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(Time frame: sometime in 1977)
"Now remember, not a word to Starsky," Hutch cautioned his captain as he gave him a handful of flyers. "Its supposed to be a surprise."
Dobey smiled and shook his head. "Hutch, youre dreaming. You know how he is. If he suspects anything, he wont give up until hes found out every detail."
"He wont suspect if everybody just keeps quiet," Hutch pointed out. He glanced at his watch. "I better get going. Dont want him to catch me in here."
Hutch hurried out to the squad room, got a cup of coffee, and was sitting in his chair innocently going through recent case files when Starsky came in the door.
As usual, Starsky was loaded down with a sack of donuts, which he plopped onto the desk before pouring himself a cup of coffee and sitting in the chair next to Hutch. "Good morning," he said brightly. "Youre here early."
Hutch glanced up. "No earlier than usual."
"Got any plans for the weekend?" Starsky asked. "Its our first one off for a while."
Hutch shrugged. "Im kind of hoping the new dispatcherll take me up on dinner. So far I havent had any luck. Other than that, no."
Starsky snorted. "You mean Julie? Youre not her type. Shes just too sweet to break your heart and tell you so. So you dont have any plans for, say, Friday night?"
Hutch shook his head. "If youre leading up to trying to fix me up with a blind date, Starsk, forget it. Remember the last blind date you fixed me up with?" He shuddered. "Id rather stay home and read the dictionary."
"Aw, come on. She was a nice girl."
"With three ex-husbands and an IQ of two," Hutch retorted.
"Two ex-husbands," Starsky corrected him, adding with a grin, "The third divorce wasnt quite final."
Hutch rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Ill take my chances with Julie, thank you very much."
"Well, Ive got nothing going Friday, either," Starsky said. "Why dont we go hit a disco or something?"
"I dont know, Starsk," Hutch said. "Im thinking that might be a good night to just take it easy. Weve been working pretty hard and I could use a break."
"But, Hutch, Fridays...." Starsky broke off. "Never mind." He dove into his donut sack and ate one almost viciously, while Hutch concentrated on keeping a straight face.
Hutch was well aware that Friday was Starskys birthday. In fact, hed been planning this particular Friday night for almost a month. The two detectives having the weekend off was no accident of scheduling, though Starsky didnt know that. And Hutch intended for his partner to have such a good time on his birthday that he wouldnt be up to working for at least two days. But knowing Starskys penchant for sniffing out every possible gift-giving occasion and driving him crazy with questions about what hed gotten for him, coupled with Starskys inability to be patient and wait, Hutch had no intention of letting on that he remembered the date. Everything depended on Starsky being surprised.
Every detective in their division was sworn to secrecy and had been threatened with dire consequences if even one of them forgot and wished Starsky a happy birthday on Friday. They were one and all ordered to studiously ignore him as much as possible, so that he didnt have any reason to suspect what was going on.
"Isnt it about time we hit the street?" Starsky asked after several minutes of silence.
"Yeah. I just wanted to catch up on the Dawson case," Hutch said agreeably, putting the folder down. "Lets go."
It was Hutchs turn to drive, giving him a good excuse for avoiding looking at Starsky, who was abnormally quiet all morning. In a way, Hutch hated to make him suffer, even a little bit, by thinking nobody remembered his birthday. But hell understand when he sees the party, Hutch soothed his conscience. And he let Starsky pick the taco stand where they ate lunch, drawing a curious look, but no comment, from his partner.
"Zebra Three, two-eleven in progress, Southtown Liquor, 620 Spring Street."
"This is Zebra Three," Starsky answered. "Were responding." He slapped the light on the roof of Hutchs beat-up LTD, while Hutch hit the siren and the gas.
The two detectives and a black-and-white arrived almost simultaneously, just as the sounds of gunfire came out of the store. Reflexively, all four officers ducked behind their cars and drew their guns.
"Well take the back," one of the uniformed officers called to Hutch.
He nodded and waved them on. He and Starsky slithered toward the front door of the store, ducking and weaving behind parked cars, but before they got there, a tall man wearing a nylon-stocking mask ran out of the store and headed down the street at full speed.
"Freeze! Police!" Starsky yelled, taking off at a run after him. Hutch jumped in the car and followed. Starsky chased the suspect for two blocks before even getting close, while pedestrians scrambled out of the way to let them through. Hutch finally managed to get ahead of the suspect and slammed on the brakes, throwing himself out of the car and running at the man. Hutchs sudden appearance confused the suspect, who tried to turn and run a different way, but Starsky had caught up by then and took him down with a flying tackle.
Hutch ran up, panting, just as Starsky was putting on the cuffs and yanking off the mans mask.
"Ill be damned," Starsky puffed, wiping a bead of sweat away from his eyes and handing the boys gun to Hutch. "Hes just a kid."
Indeed he was, not more than 14 or 15 years old. His height had fooled them into thinking he was an adult. He was easily as tall as Hutch.
The boy lay on the ground blinking up at them and looking thoroughly frightened. Starsky stood him up, more gently than he would have treated an adult. "Whats your name?" he asked.
The boy looked down at the ground and didnt answer.
"Come on," Starsky said. "Well find out, whether you tell us or not. If youre cooperative, it might not be so rough on you. Your name."
"Okay, Ty, how old are you?"
