free web hosting | free hosting | Business WebSite Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting

Disclaimer: This story is written for entertainment purposes only.  No profit is being made from it.  No infringement on anyone’s copyright(s) is intended.

 

Next Year, We Go Trick-or-Treating

Written By Valerie Wells and Sue David

© 10/2001

 

If a certain day of the year could possibly be the worst day to be an emergency room worker, a fast food restaurant employee, or a cop, Halloween would have to be the one.  The other 364 days of the year held their surprises, especially during a full moon, but Halloween was special.  If it fell during the workweek, many people wore costumes during the day and this year Halloween was a Friday.  That made it more difficult to tell the people innocently in costumes from the ones wearing masks to avoid identification during a robbery. 

 

Starsky and Hutch had taken several calls on their beat already from people who were afraid they were about to be robbed at liquor stores, convenience stores, and food stands.  Late in the afternoon, one of the banks had a few tense moments when Jesse James walked in to make a deposit, but the security guards had that one resolved by the time the detectives came screaming into the parking lot, just ahead of the rest of the cavalry.

 

At around five o’clock, the two men were sitting in the Torino drinking sodas, trying to unjangle their already frayed nerves when the radio mike went off again. They had drawn a shift that would take them long past midnight and the fun was just beginning.

 

“Zebra 3, come in please.”

 

Hutch picked up the mike, “Zebra 3, go ahead.”

 

“We have a report of a stolen artifact at the Edwards Gallery on Euclid and 18th.”

 

“10-4, we’re rolling.  What kid of artifact?” Hutch wanted to prepare himself, based on how the afternoon had gone.

 

“Sort of a missing 187,” the dispatcher replied with a small chuckle.

 

“Come again?”

 

“Missing artifact is a mummy.”

 

“I’m sorry, dispatch, did you say a mummy?”

 

“Affirmative, Sergeant.  Don’t forget the Tanta leaves.”

 

Hutch hung up the mike and looked at his partner.  “Tanta leaves?”

 

Starsky smirked, “Yeah, Kristi’s a monster movie fan.  Remember... Boris Karloff, Tanta leaves?”

 

Hutch nodded, “Oh yeah, I remember.  Missing mummy, huh?  Geez, this day gets weirder every year.  Why aren’t we ever smart enough to take off on Halloween?”

 

“Come on, Hutch.  We always take this shift so two of the guys with kids can be off with them. You know that.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know.  Guess we’ll do it again next year, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.”

 

Starsky snickered at Hutch’s increasing ill temper as he cruised to the museum.  He popped a set of vampire fangs in his mouth and waggled his eyebrows at his partner.  Hutch rolled his eyes, but he had to laugh.  Starsky said, “They even glow in the dark!”

 

Hutch rewarded him with one of his small smiles and a barely audible, “Idiot.” 

 

The scene at the museum was calm.  They had closed their doors for the day at four.  The museum had a touring Egyptian artifacts exhibit in the house and the missing mummy was part of that exhibit.  The museum’s curator opened the locked glass doors to admit the detectives.  The tiny man was approximately sixty years old.  He wore thick, dark-rimmed glasses, and his face had the puckered look of someone who has just eaten an exceptionally sour lemon.

 

“Allen Richard Petimartin.” he said in a British accent as he extended his hand to each of the officers in turn.  “Museum Curator.”

 

Hutch started, “I’m Detective Hutchinson, and this is my partner, Detective Starsky.  We understand you have a missing artifact.”

 

“Yes, please follow me,” the man said.  He walked away from them, turning on lights as he went. His quick, bouncy step caused even Hutch to take long strides to keep up with him.  He continued to speak to them in agitated tones as they passed through rooms of ancient objects.

 

“We are just so upset.  She was here this afternoon.  Princess Anan’katah.  We discovered her missing when we did our final rounds before leaving for the night. Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Priceless, you know.  You have to find her.” 

 

Starsky shot an amused look at Hutch.  They went up a flight of stairs and entered a room filled with sarcophaguses and other larger items.  One of the ancient coffins was tipped over onto its side on the floor.  The glass case surrounding it was broken as if someone had smashed it from inside the enclosure.  Starsky took one look at it and glanced at his partner to say something.  Hutch anticipated him.

 

“Crime lab team. I’m on it. Mr. Petimartin, is there a phone in here I could use?” 

 

“Yes, there’s a phone at the security desk behind you.” 

 

Hutch turned and walked toward the desk.  He placed the call to Metro, ordering a lab team and some uniforms to guard the front of the museum.  He didn’t want the scene to turn into a Halloween fiasco outside when the additional personnel arrived. 

 

When he returned from placing his call, he heard Petimartin say, “We’ve only had the exhibit open for a day.  What ever am I going to tell the British Museum?  Oh, dear, oh, dear.  This IS a sticky wicket.”

 

Hutch suppressed a laugh, but couldn’t help smiling at his partner behind Petimartin’s back.  They knew this was a serious theft of a priceless item, but the Metro detectives were having difficulty maintaining straight faces throughout their interview with the excitable, older gentleman. 

 

“Mr. Petimartin,” Starsky started, “you said ‘we’ discovered the mummy missing.  Who was with you?”

 

“John Coldwell, he’s one of our security guards.”

 

Hutch said, “I’ll need to speak with him. Is he still here?”

 

“Yes, I’ll show you.  Will you be all right in here alone, Detective Hutchinson?” he asked Starsky. 

 

“I’m Starsky, he’s Hutchinson.  Yes, I’ll be just fine.”  He winked at Hutch when the older man turned away from him.  At least they were going to have a unique tale to tell Huggy over some brews after their shift.

 

Starsky cautiously walked around the enclosure, making observations about its current state. The room’s floor was covered with glass in large pieces and tiny shards.  He squatted down to take a closer look around the bottom of the enclosure.  That’s when he noticed some unexpected things.  A set of small, dusty handprints could be clearly seen on the floor next to the overturned sarcophagus.  Starsky put his own hands up and looked at them, much larger than the handprints.  They were spaced in what he thought was about the place where a person would have put hands out to brace a fall, if that person were lying in the sarcophagus.  The usually superstitious detective felt a shiver run up and down his back.  His eyes soon found a large clump of a gray, moldy, dust-like substance on the floor where the glass was broken.  Then, he noted a trail of a similar substance leading from the enclosure, mixed in with tiny glass pieces as if someone had walked through the broken glass and dragged some of it along.

 

Before he followed the trail, Starsky looked around for signs of how the thieves might have gotten into and out of the room.  The windows were too high and they faced the street.   Letting his eyes track the dusty substance, he followed it to a door in the back wall with a green, lighted “EXIT” sign above it.  He went toward it, noting that it didn’t seem to be alarmed, and he tried the knob.  The door opened into darkness.  Starsky took a tentative step into the room, feeling for a light switch.  He didn’t find one, but he found something else. 

