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Disclaimer: This story was written for entertainment only. No money is being made from it. No infringement on any copyright(s) is intended.

Valerie Wells and Sue David

Captain Harold Dobey sat in his car for a while after arriving home. The interminable day behind him was a blur of confusion, irritation, and unbelievable events. Whatever could go wrong, had. After he sat motionless for ten minutes, Edith Dobey came out to the driveway with a smile and a curious look for her husband.

"Harold?" she asked tentatively. His big hands still held onto the steering wheel. He looked up at her, thinking she was his safe harbor. He could get out of the car and leave this ridiculous day behind him now that she was there.

He opened the door and stepped out to give his wife a hug and a soft kiss. "Hi, baby."

She returned the hug and then stood back and held him at arms length, studying his troubled features. "I don't have to ask you if it was a rough day. Come on inside, I kept your dinner warm."

Following his wife, his big hand holding her small one, he left a palpable wake of frustration behind him. He shook his head wearily. This was only Monday.

When he was seated at the dinner table, picking over his pot roast and those red potatoes Edith made because she knew they were his favorites, his wife asked, "You want to talk about it?"

She was answered by a grunt. "Hmph."

Seeing he wasn't ready to speak yet, Edith went out to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. She joined her husband at the table and sat in silence, drinking the warm liquid and waiting for some sign that communication was forthcoming.

"Where are the kids?" he finally asked.

"Cal is over at Robbie Templeton's and Rosie is at my sister's house. They're working on something for girl scouts."

No children in the house and Harold Dobey was too tired to enjoy the quiet. When he finished his dinner, he asked Edith if she would make him a martini. That's when she knew this had been a day unlike most. Her husband rarely drank anything harder than beer.

Edith brought the drink to the living room. Her husband liked his martinis just like James Bond, shaken, not stirred with a whisper of vermouth. He took the drink gratefully and smiled when she settled on the couch next to him. He put a strong arm around her shoulders and sat, quietly enjoying her presence and his martini for a while. His wife patiently waited for him to share whatever burden he was carrying.

Captain Dobey finally asked a quiet question, "When did I lose control?"

"Control of what, honey?" Edith asked.

He took another sip of the drink and added, "Of them."

Edith needed no further explanation; "them" meant Starsky and Hutch. Some days with the dynamic duo were pure exasperation. She sat back and listened while her husband explained the day's events.

Earlier that day . . .

The squad room doors swung open sharply as Ken Hutchinson gave them a hard shove. He stormed into the room in a few long, angry strides. First, he retrieved a bottle of aspirin from his desk. Next, he opened the bottom of the piggy bank he and his partner shared and he shook out several coins. After replacing it, he turned to stalk back out of the room and ran up against his captain.

"Something wrong, Hutchinson?" Dobey asked. His office door was ajar. He had heard the squad room doors slam open abruptly and seen the blond detective's dramatic entrance.

Hutch looked up at him, surprised that he was there. "No." Sometimes Hutch could be tight lipped and Dobey guessed this was going to be one of those days. He stood his ground, an immovable object in front of the angry younger man.

"Sure looks like it. Where's your partner?"

Hutch seethed. "Cap, will you please excuse me? I said nothing's wrong."

"Is Starsky all right?"

"Yeah. He's just terrific. Now excuse me." Hutch feinted to the left, then easily sidestepped the older, heavyset man and quickly strode out to the hallway, Dobey's bellowed call to return falling on disinterested ears. He looked inquisitively at the other officers in the room. Everyone shrugged. They had all given up trying to second-guess or even figure out their two colleagues long ago. Resigning himself to waiting until his hotshot team returned to get his answers, he went back into his office in time to hear the phone ringing.


"Captain Dobey, this is Attorney Jason Carley down at the D.A.'s office. I need to talk to you about two of your men."

Dobey sighed, knowing which two men he meant without needing to ask. "All right, which two?" He played the game anyway.

"Starsky and Hutchinson."

"What about them?" He cringed as he reached into his desk for an antacid tablet.

"The dark haired one..."

Dobey interrupted him, "That's Starsky."

"Fine. Sergeant Starsky got into an argument with one of our staff attorneys, Rick Delaney, down at the courthouse today. They were standing by the stairs yelling at each other. I'll admit that Delaney was out of line. He was pretty angry and he shoved your detective. Starsky lost his balance and fell down a short flight of stairs."

Dobey interrupted again, "Was he hurt?'

"He was stunned for a minute or two and I think he twisted an ankle. That's not the problem though. The problem is with Hutchinson. He needs a new nickname. My staff is calling him `The Blond Menace'."

"What'd he do?" Dobey could well imagine what had happened next.

"He grabbed Delaney by his suit coat and tried to install him as a new fixture in the nearest wall, that's what. The man was so terrified, I wouldn't be surprised if he wet his pants."

The captain had a fleeting remembrance of Hutch's words from several years ago, "Never pick on a man's partner."

"Did he hurt Delaney?"

"No, just scared the crap out of him. Hollered at him and told him he'd better never go near his partner again. Geez, you'd think the guy meant for Starsky to fall down those stairs. Dobey, you'd better get that man under control. He's like a ticking time bomb."

Dobey could understand that assessment of the darker detective, but Hutch? Maybe when he felt his partner was threatened, but otherwise? "The man attacked his partner, Carley. I'm sure it's nothing deeper than that."

"I don't know about that, Captain Dobey. You'd better get your men under control though."

"Sounds like maybe you need to do that with Delaney, too." Dobey wasn't willing to accept all the blame without speaking to his officers first. When they hung up, he felt his blood pressure rise.

Several minutes after the phone call, he heard his detectives coming into the squad room.

"Starsky, Hutchinson, get in here!" he hollered out to them. Shortly, they appeared in his doorway. Starsky had a bruise on his face, and he was leaning on his partner. Hutch had one arm around Starsky's waist and the other hand was holding a soda cup from the machine down the hall.

"You want to see us, Cap?" Starsky asked.

"Get in here and close that door!"

Hutch helped his limping partner walk over to where he could deposit him in a chair, reaching behind him as he passed to shut the door with his foot. Dobey was flabbergasted. How many times had he yelled at the other one for that maneuver?


"Sorry, Cap." He smiled a little sheepishly. He handed Starsky the soda cup and then took a protective position seated on the arm of Starsky's chair. His tightly strung demeanor resembled that of a mother grizzly guarding its cub.

"You want to tell me what the hell is going on with you two? I just got off the phone with Carley from the D.A.'s office."

"Cap, I just..." Starsky started, but the blond immediately interrupted him.

"Starsk, I'll..."

"Come on..."

"No way..."

"Hutch, 's my..."


"Okay, well don't forget..."

"Right..." Hutch reached down and retrieved the soda cup from Starsky, finishing it off and them crumpling it into a ball.

Captain Dobey was ever amazed when these two held one of their shorthand conversations. Sometimes they forgot that everyone else in the room had no idea what they were going on about and it was maddening.

