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Part One, Chapter Two

It’s easy to avoid the deeper issues during the day. There are tasks to be done and deadlines to meet, people to worry about, and the whole world carrying on around you. You can’t so much as open your eyes to daylight without being distracted by something.

At night when you open your eyes you’re likely to find that you are looking right back at yourself. There’s no avoiding the truth when you stare into the dark.

Ken Hutchinson lay awake in his bedroom, looked into the darkness, and did not care at all for what he glimpsed lurking there. He didn’t want to see it.

Restlessly, he rolled his head to the side and gazed at his wife instead. He could hear her soft, regular breathing and his eyes traced her shadowed outline. She was a truly beautiful woman. Her hair was thick and long, falling past her shoulders in generous waves. Most of the time it looked black, but the sunlight at times could make it reflect red, haloed with a hint of gold. She frequently complained that it would neither lie flat nor keep a decent curl, but Hutch loved his wife’s hair.

He loved the changing shape of her body, too. The generous swell of her belly and the gradually darkening line he traced down from her navel. The thought that there was a unique person growing inside of her, and that he’d had a part in its creation, took his breath away.

Her skin was darker than his. The usual descriptive term would be coffee with cream, but that seemed too ordinary for her. He thought of iron rich cliffs and terracotta, sienna and red pine, and found that he was dissatisfied with all of them. She was unique.

He remembered sitting at a corner table at The Pits one day, desperately needing to get back to the hospital to be with Starsky but at the same time unwilling to eat even one more meal in the hospital cafeteria. Huggy had spotted him as he entered and known exactly what he was after. He caught one of his employees by the elbow, shoved a tray into her hands, and nodded in Hutch’s direction.

She was making her way across the busy room towards him when another patron grabbed her arm, pulled her roughly into his lap, and demanded to know, “Chickie, do you got black blood?” Hutch was halfway out of his seat, with both impatience at having his dinner delayed and frank irritation at the rudeness of the question, when she took matters into her own hands.

Without missing a beat, she said, “You bet! We keep it all in big jars in the back of the fridge. What’s your order? O Positive? B Negative?”

She freed herself from the man’s grip with a practiced twist, and sauntered away, leaving him speechless. Not a drop of soup spilled. In that brief moment, Hutch’s preoccupation lifted just enough to pay attention to the woman and realize that she was something remarkable.

Over the next few months, he grew to appreciate every part of her, from the way she walked to the way she thought.

In the darkness, watching his wife sleep, he contemplated the nature of love.

Love, in Hutch’s experience, was not a benign thing. Abby had loved him and she had been assaulted because of it. Hutch had never been able to blame her for leaving. She was right to want to protect herself. He had loved Gillian, and she had been murdered because she ventured to love him in return. Without conscious intent, he’d avoided getting entangled in serious long term relationships after that. He was unable to shake the feeling that they would ultimately end badly. He didn’t want anyone else hurt on his account.

So what the hell was he doing now?

He threw his arm across his face, no longer able to look at his wife. Did he truly love her, or did he just love having her in his life? If he loved her, how could he have asked her to marry him, and let her take the chance on becoming a victim or a widow?

He could almost hear Starsky now, telling him that he was thinking too much.

Oh, damn. Starsky. The past twenty four hours came crashing down on Hutch all at once, and he pushed himself up to sit on the side of the bed. It was all over. For nine years they’d been partners, and now it was over. Starsky wasn’t going to come back. He’d never prop his blue Adidas on Hutch’s desk again, or complain about the food Hutch ate, or be the butt of another one of Hutch’s dumb practical jokes.

People used to say their names as if it was all one word, “starskyandhutch”. Many didn’t even know which one of them was Starsky and which one was Hutch.

“I’m Hutch, he’s Starsky.”

They were interchangeable; two halves of a whole. Now the one half sat in the darkness and buried his face in his hands, feeling very much as if he’d been ripped in two. His wife’s sleeping presence in his bed only exacerbated the crushing loneliness he felt, wordlessly reminding him that this time he couldn’t throw his badge into the ocean. He had a family to support.

