Disclaimer: This story was written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made from it. No infringement on anyone’s copyright is intended.
Thanks to Julie, the artist for this piece, who graciously agreed to allow us to publish her beautiful drawings along with this story.
We thank our publishers, Keri and Paula, who printed this story in their Zine, Venice Place Times I, in October 2001. Their faith in us and support of our work is a special gift. Also, thank you to Donna Engle, friend and editor. You are a treasure.
By Sue David
Several months earlier, Detective Ken Hutchinson had helped his cousin Lori Hamilton get away from her abusive husband. After years of beatings and degrading treatment, she had finally called the one person she knew would help her and Hutch had done just that. He and his partner, Detective Dave Starsky, had traveled to Minnesota to do what needed to be done. Walter Hamilton was arrested for spousal abuse and the two men helped Lori straighten out the financial details of her life with him, then they took her to the Hutchinson family attorney to file for divorce. Everything went well with one exception. Lori refused to press charges against Walter in the end. He was allowed to walk free on the promise that he would sign the divorce papers and never even attempt to see Lori again. That was good enough for her, but it rankled and worried the two detectives.
The Hutchinson family was not known for its public displays. Lori’s divorce had embarrassed her conservative father, Hutch’s Uncle Robert. To add to his mortification, immediately upon getting divorced, Lori had returned to her one true love – the theater. Lori was a theater major when she graduated from college and she had given up a promising stage career to marry Walter. He disapproved of acting and she was forced to give it up for the sake of the marriage. Now, she was free to do as she chose.
That’s why it came as no big surprise to Hutch when she called him to let him know she would be in town for a couple of weeks to perform in a touring production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” She had set aside two prime seats for Starsky and Hutch and she invited them to the cast party after the opening performance. Both men were delighted at the chance.
As the curtain closed on the fantastic performance both Starsky and Hutch applauded enthusiastically. Starsky leaned over to his partner and said, “You never told me she was so good. I just don’t see how people can act in front of an audience.”
Hutch smiled at him, “She really is good, isn’t she?”
The two men made their way outside and around to the stage door entrance. They had passes to get backstage and they were quickly shown to the greenroom where most of the cast was already enjoying some celebratory champagne. Glancing around for Lori, Starsky spotted her first and he tugged at Hutch’s sleeve as he made his way toward her.
Hutch gathered his petite, fair-haired cousin in his arms for a big hug. “Congratulations, honey! I’m so proud of you.”
As soon as Hutch released her, Starsky hugged her too. “Congratulations. I can’t believe you can do that and that you haven’t done it for a long time. Great job!”
Lori Hamilton was beaming. “I’m so glad you came and that you liked it.” Lori didn’t have any brothers and Hutch had always filled that role for her. He was her favorite cousin and she had also become fond of his dark-haired partner.
“We wouldn’t have missed it!” Hutch replied. He couldn’t believe the change in her from the frightened, battered woman he had seen in Minnesota.
They stood around in the green room chatting with her for a long time. Finally she said, “I’d better change and get down to the party.”
“You need a ride down there?”
“No, it’s covered. The party is at Sammy’s, remember?”
“We’ll go on over then. See you there.”
They left the green room and walked out of the theater. The performance hall was located near downtown Bay City. Despite the long walk, Hutch decided he had better head over to Sammy’s to get them a table. Although the courtyard outside the theater was now empty, the parking garage was backed up with cars trying to exit. A long delay might mean they wouldn’t get a table. Starsky felt uncomfortable leaving the Torino in the parking garage at the theater, so he decided to go get it and move it nearer to the party. Admonishing his partner to be careful, he turned and headed toward the garage. Hutch chuckled at Starsky’s overprotective instincts. He felt safe enough.
The performance hall sat as one of three theaters on the perimeter of a tree-lined courtyard with a multi-level parking garage on the fourth side. The courtyard centerpiece was a large fountain of a group of playful bronze dolphins breaking through waves. Water sprayed up and around the dolphins and Hutch couldn’t help thinking how alive they looked with lights and water dancing on them. He was so busy admiring the beautiful fountain he never noticed he was being followed. A dark figure was moving toward him from the shadows of the trees in the courtyard.
Just as he reached the side of the fountain, someone attacked him from behind, pushing him to the ground before he could react. Hutch rolled away from his assailant. He caught a quick glance of a large, powerfully built man in a ski mask who was wielding a knife.
The man lunged at him with the knife, but Hutch was able to sweep his legs out from under him, momentarily gaining some advantage. He repeatedly tried to reach for his gun, but each time he got close, the man came at him again and thwarted the maneuver. Whoever this was, he was taller than Hutch and he outweighed him by at least thirty pounds. When Hutch’s Magnum finally cleared its holster, the larger man quickly kicked it out of his hands before Hutch had a chance to use it.
He made a stab at Hutch’s chest, which he successfully blocked with a forearm. Instead of hitting him in the heart, the knife slashed down along Hutch’s left arm leaving a long, bloody, painful gash. The man then caught Hutch in the jaw with a powerful right cross sending the detective crashing to the concrete. Desperately trying to remain focused, Hutch blocked another slash from the large blade and this time it caught him down the right arm. Through the pain and the fog, Hutch was able to roll away again and he heard the assailant’s knife clatter to the ground in the tussle. The next thing he knew, powerful hands had him gripped by the jacket and he knew he was being dragged into the fountain.
Hutch felt panic set in as he became dizzy from blood loss and the blows to his head. The larger man pushed his head under the water and held him there. Though he was able to struggle to the surface a few times, he felt his strength slipping and he sent what he was sure would be his last thought to his partner – sorry, Starsk. He weakened and his thrashing stopped.
Starsky had no idea what was going on in the courtyard on the other side of the theater. The way into the parking garage required a ride up a glass elevator to the upper level of the complex, then up a series of stairs or a different elevator to the right floor. He stood alone in front of the glass elevator, disinterestedly pushing the call button. Starsky wasn’t too fond of heights and he had decided not to look out the elevator as it went up, but something caught his eye and he looked anyway. He saw movement in the courtyard. As the elevator climbed, he realized he was witnessing a fight and seconds later he knew that Hutch was one of the combatants.
As soon as the elevator doors stopped on the parking level, he desperately punched the button to return him to the courtyard level. Not knowing where the stairs were, he didn’t want to risk looking for them while Hutch was in trouble. He watched in quiet desperation from inside the elevator as a much larger man appeared to be getting the advantage over his partner, then the elevator descended past the point where he could see the action.
By the time Starsky reached the ground level and ran into the courtyard, he could see that the masked assailant had Hutch pinned underwater in the fountain. He fired a warning shot into the air and shouted for the man to freeze. The surprised man looked up at him. He let Hutch go and moved around to the other side of the fountain. Starsky was still too far away to take an accurate shot at the man who got out of the fountain on the opposite side and fled into the shadows. He didn’t dare chase the suspect; he needed to get to Hutch.
Starsky reached the fountain and jumped in to rescue Hutch, who was floating face down, trails of blood leaking into the water around him.
“Oh, God, Hutch!” Starsky turned him over and immediately saw that Hutch was not breathing. Feeling for a pulse, he couldn’t find one. Starsky pulled him to the side and lifted him out onto the ground, beginning CPR and hoping someone had heard his warning shot.
“Please, Hutch, don’t do this!” While he was doing chest compressions, he continually muttered a mixture of pleas to all deities and admonishments to Hutch not to dare even think about leaving him. He was getting increasingly panicked when he heard the sound of running footsteps. He prayed it was help and not the perpetrator returning to finish them both.
A somewhat portly security guard came running as fast as his stubby, round legs would carry him from around the side of the performance hall. “Security! What’s going on over there?”
“I’m a cop!” Starsky shouted, “My partner’s hurt. Call an ambulance and the police.”
The man shouted his understanding and he ran for the phones in the lobby of the theater.
Time lost its forward momentum for Starsky as he desperately tried to revive his partner. He kept breathing for him, praying for him, refusing to believe he couldn’t save his friend.
Thankfully, Hutch started to cough. Starsky quickly turned him to his side as he coughed up fountain water and then vomited. When the spasms stopped, Starsky hoped Hutch would open his eyes, but he didn’t. The blond remained unconscious. Starsky stripped off Hutch’s soaking jacket and started looking for the source of the blood that was now soaking into the waterlogged pavement. Finding the long gashes in both of Hutch’s arms, Starsky realized he must have gotten them fighting off the knife attack. He pulled out his handkerchief, which was amazingly just damp, and used it to apply pressure to the more serious of the two wounds. He yanked off his tie and used it to attempt to staunch the flow of blood from the other arm. Turning him on his back again, Starsky pulled both arms up onto Hutch’s chest to keep them above his heart. When Hutch started to shiver, Starsky let go long enough to shrug out of his own jacket and cover Hutch with it. “I can hear sirens, partner. Stay with me, they’re almost here.”
