Starsky always said Hutch thought too much.
Too much thinking got in the way of doing.
Whether he was right or wrong was irrelevant,
because at this particular moment in time, Hutch was not thinking at all. His entire universe had narrowed down to a single
point of interest – the object of his pursuit, Reginald Malcolm.
Everything else was tangential, except insofar
as it related to his target.
He observed that the sun was setting over
the bay, casting long shadows over the sand and between the dunes, and he questioned whether any of these might hide a man.
The water was choppy, reflecting the recent
storms, and his mind warned him that the susurrus of the waves could cover both a footstep and that slight intake of breath
that always precedes sudden action.
The docks were close by, warehouses and piers
providing ample coverage for a fugitive.
He was grateful that there were no large
ships in today, and that the small pleasure crafts sat quietly unattended, reflecting the quiet of a Sunday evening. A man
on the run would find no hostages to place between himself and justice.
Hutch slowed to a trot, his eyes scanning
the beach warily. Reg had demonstrated a considerable talent for disappearing. Last time he’d been forced to give up
the hunt too soon, because his partner had been injured, and all alone.
There would be no such distraction this time.
did it wrong, didn’t I? I didn’t mean to!” As soon as the initial shock had worn off, Becky had begun apologizing
hysterically, and now it seemed that she couldn’t stop.
She had her hands up on the back of her head,
her fingers digging into her hair. “I’m sorry!”
Compounding the problem was the fact that
Starsky had neither the time nor the patience to deal with her at that moment. He had tried using Dobey’s voice on her
again, but this time it only seemed to make matters worse. Perhaps it was only useful when there was actually a concrete task
for the person to perform. As far as Starsky knew, “Stop panicking!” wasn’t something Dobey ever had to
say to his detectives. For that matter, policemen rarely burst into tears because they’d shot at someone.
In any case, this was definitely a situation
well outside of his experience.
And there was no time to figure out what
to do. Giving up on calming her, he placed his hands on her hips and firmly but gently moved her out of the way. Finally,
he could drop down into the front seat of the Torino, reach the radio, and call for help.
“This is Zebra Three…”
Damn, but it was hard to concentrate. All he wanted to do was wrap her in his arms, dry her tears and comfort her, but he
couldn’t. There was no time for that now. Dawn was hurt, and Reg was getting away… He stumbled over the address
to Becky’s house and thought disgustedly that it was usually Hutch who got inarticulate under stress, not himself.
But Hutch had taken off alone after Reg,
and that was enough to make him lose his composure all by itself. Worse was the fact that the knife had disappeared utterly
and he was pretty sure Hutch hadn’t taken it, which meant that Reg must have grabbed it before he ran.
A gun usually trumps a knife, but only if
the person holding the gun realizes that the other has the knife.
Starsky was repeating the address, requesting
an ambulance, when Dawn’s voice suddenly cut through the confusion and brought everything to a complete halt.
“Pull it together, girl!”
Becky’s head whipped around and she
looked at Dawn with wide-eyed shock. If the situation had been less serious, Dawn would have laughed at the look on the girl’s
face. Who would have figured that Becky could act so decisively in a crisis, only to
fall apart the moment it was over?
Before Becky could start up again, Dawn said,
“Come here and give me a hand. Let Dave do his job.”
Having received all the assurances he needed
from dispatch, Starsky glanced over at Dawn, assessing her condition. She was sitting cross-legged on the ground with her
back very straight, using her free hand to keep Hutch’s suit jacket wrapped tightly around her upper arm. The blood
soaking the jacket was not visible against the black material but the dark stain on the ground beside her spoke plainly of
the severity of the injury. Her eyes however were clear and bright, and her jaw was stubbornly set.
She was taking charge of things the only
way she knew how, by issuing orders.
Starsky replaced the handset and grabbed
the roof of the car to pull himself up onto his feet. “The ambulance is on its way. They said they’d be here inside
of ten. We’ll probably get a unit or two sooner than that.”
“Fine,” said Dawn, her gaze sharpening.
