Becky paused at the door of her cottage,
taking in the familiar surroundings with a feeling of deep contentment. She’d missed this place acutely these last few
weeks, and it seemed to her now that she could never find anything banal or ordinary about it ever again.
She had tried to wait for him on that stormy
morning at his house. She’d made coffee and washed the dishes and peered out the window through the cascading rain.
And eventually, when he hadn’t come back, and she couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, she’d found an
umbrella and gone down to find him herself.
She discovered him leaning on the door of
the patrol car, his arm braced on the window, talking to the policemen inside. Hutch saw her first, and nudged Dave’s
shoulder. He straightened immediately, and when he turned, there passed briefly over his face an expression that she could
not identify. Before she had a chance to worry, however, he smiled at her and said, “You know what? You’re right!
There’s no reason we can’t live at your house.”
It was about only thing he could have said
that would have distracted her from trying to find out what had been in the envelope, and it worked beautifully.
home, thought Becky happily, looking
around the room one more time. The cats were all in their usual places, and Monster was looking just as dejected as he always
did whenever she went out and left him behind. The shells and the books were all there. Nothing had changed. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost expect Anna to come sauntering around the corner…
An impatient honk from the car outside interrupted
her reverie. She quickly found her keys and locked the door. “All right, I’m coming!”
Starsky watched appreciatively as Becky trotted
around the front of the recently repaired Torino and slid in on the passenger side. Evidently visiting
a Rabbi was an event that merited some attempt at dressing up, because she had changed into a knee-length blue jean skirt
and a clingy black top. She had a bright scarf threaded through the belt loops at her waist.
“You look nice,” he said. She
also looked entirely unlike herself.
Becky propped her foot on her knee in a most
unladylike fashion and examined the toe of her pink ankle boot. “I borrowed this outfit from Anna.”
“Oh?” The door to Anna’s
room had been closed ever since they’d moved back into Becky’s place. Her parents had picked up most of her belongings
in the first week after the funeral. Becky had said nothing about clearing out the rest of it, and Starsky had assumed that
she simply wasn’t ready to deal with the task yet. The last thing he expected was that she would start raiding her deceased
She gave him a quick, slightly embarrassed
smile. “It’s nice. I feel like I’m not me.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
he asked, as he started the car.
“Oh, yes,” she said with a certitude
that left no room for argument. He was still trying to figure out how to respond when she noticed the neat white bandage covering
the knuckles of his left hand. “Hey, what happened?”
“Nothing serious,” he said, “It’s
just a scrape.”
She tilted her head to one side inquisitively.
“Who’d you punch?”
“No one you know, so don’t worry
about it.” His flat tone told her clearly that he did not want to discuss the matter any further.
He’d done his best. He’d tried
really hard to convince Hutch that the pictures had no value in the case against Reg. After all, trespassing hardly ranked up there with murder, did it? Just flick a Bic and they’d all have one thing
less to worry about.
But Hutch had insisted on at least taking
them in to Dobey. He said he wanted to go by the book on this one, because catching Reg, and doing it right, was more important
than any temporary embarrassment Starsky might feel.
Embarrassment! Starsky snorted in quiet disgust. Hutch had no idea
how he felt. Dobey didn’t get it either, though at least he did agree not to enter the pictures into evidence right
away. He put the pictures into the bottom drawer of his desk, locked it, and said he’d let the D.A. make the call after
Reg had been caught.
That should have been the end of the matter,
and it would have been, except for the fact that Starsky had already shot his mouth off at the two patrolmen.
He had no way of knowing which one of them
it was who initially let the story out, that Reg had been taking naughty pictures of Sergeant Dave Starsky and his girlfriend.
It didn’t matter. The rumor mill at the precinct was in its usual fine form and by the end of that day, Starsky was
noticing smirks and sidelong glances, and conversations that suddenly ended just as he walked by.
“Sorry, buddy,” Hutch had commented
sympathetically. “Cops have the collective maturity of a bunch of third graders, sometimes.”
