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All Kinds of Heroes
The tan-colored LTD pulled into the parking lot of the shopping mall. A cloud of gray smoke belched out of the tail pipe and the carburetor made a hiccupping noise after the driver turned the engine off. Starsk is right, the driver thought to himself, I really do need to get this thing in for a tune up. But not from Merle this time.The driver was a police detective named Ken Hutchinson--Hutch for short. He was tall and lean and his blond good looks got him more than one admiring glance from some of the women he passed as he walked across the parking lot.
It was only a little after eight in the morning, but Hutch had already been for his morning jog, he had showered and shaved, and was now dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a denim jacket. February mornings could be chilly, even in Southern California. When he had fixed his banana-tofu shake for breakfast that morning, he had used up the last of his wheat germ and carob powder. So, he decided to drive over to the health food store in the mall to pick up a few things.
This was the first Saturday in over a month that he and his partner, Dave Starsky, had not had to work. He planned to meet with Starsky later for a couple of games of pool over lunch at The Pits, an eatery run by their friend, a guy known on the street as Huggy Bear. Hutch and Starsky were more than co-workers--each regarded the other as a friend, a brother, an extension of himself. So, it was not unusual for them to get together on their time away from work.
As Hutch approached the entrance to the mall, he saw three little girls and two women, all dressed in green, setting up a card table and two folding chairs. He noticed several brown cardboard cases marked "cookies" stacked on the concrete around them. As he walked by, one of the girls looked up at him. Her dark hair hung in two long braids and her smile revealed two adorable dimples, as well as a space where she had recently lost one of her baby teeth."Good morning, thir," she said with a slight lisp, "would you like to buy thome Girl Scout cookies?"
"Maria," one of the other girls said in a chiding voice, "we're not even ready yet!" This girl was a diminutive blonde. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, adorned with a green plaid ribbon. She was the shortest and, perhaps, the prettiest of the three girls. It was clear that what she lacked in size, she made up for in attitude."Now, now, Jessica dear," one of the women said. She looked to be in her early forties. She had short blonde hair that had obviously come from a bottle. She had a round face, a round physique, and a sunny smile. She wore a name tag that said "Patty Sullivan."
"But Mo-om," Jessica whined, "we don't even have the cookies out on the table yet!"
The third girl now stepped forward. She was tall and thin, with wire-rimmed glasses. "That's okay, Jessica," she said, gesturing to the cases on the pavement, "he can still see all six varieties of our delicious cookies in their cases right here." When she said the word "delicious," she looked up at Hutch and smiled, revealing the glint of braces on her teeth.
"That's true, Christina," the other woman said. She was much younger than the first woman. In addition, this woman was slender, with light brown hair that was pulled back, away from her face, falling in soft waves around her shoulders. Hutch found her quite attractive. He noticed her name tag read "Susan Weller."
"But, Mrs. Weller," Jessica persisted, "wouldn't it be better if the man came back in a few minutes, so we can get the boxes out of the cases and arranged neatly on the table?"
The two leaders looked at one another. For all her bossiness, Jessica had a valid point.
Hutch smiled at the lesson in entrepreneurship that was taking place before his eyes. He usually didn't eat cookies, but the girls were so cute, not to mention Mrs. Weller. "Tell you what, ladies," he said, "you get everything set up and when I come back out, I'll buy a few boxes from you."
The three girls looked at one another with a mixture of joy and good-intentioned greed.
"Gee, thanks, Mith-ter" Maria lisped, as she and Christina began eagerly opening the cases and taking out the boxes of cookies.
"Exactly how many boxes are we talking about?" Jessica asked Hutch, her eyes narrowing in a calculating sort of way.
"Jessica," Mrs. Weller said, in a reproving tone of voice, "remember what we discussed at our last meeting about the proper way to sell cookies."
Hutch smiled and leaned down to whisper to Jessica. "I don't think you'll be disappointed."
About fifteen minutes later, Hutch emerged from the mall, carrying his bag from the health food store, to find the cookie booth was now open for business. Several boxes of cookies were decoratively displayed on the table. A large poster had been taped to the front of the card table. In a childlike handwriting, the poster proclaimed: "Girl Scout Cookies--$1 a box! Buy Some Today! Their Good!" The word "Their" had been crossed out and the word "They're" had been written above it.
"Well," Hutch said, waiting for a mother and her two young children to finish buying their cookies, "it looks as though you are ready for business now.""Yeth, we are!" Maria said with a gap-toothed grin.
Hutch looked over the six kinds of cookies. He started with two boxes of the peanut butter sandwich cookies--the closest thing he would come to in terms of nutrition. Then he thought of Starsky--definitely the chocolate mint variety was what he liked. Hutch remembered last year when Starsky had bought a whole case of the chocolate mint cookies from one of the guys in the squad room whose "daughter" had been selling them. Hutch did not think his partner had bought any Girl Scout cookies yet this year. And, even if he had, knowing Starsk, the cookies would be gone in a day or two. He asked for five boxes of the chocolate mints and he could almost hear the sound of a cash register drawer opening as Jessica's mouth dropped open and she blinked her eyes at him in disbelief.
Hutch was still considering his choices when an older woman came up and asked for two boxes of the shortbread cookies. Hutch noticed she had a large amount of cash in her wallet as she opened it to pay for her cookies. Jessica noticed it, too.
"Wow, lady! You could buy a lot of cookies with that much money!"
Patty Sullivan shushed her daughter, but the old woman smiled and nodded her head. "I just cashed my Social Security check yesterday and I am on my way to the grocery," she told Jessica confidentially.
Hutch stepped forward, the police officer in him taking over. "Excuse me, ma'am...""Oh, call me 'Martha'," the old woman said, "everybody does!"
Hutch nodded, "Excuse me, Martha. You know, it's not a good idea to be carrying that much cash around with you at one time."
"I'm sure you're right, young man, but my late husband never believed in putting our money in a bank. Ever since the Great Depression, we have always done all of our business in cash, rather than trusting one of those banks!"
By now, Susan Weller had come over to see what was going on. She exchanged a dubious look with the blond man standing on the other side of the table.
"Just the same, ma'am," Hutch persisted, "if I were you, I might want to take some of that cash back home and put it in a safe place before I went out to do the rest of my shopping."
"Yes, I suppose you're right," she said, putting her wallet back in her pocketbook and putting her two boxes of cookies into her shopping bag. "I wasn't exactly sure how much money I would be needing this morning, so I just kept all the money with me. After I go to the grocery, I have to refill some of my prescriptions at the pharmacy. And I just bought a birthday gift for my granddaughter, Angela. She'll be twenty-one tomorrow. You know, she's a lovely girl..."
"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure she is," Hutch interjected.
"Pardon me for asking, young man," Martha said, "but are you married?"
Hutch smiled nervously. "Uh, no, ma'am. I'm not. However, I am a police officer and there have been a number of purse snatchings in this neighborhood lately. I'd be careful, if I were you."
You're a cop?" Jessica asked, suspiciously. When Hutch nodded, all three girls looked at one another and, as a chorus, said, "COOL!"
"Do you have a gun?" Maria asked.
"Have you ever shot anybody?" Jessica asked.
"Have you ever been shot?" Christina asked.
"Girls!" Susan Weller said in a loud voice. "We're here to sell cookies, not grill the officer!"
Hutch laughed. "It's all right, miss--er, ma'am," he said. It's too bad she's married, he thought to himself.
"Her name is Mrs. Weller," Jessica told him, conspiratorially, "but she's not married, either."
"Jessica Dawn Sullivan!" her mother hissed, her round face growing red with anger and embarrassment.
"Her husband died," Jessica whispered solemnly.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Hutch said, looking at the young widow who was finishing up a sale to another customer. He suddenly felt guilty for his earlier thoughts and wondered how long she had been a widow and how her husband had died. Susan Weller now came over to join them. Hutch continued, talking to the girls but looking at their leader. "I'll tell you what. Mrs Weller can bring your whole troop down to police headquarters at Parker Center and I will personally give you all a tour of the place. Just be sure to call first and set it up." He smiled and looked into the attractive leader's hazel eyes and handed her one of his cards.
The girls all began talking at once and Susan Weller smiled, reading his card. "Thank you, Offic--Detective Hutchinson."
"You're a detective?" Jessica asked.
Just then, they heard a scream from the parking lot. They could see Martha standing beside an old Buick, struggling with two young men who were in their late teens or early twenties. The boys were attempting to take Martha's purse from her and Martha was putting up a valiant fight. The others realized they had not even noticed when Martha had left them.
Before they knew what was happening, Detective Hutchinson was running toward the parking lot. He had pulled a gun from inside his jacket. Then everything began to happen very quickly. They heard Martha scream as one of the young men pushed her to the ground and the other one scooped up her purse.
As the two of them were running toward a waiting car being driven by a third young man, Hutch stopped and shouted, "Police! Freeze!" and took aim at the getaway car's left front tire.
In a split second, they heard what sounded like fire crackers going off, as the driver pointed a gun out of the window and fired. Hutch fell to the pavement and the two young men who had attacked Martha ducked into the car as it sped away.
Susan Weller, Patty Sullivan, and the three girls who were with them watched in horror as the drama unfolded before their eyes. In less than a minute, two of their customers had been assaulted and now lay in the mall parking lot. Jessica was crying in her mother's arms. Maria and Christina clung to Mrs. Weller, afraid to move, afraid to even breathe.
A man in a jogging suit ran over to Martha and told her to lie still. Nobody seemed to be going to help the downed officer. Susan wondered if he had gotten back up again, unharmed, and moved away during the chaos of those few frightening seconds.
"Patty," Susan said, gently pushing Maria and Christina toward her co-leader, "take the girls inside, find a pay phone, and call their parents."
"What about the cookies?" Christina asked.
"Don't worry about them," Susan said, as though she were in a daze. "I'm going to see if they need any help out there," she said, walking toward the parking lot. Susan had just completed an advanced first aid and life saving course as part of her training as a Girl Scout leader.
"Susan!" her co-leader yelled. "What if those hoodlums come back?"
"Get the girls and yourself inside," Susan answered, mechanically.
Patty Sullivan didn't know Susan all that well, but she had seen Susan in a crisis once before when one of the girls in their troop had fallen down a ravine on their first camping trip a few months ago. The girl's leg had required stitches. Susan had displayed the same calm, quiet demeanor in that situation, unlike Patty, who tended to panic in any kind of emergency--especially one involving blood. Susan had kept the victim and the rest of the girls quiet and calm while Patty and one of the other adults had gone for help. Remembering how well Susan had handled that crisis, Patty now herded the girls toward the entrance of the mall. "Be careful!" Patty called out to her.
"I will," Susan called back over her shoulder. Then she turned herself around without breaking her stride. "And Patty, make sure someone has called the police--and the paramedics!" Patty nodded, then Susan turned back around and started to run. She saw several people gathered around Martha now. The old woman was sitting up, crying, but apparently unhurt. Satisfied that Martha was being cared for, Susan ran past several cars searching for the last place she had seen Detective Hutchinson, the place he had been standing when the shots were fired. Suddenly, she heard a man yell, "Over here!" and she followed the sound.
In the next row down, she found a large black man kneeling beside the still form of Detective Hutchinson. The man was breathing into the detective's mouth, causing his chest to rise with each breath. There was a large circle of red pooled on the ground around the officer's upper body and what appeared to be a bullet wound in the upper right side of his chest.
"I need you to apply pressure," the black man said, in between breaths. "Here!"
He nodded to the spot where the bullet wound was.
