For Disclaimers, see Part One. Comments can be sent to: email@example.com
Temple of the Sinai
Hutch stared blearily at his watch as the Jeep wound through the quiet streets of Independence. 4:12 a.m. They had initially gotten disoriented in the desert, but had eventually found their way back to town, with no sign of pursuit from the cultists. "Starsk, you sure you remember where she lives?"
Starsky snorted. "The town ain't that big, buddy...and I was stuck here for two weeks by myself. I think I'll manage." He peered ahead. "Aha, here we are," he said with satisfaction, guiding the Jeep to a stop in front of Kathy's house. "End of the line, everybody out." He glanced to the back seat of the Jeep, where Hannah lay asleep. "Better wake her up, Hutch."
Hutch moved to the back and began gently waking Hannah. "Starsk, you sure she's gonna let us in at four in the morning? C'mon, Hannah, we're here, at Kathy's house. You're safe."
"No problem." Starsky pointed to the living room curtain, which was moving. "I think she heard us drive up."
Half an hour later, all three were comfortably ensconced on Kathy's couch, sipping cocoa and filling their hostess in on their adventures. Kathy had taken their unexpected appearance with great calm and had already notified the sheriff of their return. She heard the tale through without comment, apparently amused by the two detectives' habit of constantly interrupting one another, until Starsky reached the part about his punishment at the hands of the cultists. Though she said nothing, Hutch saw her eyes flash angrily as his partner recounted his experiences. He took over the thread of conversation at that point, and quickly brought everyone up to the present moment.
"I don't think that the cult was able to get together any sort of effective pursuit," Hutch finished. "In any case, I doubt they would try anything in town."
Kathy nodded. "The sheriff said he'll expect you sometime after eight to make a statement. That gives you boys time to get some sleep." The social worker held out a hand to Hannah. "We'll get you settled down for a little rest, Hannah; you can have my guest room, and these two can have my couches. Let me show you where everything is..." The two women left the room, Kathy's warm voice trailing behind her.
Hutch turned to look at his partner, barely awake at the other end of the couch.
"Thanks for pulling me out of there. I mean it."
Starsky grinned through his fatigue. "Any time, buddy boy. Pullin' your ass out of the fire...that's what I do best."
"How's your back?"
"Stings a bit, still...but I'm so tired, I don't care." Starsky yawned deeply, to prove his point. "You know, your little dairy girl's got spunk. She should get an Oscar for her performance."
Hutch smiled absently. "Yeah...she's something. I hope all of this, the investigation and trial...I hope it doesn't rip her up too bad."
"She's strong, Hutch. Stronger than she ever knew she could be," answered Starsky cryptically, his eyes closing.
Snoring wafted from Starsky's end of the couch...real or feigned, Hutch couldn't tell. He smiled, and threw one of Kathy's afghans over his sleeping friend. So am I, thought Hutch...stronger that I ever knew I could be, because you give your strength to me, without reserve.
"Hutchinson! Someone to see you!" came a voice from the front.
Hutch looked up from the report he was laboriously generating from the ancient typewriter. The squad room door swung open as a young woman stepped in.
For a few seconds, his work-numbed brain struggled to place her face, then she smiled shyly at him. "Have I changed that much in six months?"
"Hannah!" Hutch bounced out of his chair and stepped to her side, grasping the hand she offered. Laughing, she hugged him briefly, then stepped back.
No wonder he hadn't recognized her, dressed in faded jeans and a sweatshirt like any college student. She had kept her long hair, now in a single braid, and had apparently even been experimenting with a little makeup. Her eyes glowed with health, contentment...and something else Hutch couldn't quite identify.
"How are you? Come over here and sit down, and talk to me." He dragged another chair--Starsky's--to his desk, after first dumping its contents--Starsky's paperwork--unceremoniously to one side.
Hannah perched on the chair. "I can only stay a few minutes. My cousin was coming this way, and I decided to ride along. She'll be back any moment."
"How is school?" Hutch knew, from Hannah's one letter, that she had enrolled in a community college. Only a couple of classes so far, but the first step to fulfilling her aborted educational dreams.
"Midterms now, lots of studying." Her voice hadn't changed, Hutch noticed wistfully. Still soft and musical, just more confident. With a start, he realized that he knew what had changed about Hannah; she now believed in herself.
"We're coming to trial soon, aren't we?" she asking suddenly, breaking his train of thought.
"Yes...probably the first week in January. The D.A.'s office has taken its time. They want to build a good case."
She nodded. "Guess I won't sign up for any classes next term. I'll be too busy."
The brief pause was broken by the return of Starsky, with take-out lunches.
"Hey! Hannah! You look great! You wanna join us in a Burpo Burrito?"
She giggled, suddenly seeming much younger. "Thanks, David, but it's time for me to go." She stood and grinned at both of the detectives. "Thanks, both of you. I'll see you at the trial."
Starsky watched her go. "Y'know, Hutch, she's pretty cute. Hey, I have to admit...I thought you and she really had, y'know, somethin' going there. Have you been holdin' out on me?"
"Just friends, Starsk, we're just friends." Hutch reached for the food absently, for once not making any editorial comments about his partner's taste in takeout food. "You're right, there was a little electricity there for a while, but I think it was all just the situation. I'm glad she's doing well, though." He took a bite of his lunch. "Speaking of 'just friends', what's going on with Kathy? You and she seemed to be getting pretty cozy, last time she was over here." Hutch figured the best defense was a good offense.
Starsky actually blushed, to his partner's great interest. "Umm, yeah, very cozy. But...I can't get her to make a commitment, or spend much time in L.A. She likes where she lives...and I don't think she's really interested in settling down." He sighed, and began attacking his own lunch, trying to ignore his partner's snickers.
"Poor man," teased Hutch. "The woman only wants you for your body. This is just a little bit ironic, buddy."
"Stuff it, Hutch...it's not funny," said Starsky plaintively.
Hutch eyed his partner critically. "You'll get over it. Now, quit moping and let's finish up here. I'm sick of paperwork." He finally took a close look at his lunch. "Starsk? What is this?"
"What did you get me for lunch?"
"Oh...they called it a Taco de Lengua. Looked good."
Hutch lowered the offending treat to his desk. "Did you get one for yourself, too?"
"Yeah, aren't they great?"
"Starsk, how much Spanish do you know?"
"I know the difference between a taco and a burrito."
"Taco de lengua...that's a tongue taco, Starsk."
Hutch watched with amusement as his partner turned a delicate shade of green. "Oh. Tongue. Right."