Starsky looked at Hutch. "Thirteen. Didja hear that? And already robbing a liquor store. At gunpoint." He shook his head. "What the hell is the world comin to? You aint even old enough to be in a liquor store, Ty." He gave the boy a gentle push in the direction of Hutchs car. "Were takin ya down to the precinct, and were gonna call your folks, Ty. Then were gonna book ya. You ever been arrested before?"
"Then you know the drill. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney, and to have him present during questioning..."
After dealing with Ty and filling out the paperwork, their shift was almost over. Starsky was still muttering over the boys age as they logged out and started down to the garage to head home.
"Kids younger than that get into trouble," Hutch pointed out. "Whys this one bother you so much?"
Starsky shrugged, then winced and rubbed his shoulder where hed landed on it while tackling the kid. "Im gettin too old for this shit, I guess. Thought Id never get my wind back after that chase. And hes only 13, Hutch. He shot at that clerk, coulda killed him..."
"The gun went off accidentally," Hutch corrected. "Even the clerk said so."
Starsky grunted noncommittally. "When I was 13 --" he began.
"Oh, come on, old man," Hutch teased. "You dont really remember things that happened that long ago, do you?"
"Its only been 20 years, Hutch," Starsky started to say, but then clamed up. "Forget it. See ya tomorrow." He started to walk away, but Hutch reached out and caught his arm.
"Hang on, buddy, I was just kidding. What did you start to say?" When Starsky shook his head, Hutch gave his arm a little shake. "Come on. When you were 13..."
Starsky sighed and turned so he could look Hutch in the eye. "A friend of mine was killed. Kid I went to school with. His dad was a cop, too. He found his dads gun and was messin with it and...it went off. Accidentally." He was silent for a moment. "Hed been threatening to knock off a gas station or somethin because he wanted a fancy bike his folks couldnt afford to buy for him. I thought he was just kiddin..."
"God, Starsk," Hutch said, releasing his hold on his partners arm so he could put his hand on his shoulder instead.
"I hadnt thought about him for a long time," Starsky went on, "but that kid today reminded me of him. You dont think ahead when youre 13, Hutch. Todays all that matters. And you cant wait for stuff. I mean, he coulda earned the money for that bike somehow, got a paper route or mowed grass or somethin. Thats how I got stuff I wanted. Wasnt like Ma could afford to buy a lot of stuff for us after Dad died."
Starskys dad had also died when he was 13, Hutch remembered. Shit. Thats exactly 20 years ago. No wonder hes bummed out.
"Maybe this Ty kidll learn his lesson from today," Hutch said. "He was pretty scared when that gun went off."
"Maybe." Starsky forced a grin. "Hey, see ya tomorrow, okay? Im starvin and theres a large pepperoni pizza out there with my name on it. Night, Hutch."
"Good night, buddy." Im gonna throw you the best damn birthday party anybody ever had, Starsk. You wait and see.
"Youre sure everythings all set, Hug?" Hutch asked for the third time. Hed hardly touched his beer.
Huggy Bear rolled his eyes eloquently. "Yeah. Would you quit worryin, man? Youre worse than an old mother hen. I got it all covered. The band, the cake, the booze, the chicks...this aint my first rodeo, you dig?"
"Im sorry," Hutch grinned ruefully. "Its just that I never, ever manage to surprise Starsk, and this year...well, I think hes taking it harder than usual."
"I think hes missing his dad. Its been 20 years, you know. I mean, youd think hed have got over it by now, but hes just about the age his dad was when he died, and...hell, I dont know. Hes just kind of down, and I want to cheer him up."
"You want to get him drunk," Huggy said with a grin, wiping up a minute spill on the bar top.
"Yeah, that, too," Hutch answered, laughing.
"Just leave it to me. Its under control, my man. You just get him here Friday night."
Thursday morning, Starsky picked Hutch up at his house instead of meeting him at the precinct. As Hutch got in the car, Starsky gave him a big smile and announced, "I finally figured out what Im doing Friday."
"What?" Hutch asked, not really listening because he was having trouble getting the checklist unstuck from the visor. He hardly noticed Starsky start up the car and drive toward their district.
"Im going to Vegas for the weekend," Starsky said.
"Great," Hutch said, still distracted. He had the checklist on his lap and was going over it before what Starsky had said really sank in. Then he froze. "Vegas? What the hells in Vegas? You cant!"
"Why not?" Starsky asked. "Ill be back by Monday. Just goin down to do a little gamblin, maybe see a show. Wanna come?"
"No! I mean, well..." Hutch searched desperately for a plausible story. Finally, he said, "I cant afford to go to Vegas this weekend. I figured we could do something together around here."
"You said you wanted to take it easy," Starsky said. "I dont. I wanna do something for...something fun."
"I know what I said," Hutch said. "But I changed my mind. We could...we could go to that new disco on Sunset. Remember you said you wanted to? Bernie in vice said the prettiest girls in town hang out there."
"They got pretty girls in Vegas, too," Starsky said.
Shit. Whatll convince him hes gotta stay here? "Starsk, please, dont go to Vegas this weekend."
"Why not? Whats so important that I have to stick around for it?"
Think, Hutchinson, dammit! Youre an undercover detective. Whats a good story? Nothing came to mind and they drove for several blocks before Starsky said, "Hutch?"