Susan stood there for a moment in a daze. In her mind's eye, it was not Ken Hutchinson who lay bleeding at her feet, it was her husband, John Weller.
"Hey!" the man said. "If you can't help me, lady, then get me someone who can!"
Susan shook her head in an attempt to banish the ghosts of her past and knelt beside the downed officer. "What should I do?"
"Press down--hard--right here!" he said, pausing long enough to show Susan what to do.
She leaned over the right side of the detective's body, pressing beside the area where the blood was spurting out of the wound. The handsome detective looked deathly pale. His lips were blue, his pulse was fast, and his breathing was rapid and shallow. After every breath, there was a gurgling sound, as though air were escaping through the wound along with the blood. Susan suspected that Detective Hutchinson had a punctured lung, since the man kneeling across from her was performing a technique Susan recognized as rescue breathing. She tried to remember what she had learned in her first aid class about chest wounds.
At some point, a woman came running over to them. "I'm a nurse," she said.
"So am I," the black man said, in between breaths. Susan had no idea how long they had been there, but she wondered where the hell the paramedics were.
"Let me take over for you," the female nurse said, switching places with the male nurse. "What have we got?"
"Bullet wound to the chest," he said. "I suspect the right lung is collapsed and punctured as well." Finally, in the distance, they could hear the sounds of approaching sirens. "Damn! What I wouldn't give for some plastic wrap right now!" the man said.
"Even some gauze pads and some Vaseline," the woman said in between breaths.
"I've got those in the first aid kit in my trunk," Susan said, nodding to her car, which was parked a few feet from where they were.
"Then go get it!" the man said, taking over for Susan.
Susan ran to get it and came back in just a few seconds. The male nurse had Susan open the detective's shirt and press on the wound once more, while he applied a thick coating of Vaseline along the edge of a gauze pad and placed it over the wound. This makeshift patch didn't stop the bleeding, but it stopped the gurgling sound of the air escaping through the wound. Just then, two paramedics came running toward them, carrying their equipment.
Susan stood back as the paramedics went into action. The nurses were giving them information on the patient. Words like "cyanotic," "sucking chest wound," and "possible traumatic pneumothorax," were relayed by one of the paramedics over a portable radio transmitter. The detective's vital signs were taken and that information was relayed over the radio, as well.
"Do we have a name or is this a John Doe?" the one paramedic asked.
Susan stepped forward. "I know his name. It's Detective Hutchinson."
They had been joined by a couple of police officers from a squad car. "Detective Ken Hutchinson?" the one officer asked, coming over for a closer look at the person being carefully loaded onto the stretcher.
"Yes," Susan said, taking his card out of her pocket. "He was chatting with us, buying cookies from some of my Girl Scouts at the mall entrance when two teenage boys mugged an old woman in the parking lot." Susan gestured over her shoulder to where another team of paramedics was now attending to Martha. Susan continued, "Detective Hutchinson ran out to help her and the boys jumped into a waiting car. The detective pulled out a gun and ordered them to stop, but the driver shot him before they drove off."
"Get Starsky on the line," the patrolman told a second officer before he turned back to Susan. "Would you step over here, Miss..." he noticed her name tag, "...Weller?" He took her aside and Susan gave him a more detailed statement of what she could remember. When he learned that Susan's co-leader and the three girls had also witnessed the whole thing, he asked to speak to them, as well. As he walked with Susan toward the mall entrance, Patty Sullivan and the girls met them at the door.
"Mrs. Weller," Jessica said, her eyes wide, pointing at her leader. "Your uniform!"
Susan looked down and saw large splotches of blood on her shirt and two round circles of blood on the knees of her slacks where she had been kneeling in blood--Kenneth Hutchinson's blood. It was the first time Susan had noticed the blood on her clothes. Again, her mind took her back to that similar scene that had occurred just over four years before. The blood. The feeling of utter helplessness. Suddenly, she felt as though the pavement had been yanked out from beneath her feet. Her knees buckled and she went down.
When Susan came to a short time later, she was lying down in the backseat of a police car. She sat up slowly. She was slightly disoriented, but as she watched the police officers scurrying around the mall parking lot and looked down at the blood stains on her clothes, it all came back to her what had happened. She stood up and looked toward the mall entrance. Some uniformed officers were helping to load the cookies, the folding table, and the chairs into Patty Sullivan's station wagon. Susan could see Patty and Jessica talking to one of the officers and to another man. However, Susan did not see the two other girls. Her legs were shaky as she began walking toward Patty and Jessica, who were getting into their car to leave.
A uniformed officer, the one she had been speaking to before she fainted, came over to her. "Feeling a little better, Miss Weller?"
"Y-yes," she said. Her knees felt like they were made out of Jello.
"Wait here," the officer told her, then hollered at one of the men who had been talking to Patty. "Hey, Starsky! Over here!"
A man with dark, curly hair came bounding toward them. He wore jeans, a tee shirt, a leather jacket, and some blue and white Adidas running shoes. He looked at the bloody uniform Susan was wearing, then at her name tag. "Susan Weller, I'm Detective Starsky. Ken Hutchinson is my partner." He extended his hand to shake hers. That's when they both noticed the dried blood on her hands. He didn't have to ask whose blood it was.
"I'm sorry," she said, wiping her hands on her shirt in a vain attempt to get rid of the blood.
"It's okay," he said, placing a hand lightly on her shoulder. There was such a mixture of emotions in his eyes: patience and impatience, toughness tempered with gentleness, concern--she assumed it was for his partner, but she also sensed there was concern for her as well. "Let's go over here where we can talk." He led her to a red and white Torino that was parked nearby. "Would you like anything? Some coffee? A soft drink?"Susan shook her head. "I'd really just like to wash my hands." He nodded, opened the passenger door, and reached into the glove compartment of the Torino. He pulled out several packets of moist towelettes, the kind you get from fast food restaurants, and handed them to her. He gestured for her to sit down in the passenger seat--Hutch's seat, he thought to himself--and she did.
"I'm sorry I fainted," she said, using the towelettes to clean the blood from her hands. "I normally don't go to pieces like that in an emergency."
He shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I've seen veteran cops fall apart over a lot less." He was actually quite impressed by this young woman, given all he had heard from the two nurses he had interviewed, as well as the officer who had taken her statement and from the members of her Girl Scout troop he had just spoken with. If he had met her under different circumstances, he might be asking her out right about now.
Susan managed to remove most of the dried blood from her hands, but not the memory of the fallen officer from her mind. When she was done, Detective Starsky handed her an empty sack that had recently held some donuts and she put the used towelettes and their empty packets in the sack. "Can you tell me where the rest of my Girl Scout troop went?"
He took a small notebook and a pen out of his coat pocket and flipped it open. "Patty Sullivan and her daughter, Jessica, Maria Sanchez, and Christina Rowan?"
"They gave me their statements and they left," he said. "Oh, they wanted me to tell you they packed up all the cookies and the rest of the stuff. Patty has your first aid kit, also. They were all really concerned about you."
Susan shook her head. "I feel terrible about all this! Some leader I am! My first time to take my troop to sell cookies and they wind up witnessing a mugging and an attempted murder!"
"Don't be too hard on yourself," Detective Starsky said. "You had no way of knowing that this was going to happen today."
"Were the girls terribly upset when you talked to them?"
Detective Starsky waved his hand in a reassuring way. "Nah. They were great! You know how kids are!"
Susan nodded. "I've only been a Girl Scout leader for a few months now, but I've been an elementary school teacher for almost four years."
She's a teacher, thought Starsky, just like Terry was. He blinked his eyes, trying to banish the vision of his deceased fiancée that he momentarily saw before him. It was a little over a year ago that Terry had died after an attack by a sadistic killer. God! How he missed her! "Uh, actually," he said, steering the conversation back to the business at hand, "the three girls were able to give me some helpful information about the three suspects and their vehicle."
"And Martha?" she asked. "How is she?"
"Martha Kelso? The lady who was mugged?" Susan nodded and Starsky continued. "They took her to the hospital for observation, but she should be just fine."
Susan nodded again, then she asked the hardest question. "How is Detective Hutchinson?"
"He's in surgery," Detective Starsky said. "I'm going over to County General after I'm done here."
"I hope he'll be all right," Susan said, looking into the dark-haired detective's eyes.
"So do I," he said, returning her gaze with an intensity that almost made her flinch.
Susan recounted for Detective Starsky what she had witnessed. He asked her if she could describe any of the young men or the getaway car. It had all happened so fast, but she told him everything she could remember. He jotted down some notes and then he asked her if she would be available to come down to the station to look through some mug books later that day.
She looked down at her clothes. "Could I please go home and change first?"
"Oh," he said, "of course. I'm sorry." He had not meant to seem insensitive. He was about to explain how close he was to Hutch and how upset he was, not knowing whether his partner would live or die, but Susan Weller read it all in his eyes.
"You want to get to the hospital to be with Detective Hutchinson."
He nodded, stuffing his notebook and pen back into his pocket. She stood up to leave, then he handed her one of his cards. "If you should remember anything else that might help with the case, give me a call."
"I will," she said."Oh, there's also the name and phone number of a victim's advocate on the back of the card. Even though you and your troop members weren't exactly victims in this case, the counselor listed there is able to help people like you who have witnessed a violent crime. I gave cards like this to Patty Sullivan and to the other girls' parents before they left." "Thank you," Susan said. She now had the cards of two handsome detectives. What a strange day this had been. She started to walk away, then turned back around. "Detective Starsky," she said. He turned to face her. "I really hope your partner will be okay. He...he seemed like a very nice guy."
"He is a nice guy," Starsky said, emphasizing the word "is", unable to speak of Hutch in the past tense. Not yet. Not ever. Not after losing Terry.
Susan nodded , then started to walk away.
Now it was he who called to her. "Miss Weller?"
She turned to look at him. "It's Mrs. Weller," she said, quietly, then wished she had added that she was a widow.
A strange look flashed through his eyes before he continued. "Mrs. Weller, are you going to be able to drive yourself home? I have to get to the hospital, but I could have one of the uniformed officers drive you home or follow you if you'd like. Or I could call your husband for you."
"No," she said. Again, she avoided telling him that her husband was dead. "That's not necessary. I...I just live a few blocks from here."He nodded. "Okay," then he added, "Uh, thank you--for everything you did for Hutch." He gestured to her blood-stained uniform. Susan shook her head and a look--of what? anger? frustration?-- momentarily flashed in her eyes. "I didn't really do anything! Those two nurses did all the real work." Susan remembered how short-tempered the male nurse had been with her.
"Forgive me, Mrs. Weller," the detective said, gently, "but I don't think you could get that much of my partner's blood on your clothes by simply standing around and doing nothing." Susan looked down in silence. "Thank you," he said again.
Susan nodded and walked back to her car.
Susan went home to her apartment to shower and to change. She put the blood-stained slacks and the plaid shirt of her leader's uniform in the kitchen sink along with some detergent to soak. She hoped that the blood stains would all come out. When John had died, she hadn't even tried to wash the outfit she had been wearing that night--she had thrown it away.
Shortly before noon, Susan received a call from Patty Sullivan. Patty was relieved to hear that Susan was okay. She filled her in on the things Susan had missed when she fainted--some of which Susan knew already: the fact that the uniformed officer and the male nurse had helped put Susan in the back of the squad car when she fainted, the fact that Patty had all the cookie booth stuff at her house, the fact that Detective Starsky had taken statements from Patty and Jessica and the other two girls. Patty told her how concerned the girls and their parents had all been about Susan and how impressed they were with how brave she was, rushing out to help Detective Hutchinson once the girls had been led to safety. Apparently, Patty and Jessica had contacted nearly all of the of the other girls in the troop and their families to tell them of their leader's heroics that morning.
