Return to Never Saying Sorry, CHAPTER NINE



Wednesday, February 29, 1978


9:26 a.m.


Despite his residual hangover, Hutch enjoyed the sight that greeted him as he followed Starsky into the squad room. Simonetti and Dryden were leaving Dobey’s office.  Simonetti had a sour expression on his face, as if he’d just been told that his favorite pet piranha had died.


“You look like hell, Simonetti,” Starsky commented. “Haven’t you been getting enough sleep lately?” Before Simonetti could reply, Starsky answered his own question. “Nah, I’m betting it’s just lack of job satisfaction.”


Dobey hollered from his office, “Starsky, get in here!”


Starsky ignored the captain, continuing to address Simonetti in a helpful tone of voice. “Now, Hutch and me, we’ve got loads of job satisfaction. That’s how we stay so pretty.”


Impressed, Hutch watched as Starsky grinned smugly at Simonetti. The IA officer was sputtering with rage. Only Starsky could leave Simonetti speechless.


Dobey’s bellow became a roar, “Now, Starsky!”


Giving them a final wink, Starsky sauntered past Simonetti and Dryden and disappeared into Dobey’s office.


Hutch started to follow his partner, but Simonetti blocked his path. “Listen to me, Hutchinson, you’re not going to get away with --.”


“No, you listen to me.” Hutch jabbed his index finger into Simonetti’s thin chest. “I’m going to file a complaint with your superiors. And if I ever hear of you deliberately endangering an officer’s life again, I’ll make sure it costs you your badge.”


Simonetti seemed genuinely taken aback by the accusation. “What the hell are you talking about, I’d never --.”


Dryden interrupted Simonetti. “You identified Detective Sergeant Starsky as a police officer while he was confined in the holding cell.”


Hutch’s eyebrows rose as Simonetti’s expression soured.


Dryden said, “We’ll be going now.”  He met Hutch’s eyes.


Hutch watched them leave, bemused to discover a decent person in Internal Affairs.  A loud protest from Dobey’s office pierced his still delicate head.


“Fuck that!”


Every head in the squad room swivelled toward the office door, facial expressions ranging from shock to amusement at Starsky’s outburst. Hutch just sighed. He’d known his partner was going to really hate the idea.


Dobey’s reply was equally heated. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”


Hutch assumed a long-suffering look for the other detectives, and made his way into Dobey’s office. Closing the door behind him, he took in the scene. Starsky was pacing the floor like a caged cat, while Dobey sat behind his desk, fuming. As his partner continued his protest at full volume, Hutch sank into the closest chair, and tried not to draw any attention to himself.


“I’m not going to do any of that primal screaming, ‘I’m okay, you’re okay,’ touching your feminine side, wheat grass drinking bullshit that Hutch is into!”


“This isn’t a request, Detective Sergeant, it’s an order! You’re going to see the department psychologist, and that’s that!”


Hutch decided he needed to do something nice for Dobey to make up for the fact that he was taking the brunt of Starsky’s rage. By rights, Starsky should be yelling at Hutch, since it had been his idea in the first place.


When Hutch had called Dobey from The Pits the night before, his only worry had been coming up with some plausible reason for why Starsky needed professional counseling. To his immense relief, Dobey had instantly agreed to his suggestion, and had even agreed to keeping Hutch’s part in the matter quiet. Hutch suspected that concession had less to do with altruism, than it did with the fact that counseling was voluntary unless your immediate superior deemed it otherwise. A cold day in hell didn’t even begin to describe the conditions necessary for Starsky to volunteer for something like that.


Maybe a box of chocolates, anonymously left on his captain’s desk . . .


“Cap, that’s not fair! It’s not like--”


“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, and I know better than to expect either of you . . . ” his glare encompassed both of them, “ . . . to explain. But Starsky, you assaulted someone right into the ICU, and then afterwards you wasted valuable department time by behaving like a stubborn idiot.” Dobey paused. “And Hutchinson, you leaned on a witness. Come to think of it, both of you should see a shrink.” A look of smug satisfaction crossed the captain’s face. “Yes, I’m going to give her a call and get her to book some sessions for you, Hutchinson.”


Hutch felt his jaw drop in shock at the unfairness of Dobey’s decision. Just because Starsky could use a psychologist didn’t mean he needed one, too. His psyche was in fine shape.


Scratch those chocolates! Dobey’s a double-crossing, back-stabbing . . .


Before he could mount a protest, Starsky had resumed his complaints. “Sure, head shrinkin’s right up Hutch’s alley, but there’s no damn way I’m setting foot--!” 


“I wasn’t aware of any defect in your hearing, Starsky! Your ten mandatory sessions start tomorrow at nine a.m.!”


Hutch rubbed the bridge of his nose as this morning’s headache determinedly tried to make a comeback. Did the apocalyptic battle between the immovable object and the irresistible force really have to be this loud?


