THE DESIGNER LOOK
The lights turned red. Again. Every intersection
on the morning's drive to work had featured the same delay, and Hutch
resigned himself to being conspicuously late. No question this time of just
making it under the wire. The bright morning had begun badly with the realization
of last night's failure to set the alarm, followed almost at once by
Starsky's call with its transparent rationalizations for not being able to
pick him up...no gift for lying except when you're undercover... The
failure of the alarm was pushed into second place by the failure of the
blender to do more than erupt its contents over an impossibly wide area. And
getting the car started had taken another twenty hot, oily minutes.
He wondered, as he waited impatiently for the
green, what ingenious cover Starsky might, at this very moment, be creating
for him. He wondered whether he really wanted to know. With pessimism
induced by the day's bad start, he brooded over past manifestations of that
lively inventiveness, recalling the speculative looks his later-than-usual
arrival had attracted on some previous occasions.
Finding a parking slot took more time and he
estimated that the meeting must have been running for at least fifteen
minutes already. Somehow, the squadroom's inhabitants gave the strong
impression of having been hard at work for a long time, and Starsky's
absence from their desk confirmed his guess about the meeting arranged as a
follow-up to the Gutierrez case. Scheduled as a top priority,
interdepartmental discussion in depths and in detail. Decision making.
Policy conference, working out new strategies. Important -- the kind of
project which could count for a lot in such matters as promotion and career
He knocked on the door of Dobey's office and went
in without waiting for an invitation. The meeting was clearly well into its
stride, with documents and maps spread out, pinboards set up, files open,
papers being passed around. The atmosphere was businesslike. Formal, even.
With a muttered apology, Hutch looked around for a vacant chair. The only
one in evidence was small, uncomfortably molded in some unyielding plastic
substance in a design which seemed to bear little relation to the human
frame. Everyone waited while he collected it and carried it over from its
far corner, squeezed it into an inadequate space near the door.
"Detective-Sergeant Hutchinson," Dobey
announced briefly as he joined the circle.
".... Morning...better late then
never," he heard himself saying. Nobody commented on the statement.
Discussion was resumed, and Hutch tried to pick up its threads, to
He breathed deeply in a conscious effort to
collect his thoughts. His gaze traveled around the office, identifying the
various officers involved in the exercise...past Ortega... past Dobey in his
usual place...swung on past the desk...and he blinked in rapid double-take.
A vision of elegance was established just to
Dobey's right. Disbelievingly, Hutch took in the understated perfection of
the mid-grey, light-weight suit, the dazzling, whiter-than-white shirt, the
precisely knotted tie of silvery raw silk. Starsky's whole attention was
concentrated on the document in his hand as he made some pertinent point,
commanding the respectful interest of the meeting. There was a pause while
everyone except Hutch referred to the sub-section of the agenda-paper which
Starsky had just indicated.
Starsky looked up to meet Hutch's incredulous
stare, and nodded politely across the room. "Wanna share?" he
offered, holding out his own copy of the agenda. Somehow, Hutch got to his
feet and crossed over to take it. If he were to take any constructive part
in the proceedings, it could be as well to know exactly what they were here
to talk about. A thought supervened as he turned to retire to his corner and
he leaned over the desk, craning his neck to get a glimpse of his partner's
"You lost something, Hutchinson?" The
somewhat impatient enquiry brought him back to the moment. Dobey seemed --
just -- to be refraining from saying, "Don't fidget!"
He dropped the agenda-paper. Starsky leaned
easily down, retrieved it and put it back in his hand. "Klutz ..."
he murmured reprovingly.
As he returned to his place, Hutch was aware of
everyone waiting for him to be ready, for the business of the meeting to go
on. He studied the typescript in his hand, seeing, somehow superimposed upon
it, the mental picture of Starsky's plain and highly polished shoes.
With difficulty he dragged his mind back to the
questions they were there to resolve, even offered comments which, to his
vague surprise, were seriously received. He drank coffee with the others
when the tray was brought in, spilling only a little on the papers he held.
