This story was written for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to infringe on any rights held by any holders of rights to Starsky & Hutch.
This story was originally featured in LIONS & TIGERS & ZINES #6 and is reprinted here with the author's permission. Please do not print or reproduce this story, except for your own convenience. Do not post it to lists or reprint it in zines. Please respect the author's wishes so that the fans of Starsky & Hutch will continue to enjoy this piece of "classic" fiction.
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The windshield wipers fanned frantically against the Torino's windshield as the two detectives peered into the darkness. The weather was so bad that the streets were almost empty, even the most desperate seeking shelter. After circling their beat twice the red and white car paused for coffee then proceeded to one of the numerous drainage ditches scattered through L.A. With the third storm bearing down on them in the same number of days, the drainage ditches were filling rapidly and the rushing water threaten the homeless that found shelter in culverts, under overpasses and abandoned vehicles that littered the concrete water traps.
Starsky parked the Torino near a shadowed overpass, leaving the headlights on high as Hutch bailed out into the rain, flipping up the hood of his rain jacket, turning on a high intensity lantern as he moved in front of the car.
Hutch swung under the bridge, looking for anyone that may be living or hiding underneath. The lantern beam highlighted empty cardboard boxes, visqueen rain tarps, remains of campfires, but no humans. Hutch sprinted back to the car.
Three more stops, each one empty of the people that usually lived there. As Hutch settled into the car on the last stop, Starsky handed him a towel to dry off with. "What'd ya think?"
"I think we're the only ones without the good sense to come in
out of the rain." Hutch wiped his face, ran the towel through his
dripping blond hair before struggling out of the wet jacket and starting to wipe it off.
"I agree. Let's get some coffee at Huggy's and head back to the station." Starsky started the Torino, backing it out of the last spot they'd stopped in, grumbling to Hutch about the water on his upholstery. The darkness was deeper, rain pounding harder on the roof of the car. Riverlets of mud slid across the road, mixed with trash and downed tree branches.
Hutch stared into the darkness. "Another storm like the last one and half this city gonna slide into the sea."
Starsky concentrating on his driving, didn't answer. The slap of the wiper blades didn't help his nerves any. He shoulders hurt from the tension of long hours behind the wheel. He turned the defroster up higher, trying to help his vision.
Hutch, feeling his partner's tension, leaned back in the seat. "Want me to drive?"
"In weather like this? We'd end up in the drink for sure." Starsky glanced at his partner, taking in the deliberately relaxed pose. "Besides, we're thirty minutes from the station and shift's end." Starsky shifted his attention back to the street and hit the brakes, sliding the car to an abrupt stop. Hutch banged against the dash with a yelp.
A young man was running toward them, waving frantically.
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances. Hutch grabbed his jacket while Starsky pulled his Beretta. Hutch opened the door and started to get out, followed by Starsky's low voice.
"I've got you covered."
Hutch stepped into the rain filled night. The young man fell into his arms, shaking and sobbing. "Help..please help.. they'll drown. Help."
Hutch stood the man up, holding his arms, realizing that the soaked coat was caked with mud. "Who's drowning? Where?"
"My wife..kids." He looked at Hutch, dark eyes peering out of a white, mud streaked face. "The culvert caved in..car fell. They'll drown. The car's in the water. I went for help." He gasped for breath. "Please." His legs started to collapse and Hutch swung him around to lean against the car.
"Where? How far? Can you take us there?" The headlights illuminated Hutch's face, blond hair a halo under the green hood.
Starsky, seeing that Hutch wasn't in any danger got out of the Torino, flipped up the collar of his leather jacket. "What's the problem?"
"He says his family's in a river. Let's go." Hutch pushed him into the car while Starsky climbed back in and fired the engine. Starsky picked up the radio mike and called Central as Hutch quietly got a name and location from their wet guest, which Starsky passed on. The Torino roared up a street, made a right, then left, careening to a stop at the broken edge of the roadway. The headlights disappeared into the darkness. The officers rolled out of the car, grabbing flashlights from the backseat as they went. Their guest ran to the road's edge, frantically looking into the boiling water.
