The flight to San Francisco for Ken Hutchinson was the opposite of restful, even in first class. Though prisoner transport required first-class accommodations, getting there to pick up the prisoner usually called for coach. This deviation from protocol must have cost Dobey more than a few favors. Or maybe not. BCPD administration--even Chief Ryan--had been incredibly supportive from the moment Starsky had arrived at County General.
Now, the closer he got to his destination, the more his elation at the impending arrest of the man responsible for the hits on him and Starsky eroded and the more his trepidation kept gaining weight in his gut. He knew he would feel different if his partner was by his side. More confident, less fearful. More professional, less inimical. More together, less jigsawed.
Early in the flight, the passenger next to him had had the nerve to try to start a conversation, but Hutch had nipped that in the bud with a malignant glower and a flash of his Magnum. The little man, who had the window seat, spent the remainder of the journey scrunched against the bulkhead that Hutch feared he’d bust through. Not that he cared one damn bit.
Hutch closed his eyes, tensed, and fought back waves of nausea that came out of nowhere the instant the wheels touched down. He wondered if this was how the troops felt when the landing crafts dropped their gates at Normandy and Omaha beaches in 1944.
Hutch, adrenaline already darting through his bloodstream, was out of his seat the moment the stewardess announced they would be deplaning. He almost laughed when he heard the little man sigh loudly at his departure. Hutch was third off the plane. He wanted to run all the way to Gunther’s estate to bleed off some of that hormone but resisted the powerful urge.
He entered the terminal and quickly spotted a uniformed cop holding a cardboard sign with his name on it. He strode up to him and said brusquely, “I’m Hutchinson. I have to confirm the seats for the trip back, then take me to your leader.” He blew a short breath out his nose. Sounding like Starsky now. God, I wish he was here. He deserves to cuff the bastard and kick his ass back to Bay City.
Hutch followed the petite, auburn-haired policewoman--he didn’t bother to read her nametag--to the SFPD liaison’s office. The door was wood on the bottom half. The top half was frosted glass with the name Cpt. Frank Bullitt stenciled on it.
Oh, this is just great. A legend. Wonder if he expects me to bow and scrape and sing his praises.
The policewoman knocked on the door and waited to open it until she heard a gravelly “Come.” She said, “Captain, this is Bay City Detective Sergeant Ken Hutchinson.” She stepped aside but held the door open so he could enter.
Hutch nodded his thanks as he squeezed past. She looked up at him through her eyelashes and nodded back. A moment later, she closed the door without a sound.
Bullitt remained seated but held out his hand over the desk. “Hutchinson.”
Hutch, a good judge of character, immediately sized up the liaison officer as a man of humility and quiet self-assurance who wouldn’t take crap from anyone. He had respected Bullitt from afar for his accomplishments--as most detectives in the state did--for years and now he was beginning to like the apparently down-to-earth man.
Hutch crossed to the desk in short order--the room was about the same size as Dobey’s--and shook the proffered hand. The handshake was firm and dry, just like the man. A quick glance to Bullitt’s left revealed a cane hooked to the desk, evidence of the forever effects of an assassination attempt on him three years ago.
“Pleased to meet you, Captain.”
Bullitt said without inflection, “Same here. May I see the warrant?”
Hutch smiled his satisfaction to himself. Right down to business. I like that. He removed the legal document, now a bit wrinkled and damp, from an inside pocket of his dark tan jacket. “Issued this morning.” He handed it over, hoping his reluctance to part with the warrant that promised justice for Starsky and him didn’t show.
Bullitt placed the warrant on his desk. He put on his reading glasses then picked up the paper, unfolding it carefully. It took him less than two minutes to read it. He carefully refolded it and handed it back to Hutch.
“Warrant looks sound. I know you want to serve it A-SAP, but first, I want you to meet one of the department’s inspectors with an interest in this case and review protocols.”
“Of course,” replied Hutch, now curious who had an interest in Gunther and why.
