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Open Season

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Two months later...

"You're taking me where?" Starsky asked, scrambling to catch up with Hutch.    

"To a new dinner spot," Hutch called over his shoulder.  "Trust me, Starsk, you're gonna love it."

After leaving the police garage in Hutch's LTD, they pushed through the evening traffic only slightly ahead of the rush.  It was Friday, and Hutch was in the mood to celebrate.  One by one, a bundle of cases had been finalized or transferred to a different division.  And best of all, narcotics had formally confiscated the grow site at Cedar Creek leaving Starsky and Hutch to manage the remaining details.      

Hutch was smiling as he pulled to a stop directly in front of the Community Center.  "Hey, look at this," Hutch commented.  "We even get front row parking tonight.  That's got to be a good omen."

"Dinner at the Community Center?" Starsky asked, looking puzzled.  "Hutch, they don't serve dinner here, do they?"

"They do now, Starsky.  They have a new culinary program that I've heard great things about.  Follow me and you'll see what I mean."

As instructed, Starsky followed Hutch through the main doors where they were greeted by an attractive young woman whose name tag identified her as Margaret.  "Good evening, gentlemen," Margaret said cheerfully.  "Are you here for dinner?"

"We are," Hutch answered.

"Wonderful.  Just follow this hallway to a set of large, double doors near the end.  Once you reach the doors, a host will be happy to seat you."

"Thank you so much."

Starsky was still feeling a little bewildered as he followed Hutch down the hallway.  Like his partner, he'd been in the same building for a variety of events over the years - an occasional class, a lecture, or once in a while, for a food drive.  Two years ago he'd helped volunteers put up Christmas decorations for a party the police department had sponsored for underprivileged kids.  Although he knew there was a functional kitchen on the premises, he hadn't realized it had restaurant capabilities.  Of all the places he might have guessed Hutch would take him for dinner, Starsky would never have thought of the Community Center. 

"Detective Hutchinson," a tall, older man called out as they passed through the double doorway.  "I'm so pleased you could make it."

"I wouldn't dream of missing it," Hutch replied, extending his hand.

"And this is Detective Starsky, I assume?" the man asked. 

"Yes.  Greg Winston, meet my partner, David Starsky."

"Mr. Starsky, it's an absolute pleasure to me you," Winston said.  "I've heard so much about you."

"You have?" Starsky said, looking surprised.  "From who?  Hutch?"

"Well, yes, from Mr. Hutchinson, but mostly from Gideon," Winston added.  "He admires both of you a great deal.  And speaking of Gideon, if you don't mind following me, I'll take you to your table."

Starsky smiled in return at the kindly, older gentleman who seemed to know a great deal about him.  As he followed the man to their table, a few scattered pieces of information began to fall in place.  Starsky remembered Hutch mentioning someone by the name of Winston who was working with Gideon on his possible career options.  Hutch hadn't said a great deal beyond that other than Gideon seemed happy to be working.    

What Hutch had not told Starsky was that Gideon had done exceptionally well uncovering a new career path for himself.  In a few short weeks, he had discovered a love for baking through a program to feed the homeless that was managed by the Center.  As donations were often sporadic and unreliable, there was a constant need for fresh, simple baked goods to feed the program's participants as well as the homeless.  After a few short lessons from a culinary professor who volunteered weekly at the Center, Gideon had been assigned to bake full time. 

Every morning Gideon gladly entered the Community Center kitchen by 6:00 AM, put on a fresh, clean apron, and went to work making an assortment of rolls, bread, and a variety of simple sweet treats for the day's meals.  The culinary instructor was so impressed with Gideon's aptitude in the kitchen that he arranged for other students to have the opportunity to learn basic kitchen skills.  Tonight the students were showing off their knowledge with an emphasis on Gideon's newfound baking abilities. 

"Here you go," Winston said, ushering Starsky and Hutch to a table near the front of the room. "I'll be back to chat after you've had a chance to enjoy your meal.  In the interim, I'll let Gideon know that you're here."

"Thanks, Winston," Hutch said.  

"Wow," Starsky commented, his eyes roving around the room.  He loved the comfortable, home-style type of atmosphere.  "This is really nice.  It does feel like we're in a regular restaurant."

"It does," Hutch agreed, also looking around.  "It has a kind of country Italian sense to it - something I thought you'd appreciate." 

A middle-aged woman approached their table to politely distribute menus and fill their water glasses.
"Good evening, gentlemen," the woman said, smiling shyly.  "My name is Anna.  I'll be back to take your order once you've had a chance to study the menu.  Please let me know if there's anything else I can get for you."

As Hutch began to read, he was immediately struck by a sense of simple elegance.  There were four main entrees to choose from - a beef, chicken, fish, and even a vegetarian option.  It was evident that a variety of taste preferences had been considered by whoever had prepared the menu.  A short selection of side dishes was also available along with a variety of bread and roll options featuring Gideon as the chef.  As the Community Center did not own a liquor license, drink selections were limited to coffee, tea, and a variety of soft drinks.  It wasn't long before both Starsky and Hutch had selected something from the menu that suited their individual taste buds.

As Hutch laid the menu on the table, he looked up to see Gideon striding toward them.  The man approaching their table did not resemble the man he and Starsky had first encountered that fateful day in the woods.  The tall, confident individual he saw now was wearing a smile from ear to ear and dressed in a white chef's coat and trousers.  Clean-shaven with his hair neatly cut and combed, Gideon looked entirely different from the scruffy, unkempt man he'd first met over two months earlier. 