"Oh no!" Susan said, suddenly becoming very irritated with her friend, much as she had with Detective Starsky. "Patty, in the first place I didn't really do anything to help Detective Hutchinson, other than manage to get blood all over myself and to faint. For all we know, the detective could be dead right now! So, please don't make me sound like some kind of hero!"
Patty was adamant in her praise. "The male nurse told us all about how you kept your cool and even went to get you first aid kit. He said you applied pressure to the wound while he and the other nurse did rescue breathing and put a patch over the wound on the officer's punctured lung."
Again, Susan was surprised by the male nurse's positive comments about her. He had been so gruff toward her and she had felt so incompetent compared to both of the nurses.
"Besides," Patty continued, "Jessica and I just came from Police Headquarters where we looked through a bunch of those mug books. We couldn't recognize any of the 'perps', but Jessica was able to tell them the make and model and even the year of the getaway car--you know how bright Jessica is--and back at the mall Christina was even able to give Detective Starsky the first three digits of the car's license tag. And even shy little Maria remembered seeing a tattoo on the arm of the guy who pushed down poor Martha and was able to describe it to the police. Oh, and while we were at the station, a Captain Adobe or something like that came over to us and told us that Detective Hutchinson had made it through surgery and was expected to make a full recovery. He even said there may be an official police commendation for all of us! You may even be hearing from someone from the Girl Scout Council about an award, as well! Isn't it wonderful!"
Susan's head was spinning from everything Patty said. Patty's use of the word "perps", the fact that Detective Hutchinson was apparently going to be all right, and the prospect of their troop receiving some kind of an award. She was glad to hear that the girls had been able to offer so much helpful information. Most of what had happened was still a blur in Susan's mind. She didn't think she could tell them anything else that might be helpful to the investigation. But, at least the girls had come through. She was extremely proud of them--even though she was still very embarrassed over what she felt was a real inadequacy on her part. Susan just hoped that the other parents in the troop would not be afraid to allow their daughters to participate in next week's booth sale. Susan's thoughts were interrupted by Patty's saying, "Susan, are you listening to me?" and Susan had to admit that her head was sort of spinning."Well, that's understandable," Patty said, "after all that happened this morning! I just wanted to tell you again how glad we all are that you are the leader for our troop. I know, I sure couldn't have done what you did today!"
Susan had heard enough. "Patty, for the last time, I didn't do anything! So PLEASE stop saying that I did!"
Patty was silent for a moment. She still didn't know Susan very well and, truth be told, Patty felt so inadequate next to the pretty, young leader. Susan was great with arts and crafts and singing and camping skills. She had also developed a natural rapport with the girls. Patty supposed it came from Susan's being an elementary school teacher and knowing how to reach out to kids on their level. The first leader for the troop had moved to Alabama after two years. Last year's leader had quit after the cookie sale, saying--of all things--that the girls were spoiled brats, especially Jessica, and that she wanted nothing more to do with Girl Scouting!
When Susan Weller had taken over the troop leadership last September, it had been a breath of fresh air. The troop membership had almost doubled this year. Usually, Patty felt like she and Susan were a team, were even friends, but at times like this, Patty felt there was much about Susan that she didn't know, things that she might never know. For instance, Susan never talked much about her deceased husband. Patty had heard that he had died in Viet Nam, but Susan had always dodged Patty's questions about him. Patty wondered why Susan had never remarried, but she suspected that it was still too soon after her husband's death.
Susan realized she had come down rather hard on Patty. "Look," she said, "Patty, I'm sorry. I'm just very stressed right now. I think I'm going to go down to Police Headquarters and look through those mug books. Can you tell me where I need to go when I get there?"
Patty gave her directions and told her not to worry about anything--that she understood what an ordeal Susan had been through. Susan was about to protest that her "ordeal" had not been any worse than what Patty and the girls had been through, but she stopped herself and just said, "I'll see you next Tuesday at our meeting."
As Susan was driving downtown, she felt badly about losing her temper with Patty on the phone. Patty had been the troop's co-leader since the troop began almost four years ago. When Susan took over the job as leader at the start of this school year, Patty had proved herself to be a big help. True, Patty tended to cater a little too much to Jessica; but, Jessica, for all her bossiness, was a good kid (when she wanted to be!) and she showed a real knack for leadership in the troop. Susan could just see Jessica telling Detective Starsky everything about the getaway car, since Jessica prided herself on being a walking encyclopedia on all sorts of things. And Susan wasn't surprised to hear that Maria and Christina had come through with key pieces of information.
Susan tried replaying the scene of the attack on Martha and the shooting of Detective Hutchinson in her mind, to see if there were anything specific that she could remember, but she kept coming up blank. All she could see was Kenneth Hutchinson in that ever-widening circle of his own blood; all she could remember was the sinking feeling that she was about to watch somebody else die right before her eyes and there wasn't a damn thing she could do to stop it.
Susan parked her car in the lot outside of Police Headquarters and went up to the third floor where Patty had told her to go. Susan spoke to an officer at the front desk, telling him who she was and what she was there for. She was directed to another officer's desk where she found Christina Rowan and her father, sitting with a female officer, going through one of several mug books. When Christina saw her, she jumped up and ran over to her. "Mrs. Weller! You're all right!"
Susan hugged the girl and shook hands with the girl's father. They chatted briefly, then the female officer directed Susan to another desk in a different corner of the room that was also piled with a set of mug books. The officer explained that they prefer to have witnesses view the mug books independently of one another and Susan nodded.
Susan spent the next hour and a half looking through several books without seeing any faces that looked like the young men she had seen earlier that day. Christina and her father had gone home about an hour ago and Susan was alone except for a couple of officers at the front desk. Susan closed her eyes and put her head in her hands, trying to clear her mind and think back to anything that might distinguish one of the faces from all the rest. In her mind's eye, she saw the two kids struggling with Martha. Both boys had been taller than Martha and both had been wearing tee shirts and blue jeans. Both of them had had dark hair. One of them, the one who had shoved Martha to the ground, had been taller and stockier than the other one. He had been wearing a jacket emblazoned with the Giants' logo on the back. Both boys had looked to be no older than twenty.
Susan tried to remember what the driver had looked like. She recalled seeing the gun, although she had no idea what kind of gun it had been. She remembered the sound as the driver aimed at Detective Hutchinson. When he fired it, it had seemed somehow unreal, like the sound a toy gun would make, not a real one. Susan stopped. It occurred to her now that the driver had used his left hand when he fired the gun. It wasn't much of a clue, perhaps. For all she knew, people could shoot a gun with either hand. She also remembered that the driver had had short red hair. She rubbed her forehead as she sat there with her elbows on the desk, her eyes still closed. She was exhausted and hungry and ready to call it a day.
"Hello, Mrs. Weller," she heard a male voice say and looked up into the blue eyes of Detective Starsky.
"Detective Starsky," she said.
He pointed to the mug books spread out before her. "Not a lot of fun going through those, is it?"
She shook her head. "No, especially since all of the faces are starting to look the same to me."
He nodded. "Why don't you go home? You've been at this for almost two hours now." She was about to ask him how he knew this, but he continued, "My partner was removed from the critical list an hour ago. He's still in ICU, but he's in fair, but stable condition now. The doctor says he will probably be able to come home sometime next week.""Thank God!" Susan said, a smile of relief spreading across her face.
It was the first time Dave Starsky had seen her smile. He liked what he saw. Then he reminded himself it was "Mrs." Weller he was speaking to. Keep it businesslike, he thought to himself, before he continued. "The doctor also said that the first responders made all the difference--that means you and the two nurses." Susan opened her mouth to state again her negligible part in Detective Hutchinson's treatment, but Detective Starsky anticipated her protest and cut her off. "I spoke to Hutch when he came out of recovery. He was still pretty groggy, but he asked about Martha Kelso and about you and the girls in your troop."
"How is Martha?" Susan asked, grateful for the chance to change the subject away from herself.
"She's fine. They didn't even keep her for observation. She's already been here and looked through the mug books. She's a real gutsy lady!"
Susan nodded. "I'm glad to hear that she's okay." Then she gestured to the books on the desk before her. "I'm afraid I didn't recognize any of the faces in these books." The detective nodded, then she remembered the two bits of information she had come up with a few minutes earlier. "I have been able to remember a little more about the driver. He had short, red hair and the gun was in his left hand when he shot Detective Hutchinson."
Starsky took out his notebook and pen. "A lefty as well as a redhead. You're certain about this?" When Susan nodded, he continued, "Well, that should narrow things down a little bit. Anything else?" Susan went over the descriptions of the other two once again. She had repeated her story so many times at this point, she wasn't sure what she had told Detective Starsky earlier and what she had told the first officer she had spoken to. Starsky jotted down a few more things and flipped the notebook closed. "Thanks," he said. "Every little bit helps. You've still got my card, right? In case you or any of the others remember anything else?"
"Good," he said. "And don't forget the victim's advocate. She's really good with kids, as well as adults. It may be a few days or even a few weeks before any of you feel the need to talk to her."
Again Susan nodded, although she somehow didn't think any of them would be needing the counselor's services.
Susan stood up. "I guess I'll go home and have something to eat."
Dave Starsky frowned. "You haven't had lunch yet?" By then, it was after 2 pm.
"No," she said. "I haven't eaten since breakfast. So much has happened since then." Indeed, it seemed like three days had gone by since she had eaten breakfast that morning.
"There's a coffee shop downstairs. Let me buy you something. It's the least I can do." He was about to say "for all you've done", but he knew this would only bring another protest from her and the last thing he wanted to do was to argue with her.
Susan hesitated. It would take her at least another half hour before she could arrive home and fix even a peanut butter sandwich. Of course, she could stop at McDonalds or some other fast food place on the way home, but she was so tired and she was also a little shaky--perhaps it was her blood sugar. She had been meaning to have it checked the next time she saw her doctor. At last, she answered, "All right. But let me pay for my own lunch."
And so it was, in a few minutes, Susan Weller and David Starsky were sitting across the table from one another, sharing a booth in the coffee shop on the first floor of Parker Center. There were very few customers at that time of day.
Susan ordered a bowl of vegetable soup and a club sandwich along with a glass of orange juice.
Starsky ordered coffee and a piece of coconut pie. He hadn't eaten lunch until Hutch had come out of recovery a couple of hours ago, and even then, he had not been very hungry. Captain Dobey had taken him off the duty roster for the next couple of days until Hutch was out of the hospital. The Cap'n had also assigned the investigation of Hutch's shooting to two other detectives, with the understanding that Starsky would be allowed to do what he could in an unofficial capacity to help the investigation along. There was a good chance that the kids who shot Hutch were the same ones who were involved in the recent string of purse snatchings. Since Wilkerson and Adams were already assigned to that case, they would be handling the investigation on Hutch, as well. Starsky would have to remember to give them the new information Susan Weller had given him about the shooter. After he left the coffee shop, he planned to stop by Huggy's to see if he had heard any news on the street about the punks who were involved in Hutch's shooting, then Starsky would go back to the hospital to be with Hutch for a few hours.
As they ate, he and Susan Weller made small talk, mostly about their jobs and their experiences with Scouting. Starsky had not been a Boy Scout for very long when he was a kid, but the few years he had spent in Scouting had been positive ones. Susan had been a Girl Scout from the second grade through her senior year in high school. She and her mom had moved around a lot when she was growing up. Scouting had been the one bit of continuity as they had moved from place to place.
