Disclaimer: This story was written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made from it. No infringement on anyone’s copyright(s) is intended.
This was a somewhat new experience for Detective David Starsky. Standing vigil over Hutch in a hospital was not new. That was painfully familiar. Engaging in that activity in San Diego was new. Though he had a few acquaintances in San Diego, he was decidedly out of his territory. The hospital staff had been kind and the fact that he came from out-of-town helped ease the usual tensions regarding whether he could or couldn’t remain in Hutch’s hospital room outside of visiting hours. At least this time, they weren’t in an ICU, just a regular room. That was small consolation to him as he watched over his feverish, unconscious best friend.
Three Days Earlier....
Hutch had won a deep-sea fishing day trip for two several months ago at the opening of a new seafood restaurant. He wanted Starsky to go with him, but the only time they could arrange the fishing trip with the boat’s owner coincided with Starsky’s cousin’s wedding. On an early Saturday morning, the detectives were in Hutch’s kitchen, Starsky watching his partner putting together sandwiches and snacks for his trip.
“I’m sorry, Hutch. We never thought Fat Brenda would get married. Figures she’d go and do it on the only weekend you can work out the fishing trip.” Starsky looked disappointed.
“That’s a pretty mean nickname, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but Nicky and me and the other cousins have always called her that. Guess I should stop it.”
“Maybe you should. Don’t worry about the fishing trip, Starsk. You probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway. Fishing isn’t really your thing.”
“I know, but it would have been a fun day. Besides, I love it down in San Diego. We could have hung out for the weekend.”
Hutch chuckled. “Is your cousin really getting married at one of those Elvis wedding chapels of love in Vegas?”
“You got it. I think Brenda and Chris, her fiancé, both have a good sense of humor about it. She just didn’t want to do the whole temple versus church thing. She’s Jewish and he’s a Catholic. Hey, just like Aunt Rosie and Uncle Al! Their moms were fighting about whether it should be a Jewish or a Catholic service and all of that. Brenda and Chris just told them to forget it and they could all come to Vegas for a “neither” service.” Starsky laughed about the situation. “Man, Brenda’s got guts. I wouldn’t want to tangle with Aunt Sophie.”
Hutch had met Sophie once when they were in New York for a conference. “Your Aunt Sophie is Brenda’s mom? Man, she is a brave woman.”
Hutch was putting the snacks and lunches into his ice chest. “You go on and have a good time. Kiko was really excited to go on this trip. He doesn’t get out of Bay City too often and his mom was glad I could take him.”
“When are you leaving?” Starsky asked.
Hutch stopped his progress dumping ice into the cooler and reached over to grab Starsky’s left wrist. After a quick glance at Starsky’s watch, he answered, “In a few minutes. I thought if we got out of here by six-thirty, we’d be on the docks by eight-thirty. The owner said he wanted to take off out of the harbor around nine.”
“I’ll take off when you do. I’ve got a long drive over to Vegas and I want to get there plenty early. Ma and Aunt Sophie flew in yesterday and I’m supposed to meet them at the hotel.”
“Hey, you be careful. That’s a long drive across the desert in the August heat. You sure that overheating problem is fixed on the tomato?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine now. No worries. I can’t believe you’re getting a teenager to crawl out of bed pre-crack. Nice going.”
“He can sleep on the way down there.”
Hutch was finished with the ice chest. Starsky helped him haul it down the steps at Venice Place and they loaded it into Hutch’s trunk. After they loaded the fishing gear into the car and Hutch locked up the apartment, they were ready to part company.
“When will you be back?” Hutch asked.
“Probably not until late Sunday night. You?”
“We should be back late tonight. Kiko’s mom wants him home for church tomorrow. Stop by tomorrow night when you get back home. We don’t have to be at work Monday. Maybe we can go out for a late night pizza or something.”
“Sounds great. Catch some big ones! I’ll call you when I’m leaving tomorrow night.”
The two men waved to each other as they climbed into their cars and pulled off in opposite directions. Spending their days off apart was not unheard of for the partners, but this time they would be out of touch for a couple of days – and that made both men nervous. Departmental regulations and their own rules of engagement required them to know each other’s whereabouts at all times. That aside, Starsky was nearly killed by an attempted execution fifteen months ago and since then, the bond between the best friends had grown stronger. They watched out for each other both on and off duty.
Starsky headed out of the city with the radio blaring. He was looking forward to a couple of days with his mom and seeing his old maid cousin finally tie the knot. Thinking about the look his Aunt Sophie was bound to have on her face when she saw the minister walk in dressed like The King was enough to keep him chuckling all the way across the desert.
Kiko was ready when Hutch arrived and they were on their way south toward San Diego ahead of schedule. Hutch had been Kiko’s Big Brother for years. The young man was getting ready to head into his senior year of high school and he still looked up to Hutch and enjoyed spending time with the cop. He knew the time they had left to do things was growing short because Kiko would be off to college in another year. His school schedule this year meant this fishing trip might be the last chance they had to spend a long day together until Christmas vacation.
“Thanks again for asking me, Hutch. I never get to go fishing unless you take me.”
“No sweat, buddy. Nice, quiet day fishing is just what I need after a long week on the job.”
Kiko looked up at the sky and said, “You think it’s gonna rain, Hutch?”
The sun was rising in a clear sky over the eastern mountains and the sky over the ocean was full of clouds tinted red. Hutch looked up and remembered a proverb about red skies from his days as a Sea Scout. “Red sky by morning, sailors take warning.”
Kiko laughed and said, “What’s that s’posed to mean?”
Hutch explained, “Storms tend to move from west to east. If the sky is red in the morning, it might mean big rain clouds reflecting the sunrise. Could be a storm.”
“How do you fit all that trivia stuff in your head?”
“What can I say? I have a mind for minutia. Of course, hanging onto info like that means I can’t remember whether I turned off the iron.”
Hutch thought about it a moment, having a brief flirtation with worry. Then he laughed and said, “Didn’t even plug it in today, wise guy.”
Meanwhile, down on the docks in San Diego, the Pacific Sundowner was waiting for its passengers. The small fishing boat usually hired out for groups of up to ten for day trips out of the San Diego port. Today, the boat was set up to take Hutch, Kiko, and four other men out to the deep waters off the coast of Baja California. The owner had no idea the other four men had a different plan in mind for his small vessel. An additional “guest” had accompanied them onto the boat that morning. After they overpowered Gary Moxley, the skipper, they left him gagged, tied up, and unconscious in a small storage closet below decks. They were getting ready to cast off when Hutch and Kiko walked up to the boat. The two men working the lines looked at each other, wishing they had moved the boat a few minutes earlier. The skipper told them he had passengers coming, but they weren’t supposed to arrive for another half hour.
“Morning,” Hutch called to the men. He and Kiko had struggled down to the boat with all of their gear and the cooler chest. They didn’t want to make another trip to the car, which was parked at a public lot blocks away from the pier.
After another glance at each other, followed by a shrug indicating neither one knew what to do, Pete and Frank Baudel both answered him, “Morning.” Hutch had never met the boat’s owner in person, so he was unaware that the men preparing to launch did not belong there. Pete had the most knowledge of how to operate the boat, so he decided on the spot that he would pretend to be Moxley.
Pete said, “Welcome to the Pacific Sundowner. I’m Gary Moxley.”
“Ken Hutchinson, and this is Kiko Ramos.” Hutch and Kiko handed their burdens up to Frank, who introduced himself as just “Frank.” Hutch added, “Looking forward to some good fishing today. You think that storm down off the Baja Peninsula is going to affect us?”
Hutch was referring to Hurricane Jacqueline. She had been brewing up trouble far south on the coast of Mexico for a couple of days. Hurricanes never survived long enough to make landfall as far north as San Diego and she had been downgraded to a tropical storm as she moved along the coast. The storm still packed a wallop, and Hutch was hoping that wouldn’t sideline their plans.
