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Derailed, Part One
Detective Dave Starsky was waiting in the car while his partner ran inside the small Mexican restaurant to pick up their lunches. Finally they had found a place they could both eat and be content. This restaurant had both the traditional, greasy, jalapeno-laden goodies Starsky loved AND a heart-healthy menu that suited Hutch perfectly. Heaven! If they only had a drive-thru window, this would be the perfect restaurant.
Hutch climbed into the passenger side of the Torino juggling their food, the drinks, and attempting to close his door.
Starsky took a soda from his friend. "You remember to ask for extra salsa?"
"Yep, extra hot this time. They said it's new. They make themselves and they call it Fuego."
"Doesn't that mean fire?"
Starsky smiled. "What'd you get this time?"
"Chicken Asada Rice bowl and whole wheat tortillas."
"That just doesn't sound like as much fun to eat as a Carne Asada Burrito with onions and extra jalapenos."
Hutch frowned at his partner. "You know, Starsk, one of these days you're gonna give yourself an ulcer eating that stuff."
This was an old discussion. They had it almost every time they ate Mexican food. Starsky chuckled. This conversation was as much a part of a Mexican meal for the two men as tortillas and salsa.
Starsky changed the subject. "So, how was your date with what's-her-name last night?"
"I wondered when you were gonna get around to asking that. Nothing to write home about."
"Sorry to hear that. Not gonna go out with her again?"
"Nope. We just didn't hit it off I guess. She's nice enough, but she really didn't want to date someone who works the crazy hours we do. Whatever."
Starsky sighed. Women often had a hard time with their erratic schedule. This wasn't the first time that had happened to Hutch. He had met this latest woman in an amateur club where he did a few numbers on his guitar. She thought he was a musician.
"She didn't have a problem dating a guy she thought was a starving musician, but a cop with scheduling problems? No way, huh?"
"No big deal, Starsk We had a good time and nobody's feelings got hurt. Good thing to find out right away, I guess."
Starsky was starting on his rolled tacos with guacamole when Hutch said, "Damn, Starsk, I will never figure out why you don't weigh 300 pounds eating like you do. Guacamole is really fattening."
"Hey, I thought you said it was a 'good fat' smart guy?"
"Well, yeah, in moderation, but you have a giant glob of it spread on top of fried rolled tacos! You should..."
The remainder of Hutch's lecture was cut off by the police radio. "All units, reports of women screaming at 220 West Henderson. Possible 211 in progress."
That address was a few blocks away and on their beat.
"This is Zebra 3, we are responding."
Starsky tossed his remaining food into the trash can next to the Torino and pulled out onto the street. Hutch slapped the mars light on the roof and turned on the siren.
"What's at 220, Hutch?"
"I'm not sure, but I think it might be a beauty salon. Either that, a grocery store, or it's a trophy shop."
Last year, the department had expanded their beat a little to include some more inner city neighborhoods. In addition to their existing group of porno shops, massage parlors, peep shows, and bars, now they had to look after beauty salons, liquor stores, delis, dry cleaners, print shops, and other small businesses. That part of their beat was a little less run down than the other side, but still in a depressed part of town.
The Torino screamed around a corner to the 200 block of West Henderson. The detectives saw two men in ski masks and army fatigues bolt out of the door of a small beauty salon as they came around the corner. Beauty salon, Hutch was right. Starsky screeched to a stop and they both jumped out of the car. A quick glance between them and they each knew what the other was going to do next. Starsky would run into the beauty salon and make sure everyone was okay. Hutch would follow the two men into the alley. They both could hear sirens in the distance so they knew backup was on the way.
Starsky held out his badge and identified himself to the frightened women in the beauty salon. One woman was on the floor and another was sitting next to her, patting her hand and speaking to her softly. They were next to the cash register, which was open and empty.
"Ma'am, is she okay?"
The lady trying to revive the woman on the floor looked up at him with tears steaming down her face. "They hit her. We told them they could have the money, but they hit her anyway."
The woman on the floor was breathing and Starsky was worried about his partner out back in the alley by himself. "What's your name?"
"Becky, call an ambulance. I'm going out to see if my partner caught the guys who robbed you. Is there a back door?"
Becky pointed at the back and nodded that there was.
Then Starsky's heart skipped a beat as he heard the squealing of tires followed by the unmistakable roar of Hutch's gun. The sound came from the alley behind the salon. He ran toward the back door, his gun drawn.
While Starsky was in the beauty salon, Hutch was following their hooded suspects. They had torn around the corner of the building into the alley behind the row of shops and they had a healthy head start.
As Hutch rounded the corner, he saw a black van with dark windows just as it peeled out toward him making a run for the street. He pulled his gun and shouted, "Police, stop or I'll fire!" He saw a hand come out of the passenger window, holding a gun that was pointed at him. He squeezed off a shot as he dove to the ground and rolled behind a dumpster. The suspect returned his fire.
Starsky flung open the back door of the beauty salon, crouching low and sweeping his eyes across the alley searching for his partner. He saw a black van just as it plowed into a dumpster, driving the boxy container back against the wall.
"Hutch!" he shouted.
The van recovered its original path and sped out of the alley with Starsky shooting at it as it fled.
"Hutch! Where are you?"
He had a sinking feeling that Hutch was behind the dumpster. Why else would the van purposely hit it? He ran toward the dumpster and found Hutch lying on the ground.
"Hutch, hey, you okay?" He knelt next to his partner. Hutch's eyes were open and he was trying to sit up. Starsky was relieved to see it looked like Hutch just had the wind knocked out of him.
"You okay?" He asked again as he helped Hutch sit up and brushed the dirt out of his hair.
Hutch wheezed a little, "Yeah, yeah, I'm okay. Help me up."
Starsky was relieved. He stood and offered his hand to his partner. The back-up officers were just now entering the alley. Everything had happened too fast for anyone to chase the van. The two detectives went back into the beauty salon to interview the witnesses.
The women in the salon described a strange scenario. The suspects had come in with guns demanding the money in the register. The witnesses said they took jewelry from the Vietnamese women, but nothing from anyone else. Then, they singled out Mai, the lady who was injured. They herded the other women away from her, and then they hit her several times. She wasn't resisting them and kept telling them to take the money. Then one of the gunmen walked past her, opened the cash register and emptied it. The other one hit Mai with his fist, knocking her down to the floor. When then they heard the Torino's siren they ran out the front door.
The detectives would have to wait to interview Mai. She was still unconscious when they loaded her into the ambulance. They went back to the Torino and headed for the precinct to file their report.
While Hutch was typing the report, Starsky was posing questions. "Why hit a beauty salon? How much money could they have had in the till?"
"Yeah, I think it's strange too."
"Why only take jewelry from the Vietnamese women? Some of the other women were wearing expensive looking jewelry."
Hutch agreed, the whole scene seemed odd. A middle-of-the-day robbery of a small business located next door to a small grocery store. That would have been a much more lucrative hit than a beauty salon.