"What about your dad?" Starsky asked, matter-of-factly. He had not anticipated her response.
"My dad was an abusive man--an alcoholic. When I was eight, my mom put a few hastily-packed belongings in a couple of suitcases and we went to live with her folks in Indianapolis. A few weeks later, my father guessed where we had gone and showed up on Nana and Papa's doorstep. It was the last time I ever saw him. Papa called the police and they took him away. My father was drunk, of course. By the time he sobered up and got out of jail, Mom and I were long gone. We spent the next few years moving from place to place--always looking over our shoulders, always afraid we would open the door someday and there he would be. When I was sixteen, we heard he had died--cerebral hemorrhage in a drunk tank somewhere in Ohio. Even now, I still wake up sometimes, afraid he is still alive and is looking for me."
"What about your mom?"
"She died a couple of years ago. Cancer."
"I'm sorry," he said. "It sounds like you have not exactly had an easy life."
She shrugged. "Mom didn't suffer long. She and I were so close, though. I really felt lost without her."
"So, it's just you and your husband?"
Susan looked down. She didn't know why she was telling her life's story to this complete stranger. Perhaps it was something in his eyes. That, and the fact that she was so weary. Her normal defenses were down. Quietly, she said, "He's dead, too."
Starsky put down his coffee cup and looked at her. My God! he thought. How much can one person bear?
She felt his eyes upon her and she knew he would expect an explanation, so she tried to make it brief. "His name was John. We met in college in 1970, and were married in December of 1971. He was drafted--on our two month anniversary," she added with a note of irony, "and was sent to Viet Nam. He was wounded near An Loc, just outside of Saigon, during the summer of '72."
Dave Starsky nodded. "I was in Nam around the same time. I was up north, near Hanoi."
Susan had not intended to tell him more, but the words just began spilling out. "John lost both of his legs when a mortar shell exploded beside him. Three of his buddies were killed instantly." She hesitated. It was hard for her to continue. "He always said he wished he had been killed instead of them--or along with them. He spent some time in a military hospital before they shipped him stateside. They wanted to fit him with prosthetic legs. They promised to help him find a job through the VA. I was so happy to have him home again--legs or no legs. But the truth is, the man I married never really came home. It was a different John Weller who came home."
Again Starsky nodded. "War changes everyone. Some of us more than others."
"Just short of our first anniversary, I was out Christmas shopping. When I came home, I found John lying on the floor. He had been sitting in his wheelchair, when he..." her voice broke, "he shot himself in the neck. The force of the bullet's impact had knocked him and his chair backwards, so that he was lying on the floor. He was still alive, but just barely. I didn't even have time to call for an ambulance. He died in my arms. He never regained consciousness. I later found that he had left a brief suicide note. He said he just couldn't bear to live any longer and he hoped that I would understand." Tears were rolling down her cheeks now. She had not told anyone about John, except for her mother. Somehow, it felt good to tell someone else. Someone who had been in Viet Nam.Starsky put a comforting hand on hers. "I am so, so sorry."
She met his eyes. "Seeing your partner today, it just brought it all back to me. The blood. I felt...so...helpless. First John and now Detective Hutchinson."
"But you made a difference this time, don't you understand? Hutch is alive, thanks to you." He squeezed her hand for emphasis on the words "alive" and "you." She started to protest again, but he charged ahead, "I know you feel like you didn't do anything today. But honest to God, you did a lot, you and those two nurses. If it weren't for you..." his voice trailed off now, his own emotions overcoming him. He swallowed hard. "My partner owes his life to you, why can't you accept that? And what is more, I owe you. I owe you big time."" She looked at him and there were tears in his eyes. "You simply have no idea."
She looked down in silence. They were quiet for a few moments, then he said, "Mrs. Weller--"
"You may call me 'Susan', if you'd like," she said, quietly.
He nodded, then said, "Susan, I'd consider it a favor if you would come with me to visit Hutch in a few days, when he's feeling better--you and your co-leader."
Susan nodded and smiled. Then an idea struck her. "Do you suppose he would like some get well cards from the girls in the troop?"Dave Starsky's face brightened. "Are you kiddin'? Hutch would LOVE it! He's crazy about kids--especially cute little Girl Scouts!" Starsky was about to add that he, himself, was also fond of Girl Scouts--and a certain Girl Scout leader--but he didn't want to appear to be coming on to her.
Susan smiled again. "We have our next meeting on Tuesday. I think the girls would like to make some cards for him, then maybe Patty and I can take them to him on Wednesday evening after school is out."
"That would be great!" Starsky said. And maybe, he thought, I can treat you to dinner afterwards. He decided not to say anything to her yet. "How about if I call you on Wednesday and let you know his room number. By then, he should be in a regular room instead of in ICU."
They agreed and went to the cash register to pay for their food. Then he walked her to her car and he left to see Huggy. There was no word on the street yet about any kids shooting a cop. Huggy figured it wouldn't be long until somebody started talking--kids that age always did. Starsky then went to the hospital and spent the evening watching Hutch sleep. The ICU night nurse was a friend who agreed to bend the visitation rules for Starsky. She told him that Hutch might be moved to a regular room as early as Monday. When Starsky fell asleep in the bedside chair, Kelly, the nurse, covered him up with a blanket and left them alone.
It took Susan Weller a long time to fall asleep that night. She was dead tired, but for lots of reasons, she was just not sleepy. When she finally did fall asleep, her dreams were filled with half-remembered images of John, the way he had looked on their wedding day--tall and handsome, his sandy-colored hair gleaming in the sunlight. They had danced to the song, "Cherish," at their reception--John had always been a good dancer and "Cherish" had been playing on the car radio the night of their first date. Of course, it was an "oldie" by then, but it had become "their song."
In Susan's dream, as they were dancing, John suddenly fell backwards. There were bombs exploding around them and there was blood everywhere. Amid the chaos, Susan kept screaming for someone to help him--to help them--but nobody seemed to be listening. Susan looked down and John's face had suddenly been replaced by the face of Ken Hutchinson. Voices began to swirl around her--angry voices telling her to move out of the way, scared voices asking if he were going to be all right, reassuring voices telling her that she had done all that she could.
Suddenly, in her dream, two arms reached out and pulled her roughly to her feet. She turned around to see her father standing there.
"Help me!" the man on the ground called out to her. It was John's voice, but it came from the detective's body.
Susan tried to break free from her father. "Let me go! I've got to help him," she kept saying over and over as her father pulled her farther and farther away. Susan awoke with a start, still feeling her father's grip on her arms, still feeling that utter sense of helplessness.
Susan finally fell back to sleep, only to be awakened by the sound of the telephone ringing. She looked at her bedside clock and saw that it was now almost one in the afternoon. Susan answered the phone and heard Patty Sullivan's voice.
Patty realized immediately that Susan had still been asleep and she apologized for waking her. Patty had called to ask Susan if she had seen the morning paper, and, of course, she hadn't yet. It seems that the hold-up and shooting had made the front page of the local section of the paper. Patty read the article to her over the phone.
To Susan's relief, the article made no mention of her or the two nurses' rescue efforts. In fact, it was a fairly short article, but Patty had already clipped it out to put it in the troop scrapbook. Susan stifled a laugh--somehow this whole conversation seemed incredibly absurd. Instead, she shared with Patty her idea to have the girls make get well cards for Detective Hutchinson at their meeting Tuesday night. Patty thought that was a wonderful idea.
Susan also asked if Patty would go with her to take the cards to the hospital the next night. Of course, Patty suggested that they bring all the girls along, too; but Susan reminded her that the girls were all too young to visit in a patient's room. Patty then realized that Susan was right and agreed that she would, of course, go with her Wednesday night.
Susan decided NOT to tell Patty about her conversation with Detective Starsky--she wasn't sure why.
Patty apologized once again for waking her friend. Susan told her not to worry about it, that she had things to do that afternoon, and said she would see her at the meeting Tuesday night.
On Monday morning at work, Susan received a call from a Captain Harold Dobey who was apparently the supervisor for both Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky. The Captain wanted to personally thank Susan and her troop for their help in the investigation. Captain Dobey said that, thanks to the information they had provided, the police had now identified some possible suspects and, once they were apprehended, Patty, Susan, and the three girls would be asked to come in to see if they could identify the suspects in a line-up.
Susan was uncomfortable with this, since she didn't want her girls put through any more than was absolutely necessary.
Captain Dobey seemed to understand her concern. He told her that he had a daughter who was just a couple of years younger than the girls in Susan's troop. He assured her that the identification process and the trial, if it came to that, would be handled in a manner that would cause the least amount of stress for the girls.
Susan thanked him for this. The Captain was going to call the parents of the three girls in her troop who had witnessed Saturday's assault and give them the same message about the line-up and possible trial. Again, Susan thanked him, as this was not a message she would want to be giving to the girls' parents.
Susan asked how Detective Hutchinson was and Captain Dobey told her that he was still in fair, but stable, condition. He went on to say that the prognosis was good and he expected the detective would be back at work in a few weeks. Before he hung up, Captain Dobey invited Susan and her co-leader to bring their troop in for a tour of Police Headquarters. Susan was reminded of a similar invitation made by Detective Hutchinson on Saturday morning, just before he was shot. The Captain told her that his secretary would get in touch with Susan to set up the date and time. Susan thanked him, then he hung up.
On Tuesday afternoon, Susan received a call from David Starsky. He told her that his partner's condition had been upgraded to good and that he had just been transferred from ICU to a private room. Susan could hear the joy and relief in Detective Starsky's voice. He went on to say that Hutch was still in a lot of pain, but he was doing much better than his doctors had anticipated. Susan told him how glad she was to hear the good news. Before he hung up, he gave her Hutch's room number and asked if she still planned to come by that week to see him. Susan asked if Wednesday would be too soon and Starsky said it would be fine.
At their troop meeting on Tuesday night, Jessica, Maria, and Christina once again told the rest of the girls (in meticulous detail!) the events of Saturday morning. For some of the listeners, it was their third or fourth time to hear the events of that fateful morning recounted and there seemed to be no indication that they would be getting tired of hearing about it again and again anytime soon. In fact, the three girls who were scheduled for next Saturday's booth sale were hoping that something equally dramatic would happen to them.
Susan and Patty were about to chide the girls for this line of thinking, but Jessica spoke up on behalf of herself and the other two eye-witnesses when she told the rest of the troop, "Trust me, you do NOT want to go through something like that! It was just too...too...GROSS!" Jessica then described (again) the blood that had been on their leader's uniform.
To Susan's relief, all of the blood stains had come out; but, just the same, the girls had all taken a close look at her newly-cleaned uniform.
The discussion of blood and gore would have gone on forever if Susan had not changed the subject. She knew it was important for the girls to be able to discuss what had happened, but she also knew that it was important to put it all in perspective. She asked the troop if they would like to earn the First Aid badge, just in case one of them was ever faced with a medical emergency the way she had been. This was met with an enthusiastic yes. One girl, whose name was Amanda, volunteered her mom to help them, since her mom was a nurse. Susan smiled--girls often volunteered their parents for things--and Susan made a note to ask Amanda's mom if she would, indeed, be willing to help them earn the badge.
The girls then asked if the troop could visit Detective Hutchinson in the hospital. Susan explained the hospital's age limit on visitors; however, she used this opportunity to introduce the evening's activity of making get well cards for him. The girls got to work immediately. One girl named Keisha asked what Detective Hutchinson looked like, since she was drawing a picture of him with his gun drawn, trying to save the "old lady" the others had told them about.
