Thursday Comes Around Again

The Swing of Things




        David Michael Starsky lay in bed at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning and felt like he wanted to explode. It wasn't going to be an angry explosion, or a frustrated one, but an 'it's-my-birthday' or an it's-Christmas-morning- and-I-know-there's-presents' type of explosion where everyone breaks out into song kinda thing. It was the kind of feeling that if he even so much as moved his little toe he was going to shoot out of bed and bounce around the room. So he lay in bed at 4:30 a.m. with a stupid smile plastered across his face, trying to wait until a decent time to get up.

        He wasn't sure why he felt this way. He and Hutch had been up most of the evening filling out those reports the Captains always needed in the dead of the night. Actually, he and Hutch had been pretty lucky, as their part in the whole evening had been pretty 'minor' paperwork wise. They didn't have to book or interrogate anyone, just sit down and type their own reports out after Pasquini dressed them down for going inside when he wanted them outside. Of course, Hutch had to nit-pick all over his report, but Starsky figured his partner had a point. Pasquini seemed to like his creative writing even less than Dobey did, so when Hutch had pointed out that some of his better phrases had actually gotten a little excessive, Starsky had toned them down without too much complaining.

        They'd made it home just after midnight and hit the sack. Now, less than four hours later Starsky was wide awake and practically itching to start the day. Hutch'll kill me, he thought, wondering if he could just get up to watch TV.

        But I'm gonna have to move soon, or I'll go nuts! He knew Hutch was dead to the world by the way he was snoring. Mostly, the blond didn't snore, but when he did, it meant he was really zonked and you woke him up at your own peril. He didn't usually get mean and moody, but if his partner didn't get enough sleep he got philosophical and tried to analyze the world and that was even worse to deal with. And he could never quite figure out why Hutch could putter around all he wanted when Starsky slept and it never kept him awake, but boy, if Starsky was up and around then the blond had to get up too, ranting and raving about it. Starsky decided he had better wait.

        It's not like I do this very often, Starsky wondered, so why now? He was used to seeing the early morning hours from the other end, but waking up by himself this early was pretty unusual. Other than birthdays, Hanukkah, Christmas, or the first day of school vacation, it was pretty rare for him to wake up eager and ready. He could pretty much count those occasions he remembered on one hand; his first day reporting to the police academy had been one and his first day in uniform had been two, his first official day as a detective had been three, the first official day of his and Hutch's partnership had been four and the day Hutch had taken him out of the hospital after Gunther's attack had been five.

        And today's number six, Starsky pondered. What is so special about today anyway? It's gotta be something. He crossed his arms behind his head and looked around the room, eyeing his posters and general bedroom mess. I get to go home! Starsky suddenly realized, feeling the smile take over his face.

        Now we can get back to our real jobs, Starsky thought. I'm really back in shape, not great shape, not pickin' fights shape, but in good enough shape to get the job done. Now that's something to celebrate!

        He hadn't realized until now that those countless hours with the police psychiatrist actually meant something. How do you feel about this and how do you feel about that? That kinda shit just drives me crazy, as if I could turn back the clock and undo the damage.. . He hadn't wanted to think about it, he just wanted to get on his feet and get moving again. But he actually had been afraid and hadn't realized it. After Gunther's attack, of all the things that could have kept him from being a cop again, it had been Hutch that had truly scared David Michael Starsky.

        That was the bad part, Babe, Starsky thought toward his sleeping friend, knowing that even if they stitched all my pieces back together, that maybe we wouldn't be the same anymore. Guess I've been a little scared that you wouldn't trust me in a pinch, afraid that I couldn't cover your ass. Maybe 'Me and Thee' didn't mean the same thing anymore and you'd feel like you'd have to carry my weight for the rest of your life.

        Starsky thought back to the last few months of his recovery, when he and his partner had gone through a bad spell, arguing and fighting over everything the wounded man could and couldn't do until he had almost screamed at Hutch to back off and leave him alone.

        I could see that it hurt you, yellin' like that and it scared you too. I know you. You were afraid you couldn't back off and treat me like an adult anymore. You thought of me as an invalid, even when I wasn't. I'd become your dependent and you didn't know how to let go and find the friend again. And without your friend, how're you gonna do the job without it eatin' a hole in your soul?

        Maybe that's what today is, he mused, deciding he liked the feel of the thought. Maybe we are finally, truly, back into the swing of things. It was 'Me and Thee' again these past few weeks, like nothing'd ever changed.

        He knew that if Hutch had ever faltered, had for even half a heartbeat doubted his friend's ability to function, then Starsky would have known it the second it happened. His partner could never have hidden it from him. And last night, on the way home, it had seemed as if everything had finally been put back into place and they had what they needed again.

        Now Hutch 'n I can really go home, do what we're supposed to be doing, even if it's a hell of a lot less exciting than before. Grinning ear to ear, he decided that in order to start the day off right, he needed his car back. Now.

        He bounced out of bed and hit the bathroom quietly, then decided while dressing to throw caution to the wind. What the hell, he decided, grinning evily. He'd be up pretty soon anyway, on a normal day.