"Cap, that idiot wants to plea bargain!" Hutch blurted out as if Dobey would know just what he meant.

"Delaney," Starsky clarified.

"Right. No way, Cap. We worked too hard..."



Dobey rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. "What case? You wanna fill in all the blanks the two of you just left?"

Two pairs of blue eyes met and a silent conversation was held.

"What's the matter with him?" Hutch's eyebrows climbed a notch.

"Who knows?" Starsky shrugged

"You want to take it?" Hutch glanced at Dobey, inclining his head slightly in the other man's direction.

"Ankle hurts. You do it." Starsky shook his head slightly and then darted his eyes toward his feet and back to meet his partner's gaze. Then he raised one eyebrow and jerked his chin toward Dobey.

"Right." Hutch nodded and turned to face Dobey again.

Captain Dobey felt the blood pounding in the veins of his temples. His face clearly reflected his mounting anger. Hutch was almost startled by the look on his face. He opened his mouth to continue the cryptic story, then stopped and asked a question instead.

"You all right, Cap? You don't look so good."

That was more than Dobey could stand. "Get out of here!" he yelled. "And stay away from Delaney!"

Both detectives were stunned. "Hm," Starsky muttered. He looked up at Hutch, silently requesting his assistance. Hutch gave him a hand to his feet, then took up his position to help the limping man back out to the squad room. As they opened the door and stepped through it, Dobey yelled one more time.


The blond turned. Dobey continued, "Take him home."

"Thanks, Cap. See you tomorrow." They left their captain's office without further comment. Dobey realized he had none of the answers he wanted. He reached for another antacid tablet as he muttered, "When did I lose control of those two?"

"Ow!" Starsky complained as Hutch tried to position his ankle so the ice bag would cover all of the swelling. "That hurts!"

"I'm sorry," Hutch said. "You move it, then. Turn this way a little."

Starsky did, grimacing. Hutch settled the ice bag and took a seat in the chair. Starsky was on the couch, the bad ankle propped on a cushion.

"You sure we shouldn't get that X-rayed, buddy?" Hutch asked. "I don't like how it's swelling. It could be broken."

"It ain't broken," Starsky growled. "It's just a wrench. I do it all the time."

"Okay, okay," Hutch said. "Geez, you're a bear when you're hurt."

"Am not," Starsky said. "You're the one who's a bear when you're sick or hurt. Impossible to live with." Before Hutch could protest, Starsky added, grinning, "Speaking of being a bear, I thought you were gonna draw and quarter poor Delaney today."

"Poor Delaney? That worthless scum knocked you down the stairs -- " Hutch began, getting angry all over again.

"And your reaction was more like mine would've been than the usual cold Nordic rage you display," Starsky said, deadpan.

Hutch opened his mouth to answer but laughed instead. "Cold Nordic rage?"

Starsky grinned. "No wonder Dobey was hitting the antacid so hard while we were in his office. You and me switched roles."

Hutch chuckled. "Just when he thinks he's got us figured out, we pull something like -- " He stopped suddenly.


"I just had an idea."

"You wanna do it on purpose?" Starsky guessed accurately.

"Dobey's 30th anniversary on the force is coming up," Hutch said. "Let's call some of the guys and all of us drive him crazy over the next couple of weeks. That'll keep him busy enough so he won't notice we're planning a big surprise party for his anniversary."

"Are we planning a big party?" Starsky inquired.

"We are now," Hutch said. "Thirty years on the force is worth a party, isn't it?"

"Sure it is," Starsky said. "'Specially since he made it this far in one piece."

"Yeah," Hutch said. "So let's throw him a party. But the only way we'll keep it a secret is if we keep him too busy to notice what's going on. And the way we're going to do that is to drive him totally nuts."

Starsky gave a slow, evil grin. "I'm in."

Hutch made a few phone calls to other officers he and Starsky knew would enjoy the joke and told them to come up with a few pranks to play on their captain in the next couple of weeks. Then he called Huggy to order food for the party. "Where are we going to have the party?" he asked of Starsky when Huggy asked him the same question.

"I don't know," Starsky said. "We don't have a decent place at the station and neither one of our apartments is big enough. Huggy's?"

"How would we get Dobey to Huggy's without him getting suspicious?" Hutch demanded.

"Good point. We'll have to come up with something later."

"We don't know yet, Hug," Hutch said into the phone. "We'll let you know."

The next morning, Starsky turned up early, a half hour earlier than Hutch, and he was eating a plain bagel and drinking orange juice. He was wearing a neatly pressed pair of dark denims and a sports shirt. Dobey stared at him when he came into the squad room for a fresh cup of coffee, but didn't say anything.

Hutch showed up a good 15 minutes past the time he was supposed to report for duty, wearing a badly faded and frayed pair of jeans and a t-shirt. His hair was less than neatly combed and he was drinking Dr. Pepper and eating a glazed donut. This time Dobey did more than stare.

"Hutchinson, you're late!" he bellowed.

"Yeah, sorry 'bout that, Cap," Hutch said with a grin and a wave of his donut.

"Where did you get those jeans?" Starsky hissed under his breath.

Hutch grinned. "Salvation Army," he whispered back. "Where'd you get YOURS?"

"Stole 'em from you," Starsky said. "You left 'em at my place."

Hutch chuckled. "I'm surprised they fit."

"They don't," Starsky said. "They're too long."

Dobey reappeared, looking frazzled. "Do we pay you two to eat?" he demanded. "Why aren't you out on the street?"

"Reports, Captain," Starsky said with an innocent expression.

Dobey opened his mouth, closed it again, and went back into his office, slamming the door behind him. Starsky and Hutch both laughed.

"It's working," Hutch said.

Starsky wrote the reports they'd neglected, as usual, for several days, taking care to be as flamboyant as possible. Hutch looked over his shoulder, alternately making suggestions and criticizing, until they had all of them done. They piled them in Dobey's in basket and left.

"He's going to flip," Starsky said.

Dobey fumed as he read the reports. When he got his hands on Starsky...then he froze. It was Hutch's name signed to these reports. It sounded like Starsky's writing, but that was Hutch's signature. He shook his head. He needed a vacation.

Simmons and Babcock came into the squad room shortly after lunch. Simmons got coffee for both of them and they sat down to catch up on their own reports. Dobey came in, carrying a tray from the cafeteria loaded down with food. Simmons jumped up to open Dobey's office door for him.

"Thanks, Simmons," Dobey said absently, going into his office with his load.

Babcock motioned to his partner. "I'm no good at this stuff," he whispered. "What do I say?"

"Just write like it was a bad novel," Simmons whispered back.

"How the hell do you write a report of a burglary as if it was a bad novel?" Babcock demanded.

Simmons sighed and went around to look over his shoulder. "Okay. Here. Where you said 'the suspect is a Hispanic male' say 'the bandit is a Frito Bandito wannabe', for instance."