“Then why are you still here?” The pressure building in her abdomen and thighs added an unintended edge to her
words. “You’re supposed to be his back-up, for God’s sake!” She held her breath, trying to ride out
the crest of the wave. It was just a matter of getting over the top and then things would get easier on the other side. And
maybe, hopefully, her body would give her a few minutes to recover before starting in on her again.
For an indeterminate time, she lost track
of what was happening around her.
When she opened her eyes, Dave was standing
over her, tormented uncertainty in his face. “But you’re hurt and the baby…” Hutch will never forgive me if I leave and something happens to his wife. I don’t think he even knows she’s
having the baby, and it wasn’t supposed to be due until January…
“Get out of here!” Dawn snapped.
“Or I swear if anything happens to him, I’ll make your life a living hell from now until the end of time!”
She saw him begin to protest, and then stop,
a light dawning behind his eyes as he finally realized what she was trying to do.
Starsky would have kissed her, if it weren’t
for the fact that she probably would have slugged him if he’d tried. She had given him exactly the permission he needed.
Hutch needed help immediately, whereas Dawn
had made it very clear that she could take care of herself, at least until the paramedics arrived. Not to mention, Becky seemed
to be doing somewhat better now, even if still a little wild-eyed and tense.
He settled for tossing Hutch’s wife
a sketchy salute as he headed for his car. He was rewarded with half a crooked grin.
He had his hand on the handle of the Torino’s door when Becky suddenly shouted, “Wait!”
Impatiently, he glanced back, only to see
Becky run for the door of her cottage, her hand searching for the small pocket sewn inconspicuously into the lining of her
dress. She quickly found the key she needed and unlocked the door, heedless of the corpse of the pig as it bounced against
the wood, sending a spray of dark red droplets across the skirt of her white wedding dress.
“Take Monster with you!” she
said as the door flew open under the combined efforts of herself and the frustrated animal on the other side.
The dog erupted from inside the house, nearly
knocking Becky down in his eagerness to assure himself that she was safe. The scent of death was all around him and it was
driving him wild. He took one full turn around his mistress and then spotted the pig. Darting forward, he barked fiercely
at the thing, fully intending to tear it down and rend it, before finally re-marking the door himself. The large man had violated
the territorial markers of his home and he knew exactly how to go about fixing things. Everyone needed to understand exactly
whose home this was, and that if he hadn’t been trapped inside, he would have driven the intruder away himself.
“Monster!” The sharp tone left
no room for disobedience. He stopped in mid-lunge and looked over his shoulder at the man.
“If you’re coming, get the hell
in this car now!”
The command didn’t make sense, but
he knew what a car was and the man was sitting in one right now, holding the door open for him. Never one to turn down a free
ride, Monster barked once more at the dead thing on the door of his home and then charged for the Torino, scrambling over the man’s lap and into the passenger seat.
The pig would have to wait. He had a feeling
there was something much bigger waiting for him. Perhaps it was the smell of death in the air, or maybe it was the impatient
tone in the man’s voice, but he was suddenly joyfully convinced that for the first time in many, many years he was being
asked to go hunting.
Starsky winced as the large animal’s
nails gouged his legs. He was impatient at the delay, but he couldn’t deny that bringing Monster might be a pretty good
idea. He hit the gas and the wheels spun briefly before finding traction in the gravel. The dog settled down onto his haunches
and stuck his head out of the window and grinned, his lips peeling back from the long yellow fangs. A dim memory of the hot
copper taste of blood flooded his mouth with saliva and his tongue lolled.
Starsky glanced over at Monster. He’s almost a weapon himself. I just have to make sure I don’t get him killed.
Hutch paused, his eyes searching the shadows
under the docks. The tide had retreated to its lowest ebb, leaving behind a long sandy stretch of beach. Mussel-encrusted
concrete pillars supported wide wooden docks, and the space beneath them was intercut with long stretches of wire fencing
designed both to prevent erosion and discourage trespassing. It was reasonably effective at the first task and clearly not
so much at the second. The fences were riddled with holes, the wire cut and bent back in places to allow for free passage.
