Disclaimer... I do not own any characters found in the series "Starsky and Hutch". This is not intended to infringe on any copyrights held by Spelling-Goldberg Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Studios, or any other holders of Starsky and Hutch copyrights. There has been no money involved nor has any exchanged hands. No reprints or reproductions with the author's permission. This is just intended to be for fun.
The Devil's Day Off
(A story following the episode "Partner")
"Vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking any longer." The Lion
"A body on vacation tends to remain on vacation unless acted upon by an outside force." Carol Reichel
The body of Captain Harold C. Dobey lay heavy and unmoving, half in and half out of the cool shade of the nearest tree. He lay silently, dead to the world of all but the warmth on his legs, the shade across his torso and the relaxing sounds of children, birds and the rustling leaves. At this moment he was warm, lazy and gloriously comfortable in a beat-up old lounge chair placed at the front of his new truck and RV.
Dobey had initially been unwilling to sell his cabin at Pine Lake, but Edith had held firm. Cal would need college money soon and the land had been an investment. The new RV setup had been a splurge, but a much needed one.
The Happy Trails RV Park was situated in one of those beautiful little places that was one of California's greatest treasures. Normally, it would have been impossible to find a space this time of year, but Dobey had been lucky enough to get reservations months in advance. Two weeks had already been spent as a family, but this week was just for him and Edith, the kids staying with family.
Two weeks away from the chief, Dobey smiled to himself. No endless reports, vouchers, meetings and life or death decisions. And two weeks away from two certain detectives who are going to drive me crazy, Dobey sighed at the unbidden thought, eyes still closed to the golden afternoon. Either that, or I'll be completely grey by the end of the year.
He knew for a fact he had earned more grey hair just a scant two weeks ago when Starsky had driven the Torino through a construction shack. The 'Officer Down' call from the black-n-white at the scene had chilled him thoroughly. Dobey had been initially relieved that it hadn't been any worse than it was, but then Hutch had faked amnesia. He had been rude and insulting, making everyone miserable. Dobey's immediate concern had been for Starsky.
What would I have done with him then? Dobey thought sourly. They both would have been basket cases. Who else could work with Starsky as well as Hutch did? And if Hutch had been permanently or seriously hurt, who else could have handled Starsky's misery?
Rank did have it's privileges, so Dobey's authority over the two had been quickly and firmly re-established. While initially threatening the two with a shift in traffic control, he had reconsidered after realizing that Hutch wouldn't be up to long stints on his feet. He had finally decided to let them both cool off a bit and serve their recovery times separately. Dobey had called in favors and had planted Hutch in the Supply Department and Starsky with Records. Those departments were not even on the same floor. Those two can't get into too much grief where they are now. Serves them both right.
Dobey settled back with a smile, ready to drift off again, when something in the background jolted him wide awake. What was that? Dobey opened an eye suspiciously, not quite comfortable with what he had heard. It had passed too quickly and had been drowned out by the sounds of nearby campers. Edith? he pondered. But after a minute with no new sound, Dobey let himself drift back into a doze.
What? What was that? Dobey shifted restlessly. There it was again. That sound. Whatever it was, it had been too quick for Dobey to catch. Cop's nerves, Dobey sighed. A part of him knew that his cop's training would not let it go as long as it wasn't identified. Edith would call it natural nosiness, Dobey thought with a smile. Maybe she's right.
Dobey walked to the back of the RV and surveyed the area. While the park was sprawled over a vast distance and camping spots decently separated, it was nearly mid-day and the place was busy. Checkout time was noon and some people were still packing up while new arrivals were pulling into empty spaces. A quick glance showed him nothing out of the ordinary. Trying to shake the nagging feeling, Dobey turned back toward his lounge chair when he heard it.
"Whoa, Hutch! This isn't right either! Turn it left! Turn it left!"
No. It can't be! Dobey froze in surprise. They can't be here! They're at Metro!
Dobey glanced furtively around the RV. Two lots down from him an old one-step-from-the-grave pickup was trying to back up a ancient tin-can-of-a-camper into an empty lot. He could see that the driver, face turned away and leaning out of the truck's window, was a Caucasian male with longish blond hair and tall, by the build of his torso. His companion, a Caucasian male with dark, curly hair didn't quite have the height of his comrade but was broader built.
Think of the Devil and there they are! Dobey cringed in disbelief. I know I don't want to know! Dobey willed himself farther away from the scene, but couldn't move. I don't need to know. I'm on vacation. I have five more days. This has got to be a bad dream. But for some strange reason, Dobey found himself drifting closer, unable to leave well enough alone.
"That was left, Starsky," came the irritated reply from the blond driver. "I told you it was! Now we're more cock-eyed than before." The driver settled back into the seat and slipped the truck into drive, pulling the camper forward for another try.
"No, no, no, no, no," Starsky answered, shaking his head in frustration.
Dobey noticed with surprise that Starsky's left arm was encased in an Ace bandage from fingers to elbow, all supported by a thin sling. He was dressed in an oversized T-shirt with a faded Van Halen motif, ragged cutoffs and ancient Adidas. Starsky was obviously trying to direct Hutch into backing the tiny camper into the allotted space and apparently not having much luck.
"My left. Not yours," Starsky explained with exaggerated patience.
"Your left?" Hutch snorted, shifting the truck back into reverse. "I'm the one that's driving. You're supposed to give me directions for the way I'm facing, not the way you're facing!" The truck jerked backward, pushing the camper back into the wooded space and stopped again. The camper was still crooked and Hutch had barely missed the picnic table.
With a muffled curse, Hutch pulled the truck forward once again.
"Wassa matter?" Starsky answered grumpily, good hand on hip. "Can't remember which hand is which?" The darker man strode to the front of the truck and sited the camper as if he were lining up a putt. "Just 'cause you gotta play with a semi doesn't mean you know how to back up a camper. You gotta go left I'm tellin' ya."
Dobey leaned against a nearby tree, not even trying to suppress his sigh. He now had a good view of the scene and was still un-noticed by his two wayward detectives.
"Again? Whose left?" Hutch asked, face twisted in disgust. "That semi had side mirrors. Plural. This truck doesn't anymore. I can't see without any mirrors. Who's fault is that?"
"Your left," Starsky replied defensively, he face coloring slightly. "And it wasn't my fault. How was I supposed to know the tunnel was too narrow? I was watchin' the tunnel height! Nobody said nothin' about tunnels bein' too narrow! 'Sides, you were driving."
"But who was navigating? Who decided we could make better time on the back roads?" Hutch's sharp questions were almost lost under the sound of the old truck's engine as he turned the wheel and tried once more to back the camper into the correct position. This time he was able to back it in at a straighter angle, completely missing the table.
Dobey shook his head in disbelief. He just knew that this was going to be some story and he didn't intend to miss it. Not one word. Why had this just turned into a vacation from a slapstick movie? Dobey wondered, a smile touching his face. He couldn't help but be fond of his two overgrown teenagers, but hated for it to show. Can't have them thinking this is my idea of a peaceful vacation. But he knew Edith would be thrilled. She had semi-adopted the two years ago and worried over them almost as much as he did.
