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Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

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Chapter One

 

Hutch arrived at Starsky’s home a little before eight on what was a dreary November morning. He was early but there was something he wanted to tell his partner about and he wanted to do it as soon as he could. He walked up the steps to Starsky’s apartment, knocked on the door and then turned the handle - the door was unlocked, as it always was when Starsky was expecting him - so he went right on in. He could hear the shower still running so decided to settle down on the couch while he waited for Starsky…but, after only a minute, his restlessness got the better of him and he started pacing the room. After a while, he heard the shower cut off and stood still, waiting. As soon as he heard the bathroom door opening, he called out to warn his partner he was there.

                “Hey buddy! I’m here. Sorry, I know I’m early.”

                Starsky’s voice floated through from the bedroom. “No problem pal. Help yourself to coffee if you want it. I’ll be out in a minute.”

                Hutch poured himself a coffee and one for his partner, placing the pot of sugar and a spoon next to his friend’s mug. He sat down at the table and took a sip, trying to relax, but it was no use. He jumped up again and looked out of the window. A moment later, he heard Starsky come into the room.

                “Morning buddy. Why so early? Trouble sleeping?” Starsky straddled a chair and gulped down a mouthful of the hot coffee Hutch had put out for him.

                Hutch came away from the window and sat down at the table again. “I woke up early. Something on my mind.”

                Starsky looked him over carefully. “Well?”

                “S-Something happened last night.”

                Starsky wracked his brains. Hutch had been going over to Laura’s last night, hadn’t he? Had they had a fight? He sure hoped not. Hutch seemed nervous but not depressed.

                “Tell me all about it.”

                “Starsk…I-I kinda asked Laura to marry me last night.”

                Starsky’s face shone with happiness. “Hey, that’s great. That’s terrific! What did she say?”

                “She said…yes.” Hutch sounded surprised.

                “That’s terrific!” Starsky exclaimed again. “Why do you sound so surprised Blintz? Of course, she’d say yes, she’s crazy about you!”

                Hutch swallowed. “I know I’m crazy about her…I guess I wasn’t sure it was mutual.”

                “Dummy!” Starsky shook his head at his partner then he jumped up and pulled him up out of the chair and into a bear hug. “I’m so happy for ya. You deserve this Hutch.”

                “Do I?” Hutch queried faintly.

                Starsky stepped back but held onto his friend by the shoulders. “Yes Hutch. You do. You deserve every good thing Mac’s going to bring to your life. You are one terrific person and you deserve to have this happiness.” He searched Hutch’s eyes. “You listening to me partner?”

                Hutch swallowed and smiled back. “Yeah, I hear you partner.”

                “Good.” Starsky let go of his friend and sat back down. “I didn’t know you’d been to get a ring. You kept that quiet buddy.”

                “Actually, I haven’t yet. I hadn’t planned on proposing. It just sorta happened. We’re going to look at rings together this weekend.”

                “Spontaneous proposals. You are getting surprising in your old age!”

                “Hey, buddy boy, watch it! You’re older than I am!”

                “Only by five months!” Starsky grinned and rubbed his hands together with unbridled glee. “We need to celebrate! Whadda ya say we go to Huggy’s after work?”

                “Sounds good but it will have to be a quick visit. I’m supposed to be taking Laura out for dinner tonight to celebrate…just the two of us,” Hutch said.

                “No problem. We’ll make it short but memorable! And tell Mac, you two have got to have an engagement party.”

                Hutch shook his head. “Don’t you think that’s a bit over the top – I’ve been married before and Laura’s not some blushing teenage bride. Engagement parties are for the young, don’t you think.”

                Starsky fixed him with a look. “Parties are for the young? How old are you?! This isn’t going to be like Christmas is it? ‘Cause I reckon Mac will feel short-changed if you don’t want to mark the occasion and besides I want to celebrate with both of you.”

                Hutch looked unconvinced. “Well, we’ll talk about it later. Right now we better get to work.”

                Starsky grabbed a bagel and spread it with cream cheese, which he munched as he walked across the living room gathering up his wallet, keys, holster and jacket. He finished off the last morsel and then he and Hutch left the apartment went down to Hutch’s waiting car.

                As they reached the battered beige Ford, Hutch said, “By the way, thanks for being my cheer squad Starsk. If you say it’s a good thing happening, I feel like I can start to believe it myself.”

                “I’ll always cheer you on babe! And you and Mac are definitely a good thing.”

                “You really think so, don’t you?”

                Starsky looked over the roof at Hutch and raised an eyebrow. “I know it and you know it, too. She understands you Hutch…Any doubts you got is just your baggage trying to drag you down.”

                Hutch rubbed a hand over his face and let out a long slow breath. “Yeah, I know you’re right…it’s just I’ve made really bad choices in the past…I guess I don’t trust myself to make a good choice.”

                Starsky grinned at him. “Well, then you got no worries. Remember, I chose Mac for ya before you even thought about it. She’s a good un Hutch. Hang on to her.”

                Hutch nodded and started to smile. “How much do I owe you for your matchmaking services?”

                Starsky laughed. “How about you let me organise your engagement party and we’ll say your debt is paid?”

                “You’re not going to let that go, are you?”

                “Nope.”

                “All right Starsk. You’ve got the job.”

                Starsky rubbed his hands together again, his excitement palpable. “Great!”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

As Starsky and Hutch walked up the front steps of the Metro Building, Dobson and his rookie partner, Noah Smith, were coming the other way. The young detective nodded at Starsky and gave Hutch a smile. He’d spent a few days with Hutch last year while Starsky was still recuperating from the injuries caused by Gunther’s assassination attempt and while his senior partner, Dobson, had been attending a family funeral out of state.

                “Called out already Len?” Starsky inquired.

                “Yeah, domestic violence. I hate those.”

                “Know exactly how you feel,” Starsky commiserated. “Hope it’s not too bad.”

                Just then rookie Detective Sam Bailey stuck his head out of the front door and called down after his friend: “Noah! In case I don’t see you later, don’t forget, we’re meeting at The Lobster Pot on the pier for my sister’s birthday bash.”

                Noah looked affronted. “Would I forget? I wrote it in my diary and everything!”

                “You don’t have a diary! You stick notes on your fridge. I told you before: it’s not an efficient method for remembering where you’re supposed to be,” Sam pointed out.

                It was clearly an old argument. Noah rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. It works for me. I remembered, didn’t I? I’ll be there at seven.”

                “Great. See ya buddy.” Sam disappeared back inside the building.

                Dobson chuckled. “Now your social life is sorted out, can we go?”

                “Yeah, sorry about that Dobson. Blame Bailey.”

                Hutch smiled at his partner over the interchange as the two of them carried on into the building and upstairs to the squad room. Hutch sat down at his desk and started typing up a report he’d not managed to finish yesterday. Starsky made a coffee for both of them and then wandered around as he drank his. He chatted to Sam Bailey and his senior partner, Joe Callaghan, about last night’s baseball game for a few minutes.

                Just as he was finally about to settle at his desk, a female officer from Detective Services came in with a pile of files, containing the research the two of them had asked for the day before. Starsky chatted with the young woman for at least ten minutes. He couldn’t help flirting with anyone with a pretty face but he had toned it down a bit over the last few months as he and Ali had got more serious. He wouldn’t want any other woman to think he was really interested in her when he truly only had eyes for Ali. At last, Officer Baez realised she should be getting back to the file room and left. Starsky sat down and opened the first folder.

                “Want me to run through the information on possible new high-end fences in the city and then fill you in?” he suggested to Hutch.

                “Yeah. Got the background checks on the employees at the Clear Cut Jewellery Company?”

                “Yeah.” Starsky handed the folder over to his partner.

                They began reading their respective files. After a few minutes, they heard Dobey’s phone ringing in his office. A moment later, their captain came out with a very grim look on his face. He walked straight over to Callaghan and Bailey but spoke to the whole room.

                “There’s been a shooting incident. I regret to inform all of you that Len Dobson’s dead.”

                There was a gasp from Joe. Dobey put a hand on his shoulder.

                “W-What about Noah?” Sam’s voice shook a little as he asked the question.

                “He’s still alive son…but it’s not looking good. I’m sorry.”

                Sam bowed his head. A second later he jumped up and rushed out of the squad room. Hutch, who had risen to his feet at the announcement, saw the young detective dash into the men’s room.

                “Starsky, Hutchinson, I need you to go down and take care of things at the scene until I get there. I’m going to speak to Evelyn. Let her know about Len.”

                Callaghan stood up slowly. “I’d like to come with you Captain, if that’s okay. I’ve known Len and Evelyn for nearly thirty years. She’d expect me to come.”

                Dobey nodded. “Of course. I’d appreciate the support and I know she will as well.”

                Callaghan put his jacket on then looked at Starsky and Hutch. “Can you take Bailey to the hospital before you go to the scene? I’ll go see if he’s okay first and then if you could take him, I’d be grateful. He and Noah are really close.”

                Starsky nodded. “No problem Joe. We’ll do that.”

                Starsky’s face darkened with memories and he looked down at his desk.

                “I’ll check on Sam,” Hutch offered. “I got to know him a bit while Starsky was still off-duty last year. Leave him to us. We’ll take care of him.”

                “Thanks.”

                Dobey spoke to the room again. “Wits about you, all of you…Until we know who and why, have your wits about you. Stay safe.”

                The Captain and Callaghan left the room. Under the cover of the noise of chatter in the squad room, and in the corridor as people heard the news, Hutch stepped closer to his friend and whispered, “You okay Starsk?”

                Starsky sighed and met Hutch’s eyes. Everything Hutch expected to see was there: memories of a past ambushing of cops…and the attack on Terri. Starsky’s eyes said everything he was thinking.

                “Yeah, I know partner. I agree with you,” Hutch said.

                Starsky flashed him a grateful smile for his understanding and his constant ability to read his mind. “I’m all right. You go check on Bailey. I’ll get his jacket and gun and meet you in a minute.”