“There are no registered guns in the mansion, but of course you know there may be illegal firearms on premises. Do you anticipate any problems making this arrest?”
“No, not really. But I am expecting he will resist.” God, I hope so. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Bullitt nodded his head. “From what I hear, I believe that. Your and your partner’s reputations are well-known in this department. I’m sorry to hear about his injuries.” He looked at Hutch’s bandaged left wrist. “And yours?”
Hutch lifted one shoulder. “I was faster than the hatchet man was.”
The intercom buzzed. Bullitt punched the lighted button. “Yes?”
“He’s here, sir. Should I send him in?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Bullitt, with the help of his cane in one hand and the other hand pressing down on the desk, rose to his feet. “Keep your head about you, Sergeant. This could -”
He stopped when the door to his office opened. Hutch turned halfway around and saw the tall man--even taller than himself--with a craggy face, wavy brown hair, and a lean body dressed in a sport coat and pants usually found in a discount men’s store or a rack at Goodwill. Hutch knew who he was, had seen his picture in the papers more than once.
“What is it, Cap--” The man stopped himself and stared at Hutch. His face puckered with aggression as he swiftly approached Hutch.
Hutch had sensed danger before the man came at him and had backed up to Bullitt’s desk. Heeding the captain’s warning, he didn’t reach for his weapon but curled his hand into a fist, ready to strike should the need arise.
“You’re dead!” shouted the man.
Before Hutch knew it, Bullitt had laid his cane across the man’s chest. It surprised him that it had stopped the man, whose heated scowl promised violence.
“Enough,” Bullitt said in a tight, commanding whisper. “Stand down now.”
It took several long seconds for the man to step away. Hutch, however, stayed primed to defend himself. He broke the tense atmosphere with, “Inspector Callahan, I’m Detective Sergeant Ken Hutchinson, Bay City PD.” He didn’t offer his hand, wanting to keep it free for something more forceful.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Harry Callahan said through clenched teeth. “You look just like --”
“John Davis,” Hutch finished for Callahan. “I know. I took a lot of grief about that for months at my precinct.” And Starsky was the worst of them all, he remembered fondly, though at the time he had wanted to punch his partner’s lights out more than once.
Bullitt returned his cane to his side. “Callahan, if you look closely, you’ll see there are differences.”
Callahan scrutinized Hutch so closely that he thought the SF detective had x-ray vision. “Yeah, I can see that now. Sorry, uh, Hutchison?”
“Hutchinson,” Hutch corrected with a friendliness he didn’t exactly feel.
Bullitt started back to his chair. “Now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to the reason you two are here.”
Alarmed, Hutch swung his gaze from Callahan to Bullitt. “Hey, wait just a damn minute, Captain,” he snarled. “This is my collar.”
“What is this about, Captain?” demanded Callahan.
Bullitt’s blue eyes drilled into Hutch silently, unequivocally making Hutch realize that Bullitt would brook no argument or misbehavior. Hutch made himself relax; that was obviously enough for Bullitt for he turned that same gaze to Callahan a couple seconds later. “Sergeant Hutchinson is here to serve an arrest warrant for James Marshall Gunther.”
“No!” Callahan shouted. “Gunther is mine, Frank. I’ve been working on this case for months, and I can smell it, it’s so close. No one”--he shot a disgusted, threatening look at Hutch--”is gonna take him away from me.”
Hutch returned the look with a venomous one of his own. “No one is gonna take this from me,” he said quietly with a flatness that barely hid his animosity.
Bullitt slapped his hand on his desk, drawing Hutch and Callahan out of their intimidation contest. “I know that, Harry. That’s why you’re here. Regulations state that any non-SFPD officer serving a valid warrant in this jurisdiction must be accompanied by an SFPD officer of equal or higher rank. I’ve also chosen you because of your work on the Gunther case.”
“So you think me seeing this, this… Bay City sergeant arrest the money launderer I’ve been after for months will appease me? Well, it won’t, goddammit!”
