Starsky had been on the telephone for the
last half hour. First he’d called Hutch, and then he’d called the precinct, and now he was on the line with whichever
poor soul it was who’d been unlucky enough to pick up the phone at the animal shelter.
“What do you mean you didn’t
keep any record of the volunteers who showed up today?”
that was yesterday, Becky thought,
with a glance at the clock on the wall. Almost . And I already
told him we didn’t take down any info. Things were just too crazy. She crossed her legs on the couch and propped
her chin on the palm of her hand, pensively chewing on her pinky finger.
“I need you to make a list of everyone
who might have spoken to Reg, along with their contact information. Yes, everyone you actually know of, and anyone who showed
up today.” His voice took on a distinctly impatient edge, “I know you’re busy, I know there are baby kittens
waiting for their massages and their manicures and their hair appointments and God knows what else, but this is important,
Monster lifted his head at the sound of Starsky’s
voice, a quizzical expression on his face. Together, Becky and her dog watched as he limped from the phone to the end of the
cord and back again, his restless motion betraying something she strongly suspected was anxiety. She wondered as to the reason.
“Yeah, you look into that. Right. And
thank you, ma’am, I appreciate your co-operation in this matter.” The sarcastic edge to his voice gave lie to
his polite words and he replaced the handset with more force than was strictly necessary. Dropping his head, Starsky braced
one hand against the wall and ran the other through his hair, thinking.
After a minute, he turned and said, “Becky,
have you got somewhere else you can stay tonight?”
The fat gray cat jumped up to sit beside
Becky. It patted her arm with its paw, trying to get her attention. She ignored it, her attention entirely on Dave’s
question. Why on earth would I need somewhere else to stay? My home isn’t anywhere
near the evacuation zone.
He dropped down onto the couch next to her,
his expression a mixture of concern and impatience. “You might not be safe here. That guy made a play for you!”
She still didn’t understand. So Reg tried to get me to agree to some drinks after work. So what? There’s a huge difference between a clumsy
pass from a slightly creepy man and real danger. Why is Dave after this guy? Besides…
“How could he possibly know where I
The fat grey cat pawed at her arm again,
mewing. She’d been out prowling late, and by the time she’d returned, the other cats had emptied the dinner bowl.
She was attempting to communicate this personal catastrophe to the one who usually fed her.
Becky pulled the cat into her lap, and petted
it, her attention still on Starsky.
“If he knows your name, he can easily
find out where you live. What about your mother?” suggested Starsky, “She’s been asking you to stay with
Becky straightened and crossed her arms,
the sudden motion upsetting the grey cat so that it was forced to jump down to the floor, much to its chagrin. “I am
not moving back in with my Mom!”
The seriousness of his response shook her
resolve. “Becky, this isn’t a game. This guy could be dangerous.” Starsky paused, then said, “I told
you someone pushed Hutch’s car onto the tracks last night. I really think this might be the guy who did it.”
“But, why would he?”
He smiled sadly at the innocence implicit
in her question. “Oh, lots of reasons. We’re cops. In this line of business, you make a few enemies.” He
didn’t care to mention his other suspicions, not yet. There was nothing solid to link the jolly green giant to the redheaded
jackrabbit - except a vague memory of Hutch’s that the guy who had punched him in the nose had been very large.
“What does that have to do with me?”
She winced at her own question. It sounded cold, but she really did want to know. Fortunately, Dave didn’t seem offended.
“Maybe nothing,” he said. “I
hope it’s nothing. But it’s a fact that you and Hutch and this guy were all at Anna’s funeral yesterday,
and today he tried to get you alone.” Starsky briefly closed his eyes. Hutch had almost died at the hands of that oversized
freak, and he hadn’t been able to do a thing to prevent it. But at least Hutch was the kind of guy who could, usually,
more or less take care of himself. Becky wouldn’t have a chance.
Becky saw his hand tighten into a fist. The
tension in him was more than obvious, and she tried to ease it. “I thought he took rejection remarkably well.”
Her faint effort to lighten the mood failed
dismally. He did not return her smile. “That’s not the point,” he said.
“I know.” Becky saw no other
option but to back down on this issue. “Okay, I do have a friend from work who might put me up at her place. But I don’t
want to call her now, it’s already after !”