Thankfully, Starsky changed tactics to lower-volume cajoling. “C’mon Cap, I don’t have time for this sorta touchy feeling crap.”


Touchy-feely, Hutch corrected in his head. Frowning, he watched his partner walk around Dobey’s desk and begin rummaging through the top left-hand drawer. Dobey made no move to stop him. Hutch’s musings on why Starsky could get away with anything he liked where the captain was concerned were interrupted by Dobey’s bottle of aspirin abruptly flying his way. He fumbled the catch, but Starsky had aimed well enough that the bottle landed in his lap.


Starsky was now heading for the water cooler, his wheedling uninterrupted. “As you said, Cap, I’ve wasted a whole lot of valuable department time. Plus, Hutch and me have got a backlog of bad guys to catch, and I’m seriously behind on my paperwork, and you know how important that is.”


Hutch had to suppress a laugh as he removed the cap from the bottle of painkillers and tipped a couple into his hand. He accepted a paper cup of water from his partner.


Dobey was not an appreciative audience, his face darkening with anger. “Enough! Tomorrow morning you will be there, on time, and if I hear one complaint, if a single piece of furniture in that woman’s office is damaged, I’ll bust you down to traffic for the rest of your sorry career!”


Hutch swallowed the aspirins and tossed the bottle back to Starsky, who smoothly offered them to Dobey. The captain growled, and snatched the pills from the outstretched hand. Hutch decided that his partner was lucky to have all of his fingers still attached.


Starsky glanced at him, clearly seeking guidance. Hutch shrugged. Thanks to Dobey’s low-down decision to inflict counseling on him as well, it was easy to look as if everything was just as much a surprise to him as it was to Starsky. It occurred to Hutch that Dobey’s action might have nothing to do with him, but might instead be a shrewd bit of manipulation. Starsky was a lot less likely to disobey the order, if he thought Hutch was going to have to go through it, too.


Still got to see the shrink, but at least it’s in a good cause.


Looking thoughtful, Starsky turned back to his captain. “The shrink’s a woman?”


Hutch answered for Dobey, in a carefully neutral tone. “Yes. A very pretty one, too.”


Starsky was nonplussed. “Huh.”


Dobey glowered. “Am I to take that as an agreement to the conditions of your return to active duty?”


“If I haf’ta.”


Hutch bit back another smile. It wasn’t the first time he’d had this thought, but sometimes his tough as nails partner really did sound like a recalcitrant kid being dragged up in front of the principal.


Dobey yanked open the top right drawer of his desk and pulled out Starsky’s badge and gun. Hutch mused that his captain should just reserve the space for all the times one or the other of them had their badges pulled. Hell, perhaps Dobey already did exactly that.


“Remember Starsky,” Dobey warned, “Nine a.m. tomorrow. I don’t care if you’re dead, you’re still showing up!”


“Yeah, I heard ya,” Starsky muttered as he gathered up his gun and badge.


“What was that?” Dobey snapped.


Starsky apparently sensed that he’d pushed his luck too far, because his voice became much more respectful. “I meant, yes, Sir.”


Hutch couldn’t resist the opening. “Nice to see you don’t always get away with murder.”


“I bet I could get away with yours.”


Dobey slammed the drawer shut. “Don’t you two jokers have work to do? Get out of here!”


Hutch deliberately didn’t look at Starsky as he bolted from the office. He was struggling hard enough for self-control as it was. The moment the door closed, he turned and found himself eye to eye with his partner. Starsky snorted as a single giggle escaped Hutch. Sensing the impending explosion, Hutch grabbed his arm and propelled them both out into the hall. By the time they got there, they were both howling with laughter. Hutch leaned against the wall and braced his hands on his knees. After all the tension of the last few days, it felt incredibly good just to let go for a few minutes.


Starsky stopped first, and waited, grinning as Hutch struggled to sober up.


Once he’d caught his breath, Hutch rubbed his aching cheeks and asked, “So, do you want to clear up some of that very important paperwork?”


“Hell no,” Starsky responded predictably. “Let’s hit the streets.” He headed for the parking garage.


“Hey, isn’t that Pluckett?”


Hutch looked up, just in time to see the young man scuttle around the corner. “How’d the hell did you know his name?” He hadn’t been able to keep it straight. Hutch paused for a moment.  Was that his name?


Starsky grinned. “That’ll teach you who’s the real brains of this operation.”


Hutch remembered that Starsky had spoken to Dobey on the phone while he was in the shower. Trust his partner to ask after the kid.


As they headed to the stairwell, Starsky asked. “So why’d he take off like a scared rabbit?  Was it something I said?”


Said, did, take your pick . . .


Hutch shook his head. “It’s not you.  Dobey said I scared him.” He still couldn’t figure that one out.


“Well, you’re a scary guy.”


Hutch glanced over in time to catch Starsky’s grin. Damn, he’d missed seeing that.