“Money laundering?” Hutch was incredulous and fought to keep his index finger out of action. “Is that all you got? Couldn’t hang a homicide on him so you had to go with money laundering, huh? Well, homicide trumps your lousy financial crime every day of the week. I got him for multiple counts of conspiracy to commit the murder of two police officers, one who’s been my partner since ‘71, first in uniform then in plainclothes in Special Units. But you wouldn’t know about true partners, would you, Callahan. Yours never seem to last more than a few weeks or months, do they?”
Callahan’s entire body tensed, ready to pounce, reminding Hutch of Starsky doing the same, except Starsky would’ve pounced already. “Why, you son of a bitch, you have -”
“Hutchinson! Callahan!” roared Bullitt. “Enough!”
Hutch dug deep down into his undercover skills to bring up a sufficiently chastised expression. “My apologies, sir. I hope you can understand that Detective Sergeant Starsky and I are very close and arresting the man responsible for his injuries is my highest priority.” Not coddling some detective whose feathers are ruffled. Despite his statement, he didn’t sense any decrease in Callahan’s hostility--not that he cared.
Bullitt nodded. “I do understand, Hutchinson. Now, can you two be civil long enough to get this done?”
Somewhat reluctantly, Hutch nodded, saying, “I can and will, sir.”
Callahan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure.”
“Reassuring to know you two can be professional.” He paused. “There is an unmarked car in the garage--spot 1G, Callahan--and there will be a squad escort. Tran and Collins. Code 1, no exceptions. Return here for the final paperwork and we’ll have Hutchinson and his prisoner at the airport in time for their flight. Understood?”
The response was two head dips.
On the trip to Gunther’s mansion, Hutch focused his attention on the passing scenery; it made it easier to tolerate the arrogant Callahan’s presence. It also made it easier to get lost in his thoughts--thoughts of how adrift and alone he was without Starsky. How it was wrong to serve this particular warrant without Starsky at his side. Sure, he’d served warrants alone, like when he arrested the man who’d put out the contract on Vic Monty.
But this was different. Starsky should be doing this one.
Hutch thought of Dobey’s arrest of Stryker and the similarities there. Thank God the similarities didn’t include a dead partner.
He shook off his thoughts when he felt the car slow. He softly snorted at the fact that the elaborate gate stood open, offering no hindrance to their invasion of the estate.
Callahan scowled. “Must know we’re coming.”
“Ya think? Better look into a leak in your department.” And I’ll keep pressing Dobey to look for moles in our department.
On the way up the winding driveway, both men took in the Italianate structure. Hutch thought it pretentious and reflective of Gunther’s overblown sense of self-importance.
As Callahan turned off the engine, Hutch said, “You stay here.”
“LIke hell I will, Mr. High-and-Mighty Detective! He or one of his thugs is probably waiting to take you out. You need me on this. Partners, Hutchison. Regulations. Or don’t you care about those, either. If I can’t have him, I want to at least see the take-down.”
Hutch tried not to let Callahan’s deliberate mispronunciation of his name get under his skin, or his probable implication he didn’t care about Starsky, but it did. He took a calming breath, then said, “Fuck regulations. And don’t tell me you’ve stuck to them 100% of the time. I’m doing this alone, Harry. For my partner.”
“Right. Laid up in some hospital bed miles away because you couldn’t protect him.” There was no question that Callahan meant to maim Hutch with both his words and tone.
Hutch came very close to throttling the detective. Instead, he generated immense self-control and ended up staring bullets at Callahan. He couldn’t believe Callahan’s lack of collegial support, found it infuriating. In addition, Callahan had trounced all over the rawness Hutch still felt--and probably always would--for not protecting the most important person in his life.
Then Hutch swore he heard Starsky in his head say with vigor, “Go get ‘im, partner!” That was followed quickly by a warm, energetic fullness in his chest that infused him with confidence and the knowledge he was not alone.
Starsk. Always there when I need you, huh, babe?
“This is not your concern, Harry.” Hutch unconsciously placed his right hand over his heart. “Stay the fuck away from me. I already got a partner.”