"Julie turned me down," Hutch said quickly. "She wont go out with me. She said...she said Im not her type, just like you said she would. And...and, well, Starsk, I really kind of, well, I...I had my heart kind of set on her."
Starsky stopped at a red light and simply stared at Hutch for a few moments -- long enough to make Hutch very uneasy -- before he shrugged and said, "I didnt know you felt that strong about her." He took one hand off the wheel and patted Hutchs shoulder. "Hey, you know youre my best friend. If you need me, Ill stick around. No problem. Well go to that disco if ya want, or we could just hang out at your place and watch old movies on the tube."
Hutch tried hard to look sad and in need of a buddys comfort, but he was so relieved at having kept Starsky from going to Las Vegas, it wasnt easy. He settled for turning his head away and watching his side of the street, like he was supposed to be doing. But just before he did, he thought he saw a wicked grin appear on his partners face. He looked at Starsky again, but the other man was concentrating on his driving and watching his side of the street. I mustve imagined it.
Starsky looked. A man was dragging a teen-age girl down the street by the arm. She was struggling to get away. Starsky slammed on the brakes and both of them tumbled out of the car and ran, drawing their guns as they went.
They split up, and Starsky moved around so as to get behind the two, while Hutch ran full speed to get ahead of them. They boxed them in, and Hutch aimed, yelling, "Police! Put your hands on top of your head!"
The man stopped, but he didnt let go of the girl.
"Let her go, turkey," Starsky said evenly from behind him.
Suddenly the man pulled a gun and aimed it at Starsky, who ducked reflexively and rolled. Hutch already had his gun aimed, and he squeezed off a shot, hitting the man in the arm. The girl screamed and pulled away, shrinking back against the wall of the nearest building and bursting into hysterical sobs. Hutch threw himself on top of the man and yanked his arms behind him to cuff him. When he finished, he looked up because the girl was still screaming and crying. "Starsk? Starsky!"
"Over here." Starsky had bumped his head against a newspaper kiosk and had momentarily stunned himself when he rolled away. He stood up now, shook his head to clear it, and winced. Then he went over to the girl and put his arm around her shoulders. "Sssh," he said soothingly. "Were cops, honey. Wanna tell me whats going on here?" He pulled his badge out to show her.
"He...I..." she hiccuped a couple of times, wiped her eyes, and pushed her hair away from her face. "Youre a cop?"
"Yeah. I wont let him hurt ya, I promise."
"Youll arrest me."
"No, I wont."
She looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Hes my...hes my pimp," she said, whispering.
Starsky looked over at Hutch, who had pulled the man to his feet, frisked him, and was standing there holding onto his arm to keep him from getting away. Hutch shook his head sadly. "Are you a runaway?"
Her eyes got even bigger. "Dont make me go back! I cant go back. Not now!"
"Hey," Starsky turned her around so he could look into her face. "Calm down. Everythings gonna be okay. How old are you, sweetheart?"
Oh, brother. Hutch watched his partners face. Other than a tightening of his jaw, he didnt react, though.
"Okay. Now, were not going to arrest you. Were going to arrest him. Were going to take you home..."
She shook her head violently. "No, no!"
Starsky looked at Hutch again, helplessly.
"We cant just leave you here," Hutch put in gently.
"My momll kill me," the girl said plaintively, tears welling up again.
"Shell be so glad to see you safe she wont even be angry, Ill bet," Starsky said. "Now, come on. Were all going down to the station, and youre gonna call your mom." He bent a little and gave her his best Starsky-grin. "Okay?"
In spite of herself, the girl found herself smiling back at him, though the tears kept falling. In a trembling voice, she said, "Will you...will you talk to her first? Just tell her Im okay, and let her get the screaming over with before I talk to her?"
Starskys grin widened. "Sure. You bet." He raised his eyebrows at Hutch, who gave the pimp a push toward the car and got into the back seat with him. Starsky escorted the girl to the front seat.
They booked the pimp for assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The girl, whose name was Janet, accompanied them to the squad room afterwards and Starsky, as promised, called her mother for her. Janet sat on the edge of her chair twisting her hands nervously while he dialed and waited for her mother to answer.
When she did, he said, "Mrs. Ray? My name is Detective David Starsky. Im sitting here next to Janet." He winced a little when the woman squealed and then started crying into his ear. "Yes, maam. Shes fine. Shes just a little nervous about talkin to you. She wanted me to kind of, well, smooth the way. Yes, maam. Metropolitan Division, 9th precinct. We, uh, we met up...we found her nearby. Sure, sure." He held the phone out to Janet, then he and Hutch considerately moved a little away.
"Sometimes we do some good, hey, buddy?" Hutch said softly, laying a hand on Starskys shoulder and looking past him at Janet, crying and talking to her mother on the phone.
"Yeah," Starsky said. "Sometimes."
"Want me to drive, Starsk?" Hutch asked as they went back to the Torino. He knew Starskys head hurt a lot worse than he was letting on, and thats what worried him. When Starsky had a little pain, he complained incessantly. When he had a big one, he turned into a Spartan. And he wasnt complaining.
Instead of answering, Starsky dug into his pocket and handed over the keys. "Yeah. Just for a little while."
"Took quite a knock on the head, huh?" Hutch stopped him and felt for the bump through the curly hair. "Good God, Starsk!" he exclaimed when he found it, while Starsky winced away from the touch. "Maybe we ought to get you to a doctor."