"There!" He pointed to a dark station wagon, barely visible, downstream from the washed out road. Starsky and Hutch turned their lights onto the car, just able to pick out a woman and child huddled on the swamped vehicle. The woman screamed when she saw the lights, waving to attract their attention.
Starsky turned to her husband. "I called for the rescue squad and paramedics. They'll be here soon. Stay here and direct them to us." Hutch had popped the trunk of the Torino and was digging out equipment when Starsky joined him. A coil of line, flotation vest, another flashlight, lay on the ground at his feet. He stripped off his jacket, tossed the Magnum into the trunk, redonned the jacket.
"We don't have time for the rescue squad." Hutch pulled the floatation vest on over his rain jacket while Starsky picked up the coil of line and flashlight.
"I know. That car could flip or go under any second. What have you got in mind?"
Hutch slammed the trunk. "Go get them." Starsky nodded grimly as they trotted toward the rapidly growing stream. The husband was still at the edge of the disappearing embankment. He was shouting encouragement to his family. He turned to the two detectives.
"What are you gonna do?"
"Matt, we can't take a chance that the rescue squad will get here in time. One of us has got to try to get to your family. How deep was the water?" Hutch calmly tying the rope around his waist, questioned the panicky man.
"I don't know, waist deep maybe. I just barely got across. It's fast and cold, I know that."
Starsky grabbed Hutch's arm, turning the light into his partner's face. "You sure you want to do this?"
Hutch met the intense eyes. "I'm the better swimmer. You got any better ideas?"
"No. And I don't hear sirens yet. What if the rope isn't long enough?"
"Then we go to Plan B."
"Whatever that might be." Starsky turned to flaking out the rope and tying one end securely to the largest tree that was not undercut by the raging stream. Matt held the lights, one on Hutch as he headed toward the rising stream, one on the partially submerged car.
Starsky handed Hutch the last flashlight. Hutch looked at his partner long and hard. The rain had plastered the dark curls to his scalp, causing water to run down his face. "How's your knot tying skills?"
"Better than your swimming. Be careful." Starsky's heart pounded in his throat and he found it hard to submerge the fear that filled him at what Hutch was going to try.
Hutch grinned. "See ya' in a few." He waded into the raging waters, upstream from the swamped car and was immediately up to his waist in the cold rushing water. If he fell, he at least might be swept toward the vehicle. His boot covered feet felt awkwardly for rocks to use to brace against the current. Starsky played out the line as his partner inched to the car, his flashlight beam bobbing in the darkness. Matt kept his light on the car.
Starsky's heart leaped when Hutch slipped, momentarily disappearing in the water. The light from Hutch's flashlight disappeared downstream, swallowed by the darkness.
Hutch half swam, half walked the final yards, struggling with the current to reach the car, trying to dodge the flood debris. He climbed onto the back bumper, held onto the hatch handle, his legs still in the water up to his knees, and took a second to regain his breath, before turning to wave once to the support on the bank. He turned - and found his hands full of a screeching woman. Her frantic movements almost pushed Hutch off the water covered metal. He finally grabbed her arms, shook her hard, yelling.
"Shut up, lady! I'm a cop! Calm down!"
Her screams died and she quit struggling. After a moment she tried wiping the rain from her face. "Sorry." She looked at Hutch, blinking against the falling rain. "I'm sorry. I can't swim, neither can Katie, and it seems like we've been here for hours and I was afraid nobody would come." Her words stumbled over each other, her voice starting to rise in fear.
Hutch quit listening. He climbed up on the roof, pushing the frantic mother in front of him and made eye contact with a small child, huddled under a yellow raincoat. She was watching his every move, holding tight to an infant's child seat. Hutch untied the rope from his waist, began to tie it around the woman. The senseless babble stopped. She looked at Hutch, eyes wide in fear.
"I can't do this. I can't swim." She watched Hutch's hands as he tied a bowline securely, finally trapping the cold, busy fingers. "I can't do this."
"You don't have a choice, lady. My partner and your husband will pull your across. All you have to do is hold on."
"I can't do this. Save the children." Her eyes were almost glazed over with shock and barely contained panic.