Babcock shook with suppressed laughter. "I hope we don't get fired for this stuff."

Simmons grinned. "I feel kind of sorry for the old boy, but maybe he'll forgive us. Eventually."

It was late in the afternoon before Starsky and Hutch returned. By then Dobey had received a large stack of reports written in pulp novel style. He'd eaten a whole handful of antacids and downed a few aspirins to boot.

Hutch was singing "Love Potion No. 9" at the top of his lungs as he and Starsky came in, and he wasn't making any effort to sing it well.

"Can the noise, Starsky!" Dobey bellowed through his open door.

"I'm not making any noise, Captain," Starsky said, pausing to look in. "That's Hutch."

"Then tell Hutch to can it!" Dobey bellowed.

Starsky winced and backed away. "You heard the captain," he said to Hutch.

Hutch stopped singing, but his eyes were dancing. "Hey," he said to Starsky, loudly enough to be heard by their captain in his office, "I'm starvin'. Gimme a quarter."

"What for?"

"A candy bar, moron."

Starsky bit his lip to stifle the laughter and dug in his pocket. He handed his partner a quarter, and Hutch strolled out to the hall, whistling merrily.

"I said, can the noise!" Dobey bellowed again.

Hutch came back with a Milky Way, already eating it. Starsky resolutely refused to watch, because that was his favorite candy bar and he wanted a bite so badly he could almost taste the candy already. But that would've blown their whole act, so he refused to look.

Dobey stalked out of his office, hat on, ready to leave, but broke his stride when he caught sight of the blond detective, feet up on the desk, contentedly munching a chocolate bar. Starsky kept his eyes down, going over his notes -- Hutch's notes, actually -- on the calls they'd answered that day.

Hutch grinned and waved with the candy bar. "Night, Cap. See ya tomorrow."

Dobey shook his head, wearily rubbed at his eyes, and left without a word. As soon as they were sure he was gone, Hutch gave the rest of the Milky Way to Starsky. "I hope my delicate system survives this little charade," he said.

"It will," Starsky said confidently. "It might even do ya good."

"Sure it will," Hutch retorted. "At least, it hasn't killed you yet. So what are we going to do tomorrow?"

"I've been thinking about that," Starsky said.

"Beautiful," Hutch said with a sigh. "You're a dangerous character when you start thinking."

"Ha, ha," Starsky said, making a face at him. "You wanna hear the idea or not?"


"You know how the way we talk to each other drives him nuts?"

"You want to do it all the time."

"Yup. That might be enough to send him to the department shrink."

Hutch laughed. "That's cold, man. He might pop a vessel or something. We'd better be careful, heavy as he is, his blood pressure's probably already too high."

"You think we should let Edith in on it? She might be wondering why we are torturing her husband," Starsky asked with a twinkle.

Hutch agreed. "Yeah. Why don't you call her? She might even have some suggestions."

Starsky did call Edith. She told him how Dobey had reacted to their antics the day before and was amused that the events gave them the idea. Reassuring them that they needn't fear for the big man's blood pressure, she encouraged them to go ahead. She even admitted to Starsky that their idea regarding pulp fiction novel styled reports was a stroke of brilliance.

"One day he told me, 'I hate that Mickey Spillane style Starsky uses for his reports. Why can't he just write in plain English?' " She was laughing and Starsky could imagine the flash in her eyes.

Edith was a great sport. She promised to try and be the captain's emotional tether during this trying time and also said she'd call Huggy to help with the plans. Starsky asked her to come up with a good idea for a present also.

"Before we go, let's go in his office and make some modifications," Hutch said with a glint in his eye.

"What kind of modifications?"

Hutch led the way. They went through Dobey's office, rearranging things. First, Starsky cranked his chair up so high the captain's legs wouldn't clear the space under his desk. Next, Hutch took his coffee cup while Starsky took all of his paperclips out of their container and hooked them together in one long string.

"That's enough for now. Not too much on one day. He'll kill us." They were both laughing as they turned out the light and headed home.

Heading down the hall, Hutch said, "You're still limping. Sure we shouldn't get that ankle x-rayed?"

"I'm sure." Starsky laughed to himself. No matter what they were doing, Hutch always had time to be a mother hen.

The next day went similar to the previous one. The two detectives completely switched roles. Hutch was talkative, telling jokes, and provoking high jinks in the squad room. Starsky was reserved, quiet. He scolded his partner to quit being such a big kid.

Captain Dobey couldn't find his coffee mug. "Where is it?" he asked himself aloud. "Great. I'm talking to myself." He got up and went out to the squad room to retrieve a new cup and get some coffee. While he was in there, the man pretending to be David Starsky caught him for some conversation about a case. While Starsky distracted him, Hutch slipped into Dobey's office and put his coffee mug back on his desk, right where they had pinched it from the previous evening.

Dobey walked back in, looking at the neatly prepared report Starsky had just handed him. When he tried to set his coffee down without looking, it clinked into the cup he had just been trying to find. He shook his head with exasperation, thinking he must be losing it.

Starsky and Hutch left to go interview some witnesses.

"I miss my faded jeans," Starsky groused as he limped toward the passenger side of the Torino, tossing Hutch his keys.

"Well, I miss my old diet. We're gonna have to bring some lunch back and I'm not sure I can face another beef burrito."

"With onions," Starsky added. "What about me? I'm starving. How do you chase bad guys down alleys and bust open doors while living off that rabbit food you eat? You don't eat enough."

"I eat plenty, dirtball. The body is a temple." The look on Hutch's face caused Starsky to collapse in laughter.

"Keep it up, buddy. You're getting better at telling jokes," he said as he wiped tears from his eyes.

"I wasn't joking," Hutch said deadpan, leaving Starsky to wonder if he was or he wasn't.

When they returned to the station, they brought their lunch. Dobey bellowed for them first thing and they brought their food with them into his office. Things were going great. Hutch made it a point to shut the door with his foot on the way into the room.

"Now, I've just about gotten your partner broken of that habit. What's with you, Hutchinson?"

"Sorry. I'm workin' on it," Hutch said, parroting Starsky's words uttered so many times in response to that particular admonishment.

Starsky shot a disapproving glance at Hutch and said, "You wanted to see us, sir." He had a hard time keeping a straight face while saying it. Dobey just glared at him.

When they were seated and working on their lunches, Dobey asked, "How'd it go with your witnesses?"

"Fine," Starsky said without embellishment. He took a bite of his veggie special on whole wheat and tried to look enthusiastic about it. He was trying hard not to pout at the lack of meat in his lunch. Somehow, alfalfa sprouts always left him cold. Thank God Hutch had been known to drink soda. He at least was able to wash it down with something other than goat's milk. For his part, Hutch sat and pretended to be enjoying a carne asada burrito with extra onions and guacamole. He was dreaming about the antacid chaser he was going to need, especially while slurping down a chocolate shake.