"Nah. Come on." Starsky pulled away and climbed into the Torinos passenger seat. "I took a couple aspirin. Ill live. Lets go. We got bad guys to catch."
Hutch grinned. "Then we better get started. The American way of life depends on us."
Starsky gave an answering grin and slid down in the seat comfortably.
Please. No more kids today, Hutch pleaded silently as they headed back to their district. Well take on all the adult bad guys You want to throw at us, but please, no more kids.
"Hey, Starsk, theres Rolly. Lets go shake him down and see if anythings going on," Hutch said a little while later when he spotted the overweight fence walking down his side of the street.
Starsky squinted in that direction. "Aw, lets not. Im not up to chasin Rolly all over the city right now, and you know hed take off runnin."
Hutch turned and looked at his partner more closely. He pulled over and stopped the car. Starsky looked at him inquiringly.
"Still hurtin?" Hutch asked.
Starsky shrugged. "Yeah."
"I dont like this," Hutch said, taking Starskys face in his hand and turning it toward him. He looked into his eyes, which were beginning to look hollow and shadowed. "Im taking you to a doctor."
"No, youre not," Starsky said, pulling away. "Its just a bump. I told ya, Im fine."
Hutch gave an exasperated sigh. "You could have a concussion."
"Not with my hard head," Starsky replied, forcing a grin.
"Then at least, lets log out and you go home and lie down."
"Aw, come on, Hutch!" Now Starsky was exasperated. "I can hear Dobey bellowing already if we call him and say were goin home cause I bumped my head. First off, hed ask why youre logging out if I bumped my head, then hed say I was bein a wuss for whinin about a headache, and then --"
"Okay, okay," Hutch cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Weve only got a couple more hours, anyhow. Shit, you can be stubborn."
Starsky grinned again. "Who, me?"
Hutch devoutly hoped nothing else would happen on their shift that day, but it wasnt to be. Less than 15 minutes later the radio beeped.
"All units, a two-eleven in progress at 1720 E. Sixth St."
Starsky grabbed the mike. "This is Zebra Three. Were responding."
"Roger, Zebra Three. Caller reports shots fired and possible hostage situation."
"Terrific," Starsky muttered. "Ten-four, Central."
Hutch spun the car around the next corner and hit the siren as Starsky put the light on top of the car. Just as they pulled up, alongside a couple of black-and-whites, two shots rang out. The address turned out to be a two-bit tavern, a known hangout for drug dealers. One of the uniformed cops turned on his public-address system.
"Youre surrounded! Give yourself up!"
For answer, the gunman fired another shot through the door.
Starsky and Hutch rolled out of the Torino, keeping low, and joined the uniformed officers behind one of the black-and-whites. "How many people are in there?" Starsky asked.
"We dont know for sure," the officer answered. "We cant get close enough to see in, and the guy shoots at us every time we show our heads."
"Isnt there a back door to this joint?" Hutch asked Starsky.
"Its covered," the uniformed officer answered instead. "We got a unit back there. They aint havin no better luck than we are."
"So theres probably two with guns," Starsky said, raising his eyebrows.
"Are you in contact with the unit in the back?" Hutch asked.
"Yeah." Another officer handed Hutch a portable CB. "Its Decker and Jackson."
"This is Detective Hutchinson," Hutch said into the radio. "You guys got any tear gas grenades?"
"We got a couple," a voice came back.
"Get em ready," Hutch said. "Were gonna have to smoke em out."
"Hutch, we cant get close enough to lob a tear gas grenade in there," Starsky objected. "Well get our asses shot off."
"No, we wont. Besides, you got a better idea?"
Starsky looked toward the door. "No, guess not."
Hutch crawled back to the Torino on his belly and pulled out their tear gas grenades. Coming back, he handed one to Starsky. To the uniformed officers, he said, "Heres what were gonna do. Starsk and I will work our way toward the front door. You keep the guys in the back up on where we are, and shoot at that sonofabitch in there often enough to keep him busy. When we get into position, Ill signal you, and you tell them, and well all throw our tear gas in together. That ought to force these turkeys outside, then we can grab them."
The officer nodded doubtfully and accepted the CB from Hutch.
There was almost no cover between the patrol cars and the door, except for a couple of cars parked on the street. And there was a lot of open space between the two detectives and those two cars. They got as close as they could, crouching behind the second black-and-white, to assess the situation.
"You up to this, buddy?" Hutch asked Starsky, aware of his partners pale face and pinched eyes.
"Sure, Im okay," Starsky said without looking at him. His eyes were on that big open space.
Hutch looked back at the uniformed officers and nodded at them. "Okay, then, partner, lets go."
Running bent over, both detectives dashed across the open space. Hutch got a little ahead of Starsky and just caught a glimpse of the gunman a split second before another shot rang out. He fell flat and crawled the rest of the way, hearing the answering fire from the uniformed officers. Both he and Starsky arrived at the parked cars together. Starsky was breathing hard and sweating, but otherwise seemed all right. Hutch looked back at the other officers. He raised one hand and signaled, then he and Starsky threw their tear gas into the open door of the bar.