"Starsk, what's different about the grocery store next door?"
"Uh, other than that they sell food and don't do shampoo sets?" His phone ringing cut off Hutch's next question.
Starsky got up to get them new coffee while his partner was on the phone. The one side of the conversation he could hear had his attention.
"Where? Any info on the owners? Oh. Get a lab team to go over it. Yeah, thanks."
Starsky handed him his coffee.
"They found the van abandoned down by the municipal airport. Some uniforms spotted it and matched it to a stolen vehicle report."
"They sure it was the same van?"
"Yeah, unless it is another oxidized black van with a busted out right headlamp, a .357 slug in it, and a dented right fender complete with blue dumpster paint."
Hutch was grumpy.
Was that a stupid question?
Hutch absent-mindedly rubbed his left upper arm where a nasty bruise was forming from it being hit by the dumpster.
"You want me to finish typing that?"
Hutch got up and let Starsky take over typing the report. While he wrapped it up, Hutch went to the file cabinets to look up some recent cases. He was struck by the increase in robberies in their district over the past few weeks. Something about these robberies was bothering him, but he could not quite put his finger on it.
He was looking through some of the files when Starsky asked him what he was doing. "Starsk, have you noticed how many more robberies there have been on our beat in the past few weeks?"
"Now that you mention it, I guess there have been more than the usual. Why? You got something?"
"Mmm. Not sure yet. I'm workin' on it."
Starsky knew that was a sign to be quiet and let his partner think out what was on his mind. He finished the report, signed it and walked it over to Dobey's office. The captain was out for the afternoon, so he left the report and returned to the squad room. Hutch was just finishing a phone call.
"Hey, Blondie, time to go. You hungry?"
"Hungry again, Starsk? I'm not yet, but I might be in a while. Let's go back to my place and I'll scramble up some eggs."
Starsky started to argue, but the memory of another end-of-shift meal plan suddenly crowded back into his mind. He stopped short of suggesting they go anywhere else, replaying a conversation from years ago in his head. Hey, next time you want scrambled eggs, don't let me talk you out of it, huh?
"Uh, yeah. That sounds great."
Hutch looked at his partner and raised one eyebrow. Geez, Hutchinson. Bet that comment brought him a pleasant memory!
"Sorry, Starsk. I just thought..." He had a chill himself remembering that night when he had almost lost his partner.
"Hey, no sweat." Starsky shook off the chill he was feeling, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door, his sheepish partner right behind him.
Hutch promised himself he'd get in a better mood.
That night they were sitting in Hutch's apartment enjoying breakfast, not dinner, when their conversation turned toward the robbery this afternoon. Starsky started looking around on the table for something. Hutch reached behind him to the countertop and picked up the salt shaker, handing it to his friend.
How does he always know?
"Starsk, don't use so much salt, would ya'?"
"The case, worry about the case."
"Yeah, well, what about your blood pressure?"
Hutch could be such a nag. He knew his partner was right, he really should take it easy on the salt shaker, but he couldn't stand bland eggs. He had given up trying to get his partner to stock Tabasco in the house. "Look it, if I can't have Tabasco, you gotta at least let me use salt!" Starsky wanted to change the subject from his dietary habits. "So, Blondie, you work out that connection yet?"
"Maybe. Tomorrow, let's go around and talk to some of the other business owners."
"What do you think you've got?"
"I just think it's weird that so many robberies on our beat in the past few weeks have been at a Vietnamese-owned businesses."
"Yeah. I never really thought about it until today when those women said the robbers singled out the Vietnamese ladies."
Starsky reached over and stole a piece of bacon off Hutch's plate.
"Hey, eat your own food. What kind of Jew are you anyway? I thought your people weren't supposed to eat bacon."
"We ain't supposed to celebrate Christmas either, Blintz."
Starsky had a point there.
"You looked at the files this afternoon, how many robberies have there been? I've lost track."
"Six Vietnamese businesses in three weeks counting today. That's out of eleven total robberies, around half at Vietnamese-owned businesses. Until the beauty salon, no one had gotten hurt yet, but most of the businesses had some damage done to them. Windows broken, inventory vandalized."
Starsky chewed and thought about that for a minute. "We need to stop by the hospital to see that lady tomorrow and take her statement."
"Hutch, what if it's just that there are so many Vietnamese-owned businesses in the district they are hitting them by chance?"
"Good thinking, but there aren't that many. I looked into that this afternoon. Only about 15% of the small businesses in the area are owned by Vietnamese."
Starsky thought about it for a minute. Hutch was right, this was more than a coincidence. "Hey you got any OJ?"
The man is a bottomless pit.
Part 5The next morning Hutch stopped in the hospital lobby to call Dobey. They had just finished interviewing the injured woman from the beauty salon. "Cap, we are starting to get deep into something that might be pretty big."
Their captain sounded interested. "Yeah, what do you got?"
"We're not sure yet, Cap but it looks like someone might be targeting Vietnamese businesses. The lady from the beauty salon and her family told us the Vietnamese community is afraid of these robbery suspects. Everyone has been too afraid to say anything to the cops."
"Not yet, Cap. We'll keep in touch."
Back in the Torino, Hutch asked his partner, "Pretty bold, don't you think? Even if they are targeting the Vietnamese, you'd think they would move on instead of risking getting caught by hitting the same area again and again."
"Yeah," Starsky started, but before he had a chance to comment, the radio signaled "Come in Zebra 3."
"This is Zebra 3, go ahead," Hutch said into the radio mic.
"See the man named Huggy," came the response.
"We're on it. Zebra 3 out," he answered.
Starsky whipped the Torino in a U-turn and headed for The Pits.
Part 6"What it is?" Huggy said.
Starsky asked Huggy what he had for them.
"Dig, a dude was in here last night talkin' up how he and his partners had made some scores lately in the district. Jewelry stores, a dry cleaners, markets, even a beauty salon. Said they were gonna hit every Vietnamese business in the area."
"You get names?"
"Yeah, dude's name is Tony Henley. He was gettin' pretty hammered, otherwise I'm sure he wouldn't have been blowin' so loud about his adventures."
Hutch turned to Starsky and said, "Tony Henley. Isn't he that small time stick-up man from Orange? Used to hang out with Frank Razzo until he went in the joint a couple of years ago."
Starsky nodded and said, "Yeah but he doesn't sound like the kind of guy who would be a part of something organized, does he?"
Hutch turned to Huggy. "Hug, what about his partners. Any ideas?"
"I was hoping you'd ask. From what Henley was saying the ringleader might be a guy they call Ice. A real bad dude. Specializes in rough stuff along with robberies."
"Uh-oh, Starsk. That guy's suspected of half a dozen murders. He usually goes for bigger bait than what we have around here though. Why d'ya suppose a guy like that would be after small Vietnamese businesses?"
"Any idea where we could find Tony Henley, Hug?"