Jessica, as the self-appointed spokesperson for "the three" described him, saying, "Oh, he was tall and had blond hair. He was kind of old--you know, like Mrs. Weller and my mom--but he was still a HUNK!"
Patty then suggested that, rather than trying to draw scenes of the officer being shot, the girls might decorate their cards with positive images, like hearts or flowers. Most of the girls took her up on this.
When the meeting was nearly over, Maria asked, "Why don't we use thome of our troop money and thend him thome flowers?"
"No," a girl named Jennifer said. "Flowers are boring. How about some balloons?"
"And his cookies," Christina said. "He never did get the cookies he was going to buy from us."
And so it was that, on Wednesday evening, Patty Sullivan and Susan Weller arrived at County General with a stack of hand-made get well cards, a few interesting drawings (ranging from the scene in the parking lot to a self-portrait of all twelve girls in the troop), a dozen boxes of Girl Scout cookies (the seven Detective Hutchinson was going to buy, along with five more), and three helium-filled balloons--all courtesy of Troop 729.
Starsky was sitting beside Hutch's bed, telling him the latest information on the investigation. Huggy had given him a few leads on a couple of kids who were bragging about robbing a little old lady and shooting a cop. Huggy felt the one lead had some possibilities, since the kid who had been doing the bragging seemed to know more information than had been included in the brief article in Sunday's paper.
"I thought you said that Dobey took you off the active duty roster, Gordo," Hutch said.
"Yeah," Starsky said, "but it doesn't stop Huggy from doing a little nosing around."
Hutch smiled. "It sounds like Huggy isn't the only one nosing around on this one."
"Nah," Starsky grinned back at his friend. "We've got the big guns working on this case: there's a whole Girl Scout troop working on this one! And it's all because of you and your way with women, Blintz!"
Hutch smiled again. Starsky had told him how much useful information the girls had provided. The last thing Hutch remembered about that day was hearing the old woman scream right after he had given the pretty young leader his card. The next thing he remembered was seeing Starsky hovering over him when he came out of the Recovery Room. "I'm glad the girls were so observant. I sure as hell can't tell you anything about the perps in this case!""The girls weren't the only observant ones," Starsky shot back at him. "Susan Weller was able to give us a good lead on the shooter."
Hutch looked at his friend for several moments. "Starsky, if I know you, you've probably been pretty observant yourself--especially where Susan Weller is concerned."
"Hutch!" his friend replied, indignantly. "Are you accusing me of putting moves on a Girl Scout leader?
"No, of course not!" Hutch replied. Then he added, "Especially since I saw her first!"
"Careful there, Blondie, you don't want to pop any of your stitches!"
"My stitches aren't the only things I'm going to pop if I find out you've been insinuating yourself into the good graces of Susan Weller while I've been laid up here in my bed of pain." It was obvious that Hutch was feeling better, since this was the first exchange of good-natured banter the two men had engaged in since Friday night.
"Hutch, you know me well enough to know that I don't go after married women."
"She's a widow," Hutch said flatly.
"When did you find THAT out?" Starsky asked.
"Obviously several hours before YOU did!" The two men grinned at one another.
"It's good to have you back, partner," Starsky said.
Just then, the phone rang. Starsky picked it up, but handed it to Hutch who answered, "Hello?"
There was a pause as the person on the other end of the line tried to think of what to say. "Hello, is this Ken Hutchinson?"
"Yes, it is," Hutch said, trying to place the female voice.
"This is Susan Weller. I don't know if you remember me."
Hutch grinned at Starsky. "Yes, Mrs. Weller. Of course, I remember you. It's good to hear your voice."
"Well, it's good to hear yours, too. Listen, my co-leader, Patty Sullivan, and I are downstairs. We'd like to come up and visit you for a little while...if you're feeling up to it."
"That would be great!" Hutch said. "I'd love to see you!"
"Great! We'll be there in a few minutes."
"Okay. Bye." Hutch handed the receiver back to Starsky, so he could hang up the phone. "That was Susan Weller. She and her co-leader are here to see me."
"I know," Starsky said, matter-of-factly. Hutch's eyebrow shot up in an inquisitive way before Starsky continued. "Susan mentioned that they would probably be coming by tonight."
"Well, yeah," Starsky said, suddenly turning a bit serious. "She and I had lunch together Sunday afternoon."
"Uh huh," Hutch said suspiciously."Hutch, look, it's not what you think. Really." Starsky went on to briefly tell Hutch about Susan's husband committing suicide and the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy that had come back to haunt her after Hutch was shot. "She really doesn't believe that she was any help to you out there in the mall parking lot--especially after she fainted."
Hutch shook his head. "From what you and everyone else has told me, she really did help to save my life."
"Exactly," Starsky said.
Hutch was thoughtful for a moment. "She sounds like a very special lady."
"She is," Starsky said. "A special lady who is still hurting--a lot."
Hutch nodded. Gone was any thought of rivalry at this point. "Then I guess it's up to us to do what we can to help her."
Starsky smiled. "I'm with you, partner."
Susan was nervous as she and Patty Sullivan rode the elevator up to the surgical wing on the fourth floor. She wasn't exactly sure why she was nervous. Patty chattered excitedly about seeing Detective Hutchinson again, but Susan barely heard what Patty was saying.
They got off the elevator and turned to their right, looking for Room 418, Detective Hutchinson's room. When they found the room, Susan and Patty lingered in the doorway for just a moment. They saw the blond detective in a hospital bed, which had been raised so that he was almost in a sitting position. He still had an IV tube in his arm and beneath his hospital gown, they could see a large bandage covering the right side of his chest and his shoulder. David Starsky was seated in a chair beside the bed. Both detectives looked up when they saw the women standing there.
"Hel-lo," Ken Hutchinson said, breaking into a smile. Susan Weller was even better-looking than he had remembered.
"Hi," Susan said, shyly, holding on to the stack of get well cards.
Patty, however, charged right in. "Surprise!" she said, holding the balloons in one hand and a cardboard case filled with the cookies in her other hand.
Starsky rose to his feet when the two women entered, partly out of courtesy, and partly to go out to the nurses' station to see if he could get another chair.
When he came back about a minute later, Susan and Patty were standing on either side of Hutch's bed as he read the get well wishes from the girls in their troop. Starsky pushed the chair into the room and steered it toward the side of the bed that Patty was standing on. "Here you go," he said.
"Why, thank you, Detective Starsky," she said.
"Oh please, call me, 'Dave'."
Patty was flattered by the dark-haired cop's friendly smile and his chivalrous gesture in finding a chair for her. "Thank you...Dave," she said with an almost adolescent grin.
"Yeah," Hutch said, "and no more of this 'Detective Hutchinson' stuff, either. I'm Ken."
"All right, Ken," Patty said with a girlish giggle. "Of course, you two may call us 'Patty' and 'Susan'."
Starsky walked around to the other side of the bed and pushed the other chair toward Susan. She seemed rather quiet and a little tense. He noticed the case of cookies that had been placed in this chair. He picked up the case and set it on the window sill, next to two arrangements of flowers. "Well, well, well," he said, looking through the box. "What have we here?"
"Girl Scout cookies," Patty said, then turned to Hutch. "They're the ones you were in the process of buying last Saturday when...well, when everything happened."
Starsky let out a low whistle. "Don't tell me Mr. Health-Food-Nut was actually buying Girl Scout cookies?" Then he added, rifling through the box, "Four...no, five boxes of Chocolate Mints?"
"Those were going to be for you, Starsk."
"Why, Hutch, I'm touched. But that means..." he quickly counted the remaining boxes, "what...these other seven boxes were all for you?"
Susan smiled. She was touched by the obvious way these two men cared about one another. "No. As I recall, Detec--er, Ken--was only buying two boxes of the Peanut Butter Cookies--along with the Mints for you. The girls in our troop voted to make it an even dozen."
The two men exchanged a smile. "How much do I owe you, then?" Hutch asked. "Twelve dollars?"
"No, you don't owe us anything," Patty said. "The girls voted on that item of business, too. It is part of our get well gift to you!"
"Oh, no," Hutch protested. "Your girls have done so much for me already. At least let me pay for the cookies."
"Nope," Patty said. "They're a gift--just like the balloons and the cards."
"Well, thank you," Hutch said. "Please tell the girls how happy I am with their gifts. When I get back on my feet, I'm going to have to do a lot to make it up to you all."
Susan shook her head. "No thanks are necessary. That's part of what being a Girl Scout is all about--doing nice things for other people." She looked briefly at David Starsky, then back at Ken Hutchinson. "I guess it's kind of like being a cop."
Hutch looked into the young leader's eyes. "Well, thank you--for everything that you and your troop have done."
Susan looked down, obviously a little uncomfortable.
The four of them chatted for about half an hour. Hutch and Starsky went through all the cards and drawings the girls had made. They were alternately touched and amused by what the girls had drawn and written. Hutch mentioned that Martha Kelso had come up to see him earlier that day. She had come with her granddaughter, Angela, who had at last convinced her grandmother to open a checking account. Martha's purse had been found in a dumpster behind the mall and the police had managed to lift a few partial fingerprints from it. However, Martha's wallet and all of her money were gone. Martha seemed more upset over the fact that the "young hoodlums" had taken her wallet with all of her family photos than her money. Still, Patty and Susan were glad to hear that Martha was apparently doing well after the attack.
"When we finally have the suspects in custody, we'll be depending on you two and Martha and the girls to come down and identify them," Starsky said.
"Weren't there any other witnesses?" Susan asked.
"None with as good a look at the three of them as the six of you had," Starsky said.
"And I have no memory of them," Hutch said.
Just then, there was a knock on the door and a large black man stood there. "Hello. Detective Hutchinson, I know you don't remember me. I'm Andrew Small. I'm one of the nurses who helped you until the paramedics arrived on Saturday morning." The man came over to shake Hutch's hand. Starsky had spoken to Mr. Small that day of the shooting, but this was Hutch's first time to meet him.
Susan had not recognized the male nurse at first. She had only seen him in a crouching position--she'd had no idea how big he was. She guessed that he must be over six-and-a-half feet tall and built like a brick wall. He looked over at Patty and Susan after Hutch expressed his heart-felt thanks to the male nurse.
"Mr. Small," Patty said, nervously stifling a laugh. "I'm sorry, that just sounds so funny--you being so...well, so BIG and all!"
Mr. Small smiled as he took Patty's hands in his. Even though his hands were nearly twice the size of Patty's, his grasp was warm and gentle--the hands of a healer.
"It's okay, ma'am," he laughed softly. "I get kidded about my name and my size all the time. It doesn't bother me." He now turned to Susan. "Your name is Susan, isn't it?" he asked. When she nodded, he took her hands and continued, "I'm so glad to see you again. I never got to thank you for all your help the other day."
Starsky shot a worried glance at Hutch and placed his hand lightly on Susan's shoulder. Susan looked down in silence.
Before she could say anything, Andrew Small turned to Hutch and said, "On Saturday morning, I was going to the mall to pick up a few things. When I heard the shots, I hit the ground! Man, I felt like I was back in Da Nang! I didn't see the car drive off, but I heard the tires squeal as it peeled out of the parking lot. Then I heard someone moaning. I followed the sound and that's when I saw you, Detective Hutchinson. I could tell you had a pretty bad chest wound and I started doing rescue breathing, but you were bleeding so much, I knew I couldn't continue breathing for you and still put pressure on the wound at the same time. I was praying that someone would come over to help, and then, suddenly, this woman appeared."
Susan flinched in embarrassment.
Mr. Small continued without looking at her. "She took one look at me on the ground bending over this guy who was rapidly bleeding to death and she turned around and ran!"