        The other detective, who had practically hit the pillows asleep, was draped across the small bed with arms and legs hanging limply over the edges, snoring his snore of the dead.

        "Rise and shine!" Starsky announced, flipping on the light in Hutch's room. "Time to get up! We've got an appointment to keep." He watched as the other man twitched, but only slightly.

        Knowing it was mean to use his 'I need you!' voice, but figuring there was no use in drawing this out he bellowed. "Huuutch!"

        The sleeping man, startled, sitting up suddenly and blinking rapidly in the bright light. "Wha'? Wha's it?" He mumbled almost incoherently, reaching for a gun he wasn't wearing.

        "Come on, ya big lug. Outta bed!" Starsky commanded. He turned to the other's neat dresser and dug through the drawers, throwing clothes his partner's way. He pocketed Hutch's wallet and car keys. "We're goin' to get my car."

        "Your car?" the blond repeated, blinking sleepily. "What the hell is the time?" He groped for his alarm clock and squinted as he tried to read the dial. "It's 4:45a.m.!" He groaned in dismay. "What the hell is wrong with you? Are you nuts?"

        "Sure! But it's nothin' that gettin' my car back won't fix." Starsky granted his outraged friend his most charming smile, knowing it wouldn't do much good. "Come on! Get dressed. Let's go!"

        Hutch glared at him though sleepy eyes and enunciated slowly and carefully. "You. Can. Go. To. Hell." He then grabbed his pillow and covered his face, pulling up the covers with a frustrated jerk.

        Starsky was not deterred in the least. "Gee, it's not like you don't usually get up at this time anyway. Hutchinson the early bird, remember? And either you're comin' with me, or I'm gonna take the LTD and get the Torino myself."

        "Fine," was Hutch's muffled reply. "Knock yourself out."

        "Wellll….." Starsky drawled, leaning against the door frame and jingling Hutch's keys. "You know, I'm not much of a morning person. I may get lost. I may have to park the LTD somewhere and catch a cab to Merl's house. 'Course, if I did that, I might, accidentally forget where I parked your piece of junk." He glanced up at Hutch, who was peeking from under the pillow with dawning alarm. "It might take me weeks to remember where it is. Who knows what, if anything, would be left of it by then." He shrugged with a slight smile. "Could happen."

        "You wouldn't," Hutch replied uncertainly, still hiding under the pillow.

        "Hey, it's been a busy week. Lots of things on my mind." He shrugged.

        Hutch sat up and stared at his partner for a full minute before giving up. He flashed him a hateful glare and grabbed his clothes and headed for the bathroom, not uttering a word.


        Merl had not been at all happy to see the two. He had cussed them out for awakening him at such an un-godly hour, but Starsky had persevered and played up to Merl's ego, showering him with outrageous praise until Hutch announced he was going to be sick. Merl finally relented and on an early Friday morning, Starsky was reunited with his baby.

        Merl had worked on the car diligently during Starsky's convalescence, able to find the replacement parts needed to fix the massive damage inflicted during Gunther's attack. Merl had lectured him, he had been damn lucky they hadn't hit the fuel tank, or the motor, the bullets having been aimed at window level. Merl had been able to fix or replace the damage, but Starsky had better start taking better car of the poor thing, 'cause Merl was getting tired of working on it. He had agreed to store the car for Starsky while he was gone, start the car to charge the battery and such, all for a fee, of course.

        Hutch had driven to Venice Place while Starsky and Merl had rescued his pride and joy from her clean tarp and Merl's backroom.

        It's been too long, pretty lady, Starsky patted the Torino lovingly. As long as he lived, this would always be his favorite car. But we've both been patched up just about as much as possible, time to back off and take care of ourselves for awhile. He knew that with a quieter life, he and the Torino could eat up a few more miles before they'd have to part company, but he was going to enjoy her while he was able. One of these days he would have to find something a little quieter and little smoother and more gas efficient. But not quite yet.

        Gunning the motor in the early morning, he was thrilled at his pretty lady's response. Time for one more go around, time to shake it loose. He revved her up and headed for Venice Place. A few minutes later Starsky spied his partner standing on the sidewalk in front of the building, talking in the early morning breeze.

        He pulled over and unlocked the passenger door. "Well, how does she look?"

        "Starsky, it looks just the same as when you left it. What did you think was going to be different?" The blond chided teasingly.

        "I don't know," he replied with a carefree shrug. "But she missed me, I can tell. You need to get anything outta the apartment?"

        "No," Hutch answered after a thoughtful pause. "Edith still has all my plants, so there's nothing I need to check on. We'll be home pretty soon anyway." The taller man looked at him, a slight smile pulling at his mouth. "Nothing in there I can't live without."

        "Really." Starsky agreed. "Let's go check this baby out."

        Hutch hadn't objected when he had taken the nearest freeway on-ramp and turned up the coast. Starsky was in the mood for the road and speed and they spent the next hour and a half following the coast, with the freeway nearly empty, the cool, salt-laden air blowing like a hurricane through the open windows and the radio playing their 'compromise' station full blast. Neither one saying a word while they watched the California coast wake up. They didn't need to.