Both detectives conferred quietly for a moment and apparently decided that the camper was straight enough for now. Dobey groaned inwardly as he saw Hutch emerge from the drivers side of the truck. From mid-calf and down into an elderly shoe, Hutch's left foot and ankle were also wrapped in an Ace bandage. His foot was barely stuffed into an old tennis shoe, the tongue pulled out and the laces barely holding everything in. The look was completed by a neater pair of shorts and a Mozart t-shirt that was barely newer than Starsky's. The taller detected limped over to his partner to inspect the placement of the camper. They started to unhitch it from the truck, agreeing that this was as good as it was going to get.
Maybe I should leave, Dobey thought to himself, eyeing the two injuries. Maybe I should just disappear and leave well enough alone. I'm sure Captains Dixon and Montrose will be more than happy to fill me in on every little detail. There's no need to waste....
But it was already too late. Hutch had suddenly turned toward the truck and spotted him. The tall man froze instantly, his face coloring a mild red all the way up into his hairline.
"Oh. Hi, Captain," Hutch called sheepishly. "Starsky, look who's here!" Hutch shuffled minutely sideways, trying to hide his body behind the front of the truck, obviously taking a chance that his captain hadn't yet seen the injury.
Starsky, trotting up to the front of the truck at his partner's call, was just a second too late in trying to hide his own bandage. The embarrassed grin spreading across the man's face was a sure sign to Dobey that the story was going to be a really good one.
Crossing his arms, pulling his full height and bulk into play, Dobey walked slowly across the road toward the two frozen detectives. Pulling his 'Captain' mode around him like a cape, he inspected the two ragged detectives.
Hutch, still slightly red, leaned against the truck in a casual pose and tried not to pay any attention to Dobey's scrutiny of his leg, but Starsky gave up the fight immediately and meekly presented his left arm for further inspection.
"What in the world," Dobey said quietly, building up volume as he went along, "happened to you two?! I leave for three weeks and you two not only come up with more injuries that you started with, but you get caught playing hooky too?" He stood for a moment, hands on hips, watching the two detectives squirm. "I," he boomed, "happen to know, for a fact, that neither one of you had a vacation planned until the fall. I also know," he added, fully in his captain's role, "that I had you two tucked away where you could not only do some good, but would be off the street until this week!" He glared at them both accusingly, waiting.
Standing close, like two naughty children caught in the act, Starsky and Hutch exchanged nudges and glares, deciding in silence who was going to be spokesman for the duo. Dobey had seen this a hundred times before, but he had never been able to decipher it. It was still a toss up as to who would answer first..
"Well, now, Captain," Hutch began with a mild laugh. "It's really a very funny story...." He shrugged his shoulder casually and flashed Dobey a charming smile, seemingly at a loss as to where to begin.
"Sure is, Cap'n," Starsky added quickly, throwing in a forced chuckle and a reassuring smile. "You're gonna laugh. Really."
Hutch threw his partner a glare and started again. "You see, Captain, it all sort of started last week when, uh, Starsky started this fire...."
"I did not!" Starsky burst in with an incredulous look at his friend. "It wasn't my fault! The typewriter went nuts!" He stopped suddenly at seeing Dobey's face. "Well, Cap'n.... uh, see, you know how I am with those new electric typewriters. We just don't get along all that well. 'N there I was, typing along and all of a sudden the stupid thing jams and starts smokin'. So I threw my coffee on it to put it out...."
"....and didn't unplug it first," Hutch added under his breath, carefully studying the branch filled sky.
Starsky threw his partner a savage glare. "....and it sorta shorted or somethin'. It wasn't really a fire, Cap'n, just a small amount of smoke.... I mean, the alarms didn't even go off." He shrugged and threw Dobey a small grin. "Well, I had to take it down to Supply to get another one. When somebody threw a fit." Starsky leaned back against the truck, pointedly ignoring his partner.
"Procedure, Starsky, procedure," Hutch answered hotly, apparently forgetting the captain's presence. "You can't just bring the broken stuff to the Supply department without filling out the forms! There wasn't any way I was going to accept that thing back into Supply until you had filled out the correct forms."
"Well, Mr. Supply Sergeant," Starsky angrily confronted his partner. "I didn't have a typewriter to fill out the forms with. And if you hadn't gotten so high and mighty on me, I might've paid more attention to what the typewriter was doin'!"
"Well, anybody else would have known better than to put a wet and slick typewriter on the edge of an uneven desk!" Hutch responded, eyes flashing.
"Well, how was I to know that you'd made it lopsided by taking the prop out from under the leg?!" Starsky challenged. "And who had all those loose papers and books piled on top of it anyway?
For a moment Hutch looked stumped for a comeback. With a start, he suddenly seemed to realize that Dobey was still there, staring at them both. "Well, uh, Captain," he continued to Dobey, ignoring Starsky's last comment. "The typewriter was wet and the desk wasn't level and we were debating the issue when the typewriter slid off the desk and landed on...."
"....glanced off of...." Starsky muttered loudly.
"....landed on my foot," Hutch finished with a long-suffering look at his Captain. "A deep bruise and sprained."
Dobey took a deep breath but said nothing, waiting for the inevitable.
"And then, with all the yelling and screaming at me," Starsky replied with a pout, not looking at Hutch. "I sorta got disoriented 'n slipped on some filing cards that someone had spread out all over the floor, 'n sorta fell into one of the shelving units, 'n it started to fall, 'n I tried to catch it...."
"....and got his arm pinned under it when it knocked down the other shelves," Hutch finished quietly after Starsky's tale drifted off. "And I told you when you came in not to step on those cards, because I was trying to reorganize the system." Hutch turned beseechingly toward Dobey. "Captain, you would not believe the stupid filing system that the Supply department has set up for...."
Dobey held up one finger and Hutch suddenly fell silent.
"Why are you here and not recuperating at the station?" Dobey asked quietly.
The detectives glanced furtively at each other, obviously trying to decide how to handle this. Hutch suddenly decided the clouds were, again, very interesting, leaving Starsky the onerous task.
"Well, Cap'n," Starsky began with a defeated shrug, "Cap'ns Dixon and Montrose decided that Supply and Records really didn't need any more help right at the moment, 'n Cap'n Calloway decided that Homicide was a little slow, so he sorta suggested...." Starsky gave Dobey a wan smile, "....suggested that maybe it would be to our advantage to trade our vacations with someone and recuperate at home, since Hutch 'n I are sorta short of sick days right now." Starsky ended sheepishly.
And why does any of this not surprise me? Dobey thought with a sigh. "And the camper?"
"Oh, it belongs to a friend of Huggy's," Starsky replied happily. "Hutch 'n I were at The Pits, tryin' to decided where to go for vacation when Huggy let us know about this set-up. Huggy said his friend hadda put off his vacation for awhile so he rented it to us. We got it for the week with the reservations to this place." He gave Hutch a happy glance. "Huggy let us have it real cheap, cheaper than a hotel. Hutch can drift off into the wilderness anytime he wants and I can lead the civilized life." He smiled proudly and patted the side of the beat-up old truck.