Cold and wet, Starsky nervously paced the Emergency Room hallway. He had stayed with Hutch until they started cleaning the knife wounds in preparation for suturing, then one of the nurses escorted him out to the waiting area. He guessed he must have looked pale because he hadn’t said anything to make them want to get rid of him.
Dobey was quickly striding into the hospital when Starsky turned back toward the automatic doors. “Starsky, what happened?”
“I don’t know, Cap. We were at a play. I went to get the car while he walked to the place holding the cast party. I saw the fight. I got there as fast as I could. Oh, God, Cap! What if I wasn’t fast enough?” Starsky’s eyes were wide with anger and fright.
“Calm down, you did fine. I’m sure he’s gonna be okay.”
Starsky stopped and grabbed the captain by both elbows, “He almost drowned, Cap!”
Captain Dobey noticed that Starsky was wet, shivering, and liberally covered in Hutch’s blood. He led the shaking man to the nurses’ station and asked if he could have some scrubs for Starsky to change into and where he could take a hot shower.
Starsky started to refuse to leave the waiting area until they came out and let him know how Hutch was, but he could see by the look on Captain Dobey’s face that it would do him no good. One of the nurses brought Starsky some shower supplies, scrubs, and a towel. Then she told him where to find the nearest shower.
When Starsky returned from the shower, he found Huggy waiting with Captain Dobey. Placing his wet things in a pile under a chair, he resumed his pacing. Dobey looked at Huggy, both of them sighing. At least Starsky was warm and dry now, though his sneakers were still squishing as he paced. He didn’t have to pace for long. Within the next half hour, a doctor came out to speak with them.
Dr. Anderson was familiar to Starsky. He had treated both detectives for various injuries over the years. He smiled, knowing the first thing Starsky wanted to hear was that Hutch would be fine.
“He’s all right, Detective.”
Starsky sighed and visibly relaxed. “Is he awake, Doc?”
“Yes, he’s conscious. Let’s sit down for a minute.”
After they sat down, Anderson continued, “He got some nasty cuts on his forearms. I’ve stitched those up and he’s receiving a unit of blood. He should be fine in a little while.”
“I had to give him CPR, Doc.”
“The paramedics told me you did a fine job. Said you had revived him before they got there even. You saved his life. He nearly drowned.”
“Can I take him home?”
“In a few more hours. I want to keep an eye on him for a while. You can go back there, though.”
As he stood to leave, the doctor looked at Starsky with a devious smile. “Which one of you was in here last?”
Starsky was surprised by the question. He thought about it and said, “He was.”
Dr. Anderson chuckled, “You should be happy. This was a record. According to his chart, Detective Hutchinson hasn’t been in the ER for almost five months. Keep up the good work.” He patted Starsky on the shoulder good-naturedly and walked away.
Captain Dobey and Huggy Bear couldn’t help but laugh at that. The tension leaving all of them as they absorbed the good news that Hutch was battered but not broken.
Starsky turned to Captain Dobey, “Cap, can you and Huggy go over to the garage at the performance hall and pick up my car? Hug, maybe after that you could swing by Hutch’s and pick up something for him to wear home. They probably cut his clothes off and even if they didn’t they’d be soaking wet.”
Captain Dobey agreed.
“You got it, my man.” Huggy said.
Starsky handed his wet things to Huggy along with the keys to his car and his thanks. Then he dashed through the double swinging doors to find Hutch.
As they walked out to his car, Dobey said, “You know, Huggy, I’m just not sure with those two. Is it that they always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is it that at least one of them seems to be in the right place at the right time?”
“That’s a full on mystery, man.”
Starsky slipped around the curtain surrounding the gurney Hutch was lying on and saw that his eyes were closed. He was hooked to an IV and the unit of blood, which had almost completely emptied into the tubing. Starsky slowly walked up to him and touched his hair. “Hey, buddy, you awake?”
Hutch’s eyes opened slowly and he smiled at Starsky. “Hey. They gave me a shot. Sleepy.”
Starsky pulled up a chair and looked closely at the thick bandages covering Hutch’s lower arms. “Doc says you can go home in a while. I sent Huggy to pick up some clothes at your place.”
Hutch nodded, “He wanted to keep me, but I pitched a fit.” He giggled an endearing, sedative-induced laugh that made Starsky smile in spite of the seriousness of what had happened to his best friend. “Fixed me up. He said I’d be okay in a couple of weeks. Lucky the cuts weren’t too deep.”
The doctor had said the defensive cuts to Hutch’s arms were going to be painful, but they were not deep enough to do serious damage to his muscles. Starsky gently picked up one of Hutch’s hands in his. “Why’d they give you a sedative?”
“Too many stitches. Said it would be easier to put me out for a while.”
“Hutch, what happened? I thought I told you to be careful.”
“Sorry. Dunno. He snuck up on me. Musta been hiding in those trees.”
“Can’t let you out of my sight for a minute, Blondie. You scared me to death. Thought I’d lost you for a few minutes. “
Hutch closed his eyes and nodded. “Me, too, buddy. I’m sorry.”
He was falling asleep and Starsky just let him. Huggy returned with the car and Hutch’s clothes. When it was time for him to be released, the nurses woke Hutch up and helped dress him so Starsky and Huggy could take him home. Hutch was almost too groggy to sit in the wheelchair and they were making “maybe we’d better go ahead and keep him tonight” noises. Hutch did his best to sit up and appear more alert.
“Oh, no. Doc said I could go. Get me outta here, Starsk.” Hutch had no intention of spending the night. He knew he’d rest more at home.
“Hey, thanks for the scrubs. I’ll bring ‘em by in the next couple of days. Okay?” Starsky asked one of the nurses.
“Sure thing. Take good care of him now,” she replied as Starsky closed the passenger door on his almost-already-asleep-again partner. “Make him rest, huh? Don’t want him pulling out the stitches.
“I’ll see to it. Thanks!”
The two nurses walked back into the Emergency Room talking about the latest injury escapade for the Metro detectives. One of them said to the other, “You know, one of the docs could probably write a book on those two. Trouble just seems to find them.”
Hutch was a little too out of it to realize he had been guided upstairs to his apartment and plunked into bed. He woke up the next morning with little memory of how he had gotten there. The pain in his arms and the bulky bandages were stark reminders of what happened, though. As he gradually cleared the fog from his head, he thought he heard Starsky’s voice from the other room. He sat up coughing, rested for a minute while the coughing subsided, and then got to his feet slowly. He didn’t make it far before he saw Starsky coming to check on him.
“What are you doing up? You should be resting.” Starsky put his hand on Hutch’s shoulder and looked at him closely, making sure his eyes were clear. Hutch shook his head.
That surprised Starsky, but he was happy to accommodate and take care of the problem. “Come on and sit on the couch. I’ll make you something.”
Hutch rested, coughing occasionally, while Starsky made them both scrambled eggs and toast. Seeing his partner coming in with the food, Hutch asked, “Mind if we eat in the greenhouse?”
“Nope, come on then. You okay?”
When they were settled out in the greenhouse, Hutch asked, “Who was that on the phone?”
Hutch visibly paled, giving Starsky a moment of concern. “Lori! She must think we deserted her.”
“Calm down, I explained everything. She’s coming over later to visit.”
Hutch sighed his relief. “Thanks. Hey, good eggs.” Starsky watched him struggle to hold onto the fork. The effort was obviously painful.
“Better with Tabasco.” Starsky tried to keep it light. They smiled at each other, engaging in one of their standard food arguments.
“You remember anything else about the guy that nailed you?”
Hutch shook his head. “Just that he was big. Had on a ski mask. Starsk, how’d you know I was in trouble?” He rubbed his jaw where a dark bruise had formed where he was hit.
“I saw the fight when I was ridin’ up that glass elevator by the theater. Came running as fast as I could. I’m sorry I didn’t get there faster.”
“Hey, you made it in time. Thanks.”
“Hutch, that was really close. You almost drowned. Please don’t ever scare me like that again.”
”I’ll do my best, buddy. Sea Scout’s honor.” Hutch laughed and then began to cough.
Hutch’s coughing reminded Starsky that he had medications to take.
“Be right back with some coffee and your medicines.”
Starsky called in from the kitchen, “One’s an antibiotic to make sure you don’t get infected wounds or pneumonia from the fountain water, and the other’s a pain killer.”
“Skip the pain one.”
Starsky came back out to the greenhouse with the coffee and the pills. “Why? You tellin’ me it doesn’t hurt?”