Seconds later, smoke rolled out, even making Starsky and Hutch cough, though they were outside. The smoke gave the uniformed officers a chance to join the detectives, and all six waited with drawn guns. In a very few minutes, several people poured out of the door, but in the confusion it was impossible to tell which one -- or two -- could be the gunman. Hutch cautiously rose up on his knees to peer over the hood of the car they were hiding behind, and another shot rang out. Hutch yelped and fell flat.
"Hutch!" Starsky threw himself over his partner and bellowed, "Call an ambulance!"
Meanwhile, the uniformed officers were swarming among the milling people and one of them spotted the gunman, trying to lose himself in the crowd. In a few minutes, it was over, with both of the armed robbers cuffed and on their way to the precinct.
"Hutch, you okay? Where are you hit?" Starsky helped his partner sit up.
"Its just a graze," Hutch panted, holding his left hand over his right shoulder and grimacing.
"Let me see." Starsky gently pulled Hutchs jacket off, then pulled his shirt away from his shoulder. He yanked a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped away enough blood to be able to see the wound. "I think youre right, pal. They just winged ya. Bet it hurts, though."
Hutch managed a shaky laugh. "Just a little."
Decker came skidding to a halt beside them. "How bad is it, Starsky?"
"I think hell live," Starsky said. "But we better get him to the hospital. Can ya walk, buddy?"
"Sure." With both Starsky and Deckers help, Hutch got to his feet. Starsky wadded up the handkerchief and put it over the wound, putting Hutchs hand back over it, then put his arm around Hutchs waist and helped him walk to the Torino.
"Whatd ya do with the keys?" Starsky asked after getting Hutch into the passenger seat.
"Bet I look stupid doing this," Starsky muttered, sticking his hand into Hutchs jeans pocket and pulling the keys loose. He got into the drivers seat and picked up the mike. "This is Zebra Three. Sgt. Hutchinsons been wounded and Im taking him to the hospital. Log us out of service."
"Roger, Zebra Three. How bad is it, Starsky?"
"Not too serious, Central."
"Ten-four, Zebra Three. Youre logged out of service."
"You gonna let em look at your bump while were there?" Hutch asked as Starsky got the motor going and pulled out into the street.
Starsky looked momentarily puzzled, then grinned. "I forgot all about it, to tell ya the truth. All the excitement, I guess. Question is, how do you feel?"
"Oh, never better," Hutch said, affecting a casual shrug -- not a good idea. "Well, maybe not."
Starsky laughed. "What a hell of a day."
"Glad theyre not all like this," Hutch agreed fervently.
"So what kinda pizza ya want?" Starsky asked after Hutchs session with the doctor at the emergency room.
"Pizza?" Hutch asked, not understanding.
Starsky gestured toward the sling holding Hutchs right arm. "I cant exactly see ya whippin up a gourmet feast of wheat germ and desiccated liver with that busted wing, buddy. And just about the only food we agree on is pizza. So, what kind?"
"Oh. Whatever you want. No anchovies."
"No anchovies?" Starsky pretended dismay. "What kinda pizza dont have anchovies on it?"
Starsky swung by his favorite Mom-and-Pop pizza joint, run by a real Italian family with a soft spot for the curly-headed detective. He bought a large pizza with everything -- except anchovies -- to go and then stopped by a liquor store for 12-pack of Budweiser. In a short time the two detectives were kicked back in Starskys apartment, the stereo on low, playing Jim Croce.
"There, aint that better?" Starsky asked, popping a can for Hutch and providing him with a huge slice of pizza on a paper plate. "Still hurt much?"
Hutch shook his head, still chewing. When he could, he said, "No, its all right. Itll be sore for a while, though. Youre gonna have to drive tomorrow. Sorry."
Starsky shrugged good-naturedly. "Thats okay. Save me from ridin around in that pathetic heap of yours."
Hutch grinned evilly. "I drove yours today. You could drive mine tomorrow."
Starsky feigned horror. "Are you kiddin me? Thatd ruin my reputation for all time!"
By the time the alarm went off and Starsky staggered out of bed and headed for the kitchen to make coffee, Hutch was already up, showered and shaved and had a cup of coffee and the morning paper well in hand.
"Mornin, Starsk," Hutch greeted him. "Better hurry. Weve gotta go by my place for a change of clothes."
Starsky blinked at him blearily for a few minutes. "Why? You got clothes here. Remember last time we got drunk? I washed em for ya." He yawned widely and padded toward the kitchen. "Bottom drawer of the dresser."
Sure enough, neatly folded in Starskys bottom dresser drawer were a pair of Hutchs jeans and a turtleneck. Hed been wondering what had happened to both.
"Mustve been some drunk," he called to Starsky, now seated on the couch with his own cup of coffee. "I dont even remember leaving these here. What the hell did I wear home?"
"The clothes youd left here the time before that," Starsky retorted, grinning. "And next time, youll wear the ones youre leaving this time. It all works out."
"You ever think we spend too much time together, Starsk?" Hutch asked, his voice muffled as he pulled the shirt over his head.
"Nah. Nobody elsed put up with us."
Hutch grimaced a little as he worked his sore arm through the sleeve of the shirt, but it felt a lot better this morning than it had yesterday. He just hoped he wouldnt need to draw his gun suddenly or tackle any runaway criminals.
Starsky must have had the same thought, because he suddenly appeared in the doorway. "You sure we hadnt ought to ask for desk duty today, Hutch? You gonna be able to manage?"