"Yeah," Hutch snorted in derision, "like I'm going to be able to spend a week in that camper without ending up like a pretzel. And this is not exactly my ideal of wilderness. There's too many...."
"Hey," Starsky interrupted seriously, holding up a warning hand, "you're closer to it now than you would be if you'd try to hike somewhere on that foot. And I've always wanted to try going out in a camper." Starsky's voice softened, as if gently reminding. "'Sides, you promised. Remember?"
Dobey watched as Hutch sighed and studied the ground. The blond shrugged slightly, objections ending for the moment. "Yeah. Okay."
Still paying for our crimes, are we? Dobey thought with a touch of compassion for the blond cop's sudden retreat. This trip must have been Starsky's idea and part of Hutch's apology.
Dobey turned toward his wife's voice and waved her over. She might as well see this, Dobey thought, or she's not going to believe it. "Over here, dear," he called. "We seem to have some company."
Edith looked as fresh and resplendent as always and Harold C. Dobey never tired of admiring her. Of all the decisions he had made over the years, courting and marrying Edith had definitely been the best. He watched in appreciation as Edith, glowing in red sun-dress and leaf dappled sunlight approached them.
"Why, Ken, Dave, whatever are you doing here?" she asked, in delighted surprise. Surprise turned into concern when she spied their injuries. "Oh, my! What happened? Are you two all right?"
"It's a long story, dear," Dobey broke in, knowing she would have the truth from him over lunch. "These two seem to be our new neighbors for a few days. But they've got a full schedule, so we won't be seeing much of them," Dobey stated, throwing the two a 'you'd better be busy' look.
"Oh, yeah," Starsky replied quickly, waving toward the elderly camper. "Hutch 'n me got a lotta plans. Why, you won't even know we're here." He grinned and Hutch nodding his head, smiling sweetly.
"Well, I'm sure you're right," she replied hesitantly, eyeing the object of Starsky's enthusiasm. "But I insist you both come to supper tonight. Say about six? Harold can grill his marinated steaks."
"Oh, sure," Hutch answered quickly, "six sounds fine. Can we, uh, bring anything?"
"No, I'm sure we have everything. Just don't forget." Edith gave both men and camper a bemused look and took her husband's arm. "Time for lunch, Harold. See you two tonight." And with that Edith Dobey steered her husband away from his men and their campsite.
"See you later!" Starsky called happily in parting.
It wasn't until they were out of earshot that Edith finally broached the subject. "Harold, what in the world happened to them? How did they get hurt again? Will they be safe in that thing? It looks like a, like a.... silver dumpster of some sort."
"Dear," Dobey sighed, "it's a long story and I'll tell it to you over lunch. And as for it being safe for them," Dobey shook his head in disbelief, "for those two, I'm sure it's as safe as anything else they could be doing."
Dave Starsky stood smiling, hand on hip and arm in sling, watching as Captain Dobey and Edith walked down the thin gravel road toward their RV. "Whadda'ya think? It's gotta be a good sign, us bein' here the same time as Dobey." He glanced over and found that Hutch had already limped over to the truck. Starsky watched quietly as Hutch pulled the unhitched truck back into the road, only to back it up into the empty space next to their camper and the scarred, old picnic table.
Hutch got out and surveyed the camp site, still frowning slightly. Starsky knew that Hutch had been embarrassed by finding Dobey here. But what the hell? Starsky thought. It's not like he wasn't gonna know as soon as he got back to Metro. Now we have a whole week of not worrying about him findin' out.
Hutch gave a big sigh, resignation written on his face. "I know I promised I wouldn't bitch, Starsk, but that thing's got to be the ugliest camper I've ever seen. What if it rains? I don't think that thing is water-tight."
"Hutch," Starsky said happily, checking the side bubbles on the camper to see how level it was, "you did promise and I'm holdin' you to it. No bitching about my vacation. I told you we'd compromise and this is it. You get the lake to fish all you want and trees everywhere you turn. I get the rest of this place to hang out in. Who cares what the camper looks like? It's gotta be dryer in the rain than layin' in a soggy tent on muddy ground."
Starsky started to fumble with the leveling poles for the camper when Hutch came and took over the job, setting the poles and making sure they were set solid. He checked the levels one more time.
"Yeah, you just think you're going to score big this week because of that lady's group Huggy said was going to be up here," Hutch said, nodding his head in satisfaction at the readings. "Nature is the last thing on your mind, unless it's about chasing the female kind."
"So?" Starsky asked, throwing the wooden stops in front of the camper's tires, kicking them into place. "So some kinda ladies group has a big convention around here. Doesn't mean that's why I wanted the trip. 'Sides," Starsky replied with a smug smile, "I don't chase girls, they chase after me."
"Only with big sticks to make you leave." Hutch snorted. "Well, open it up and let's get started. Maybe I can catch us a late lunch."
Starsky fumbled in his shorts pocket and smilingly came up with the key. "It may not be much, but it's gotta be better than a tent." He fumbled with the key and the lock for a moment. "And I think we did a great job of packin' everything in there."
Hutch stood silently, arms crossed, wishing Starsky would just give up and let him open the door. Starsky could do a lot of things right handed, but the camper door was sticky and was hard to jiggle open. Hutch sighed and eyed the camper once again. It looked like an old tin can, all tarnished silver with rust spots showing around most of the seams.
It was supposed to sleep two, one at each end, but Hutch was not looking forward to sleeping like a sardine. At least in a tent and sleeping bag he could stretch out and get comfortable. While both beds were the same length, a full six inches too small for Hutch, one was just a bit wider and Hutch had felt no guilt at demanding the wider bed. If I'm going to be sleeping like a pretzel then I'm going to need that extra room, Hutch thought sourly. And I can't even stand up straight in the stupid thing either. Just as well I don't plan to be in it very much.
Add to that the fact that the whole contraption only contained two beds, a small sink and faucet, a tiny table (that you couldn't sit at) and a tiny two-burner gas stove, the blond couldn't for the life of him see the attraction. They were still going to have to use the park's communal facilities to shave, shower and such. And cooking on a gas range could never compare to an old-fashioned campfire. The camper was even too small to pack efficiently.
Starsky finally got the camper door unlocked. Hutch was about to follow his partner into the camper when Starsky froze, blocking the door and Hutch's view.
"Come on, Starsk. Move it," Hutch complained, trying to hurry him along.
"Uh, Hutch," Starsky replied quickly, turning to close the door, "just a sec, okay?"
Hutch stood in surprise as the odor of a brewery assaulted him. What the hell? He had opened his mouth to respond when he caught the sounds of rain coming from inside the camper. Beer? Rain?
The door opened again a half second later and Starsky stumbled out, forcing Hutch back and closing the door quickly behind him.
"Hey, pal, good news," Starsky started with forced cheer, continuing to block the doorway. "It is water-tight." Starsky's fake grin turned a bit embarrassed as he shrugged. "After all, none of the liquid has come out so far."
Hutch, eyes wide from the first sound of dripping, felt his jaw drop. I promised, I really promised. Now I'm in camping hell, he thought with a sigh. I guess I really deserve this.... He rubbed his face for a count of ten, trying to keep his tongue in check. "Okay, what happened? Or do I want to know?"