“Not at all. Jacqueline was a nasty thing, but she’s all blown out now. Just a tropical storm. She won’t get far enough north to cause us any trouble.” Pete had already checked on this, to ensure the success of their plans.
Pete and Frank Baudel, Sam Stanley, Jefferson Wakecliff, and Matt Clayburn were on a mission. They were trying to get Toby Mackie out of the country. Mackie was wanted for a string of expensive gem thefts and the San Diego authorities knew he was in the area. They were watching the border, the train and bus stations, and the airports for any sign of Mackie. The only way to get him out of town short of smuggling him in a concealed compartment in a vehicle, which was out of the question in the August heat, was to get him off shore on a private vessel. The men had booked a day fishing trip with Moxley, intending to commandeer his boat and take it offshore about 25 miles to meet another boat, which would take all of them to Central America. The men aboard had no idea who Hutch was or that he was a cop.
“You’re early,” Pete said as he shook Hutch’s hand.
“We gave ourselves plenty of time and there wasn’t any traffic at all. Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, we’ll just get an early start. We’re all here now.” Pete shot another look at his brother while Hutch and Kiko were gathering their things to move them out of the way. The men decided they might as well let Hutch and Kiko think they were headed for a fishing trip. Anything else might make them suspicious and they didn’t dare leave them.
Eventually, Hutch and Kiko were introduced to everyone aboard and settled into position to setup for fishing. The boat’s engines were fired up and they headed out of the slip, across the harbor, and under the Coronado Bridge without incident. When they passed Point Loma and were moving into open sea, Pete relaxed a little. Neither the Harbor Police, nor the Coast Guard were in pursuit. Now all they had to do was sail out to the rendezvous point and meet the larger boat.
The first few hours of the trip were uneventful. The other men on board had dragged out some fishing equipment from the storage lockers to keep Hutch from catching on that they were there for another purpose. Things were going well until the weather began to turn. During their fourth hour out, the ocean started getting rough. The high swells broke over the rails on the Pacific Sundowner and the darkening sky started to rain.
Hutch suggested they might consider turning back, but Pete said it was too late. They’d have to ride out the storm. That answer made Hutch uncomfortable, but he accepted it. He wasn’t that worried about his own safety, but he was responsible for Kiko on this trip.
Knowing the seas could get rougher, Hutch told Kiko they’d better go inside and find some life preservers. They went into the main cabin of the boat and looked around, but didn’t see any. Then, they spotted the stairs leading below deck. After descending the ladder-like stairs, Hutch saw the storage closet. When he pulled it open, he was greeted with an unpleasant surprise. He found the real Gary Moxley, bound and gagged. Moxley was no longer unconscious, he was dead. Hutch turned to say something to Kiko when he heard the unmistakable click of the safety being taken off of a gun. He turned, and immediately stepped between Kiko and Frank.
“Well, that’s unfortunate, Mr. Hutchinson. Now you’ve gone and spoiled our surprise,” Frank said menacingly.
“Look, Frank, we don’t want any trouble.” Hutch had his hands up now.
“I think it’s too late for that,” another voice behind them said. Hutch saw Tobey Mackie standing in the one sleeping cabin’s doorway. He had a gun pointed at Kiko. “You, kid, get in here.”
“Wait a minute....” Hutch started.
Mackie cocked the gun and said, “Shut up. Kid, I said get in here.”
Kiko looked to Hutch for instructions. When the blond nodded, he complied and went into the cabin. Mackie locked it behind himself. The boat was pitching in the rough surf now, making being below decks unpleasant. Mackie was ready to go up top and tired of hiding.
“Don’t hurt him,” Hutch said to both men. “He’s just a kid and we don’t care what you’re up to here.”
“Oh, I have no intention of hurting him, as long as you cooperate,” Frank replied.
“What do you want me to do?” Hutch asked.
Frank jerked his head up toward the upper deck and said, “Get up there and help the boys bring some containers inside. We’re going to have to ride this out for a while and I don’t want to lose all of our merchandise over the sides.” The men had all of their belongings, some gems, and the tools of their trade in containers up on the outside decks. They never brought them below, hoping it would expedite the transfer process when the pickup boat arrived. Now, the weather was making it dangerous to leave things exposed.
“All right.” Hutch decided that seemed like an easily accomplishable task. These men didn’t know he was a cop and maybe they wouldn’t hurt Kiko if he cooperated. “You mind if I bring in our gear, too? I’ve got a lot of money tied up in our fishing equipment.”
Frank shrugged. “Suit yourself. Just make sure you get everything of ours.”
Hutch nodded and allowed them to lead him topside. The only thing he really wanted was the large tackle box. His Magnum was in that. He wasn’t wearing it because he was off duty and it made it difficult to cast, but Hutch rarely went anywhere without it. Starsky once said he wouldn’t go see his mother without his gun.
The men started to move things inside while Frank kept an eye – and his gun – on Hutch. One of the first things he brought down, along with one of Mackie’s cases, was the red tackle box. He set it down just outside the door to the cabin where Kiko was being held.
Hutch was crossing the shifting deck again when a large swell broke over the rail drenching him with seawater and plowing him into a bulkhead. He had no time to brace for a fall and he hit his head hard. Sparks were flashing in his vision as he dropped to one knee, trying to shake clear the fuzziness crowding in on him. Kiko needed him and blacking out was not an option. The next swell broke free one of the fish storage tanks on the side of the cabin. Just as Hutch was regaining enough equilibrium to stand, the tank crashed into him, hitting his head again and knocking him to the deck. This time, the blond was still. He lay unconscious on the deck in the driving rain.
Starsky loved to drive, and while
he wasn't an outdoorsy type by any stretch,
a long drive across the desert on a beautiful day was a pleasant prospect.
The highway patrol didn't bother much with this section of Interstate 15, there wasn't much traffic, and it was a perfect excuse to unwind the Torino and let 'er rip. He turned the radio up loud on the oldies station and sang along at the top of his lungs. If the Torino only had a rag top, he'd be in heaven.
When the news came on, he switched stations and made a face when he accidentally found a country station playing Kenny Rogers. He immediately
switched again and found Top 40. That would do.
He amused himself by imagining Fat Cousin Brenda in her wedding dress. Unlike some overweight girls, his cousin had never learned to choose clothes to
flatter her figure. And she wasn't at all pretty. He just knew she'd turn up in some fluffy creation about two sizes too small, maybe even with a bow across the back, which would only emphasize her already-large rear. Of course, she'd be carrying roses for her bouquet. Brenda adored roses, especially pink ones, which clashed horribly with the red hair she'd inherited from an Irish grandfather on her father's side. Starsky grinned at the mental picture. He'd be willing to bet it wasn't too far off the mark.
But Brenda was a sweet girl, if a little dim, and he was glad she was getting married at last. She'd always wanted to, and she'd always wanted a houseful of kids. He remembered being coerced into playing house with her a few times while they were kids and he remembered the army of dolls she'd had. Nick had been pressed into service a time or two himself, playing the baby or sometimes the maid. That memory made Starsky laugh out loud. Nicky in an apron and a lace hanky for a cap, serving imaginary meals to Brenda's family of dolls. He'd have to remember to razz his brother about that today.
A few hours later, he pulled up outside the motel the Starsky clan had commandeered for the weekend. Between Starsky's relatives and Chris's Catholic family -- which included no less than seven siblings and assorted spouses and children -- the place was probably making a killing. Starsky's mother had phoned him with their room number and he parked outside No. 112
and got out to stretch. His mother had heard him pull in.
"David! It's about time," she said, smiling and standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
"We've got plenty of time, Ma," he said, hugging her.
"I know," she said. "But I want to spend as much time as I can with you. You didn't bring your partner?"
"He won a fishing trip," he said, releasing her and going around to the trunk to get his overnight case and the garment bag containing his suit. "He took Kiko with him."
Rachel chuckled. "If not for the wedding, you'd have gone, yes?"