                Hutch nodded and headed towards the men’s room. As he entered, he heard water flushing and a stall door opened. Sam walked over to the sink, washed his hands and face and then patted them dry.

                “How are you Sam?”

                Sam shrugged. “I’m okay.”

                “If it helps, I’ve been there. It’s the worst feeling in the world but don’t give up hope. I seem to think Noah’s a tough cookie. He won’t give up without a fight.”

                Sam straightened his shoulders. “Yeah, you’re right Hutch. Noah’s a fighter.”

                “Come on. Starsky and I’ll drop you at the hospital so you can see how he’s doing.”

                “Thanks.” Sam followed Hutch out of the room and nodded to Starsky, as he handed the younger man his gun and jacket.

                “Hang in there kid,” Starsky said.

                Sam nodded. “I’ll try.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Sam was silent most of the way to the hospital. Hutch watched him in the mirror and exchanged looks with his partner. By mutual agreement, Starsky hovered in the car while Hutch went in with Sam to find out what the latest news was with Noah and to help Sam find somewhere to wait. Eventually, he left the forlorn looking youngster waiting in the family room outside the surgical theatres. As he went to leave, he promised Sam that he and Starsky would be back as soon as they could.

                Hutch was just about to enter the lift to go down to the ground floor, when he heard his name being called. It was Laura. He should have remembered she was on the morning shift and that he might run into her. She looked perturbed. Hutch stepped away from the lift and walked to meet her half way along the corridor. “Hey honey. Everything okay?”

                Laura threw her arms around him and hugged him hard. He could feel her trembling and held onto her until she was ready to pull away from him. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose. “Sorry…Just relieved…When we heard a cop was coming in…my heart stopped for a minute.”

                “Oh honey, I should have thought to send you a message. It’s only just happened and we’re all in shock, to be honest.”

                “’S’all right. You’ve got other things on your mind. How’s the young detective doing?”

                “Still in surgery. They’re trying to get the bullet out from near his heart. A Dr Kenwood’s doing the surgery.”

                “I know him. He’s good. If anyone can, he can. What happened? What type of incident? Was anyone else hurt?”

                Hutch swallowed. “His partner was killed outright.”

                Laura grabbed his hand and clung on. “I’m sorry.”

                “I’ve gotta go sweetheart,” Hutch said reluctantly, “Starsky’s waiting for me…Can you do me a favour please? Let Ali know he’s all right. It’ll probably be on the news soon and she might hear it before he gets a chance to ring her.”

                “I’m on a break. I’ll do it now…See you tonight for our dinner?”

                Hutch nodded. “I hope so. I might be late…just depends how long this all takes. It’s all hands on deck when something like this happens.”

                “Of course, I understand. If you can’t come…ring me later, whatever time…just so I know you’re okay.”

                Hutch pulled her back in to a hug. “I’ll do that darling and I’m sorry I didn’t think to ring the hospital. Not used to thinking as part of a partnership.” He gave her a grin. “Other than with Starsky of course!”

                Laura laughed and swatted his arm. “Go on, get out of here. Get back to your work wife!”

                “Work wife! Starsk’ll love that!”

                “Hope to see you later sweetheart. Be safe.”

                As he started to walk away, Hutch blew her a kiss and said, “I’ll see you or speak to you later, I promise.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

“What took you so long,” Starsky grumbled as Hutch got into the car. He took off in a cloud of smoke and headed downtown. “Dobey will be there before us at this rate.”

                “Sorry. Ran into Laura.”

                “She okay?”

                “Bit upset. I had to apologise for not getting a message to her…and then I asked her to ring Ali and let her know you’re okay.”

                “Oh…oh, yes, I didn’t think.”

                They looked at each other and Hutch grimaced.

                “We gotta do better, partner. Talking to Laura, I’ve suddenly realised: we’re not bachelors anymore.”

                “Was Mac put out?”

                “No, she was okay…I told her I wasn’t used to being in a partnership…other than with you, of course.”

                Starsky snorted. “What’d she say to that?”

                “She called you my work-wife!” Hutch exclaimed with a grin.

                Starsky looked surprised then started roaring with laughter. “Oh, that’s good, that’s priceless! Trust Mac. Work wife.”

                By the time they reached the scene, Starsky had just about stopped chuckling. As he turned off the engine, he asked soberly, “What was the news on Noah?”

                “Still in surgery. I told Sam we’d stop back later to see how he’s getting on.”

                Starsky nodded agreement. “Right. We’d better get on with it.”

                The two of them got out of the car and quickly went to find the incident commander to find out what had been done so far and what he wanted them to do, or indeed, if they needed to take charge in Dobey’s absence.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

It was late afternoon by the time, Starsky and Hutch returned to the Metro building. A subdued atmosphere had enveloped the corridors, offices and squad rooms. One of their own had been killed and another hurt and they were all mourning in one way or another. All of them were determined to bring the person who was responsible to justice. Hutch went over to the coffee machine and started making two mugs of coffee. Dobey came into the squad room a few moments later; he looked as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

                “Cap? Any news on Smith?” Starsky wanted to know.

                “He’s out of surgery and the doctor’s given him a better than fifty-fifty chance. He was still unconscious when I left. I’ve left Callaghan there with Bailey. The kid’s pretty cut up about it. I’ll pop back later and see if there’s any change. Anything from the canvass?”

                “Nothing much,” Hutch said as he handed Dobey the coffee he’d been making for himself.

                Dobey acknowledged the small gesture of caring with a nod and took a grateful sip from his mug. Hutch acknowledged Dobey’s thanks by inclining his head in response.

                Then Hutch carried on speaking: “Someone thought they saw an out-of-place looking car on the next street but that maybe nothing. We’ve issued a description to all patrol units of a dark car with light blue detailing on the doors just in case it’s relevant.”

                Hutch walked over to Starsky and handed him his coffee, which his partner took from him absent-mindedly as he spoke to Dobey: “The domestic violence call was a hoax.”

                Dobey frowned. “So they were lured there deliberately.”

                “It’s looking that way.”

                “Maybe this is someone with a personal grudge against the Dobson,” Dobey said. “Smith’s not been on the job long enough to make enemies. We need to get Detective Services looking into all of Dobson’s old cases.”

                Minnie came in through the door, laden down with folders, and followed by Officer Baez. They were just in time to hear Dobey’s comment.

                “Way ahead of you, Captain,” Minnie said. “Hope you don’t mind, but all of us down in Detective Services want to help. Maria and I’d like to help you sift through cases if that’s okay with you? Len was a good guy,” she added by way of explanation.

                Dobey smiled at her. “Thank you both. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”

                Hutch indicated the free chairs where Callaghan and Dobson usually sat. “Why don’t you base yourselves there? Give Starsky and me half the files and we’ll get going.”

                “What about the rooftop the gunman was on?” Dobey asked, “Any physical evidence?”

                Starsky shook his head. “Nah, the guy was careful. We didn’t find anything – no shell casings, cigarettes, nothing.”

                Dobey sighed. “Well, that makes looking at links to old cases even more important then. Hopefully, we’ll catch a break.”

                Dobey went towards his office with heavy steps. “I’d better go update the Commissioner. Not that we’ve got anything to report yet really.” He looked at his watch. “That will give me an hour or so to help sift through old cases with you and then I promised Evelyn I’d take her to make the identification.” His voice cracked slightly on the last few words.

                “Cap? You eaten anything today?” Starsky asked. His concern for his captain’s welfare was plainly written on his face.

                Dobey shook his head.

                “Why don’t you go get some lunch and then make your phone call? You ain’t gonna do anyone any good if you don’t keep your energy up.”

                Dobey paused, torn between duty to his department and duty to himself. “I guess I could go get a sandwich and bring it back.” He noticed most of the people in the squad were nodding at him, obviously concerned for the way he was pushing himself. He was touched. “Thank you all.”

                Everyone nodded and then got stuck into the job at hand while Dobey went to get his sandwich and then make his calls. Within twenty minutes, he was back sifting through files alongside everyone else.

                A couple of hours later, they had a list of six possible suspects with both the motive to want to attack Dobson and the violent nature or firearms skill necessary to execute the attack. Starsky and Hutch took the first two names on the list and headed out. The other four names were farmed out to other detectives in the squad to go and find and then interview.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Their first port of call was a gym on Eighth Street where an ex-con called Rick Hollander had a job as a janitor. Dobson had put him away for assisting in an armed robbery ten years previously. While he was in jail his marriage had broken up and his wife had sole custody of their child. He seemed a likely candidate as far as motive went. They found the manager and were pointed in the direction of the locker rooms – once there, they found Hollander pushing a mop and wheeled bucket along the floor.

                “Rick Hollander?”

                The man sighed. “Police?”

                “Yes.”

                “I know the drill.” He let go of the mop and put his hands in front of him. “Is this a friendly chat or am I being taken in for something you think I done? Only I want to cooperate but I don’t want to lose this job. You take me out of here; my boss might have second thoughts about me.”

                “We just have a few questions at this stage so we can ask them here,” Hutch said. “First of all, where were you this morning between nine and ten?”

                “Seeing my ex.”

                Hutch looked unconvinced. “Really? She’d vouch for that, would she?”

                “Yeah…we was talking over me starting to see my daughter once a month. Now, I got a steady job, she’s going to let me have visitation rights.”

                “Write down her name and contact number,” Hutch said, handing him the pad.

                Starsky said, “We also want to know how you feel about the cop who arrested you and got you put away for five years?”

                “Which one? Detective Callaghan or his partner, Johnson?”

                “Dobson,” Starsky corrected him.

                “Dobson was it? My mistake. Ain’t given either of them much thought…’cept maybe to think I should thank them.”

                Both detectives looked surprised.

                “Thank them?” queried Hutch.