Starsky's expression relaxed at the even tone of Hutch's voice. "Well, remember the six-packs of beer we brought? I guess they leaked or something."
"Beer?" Hutch was confused, rechecking the supply list over in his mind. "We didn't pack any beer." He stopped as he saw Starsky's face. "You packed beer? Where did you find the space to pack beer?" Hutch had a feeling that he wasn't going to like any of this.
"Aw, come on," Starsky answered plaintively. "It's my vacation. So I wanted some beer. It's not a crime. I just pulled a sleeping bag out of the upper cabinet and stacked the six-packs in there. The sleeping bag wasn't gonna hurt anything if it was loose on the floor."
"The upper cabinet? Over one of the beds? Which bed?" Hutch asked carefully, cringing in anticipation.
Starsky winced and replied in a near whisper. "The big one."
It was indeed a mess. Hutch had not trusted himself to speak until they had emptied the camper of everything wet and sticky. Which, unsurprisingly, was everything on Hutch's side of the camper. Apparently the beer hadn't blown up, but the heavy vibrations had caused the six-packs of beer to rub together, wearing holes in most of the cans. About three full six-packs had drained into Hutch's freshly laundered clothing and had then soaked through the upper cabinet and had preceded to 'rain' onto Hutch's mattress.
Starsky's forced cheerfulness at the fact that the mess was pretty much self-contained hadn't bolstered Hutch's spirits at all. Hutch had been too quiet and Starsky felt that some tirade would have been better than none at this point. He had helped Hutch throw his sticky-wet clothes and all of their clean-up towels into the back of the truck and watched him drive off to the park laundromat
Geesh! Starsky shook his head at the left-over mess, scratching absently at the bandage covering his left arm. We needed this like we needed another hole in our heads. First we get lost, then we lose the mirrors off the truck, now this. If we could only get a break sometime this week.... Starsky turned to contemplate the soggy mattress. Now, how to get this thing cleaned up? It's gonna draw flies if we don't get all that beer out of it pretty soon.
Starsky keenly felt the need to do this right so his partner would have a decent place to sleep. He wanted this trip to get them both back on an even keel after the last few weeks. Being in Records and tied to a desk was bad enough, but without Hutch around to talk to and pick on, it had just been empty time. He'd made a lot of trips to Supply everyday to pick on his partner and make sure Hutch was getting around okay. They'd managed a lot of quiet lunches together and most of their evenings had been spent together, recovering from their original injuries. But things had felt strangely subdued.
Starsky knew the reason for the awkwardness still between them. He winced at the memory of the crash and Hutch's amnesia trick and tried to put it out of his mind.
It's done with now, the detective reminded himself sternly. Time to get this vacation on the road. We're here to relax.
But what to do now? The soggy mattress wasn't going to get cleaned up by itself. He could take it to the lake and soak it, but he knew that was a bad idea, even if he could have done it one-handed. The camper had a small water tank, but it was just enough for the sink. It didn't hold enough water to rinse the whole mattress and they hadn't planned on using it anyway, so hadn't brought a hose. And the water hookup for the lot would be awkward to get the mattress under. I could fill the bucket and flush it out that way, but I can't do that very well with one hand. Better ask Cap'n Dobey, Starsky decided with a grimace. He'll have an idea.
Hutch limped slowly with the third garbage bag full of sopping, sticky towels into the park's laundromat. Three of the many washers in the empty, shed-like room were currently full with his clothes. Hutch was glad to have the place to himself, not really wanting the company of his fellow campers. The third garbage bag filled two more washers and Hutch got them started. He counted through his change, realizing he didn't have enough for the dryers, but he did have a couple of bills for the change machine. Consistent with his luck so far, the machine ate his money and produced nothing.
Well, what now Einstein? Go back to camp? Hutch quickly discounted that idea. The odds that Starsky was going to have any change at all was pretty nil. Hutch knew the main office was toward the front of this cluster of buildings and he might be able to talk them into some change. The least they could do since their change machine is either empty or busted. And I want my dollar back.
Hutch stood at the wide doorway to the laundry building and surveyed the park. People and a variety of vehicles and tents were only partially hidden by the scattered trees and curving hillside. The carefully trimmed and drastically thinned forest this once used to be seemed sad to Hutch. He tried not to think about the solitude and beauty this area once must have had. What could Starsky see in a place like this? Hutch wondered. But he saw no-one nearby, so decided it was safe enough to leave the laundry and walk to the office.
The office was still busy with campers waiting to sign in, with an older man attending them at the counter. Hutch stood to the side for a moment, waiting for a break in the sign-in line. He was about to interrupt for change when he froze in his tracks. A beautiful vision walked from an inner office to the counter and Hutch was transfixed.
Slim and long limbed, the young lady moved with the grace of an athlete. Hutch stood transfixed, watching the woman smile with sincere pleasure at the next person in line. Striking brown eyes with flecks of gold off set her evenly tanned skin, all framed by her long, rich, almost-black hair that hung in a lose braid swinging down to her waist. Hutch backed away from the counter, suddenly content to out wait the line, eyes watching her every move.
It was the best fifteen minutes Hutch had had in weeks. As the line of those checking in and out dwindled, he was able to watch the graceful woman to his heart's content. Only once had she glanced at him, seeing him standing off by himself in a corner and she had flashed him the most beautiful smile Hutch had seen in ages. She hadn't said a word, but had returned to her desk duty.
No wedding ring, the blond noticed happily. Her name tag says 'Calbert' and I know where she works. This week might be pretty interesting after all!
Both counter people were efficient. After a pleasant fifteen minutes he found himself the last unhelped customer in the office.
"May I help you, Sir?" the older man asked, eyes smiling.
"Oh, don't worry, Sid," the young lady chimed in quickly. "I'll take care of this gentleman. You go ahead with your break."
Sid apparently wasn't fooled for a second as he gave Hutch an not-unkind once over and winked at the young woman. "Sure, hon. Let me know if you need any help." He disappeared down the hallway with a wave at them both.
"Good afternoon, Sir. How may I help you?" She turned quickly toward Hutch, flashing him a smile that almost drove all thought from his mind.
"Uh.... Well...." he stammered, struggling to remember why he was there. He gathered up his most charming smile and leaned one elbow on the counter. "I was doing some laundry and ran out of change. Your change machine doesn't work and I was wondering if I could get some change here."
"Oh, I'm sorry! How much do you need?" Her eyes smiled at him.
"Oh, just a couple of dollars worth." He smiled back. "If it's no trouble." He quickly pulled out his wallet, almost dropping it in the process. Easy Hutch, first impressions! It was all he could do to take his eyes off the lady to find the correct bills.
"My pleasure." She opened a cash drawer and they exchanged money, fingers touching lightly. "I'm really am sorry, Mr.... Um...." She looked at him curiously, eyes sparkling.
"Hutchinson," Hutch answered quickly. "Ken Hutchinson. I just got here today and I'm staying for the week."
"Oh, lucky you!" she replied with a grin. "And my name's Gina, by the way. What brings you here, vacation or recuperation?"
"From your injury," she answered with concern. "I noticed your ankle and foot was bandaged."