“Starsk, I don’t want to take pain pills.”
“Don’t worry, Hutch. These are safe. I told the doc to give you a prescription for a non-narcotic one. This won’t even make you sleepy.”
Hutch took the pills, thinking only Starsky would wash medications down with coffee. “Thanks, partner. I wasn’t happy they gave me that sedative last night, but they said it was necessary.” Hutch had preferred not to take any medication that had a narcotic component to it since his forced heroin addiction years in the past. Starsky wished he didn’t feel that way about pain medication. Whenever he needed it, he denied himself the most effective types. Starsky didn’t like to see his best friend in pain and he cursed Ben Forest every time it happened.
“What did you see, Starsk?”
Starsky swallowed, flashing back to the sight of a large, dark shape drowning his best friend. “Too much and not enough. I saw you fighting with this big guy dressed all in black. At one point, I couldn’t see you anymore. By the time I got out into the courtyard where I could see you, he had you under the water. I fired a warning shot and he let you go. Thank God we got ready at the station so I had my gun. He took off before I could get a good look at him and chasing him wasn’t an option with you floating face down in the water.”
“My gun!” Hutch exclaimed. “Did you get it?”
“Of course. I scooped it up when the paramedics took over looking after you.”
Hutch blushed. “Glad you decided to fish me out instead of chasing the guy. I can’t believe he got the drop on me like that. I never heard him coming up from behind me.”
Starsky was concerned about the suspect’s motivation for attacking his partner. “Did he say anything to you? Demand your wallet? Threaten you?”
Hutch shook his head. “That’s got me curious. He never said a thing.”
“You tick anybody new off lately?” Starsky asked pointedly.
“Nothing out of the ordinary. I haven’t had a good death threat in a long time. Why? You think the guy was after me and not just some random attack?”
If someone was after Hutch, Starsky was determined he wouldn’t let his partner out of his sight until they caught the guy. Though it was possible this was a random attack, with their track record Starsky considered that an unlikely scenario. “I’m not sure, but with our history, I’d bet against random. I’m just not sure how he would have known where we were or that he could get to you like that.”
They sat in silence in the warm morning sunlight in the greenhouse thinking about the attacker. Starsky called the greenhouse Hutch’s jungle and it was thriving. Although he was unhappy about the reason, Starsky enjoyed sitting out there eating a leisurely breakfast on a workday rather than eating it standing up, while driving, or not all. Dobey had given them the day off so he was in no hurry. They spent a quiet morning, Starsky making sure his partner rested. In the early afternoon, Lori Hamilton arrived to check on her cousin.
Lori hugged him carefully. "Geez, Ken!" she said. Hutch’s still pale face and the bandages on his arms dismayed her. "Did you call your folks?"
"No way. Mom just frets and it's really not as bad as it looks." He gave her his best reassuring smile.
Lori looked around him at Starsky who nodded his assurance that Hutch was fine. Her face relaxed. "What happened?"
Hutch sat down on the couch and sighed. "I wish I knew. I got jumped. That's all I know."
They sat together and talked about the play, the attack, Lori's new career, Hutch's parents, and life in general. Hutch did his best to steer the subject away from himself as much as possible. He wanted Lori to be comfortable that he was all right before she left. When she had to go to make it to the theater for her next show, he asked her for a special favor.
"I know you might not understand this, but I need you to promise me something."
"Sure, Ken, what?"
"Don't tell my parents about this. I don't let them in on anything that happens to me unless it's so bad Starsky has to call for me. Not even then sometimes. You know they disapprove of my life, my job, and me. They just don't understand and the only thing telling them accomplishes is my mom worries more and they both lecture me. Please?"
Lori smiled at him. "You're right, I don't understand it. I can respect it, though. I'm sorry you feel that way.”
"Thanks." Hutch kissed her goodbye. Starsky walked her outside to a waiting taxi.
"Hey, I'm sorry I can't give you a ride over there. I'm worried about him. Not gonna let him be here alone right now." Starsky hoped she understood.
"I can see it on your face. You're scaring me, Dave. I know what it's like to live afraid all the time. You sure you two are okay?" Lori worried about both of them. She was grateful to them for helping her escape her former life and she didn't like the thought that someone might be after her cousin.
"Don't worry. We don't scare so easy and I won't let anything else happen to him. It's what I do." He closed the door to the cab, stood back and waved at her as it pulled away from the curb.
They went back to work the next day. Hutch was feeling better and they had rewrapped his arms with lighter bandages, easily covered by long sleeves. They were working on some follow up legwork to their cases. Things were quiet in the squad room and Dobey was out of the office in meetings all morning. Dobey was walking into the precinct just as they pulled out of their parking space and drove past him. He called after them and Hutch waved out the window. Starsky pretended he didn't see the captain, sure if he stopped they'd be riding a desk all day.
"That was close." Hutch remarked.
Starsky eyed him warily. "You sure we did the right thing? You up to this?"
"Come on, Starsk. Let 's just move on, okay?"
Starsky pulled his sunglasses down an inch and peered over them at his partner. He looked at Hutch, his eyes communicating how serious he was. "Okay, Blintz, but I'm still not letting you out of my sight."
Hutch was irritated, but he knew he'd react the same way if Starsky had been the one attacked. They were only on the streets a few minutes when the police radio broke into their conversation.
"Zebra 3 from Control, come in please."
Hutch answered, "This is Zebra 3, go ahead."
"See the man named Huggy."
"Roger, Zebra 3 out."
Starsky headed for The Pits. When they got there, Huggy was waiting with two iced coffees and some information. "How you doin', Blondie?"
"I'll live. What do ya got for us?"
"Got a call a few minutes ago from a dude with some information on some warehouse robbery s’posed to go down on your beat."
"Where's he want to meet?"
"Duke’s, down by the docks in half an hour."
Starsky looked at Huggy warily. "Why didn't you just call?"
Huggy had a strange look on his face. "I don't know the dude. Just wanted to tell you in person, that's all." Huggy had a bad feeling about the call and he wasn't sure why.
"What's his name?" Hutch asked.
"Carl. That's all I got."
"Thanks, Hug." Starsky stood to leave.
"Hey, be careful."
Hutch laughed, "We're always careful."
"Yeah, I could see that the other night at Memorial."
Hutch shot him an icy glare as they left.
Duke's Bar was right on the docks with no parking in the front. Starsky pulled the Torino up to the curb across the street as Hutch called in their position. Starsky was halfway across the street, ten steps ahead of Hutch when he heard the sound of squealing tires. He looked up the street in time to see a black truck with darkened windows barreling toward Hutch, who was looking down writing something in the small notebook he always carried. Not stopping to think about it, Starsky spun the rest of the way around and ran toward his partner yelling, "HUUUUUUUUTCH!" The blond in question looked up just in time to see his partner as he plowed into him, shoving him back toward the Torino and out of the way of the speeding truck without a second to spare.
Hutch's back slammed against the driver's door of the Torino, knocking the wind out of him. His pencil and notebook went flying. Starsky's momentum pushed him into Hutch and they both slid down the side of the car to the pavement as Hutch lost his balance. Hutch sat on the street trying to catch his breath while Starsky jumped up and ran after the fleeing truck. The truck turned the corner before he could make out the plate, so he ran back to where Hutch was getting back to his feet.
Starsky put his hand out to help Hutch get up and when Hutch reached for it Starsky noticed a small amount of blood on his partner's right sleeve. He must have pulled out some of his stitches. Terrific.
"Hey, you all right?" Starsky asked.
"Damn!" Hutch answered as he nodded to indicate he was fine.
Starsky pulled Hutch’s shirtsleeve back to look at the bleeding. The bandage didn’t look too bad. “We need to get this cleaned up and make sure the stitches are okay.”
Hutch looked at the bandage, unaware it had started bleeding. “Damn,” he said again. “Thanks, Starsk. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Paying attention? Hutch, that guy was gunning for you. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there ain’t nobody over there in Duke’s waiting to talk to us.”
Hutch’s face went a little pale. “You think we were set up?”
“No, I think YOU were set up, buddy. Now I’m sure of it, somebody is after you.”
They decided to go across the street to Duke’s just to be sure. Starsky was right, no one was there waiting for them. Huggy’s funny feeling had been well founded.
"Come on, you're done for the day." Starsky said as they crossed the street again.
"Forget it. I'm not gonna just go home. Why should today be different than any other day?" Hutch said, determined not to lose this argument.
"Because every other day there isn't some nutbag out there with your name in his book, that's why." Starsky was just as determined he would win this one. After dancing around the issue for a few minutes, they decided to go back to the precinct to talk to Dobey. He needed to know someone was trying to kill Hutch.