        The morning's meetings and verbal reports from the various divisions filled in a lot of what they hadn't heard at the case 'clean up' the night before. It had been a late night for everyone as suspects were taken in and the murder investigations were able to get into full swing. But it was handled by the department's regular men.

        The robbery itself would command enough paperwork to fill a warehouse.

        Captain Pasquini and the other captains that had co-operated in the decoy maneuver had been quick to pull in their men out of the positions and concentrate on the Iverson's building after receiving Hutch's frantic call. Since there had been two murder investigations at the store in one week, most of the officers assigned to the case had a good working knowledge of the building layout, which had given them some advantages. And there had been no debate about calling in the SWAT team. Too many civilians inside and the jewelry area was too inaccessible in a hostage situation.

        There had been shots fired in the parking lot and several of Wayne's backup cars had been taken out. The SWAT team had approached once the grounds were secure and entered the first basement level through the other loading docks, they had surprised two of Wayne's men at the elevator and armored car. The two guards had put up a fight, made an abortive attempt to flee in the key-less vehicle and both had been wounded.

        The identification of Arthur Reynolds, Starsky's 'Grinch', as Wayne's man had not been a big surprise to the two detectives, but the addition of Manny Saputo had been. It was a good thing they hadn't trusted him at the back door. Manny had been expecting them and had been ordered to check on them during the heist. When he couldn't find them at their post, he had alerted Reynolds and they had stormed the warehouse to warn the others and take off with the armored car. Instead, they had run smack into the SWAT team.

        There had been four of Wayne's men killed and three officers wounded. Uniformed Officer Adamson, Detectives Steven Gantry and Robert Sanders were counted among the wounded. Adamson was in critical condition, Gantry had been sent home and Sanders had been kept overnight for a leg wound and possible concussion.

        Starsky and Hutch had both been worried at the news of Sanders being hurt, but had been assured by Captain Lang that his detective was not in danger and they would get to see him before they left.

        The really big news of the evening was the arrest and interrogation of Aaron Jameson. There was nothing the man wouldn't tell, no gift he wouldn't give the police, even to the identity of the murderer of Detective Lonnie Gainer.

        After the fight, Jameson had been found in the same sedan the two detectives had last seen him in. In a chase and shoot-out, the driver of Andrew's car had missed a high speed turn and slid into the telephone pole, killing himself instantly and injuring Jameson. Andrews had returned police fire and had been killed at the scene. Jameson had been found injured and handcuffed in the front seat. He had been so relieved at the rescue that he had started talking at the scene, even before his Miranda rights had been read. He had continued talking throughout the night, despite the persistent advice of his frustrated lawyer.

        With Jameson's testimony, the police had been able to get a midnight warrant for the arrest of Daniel T. Wayne, owner of The Rocket and main drug-line for this section of the city on Murder, Grand Larceny and various other drug trafficking charges.

        The bad news was that when the police had gone knocking on his door, the man had already disappeared. While it was a major disappointment, it was still early in the game and he was now officially 'wanted'. He had limited opportunities in the States at the moment. The man would have to come to ground sometime and he would find all his known bank accounts frozen, his club and assets held for drug trafficking and a large number of his employees dispersed throughout the judicial system.

        The Metro detectives had called Dobey and had found that he had already known about the bust and the completion of their case. He had been thrilled to hear of their impending return, letting them know that he had a list of cases just waiting on them. While grateful for the pleased tone in their boss' voice, Starsky had begged off a weeks vacation. The Captain had graciously given in with a warning that they had better be prepared for some 'real' work when they got back.

        Of course, no one was thinking vacation today. The two Metro detectives had been able to stakeout a typewriter all to themselves and had spent almost the entire day in meetings and in trying to finish their statements. There would be more meetings for the next few days and odds and ends to fix up, but they fully expected to pack up and go home on Sunday afternoon, right after the memorial service for Detective Gainer.

        Starsky was tiredly tapping away at the unfamiliar typewriter, Hutch having to make a trip downstairs for more forms, when Detective Greg Phillips entered the room. Close behind was his partner Robert Sanders. The injured party had a large bandage on his forehead and was leaning heavily on a cane.

        The kids looks good for a first injury, he thought. Like he's glad to be back in the office. Guess he finally feels like he's 'earned his badge under fire'. Starsky smiled at the men. "Hey, how's the walking wounded?" Starsky greeted them, standing up to shake Sanders' hand. "Prognosis must be bad," he said to Phillips, giving him a wink, "if they're letting your partner out still looking like that."

        "No, no," Phillips replied, grinning. "He's always been that ugly. That's normal."

        "Clowns. The world's full of clowns," Sanders muttered, flushing under his freckles. He took a seat in the chair Phillips had snagged for him and shifted a little more to his left side, careful to sit only on his left cheek. It was obvious to Starsky just which side the 'leg wound' was on and where it was.