"Oh, that," Hutch replied quickly, feeling foolish. He hadn't felt a twinge from his foot since he'd walked in and had actually forgotten it. "Yeah, just a slight injury at...."
"Gina!" A voice boomed from the back rooms. "You have a phone call. It's Robert." Sid the counter man reappeared and nodded to Hutch and the young woman.
"Sorry, have to go," the young woman smiled at Hutch. "Maybe you can drop by again some time." She smiled one last time at him and quickly headed toward the back offices.
"Have you been helped, Sir?" the older man asked.
"Yes, sir." Hutch smiled back. Gina Calbert, huh? "I sure have." Well, depending on who Robert is, of course.
Starsky was on his way back from the Dobey's RV when he spotted the truck backing into their space. Hutch is back early. Starsky started to check his watch, thrown for a minute until he remembered it was on the other wrist. Forty-five minutes? He made good time with the laundry. He had actually hoped Hutch would be gone for awhile so he could set up the sleeping bags in the empty bed frame as a peace offering.
Dobey hadn't said a word about the accident, for which Starsky was grateful. The Captain come to inspect the damage and then had helped him lug the thin mattress down to his RV. The best they had been able to do was to spray the mattress with some liquid detergent and then hose it down thoroughly, hoping the detergent and water would wash away the beer. Edith had then sent Dobey up to the small park grocery for more detergent in case it would need a second washing, but Starsky had hopes that one rinsing would be enough.
Starsky slowed as he neared the truck. Hutch was still in the drivers seat, motor turned off, head leaned against the back window and eyes closed. He had made no move since switching the engine off, arms crossed tightly across his middle his face was flushed a slight red.
Uh Oh, Starsky thought. Not good. He slowly walked around the front of the truck and up to the drivers side window, peering warily at his friend.
"So," he said quietly, leaning into the window, "how'd the laundry trip go?" Do I really want to know?
Hutch sighed tightly, eyes held closed. "Oh, good news. Bad news. You know. That kind of thing."
"Oh?" Starsky eyed his partner suspiciously. Hutch's flush and body language suggested extreme anger, so he prepared himself. "Which do I want to know about first?"
"Wellllll...." Hutch drawled, biting his lip a little and opening one eye to peer at his partner. "The good news is that I met a gorgeous woman while I was there."
"Oh, yeah?" Starsky asked with caution. Hutch sounded stressed, which was never good news. "Anybody I should meet?"
"Only when she's with me, pal." Hutch replied, closing the eye but still chewing the lip, jaw muscles quivering slightly as was his voice. "You find your own company this trip."
"Hey," Starsky replied, smiling a little challenge. "I get laundry duty too, you know. And I don't see anybody 'with' you yet. Now, what's with the bad news?" Starsky watched his partner closely.
Hutch sighed again but it caught in his throat and was almost a sob. He trembled tightly, his face still flushed and his eyes suspiciously bright.
He's gonna cry, Starsky thought, feeling his stomach tighten. Oh, shit! He's coming unglued!
"Laundry's done." Hutch tried to sound casual but was losing whatever battle he was fighting with himself. He leaned forward on the steering wheel and looked away, shaking even more.
"Yeah?" Starsky said quietly, not sure what to say or do next. What the hell happened? What do I do? Gotta get him someplace private and fast! He reached in and patted his friend on the back. "Ah.... Hutch? Let's take it back in the trailer and talk about it." Starsky glanced quickly around the cab and the bed of the truck. No laundry. Hutch's shoulders were starting to shake even harder now. "Where is it?"
"I'm w-w...." Hutch started, but was caught by a sudden snicker and choked, unable to continue as his face split into a wide grin and he began to chuckle deeply, head resting on the steering wheel. An instant later he was guffawing loudly, tears running down his face.
He's laughing! Starsky stood in shock and concern, feeling as if he'd been slapped upside the head and spun 180 degrees. What the hell....? "Hutch? Hutch? What are you talking about? Where is the laundry?"
Hutch wiped at his eyes and tried to take a steadying breath. He almost lost control again when a giggle broke loose, but managed to compose himself. "W-wearing it. S-s-stole the rest." He gasped with a suppressed snicker, waving a hand helplessly. "All of it. Clothes, underwear, socks... all wet... all g-gone." He hiccuped and lost control again, hugging his middle and laughing deeply.
Starsky felt himself staring at his partner in shock. He is unglued! But then Starsky felt it, the quiver and bubble of a chuckle make it's way up from his gut. He tried to stop it, but a snicker escaped him, the sound of Hutch's laughter like a contagious disease. Don't get started! Don't get started! Starsky silently chanted. Assert your training, get the facts.... It was all he could do to just stand there and fight the rising hysteria. He composed his face and took a deep breath.
Hutch took another gasp and several near-giggles escaped him. "I give up," he squeaked. Hutch put both hands to cover his eyes and shrugged shakily. "It's the Twilight Z-z-zone! I'm d-d-doomed!" and suddenly he let go, falling to lay across the truck's seat, guffawing loudly and deeply.
Then, to his heartfelt glee, Starsky lost it. Chortling deeply, he could feel his himself weaken, gasping for breath and sputtering. He was quickly hanging off of the side of the truck in helplessness, his laughter feeding off of Hutch's. And just when he seemed to manage a another breath, Hutch would set him off again, with a squeak or a snort.
Several minutes passed before both men dissolved into weak, snickering, wet hiccups, desperately trying not to look at each other. Oh man.... Oh man.... Starsky mused. People are gonna think we're nuts. He felt wrung out and weak-kneed, but it was as if a giant weight was suddenly gone. I feel like it's been years since we've done that. Too long in coming.... He wiped at his streaming eyes and ventured a glance at his partner. Hutch was wiping at his own wet face, lying limp and relaxed.
"S-so, supercop," Starsky began, wiping ineffectively at his bleary eyes and sniffling. "What now? Hide you in shame for the duration? Become the camp streaker? Find you a fig leaf? Stay downwind? Borrow my things?"
"Aaahhhh...." Hutch responded, struggling to use weak stomach muscles to sit up again. He, too, was trying to clear tear-reddened eyes and sniffling. "Better the former than the latter, my dear. I am not sharing your ratty camping clothes. We go back to that tourist trap we passed. I saw a thrift store there. Cheap and ready to wear."
"'Kay. Suits me." Starsky jogged quickly back to the camper to lock it up, mindful of the clothing thieves in the area. He weakly suppressed another chuckle while grabbing something before trotting back to the truck and getting in. He handed Hutch the roll of toilet paper, knowing they were going to need it to get themselves cleaned up. "You know, somebody probably just got mad at you hoggin' the machines or something. We could find all your clothes in a garbage can or a pile somewhere. Wanna look around?"
"Oh yeah, like I really want to wear a bunch of clothes that somebody would just walk away with." Hutch proceeded to clean himself up. "You don't know what those people did or where those clothes have been by now."
"An' a thrift store is any better?" Starsky asked in amazement. "You don't know those people either!"
"That's different," Hutch replied quickly, although he looked a little unsure.