"I think itll be okay," Hutch answered. "Lets just try to stay out of trouble today."
Starsky grinned. "Yeah, right."
"Zebra Three, Central," Hutch said into the mike as they approached their district. "Log us in at 8:03 a.m."
"Roger, Zebra Three. Youre logged in at 8:03."
"Hows the head?" Hutch asked, watching his side of the street.
"Hungover," Starsky said with a grin. "Yours?"
"About the same," Hutch admitted ruefully. "Whyd we get blitzed on a weeknight?"
"I didnt mean to get blitzed," Starsky said. "Whoda thought six lousy beers would hit us so hard?"
"Six apiece," Hutch corrected him, "and we drank them in about an hour, as I recall. Probably a combination of your bumped head, my shot arm, and much too much adrenaline from all the shit we dealt with yesterday."
After patrolling for a couple of hours, the detectives went into the precinct to file their report from the incident of the day before. If they hadnt, Dobey would have been even more difficult than he was already. Hutch held his breath as they walked through the doors of their squad room, but the other detectives who were there -- and most werent, this time of morning -- simply greeted the two of them as if it were any other day. Starsky looked at them a little oddly, then glanced at Hutch, but he made no comment beyond a little frown and a slight tightening of the muscles of his jaw.
We need to make this fast, Hutch thought.
Pulling up their chairs and a typewriter, they got to work, Hutch dictating while Starsky typed. Otherwise, the report would have been too full of flights of literary creativity to suit Dobey.
"We approached the parked cars, prior to throwing the tear gas grenades into the establishment," Hutch was saying as Minnie from Records popped through the door. Oh, shit. Please dont blow it, Minnie!
"Hi, you two," she said, dropping a stack of files on the table. "Tell your captain he owes me a favor. I stayed late last night pulling those for him."
"Will do, Minnie," Hutch said. Go on, Minnie. Go back to your desk. Dont say it. Dont say it.
Minnie turned to go, then turned back. Hutch shot her a pleading look, since Starsky was concentrating on the typewriter. She made an "oh" movement with her mouth, grinned, and went ahead and left.
Hutch finally let his breath out. Now if we can just get out of here before Dobey shows up...
Hutch hurried Starsky through the report, finally taking the typewriter away from him and finishing himself to make it go quicker, since he was the better typist. Though that wasnt saying much.
Hutch tossed the finished report into Dobeys box and hustled Starsky back out to the car. Starsky grumbled a little at his haste.
"Wheres the freakin fire?"
"No fire," Hutch said innocently. "Bad guys to catch, remember?" He logged them back into service on the radio.
They cruised their district uneventfully until the middle of the afternoon, when they got a call that a shoplifter had just run from a jewelry store a few blocks away, knocking a customer down in the process.
"Subject is a white female, age between 14 and 17, blonde hair, wearing jeans and a denim jacket," the dispatcher said.
"Roger, Central," Hutch said. Starsky spun the car around a few corners, and both detectives kept a sharp eye out for their suspect.
"Everybody wears jeans and denim jackets," Starsky complained after 20 minutes of cruising up and down streets without spotting the girl in question.
"Its not very helpful, is it?" Hutch remarked with a grin. At least a third of the people walking were dressed like that, though they hadnt seen a teen-age girl yet. This time of day, the kids were all supposed to be at school, so there werent many teen-agers out.
"Hutch," Starsky said, slowing and nodding his head toward a newsstand. A young girl was standing there, with blonde hair, wearing jeans and a denim jacket. He drove on a little ways, then pulled over so Hutch could get out.
Hutch strolled casually back toward the newsstand, pretending to look in store windows, but really keeping his eyes on the girl. She was standing there calmly enough, looking at fashion magazines, as he walked up next to her and looked her over. She was the right age, and she was dressed right, but she just didnt look like a shoplifter, though Hutch knew from experience that didnt mean a thing. By now Starsky had parked the car and was doing his own casual stroll up the street. He stopped on the girls other side and met Hutchs eyes.
Pulling his badge out, Hutch flipped it open and showed it to the girl. "Excuse us, miss, but you match the description of a shoplifter were looking for," he said.
She looked up at him with a genuinely puzzled expression. "Are you talking to me?"
Starsky shrugged as Hutch glanced at him. "Why arent you in school?" he asked.
"Half day. Teachers meeting," she said, even more puzzled. "Are you police, or truant officers? I can prove it, if you like. Call my school. St. Marys."
"Miss," Hutch tried again, feeling stupid, "Im sorry, but Im going to have to ask you to come with us to the store where the shoplifting occurred."
"How do I know youre really cops? Anybody can buy a badge," she said, backing a little away.
"Its just around the corner," Starsky said reassuringly. "And we are cops." He showed her his own badge. "Its real, I promise."
She took it away from him and examined it closely. Convinced, she said, "Well, all right. Im not your shoplifter, though."
They walked with her to the store, less than a block away, and the store owner confirmed it. She wasnt the girl.
"See, I told you," she said. "Can I go now?"
"Sure, sure," Starsky said. "Sorry."
"Its okay." She grinned suddenly. "Waitll I tell the kids at school. Theyll think its a hoot." She left, and Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, not sure whether to laugh or not.
"Well," Starsky said, clearing his throat. "Guess we keep looking. Wheres the customer she knocked down?"