"Try down by the rail yard. Said he hadn't been sleeping much because the trains by his hotel were keeping him awake."
Part 7As Starsky pulled the Torino away from Huggy's, Hutch picked up the radio and called in. "Zebra 3 to Control. I need R & I to pull the file on a Tony or Anthony Henley. Recently released from prison. I also want whatever you've got on a guy going by the name 'Ice.' We'll come in for it."
"Roger, Zebra 3."
"Ice, huh? Sounds like something out of a B movie. Hutch, you know that guy earned that name for his reputation for icing his victims. He doesn't usually leave any witnesses. No one even knows what he looks like."
Starsky's words cast a chill on his partner. If Ice was involved, this case was going to be tough.
Hutch hopped out of the Torino and ran into the station to pick up the file from R & I. After he returned with the file, Starsky took off for the area near the rail yards. They drove up and down the streets and cruised the run down hotels. Starsky was just going to randomly pick one of the seedy hotels for a start to the search when Hutch said, "Starsk..." and he pointed out one of the hotels on the street backing up to the rail yard.
Starsky looked at him, his eyes saying, Why that one?
Hutch returned the look with a silent, Just a feeling, I guess.
Starsky walked up to the desk clerk and showed him his badge. "I'm Detective Starsky, and this is Detective Hutchinson. We're looking for a guy named Tony Henley. You seen him?"
"What's it to ya?" the scruffy looking clerk snarled.
Hutch noticed that a man matching Henley's basic description had just turned onto the hallway facing the desk. He stopped short when he saw the detectives and turned back on his heels in the other direction. "Hey!" Hutch said as he took off down the hall after the man.
Starsky ran out the front door and around the front of the building into the alley just in time to see Henley duck through a hole in the fence to the rail yard, Hutch right behind him.
Part 8Starsky knew they were too far ahead for him to catch them on foot. He jumped into the Torino, squealing away from the curb before he had the door closed. He roared down the alley and around to a place he knew he could get the Torino into the rail yard. His face was full of determination as he focused on catching up to his partner and the fleeing suspect. He pulled the Torino to a stopped behind a storage building. Just as he stepped out of the car he heard gunfire. Guess we got the right guy!
Henley had ducked behind the last car of a freight rain and was using it as cover while he fired on Hutch. Starsky crept around the storage building and saw his partner behind a caboose sitting on a side rail. Starsky quietly worked his way up to where Hutch was crouched. When Hutch saw his partner, they made eye contact. Hutch pointed toward the train car Henley was using for cover. Starsky shook his head no. Then he pointed at himself and made a hand gesture to let Hutch in on his plan. Hutch nodded his silent agreement, message received. Got you covered, partner! You be careful!
Starsky took off as Hutch whipped around the caboose and started laying down cover fire for his partner. He was hoping Henley didn't notice Starsky running along in a crouch next to his shelter. Henley did not see the dark-haired detective. He was too busy returning Hutch's fire.
Starsky got up under the train Henley was behind and crept along the track in a crouch. He could tell the suspect did not know he was there. Suddenly, he heard the sound trains make as they are pulling forward and he jumped. He knew that could happen but he really didn't want to be underneath a moving train. The sudden movement and lurching train car startled the suspect, as well as Starsky's partner.
He heard Hutch shout "Starsky!" He didn't take the time to answer though. Henley had staggered back away from his hiding place. Starsky rolled out from underneath the slow-moving train and yelled, "Police! Freeze or I'll fire!" The suspect turned on Starsky and took aim, but he was now in Hutch's line of fire. Hutch dropped him with a shot to the chest before he had the chance to pull the trigger on Starsky.
Both detectives walked over to the suspect. Hutch felt for a pulse and said, "You okay, Starsk?"
"Yeah, but I think I might need to change my shorts!"
Hutch smiled at his partner and shook his head to let him know Henley was dead. "Guess we won't be getting any information out of him." He turned his full attention to Starsky. "You more powerful than a locomotive, Gordo? Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?"
Starsky laughed and said, "Yeah, that's me, Super Cop!"
Hutch put his hand on Starsky's arm. He could feel his partner trembling. "You mind staying away from moving trains for me, partner?"
Starsky held his hand out for Hutch to show him he was shaking. "No problem, Blondie. I guess I didn't think it would start moving. Don't know why I thought that, bein' in a train yard and all." He rolled his eyes at his own foolishness. "What were the odds?" Hutch patted him on the forearm and nodded. The train really had been moving slowly, but it was still exhilarating.
Part 9Starsky and Hutch spent the next two or three hours wrapping up Henley's shooting. Ignoring Dobey's instructions to come in and file the necessary paperwork, they headed for the new part of their beat. They were planning to interview witnesses at all of the businesses that had been hit. When they pulled onto West Henderson, they noticed a news crew in front of the beauty salon from yesterday's action. Starsky pulled over to the curb a couple of blocks away from the salon. Hutch got out and carefully maneuvered himself within earshot of the interview in progress.
Hutch saw a minister standing in front of the beauty salon. He was being interviewed by Dick Baldrich, a local news reporter.
Baldrich was looking at the camera and delivering an introductory monologue. "Pastor Frank Hansen from the Grace Mission is here today to comfort area business owners caught in a firestorm of robberies over the past few weeks." He turned toward the minister and said, "Pastor Hansen, why are you here today?"
"I am here to provide support to area business owners. Many businesses have been robbed recently and yesterday a woman was injured in the robbery of the beauty salon behind us."
"Pastor Hansen, how do you plan to help the business owners?"
"Grace Mission is offering shelter and aid to any area business that needs it. The owner of this beauty salon will not be able to work for a several weeks. We are going to help her meet her bills and keep her family together while she recuperates."
The interviewer continued, "Pastor, what do you think about the sudden rash of robberies in this part of town?"
The minister answered, "I think there is someone out there who doesn't like Vietnamese people. This beauty salon was the sixth or seventh Vietnamese business to be hit in the area. The robbers seem to be picking on our immigrant community."
Hutch hung back in silence thinking how ridiculous it was that a minister and a local television reporter had put together what he and Starsky had just discovered about the nature of the recent robberies. He was kicking himself for failing to recognize the link before so many businesses had fallen victim. Starsky and he had been working overtime six days a week for a few months. They were both tired. That must be why they missed the connection. Hutch promised himself that as soon as this case was resolved, he was going to insist on a vacation for both of them. This time, he was going to see to it that his partner got that beachside vacation he always seemed to crave. No camping this time, Starsk. Just sand, surf, sun, and you relaxing with one of those frozen drinks with a little umbrella in it!
Snapping out of his reverie, Hutch listened to the rest of the interview with fading interest. Nice of the Grace Mission to be here to help the people in the neighborhood. The interview was wrapping up so Hutch turned and walked back to the car.
