Starsky stared at the jumble of papers on the floor, with mystification and horrified fascination. Something or somethings in this pile had angered Hutch and made him go running from their apartment without any explanation, unless his outpourings of words in a language Starsky didn’t know qualified as explanation. Well, he’d deal with that rude behaviour later, he thought. But in the meantime….
In the meantime, Starsky picked up the papers and organized them into a neat pile. He carried them over to a couch and put them down on the table in front of him. There, he thought, as he sat down to study them. Mess dealt with. Superficially, at least. He sat and stared at the pile for a while, trying to make sense of the mystery. Why send all this by courier? Most people sent papers by computer. It was faster, easier, and just as verifiable. There must be a reason. Privacy?
The courier, who had worn a uniform, had saluted Hutch, and handed him the papers with a deep bow, all without speaking. Hutch had nodded, taken the papers politely and said farewell. When the courier bowed again and left, he had ripped open the envelope, read a few pages, sworn in various languages, thrown the papers on the floor and stormed out of the apartment without an explanation, polite or otherwise. The behaviour of the courier was unlike that of any courier Starsky had ever encountered. None had ever bowed to Starsky in his experience so far. His uniform was unlike any Starsky had encountered either. A courier for a military organization? A powerful household? Hutch had told him his family was powerful.
Starsky considered this event with his heart as well as his mind, as he had learned to do since meeting Hutch. Hutch had been looking for a response to his message to his family asking for help with the mystery of the native species on Eldorado – the Goblins as they were commonly called. Clearly this envelope of papers was not the response he’d been expecting. He’d been hoping for help, and had received…this mess of papers. From a courier. Who bowed to him, no less?
Starsky sat before the table and began to sort the papers into several piles. One pile was made up of extremely important-looking official papers covered in fancy seals, but in a foreign language. Another pile was of small plastic cards, some of which seemed to be from various banks and other financial institutions. These cards were partly in that foreign language, partly in the common tongue, descended from English. The third pile was composed of legal-looking papers in English, though the legal form of the language made it difficult for Starsky to understand.
The last thing on the table was a small red bag, tied at the top with a seal of some kind. When Starsky put it down, it clinked. Interesting.
Starsky checked out the plastic cards next. Some kind of credit cards? Perhaps. Though such cards were old fashioned compared to the usual metal disks, they did still exist. The fact that all this paper had been transferred by human courier showed him that Hutch’s home world might well be old-fashioned. The name Hutchinson appeared on each of them, along with other words which might be names. Might be.
The fancy, official, seal-bedecked papers proved at least as unconquerable as the legal documents. Starsky put the last of them back down on the table and admitted defeat. It was clear he was not going to be impressing Hutch with his astounding detective abilities tonight.
At that moment the subject of his speculations came through the door. He walked in, calmly. Came and sat down on the couch beside him. ‘I guess you’re wondering why I went running out like that?’ he ventured.
‘No. Seems like your normal kind of behaviour,’ Starsky replied, blandly.
‘Okay. So I’m always like that. But in this particular instance….’
‘I figured it had something to do with….’
‘All this paperwork? Yeah. My family is too much sometimes.’
‘So I gather. Hutch? What is all this paperwork?’
‘You tell me. You have it sorted out.’
‘Not really. Okay. I gather these pages are something really official and important. These plastic cards? Money of some kind. Legal papers here. And this little bag. No idea.’
‘Little bag? Huh. Didn’t see that.’ Hutch opened the bag and poured out the contents onto the table. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘I guess they’re serious.’
‘Serious about what, Hutch? And who are they?’
‘I need some coffee before telling it. It involves politics and deep family backstory and….’
Hutch got up and put on the coffee machine, while Starsky fumed. ‘Patience, boy. I need my coffee. I really hoped they might just give us some advice, financial help, names of people we could blackmail. Stuff like that.’
‘I should have realized.’ Hutch poured out two cups of coffee and came back to the table. He handed one to Starsky and took a big mouthful of his own. ‘Of course they want something meaningful in return.’
‘Of course,’ said Starsky. ‘Who doesn’t? What do these particular people want in return?’
‘They want me to return,’ said Hutch. ‘I should return home and take up my position in the family. But my position seems to have changed. I’m a bit higher up in the hierarchy.’ He picked up the small items he’d tossed down casually on the table. ‘At least according to these.’
‘They look like a kind of rank symbol, yes.’
‘Yes. They are.’ Hutch sorted through them. ‘These are mine,’ he added. They were made of stones, similar to diamonds. Or maybe they were diamonds. “And these are yours,’ Hutch continued. He handed the red stones to Starsky.
‘Yours. As my second in command or something like that. It’s hard to explain until I tell you the whole story of my home world, and my culture that I thought I’d escaped from. And no, don’t worry, they aren’t going to imprison me or torture me. It’s just…. I don’t want all that wealth and power, Starsky. I never did. I like being a cop. Even here with all the problems. I like living a simple life with you. But what do I do? Refuse them? Give up on helping the Goblins? Give up helping you regain your good name and your freedom?’
‘Hutch. Hutch. You don’t owe me….’
‘Yes, I do. I do. I owe you the love and trust you’ve given me. I owe it to the Goblins to help them. I just hoped….’ He took another big gulp of the cooling coffee.
‘Why don’t you tell me the story so I can help you work it out? Okay? What do these red stones mean? What do you mean, second in command?’
Hutch sighed, and let his head fall back against the back of the couch.
‘Is it that bad, darling?’ asked Starsky. ‘Are they going to imprison or torture me? Are you some kind of king or something and I’m the whipping boy?’
‘No to all of that. No, they won’t torture you. Not on my watch. It’s not that bad. No, I’m not a king, just a…a prince I guess.’