Walter Hamilton was furious. He had tried to kill Hutch twice in three days – tried and failed. The man hated Hutch. His interference had cost him his marriage to Lori. When the judge issued a restraining order against him, he had made up his mind that Hutch would pay. The price would be his life.
The night he attacked Hutch at the theater, he had attended the play in the hope that Hutch would be there, too. He hoped he could catch Hutch alone in the parking garage or outside after the performance. Walter hadn’t counted on Starsky, though – never considering that the dark-haired detective might go to the play with Hutch. He stayed back and kept an eye on the two men after the performance, waiting around outside for them to come out again. His plan at that point was to keep following them until Hutch was back at his own apartment and Starsky was gone. When the two men separated, he was overjoyed. Seeing his chance, he took it. Then Starsky had appeared and he had to run.
Walter watched the news and read the paper the next morning. He knew if Hutch had died it would make the news. The possible headline thrilled him, “Local Cop Killed Outside Theater.” Then, when that story didn’t appear, he knew Starsky had managed to save his life.
He spent the next day nosing around trying to find out how to get word to Starsky and Hutch that an “informant” wanted to talk to them. Finding Huggy as the go-between was easy. Armed with that information, he had looked for the perfect spot to set his trap. Somewhere believable where he could be certain they would have to park across the street. The next day he staked out the Metro police station, waiting to be sure the two cops went to work and watching for them to leave again. When they left, he went to a pay phone to pass the word to Huggy and then he drove to Duke’s and waited. He had stolen a truck and put some dark tinting film on its windows. The truck would look like a black death machine roaring down the street. Hutch would be dead, and the tinted windows ensured that if he didn’t hit Starsky in the bargain, the man would be unable to identify Hutch’s killer. If he did kill the other detective, that was okay, too.
Starsky. That meddling cop had thwarted Walter’s plans twice. As much as he wanted Hutch dead, he realized that he had to do something about Starsky. He might never be able to get to Hutch with his guard dog around. He suddenly realized that for his plan to work, Starsky had to die.
"Why am I just now hearing this?" Dobey bellowed.
"We didn't know for sure till now, Cap," Starsky answered.
"What the hell were you thinking?"
Hutch intervened, "Come on, Cap. Like he said, we just didn't know and we're telling you now."
Dobey was still fuming, but he stopped yelling. "Any idea who's after you this time?"
"None. We've been talking about it and we don't have a clue." Hutch looked at Starsky who was reaching for the phone.
"Guess we'd better call Collins. Start going through cases again." He looked frustrated and worried about his partner.
Hutch shook his head. "Hold off on that, partner."
Starsky raised his eyebrows, waiting for the explanation.
"I don't know, but I've got a feeling the answer's not gonna be in them this time."
Dobey spoke up before Starsky had the chance. "You want to explain that, Hutchinson?"
Hutch looked at both men, finally fixing his gaze on Starsky's eyes while shaking his head because he knew he couldn't explain it. How could he tell them that he just had a "feeling" the man trying to kill him wasn't someone involved in their work. He had no idea who it could be either.
"He can't, Cap." Starsky understood, he believed Hutch was right for some reason, and he couldn't explain it either.
If Captain Dobey had ever supervised two more irritating, hard to control detectives in his career he could not remember when. "All right, if you're not going to go through the usual motions, I want you off the streets until we figure out what's going on here."
"Oh, no, that's what Starsky wants and you know that won't help us solve it." Hutch protested firmly.
"Look Hutch, how do you know this guy is just after you? What about your partner here? He could have been hit by that truck today, couldn't he?" Captain Dobey hoped appealing to Hutch's sense of duty to protect his partner might convince him to stay on desk duty while they sorted out the mess.
Starsky was convinced that wasn't the case. "No. He's not after me, just Hutch. Cap, Hutch is right. When I first figured out this guy was really after him, I wanted him to go home and wait. We can't do that."
Hutch picked up the attempt to convince the captain to let them keep at it. "This guy's pretty smart. He figured out he could get to me through Huggy. He found the perfect spot, knowing we'd have to cross the street to get inside. He knew Starsky would be driving and that I'd be far enough behind him to be right in the way in the middle of the street."
At the mention of Huggy's name, Starsky realized they had to tell their friend he had been used in an attempt on Hutch's life. That wasn't going to go over well at all. "The guy must know us. How we work."
Dobey had a terrible thought. "You don't think it's another cop, do you?"
"No. I don't know. Cap, we're wasting time sittin' here talking about it. We need to be out there workin' on it." Starsky hoped it wasn't another cop.
Dobey looked at the two of them. He could order them in out of the cold, but he wouldn't do that. They were looking at him expectantly, a united front as always. "All right. Go on out there and do your thing."
They smiled at him and got up to leave. "Starsky!" Dobey yelled. Hutch looked at Starsky, nodded and slipped out of the room to give them a minute alone.
"You keep an eye on him and keep me informed. I want to know where you two are all the time. Remember...."
"I know, Cap, no private parties." Starsky smirked at him as he walked out of the office.
When Starsky told him what had happened, Huggy was shaken. "I'm sorry, man. Damn it! I had a feeling about it, too."
Hutch put a hand on Huggy's shoulder. "Don't worry about it, you didn't know."
Huggy felt terrible. They spent half an hour talking to him, convincing him he didn't do anything wrong and that they still trusted him and the valuable information he provided them. "Come on, Huggy," Starsky said. "We need you on this. Put out some feelers and see what you can find out for us." Both partners knew what a good thing it was that Hutch hadn't been hurt or killed based on information Huggy provided. They hoped he could get past it.
"You sure? Wouldn't wanna give you over to some guy who's gonna drop a piano on you or somethin'."
"Well, that's a nice image, Hug. Come on. Please?" Hutch cajoled.
Finally Huggy nodded agreement. "I'll see what I see. I'm not givin' you two anything else unless I know the source. Not till this guy's outta action."
"Fair enough. Thanks, Hug."
They spent the better part of their afternoon cruising their beat. Making frequent stops to question informants and occasional responses to calls, they had made no headway after several hours. Starsky was constantly alert. He scanned the street at every red light and scrutinized each scene before they got out of the car to respond to a call. Hutch spent most of his time trying not to scratch his increasingly itchy stitches. Especially in the spot where Starsky had put butterfly bandages on to help reseal where two or three of them had ripped when Starsky pushed him out of the way of the truck.
They had stopped for an early dinner at an outdoor deli when their meal was interrupted by a radio call. Hutch abandoned his food to answer it. “This is Zebra 3, go ahead.”
“Report of a vehicle theft matching your description of a black truck at 218 Sycamore.”
“10-4, we’re rolling.”
Hutch was excited. This was the first lead they’d had all day. He waved at Starsky and called out, “Got a lead on the truck.” Starsky tossed out the rest of their dinner and jogged to the car.
“Where to?” He asked.
Sycamore was an older street full of mostly Victorian homes. Some had large yards and others had been split into multiple lots over the years. The house they responded to had a yard filled with old growth trees and the house was a pale yellow late Victorian-style home with a wrap around porch. The driveway beside the home led around the back to a detached garage. The garage could not be seen from the street and it was really a large converted carriage house with a loft above it.
Starsky eyed the trees and the street carefully. He kept himself close to and just behind his partner as they crossed the expansive yard and walked up the steps.
“Wow, Starsk, what a beautiful door.” The walnut and stained glass door in the front of the house impressed Hutch. Starsky liked it too, but he was a little too nervous watching for signs of any danger to Hutch to really appreciate it.
The man who answered the door was in his early seventies. He introduced himself as John Bertram and invited the two detectives into his home.
Hutch began questioning him. “Thanks for seeing us, Mr. Bertram. I’m Detective Hutchinson and this is my partner, Detective Starsky. When did you notice the truck was missing?”
“I noticed first thing this morning.” The man replied.
Starsky asked, “Mind if I ask why you waited so long to report it?”
“Not at all. My grandson takes the truck sometimes. He mows lawns and uses it to carry the equipment. I thought he had it. He called me after school, he’s a student at the university, to ask if he could borrow it and that’s when I knew it was gone.”
“We think your truck may have been used in an attempt to run down my partner here.” Starsky continued
“Oh, my, are you all right, officer?”
“Yes, I’m fine, thanks. Can you describe the truck for us, Mr. Bertram?”
The man smiled at them. “I can do better than that. You can go on out to the garage and see it for yourself.”
“Excuse me?” Starsky said.
“That’s just it. The darn thing is back in the garage. About thirty minutes ago I went to take out my trash and I saw it sitting in there, just like it never left.”
Starsky exchanged a look with Hutch, who was already taking a step toward the door.