        "Tell me, Detective Sanders, does it hurt to get shot?" Starsky asked, eyes wide with pretended innocence.

        Sanders just gave a disgusted snort. "What a stupid question! And you're not the first one to ask me either." He just shook his head incredulously. "And they were serious, Starsky! I swear to God, they were serious!"

        "But I'm confused," Starsky said, winking at Phillips. "Now, Detective Phillips, just where is this leg wound your partner sustained?"

        "Okay, okay!" Sanders flushed even redder and interrupted before his partner could answer. "I got shot in the ass! It's not like the whole department's not gonna know by morning anyway." The red-head paused for moment, then smiled sheepishly. "At least they didn't get my best side."

        All three men snickered at that.

        "Hey!" Hutch entered the noisy room and smiled at the small group. "How's the patient? Nurses throw you out already?" The blond detective tossed the extra forms down on the table and reached to shake Sanders' hand. "You on the way home?"

        "Yeah, but I wanted to come by and hear the news," Sanders admitted. "I didn't get to hear much of it in the hospital last night. They not only act like you're a wounded child, but like you're stupid as well."

        "Hold on a sec," Starsky interrupted and took a peek into Captain Pasquini's office. "It's empty, we can talk in here." He motioned them on in, casting a furtive glance about the room as he closed the door.

        "You first," Hutch said pointing to Sanders. "How in the hell did you get ass shot?"

        Starsky and Phillips broke out in laughter at the utterly defeated look on Sanders' face.

        "I suppose every detective in this building can tell," Sanders replied with disgust. "It was a ricochet! A ricochet! When we were chasing down Andrew's car, the driver couldn't make the turn and slid into a telephone pole. Phillips got our car stopped and we used it for cover while returning fire."

        "There we are," Phillips broke in with an amused smile, "returning fire. I'm squatting down, behind the cover of the car, reloading, when I see this guy," Phillips motioned to his partner, "suddenly ram his own head straight into the side of the car and knock himself cold. I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. I picked Andrews off after a couple more rounds. Checked to see if this guy was still breathing, then checked out the other car for survivors. I'm on my way back to my car, black-and-whites arriving from every direction and I'm yelling at them to call a couple'a ambulances and a meat-wagon. I get to my partner and he's lying on the ground, hands on his tail end, mad as hell, screamin' about someone kickin' him in the ass." Phillips started laughing. "Seems one of Andrews' shots ricocheted off of the fire hydrant. Practically got him up the..."

        "Greg!" Sanders pleaded. "Can't I just draw them a picture instead!"

        The other three detectives couldn't contain themselves any longer and burst out in gales of laughter. Unable to keep his own face straight, Sanders soon joined in. It was quite a few minutes later before they could all settle down to talk without getting a serious case of the giggles.

        "Fill us in guys," Phillips asked, after the laughter had died down. "I made the meetings this morning, but was baby-sitting this guy all afternoon. Anything new?"

        "Well, Daniel Wayne is still missing," Starsky answered, pausing to remember what news had come in lately. "But his yacht left early this morning and the coast guard is tracking it. He's a jump ahead though so it looks like he may make Mexico before they can stop him."

        "Aaron Jameson is more than ready to testify against Wayne," Hutch added. "He's already worked out a deal with the D.A. and has fingered Andrews as Douglas Kirk's killer. He gave us Gainer's killer early this morning."

        "Do we know what went down?" Sanders asked quietly.

        "We were right about the jewelry scam Jameson had going," Starsky said. "Jameson owed Wayne a huge amount of money. Wayne was pushing for the cash when Jameson got this scam idea. He and Liston would make their overseas trip and Jameson would make his own deal behind Liston's back. He worked out a kickback deal with the merchants, where they would send over fakes. Jameson would get his split as a check made out to one of Wayne's legitimate companies. As soon as Jameson got back, he would deposit the check into Wayne's bank accounts. When the shipments arrived from overseas, Kirk would verify them as authentic, then set them aside and put them in one shipment. That shipment would be 'robbed', with a good number of authentic pieces taken, but a big part of it would be fakes."

        "How did Kirk get into this?" Phillips wondered.

        "Well, you know about his alias, his secret life?" Starsky waited for the nods. "From what we can tell, Wayne had known about Kirk for a long time and had blackmailed him. He had Kirk falsify authenticity certificates for some various pieces of jewelry over the years. Insurance scams and such. Jameson didn't even know about Kirk's past until Wayne told him."

        "Kirk must of gotten spooked on this one," Phillips remarked. "Did he put up some kind of fuss?"

        "Yeah," Hutch continued. "Kirk lost his nerve when April saw something 'off' about one of the phony shipments. Apparently she came close to spotting some of the fake stones set aside for the next robbery. Kirk panicked because he was real fond of April and considered her his protégé. He tried to keep April out of the area, but was scared she might be targeted as a danger to the set-up. Jameson found out she had been kicked out of the work areas and confronted Kirk, concerned about what the girl might know. Kirk and Jameson had it out and Kirk vowed that he was through with Wayne and the whole deal. He was ready to spill the beans on Wayne and everything he knew, in order to make sure April was safe."