The last item was eventually dealt with, and Dobey was bringing the meeting
to a close while the man from Immigration gathered up files.
"Hang on to that one for reference --
there's a duplicate here," he said, "may be useful if you and your
-- uh -- assistant keep it temporarily."
Starsky accepted it with a courteous word of
thanks, picked up his remaining papers, said a gracious and general 'Good
morning' and retreated into the squadroom. After a moment, Hutch followed
along, not entirely certain that he was going to be able to handle this day.
Across their desk, he studied his partner again.
It was easier now to assimilate every correct and coordinated detail.
"What d'you think you're doin'?" he
Starsky looked up enquiringly.
"Coming to work like that. They're all
lookin' at ya."
Starsky preened. "Dobey likes his men to
look neat. It's my new image."
"Yeah -- well -- it's not really right for
jumping off tall buildings, buddy. You thought of that? Or for mingling
unobtrusively with the criminal world."
The telephone broke in and Hutch picked up the
receiver, listened in growing wonder.
"Yeah," he said slowly. "I'll tell
him...." He looked across at his beautiful partner as he put the phone
down. "There's a photographer downstairs -- got an appointment with
you, he says...."
Starsky stood up and smoothed a sleeve, touched
the knot of his tie. "My modeling session," he confirmed.
With a curiosity he could neither deny nor
suppress, Hutch tagged along as Starsky headed for the elevators. In the
foyer, Laura came forward eagerly, accompanied by a sad-looking man with an
elaborate camera. She greeted them warmly. "Nice of the Department to
let us do this. I promised we won't take up a lot of your time." She
surveyed Starsky with a detached, knowledgeable air. "Did I do all
that? Yes...the gray was definitely the right choice."
"Right for what?" Hutch demanded.
She spared him a moment's brief explanation.
"What the young executive is wearing." She was assessing the
foyer's potential for her professional purposes. "It'll probably be
featured next month. We want some typical city settings for the
clothes...and David here...."
Her attention switched back to Starsky and her
photographer colleague. Hutch watched, fascinated, as his partner was
arranged against the background of the rather sparse potted palms, which
were the Department's only properties for the occasion.
"Hey," Starsky asked suddenly,
"you want Hutch in the picture, too?"
She frowned slightly. "It's not that kind of
picture, David. Now...if we were doing a before and after
presentation...." Her glance absorbed Hutch in swift appraisal.
"Some other time maybe. No...just you for now... Keep still...okay,
Hutch looked on while Howard got to work,
circling his subject, taking shots from various interesting angles. A lot of
people stopped to watch. It didn't take too long before Laura was making
some final notes while her companion packed up the equipment and waited for
her to be ready to leave.
"That's it?" Starsky asked, apparently
surprised that his moment of glory should be over so soon.
"That's it. We're through. Told you it would
be comparatively painless. The clothes can be collected tomorrow, okay? We
have to rush now -- schedule running late. And thanks!" She smiled
affectionately. "Oh -- here --"
Starsky absently accepted the envelope she put
into his hand and, somewhat despondent, watched her departure.
Hutch grinned. "You have to give all this
stuff back?" he asked. "It's not yours?"
Starsky sighed and shrugged. "Was Laura's
idea. She cleared it with Dobey. You heard what she said...didn't take long
-- and after all the effort, too."
Once more, Hutch took in his partner's
scintillating splendor. "Yeah," he said, "so how about an
early lunch? You didn't ask but I didn't actually get any breakfast."
"Sure. Okay. Better dump all this
"About time. Come on, Cinderella."
Starsky stood first on one leg and then on the
other to remove the polished shoes. "My feet hurt," he informed
Hutch pathetically. "Wanna go home."
Back in the familiar comfort of his usual
idiosyncratic style, Starsky bit into the burger which Hutch had put
together while the gray suit was being packaged.