                “Yeah, they done me a favour really. I was headed down a bad path, getting in with a real dangerous crew. Them putting me away was a wake-up call; made me realise I was going to miss a lot of precious years with my daughter. I did my time and I’m clean. I don’t want to miss any more of her life.”

                Hutch looked at Starsky and closed his pad. “Thank you for your time.”

                Hollander nodded, looking relieved that he wasn’t going to be dragged in for questioning.

                Starsky and Hutch left the gym and climbed into Starsky’s car.

                “Think he was on the level?” Hutch asked.

                Starsky thought about it then said, “Yeah, I do.”

                “On to suspect number two then partner.”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

The second suspect was a parolee, named Jimmy ‘Sharky’ Smith. Starsky and Hutch drove to his apartment building in a run-down part of town and took the stairs up to the fourth floor, passing various shifty characters and one passed out drunk.

                “Nice place,” Starsky commented.

                “Mmm, just like the Ritz.”

                They approached door 408 and drew their guns out just to be on the safe side. Hutch knocked on the door.

                “Sharky? I’m Detective Hutchinson. We’d like a word with you.” He heard a shuffling inside and held his badge up to the door.

                A moment later the door opened and a weasely looking, small man peered out. “What do you want?”

                “Need to ask you a few questions. May we come in?” Hutch asked.

                “Do I have a choice?”

                “No.”

                “Then be my guest, gentlemen,” Sharky said with a resigned grimace.

                He went ahead of them and threw himself down onto the small sofa, which was squashed up against one wall. Hutch sat on the only other seat in the apartment while Starsky leaned against the kitchen counter.

                “What d’ya wanna know?”

                “Where were you between nine and ten this morning?”

                “Well, I got up around nine. Had an appointment with my parole officer around ten so I guess I was travelling around nine-thirty. You can ask him – Officer Graves. He’ll vouch I made my appointment on time.”

                Sharky handed Hutch a card with the contact details for the parole officer. Hutch copied them down and then handed the card back.

                “All right, that’s it for now. We’ll have to check what you’re saying is true,” Hutch said. “If not, we’ll be back.”

                Sharky shrugged.

                As they walked back down the stairs, Starsky said, “I hope the other teams have had more luck.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

They were on their way back to the station when the call came over the radio. “All units in the vicinity of Brent and Third, we have a Code 30. Officers needs assistance. Unit Adam 14 under fire. Repeat Code 30 - Officers need assistance.”

                “That’s not far from here,” Starsky observed, as he turned the siren on and slapped the Mars light on the roof.

                Swiftly, Hutch made the car dart around a truck ahead of them and drove as fast as he dared towards Brent Street. Starsky responded to the call from Dispatch and then hung on as the car swerved around a corner and into the south end of the street. Up ahead they could see the flashing lights of a black and white. It was pulled up outside a bodega on the corner of Third and Brent. One officer was sat on the ground next to the vehicle, holding a hand against his thigh, while his partner fired two shots up towards a building on the opposite corner. There was an answering shot that broke the vehicle windscreen.

                Hutch pulled the car up as close as he dared to the black and white. A shot rang out and hit the hood of the car. Starsky swore as he scrambled out of the passenger door as quickly as he could so that Hutch could follow him out to safety. Starsky brought his gun up and raised himself above the roof of the car, firing a shot in the direction the attack had come from. This time there was no return fire. Hutch cautiously raised his head. There was only silence. He looked at his partner and they communicated with their eyes, then Starsky hopped up and fired off two shots while Hutch dashed over to join the officers at the black and white. In the distance, they could hear more sirens approaching.

                “Hey, I’m Detective Hutchinson. How are you doing?” Hutch asked the young officer in front of him.

                “I’ve been better. I’m Officer Hill. My partner’s Dennison.”

                “Well, Hill, you’d better let me take a look at that leg.”

                Hill removed his bloody hand and Hutch could the bullet wound was mid-thigh. There was no exit wound that he could see.

                “Okay, put pressure on it again,” Hutch said.

                As Starsky came running over, Hutch eased open the front door of the patrol car and reached into the glove box for the small first aid kit housed there. He quickly found the largest wound dressing in the box and ripped the paper from it. Then he placed it under Hill’s hand.

                “Keep applying pressure Hill. I can see an ambulance headed our way. They’ll patch you up.” Hutch turned to the other officer. “Dennison, what happened?”

                Dennison ducked down and knelt next to his partner. “We got a call of a robbery taking place in the bodega. As soon as we got out of the car, someone started shooting at us from above and Hill got hit. We hadn’t even worked out where the shots were coming from and he was down. Whoever it was was waiting for us.”

                “But nothing came from the bodega?”

                “No. All quiet from there. I saw the owner and a couple of customers peering out at us but no sign of anything untoward going on inside.”

                Hutch looked at Starsky. “What do you think? Another set up?”

                “Yeah, and I think while we’ve been here yammering, he’s probably made his escape but we should try to get into that building and take a look anyway.”

                An ambulance came pulling up behind their car, followed by another black and white. Hutch and Starsky stood ready to fire just in case there were more shots but everything was quiet. Satisfied it was safe to do so, they left the ambulance crew dealing with Hill and told the uniformed officers to check in on the people at the bodega while they went to check out the building opposite.

                It was a three storey building made up of small low-rental apartments. They entered the central door carefully, easing their way down the corridor until they came to a staircase. Ahead they could see a fire door leading to the back of the building.

                “I’ll check out back before we go up,” Starsky said.

                He left Hutch guarding the staircase and jogged down the corridor to the door, opening it slowly inch by inch. Then he stuck his head out and looked around and up. Frowning, he closed the door and headed back towards his partner.

                “There’s a set of fire escapes - think he’s probably long gone. The alleyway leads back along the length of the street. No sign of anyone there now.”

                They headed up the stairs cautiously until they reached the third floor. On the opposite wall was an emergency door leading to the roof. Starsky went low, Hutch went high, as they threw the door open and dashed out onto the roof, diving behind the nearest covered utility outlet. They waited. Then they poked their heads out from either side of the unit. There was no reaction. Very cautiously, they emerged from their hiding place and started walking along either side of the roof towards the edge facing the bodega. The place was deserted.

                “This guy’s good at clearing up after himself. I can’t see any spent cartridges. There’s nothing to show anyone was here,” Starsky said, sounding frustrated.

                “Let’s check the fire escape,” Hutch suggested. “If we follow the route we think he took, we might find something. Worth a try anyway.”

                The two of them made their way slowly down the fire escapes on each storey, looking for anything that the perp might have dropped. Hutch spotted a small piece of red cotton material caught on a section of ladder that was damaged and had a sharp edge. He picked it off carefully and placed it in a folded piece of paper and into his jacket pocket.

                “Might be something,” he said to Starsky hopefully.

                When they reached the ground, they diligently searched around the bottom of the ladder and along both sides of the alleyway as far as the sidewalk onto which it opened out.

                “Nothing,” Starsky said. “I think this guy is definitely a pro, maybe ex-army.”

                “Yeah, it’s certainly looking like someone who knows their way around weapons and is smart enough to know not to leave evidence.”

                “We’re not going to catch him looking through Dobson’s old files…This attack was definitely planned but there’s no link between Dobson and those two uniformed cops…except of course that they all work out of Metro.”

                Hutch sighed. “Let’s get back to the squad and see if anyone else has any bright ideas about how we’re going to find this guy.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

With their shift long over, the two of them decided to go back to hospital and check on how Noah and Sam were doing. They found out that Noah was on the surgical recovery ward. When they arrived on the assigned floor, they found Sam pacing up and down outside a room with a large glass window overlooking two beds. Noah was in one bed; an older man in the other – there were nurses and doctors in the room hovering around the beds, clearly carrying out assessments on both patients. A woman in her fifties was sitting on a chair a little way along the corridor obviously also waiting to go back in to the room.

                “How are you doing Sam?” Hutch asked.

                “Fed up. Noah’s not woken up yet and now they’ve kicked me out while they assess him.” The strain was clear in Sam’s voice.

                “Want us to take over the watch for a bit so you can go get something to eat and drink?” Hutch suggested.

                “Shoot!” Sam looked at his watch. “I’m due at my sister’s birthday party…fifteen minutes ago and I haven’t told anyone about Noah yet – they won’t know why I’m not there.”

                “Why don’t you go to the party for a couple of hours? Starsk and I will keep Noah company till you get back.”

                Sam looked torn. He looked through the window at his friend.

                “He’ll understand,” Starsky said. “Family’s important too and if he wakes up we’ll tell him you were here the whole time and that you’ll be right back.”

                “All right, I’ll get the latest update and then I’ll go for a couple of hours. I’ll be back by ten. Thanks guys.”

                Just then the door opened and the nurses and doctors came out of the room. One doctor headed to speak to the woman along the corridor. One came over to Sam, who introduced him to Starsky and Hutch.

                “This is Doctor Kenwood. Detectives Starsky and Hutch – they’re in the same squad as us.”

                The doctor nodded at them. “The operation was definitely a success. His vitals are improving and I’m really very hopeful of a complete recovery.”

                Sam breathed sigh of relief. “Do you think he’ll wake up soon?”

                “A few more hours I should think. He’s been through a long complicated surgery – the body needs time to recover – but yes, I’m sure he’ll wake up sometime during the night…definitely by morning.”

                “Thank you Doctor.”

                Doctor Kenwood nodded and smiled and walked away to see his next patient.

                Sam said, “Noah’s parents are flying back from a visit to relatives in Chicago. At least, they’ll arrive now to some good news.” He looked at the two older detectives. “I’ll just go tell him where I’m going…I know it’s stupid ‘cause he’s unconscious and he won’t know but I’ll feel better.”

                Starsky said, “It’s not stupid. He’ll sense you’re there…I know that from experience.” He looked over at Hutch and smiled.

                Sam hurried into the room and they saw him take Noah’s hand and speak to him then he came out.