"If not for the wedding, I wouldn't have had a good excuse," Starsky said, grinning over his shoulder at her. "So, where's the happy bride? I gotta say
"She's upstairs," Rachel said with a vague gesture. "She's having her hair done. Maddie's doing it for her."
Maddie was yet another cousin, who had become a hairdresser back home, and
ever since, had appointed herself to "do" the hair of every bride, corpse and prom date in the entire family. The results weren't always pleasant. Starsky shook his head. "Poor Brenda."
"Oh, don't worry about Brenda," Rachel said with a girlish giggle. "She's so happy and excited she'll never notice. Is that all you brought?"
Starsky nodded. "I'm only stayin' overnight, Ma."
"We're going to try to get tickets for one of the shows," his mother said persuasively.
Starsky rolled his eyes. "Ma, I gotta job, remember? I have to be back tomorrow night."
She sighed. "Okay, okay. It was worth a try. Come on, put your bags in our room and I'll take you up to see Brenda."
Starsky hadn't slept in such close quarters with his mother since he was a little boy, but she'd insisted on "having him to herself," so he dropped the bags on the other bed in the room and obediently trotted after her as she took the outside steps up to the second floor of the motel. She tapped on the door.
"Who is it?" hollered Maddie from inside.
"Rachel. And I've got David with me."
There was a squeal that Starsky recognized as Brenda's voice, some thumping
and cussing, and then the door opened to reveal Brenda in a dressing gown. She hadn't changed, he thought, except to gain about 50 more pounds.
"David!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and almost squeezing the breath from him. "I'm so glad to see you!"
He kissed her cheek and extricated himself from her arms as discreetly as possible. "You're looking radiant," he said, "just as a bride should."
She giggled and blushed, backing up to let them come in. Her hair was about halfway between her usual style and some sort of piled-on-top-of-her-head arrangement and Maddie dragged her back to a chair in front of the dressing table.
"We have two hours," Maddie said severely. "Two hours to get you ready and that includes makeup and getting into your dress. Talk to David while I work!"
"Okay," Brenda said meekly.
“Hi, Maddie,” Starsky said.
“Hi, Curly. Sorry I can’t talk and do hair at the same
time. We’ll catch up tonight.”
Starsky watched for a few minutes as Maddie worked to pile Brenda's straight red hair into what she told him was called an "updo." When he couldn't keep a
sober face any longer, he excused himself to go find Nick. His mother went with him.
"I couldn't take any more, either," she confided when they were out of earshot. "Wait'll you see her dress."
Starsky grinned and threw his arm around his mother to kiss the top of her head. "As long as Brenda's happy, I'm happy, Ma. What's the groom like?"
"He seems like a good boy," Rachel said cautiously. "He sells insurance, but he's gone back to night school to become a dentist."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing," Rachel said. "I said he seems like a good boy."
"Yeah, but you said it the way you said those cookies I made for your birthday when I was eight were good cookies," he teased.
She had the grace to blush. "Well, he's Catholic."
"So's Aunt Rose."
"He's a bit old to be marrying for the first time."
"So's Brenda," Starsky said.
Rachel gave him a playful whack on the arm. "Speaking of which -- "
"Oh, Ma, don't start on me now," Starsky said. He said it lightly, but his mother knew very well why he wasn't married and might never be married. Terry.
She realized the direction his thoughts had taken at the same moment. "I wasn't going to," she said gently. "I was referring to your brother."
Starsky grinned. "Any girl brave enough to take him on deserves a medal."
Rachel laughed. "What a way to talk about your own brother."
The wedding was set for 5 p.m. and at four, after Starsky had seen all of his relatives who were present and a good many of the groom's, too, Rachel shooed him off to get ready.
"As soon as you're done, I'll get dressed," she said.
It only took a few minutes to shave and get into the suit he'd brought -- his only suit, as a matter of fact, and the one he normally wore to court. He didn't plan to share that information with the bride. He came out to wait with Nick, Chris, and Chris' brother, Matthew, while the women got ready.
Poor Chris was as nervous as he could be, and Nick's constant teasing about
Brenda's steadily climbing weight and tendency to whine when she didn't get
her way was not helping.
"Can it, moron," Starsky finally said, hitting his brother lightly in the arm. "You're makin' Brenda out to be some kinda monster."
"Well...." Nick began, but Starsky hit him again, a little harder this time.
"She's a good girl, and you know it," he said, adding to Chris, "don’t believe a thing my feeble-minded brother says. You two are gonna be very happy."
The chapel was only a few blocks away, and at 4:45, the men piled into cars to leave. They had been given orders to leave before the women, because Chris couldn't see the bride before the ceremony. Starsky took charge of Chris and his brother, Matthew, the best man, mostly to get them away from Nick.
"This is a terrific car," Matthew said as Starsky started the motor and backed out.
"Thanks," Starsky said. "Tell my partner that sometime, willya? He hounds me constantly about this car."
"You're really a detective?" Matthew asked. Chris was sitting next to the window, pale as death and just as silent.
"I really am," Starsky said. "It ain't all sunglasses and autographs, though."
Matthew laughed and even Chris smiled.
Starsky pulled up in front of the chapel and had to work hard not to grin at the sight of it. The gates across the driveway were modeled after the ones at Graceland, with musical notes worked in the wrought iron. The chapel itself was very small, but it was built with Southern plantation style pillars across the front and a large sign proclaimed it "The Chapel of Love."
Chris got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk staring blankly at the sign until Matthew took him by the elbow and propelled him inside. Starsky followed, allowing himself to grin once their backs were turned.
Music was playing from hidden speakers inside the chapel, and it sounded familiar, but Starsky couldn't place it. Hutch would've known. Hutch knew more songs than anyone Starsky had ever met, and he wished his partner were here because he'd get such a kick out of the whole atmosphere. He'd have to remember every detail to share with him when he got home tomorrow night.
"Damn!" he exclaimed, forgetting he was in a chapel. Matthew stopped and turned his way with a raised eyebrow. "Forgot to grab the camera," Starsky explained. "Be right back." He dashed out to the car and got his camera and extra lenses out of the case in the trunk. He was supposed to be the "official" photographer and here he'd almost forgotten his camera. He could almost hear Hutch calling him "dummy."
The other men were arriving now, and when the women arrived, the small chapel was almost filled to overflowing. Starsky stationed himself in a front corner so he could get good shots of Brenda coming down the aisle and of the ceremony itself. Once everyone was seated, the minister emerged from a back room, accompanied by Chris and Matthew. Starsky, eyes dancing, took several shots just of them. The minister -- at least, Starsky assumed he was a minister, though he couldn't imagine what religion he belonged to -- was dressed in a white, spangled jumpsuit, with oversized dark glasses and an Elvis pompadour. Chris and Matthew, in their tuxes, paled in comparison to him.
Hutch is gonna flip, he thought gleefully.
The music rose in volume, and to Starsky's secret delight, the minister produced a wireless microphone and began to sing with the recording. Now Starsky recognized the song. Elvis always closed his concerts with it. He couldn't remember the title, but the words went "Wise men say only fools rush in...." Hutch sang it sometimes for fun and tried to sound like Elvis. It never failed to make Starsky howl with laughter because Hutch's Elvis impersonation was so bad it was funny. The minister's impersonation, however, was very good. Which made it even funnier.
The doors at the back opened and Brenda came through on her father's arm. Just as Starsky had suspected, the dress was lace and ruffles and tulle and train all over, making it difficult for Brenda, the dress, and her father to all fit in the narrow aisle. Starsky dutifully snapped frame after frame, catching Aunt Sophie's tears, Brenda's beaming face through the veil, the Catholics on one side of the aisle and the Jews on the other, and Chris' nerves apparently vanishing once he caught sight of his bride. The groom's face was almost more radiant than Brenda's as her father handed her over to him, and his voice was steady and strong as he took his vows.
Afterward, everyone lined up for kisses and hugs, and Starsky caught all of that on film, too, before making his own way up to his cousin. He kissed her cheek and shook Chris' hand. "Congratulations, Bren," he said. "You look terrific."