They needed to discuss the case with Captain Dobey. Several witnesses were balking at testifying against Joe Nicholas, a swindler with known mob connections. The man was out on bail pending his trial. While interviewing one man, Starsky had seen Nicholas sneaking out the back door as they entered. He was certain the man was threatening their witness.

"Cap," Hutch started, "we think we saw something today, but we're not sure we saw what we saw, you know?" He reached over and tried to snag a slice of cucumber that had fallen out of Starsky's sandwich and received a smack on the hand from his partner for his trouble.

Dobey looked at him in disbelief.

"Well, what Hutch means is..." Starsky started.

"Don't forget..."

"I won't."

"I mean, if you saw what I saw..."

"Yeah, I know, I know. Gimme a minute."

The captain followed the half spoken-half implied conversation like he was watching a tennis match. This was getting ridiculous. The connection these two had served them well on the street, but they knew how crazy it made him in his office. This was the second time they'd done it this week.

"Now listen, you two. I know you don't need to say about half the words you do say to each other, but what would you think about SAYING ALL OF THEM ANYWAY!?"

Starsky looked innocent. "Were we doing it again, Cap'n?"

"Sorry, Cap," Hutch said.

They had even switched their short hand for the captain's title. They didn't dare look at each other for fear one of them would blow it. Instead, they held their meeting with Dobey, doing just enough shorthand speak to keep him edgy, but not so much as to cause him to yell again.

When they returned to the squad room, Hutch found a message waiting for them from Delaney. He wanted to see them both over at the D.A.'s offices right away.

"What's that about?" he wondered aloud as he passed the message to his partner.

"Maybe he wants to apologize."

"I'm sure."

Before they left the precinct, they checked in with some of the other pranksters. Simmons told them Dobey was yelling about the quality of their reports the whole time Starsky and Hutch were gone earlier in the day.

"He was ready to blow a gasket," Babcock said, laughing.

"I pinched his hat a while ago. When he leaves tonight, he's not going to be able to find it," Simmons added. "I'll put it back after he's gone."

"We've gotta go to a meeting. When he leaves, one of you go in there and tune all of his radio channels to either Mexican stations or that station with all of the ultra-conservative talk shows," Hutch suggested.

"That's cold." They all laughed about it.

"Starting tomorrow, we all stop talking every time he enters the room," Starsky said.

Babcock shook his head. "I sure would hate to see you two give 'the treatment' to somebody you don't like."

"I got a million of 'em." Starsky smiled over his shoulder as they exited.

They left the station and headed to the District Attorney's offices at the courthouse. When they arrived, the receptionist directed them to a conference room on the third floor and told them Delaney would be in to meet with them shortly. Starsky sat with his throbbing ankle propped up on a chair while Hutch paced. The room was enormous, overkill for just three people. Hutch was starting to wonder if they were being set up for something bigger than a small meeting.

Delaney entered the room five minutes later wearing a sheepish look. He saw Starsky's foot propped on the chair and said, "Uh, how's the ankle?"

"I'll live," Starsky answered coldly.

"Look, Delaney, what's the big idea? Whatever you've got to say, get on with it. We've got places to be." Hutch took several steps toward the attorney, who took two steps back from him and indicated he should sit. Hutch complied, taking a seat between his partner and Delaney.

"I know you cops and we here at the D.A.'s office don't always agree," Delaney started.

"Really," Hutch said, his voice full of sarcasm. "You're surprised we don't like it when we spend months setting up a sting to catch a guy using kids as numbers runners and you plea bargain the guy for someone you think is a bigger fish?"

Starsky just glared at him, allowing Hutch to take the initiative this time. He was hoping Hutch could hold his temper better than he had the last time the three of them "chatted" about this case.

"We're not going to solve that problem, Hutchinson. You boys in blue do what you have to do, and we do what we have to do. Sometimes the system stinks. I didn't call you two down here for that." Delaney was exasperated with Hutch's demeanor. He had hoped to have his say before the barbs started to fly.

"Then say it," Starsky ordered.

"All right, hotshot. I just wanted to apologize."

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a surprised look.

"You did?" Hutch said.

"Yeah, I'm sorry. I was out of line. You guys were mad, too, but what I did was wrong. I was angry because I didn't like it any more than you did. I just took it out on you. I have a boss, too, you know. I have to follow his orders." Delaney looked sincere.

"Thanks, Delaney. I know I shouldn't have yelled at you, too," Starsky said.

Delaney extended his hand to Starsky, who shook it graciously. "You sure that ankle's okay? I really didn't mean to push you so hard."

"Don't worry about it."

Hutch had no intention of apologizing for sticking up for his partner. Delaney figured that much. He put his hand out to Hutch anyway and said, "You're pretty intimidating when you're mad. You know they started calling you 'The Blond Menace' over here."

Unable to suppress a smile at that, Hutch took his hand and said, "Good. Guess that'll keep anyone else from messing with my partner. They know they'll have to answer to me."

The three men sat and mended fences for a while. Then, Starsky had a great idea.

"Hey, Hutch. I was thinking...." he said that as his eyes swept the large room.

Hutch picked up on it before he finished. "Yeah, this might just work."

"You think they'd allow it?" Starsky asked.

Delaney had no idea what they were talking about, so Hutch explained, "Over at Metro, we're trying to put together a surprise party for Captain Dobey. He will have thirty years on the force in a little less than two weeks. We were wondering where to have it though. You think they'd let us use this conference room?"

"I don't see why not. I'll ask. That's great. Is he retiring?"

Starsky looked unhappy at that thought. "I hope not. We just got him all broken in. Sure would hate to have to start from scratch."

Hutch said, "If they say we can use the room, will you help us get him over here?"

"Sure, what do you have in mind?"

Starsky's eyes lit up instantly. He knew exactly what Hutch was thinking. "This meeting we're having never happened, Delaney. We're gonna have it again the afternoon of the party. Only this time, you and me are gonna stage a fight in here. When he busts in here to stop us, we'll have everybody in here waiting to surprise him. Whatdya think?"

"That's great! Remember, Hutchinson, this is only going to be a fake fight. No need to throw me out the window or anything." The look in Delaney's eyes told Hutch he was only half joking. That gave him a sense of satisfaction.

Delaney promised to call as soon as he had the green light for the space.

"Starsk, I'm running out of crappy clothes," Hutch said as they got back in the car to head home.

Starsky burst out laughing. "Poor baby. Want me to lend you some?"

"Very funny. How long do I have to dress like a refugee?"

"Until the party," Starsky said. "How do you think I feel? I don't have much except crappy clothes. And I don't want to ruin the nice clothes I do have if I wind up chasing some whippo into a dumpster or a roach-infested tenement."

Hutch grinned. "Let's compromise. Let's both dress somewhere in between Early Poverty and GQ. We'll still go on acting our parts, but we'll be more comfortable."

