Becky let herself back into
her cottage and was surprised to find that her roommate wasn’t up yet. She puttered around for awhile, made breakfast
for herself and Monster, and then knocked on Anna’s bedroom door.
“Hey, wake up; you’ll
be late for work.”
When there was no answer,
she pushed her friend’s bedroom door open.
The bed was empty, and showed
no signs of being slept in the previous night.
Becky frowned, mildly puzzled.
Usually Anna left a note when she was going to spend the night over at her boyfriend’s house. Becky decided she must
have forgotten, and set about getting ready for work. She could bug her friend about it when she saw her that evening.
Hutch moved the hot pickles
over to the wall of the fridge, next to the sauerkraut, and eyed the empty space behind them with dismay. “Hey, Starsk?
Where’s the rest of the beer?”
Receiving no answer, he
extracted his head from the refrigerator. “Starsky?”
A gentle snore was his only
Hutch paused for a moment
on the threshold of the living room, smiling at the sight before him. The Monopoly board was set up in the middle of the floor,
the coffee table having been pushed to the side to make room. Starsky had fallen asleep sitting up, leaning against the foot
of the chair with his head tipped back to rest on the seat cushion. One sneaker clad foot had unconsciously landed in the
exact center of the game board, while the other one rested in the bank.
“I guess this means
the game’s over,” said Hutch. He had to step over several empty bottles of beer, and a few plates, on his way
around to the front of the couch. He tried to squat down on his heels next to the game board, intending to pick up the scattered
game pieces. Unfortunately the alcohol he’d ingested had taken its toll on his co-ordination. He wobbled, lost his balance
and ended up sitting down rather painfully on his tailbone.
A quick glance to his left
reassured him that he hadn’t roused Starsky. He would probably be out awhile. A worried frown creased Hutch’s
forehead. The sleep was good for him, but if Starsky stayed in that position for any length of time he would end up a painful
mess of muscular tension and knots.
Hutch knew Starsky ought
to be in bed, but he shied away from the idea of trying to get him there himself. At one time Starsky had reveled in that
sort of attention, playing up each twisted ankle and mild case of the sniffles for all it was worth. He used to love being
tucked in and plied with pillows and hot tea. But after the assassination attempt in the garage, he had needed weeks of around
the clock nursing, and it quickly got to be just too much for him to handle. The further his recovery progressed, the more
his frustration deepened. About six months ago Starsky had stated quite clearly and plainly to Hutch that if he didn’t
back off and let him be, he’d start carrying a pistol again for the express purpose of blowing a hole in the next person
who fussed over him.
A cranky Starsky was not
a pleasant experience, but it certainly was a memorable one.
Hutch picked up a handful
of Monopoly money and began sorting it into separate denominations. He glanced over at Starsky again. His friend had his arms
folded protectively over his chest. Hutch wondered if he was cold. After all, he’d been sitting in the damp sand all
night. What if he came down with something? He’d already had to be hospitalized once this year for pneumonia. Hutch
hesitated, then came to a decision and stood up.
Pulling the striped Navaho
blanket off the couch, Hutch draped it over his friend. He might have gotten away with it if he had stopped there, and he
did intend to, but ultimately he couldn’t resist the urge to go back and tuck him in just a little more snugly. As he
pulled the blanket up a bit higher to fold it around Starsky’s shoulders, one blue eye opened to glare at him, followed
shortly by the other.
“You fell asleep,”
said Hutch, defensively.
“No, I didn’t,”
was the stubbornly illogical reply.
Hutch made an exasperated
noise. “My mistake. You were just resting your eyes.”
Starsky freed his right arm from the blanket and hooked his elbow over the seat of the chair. Levering himself up onto his
feet, he swayed for a moment, and then steadied. With an air of considerable dignity, he stalked off in the direction of his
bedroom, muttering, “But what th’hell, if you’re gonna make a big deal ‘bout it, might as well…”
Still draped over his left shoulder, the blanket trailed after him, unnoticed.
His exit was followed shortly
by the soft thud of a body hitting the bed.
Hutch decided to quit while
he was ahead, and went back to sorting money. There were more important things to worry about than whether or not Starsky
slept in his sneakers.
As he cleaned up, he thought
over the cases currently on his desk. The Melinda Roberts homicide nagged at him. Her ex-boyfriend did have a prior conviction
for assault, and his alibi was weak, making him the obvious suspect, but Hutch couldn’t shake the feeling that they
were on the wrong track with this one.