Part 10Hutch was not the only one who had seen that interview. Across the street from the beauty salon, a solitary figure in faded army issue fatigues stood leaning against a building smoking a cigarette. The man, Bill Monroe, was practically a street person. He had been in Vietnam, but was discharged when his mind snapped. Now he lived in a back room of his brother-in-law's towing business on Laurel Street. Bill spent his days wandering the neighborhood looking for spies and communist conspirators. Wherever there was any kind of trouble or a crime scene, Bill seemed to find it. He gathered information and reported it to his imaginary commanders. Bill's sister and brother-in-law tried to get him to attend therapy sessions at the Veteran's Administration. They also tried to ensure that he took the psychotropic drugs he was supposed to take. Sometimes they were successful, but more often than not they failed. The mental health system in California had deteriorated so much they were forced to do their best with the resources available. As long as Bill stayed out of trouble and didn't hurt anyone, they were satisfied. Today would mark the end of Bill's non-violent period.
Bill Monroe had been watching Starsky and Hutch as they worked in the neighborhood ever since it became part of their beat. Lately, whenever he observed the action at one of the robberies, Starsky and Hutch were not far away. That red car was easy to hear and to spot anywhere it went in the district. He was particularly interested in Starsky. Monroe remembered him from his days in Vietnam and he didn't trust him. Starsky had been involved in some very covert actions in country. Monroe was convinced he was secretly a communist sympathizer.
The interview with Pastor Hansen held Bill's interest. He made a decision standing there across the street. If the Pastor was helping these Vietnamese, he must be a commie. Bill would take care of him first. He shuffled off into the alley across the street to make his plans. Starsky could wait for now.
Part 11The three-man robbery gang was sitting in the back of a burned out storefront waiting for Ice. So far, he had provided them with the names and locations of all the businesses to hit. They hadn't recovered much money in any of the robberies. The gang didn't care, they were being paid to do the work. Ice had hired each of the three men specifically because they had served in Vietnam and they did not have any love for the Vietnamese.
Ice arrived by the back entrance. The darkness of the room disguised his face, but he also wore dark glasses to hide his eyes. He limped into the room and pulled up a chair in a shadow by the wall. "Where's Henley?" he asked.
One of the men answered, "Cops got him."
"Arrested!" Ice was instantly furious.
"Dead. He didn't have time to talk."
Ice smiled. Good. That'll save me the trouble. "So far you men have done well," he said.
"But Ice, we hardly get any money out of these jobs. Not even from that chintzy Jewelry Store."
"I told you already, this is not about money. This is about justice. Retribution. Why should these people be allowed to come over to our country and start taking over whole neighborhoods? They should go back where they belong."
Ice had served in Vietnam. He lost a leg there and would walk with a cane on an artificial one for the rest of his life. The Vietnamese were responsible for stealing his youth and his agility. He hated them. The past few years had been difficult for him. When he moved back to California after his discharge, things had gone well for a while. Then, the war had ended and he was distressed to see the number of refugees from Vietnam that had settled in the United States. Bay City was a particular magnet in his opinion. He did not care as much until these people started to make a new life and become successful. Ice decided they did not deserve any success or happiness. They had to pay for what had happened to him and countless other young men who tried to defend them. He was intent on destroying their businesses and driving them out of the neighborhood.
After his tour in the Army, Ice had adopted a life of crime. The only thing he was really good at was killing. He had offered his services out as a hit man many times. He also specialized in robberies and he did not like witnesses. He was unhappy with the gang he had hired because they had not eliminated the witnesses. Despite his instructions, the gang had not killed any Vietnamese yet. He wanted their destruction to be more complete.
"Since you still haven't learned how to deal with witnesses, I am going to show you how it is done tonight. We are going to hit the dry cleaners at 5412 Laurel Street again. When you have collected the cash, I am going to show you how to take care of witnesses." No one would expect them to hit the same business twice in one month.
His gang nodded their agreement. The other men didn't like the idea of hurting people, even Vietnamese people, but they were in it too deep to back out now. They would have all run as fast as they could if they had known that Ice planned to kill them when he was finished with this current reign of terror against Bay City's Vietnamese immigrants.
Part 12Back at the precinct, Hutch had finished his report on the shooting and had gone up to Internal Affairs. Starsky was in Dobey's office catching him up on the interviews they had conducted that day.
"Cap, we interviewed witnesses at every one of those Vietnamese businesses. We also went back to talk to the victims in the other robberies. The perps in all the Vietnamese robberies had the same M.O. Ski masks, two--four men, small time hits. No one hurt until yesterday. Different suspects conducted the other robberies and some of them have been caught. None of the Vietnamese businesses had security cameras either. We checked that."
"Looks like your partner was right. This could be something more than meets the eye."
Starsky nodded and continued, "Cap, Huggy thinks a dangerous dude known as Ice might be involved in this somehow. That was what we were gonna try to get out of Henley. This Ice has a mean rep and no law enforcement agency has any idea what he looks like. He tends to not leave anyone alive who could ID him."
Dobey and Starsky sat talking about the case for a while waiting for Hutch to return from Internal Affairs. Hutch returned around 6:00 p.m. When he arrived, he perched on the arm of Starsky's chair while they all discussed a game plan.
"Cap," Hutch said, "We really don't have a lot to go on here."
Starsky continued, "Some of the robberies took place in the daytime and some at night."
Hutch picked up. "We were thinking we should try cruising the district every day until we catch up to them. We'll start around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon and run through the early morning hours when the bars close at 2:00."
Dobey nodded. "Start tonight. I want to nail these guys before someone else gets hurt."
Starsky and Hutch nodded and stood to walk out of Dobey's office. As Starsky was headed out the door behind his partner, Captain Dobey said, "Starsky!"
As the dark-haired man looked back at him, Dobey said, "You two be careful."
Starsky followed Hutch out of the squad room on the way to the parking garage. As they passed the dispatch desk, one of the officers on duty waved them over to talk to him. "Did you guys see that preacher on TV today? The one talking about your beauty salon holdup?"
"Yeah, we were there," Starsky answered. "How come?"
"Well one of the black-and-white's just followed up on a distress call from the Grace Mission. They found that preacher dead."
Starsky and Hutch looked at each other each thinking the same thing. Any relation to this case? Bet ya. "Thanks. Call them and tell them not to move anything 'til we get there." Starsky said as they turned and hurried out of the building.
Part 13When they arrived at Grace Mission, Starsky was frustrated to see there were already news crews hovering across the street. The uniforms had cordoned off the area with police tape and they were able to park in the back and get into the mission without any contact with the cameras.
The mission's back door had been jimmied. The detectives looked at it briefly, then walked in and found the activity centered on a storage room. The room was being used as a pantry. The Coroner's team was already there but they had not yet moved the body. Hutch looked around the room and saw two women standing in a corner crying. He walked over to interview them while Starsky checked the victim. Pulling back the yellow plastic tarp covering the body, Starsky saw that the man had been strangled with a heavy gauge wire. He also noted the man had the words "Die Commie" sprayed on his black clothing in red paint. The wall behind the victim also had red spray paint writing on it reading "Commie scum." A quick glance of the man's body revealed a button attached to a small scrap of green cloth clutched in his hand. Army issue button and Army issue green. He moved out of the way and let the crime lab team continue their work dusting for prints.