Seaweed and assorted debris from the bay clung to the wires, and the mixed odors of salt and rancid fish hung heavily over
Reg was here, somewhere.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled
and he rubbed the callous of his thumb against the cool metal of the pistol in his hand. Starsky’s gun. It felt too
small in his hand, lighter than his Magnum and weighted more toward the back. He tried to remember how many rounds this model
of Colt carried. It was a small clip for an automatic, only seven or eight, depending on whether or not there was one in the
chamber. Would Starsky have taken the risk of chambering a round if he was planning
on stashing it in the back of his pants?
Once he would have known the answer to that
question, but there had also been a time once when he would have sworn that you’d never catch his partner carrying an unregistered weapon.
But it seemed that there were no rules when
it came to Reg.
Something scraped against a pillar, off to
his right. Under different circumstances, the sound would have been nearly inaudible, but at this moment, his painfully heightened
senses found it shockingly loud. He spun on his heel, automatically bringing up the pistol, his eyes straining to see through
the darkness. His finger tightened on the trigger, but he restrained himself.
Becky had already fired three rounds, which
left him four. He couldn’t risk shooting. Not without a clear target.
He moved cautiously in the direction of the
noise, his own breathing deafeningly loud in his ears, each individual grain of sand and broken bit of shell under his feet
scraping with excruciating volume.
He was here, somewhere.
Very close by.
the red car disappeared around the bend of the road, Becky turned back and eyed Dawn, worriedly. “You’re really
“No kidding!” retorted Dawn,
irritably. Relenting, she said, “It’s not my arm. It’s these…” She caught her breath as another
one bore down on her. “…contractions.”
The most disconcerting part of the whole
thing for Dawn was the manner in which this sensation could take her right out of the world. It was almost as if she was being
repeatedly hit with mini blackouts as she rode the roller coaster waves. Just when she thought she couldn’t stand another
moment, it would ease and she’d come back only to discover that time had passed, people had moved and she had no idea
when it had happened.
oh, her back ached!
She curled forward, trying to ease some of
the stress on her spine. Unfortunately, this movement only served to trigger a roiling surge of nausea in her gut. Swallowing
against the bitter taste of acid in her mouth, she wished there was someone who could tell her which of these sensations were
due to her wounded arm, and which were due to labor.
Becky squatted down in front of her, balancing
on the tips of her toes. Bare toes; at some point, she’d had enough sense to kick off her shoes. Her expression was
anxious and tense, but she was trying to smile encouragingly. Dawn was relieved to see that the earlier panic had eased. She
really didn’t feel like yelling at anyone anymore. Hopefully the paramedics, when they got here, would be halfway competent
and she wouldn’t have to shout at them, either.
“What can I do?” asked Becky.
Her hands were locked together and twisting, as if having been deprived of anything useful to occupy themselves with, they
were now turning on each other.
“Could you press on my back?”
asked Dawn. “Right… here.” She tried to indicate with her left hand, but had to bite her lip as the movement
of her shoulders sent a stinging pain down through her right arm. Becky immediately unlocked her nervous grip on her own hands,
hiked up her skirts, and scooted around behind Dawn.
girl just needs something to do with herself, thought Dawn. She only freaks out when she doesn’t know what she’s
supposed to be doing.
Becky spent the next several minutes with
her hands on Dawn’s back, asking, “Here? Here?” When she finally located the spot, it took them a little
while longer to figure out just exactly how much pressure Dawn wanted. In the end, this turned out to be rather more than
Becky was capable of applying, but she gamely set herself to the task regardless.
Dawn thought wistfully of her strong husband,
and of how much back support he would have been able to give her, if he were here. I
hope he kills that bastard.
“I know about babies,” said Becky,
her hands braced above Dawn’s hips.
“Yeah?” asked Dawn, suspiciously.
“Just how many have you delivered?”
“Twelve,” was the unlikely answer.
Dawn felt Becky shift behind her, trying to adjust her position for comfort while maintaining the pressure on her back. Her
dress rustled. “But it was only two litters, eight in one and four in the other.”