                “Okay, I’ll go now. I’ll be back by ten.”

                “See ya.”

                As Sam hurried away, Starsky said, “You’d better get going too pal. You’re supposed to be taking Laura out to dinner.”

                “Oh…You sure Starsk? I could ring her and ask if we can celebrate another night.”

                “Nah, get outta here. I’ll see you in the morning.”

                “All right. Thanks buddy.”

                Starsky nodded at his partner and then went into the recovery room as Hutch headed off. He sat down in the hard plastic chair next to the bed and smiled gently at the woman, who was sat next to the other patient. The older man was awake and holding her hand but not speaking. She acknowledged Starsky’s smile with a small one of her own.

                Starsky leaned forward and place his hand on Noah’s arm. “Dave Starsky here, Noah. Sam’s had to go to his sister’s birthday bash but he’ll be back real soon. I’m going to keep you company till he gets back. Rest up and get well soon.”

                He sat back but kept his hand on the younger man’s arm. There was so much he didn’t remember about the first few days and weeks of his own hospital stay but one thing he did remember clearly was hands - hands (usually Hutch’s but sometimes his mother’s, or Huggy’s, or Dobey’s, or Mac’s, or one of the other nurses) holding his fingers or touching his arm, helping to anchor him to the world and reminding him that there were people who cared about him and that they were praying for him to wake up. He wanted Noah to know that same care and anchoring touch.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

               

It was nearly eleven by the time Starsky pulled up outside his apartment. He was surprised to see Hutch’s car parked there and lights on inside his home. He jogged up the steps and opened the door and found Hutch and Mac sitting on his sofa. A Fats Domino record was playing and on the table were three wine glasses and a bottle of red wine.

                Starsky grinned. “What’s all this?”

                “We couldn’t celebrate without you Dave; you’re the reason we met,” Laura said by way of an explanation.

                “Well that’s really nice of ya but it could have waited until the party.”

                “Party?” Laura queried.

                Hutch cleared his throat. “Apparently we’re having an engagement party…whether we want one or not.”

                Starsky frowned at Hutch as he sat down on the chair at the end of the table. “Pour the wine you old grouch. Mac’s up for a party, aren’t you?”

                Laura considered and then grinned. “Actually yes I am.” She turned to Hutch. “Sorry honey, I’m afraid I like parties…and Christmas. You sure you still want to marry me?”

                Hutch pretended to consider the question seriously as he poured the wine out. “Well, everybody’s got flaws; I guess I can overlook yours…’Sides I’m really marrying you for your garden and for that I’m prepared to overlook anything.”

                Laura elbowed Hutch in the stomach much to Starsky’s amusement. Hutch looked wounded then started laughing. He picked up the glasses and handed them to his fiancée and partner.

                Starsky lifted his glass and said, “To Hutch - the best friend I’ve ever had - and to Mac – my very good friend…and the only person I would entrust Hutch to. May you both have long happy years together.”

                They all sipped their wine and Hutch and Laura both said, “Thank you.”

                Hutch raised his glass and said, “To Starsk. Best friend and…best man?”

                Starsky grinned widely. “Who else you gonna ask?...‘Course I’ll be your best man. I’d be honoured.”

                Hutch smiled happily and sipped his wine. “Any change with Noah before you left?”

                “Nah, he was still out of it. Sam looked a little better for having had a break for a while but I think he’s pretty much camped there for the night. Even if the nurses try to throw him out, I don’t reckon he’ll go far.”

                “I remember it well,” Laura said. “I think most of the nursing staff have given up trying to keep you two apart when one of you is injured or ill!” Abruptly, she stood up. “I know we’re going to have a party sometime but I want a dance right now. What about it Dave? Fancy showing me your fancy moves?”

                “You betcha!”

                Starsky jumped up and soon he and Laura were attempting to do something that looked like a cross between the jive and disco dancing. Hutch watched the pair of them and felt his heart fill up with a feeling of gratitude - for the good things he was currently experiencing; and particularly that he had two people in his life that he loved with every fibre of his being…and for some strange reason seemed to love him just as much.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

The following day, Starsky picked Hutch up and they headed straight into work to see if there had been any developments overnight. They arrived to find that another officer had been shot at when he’d responded to a noise complaint just after dawn at an apartment eight blocks over from the Metro Building. Fortunately, the gunman had missed but, again, he had not been seen and had left no physical evidence at the scene.

                They walked into the squad room to find a pile of files on their desk and a large map of the city centre and the outlying areas patrolled by officers from the Metro Division. Before they’d called it a night the day before, they had asked for files relating to any injuries or deaths of suspects occurring in the Metro building in the last five years. Hutch marked the sniper’s attacks on the map and stood staring at it for a while before he pinned it onto the wall near the coffee machine. Starsky had already started trawling through the files and Hutch joined him. The results had come back on the piece of red material; regular cotton from a garment such as a shirt, no distinguishing features. Some good news came in during the morning – Sam rang to let everyone know that Noah had woken up and seemed to be doing well. Noah’s parents had arrived so Sam was going to take a couple of hours to sleep and then come into work later.

                After a couple of hours of staring at words in files, Starsky got up and stretched and said he needed a candy bar before continuing. He headed out into the corridor. Hutch made coffee for both of them and headed back to his desk. The phone rang and he picked it up and started dealing with an enquiry for information to do with the jewellery heist case on which they had recently been assisting. He was still listening to the caller when a shiver ran down his spine.

                Hutch didn’t know how he knew. He just knew.

                He slammed the phone down, startling the other detectives in the room, and barrelled through the bullpen doors as if the devil was on his heels. He spotted Starsky flirting with Minnie at the far end of the corridor. They were standing next to the only exterior window on the floor.

                “Mayday!”

                As Hutch’s shout rang out, Starsky dropped to the floor, taking Minnie with him. At the same time, the window shattered into a thousand pieces and a bullet embedded itself in the floor at Starsky’s feet. He and Minnie scrambled sideways, away from the window, as a second shot came whizzing through the open space where the window had been.

                As heads appeared from different rooms along the corridor, Hutch shouted, “Sniper on the roof, building opposite!”

                Immediately his colleagues sprang into action, taking the stairs and elevators down to the ground floor to exit the building and see if they could catch the sniper. Someone informed Dobey and he came rushing out and joined the next load of officers taking the elevator down. Knowing there were more than enough people going out after the gunman, Hutch dashed along the hallway and helped first Minnie and then Starsky onto their feet. He pulled them further away from the window.

                “You both okay?”

                “Thanks to you partner, yes,” Starsky said. “How did you know?”

                “Not sure.”

                Hutch suddenly found he was being hugged by Minnie and then receiving a kiss on the cheek. “Hutch honey, you saved my life. Thank you.”

                Hutch blushed. “You’re welcome.”

                Suddenly Minnie looked a bit wobbly. “I think I need a sit down and a coffee.”

                “Sounds like a good idea to me,” Starsky said.

                The three of them went back into the squad room and Hutch made Minnie a coffee and told her to sit at his desk. He went and sat on the edge of Starsky’s desk and Starsky leaned up against him; both needing the momentary reassurance of physical contact.

                A couple of minutes later Dobey and several officers returned to the squad room.

                “You get him?” Starsky asked.

                “No,” Dobey said, sounding frustrated, “he’s like a ghost. You both all right?” He looked at Minnie and Starsky.

                “Yes, thanks to Hutch here. He warned us just before the shot hit the window.”

                Dobey turned surprised eyes to Hutch. “How did you know, Hutchinson?”

                Hutch frowned and then stood up. He walked over to the map on the wall. “I’m not sure really. I was just looking at the map and wondering why all the attacks were in areas policed by our division. I kept thinking maybe there was a connection to the whole division even if there wasn’t one to an individual officer…then I just got this funny feeling…”

                He didn’t add that the feeling was that his partner was in danger and he had to respond - everyone knew that was what he was thinking and accepted that that was what had happened. Hutch went back and sat on Starsky’s desk again. Starsky patted his leg before leaning back in his chair so that he could see Dobey around his partner’s frame.

                Starsky started thinking out loud: “So maybe this guy hates all Metro cops…One of us put someone away that he cares about?...Maybe someone died in our custody?...Maybe someone he is related to was put away by us and died in prison…God, it seems we got another Prudholm on our hands.”

                Starsky looked bleakly at Hutch, who communicated his thoughts to him with his eyes – eyes that said, “We got the guy last time, we won’t fail this time as long as we work together like always,” and Starsky’s expression lightened a little.

                Dobey said, “Let’s get all the files from Detective Services matching any of those criteria.”

                Minnie jumped up, saying, “I’m on it, Captain.”

                “Before you go, Minnie,” Starsky said. “With everything that’s going on, Hutch hasn’t had a chance to announce his good news.”

                Hutch blushed bright red and before he could say anything, Starsky spoke for him, “He’s asked Laura MacKenzie to marry him and she said yes!”

                Everyone crowded around Hutch congratulating him while Starsky stood back looking on like a proud father. Dobey shook hands with Hutch and said, “Congratulations son. I like Laura very much and so does Edith. She’ll be thrilled with your news.”

               

Chapter Three

 

They stayed late at the office and came up with five possible cases where someone might have a grudge against the whole division. Dobey had tasked the detectives on night shift with searching out two of the men on the list. It was heading towards midnight when he ordered everyone home, saying that they would carry on with the search tomorrow.

                The next morning, Hutch went round to collect Starsky and take him to breakfast before they went on shift. The small café was quiet at that time of the morning; two construction workers grabbing a coffee before they started for the day and a young male student eating a pile of pancakes while he finished reading a book he was due to have a quiz on that day. They tucked into their breakfasts with quiet enjoyment.

                “Are you and Laura going to set a date soon Hutch? I mean are you planning a long or a short engagement?” Starsky asked suddenly.

                The question was so out of the blue that it took Hutch by surprise but then he raised an eyebrow at Starsky as if expecting him to answer his own question.