Starsky shook his head and walked over to his partner, but held back a few paces to give him time to wrap up his interview. The two women were tearfully explaining how they had found Pastor Hansen around 6:00 p.m. They did not see anyone or hear anything. No, they did not know why anyone would hurt the minister. No he did not have any known enemies. Naturally. Hutch thanked the ladies and told them he might need to question them again later.
Hutch joined his partner. "They went looking for him when he disappeared for more than two hours. Pastor Hansen was supposed to be going to the bank. His car was parked around back. He should have been there and back in about 30 minutes."
The lab team had discovered what looked like black shoe polish marks in the doorway to the small storeroom. Judging from the scrapes on the minister's shoes, the man had been dragged into the storeroom on his way to the back door. Starsky told Hutch about the button and cloth scrap he found in Hansen's hand. "Hutch, our robbery suspects were wearing army fatigues yesterday. Looks to me like we have a connection to this murder."
Hutch nodded his agreement. "A loose one, but it does look that way. This thing is escalating. We'd better go let Dobey in on it."
Hutch sat in the front of the Torino, patched thru to Dobey. He explained what was happening and confirmed they would still be cruising the neighborhood that evening. Right now, they were going to interview people in the businesses surrounding the mission.
They really had not expected their conversations with people in the businesses around the mission to turn anything useful. On this block within hearing and visual distance of Grace Mission, the only businesses were an adult bookstore, an X-rated theater, and two liquor stores. One of the liquor stores was closed today because the owner was sick and he didn't have anyone to work for him. The other liquor store's worker had seen nothing. The only person who could have seen something at the theater was the ticket seller and she had been reading during her shift when there were no patrons. The bookstore had blackened out windows and the street could not be seen from inside. The workers had not heard anything. The detectives drew the big blank they expected to draw.
By the time they had completed their preliminary investigation of the minister's murder, darkness had fallen over Bay City. Both detectives were tired and hungry. They had been at it since the morning. Hutch had a suggestion. "Hey, Starsk, why don't we go over and try out that new Russian Deli over on Laurel?"
"Russian? What do they have that you want to eat, Blintz?"
"I'm really thinking about the coffee. You ever have coffee made by a Russian, Starsk?"
Starsky laughed. "You're kidding, right? Hutch, you know my grandmother was Russian! Of course. Strong stuff. Might be just the thing we need to stay awake tonight." Starsky started the engine and they headed for Laurel Street.
Phan's Dry Cleaners was a small, family-owned shop on Laurel Street. They were getting ready to close. The family had been nervous since the robbery a few weeks ago. Mr. and Mrs. Phan were counting the money in the cash register while their 7-year-old daughter, Cam slept in a small room in the back of the shop. Mr. Phan did not like to stay open much after dark anymore. He had just pulled the shades down in the front window when the ski-masked robbers who had been there the last time burst through the door with their guns pointed at his wife. This time, the last of the four men limped into the door with a cane. The man with the cane was Ice.
Ice shouted, "Okay, Gook. Put all the money in this bag." As he thrust a canvas bag into the frightened man's hands. Mr. Phan ran to the register and instructed his wife to put the money in the bag. He spoke softly to her in Vietnamese, reminding her they did not hurt them the last time. She should just do as they instructed and the men would leave.
Hearing Vietnamese enraged Ice. "Hey, you! None of that Gook talk. I wanna know what you're saying."
Mrs. Phan jumped at the sound of his shouting. Her hands shook as she packed the money into the bag. Mr. Phan explained, "My wife does not speak English."
Ice responded by striking Mr. Phan across the face with the back of his fist. Mrs. Phan screamed and threw the bag of money at Ice. She ran to kneel beside her fallen husband. Mr. Phan was sitting up when the robbers backed out of the store. The couple went around behind the counter to find the phone and call the police.
When he got outside with his gang, Ice reached into the pocket of his oversized coat and pulled out a glass bottle full of gasoline with a rag shoved into the top. The men looked at him with wide eyes. "What's the matter, boys, never seen a Molotov Cocktail? Better get in the car." His evil laughter chilled the gang. They all jumped into their getaway car as Ice lit the rag and threw it into the dry cleaners. He was in the car and speeding down Laurel Street before the explosion rocked the building.
Janek Goletz was working in his deli across the street from Phan's Dry Cleaners. When he heard the sound of a woman screaming, he rushed to look out the front window. He reached the window just in time to see a masked figure light a Molotov Cocktail and toss it into the shop across from him. He was terrified at the thought of what would happen if the resulting fire reached the dry cleaning chemicals. Janek ran to the phone and called for the fire department. He thanked God his limited English included the words for Emergency and Fire.
Gary's Towing Service was on the corner of Laurel Street a few doors down from Janek's Deli. When he heard the explosion, Bill Monroe ran outside to watch the excitement. He stood in amazement as he saw the bright red Torino pull onto the scene.
Starsky and Hutch were still a few blocks away when the explosion and fire broke out at Phan's shop. By the time they reached the scene, flames were roiling out the front door and the windows were filled with black smoke. The smell of gasoline was strong. The partners shot each other a quick, "Geez I hope no one was in there" look, then they heard the sound of a woman screaming in terror from inside the shop. Hutch called dispatch for fire department support as Starsky jumped out of the Torino.
Starsky ran into the shop, crouched as low as he could and still maintain any speed. He called out to the woman, "Ma'am where are you!? Police, I'm here to help you!!!"
He heard a woman's voice from across the room. The black smoke was stinging his eyes, but he saw the counter. Running around behind it he saw a man laying unconscious on the floor and a frantic woman kneeling next to him. Starsky heard Hutch's voice from the front door. "Starsky!! Where are you!"
"Hutch, here!" he shouted back at his partner. Hutch followed his voice. Starsky guided the frightened woman into Hutch's hands as he bent down and picked up the man. He followed Hutch back out the door and onto the street. He carried the man across the street to lay him on the sidewalk in front of Janek's Deli. Hutch brought the woman over to them. She was pointing frantically and yelling at Hutch in Vietnamese. Hutch did not understand her and he gestured to Starsky to see if his partner understood enough Vietnamese to know what was wrong. Starsky did not understand her either. Hutch began CPR on the man.
Inside the Deli, Janek had watched the two men pull the Phan's out of their shop. The little girl was missing! He knew she was in there tonight because he had brought them all some dinner earlier in the evening. He liked the child, she was sweet and didn't mind his broken English.
Starsky was still trying to make out what the woman wanted when Janek barreled out of the Deli, yelling at him in Russian. He grabbed Starsky and said in a mix of Russian and English "Help! Malenkaya devoshka, ana tam vnutri! Pomogitye!" He was desperately trying to tell Starsky that the little girl was still in the burning building.