Starsky simply glared at him. If he’d just let me burn them…
Of course, that was not to say that Starsky
wouldn’t have found the whole thing pretty funny if it had happened to someone else. Even if it had been some other
girl, it probably wouldn’t have bothered him so much. But this had involved Becky, and he didn’t find it at all
So, for the last three days he’d been
gritting his teeth and waiting for the hilarity to subside. It was no comfort that in fact most of the jibes were aimed at
the two patrolmen who’d been on duty when the number one most wanted felon in Bay City had strolled right past them,
camera in hand. The various expressions of amused condolence Starsky received only made things worse, particularly those that
came from certain of the female cops (and most especially the ones he’d dated). His only consolation was that it would
all be forgotten soon enough, since the collective attention span of the precinct was also thankfully shorter than that of
most third graders.
It helped that Captain Mack had agreed to
let him work with Hutch on interviewing the neighbors and chasing down anyone who might have seen Reg that night. With uncharacteristic
amicability, he told Starsky that he could have a day or two away from the desk, but that he expected him to make it up in
the not-too-distant future. Starsky privately suspected that Dobey had gone down to have a quiet word with Mack.
He honestly thought he’d done a fairly
good job at controlling his temper, all things considered. And he had, until this afternoon.
They still had no leads on Reg, and Starsky’s
nerves were shot, expecting the man to make his reappearance at any moment. All he’d wanted was a candy bar. He’d
been standing in the second floor hallway counting out the change from his pockets, hoping against hope that he had enough
left for a snack from the machine. The piggy bank he kept on his desk was empty, and his wallet wasn’t in much better
shape. Most of his last paycheck had gone straight into Merle’s pocket to fix the headlight on the Torino. He had no idea how he was going to come up with enough to buy a ring
in time for the wedding and he was trying to think of some way to maneuver Hutch into paying for lunch. It was at this precise
moment that Wadley strolled by, smirked at the sight of Starsky counting his quarters, and said,
“Why don’t you just hock some
pics to supplement your income?”
Now he actually hadn’t intended to
jump on the guy. Really, as he tried to explain later, all he’d planned to
do was punch him gently in the face. But his balance wasn’t everything it used to be, and somehow or other when the
jerk had gone down, Starsky had gone down to the floor with him. And once down there, well, he’d figured he might as
well make the best of the situation.
Hutch had hauled him off, which neatly solved
the problem of how he was going to get back up on his feet. Then Wadley stood up, pinching his bloody nose, and they all got
to stand around like a bunch of guilty school kids while Captain Dobey bawled them out for brawling in the hallways.
Starsky flexed his hand, thoughtfully. Becky
was still looking at him curiously, so he said, “Tell me about this Rabbi… Rabbi Weiss? Who is he?”
Rabbi turned out to be an elderly gentleman with a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard and a broad brimmed hat.
Though there was a lot that was attractive
about the thought of simply getting a judge to sign some papers and witness their vows, both Starsky’s and Becky’s
mothers had made it very clear that they could not go on living if they did not get to see their children properly married
off in the Jewish tradition. Starsky had tried pointing out to his otherwise contentedly non-religious mother that the last
time he’d seen the inside of a Synagogue had been when he’d read for his Bar Mitzvah. Unfortunately, that started
her down the road of how badly she’d failed in his upbringing and he’d had to give up the argument. A proper wedding
was what the mothers wanted, so a proper wedding was what they’d get.
“Ah, Rebecca, I take it that this is
your young man?” Sharp eyes assessed him from the curls on his head down to the blue sneakers on his feet. Starsky shifted
uneasily under the Rabbi’s gaze.
Becky hooked her arm somewhat possessively
through Starsky’s elbow. “Yes, sir!”
Starsky carefully extracted his hand and
extended it to the older man, “David Starsky.” He was startled to find himself using his proper name instead of
the more familiar ‘Dave’. Something about the Rabbi made him feel as though he ought to be formal. He thought
he understood now why Becky had felt the need to dress up.