Hutch wasn't listening. He took her hands and wrapped the rope around them. He finally stopped her babble by grabbing her face and forcing her to look at him. In the darkness, her face was white, streaked with rain and wet hair. Hutch found himself almost shouting to be heard over the raging water. "Listen to me. I'm gonna hold onto you until you stand up in the water. Hold onto the rope and look at your husband. He's going to pull you across."
She met his eyes, finally nodded. "You'll save the children?"
Hutch gave her a small smile. "Yes, I'll save your children. You'll have them with you in a few minutes. I promise."
Hutch's intensity finally penetrated the fear. "Okay." She swung her feet into the raging stream, took a firm grip on the line, took a deep breath as she looked at Hutch again. "Okay. I can do this."
Hutch held onto her under the arms. "The water's not over your head yet. If you slip, don't worry. Just keep your head above water and they'll pull you across. You understand?" The frightened woman nodded, looked at her child, looked at Hutch, nodded again. Hutch looked across the span of darkness and water at the lights on the other side.
"STARSKY! She's coming across." He yelled, hoping to be heard over the roaring stream.
Out of the rain filled murk he thought he heard his partner's `okay', saw the slack on the rope taken up. The woman took one step, then another. She was out of Hutch's reach.
Hutch watched the light playing on the water as it tried to find the flood victim. It finally settled on her and stayed there. She took three more steps, then slipped and disappeared. Hutch's heart leaped as the woman's head went under. He should have given her his flotation vest. It hadn't occurred to him. The light searched frantically, found her again, further downstream, being pulled diagonally across. In moments she was on the shore. Hutch let out the breath he was holding. He slid further along the roof of the car where the little girl waited in silence.
Starsky was wet to his waist but he had the woman's hands. He pulled her closer, passed her to her husband. A crowd had gathered on the stream bank. Three rescue squad volunteers were setting up generator powered lights. Another was readying a rifle-fired grappling hook while a fifth was struggling into a drysuit. Paramedics took the soaking wet woman from her husband's arms, wrapped a blanket around her and led her to the waiting ambulance.
Starsky's eyes were on the car in the stream. He could make out Hutch on the roof, holding something in yellow. The darkness swallowed the flashlight beam before it reached the car and his night vision was severely limited by the rain. He was coiling the line he'd untied from the woman's waist, readying to heave it across. Next to him, the powerful searchlights flickered and came on. Suddenly the scene was washed in cold white light. Hutch and the car were a spot of color in a mud brown swirling river of debris.
One of the rescue people touched Starsky on the shoulder. "Name's Davis. Does your man have a radio on him?"
"No." Starsky started upstream, figuring the angles for throwing the rope across. He had to make sure that when it hit the water, it would be above the car and would be swept down for Hutch to grab.
"Wait a second." Davis turned to yell over his shoulder. "Tom! Do your thing."
Starsky turned to see `Tom' aiming his rifle into the river, grappling hook and small cable attached.
"How good is he?" Starsky was visualizing the hook missing the target, or worse, striking his partner.
"He's an ace." Tom stroked the trigger and the hook went flying. The line played out behind it and everyone heard the impact. On the car roof, Hutch reached down, grabbed the line and tied it around the door frame. Expertly, Tom reeled in the floating line, drawing it tight and tieing it off to the squad's vehicle.
"Now what?" Starsky asked, as a basket was loaded with a walkie-talkie and attached to a pulley rigged on the line. One of the men activated a remote control and gears engaged on the line, sending pulley and basket across the water. Starsky saw Hutch reach down, snag the basket and contents. Davis handed Starsky the other unit. "Go ahead."
Starsky keyed the mike. "Hutch, you read me?"
The answering voice was a relief. "Loud and clear, Starsk. Who do we thank?"
"Rescue squad. What's your status?"
Static filled the open mike for a moment. "I've got two kids, one about a month old in a car seat. Ask our experts if this line will hold a child."
"Stand by." He turned to Davis. "Well?"
"Should hold the infant without the car seat. What's a month old baby weigh, 10 pounds, 12 at the most."
Starsky passed that along, waited. The mike keyed from Hutch's end. "Okay, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna wrap the baby in my life vest and put it in the basket. I'll signal when I'm ready."