 

When he took another step or two along the wall to find the switch, he put his hand on someone’s broad chest.

 

“Hey!” he exclaimed, but before he could pull his gun or react in any other way, that someone grabbed his wrist and forearm, flinging him easily across the room. He crashed into a stack of unseen boxes.  The cardboard boxes rained down on Starsky, making lots of racket.  The sound of footsteps retreating into the darkness was immediately followed by a patch of streetlight appearing at the back of the room as Starsky’s assailant opened the exterior door and fled down the fire escape.

 

Mr. Petimartin and Hutch were walking back toward the sarcophagus room with Coldwell when they heard Starsky’s muffled shout along with the crash.  Hutch drew his Magnum and called his partner’s name as he barreled through the room toward the dark, open doorway.

 

“Starsky!” he called again as he skidded to a stop beside the door.

 

“I’m all right.” Starsky’s voice in the darkness sounded far away. “Can you help me get this stuff off?”

 

Hutch spun around to find the curator and the security guard coming up behind him as he put his gun back in its holster.  He couldn’t find the lights either.  “Where’s the light switch!” he demanded.

 

Coldwell answered, “Sorry, old building.  They put it on the wrong side of the door.”  He stepped around the blond detective and the door, snapping on the lights. 

 

Hutch looked toward where he had heard Starsky’s voice.  He was dismayed to see a pile of boxes and packing crates in a tumbled stack, and one blue Adidas sticking out from near the bottom.

 

“Starsk! You okay in there?” he asked as he advanced on the stack.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine.  Why do we always run into so many boxes and barrels?” he asked with a reassuring chuckle. 

 

Coldwell said, “Lemme help,” as he stepped up and helped Hutch move the items.

 

“Oh, do be careful!” Petimartin fretted.  “Some of those containers might contain breakables.”

 

Hutch ignored him.  “What happened?”

 

He finally reached the last box and uncovered his disheveled partner.  Starsky put up his right hand for Hutch’s help, and the blond noticed a red mark on his wrist and a large, dusty handprint on his forearm.

 

“Some jamoke grabbed me and gave me a toss.” Starsky jerked his head back toward the door, adding with a wince, “Must'a gone out the back door.”

 

Petimartin protested, “But that door is alarmed, Detective.  Why didn’t it go off when he opened it?”

 

“Good question,” Hutch remarked as he assessed his slightly damaged cohort.

 

Starsky rubbed the back of his neck and rolled his shoulders.  Hutch put a hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eyes, clearly reading the “I’m okay, Blintz,” that appeared there.  He nodded his acceptance and turned back to the curator. 

 

“I’m going out back, will you please take Detective Starsky back to the front?  I’m sure the other units are here by now.” 

 

The detectives exchanged a “be careful/you too” glance as they separated.

 

“Certainly.  Oh, my.  Are you sure you aren’t hurt?” Petimartin asked solicitously as they walked back through the door. 

 

“Just my pride.”

 

Drawing his gun again, Hutch went out the back door.  After it closed, he tried it and found it locked.  He went down the fire escape, looking at the surroundings as he descended.  Not seeing so much as a car in the back lot, he holstered the Magnum. 

 

As he rounded the corner of the building to go back to the front entrance, Hutch saw that the other units had arrived.  Starsky was talking to man in a rumpled, off-white suit wearing a straw hat with a black band.  The man had a camera around his neck on a strap and he was arguing with Starsky.  “But you’re not listening to me, Detective.  I’ve been following Princess Anan’katah’s exhibit for a month.  I had to be where she was on Halloween night.”

 

“Look, Mr....” Starsky said.

 

“Kolchak.  Carl Kolchak.  I’m a reporter and sort of a paranormal investigator.”

 

“Look, Mr. Kolchak, this is just a normal theft.  Nothing paranormal about it.”

 

Hutch took the argumentative reporter by the elbow and escorted him to one of the uniforms.

 

“Is she gone?” he kept demanding while the uniformed officer took some information down from him.  Hutch shook his head and walked back toward Starsky. 

 

“They sure come out of the woodwork fast.”

 

“Really. What’dya make of that scene in there?  How you figure they busted that enclosure from the inside out?”

 

“Let’s go back and have another look.”

 

The detectives went inside and Starsky showed the handprints and dusty, glass littered trail to Hutch.  He pulled out his little notebook and scribbled down a few things.  The crime lab team was taking pictures and dusting for prints.  They motioned it was okay for the detectives to enter the enclosure and Starsky walked around the back of the sarcophagus. 

 

“Hutch, take a look at this,” he said, pointing to the wooden stand the sarcophagus had rested on before it was upturned. “Looks like a panel where someone might have hidden, doesn’t it?” 

 

“Yep.  Okay, let’s hit it.  The lab team will get the rest.”

 

Before they left the museum, they interviewed Mr. Petimartin and Mr. Coldwell about their whereabouts, the time they noticed the missing mummy, any strangers they may have seen lurking about, etc.  They discussed how the exhibit had been staged and learned that they had only finished setting up just before time to open that morning.  The detectives left them a business card and asked them to call if they thought of anything else.  They went back to the car and started cruising their beat again.  By now, the trick-or-treaters were out in full force and they decided not to return to the precinct until the kids were back at home.  Starsky turned the car up into the hills to cruise the residential streets that crisscrossed their territory.

 

~*~*~*~

 

"Wonder why they didn't have a separate alarm on that Egyptian stuff, if it's so valuable," Starsky remarked.

 

"Good question," Hutch said. "I have another good question. Who the hell would want a mummy? And what would you do with it if you had it?"

 

Starsky shrugged, grinning at the same time as he spotted a miniature vampire scurrying down a sidewalk, already loaded down with candy. He touched Hutch's arm and nodded in the child's direction. "There goes Bela Lugoosi Jr."

 

"Lugosi," Hutch corrected automatically. "Why would anyone want a mummy?"

 

"Maybe the mummy escaped," Starsky suggested, deadpan. "I mean, it did look like it busted out from the inside."

 

Hutch didn't even dignify that remark by answering it. Instead, he frowned thoughtfully and stared out the window, looking at, but not really seeing the increasing numbers of little Trick-or-Treaters. Some of the adults were dressed in costume, also, escorting the children. He rolled his eyes at one rather rotund woman dressed as a belly dancer. "Some things," he said to his partner, "are best left covered up."

 

Starsky chuckled. "Tolerance, buddy."

 

The radio beeped. "Zebra Three."

 

Hutch groaned. "Now what?" He answered, "Zebra Three," his weariness evident in his voice.

 

"Disturbance at Cowgill and Lyle," the dispatcher said. "Complainant reports someone scared some children out trick-or-treating. House is empty, number 1490."

 

"Are the people still at the scene?"

 

"Affirmative," the dispatcher said.

 

"On our way," Hutch said with a sigh. Starsky turned the car in that direction. They were just a couple of blocks away and it only took a few moments to get there.