"Oh, she left. She wasnt hurt," the store owner said. "The kids probably long gone by now, anyway. Wouldnt hang around the neighborhood if she had any sense."
Hutch flipped open his notebook and took a statement from the owner, then he and Starsky walked back to the car.
"Keep looking for the kid or go after some real bad guys?" Starsky asked.
Rubbing his arm -- having it out of the sling was turning out to be a bad idea -- Hutch said, "Aw, lets forget it. She didnt take much, anyway. If we see somebody matching that description, well check it out, but I imagine the guys right and shes long gone by now."
"You okay?" Starsky asked, nodding at Hutchs arm.
"Yeah, long as I dont move it," Hutch said ruefully.
But the rest of the day also proved uneventful, and by 5, when they logged out, Hutchs arm had quit hurting enough he figured he could do his part at the party without too much discomfort. The only problem that remained was getting Starsky there. And Starsky had been far too quiet -- almost morose -- for the last couple of hours. Hutch was afraid he wasnt in a mood to be cooperative. Maybe it wouldnt have hurt to let Minnie say "Happy birthday" after all.
"So ya wanna go to Huggys for a beer?" Hutch asked, he hoped casually.
"Didnt you get enough beer last night?" Starsky asked.
"Just one to grow on, buddy," Hutch said. "Then we can figure out what were gonna do tonight. I thought you wanted to do something?"
"Dont you want to go home and get cleaned up first? Get some dinner?"
"We could eat at Huggys," Hutch said.
Starsky considered, chewing on his bottom lip. Hutch waited nervously. Finally, Starsky said, but without much enthusiasm, "Yeah, I guess we could. Okay, then. Huggys it is." He swung the car around and started back toward The Pits.
Starsky parked the Torino in front of Huggys in his usual spot and, for a change, locked it. Hutch let him get a little ahead of him so hed enter the bar first and looked at his watch. 5:15. Just right. Huggy would be ready. He hoped.
"You comin, Hutch?" Starsky looked over his shoulder at his partner lagging behind him.
"Yeah. Im right behind you." Hutch caught up a little, but not much. Starsky shrugged and opened the door of The Pits.
Starsky staggered backward in genuine surprise, bumping into Hutch, who slung an arm around his shoulders and grinned at him.
"Happy birthday, Starsk."
Starsky looked around Huggys, crowded with most of the detectives in their division, as many of the other officers they knew that could spare the time to be there, Captain Dobey and his family, Lisa Graham and her mother, and everybody else that Hutch had been able to think of to invite. Huggy had done a thorough job of transforming the tavern into a festive place, with balloons, streamers and paper tablecloths. A band was setting up in one corner. He blinked hard for a moment, and Hutch gave him a little hug with the arm he had around his shoulders.
"You didnt think Id forgotten, did you?" he asked in a low voice.
Starsky swallowed before answering. "Well, yeah, I was beginning to. I kinda hoped you had something up your sleeve, but I didnt think of...all this."
"Good," Hutch said with a grin. "Come on. Youre gonna have a good time tonight, Gordo. This is only the beginning."
First Huggy fed them one of Starskys favorite meals, steak, with liberal helpings of beer to wash it down with. Starsky didnt get to eat undisturbed, however.
"I never got so many hugs in all my life," he whispered to Hutch at one point, after Edith and Rosie Dobey, Lisa Graham and her mother, Minnie, Libby and half a dozen others had all come by their table to give him birthday greetings.
Hutch grinned and made a show of feeling his partners forehead. "Never known you to object to attention from the ladies, buddy. You feel all right?"
Starsky laughed. "Who said I was objecting?"
After supper Huggy brought the cake out, a monstrous chocolate affair with a picture of Starskys Torino on top in icing and the words, "Happy Birthday Starsky." Hutch produced his guitar, carefully hidden behind Huggys bar for two days, and everyone sang "Happy Birthday." Then the band struck up, and Starsky found himself dancing with every female in the place, while Hutch, Huggy and Dobey cheered him on.
"Was he surprised?" Huggy asked while Starsky was trying to keep up with Rosie Dobeys version of the Hustle.
"I think he was," Hutch said, agreeably pleased with the fact. "He did suspect something -- dammit -- but I think we did surprise him. We actually pulled it off."
Eventually the Dobeys and the Grahams left, but officers from the precinct came and went all evening, as their shifts allowed them a few minutes to drop in. And at 10, Hutch pulled out his guitar again and joined the band on stage.
"Starsky doesnt know why Ive been unavailable for getting drunk a few nights these past couple of weeks," Hutch said into the mike, getting his guitar strapped around himself. "Its because Ive been practicing something with the guys up here."
Starsky, still breathless from the last dance, settled himself at the bar with a fresh beer.
"I know you hate soapy scenes, buddy," Hutch went on, half apologetically, "but when I was trying to figure out something I could sing for you tonight, this is the song that kept running through my mind. I tried to find a different one, but nothing else says what I wanted to say, so here goes." He nodded to the band.
The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where...
But Im strong, strong enough to carry him
He aint heavy...hes my brother
So on we go
His welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear, well get there
For I know he would not encumber me
He aint heavy...hes my brother
If Im laden at all
Im laden with sadness
That everyones heart isnt filled
With the gladness of love
For one another
Its a long long road
From which there is no return
While were on our way to there
Why not share?
