enough to allow her to hear Anna’s
voice once more.
Monster heaved himself up onto his feet and
began barking as a car pulled up outside the house. Becky realized her mother had arrived and would be coming to the door
in a moment. There wasn’t enough time to say everything she wanted, so she simply tilted her head back to look up at
Dave and said the one thing that meant the most of all.