This was the reality he’d been trying not to see.


The impatient jingle of dog tags woke Becky from an exhausted sleep. She sat up slowly, dislodging the overweight grey cat that had been sleeping on her chest, and rubbed her eyes. Monster was standing beside her bed, looking at her expectantly, his head tilted and one ear cocked. As she swung her legs out of bed and onto the floor, he ran out of the room and came back holding his squeaky toy, which he began to chew enthusiastically. The cat slunk out of the room, ears flattened in irritation at the racket.

Becky flinched at the loud noise and automatically reached for the toy, saying “Shush, you’ll wake Anna.”

She stopped, remembering. Anna hadn’t come home last night. Pushing herself to her feet, she made her way out of her bedroom and across the hall to Anna’s room. The door was still open, and the moonlight coming through the window showed that the bed was undisturbed. She turned on the light anyway, wanting to be sure.

Anna was nowhere to be seen. Sensing her disquiet, Monster dropped his squeaker and ran to the window, nails clattering on the hardwood floor. He barked once and then whined, which brought Becky to his side to peer out at the empty street.

“You’re wondering where she is, too, aren’t you?” Becky asked the dog.

He rumbled softly, as if in agreement.

Feeling very much out of synch with the universe, she embarked on her usual morning routine, finding little comfort in it. She let Monster out into the backyard, and while he attended to his morning business, she dressed and helped herself to a piece of bread and some cheese. Two cats, one orange and one calico, made an appearance, winding around her ankles in the hope of charming a piece of the cheese from her. She ignored them, except for once when the orange male jumped onto the kitchen table and needed to be reminded again that this was not allowed. Anna’s address book sat on the coffee table bearing mute witness to the hours Becky had spent on the phone the previous evening, calling everyone and anyone who might know where her friend was.

Pulling on a light nylon windbreaker against the pre-dawn dampness, Becky left the house and locked the door behind her. Monster was sitting by the back fence, anticipating his morning walk. Unlatching the gate, she let him run on ahead, down to the beach. She followed slowly, her thoughts dwelling on the problem of finding Anna.

It was promising to be another clear day, the sky brightening from the dark indigo of night through grey and greenish blue. The lack of clouds meant there would be no spectacular sunrise today, a fact which did not disappoint Becky in the slightest. It didn’t seem right to have the world going on as usual, when Anna wasn’t in it.

It was growing light and Monster was out of sight, around the dunes, when she heard him begin barking delightedly. As she broke into a run, she heard a man’s voice saying, “Ah, look, doggy, I’m glad to see you, too, but that’s my gimpy leg you’re jumping on. Ow! Will you settle down! Don’t make me hurt ya…” The last line was delivered in a growl with an impressive amount of force behind it. Monster fell silent immediately.

As she rounded the dune, Becky found herself looking at an unusual tableau. Monster had dropped to his chest, and was looking beseechingly up at the curly haired guy from yesterday, who had one finger held up in a warning manner. His other hand gripped his cane, on which he leaned heavily.

He straightened as Becky trotted up to join them. His scowl transformed into a pleased grin at the sight of her. “Whaddya know,” he said. “That dog sorta kinda listens, if you threaten him.”

“You’d be surprised how much English he understands,” said Becky. She was relieved to see that the guy didn’t seem to be angry. “I’m really sorry for letting him get away from me like that. I completely forgot about you!”

His smile vanished and his back stiffened.

Silently cursing her big mouth, Becky tried to explain. “I didn’t mean... I’m sorry. I’ve had a really bad day. My housemate’s gone, and no one knows where she is. I’m worried about her.” She prayed the cute guy would understand.

Starsky’s head cocked inquiringly to the side, all offence forgotten as he slid into investigative mode. “When did you last see her?” he asked.