                Starsky frowned. “Well?”

                “Well, we might wait a little bit.” Hutch gestured with his hands as if expecting Starsky to understand the reason and come up with the appropriate response.

                Instead Starsky frowned harder and asked, “Why?”

                “Starsk! You know why!”

                “I do?”

                Starsky looked so confused, Hutch said, “You really don’t know why?”

                “No. Should I?”

                “The List?!” Hutch prompted his partner gently. “You know - the one you wrote in hospital. You said you wanted us to get married on the same day. We thought you might want us to wait for you and Ali.”

                “Oh.”

                “So are you going to ask that girl of yours to marry you any time soon?”

                “I dunno.” Starsky shifted uncomfortably on his chair.

                “What’s the hold up?”

                There was a long silence as Starsky looked out of the window and sighed. Finally, he responded with: “I guess I’m worried if I ask her it will wreck the perfect thing we got going. Make her a…Make her realise she could do a lot better than me.”

                Hutch heard Starsky restart his sentence and wondered what he’d really been going to say. He decided to do a little probing. “Why are you being so down on yourself buddy?”

                Starsky just shrugged.

                “I know Ali’s smart and she’s a teacher but Terri worked with kids and…” Hutch paused. He put two and two together and hoped he wasn’t making five. “Starsk? Is this about Terri somehow?”

                Starsky swallowed. When he answered, his voice sounded strained: “Been thinking about her a lot recently…about nearly getting married…and her becoming a target ‘cause of me.”

                In his head, Hutch silently cursed George Prudholm and everything he was responsible for, including still messing with his partner’s head and trying to steal his happiness. “Starsk…you remember the other day you told me I deserved good things?”

                Starsky turned to look at him with doleful eyes. He nodded.

                “Well, so do you buddy. Maybe even more so. You’ve been through hell and back more than once: with Terri, with Rosey and with almost dying. You fought your way back from all of those experiences. I probably should have said this before now but I’m so proud of you Starsk; proud of your determination not to give up on life. You just can’t let the bad guys defeat you now. If you give up on this chance for happiness, you’re letting Prudholm (and any other like-minded nutters) have control over your life and you’re letting them win.”

                Starsky’s eyes turned a darker blue as he looked at his partner and then admitted, “I’m scared Hutch. I’m scared if I say this is what I want, it’ll be taken away from me.”

                “I know you are Starsk but I’m here to watch your back…and I promise you I always will. You’ve got Dobey and a whole squad of guys ready to protect you and Ali. And don’t forget you’ve got Laura in your corner, too. She’s Ali’s best friend. You don’t really think she wouldn’t watch Ali’s back, the way I watch yours, do you?”

                At last Starsky smiled. “No, I guess not…Thanks babe. I guess I just lost my way for a bit there…You really think I should ask her?”

                Hutch threw his arm around Starsky’s shoulders and pulled him close. “Yes!” Then he let his friend go and ruffled his hair as he stood up. “And do it soon, will you? Laura and I want to set a date and you’re holding us up!”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

When they arrived in the squad room, they found Sam was already there with his partner, Callaghan, and a couple of other detectives. The two leads that had been investigated last night had led nowhere. Callaghan and Sam were just about to go out and interview a suspect.

                “How’s Noah doing?” Hutch asked.

                “Much better. He’s got a long way to go but he’s looking a better colour and he’s talking like himself. I think he’s going to be all right,” Sam said with relief.

                “Good.”

                “How are you doing Joe?” Hutch asked.

                Callaghan shrugged. “As well as can be expected.”

                Hutch nodded with understanding – Callaghan and Dobson had been friends and partners for a long time before deciding to become training officers for the rookie detectives in the squad. They’d both been looking forward to a couple of easier years on the job and then a happy retirement. Dobey came in and greeted everyone.

                “No attacks overnight, I’m glad to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s over…Where are we with the remaining three suspects?”

                “Bailey and me are just going to see Frank Dempsey – the guy whose brother was put away for armed robbery but died in a knife fight in the joint. Collins and Jones were going to take one of the others.”

                Dobey looked through the list. “Collins. You and Jones take Harvey Brewer - I think it’s pretty unlikely that he’s got any involvement in the sniper attacks. I know his brother was killed in that bank raid they tried to pull but he seemed resigned about it when I arrested him. Should be a straightforward interview.”

                He turned to Starsky and Hutch as the others left the office. “I want you two to take this one – Bill Alders.” He frowned. “He’s ex-military. His cousin got hooked on drugs and got into trouble. Got arrested and died in custody here in the station…It’s the only occasion that’s happened here in this division and it was a long time ago…and it is just coming up on the tenth anniversary.”

                Hutch took the file and scanned it quickly. Dobey looked at both of them, worry etched on his face. “My gut is telling me he’s the guy…I think I should send a back-up unit with you.”

                Starsky shrugged but Hutch said, “You’re instincts are usually good Captain…If you can spare someone, we’ll take them.”

                Dobey nodded. “Hold on. I’ll go see who’s available.”

                He hurried into his office and picked up the phone. While he was talking to Dispatch, Starsky put his jacket back on.

                “Don’t you think we can handle this one partner?”

                “It’s not that exactly Starsk…I just got this funny feeling that Dobey’s right and this guy is a pro and desperate for revenge…A little back up won’t hurt and it might keep us both safe,” Hutch said.

                “This ‘funny feeling’ – is it a bit like yesterday?” Starsky asked.

                Hutch nodded.

                “All right then…You say we need back-up partner, I’ll go along with you. ‘Sides I better make sure you stay in one piece otherwise I’ll have to answer to Mac and she’s scary when she’s cross!”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

“Are you deliberately trying to get me into trouble with Mac?” Starsky demanded.

                “Well no, not deliberately…”

                “For God’s sake Hutch, keep your head down and do what you told Officers Stalls and Rodrigo here! ‘Don’t be a hero. Wait for back-up.’ And I’m quoting here!”

                “Sorry,” Hutch said sheepishly, “I just thought I’d see if he was still there.”

                Starsky rolled his eyes. “By sticking your head out in the open! Smart thinking dummy!”

                “Sorry,” Hutch said again. “It’s just we can’t afford to let him get away again this time partner.”

                “I know that but he’s got the high ground and we’re sitting ducks here. We gotta wait until back-up can get his attention away from us.”

                A moment later, they heard sirens and two cars careened around the corner, stopping a few hundred yards away. The first contained Callaghan and Bailey, the second Captain Dobey. All three were armed with shotguns to deal with the situation. They climbed out of their cars and then leaned against the roof of their vehicles, pointing their guns towards the roof of the building. Hutch waved his hand-held radio at Dobey to let him know that they would be in contact once they entered the building.

                At a signal from Starsky, they started firing and the four pinned-down men took the opportunity to run out from behind their cars towards the steps of the building. The dashed inside and looked around. There was an elevator and stairs leading up to the fourth floor and the roof.

                “Safer to take the stairs,” Hutch commented.

                All four of them set off up the stairs; Starsky and Hutch in the lead to the left and right of the staircase; Stalls and Rodrigo following behind. They paused on the third floor to allow Stalls to catch his breath and to listen out for any movement from above. Hutch pressed the call button on the radio.

                “Cap, we’re just heading to the third floor. Is Alders still on the roof?”

                “Yes, he’s still firing at us. You’re safe to continue.”

                The four men began moving again as they reached the set of stairs to the fourth floor, they slowed their pace and listened cautiously for the sound of any door opening and closing. The door to the roof was at the end of the corridor. As they walked along, a woman came out of an apartment and stopped in surprise. Stalls spoke to her: “Think you should stay inside for a few minutes Ma’am. There’s a man firing from the roof.”

                “Oh, I thought it was someone watching a movie on TV. I didn’t realise it was actually someone firing here.” She went back inside and closed her door and bolted it.

                The detectives and officers exchanged bemused glances. They carried on and came to the door leading to the roof. Like so many of its kind, it was steel and opened outwards from the narrow corridor. It wasn’t ideal for getting onto the roof without being shot at by Alders. He’d clearly expected someone to eventually realise who was behind the attacks and had been waiting on the roof, looking out for police to arrive. Even though they’d come without lights and sirens, he’d known they were there and had started firing as soon as they went to exit their vehicles. He’d be waiting for them now as they headed out onto the roof.

                Hutch looked at Stalls and Rodrigo. “You guys hang back. Give us a minute to draw his fire away then you can follow.” He turned to Starsky. “Ready partner.”

                Starsky lifted his gun up ready. “Yep. I’ll go left. On three.”

                As Starsky got to three, Hutch slammed the door open and dove right. Starsky dashed to the left and managed to take cover behind a metal chimney. Hutch tripped on a broken piece of guttering and crashed into the utility box he’d been aiming for. He was momentarily stunned but quickly shook his head and indicated to Starsky that he was all right.

                Starsky used hand signals to count them down to moving up along the roof and firing as they went. Under the cover of their shots, Stalls and Rodrigo joined them on the roof, taking cover in the same spots that Starsky and Hutch had just vacated. Suddenly, there was silence.

                “Alders! We know why you’re doing this. We’re sorry about your cousin. Why don’t you put your gun down and come out and talk to us,” Hutch shouted.

                “He was nineteen, he had his whole life ahead of him. You killed him!” Alders shouted back.

                “It was terrible what happened but it was nobody’s fault. Nobody knew what he’d taken or that he was going to have a bad reaction to the cocktail he’d ingested just before he was arrested.”

                “You’re lying! You pigs let him die. You don’t care about nobody.”

                Starsky signed to Hutch to try and keep Alders talking while he moved up a little closer.

                “Be careful,” Hutch mouthed to his partner, who nodded.

                Hutch turned his attention to Alders. “That’s not true. If the officers could have done something to save him, they would have. I know you miss him but you can’t keep shooting people. It won’t bring Jimmy back.”