"Hey," Hutch remembered, "we might
have got steaks. You get a fee for all that?"
"Money? Should I?" It was clear that
Starsky had not considered this aspect of his venture into the warm and
wonderful world of high fashion.
"No, guess you don't," Hutch decided.
"Department's time... Just a PR stunt."
Gloomily, Starsky accepted the likelihood of the
diagnosis, but then brightened as he picked up the envelope from the coffee
table. Hutch came to lean over the sofa back, watching with unconcealed
interest as Starsky shook out the decorative vouchers, with their logo of a
well-known and expensive boutique, entitling the bearer to a selection of
items of his/her choice.
"So they pay you off in clothes, Starsk,"
Hutch commented. "She must have seen the need."
Next day, when the shift ended, the Torino came
to a halt outside the exclusive West Hollywood establishment. Hutch was
"This is the place. There you go," he
Starsky frowned. "I'm not goin' in
"Don't be dumb. No need to be scared."
"Yeah? Last time I let you con me into some
place, all I got was a headache that lasted hours."
Hutch began shepherding his reluctant companion
towards the delicate, lavender paintwork of the entrance to 'Chez Marlene'.
"They're not going to throw you out of this joint," he reassured.
"Speak English, too." He opened the door and administered a
decisive push to propel Starsky across the threshold. "You can't pass
up something like this."
Starsky turned on him a challenging look.
"It's okay," Hutch soothed. "I'm coming in with you this time
-- help you choose...."
Once inside the boutique, wrapped around in its
ambience of soft lights, soft music, soft carpeting, and welcomed by
assiduous sales staff, Starsky's doubts began to evaporate as he entered
into the spirit of the occasion, prowling along the racks and shelves, in
the intoxicating belief that almost any item could be his for the asking,
while Hutch embarked on some prowling on his own account. He drew Starsky
away from the hooded windcheaters which seemed to be exerting strong appeal.
"Knock it off," he urged. "We
don't have the time for you to try on everything in the store... Come look
He led Starsky across to the opposite rails.
"C'mon -- you have to choose from here. You need something like
this." He sorted through hangers.
"I'll help...know your size...." he
added, making selections from the dazzling display of designer clothes.
"Here --" He dropped voluminous folds
over his partner's head and turned him around to confront the triple
Starsky studied his reflected transformation, met
Hutch's enthusiastic expression in the glass. "You crazy?" he
asked mildly. "Why would I need a -- uh -- cloak?"
"It's a serape," Hutch explained
informatively. "Real style. Laura would approve."
Starsky's puzzled regard returned to the mirror.
"She wouldn't want you to pick anything ordinary," Hutch went on.
"Not the pink though -- but keep 'em coming, babe."
He substituted pale wool, subtly striped in muted
browns and russet, draping the heavy folds artistically. "There! --
willya look at that!"
Starsky looked. "I'm not sure it's me,"
"Trust me." Hutch spoke earnestly.
"It's classy. Branch out a little. An' I could always help break it in
The sales staff had now joined the act, clearly
approving, admiring, hovering expectantly. For the second time in two days,
Starsky found himself the cynosure of an attentive audience. He began to be
convinced. Hutch saw the hesitation and homed in on it.
"So give the man the piece of paper, Starsk,"
he prompted. He twitched the gift voucher from Starsky's hand, passed it to
the salesman. "Don't bother with packaging," he added. "I'll
just carry it for you like this." With the soft, striped folds over his
arm, he preceded Starsky to the car and settled himself in the passenger
In silence, Starsky pulled into the traffic
stream. In silence, he drove a couple of blocks. "You're gonna grow to
love it, Starsk," Hutch ventured.
Starsky cast a sideways glance at his newest
acquisition. A small, self-congratulatory smile showed. "Maybe it is
right for my new image," he conceded.
"It's beautiful," Hutch assured him,
"Uh -- you know there's this concert tonight? How about I just -- uh --