Despite herself, despite the impossible situation
they were in, despite everything they’d been through, Dawn couldn’t help snickering.
“The one thing I do know for sure,”
said Becky, confidently. “Is that babies nearly always take their time arriving. You’ve probably got hours and
hours of this ahead of you.”
She hardly had time to ask, “And that’s
a good thing?” before another contraction swept her away. It was several
minutes before she came back down to earth again, and discovered that she could hear sirens in the distance. Becky was saying
something about, “…maybe they’ll be able to give you something to stop it.”
“Stop what?” asked Dawn.
“Your labor. It’s too soon, isn’t
it?” Becky tried to remember what Dave had said. Something about it being a New Year’s baby.
“I hope so,” said Dawn, listening
to the sirens getting louder, the wailing noise filling the world around her, lights flashing at the edge of her vision. “We
don’t even have a name for him yet.”
Her hands cupped the rock hard swell of her
stomach. It had dropped so low, she felt as if she had suddenly acquired a boulder between her legs, as if everything might
just fall out of her if she dared to stand up. Assuming she could stand. Her head
was feeling fuzzy, and the world was tilting drunkenly from side to side.
Distantly, she heard herself say, “It’s
got to be a boy. A girl would have more sense and better timing.”
stopped the Torino on the road just above the harbor. Hutch and Reg
had to be in the dock complex somewhere, but where? Would he have run for the warehouses or down under the docks, or perhaps
somewhere else entirely? Picking up the radio handset, Starsky relayed his current
position, adding a request that they secure all roads leading from the area. If Reg somehow managed to get hold of another
car, he didn’t want him getting very far.
After replacing the handset, he sat silently,
his fingers pressed into his lips, trying to think. Beside him, he could hear the soft panting of Becky’s dog.
He blinked as an idea occurred to him.
The large head swiveled over to regard him
with mildly curious brown eyes.
Monster’s forehead crinkled, the folds
over his eyes knotting perplexedly.
“Where’s Hutch, huh? Where’d
Hutch go?” Leaning past the dog, Starsky unlocked the passenger side door and pushed it open. “C’mon buddy,
The dog slowly climbed out of the car and
looked around, his expression puzzled. This wasn’t quite what he’d expected, but there was an urgent note in the
man’s voice that suggested this was no game. Lifting his head, he let his mouth drop open, tasting the scents in the
air. After a moment, he wandered away from the car and snuffled at the road, sneezing as the dust irritated his sensitive
nasal passages, searching for direction.
Someone was missing. Finding them was important
Maybe later the man would let him hunt.
Hutch had tired of skulking in the shadows,
trying to move silently up on a ghost. Now he braced his back against a rough pillar, feeling the sharp edges of the mussels
through the thin fabric of his shirt. If he could get him to respond, to give away some hint to his location, then perhaps
he could bring this whole thing to an end...
Distantly, he heard the sound of sirens.
They were headed for the cottage, and Reg would know that. What he might not know was whether or not they were coming here
Hutch held the pistol up next to his cheek,
as he tilted his head back and yelled again.
“You’ve lost, Reg! We’ve
blocked all the exits and there’ll be cops all over this place in a few minutes!”
Echoes bounced back at him from the piers
and the water, mocking him. But under the layered sound, he heard something else. The smallest of noises, just one stone knocking
Hutch spun away from the pillar, turning
in the direction of the noise, bringing the pistol down as he searched for a target.
A solid blow slammed into his left leg, striking
just above the back of his knee. He twisted as he fell, firing at the attacker he now surmised must have been behind him.
He heard the bullet ricochet off a pillar. There was a stunned moment following that in which he realized that he’d
just wasted a bullet shooting at a man who was standing at an angle off to his right, much farther away than he’d expected.
He had only an instant to identify the feral
grin on Reg’s face, and then he hit the ground, landing on his hip. An electric explosion of pain ignited in the back
of his leg and lit sparks behind his eyes. As his back arched, his muscles contracting helplessly in reaction to the sudden
agony, he caught a bewildered glimpse of the knife that seemed to have mysteriously sprouted from the back of his leg.