 

In the yard of the house next door to the empty house in question, four little kids, dressed variously as Darth Vader, a fireman, a police officer and a ballerina, waited with a young woman in her early 20s. The ballerina was crying, and the fireman and cop, little twin boys about seven years old, looked like they wanted to cry but were trying not to. They couldn't see Vader's face because of his mask. Hutch approached the young woman and showed her his badge. "What happened?"

 

"We were walking past that house," she said, indicating the empty one. "Nobody's lived in it as long as I can remember. We heard some horrible sounds coming from inside. Groaning and stuff. Cindy," she stroked the hair of the little ballerina, who was clinging to her leg, "screamed, and then we heard this horrible laughing. I suppose it's somebody playing a sick joke -- it is Halloween, after all -- but it scared the kids half to death, Officer, and I thought I'd better call."

 

"Who are you?" Hutch asked, scribbling in his notebook. He glanced toward Starsky, who had crouched next to the twins and was absorbed in making them laugh. He grinned a little, and turned back to the young woman.

 

"Debbie Robinson," she answered. "These are my stepsisters and brothers. We live here," she indicated the house behind them.

 

Hutch glanced at Darth Vader, who hadn't moved or spoken. Debbie had said "stepsisters," so this one must be a little girl. "Would you take your mask off, sweetheart?" he asked.

 

No response. The twin dressed as a cop poked Darth in the side. "Take your head off, moron."

 

"No," came the muffled answer. "Lord Vader cannot breathe without the breath mask."

 

Starsky grinned up at Hutch. He tried it himself. "He can," he said, trying for a serious face, "but only for a few minutes at a time. The Force will protect Lord Vader long enough for us to cope with this threat to the Empire."

 

After another moment, "Lord Vader" finally lifted off the contraption, revealing a very red-faced, sweaty and rumpled little girl of 9 or 10.

 

"What did you hear from in there?" Starsky asked, pointing toward the empty house.

 

"Sounded like somebody was using the mind probe on him," she said.

 

"That bad, huh?" Starsky asked. "Did you think it was a man or a woman?"

 

"A man," she said. "Definitely a man."

 

Starsky glanced at Debbie. "What did you think?"

 

Debbie nodded. "She's right. It was a man."

 

"Did you see anybody leave?" Hutch asked.

 

The little girl shook her head.

 

"Aw, she can't see outta that thing," the twin dressed as a cop said. "Stupid costume."

 

"It is NOT!" she howled, smacking him. Debbie intervened and dragged her over out of her brother's reach.

 

"Lord Vader," Starsky said, this time keeping a straight face, though Hutch could see how difficult it was for him, "permission to search the premises?"

 

She studied him as if trying to decide whether to take him seriously. Finally, she said, "I think you'd better."

 

Starsky rose. "Comin', partner?"

 

"Yeah." Hutch added to Debbie, "Wait here for us."

 

She nodded, and he went back to the Torino for a flashlight before joining Starsky at the empty house. The door was ajar, and they entered cautiously, guns in hand. The living room was deserted and dusty. The first bedroom was empty, too, but in the kitchen, huddled in a corner, they found two teen-age boys, whose white faces got even whiter when they saw the guns.

 

"All right," Hutch said, "what've you got to say for yourselves?"

 

Starsky showed his badge. "We've already got ya for trespassing," he said. "Wanna try for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest and some other stuff we'll come up with?"

 

Both shook their heads.

 

"We were just -- " one of them started, then seemed to think better of it and shut up.

 

"You were just what?" Starsky leaned over and got one of them by the arm and hauled him to his feet. The other stood up on his own. Starsky patted down one of them and Hutch patted down the other, but neither had any weapons.

 

"It was just a joke," the first one said. "We didn't mean to scare the kids. Honest."

 

"You hide in an empty house and make scary noises on Halloween, and you didn't mean to scare the kids?" Starsky said skeptically. "Sure."

 

"No, really," the second one said.

 

Starsky gave the first one a little push. "Out. Show yourselves to those poor kids out there."

 

The two detectives escorted the boys outside and presented them to Debbie and the children.

 

"Here's your ghost," Hutch said to Cindy.

 

She glared up at them. "That was mean!"

 

Both the boys had the grace to look embarrassed.

 

"What do you want us to do with them?" Starsky asked the child, kneeling in front of her. "We can arrest them and take them to jail."

 

The first of the teen-agers made a sound in his throat. Hutch poked him to make him shut up. He knew he and Starsky weren't going to waste time arresting and booking a couple of boys playing a prank, but it didn't hurt to let the boys think they were going to.

 

"I think they need spankins," Cindy said.

 

"I agree," Starsky said. "Don't you, Hutch?"

 

"At the very least," Hutch said.

 

"Tell ya what," Starsky said, "you and the others go finish trick-or-treating, and me and Hutch here'll take care of spanking these two. That okay with you?"

 

Cindy nodded. "Thank you."

 

He grinned and stroked her hair. "Just doin' our jobs, baby. Have fun, now, okay?"

 

"Okay." She gave him a bright smile, took Debbie's hand, and waved as they headed off down the sidewalk.

 

As soon as they were out of earshot, Starsky turned on the two boys. "I'm tempted to take her suggestion," he said to them. "What you two need is a good spanking. But we'll settle for you getting your tails home and behaving yourselves. We could escort you and inform your folks of what you've been doin'. How would you like that? The cops bringing you home?"

 

The boys glanced at each other and both swallowed hard.

 

"That's what I thought," Starsky said. "Now get the hell out of here, and I better never see either of you again." Both boys shot down the sidewalk and out of sight as if jet-propelled.

 

"How many hours till we're off work?" Hutch asked with a groan, putting the flashlight in his jacket pocket.

 

"Too many," Starsky said, starting for the car. Halfway there, he froze. Hutch bumped into him.

 

"What?" Hutch was already reaching for his gun.

 

"Didja see that?" Starsky asked, his voice shaking.

 

"What?" Hutch demanded, drawing his gun and looking all around. At the moment, the street was deserted. Not even any kids were on the sidewalk in view.

 

"Over there," Starsky hissed, pointing to an alley between the streets. "I thought I saw -- "

 

"You thought you saw what?" Hutch stared at him.

 

"The mummy," Starsky said finally. "Ducking into that alley."

 

"Oh, for God's sake," Hutch said. "It was somebody in costume, Starsk. It's Halloween, remember?" He put his gun away and gave Starsky a little nudge. "Get in the car, dummy."

 

Their next call was to a gas station that had been held up by someone dressed as a clown. The proprietor couldn't give them much of a description because the makeup and wig had thoroughly disguised the perp. He couldn't even tell them if the person was black, white, Hispanic, or Martian. Starsky interviewed the man while Hutch prowled around outside, hoping to find a clue of some sort.