Susan looked up now, hurt and confused by his words. She knew she hadn't been the hero that everyone wanted to make her out to be, but she hadn't run away!
She was about to say something, but Mr. Small went on, "Then, I heard footsteps approaching and I thought, maybe she was coming back. Instead, I looked up and I saw this...this angel standing here!" He now smiled at Susan. "She got right down on her hands and knees and pitched right in. I thought she was a nurse, too, since she seemed to know what she was doing."
Susan shook her head in disbelief. "But I DIDN'T know what I was doing! You had to tell me what to do. And then that other nurse arrived, and the two of you didn't really need me."
"Are you kidding?" Andrew Small asked. "You're the one who had the first aid kit. If you hadn't gone to get it so we could patch up that sucking chest wound, I don't think this man would be sitting here in that bed today!" He nodded at Hutch, who was nodding his head in agreement.
Susan sat down, still shaking her head. "I thought I was doing everything all wrong. And then, to top it off, I fainted."
Andrew now put a hand on her shoulder. "Ma'am, I was a medic in Nam before I became a nurse. I saw tough guys puking their guts out and fainting over much less than what you saw. At least, when you fainted, you waited until the patient, here, was on his way to the hospital. You were even able to tell the paramedics his name before you fainted, weren't you?"
Patty spoke up now. "Susan just completed a life saving course as part of her training as a Girl Scout leader. You should've seen her when one of our girls fell and needed stitches a few months ago--"
Susan stood up, suddenly. "Excuse me," she said, and headed for the door and out into the hallway. She ducked into the first ladies room that she saw. Tears stung her eyes and she could taste bile rising in the throat. She leaned over the sink and let the cold water run over her hands and face. Slowly, she lifted her head and looked into the mirror. She did not see the face of a hero staring back at her. A real hero would not have fainted. A real hero wouldn't have just sat helplessly by when John died. A real hero would have known that John was suicidal and taken him to a hospital, instead of going shopping that day.
Just then, the door of the ladies room opened. It was Patty. "Susan, I'm glad I found you. Are you okay?"
Susan shut off the water and dried her face with a paper towel. "Yes."
"Good," she said, "because they just got a call from that Captain Adobe. He said there has been another mugging and the police have three suspects in custody. They want us to come down and view a line-up!" Patty sounded so excited. "I've just called Maria's family and Christina's family from Ken's room. I've got to go home and pick up Jessica. We're all supposed to go down to Police Headquarters 'ASAP'!" Then she added, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah," Susan nodded. "I just need to get my purse. I'll meet you in Ken's room in a minute."
Susan was walking down the hallway a short time later and she ran into Andrew Small in the hallway.
He smiled at her. He could tell that she had been crying. He wasn't sure why she had been crying, but Detective Starsky and Patty Sullivan had both said something during Susan's absence about her feeling that she'd let everyone down by fainting. "Look, Mrs. Weller," Andrew Small said, "I think I owe you an apology."
"Well, after that first woman just ran away, I got really pissed." He realized that he had put that in a rather indelicate way and he said, "Sorry. I just got really angry, you know. Then, when you showed up, I kinda took my anger out on you." Susan was about to protest, but he continued, "As I recall, I was barking out orders at you that morning like you were one of the triage nurses I work with over in the ER at Memorial. I'm really sorry. Like I said before, I just figured you were a nurse."
Susan nodded. "It's okay. Really. I just felt so incompetent, like I was hindering the effort to save Detective Hutchinson more than I was helping."
Andrew Small shook his head. "You did more than you'll know. Those Girl Scouts of yours, it sounds to me like they've got themselves one hell of a leader!"
She looked up into the big man's smiling face and gave him a big hug. "Thank you," she said.
When she went into Ken Hutchinson's room, he and Dave Starsky were still talking. "I need to get my purse," Susan said from the doorway. "Patty told me that we all need to go down to Police Headquarters to view a line-up." She looked around and asked, "Where is Patty?"
"She went to go pick up her daughter," Starsky said. "She told me that you two had ridden together. She asked me to give you a ride over to Headquarters. I hope you don't mind."
"Oh," Susan said. "No, I guess not."
"Are you okay?" Hutch asked her.
Susan nodded. "I'm still...er, dealing with everything that happened."
Hutch nodded. Starsk was right, Hutch thought, I see a lot of hurt in her eyes.
"Listen, buddy," Starsky said, grasping his partner's left shoulder, "I'll call you later and let you know what happens."
"You'd better," he said. Then Hutch looked at Susan. "Thank you, again," he said, gesturing to all the gifts that Susan and Patty had brought.
Susan looked down.
Hutch reached out and took her hand. "I can tell you're the sort of person who doesn't feel comfortable accepting compliments and I don't want to make this any harder on you than it already is, but I've got to tell you how grateful I am to you, to Andrew, to Vicki--the other nurse--and to Patty and the girls in your troop. You know, it's not easy being a cop. There are days when I wonder if it is even worth getting out of bed in the morning. And then something like this happens and it all comes back into perspective. It's because of people like you. You've given me more than cards and balloons and cookies. You've given me another chance at life. What's more, you've reminded me what life is all about." He squeezed her hand.
Tears again began to form in Susan's eyes. This time, they were tears of joy.
She leaned down and gingerly gave him a hug, not wanting to hurt his injured shoulder. "Thank you, Ken. That's about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."
On the way to Headquarters, David Starsky described for Susan what was involved in the line-up process, how each of the witnesses would be viewing ten men, each closely resembling one of the suspects. Each man would be given a number, one through ten. One-by-one, Susan and the other witnesses would be able to view the men in the line-up from behind a special glass wall. The witnesses would be able to see the men in the line-up, but the men in the line-up would not be able to see them. The process would be repeated for each suspect. Starsky said that there would be a couple of lawyers present--each suspect's defense attorney, as well as someone from the District Attorney's office. He also said that one or both of the detectives assigned to the case, Tom Wilkerson and Brenda Adams, would be in the room, as well.
"What about the three girls from my troop? Will they have to do the same thing?"
Starsky nodded. "I should also tell you that after one witness is done, they will be expected to leave--they don't allow witnesses to 'compare notes' in between line-ups. Sometimes, they will even mix up the order of the suspects in the line-up for each viewing." Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Susan frowning thoughtfully. "I know it sounds complicated," he said, "but it ought to go pretty quickly."
"What if I don't recognize any of the suspects? Or what if I think it's one man, but the others pick one of the other men in the line-up? Or what if--"
"Calm down," he said, putting his hand gently on her arm as they pulled into the parking lot at Parker Center. "You just take your time, look at all the men, and if you see one you recognize as one of the guys that attacked Martha Kelso or Hutch, you tell the detective that suspect's number."
"What if I pick someone who turns out to be the wrong man? What if I pick an innocent man?"
Starsky smiled in a way he hoped was reassuring. "Susan, I'll tell you a secret; most of the men in the line-up are probably going to be undercover cops or other departmental personnel who fit the suspect's general description. Another thing ya gotta remember is that this is just a line-up. If enough of the witnesses agree on the same suspect, and that guy really IS a suspect, he will be arrested, then he will go before an arraignment court. If that judge feels there is enough evidence to continue, the case will be bound over to the grand jury and if THEY feel there is sufficient evidence, the suspect will be indicted on the charges. THEN he will be tried in a court of law by a jury of his peers. If he's innocent, he should have nothing to worry about. If he's guilty, the prosecutor will prove it and the jury will make the final decision."
Susan took a deep breath and nodded. "Thanks for the refresher course in Civics 101," she said, trying to make a joke.
"Any time," he said with a grin as they got out of the Torino.
As they were walking into the building, she asked, "Will you be there, in the line-up room?"
He shook his head. "I won't be in the room with you when you view the line-up, but I'll be waiting right outside."
Martha Kelso and her granddaughter, Angela, were already there when Starsky and Susan entered the Booking Area on the first floor. Apparently, the woman who had been the victim of the purse-snatching earlier that day was viewing the line-ups first. When she was done, Martha was called into the viewing room. Angela waited in the hallway with Susan and Starsky.
"Can I get you ladies some coffee?" Starsky asked, offering each of them a seat on some chairs in the hallway.
Angela, who was, indeed, a pretty girl, just as Martha had said, replied that she would like some. Susan declined, however. She was nervous enough; to drink coffee now would make her even more jittery.
"Okay," Starsky said, turning back to Angela. "How do you take it?"
"Any way I can get it," she practically purred, crossing her shapely legs in a provocative manner.
Starsky was not expecting this reaction and he laughed nervously as he tried not to stare at the large expanse of flesh revealed beneath Angela's short skirt. "Ri-ight," he said, heading off toward the coffee maker on a table down the hall.
During the minute or two that he was gone, Angela said to Susan, "He's really cute--for an older guy."
Susan stifled a laugh. Actually, Susan thought that David Starsky was cute, too, but she wasn't about to admit this to anyone--especially to the nymphet sitting next to her. Susan liked Martha very much, but she was not very fond of Angela.
When Starsky returned, he handed Angela her coffee, along with a couple of packs of creamer and sugar and a stirrer. He had decided not to leave anything to chance on what Angela might want--at least, as far as the coffee was concerned! "Here ya go," he said.
"Thanks," Angela said, tossing her dark hair behind her shoulder and flashing him a flirtatious smile.
"You're welcome," Starsky smiled, amused at the young woman's obvious attempt at getting his attention. I've got tee shirts at home that are older than you are, kid, he thought to himself with a smirk.
Susan, however, mistook his smile for more than an amused interest in Angela Kelso. "Uh, excuse me," she said, clearing her throat. "Can you tell me where the ladies room is?" She suddenly felt the need to get away from the two of them.
"Sure," Starsky said. "It's down the hall and to your right. I can show you--"
"No, no," Susan said. "I believe I can find it myself, thank you." The nerve of that little vixen, she thought, flirting with him in such an obvious way. Surely he wasn't impressed by her sickening display?
Susan's thoughts continued in this way until she stood before the sink and looked into the mirror. Unlike earlier, when she had stared at herself in the ladies room at the hospital, Susan no longer saw tears in her eyes. But she was surprised by what she DID see. It was jealousy! She tried to convince herself that it was something else, but she knew she would only be fooling herself. But how could she be jealous of Angela Kelso, unless...unless she had some sort of feelings for David Starsky? No, that was crazy. Oh, he was a nice guy and he had been very helpful. And he was certainly handsome. But then, so was Ken Hutchinson.
Susan shook her head. She had not dated since John's death, mainly because the pain had been too great after losing him and her mother so close together. Susan had wrapped herself in her work and now in Scouting. It had been a long time since she had felt any sort of romantic stirrings. But who was she feeling them for: David Starsky or Ken Hutchinson? Or maybe it was just the stress of the past few days that was causing her to think that she was experiencing something romantic? A diversion of some sort? Some trick that her mind was playing on her?
When Susan came back, she found, to her relief, that Martha and Angela had already left.
"Are you all right?" Starsky asked. He could see that she had not been crying, but he wasn't sure what expression he now saw on her face.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said. "Are you ready for me, now?"
Oh, if you only knew, he thought to himself. He had been flattered by the way Angela had been coming on to him, but she was so young. Susan, on the other hand, was just the right age--more mature, more sure of herself, but with that sense of vulnerability that made him want to protect her, to put his arms around her, to--
Snap out of it, Starsky, he thought to himself.