Starsky was surprised to hear Russian. He knew that "Pomogitye" was the word for "Help" but he was not sure he heard the rest correctly. He reached back into his memory and found enough Russian to ask Janek to repeat himself. "Shto? Povtoritye yesho raz!"
Janek answered in Russian again, "Rebyonok. Ana vnutri!"
Starsky quickly repeated what Janek said once or twice, struggling to translate. When he realized the words probably meant there was a child still in the dry cleaners, he bolted back across the street.
Hutch yelled at him to stop, "Starsky! What are you doing? Starsky!"
Starsky rushed back through the door of the shop without giving it a second thought. He didn't have time to answer his partner. As he ran in through the door, Starsky heard the sirens coming closer.
A small crowd was beginning to gather. Most of the witnesses were other Vietnamese people who had come out of the surrounding businesses or down to the street from their upper floor apartments. They were there to watch the fire and to watch the two cops in their rescue attempts. No one tried to help.
The man Hutch was resuscitating sputtered, coughed and started to breath on his own. Thank God! He pulled Janek over and told him to stay with the man, then he ran after Starsky.
The fire was much worse in the shop this time. Starsky covered his mouth and nose with his T-shirt in an effort to fight the smoke. He called out to the child, "Little girl, where are you? Sweetheart?" He coughed against the smoke as he moved into the back of the shop through the door behind the counter. Suddenly, he heard a small voice calling, "Help, help!" accompanied by a weak pounding on a door. The door was to Starsky's left. He reached for the doorknob with his right hand and was rewarded by burning his palm on the hot metal. Swearing, he covered the knob with the bottom of his jacket, turned it and flung the door open to reveal a small child. He picked her up and headed back outside.
Hutch was coming in through the front door yelling, "Starsky!" Hearing his partner, Starsky called out to him, "Hutch, help me!" The smoke was getting to him and he stumbled into the front of the shop, dropping the child into Hutch's arms. Luckily, a firefighter in a respirator mask was right behind Hutch. He pushed Hutch toward the door and grabbed Starsky before he collapsed in a coughing fit onto the floor of the shop.
A few minutes later, the Phan family was being loaded into ambulances for their trip to the hospital. Hutch was not happy with Starsky's refusal to be seen in the Emergency Room. He sat on the sidewalk breathing the oxygen the paramedics had given him. He insisted he was fine. Starsky had successfully hidden his burned right hand from his partner so far and he really hadn't been in the fire long enough to warrant a visit to that most hated of establishments, the hospital.
Hutch mentally scolded himself for being such a nag. Starsky really didn't seem to be in any danger. Instead of ragging on him some more, Hutch decided get some answers. "Starsk, I didn't know you understood Russian."
The cover of the oxygen mask muffled Starsky's words. "Well, I really don't. I remember a little though. My grandmother spoke Russian to me when I was a boy. I used to be pretty good at it."
Hutch never stopped learning new things about his impetuous partner. He smiled and rested his hand on Starsky's shoulder. "What did he say to you, buddy?"
"He either was tellin' me there was a little girl still inside or that my sister had gone to the store." Starsky laughed, which brought on more coughing accompanied by Hutch's furrowed-brow look. "I'm alright, Blondie. Relax!"
The fire was under control, the victims were off to the hospital, and Hutch wanted to talk to Janek. The large Russian man came out of his shop with a cup of hot, strong coffee for each of the detectives. He smiled at them and said, "Thank you." Then he looked at Hutch and said, "You and your friend. Brave."
"You speak English?"
"Da. I am Janek Goletz. I am sorry I speak Russian to your friend. When I am... "
Janek stalled, searching for the right word in English and said, "Rasstroini," Hutch guessed at the meaning and interjected, "Upset?"
"Da. Upset. My English, not good!"
Hutch smiled at him and told him not to worry about it. "Can you answer a few questions?" Janek nodded. "Good. Let me know if you don't understand me. Maybe he can help us!" he said with a smile as he pointed to his partner.
Between Janek's broken English, and Starsky's shaky Russian Hutch was able to piece together a picture of what had gone down there. Apparently, the same thieves who hit the Phan's shop three weeks ago had come back for another robbery and to finish off the witnesses this time. Hutch was surprised to hear Janek describe how the fire had been started with a Molotov Cocktail. Janek described four men, all in army fatigues with dark ski masks on their faces. When Janek saw them run from the building, he noticed they were carrying guns. The robbery had probably only taken a few minutes. The four men had escaped in a dark blue sedan with a dark vinyl top. Janek only got the first three numbers on the plate, 498.
When the paramedic decided Starsky was breathing okay, he took away the oxygen bottle. Janek invited Starsky and Hutch into his deli for something to eat on the house. They gratefully accepted. As they walked into the deli, Hutch asked Janek if he had a first aid kit handy.
"I need it to fix up that burned hand my partner thinks he's hiding from me."
Starsky winced. Busted! Damn. Blondie don't miss much!
After the two cops disappeared into the deli, Bill Monroe retreated in the shadows to the towing shop. He knew that Starsky couldn't be trusted. First he ran into a burning building to rescue the enemy. Then he held a conversation with a man in Russian. He WAS a commie spy! Monroe resolved to kill him.
Walking into the front office, Monroe searched for and found his brother-in-law's loaded gun. Gary was away on a fishing trip. The gun would not be missed for a couple of days. Monroe went back where the trucks were housed and climbed into one. He would wait until Starsky and Hutch came out of the deli, then he would follow them. He needed to know where Starsky lived to carry out his death sentence. Monroe also realized he would have to get to his prey when his blond cohort was not around to help him. He would follow Starsky home and gun him down like the communist dog he was.
Their suspects were no doubt in hiding again. Hutch had called in the information on the robbery and the fire to the precinct. He gave a description of the suspects and their getaway vehicle to the dispatcher. Nothing more could be done that night so the detectives logged themselves out and planned to go in early the next morning to file reports on the night's activities. Starsky turned the Torino toward Hutch's place.
"I'm beat. How you doin' Starsk?"
"Same. I just want a shower and bed." Both men smelled like they had put out an oil fire. Starsky's bandaged hand was throbbing and his bloodshot eyes stung. "You'd think that coffee would keep me awake but there's not a chance of that. "
Hutch laughed. "High octane stuff! I liked Janek. You?"
"Yeah, nice guy."
Starsky pulled up in front of Venice Place at 9:45 p.m. "You coming in, Gordo?"
"Nah. I'm too tired. I'll be over at 8:00, 'kay?"
"You're sure you're okay, buddy?" Hutch wanted Starsky to come up so he could keep an eye on him a little longer but he realized he was being a mother hen.
"I'm fine. Get some sleep. I promise to go straight home and get into bed as soon as I shower off the soot."
Hutch smiled at his partner and said, "Okay. 'Night, Starsk."