Scooping a handful of houses
and hotels up off the carpet, Hutch tossed them into the box. There was something familiar about the case, but he couldn’t
recall quite what at the moment. He mentally shuffled through other incidents, vaguely aware that his thinking was not quite
as organized as usual. Free association brought him around to a series of sexual assaults from last summer. It hadn’t
been in his case load, but when the third girl turned out to be a prominent film producer’s daughter, it had drawn a
fair bit of media attention.
about bruises… The rapist had been strong, with unusually large hands. All of his victims had been grabbed from behind,
with enough force that they sustained bruising to their upper arms. He had then seized them by the back of the neck, preventing
them from turning around and identifying him. One girl had suffered compressed vertebrae and a bruised trachea.
Putting the lid on the Monopoly
box and tossing the entire thing onto the couch, Hutch stood up and walked over to the phone on the wall by the kitchen. He
checked his watch. . Dobey should still be in the office.
Sitting on the corner of Starsky’s desk, he dialed his captain’s desk directly. Focused on the case, he began
speaking as soon as he heard the phone picked up.
“Cap, about the Melinda
Robert’s case, I’ve just realized…”
There was a rumble from
the other end of the line. A puzzled look crossed Hutch’s face. “What?” He paused, listening. “Well,
yes, of course it’s Hutchinson, I mean, me.” Belatedly, he realized that he hadn’t identified himself, and in fact had skipped all of
the usual introductory pleasantries up to, and including, ‘hello’. The captain was more than happy to fill him
in on that regard. “Oh. No, no I guess I didn’t. Sorry about that. As I was saying…”
But the voice on the phone
cut him off before he could get to the point of his call. “Starsky? He’s fine, Cap. He’s asleep.”
He didn’t say the rest of it, which was simply that, I suspect he’s handling
the situation better than I am. The captain had known them both for long enough now that it wouldn’t surprise Hutch
if he’d already figured out that part of it.
“How much have I had
to drink?” That one gave Hutch a bit of a pause. “Good question,” he said as he looked at the bottles on
the floor in front of the couch. There was another small collection lined up neatly on the coffee table. He twisted around
to look over his shoulder, and found a few more bottles on the kitchen counter along with the assorted dishes from breakfast
and lunch. This survey was interrupted by an impatient rumble from the phone.
“What am I doing?”
Hutch thought the answer ought to be obvious, but as his captain was starting to sound somewhat testy, he decided he’d
best explain. “I’m counting the bottles,” he said, quite reasonably. “If I know how many bottles there
are, I can divide them by two. That’s assuming Starsky drank about half of them. I think he may have drunk a bit more
than me, actually…”
Hutch held the phone away
from his ear, wincing. None of the force of Dobey’s bellow was lost in the electronic translation. For the next several
minutes, his half of the conversation consisted of nothing but variations on “yes, sir,” “no, sir,”
and “shooting’s too good for me, sir.”
Eventually Dobey wound down,
and Hutch ventured to bring up the reason he’d called in the first place. “Cap, with regards to the Melinda Roberts
homicide; do you recall that string of sexual assaults last summer? I mean the one they were calling the Bayside Rapist. I’d
like to compare the pattern of the bruising on the other girls with the Roberts case. I think there’s a chance it’s
the same guy.”
Hutch nodded, “I know
the MO’s different, but the finger marks on her shoulders show that she was grabbed from behind, similar to the other
victims. What if she then managed to turn around and see his face? He may have killed her to prevent her from identifying
him. Or, he may be escalating. I think we’re making a mistake going after that ex-boyfriend.”
Encouraged by his captain’s
receptiveness to the new theory, Hutch continued, “Starsky isn’t going to be waking up any time soon. I can come
in today and…”
The sharp bark on the other
end of the line caused Hutch to pull the phone quickly away from his ear again. “Right, Cap. I gotcha. Nine sharp tomorrow
morning and don’t be late.”
Replacing the handset, Hutch
considered his options. He could stay here, but Starsky was likely to sleep the rest of the day. Going to work felt like the
best option, especially considering that there were files he very much wanted to go over, but Dobey had made it perfectly
clear that he wasn’t welcome in the squad room today. Hutch had an uneasy feeling that this might have as much to do
with his former partner’s public blow up yesterday, as it did with his captain’s opinion of his current state
of inebriation. Going home was the last choice available to him. He didn’t feel particularly drunk, all things considered,
but he knew he still shouldn’t drive.
Hutch picked up the phone again, and dialed another number. When his
wife answered, he said, “Baby? Are you busy…?”
Becky was chatting with an older lady who had just adopted a medium
sized boxer mix for protection. “Remember,” she told her, “He’s a nice tempered dog, but he’s
nervous around children. Make sure he stays on his leash at all times. You can’t let him run in the parks.”
The lady nodded pleasantly.