"Oh!" Starsky said sarcastically. "I see! Pay a coupl'a bucks for someone's used jeans and you're safe from cooties!" Starsky broke into snickers again, gaining a weak but evil look from his partner as Hutch started the truck.
Harold Dobey enjoyed the leisurely stroll back to the RV with the small bag of groceries. He had endeavored to walk as much as he could this vacation, mindful of his ever-gaining waistline. It's not like I've got the time to exercise much, Dobey reflected guiltily. Twelve to eighteen hour days, emergency calls in the middle of the night.... I'm always stuck in that office, worrying about every plan and move my men make. There's nothing to do to keep myself going but drink coffee and eat. If I had more time off...He sighed to himself, knowing how likely that was. At least this is a start.
He wondered down the well used trail, consciously enjoying the afternoon's sites and sounds. True, this place wasn't as remote as his cabin had been, but then again he wasn't responsible for the whole park, just his one little spot of it. And so far his neighbors had been friendly and smiling, while leaving him and Edith in much needed peace. Which brought his mind back to certain other neighbors of his...
Now, he mused with slight amusement, how do two grown men get a mattress soaked with beer in the first hour of their arrival? Maybe they're having some kind of problem with the trailer. Maybe I should have asked....
Dobey broke off his thoughts as he glanced down the footpath to see an ancient truck with two familiar men in the front. Dark and fair, both were talking and sharing a roll of toilet paper, wiping reddened eyes and blowing noses.
Dobey shook himself, realizing he was staring with his mouth open. He purposefully looked away and proceed on his trek.
...and maybe I'll be glad I didn't.
It was a wonderful, sunny spring day and both men relaxed to enjoy the trip into town. Neither one spoke as they made their way down to the main highway and turned toward Peakness, the closest town on the hiway. The fresh spring air in their faces and the scenic woods lining the side of the highway made up for the heavy flow of traffic in and around the mountains.
Hutch enjoyed the driving, he felt at home in the old truck. He'd driven something like it years ago, although that one didn't have an automatic transmission. Good thing this one does, or we'd never have been able to make this trip, Hutch thought. He was able to drive with a bruised left foot, but Starsky wouldn't have been able to handle the steering with his arm bruised and sprained.
As if hearing Hutch's thoughts, Starsky settled back and started to unwind his arm bandage. Hutch winced at the first site of Starsky's bruises, settling his attention back on the road.
What a pair of fools we are. We were damn lucky not to have broken anything. Hutch could feel the slight flush coming on from his memory of the accident at the station. At least Dobey knew about it now and by the time they got back to the station, (hopefully) it would be old news. It wasn't like he hadn't felt like fifty kinds of a fool anyway, not after that amnesia stunt. Starsky and the Captain wouldn't have said anything at the station about his nasty trick, but Hutch felt like everyone knew anyway.
I still can't believe I did that. Why the hell does he put up with me? Hutch had wondered the same thing each day for weeks now, amazed that his apologies to his friends had been accepted. But he was not quite convinced he was actually forgiven, or that he deserved to be.
Hutch's foot ached dully and he wished he could put it up somewhere. But there was no use putting this trip off now, as this was his fault too. Well, maybe meeting Miss Calbert will be worth it.... He smiled to himself. "Just a couple of minutes, Starsk," Hutch warned. "We're almost there."
Starsky took note as Hutch pulled into Peakness. He had noticed the thrift store earlier, along with Hutch. As usual, both had scoped out the nearest town. Always a cop, he realized with a slight smile. Or like the Boy Scouts say, 'Be Prepared'.
Peakness was a newer town just off the highway, outfitted for the holiday traveler. There were fast food places, gas stations and hotels lining the hiway exit, but the setting was pleasant. The place was spread out and nestled in the trees, so you still felt like you were out in the woods somewhere, only safe and comfortable. Hutch had called it 'campy' and 'commercial' but Starsky enjoyed these places. The woods were okay, if he didn't have to stay long, but Starsky had always enjoyed being around people and being in crowds. This place had just enough of everything to keep both of them happy for awhile.
Hutch had pulled around to the back of the town and parked in front of a small woodlands mall. "The thrift store is around the corner, Starsk." Hutch got out and stretched. "I'll need to go to the discount store for underwear and stuff. Where are you headed?"
Starsky slammed the truck door shut and pondered his choices. Watching Hutch pick through clothing wasn't among them. "I guess I'm going to mosey on down to the craft store for awhile," he answered. "See ya in an hour or so. Maybe I'll see something I can send Ma."
"Good luck, pal," Hutch snorted. "Maybe you can buy her an authentic Indian purse made from the finest plastic in China. Or maybe one of those plastic owls covered in sea shells. Everyone needs one of those."
"Be nice," Starsky replied after a stretch of his own, feeling the warmth of the sun. "Or I won't get you your Christmas present," he threw after his retreating partner.
"Oh, promise me!" Hutch yell back, "Please!"
Starsky watched as his friend hobbled along, noticing that the limp was less pronounced. Another of my stupid mistakes on the mend, he sighed. He did enjoy the walk over to the craft store, watching the flow of crowds in and around the small mall. There were many people out and about today and the stores were full but not crowded. There were many shops catering to the finer, more expensive art of the area which Starsky fully planned to peruse, but he wanted to browse the souvenir shop first. He hadn't been kidding about Hutch's Christmas present and was sorely tempted to get something with seashells for him.
Grannie's Gifts Galore was large, commercial and fairly busy. Most of the crafts did have foreign tags on them, but Starsky enjoyed looking and getting ideas. He enjoyed working with his hands and a good hobby always helped him relax. He was thinking of doing some woodworking someday and had always wondered about working with leather.
It had dawned on him that Hutch might like a pair of moccasins. It was while he was checking prices that he happened to look up and saw his own personal angel enter the store. She was tall and shapely, with thick almost-black hair hanging in a braid almost waist long and the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. She wore the blue shirt and tan shorts that was what the staff at Happy Trails had worn in the office when he had signed them in. If she'd been in that office it'd have taken me hours to check in!
He watched her walk over to the store counter, standing off to the side as if she had come to talk to the young male clerk. Starsky walked over to her casually, carrying the moccasins with him.
"Excuse me, miss," he said, looking into her striking brown eyes. "Would you know what sizes these come in?" He used his sexiest smile. No ring, he thought happily. And her name tag says 'Calbert'. I sure hope her first name is 'Miss'.
"I'm sorry," she answered kindly, smiling good naturedly at him. "I don't work here."
"Oh, excuse me," Starsky apologized. "I didn't mean to bother you, but haven't I seen you somewhere before?" Starsky almost winced himself at the old line, but had been too late to change it. "I - I mean your outfit. It's a uniform I've seen around."
"Probably at the Happy Trails RV park," she answered with a chuckle at the cliché. "That's where I work, on staff. Are you staying there?"
"Yeah," Starsky answered happily. "I just got in today. I'll be there for a week."
"What brings you here, vacation or recuperation?"
"From your injury," she answered with concern. "I noticed your arm was injured."
Starsky smiled with embarrassment. He'd forgotten about it and it was kinda obvious. "Oh, that, well..." he trailed off, shrugging as if it was nothing. "It's a work related injury. Long story. Maybe sometime..."