Sensing that the man’s attention was diverted for the moment, Monster heaved himself back up onto his feet and set about checking out all the scents on this new person. His sensitive nose found much of interest in the ratty blue sneakers and faded jeans.

“Um… I saw her at breakfast the day before yesterday. She didn’t come home from work. I thought she was at John’s - he’s her boyfriend - but he came by the shelter yesterday, asking me where she was. She was supposed to meet him for lunch, but she didn’t show up. He said she didn’t go to work yesterday, either. I called everyone I could think of, but no one’s seen her. I don’t know what else to do!” Becky’s voice rose as frustration and fear for her friend briefly overwhelmed her.

“Have you filed a missing person’s report?” Starsky swatted one-handed at the dog, whose investigation was heading into personal territory.

His calm words helped Becky refocus, and she shook her head. “I thought… Don’t you have to wait 72 hours, or something like that?”

“Nope,” said Starsky, and she heard in his voice the authority of someone who knew what he was talking about. “You can report a person missing any time. The Missing Person’s Unit is in the BCPD’s Detective Headquarters Division, at the Metro HQ downtown. Do you have any recent photos of her?”

Hesitantly, she said, “I’m sure I could find some…” She found herself starting to get a little nervous. How did he know all this? Just who was ‘Dave, the mystery beach guy’?

“Good, that’ll help a lot.” He paused briefly, as if weighing something in his mind, and then said, “I’ve got some paperwork I have to drop off at the precinct today. I’ll give you a ride down…”

She stepped back. “Wait a minute,” she said, firmly. “You’re moving way too fast.” Monster picked up on the tension in her voice and backed up to stand between them, tail waving low with anxiety.

Right, Starsky thought, Girl meets a strange guy on the beach, and five minutes into the conversation, he’s already trying to get her into his car. Real smooth, pal. You’re coming across as a world class creep.

He smiled at her in reassurance. “I should have told you earlier. I’m a… I mean, I used to be a detective with the BCPD. I kinda know my way around the place.” Inside he cringed at his own words.

‘Used to be…’

He couldn’t imagine how he would ever get used to referring to his life in the past tense.

He read some doubt in her expression, so he reached into his jacket pocket with his left hand and after a moment’s struggle with his uncooperative fingers, he managed to draw out his badge. He showed it to her. Monster head-butted his hand inquiringly, inadvertently causing Starsky to fumble and drop the badge in the sand.

“Damn.” He angled the cane out to the side in order to bend down and retrieve it, but the girl had already scooped it up and was looking at it curiously. Having satisfied herself that it was real, she handed it back.

“You said you used to be…?” She was pretty sharp, he’d give her that.

“I’m handing my resignation in today.” Starsky was proud of how matter-of-fact he sounded. He was confident the girl would never guess how much those words hurt to say.

“Oh.” Becky looked at the man in front of her. He was wearing a tan canvas jacket over a worn t-shirt, and faded jeans. He looked tired, and a little thin for his frame, as if he’d been ill for a long time, and he had sounded terribly sad when he said he was resigning. There was something familiar about his face, though. She tried to imagine him in a policeman’s uniform… All at once the pieces came together, and she asked, “Hey, aren’t you the cop who got shot last year in the police station’s parking garage?”

For the second time in as many days, he searched her face for pity and found nothing there but open curiosity. “Yeah,” he said shortly. However sweet she might be about it, this wasn’t a topic he cared to discuss.

Her response disarmed him. “That photo in the paper hardly looked like you at all.”

“Photo?” he looked at her inquiringly.

She nodded. “They had a big picture of you on the front page of the city section the day after it happened. I remember, you were wearing a uniform and you had your policeman’s hat tucked under your arm. You also had very short hair.”

He choked. “They must’ve used my academy graduation photo!”

“A little out of date?”

“By about 12 years.” He scratched his temple, embarrassed. “I can’t believe they used that picture. Hutch never said anything…”

Twelve years, thought Becky. He must be somewhere in his mid-thirties now. Aloud, she said, “I imagine you were a little distracted at the time.”