"Aw, thanks, Davy," she said, lapsing into the childhood nickname. But even a few moments of marriage already seemed to have changed her. She really did look lovely, and Starsky gave her another kiss on the cheek. "It's so sweet of you to take the pictures for us."
"My pleasure," he said, meaning it. He winked at Chris. "You okay now, pal?"
Chris grinned. "Yeah. It was just jitters, I guess. A guy only gets married once, you know. If he's lucky."
Everyone went out to eat at a nearby Howard Johnson's, then the party moved back to the motel, which had a small lounge with a band. The band dedicated a song "to the happy couple" and there were so many champagne toasts that Starsky was certain the groom wouldn't be able to perform his marital duties that night. It was late before people started drifting back to their rooms, and Starsky was beat. He'd been up early for the drive and it had been a busy day.
"What a nice wedding," his mother said when they got back to their room. She sank down on her bed with a sigh and kicked off her high-heeled shoes. "But I'm glad it's over."
Starsky chuckled. "Weddings take it out of ya, for sure."
"I suppose it's all legal, being married by Elvis?" Rachel asked with a wicked twinkle in her eyes.
"In Vegas, everything's legal, Ma," Starsky said. "Don't worry about it."
She laughed. "At least it solved the church/temple argument temporarily. Now we won't have to fight about religion until they have kids."
Starsky groaned. "Oh, man. That's gonna be ugly."
"Maybe not," Rachel said, unsnapping the pearls around her neck. "He might convert."
"Or she might."
Rachel gave a gasp of pretended horror. "Bite your tongue, David Michael."
He grinned. "Betcha Chris' family is sayin' the same thing."
"Probably." She yawned. "I'm all in. Are you going to use the bathroom first or not?"
"Go ahead," he said. "Takes you longer."
She swatted him playfully as she went by. "Show your mother some respect, young man."
The morning was quiet. The Starsky clan slept in, but most of the McCarthys got up early and went to Mass at a nearby Catholic church. The whole group met for brunch in the motel's dining room. After brunch, Starsky and Nick took their mother and her sisters to a few casinos and to get tickets for a show that evening. When it was time for dinner, Starsky figured it was about time he headed back to Bay City. He would grab something to eat from a drive- thru on the way down The Strip. Starsky dropped his brother and the ladies off at the hotel and they ran into the happy newlyweds. He promised Brenda and Chris he'd get the photos in the mail as soon as they were processed, kissed his mother and aunt good-bye, playfully punched his brother, and loaded up the Torino.
Before he could escape, his mother said, “Davy, are you sure you lost the room key?”
Sighing, Starsky answered, “Yeah, Ma, I told ya. Must have fallen out of my pocket at HoJo’s or somethin’. Maybe somebody will turn it in. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about, sweetheart, just have a safe drive home.” Rachel Starsky kissed her oldest son once more and let him leave. Ever since his brush with death, she had a hard time letting him leave when they were together.
spotted a suitable drive- thru and noticed there was a pay phone on the side of
the building. He pulled over to call
Hutch and let him know he should be home in several hours. The phone rang a dozen times without an
answer. Starsky frowned, wondering
where Hutch could be, but he realized it was dinnertime. He climbed back into the car and drove
through. When he had his food, he
pulled back over next to the phone and tried again – still no answer. He smiled and mumbled to himself, “Guess
you’ll know I’m comin’ when I get there.”
Starsky loved his family, but a little bit went a long way, and he was ready to go home. He was sorry his Aunt Rose had been unable to go with him, though. She had broken her ankle the week before and didn’t feel up to the drive. It felt good to be heading back. He wouldn't have admitted it aloud, even to Hutch, but he didn't like being away from his partner this long without knowing where he was and what he was doing.
It was late when he turned down his own street. He yawned and wondered if Hutch would agree to ordering pizza or Chinese instead of going out to eat. He had decided stop by his place first, drop off his bags, and call Hutch about that before going by Venice Place. But all thoughts of food vanished when he saw the black-and-white parked in front of his apartment.
Starsky shut the door to the Torino and hurried across the street. The night air was muggy for Southern California and he could smell that it had rained earlier. The waiting officer saw him approaching and called out to him.
“Good evening, Sergeant.”
Starsky recognized partners Kevin Blanchard and Rudy Hernandez. “What’s going on, boys? I forget to pay the rent or something?” Starsky’s attempt at humor did little to break up the tension for any of the men.
“Uh, Captain Dobey sent us over here to wait for you,” Blanchard said.
Starsky turned white, causing his coworker concern. “What happened to Hutch?”
Though the dark-haired man’s conclusion was logical, that his first thought was something about his partner surprised Blanchard. They could have been there for any reason.
“We don’t really know, Sergeant....”
Starsky interrupted him with a roar, “What the HELL does that mean? Is Hutch hurt?”
“I’m sorry, but he’s missing. Dobey said he was on a fishing trip. The boat’s been overdue for more than twenty-four hours.”
“WHAT! Why didn’t somebody call me?” Starsky turned to go to his apartment, but Blanchard called him back to the black-and-white.
“Sergeant, Dobey said to call him and to check in with a Mrs. Ramos.”
“Thanks,” Starsky called over his shoulder with a wave as he darted up to his apartment to try and find out what was happening. He decided Dobey had better be his first call, so he dialed his home number.
“Hello?” Dobey’s gruff voice answered on the first ring. He must have been waiting by the phone.
“What the hell’s going on and why didn’t you call me, Cap?” Starsky asked without preamble.
“I tried. Hutch is the only one who knew exactly where you were. I called all over Vegas, every hotel I could think of and you weren’t registered anywhere. I finally found your mother’s room number and I left you a message. Guess you didn’t get it,” Dobey answered tiredly.
“Sorry, Cap. No, we were out all day and I never thought about messages. The room was in her name and I just never thought about it.”
“I tried you on the radio a few times,” Dobey continued.
“Had it turned off to listen to tunes. I forgot to turn it back on when I got into range, and besides, I wasn’t on duty. Like I said, sorry I yelled at ya. Now what the hell’s going on?”
“Mrs. Ramos called the station at around two o’clock this morning. Seems Hutch and the boy never made it back from San Diego. I did some investigating and found out that Hurricane Jacqueline was probably responsible.”
“We don’t get hurricanes in Southern California,” Starsky said.
“No, we don’t. They downgraded it to a tropical storm yesterday and it made it as far north as the Mexican border and San Diego. The Port Authority down in San Diego says there are several small fishing boats missing. San Diego P.D. confirms Hutch’s car is still parked in a public lot near the pier.”
“Which one, I’m going down there.” Starsky grabbed a pencil and his notebook to take down the information.
“It’s an Ace lot about five blocks east of Harbor Drive on Union and Ash. Several small commercial boats operate off of the piers down near the Star of India. You know, that tall ship?”
“Yeah, Hutch and I went to see her during the Bicentennial. I know exactly where that is. What’s going on about a search?”
“Coast Guard is on it. You know where their offices are?”
“Yeah, down near the airport on the harbor side. I’ll find it.”
“Call me if you find out anything and check in with the PD. They might be able to help you.”
“Roger, Cap. I’m gonna call Kiko’s mom and then I’ll hit the road.”
He had to look up Kiko’s home number. Mrs. Ramos answered the phone quickly when it rang. “Captain Dobey?”
“No, it’s Starsky. You doing okay?”
“No, Dave, I’m not doing so well. I’m scared. I went to church with Molly and we lit some candles. What are we going to do?” Starsky could hear the strain in her voice and knew she had been crying.
“You hang in there. I’m driving down to San Diego now. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”
“I want to go.”
“No. You stay here in case they call you. I’m gonna be running around down by the harbor in the middle of the night. You’ll be safer at home. I’ll call you.”
“Thank you, David.”
When they hung up, Starsky took care of a few things and darted back out to the Torino. This time of night, the trip to San Diego shouldn’t take longer than ninety minutes. After a quick stop to fill up the car, he was on his way.