"May I help you, sir?" the young male clerk turned to Starsky.
"Uh, no, I'm still shopping," Starsky replied quickly, hoping to minimize the interruption.
"Oh, well, I've got a break coming then, Sis," the young clerk said to Starsky's object of interest. "I can get Martha to take over now."
"Okay, Robert," she replied with a smile for the younger man. She turned her brilliant smile back toward Starsky. "I'm sorry, I've got to go now, Mr... ?"
"Starsky," he introduced himself. "Dave Starsky. Lot 1532. Nice to meet you Miss Calbert." Starsky made a show of reading her name tag, as if he hadn't done so before.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Starsky." She smiled in reply, following her brother. "See you around? I'm usually at the office. Stop by sometime."
"You bet!" Starsky replied enthusiastically. He waved with the moccasins. "See you at camp!"
Wait 'till Hutch sees her, the detective thought happily, walking the moccasins back to the leather section. He just thinks he's cornered the market on beautiful women. This is going to be a wonderful vacation, once we get it started.
Hutch sat in the sun warmed truck and glanced at his watch. Almost 3:00 p.m. he noticed. Not that he really cared, but Starsky was due back any time now. Hutch had taken more than an hour to pick through the thrift store for camping clothes then finding underwear at the discount store. He had expected to find Starsky waiting for him impatiently, but his partner still out and about. It felt good to just sit here in the passenger seat and prop his left leg up on the warm bench seat, letting the sun warm his foot through the bandage. He'd gotten enough clothing to get by, but he'd still have to wash it when he got back. This time he wasn't going to take his eyes off of those machines.
"Hey, buddy," a familiar voice boomed in his ear, jolting him from a light doze.
"Hey yourself," Hutch answered his smiling partner through the passenger window. "Find any precious works of art?"
"Could be. Am I driving?"
"No," Hutch answered quickly, trying to get his comfortable body to move back to the drivers side of the truck. "So what have you been up to?"
Starsky opened the passenger door and tossed a bag between them. "I met a lovely lady and plan to meet her again." He settled in and smiled. "Then I found this really neat park out behind the craft store. Lots of places for kids and a petting zoo, so I watched for awhile. Then I got us some hot-dogs." He indicated the bag between them. "I ate mine, figured it was time for a snack and fed the squirrels. Didn't realize I was late. Yours is still in there."
Hutch opened the bag and saw one plain hot-dog. In fact, it was so plain that there wasn't any bread around it. "What's this? Hutch asked, incredulous.
"It's your hot-dog."
"Where's the bun?"
"That's what I fed to the squirrel," Starsky answered, as if it should be obvious.
"Why didn't you just feed him the whole thing and be done with it?"
"Hutch! Are you kidding?" Starsky threw him an incredulous look. "I wouldn't feed that thing to a dog. That poor squirrel could keel over from all the salt and preservatives in it. I'm not heartless Hutch." Starsky was smiling slightly and turned to hide it by looking out the passenger window.
"Oh, gee, I love you too, partner," Hutch replied sarcastically, digging in the bag for the naked, now cold hot-dog. What the hell, he thought, taking a bite. He'll eat it if I don't and I'm not going to let him have it now.
The trip back was taken in silence, neither feeling the need to talk. It was a comfortable silence, one that they had been missing in the last few weeks.
Starsky thought about the last month, watching his partner's profile. Awkward. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt awkward with Hutch. They had spent the first days of recovery trying to ignore what had happened. Starsky hadn't felt comfortable enough to talk about the accident and apparently, neither had Hutch. Then, when the stupid accidents had happened at the station, Starsky knew they had to get out away.
We're used to having all the time in the world together, he reflected. Dobey took that away. Then when we were together, we were afraid to spoil it. Starsky had jumped at the chance to get himself out of the apartment and Hutch out of the city. There was no way he could have passed up on Huggy's offer, no matter how decrepit the vehicle. But what he hadn't counted on was the flash of doubt that Hutch would want to vacation with him after all.
I know you felt the same way, pal, Starsky thought sadly. I could tell by the look on your face that you thought I was planning a solo trip. You looked so surprised that I meant this for both of us.
Hutch had then put up a fuss, saying how crazy it was for them to travel with both of them injured. Starsky had had to put his foot down. 'Don't screw with this, Hutch. It's vacation time dammit and I'm not staying home to rot. I don't know about you, but I didn't exactly save up for a vacation this soon. This'll get us out and about and we can both afford it. Promise me we'll make the best of whatever happens and you won't bitch about going, or so help me I'll go by myself!'
Ten seconds. It had taken Hutch a full ten seconds to promise. Five seconds longer than it should have, Starsky mused. We're gonna get that fixed this week. This tap-dancing around each other sucks. Starsky was starting to wonder if they'd get the chance, with the bad luck they'd started out with. It's like the Devil's got a day off and he's got nothing better to do than pick on us to pass the time.
Hutch pulled into the entrance to the RV park. "I'll drop you back off at the camp site and I'll go get this stuff washed. We've got to be ready to go over to the Dobey's in a few hours. By the way, what did you do about the mattress?"
"Took it to Dobey," Starsky replied. "And we rinsed it out. Might be dry by tonight."
Hutch groaned in reply. "What did he say?"
"Nothing, actually," Starsky said with an amused smile. "I told him I had a problem. He came back to see it and found a mattress full of beer." Starsky chuckled. "I think he was afraid to ask." Starsky felt his smile widen at his partner's laugh.
"Well, we are on vacation? What can he say?"
"Go home!" they both answered with united snickers, threatening to bring back another laugh attack.
It was just a few minutes later when they pulled up to their space and noticed something was missing.
Hutch pulled into the lot and turned the engine off, staring at their small space of woodland. "Do you not see what I don't see?" he asked casually.
"I can't believe it!" Starsky exploded. "Someone nabbed our picnic table! What would someone want with our picnic table?! Geeze! Ain't nothin' sacred anymore?"
Just where the beat-up red table had sat was nothing but a small leafless square of rocky dirt. Both detectives got out and wondered over to the spot, automatically inspecting the area.
"Look, Starsk," Hutch said, pointing to the surrounding ground. "There are no drag marks. Took a couple of people to haul it away." He shook his head unbelievingly. "You just can't leave anything out in the open anymore."
"Well, I'm gonna report this right now," Starsky fumed. "This place is just fulla thieves and I'm not gonna get pegged with payin' for a table I never even got to use."
"Get in," Hutch replied with a sigh. "You're going my way."
The trip to the office was over quickly and Starsky left Hutch at the laundromat.
I can't believe this! I just can't believe this! Starsky ranted to himself as he strode purposefully toward the office. This is really gettin' sick.... Starsky stopped and took a deep breath, then headed in to report the theft.
Hutch leaned against the nearest folding table, watching one certain machine, waiting for the spin cycle to start. This time the laundromat was busy, but he had been able to snag a machine after only a few minutes wait. Several families were doing their laundry and Hutch nodded nicely but kept to himself. He decided that one load for today would be enough to get him through, so he'd picked through his new clothes to decide on a couple of changes. He had cleared his mind and the only concern he had had in the last fifteen minutes was to keep his injured foot out of the way of the running and screaming children. Wish I could put it up for awhile, he sighed.