The Rabbi ushered them into his office, where
he settled himself behind an oak desk. The chairs were comfortably broad, and upholstered in dark red leather, but the arms
had a well worn shine, indicative of much use. Starsky noticed that Becky sat very upright in her chair, instead of slouching
in her usual manner.
The old man leaned back behind his desk,
folded his hands, and smiled at the two of them. “What I want to know is, why so soon? Not even two months to plan the
wedding. Rebecca, your mother is frantic.”
Becky’s voice was a little too loud,
her defensiveness coming out clearly. “It’s all because of my mother! Rabbi, do you remember what she did to Judith’s
wedding? And Ben’s? I just want something nice and quiet, not an event of gargantuan proportions!” It was a reason,
though it wasn’t the most important one. The real reason for her desire to marry quickly had to do with a feeling that
life might not be as permanent and secure as she’d always believed. But that was something she could barely explain
to herself, much less to the old man sitting across from her.
He smiled at the memories. “Yes, I
remember very well.” Pausing, he regarded her intently. “So, you are not with child yet?”
“No!” She was horrified at the
thought. And then the even more appalling thought occurred to her that she might be. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility
since they hadn’t been using any birth control these last three days. She kept meaning to pick some up, but somehow
it just hadn’t happened yet. She blinked at the Rabbi and thought: He really
can’t read my mind. That was just something silly I used to believe when I was a kid.
Starsky shuffled uncomfortably in his chair.
What? Does Becky’s family think this is some sort of shotgun wedding? Does my
own? Last Friday, his mother had mentioned that she’d been on the phone with Becky’s mom, and he’d assumed
they were talking about the wedding, but what if they weren’t? His mother was supposed to arrive in a week and a half.
“But you are living with him?” The Rabbi’s eyebrows crawled up his forehead.
“Well, it’s either him or my
mom, and…” her voice acquired a pleading note. “Rabbi, I love her but I can’t live with her!”
“And you,” he said, his attention
shifting to Starsky, amusement in his eyes. “Can you provide a stable home for Rebecca?”
Starsky winced, thinking of the current state
of his finances. “Um, I…”
“I have a job of my own!” protested
“Rebecca, let David speak,” said
the Rabbi, sternly.
“I intend to do my best,” said
Starsky, carefully. It was the only honest answer he could give.
The Rabbi said, “Marriage isn’t
something you jump into without a thought. It’s a lifelong commitment.”
He suppressed a smile at the sight of the
two young people nodding solemnly, wide-eyed. He’d known Rebecca since she was a small child, and he was amused to see
that she was nervous enough about his opinion of David that she’d tried dressing with much more maturity and chutzpah
than she actually possessed. She rarely defended herself, but today it was clear that she had mentally prepared herself to
stand up in defense of her lover.
As for David, there were aspects of the man
that concerned him, most particularly the clear evidence that he’d recently been in a fist fight. But his bearing was
not that of a violent man, his expression was honest and open, and he was very clearly both protective and attentive towards
This, he decided, was a match he could approve.
Leaning forward, he gave them both an indulgent smile and said, “Now let’s discuss your roles and responsibilities
in this wedding ceremony…”
in the Torino, Becky blew out a long breath and said, optimistically,
“I think that went well!”
“Yes…” said Starsky. “But
I kinda wish you hadn’t invited him to the Christmas party on the nineteenth.”
Becky bit her lip. “Okay, that wasn’t
a high point.”
“And then telling him that Jews worship
She sank into her seat, as if hoping she
might be able to disappear through the floorboard of the car. Why did her mouth always run away with her at the worst possible
time? “I was nervous?”
Starsky started the car, a grin tugging at
the side of his face. “I think we’re very lucky he has a sense of humor.”
“With my family, he has to have one.”
She paused. “Do you think he’ll come?”
“You know, I think he might.”
Starsky thought he could get to very much like the old Rabbi. Despite the hard probing questions he’d asked, his manner
had been non-judgmental. He had an air of amused practicality about him, as if he was constantly laughing inside at the absurdity
of the universe.