Starsky watched his friend walk up to the door to his place. He was moving pretty stiffly. Too bad they had to go in early to file reports. They would definitely need a break in the day sometime if they were going to cruise the streets looking for their suspects again all evening. Starsky wearily pulled away from the curb and headed for home.
The phone was ringing when Hutch opened the door. He trotted over to it, "Hello?"
"Hey, Hug. What's up?" Hutch shrugged off his jacket and took his gun holster off while he talked to his friend.
"You and Curly okay? I heard about the fire."
Hutch laughed, not surprised that Huggy already knew about it. "Yeah, we're fine. You know Starsk, though. He managed to swallow a lot of smoke and he burned his palm pretty good. Nothin' serious though."
"Good. Hey, I think I've got something for you on your robbery suspects."
"Dig, folks are getting' pretty scared down there with the fire and all. The death of that preacher ain't helpin' any either. Prob'ly what shook my source loose tonight. I got a call from a guy down near the dry cleaners. Dude says it's a group of stressed out Vietnam vets who want to make the Vietnamese suffer. They are working for Ice. Word is he don't even want the money. Just trying to scare the people into movin' away. Tonight was just the beginning. Ice plans on hurting the victims."
"You have any idea where we might look for these guys?"
"No, sorry. I do have something though. Ice walks with a cane. He has an artificial leg. Sorry it's not much of a tip."
"No, that's great, Hug. If the guy has an artificial leg, he may have medical records somewhere. That gives us a start, which is more than we had before now. Thanks, Huggy."
"No sweat, Blondie. I'll let you know if I hear anything else. 'Night."
Hutch hung up the phone. Even though it was a small lead, he was excited. He looked at his watch. Starsky would be home in a few minutes. He couldn't wait to tell him. He decided to take a quick shower while he gave his friend enough time to get home.
Part 18Starsky pulled up in front of his apartment around 10:00 p.m. As he walked away from the car he could see someone was sitting on the stairs in front of him. He approached the figure cautiously.
"'Scuse me, I gotta go up the stairs, " he said to the man. The man didn't move. Instead, he took a drag on his cigarette, the end glowing brightly. Starsky noticed the man was probably Vietnamese. Could this be a coincidence?
The man spoke. "You are Detective Starsky?"
Nope. Not a coincidence. "Yeah, can I help you?"
"No, Detective, but I can help you." He held his hand out to Starsky as he stood.
Shaking the man's hand, Starsky replied, "I usually can use all the help I can get, man. Who are you?"
"I am Phan Nguyen. The case you and your partner are working on right now, I know some things."
"How did you find me?"
"A friend told me where to find you. Don't worry, I promise you will want to hear what I have to say."
Starsky was willing to let it drop for now, but he was definitely going to find out how this man knew where he lived at some point. He said his name was Phan. Starsky wondered if he was connected to the dry cleaners shop. He thought about inviting the man in, then decided it would be smarter to take him to Hutch's. "Why don't we go over to my partner's place and we can all talk about it?" Nguyen nodded his agreement.
Neither man noticed the dark blue tow truck waiting across the street. The sole occupant of the truck was watching them intently. Monroe had planned to go to Starsky's apartment and shoot him there. When he saw the Vietnamese man waiting for him, he decided he would wait to see what happened next. Maybe he could get them both.
Starsky unlocked the passenger door of the Torino, then walked around and climbed back behind the wheel sighing. So much for hot showers and unwinding. He pulled away from the apartment building and headed back toward Venice Place.
"Detective Starsky, you and your partner are missing something important. This case is bigger than you think." Apparently, Nguyen was not willing to wait until they got to Hutch's. He seemed determined to get the information out immediately.
"What do you mean?"
"You are looking for someone who is robbing the businesses and also killed that minister helping some of the victims, yes?"
"That's right. Somethin' wrong with that?"
"Everything. They are not the same. The people robbing stores and the one who killed the minister are different. A single man did that. I work at the mission. I saw this man in the alley behind the mission today. Later I saw him running away through the back door. I did not know he had killed the minister until I saw the news tonight. Then I saw him again on the street watching the fire."
"Why are you doing this?"
"My brother owns that dry cleaner's shop. He almost lost his family. I had to find you. I had to tell you."
"Do you know anything about the guys doing the robberies?"
"Yes. They are a group of American men who were soldiers in Vietnam. I have known about them for a while, but I was afraid to come to the police. I do not trust police, or soldiers."
"Looks like you're trusting me though?"
"I saw you save my niece. You can't be bad and go into a burning building to save a child."
Starsky smiled. He had to admire Nguyen's logic. They were so deeply in conversation at this point, he still did not notice the dark tow truck following them.
Nguyen continued, "The man who killed the minister lives on Laurel Street. His name is Bill Monroe. He served in Vietnam."
The name meant something to Starsky. "I think there was a Bill Monroe in my outfit. Got shipped back on a Section 8, uh, mental discharge. Why would he be killing people?"
Nguyen sighed, "I do not know. He is crazy. Monroe wanders the streets every day talking to himself. Everyone in the neighborhood knows him. We all know that he hates Vietnamese and would want to hurt anyone who helped us. I think you or your partner may be next. You saved that little girl. He watched you rescue her. I saw him. I can't let it happen again."
Just as Starsky was going to ask him to explain that last remark, they came up to the railroad road crossing between his place and Hutch's. A typical Saturday night, traffic was heavy. This was a poorly designed crossing. The tracks cut across the one-way street just about half a block from a busy intersection. The light was red at the intersection and cars where backed up with one sitting halfway on the tracks. Starsky stopped on his side of the tracks to wait for the light to change. Only a few trains came through this way every day. That probably made the locals a little too complacent about the tracks. This was an unguarded intersection with only a flashing red light and signal bell to warn of approaching trains. He shook his head in disbelief.
"Do you believe that? Why do people stop on train tracks? Stupid. If a train came, that guy would have nowhere to go." As he finished that observation, he saw the red light begin to flash and he heard the clanging of the signal bell along with a train whistle in the distance, coming closer. "Terrific."
The tow truck was sitting behind the Torino now. Monroe's plan had been to wait until they got through this intersection, then force the red car off the road down a little farther where there was less traffic. He would get out of the truck and shoot that Commie Dog and his Vietnamese accomplice. Then, he heard the train whistle. Suddenly, he had a better idea.
Monroe looked in the rear view mirror, no cars behind him. He backed the powerful truck up a car length and revved the engine. Meanwhile, Starsky was watching the white sedan on the railroad tracks. The car backed up a little, then nosed over to the left shoulder, pulling itself completely off the tracks and out of the way of the approaching train. Starsky sighed in relief, glad the driver had heard the signal and the train whistle. He did not have much time to be relieved though. The train was only a few yards away when he felt the jolt as Monroe plowed into the back of the Torino, pushing the car onto the tracks. With the light still red at the intersection, and cars blocking his path, Starsky had nowhere to go. The train was almost on top of them as Starsky swore, jerked the wheel to the right, and punched it. He hoped he could make it into the clear before the train reached them. He didn't.
