This story was written for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to infringe on any rights held by any holders of rights to Starsky & Hutch.

This story was originally published in the online newsletter Black Bean Soup, Volume 5, Issue 2, and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and editor.

Special thanks to Robin K. on the zebrathree mailing list for letting me use her very entertaining idea.

Ante Up


Tiffany Park
( )

        Hutch gulped down his drink and stared at his cards in wonder. It was a stupendously bad hand; the latest in a long line of progressively worse bad hands. It sure looked like he wasn't going to be winning anything tonight. Hell, he wasn't even going to break even. He considered just quitting for the evening. There really wasn't anything else to do with such an amazing, and apparently unending, run of bad luck. Not even all the free booze was worth this aggravation.

       Some vacation this had turned out to be. First Starsky had flatly refused to fly to Vegas, insisting that a road trip would be a lot more fun. So drive they had, and it had been an interminably long trip through the desert, instead of the short, comfortable commuter flight with dinner and drinks and foxy stewardesses to flirt with that Hutch had originally been looking forward to. Then, once they'd finally arrived and settled down to some serious gambling, Hutch had done nothing but lose money all weekend. Actually, he'd expected that, and he'd been prepared to accept the losses in the name of a little fun. After all, the odds always favored the house. But tonight was absolutely disastrous and it was making him cranky.

       The only nice thing about this casino tonight was all the free drinks. Provided, of course, to encourage the patrons to gamble more freely. Hutch had indulged a little too enthusiastically, determined to enjoy his final night here. He sighed and glanced around at his surroundings. The combination of cigarette smoke and alcohol was distorting his perceptions, giving the casino a surreal air. The colors seemed a little too vivid, the lights a little too bright, the background music and voices all blending together into a strangely lyrical cacophony. Hutch swayed slightly. He rested his hand on the table to steady himself and took another swallow of his drink.

       "How ya doing, pal?" the man sitting across from Hutch inquired, chewing idly on his cigar.

       "Fine." Gad, that cigar was potent. Hutch wished the guy would put the miserable thing out, or finish it, or something. Anything. The bastard probably kept smoking it because he knew it bothered people. He'd won the last three hands while puffing on that stinking cigar. Why change a winning system?

       Not that it mattered. Hutch was convinced that nothing was going to save him tonight, and that his six opponents were well aware of that fact. They had to be. They all kept giving him the strangest looks. Hell, he wasn't any drunker than they were, was he?

       What a weekend. And to top it all off, tomorrow he'd have to ride all the way home in that damned car, the bane of his life, Starsky's striped tomato.

       Hutch rubbed his watery eyes and peered around the casino, searching for and finally catching sight of his wayward partner. Starsky was chatting up a showgirl, a flamboyant redhead in the briefest costume Hutch had ever seen outside of a strip joint. Rubbing his eyes again, he wondered if the woman was really wearing as little as he thought, or if it was just the smoke and alcohol. He took another look, squinting in a vain attempt to focus. Yep, she was nearly naked. Hutch decided that he was annoyed. It was just like Starsky to be having a good time, while he was sitting here losing his shirt.

       Then an idea came to him. A spectacular, brilliant, wonderful idea. A veritable stroke of genius. Maybe he could put this bad luck streak to good use, after all.

       "So, are you in, or what?" The gruff voice of the man next to him interrupted Hutch's self-congratulatory reverie. He looked up to see the man staring at him impassively.

       "I'm in. Just a sec." Hutch set his cards face down on the table, then got up and staggered over to his partner. "Hey, Starsk?"

       "What?" Starsky's mind was clearly on other things. The showgirl giggled and gave Hutch an appreciative once-over, much to Starsky's obvious irritation. "What do you want, Hutch?" he asked in an aggrieved tone of voice.

       "I need the car keys."

       "Oh. Okay." Starsky fished in his pockets and pulled out the keys. He dropped them into Hutch's hands.


       "Yeah, sure. Now go away." Starsky turned his attention back to the showgirl.

       Grinning evilly, Hutch made his way back to the table and fell into his seat.

       The dealer glared at him. "About time you got back. Ante up or fold."

       Hutch dropped the keys into the pot. "Here. Will this do?"

       "What the hell is that?"

       "The keys to a 1975 Ford Gran Torino. Candy apple red with a white racing stripe, mag wheels, 400 cubic inch V8 engine. A beautiful machine. It's worth almost five grand," Hutch announced smugly, knowing that Starsky didn't think he'd been paying attention to all that car talk he was so fond of indulging in.

