Starsky was on his way home when he noticed the unusual cloud pattern in the sky. Eager to add to his collection of photos, he hurriedly parked the Torino and ran toward the shoreline, camera in hand. Pausing to gaze at the horizon, Starsky kept an eye on the changing clouds as he adjusted the camera's lens. It was still a few minutes before sunset - a little too early for the biggest color changes, but just enough time to establish a proper angle. He was hoping the striations in the clouds would allow the light to penetrate in all the right places. If the transformation progressed as anticipated, Starsky would be able to add another stunning sunset to his growing portfolio.
Plunking himself down on the warm sand, Starsky readied his camera and prepared for a short wait. Five or ten minutes at the most and he figured he'd be on his way. He was planning to meet Hutch for dinner in about an hour, and for once, Starsky didn't want to be late. Hutch had been grouchy enough all week as it was. If he timed things correctly, Starsky figured he could snap a few photos and still have enough time to change clothes. As the sunlight continued to fade, he pointed his camera at what remained of the glowing ball of fire in the hope of capturing a moment that Hutch would find inspirational.
On a nearby bench sat an older man feeding chunks of bread to a few hungry seagulls. With his face partially obscured by dark glasses, he was able to observe Starsky without drawing attention to himself. If Starsky had not been so fixated on the sunset, he might have noticed the newcomer had arrived shortly after he started taking pictures.
The observer was clad in shabby, khaki-colored clothing which helped him to blend into the background. Curious, the man sat semi-transfixed - watching as Starsky took photo after photo. It surprised him to see an assumedly street-wise cop so interested in something as mundane as taking pictures.
So the cop fancies himself some kind of photographer, the man thought. That's interesting.
He filed the information away under things-to-know that might eventually be useful. After all, this was still just a fact-finding mission. The ultimate plan would be determined once he knew more about his subject. Admittedly, there had been a few surprises - little things mostly that he had not considered previously. The hobbies and interests of David Starsky were of little importance. What mattered the most was a sense of justice that had been stolen from him years ago.
As the sun sank below the horizon, Starsky glanced at his watch and leaped to his feet. Stealing one last look at the orange and red clouds, he snapped two additional photos before jogging away toward the Torino.
The man on the bench watched as Starsky ran by, avoiding eye contact, but watching him nonetheless as he hurried across the sand. Clad in faded jeans and a thin cotton t-shirt, Starsky's athletic build was obvious to anyone who took the time to pay attention. Of note, it wouldn't be easy to subdue him in a one-on-one physical confrontation. Then again, every man had his weaknesses, and Starsky would, too. The process of revealing his deepest vulnerabilities was only a matter of time.
A few miles away Hutch was sitting at a traffic light waiting impatiently for the damned thing to turn green. On a whim, he'd agreed to meet Starsky after work for a quick dinner and a few games of pool. After a long week of arresting knit wits and painfully unskilled shoplifters, Hutch was looking forward to a simple evening out with friends.
As the light turned from red to green, Hutch was preparing to accelerate when he was hit from behind, the impact throwing the LTD into the intersection and sending pieces of the rear bumper scattering across the pavement.
"Are you freakin' kidding me!" Hutch exclaimed, grabbing the steering wheel and holding on as the car began to spin in a violent half-circle. He tensed at the sound of squealing tires as a second vehicle slammed into the car directly behind him, the additional impact followed closely by breaking glass. Straining to see over his shoulder, Hutch could tell that all of the vehicles involved in the pileup had come to a full stop. Forcing his door open, Hutch extracted himself from behind the wheel and hurried to check on the other drivers.
The man in the first vehicle was bleeding profusely from a cut just above his right eye. Tugging open the door, Hutch leaned into the front seat for a better look at his injuries.
"How badly are you hurt?" Hutch asked.
"I'm not sure," the other man answered, looking dazed, but conscious. "I'm - I'm sorry. I don't know what happened," he stammered.
"Don't think about that right now," Hutch answered quickly. "Listen, I'm a cop. Just sit tight, and I'll get us some help, ok?"
Sprinting to the next vehicle, Hutch found a middle-aged woman alone in her car looking frightened and on the verge of tears.
"Are you hurt, ma'am?" Hutch asked, leaning in through what was left of the driver's side window. The woman was conscious but grimaced as she reached for her left shoulder. Hutch was afraid to touch her in lieu of hurting her more.
"Hang on ma'am. I'm getting you some help," he assured her instead. "Don't try to move by yourself."
Racing back to the LTD, Hutch grabbed for the radio and called for emergency assistance. By the time he was hanging up the microphone, the sound of approaching sirens was audible in the distance. Grateful to know an ambulance was on its way, he checked on the first driver a second time before returning to the more seriously injured woman.
Leaning back through the broken window, Hutch cautiously reached for her hand. "Hang on, ma'am," he repeated softly. "Help will be here soon."
Unfortunately, the carefree evening Hutch had been anticipating was off to a rough and shaky start.