"I can deal with that."

Dobey couldn't find his hat when he wanted to leave, though he was sure he'd left it on the coat rack in his office. It simply wasn't there. He looked everywhere, getting steadily more frustrated and short-tempered.

Simmons and Babcock, hanging around outside to fiddle with his radio after he left, heard the commotion.

"I feel kind of sorry for him," Babcock whispered to his partner.

"Don't," Simmons said, grinning. "You'll blow our cover."

Finally, Dobey stalked out of his office, clearly in no mood to be trifled with. Both detectives -- and Jack Hill, who had innocently wandered in to retrieve his own misplaced sunglasses -- suddenly discovered important things they had to do on the other side of the room, in order to leave their fuming captain a clear path out of the squad room.

But Babcock couldn't resist a last little jab. "G'night, Cap," he called after him.

Dobey muttered something exceedingly rude under his breath and left the room without a backward glance. The three detectives could finally give in to their laughter.

"Oh, man," Hill gasped, when he could speak, "if he doesn't kill us all before this is over, I'm gonna be really, really surprised."

"If he catches on, remember it was all Starsky and Hutch's idea," Simmons said, wiping his eyes. "We is innocent."

"Like foxes in a henhouse," Babcock said. "He won't buy that for a minute. We'll all be walking a beat, I guarantee you that."

Edith was in the process of transferring a roast from pan to serving dish when she heard the front door open and close with far more force than was necessary. Since her daughter was practicing the flute upstairs and her son was hanging around the kitchen in hopes that he'd get a tidbit before supper, she knew it had to be her husband.

The eyes of mother and son met for a moment.

"Dad's home," Cal announced with a warning tone in his voice.

Edith suppressed a smile. So far the kids weren't in on the joke, and she didn't dare tell them what was going on until the day of the party. One of them would be sure to let the cat out of the bag.

"I heard," she said calmly, finishing her task and handing the dish to Cal. "Take this into the dining room. Don't drop it and don't steal any rolls while you're in there. Then go call your sister."

Cal sighed as if he spent his whole life doing nothing but work and carried the roast to the dining room. Then she heard his voice bellowing up the stairs, "Rosie! Supper!"

Edith winced, and sure enough, Harold's voice came out of the study at roughly the same decibel level as a rock band, "Quit shouting, Calvin!" Edith allowed herself a chuckle, since she was alone in the kitchen at the moment. Cal came by his yelling naturally, at least.

The flute music stopped and in a few moments Rosie came tripping down the stairs. Edith heard her say, "Hi, Daddy! Where's my kiss?" Edith went on into the dining room and found Cal just reaching out to snag a roll, but when he saw her, he yanked his hand back and tried to look innocent. Harold came in carrying Rosie and looking marginally less angry than he had sounded a moment before. She smiled at him. "How was your day?"

Cal shot her a look of chagrin that she ignored.

Harold set Rosie down and took his seat. Picking up the knife and fork, he began carving the roast with what amounted to savagery. "I'm beginning to wonder if I run a division of detectives or a madhouse!" he growled.

"What happened?"

"Hutch is dressing and eating like Starsky. Starsky's dressing and eating like Hutch. All the men are turning in reports with phrases like 'the whippo was armed with a Saturday night special' and I can't stop LOSING things!"

Rosie stopped with her fork halfway to her mouth and stared. Edith made a motion at her and the child went back to eating, but she was gazing at her father as if she'd never seen him before. Cal, for his part, was fascinated with his own plate and never raised his eyes.

"Everyone has a bad week now and then," Edith said soothingly.

"This is more than a bad week," Harold said, stabbing a hunk of roast beef as if it were his recalcitrant men. "They've all gone nuts at once. Or maybe I have."

"Have you talked to them?"

"Of course, I've talked to them!" Harold glared at her, then smoothed his face. "I didn't mean to raise my voice. Yes, I've talked to them. I've ordered them to stop writing their reports like cheap dime store novels. But what can I do about Starsky and Hutch? It's not against regs to act weird."

Edith allowed herself a smile. "Probably a silly bet," she said. "Maybe Starsky dared Hutch to eat burritos just to prove they wouldn't kill him. Or Hutch dared Starsky to eat bean sprouts. It'll blow over."

"It better," Harold grumbled. "Or I might kill 'em both."

First thing the next morning, Minnie appeared with a stack of reports and winked at Starsky -- dressed more comfortably but still far nicer than his usual style -- as she tapped at Dobey's door.

A bad-tempered growl answered her. She composed herself and entered. Starsky waited, and in a few moments, heard the familiar roar.

Hutch came in just in time to hear the roar. He grinned. "What now?"

"Minnie," Starsky said. "She just brought him a huge stack of files. Requisitions, misfiled reports, requests from other departments...."

"Isn't there some place we need to be?" Hutch inquired. "I think it'd be healthier for us if we split."

"Right you are," Starsky said, rising and reaching for his jacket. "Let's get out of here."

They didn't make it all the way to the door. Dobey barreled out of his office and bellowed their names. Both halted mid-stride and turned around. "You two," he said evenly, waving a stack of file folders. "Get your cans right back in here and re-do these reports. What have I told you about that?"

"What's wrong with them?" Hutch asked.

Dobey glared at him. "You know damned good and well what's wrong with them, Hutchinson. You signed them." He opened one at random and read, "My intrepid partner crept up the stairs to the apartment on the second floor, gun in hand, all senses on the alert...." He slapped the folder shut and thrust it at Hutch. "Do it again. And this time do it right, or you're gonna be directing traffic before the day's over. Got that?"

"Sure, Captain," Hutch said. "Whatever you say."

Dobey stalked back into his office and slammed the door so hard a coffee mug fell off the table next to it and broke. Starsky and Hutch grinned at each other, but didn't dare laugh.

They sat down at the typewriter, with Hutch doing the actual typing. Starsky hung over his shoulder, giving direction and suggestions for making the report even more annoying than it already was, but Hutch hissed, "Come on, Starsk. Let's give the poor guy a break. I don't want him to have a stroke before his party. Let me tone it down a little."

"Okay, okay," Starsky agreed.

Hill and Cavanaugh came in, arguing about a case, and sat down at the end of the table. Between their argument and Starsky and Hutch's conversation, the noise level had gone up considerably. When Dobey's door opened, all four of them clammed up instantly.

Dobey stared at each of them in turn, shook his head, and went back into his office. Immediately, all four of them went at it again. Minnie came in, dumped some files in the in basket, and joined Hill and Cavanaugh's conversation. A few minutes later, the noise level had risen again, and Dobey opened his door. Instant silence. Everyone looked as guilty as possible while simultaneously trying NOT to look at each other.

"What the hell is goin' on out here?" Dobey demanded.

"Nothin', Captain," Hutch said.

Dobey glared at him and went back into his office, slamming the door.

Hill started to laugh and said, "Man, this better be the all time best party ever given in the big man's life. He's gonna kill us if it ain't."