       "I suppose…" The dealer sounded doubtful.

       Perfect. Now, if his luck held, he'd never have to see the detested tomato again. Hutch almost cackled with glee.

       The man to his left stared at the car keys with marked displeasure. "That's a helluva raise, buddy. You sure about this?"

       Hutch picked up his cards and pretended to study them. "I'm sure," he said, unsuccessfully hiding his cheerful expression behind the cards. The man frowned.

       "I'm gonna kill you."

       Startled, Hutch swiveled his chair around and gazed up at the furious apparition looming over him. Starsky. Oops. "Oh, um, Starsk… I was just… Ah… Hi?"

       "With my bare hands. It's gonna be slow and painful…"

       "Oh, come on, Starsk. It's only a car."

       "Only a car? ONLY A CAR?!!"

       Hutch winced. Maybe this hadn't been such a great idea, after all.

       "That car is a real lady, and you… You…" Starsky sputtered to a halt, unable to express his outrage.

       "Jeeze, Starsk, take it easy." Hutch eyed his red-faced partner uneasily and added, "You're gonna give yourself a coronary."

       "A coronary? You idiot! You moron! You poltroon!"


       "Hey, you guys hustling us or something?" the man to Hutch's left interjected.

       Starsky closed his eyes, took several deep breaths, and counted to ten. Opening his eyes again, he asked through gritted teeth, "How're we gonna get home if you lose, smart guy?"

       "We'll fly," Hutch replied, adding in a barely audible aside, "Even hitchhiking'd be better than the tomato, anyway."

       "What was that?"


       "They must be," the cigar smoking man answered the first player. He jerked his chin in Hutch's direction. "Nobody's luck is that bad."

       "Bet he ain't really drunk, either," another player chimed in.

       "No way am I seeing that raise," the first man stated. "I fold."

       "I didn't come here to get fleeced! I'm out, too," a third player said, throwing his cards down in disgust.


       "Me, too."

       "What? Wait a minute…" Hutch watched in befuddled amazement as all six of his opponents folded. It was the first hand he'd won all night. Of all the rotten moments for his luck to change! The timing couldn't be worse.

       "Just take the pot and leave," the dealer growled. "We don't need your kind here."

       Starsky snatched the keys from the table and stalked off, muttering dire imprecations under his breath.

       "Starsk, wait--" Hutch called.

       "Go on, get out of here before I call Security," the dealer said. "This is supposed to be a friendly game."

       Hutch took a good, long look at the six hostile faces arrayed against him. He decided that discretion really was the better part of valor and left.

* * * * *

       Hutch pressed his palms to his pounding temples and tried not to moan. This had to be the absolute worst hangover he'd ever endured. What on earth had possessed him to get so drunk the night before a road trip? Especially such a bumpy road trip. Every pebble seemed to jostle the car, making his head throb and his stomach churn. He didn't remember the road being this rough on the way over.

       And to make matters worse, Starsky was furious with him. Hutch cast a covert glance at his partner, taking in the stiff-necked posture with mild dismay. He rubbed his forehead, wondering just what he'd done to earn Starsky's ire. He'd had a vague dream about betting the Torino in a poker game, but he hadn't really done that, had he? Hutch sorted through his disjointed memories and cringed. Oh God, Starsk was gonna kill him.

       The car hit another bump in the road. Hutch groaned piteously.

       "Feeling pretty crummy, huh?" Starsky said conversationally. "Good. Serves you right."


       "Hutch, how could you?"

       "What?" Hutch asked, feigning ignorance in the doomed hope that Starsky would let the subject drop. He winced when the Torino bounced again. This ride was probably going to kill him before Starsky did.

       "Stake my car like that? You know she's my baby…"

       It had seemed like a good idea at the time. "I was really drunk," Hutch offered, feeling terribly guilty. Somehow, that defense sounded rather weak, even to his own ears.

       Starsky just grumbled to himself.

       "Come on, Starsk," Hutch wheedled. "I won, didn't I?"

       "Yeah, but I got the distinct feeling that you were counting on losing."

       "Oh, shut up and drive."

       "You owe me big, Blondie. And I'm gonna collect. Just you wait and see."

       Closing his eyes, Hutch hunkered down in his seat. He had no doubt he'd be paying for last night's little stunt for a very long time. Probably his whole, entire, miserable life. He gasped when the Torino hit yet another bump. "Starsk, you're deliberately hitting every pothole in the road, aren't you?"

       Starsky only smiled and hummed an off-key tune.

       Hutch sighed. It was going to be a long, long drive home.

*** end ***