And the load
Doesnt weigh me down at all
He aint heavy...hes my brother
Starskys beer sat on the bar, forgotten, while this song was going on, and his eyes never left Hutchs face. After Hutch struck the last chord, dead silence reigned for a few moments before everybody in the place burst into wild applause. Hutch nodded acknowledgement of the applause and smiled, but he was watching Starsky for his reaction most.
After a moment, Starsky stood up and walked toward the stage. He put an arm around his partner and gripped his shoulder hard. "I want all of you to know," he said, "that this is the best birthday Ive ever had. And I want you to know," he added to Hutch, "that song was the best birthday present Ive ever had." His voice was steady, but Hutch could see the brightness of his eyes and seeing that made his own eyes sting. With another squeeze of Hutchs shoulder, Starsky went back to his seat and took a long, steadying drink of his beer.
Just for the heck of it, and to lighten the mood, Hutch and the band had prepared another song, too, one of Starskys favorites, "You Dont Mess Around With Jim" by Jim Croce, and they played that one, with a lot of messing around and acting silly, before Hutch put the guitar aside and joined his friend at the bar.
Wordlessly, Starsky put his hand on Hutchs shoulder and gave him a long look. Hutch, in turn, put his hand on his partners and smiled.
It was late before everybody had left and Huggy was ready to close up.
"Ill come around tomorrow and help you straighten up," Hutch said, bringing a tray full of dirty glasses up to the bar.
"Hell, no," Huggy said. "Thats what I pay waitresses for." He looked over at Starsky, who was feeling no pain, and grinned. "My guessd be youll have your hands full just gettin the birthday boy home and put to bed."
"It wouldnt be the first time," Hutch said, grinning back. He himself had deliberately taken it very easy on the beer, knowing hed have to be the one to get Starsky safely home.
"But usually its both of you that are shit-faced," Huggy said. "Its only a question of which one is less shit-faced."
Hutch laughed merrily. "You got that right, Hug. Fine example we set for the civilians, isnt it?" He patted Huggys shoulder over the bar. "Thanks, man. I appreciate your help with this party."
"Not a prob, my blond friend," Huggy said.
Hutch went back to Starsky, who still had half a glass of beer. "You about ready to go home, buddy?"
Starsky focused on him with difficulty. "St time tgo?"
"Fraid so. Huggys gotta close, otherwise somebody might call the cops on him for staying open too late."
Starsky grinned blearily. "Hell, we cant have somebody callin the damn cops." He tipped the glass back and finished the rest of his beer, then struggled to stand. Hutch caught his arm and helped him up. He pulled Starskys arm over his shoulders and put his own around his partners waist.
"Can you get the door for us, Hug?" he called.
Not very successfully suppressing his grin, Huggy complied, giving Starsky a friendly whack on the back as Hutch led him out the door. "Night, you two."
Starsky waved in Huggys general direction. "Night, Huggy. Thanks."
Hutch loaded Starsky into the passenger side of the Torino and pulled his own set of keys out of his pocket. "You okay, buddy?"
"Sure, never better," Starsky said, blinking and trying to sit up straight.
Hutch grinned and started the car. Once they got to Starskys place, he parked the car in its usual spot and went around to help Starsky out. Talk about a dead weight, he thought, struggling to get his inert partner upright and on his feet. Starsky tried to help, but he wasnt exactly steady on his feet. Hutch put his arm around his waist and, little by little, got him up the steps, into his apartment and onto the bed. Breathing hard, Hutch put the keys back in his pocket and went back to close and lock the door. Might as well just stay here and sack out on the couch.
He went back to the bedroom to check on Starsky, who was snoring peacefully already. Hutch got his Addidas off for him, but gave up trying to get any of his other clothes off. He tossed a blanket over him and turned to go lie down on the couch.
He stopped. "Yeah, buddy?"
Starsky struggled to a half sitting position. "Cmere. I cant see ya."
Hutch grinned a little and went back to sit on the edge of the bed.
Starsky struggled some more and got himself all the way up. He blinked at Hutch for a moment in silence, then said, "I wanted tsay thanks." When Hutch opened his mouth, Starsky put a hand up. "No, lemme finish." Hutch obediently shut his mouth again. Starsky sat and just looked at him for a minute before going on. "It really was the bes birthday I ever had, Hutch. I mean that. You musta been plannin this for weeks."
"More or less."
Starsky grinned. Then he flung his arms around Hutch and gave him a bear hug. Pulling back, he blinked again, rubbed at his face and said, "Damn, Im drunk."
Hutch laughed aloud. "Yes, you are."
"Howd we get home?"
"I brought you."
Hutch shook his head. "Nope."
"Didja have a good time, too?"
Hutch laughed again. "I sure did, buddy."
"Good." Starsky yawned and swayed a little. "Damn. I think I better go to bed."
"Youre in bed, Starsk."
Starsky looked around. "So I am."
Grinning, Hutch gave him a little push to make him lie down again. "Go to sleep, buddy. Ill stay here in case you need me, okay? Good night."
Starsky rolled over and buried his face in the pillow. He mumbled something that may have been "Gnight, Hutch," and was almost immediately asleep.
Hutch pulled the blanket up around his shoulders, patted his back, and left the room, turning out the light as he went. He looked back at the lump in the bed and softly said, "Happy birthday, buddy."