 

He was peering behind a Dumpster when he felt a cold hand on his arm. The night had turned exceptionally warm, and he'd taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. "Starsky," he said impatiently, "I thought...." His voice trailed away when he turned and saw no one there. "Starsky?"

 

The parking lot was deserted. His heart started beating a little faster, and he looked around the area. He had definitely felt someone touch his arm, but he hadn't heard anyone approach or leave.

 

Must've been my imagination, he told himself, forcing his feet to carry him back to the Dumpster to finish canvassing the area. He was peering inside it -- people had been known to hide in these things -- when he felt the hand on his arm again. He whirled.

 

No one was there.

 

Then, so softly he would have missed it had there been any other noise to drown it out, he heard weeping. It sounded like it was coming from right behind him, heartbroken weeping. But no one was there.

 

A trickle of sweat rolled down his temple and his heart was most definitely thumping hard now. He sternly told himself he was imagining things, but the weeping went on and on and then he felt a coldness pass by him, as if he'd just opened a freezer door. He reached for his gun.

 

"Hutch?"

 

He let out a gasp of terror and whirled, but it was Starsky.

 

"Hey," Starsky said, holding up his hands. "What's wrong?"

 

"Nothing," Hutch said, bringing himself under control with an effort and putting his gun away.

 

Starsky frowned. "Tell me."

 

"I said it was nothing!" Hutch stalked past him and headed back for the front. "You done here? Let's go."

 

Starsky looked with concern at his clearly spooked partner’s tense back and shoulders as he walked away from him.  He glanced around to see what could have put Hutch on edge but he saw nothing to account for it.  The only sounds that greeted him were traffic noises and the soft, slightly distant laughter of children trick-or-treating on the residential streets behind the station.  “Hm.”

 

Planning to push Hutch a little further for an answer, he was not allowed that luxury.  As he approached the car, he could hear that Hutch was calling them back in as available.  The dispatcher already had another call for them.

 

“Citizens complaining of teenagers throwing eggs and harassing trick-or-treaters in the 1800 block of Hall.”

 

“10-4, we are responding. ETA, one minute.”

 

“More teenagers?  Right around the corner,” Starsky remarked as he swung out into traffic. 

 

~*~*~*~

 

He drove down to the next cross street and turned up into the residential neighborhood.  Within Hutch’s estimated minute, they were pulling up to park on the dark, tree-lined street.  As they got out of the car, they were greeted by what sounded like rapid gunfire.  Both men got down behind the open doors of the Torino and pulled their guns.  They could hear children screaming in fear.

 

“Police!” Hutch shouted, “Freeze or I’ll fire!”

 

Neither man could clearly make out the dark figures huddled near the middle of the block and they had no desire to open fire on a street where innocent children and their parents were out for Halloween.  They could tell that the figures had stopped moving and, in the eerie, mercury vapor streetlight glow, they saw three people walking into the middle of the street with their hands up in the air.

 

A barely post-pubescent sounding male voice said, “Don’t shoot, man, it’s just firecrackers!”

 

Both detectives’ hearts were racing.  The sound of rapid gunfire would forever bring to mind images of a day in the Metro police garage that was forever seared into their memories - especially in Hutch’s memory. 

 

“Cover me,” Hutch said as he stood from his crouched position and slowly walked toward the three youngsters. 

 

Starsky watched until Hutch signaled for him to come up and join him.  Hutch held his gun on the three boys while Starsky separated them, put them into position on some parked cars and searched each one.  When he was finished, he ordered them all to sit on the street with their backs to one car while Hutch paced back and forth in front of them like a tiger.  He hadn’t put his gun back in his holster yet and he gave a small nod to Starsky, who started his lecture.  Hutch was not amused by this prank.

 

“You see my partner there?” Starsky asked incredulously.

 

All three boys nodded rapidly, eyes wide with fright as they watched the blond detective - and his unholstered gun. 

 

Starsky raised his voice and did his best drill sergeant impression, oblivious to the small crowd of people gathering on the sidewalk on both sides of the street.  “I can’t hear you!”

 

The three boys murmured “Yeah.”

 

This time, Starsky screamed at them, “I SAID I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

 

“Yes, sir!” the three said forcefully. 

 

“That’s better.  You see that gun my partner is holding?” 

 

Three voices answered in unison, “Yes, sir.”

 

“Big, isn’t it?”

 

They all nodded rapidly again.

 

“You three could be dead right now.”

 

One thin and frightened voice said, “Dead?”

 

Hutch spoke his first word to them since Starsky had lined them up,  “DEAD.”

 

Hearing the boys gulp in fright, Starsky added,  “Don’t you know firecrackers are illegal?” He held up the contraband he had retrieved from the boys in one hand, and the lighter one of them had in the other.  He had also retrieve two packs of cigarettes from them.  He shook his head, softly whistling through his teeth.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Hutch holstered the Magnum, but he continued to pace, breathing heavily.

 

“Those firecrackers sure sounded like automatic gunfire, boys.” Starsky said, his voice dangerous.  “My partner and me, we don’t like the sound of automatic gunfire.  Isn’t that right, Hutch?”

 

Hutch shook his head in agreement, turned to glare at the three teenagers and said, “No, we don’t.”

 

Starsky did his best to keep his expression angry as he noticed a puddle spreading under one of the boys as he wet his pants.  Hutch was scary when he had that look on his face - extra intimidating in the streetlight and moving shadows cast by trees blowing in the light Santa Ana wind.

 

“I’m going back over to our car and I’m gonna call a juvenile unit for you three.  Hutch, keep an eye on them.”

 

“I won’t let them out of my sight,” Hutch replied, his voice low and tight.

 

Starsky walked back to the Torino, telling parents and trick-or-treaters to go about their evening as he passed.  He chuckled at the parents’ voices he could hear.

 

“You see that? Those cops scared the piss outta that kid,” one parent muttered to another as they passed.

 

“It’s good for ‘em.  Punks,” came the answer.

 

They only had to wait a few minutes for a juvenile unit to show up for the boys.  Hutch walked back to the Torino leaving his partner to turn over the kids and their toys while he checked them back in as available.  The man who had called in the report came out of his house and met Starsky and the other officers to tell them what he had seen.  As Hutch walked down the dark sidewalk, he felt a hand on his arm again and he froze in his tracks.  Suddenly cold, he listened and clearly heard the sound of weeping.

 

Spinning around to look up and down the dark street, he asked, “Who’s there?”  No one answered him.  He had a flashlight in his pocket and he shined it up and down the street.  A ghost and a Jedi Knight passed him with their mother.  “Evening, ma’am, kids” he said softly.  He could see she wasn’t the one who had been crying a few seconds ago. 

 

The mother nodded at him as she passed with her kids. 

 

He took a few more steps toward the car when he felt the air in front of him turn cold, simultaneously with the touch on his arm and again accompanied by a quiet voice that said, “Help me.”

 

“Starsky!” he shouted to his partner. 