"Back for a second try?"
Hutch started, realizing he was being addressed. He turned and felt a smile break across his face as he recognized the speaker. "Ah....hi! Yes, I guess I am. This isn't a professional call I hope?"
The young woman he'd talk to at the office just hours ago laughed. "Well, yes, you could say that," she answered, eyes smiling. "I recognized your truck outside and thought I'd stop by and apologize for what happened to you today." She surveyed the busy room and shrugged embarassedly. "Sometimes we have a bit a petty theft here, but really, nothing like a full load of laundry. Not a good way to start a vacation, is it?"
"Well, no, it's not the way I usually like to start my time off," Hutch replied, happily noticing that the lady seemed inclined to talk. "But the company is getting better, Miss.... Calbert?"
"Gina. Gina Calbert. I'm sorry we didn't get introduced very well in the office before I had to leave.... Uh, Ken?"
"Right! It's Ken, or Hutch," He added quickly. "I go by either name. And now is a good a time as any to get acquainted."
Hutch watched entranced as she laughed and tossed the braid behind her back, shaking her head in the negative. "Sorry, but I really have to get back to the office, Sid needs the help and I've been gone long enough. But I was wondering if you had anything planned for tonight? There's a late bonfire planned at Captor's Cove. It's along the lake trail about mile north. It's sort of a private convention, but you're welcome..." she broke of shyly, giving him a charming smile, "...as long as you're with me."
"Well, can't beat that!" Hutch replied quickly, then grimaced as memory struck. "Ah, I've already got a dinner date with some friends. How 'late' is a 'late' bonfire?"
"Oh, they don't light the fire until 10 p.m. Is that too early for you?"
"No, no that should be fine." Hutch replied with relief. "Dinner shouldn't be too late anyway. Should I pick you up?"
"No, I can come walk by your lot if you don't mind. " She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "I actually live here on the camp ground. My family owns it and we have a house just up the trail from here. I have my own cabin for the summers when I come back to help out. You're in lot number 1532, right?"
"Yeah, sure am. Do I need to bring anything?"
"No, nothing, just yourself and warm clothing. Snacks and beverages provided. But I warn you, we're a strange lot and it's sort of a pre-convention get together." Gina winked at him mischievously. "We tend to get into some really weird things."
"Oh, well," Hutch said, "I hope it's not anything too weird. Actually, I'm a cop and my partner is here with me. I'd hate to spoil a convention, but they'll pull my union card if I slack off." He shrugged helplessly, not wanting to get into a convention he'd have to leave or end up busting.
Gina laughed and patted Hutch's shoulder. "Oh, I think you can handle it. You seem to be a big boy. See you at 10." And with that she turned to weave her way through all the washing and folding, leaving a beaming Hutch in her wake.
Starsky's going to go nuts, he decided, smiling to himself. He was surprised to see the familiar form making it's way toward him. He must have passed right by her!
"Hey, Starsk, did you see her?"
"Huh?" Starsky answered distractedly, glancing quickly around the mill of people. "Who?"
"My date for tonight," Hutch replied with a Cheshire grin. "Remember that lovely lady I told you about? Well, she's tracked me down and I've got a convention invitation for tonight."
"Oh, yeah?" Starsky look impressed. "Saw a lot of ladies, pal. Which one was yours? And does that mean the Dobey's and I are gonna get stiffed for dinner?"
"Nope. It's a late convention. I doubt even Edith could stand us around until too late. No use overstaying our welcome." Hutch grinned slyly. "And I guess you'll just have to wait and see her when she picks me up."
"Gee, I can't wait. I'm all goosebumps." Starsky rolled his eyes. "Maybe I'll get lucky myself. There is a certain lady I've plans on tracking down. You ready?"
"Nope, dryer." Hutch nodded toward the washer in it's final spin. "What's the news."
"You know that guy Sid in the office?" Starsky nodded his head in that direction. "He's a real nice guy, but busy. Real sorry about your laundry and the picnic table. They're getting a new one on a truck and hauling it over to our space now. We won't be held for the cost or nothin'. But I gotta be there when they unload it. Gotta sign for it. I'll walk back."
"Sure. Have a ball."
Starsky just grunted and made his way through the mill of people.
Starsky is gonna go nuts when he see my girl, Hutch thought evilly. Just wait pal...
Starsky walked swiftly down the walking trail, hoping it was faster than the graveled roadway. He wanted to be there when the truck with the table arrived, so he could have some conversation time with the drivers. As park employees they should know Miss Calbert and just where she worked. He'd been disappointed that Sid obviously hadn't had time to talk. Starsky really wanted to find the lady, as she hadn't been anywhere in the office that he could see.
And Hutch's lady just walks right up to him, he sighed. Well, he's had the worst share of the luck, so I guess he's due one up on me. But I'm gonna find her, I didn't dig through all that cereal for my Keystone Kop's Detectives Badge for nothin'!
He arrived in time to reach the lot and open the trailer to air it. Unfortunately, the trailer still smelled slightly of a brewery so he'd have to leave the door open for awhile. At least he didn't have to invite anyone in. It was just then that he heard a truck coming down the road.
At the site of the approaching truck he felt a grin take over his face. Seated at the driver's seat with two bulky guys was his dream lady.
"Well, hello!" Starsky greeted cheerfully as she pulled up. "I was hoping to track you down sometime today." He nodded politely to the two gentlemen.
"Hello yourself, Mr. Starsky." The lady smiled back. She turned toward her companions. "This is it guys, unload it under the tree."
"Dave," Starsky said, leaning on the driver's door. "It's Dave. And thanks for the table. What a coincidence to see you again."
"Tina," The brunette replied happily, offering her hand. "Tina Calbert. And it wasn't just coincidence. I was just in the office and saw the work order for 1532," she admitted a little shyly. "I knew someone would have to sign for the table, so I tagged along. I hoped you'd be here."
"Well, you found me. Now you get to take me home and keep me." Starsky's grin grew at her delighted laugh.
"Well, I'm not sure about that. But I was wondering if you were free tonight. There's a group I'm a part off that's meeting here this week. We're having a private get-together later tonight, but it's real informal. There's going to be snacks, drinks, a bonfire and probably some bad singing. Interested?"
"Sounds great!" Starsky answered swiftly. "But I'm already tied up for dinner. Could we join the party that late?"
"Sure," she replied. "It doesn't start until 10 p.m. Is that okay?"
"Fine. Just fine." Starsky felt relieved. "But I may be short a truck for the evening. I think my partner's got first dibs on it."
Tina shrugged. "No problem. It's within walking distance from here. I'm coming by this way, so I can just meet you here, if that's no problem."
"Well, then, its a date." Starsky started slightly when one of the men shoved him a clipboard, not even realizing the table had been unloaded. He signed off quickly. "Here you go. See you then, Tina."
"Bye, Dave. Dress warm." With a friendly wave she and her companions pulled away.
Hutch is gonna go nuts when he see my girl, Starsky thought evilly. Just wait pal...