While Starsky was getting ready for Brenda’s wedding, his partner was lying, out cold in a tropical storm. The thugs on the boat were busy battling the storm and even the one who had his gun trained on Hutch didn’t care that he was hurt. They left him where he lay. Their cargo was more important to them.
“Forget about him,” Frank said. “We have to finish getting this stuff in out of the weather.”
Hutch had been gone a long time and Kiko was worried. The blond cop had been his Big Brother for as long as he had been Starsky’s partner. Kiko knew all about their tendency to get into trouble, which always seemed to have a way of finding them. He had never been personally involved in any of it until now. He didn’t like wondering what the bad guys might do to his Big Brother and he didn’t want to have to explain it to Starsky. Since the dark-haired cop wasn’t there, Kiko felt responsible for keeping an eye Hutch for Starsky. That was a heavy responsibility for a young man.
When Hutch failed to make an appearance and two hours had passed, Kiko started trying to pick the lock on the cabin door. Not really designed as an effective deterrent, he had little trouble with it. Kiko carefully looked around, but saw no one. After he crept up the ladder, he noticed all the gear and containers that had been moved inside, but there was no sign of Hutch. He could see that the other six men where huddled in the small wheel house. One of them was using the radio and the rest were looking down at something, probably a chart.
Kiko decided he could risk creeping on his hands and knees out to the deck. The boat was still pitching wildly and he could make out the water that washed over the deck and sprayed onto the cabin windows. Suddenly, his heart clenched at the thought the men might have thrown Hutch overboard. Refusing to believe that, he scooted down to the door in the back of the cabin and carefully opened it. Fortunately, the door was not on the windy side of the boat.
Trying to see through the driving rain was difficult, but it didn’t take Kiko long to find what he sought. He found Hutch face down in a heap on the deck beside the broken fish tank, soaked through to the skin and unconscious. He tried to revive him by patting him gently on the cheek first, then on his hand.
“Hutch! It’s me, Kiko. You gotta wake up, man! Don’t do this to me. I need you to wake up!” The young man was doing his best to stay calm, but the sight of Hutch’s bloody head terrified him. In the rain, the blood looked like a much larger quantity than it really was, dripping in rivulets down the side of Hutch’s face.
Kiko gently turned his friend over, discovering just how heavy and solidly built the blond cop was. He needed to get Hutch in out of the rain and he had no idea how to accomplish that. He shook Hutch’s shoulder and called his name repeatedly, but the man didn’t respond at all.
Knowing the men might discover he had escaped at any moment, he decided to try maneuvering Hutch inside by himself. Kiko was a little shorter than Starsky, but he only weighed 140 pounds. He grunted as he grabbed Hutch under the arms and started to tug. He was stronger than he looked and he was able to drag Hutch down to the stern side door. When he made it into the cabin, he was relieved to see the criminals were still intent on whatever they were doing. Kiko wanted to take Hutch below deck, but he would have to get him down the ladder. Even if he could hoist the big blond up onto his shoulder, they’d never both fit through the small opening. His only choice was going to be to drop Hutch through the hole and hope he didn’t get hurt any worse than he already was. If he could just get his friend into the cabin below, maybe they would think he went overboard. Kiko had no way of knowing if the men knew Hutch was a cop or what their plan for him was.
He maneuvered Hutch’s feet into the hole, then pushed and grunted until gravity and a lurch of the boat took over, pulling the wet, completely limp cop out of his hands and dumping him onto the deck below.
Kiko muttered both curses and prayers in Spanish as he descended the steps to check on his friend. Hutch didn’t seem to have been hurt by the short drop—he was so tall, his body stretched out was only about a foot shorter than the cabin ceiling. Kiko was trembling from the fear of discovery and from the effort of moving the big man this far as completely dead weight. He knew that Starsky had been forced to carry his partner out of dangerous situations a few times and it gave him newfound respect for the stocky, well-muscled cop. Hutch was not a light load.
Too tired to make it all the way into the cabin, Kiko decided to just go in and get some blankets to cover his shivering friend. He straightened Hutch out, and remembering his first aid course from school, he put his feet up on a box in case his friend might go into shock.
When he approached the cabin, he saw the tackle box Hutch had set outside the door. Kiko knew the Magnum was in there. With shaking hands, he retrieved it and shoved the big gun into his waistband. He was forbidden to touch it, but Hutch had let him hold it once a long time ago. He’d forgotten how heavy it was. Kiko knew Hutch wouldn’t want him to mess with it, but if those men came after his Big Brother with a gun, he wasn’t going to just stand by and let them shoot him. He’d deal with Hutch’s disappointment in him later.
The boy returned from the cabin with blankets, a pillow, some towels, a wet cloth, and a first aid kit he found under the sink in the tiny bathroom. He stripped off Hutch’s wet clothes down to his boxers and covered him with the blankets. He put the pillow up under the man’s knees and did his best to clean his face. When waving an ammonia packet under the blond’s nose still failed to rouse him, Kiko was scared. Remembering having seen a doctor on a television show check an unconscious person’s eyes, he lifted each of Hutch’s eyelids. Both of his pupils were dilated, but they reacted to the room light when they were opened and they were the same size. He thought that was a good sign. Hutch was breathing evenly and his pulse was strong, but fast. The young man settled down to wait for whatever was next.
When the rendezvous plans were completed, the men finally remembered to look for the blond. Not finding him outside on the deck, they jumped to the conclusion Kiko hoped they would, that he had been swept out to sea. Frank decided to go check on the boy.
When he came down the steps with a drawn gun, Kiko stood up between Frank and Hutch and pointed the heavy Magnum at the criminal with shaking hands. The man laughed at him. “How the hell did you get him down here without us seeing you? Oh, never mind. Put that cannon down.”
“Back off, man,” Kiko said, imitating Starsky’s bad cop voice as well as he could.
“Back off? I said put that down, you little shit. Where the hell did it come from?”
Kiko trembled, but he kept the gun aimed as well as he could at Frank’s heart. “I don’t want to use this thing, mister. I’m not gonna let you hurt him, though. Back off.”
Frank considered his words. The boy was young and obviously in no position to handle that weapon, but if he fired it, he might hit something – including Frank. He hadn’t planned to hurt either one of them. He hadn’t meant to kill the skipper, and he didn’t want to kill anyone else.
“Look, kid. I’m not gonna hurt him. The rest of us are gonna get off this bucket in a few minutes. You just sit tight and, if you’re lucky, the Coast Guard’ll find ya.”
Kiko nodded his understanding and added to Frank, “I’m not afraid to use this.”
“You must love him a lot to take such a big risk. He your old man?”
“No, he’s my brother,” Kiko answered.
Frank looked at the dark, obviously Hispanic Kiko and laughed at that. “Whatever, kid. I hope he’s worth it.”
“He’s the best.” Kiko jerked his chin up proudly and advanced a step toward the retreating thug. When the man was completely out of sight, Kiko put the gun back under his waistband and sank to his noodle-like knees, breathless from the adrenaline rush. A few minutes later, he heard a quiet voice behind him.
“Kiko?” Hutch was coming around, finally. He struggled to sit up, and immediately regretted it, sinking back to the deck.
Kiko scrambled to his side. “Hutch! You okay, man?”
The room was spinning and Hutch knew he had a head injury. He wasn’t okay and he couldn’t remember what happened – or how he came to be lying undressed on the lower deck floor.
Hutch’s fuzzy vision started to focus and he saw that Kiko had his gun. “Why do you have my gun?”
“Sh. Don’t move around too much. The bad guys, they came for you. I, I....”
“You shielded me?” Hutch asked. “With the Python?”
Kiko hung his head a little, hating to disobey any direct order from his Big Brother. He knew the gun was off limits and he couldn’t look Hutch in the eyes when he said, “Yes. I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to touch it.”
Hutch smiled at him and reached a hand out to touch his little brother’s knee. “You probably saved my life, buddy. You did the right thing.”