 

The man in question finished talking to the others and jogged toward Hutch.  He could hear the edginess in his partner’s voice.

 

“You okay?” he asked as he approached. 

 

“Did you hear that?”

 

“Hear what?”

 

Hutch paused and listened closely.  Starsky watched him in quiet fascination.  The sound, and the cold were gone.  Hutch shook his head and said, “I’m imagining things.”  He started forward and Starsky put his hand out to touch him on the arm, causing Hutch to jump.

 

“Hey, what’s going on with you?”

 

“Nothing, sorry.” Hutch muttered after he settled down again.

 

“No way, buddy, that makes twice tonight.  Something spooking you?” Starsky’s voice spoke of concern without a hint of sarcasm. 

 

Hutch sighed and said, “I keep hearing this sound.  Like a woman crying.”

 

“You heard it at the last call, too, huh?”

 

“Yeah.  I felt someone touch my arm and the air got cold.  Geez, I feel like I’m telling you about one of your late, late shows.”  Hutch chuckled at himself.

 

“You puttin’ me on, buddy?”

 

“No, I swear I’m not.  I’m also not teasing you about your mummy again.” They both laughed at that.

 

“Don’t be hasty, I might see her again.”

 

“Well, at least she didn’t talk to you.  My crying woman did.  I think she said ‘help me’.”

 

Starsky’s mouth dropped open a little and both men started walking the rest of the way toward the car.  Hutch reached over and shut Starsky’s mouth with his finger.  “Might catch a bug that way.”  They both laughed again, the tension broken.

 

As they got back into the car, Hutch said,  “I used to love kids, Starsk.  Not tonight.”

 

Starsky laughed.  “They don’t like you much either.  You scared that one kid so bad, he pissed his pants!  I think it’s just there are more teenagers than little kids in this neighborhood.  At least we got three more of them off the street so the little guys can have a nice evening.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  I still like kids.  I don’t like firecrackers.  Not sure I’ll ever like them again.”

 

Starsky patted him on the arm, knowing why Hutch felt that way.  “I know.  Maybe we’ll get a nice, normal call next time.  No kids.  Maybe no more ghosts or mummies, either.”

 

In another hour, the little ones would all be back home where they belonged.  That would result in a reduction in the nuisance calls and in the low-crime calls.  Unfortunately, Halloween night after nine often saw an increase in more serious crimes.  They decided they’d better go get some dinner before that happened.

 

“What’s it gonna be, Blintz.  Healthy or junk?  You pick.”

 

Hutch thought about it for a moment and said, “I think I’m in the mood for a giant hamburger, believe it or not.  How about we swing into Huggy’s for a couple of specials?”

 

Starsky reached over and put his hand on Hutch’s forehead, “You sick?”

 

Hutch batted it away.  “No, I just don’t feel like rabbit food tonight, that okay with you?”

 

“Don’t get snippy.  Your wish is my command.”

 

“When was it ever?”

 

Starsky laughed at him as he drove back down to the gas station where they’d taken the other call.  He called them in on a break and then went to use the pay phone, while Hutch slipped into the station to speak with the owner. Starsky planned to order their food ahead, but the line at The Pits was busy, even though he tried a few times.  They’d have to place their order in person.

 

“You find something already, Officer?” the owner asked with hope in his eyes as Hutch walked toward him.

 

“No, but I have a question for you.”

 

“Sure.”

 

“This is probably gonna sound a little strange.  I was wondering if you’ve ever....” Hutch trailed off, blushing a little.  He wasn’t sure how to ask his question without sounding like an idiot.

 

The man behind the counter smiled at him.  “You heard Jean, didn’t you?”

 

“Jean?”

 

“Jean Rayburn.”

 

Hutch furrowed his brow, knowing that name sounded familiar.  Before he could ask, the owner said, “Jean Rayburn was an actress in the late ‘40s and early ‘50’s.  She’s our resident ghost.”

 

“What?” Hutch couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

 

The man called to a mechanic, who had his head stuck under the hood of a brown Dodge Dart, “Ed, watch the front.  I’ll be right back.”

 

“Sure boss,” came Ed’s reply.

 

“Come with me, Detective.”

 

The man walked out and started around the back of the building with Hutch close behind him.  Starsky hung up the phone as they passed and he fell into step behind his partner, who was looking at him with a quizzical expression.  When they were back by the dumpster, the man told his story.

 

“Gentlemen, this station has been here for years.  It’s one of the older ones in Bay City.  Years ago, when the neighborhood was younger, lots of fashionable people lived here.  One of them was an actress named Jean Rayburn.”

 

“Hey,” Starsky said, “wasn’t she in ‘Night of the Martian Invaders’?”  That particular movie was one of his favorites.  A cult classic, and the busty platinum blonde had been one of its stars.

 

“Yup, that was her.  She used to live right up there,” he said as he pointed back toward the neighborhood.  “Halloween night in 1952, she went for a walk and she got grabbed.  A man dragged her back behind this station here and tried to rape her.  She started screaming stuff like ‘help me’ and ‘police’ at the top of her lungs.  Someone in those houses back there called the cops, but they got here too late.  The lady who called it in told the cops she heard someone running away and then a woman crying.  Poor thing was stabbed and she bled to death before the cops got here.”

 

“I don’t believe this,” Hutch said.

 

Starsky added, “You’re kidding, right?”

 

The man shook his head no and pushed hard on the wheeled dumpster, moving it out of the way.  The detectives looked at the dark stains on the lower part of the wall and the ground underneath the dumpster when the man pointed to them, saying, “Never have been able to get those stains completely out of there.  My dad tried a bunch of times.  His station back then.  He even repainted and resurfaced the lot.  They always come back, though.  I just stuck the dumpster on top of them.”

 

Hutch looked at Starsky, his eyes full of disbelief.  “She died on Halloween?”

 

“Yup.  Lotta people have heard her here, mostly on Halloween.  I guess she’s still looking for help.”

 

The detectives stepped back as they watched the man roll the trash container back into its regular spot.  Even Starsky was stunned by the information.  He’d always loved scary movies, but the idea that this woman’s ghost was shadowing his partner was unsettling.

 

“Well, thanks.  Come on, Hutch, Huggy’s line was busy.  We have still have to order.”

 

“Yeah.  Thanks a lot.  We’ll let you know when we have something for you on your case.”

 

The man shook their hands and said as he walked them back to their car, “I know it’s freaky, but she’s harmless.  Kind of a shock at first, but we sort of think of her like our station mascot.  Too bad she’s not at peace.”  He walked back inside the station.   Starsky pulled out of the parking lot, pointing the big car’s nose toward Huggy’s bar.  Both men were silent for a few minutes.

 

"So what d'you make of that?" Starsky finally asked.

 

Hutch was staring out the window and he didn't turn his head when he replied, "I think it's a bunch of crap."