“You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I’m not alone. I’ve got
Monster!” The dog looked up at the sound of his name. Climbing stiffly to his feet, he limped over to lay his head on
her lap. She rubbed his ears, and he grinned sloppily, tail wagging. The gray cat jumped back up onto the sofa again and mewed,
once more trying unsuccessfully to get her attention.
Starsky reached across and patted Monster
affectionately, but his tone remained insistently serious. “He’s just an old dog, Becky. You can’t count
on him to protect you.”
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Now
you’re starting to sound like my mother.”
Starsky grinned, amused at the comparison.
The gray cat, realizing that Becky was not
going to respond to its overtures, hopped up onto the back of the couch and crossed over to where the other human sat. Dropping
down onto the cushions beside him, it meeped several times, trying to tell him how very, very much it would like its dinner.
Soon. Because life wasn’t fair and the other cats were greedy pigs.
It was a startlingly insistent sound. Noticing
the cat for the first time, Starsky asked, “What’s up with him?”
“That’s a her,” said Becky,
distracted, her mind on the problem currently facing her. “She’s called Annapurna, because she’s so fat, she’s like a mountain of a cat. She probably just
wants some attention. You can ignore her.”
There was a brief silence, and Starsky looked
over to find her regarding him with a speculative look on her face. He waited, absently petting the cat.
Finally, she said, “If Monster’s
not good enough to protect me, then why don’t you stay here as well?” Oh
boy, I can’t believe I actually said that.
His eyebrows rose, and the smile on Starsky’s
face widened. He was very much enjoying the way Becky had of inadvertently broadcasting every thought and emotion. This was
not a girl who could keep any secrets or tell you any lies. Then common sense reasserted itself and his smile disappeared.
“What use would I be in protecting you?” he asked her, flatly.
Becky saw the shadow darken his expression,
and she wanted nothing more than to chase it away. “Well,” she said with a hopeful smile, “I figure between
the two of you, I might almost have the makings of one nearly adequate bodyguard…” She trailed off. His face was
expressionless. Once again it looked as if her attempt at humor was going to fall flat and she panicked. “I’m
The mask cracked, and he laughed. With a
strong arm, he caught her around the waist, and before she knew quite how it had happened, she’d been scooped up and
deposited into his lap. She found his lips, returning his kiss with enthusiasm, relieved that he’d only been stringing
her along after all.
Matters proceeded along quite nicely from
this point, from Becky’s perspective. Dave was a good kisser, and not the sort to confine himself simply to her lips.
His hands knew their business well, finding her waist and sliding up beneath her shirt. She shivered as his mouth traced its
way down her collarbone.
She wanted to respond in kind, and her fingers
found the snaps of his denim shirt, sliding between them to touch the skin of his chest. At the moment of contact, something
electric certainly happened, but it wasn’t at all what she’d intended.
He flinched so violently he nearly dropped
her. She grabbed at his shirt for purchase, heard several snaps pop, and then abruptly, she found herself deposited right
back onto her side of the couch.
“I’m sorry!” said Becky,
baffled and alarmed. “Did I hurt you?”
“No.” He had shut her out again,
and she was certain that this time it was not a joke. She watched as he began to do up the snaps she’d inadvertently
“Then what’s wrong?” Besides everything, that is, thought Becky. She desperately hoped this wasn’t
the issue she thought it was.
He heard the hurt in her voice, and felt
absolutely rotten about it. How could he explain? He just didn’t want her stumbling across the scarred disaster that
was his body. Not this way. Not now. “Look, you just… you don’t… I mean…”
She flushed painfully, and her voice sharpened
in combined pain and embarrassment. “What? Do I have blinking neon sign on my forehead?”
“Huh?” Starsky looked at her
“I can figure it out, you know! Yeah,
okay, I’m a virgin. I’m probably even the last twenty four year old virgin in Bay City. But just for once, I’d like to know what it is about me
that makes it so darned obvious!” Becky was close to tears.
“No, stop, that’s not it,”
Appalled at how badly she was misinterpreting him, he struggled for the words to make it right. “Baby, you’re
sexy and desirable, and just about everything I’d love to have in my arms right now.” He caught her hand in his
and placed it on his chest, over one of the more prominent scars. Even through the shirt, she ought to be able to pick up
on that one. “What do you feel?”