“More like a little unconscious.” He gestured at her with the hand not grasping his cane. “So would you like me to give you a ride to the precinct? I’ll introduce you to the guy who’ll take your report, and afterwards, I’ll treat you to breakfast. What time do you have to be at work?”

“It’s Saturday!”

“Really?” Lately, it’s been too easy to lose track of the days, thought Starsky, ruefully.

Becky laughed at his obvious surprise. “I have to take Monster home, but after that, sure, I’ll go with you to the police station. And breakfast would be great, especially if while we’re eating you fill me in on what I can do to try and find Anna.”

He raised his eyebrows. “You want to track her down yourself?”

“I have to try,” she said, seriously. “Anna’s my friend! I can’t just let her drop off the face of the earth. You’re a detective, so I figure you should have some idea of where to start.”

“I was a detective,” he corrected, automatically. The intensity in her voice reminded him of desperate times when he’d searched for his own best friend.

She shrugged and then, moving to his side, slipped her arm through his. “Was a detective, are a detective, that’s not important. The important thing is; will you help me find Anna?”

She was almost exactly as tall as his shoulder. He looked down at the top of her head with a smile. Her optimistic joy at simply having a plan for finding her friend was infectious. How could he turn her down?

His already high estimation of Becky was raised several more notches by her admiring reaction to his car. It was clear she was not the sort of girl who normally paid much attention to cars, but she loved the color and the detail. Her dog lay quietly across the back seat while she gave Starsky directions to her home, which turned out to be half of an old bayside cottage, backing onto the beach. It had been divided into a duplex at some point in its long history.

He was quite happy to park himself on her couch with a mug of tea while she searched the small cottage for a recent photo of her friend. He took the time to look around. Becky’s house was cluttered, and a little dusty, but not untidy.

He counted three cats, arranged variously around the room, all of them seemingly unperturbed by the dog that lay by the front door. An orange one sauntered over to the couch and rubbed the length of his body along Starsky’s leg. He reached down and petted the animal, which responded by affectionately rubbing the side of its face against his pants.

“I see you’ve met Toast,” said Becky, briefly reentering the living room to look through the shelves behind the couch. “He likes you. He’s scent marking you right now.”

What?” Starsky shoved the cat away, but it curled around his hand and jumped up onto the couch, where it proceeded to try to rub its face against his shoulder.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to be ‘scent marked’ by random mammals. “It’s not detectable to human noses. Only other cats can pick it up.” She reached over the back of couch and picked up the orange cat, running her finger along the side of his jaw and under his chin. “He’s got scent glands along here and here, and also along his tail and under his paws. That’s why cats are always rubbing themselves on things. It’s the way they communicate with each other, and it’s also how they establish their territory.” The cat hung limply in her arms and purred ecstatically as she pointed out the locations of all of his assorted features.

Having finished with her explanation, Becky handed the animal back to Starsky, who immediately put it down on the floor where it wrapped itself around his ankles. He tried to be discreet about pushing it away from him with his foot. He didn’t want Becky to think he didn’t like her pets, but at this particular moment he simply didn’t.

Turning back to her search of the shelves, apparently oblivious to his discomfort, Becky said, “Right now he’s saying you belong to him. The other cats are all going to be jealous.”

“How many cats do you have?” Starsky was wishing very much that she hadn’t shared any of this information with him. He wasn’t sure he would ever look at cats in quite the same way again. As a matter of fact, he rather thought the other two were staring at him in a disturbingly possessive way right now.

“Four, but you probably won’t see more than three today. The grey kitten isn’t very sociable. He spends most of his time outdoors, except when he comes in to leave dead mice on my pillow.”

“Dead mice?”