“Yes, yes, I understand. Come along, Poochie-poo…”
Becky watched them go, easily
able to predict where this relationship was headed. The newly christened “Poochie-poo” was currently a fit muscular
dog, but in the years to come he would be under-walked and over-fed until he bloated out into a complacent mountain of an
animal. He would still, however, fulfill the purpose for which he had been purchased, which was simply to bark loudly enough
to persuade thieves to move on to the next house. There were worse fates for a stray dog.
As the old lady left, a
man held the door open for her. Becky looked up to see John standing in front of her desk, looking worried. “Hey, Beck,”
he said. “Have you seen Anna?”
“I thought she stayed
with you last night,” said Becky, puzzled.
“We were supposed
to have lunch,” said John, running his hand through his hair nervously. “She didn’t show up, so I called
the store and they said they hadn’t seen her either. Her boss sounds pretty ticked off. I thought maybe she was sick,
but she’s not answering the phone. What’s up?”
didn’t come home last night,” said Becky, trying to bury a growing sense of dread. “I don’t know where
he heard the car horn outside, Hutch grabbed his jacket and took a quick look in on Starsky before heading for the door. As
expected, his friend was still asleep, sprawled face down on top of the covers of his bed. The Navajo blanket was mostly on
the floor, except for a corner which had snagged on the one sneaker he still wore. The other sneaker had fallen off. With
a strong suspicion that he might be taking his life into his hands, Hutch moved quietly into the room, picked up the blanket
and tossed it lightly over Starsky’s back. The figure on the bed shifted and mumbled something indistinct, without waking.
Hutch eyed the sneaker on
Starsky’s foot, but the car horn honked again, impatiently, and he decided he’d pushed his luck as far as it would
From inside her little red
Gremlin, Dawn watched her husband make his way down the stairs outside Starsky’s apartment. Ken was moving with the
exaggerated care of someone who’d had far too much to drink, and who was currently under the happy misconception that
no one else would be able tell so long as he took his time.
When he stuck his head in
the car window and said, “Hey, pretty lady…” she gave him a quick once over. Yes, his cheeks were flushed,
and he had that too-wide smile stuck to his face. Typical guy; drop an emotional bombshell in his lap and he deals with it
by getting drunk. Dawn shrugged mentally; well, there was nothing to do about it now except take him home. She supposed she
ought to be grateful that he wasn’t the sort of man who did this very often.
“How is Dave?”
she asked, coolly. No doubt as drunk, or drunker, than you, she thought to herself.
He’s passed out, thought Dawn. Figures. Aloud she said, “Come on, get in.”
Hutch eyed the interior
of her subcompact. “Can’t we take my car?”
“Your car hates me,”
said Dawn. “Every time I drive it, it breaks down.” She patted the seat beside her, “If you want a lift,
this is what you get.” There was an edge to her voice that warned him not to waste her time.
Reluctantly, Hutch folded
his six foot plus self into the cramped interior of the Gremlin. Once inside the car, he leaned across, planted a friendly
kiss on her cheek, and patted her belly at the same time.
“How are you two doing
today?” he asked, hopefully.
She said, “One of
us two is still no bigger than a mouse and has no opinion yet on anything, but the other one missed seeing her husband all
day.” The acerbic edge that had been in her voice earlier slipped away with those last few words. She realized that
she really had missed him. He had left right after his captain called the previous evening, and this was the first she’d
heard from him since then.
Dawn had driven all the
way to Dave’s house with every intention of being very annoyed at Ken but, now that she was here and he was sitting
right next to her, she found couldn’t maintain the emotion. His hair was tousled and he was looking at her with an expression
very much like that of a guilty puppy, anxiously wondering just how much trouble he’s in. She decided one little kiss
was not nearly enough, under the circumstances. Sliding her hand around to the back of his head, she pulled him in for a considerably
more enthusiastic lip lock.
When she released him, he
sat back grinning foolishly. “I must have been a good boy, to deserve that.”
She made a face and stuck
her tongue out, as she started the car. “Yuck, your lips taste like beer.”
“Ah, I see. This no
drinking during pregnancy rule has clearly driven you to desperate measures.”
Dawn laughed, but then became
more serious as an unrelated thought crossed her mind. “Ken, you never told me what happened yesterday. I know Dave’s
medical report came back and it wasn’t good, but you were upset before that. Was it something at work?”
“I didn’t tell
you?” he asked. He seemed genuinely surprised.
She rolled her eyes, exasperated.
“You persist in this notion that I can somehow read your mind. You never actually tell me anything.”
“Oh.” He looked
at his knees, which were resting against the dash of the car. Absently, he picked at the seam of his jeans. “I’m
kind of between partners again.”
she said. “I thought it was working out better this time.”