Hutch handed the walkie-talkie to the little girl and smiled. "Hold this." The child took the radio, eyes never leaving Hutch as he unzipped the life vest. Without its warmth, the cold penetrated quickly and he shivered. Which made him wonder how cold the child was. Hutch lifted the infant out of the car seat with one hand and wrapped it in the vest. The vest dwarfed the infant and Hutch finally turned the vest around, sliding the infant's legs through the arm holes. He took off his belt, wrapped it around the vest in the middle and pulled it as tight as he dared.
Until that moment, the infant hadn't made a sound. But now, exposed to the cold rain and handled by a stranger, it started to wail. Hutch ignored the cries and tucked it into the basket, wedging several blankets from the car seat around it. He turned to Katie.
"What do you think?"
Katie stared at him, silent. Hutch gently took the radio from her. "Starsky?"
"I'm going to attach the pulley. Standby." Overhead, a helicopter search light suddenly lit the sky, jerkily illuminating the car, throwing it into shadow and then finding it again. Hutch reached down from his perch on the roof and settled the basket and its cargo on the line. The basket was just inches from the water. He keyed the mike. "Take it."
The little pulley's gears engaged and the basket skated across the rushing stream, the infant's cries growing fainter. Occasionally the basket brushed a wave but it kept making progress. A downed tree rushed by it, but didn't snag the basket or cable. Hutch watched it until he was sure that it was within reach of the rescuers. One down, one to go. He keyed the mike again. "Starsk."
"Here. The baby made it."
"Good. Listen up. There's no way this kid can make it across by herself. We'll have to do it together."
"What's your plan?"
"Have the rescue squad put two life jackets in the basket, tie a rope to it and send it back. I'll carry her over on my back."
There was a long pause as Starsky relayed the instructions. Hutch waited, watching the water rise, shivering. He'd never thought California rains were cold before. He felt the car rock under him. They were running out of time.
"Hutch, they say a chopper's enroute. ETA, ten minutes."
"What about the one overhead?" Hutch wiped the rain from his face for a second. If he was cold, the little girl must be worse.
"That's the local TV station. The pilot can't help us, no training, no equipment." Starsky's static filled voice was bitter.
"We can't take the chance, Starsk. The car's beginning to move around. Ten minutes from now it might not be here."
Even over the roar of the water, Hutch could hear his partner yelling. After a moment, the basket started across, slower this time as the drag of the rope hindered its progress.
"Hutch, everything's in the basket. We have a diver over here. He'll meet you halfway. Be careful, babe."
Hutch acknowledged his partner's concern. The basket arrived and Hutch grabbed the vests, untied the line. He turned to the little girl.
Katie was huddled on the car roof, fingers dug into the window ledges. Gently, Hutch peeled a hand free and slid the arm into the vest, then repeated it. He talked to her as he worked, trying to reassure.
"We're going for a little ride, Katie. Ever play horsey with your daddy? Ever ride piggy back?"
Katie nodded. Hutch zipped the blue vest, cinched up the ties to try and make it fit. He handed the radio to the child, shouldered into his own vest. He took the rope, tied it around his waist.
Underneath them, the car rocked, then slid several feet. The line securing the car to the rescue squad vibrated with tension, then snapped, sending the basket into the water and careening downstream, into the darkness.
Katie cried out and jumped into Hutch's arms. He held her tight, hoping their fragile perch would hold together just a few minutes longer.
"Hutch, you okay?" Starsky's voice sounded frightened over the radio. Hutch dug the radio from Katie's grasp.
"Yeah, Starsk. Water's starting to move the car around. We're running out of time."
"It looked that way from over here too."
"Guess it's time for a little swim. I'll tuck the radio into my vest. See ya in a few minutes."
"I'll be waiting."
Starsky grabbed the rope, backed up by two of the rescue squad. The beacons and the helicopter spotlight picked up Hutch's movements as he slid into the water, the child on his back. The rope was tight in Starsky's hands and he pulled, hand over hand, his eyes never leaving the blond head that was barely visible in the water.