The engineer saw the red car with a white stripe as it was pushed onto the tracks. He yanked on the brake, the screeching sound of metal filling his ears as the freight train attempted to stop. This area had several crossings unguarded by signal gates so he was only going about 30 miles per hour. Even at that speed, the long train could take half a mile or more to stop. He exercised his only option--he prayed. Monroe backed the tow truck up and took off in the opposite direction when he saw the results of his actions. He was certain his targets were dead.
The train slammed into the Torino's right rear quarter panel. The impact tore the wheel out of Starsky's hands and threw him against the driver's door. He struck his head against the window and saw stars. The driver's side seat back snapped and Starsky struggled to keep from falling into the back seat of the car. His passenger was thrown against him, then Nguyen fell forward onto the dashboard.
The impact had swung the front of the nose-heavy car toward the train's engine. The twisting metal was tangled with the train and the Torino was being dragged beside it backward down the tracks. Sparks were flying all around the car and pieces of it were breaking apart. The drive shaft snapped and the broken metal started to push its way up through the floorboard into the interior. The hood buckled, glass flew everywhere. Starsky tried to shield his face and realized immediately that his left arm was broken. He reached for the keys and turned off the engine, hoping to stop the flow of gasoline to anything that might catch on fire. Nguyen was not moving. Starsky looked to his right and saw the opposite door crushing into his passenger.
The engineer looked out his side window and down to the quickly disintegrating red car attached to his engine. He was still pulling furiously on the brake and the train was beginning to slow.
The car was dragged two hundred feet down the tracks when it came to a heavy signal post. The force of the impact against the rear of the Torino ripped it free of the train. The police radio broke off its dash mount, flew up and hit Starsky in the head. As blood began to pour from the new wound, pain overtook him and Starsky slid into blackness. He fell back toward the back seat, then slid forward under the steering wheel. By now, they were over a concrete embankment leading to a culvert below. The car was off balance and it flipped over onto its roof, crushing it down as it slid to a stop at the bottom of the embankment. All that was left was a mangled heap of smoking wreckage. Motor oil, transmission fluid, gasoline, and blood began to spill out onto the concrete.
Hutch tried calling Starsky again. He had been trying to reach him for half an hour. His partner should have been home by now since he said he was headed straight there. Huggy had called him right after Starsky dropped him off with a lead on the men they were investigating. He didn't want to wait until morning to share it with Starsky.
As much as Hutch tried not to overreact and worry about his partner constantly, he couldn't help it. After all, keeping Starsky safe was a big part of his life's mission. When he wasn't able to reach his friend where he should be, he immediately began to worry. He pulled on clean clothes in case he needed to go out again then he waited another ten minutes and tried Starsky's place one more time. Still no answer. He called the station dispatcher and asked to be patched through to Zebra 3. The dispatcher came back on the line and said, "I'm sorry, he doesn't answer." Hutch thanked her and hung up the phone. He put his gun back on, grabbed a jacket and headed for the door. His danger sense was in full alert. If he couldn't reach Starsky, he'd better go look for him.
Hutch turned the police radio on in his car so he could hear any traffic that was going on while he drove to Starsky's place. He tried to reach his partner on the radio a couple of times. Then he heard a set of calls that chilled him.
"Baker 9 to Control, come in please."
"This is Control Baker 9, go ahead."
"We are on the scene of an auto versus train at the culvert near Ocean Blvd and Delaney. I think we're gonna need a Coroner's wagon out here." Hutch thought the officer sounded shaken.
"Roger, Baker 9."
"Uh, Mildred. You'd better call Dobey, and can you try to reach Sergeant Hutchinson?"
Oh, God! Why do they want me?
"The car...it's Starsky's car, Mildred."
Hutch's heart nearly stopped. Starsky's car, Dobey, and a Coroner's wagon!! He was already shaking, pushing his car to go faster.
"Roger that, Baker 9." Mildred sounded upset now.
Hutch suddenly found himself stuck in a traffic jam. He hauled the car up on onto the sidewalk and managed to get himself onto Delaney. When he couldn't go any farther, he jumped out and ran toward where he saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. He could hear the sounds of more sirens racing to the scene.
As he ran between the vehicles stopped by the traffic jam, he saw the overturned car resting at an angle at the bottom of the embankment. As mangled as it was, Hutch recognized the car, Starsky's. Blood flowed out from underneath the car, running down the concrete mixed with the Torino's vital fluids. His mind couldn't process all he was seeing. Oh God, no! No! He can't be dead!
One of the uniformed cops saw him running toward the car. His partner was carrying one of those yellow tarps they used to cover bodies. The cop intercepted Hutch and grabbed him by the shoulders, stopping his progress toward the wreck. "No, Hutch. You don't want to go over there."
"Let me go! I have to be with him!"
"No, Hutch. I'm sorry, but he's gone."
Hutch's eyes were wild, wide with terror. How could Starsky be dead? What happened? He looked toward his best friend's crumpled car. The roof was crushed down to the bottom of the windows. The right side of the car was crushed and twisted. How could they even see inside?
"Are you s-sure?" he asked breathlessly.
"Hutch, look at the blood. He's gone. We were able to reach inside. I felt for a pulse, but didn't find one. We can't even get him out of there. The fire department is going to have to cut it open. I'm sorry."
Hutch's knees buckled and the officer helped him to the ground. The blond detective just kept shaking his head, his face buried in his hands as he muttered over and over, "No, no." Hutch didn't notice when the two uniformed officers pulled him to his feet and half carried him over to the paramedic unit. They couldn't help his partner, but maybe they could help Hutch. The paramedics put a blanket around Hutch's shoulders and watched him carefully for signs of shock. They stood by, waiting for the fire unit to finish its work.
The firefighters were still trying to cut the Torino open when Captain Dobey arrived and went to Hutch. He knelt down in front of the shaken detective, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Hutch?" No response. His eyes were open but he was not seeing anything other than the wrecked car. "Hutch, talk to me. Look at me." Hutch blinked heavily, trying to focus on his Captain's dark, worried eyes.
"Oh God, Cap." Hutch looked at Dobey, tears running down his face, "He can't be dead. Tell me he isn't dead! I don't believe it. I-I won't believe it." Hutch was shaking uncontrollably, waiting to see his partner extricated from the wreckage of his beloved car. He refused to believe his friend was dead until he saw for himself.
Captain Dobey looked toward the officer from Baker 9. He grimly shook his head from side-to-side. "I'm sorry, Hutch." Dobey said. They looked up as one of the firefighters called out, "We've got it!" The paramedics moved into action, Hutch stumbled up, breaking free of the hold his captain had on him and he staggered toward the wreckage. The paramedics reached into the door the firefighters had pried open and gently pulled the victim's left arm out to check for a pulse. Hutch reached their side as one of the paramedics looked up, shaking his head no. The man in the car was dead.