"Really," Starsky and Hutch said in unison.

Cavanaugh piped in his two cents, "Hey, Delaney called. He said we're on for using that big conference room."

"Great!" Starsky said. "Now all we need to do is finalize the food with Huggy, Edith Dobey's doing the decorations, and we're set."

Cavanaugh said, "Mrs. Dobey?" At that moment, the captain's door flew open again. He heard his wife's name and his face passed through several shades in quick succession.

"What about my wife!?" he bellowed.

Starsky, fast on his feet, replied, "Oh, uh, we were just wondering if maybe we should let your wife know you've been a little tense lately, sir." That last "sir" was almost enough to cause Dobey to explode. Starsky's face was a mask of innocence, but the other three detectives were suddenly afraid for his personal safety. Dobey took a few giant, crashing steps toward the curly-haired man and loomed over him.

"You leave my wife out of this! If I'm stressed out, it's because of you turkeys. What the ever livin' hell is going on around here? Are you trying to send me to an early grave?"

Captain Dobey was famous for his tirades, but this particular one, aimed right at Starsky was somehow more unnerving. Starsky heard Hutch swallow, Cavanaugh gasped, and Hill's mouth fell open as he dropped the pencil he was holding onto the desk. Starsky didn't flinch; didn't even blink.

Hutch was seriously considering dragging his partner out of the squad room before Dobey could pull his weapon when he heard Starsky say, "Really? We're sorry, sir. Is there something we're doing wrong?"

Dobey was incredulous. He started to yell something else at Starsky. Then, reconsidering, he stomped back toward his office and this time when he slammed the door behind him, the men heard what sounded like one of Dobey's framed certificates falling to the floor with a glass-cracking kerplunk.

Hutch turned toward his partner and said, "Damn, you've got big ones today. Are you crazy? I thought he was gonna kill you."

Starsky was pale and shaking a little bit, half from fear of what had just happened and half from laughter that he couldn't seem to stifle. Knowing the territory was still dangerous, the squad room quickly emptied as both the detectives and the uniforms suddenly had pressing business elsewhere.

As they scrambled down the back stairs, Starsky said, "Geez, I hope he doesn't go to make a pot of coffee for a while."

Hutch cringed at the remark as he hustled Starsky out the door toward the car. They'd better be gone for the rest of the shift.

Upstairs in the Captain of Detective's office, the occupant fumed. He paced. He even kicked his trashcan a few times until it was a mangled mess. The men didn't know that was why he almost never had a trashcan - he frequently took out his frustrations on the unsuspecting objects. Then, he rubbed his head with his hands, thinking he was surely losing it. He had just come half a heartbeat away from committing bodily injury on one of his favorite and best detectives. Thinking he needed a vacation in the worst way, he settled for a nice pot of coffee. Decaf. When he turned on the brew cycle, nothing happened. He pushed it again and still nothing happened. A sudden flash of renewed anger screamed at him that Starsky was to blame. He crashed back into the squad room, only to find it completely deserted. He was right, too. Starsky had cut off the water supply at the back of the coffeemaker.

As the days passed until time for the party, the detectives of Metro division drove their hapless superior to distraction. They set and reset his clocks to different time zones. Hutch switched his regular desk extension phone lines with the red phone so the next time he called Edith, he reached the emergency response command center instead. A couple of days before the party, Dobey called in sick. Apart from injuries he'd sustained on the job in his younger days, he hadn't taken more than a half dozen sick days in thirty years of service.

When they heard he wasn't coming in, the detectives decided that enough was enough. They were all concerned that Dobey was going over the edge and his antacid supply was being restocked so often it seemed like it was hourly. The group of pranksters agreed they were done toying with the man. No more practical jokes of any kind until the day of the party and the staged fight between Starsky and Delaney.

None of them realized how much that action would be a prank in itself. After almost two weeks of constantly being driven nuts, to have the total cessation of all activities felt like being hit with a board. While Edith expected him to relax, he just stayed uptight.

The fight was planned carefully. Starsky, Hutch, and Delaney met at the Pits to go over the final details the night before the party.

"Let's go over this one more time," Starsky said. "Hutch, where are you going to be? Uh, supposedly be."

"I'm going to have an appointment at the allergy doc's office. I'll leave early, making sure he sees me go. I'll really go pick up Edith and the kids. Then I'll head down to the D.A.'s office and help get everything set up there."

"Check," they all said. The three men had each enjoyed several of Huggy's cold brews and at this point they were acting like they were planning a super secret spy mission.

Starsky slapped the table with his palm and said, "Right. I'll quietly make sure everyone trickles outta the station so's Dobey doesn't notice. A few at a time. Then I'll go down there." He pointed first at Delaney, then at himself and added, "Then me and Delaney will go into the conference room for the grand finale."

Delaney took another sip of his beer, not noticing the foam that stuck to his upper lip. "Right. When everybody's there, Carley's gonna call your captain. What's he s'posed to say again?"

Huggy was listening to the conversation from behind the bar. He already had pulled out enough money from the till to pay for the taxis all three men were going to need.

Hutch said, "He's gonna tell Dobey that you called Curly here down for a meet. He'll say you boys are locked in the big conference room upstairs and that you're having a knockdown drag-out fight. Then he'll suggest the cap should come and pull Starsky outta there before someone gets hurt."

They all giggled a lot about the look they were sure would appear on Dobey's face when he heard the sounds of the "fight" through the door.

Delaney slurred out, "Now, Starsky, you wouldn't really hit me or anything, would ya? To get me back for shoving you down those stairs?"

Starsky grinned malevolently and waggled his eyebrows. "That's for me to know and you to find out, bub," he said with a snicker.

Hutch leaned over to Delaney and whispered loudly, "Stay away from his left." He rubbed his chin and grinned at Starsky, thinking of the time his friend had busted him in the chops in Nellie's bar. Starsky looked unamused.

Huggy strolled over to discuss the final food arrangements.

"You gentlemens done plannin' the mayhem?" he asked amiably.

"Yeah, I think we got it," Hutch answered.

"Good. What time you want me down there with the feast?"

Delaney said, "Why don't you start setting up around three?"

"Hutch'll be there around three-thirty. Then everyone else will come in over the next hour. Carley's gonna call the cap around five."

"You got it, amigos. Now, why don't you three let me call the cabs you need to take you home? Don't y'all have to work tomorrow?"

"Don't need a cab, Hug. We're all right," Starsky said.

"Way I see it, Curly, you have two choices. You can go on home in a cab like good boys now, or go back there and play pool for a while after you switch to soda. Comprende?"

Hutch laughed, "I vote pool."

"Yeah, pool. Sleep is for wimps." Starsky winked at Huggy.

Delaney nodded his agreement and they moved to the back for their pool game. When they were sufficiently sober to pass muster with the lanky barkeep, they left in their own cars.

