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"Soup, sir?" the waiter asked. "It's Clam Chowder today, and the chef assures me it is very good."
Hutch felt the color drain from his face. "No, thank you. I'll start with the avocado."
"Very good, and you, sir?" the waiter continued, turning to face Starsky.
"I'll try the soup, seeing as it comes so highly recommended."
"An excellent choice—perhaps you would care to contemplate the main course whilst we prepare your hors d'oeuvres."
The lanky waiter turned on his heel and swept across the floor toward the kitchen.
"You sure you can afford this?" Starsky asked staring at the plush surroundings. "Real linen tablecloths too—you've been here before?"
Hutch nodded. "Once or twice on special occasions. I brought Gillian here once . . ." his voice trailed away. There was a silence and then he continued.
"It was Burns Night and they had a special on Haggis." Hutch smiled remembering.
Starsky grimaced. "Did you try it?"
"No, I stuck to something a little more traditional. She said it was very good though."
"You still miss her, babe?" Starsky asked him, concerned that his partner appeared to be becoming distracted.
"Some days . . . it seems like a long time ago now. A lifetime ago." Hutch looked down at the table and fidgeted.
The restaurant door opened and a very smartly dressed couple came in holding hands. A waiter seemed to appear from thin air and showed them to a table set for two, which had a large "Reserved" card prominently displayed on it.
Starsky watched the couple intently and smiled. Sometimes it was difficult for him, seeing two people who were able to openly show their love and adoration of one another. He sighed audibly.
Hutch coughed, bringing Starsky back to the present. "Something interesting partner?"
Starsky smiled. "They look so happy, so content, so in love."
"Newlyweds maybe, huh?" Hutch observed.
"For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part," Starsky said, one eye still on the couple who were now perusing the menu together.
Hutch snickered. "Or till the divorce court and haggling over who gets what!"
"It doesn't always have to end up like that. Sometimes things work out. I had a relative who married at the age of sixteen, and they stayed together their entire lives. When one finally died the other one followed within days. Guess they couldn't make it alone."
The waiter returned with their hors d'oeuvres. "Soup, sir?" He put the bowl down in front of Starsky then turned towards Hutch. "Avocado, must be yours then, sir. Have you decided on a main course?"
"Actually, no," Hutch said, "but I have it on good authority that the steak is particularly good. That will be fine for me."
Starsky nodded. "Me, too."
"Rare, medium or well done?" the waiter questioned, making notes on his pad.
"Well done," Hutch answered without hesitation.
"Same here," Starsky echoed.
The waiter nodded and left the table.
"You sure about that soup, Starsk? Look what happened the last time I ate that."
Starsky smiled. "This is a bit different than drinking cold soup out of a can. This is not the sort of establishment that you would expect to find botulism."
Hutch nibbled on his avocado as he watched Starsky pick up his spoon and dip it into his bowl. As he raised the spoon again he noticed Hutch watching him intently.
"Would you quit that? You're making me nervous. Who's to say that that green thing you're eating hasn't been sprayed with some noxious substance anyway. Have you considered that?"
The waiter, who had been standing not too far away, was now giving the two detectives a long hard stare.
Hutch smiled in his direction. "He's watching us" he hissed through gritted teeth.
"I'm not surprised," Starsky replied. "I wouldn't be too pleased if I heard one of my patrons warning the entire establishment that my restaurant might be a health hazard."
Hutch went back to silently eating his avocado.
The waiter reappeared a few minutes later and cleared away the crockery.
"Your steaks won't be long," he assured them. He made it quite clear from his attitude that he was deeply offended by the conversation he had obviously overheard, and he turned abruptly and headed for the kitchen.
Fortunately the kitchen door swung open almost immediately and the next course was delivered to the table.
"It looks wonderful," Hutch said, trying to put matters right.
The waiter bowed his head slightly. "Thank you." He put both plates down. "Would you like mustard? French, English, American?"
Starsky contemplated an answer, but Hutch jumped in before he had a chance to reply.
"No, thank you, this is just fine."
Starsky raised an eyebrow. "You have an objection to mustard?"
"Detracts from the true taste of the food, Starsk. It's much better without it." Hutch picked up his steak knife and fork, and began to cut a corner off the meat which had been prepared exactly to his specification.
"Mad cow," Starsky offered, looking at the steak on the plate.
"Mad cow. If you lived in England you wouldn't touch this with the proverbial ten foot pole."
"Its American beef, Starsk. You really don't need to worry."
Starsky appeared unconvinced.
"This is a terrific restaurant, Hutch, how can you be sure they don't import beef, too? How about that Haggis you had here? That must have come from Scotland."
Hutch smiled. "Even though it's a traditional Scottish dish I'm sure it was manufactured right here in the U.S. of A." He rolled his eyes heavenward. "Starsk, just eat for heaven's sake!"
The two ate in silence for several moments, listening to the laughter and light-hearted conversation from the couple on the other side of the restaurant. Finally, Starsky put his knife and fork down and stretched. His plate was completely empty except for the steak.
"Delicious," he said wiping his mouth with the linen napkin.
Hutch smiled. "Not risking it then?"
Starsky peered around him making sure that the waiter wasn't in sight. "Nope."
"So you'd risk the soup, but not the steak?"
Starsky shrugged. "I figured I could risk one, but two potential death traps was one too many."
Hutch reached across the table and squeezed his partner's hand, which was resting there. "I do love you, you know."
Starsky smiled back. "I do know. Can we go home now?"
Hutch nodded. "Yeah."