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    "Starsky, I look stupid!"

    "No way Hutch. How many times have I gotta tell ya, you look terrific. Besides," Starsky smiled gleefully, pulling at the white, fluffy cotton that adorned his partner’s face, "that beard kinda suits ya." He released his hold and the beard snapped back into place.

    "Ouch!" Hutch cried. "That’s not funny." He rubbed at his chin as he continued. "Why do I let you talk me into these things?"

    "Because way down...deep really love Christmas. And because you know how much I hated letting those kids down this year."

    "Hey buddy, you didn’t let them down. You only left hospital a few weeks back. The Doctor was right. You still have to take it easy."

    "Yeah, yeah," Starsky agreed reluctantly. "It’s just, doing this for the kids every year,. well, it kinda makes Christmas special ya know."

    Hutch smiled warmly. "Yeah I know," he said.

    He also knew that this Christmas would be special - because Starsky had survived James Gunther’s assassination attempt and would be there to share it with him!


    At the front of the stage, Captain Dobey’s voice boomed out loudly. "Welcome everyone to our Precinct family Christmas party. I know how much you kids are looking forward to meeting Santa and I just got word that he’ll be with us as soon as he’s parked his Reindeer."

    A large cheer arose from the crowd of exuberant children sitting in the audience.

    Starsky peered around the stage curtain. "Hey," he called triumphantly, "you gotta full house out there this afternoon."

    "Really," Hutch responded nervously.

    "Yeah. But don’t worry partner," Starsky grinned. "You’re gonna knock ‘em dead. As long as you remember 'Ho, ho, ho' comes before 'Merry Christmas' you’ll be fine."

    "Starsky...did anyone ever tell ya you ought to be on the stage with that comic repartee?"

    "Yeah as a matter of fact...remember Sammy Grosvenor? He once told me I’d’ve knocked ‘em dead in Vaudeville."

    Hutch shrugged his shoulders. "I rest my case," he said.

    "Okay kids," Dobey called out over the raucous crowd. "I think Santa’s just arrived, so let’s all get ready to give him a great big hand.... don’t forget he’s travelled all the way from Lapland to be with us today."

    "Okay partner that’s my cue to get outta here," Starsky said, turning to his friend. "Oh and by the’re gonna enjoy this moment of phoney euphoric sentimentalism."

    As the curtain opened a great cry of excitement erupted from the audience. There sat Hutch in the middle of a snow covered grotto dressed in a Santa Claus costume. A large Christmas tree, decked with pretty lights and ornaments, stood immediately behind him, whilst an assortment of toy woodland animals lay scattered at his feet. But it was the large sack leaning against his chair that was most enthralling; it was overflowing with colorfully wrapped presents!

    Starsky smiled to himself as he joined the audience at the front of the stage and watched the children jumping around excitedly, waiting for their chance to talk with Santa.

    "Now you all know the score," Dobey addressed the children. "When Santa calls out your name I want you to climb those stairs carefully to go get your present."

    Starsky helped himself to a small glass of punch at the refreshment table and sat down to watch the entertainment. He was looking forward to the next few weeks; pay-back time for the previous year when Hutch had teased him incessantly for donning the Red Suit.

    Rosie Dobey sat down in the chair next to him. "Hi Uncle Dave," she said.

    "Hi ya Rosie. What ya gonna ask Santa for this year?"

    "Oh come on," she replied. "Only kids believe in Santa Claus and I’m not a kid anymore. I’ll be ten next year."

    "Oh I see.... Ten, huh. Well, if you don’t believe in Santa," Starsky nodded toward the stage, "who’s that sitting up there?"

    "Uncle Ken," Rosie responded matter-of-factly. "So, Uncle Dave, how come you’re not playing Santa this year? We all thought you were real good at it last year."

    "Sounds like I blew my cover in a big way. Just how many is 'we'?" Starsky queried.

    "Just me, Bobby, and Eddie Swaine . And you didn’t answer my question."

    "Well, Hutch thought it was about time he gave it a shot. Besides you know how much he loves getting into the Christmas Spirit!"

