"Hey, you notice who's here?"
At Hutch's question, Starsky turned around from
the little group who were watching the burgers cooking on the barbecue. He
looked as Hutch gestured with his beer can to where, several yards away
Minnie was in conversation with a blonde visitor to the Departmental picnic,
and recognized their colleague's companion.
"Jane," he confirmed.
At that same moment, Jane Hutton glanced in their
direction and returned Starsky's wave. They went across to join her and
"Well, look who's here!" Starsky put an
arm around her shoulders. "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
"You mean when you informed me you were a
sex maniac?" she inquired.
"Be careful," Hutch cautioned.
"Can you be sure he's changed?" He turned to Minnie, adding,
"You know these two met at Cabrillo State?"
They laughed as Starsky observed, "You look
a lot healthier than you did the last time I saw you."
"Right. I'm fine. Now." She looked at
Hutch. "How about you?"
"No problem. Okay again."
"Sounds like all three of you had a lucky
escape," Minnie said. "Jane's been telling me about the Cabrillo
"I didn't know you two knew each
other," Starsky said.
"We didn't till a half-hour ago," Jane
answered. "Captain Dobey told me where you'd be when I couldn't locate
you in the squadroom, and he called the Academy so they'd know I was
expected. So I just came over here."
"Just can't stay away from us, huh?"
"It's called information gathering. The
paper's going to run a whole page feature on this case. My big break."
She produced her camera. "I'll need some pictures, too." She
looked around, taking in the festive scene. "I wasn't expecting
anything as colorful as this at the Police Academy. Looks like a
"Minnie's birthday," Starsky said in
explanation. "Happy Birthday, Minnie."
"Good excuse for a party," Minnie put
in, "especially with the Cabrillo affair to celebrate as well."
Tall trees enclosed the stone-flagged picnic
area, extending into leafy shadow along the line of the stepped pathway
which led higher up the slope. Though it was still daylight, a string of
colored lights glittered above a 'Happy Birthday' banner. A trestle table
had been set up next to the barbecue with a large, decorated cake as
centerpiece among all the other goodies.
"Picnic," Starsky announced, "LAPD
style. Everyone's here except the ones minding the store. Come and
"It's your big moment, Minnie," Hutch
told her. "Look -- they want you. It's cake-cutting time."
They moved over to the big table and Minnie
performed the little ceremony while her well-wishers sang their greetings.
"This is nice," Jane commented as she
snapped the happy scene. "I need a picture of you two," she added
to the detectives. "There -- that's a good background right there by
"For the press?" Hutch asked as they
assumed the position. "C'mon, Starsk -- that bun doesn't give it any
dignity. Put it down for a minute."
The four of them adjourned then to the level
ground, and settled, with drinks and birthday cake, at one of the small
tables which stood there. The vast stone outcrops and the steps provided
seats for others.
"Those trees...." Jane said. "Some
of those must have been here before the Police Academy was ever thought of.
I never imagined there was a place like this on the other side of that
"It's a good place for parties -- barbecues,
picnics -- whatever," Starsky said. "It gets used like this quite
"So -- still no regrets about undercover
work?" Hutch asked.
"It went with my job. But there were some
scary times," Jane confessed. "anyway, admit it -- you must have
thought so, too?"
"It had its moments." He shared a look
with Starsky, remembering.
Remembering that sense of being caught up,
trapped, in a system which rejected human values, Hutch knew he'd never lose
the memory of those bleak moments at the end of the Cabrillo day when,
regardless of individual choice or need, the room lights were switched off,
and he'd had to leave Starsky, alone and vulnerable, imprisoned in that
room. Undercover work was nothing new to them, but the Cabrillo set-up had
been close to depriving them of all initiative, making it hard to keep even
one step ahead.
Hutch remembered the hurried, urgent exchanges
when, doubtful of his ability to keep Starsky safe, his choice would have
been to call it off. He'd wanted to contact Dobey, tell him they'd had
enough, that the plan wasn't working. Starsky had listened to his doubts.
Every trace of the undercover role was shed in seconds. Starsky had lain
there, unable to move more than his head, and had decisively talked down
every argument that Hutch could find to offer...immobile yet very much in
charge of that situation, shoring up with his own determination Hutch's
reluctant resolution. It was not the first time, Hutch reflected, that drugs
and needles had encroached directly on their lives, but, as always, Starsky
had fought back, challenging the menace -- and winning out.
His partner's counter-arguments that night in
Cabrillo State had been characteristic of the refusal to abandon those who
needed them, depended on them, who would lose out if this particular
undercover assignment came to nothing, all of it underpinned by the unspoken
commitment to protect and serve.
Afterwards, going over the events, drafting the
case report, they'd talked about that turning-point moment in the Cabrillo
"You wouldn't leave them, would you?"
Hutch had mused.
Starsky hadn't contradicted that. "No. So?
Like who else? I could remind you of a few times when you -- anyway, they
were friends of mine then -- I'd gotten to know them."
They both knew that neither of them could have
backed out, allowing Matwick to pursue his kind of experimentation.
"You always have time for the nothings, don't you?" Hutch had said
and had met Starsky's answering shrug and his, "Is there a choice?
Maybe it's something I sorta caught from you."
The shadows were beginning to lengthen now.
Someone switched on more tree lights, brilliant against the midnight blue
sky. Jane breathed a satisfied sigh. "I've enjoyed this." She
paused. "It's all so different from Cabrillo. I guess the same routine
going on there right now."
"Not really," Hutch demurred. "We
did make some differences."
Starsky had been silent for some minutes. Then --
"Wait -- I got an idea. Why don't we fix up another party? But this
time we take the party to them? We can't exactly invite them here." He
looked at Hutch, enthusiasm mounting. "We could get a cake --
decorations -- streamers -- everything. It has to be somebody's birthday
there." A thought struck him. "Where's the best place to pick up
half a dozen cockroaches?"
"You want to go back there?" Jane
"For something like this - yeah, I do."
He looked at Hutch again. "Okay?"
Hutch smiled agreement. "Okay. Sure. Let's
do it, partner."