“So did I, but apparently
he didn’t feel the same way.”
There was silence in the
car after that. Hutch looked out the window, but his eyes didn’t take in any of the passing scenery.
You need to get your head together, he told himself. You promised her you’d take care of her.
When one broken condom had
led to an unpleasantly predictable consequence, Hutch had proceeded on the assumption that he would be taking care of the
child financially. His primary concern had been whether or not Dawn would agree to marry him. He loved her, but he didn’t
want her to feel that he was forcing her into something she wasn’t ready for.
Dawn, for her part, had
fully expected him to disappear the moment she told him the bad news, and she spent an anxious week trying to figure out how
she was going to manage to have a baby and arrange for its care, while still maintaining her job at the Pits. She assumed
her relationship with Hutch would be over if she kept the child, and she couldn’t figure out how her meager salary could
stretch far enough to support two.
Both Dawn and Hutch were
far too preoccupied with their own private concerns to actually sit down and speak to each other. Neither understood what
the other was thinking.
Hutch winced, remembering
the evening he had let himself into her apartment intending to surprise her with a ring and a proposal, only to find her sitting
on the couch reading a pamphlet from Planned Parenthood. When she admitted that she was considering an abortion, he exploded.
He’d experienced entirely too much death over the past year and the notion of bringing something new and alive into
the world had been a very appealing one. What cut him most deeply, though, was that she had assumed that he wasn’t going
to be any part of her future. It hadn’t occurred to her that he might have an opinion on the subject, or an interest
in the child, or even a sense of responsibility about it.
They yelled so loudly at
each other that night that one of the neighbors called the police. Having to explain the situation to Bernie was a humiliating
experience for Hutch, who had never imagined ever finding himself on this side of a domestic complaint. Bernie, for his part,
was sympathetic and understanding, leaving him with a cautiously congratulatory pat on the shoulder and a warning to try to
keep the noise down.
Dawn looked over at her
husband. He was staring blankly out of the passenger side window, his shoulders slumped, and depression written over every
line of him. By the time they arrived at Venice Place, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She needed to make him laugh,
if only for the sake of her own sanity.
“You know what?”
she said, as he fumbled with the key to the door. “I think I know what your real problem is.”
he asked, glancing over his shoulder at her as he pushed the front door open.
“Dave Starsky has
ruined you for other men.”
Of all the answers Dawn
could have come up with, that was the last one Hutch would ever have expected. His startled bark of laughter made her grin
she said, teasing him.
He pulled her inside and
shut the door. She backed up and put her hands up to ward him off as he advanced very deliberately towards her. The grin on
his face gave lie to the threat in his posture. He grabbed her wrists and said, warningly, “Don’t you give me
those hands. You don’t know what I could do with them…”
assault!” she protested, laughing.
He secured both her wrists
in one large hand and used the other to pull her into a firm embrace. He dropped his head onto her shoulder. Dawn felt chills
run down her spine as his lips explored her neck. “Yeah?” he murmured. “Then what’s this?”
Her voice caught as she
answered, “I don’t know, but it’s definitely illegal.”
The couch was closest, so
Hutch steered her over in that direction. He buried his face in her thick dark hair, enjoying the scent of her shampoo and
thinking how incredible it was that she always knew just what it would take to make him laugh. Her beauty had attracted him
in the beginning, but her intelligence and humor were the two things that had convinced him that he wanted to spend the rest
of his life with her. However dark things got, he could always count on her to say something outrageously unexpected. Just
That last thought was a
revelation. He went completely still for a moment, and then said in a tone of surprised astonishment, “I know why you
and Starsky don’t like each other. It’s because you two are too much alike.”
Dawn sat up abruptly and
pushed him away from her. “What?”
“I – I –
I - I mean…” Hutch went pale. “That didn’t come out right!”
She straightened her back,
crossed her arms over her chest, and put on her best and most ferocious glare. It wasn’t often he gave her an opportunity
as golden as this one. She poked him in the chest with one long finger and forced him backwards onto the couch, enunciating
each successive word with deliberate emphasis, “Well, mister, let me just tell you…” She was close now,
her face inches from his. His eyes were wide, and he looked truly panicked.
The moment she judged him
completely at her mercy, she learned forward and very quietly sang right into his ear, “Hu-utch lo-oves Staarsky…”
She dissolved into helpless giggles.
He roared and flipped her
onto her back. She was laughing too hard to resist. Pinning her down, he said with mock ferocity, “You are a bad, bad woman. There isn’t a judge in the city that would convict me of anything
I did to you now.”
Dawn raised her eyebrows
at him, eyes shining. “I’m bad, am I?”
That was a challenge she
was more than happy to accept.