Hutch felt for footing, realized that he wasn't able to walk in the fast current. Katie's grip around his neck was almost choking him. She was crying, the water was cold, numbing him and her, adding to Hutch's exhaustion. Their best hope was the men on the embankment. He took another step, felt his foot slip and they fell, disappearing under the water.
Starsky saw Hutch go under and pulled harder, straining in the jerky light to see. Hutch's head popped up for a moment, with the girl's, then disappeared again. The resistance on the line was the only indication that they were still there.
Hutch's head broke free. The little girl was screaming and Hutch tried to reassure her. But all he could do was cough and hold on to the life line. He felt a leg hit a rock, his hip hit another. They went under again.
Starsky yelled when Hutch and the girl disappeared, a wordless sound of rage and fear. The life line was taunt, leading into the darkness downstream from where the car was lodged. Someone swung the floodlight around, picked up the figures in the water, Hutch's blond head and reflective tape on a vest visible momentarily. They kept pulling. The diver waded out, secure in a harness and life line, assisting on the rescue, ready to grab Hutch as soon as he was close enough.
Hutch's grip slipped and their weight was momentarily on the sling around him, cutting into his back. He felt Katie's grip slacken and he just managed to grab her hand before she slipped from his back. He nestled her to his chest, letting go of the rope completely to hold her. The sling slid up under his arm- pits, biting into the soft flesh and sawing against fabric. Facing downstream he relaxed slightly, trying to float and let the rescuers to the work. He bounced against another rock.
The lights were getting brighter. He could hear voices. Suddenly someone yelled at him. STARSKY! He turned his head, got a faceful of muddy water, but managed to see someone in the water, reaching for him. He struggled to reach the diver, fingers reaching, slipping, then finally locking on a wrist.
"Got you!" the diver cried. Hutch shifted his grip on the girl while the diver held onto him. His feet touched bottom and the bite of the rope eased on his chest. Hands were reaching for him, voices babbling around him. The girl disappeared from his arms. Someone was helping him from the water, up the embankment, unzipping the life vest. A blanket was draped around his shoulders.
He finally focused on his partner's face. Starsky was grinning, eyes bright. He finished unzipping the vest, peeled it off his partner. Hutch managed a small smile, then went to his knees, coughing. "Hey, buddy." He coughed again, caught his breath. "We did it. How's the kid?"
"Alive." Starsky kneeled in front of his waterlogged partner, took the blanket and toweled the muddy water from Hutch's face. "You okay? You look like something the cat dragged in."
"Think so. Swallowed a lot of water."
"I bet. Let's have the medics look you over." He took Hutch's arm and levered him to his feet, sliding an arm around Hutch's waist as he helped him to one of the paramedic units. Starsky eased him down on the wide bumper as a EMT hovered close.
"How are you feeling?" the paramedic stuck a cold stethoscope against Hutch's skin, causing the shivering man to shake harder.
"Cold." Hutch glared at the EMT.
Starsky knelt in front of Hutch, keeping one hand on his partner's arm. "He said he swallowed a lot of water."
"I'm not surprised." The medic listened to Hutch's lungs and heart, ran his hands over the blond head, feeling for any lumps. "I recommend that you take something to make you empty your stomach. This water probably has a lot of stuff in it that's not good for you. Everything sounds pretty normal. Any aches?"
Hutch leaned his head against the truck. "Yeah, I hit both legs on several rocks."
Starsky started rolling up a pants' leg The paramedic took the other one. Several bruises were starting to show. The paramedic skimmed a few of the worst ones, feeling the knots underneath. "Some of these could use some ice to reduce the swelling." He rolled down the wet, gray material. "Once you get warm, put some cold packs on the bad ones. You're gonna be sore tomorrow." He patted Hutch on the shoulder. "You did a good job tonight."
Hutch nodded. Starsky grinned. "That's what White Knights are for."
The crowd was beginning to thin out as the rescue squad started putting away equipment. Matt pushed his way around several people and bounced to a stop in front of them.
"Starsky. Hutch. Thank you. I don't know how to repay you. If there's anything I can ever do - "
They tried to brush off the thanks. Finally Matt grabbed Starsky's hand. "Come on, my wife wants to thank you both."