The next day at the precinct, Dobey was in a foul mood. Starsky was back to dressing in early Salvation Army. Hutch was looking more like his old self. After he had launched on Starsky that day, Simmons and Babcock had done their best to stay away from the captain. Around two in the afternoon, the man wandered out from his office to find just the dynamic duo in the squad room. He sat down heavily in a chair next to Starsky.

"Somethin' wrong, Cap?" Starsky asked.

The captain sighed, shaking his head slowly. "Nah. Not really."

"What's up?" Hutch asked.

Dobey looked up at the blond and said, "I just got to thinking about some things today, that's all."

Starsky shot a concerned look at his partner. "Like what?"

"You know, I have thirty years in on the force today." Dobey looked tired. He said that without even a glimmer of satisfaction.

"Really?" Hutch said.

Starsky sounded surprised, too. "You're kiddin', Cap."

"Nope. Thirty years. 'S a long time."

"Congratulations. That's a big accomplishment." Hutch nodded at Starsk who agreed and offered his congratulations also.

"Yeah, congrats. Hey, you aren't thinkin' about retiring or anything, are you?" Starsky asked. He was surprised the thought had never occurred to him before this. Dobey was fifty-one years old. He could start drawing on his pension.

"You must be joking, Starsky. Cal's off to college next year and Rosie will be there before I can say 'Winnebago'. I'll probably work 'til I'm sixty-five."

Hutch smiled and said, "Besides, Cap, you'd get bored."

Dobey laughed. "Yeah, Edith would probably divorce me if I was around her house all day long. Better keep working. You sure don't want Edith mad at you."

"Hutch and me are glad to hear you're not leaving or anything. Sure would hate to have to break in a new captain."

"You'd just drive him crazy. What's been going on around here the last couple of weeks? I've never seen it this bad."

"Going on, Cap? Nothing I know of," Starsky said. Hutch admired his ability to turn on that innocent boy face. He thought he was probably the only person apart from Rachel Starsky who could really tell if he meant what he said or if he was shoveling deep.

They sat and enjoyed the first friendly conversation since the detectives cooked up their scheme to keep him off track about the party. Sometime after two-thirty, Hutch announced he had an appointment with the allergy doctor. He left, saying he'd meet Starsky at Huggy's for dinner later. Dobey returned to his office to finish up some paperwork.

At around four-thirty, Captain Dobey noticed an absence of sound outside his office. He poked his head into the deserted squad room. Then he went out to the hall for some candy from the machine. No one was in sight. He walked around the precinct and thought it was amazingly empty. Deciding to enjoy the quiet, he bought his candy bar and went back to his office.

Meanwhile, Hutch had picked up Edith and the kids and taken them to the courthouse, where they met Huggy. It took three trips to get all the food and decorations into the room Delaney had borrowed for them. Then Hutch and Edith got busy decorating, while Starsky and Delaney rehearsed their little charade. It was close to 4:30 before they were done. Huggy had just finished setting up the buffet.

"Are we about ready?" Carley asked, poking his head in.

"Yeah," Starsky said. "Everybody else except Carley and Hutch's gonna have to hide in here. Wouldn't do for Dobey to see you guys, so you stay in here and be vewy, vewy qwiet," he said in an Elmer Fudd voice, making Rosie giggle. He grinned at her.

"When Dobey comes in," Hutch said to Starsky, "I'll pound on the door and yell 'Starsky, open the door!' and that's your signal to start the fight."

Starsky nodded and glanced at Delaney. "All set, then? When're the other guys coming?"

"Any minute," Hutch said.

Starsky chuckled. "Cap'n's gonna kill us all."

"No, he won't," Edith said. "I won't let him."

Most of the other detectives in their division turned up in the next several minutes and everyone filed into the room to wait. Starsky glanced at his watch. "Okay, let's get the show on the road." Hutch and Carley went out, Starsky locked the door behind them and grinned at Delaney, who returned it.

"I hope we can sound convincing."

"Just don't really get mad, no matter what I say," Starsky said. "It's all just for show, remember."

Delaney nodded. They had quite a while to wait -- the late afternoon traffic must have delayed the captain -- before they heard a knock and Hutch's voice yelling, "Starsky! Open the damn door!"

"You two-faced, lying sack of scum!" Starsky suddenly shouted, startling Delaney. He slapped his hand on the table. "I thought I told you once, and I ain't gonna tell ya again!"

Delaney recovered quickly. "I'm a liar?" he yelled back. "Who the hell says so? You and your blond-haired hero of a partner go barging around ignoring procedure right, left and sideways just so you can get your damned names in the paper!"

"We do not!" Starsky hollered. "I don't want my name in the paper! I ain't tryin' to get votes to stay in office! You're the damned media hound! And how many times've I gotta tell ya, we don't risk our cans out there on the street catching these wise guys so you suits can let 'em go!"

Rosie was doubled over, covering her mouth with both hands to stifle her giggling, and Starsky grinned at her.

Outside, Dobey was standing frozen in place a few feet from the door, glaring at it and at Hutch impartially. "What the hell is going on?"

Carley, exhibiting fine acting abilities, hurried over and grabbed his arm. "I thought they'd made up, Captain," he said, really sounding frightened and upset. "But Delaney called Starsky over here this afternoon. Starsky called and asked Hutch to meet him down here, but they threw us both out of the room, and they started arguing and -- " he gestured helplessly at the door. "I don't know what to do. They've locked themselves in and -- "

There was a crash.

Dobey shook Carley off and stalked over to the door. Pounding on it, he bellowed, as only Dobey could, "Starsky, get your tail over here and unlock this damned door!!!"

There was no reply except the rising voices inside.

Dobey glowered at Hutch. "He's your partner!"

"I can't get him to answer me," Hutch said. "I've yelled myself hoarse."

Dobey pounded on the door again. "Starsky! If you don't open this door in two seconds, I'm gonna kick it in!"

"Don't do that, Captain," Carley said. "Let me try to find the custodian. He must have a pass key."

"I don't need a damned key!" Dobey growled. "STARSKY!"

Sudden silence descended inside the room. Dobey stepped back, ready to ram the door, when it opened, and everyone inside yelled, "Surprise!"

Dobey staggered a step backward and almost lost his balance. Hutch and Carley both caught him by the arms.

Starsky was standing there, with all the others behind him, grinning from ear to ear. "Happy anniversary, Captain," he said.

"What the hell...?" Dobey demanded, then, catching sight of his wife and children. "Edith? What are you doing here?"

She smiled, came forward and kissed him. "Thirty years is a long time," she said. "So is two weeks, when all your men are pulling jokes on you to keep you too distracted to figure out they're planning a surprise party for you."

Dobey's eyes narrowed. "You mean all this crazy stuff has been planned?"