        "Jameson ran to daddy," Starsky continued. "He told Wayne everything. The last fake shipment had already gone through and Wayne was ready for one last, large hit for the real stuff. They didn't need Kirk anymore, so his head-goon Andrews was sent to kill Kirk. They got him in the parking lot and stuffed him under Hutch's car. It was a warning to Jameson that Wayne could get at him anywhere at anytime, including the store.

        "Did Wayne still need Jameson at that point?" Sanders asked. "Didn't he already have his men planted inside?"

        "Sure," Hutch answered. "But what Wayne didn't have was someone else who actually had access to the armored cars and the shipment schedules. Jameson had already cultivated Ms. Quincy as a bedmate and I guess she's pretty loose with her information when she gets to trashing her boss. Quincy told, Jameson told Wayne and that started the whole ball rolling.

        "What happened with Detective Gainer?" Sanders questioned.

        "Quincy had been kept out of the loop on the next shipment, so Jameson had to get drastic and break in to get a look at the schedule," Starsky answered. "That evening, Jameson drugged Quincy so he could have an alibi while was breaking into Collin's office. When she woke up the next morning, she saw him in her bed and assumed he had been there all night. Detective Gainer had been combing the files at night, looking for some sort of paper-trail he could prove in court. He must have heard something and when Jameson was working on opening the safe, Gainer barged in. Before either one moved, Gainer was struck from behind with the crystal paperweight. Manny Saputo had been ordered to keep an eye on Jameson and when he saw that the guy was about to get caught, Saputo rushed in and killed Gainer, not knowing he was a cop."

        "But Saputo had an alibi all..." Phillips suddenly caught on, remembering part of Saputo's statement. "Reynolds! They weren't on the same floor, but they alibied each other during the break time. If I remember, Saputo got sick on break and Reynolds stayed with him until he felt better. The janitors could alibi their partners during that time, so on paper it looked like everyone was covered the entire night and early morning shift."

        "Yeah." Starsky went on. "When Jameson saw Gainer killed, he lost it. Saputo wiped the crystal clean and left it, then grabbed Jameson and they left the office. They had to wait in the bathroom for him to pull himself together. Saputo didn't realize that Jameson hadn't had time to get the needed information. By the time did he realized it, they were downstairs and it was too late. Jameson then returned to Quincy's apartment."

        "When we approached Jameson on Tuesday, the man was one step away from being a basket case." Hutch shook his head in mock-pity. "His life was hanging by a thread and he knew it. Jameson didn't dare use the same trick on Quincy again. And when the police found out about the affair, she cut him off cold. The man was out on a limb. When Collins called in sick and the decoy run was set up, Jameson was in heaven. Right in his hands was the information he needed for the next shipment. Jameson ran straight to Troy so he could pass it along to Wayne. Jameson thought he was done. Safe now. He even told Andrews about Starsky and I approaching him at the office."

        "Yeah," Starsky muttered, "he put us right on Wayne's hit-list. After we were dropped off, Jameson learned a few nasty things. One, that as soon as the heist was over, he was a dead man. That's when Jameson got handcuffed. Two, that however we acted, we were gonna get blown away. If Hutch and I'd stayed and 'guarded' that hall for them, we would've been killed right there. Shot by Saputo and Reynolds who were to come down later. The plan was that we would have been found dead at the scene, Jameson would have been found dead, in our apartment and the cops would have tried to tie us into all the other robberies, but they wouldn't find anything they could go on. Our tie with Wayne was minimal at that point."

        "Plus, Wayne would have been rid of us," Hutch added. "Apparently he didn't like our initiative in approaching Trudy or Jameson. Wayne picks his own men and then recruits them, after finding some way to blackmail them. He didn't like us coming in out of the blue."

        "What about Trudy? Did she get pulled in?" Sanders asked.

        "Yeah," Hutch replied. "We could finger her, as she broke custom with us and took payment and supplied the goods all at the same time. They've pulled her in for dealing. She's giving us Troy as her contact and Troy is being pulled in now. If we can get Troy to talk, then we've got another step in getting Wayne to court."

        "But will Troy talk?" Sanders wondered out loud. "Narco didn't think they had much of a chance with him before. He'd be hard to scare."

        "Sure he'll talk." Starsky gave Sanders a small smile. "Wayne's gone. Troy's gotta watch his own ass now. Why would he want to take the heat for Wayne if he can pass it along and worry about it later?"

        They were all silent for a moment, putting all the bits and pieces into place in their own minds. The case had been a long one and finishing it up would take longer still.

        "You guys stayin' 'til Sunday?" Phillips asked quietly.

        "Yeah," he answered. "We'll move on home after the service. We decided to hang around until then, 'cause there's no use travelin' back and forth for the paperwork when we've already got a place here. Although I'll be glad to get home." Starsky grinned with relief. "Our current dump isn't the kinda place you wanna bring company. Besides, my roommate is drivin' me crazy."