“I wonder if I put a menorah in the
window, or something…?” asked Becky, thoughtfully.
“No,” said Starsky, patiently.
“By then Chanukah will have been over for more than a week.”
“Oh.” Becky considered this for
several minutes. Gradually, she realized that they were not heading back the way they had come. She glanced over at Dave.
He was leaning back in his seat, driving one handed. “Where are we going?”
“Remember I told you I’d take
you somewhere you could try firing that pistol?”
“What, now?” Becky looked down
at her denim skirt. She didn’t feel properly dressed to go to a firing range. Then again, it wasn’t as if she
had any idea what the proper attire for that sort of activity was in the first place. I
bet Anna wouldn’t have been the slightest bit unsettled by any of this.
They were in a part of Bay City that Becky had rarely visited before. She looked out the window
of the car with interest, taking in the assorted people on the street, the bright signs, and the bustling activity of early
Starsky noticed her do a slight double take,
staring at something they had passed on the road.
“What is it?”
“Oh,” she said, glancing back
at him with an embarrassed laugh. “I was just checking out the names on some of the shops. The Sin-o-rama?”
“It’s not nearly as much fun
as it sounds.” It was actually just a very ordinary, very grungy little sex shop, no different from a dozen others on
“It sounds like it ought to be some
sort of combination Roller Disco and, um…” she stopped, blushing.
He raised an eyebrow at her and smirked.
“Well, I know where your mind is at these days.”
“No, it’s not!” But, of
course, that had been exactly what she’d been thinking.
The place he had in mind turned out to be
an old rambling brick building which, based on the fading series of signs outside, had once housed a school, and then a community
center, and was now a combination martial arts store, fireworks emporium and gun shop. Becky took the heavy duffle bag Dave
handed her and followed him inside, feeling terribly conspicuous and very much out of place.
The short bear-like man behind the counter
looked up with a smile. “Starsky!”
Starsky held up a finger, gave him a grin,
and silently mouthed, “One moment.” Carefully hooking his cane on the edge of the counter, he took a single step
to the side, reached out one long arm, and snagged a sweaty rumpled figure by the back of the neck. The heavyset man, who
had a moment ago been trying very hard to blend inconspicuously into the background, squeaked in alarm.
“I ain’t done nothin’!”
“C’mon, Wally,” said Starsky.
His smile had vanished, his eyes were hooded, and he sounded bored. “Empty those pockets and we’ll see what you
ain’t done.” To the man behind the counter, he said, “My friend Wally here’s been picked up seven
times for shoplifting, and that’s just in this city.”
Wally started to whine. “Aw, Starsky,
you ain’t gonna turn me in, are ya? ‘Cause the judge said if he saw me again…”
“Just empty those pockets, Wally. I’m
out on a date with my girl right now so I really don’t want to arrest you, but if you annoy me, I might decide it’s
worth my time after all.”
Becky watched, wide-eyed. Dave didn’t
look or sound at all like the man she thought she knew. This person was much darker and more dangerous, and there was an element
of contained energy about him that suggested he might do anything to get what he wanted. Even his voice had changed, his New York accent becoming stronger.
Obviously intimidated, the other man quickly
began dumping various small items on the counter. Becky watched curiously as he turned his coat inside out, revealing numerous
pockets sewn into the lining. The expression on the face of the bear-like man behind the counter soured more as each pilfered
item appeared. Starsky gave the now-quite-skinny little figure a final shake as if to ensure that nothing else would fall
out, and then turned him loose.
“If I ever see you in my store again,”
growled the shop owner, leaning over his counter. “I’ll stuff these fireworks right back into your pockets and
To Becky’s fascination, the bear-like
man’s demeanor changed the instant the small thief disappeared. Now radiating nothing but affability, he leaned across
the counter and smiled widely at her, revealing a silver-capped tooth. “So, you’re Starsky’s gal, hey?”
“Becky, this is Dan. Dan, this is Becky,”
said Starsky, reclaiming his cane, all of his former easy bearing having returned.