"Gideon!" Hutch exclaimed, standing to embrace the larger man.  "It's so good to see you again!"

"It's good to see you again, too," Gideon replied.  "And you," Gideon added, extending a hand to Starsky. 

"I must say, everything here looks exceptional," Starsky said.  "And that includes you, Gideon."

"Thank you.  I'm very proud of what we've been able to do," Gideon beamed.  

"Can you sit down, Gideon?" Hutch asked.  "We want to hear more about what you're doing.  Or do you need to be working in the kitchen?"

"No, my part in preparing dinner is done.  I'll help with the clean-up later, but I'd probably just be in the way right now."

"Then have a seat.  Starsky and I would love an update on everything you've been doing."

Gideon sat down with Starsky and Hutch just as Anna was bringing their drinks to their table.  The detectives placed their orders as Gideon relaxed into his chair.  

"I really enjoy the work," Gideon said eventually, referring to his interest in baking.  "Before I came here, I'd never seen a kitchen with equipment like this before."

Hutch nodded as if he could relate to what the other man was saying.  It sounded like Gideon had discovered an entirely new world behind the doors of a large, modern kitchen.  

"There's so much you can do with some of this stuff," Gideon said, obviously excited by a number of things he had recently learned.  "Giant electric mixers, endless amounts of clean counter space, and a lot of other specialized equipment make everything so much easier.  I love making different kinds of bread."

"There's always a market for good, nutritious food," Starsky commented.  "We need all of the people we can get producing it.  If that's what you enjoy doing, you'll always have a steady job, Gideon."

Gideon looked pleased with Starsky's statement.  "That's what Mr. Winston says, too.  Next week he's taking me on a tour of the culinary department at the college.  He thinks if I apply soon, I might be able to start classes as early as this fall.  In just a couple of years, I could earn a real culinary degree."  

"Gideon!  That's great news!" Hutch said. 

"Of course, a lot depends on how things go in court," Gideon added, looking slightly crestfallen.  "But if not this year, Mr. Winston thinks it's something I can do eventually - work my way toward it if that's necessary.  And I do want it, Hutch.  I love working in the bakery."

Hutch felt like a father whose young son had just found his life's calling.  He was proud of Gideon not only for choosing a new direction for his life but for doing it entirely on his own.  It was a noble achievement for anyone.   

"How are your brothers doing?" Starsky asked.  "And your mother?"

"Otis is still angry with me," Gideon began.  "If he's able to leave the area after our court date, I think that's what he'll do.  Otherwise, I rarely talk to him.  Ben has no idea what he wants to do.  As for ma, she's living at a women's shelter right now.  I tried to visit her once, but she didn't want to see me."

Gideon talked about his family with a noticeable air of detachment.  

"I'm sorry, Gideon," Hutch said, not knowing what else to say.  "I know that can't be easy for you."

"Thank you, but it's not as bad as you might assume.  Remember, that's why I left in the first place, Hutch.  There was nothing of value to keep me attached to my family.  It's probably better for everyone, especially now that Jonah is dead if we all go our separate ways."

Starsky glanced at Hutch across the table, a sense of empathy and remorse clearly visible in his eyes.  How had such a sensible, thoughtful man emerged from an otherwise thoroughly dysfunctional family?

"Well, I want you to stay in touch with me and Starsky, alright?" Hutch explained.  "There are a lot of people in this world you can depend on, and many of them are working right here in the Center.  Winston knows what he's doing, Gideon.  He can be a great help to you."

"Oh, I know that.  Mr. Winston has already done plenty for me," Gideon agreed.  "I'm very grateful to have met him.  However, I consider myself just as fortunate to have met you and Starsky.  I don't see how any of this would be possible if I hadn't."

Hutch wasn't sure if that was true, but it was something Gideon obviously believed.  Over the years, he had learned how police work could quickly evolve into something more akin to social work than law enforcement.  Hutch had learned how to adjust to the flow of unexpected circumstances.  Gideon's situation was a prime example of how one man could change his life with enough of the right kind of help.  

"Starsky and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time - or maybe it was more like the wrong place at the right time," Hutch added, smiling.  "You made all of your own decisions beyond a certain point, Gideon.  It's only fair that you allow yourself a proper amount of recognition, too."

"You're gonna be fine," Starsky added.  "Hutch and I have dealt with our share of irredeemable criminals in our time.  And trust me, you miss the mark badly, Gideon.  You aren't one of them."

A trace of a smile passed over Gideon's face at Starsky's last comment.  It was pleasing to know that a man like Starsky, a highly respected detective no less, would consider him to be a good citizen.

As a server approached balancing two dinner plates on a tray, Gideon straightened in his seat and prepared to excuse himself.  "Oh good, it looks like your dinner is here," Gideon said, pushing back his chair.  "It's proper dining etiquette that I allow you to eat in peace, but I'd love to talk to you when it's time for dessert.  I've prepared something special for everyone.  Until then, I hope you enjoy your meal, and I want to hear your honest opinions when you're through.  If you think something needs to be changed or improved, I'd like to know what it is."

Starsky and Hutch looked surprised but pleased. 

"Bon appetit, gentlemen," Gideon said.  "I'll meet you on the dessert side of your meal."

"Bon appetit, Gideon," Starsky and Hutch replied in tandem, laughing as they clinked their water glasses together. 

"Good job, partner," Starsky said, winking at Hutch as they watched Gideon walk away.  "With someone like you in his corner, that kid's gonna be just fine."    

The End

Finished - May 11, 2022