He informed Susan that one of her Girl Scouts, Christina Rowan, had just arrived with her mom. They were now in the viewing room. Maria Sanchez and her father soon arrived, likewise Patty Sullivan, her husband, Bob, and Jessica. By then, it was almost 8:00. Susan decided to let the girls go first, since it was a school night and she didn't think they needed to be out any later than necessary.
While they were waiting, Susan chatted with the girls and their families in a small conference room down the hallway.
Starsky watched them from his seat in the hallway outside the line-up room. He liked the way Susan interacted with the girls and their parents. It made him think of Terry once again. He had dated since Terry's death, but he had had no real interest in any of the women he had dated. Even sex was not the same--it was, well, just sex. He wondered if Susan had dated much since her husband's death. Somehow, he didn't think so.
It was almost 9:00 before Susan was called to the viewing room. Before she went in, Starsky pulled her aside. "Just try to relax," he said. "Close your eyes for a minute and clear your mind." She did as he said, then he continued. "Now, just picture what you saw last Saturday morning. Take your time in there--there's no rush. And if none of the guys in there looks familiar, just tell them that. Okay?" He was holding her gently, but firmly, by the shoulders. She opened her eyes to see him looking intently at her, his blue eyes flashing with a spark of encouragement--or was it something else?
Susan went into the viewing room. It was just as Starsky had told her it would be: the two lawyers, the two detectives. They explained the line-up procedure to her and then they brought out the first group of ten men. Susan had no trouble recognizing the young man who had knocked Martha to the ground. She searched each face, just to be sure, then told them, "It's number seven."
Several people in the room jotted down notes in files or on clipboards. They thanked her, then Detective Wilkerson spoke through an intercom, asking the uniformed officers on the other side of the glass to bring in the next group. Susan noticed that one of the lawyers left at this point and a new one came in.
Again, Susan took her time, searching each face. This line-up was not as easy as the first one. Eventually, she asked if Number Four and Number Nine could step forward so she could have a closer look at their faces. Detective Wilkerson relayed her request into the intercom. As Number Four stepped forward, Susan felt a prickling sensation at the back of her neck. There was something about the way he swaggered when he walked. She knew he was the one who had scooped up Martha's purse after the first one had knocked her down.
"It's number four," she said.
"Are you sure?" the one lawyer asked her.
"Yes, I'm sure."
Again, they thanked her and the detective called for the last group to be brought in. The second lawyer left and a new one came in. This line-up must be for the man who shot Ken Hutchinson, she thought to herself. Carefully, she searched the faces of the men who stood before her. Most of them had short, reddish hair, but not all of them. She wondered why there was not more consistency in the way these men looked. Still, none of them looked like the gunman. She looked once again at each face, but, in the end, she had to say there were none of them that she recognized. Both lawyers asked if she were sure and she said yes. Then, they all thanked her and she was dismissed.
Starsky was waiting for her when she came out. Everyone else had gone home. "How'd it go?" he asked, standing up.
"I was sure about the first two, but the last guy--the shooter--I just didn't see him."
Starsky put out his hand in a "wait here" gesture. "Just a minute. Let me see if they'll tell me anything." Starsky disappeared inside the line-up room. It was during the minute or two that he was gone that Susan realized she had no way to get home, since Patty and her family had already left. She began looking for a pay phone, in order to call a cab. Susan didn't know that Starsky had already told Patty that he would take Susan home. Patty had smiled. She liked both David and Ken and hoped that Susan might begin dating one of them.
When David Starsky came out of the line-up room, he seemed upset.
"What's wrong?" Susan asked.
He shook his head. "Oh, they wouldn't tell me a damn thing. They told me I should ask my captain tomorrow, once they've made their official report." He walked down the hall a few steps in an attempt to cool off. He looked like he was ready to punch the wall.
Now it was Susan who placed a hand of consolation on his shoulder. "I'm sure it's frustrating for you. Knowing how much you care about Ken, you probably want to see all three culprits caught and punished--tonight!"
Starsky looked up at her and managed a small smile. "Come on," he said, "I promised Patty Sullivan that I'd drive you home."
Susan gave him directions to her apartment. It was about a twenty-five minute drive. They rode mostly in silence. True to her nature, Susan felt somehow that she had let everyone down--if only she had been able to recognize someone in the third line-up...
When they arrived at her apartment, he got out of the car quickly and came around to walk her to her door. By this time, it was a little after ten.
"I'm sorry," he said, as she began fishing in her purse for her keys. "I'm afraid I wasn't much company on the way home tonight. Did you want to go out and get something to eat?"
"No, that's okay," she said, shaking her head. "I guess I wasn't much company, either." He managed a smile, then she asked, "Are you going back to the hospital tonight?"
"Nah," he said. "I'll probably just call Hutch when I get home and let him know that I won't know anything until tomorrow." He said this last part with a note of sarcasm.
"I didn't think you could call a patient's room after 8:00," Susan said.
Starsky's smile changed to a smirk. "Being a cop has its privileges," he said. "I can get a call through to him if I go through the nurse's station."
"I should have known," Susan said, unlocking her door. "Well, you could call from here, if you'd like." The words were out of her mouth before she'd realized what she'd said.
He wasn't sure whether this was merely an offer to use her phone or if she had something else in mind. "It's getting late," he said. "And you look beat."
"So do you," she said, with a slight smile. "But you could still use my phone."
He looked at her for a long moment. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"I don't mind," she said, opening the door and ushering him inside. She flipped on the light and pointed to a table in the living room. "The phone is right over there."
She went out to the kitchen and turned on the light. She heard him talking on the phone with Hutch. Susan decided to prepare the coffee maker, as was her custom, so it would be all ready for the next morning and all she'd have to do was plug it in.
He came into the kitchen just as she was finishing. "Fixing a pot of coffee at this hour?"
"No, just getting it ready for tomorrow," she said. "Unless you'd like some now?"
"No," he said. "I probably ought to be going."
"Okay," she said, taking him at his word and walking him to the door. It had been so long since she had dated anyone or done anything even remotely like dating. Perhaps she had been reading things into his words and actions. Perhaps his interest in her was strictly "business" and he wasn't interested in her "that way." Then she added, "Thanks for bringing me home."
"You're welcome," he said, then glanced around the room. "You have a really nice place."
"Thanks," she said. Her hand rested on the doorknob.
"You know," he said, looking down and shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other, "it wasn't easy what you did tonight. I mean, making it through one line-up is hard, but three..."
She nodded. "I couldn't have done it without you."
He smiled. "Yes, you could."
She was beginning to feel a little more self-confident and less inclined to protest when someone praised her this way. "Still," she told him, "I was glad you were there tonight--for moral support!"
They stood there for an awkward moment. Should I kiss her? he thought.
"David," she said, "please call me tomorrow and let me know the results of the line-up."
"I will," he said. "Meanwhile, why don't you get some sleep?" Their eyes met and, without a word, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. It happened so quickly that even he was surprised he had done it. He searched her face afterward, trying to read her expression. What he saw was a look of pleasant surprise. He was tempted to try again, but, instead, he said, "I'll call you," and she nodded before they said their goodnights.
The next day was a momentous one, as far as the investigation went. Starsky had gone in to work at seven to rattle some cages until he could get some answers on what Wilkerson and Adams had found out. Captain Dobey was already there and met him in the hallway with the information. Around seven-thirty in the morning, Starsky called Susan at home to tell her what he had learned. The first two suspects had been positively identified by all of the witnesses. In addition, their fingerprints matched the partial prints on Martha Kelso's purse and the purse of the second victim, a Mrs. Del Gado. The suspects' names were Tino Castellano and Rick Corretti. Both were seventeen and both had extensive juvenile records for things like truancy, shoplifting, joyriding, drug possession, and auto burglary. It turned out that the getaway car they had been riding in Saturday morning had been stolen the night before. It had been found abandoned in an alley behind Tenth Street on Tuesday morning.
The third suspect had been positively ID'd by Mrs. Del Gado, along with Castellano and Corretti. He was another juvenile and his name was Freddie Childress. However, this third suspect in the Del Gado case was apparently NOT involved in the incident on Saturday. This meant that Hutch's shooter was still at large.
It did not take much in the way of persuasion to get Castellano and Corretti to confess to all of the recent purse-snatchings, but the identity of the left-handed gunman with short red hair remained a mystery until the DA offered a deal to the two juveniles in exchange for the gunman's name and the location of the weapon used to shoot Hutch.
According to Castellano and Corretti, the shooter's name was Kevin Ryan, although he was known on the street as "Rico." He was twenty and had a long juvenile record and the makings of an impressive adult record, which already included convictions for auto burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. His prints, as well as the two juveniles', were all over the stolen getaway car. Castellano and Corretti told the detectives that they had gotten scared after Rico had fired at the cop. Stealing old ladies' purses was one thing, Corretti had told them, but icing a cop was another.
It was not until the article had appeared in Sunday's paper that the three of them had known that the cop was still alive. It was at that point that Castellano and Corretti had had a parting of the ways with Rico Ryan. The juveniles had found Freddie Childress to go joyriding and purse-snatching with on Wednesday afternoon. Tino Castellano also told the detectives that Saturday night, he and Rick and Rico had bought some drugs and gotten high and gone to a disco with Martha Kelso's money. While they were at the disco, Rico had started bragging that he had killed a cop that morning. This, apparently, was the tip that Huggy Bear had been given and later told Starsky about.
Susan asked where Rico Ryan was and if they would all have to come in for another line-up when he was finally caught.
"That's up to the DA," Starsky said. "They may have enough evidence to indict based on the fingerprints in the getaway car and the confessions of Castellano and Corretti. They are searching a dumpster near Rico's house for the gun. If they find it and ballistics can match it to the slug they took out of Hutch, that should be all the evidence they need."
Susan hoped that another line-up would not be necessary. Maria's father had told her last night that she had been having nightmares and they had scheduled an appointment with the victim's advocate Starsky had told them about. Susan would not be surpirsed if the other girls eventually would be speaking to the counselor, too.
In other news, Starsky told her that Hutch's IV had been removed. In addition, Hutch was beginning some physical therapy to build the strength back in his arm and shoulder, and he would probably be discharged from the hospital on Friday.
"I am SO glad," Susan said. "I know that Patty and the girls will be, too."
"You're not the only ones!" Starsky laughed.
As happy as this news was, Susan turned serious for a moment. "You've really been worried about him. I know you must be relieved to hear all this good news."
"Yes, I am," he said. He was about to say something about last night, about the kiss on the cheek, and to ask if Susan would maybe meet him for dinner one night, but then he noticed the time and figured she must be late for work. "Look, I know you have to get ready for work. I just thought I'd let you know."
"Thanks," she replied. "I've decided to take the day off. I called my principal last night after you left and I told her about the line-ups. Actually, she said she was surprised I hadn't taken a couple of days off already."
"That's good," he said. "You can probably use the rest."
"Yeah, well, I have to go by the Girl Scout Council and give them a report on what happened Saturday. Whenever an incident like this occurs, they like to have it on file at the Council. I spoke to my Service Unit Leader Saturday night and she suggested I go by the Council sometime this week. So, I figured I'd do that today."
"I'm going to the hospital later to see Hutch. Would you like to meet me there?"
"All right," she said, "although I don't want to intrude. You two probably have police matters to discuss." Actually, she also had visions of intruding on their friendship. It was obvious how close they were to one another and she would probably feel like a third wheel. She also wasn't sure whether she should even be there, knowing that she had definite feelings for both men. After last night, she wondered if David Starsky had feelings for her. Did Ken Hutchinson have similar feelings for her, too?