The two detectives made their way through the mud and darkness to the other ambulance. Inside, Matt's wife and children were being examined.
"Honey, I want you to meet the cops that saved your life." Matt climbed into the ambulance, grasped his wife's hand. The woman, draped in a blanket and holding the baby on her lap, pushed her dirty wet brown hair from her face and smiled a tired smile.
"Michelle, this is Starsky" pointing at Hutch "and this is Hutchinson" pointing at Starsky. She leaned forward and took Hutch's hand.
"I'm Hutch, he's Starsky." It was an old routine.
"I don't have the words. `Thank you' seems so inadequate." She grasped her daughter's hand, nodded to Katie. "She's been telling me that you kept her from being scared."
Katie flew into Hutch's arms, hugging him tightly. The paramedics and Starsky chuckled at Hutch's blush. The little girl pulled away from Hutch's arms and looked him in the face, grinning. "Thank you, Mr. Policeman."
"You're very welcome." Hutch hugged her back, then settled her next to her mother. "She's a very brave little girl, Michelle."
"I know." Michelle picked up the infant. "This is Carrie. I'm sure if she could, she'd thank you too." She took her husband's hand. "If there's anything we can do for you, just let us know. Anything. Ever."
"I'm glad everything worked out okay." Hutch shook Matt's hand, accepted Michelle's kiss on the cheek and stood aside while Starsky got the same treatment.
Starsky turned toward his partner. He saw a weary figure, soaked, mud covered and shivering. "Come on, let's get you home." He slid his arm around Hutch's waist, taking an arm over his shoulders. They had to walk quite a distance over the rain soaked ground, stepping over downed trees and around boulders. They endured the back slaps of the rescue squad and fire department. Overhead, the chopper peeled off to attend the next emergency.
The closer they got to the Torino, the more of Hutch's weight Starsky supported. Starsky opened the door and settled his partner into the passenger seat. "Easy there." He swung Hutch's feet into the car, closed the door. Running around and hopping in, he fired the engine, revved it up and turned on the heat, aiming the heating vents onto his soaking wet partner. In the distance, a tinge of pink heralded a new day. Starsky was surprised. He hadn't realized the rescue had taken most of the night.
"Zebra Three to Central."
"Go ahead, Zebra Three."
"Log us out at 0545. We're heading home."
"Just a moment, Zebra Three. Standby for Captain Dobey."
Starsky groaned. Now what? Counting the rescue, they'd been on duty for nearly 24 hours without a break.
"Starsky, where the hell have you been? We've been calling for hours."
"Sorry, Cap'n. We were tied up with a rescue."
"So every network on TV has been covering live. Are the two of you okay?"
Starsky growled. "If you knew where we were and what we were doing, why'd you ask?"
"Don't answer my questions with a question, Starsky. We didn't know who was involved, the reporters didn't have the cops' names."
Starsky mentally cursed all TV reporters who loved live coverage. "Hutch and I are fine. Nothing a warm shower and few hours sleep won't fix."
"Very well. Log out and I'll see you tonight."
"Roger, Cap'n. Zebra Three, logging out and heading home." He unkeyed the mike and after a second, turned off the police radio. The car was becoming uncomfortably warm and Starsky cracked a window.
"Long night," Hutch mumbled. "Good thing the TV chopper didn't spot your striped tomato or we'd still be on the river bank." He struggled to sit up straighter.
"Yeah, well, Dobey can answer the media questions." Starsky reached out a hand, wrapped it in the rapidly drying blond locks. "Now, honestly, how do you feel?"
Starsky's immediate action was to slide the car into the first parking lot he saw and bring it to a screeching halt. Hutch bailed out of the car and was violently sick. After a few moments, Hutch sagged back into the passenger seat and Starsky grabbed an arm to pull him the rest of the way into the car.
"Well, at least you got rid of the river water."
Hutch leaned against the headrest, ghostly pale in the dome light, panting slightly. "Good thing. Now I only have to worry about dysentery." He slammed the door.
Starsky pulled into the parking lot at his apartment. Hutch opened an eye. "This isn't my place."
"Mine's closer. Plus I don't think you should be alone tonight - or today - whatever it is. Come on."