                Hutch was aware of Starsky moving slowly and carefully down the left-hand side of the roof. He prayed Alders wouldn’t spot him.

                “Ten years and nobody ever said sorry. He was nineteen and you let him die.”

                Starsky was almost level with Alders. Hutch knew he had to make sure Alder’s attention was on him. “How about you and me talk face to face?” Hutch offered. “I’ll see that the file is reopened, and that there’s a full enquiry into Jimmy’s death, but you need to put down your gun.”

                There was silence.

                “I’m going to come out now so you and I can talk, Mr Alders.”

                Hutch stood up slowly.

                He saw Bill Alders move out from behind the block where he’d been hiding. He stared at Hutch with wild, irrational eyes and then he moved his gun to take a shot at Hutch. There was the sound of a gun firing and Hutch braced himself even as he brought his gun up to respond.

                He felt nothing - there was no bullet wound - instead Bill Alders suddenly collapsed and Hutch saw Starsky running towards the fallen man. He kicked the gun away from Alder’s hand and then bent to check his vital signs. By the time, Hutch joined him, Starsky was shaking his head. Stalls and Rodrigo appeared.

                “Great shot Starsky,” Rodrigo said.

                “Thanks,” Starsky said flatly.

                Hutch holstered his gun and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Stalls, Rodrigo, go and make sure no-one comes out onto the roof until the forensics team and the coroner’s wagon gets here. I’ll let Dobey know the roof’s secure.”

                As the two officers left, Hutch raised the radio to his mouth. “We got him Captain. All secure up here.”

                “Well done, Hutchinson. Everyone okay?”

                “Yes sir.”

                “I’ll call for forensics and the coroner’s wagon.”

                “Thanks. Over and out.”

                He looked down at the still body on the ground and noted the red shirt Alders was wearing had a small rip in it from when he’d caught his clothing on the fire escape at the shooting at the bodega. The scarlet cloth in front of his heart was turning a darker crimson. He looked at Starsky’s face; the usual mixture of relief and sadness was there.

                “Thanks partner. I’m sorry it had to end this way but I knew I had to draw him out and I knew I could count on you to stop him.”

                “I’m just sorry we couldn’t talk him down,” Starsky said.

                “Yeah, me too, but I think he was too far gone. He wasn’t able to listen to reason…and at least all our fellow officers and their families can sleep a little easier tonight.”

                “Yeah…except for Evelyn Dobson.”

                “Well there wasn’t anything we could have done to prevent that. We’ll just have to pay our respects at the funeral tomorrow and be thankful that we’ve stopped him before he could hurt or kill anyone else.”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

The funeral was over. Starsky and Hutch had collected beer and ordered pizza and were now sat at Starsky’s apartment eating, drinking and watching the ball game on the tube. There was knock on the door. Starsky looked surprised. He got up to open the door and was even more surprised when he saw Ali and Laura standing there.

                “Hey, thought you were having a girls’ night,” he said.

                “We were but we need to talk to both of you,” Ali answered.

                Starsky grimaced. “What did we do?…Or forget to do?”

                “Nothing,” Laura said, as she passed by.

                She headed towards one chair and Ali headed to the other. Starsky sat back down on the couch and he and Hutch looked between the two women and at each other.

                Ali spoke first: “We know something’s been going on the last few days. All you said was you got the gunman and everything is all right now…but it clearly isn’t.”

                “What makes you say that?” Starsky asked.

                Ali looked at him, almost tearfully. “’Cause you get quiet when you’re upset and you get this funny little tone in your voice when you’re trying to tell me everything is okay but something’s bothering you.”

                Starsky grimaced and looked at Hutch.

                “She’s got your number!” Hutch said.

                Laura said, “Don’t think you’re in the clear Mister. How’d you really get that bump on your head? And don’t say Dave hit you with a car door – I know when you’re hiding something.”

                “What are you asking us? ‘Cause we’re not really supposed to talk to anyone about details of cases while they’re still under investigation…even to our nearest and dearest…and even if we want to.”

                Ali nodded. “We know that. I guess what we’re asking is: at what point will you share what’s bothering you? Or is it always going to be just the two of you trying to sort each other out? And…” She looked at Laura.

                Laura nodded at her. “And we want to know at what point will we get a phone call if one of you is hurt? Straight away? Or will it be after you’re dead? Sorry to be blunt but this is important.”

                Hutch started to look anxious. “Laura, is this a make or break deal? I mean if we give the wrong answer…”

                Laura came and sat on the arm of the couch next to Hutch. He slipped his arm around her.  “Don’t be daft honey. We’re not going anywhere, either of us…We just want to make sure this works for all of us and we think it’s better to do it now before there’s a misunderstanding that leads to hurt feelings.”

                Starsky held out his hand to Ali and she moved to squeeze onto the couch in between the two men.

                “I guess we’re so used to being each other’s support system…maybe we haven’t let you in as much as we thought we had,” Hutch said.

                “You have let us in,” Laura reassured him. “It’s just we’ve never hit a big problem before now. Ali and I want to work out what happens if one of you gets hurt. Say Dave is hurt. Will you ring Ali? Or will you ring me and I’ll go tell her so I can be with her?”

                “Is that what you want us to do?” Starsky asked.

                “Yeah,” Ali said. “We’ve been talking about it and that’s what we would like. If something happens to Dave, ring Laura. If something happens to Ken, ring me.”

                “We can do that,” Hutch said. “What else?”

                Ali twisted her lip before she looked at Starsky and said, “Is it okay to ask how you’re feeling when it’s clear something’s wrong? Even if you can’t get into specifics...It’s just I don’t know when you need Hutch and when you need me.”

                Starsky smiled ruefully. “I guess that’s one I don’t know the answer to yet…I love ya sweetheart and I will try to share everything with ya but…sometimes I’ll need Hutch first ‘cause he knows the job and he’s known me a long time…I’m not saying you’re not important or ya don’t know me…Do you understand?...I’m making a mess of this, ain’t I?”

                Ali shook her head. “No, it’s okay. We know you two are close. We accept it…We just want to know that we’re in the mix.”

                “You are. You both are,” Starsky said, looking first at Ali and then at Laura.

                Hutch nodded. “What he said goes for me too.”

                Laura and Ali looked at each other for a minute and then nodded.

                “Okay,” Laura said. “We’re happy.”

                “I thought we were the ones who had silent conversations,” Hutch teased. “Looks like you two are getting the hang of it too.”

                Laura punched his arm then she said, “Dave? Have you got more beer? I think I could use one.”

                “You betcha,” Starsky said. He took Ali’s hand and invited her along with him to get more beer from the fridge, stopping to give her a hug before he opened the door and took out four bottles.

                Laura leaned against Hutch.

                “We okay?” he asked.

                “Better than okay,” she answered and gave him a kiss to add reassurance. “Love you to bits Ken Hutchinson.”

                “Love you to bits too, Laura MacKenzie.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

A week later, Hutch knocked on Laura’s blue front door and then let himself in with his key. “Hi sweetheart, it’s me,” he called.

                Laura’s voice answered from the direction of the living room. “We’re in here honey. Come on through.”

                “We?” Hutch thought. He could hear a man’s voice. He walked into the living room and found his partner sitting on Laura’s red sofa. “Hey buddy! What are you doing here? Did I forget dinner date or something?”

                Starsky shifted his weight slightly and looked almost guilty. Hutch felt a thread of panic but quashed the irrational thought straight away – he knew it was just his baggage giving him momentary pause. Starsky would never betray him and neither would Laura.

                “What’s up Starsk?”

                “It’s about us getting married on the same day…I know that’s what I said I wanted but…would you be very upset if we didn’t?”

                Hutch looked at Laura, who was sat on the corner armchair, curled up like a cat with her legs under her. She shrugged as if to say, “I don’t mind. It’s up to you.” Hutch went and sat next to Starsky and looked at his friend thoughtfully.

                “I wouldn’t mind Starsk but…what about your list? I thought it was what you wanted. What’s changed?”

                “I talked to Ali about it and we realised there might be a few problems.”

                “Like what?” Hutch asked.

                “Ali’s father’s not very well and Ali wants to wait until he’s fit enough to take part.”

                “Well, we could all wait until he’s better,” Hutch offered, knowing that Laura and Ali’s family were close and that she’d probably want them all at her wedding.

                “Well I just asked Laura and she confirmed she wants a church wedding and me and Ali don’t. I mean I can’t do that to my mother. Celebrating Christmas is one thing; a church wedding is another thing entirely.”

                “Oh…I see.”

                “And we’re thinking of just having our parents and you guys at the courthouse and then having a big party with everybody else afterwards…I may be wrong but I think you’d both like the opposite; lots of people at the wedding and just your close friends for a meal…Am I wrong?”

                Hutch and Laura smiled at each other and then Starsky.

                “You know me too well partner. That’s exactly what we were thinking.”

                Laura nodded. “Yes, we just want a nice sit-down meal with our close family and favourite people. Maybe a bit of dancing but nothing too extravagant.”

                “So?” Starsky looked pointedly at them both.

                “All right Starsk, we won’t wait. We’ll set a date and you and Ali can decide on your date later when Ali’s father’s better.”

                Starsky smiled happily. “You realise the best thing about us not getting married on the same day?”

                “No, what’s that?”

                “It means you can be my best man when the time comes and I can do a bang-up job of being yours. If we’d been getting married the same day, it would have been impossible.”

                Hutch raised his eyebrows and said tentatively, “Will your Mom be all right with that? She won’t be expecting Nicky to be your best man will she?”

                Starsky looked incredulous. “Don’t be a dope.”

                Hutch looked affronted. “There is a prescribed etiquette when it comes to weddings, you know? It’s not totally crazy to think you might ask your brother…even though I know you don’t get on.”

                Starsky just looked at him. “Hutch, if I had a hundred brothers and I got on with all of them, I would still ask you to be my best man. Me can’t get married without Thee at his side. Just can’t be done babe.”