Kiko looked at him with love in his eyes, but his joy at having made the right choice was short lived. Hutch had suddenly become pale and his eyes weren’t focusing anymore. Within a few seconds, he was out again. Kiko didn’t know what to do except to wait with him until the bad guys were gone. He tried, unsuccessfully, to wake the blond up again from time to time. When he knew it was safe, he’d go up top and see if he could figure out how to work the radio.
The Pacific Sundowner was overdue several hours when the rendezvous ship found them. The boat had been blown off course many miles and the bigger ship had trouble tracking it. Eventually, they made the connection and through much effort, only losing a few things in the drink, the band of criminals transferred themselves and their cargo to the other ship. They made their escape, leaving the small fishing boat bobbing at sea in the still raging storm. Kiko waited hours after they left before venturing up to find the radio. The storm was still blowing strong and he wasn’t able to hear anything on the radio but static. He really wasn’t sure how to use the thing, but he planned to come back and try again when the weather settled. Maybe it worked the same way as Hutch’s police radio and he did know how to use that. His search revealed that the only people left on board were a dead skipper, an unconscious cop, and a frightened teenager. The little boat seemed sound enough and he hoped they could just ride out the storm until help came. He prayed Hutch would be all right that long.
Starsky drove like a madman on
Interstate 5, with a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. He knew Hutch
was in trouble. He just didn't know how much. They'd had so many close calls
and they'd always made it through. What if this time they didn't? And Kiko --
the poor kid was only 17 and for a kid from his neighborhood, pretty sheltered,
thanks to his mom and Hutch.
Starsky's only hope for their safety lay in Hutch's ability to handle almost any crisis calmly. Hutch could keep his head and he knew how to handle a boat. He might quietly wig out after the trouble was over, but while he needed to be strong, he could be.
Hang on, buddy. Take care of yourself and Kiko.
He was about halfway there when red lights splashed over him from behind.
"Dammit!" he said aloud. He didn't want to waste time with this, but he knew he'd been speeding. He pulled over, keeping both hands on the steering wheel where the highway patrolman could see them. He remembered his own days of uniform patrol and how nervous he'd been when pulling someone over.
"Your license and registration, please, sir," the officer said, shining his flashlight in on Starsky's face.
Starsky pulled his badge out of his pocket and handed it over. "Look, I know I was speeding, but my partner's lost in that tropical storm off the coast in San Diego and I'm in a hurry," he said, speaking so fast that the officer had trouble following him.
The officer examined the badge, and then looked at Starsky again. "You were still speeding."
"Dammit, I know that," Starsky said. "I told you, my partner -- "
"Would you want me to let you off just because you're a fellow cop?"
"No, I want you to let me off because a fellow cop -- my partner -- is in danger and I'm trying to help him!" Good God, not a zealot! he thought in frustration.
The officer shifted his weight uncertainly.
"Look, do you have a partner?"
"Yeah," the officer said. "He's in the car."
"How would you feel if he was lost at sea and had been missing for over 24 hours?" As young as the officer was, Starsky feared he hadn't developed the kind of friendship with his partner that he and Hutch had.
But the officer looked over his shoulder toward the car and something changed in his expression. "I'd be scared to death."
Thank you, Starsky prayed silently. "We've been partners for eight years," he said.
The officer handed his badge back to him. "I hope you find him well, Sergeant."
"Thanks." Starsky didn't waste any more time. He started the car, threw it into gear, and sped away. But this time he tossed the red light on top of the car. He didn't want to get stopped again.
The pier was choked with patrol cars, paramedics and search-and-rescue personnel. He already had his badge in his hand as he slid out of the car and ran toward the temporary command post set up to one side.
"David Starsky," he said to the Coast Guard officer manning the radio. "My partner's out there somewhere. Ken Hutchinson. Any word?"
The officer looked tired and stressed out. "Do you know the name of the vessel?"
"No -- yes, wait," Starsky said, wracking his brain. Hutch had told him, but he couldn't remember. What in hell was it? Details were Hutch's thing. He
seemed to remember everything he'd read and every name he'd heard. Starsky never needed to do that, because he had Hutch to do it for him...."Moxley," he said suddenly, snapping his fingers. "The owner's name is Moxley. Can't remember his first name or the name of the boat."
The officer consulted a clipboard. "The Pacific Sundowner," he said after a few moments. "I'm sorry, it's still missing."
"Damn!" Starsky rubbed his gritty eyes.
"We're doing everything we can," the officer said. "We've got boats searching the whole area."
"I know. I wanna help. Can I go out with them?"
The officer blinked at him. "Are you trained in search-and-rescue?"
"No, but I got eyes and that's one more pair lookin'," Starsky said.
"Sir, I'm sorry, but we can't allow that," the officer said. "It's against regs. I promise we're doing everything possible to find everyone who may be out there."
Starsky had no choice but to wait on the pier, where rescue personnel were dealing with the injured who had been near shore when the storm hit. A lot of pleasure boats and weekend fishing expeditions had taken advantage of the formerly nice day and some had been blown out into the open sea by the storm. None that Starsky could see seemed to be hurt badly. Most of the injuries were knocks on the head or abrasions or bruises. The real work, he knew, was going on out there, in the darkness, as Coast Guard personnel searched for survivors on the open sea.
He paced and worried and prayed by turns for hours.
Kiko knew it was late, but he didn't have a watch on and he'd forgotten about the pocket watch Hutch usually carried. He tried several times to awaken the blond, but mostly all he got was an incoherent comment or two out of him, and he'd be out again. He tried to keep Hutch warm and dry, and when the rain finally stopped, that became easier to do. But the waves were still big enough to keep the boat tossing, and that was making Kiko seasick. He knew he wasn't half as sick as Hutch was, however. Hutch's had developed a fever and it was high -- Kiko could feel the heat from him without even actually touching him. His mother always piled blankets on top of him when he had a fever and eventually he'd start sweating and the fever would break. Kiko couldn't find much in the way of blankets in the little boat, but he'd piled everything on Hutch that he could find, and still Hutch grew hotter.
There was no sense waiting for the sea to calm. Kiko struggled up to the pilothouse and tried the radio. Thankfully, it did seem to be working.
"Mayday! Mayday!" he called into the microphone. "Help!"
He got nothing but static. He tried changing the channel and called for help again and again. Still nothing but static. He was just getting ready to change to another channel when he heard a moan from below. He dropped the mike and ran back to Hutch.
Hutch was awake, at last, but barely conscious. He was holding a hand to his head and moaning.
"Hutch? You okay, man?" Kiko knelt next to him, knowing good and well that Hutch wasn't okay, but he wanted him to say something, anything.
Hutch blinked a few times and finally focused on him. "Kiko? Where are we? What happened?"
"There was a big storm," Kiko said. "Those men got on another boat and split, man, and they killed the guy who owns the boat. They left me and you here."
Hutch groaned again and tried to sit up, but didn't have the strength. Kiko tried to help, and between the two of them, they got Hutch partially upright.
As the blankets fell away, Hutch remembered that Kiko must have pulled off his wet clothes. He looked around and Kiko knew what he wanted.
“Uh, sorry, Hutch. Your clothes were soaked. Bet they’re almost dry now.” Kiko checked and found that they were just a little damp. He helped Hutch get dressed again; the blond was moving slowly and doing his best not to touch his pounding head.
“What about the radio?” Hutch asked as he pulled on his last sock. His shoes were still soaked, so he decided not to put them on yet.
"I tried the radio," Kiko said, "but I don't get nothin' but static."
Hutch rubbed at his eyes, which wouldn't focus very well, and tried to think what to do. He was the adult, it was his responsibility to get them out of this mess. "Have you tried all the channels?"
"Not yet," Kiko said. "I heard you and came back."
"Try all the channels," Hutch said, "and turn the lights on."
Kiko swallowed. "How do I turn the lights on?"
"There's -- " Hutch had to stop because a wave of dizziness almost made him
throw up. He tried again, "There are switches in the pilothouse."