“Uh-uh.” He said, placing his hand on Hutch’s arm. “You stay in here and take Mr. Bertram’s statement. I’ll go take a look at the truck.”
“Don’t ‘Starsk’ me, buddy. You stay in here. Whoever this is ain’t after me. I’ll be right back.”
Bertram said, “Oh, it’s faster to go out the back door. Just go through the kitchen there.” He pointed the way. Looking through the kitchen window, they could see one door to the garage standing open and inside it they could just make out the shape of a dark vehicle. Starsky thanked him and headed in that direction.
“Please have a seat, Officer Starsky.” Bertram said as he pointed to the sofa.
Hutch smiled at him thinking, do I look like a Starsky? “No, no. I’m Hutchinson, he’s Starsky,” he said as he pointed toward the kitchen.
“I’m sorry.” Mr. Bertram blushed a little as he sat down in a chair opposite the sofa.
“Happens all the time. Now, Mr. Bertram, when was the last time you saw the truck?”
“Thirty minutes ago.”
Hutch did his best to maintain his composure. “I mean before that. The last time you saw it before this morning when you noticed it missing.”
“Oh. I guess last night. I used it to pick up a load of mulch for my flowerbeds. Parked it in the garage around six, I think.”
“Do you lock your garage?”
“The door has a padlock on it, but I never use it. I probably should, but we’ve never had anything like this happen in this neighborhood. I just didn’t think.”
While Hutch was interviewing Mr. Bertram, Starsky was making his way across the back lawn to the carriage house/garage. The building was big enough for two cars and a small extra space. One of the double wooden doors was open and the other shut. Starsky stepped into the garage and moved to the front of the truck. Placing his hand on the hood, he felt warmth. Bertram was right; the truck had not been there long. He walked around the back of the truck, examining it closely to see if it looked like the one aimed at Hutch earlier in the day. The windows were all darkly tinted just like the truck from that morning. When he reached the right rear fender, he was certain. A small scrape of candy-apple red paint was on the fender. He had been so caught up in protecting Hutch from the truck he never noticed that it had clipped the Torino as it barreled past them. Starsky was sure that a close look at the Torino’s left front fender would reveal black paint on it. The car’s nose must have been sticking out a little more than its trunk. He shivered at how close they were to death – inches.
Crouching by the back fender concentrating on the evidence there, Starsky didn’t hear the sound of something behind him until it was too late. He turned his head slightly toward his assailant as the large man, dressed all in black with a black ski mask, hit him in the head with a length of thick chain. Starsky’s head exploded with flashes of light, then he keeled over to the ground out cold and bleeding heavily from a wound to his left temple.
Walter Hamilton smiled at his own cleverness. He had been living in the loft above the garage without the old man in the house knowing it. When his latest attempt to kill Hutch failed, he had decided to return the truck. After using it to get him around the city for the day, Hamilton had brought the truck back to the house. One of the stops he made that day was to a radio parts store. Hamilton had purchased a police scanner, which he used to follow the detectives’ activities via their radio calls all day. He only had to listen to the calls for a short time to determine that Zebra 3 was their call sign. He knew the old man had reported the truck stolen and that Starsky and Hutch had been called to this address to investigate. Now all he had to do was wait. Smug, he knew he couldn’t fail this time. If Hutch came out to the garage, he would kill him. If Starsky did, he’d kill him instead. He could even kill both of them if he had to, but he was hedging his bets that one of them would stay in the house with the old man who owned the truck.
The waiting had paid off since he had Starsky. Now to kill him. He briefly considered using Starsky’s own gun on him, but immediately dismissed the thought, too loud. He had lost his knife in the fight with Hutch and the only other weapon he had at the moment was the chain. Garden implements were scattered about the garage and could be used as weapons. Hamilton was planning to kill Starsky, but bludgeoning the defenseless man to death just didn’t seem right. He hit on another, better idea. This idea would accomplish the goal of removing Starsky AND it would torture Lori’s cousin. Even better. After he suffered for a while, Hamilton would kill Hutch, too.
Hamilton climbed into the truck and hot-wired the engine. After the truck was idling, he got out, went through the open garage door and closed it behind him, pushing the latch closed and snapping shut the padlock. Starsky was lying on the ground almost directly beneath the tailpipe. He’d be dead shortly. Hamilton quietly strode through the yard and headed for the street. By the time he reached the sidewalk, he was whistling softly. That’s one.
After Hutch had asked the old man all the questions he could think of, their conversation had turned to the house. Hutch remarked on how beautiful the front door was and he politely listened as the old man told him about the house. His grandfather had built it in 1897. Bertram could remember being a small child in this house. Eventually he had inherited it from his mother. He and his wife had raised their children in the big house. Mrs. Bertram died in 1975. Hutch listened, nodded, and admired the man’s family pictures. He was interested in Bertram’s story, but he was starting to wonder about what his partner was doing in the garage. The old man offered to put on a pot of coffee and Hutch accepted.
Following Bertram into the kitchen, Hutch stole a look outside toward the garage, hoping he’d see Starsky coming back toward him across the lawn. Something about what he was seeing bothered him. Still chattering away behind him, Bertram was asking him a question, breaking Hutch’s concentration.
“Will you please open the new can, officer? I can’t seem to work this old can opener anymore. My grandson says he’s going to pick me up an electric opener....”
The old man’s words faded into the distance as Hutch looked back out the window at the garage. Open, open, open – the word kept reverberating in his head. Realization hit Hutch like it was the discovery of fire. Open, the garage door had been open when they looked out the window earlier. Now, both doors were closed.
Hutch flew out the back door calling Starsky’s name, “Starsky! Starsk?” He could see white smoke curling out from underneath the closed doors. “Oh, my God.” When he reached the door he couldn’t open it. Someone had set the latch and padlocked it shut.
“Starsky, you in there? Starsky!” Hutch tried to peer through the glass in the doors but the thick exhaust hung in the air like fog. He wished he knew where Starsky was, but he had no time to waste.
“Starsky, if you can hear me, get back away from the door, buddy. I’m gonna have to shoot off this lock.” Hutch drew his Magnum, carefully took aim at the lock and fired. The lock broke and Hutch yanked open the doors, allowing the fumes to billow out into his face. Coughing, he blinked his stinging eyes and peered around looking for his partner.
At last seeing blue Adidas sneakers, Hutch bent down and grabbed Starsky by the ankles, dragging him out of the garage and into the fresh air.
“Starsky! Buddy?” Hutch patted his friend’s cheek, hoping to revive him. That’s when he noticed the distinctly gray pallor on Starsky’s face. He felt for a pulse and found it, weak and thready. John Bertram was now standing on the back porch, staring at him in horror.
“Call an ambulance! Tell them an officer is down.” Hutch yelled frantically. He was getting an idea about the terror Starsky had felt just two nights before when he found Hutch floating in that fountain. His best friend was not breathing. Hutch began rescue breathing in a desperate attempt to revive him and give the paramedics something to save. He was worried about the bloody gash on Starsky's left temple and trying to figure out how long his partner had been out of his sight. Was it only five minutes, or was it more like ten? Oh, God, Starsk. How long were you in there?
Starsky started breathing with a gasp, followed by lots of coughing. Hutch sat down on the grass, pulling his friend’s head onto his lap. John Bertram was walking toward him with a blanket to cover Starsky.
“Oh, no, is he all right? How did this happen?” He fretted as he covered Starsky.
Hutch sat shaking his head, rubbing Starsky’s arms and talking to him quietly. Several squad cars and the paramedics arrived a few minutes later. After they put Starsky on oxygen, they loaded him into the ambulance, Hutch climbing up inside with them. He called to one of the uniforms that he’d be at Memorial if they needed him.
One of the uniformed officers questioned John Bertram while another gathered evidence in the garage. He found the heavy length of chain that Hamilton had used to render Starsky unconscious. The truck was still running, so he shut it off from underneath the hood. The crime lab team took pictures and then several of the uniforms started a door-to-door investigation into whether anyone had seen Starsky’s assailant.
After six hours on 100% oxygen, Starsky’s breathing status and blood levels were looking good. Hutch had been kept out of the examining and treatment room and he was pacing the hall outside the double doors contemplating just bursting in when Dr. Anderson finally came out to see him. The doctor explained to Hutch that it was fortunate Starsky had been trapped in that garage for such a short time. The old structure was also not as well sealed as a modern building so the fume buildup had not progressed as quickly as it could have. Between Hutch’s best estimate and the doctor’s assessment of Starsky’s condition, exposure time appeared to have been limited to just a few minutes.