 

"But Hutch -- "

 

"Starsky, there is no such thing as a ghost!" Hutch turned and glared at him. "There must be some perfectly logical explanation for -- " He broke off whatever he was going to say and Starsky slammed on the brakes.

 

The mummy had just darted out from behind a pickup truck and run across the street in front of them, not 50 yards away. Starsky was out of the car and running, pulling his gun free of its holster as he ran, before Hutch could even get his car door open. As soon as he did, however, he followed Starsky.

 

The shadows were deep here, with tall trees on both sides of the street and few streetlights. Hutch lost sight of Starsky a couple of times as his partner ran between houses and up an alley, but he finally caught up with him a couple of blocks away. Starsky was leaning against a fence, panting.

 

"Lost 'er," he said between breaths. "Almost had 'er," he paused and took a few deep breaths, "back there. Even grabbed her arm. But she got away and took off through there." He pointed.

 

Hutch put his gun away. "It was somebody in costume."

 

"Oh, yeah?" Starsky demanded. "Then what's this?" He opened his right hand. On the palm, under a coating of dust, was an ancient coin. "Fell out of the bandages when she jerked away from me."

 

Hutch picked up the coin and examined it with the flashlight he still had. It was definitely old. "This doesn't mean a thing," he said, but his voice didn't quite have the conviction it had had before.

 

Starsky took the coin back and slipped it into his pocket. "We'll ask the curator of that museum," he said. "Then we'll see."

 

They walked back to the car, still sitting in the middle of the street. An elderly man was standing on his porch.

 

"Evening, sir," Starsky said, pulling his badge out to show him. "Sorry about this. We were pursuing a suspect."

 

The man narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Never saw a police car like that," he harrumphed, turning and going back into his house, slamming the door behind him.

 

Hutch chuckled. "Let's get out of this neighborhood while we still can," he said. "The natives don't like us."

 

"Really," Starsky said, getting in and starting the motor. They drove to Huggy's with no further conversation. Both were still a bit winded from chasing the mummy, and both were also tired from their busy night.

 

Huggy's crowd was thinner than usual, but it was still busy enough that they had to wait a few minutes to get their friend's attention. He finally strolled over to them, eyebrows up. "You two look like you seen a ghost," he said cheerfully.

 

Hutch groaned without meaning to.

 

"Busy night, huh?" Huggy asked.

 

"He has seen a ghost," Starsky said. "Or heard it, actually. Only he don't believe in her."

 

Huggy stared at Starsky. "Come again?"

 

Starsky explained about Jean Rayburn as Huggy's eyes grew bigger and bigger. Hutch ignored them both and found himself a seat at the bar.

 

"Wow," Huggy finally said when Starsky had finished. "And now she's followin' Blondie around? Man, oh, man."

 

Starsky nodded. "We gotta get rid of her somehow, but I can't think of any way to get rid of a ghost."

 

"Me, neither," Huggy said. "But I'll think on it. Maybe I'll remember somethin' I've read or heard. So what d'you guys want tonight?"

 

"Two Huggy Specials," Hutch said. "And no more talk of ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties, or things that go bump in the night, if you please, Huggy."

 

"Sure, Hutch," Huggy said innocently. He gave Angie their order and left the bar to wait on other customers.

 

While they were eating, Hutch felt it again. The cold hand on his arm. The cold air passing by as if there were a draft. He stopped in the middle of a bite and his face paled. Starsky, busy flirting with Diane, didn't notice at first. Then, so softly it should have been lost in the din of voices and music, Hutch heard that quiet, sobbing, "Help me...."

 

Starsky dropped his hamburger onto his plate. "Did you hear that?" he hissed to Hutch.

 

Hutch opened his mouth, intending to say, "Hear what?" but what came out instead was, "You heard it, too? It's not just me?"

 

"Help me...."

 

Starsky swallowed hard. Hutch tried, but failed, to discount it this time. Not if his partner heard it, too.

 

"What -- what should we do?" Starsky asked, his voice a little unsteady.

 

Hutch shook his head. He'd lost his appetite and he pushed his plate away. So did Starsky. "Let's get out of here," Hutch said.

 

Starsky dug some money out of his pocket and handed it to Diane. "Tell Huggy we had to go," he told her. She took the money and waved goodnight as they hurried outside to the car.

 

"Maybe if we went back to that gas station," Starsky began, but Hutch made a sound of such disgust that he stopped. "Well, I don't know!" Starsky flared. "You want her hangin' around the rest of your life?"

 

"No," Hutch snapped. "But I keep telling you -- "

 

Very clearly, so clearly that neither of them would have been able to pretend they didn't hear it this time, a woman's choked voice pleaded, "Help me, please, somebody, help me!"

 

Starsky swallowed hard. When he looked at Hutch, his face was as white as a sheet. And finally he remembered something he'd read in a book long ago. "Talk to her, Hutch," he whispered. "Ask her what she wants."

 

Hutch stared at him incredulously. "Are you kid--"

 

"Please, somebody, help me!"

 

Hutch wet his lips nervously. Both of them could feel the coldness in the air. Finally, feeling silly but also scared silly, Hutch said, "We're police officers, Miss Rayburn. How can we help you?"

 

"We gotta go back to that gas station," Starsky said. "That's where it happened."

 

"How do you know that?" Hutch demanded.

 

"You always gotta go back to the scene of the crime," Starsky said, starting the car with perfect confidence. "Trust me."

 

Hutch sighed. But he didn't protest -- and the temperature inside the car stayed cold, in spite of the warmth of the evening -- as Starsky drove back to the gas station, closed now that it was getting late. They got out of the car and walked back to the dumpster. Hutch shivered a little, partly from the fear that he refused to acknowledge.

 

"Talk to her again, Hutch," Starsky said. "Tell her what you said before."

 

Hutch suppressed a sigh and spoke to the dumpster. "Miss Rayburn? We're police officers. How can we help you?"

 

He felt that cold hand on his arm and the temperature around him and Starsky dropped another few degrees. In spite of himself, his teeth were all but chattering from fright. Starsky's face was white to the lips, but he held his ground, too. Then the hand was withdrawn and the temperature returned to normal.

 

"I think she's gone," Hutch whispered, hardly trusting his own voice.

 

"I think you're right," Starsky said. "Maybe that's all she wanted, was for a couple of cops to acknowledge her."

 

"This is nuts," Hutch said, though his voice betrayed his real feelings.

 

Starsky shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not. Come on. Let's get back to work. I got a feeling your ghost has gone."

 

~*~*~*~

 

When they called back in to report that they were available, the dispatcher said, "Notice of a disturbance at the Alpha Gamma Zeta fraternity. A loud party. Complainant reports underaged drinking."

 

"Terrific," Starsky muttered, as Hutch glanced at his watch and gave the dispatcher their estimated arrival at the fraternity house and asked for a second unit to meet them there.