Kiko nodded and scrambled to his feet. He managed to get back to the pilothouse and found the switches and then started on the radio again. He'd almost given up when a faint voice answered one of his calls.
"Help!" he yelled into the mike. "We're stuck out here and the skipper's dead!"
"Easy," said the voice. "This is the Coast Guard. Where are you?"
"I don't know!" Kiko said, too frightened to be embarrassed by the trembling of his own voice.
Hutch had heard this from below and somehow managed to struggle up the stairs to the pilothouse. He could hear the Coast Guard trying to explain to Kiko
how to read the instruments in the pilothouse, but he could tell by the look on the boy's face that he wasn't following it.
"Hutch! What are you doing up here?" Kiko demanded when he caught sight of him.
"Let me," Hutch said, barely upright, with his head hurting so badly he wanted to scream. He knew how to read the instruments. He took the mike, explained who he was, and gave the Coast Guard their approximate location. Almost as soon as he had finished, he sank to the floor, out cold.
"Oh, Madre de Dios," Kiko exclaimed, terrified.
Starsky was still pacing along the pier at four in the morning. He had turned north in his pacing when he heard the Coast Guard rescue helicopter flying out over the harbor from the nearby Coast Guard Air Station. He turned back and hustled over to the command center desk to speak with the officer in charge.
“What boat is that helicopter after?” he asked, tense hope revealing itself in his voice.
The officer grabbed his radio and called the air station for the information. Starsky was elated when he heard it was the Pacific Sundowner.
“Thank God,” he muttered. “Can you find out if everyone is okay?”
The officer nodded and called again. Starsky was relieved to hear that the man who answered the mayday had spoken with Hutch. That had to mean things were all right. He ran back to the car to make the short trip to the Coast Guard station.
Starsky was allowed to wait there for the Sikorsky H3 rescue helicopter to arrive with his best friend and Kiko. He found out that the H3 could fly out to sea at speeds up to 136 miles per hour. They would pick up the passengers and return them to the air station within the next forty-five minutes, baring complications. Coast Guard personnel would make sure the boat was brought back to port. Starsky wondered why the skipper couldn’t do that, but decided not to think about it too much until Hutch explained. The little boat had been blown off course and was southwest of San Diego about fifty miles.
He heard the approach of sirens half an hour after the helicopter left. A paramedic unit pulled into the lot and was waved through a gate, headed out to the helicopter pad. Starsky’s heart began to race. His secure thoughts of the past few minutes gave way to fear and he hoped that the ambulance was only a precaution.
When Hutch collapsed again, Kiko had finally managed to get the Coast Guard back on the radio, pleading with them to hurry because his friend was in trouble. They called for the paramedics, but Starsky didn’t know that.
After the ambulance arrived, Starsky tried, unsuccessfully to get more information. He was told that one of the Pacific Sundowner’s passengers was in need of medical attention, but they couldn’t say which passenger. Chalking it up to a cop’s natural cynicism, he tried to believe it wasn’t Hutch. His instincts were rarely wrong in that department, though, and he had a hard time convincing himself. Finally, hearing the incoming helicopter, Starsky got as close as he could.
The first person brought off the H3 was on a litter and the face was covered. Starsky’s palms started to sweat and he felt a rise of panic in his chest. Oh, God! That’s not Hutch. No way, that can’t be Hutch!
Next, he was glad to see Kiko stepping off the chopper wrapped in a blanket, but under his own steam. Kiko turned back to look inside and Starsky took that to mean the person on the first litter wasn’t Hutch. His elation at that was tempered by concern as he watched the Coast Guard pass off their patient to the waiting paramedic team. Though he was bundled in a blanket and on a litter, Starsky couldn’t mistake the flash of blond hair in the lights of the landing pad.
The paramedics put both Hutch and Kiko in the ambulance and took off before Starsky could get close enough to insist on coming with them, or to find out what was happening with his partner. The frantic detective found someone who could tell him the ambulance was headed for the University of California San Diego Medical Center Hospital, just a few miles away in Hillcrest. He got directions and covered the four miles to the hospital in record time.
Flashing his badge at the Emergency Room receptionist, Starsky said, “I’m Detective David Starsky. My partner, Ken Hutchinson, and his little brother, Kiko Ramos, were just brought in here. I need to see them.”
“Are you family?” she asked. Starsky didn’t get a chance to answer before he heard Kiko’s voice.
“Starsky!” The young man was walking toward him. Starsky ignored the receptionist and rushed toward the boy.
“Kiko, you all right?” he asked as he looked at the boy critically, putting his hands on both of Kiko’s shoulders and looking into his eyes to see for himself.
“I’m fine, but Hutch....” Kiko trailed off without finishing, his voice shaking with emotion. Kiko had convinced the hospital personnel he was fine and didn’t need to be seen.
“What the hell happened? Why aren’t you being seen?”
Kiko lowered his voice, “I’m not hurt, Starsky. I lied and said I was eighteen and they didn’t make me.”
Starsky smiled at him, Kiko was a clever kid. “Okay, what happened?”
“Oh, man, you won’t believe it!” Kiko caught Starsky up on everything that had happened. Hearing that Hutch had a head injury and a high fever did little to calm his fears. He suddenly realized that while they were standing there talking about Hutch, Kiko’s mother and Captain Dobey were still unaware of what was happening. Before he did anything else, Starsky led Kiko to a pay phone to call his mother and he got on another to call Captain Dobey.
By the time they were done with their calls, a doctor had appeared in blue-gray scrubs asking for whoever was with Kenneth Hutchinson.
Kiko and Starsky stood to meet him and he showed them to a small room so he could explain what was going on with their friend. Starsky did the usual explaining about the fact that he was Hutch’s partner, but they were family.
“I’m Dr. Carrera. Your friend has been taken upstairs to a room.”
“How is he, Doc?” Starsky didn’t like it that he hadn’t gotten a good look at Hutch yet.
“Well, he has a head injury and a high fever. We’re running some tests to see what’s going on with that fever. The head injury looks mild. We did a scan and we’ll do another one in the afternoon.”
“I want to see him,” Starsky said.
The doctor sighed. “He’s unconscious, you know, and visiting hours don’t start for,” he looked at his watch, “another four hours.”
Kiko looked at him with pleading in his eyes. “Please, Doc. We’re from Bay City and he don’t have anybody here but us. Please.”
The doctor agreed and gave them the room number. Kiko’s mother was on her way to San Diego with Captain Dobey and Starsky was sure they’d find their way to Hutch’s room when they arrived. Starsky and Kiko headed upstairs. Even though they had the doctor’s permission, Starsky gave Kiko a lesson in how a man quietly installs himself in a patient’s hospital room.
When they were on the inside, Starsky leaned over to Kiko and whispered, “If all else fails, get yourself a file folder or a blank chart. You can walk in almost anywhere if you have a file folder in your hands and you look like you’re supposed to be there.” Kiko laughed at him.
Starsky never got used to seeing his partner lying still and pale in a hospital bed and Hutch had never allowed Kiko to visit him in the hospital until he was out of danger. Kiko didn’t know for certain how he got hurt in the first place and talking about it upset him. He felt guilty that he hadn’t been able to really help his Big Brother.
“Kiko, you did your best. Don’t worry about it. I’m glad he was able to help the Coast Guard find you though. I’d hate for you two to have been out there any longer.”
Hutch didn’t have a roommate, for which Starsky was grateful. He pulled up a chair and sat next to Hutch’s bed, reaching out to hold his hand. Hutch still felt hot, despite the medication he’d been given to reduce his fever. Starsky sighed and settled in for the wait, however long it was.
Kiko sounded much younger than seventeen when he asked, “Is he gonna be okay, Starsky?”
Starsky sounded as positive as he could. He didn’t want to scare the boy. “I hope so.”
“Hey, buddy,” Starsky said softly as he leaned closer to Hutch. He touched his forehead and frowned at the heat he felt. “Kiko and me are here. Kiko’s fine.”