The doctor warned Hutch that sometimes neurological or other symptoms appear as much as a few weeks after acute carbon monoxide poisoning. “I believe his exposure was limited enough to preclude that, but you should watch him for a few weeks just to be sure. If he displays any symptoms, bring him back in to see me. The kinds of things you are looking for include tremors, fainting, memory loss, poor concentration, agitation, and severe headache.”
“Doc, what about the head injury?” Hutch asked, still anxious.
“I was just getting to that. He suffered a heavy blow to his head. He has regained consciousness, but he vomited several times and he has been slipping in and out for the past hour. He has a concussion and I’m going to keep him here at least overnight for observation. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
Hutch was relieved and he hoped Starsky would not experience any of those delayed symptoms. He could deal with a concussion and even fainting. They both beat losing him, which was Hutch’s biggest fear for the past six hours. “Can I see him now?”
“Yes, they’re taking him up to room 425 right now. Go on up there. Try to keep him talking, okay?”
Hutch was heading down the hall toward the elevators when he saw Captain Dobey walking in with two uniformed officers. They all stopped at the bank of elevators.
“How is he?” Dobey asked.
“They think he’s gonna be okay. Might have some aftereffects, but I hope not. I’ll be watching for them. They’re keeping him here overnight because of the concussion.” Hutch looked like he wanted to get on the elevator, not stand and talk with the captain.
“Hutch, I’ve assigned Blake and Garrison here to guard you two.” Dobey put his hand up to stop the protest Hutch was about to make. “Someone is trying to kill both of you. I want you under guard until we catch him.”
Hutch nodded and pushed the elevator call button. “He’s in room 425.” All four men boarded the elevator. When they reached the right room, the uniforms went looking for some chairs for their long wait outside the room while Dobey and Hutch went inside to see Starsky. They passed the nurse as she left after checking on him. “He’s awake. See if you can keep him up for a while.”
The room was dark except for a small light over the bed. Starsky had needed several stitches in his temple and a gauze bandage was on top of the wound with a small red stain on it. His eyes were closed and although he was still on oxygen his breathing was regular.
Hutch pulled the chair out of the corner and put it next to the bed. He put his hand on top of Starsky’s as he sat down with a weary sigh letting some of his tension leave him. “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?” He laughed softly and smiled when Starsky’s eyes opened.
“Hey.” Starsky said quietly.
answered. “You okay?”
Starsky nodded, then closed his eyes with a small groan. “Oh, yeah. I will be when this room stops spinning.” He coughed lightly.
Hutch squeezed his hand and asked, “Clockwise or counter clockwise?”
Starsky smiled. “Counter. You ‘spose it would spin the other direction if we were in Australia?”
Dobey laughed behind Hutch at that remark. “Guess you’re gonna be okay.”
Blue eyes opened again and looked toward Dobey’s voice. Hutch wasn’t completely happy with the lack of focus he saw even in the dim light. “Hey, Cap. Yeah, I’m okay.”
“Did you see who hit you, Dave?” Dobey asked. He was hoping for some sort of description from Starsky, but the man in the bed shook his head slowly. “Sorry. I don’t remember. What happened anyway? My lungs feel like they’re on fire.” He coughed a little more and groaned. “Oh, coughing makes the spinning worse.” He closed his eyes and looked like he might be drifting out a little.
“Hey, buddy. Stay with me, okay?” Hutch tried to keep him awake.
“Huh?” He opened his eyes again. “Why? I’m tired.”
“I know, buddy, but you have to stay awake for a while. Doctor’s orders.”
“I’ll try.” Starsky blinked up at him. “How are you doing?”
“Me? Just fine. Stitches itch, but I’m fine. Hey, you scared me, you know.”
“Oh yeah? How?” Starsky still couldn’t remember what happened.
“You got clocked by somebody with a big piece of chain. Then he left you in Bertram’s garage with that truck that tried to mow me down. He left it running and he locked the door. You don’t remember anything?”
Captain Dobey left when he could see that Hutch had things under control. The two uniformed officers were guarding the room. Hutch spent the next several hours keeping Starsky awake. When the doctor finally said he could sleep, Hutch spent the next few hours in the chair next to Starsky’s bed, waking every hour when the nurses came to check on his partner.
Walter Hamilton had seen the ambulance racing away from where he had left Starsky to die in that garage. Finding out the name of the closest hospital, he had called to inquire about Starsky’s condition. He was furious when he was told the detective was in stable condition. That was when he made the decision to try a new path.
The phone in Starsky’s room rang at around 9:00 the following morning. Hutch grabbed it before it could ring again and disturb his partner, who was finally being allowed some uninterrupted sleep.
“Ken?” Lori’s voice on the other end of the line sounded frightened.
“Lori? Is something wrong?” Hutch wondered how she had known where to find him.
“I’m sorry, Ken, I – ” Her voice was cut off and replace by a man’s voice.
“Hutchinson?” The voice was familiar, menacing.
“Hey, who is this?” Hutch’s heart beat a little faster.
“Walter Hamilton. You ruined my life, Hutchinson. I tried to kill you. Twice. Last night I tried for your sidekick and I hear I failed that, too.”
Hutch looked at his sleeping partner, turning away from the bed and keeping his voice as low as he could. “You’re not supposed to be anywhere near Lori. What do you want?”
“I want you. If you ain’t here in an hour, I’m gonna kill her.”
Hutch didn’t doubt his word and he was angry. Hamilton had tried to kill him and he had hurt Starsky. “If you hurt her, Hamilton, so help me – ”
“You’ll what? I know where you and your partner live. Lori is with me. St. James Hotel, Room 217. Come alone, Hutchinson. This is a family matter.” The line went dead. Hutch knew he had no time to waste. He quietly hung up the phone and slipped out of the room. The uniformed officers stood up as he closed the door behind him.
Hutch said, “I want one of you to sit in there with him. I’m going down to the cafeteria.”
One of the officers stepped into Starsky’s room and the other made a move to go with Hutch.
“No. Stay here and keep an eye on him.” Hutch tried to sound like no argument was possible.
“One of us is supposed to stay with you, Sergeant.”
“Look, I’m just going downstairs. You stay here. I’ll bring you some coffee.” The look on the uniform’s face told Hutch he was conflicted. Hutch outranked him, but Dobey outranked Hutch.
“If I let you do that, I’m gonna be on Dobey’s list.” His eyes pleaded with Hutch to go along with him.
“Dobey doesn’t need to know. Come on, man. I’m a big boy, but my partner is defenseless right now. I really want you to watch out for him. I’ll be back in a bit.” He patted the other man on the shoulder and smiled at him. Then he turned and walked toward the elevator as casually as he could. He made it onto the elevator without the other man following him.
Hutch took a taxi over to Bertram’s house where they had left the Torino. When he got inside the radio was beeping. “Zebra 3, come in please.” Hutch ignored it as he fired up the motor and headed toward the St. James.
A few minutes later the radio beeped again. “Zebra 3, come in.” Hutch continued to ignore the radio. “Zebra 3, this is Captain Dobey. Hutch? Damn it, pick up!” He reached over and turned off the radio.
Starsky woke up and looked toward the chair Hutch had occupied throughout the night. Not only was Hutch not there, the chair wasn’t either. He sat up a little and scanned the room, his eyes lighting on a uniformed officer seated in the chair right next to the door. Starsky’s danger sense was starting to prickle on the back of his neck.
“Where’s Hutch?” He asked, startling the officer who looked up from his magazine in surprise.
“I don’t know, he asked me to wait in here with you.”
“What? How long ago?” Starsky pushed the button on his bed to raise it up so he could see the man he was talking to better.
Looking at his watch, the man replied, “Oh, I’d say about half an hour ago.”
Starsky’s mind raced, almost as fast as the room spun. Why would Hutch take off and not tell him? Maybe he didn’t want to wake him. He realized it seemed odd that a uniform was sitting in his hospital room. As the spinning subsided, Starsky looked closely at the man in the chair and he didn’t recognize him. “What’s your name and why are you here?”
“Alberts. Captain Dobey wanted you two guarded. Somebody’s trying to kill you.”
Starsky struggled to remember what put him in the hospital. Hutch had told him about it last night. The events of the previous evening came back to him through Hutch’s retelling – garage, chain, truck running, oh, yeah. If Hutch had taken off without telling him, that probably meant he had a line on the guy trying to waste them. The realization that Hutch could be in serious trouble hit him like a hammer. He ignored the persistent pain in his head and was swinging his feet off the bed just as the doctor walked into the room. Starsky swayed a little on the edge of the bed as the doctor stepped up and put a steadying hand on his shoulder.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” He asked as he dropped Starsky’s chart on the bed next to him. Alberts was on his feet, hanging back a little. The doctor turned to him and said, “Will you give us a minute please, officer?” Alberts nodded and stepped out of the room with the other uniform.
