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Pieces of the Heart

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"Hutch wouldn't do that!" Starsky insisted, whirling to face Dobey.       

Starsky squared off with his Captain, a hand planted firmly on each hip as the older man peered at him through tired and sympathetic eyes.  Though Dobey was likewise wracked with worry, he knew without question that Starsky felt worse.  Despite hours of effort, the entire Bay City Police Department had been unable to uncover a single concrete lead in the case of Hutch's mysterious mid-day disappearance.  It was now a few minutes before midnight and not a trace of Detective Hutchinson had been found since he parted company with Starsky earlier in the day. 

"Hutch was gonna meet me back here by 3:00," Starsky repeated.  "And from there - depending on what he learned at the pawnshop - we were going to pay Rollo's bookie a visit.  Cap'n, Hutch knew we were due in court at 4:00.  We talked about it.  I know he was planning to be there."  

Dobey listened patiently to Starsky's recounting of his last interaction with his partner.  No one had considered this phase of the investigation to be especially dangerous.  As a result, Dobey was shouldering a certain amount of guilt - kicking himself for having missed something.  Apparently, they all had as Starsky was right.  Hutch would not disappear from a case in the middle of a workday unless something had gone terribly wrong.     

"I believe you, son," Dobey answered, his voice gentling.  "As I said, we'll keep looking for Hutch for as long as it takes."

Out of answers, Starsky stared at the floor in frustration.  

"Tell you what," Dobey suggested.  "Why don't you stop by Hutch's apartment again just in case he turns up there.  Let me know if you find anything new.  We'll go from there." 

"Ok," Starsky relented, his shoulders sagging.  

"And Starsky, none of us have given up on Hutch," Dobey added sharply.  "I have every available officer tearing this town apart block by block looking for him.  You must know that."  

Starsky nodded glumly. 

"It's just that I don't know where else to look," Starsky added, his uncertainty resurfacing as he forced himself to meet Dobey's eyes.  "What in the hell could have happened to Hutch in the middle of this city in broad daylight?  Hutch isn't exactly a pushover, ya know?  No one could have taken him that easily unless - unless he was hurt or incapacitated in some way,"  Starksy finished.  "Otherwise, none of it makes any damn sense!" 

"No, it doesn't," Dobey agreed.  "But there is an explanation - somewhere."

Starsky had turned to leave when he paused with an afterthought.   

"Expect to hear from me one way or the other in about forty-five minutes," Starsky said, growing more subdued.  "And Cap'n," Starsky added.  "Promise me that if I don't come back tonight, or any other night for that matter, you'll forget about me and keep looking for Hutch.  This world can't afford to lose the likes of Hutch."

Without a backward glance, Starsky threw open the door and stormed out. 

Dobey wanted to smile at the absurdity of his detective's request, but the older man found it impossible to do so.  Dobey knew that Starsky meant every word of it.     

"This ol' world can't afford to lose either one of you, Detective Starsky," Dobey muttered.  "I'm afraid I can't agree to that.  So no deal."

Dobey frowned as he shoved both hands deep in his pockets.  Releasing a heavy sigh, he stared at the empty space Starsky had occupied moments earlier and worried about his missing detective.       

"Lord have mercy on all of us if we can't find Hutchinson soon," he added.  

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~   

  

Starsky took the steps three at a time on his way back to the garage.  Once inside the Torino, he relaxed enough to notice his head was pounding.  Starsky fished around in his pocket for a couple of aspirin and downed them with the help of a tepid cup of coffee.  He made a sour face as the pills partially dissolved on his tongue although he managed to swallow the messy granules without losing the contents of his stomach altogether.   

"Oh God," Starsky sputtered.  "That was terrible." 

Starsky followed the aspirin with what was left of the coffee before tossing the empty cup on the seat beside him.  He winced as the discarded piece of plastic bounced and tumbled away, landing somewhere out of sight on the floor. 

Hutch should be sitting there anyway, Starsky thought.  

The realization brought the weight of Hutch's absence rushing back in a wave of tangled emotions.  Just thinking about a few of the possible scenarios that could have befallen his partner caused Starsky's stomach to knot and his hands to tighten on the steering wheel.  Shaking off the fear, Starsky started the engine and pulled out of the garage. 

It wasn't like Starsky to lose control of his emotional reserves too easily.  It also wasn't every day that he had to worry about his partner to this degree.  Hutch was normally either sitting right beside him while they worked, or ensconced in the relative safety of his own apartment.  The more typical possibilities had been turned entirely upside down the moment Hutch failed to return to the squad room by 3:00 that afternoon.
 
In a half-hearted attempt to soothe his own battered soul, Starsky reminded himself that Hutch knew how to survive a host of difficult situations.  The man was a survivor - he knew how to take care of himself.  

Determined as ever, Starsky pushed his way through a yellow light on his way to Hutch's address.  As he rounded the last corner, he was at first surprised, then excited to see a dim, but discernible glow emanating from one of the apartment windows.  Starsky's heart surged with hope at the possibility that Hutch might somehow be home after all.  Whatever the explanation, Starsky hurriedly parked the car and raced up the steps to his partner's apartment. 

Trying the door first, Starsky was not surprised to find it locked.  Unwilling to wait, he hurriedly retrieved his own key, threw open the door, and pushed his way inside.  

"Hutch!" Starsky shouted, slamming the door behind him.  "Hutch!  Are you here?"

Starsky stopped abruptly, his eyes landing on a lamp in the middle of the kitchen table.  A small yellow envelope lay visible in the circle of illumination -  as if left there for the individual most likely to find it. 

Starsky walked to the table and reached for the envelope, opening it carefully to find a familiar gold chain entangled with a note inside.  It was the half-moon and star necklace that Hutch was so fond of wearing - the same golden chain he'd been wearing the last time Starsky had seen him.  

Whoever left the note had made their point.  They had Hutch.  The accompanying message was likewise succinct.  In a large, hand-printed scrawl, it read...  WANT HIM BACK?  PAY ATTENTION.  FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.