Starsky turned to his young companion, hovering near the door, leaning on the wall. “Why don’t you go downstairs and see if you can’t get something to eat, buddy?”
“No way. I’m not goin’ till he wakes up.” Kiko sounded determined.
“Kiko, when was the last time you ate something?”
“I don’t know. Don’t try and make me go. I’m not going.”
Starsky shook his head. “I’m proud of you, Kiko. Hutch will be, too. Did you really use the cannon to hold off the bad guys?”
Kiko blushed. “Yeah. Estupido, huh? That sucker’s heavy, man!”
“Yeah, it’s heavy. Not stupid, but you could have gotten hurt. You know he’s gonna have something to say to you about that.”
“I know. I couldn’t let them hurt him though. What was I supposed to do?” Kiko sounded upset, remembering how scared he had been.
“Okay, okay. What did you do with the Magnum?”
“I put it with Hutch’s stuff. They took it downstairs. He didn’t have his holster.”
Starsky nodded and turned his attention back to the bed. Hutch was moving a little and he hoped that was a sign he would be waking up soon. When he settled down again, Starsky looked back at Kiko.
“Were ya scared?”
They laughed about that as Kiko went to sit in the other chair between the beds. They both held a tense vigil beside their friend. When Hutch’s nurse came into the room, they had to convince her the doctor gave them permission, but she was nice about it. She brought them both something to eat just before the captain and Mrs. Ramos arrived.
Marisa Ramos hugged her son hard enough and long enough to completely embarrass him in front of the other guys. He rolled his eyes and pleaded silently for Starsky to help.
“Uh, Marisa, you’re going to crush the boy,” Starsky said lightly.
She blushed and stood back, holding her son at arm’s length. “Lo siento, Mijo.”
“It’s okay, Mom. I’m okay. I’m just worried about Hutch.”
Starsky said, “You let me worry about Blondie, okay? He’ll be all right.”
Captain Dobey pulled Starsky out into the corridor to speak with him privately. He took down the information Kiko had provided about the thugs who killed Moxley.
“SDPD wants to speak to him, but I got them to wait a bit. I’ll take Kiko and Marisa down to headquarters in a while. I thought maybe Marisa could drive Hutch’s car back to Bay City after the interview. Then I’ll come back up here.”
Kiko didn’t like it, but he agreed to go down to the police station without argument. No one told him he’d be going back home afterward or they never would have pried him out of the hospital room. The follow- up scans on Hutch looked good, but his fever persisted. Starsky sat in Hutch’s room for hours; patiently waiting for him to wake up and he finally obliged his anxious partner in the early evening.
Starsky was stretching his legs, looking out the window when he heard Hutch’s soft voice calling him, “Starsky?”
He returned to Hutch’s side, taking his hand and saying, “Hey.”
Hutch’s eyes were fever bright and he looked confused. “What....”
“You’re in a hospital in San Diego. Do you remember anything?”
Hutch blinked and shook his head, wincing at the movement and closing his eyes tightly. Starsky patted his hand reassuringly and said, “Hey, you want me to call somebody?”
“No.” Hutch finally opened his eyes again and he looked panicked. “Kiko!”
“He’s fine. Don’t worry. Kiko doesn’t know what happened, but looks like you got clonked on the head again.”
“Kiko thinks you were lying out in that storm for a long time.” Starsky reached up to touch Hutch’s cheek – he felt a little cooler. “You have a fever, buddy.”
“Yeah. You sure Kiko’s okay?”
“Yup. He went down to SDPD with Dobey and his mom.”
“Guess you don’t remember the dead guy. Seeing the Coast Guard pull him off that helicopter first didn’t do my heart any good, buddy.”
“Dead guy?” Hutch looked confused and tried hard to remember. “Oh, yeah. Moxley.”
Hutch started to shiver. “I’m cold.”
Starsky grabbed the blanket off of the unoccupied bed and covered Hutch with it. “Maybe that’ll help. Hey, I should go let somebody know you’re awake.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Just gonna let the nurse know you’re awake. Rest. I’ll be back in a minute.” Starsky squeezed Hutch’s arm and left to speak with the nurse. He knew he could have just pushed the call button, but he wanted to ask what was going on with the fever and he didn’t want to worry his partner.
The nurse, an older woman in her 60’s, came back with him and felt Hutch's forehead, took his temperature and blood pressure and did a lot of clucking about him getting too excited. Then she smiled and patted Hutch's cheek. "I'm no doctor, honey, but I've been a nurse for 40 years and I'd say you're gonna be fine. Just rest up and be a good boy and you'll be good as new in a week or so."
Starsky tried unsuccessfully to suppress a grin, and Hutch didn't even try.
"Thanks," he said to the nurse.
"Want something to eat? We've got chicken for supper and I saved you some."
"That'd be terrific," Hutch said. When she brought the food, he ate with a good appetite and Starsky could actually see his color improve.
The nurse beamed at him when she saw the clean plate. "You keep eating like that, honey, and we'll have you out of here in a couple of days. You," she said to Starsky, "go away and let him sleep."
"But -- " Starsky started.
"But nothing, Blue Eyes," she said sternly, but with a twinkle in her eyes. "You think we can't take care of your friend? That's our job. Do as I say and I'll let you come back tomorrow."
looked at Hutch for help, but Hutch was laughing and that sight did Starsky's
heart good. "Okay," he said, pretending to pout. "But I'm goin'
"I don't care if you go under Santa Ana’s flag, sweetie, as long as you go," she said tartly, turning him around and giving him a gentle push in the direction of the door. "Scram. See you tomorrow. Visiting hours begin at 10 and not one second before, understand?"
Starsky stopped and turned on his heel military style to give her a salute. "Yes, sir. Ma'am."
Hutch was laughing out loud by this time and seemed to have forgotten his headache and his chills. Starsky knew he'd be in good hands here and left with no worries on his mind.
Hutch was released two days later and Starsky drove him home. Kiko had given
a statement to the San Diego police and Hutch had, too, though he didn't remember as much due to the bump on his head. The last thing he remembered
clearly was the storm. That would have worried Starsky enormously, but he'd talked to the sharp-tongued nurse, whom he trusted instinctively.
"Don't worry about that, honey," she said. "When you get a good bump on the head, hard enough to knock you out, you lose your short term memory. I've seen it happen many times. He's fine, I promise."
The doctor had prescribed a mild painkiller and it made Hutch sleepy enough that he dozed most of the way back to Bay City. Starsky woke him up in front of Venice Place, helped him upstairs and put him to bed.
Late that night, long after Starsky had gone to sleep on the couch, he was awakened by Hutch's voice. He sat bolt upright, wide-awake in an instant, and
hurried to Hutch's bedside. But Hutch wasn't awake. He'd called out in his sleep and seemed to be having a nightmare. Starsky knelt next to the bed and patted his cheek.
"Hutch. Wake up, buddy. Come on, wake up. You're dreamin'."
Hutch opened his eyes and blinked at Starsky for a moment. "Starsk?"
"You were havin' a nightmare," Starsky said. "You hollered."
Hutch rubbed his eyes. "Sure seemed real."
"Wanna talk about it?"
"The storm," Hutch said. "The boat. Those guys threatening me and Kiko and Kiko -- " His eyes widened. "Kiko had my gun. He backed them down with my gun."
Starsky nodded. "That's what really happened, buddy."
Hutch rubbed at his eyes again. "How many times've I told him not to touch my gun -- "
"Hundreds," Starsky said calmly. "But if he hadn't done it, who knows what those whippos might've done to the two of ya?"
Hutch thought about that. "Guess you're right."
"He did what he had to do, buddy," Starsky said. "Can't scold him for that. Shows he's growin' up. Becomin' a man. Takin' responsibility."
"And you had a lot to do with that," Starsky said.
Hutch looked at him.
"You did. He told me that himself in the hospital," Starsky said. "He's a good kid. Watched over ya when I wasn't there to do it myself. He told me he figured he'd better, or I'd whip his behind for not takin' care of ya for me." He grinned.
So did Hutch.