“What’s going on in there?” his cohort asked.
“Beats me. He asked where his partner was, then when I told him, he tried to get up, but the doc came in and stopped him. Do you know where Hutchinson went?”
“No. I think I’m in Dutch with Dobey, though. Hutch said he was going to the cafeteria and he told me to stay here. About five minutes after that Dobey called. I told him what happened. He told me to get my kiester back in front of Starsky’s room and to stay put. Then he hung up on me.”
Alberts whistled. “Geez, sounds like it. Guess we’d better stick with this one.” Alberts was a rookie. He didn’t know either of the detectives but the other man, Mike Richland, knew them a little. He was feeling sheepish that he fell for such an obvious ploy to keep him away from the blond cop.
Inside Starsky’s room the doctor was checking him. “Well, your pupils are equal and reactive. How many of me do you see?”
“Just one, Doc. Sorry, I have to get outta here.”
“Hold on just a minute. You look pretty pale to me. The room spinning?”
Starsky lied. “Nope. Everything’s just peachy. Where are my clothes?”
“Just sit there a minute and let me look over this chart. Whatever is so urgent can wait just a few more minutes.” Starsky hoped it could wait.
The doctor looked at the progress notes the nurses had made throughout the night. Then he lifted the pages of the chart and reviewed some of Starsky’s previous admission notes. He had been treated at Memorial many times by different doctors. A summary notes page made mention of the much larger medical file on David Starsky that could be obtained through central records if a complete review of his history was needed.
The hospital’s catchment area included the busiest police precinct in the district. Injured police officers were often brought through its emergency room and trauma center. The doctor thought to himself that cops were the only patients worse than other doctors.
“Where’s the fire, Detective? I think you need to stay another day.” He asked casually as he finished his physical examination. Starsky’s pulse rate, respiration, and blood pressure where a little higher than he would have liked.
“I’ve gotta find my partner, Doc. Something’s wrong. I’m gonna leave whether you agree or not, now where are my clothes?” Starsky looked angry and agitated. He pulled off the oxygen cannula and reached for the IV.
The doctor put his hand on Starsky’s, helping him remove the IV as he said, “As many times as you’ve apparently been here, you must know by now they cut them off of you in the emergency room.”
Starsky was done messing with him. “Thanks for everything, Doc.” He pushed himself off the bed carefully and walked toward the door.
“Don’t you want your after care instructions?” The doctor asked from behind him.
“Save it, Doc. I know the drill.” He looked in the closet for what things might be there and found a bag with his shoes and his empty holster in it. Damn it. Hutch must have my gun and badge. He pulled on the shoes and walked out without any further comment, holding the back of his hospital gown closed.
“Don’t drive!” The doctor hollered after him. Then he made a note in the chart that Starsky had just left against medical advice. Sighing, he glanced back through the record and noted this was not the first time. Cops were definitely the worst patients.
“Alberts, you’re with me.” Starsky said to the younger of the two cops at the door as he breezed past them and headed for the nurses’ station to pick up his valuables.
“What about me?” Richland asked following the other two men. Alberts motioned him to come along, too.
After retrieving his things, Starsky turned to them and said, “First stop is my place. You’re gonna have to chauffeur me around today. Keep up.” The man was pale and shaking a little.
“You supposed to be leaving like this? You’re not even getting a ride out in a wheelchair?” Richland asked him. The icy glare he received was enough to tell him to shut up about it and follow. At least this one hadn’t deceived him and sneaked out of the hospital.
The ride to Starsky’s apartment was quiet. He sat in the back of the squad car, leaning heavily against the window with his eyes closed. After giving Richland his address, he made no sound apart from occasional coughing. The partners in the front seat looked at each other with concern, wondering what Dobey would do to them for going along with Starsky.
Alberts opened the locked passenger door in the back of the squad car to let Starsky out at his place. He was a little worried the dark-haired detective might fall out onto the driveway, but he managed to right himself and get to his feet. Starsky looked dazed.
“Alberts, get on the squawk box and try to raise Hutch in Zebra 3. I’m sure he’s got my car. If you reach him, find out where he is and tell him to sit tight. I’ll be back in a minute.”
The younger man watched Starsky climb the stairs to his apartment. Then he got back into the unit and picked up the microphone. “Geez, that guy’s determined. You think he’s always like that, Mike?” He wondered how well his partner knew Starsky.
“You don’t know the half of it.” He knew Starsky’s reputation if nothing else.
Starsky walked into the apartment and stopped in the middle of the living room. For a brief moment he couldn’t remember what he was there to do. He shook his head and thought hard. Concentrate. What the hell’s wrong with me? Unable to remember, he looked down at the hospital gown he was still wearing. That was it – he needed to dress. He had to go after Hutch.
After he dressed, he pulled on his empty holster. Thinking hard about where he might have put his gun, he remembered that Hutch must have it. Starsky opened his closet door and pulled down a box of items that had once belonged to his father. He still kept Michael Starsky’s service revolver. He took it out and grabbed the box of bullets he kept in his dresser. The gun didn’t fit in his holster as well as his regular weapon, but it would do. Sure his faltering ability to concentrate must be related to the jackhammer going off behind his left eye, he stopped in the bathroom and downed a few aspirin before leaving the apartment.
When Hutch reached the St. James, he strode quickly up to the front desk to speak with the disheveled clerk. He flashed his badge and said, “You have a Walter Hamilton registered in room 217. I’m going up there. If you don’t see me walking out with a tiny blonde woman in ten minutes, call the cops. Tell them you have an officer in trouble here in room 217. Got it?” The man behind the desk nodded.
Hutch took the stairs two at a time, quickly making his way to the second floor landing. He and Starsky had been in this hotel before, looking for suspects or interviewing witnesses. He knew which way to go. Room 217 was in the corner at the end of the hall. Hutch carefully walked down the dirty, stained carpeting, quietly stopping outside the room door. He stood to one side, drew his weapon, and tapped on the door with the muzzle. “You in there, Hamilton?”
“I said I would be. Now open the door slowly.” Hamilton’s voice was tight.
Hutch turned the knob and pushed the door open, maintaining his position to the left of the door.
“I want you to put that cannon of yours on the floor where I can see it.” Hamilton had seen Hutch’s gun the night he attacked him at the fountain. He assumed Starsky had retrieved the large weapon from the scene.
Hutch held the gun out in the doorway, suspended upside down from his left forefinger. Keeping back from the opening, he lowered his arm and gave the gun a small toss just inside the room, hearing it hit the floor with a heavy thud.
“Now step out here where I can see you.” Hamilton had an agenda and Hutch feared killing him was the number one item on it.
“What’s to keep you from just blowing me away, Hamilton?” he asked cautiously.
“Nothin’. Now step out where I can see you or I’m gonna shoot your precious cousin.”
“Lori, you all right in there?” Hutch wanted to hear her voice.
“Ken, don’t do it.” She answered just as her ex-husband tightened his grip on her, pushing the muzzle of his gun harder into her temple.
Hutch had no choice. He put his hands up and stepped into the doorway, ready to drop and roll if it looked like Hamilton would shoot him. Before he could react, Hamilton did train his gun on him. Lori pushed him underneath the wrist sending the gun higher into the air as Hamilton squeezed off a shot at her cousin. She watched him drop and roll and saw the bullet embed itself in the wooden doorframe of the room across the hall. Downstairs at the front desk, the clerk looked at his watch. The blond cop had only been gone about three or four minutes. The sound of the gunshot outweighed the other man’s instructions to wait ten minutes. He picked up the phone and called the police.
Starsky was in the back of the black-and-white again. He told Richland to head toward their beat, thinking he would stop at The Pits to see if Hutch could be there. Having nothing better to go on, they could at least cruise the streets looking for the Torino. They had been in the car again a few minutes when a call came across the radio.
“All units, reports of a gunshot, possible officer in need of assistance. St. James Hotel, corner of 7th and Lassiter, Room 217. Code 3.”
Starsky said frantically, “That’s Hutch. Move it.”
Richland replied, “Could be anybody, Starsky.”
“I said that’s Hutch, damn it! Get there!” Starsky was getting angry. He knew what he knew. Richland obeyed him, turning on the light and siren as Alberts picked up the microphone. “Baker Eleven to Control. We are responding to 7th and Lassiter. ETA less than 3 minutes.”
“Roger, Baker Eleven.”
Starsky took the gun out of his holster and loaded it, placing a handful of bullets for reloading in his pants and jacket pockets. He was having trouble focusing both his eyes and his mind. To help him maintain his sense of direction, he kept thinking about Hutch and how he knew he needed to be there to protect him. Starsky rarely questioned his instincts. Years of working with his best friend had taught him to trust and respect them. The fact that the two men in the front seat thought he was out of his mind was irrelevant.