                As Hutch tried not to tear up, Laura spoke suddenly, “Dave, you’re not supposed to make my fiancé cry until the wedding day itself! You two are worse than Ali and me!”

                Hutch threw a cushion at her as she collapsed into giggles.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

“See you tomorrow,” Hutch said as they arrived outside Starsky’s apartment.

                “Yeah.”

                Starsky put his hand on the door handle and then hesitated. He turned in his seat to face Hutch, who sensed his partner’s mood had changed. There was definitely something on Starsky’s mind. Hutch turned off the engine and looked at Starsky expectantly.

                “Out with it.”

                Starsky reached inside his pocket and pulled out his badge. He looked at it for a moment and then looked over at Hutch.

                “I want to thank ya Hutch for this; for helping me get back to the job; for giving me another year of our partnership…This last year and a bit has been the best…better than I’d hoped for actually.”

                Hutch placed a hand on Starsky’s shoulder. “Buddy, I feel the same way. I should be thanking you.”

                Starsky smiled at him and then looked serious again. “Life’s changing. You’re getting married in the Spring…I guess you and Mac might start a family…so I just wanted to say I’m setting you free.”

                Hutch blinked at him and swallowed. “What?”

                Starsky realised he hadn’t made himself clear. He smiled reassuringly as he put his badge back in his pocket and then placed his hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

                “Still want to be a cop. Still want to be your partner, babe. I’m just saying you’ve given me more than I asked for and when the time comes and you need to do something else, you just let me know. Don’t keep doing this if you don’t want to. Don’t feel you have to ‘cause you think it’s what I want. Okay? We made that promise in the hospital remember?”

                Hutch nodded. “Starsk…I still want to be your partner and I’m not done with being a cop yet.” Starsky started to grin. “And I promise if anything changes, I’ll tell you and we’ll plan the future together…like always. Okay?”

                “Yeah.”

                “Starsk? Same goes for you. You know if you and Ali decide it’s time for you to get into a safer line of work, you just let me know.”

                Starsky nodded, ruffled Hutch’s hair and then turned to open the car door. He peered into the car before he closed the door. “See you tomorrow night.”

                “Yep. See you partner.”

                They grinned at each other; both reassured by the conversation and the knowledge that they were still doing the job because they wanted to and that they were still going to be ‘me and thee’ and partners for a long while yet.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

“You ready for this?” Hutch asked Laura as they pulled up outside the front of The Pits. Starsky had been very specific that they had to park in front.

                “I’m looking forward to it!” Laura exclaimed. “You, on the other hand, sound nervous. Don’t you trust Dave?”

                “With my life but not with what his idea of a party is,” Hutch said.

                Laura smiled at him and shook his head. “It’s all going to be fine and you’re going to love it. He and Huggy have gone to a lot of trouble. Huggy’s even closed the bar to the regulars so it’s just open for us tonight.”

                They got out of the car and Hutch locked the doors. Laura took Hutch’s hand and pulled him gently but firmly towards the door and then went through ahead of him. They were greeted by a round of applause from the assembled guests and the sight of red balloons and red hearts hanging from the ceiling and decorating the walls all around the bar. Huggy had pulled all the square tables together into the middle of the room to make one long table. All down the centre lighted red and white candles had been placed and sprinkled glittery hearts were covering the long white table cloths. There were baskets of bread rolls, wine glasses and bottles of wine placed strategically along the table alongside a couple of jugs of orange juice.

                Starsky came over, looking almost nervous as he welcomed them and said to Hutch, “Like it?”

                “Buddy, you’ve outdone yourself. I love it.”

                “Wasn’t just me - Ali helped – but I’m glad you like it.”

                A waiter appeared with a glass of wine for Laura and a beer for Hutch.

                Starsky raised his voice a little. “Everybody take your seats and dinner will be served.”

                Hutch and Laura followed Starsky over to the table and were told to sit in the middle. They looked around and found that Laura’s sister and her husband were there, Ali and her mother (but her father wasn’t well enough to join them) and Laura’s father, Alasdair MacKenzie, and two girl friends of Laura’s – Chloe and Daisy. From work, Starsky had invited Harold and Edith Dobey and their children, Cal and Rosie; Joe and Mary Callaghan; Sam Bailey; Minnie; Mildred; and Babcock and Simmons and their wives. He’d also invited Molly, Kiko and Kiko’s mother. Hutch looked around and felt a warm glow from being surrounded by the people he liked and loved best in his world.

                Huggy, Starsky and two waiters appeared from the kitchen carrying plates - some covered with pasta and Bolognese, some filled with pasta and a tomato and vegetable ragout. When everybody had been served, Starsky and Huggy came and sat in the two empty chairs at the table so they could join in the festivities. Starsky was between Hutch and Ali; Huggy next to Rosie, who giggled as he whispered something in her ear.

                Hutch nudged Starsky with his elbow. “Thanks buddy. I really mean it. You got this just right.”

                Starsky beamed at him.

                When everybody had finished their first course, and the waiters had cleared away the empty plates, Starsky tapped his glass and stood up, taking up a position between Hutch and Laura.

                “Make sure you all got something to drink,” he ordered, “’cause I want to make a toast.”

                Everybody refilled their glasses and waited expectantly.

                Starsky lifted his glass and spoke to Laura and Hutch. “We’re here to celebrate you two finding each other and deciding to get hitched. We know you’re right for each other and we can’t wait to get to your wedding day but, for right now, we just want to say we love ya and we wish you both all the best. To Hutch and M-Laura.”

                “To Hutch and Laura.”

                Starsky sipped his beer, put his glass on the table and wrapped his arms around Hutch and Laura, kissing them both on the cheek. Then he let them go and announced, “Dessert and then it’s time for some dancing!”

                Huggy stood up. “Rosie, you want to go get the jukebox going? Pick a tune for us.”

                As bowls of apple pie and cream appeared on the table in front of everybody, Rosie went over and quickly picked a song that had been playing on the radio since May that year and one that she absolutely adored – ‘One Fine Day’ sung by Carole King.

                Laura hopped up and went to join her. She pulled her over to the space Huggy had made for dancing. “Great choice Rosie! Want to dance with me?”

                Rosie giggled and was soon being spun around by Laura. Gradually, friends and family took it in turns to choose the tunes and have a dance and the evening progressed; filled with laughter, music and friends – just the way Starsky had hoped it would so that he could give Laura and Hutch the celebration they wanted and deserved.

               

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

A few days after their engagement party, Hutch and Laura were standing in her kitchen preparing dinner.

                “Honey? Do I need to book some time off over Christmas to go see your parents? I’m assuming I will be meeting them before the wedding?”

                Hutch carried on chopping the courgette into small chunks before answering. “No.”

                Laura turned surprised eyes towards him. “No to Christmas?”

                “No to all of it. I won’t be going to see them and I wasn’t planning on inviting them to the wedding.”

                Laura stayed silent as he finished chopping and then pushed the neatly sliced chunks into the pasta sauce they were making. Hutch picked up a wooden spoon and started stirring the sauce as it warmed.

                “When did you last see them?”

                Hutch sighed. “About three years ago…It’s not worth the hassle. It always starts off okay and then my father and I fall out over something stupid and my mother gets upset. I decided it was better if I stayed away.”

                “Do you ever ring them?”

                “I ring my mother on her birthday.”

                “That’s it?”

                “Yes.” Hutch turned to look at her. “I know it sounds horrible but I just don’t have a good relationship with them…You and your Dad are really close so, to you, it probably seems I’m being mean but…Growing up – they expected everything to be perfect. They didn’t like it when I decided to become a cop – it all went downhill from there.”

                “I see.” Suddenly, Laura came over and wrapped her arms around him. “Are you planning on telling them you got engaged?”

                “Yes, I guess…I will sometime.”

                “You’re sure you don’t want to invite them? We need to send out the invitations next month and I was going to add them onto the list.”

                Hutch shook his head.

                Laura squeezed him harder. “I’m sorry you don’t get on with them…but don’t you think this would be an opportunity to mend a bit of your relationship with them…I’m sure your Mom would want to be at your wedding.”

                Hutch planted a kiss on Laura’s hair. “You’re always trying to fix things…Can I think about it? I hear what you’re saying but I don’t want anything to ruin our day and I’d be a mess if I knew they were coming…Seeing them – well, it just always ends badly.”

                “All right honey…But if you decide that you want them there, let me know and I’ll invite them.”

                “I will and thanks.”

                “What for?”

                “For everything…Loving me, trying to fix my family, being my family, I could go on.”

                Laura laughed. “Let’s eat and then you can tell me all the rest of the things you love about me…It’s great for my ego!”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Starsky sighed as he picked up the last piece of his breakfast, Hutch’s special bacon and pancake stack sandwich (or BAPZ as he called it in his head). He popped it in his mouth, savouring the last mouthful and then sighed again.

                Hutch turned around from the sink, where he was making a start on the washing up, and looked at his partner. “Starsk? What’s up?”

                “Nothing’s up. Great breakfast as usual partner.” Starsky put his fingers to his lips and kissed them. “Magnifique!”

                Hutch frowned. “Then why do you keep sighing?”

                “Do I?”

                Hutch dried his hands and came and sat down opposite his friend. “You’ve sighed at least four times in the last five minutes. What’s bothering you?”

                Starsky shrugged. “Just thinking…”

                “About?”

                “Well, I couldn’t help thinking how much I’m going to miss our breakfasts and especially your patented BAPZ. I guess that was the last one I’ll ever have.”

                Hutch raised a surprised eyebrow. “Are you leaving the country and forgot to tell me?”

                “No! But you’re getting married in two weeks. Next week we gotta pack you up and move you out of here. I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic ‘cause you’re moving and…Well, there won’t be any more breakfasts. I’m pleased for ya but I will miss the BAPZ.”