“You.” Becky looked up from her
hand, into his intensely blue eyes. He was waiting for something, but she wasn’t sure yet what it was. She tried listing
more possibilities. “Your chest. Your heart. Maybe, a scar…?” She knew she’d hit it by the sudden
darkening of his expression. “Is that what this is about? The fact that you’ve got some scars?”
“You’ve got no idea.”
Becky refused to be intimidated by his forbidding
growl. “So? Show me.”
He threw his head back against the couch
and groaned with frustrated emotion. “You don’t want that.”
“Yes, I do,” she said, stubbornly.
Then she heard her own words and felt the heat rise in her cheeks. God help me, look
at what happens when a guy won’t push. I’m practically trying to rip his clothes off!
He felt her discomfort, and glumly thought,
She’s just trying to put on a good show because she feels sorry for me. I’ll
be damned if I let her do that to either of us.
He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t looking
at her. He was simply sitting on the couch with his head bowed, and his hands limp on his knees. Summoning all of her courage,
Becky reached tentatively for him. Without looking up, he intercepted her hand and folded it inside of his own. “Don’t
do this, kid.”
She felt that lump rising in her throat again.
“Then what am I supposed to do?” she asked, helplessly. “I mean, I like you and I think you like me,”
don’t stop there, keep talking and maybe it won’t sound like you’re
asking for pity, “and look at me now, I’m acting like an idiot…”
He sat up and caught her other hand, turning
to look intently into her miserable face. “I do like you!”
he mean it? Becky tried to gather
the tattered shreds of her confidence. “Well, I can’t go on having to peel you off the ceiling every time I try
to touch you. What kind of relationship would we have if you never took your shirt off?” Relationship. Having used the loaded word, she now waited in agony to learn what his response would be. Would
he give her the ‘you’re a sweet girl, but’ speech?
for a penny, in for a pound, thought
Starsky, grimly. She thinks she wants a relationship with me? There didn’t
seem to be any way to salvage this mess. With an unhappy sense of resignation, he lifted up the side of his shirt, intending
to show her just exactly what she was getting for a boyfriend.
Becky frowned, “Those aren’t
Starsky looked down at himself, a little
surprised. He’d been so focused on his scars that he’d forgotten completely about the rope burns. “Oh, no,
that’s from yesterday morning.”
“What were you doing? That looks really
painful…” Becky stopped, comprehension dawning in her eyes, “Oh! Is that from when Hutch almost fell off
“Yes, I got those from the ropes.”
“Does it hurt?” Becky’s
expression was sympathetic, and she lightly touched one of the scabbed scrapes on his waist.
“No, not particularly. Stings a little,
maybe, when you do that…” She quickly snatched her fingers back, wide-eyed. His tone shifted back to something
darker. “Do you still want to see more?”
He gave her a dour look, unsmiling. “Okay,
well, I guess this one’s my favorite.” Figuring he might as well get it all over with at once, he undid the snaps
down his front and shrugged out of his shirt. Turning slightly, he indicated the long red scar on the right hand side of his
Becky’s eyes were on his face. They
remained there for a moment, before dropping to look at the scar. There were others, but he seemed to want her to focus on
this one. She leaned forward and placed her hand on it, smoothing her fingers over the rough ridged skin. “So, what’s
the story?” she asked levelly.
“After the shooting, they had to go
back in a couple times to patch things up, because sometimes things didn’t always stay fixed. When they went in there,
the site got infected, and they had to open it back up again so it could to drain.” He watched her intently, waiting
for the natural reaction; waiting for disgust or at least pity.
“Hmm…?” she said, interested,
but also a little distracted. He was a little on the thin side, but he had a well built body, showing the obvious benefits
of regular exercise. His chest hair curled just as much as the hair on his head and it was shot through in places with individual
strands of silver. There was no hair growing over the scar tissue. It was absolutely fascinating. When he didn’t start
talking again immediately, she looked up.
His face was expressionless and his eyes
“The wound stayed open for weeks,”
Starsky said. Still he saw nothing more from Becky than honest interest. “It oozed pus and it stank to high heaven.”