    Rosie glared back in disbelief.

    "Not buying it, huh?" Starsky grinned sheepishly. "Okay.... It’s just that my doctor told me to take it easy for a while, so Hutch thought it would be better if he helped out this year. Besides I think he’s kinda good at it, don’t you?" Starsky smiled, as he watched his partner discussing Christmas wish lists with Minnie Kaplan’s four-year-old nephew, Joshua. Distracted for a moment, he was totally unprepared for Rosie’s next question.

    "Uncle Dave," she said, "why did those men shoot you?"

    It took him a few moments to recover, but then Starsky replied, "They were paid to do it, Rosie, by someone who was real mad at Hutch and me for busting up his operation."

    "Was his name Gunther?" Rosie continued to question.

    "Yeah . How d’you know about him?"

    "I heard Daddy talking to Mommy about it one night just after you got shot. Guess they thought I was in bed asleep, but I came down to get a glass of milk and that’s when I overheard that you’d...." Rosie tailed off.

    "What did you overhear, honey?" Starsky asked gently.

    "Well, Daddy was talking to Mommy about what had happened.... About you being shot and he was very upset.... I think he was crying. Anyway that’s when I heard him say that you’d died in the hospital, but the doctor had managed to bring you back to life. Is that true Uncle Dave? Did you die?"

    Starsky had not discussed the shooting with anyone else apart from Hutch, Dobey, and Huggy, and so it had not occurred to him that others had been affected by it. He was aware, however, that this little girl had a need to discuss the situation; had been waiting to do so, in fact, ever since the night she’d overheard that conversation. And so he felt he owed it to her to respond to the question.

    "Yeah, it’s true.... The doctor says my heart stopped beating...just for a little while, but then they were able to get it started again."

    Starsky saw the look of concern in his young friend’s face and slipped his arm around her shoulder. "Hey, pumpkin," he smiled. "I’m okay now, you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be back on that stage again next year. After all, schweetheart," he continued, attempting an imitation of Humphrey Boggart, "my Santa Claus is renowned throughout the whole of Bay City."

    Rosie relaxed into Starsky’s embrace and laughed with relief. "That was the worse John Wayne imitation I ever heard!"

    "John Wayne!" he replied, with a look of indignation. "That, I’ll have ya know was Humphrey Boggar ...and...if ya carry on insulting me like that I’m gonna tell the Christmas Blintz up there," he nodded toward Hutch, "not to give ya your present!"

    "You wanna know a secret?" Rosie whispered into Starsky’s ear.

    Looking inquisitively at his Captain’s young daughter he replied. "Yeah, sure.... What?"

    "I already got what I wanted for Christmas," she said as she reached up to kiss Starsky on the cheek.


    They sat together for a short while, both needing to share the moment, until Hutch pulled Rosie’s present from the sack and she marched up onto the stage in her best "I don’t really believe in Santa Claus" fashion. She had been the last of the children to collect a present and all now expected Santa’s visit to be at an end. But Hutch delved into the sack one more time and pulled out the last colorfully wrapped box.

    "I wonder who this is for?" he called out, and all began to look quizzically around the room.

    Holding open the gift tag Hutch called out the name that was printed on it. "David Michael Starsky."

    A great cheer erupted and all rose to applaud an embarrassed Starsky as he made his way up onto the stage. Hutch held out the present and smiled smugly. "Ho, ho, ho...Merry Christmas," he said.

    "I’ll get ya for this," Starsky mouthed, as he lifted the gift from his partner’s hands.

    "Hey Starsky," a voice called out. "Ain’t ya gonna sit on Santa’s knee and tell him what you want for Christmas?"

    The audience laughed in encouragement. Hutch looked nervously at his partner as he noted the gleam in Starsky’s eye. He shook his head. " wouldn’t?" he said.

    "Wanna bet?" came the reply as Starsky leapt onto Hutch’s lap and, mimicking the actions he’d witnessed earlier from little Josh Kaplan, wrapped his arms around his friend’s neck. "So Santa," he said. "Sponsored any trees lately!?"