 

"Don't college kids study anymore?" Hutch asked.

 

"Did they ever?" Starsky replied with a chuckle. "I'll bet you attended a beer party or two in your college days, Blintz."

 

"Maybe one or two," Hutch admitted with a grin.

 

"And I'll bet you weren't old enough to drink, either."

 

"Nope," Hutch said. "My folks would've killed me if they'd known."

 

"That's what I thought." Starsky wheeled the Torino into the curb outside the fraternity, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. Sure enough, loud music and voices were coming out of all the open windows, and one very intoxicated young man had passed out on the front lawn. Starsky nudged him gently with the toe of his Adidas, but the kid never moved. "You're gonna feel like hell in the morning," Starsky said to him. He and Hutch went on up the steps and Starsky banged on the door. "Police!" he bellowed over the noise. "This is a raid!"

 

Hutch snickered.

 

"I always wanted to say that," Starsky whispered with a grin.

 

Sudden silence fell inside as someone shut off the stereo and a very scared face peered through the window at them. The second unit, a marked car, pulled up outside just as another young man came to the door, trying mightily to appear sober and failing utterly.

 

"Y-yes, sir? Can I help you?"

 

Starsky showed his badge. "We had a complaint," he said sternly. "You're too loud."

 

"I'm sorry," the student said. "We'll keep it down."

 

"We were also told," Starsky went on, "that you've got underage kids in here drinking."

 

"Oh, no, sir!" the kid protested. "Everyone who's drinking is of age."

 

"Really. I'd like to see for myself," Starsky said. "Who are you, by the way? Show me some ID."

 

"I'm the chapter president," the kid said, digging around in his pants pocket and finally producing a driver’s license. "Carl Hall."

 

"He's old enough," Starsky said to Hutch, handing him the ID. "But that kid out there," he jerked a thumb over his shoulder to the passed-out boy on the lawn, "sure don't look 21 to me."

 

Carl looked out and his face went a shade whiter. "Uh oh."

 

"And some of these kids," Starsky said, gesturing inside, where several of the partiers had gathered, "don't look old enough, either."

 

"They are!" Carl protested. "They all are."

 

"We'll need proof of that," Starsky said. While he'd been talking, one of the uniformed officers had found an ID on the passed-out kid.

 

"This one's only 18," he called up to Starsky and Hutch on the porch. "And he reeks of beer."

 

That was enough to give them probable cause to go inside. Between the four officers, they checked IDs on all 20 of the kids inside and found at least half of them weren't old enough to drink. That meant the ones who were had provided alcohol to minors. And in an upstairs room, Starsky found his mummy.

 

He froze on the threshold. The mummy was leaning against the wall, wearing a college sweater, and someone had put a college pennant in its hand. He didn't know whether to laugh or run away. Hutch had been searching in another room and was near enough to hear Starsky call to him. He froze, too, when he saw the mummy.

 

"Mr. Petimartin isn't going to like this a bit," he said, laughing.

 

"Nope," Starsky agreed. "Wonder what she's doing here."

 

Carl Hall cleared that up, sobered somewhat by the raid and the thought of the charges he and the other members who were of age were facing. "It was just a prank," he said miserably. "Initiation for the pledges. They had to bring us proof of their daring and their loyalty to the fraternity."

 

"So you had them steal a priceless artifact?" Hutch demanded.

 

Carl nodded. "We didn't tell them to take that," he said. "But they had to take something really risky and that's what they brought back. We were gonna take it back tonight, before the museum opened up tomorrow."

 

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance. "This isn't good," Starsky said to Carl. "You know how much trouble you're all in?"

 

The kid nodded. "A lot."

 

"That's putting it mildly," Hutch said. "If the museum decides to press charges, Mr. Hall, you and your fraternity brothers could be facing long prison terms."

 

Not one of the boys had an answer for that, though several looked sick.

 

"Call a paddy wagon," Starsky instructed one of the uniforms. "We're gonna have about a ton of paperwork to do tonight."

 

Starsky knew there was a good chance that the fraternity boy everyone was calling “Moose” was the kid who had sent him flying in the museum storeroom.  He felt sorry for the young man, who kept looking at him sheepishly, almost like he was making sure that Starsky hadn’t been injured.  Hutch noticed and looked like he was about to say something, but Starsky stopped him with a smile and a shake of his head as if to say “no harm, no foul.”  He had decided that the poor kid was in enough trouble without incurring the additional complication of one angry blond detective. 

 

Despite the lateness of the hour, Mr. Petimartin had been contacted and had arranged to have the princess picked up from the fraternity house.  Fortunately for the brothers, all of them had been carried off in the paddy wagon before he and his team arrived. 

 

Starsky and Hutch waited for the curator, and they tried to encourage him to give the young men a break.  The mummy did not appear to have been damaged. Hutch decided perhaps it would be better to allow the man to think about it overnight.  Petimartin promised to make a decision by the following morning.

 

The detectives were driving away from the fraternity house when they saw Starsky’s mummy sitting on a retaining wall underneath a large tree at the end of the street.  Pointing excitedly, he said, “There she is!” just before he quickly pulled the car over to park beside her. 

 

The mummy was sitting on the wall, looking like a lost puppy.  Her swathed head was down and she had one leg crossed over the other while she rubbed her ankle.

 

Starsky jumped out of the car and said, “Hey!”

 

The mummy looked up at him, obviously startled by his sudden appearance.  Their eyes locked for a moment.  Starsky could not believe it when she shouted at him.

 

“Stay away from me!”

 

Starsky pulled his badge out and showed it to her.  “Police.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Hutch was out of the car, now.  He said, “Is everything all right, miss?”

 

She started to cry.  “No, everything’s not all right.  Do I look all right?”

 

The partners looked at each other with a shrug.  Starsky said, “What seems to be the problem?”

 

“I twisted my ankle.  Stupid Rush.”

 

Hutch laughed and put a hand on Starsky’s arm, signaling his intention to take over the conversation.  “You dressed up like that for a Sorority Rush, miss?”

 

“Kristi.  My name’s Kristi, and yes.  I was supposed to run all over the area in this ridiculous getup till midnight.  What time is it?”

 

Hutch grabbed Starsky’s wrist to consult his watch.  “Congratulations, it’s November, by forty-five minutes.”

 

“Cool.”

 

“Can I take a look at that ankle, Kristi?” Hutch asked.

 

“Just don’t hurt it!”

 

Starsky said, “My partner’s really gentle.  He won’t hurt you.”

 

Hutch bent down and examined the swollen ankle.  He probed it gently and made his assessment.  “Probably broken, Kristi.  We’ll call you an ambulance.”

 

“Are you crazy?  I’m not going to an emergency room in this getup.  Could you just give me a ride onto campus?  I live in a dorm and it’s not far.  My roommate can take me... AFTER I get out of this costume.”

 

“Sure,” Starsky said. 