Becky heard the clear pride in Dave’s
voice and, hit with the sudden insight that appearances might count for even more in this place than they did at the Rabbi’s
office, decided she was glad she had worn Anna’s clothes after all.
“The usual then?” asked Dan,
having checked out Becky to his satisfaction. When Starsky nodded, he tossed him a key and said, “You know the way.”
Becky snagged Starsky’s sleeve halfway
down the stairs to the basement. “Don’t they have a range at the police station? Why do you shoot here?”
It was perfectly obvious to her that this was a place he visited regularly.
Starsky paused, unsure of just how much she
needed to know. He’d been keeping a lot from her lately, and he wasn’t entirely comfortable with it. Finally,
he said, “I’m not cleared to carry a pistol yet. When I shoot at the range downtown, there are always people watching
me. They’re assessing how well I do, and they’re making judgments on whether or not I’ll ever pass the test.
This place is more private, and Dan’s a good guy. I know he won’t go blabbing around to people about how many
times I miss the target.” He shrugged and added, “Of course, you wouldn’t be allowed to shoot at the precinct’s
The pistol range turned out to be a long,
low-ceilinged room in the basement. The walls were covered with thick white panels of drywall, and Starsky told her that there
was concrete behind that. He took the duffle bag from her and gave her a heavy set of ear protectors to wear. A thick paper
roll standing in the corner yielded a black silhouette of a man, which he tore off and tacked to the wall at the far end of
He indicated that she was to come up to the
closest yellow line painted on the floor. It seemed to her that she was now nearly nose to nose with the target and she thought
to herself that surely no one could miss at that range. When he handed her the gun, she remembered to check it just as he’d
taught her and, aside from accidentally ejecting a shell from the chamber, she thought she did fairly well. His smile reassured
She tried to stand as he’d shown her
back at the apartment, but evidently she hadn’t quite mastered it, because she felt his foot kick hers, indicating that
she needed to have her feet further apart. He also lifted one ear protector and told her to relax her elbows. Finally he seemed
satisfied and nodded to her, indicating that she could pull the trigger on the pistol whenever she was ready.
The deafening crack and kick of the weapon
took her by surprise, and seemingly by themselves, her hands jerked skyward. Wide-eyed, she quickly lowered the pistol and
stared at the target. It was untouched. She wondered if her shot had gone into the scarred wall behind the target. Dave, his
own ear protectors crushing his curls, tapped her arm and pointed at the ceiling. A small hole almost directly above their
heads showed clearly where her bullet had impacted. He grinned.
Determined to do better, Becky tried again.
She had never felt anything like it before. It was as if the pistol had a mind of its own, jumping up into the air, despite
her best efforts to keep it aimed at the target. Another small hole joined the first in the ceiling. And then another.
She looked over at Dave. He was laughing
Once more she aimed at the target. Then,
deliberately, she brought the pistol down lower, aiming it almost at the floor. If the gun was going to jump anyway, then
at least she could try to have it jump in the right direction. She pulled the trigger.
She was still blinking at the noise, when
Dave’s hand folded over the top of the pistol and he took it back from her. He pulled off his headset and indicated
that she should remove hers. When he was sure she could hear him, he said, “Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
“Why?” she asked.
He nodded at the target, waggling his eyebrows
There was one small hole in the target, precisely
where the figure’s groin would have been, if it had such a thing. Her hands flew up to cover her mouth. “Oh!”
Starsky had spent a great deal of time debating
whether this was a good idea. He knew Hutch wouldn’t approve, but that was neither here nor there when it came to Becky
learning to defend herself. No, what had worried him more was the notion of bringing her down to this part of town. She was
innocent of most of the stuff he saw on a daily basis, and he didn’t know how she’d react to seeing it playing
out around her. She’d been very quiet ever since they’d first entered Dan’s shop, and now as he watched
her study the target, he wondered what she was thinking.
fears vanished as she suddenly turned a bright smile in his direction and said, joyfully, “That was really fun! Can
I try again?”