        "Oh, Starsk!" The blond jumped up and snapping his fingers. "That reminds me, don't forget that we've got to finish those forms and get out of here on time tonight." He flashed his partner a big grin. "We've got dates, remember?"

        Starsky froze. DAMN! I forgot about Sarah and Amy... "Listen Hutch, I... uh... don't really think this is a good idea," He stammered, thinking furiously. "After all, we're goin' home this weekend and it wouldn't be fair to the young ladies. I mean, them not knowin' we're police and all...." He faltered. Now what do I say?

        "Oh, they already know, Starsk," Hutch grinned back. "I just talked to Sarah downstairs. They had her in giving statements and Amy came in too. Amy was real interested to know we were police. She said she didn't know the police force had 'guys like us'." Hutch winked at him and gave him a nudge.

        I'll bet... Starsky thought frantically. There's got to be some way to get out of this! "Listen, Hutch, I just don't think I'm really up to this tonight, with the case closin' down and being up at all hours last night and this morning. Guess I'm just jet-lagged. I think we should pass on this one." He gave his partner what he hoped was a sickly smile. This had better work, 'cause I'm losin' it here.

        "You sure?" The other Metro detective gave him a concerned look. "I don't know about you, but I'm dying to get out of this place and think of something besides police work for awhile. But if you're sure you don't feel like it...?"

        "I don't, Hutch. Really." He gave his friend a serious nod. "I think we should just take it easy this evening."

        "Well," the taller man replied with a sigh, "It sounds like you need some down time then, partner. But I've got to get out of the apartment tonight." Hutch looked concerned for a moment. Then he spied Sanders who had watch the conversation with a wistful expression on his face. "Hey Sanders! You feel up to a quiet double date?"

        "Oh, w-well," Sanders stuttered, taken by surprise. "I'm afraid I'm a little slow with the cane and all..."

        "Hutch!" Starsky broke in, really disliking the direction this was going. "Look at him. The poor guys' just outta the hospital! He's not gonna want to drag himself around..."

        "It's just a dinner date, maybe a movie," Hutch replied invitingly, ignoring his partner. "We can call it an early evening if you get too tired. They're gorgeous. And they really like cops. You could come up with a great story to impress the ladies, right? Be a hero?"

        "Okay. I'd like that." Sanders suddenly decided, looking pleased with the whole idea.

        "But you're sick!" Starsky protested Damn, damn, damn! Now what am I supposed to do? Poor kid...

        "Wait here a second," Hutch told Sanders hurriedly. "I'll see if they're still in the building. I'll bring them up and introduce them." And with that he was out the door in a flash.

        "What's wrong Starsky? You look pale." Phillips asked with a touch of suspicion.

        "Oh, well," Starsky fudged, trying to figure a way to talk the kid out of the whole thing. "I'm just concerned. I mean, what if you have a... a relapse or somethin'?" What do I say? I can't tell them Hutch got us a 'date' with a couple'a lesbians... "You should be home. In bed. As soon as possible."

        "I'm fine, Starsky," Sanders replied, studying Starsky for a moment. "Really. It's not like something's gonna fall off of me or anything. And Hutch said it'd be a quiet evening. If you want to change your mind and go instead..." Sanders offered.

        "No. No. It's just... uhmmm..." Starsky was faltering again as Hutch came through the door.

        They weren't quite what Starsky had expected, to say the least. Starsky vaguely felt his mouth drop open as Hutch held the door for two very lovely ladies. But the shock was that neither one of them was Sarah Keats. In fact, the first young lady was the red-headed woman from the jewelry vault. It was her closing the vault on the three men inside that had saved the detectives from being outnumbered. Starsky hadn't known that Hutch had even talked to her afterwards, let alone knew her enough ask her out.

        Before the heist! He had the dates before the heist! Starsky realized in shock.

        Hutch maneuvered the two lovely women into the now cramped room and preceded to introduce them.

        "Gentlemen, I'd like you to meet Sarah Covington, " He said, starting with the red-headed woman. "And this is her friend, Amy Dillon. I'd like you to meet my partner, Dave Starsky, Detective Greg Phillips from Homicide and his partner Detective Robert Sanders. Sarah works as a Jewelry Technician at Iverson's and Amy is new to the Sporting Goods department."

        They all nodded hello.

        "Pleased to meet you," Sarah replied. She settled her attention on Starsky. "I'm very glad to meet you, Detective Starsky." She presented her hand to him. "I was so impressed with the way you two handled yourselves down in the vault area. I hadn't even been scheduled to work last night. Joe got sick and I was called in. I was so sure I wasn't going to make it out alive." She shook his hand warmly. "You'll never know how relieved I was to see you and Ken."

        "Detective Sanders will be joining us this evening," Hutch added. "He's recovering from a few 'war wounds' from yesterday, but was willing to accompany us. I'm afraid Dave wasn't feeling up to it tonight."

        "I'm sorry you aren't feeling well, Detective Starsky." Amy smiled at the detective. She was easily one of the most beautiful women Starsky had ever seen. Ivory skin, black curly hair, almond shaped brown eyes, full lips and an enchanting smile made David Michael Starsky feel faint. "I'd just started at Iverson's," she explained. "I was kinda hoping I'd get to meet you. Guess we're just star-crossed." She gave Starsky a mind-blinding smile and turned her attention back to Sanders.