Eventually, it was decided that Susan would meet Starsky at the hospital around 11:30 in Hutch's room. Accordingly, Susan arrived at Room 418 right at 11:30 on her way back from the Girl Scout Council. Hutch was sitting up in bed, finishing his lunch. He had a folded up newspaper on the table in front of him, as well. He looked a lot better now that his IV tube had been removed. He was not as pale and there was a definite sparkle in his eyes when he looked up and saw her.
"Hi," she said from the doorway. "May I come in?"
"You certainly may," Hutch said, putting down the newspaper. She could see now that he had been doing the crossword puzzle.
Susan came over to him and, without thinking, reached out to give him a hug, which he returned.
"All right, you two, we'll have none of that or I'll report you to the head nurse," Starsky said as he came through the door. Susan pulled quickly away from Hutch. She was blushing, something that was not lost on either man. Starsky then embraced his friend, too. When Hutch hugged him back, Starsky commented, "Hey, not bad. I can tell you are starting to get your strength back already, Blondie."
"There, you see, Starsk, giving out hugs is just part of my physical therapy." Hutch winked at Susan and managed to get a smile from her.
"Yeah, well okay," Starsky teased back. "But just so long as it's all in the name of 'rehabilitation'."
Starsky had news for both of them. Rico Ryan had been apprehended that morning trying to board a bus for Seattle. Some uniformed officers had found the weapon used to shoot Hutch, Rico's fingerprints were all over it, and Wilkerson and Adams had managed to get a confession out of Rico. His lawyer was trying to work out a plea bargain, since he was now a parole violator.
"Does this mean that there won't be another line-up?" Susan asked.
"Not only that, but there won't even be much of a trial. Probably just a hearing in the judge's chambers and Rico will be going back where he belongs," Starsky said.
"I'm so glad," Susan said. "And what about the two juveniles?"
"They'll be going to a juvenile facility after their cases are heard later this week. Plea bargains are usually taken care of pretty quickly," Starsky said.
"Is there any chance that Martha and Mrs. Del Gado will be able to get any of their money back?" Susan asked.
Hutch shook his head. "All of the kids involved will be ordered to pay restitution, but with the amount of cash that Martha Kelso had in her wallet that day, it will be a LONG time before she has it all paid back--if ever."
"That's a shame," Susan said.
"Yeah, well at least her granddaughter convinced her to put it in a bank," Hutch said.
He thought back to the phone conversation he and Starsky had had earlier that morning. Starsky was able to tell him in greater detail about the line-up proceedings the night before and how pissed off he had been when Wilkerson and Adams had refused to tell him anything. Hutch had agreed that there was a definite rivalry between the two sets of detectives, but had told his partner not to get too upset by it. Starsky had then told him about Martha and Susan and the girls and how well they had all done. He had also told him about meeting Angela Kelso. Apparently, Angela had put on a similar performance for Hutch the day that Martha and her granddaughter had come to visit him; for, when Martha had gone out to use the ladies room, Angela had "accidentally" knocked one of Hutch's get well cards off the window sill. As Angela bent over to pick it up, she made quite a production out of showing off as much cleavage as she could. A similar performance had followed when she had leaned over to give him a hug before they left.
"Perhaps Angela just wanted to keep you a-breast of things!" Starsky had suggested smugly.
Hutch had laughed and said the nurses couldn't explain why his blood pressure was so much higher when they took it after Martha and Angela left!
Starsky had also told his friend about taking Susan home last night.
"Is there something I ought to know?" Hutch had asked him.
"No, Blintz," Starsky had responded. He went on to give him a play-by-play of taking Susan home, including the "simple peck on the cheek" before they said good night.
"Look, Starsk," his friend had said, "If you and Susan are starting to get close, don't hold back on my account."
"When have you ever known me to hold back on your account, Blintz?" Starsky had teased him.
"You're right," Hutch had said. "What was I thinking?"
"I guess it's just that she reminds me of Terry," Starsky had said.
"I know," Hutch had said quietly. "She reminds me of Terry, too."
"I'm gonna go slow on this one, Hutch."
"Good idea," Hutch had said.
As the three of them stood in Hutch's room, Starsky was aware of the way Susan kept looking at Hutch. It made him wonder if, perhaps, Susan had feelings for his partner, rather than for him. Go slow, he told himself again. Go slow.
The next weeks went by quickly for Susan. The cookie sale had ended the first week of March. Susan had been worried that the shooting would dampen her troop's willingness to participate in the rest of the sale; however, her worries had been unfounded. In fact, it had turned out to be the most successful cookie sale ever for Troop 729.
A couple of weeks after the shooting, the local Girl Scout Council had presented special awards for heroism to Maria, Christina, and Jessica, as well as to their leaders. Susan was still not entirely comfortable with being called a hero, but she accepted the award, more for the benefit of Patty and the girls than for herself. Eventually, all three of the girls involved in the booth sale the day of the shooting decided to have a session or two with the Police Department's Victim's Advocate, a middle-aged woman named Jill Lazenby. Even Patty and Susan each had a counseling session with her, too.
During her session with Jill, Susan had felt the need to talk about more than just the incident at the mall. She told her about her abusive father, about John's suicide and her mom's death, about her feelings of unworthiness when people had started calling her a hero. Susan still occasionally had nightmares involving John or Hutch or her father.
Finally, she told Jill Lazenby about the romantic feelings she was beginning to have about both David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson. The counselor, who knew both detectives, seemed to understand Susan's dilemma and asked if Susan would like a referral to a professional counselor outside of the Police Department. Susan said yes.
By mid-April, Susan had been seeing her new counselor, Amy Schultz, for three weeks. Amy had encouraged Susan to get to know both Ken Hutchinson and David Starsky as friends first. Amy had also encouraged Susan to be honest with each man about the conflicting feelings she was having for each one of them and to let them know she was NOT ready for any sort of romantic relationship--at least, not yet. Both men had agreed to respect Susan's wishes. Occasionally, Susan would meet with the two of them together, such as the day they accompanied Troop 729 to a cookout and a softball game at a local park. Once or twice, Susan had accepted an invitation to go with David or Ken one-on-one to a movie or out to dinner--all very platonic and always on a strictly friendly basis. Amy had also been helping Susan with issues such as self-esteem, grieving, setting boundaries, and "owning" those feelings and actions that she was, indeed, responsible for while "letting go" of those over which she had no control.
At Amy's suggestion, Susan had started keeping a journal. It had been years since Susan had kept a journal and she found it to be very helpful. Susan wasn't sure whether the journal had anything to do with it or not, but she noticed she had not had any more nightmares since she had started journaling.
As for Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson, they were both back on active duty. Hutch still had physical therapy sessions once a week, but he had bounced back from his injuries with surprising speed. His doctor felt that his excellent physical condition before the shooting had had a lot to do with his recovery--that and the encouragement of his partner. Both men acknowledged their feelings for Susan Weller, but, again, there was no sense of rivalry. This was out of respect for Susan as much as it was for each other.
Rico Ryan was back in prison, serving the rest of his original sentence for which he had been paroled. He would not even begin to serve his sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer until sometime next year. With good and honor time, he might be out sometime before his 28th birthday, but Starsky planned to be at the Parole Board hearing whenever Rico's name appeared on the list, just to make sure Rico served his full sentence. The three juveniles, Castellano, Corretti, and Childress, had all been sent to different juvenile facilities across the state. Castellano and Coretti would be over eighteen before they were released. Somehow, Starsky and Hutch had a feeling the two would be joining the ranks of adult offenders at some point in their "careers."
On May the first, an awards ceremony was held in the ballroom of the Hilton. Each year, the Police Department honored deserving people with an award for bravery or service to the community above and beyond that of the average citizen. Among the dozen people who were receiving the award this year were Andrew Small and Vicki Barron, the two nurses who had helped Hutch, Maria Sanchez, Christina Rowan, and Jessica Sullivan, Patty Sullivan, and Susan Weller.
Susan was still not entirely comfortable with the idea of receiving another award, but, with her counselor's help, she had come to accept the fact that she had done something that most people would not have had the courage to do, in spite of the fact that she had fainted when it was all over. Susan had also finally come to accept the fact that her inability to save her husband's life had had nothing to do with her helping to save the life of Ken Hutchinson.
The ceremony was attended by lots of local dignitaries. In fact, the Mayor, himself, was the Master of Ceremonies. Representatives of the local news media were there to document the whole thing on film and in print. Patty Sullivan was already saving several pages in the troop scrapbook for the clippings on the event that would appear in the next day's newspapers. Of course, all the members of Troop 729 and their parents were at the awards ceremony, too, as well as the other award recipients and their families. Martha Kelso and Angela were there, also. Finally, David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson were there, along with Captain Dobey.
The first five award recipients included an old woman in a wheelchair who had managed to awaken all of the people in her apartment building one night when a fire had broken out. Another award went to a teenage boy who had jumped into a lake to rescue a drowning fisherman whose boat had capsized. The awards for those who had participated in the rescue of Detective Hutchinson were the last ones given. When it was time for them to receive their awards, Captain Dobey was called upon to describe the events of that Saturday morning that had resulted in one of his detectives being shot. He told how the two nurses, the three Girl Scouts, and their leaders had all worked together to save the detective's life and to bring the guilty parties to justice. He then called each one of them up to receive their award. It was Ken Hutchinson who actually gave each of them their award. There were lots of hugs and even a few tears as each person came forward. Even some of the reporters found themselves wiping away a tear or two, especially during the closing remarks that were given by Ken Hutchinson.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, "we came here today to celebrate the actions of twelve people--twelve people who are true heroes. But what, exactly, makes someone a hero? The dictionary defines a hero as someone who is distinguished by courage, bravery, or some other ability which earns him or her the respect of others. It further defines a hero as someone who is considered a role model for others. Certainly today, we have heard the stories of twelve people--men, women, and even children--all of whom fit this description of what a hero is. Are these twelve the only heroes in our city? Of course not. Heroes are everywhere, all around us."
Starsky, who was sitting next to Susan, looked at her and smiled. She looked down and he rested his hand on hers in a gesture of encouragement.
"How, then, do you know who is a hero? Is there something you can see just by looking at a person that identifies him or her as a hero? Sometimes. It may be evident in the uniform worn by a nurse or a firefighter or a cop or a Girl Scout."
The girls in Troop 729 looked at one another and broke out in grins--grins that showed off dimples and braces and missing teeth.
"It may be evident when you see a serviceman or woman with a missing arm or leg who has earned a Purple Heart." He looked briefly at Susan as he said this. "But the marks that distinguish someone as a hero may be less obvious to the casual observer. They may appear as bruises on a young mother who packs up her children and goes to a shelter in the middle of the night to protect herself and her children from an abusive man. They may appear as scars from an operation on someone who has battled cancer or some other disease."
Both of these remarks made Susan think of her mother, although Hutch did not look at Susan as he said them.
"The marks of a true hero may look like the calluses on the hands of an old man who has worked for years in a menial job so that his children can go to college and have a better life than he had."
Hutch took a sip of water before he continued. "Then there are those marks of a hero that no one can see: the person who takes the time to listen to a teenager who is heading for trouble, the smile of a complete stranger who offers a helping hand with no thought of receiving anything in return, the comforting voice of someone answering the phone at a suicide hotline. The list goes on and on."
"I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we are surrounded by heroes--all kinds of heroes--every day. And the ironic thing is that most of these people don't even know that they are heroes."
At this point, he looked again at Susan, and, as she met his gaze, her eyes began to fill with tears.
"That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true mark of what makes someone a hero. Look around the room and I think you will see what I mean."
This story has two possible endings. Pick one!
Chapter 12:Starsky or Chapter 12:Hutch