But in the stairwell, Starsky stopped and turned to face Hutch, bringing them both to an abrupt halt. “So, this shrink, she’s really pretty?”


Hutch was still on his euphoric high. “And single.”


Starsky’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “How do you know all this?”


Hutch immediately came back down to earth. He scrambled for plausible deniability. “You think I’d let them send my partner to a shrink without checking things out first?”


Starsky folded his arms, and waited.


Lacking the energy to fight the inevitable, Hutch conceded defeat. “I saw her a couple times after . . . after that whole business with Forrest.”


“Why’d you need to go talk to her about that?” There was an equal measure of hurt and confusion in Starsky’s voice, and Hutch felt like a heel.


“You’d done so much for me already, Starsk. I didn’t want to dump anything more on you.” Hutch ran his fingers along the stair railing, lost in the memory for a moment. Then he gave Starsky a shy grin. “Anyway, I couldn’t really explain why I was there, and she is cute, and, well . . .”


A slow smile broke across Starsky’s face. “You spent most of the session hitting on her, didn’t you?”


“Only a little of the session. And she did say a couple of useful things . . . before she kicked me out of her office.”


Starsky stared at him, and his smile faded. “This was all your idea, wasn’t it?”


This blunt accusation caught Hutch off-balance. “What?”


“Me seein’ this shrink lady.”


Shit! Hutch pulled himself together. “I don’t know where you get your crazy ideas sometimes, mushbrain.”


“From lookin’ at you.” Starsky’s eyes pinned him in place. “You’ve got that ‘I’m doin’ this for your own good’ look. The one you always get whenever you try to feed me one of those disgusting health drinks of yours.” A calculating expression crossed his face. “You know what I think, Hutch, buddy? I think Dobey only agreed to make me go to the shrink, so he could get you to see her.”


“That’s insane.”


“Oh yeah, Mr. Gonna-Pine-Away if my partner goes to jail.” Starsky stepped forward, his gaze never wavering. “Tell me, Hutch, which one of us was acting crazier these last couple days?”


Trying to come up with an effective distraction, Hutch shoved his hands in his pockets, and discovered the perfect one.


“Hey, I almost forgot.” Hutch pulled Starsky’s watch out and handed it to him. “I tried to fix it for you, but I think I made it worse.”


Starsky’s initial delighted grin dimmed at these last words. He held the watch up, examined the face for a minute, and sighed with relief. “I dunno what you’re so worried about, Hutch. The strap’s the only thing that’s broken. The watch still works great.”


“Yeah, but I thought I’d . . .” Hutch shrugged, unable to articulate his confused emotions regarding the watch. 


Starsky turned to face Hutch, and smacked him in the chest with the watch. “Pay attention, partner. The strap isn’t important. Straps break all the time. It’s the stuff inside the case that makes the watch.”


Hutch took a deep breath. He wondered why his partner’s ability to turn the prosaic into profound wisdom still had the capacity to surprise him.


Whistling, Starsky resumed barreling down the stairs, and Hutch had to hurry to catch up. 


In the parking lot, they’d almost made it to the car when Starsky announced over his shoulder, “Just so ya know, Hutchinson, the moment that pretty little shrink tells me to give up pizza and root beer for wheat grass and yoga, I’m outta there.”


Off the hook for now. “That’s fair.” Hutch felt relieved, despite knowing that Starsky would be revisiting this issue, repeatedly, over the next ten weeks.


They both climbed into the Torino, but instead of putting the key in the ignition, Starsky fiddled with his watch’s strap. 


“You’ll have to take it to a jeweler,” said Hutch. “The pin’s gone.”


“Nah, I’ve still got the pieces of my last watch. Which you destroyed, come to think of it.”


Hutch’s jaw dropped open. “I did not destroy your watch!”


“You deliberately placed it in the line of fire.”


“It was me or the watch, Starsk.”


“You better hope I never have to make that choice, partner.”


“You know, Starsky,” Hutch rubbed his eyes, “maybe some wheatgrass and yoga therapy would do you some good.”


Starsky made a rude noise and pocketed the watch. However, when he still didn’t start the car, Hutch turned toward him.


“Hutch, I--.” Starsky looked really uncomfortable. “I’ve been kinda putting you through hell these past few days.” 


There was a part of Hutch that wanted the apology his partner was struggling to make, and the more painful for Starsky the better. But he knew that if he really wanted things to go back to normal, he couldn’t give in to his knee-jerk desire for payback. “That’s all right, pal, love means never having to say you’re sorry.”


Starsky pulled a face, and groaned. “If you’re goin’ to go all soapy on me, forget about it.”


Hutch grinned. “So partner, before we end up getting in touch with our touchy-feely feminine sides, do you want to get out there and find some scumballs we can legally beat into comas?”


A broad smile crossed Starsky’s face.


“Oh, yeah.”


The Torino roared into life.