        She's Amy? Starsky thought in shock. She was my date? I turned her down? He couldn't believe it, watching as Amy was introduced to Sanders. What the hell did I do? How the hell do I undo it? But he knew the familiar, sinking feeling that meant he had blown it. Royally.

        "Nice to meet you all," Amy was saying, just as Starsky could hear again. They were leaving. Already.

        "I'll walk you girls down to your car," Hutch told them as he held the door. "We can decide where to pick you up."

        Starsky stood there, feeling frozen to the floor. What the hell happened? Where did they come from? Suddenly realizing he was alone with two puzzled detectives he bolted past them and out the door. A second later he caught up with the trio down the hall.

        "Don't mind me ladies," Starsky said, smiling at the surprised women. "I just have to confer with my partner for a moment." He pulled Hutch to the side of the crowded hallway and watched with a smile as the women moved discreetly out of earshot. "I thought you got us dates with Sarah Keats and her girlfriend!" he hissed, watching his partner suspiciously.

        "Sarah Keats? Starsky are you out of your mind?" Hutch replied incredulously. He glanced around to see that they weren't overheard. "Why would I get us dates with Keats and her girlfriend? Starsk," the blond eyed him with concern, "Sarah Keats is gay. Why would she and her girlfriend be interested in us?"

        "Well.... um.... huh?" Starsky sputtered, feeling his face turning red.

        "Look," Hutch whispered quietly, reaching for Starsky's elbow and turning him back toward Pasquini's office. "Go and finish your report so we can get out of here. I'll take the ladies down to their car. Then we'll finish up and I'll get you back to the apartment and get you fed and tucked into bed. You need your rest." He gave his partner a worried look, a pat on the back, then turned to the waiting women.

        I've been had! Starsky stood alone in the hallway, oblivious to the passing crowd and noise. He watched Hutch walk away with two beautiful women. I know I've been had. He pondered the problem. I don't know when and I don't know how, but I know I've been had. I know his bull when I see it and as soon as I figure it outI'm gonna get him back. He turned and strode purposefully back into the squadroom and the pile of mostly-finished reports. Starsky was going to finish as much of his report as possible before Hutch's return. Then we'll see who scores the next few points. This isn't over yet, he vowed.

        As he entered the squadroom, Starsky was struck by the familiar looking elderly man sitting in a corner. Arnold Ford! Starsky was surprised. What's he doing here? Hope nothin's wrong. He hurried over to Arnold, catching his eye. "Arnold! What brings you here? Come on over and sit with me." Starsky waved him toward his temporary desk.

        Starsky waited until Arnold had settled. "How's it goin' at the store Arnold? I guess the grapevine must be running amuck about now." He gave the older man a friendly smile.

        Arnold, his old enthusiasm dimmed just a bit, gave a small smile in return. "You might say that, Davey. I mean..." He looked a little shy, "It is Davey, isn't it?"

        "'Til the day I die." Starsky smiled and stood up. He gave Arnold his hand. "Detective Sergeant Dave Michael Starsky. I'm pleased to meet you Mr. Ford. I'm usually assigned to Metro, but my partner and I are kinda loaners for this case." He sat back down. "Sorry about all that undercover stuff." Starsky offered kindly.

        "Yeah, well, I was actually waiting for you guys." Arnold began. "My friend Tommy... you know my friend from the force? Well, he came over to my place early this morning and gave me the scoop. Some of his old friends let him in on the news last night. He was real upset that he had to lied to me, askin' me to get you guys in. I knew something's been bothering him for awhile now, but he never said a word."

        "Sorry about that," Starsky said solemnly. "But the department needed to get Hutch and I in there and we needed a quick history of poverty. It seemed like the best idea at the time." Starsky reached over and laid a hand on the older man's arm. "I was there when they talked Tommy into calling you. Everyone who knew Tommy knew you two were best friends. I know he was upset, but after that guard got killed on that last robbery, he knew how really important cracking this case was. I know it took a lot for him to agree, but he stuck up for you 'til the end."

        "Hutch is Kenny?" Arnold asked, he smiled at the detective's nod. "No, I understand. Tommy explained the whole thing to me. He was afraid I'd be upset that he didn't tell me. But I finally got him convinced that I understood. Tommy has always been an honorable man. It was all for the best and I can't fault him for doing his job in trying times."

        "I'm glad you don't hold us against him." Starsky gave Arnold's arm a squeeze. "And I think you should know that Hutch and I always enjoyed your company. And I'm not just saying that to be kind. You were a great help." He gave Arnold a teasing grin. "After all, it's not like you didn't tell us everything you ever knew about your job. It would have taken us years to catch up otherwise."

        At that, the older man broke into a chuckle. "You can say that again. I've been accused of worse." He laughed at himself for a moment. "But I did come here looking for you two. I wanted to say good-bye while you were still around. I've given my two-weeks notice at the store."