He went around to Hutch's door, pulled him up out of the seat. Hutch looked at him. "I'm not helpless you know."
"Really? Could've fooled me. You're not doing too well on your own right now." Hutch made a move to stand on his own, grimaced as his aching legs took his weight. Starsky grabbed him as he stumbled. "See?"
The stairs were torture.
Inside Starsky eased him down at the dining room table. "Start getting out of those wet clothes while I run you a bath and put on a tea kettle." Starsky hustled around, filling a teakettle, turning on the bath water, gathering towels and a bath robe for his partner.
Hutch bent down, tried unlacing his hiking boots. The laces were caked with mud and he finally wiggled out of them, tossing them in the direction of the trash can. So much for his best hiking boots. The shirt was next and it was thrown that direction too.
The teakettle whistled. Starsky hurried into the kitchen, finding mugs, hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. He sat a steaming mug in front of Hutch. "Your bath's ready. Can you make it on your own?"
"Yeah." He took the mug and staggered into the bathroom, closing the door.
Hutch eased into the hot water with a groan. He hurt all over. Both legs, one hip and arm were almost covered in blue marks. He could feel a scrape across his back and another one under his arms from the sling. The warm water was returning feeling to his body, along with the pain. He turned off the faucet and leaned against the wall.
"Yeah," came the faint reply from the other room.
"Can you fix up a couple of ice packs and find me some aspirin?"
Hutch sipped his hot chocolate and washed the river from his bruised body.
Starsky threw several wet cloths into the freezer, dumped ice cubes into two plastic bags. He found a bottle of aspirin in the kitchen and rapped on the bathroom door on the way into the bedroom. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Be out in a minute." The shower started as Starsky headed for the bedroom, struggling out of his damp shirt as he went. Passing the mirror on the bedroom door, he caught a glimpse of himself and stopped. He was muddy to the waist and had been tracking mud all over the place. With a stifled curse he kicked off his blue sneakers and mud filled socks, stripped off the muddy jeans and put on a pair of running shorts.
The bathroom door opened and Hutch emerged, Starsky's blue robe tied around him. Starsky stared, mouth open.
"Jesus, Hutch. Your legs."
"Yeah, I know. Pretty bad, huh?"
Starsky leaped to his partner's side, steering him toward the bedroom. He eased Hutch down on the bed. "I've got some ice ready and here's aspirin and a glass of water." He handed Hutch the bottle of pills and the glass before disappearing into the kitchen. He returned with two bags of ice cubes and several towels that he'd placed in the freezer earlier. He looked at the huge swollen blue marks, especially around Hutch's knees. "I don't know which ones are worse." He draped a towel across each knee, added ice to an ankle.
Hutch took the last ice pack and nestled it against his hip on top of the robe. He gasped at the cold and pressure. Starsky grimaced at the sound.
"You're gonna hurt tomorrow, buddy. Maybe next time we'll leave the rescue of fair damsels to the experts."
"Next time you can go swimming instead of me."
Starsky added a couple more pillows behind Hutch and stood back to survey his partner's repose. "If you're comfortable, I'm gonna go take a shower."
Hutch nodded and leaned back on the pillows, eyes closed.
Starsky toweled his hair dry, feeling warm and clean for the first time in what seemed like days. He was tired but it was a good feeling. He and Hutch had done a good deed. Somewhere, a family would always feel good about policemen. In this day and time, that was an accomplishment. He draped a towel around his lean hips and headed for the kitchen and a beer. Hutch was sound asleep on the bed and Starsky closed the bedroom curtains. He threw a couple of blankets on the couch, closed the living room drapes and stretched out, finishing his beer. It was good to be home.
Hours later, the ringing phone woke Starsky. He fumbled with the coffee table, found the phone and pulled it under the blankets. "Yeah?"
"Turn on the TV, channel 2." Huggy's voice.
"Uh?" Starsky's eyes were closed. The voice was fuzzy in his ears.
"Turn on the TV, Starsk. Channel 2."
"Why?" He stumbled from the couch, found the proper buttons, stumbled back.
"You and Hutch are heroes, my man. Only they haven't figured out your names yet."