“It’s not my favorite way to wake up, that’s for sure.” Becky finally noticed the darkly suspicious manner in which Starsky was now eyeing her cats. “He only does it because he loves me. When he brings me mice, he thinks he’s providing for his family. He’s only got a brain the size of a walnut after all.” She patted Starsky’s shoulder in a reassuring manner before heading for one of the rooms in the back. Unseen, she grimaced to herself; Darn it, I think I’m talking too much again.

The overly friendly orange cat jumped up onto the back of the couch and tried to bury its face in Starsky’s hair. He swatted it away and leaned forward to call quietly to the dog. “Hey, Monster, come here.” The dog raised its head and looked quizzically at him. “Come on, boy. Come here.” After a moment, the dog heaved itself stiffly to its feet and limped over to him, nails clicking on the floor. The cat jumped off the couch at its approach and sauntered away, tail weaving sinuously above its back.

“Hey, buddy,” whispered Starsky, burying his fingers in the thick fur of the animal’s neck and giving him a good scratch. “Why don’t you hang out here awhile? I’ll take a big hairy beast like you over those cats any day.” Monster’s tail thumped on the floor, agreeably.

From where he sat, Starsky could see into the small kitchen. It was really just an alcove, separated from the living area by a long bar. A descending series of glass fishermen’s floats hung in nets above the bar, and assorted fruits and vegetables were collected in a series of collapsible baskets hanging in a corner. An eclectic mix of items from the sea covered nearly every flat surface in the house. Near his elbow on a bamboo table, he found a horseshoe crab shell filled with pebbles of colored glass, clouded by salt and smoothed by the waves until they looked like precious stones.

The long bookshelf had clearly been built to fit the wall behind the couch and it was stuffed with almost more books than it could hold. Turning around to look behind the couch, he saw a number of science fiction and fantasy novels, many of which he had read. The bottom shelf had been given over entirely to a record collection, and from what Starsky could see, at least one of the girls’ musical tastes had tended strongly towards rock.

This supposition was confirmed when Becky, holding a stack of shoeboxes, came back into the room without her jacket. Starsky smiled to see her wearing a dark yellow t-shirt with “the doors” printed on it in the band’s distinctive brown lettering.

She was definitely a pretty girl, but not in the sense of making herself up that way.  Her hair was tied carelessly back from her face, and if she was wearing any makeup at all, Starsky couldn’t tell. She wore a pair of brown corduroy pants, and was sockless, with sneakers that had once upon a time been white. Despite the apparent inattention she gave to her appearance, her face was fresh and clear, and her hair escaped from her ponytail to curl softly around her ears. A few freckles were randomly distributed across a small nose. She brushed one dark brown strand of hair back from her forehead as she sat down on the couch next to him. She placed the boxes on the floor in front of her, causing Monster to shuffle out of the way with a long-suffering sigh, and opened the topmost box to reveal a jumbled collection of photographs.

Anna turned out to be a voluptuous girl, with a penchant for mugging at the camera, and an adventurous spirit where hair color and styling were concerned. They sorted through three boxes of pictures before selecting two that would work to identify the version of Anna that Becky had seen last. Starsky enjoyed this process immensely, as he looked at the pictures and listened to the stories Becky had to tell about each one. Aside from this inexplicable affection she had for cats, she was a pleasantly down-to-earth girl with an engaging sense of the absurd.

They eventually finished their task, and Starsky helped gather the pictures back into their boxes. Becky sat quietly for several minutes, looking at the two photos in her hands. When she looked up at Starsky, her expression was somber. “I really want her to be all right.”

He slid his arm across her shoulder, and gave her a comforting squeeze. “We’ll try to find her.”

Silently, Starsky prayed Anna’s disappearance would turn out to be a simple matter - she’d gone to visit a relative and forgotten to tell people her plans, or she’d run away with a new boyfriend, or anything else relatively benign. He didn’t want to see a girl as sweet as Becky go through the hurt of losing a friend.  Unfortunately, long experience had taught him that tragedy doesn’t discriminate.


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