        "Notice?" Starsky replied, worriedly. "Arnold are you sure? I thought that the store was your life. You love it down there."

        "I do, Davey. Or rather, I did. For years. But when Tommy came over this morning we had a good, long, talk." Arnold gave him a crooked smile. "I'm gettin' older, son, and I'm just not as flexible as I used to be. Oh, not just physically." He replied, seeing that Starsky was going to object. "But mentally. I've been at that store for over forty years. And while I never had any family of my own, I had lots of friends and youngsters to worry over. But the best part of the job was seein' Tommy every day. Day in and day out we'd sit and talk about things only the other one ever understood. Things his wife didn't understand about Tommy and bein' a cop. And I got to be 'Uncle' to his kids 'n grandkids. Spoiled 'em rotten and drove his wife crazy. But then Tommy was gone, had moved down the coast. I can't make the trip down very often and I don't get to see my adopted nieces and nephews hardly at all anymore. And at the store the youngsters come and go so fast now that I don't really get the chance to know 'em. But I've stayed, too inflexible to see that my time had passed and I needed to move on." He paused for a moment and Starsky stayed silent.

        "You and Kenny were the first young ones in a long time to notice me," Arnold continued. "And I know that it wasn't because of the case. But I felt it was the first time in a long time someone's really heard what I was saying. Really listened."

        "You've got some good stories, Arnold." Starsky smiled. "Better than any TV or movie. You've done a lotta things in your life."

        "Well, this morning Tommy convinced me it's time to leave," Arnold announced. "His wife died over a year ago and he's been nagging me to move in with him. Says his kids don't come by often enough to worry about keeping that two-bedroom apartment just for himself. He's been after me to retire and join him down there. Like I've said, I've just been too inflexible these past few years to look ahead and think about trying something new." He smiled to himself, a look of contentment steeling across his features. "Tommy may have heard my stories a million times and I may have heard his, but we understand each other a million times better than anyone else ever will. Even if I told my stories over and over, no one else could really hear them like Tommy does."

        "Sounds like you've made the right decision." Starsky smiled kindly.

        Arnold stood up to leave. "Well, if you don't see me in the next few weeks, then you can find me down the coast. I've decided to go home." He paused for a moment and Starsky could see on his face that it was true. Tommy was his home, whether Arnold realized that or not. "After this last caper, I'll have one last story to tell." The older man smiled. "But if you hear it for yourself, don't be surprised to find you and Kenny's parts embellished a bit." He grinned and shook a finger at Starsky. "And don't let it go to your heads, either."

        He turned to start toward the door and Starsky followed him. Arnold stopped for a moment, as if he had just thought of something. "Davey?" he asked in a whisper. "I've seen the scars, son. Line of duty?"

        Starsky shrugged a little self-consciously. "Yeah. I took a few bullets to the chest."

        "No kiddin'?" Arnold was impressed. "I'll bet Kenny was pissed. He ever forgive you for not duckin'?" Arnold smiled teasingly at the words.

        "Sometimes I wonder, Arnold. Sometimes I really wonder," Starsky replied with a grin. And that ain't no lie.

        "Well, sounds like a good story to me. You come down real soon and I'll fix you up with a couple of Tommy's granddaughters. They are single, smart and pretty and for some reason are fond'a cops. You can tell us all about it. And bring Kenny along. He'll keep you at least halfway honest." His grin followed him to the door.

        "We'll be by sometime this week," Starsky replied as he held the door open for the older man. "You have Tommy's address ready and we'll make it a date. Pick out the time and everythin'. You take care. Don't let Tommy pick on you too much." Throwing one last wave, he watched the older man disappear down the crowed corridor.

        I wonder if Pop would've been like him, he mused fondly. Full'a stories and burstin' to tell 'em. He smiled slightly to himself as another though struck him. Give or take another forty years or so, that'll be Hutch 'n me. Two old-timers, tellin' each other the same stories over and over again 'cause the rest of our families know 'em by heart. Arguin' over every little detail and Hutch gettin' 'em all wrong. His grin broadened at the thought.

        He sat back down at his typewriter and was eyeing his still unfinished report when inspiration struck.

        I'm gonna fix that problem right now! Starting today, he thought with glee, I'm gonna use my leisure time to write a book on our lives 'n cases and I won't let Hutch read it 'til it's published. His eyes took on an evil glint. Then he'll just have to live with my version. The honest-to-god official police version. Then he can nit-pick it all he wants, but I'm still gonna have the last word. And since I'm obviously gonna be free this evening, I think I'll start tonight.

        He hummed a favorite movie tune as he worked on finishing the last report of the day. Hutch would be back any minute now and he wanted this report finished and signed. He had a new priority for the evening.

        Of course, it isn't much of a pay-back now, but when you're planning for the long term, you can take the time to plan ahead and work out all the bugs, he decided. And this, Starsky wanted to be perfect. In forty years time, Kenneth Hutchinson was gonna be real sorry he hadn't been a lot nicer to David Michael Starsky.

        Real sorry.

The End