Becky nodded, once more occupied with further explorations of his chest. He felt almost let down. “Well?”
“Well, what?” she asked, innocently.
“Well, what do you think?” His
voice was sharper than he’d intended, carrying with it a hint of anger. He knew she wasn’t putting him on, but
surely she ought to be showing more reaction than this!
Becky carefully thought through her answer.
“I think,” she said slowly. “I think it sounds like you went through hell, and I’m sorry it had to
happen to you. However, I also think you’ve still got quite an attractive body.”
He stiffened, and she realized she was going
to have to expand on this if she had any hope of convincing him of what should have been obvious. “See?” she said,
patting his stomach. “Look at the way you’re crunching those muscles right now. What do they call that? A six-pack?”
She felt him relax fractionally, and she let her fingers drift upwards to tangle in the hair on his chest. “And you’ve
got lots of this stuff. I like guys with hair on their chests. Plus, it’s all sparkly.”
“Sparkly?” he asked blankly.
“Sure,” she said, her happiness
quite apparent in her voice. “You’ve got some silver in there, and it looks great. Sparkly.”
“You’re nuts.” But he said
it affectionately and there was a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“Mm, probably,” she murmured
agreeably, still playing with his chest hair.
He laughed low in his throat and tried to
pull her into his lap. She pushed away and said, “No, I want to see your back, too. Lie down.”
Bemused, but no longer feeling defensive,
he rolled onto his stomach, his sneakers propped on the arm of the couch. She climbed over him, until she was seated comfortably
on his rear end, her knees pressed into his ribs, above the rope burns.
“I like the fact that you don’t
have too much hair on your back,” she said, contentedly. “Hair should stay where it belongs, not migrate all over
a man’s body.” Her hands worked their way over his back, discovering by touch the whole landscape of it.
He felt her begin massaging his shoulders
and it did not hurt in the slightest. Rather, it did something entirely different to him, and when he groaned this time, it
wasn’t in frustration.
“Ah, baby, don’t do this to me.
I can’t be responsible for where it might lead.”
Becky laughed briefly, and then sobered.
She leaned forward until she lay across his back, her head on his shoulder and her face a few inches away from his.
“What if I told you I was saving myself
He gave her an interested look. “Are
“Maybe.” She paused, her eyes
on his. “What if I was? Would you run screaming?”
His mouth quirked, amused. “’Run
screaming’ is a bit of an overstatement, I think. I’ve faced down much scarier stuff than a girl who says she
ain’t interested in going all the way.”
Becky abruptly pulled back, and buried her
face between his shoulders. He felt her hot breath on his back, and he heard the frustration in her voice. “I never
said I wasn’t interested!”
“I just want to know if you’ll
He craned his head to the side, trying to
look her in the eye, but she still had her forehead pressed to his back. “You mean, sorta like I wanted to know if you’d
run, when you saw my scars?”
“Will you?” she asked again,
“I’m not planning on it, at the
moment,” said Starsky, calmly. “How about you?”
“I could maybe stick around for a while,”
replied Becky, for her part failing utterly at keeping her tone casual.
Embarrassed, she pushed herself up. Her hand
landed on a faded scar on his shoulder. Grateful for a change of topic, she said, “This one’s different from the
“That’s because it’s older,”
said Starsky, following her lead. She’d clearly hit her limits with regards to the previous topic.
“How did you get it?”
He would have shrugged, but she was rubbing
his shoulders again and it just felt so very nice. Feeling pleasantly relaxed, he said, “We walked into the middle of
a mob hit, in an Italian restaurant. Hutch and me were just trying to have a nice dinner, ya know? But these two guys were
out to get Vic Monte…”
“I remember!” Becky exclaimed.
“It was in all the papers. That was you and Hutch? You guys were heroes!”
“Nah, Hutch is the hero,” said
Starsky dryly. “All I did was bleed un-heroically all over their couch.”
“You were a hero yesterday, when you
saved his life.”
“Will you quit it with the hero stuff?”
He was pleased, despite himself. Becky began talking again, so he turned over onto his back, forcing her to shift with him
until she lay across his stomach. His scrapes stung slightly, but it was a small price to pay to silence her words with another
The fat grey cat glared at them both from
her perch on the back of the couch. At this rate, she was never going to get her dinner.