Starsky cracked an eye, watched as helicopter shot footage showed Hutch on top of the car, baby in his arms, lowering it to the basket, and basket speeding across the swollen stream.
"How come we haven't been identified?" Starsky mumbled into the phone.
"The family just got released from the hospital. Your anonymity is about to be blown." Huggy chuckled. "Ready for your fifteen minutes of fame and fortune?"
Starsky sank back into the blankets. "Thanks Hug. I'll call Dobey and tell him to keep quiet."
"Too late. But good luck anyway." The phone went dead.
Starsky got back up. The televison was showing Hutch and the little girl being pulled from the water by the rescue squad and Starsky. Starsky clicked it off and ran his fingers through his hair. "Great." He dialed the precinct and asked for Dobey.
"Starsky. I just saw the television broadcast."
"Well, I've got two reporters downstairs right now wanting to interview the `two brave officers'. The couple did an interview about an hour ago and they gave out your names."
"Wonderful. If we get our mugs plastered all over the place we won't be any good as undercover cops."
"Don't you think I know that?" Dobey's voice yelled over the phone. "I'm going to do this interview and explain that as undercover officers you'd prefer your privacy. With this storm raging, another rescue will take the media's attention in a few hours. You guys lay low for a day or two."
"You're giving us a couple of days off? I'm touched."
"Don't be. How's Hutch? He was in that water a long time."
"Asleep. He was sick earlier but once he got rid of water in his stomach he seemed okay. He's really banged up though. I think he hit every rock in the river when we pulled him across.
"Well, take care of him. And if I were you, I'd park that Torino somewhere away from your apartment. Everybody that knows you, knows that car."
"Guess you're right. I'll contact you later. Bye."
Starsky hit the receiver button, then dialed and ordered pizza for two.
Hutch's voice came from the bedroom. "Was that Dobey?"
"Yeah. Looks like the media wants to interview a couple of heroes." He walked into the bedroom "How you feeling?"
"Better." Hutch started to sit up and groaned. "Nothing a new body won't fix."
Starsky picked up the towels and melted ice packs. "By the looks of your legs I agree with you."
Hutch glanced down at his legs and shook his head.
"I ordered pizza, should be here in a few minutes. I'm gonna move my car out of sight." He tossed Hutch a small overnight bag that contained a change of clothes. "Get dressed."
Hutch moved gingerly to the couch. There wasn't a muscle that wasn't hurting. He wasn't going to be very mobile for the next several days. Carefully, he propped his legs on the coffee table and studied them. What a mess. Good thing it was winter and he wouldn't be out in shorts for awhile.
Starsky charged through the door, pizza in hand. "Dinner is served." He grabbed plates and beers out of the kitchen, deposited everything on the coffee table.
As they ate, Starsky explained Dobey's phone call and offer of a couple of days off. "So what do we do? I don't think you want to hang around here for two days. The weather is still terrible and you're not up for anything athletic. That eliminates a cabin in the woods."
Hutch finished his beer and leaned his head back on the couch. "How about Vegas?"
Starsky choked on his beer. "Vegas? What brought that on?"
"Or Reno." Hutch rolled his head to look at his partner. "How about O'Brien and Rafferty take a little holiday? A little room service, a little gambling, take in a few shows."
Starsky grinned from ear to ear. "I do like your thinking, partner."
"Call Huggy and see if you can borrow his Caddy. We'll swing by my place, grab some different clothes and get out of town."
Starsky reached for the phone. "And a wheelchair for you."
"A wheelchair? I'm just bruised, not crippled."
"And not able to move very fast. This way you can keep up with me." Starsky dialed the phone. "Hug, need a favor. Your Caddy and a wheelchair." A long pause as Starsky listened. "Yeah, that's right. Drop them off at my place." Shorter pause. "Twenty minutes is great. Thanks, Hug." He dialed another number. "Cap'n Dobey please. I'll hold." He glanced at Hutch, grinning. "Cap'n, Starsky. O'Brien and Rafferty are going to Reno for a few days." He listened. "Yeah, they're driving a white Caddy." Pause. "No, I don't know where they're staying. We'll let you know. Bye." Starsky hung up.
"Look out, Reno, here we come."