Starsky hastily took a step backward, but Dobey's face had relaxed into a smile. Edith caught his hand and drew him into the room. As soon as he was all the way in, the detectives, at a signal from Hutch, sang, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in more or less melodious four-part harmony. Babcock was slightly off-key, but the rest managed to remember their parts. They should've, Hutch reflected, after the hours of practice he'd forced on them.

Afterward, everyone dug into the food, including the cake Huggy had ordered, which was decorated with a captain's shield and the words, "30 Years of Meritorious Service."

"I thought we agreed it would say 'Happy Anniversary, Captain Dobey,'" Starsky hissed at Huggy when he had a chance.

Huggy shrugged, his eyes twinkling. "I prefer more colorful language, my friend."

"Colorful, huh?" Starsky couldn't help smiling. He knew Huggy was sentimental underneath that streetwise exterior. "Guess what you thought up was nicer anyway. Thanks, Hug." Huggy nodded at his friend, then drifted off to take care of the food.

Edith had brought some pictures with her from her husband's long career. The guests especially enjoyed looking at photos of the captain as a young, thin uniformed officer. At one point, the captain led everyone in a toast to his dead partner, Elmo Jackson. Captain Dobey said they should have been celebrating this special evening together. Starsky and Hutch looked at each other and Hutch offered a toast to best friends.

About an hour into the party, Hutch got everyone to be quiet and gather around so they could present the captain with a gift. When the guests were all in place, Starsky said, "Cap, the team at Metro all pitched in to get you a little something."

Dobey put his hands up and shook his head, smiling. "No way. This is too much, you all did enough."

"Cap'n," Hutch interrupted him. "You have to take it or you're gonna hurt Minnie's feelings. She's the one that came up with the idea for what to get."

Minnie chimed in, "That's right, Cap. Just smile and say thank you."

"If I may continue," Starsky said with a grin. Dobey nodded, knowing when he was defeated.

Starsky handed him an envelope. Dobey accepted it and opened it. His eyes grew wide and he started to say something, but he couldn't. For once in his life, Harold Dobey was speechless. Edith took the envelope out of his hands and Starsky explained.

"That's two round trip tickets to Hawaii. We're sending you to Maui for a week."

Edith looked at him in confusion and started protesting on various levels. "David, this is too much. We can't go away for a week. What about the children? Harold will never take off a whole week."

"Yes, he will. Cap's got about a zillion vacation hours coming. Cal and Rosie will be fine. They're staying with your sister," Starsky explained.

Hutch continued, "Except for the weekend. We're taking them to Disneyland and they're spending the night at my place. Your sister wanted to go to bingo."

The Dobeys looked at each other in shock. The expressions on their faces made all the work getting the party together, collecting for the gift, and risking the big man's wrath worthwhile. The stunned captain didn't know what else to say other than, "Thank you."

When the party wound down to just a few people cleaning up the mess, Dobey motioned for the dynamic duo to come and sit with him for some conversation.

"Guess you boys are pretty proud of yourselves." The captain wasn't smiling.

Starsky answered, "Yup. Pretty terrific, huh?"

"I don't suppose either one of you would like to tell me who shut the water off to my coffee maker?"

Both detectives looked innocent and shrugged their shoulders.

"How about my magic hat? You know, the one that kept disappearing and reappearing for the past couple of weeks. Along with my coffee cup, my tape dispenser, and my car keys."

"Nope. We don't know nothin' 'bout nothin'," Hutch offered helpfully.

Dobey looked at them grimly. "If the two of you EVER pull a stunt like this again...."

Starsky interrupted, "Now, Cap. Your lovely missus swore she wasn't gonna let you hurt us."

"She did, did she?" Dobey looked increasingly severe as both cops nodded. "Harumph."

Hutch said, "Take it easy, Cap'n. All in good fun, right?"

Dobey looked flinty-eyed at Starsky and said, "All right, but I'd better never see another Mickey Spillane report on my desk. You got that, Starsky?"

"What're you looking at me for, Cap?"

If Starsky could look any more like an innocent ten-year-old, Dobey wasn't sure how. He laughed, in spite of himself. Chuckling, Dobey said, "My intrepid partner crept up the stairs to the apartment on the second floor, gun in hand, all senses on the alert."

"Hey!" Starsky complained. "Hutch wrote that."

"Sure he did. I'll bet he also wrote that one from the liquor store robbery in the rain last week. I'm sure you know the one Starsky, even though it was Hill who supposedly wrote that one."

"I don't know what you mean, Cap."

"Oh, let me see now. 'It was a dark and stormy night in the city by the sea. My partner headed for the back of the store, stealthy as a cat down the damp, littered alley. I slithered along under the storefront windows with my weapon drawn, the smell of gun oil and Old Spice strong in my nose.' You trying to tell me that Jack Hill came up with that?"

Starsky blushed a little, but said, "I'm hurt, Cap."

Hutch chimed in with, "Yeah. You didn't like it? That one was a group effort."

"Well, that bit about the 'soft California rain being unable to wash clean the sins of the city' was inspired. I can't believe you went to all this trouble. Thanks."

Huggy joined them and the captain added, "And you, Mr. Bear. The food was great. Thanks for everything."

"My pleasure, m'man."

Later that night, when the Dobey children were in bed and the house was quiet, Edith and her husband settled on the family room sofa to watch a little television. "Did you like the party, dear?" Edith asked.

"Yeah, but I still can't believe they did it."

"Why not? They respect you and they all wanted to honor you." Edith didn't understand why her husband had such a hard time seeing that.

"I guess. I swear I thought I was losing my mind over this last couple of weeks though."

"I suppose their strategy worked then. They wanted to keep you thinking about other things, so you wouldn't figure out they were planning a party."

Dobey chuckled. "Another week of that and you'd have had to come visit me up on the fifth floor at Memorial."

Edith kissed him on the cheek and said, "You'll forget all about it when you're lying on the beach with a Mai Tai in your hand."

"I think I'm going to try scuba diving," he said thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, Starsky, Hutch, and Huggy were sitting around at The Pits, talking about the party.

"You see the look on their faces when we gave them those tickets?" Starsky asked.

Huggy laughed. "Yeah, they were blown away."

"Wonder what they'll do over there." Hutch scratched his chin as he contemplated what activities the Dobeys might find interesting.

Starsky said, "Fishing, sitting on the beach, who knows?"

Hutch started to quietly chuckle.

"What?" Huggy asked him.

"Nah, never mind," the blond answered, still laughing.

Starsky elbowed him in the ribs and said, "Hey, must be somethin' for you to be laughing this hard. What?"

"Oh, I was just imagining Cap learning to snorkel or scuba dive."

All three men were laughing now. Huggy reached down near the cash register and pulled out a notepad.

"What're you doing?" Hutch asked.

"Just makin' a note to call Mrs. Marshal. Gonna make sure she gets a picture of the big dude in his scuba gear. I need some new art work to adorn my fine establishment."

"Oh, that's cold, Hug. But we love it." Starsky grinned as the three friends clinked their glasses together.

The End