Hutch sat on the floor between Hamilton and the open door. His attempt to retrieve his gun had failed. Lori was being held tightly around her neck in the crook of the large man’s elbow. Her left eye was black and swollen and she had a bloody lip. Hamilton had the gun trained on Hutch’s chest.
“You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you, Hutchinson. What’s between me and Lori is a family matter. We coulda fixed it, if you had stayed away.” Why the man didn’t just pull the trigger and kill him was beyond Hutch, but he was thankful for the extra time. Maybe he could talk Hamilton into giving up and dropping the gun.
“Walter, you know that’s not true. All I did was help my cousin make a new start. Let her go. We can talk about this.”
Tears were running down Lori’s face. “Please, Walter.” Her voice was raspy as his grip was hampering her breathing. Hamilton was struggling with what to do next. He knew someone had probably called the cops after that first shot was fired. He should take Lori and run.
Hutch tried to be conciliatory. “Look, Walter, let’s talk. Hurting Lori, killing my partner or me, none of that will help. We can talk it out. Just us. Family. But first I want you to let Lori go.” He held his hands out, palms up in a non-threatening gesture. That’s when the sound of sirens from down both sides of the street broke into their tightly strung universe. The flash of something hopeful on Hamilton’s face was gone in an instant. He knew he was right, someone had called the cops. He made the sudden decision to switch his attempt to kill Hutch and take off with Lori to a hostage scenario. Instead, he would use Hutch and Lori to get out of this somehow. If he couldn’t, he’d kill them both before taking his own life.
When they turned the corner onto Lassiter, Starsky immediately spotted the Torino in front of the hotel. He reached for the door handle instinctively, forgetting for a moment that he couldn’t get out of the back of the car that way. As the unit pulled to a stop he hissed, “Let me outta here, Alberts.” The younger man quickly obeyed.
Trying desperately to remember the room number they had heard from dispatch, Starsky gave up and asked the other officers, “What was that room number?”
Richland answered, “It’s 217. Hey, Starsky, maybe you’d better stay down here. You don’t look so good.”
Starsky was pale and sweating. His off-again on-again concentration skills were bothering him and he felt a little like he might pass out any second. He didn’t have time to waste, though. Shaking his head every so often to keep the cobwebs at bay, Starsky ignored the other two policemen and headed for the fire escape down the side of the building in the alley. He and Hutch had busted a numbers runner in room 217 and they had chased him out and down the fire escape. Fighting a wave of nausea, he reached up for the dangling ladder and began to climb up to the next landing, making as little noise as possible. Alberts was right behind him as Richland headed into the hotel through the front door. The three men ignored the other black-and-white that was just screeching up to the curb.
When Starsky reached the landing, he crawled out onto it, signaling for Alberts to stay on the ladder out of sight. He scooted toward the window, grateful that the world spun a little less when he stayed down on the ground. Reaching the window at last, he cautiously poked his head up so he could peer through it. What he saw chilled him.
Hutch was on the floor with his hands up and a large man with his back to the window held him at gunpoint with the right hand while he clutched Lori Hamilton around the neck with his other arm. He suddenly knew the man must be Lori’s ex-husband, Walter Hamilton. This would not end well.
“You two are gonna help me get outta here.” Hamilton listened carefully, hearing even more sirens. No way were the cops going to let him out of this. None of them were leaving this hotel room.
Starsky prepared to make his move when he saw Hamilton throw Lori away from him. She hit the wall face first, crumpling to the floor. Starsky saw Hamilton cock his gun and turn it back toward his unarmed partner.
Starsky stood and called out, “Hamilton, freeze!” Aiming through the glass at the man preparing to kill Hutch he hoped Hamilton would hear him. He got his wish.
Hamilton was startled by the noise behind him. He spun toward the window, aiming his gun at the dark-haired man on the fire escape. Hutch was just springing to his feet when the sounds of two bullets being fired cracked through the air. The window glass shattered, shards flying both into and out of the room. Hamilton froze for an agonizing moment, looking down at the spreading blood on his chest before falling, to the floor, dead.
Hamilton’s bullet had crashed through the glass at the same time as Starsky’s. Whizzing past Starsky’s left arm, the bullet pinged harmlessly on the fire escape railing, ricocheting away. The activity, the strain, the adrenaline, and the sight of Hamilton falling was all Starsky’s weakened system could take. As soon as he saw the man hit the floor, Starsky lost his battle with the spinning fire escape and passed out as Alberts climbed onto the landing. Hutch looked out the window and watched helplessly as Starsky collapsed. Hearing Lori moan from the floor, he knew she was breathing. He rushed toward the window where the uniformed officer was bending over feeling Starsky’s neck for a pulse. Hutch was sure Starsky had been shot.
Alberts found Starsky’s pulse and started checking him over for a bullet wound. He looked up at Hutch, “I think he’s okay. Maybe he just fainted. He wasn’t looking good.”
“Thanks, I’ve got him. Please go inside and check on the lady. She’s my cousin.”
Alberts agreed and climbed through the window after letting Hutch climb out to kneel next to Starsky. They had to be careful to avoid being cut by the broken pieces of glass. Hutch patted Starsky on the cheek and talked to him softly. “Hey, buddy. Wake up, now.” Hutch was going to have a few choice words for his partner. “Starsk?” He gently brushed glass fragments out of Starsky’s hair and off his shirt.
Starsky stirred and opened his eyes. Focusing on Hutch’s face, he smiled. “Hey, you okay?”
“I’m fine, but you look terrible.” Hutch put Starsky’s extra gun back in its holster.
Starsky tried to sit up, but Hutch held him down by the shoulder. “Uh-uh. Relax a minute. You should still be in the hospital. I’m gonna go check on Lori.” He put his warning finger up in the air and added, “Stay put!”
Hutch climbed back through the window and headed toward his cousin. Alberts was helping her up as several other uniformed officers entered the room. Hutch recognized Mike Richland. “Mike, call an ambulance and the coroner.” Richland obeyed the request as Hutch took over helping Lori.
“You all right?” He asked, gingerly touching Lori’s black eye. She sobbed and fell into his arms. “Oh, Ken. I’m so sorry. Is Walter dead?”
Hutch glanced behind him, “Yes. He can’t hurt you anymore.” Hutch held onto her for a minute, and then he helped her to sit on the bed. When he was sure she was all right, he went back to the fire escape.
“You think you can sit up now?” he asked Starsky.
“Yeah, gimme a hand.” Starsky held out his hand and Hutch eased him up to a sitting position. “Is Lori okay?”
“She’ll be fine.” Hutch noticed the slightly glassy look in Starsky’s eyes. “Universe still spinning?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Yeah, but the both of you are at least in step with each other.” Starsky closed his eyes again and leaned against Hutch. He knew he was headed back to the hospital and he didn’t have the energy to fight about it. He just had one request. “Hey. Don’t let 'em cut my clothes off this time. These jeans are just getting broken in good.” Hutch laughed, knowing that would be the least of their problems. The captain was going to be furious and they both had some fancy explaining to do.
Starsky was re-admitted and kept in the hospital for another day. Lori was treated for her injuries and released. She went up to Starsky’s room to talk to Hutch before leaving the hospital.
As she walked into the hospital room, Hutch stood to greet her. Giving her a gentle hug, he touched her hair and said, “Glad you’re going to be all right.”
“I’m fine. Thanks to you and your partner. Thank you.” She smiled at him and glanced over at his sleeping friend. “You’ll tell him for me, won’t you?”
“Sure, honey. You need a ride home?”
“No, you stay here with him. I’ll go catch a taxi. I’ll be just fine. I’m leaving in a couple of days. I wanted to be sure I saw you again.” They hugged goodbye and she left.
Two days later she packed up and left town with the rest of the play’s cast on their way to San Diego.
Furious didn’t begin to cover Dobey’s feelings over what his two detectives had done. He needed to dispense some discipline and he had a great idea. He assigned them to a week of elementary school lectures on crosswalk safety to school crossing guards. Dobey chuckled to himself thinking of how stir crazy they would be.
Friday afternoon, they pulled up in front of Longfellow Elementary School for the final in their scintillating series of lectures. Hutch had exercised every bit of patience he had for groups of ten and eleven-year-olds. Starsky enjoyed the kids, but he was bored nearly senseless. To boot, the two of them were tiring of explaining why Starsky had a bandage on his head. By Wednesday they had begun concocting fanciful explanations. While Starsky liked to say he slipped in the shower, Hutch had a better explanation. He said he had hit Starsky because he asked too many questions. For some reason, that explanation seemed to reduce the amount of time it took to get through the lectures.