 

Without thinking a thing about it, Hutch said, “You shouldn’t walk on that,” as he scooped Kristi up, carried her to the Torino, and deposited her in the middle of the front seat.  Starsky laughed to himself all the way to the car, wondering if Hutch could feel the heat from the blush that poor girl was probably wearing underneath the grease paint on her face.  He was often amazed at how little Hutch realized the effect he had on women.  His suspicions were confirmed as he watched the poor girl stare at his oblivious partner off and on throughout the ride to her dorm. 

 

When they arrived, Kristi stammered, “Uh, I-I can take it from here.”

 

“Nonsense,” Hutch said. “Let me help you inside.”

 

“He’s not going to let you hobble up those steps by yourself, Kristi. Just giving in works best.”

 

Hutch shot him an exasperated glance, but he was relieved when she agreed to let him help her inside.  Before they headed up the stairs, Starsky said, “Wait, Kristi.”  He reached into his pocket and held out the coin.  “You dropped this when I was chasing you an hour or so ago.”

 

She looked at it without recognition.  “What?  Chasing me?  I haven’t seen you two before now.”  Kristi looked up at Hutch and dropped her eyes, saying, “Believe me, I’d remember.”

 

Starsky closed his hand over the coin and watched as Hutch took Kristi inside the dorm.  He fiddled with the coin, pondering what that might mean.  Had he chased another young woman in a mummy costume earlier that evening?

 

Kristi opened her dorm room door and was greeted by her roommate, Maria.  The other young woman looked at Hutch, running appreciative eyes over the handsome cop.  “And just what do we have here, Kristi?”

 

Hutch set Kristi down on the ground and said, “I’m a cop.”

 

Maria smiled at him.  “Well, I’m sure I can think of some reason why you should frisk me.”

 

Kristi was horrified.  “Maria!”

 

“Well?”

 

Hutch blushed a bright crimson and said, “If you’re sure you’re all right now, Kristi, I’ll just be going.”

 

“Wait!  I never even asked your names, I’m sorry,” Kristi said.

 

“Don’t worry about it.  I’m Detective Ken Hutchinson, and my partner is Detective Dave Starsky.”

 

“Thanks, Ken.  You can rescue me anytime.”

 

“Just doing our jobs, Kristi.  Good night.”

 

Hutch turned on his heel and made a hasty retreat.  He shook his head, wondering if Kristi and her roommate had any idea he was old enough to be their father.  Just barely, but he was old enough.

 

Starsky was sitting in the Torino when he returned.  “You really ought to license that Hutchinson charm as a lethal weapon, buddy.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You’re too much.  Don’t you have any idea what your White Knight gig does to the ladies?  Especially a young damsel in distress.”

 

“Aw, get off it, Starsk.  She didn’t think anything about that.”

 

“Uh, huh.  Sure, Blondie.”  Starsky started the car

 

Hutch was quiet for a few minutes.  After he had a chance to get some perspective on the situation, he chuckled softly and said, “Her roommate wanted me to frisk her.”

 

“Ah, ha!  See what I mean?  A lethal weapon, buddy.  You’re just too charming for your own good.”

 

“Too bad it doesn’t always work on women who are too old to be my daughter.”

 

“Really.”

 

The rest of their night was uneventful.  They returned to the precinct to process that mountain of paperwork, wrapping things up at around three in the morning. After an impromptu middle-of-the-night breakfast at Hutch’s place, Starsky headed home to crash.  They were supposed to meet Mr. Petimartin at the museum at noon. 

 

~*~*~*~

 

Mr. Petimartin was in a good humor when the detectives arrived for their meeting.  His mummy was back, unharmed, and her exhibit had been repaired.  He invited the men into his office to discuss the charges.

 

“Officers, I don’t want to punish the young people for what was really a prank.  I also don’t want to let them get away with it.  I was hoping we could discuss some options.”

 

Hutch said, “I’m glad you see things that way, Mr. Petimartin.  The boys were wrong, and they could be facing some serious jail time if they were convicted.  Are you sure you don’t want to press charges?”

 

“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought.  I’ve decided that if they agree to pay for the damages, and to work in the museum for free for a while, I won’t press charges.  We could use the help, and maybe they’ll learn to appreciate our ancient and historical treasures.  What do you think of that idea?”

 

The cooling off period the officers had given the curator had worked out well.  Starsky and Hutch both agreed the idea was a good one. 

 

Petimartin said, “When I was at school in Cambridge, some of the lads made a harmless modification to a 400 year old statue of Henry the Eighth.  I, um, they were forgiven in much this same way.  I thought I should return the favor.”

 

Before leaving, Starsky asked him to look at the coin he had found. Mr. Petimartin took out the largest magnifying glass Starsky had ever seen and inspected the coin.  He turned it over a couple of times, nodding and speaking so softly to himself, Starsky and Hutch couldn’t make out the words. 

 

“Where did you get this?” he asked.

 

“I, uh... found it,” Starsky said, unwilling to admit he had retrieved it from a fleeing mummy.

 

“This is an ancient Roman coin, from around the time when Princess Anan’katah lived.” 

 

“Is it valuable?

 

“Well, it’s a silver Denarius from the Julius Caesar period and it looks to be in what coin collectors call ‘fine’ condition.  See how some of the design elements are incomplete?  I’m sorry, I can’t tell you how much it’s worth.  I’m afraid coins are not my area of expertise.  I can give you the name of a reputable numismatist.  A lot of these were minted, but the Julius Caesar period is the most popular for Roman coin collection.”

 

“Sure, thanks.”

 

As they stepped out onto the sidewalk outside the museum, Hutch could tell by Starsky’s slow saunter toward the car, and the reduced bounce in his step, that his partner was deep in thought.

 

“What?” he asked.

 

“What do you mean, what?”

 

“Don’t answer a question with a question, Starsk.  What’s on your mind?”

 

“Oh, that.  Um, what do you make of this coin?”

 

“I don’t make anything of it, Starsk.  Just a coincidence.”

 

Starsky stopped beside the car and turned toward his partner.  “Coincidence?  You think it’s a coincidence that I chased a mummy around last night and found this coin.  I touched her, Hutch.”

 

“You can’t believe this has anything to do with the princess.  Last night was Halloween, Starsk.  You know weird stuff always seems to happen to us on Halloween.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  It’s just so... weird.”

 

“Just let it go,” Hutch said as he patted Starsky’s shoulder.  Then he tapped him on the forehead and said, “Don’t try to figure it out. It’ll just make your head hurt.”

 

Hutch got into the Torino, but Starsky stood on the sidewalk long enough for Hutch to wonder if he was planning to join him.  “Crime’s waitin’, buddy. You coming?”

 

“Huh?  Oh, yeah.”  As he pulled out into traffic, Starsky said, “Hey, next year, let’s go trick or treating, instead.”

 

The End

 

Feedback?  CruellaBoris@yahoo.com