                Hutch shook his head and smiled at his friend. “Starsk, I’m getting married. I’m not going to live on the moon. Of course, you can still come over for breakfast.”

                “I can?”

                “Of course,” Hutch responded as he stood up. He ruffled his partner’s unruly curls as he walked past on the way to the sink. “In fact, Laura only said the other day that we ought to have a regular brunch with you and Ali. Once a month maybe. Whatever works for you.”

                Starsky grinned as he took his plate over to Hutch and dumped it into the soapy water. “So that wasn’t my last BAPZ then?”

                “No…You’re starting to sound like you’d miss the BAPZ more than you’d miss me!”

                “We-ell…It would be a close contest partner but the BAPZ wins every time,” Starsky said, with a laugh.

                Hutch rolled his eyes then laughed. “At least I come in second…I suppose that’s something.”

                Starsky looked at his watch. “Hey, we’d better get a move on. Dobey said he wanted to see us at nine this morning.”

                Hutch put the last piece of china in the rack and dried his hands. “Come on then goofball.”

                “Goofball? Really?” Starsky looked affronted.

                Hutch shrugged and then grinned as he went to put on his jacket. “I think it suits you.”

                Starsky sighed and followed Hutch out of the door. “Goofball,” he muttered. “As Bugs Bunny says, ‘You realise this means war!’”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

“I hate it! I absolutely hate it! Worst plan ever in the history of monumentally bad plans!” Hutch was pacing up and down the squad room, venting. Fortunately, there were only two other detectives in at that moment: Callaghan and Sam. They were both looking sympathetic.

                “Hutch! Calm down buddy. You’re gonna blow a gasket!”

                Hutch stopped his pacing right next to Starsky’s desk and glared down at his partner. Then his shoulders slumped. “Starsk, I hate it,” he whispered so only Starsky could hear him.

                Starsky’s voice was soft in reply: “Yeah, I know buddy but we don’t got a lot of choice. It’s only going to be a week of undercover work. I’ll still be around to help you pack up your place.”

                He saw the frown grow deeper on Hutch’s face.

                “Hey, why don’t we get out of here for a while?”

                He jumped up, pulled his jacket off the back of his chair and grabbed Hutch’s arm, pulling him along behind him. As they reached the doors, Starsky said to Callaghan, “If the Cap wants to know where we are Joe, tell him we’re just tying up a loose end on our last case. We’ll be back in an hour.”

                Callaghan nodded.

                The two of them made their way down to the parking garage and Starsky’s car. They got in silently and Starsky set off.

                “Where are we going Starsk?”

                “To the park so we can ‘walk and talk’.”

                “’Walk and talk’, huh? That means you agree with me that it’s a seriously flawed plan.”

                “Yeah…But we gotta talk this out so you don’t flip out while I’m under cover. I can’t have that on my conscience.”

                “Hmmf.”

                They arrived at Bay City Park and stopped the car. They both climbed out and gazed at the view.

                “Nice day,” Starsky observed. 

                “Mmm.”

                “We been here a few times over the years. Done quite a few ‘walk and talks’, too.”

                Hutch glanced at his partner and nodded. “Yeah, there’s been a few of those.”

                With silent mutual consent, they started walking down the hill towards the lake, ambling across the grass as if it was just another day.

                “What’s bugging you most, Blondie?”

                Instantly, Hutch started to get worked up. “I don’t like the idea of you undercover on your own with no back-up anywhere close by.”

                “I’ll be checking in every day as soon as I get off shift,” Starsky pointed out.

                “A lot could happen in a nine hour shift and we wouldn’t know about it till it was too late.”

                “What’s going to happen to me while I’m on the day shift? Other than a sore back from humping boxes.”

                “Yeah, all right. The job is probably safe enough but what happens if you get picked to stay on and unload the special shipment? We’re not going to know for definite what’s going on unless we spot the truck arriving. There are too many entrances to cover. It could easily slip by unnoticed. Then you’re all on your own.”

                “That’s the worst case scenario.”

                “It’s our job to anticipate worst case scenarios. That’s what’s kept us alive so far, Starsk.”

                “Yeah, I know, babe.” Starsky slowed down as they reached a picnic bench and hopped up to sit on the table with his feet on the seat. As Hutch sat down beside him, Starsky gently asked a question, “Is this all about the flaws in the op? Or is there a bit of mother-henning going on here, too?”

                 Hutch grimaced and looked away. “I admit I worry more about your health these days…but no Starsk honestly, it’s not about that. It’s about the fact we’re partners and my job is to watch your back just like you watch mine.” He turned to face his friend and looked at him with complete honesty filling his eyes. “Honest buddy. Not being able to watch your back. That’s what’s bugging me, I promise.”

                Starsk nodded and patted his leg. “I believe ya and I can’t say if it was you going undercover in the same place that I wouldn’t be just as worried.”

                “Checking in once a day’s not enough. A lot can happen in nine hours.”

                “Well, what can we do about it?”

                They both considered the question.

                “You need a reason to use the phone every day when you’re on a break…”

                “I’ve got it. How about I pretend I got a very pregnant wife and I gotta check on her to make sure she’s okay. I could probably get away with that.”

                “Yeah, that’d work. We’ll have to get a number where you can call and someone female will answer. We’ll get Dobey to assign a female officer. And we’ll have a set of pre-arranged words so if you need me, I’ll know.”

                Starsky patted his partner’s shoulder. “I feel better about the assignment already. Let’s go back and see Dobey. We’ll insist on the changes, else I’m not doing it.”

                As they drove back to the station, Starsky suddenly said, “Hutch? If something did happen…Will you and Mac look after Ali for me?”

                “You don’t need to ask; the answer will always be yes.”

                “Thanks.”

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

It had been three days and Hutch was getting increasingly anxious. True to his word, Starsky had rung in every lunch time and every evening. Hutch was spending half his time at his desk, gradually going crazy with worry, or riding around with Noah Smith, who was back at work and waiting for a new partner to be allocated to him. Hutch couldn’t wait for this week to be over. Joint operations with Narco always seemed to go wrong. He was sure something was going to happen to Starsky and he wouldn’t be there to save him. He found his morose thoughts being interrupted by Noah.

                “Hutch, do you think Dobey would let me and Sam be partners? Even though I haven’t technically completed my rookie year as a detective ‘cause Dobson…’cause I was in hospital for some of it.”

                “I don’t see why not,” Hutch said. “Why don’t you talk to him? I’ll put in a good word if you like? I’ve seen both of you in action separately and together. I think you’d make good partners.”

                “Thanks,” Noah said. “I’d really appreciate that.”

                “No problem. Well, here you are. I’d better get home to wait for Starsky’s call. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

                “Thanks Hutch. Bye.”

                As Hutch drove away, Hutch’s stomach began to tighten. He didn’t know why he felt antsy, he just did. Starsky had rung in at lunch and spoken to Officer Sally Kingston. The message had been relayed. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Starsky still hadn’t heard anything about any special shipments coming in. He should be home in an hour and Hutch would be able to hear his voice and check for himself that his partner was okay. He hadn’t been allowed to see him all week in case Starsky was being watched and he’d really missed his partner’s company.

                As he walked into the apartment, he tried to decide what he could do for an hour before Starsky called. The phone rang.

                Hutch’s stomach dropped through the floor. Tonight was the night.

                “Hello?”

                “Hi sweetheart. Just ringing to let you know I gotta work late. If the baby starts coming, call your sister okay?”

                “Starsk, you okay? Safe?”

                “Yeah honey. It’s good money. I can’t turn down the opportunity. I’ll be back about midnight okay?”

                “Back-up will be there Starsk. I’ll be there. Just be careful.”

                “Gotta go sweetheart. See ya later.”

                The phone cut off and Hutch instantly dialled his Captain’s number to set the operation in motion to catch the shipment of H that was about to arrive at the warehouses on the west side of Bay City.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Starsky’s arms were aching from humping boxes. He’d had three day shifts and now was doing overtime for the so-called special shipment. He’d be very glad when this assignment was over. He’d been undercover before; sometimes the situations he found himself in were easy, or fraught with danger, or plain ludicrous but as long as he had Hutch with him, he didn’t mind. This assignment had been weird from start to finish; he felt like he was missing part of himself, like he’d left his head at home. But what he was really missing was Hutch. Next time he was asked to go undercover alone, he’d say no. Other people were made for those sort of assignments; he was part of a duo and it felt wrong to be on his own, and not just because this could go south at any moment and he had no weapon on him. He sighed, hoping it would all be over soon.

               

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Hutch was supposed to be waiting back at Metro for the return of the Narcotics squad and Starsky but he couldn’t take the waiting. His partner was out there on his own, unarmed and possibly in danger. He drove his car to the warehouses and parked a sensible distance away. Under the dark moonless night, he walked carefully along the side of one warehouse and listened out for voices or signs that showed his fellow officers were in position. There didn’t seem to be anybody on this side of the warehouse. He’d told the Narco squad they had to make sure they covered all of it. Now here he was all alone or so it seemed.

                He heard a crunching sound and stood still. He strained to hear any other sort of movement but when it was silent for several minutes, he decided it was safe to go on. A moment later he heard  footsteps and before he could turn to face the direction they were coming from. He felt a sharp blow to his head. As he staggered and felt himself start to crumple, his last thought was that Starsky and Laura were going to kill him.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

He was being shaken and he didn’t like it. He moaned.

                “Hutch. You great numskull, what were you thinking?!”

                Hutch could hear the panic in his partner’s voice. He couldn’t open his eyes yet but he could form words. “Numskull? Really?”

                When Starsky spoke, the relief in his voice was palpable. “That’s to get you back for calling me a goofball the other day.”

                Hutch tried to open his eyes and groaned at the light being shone into them. He held up a hand. “Starsky. Get that torch out of my face.”

                Starsky grunted. “If you can moan, you’re all right. Good job you got a thick head.”

                Starsky helped pull a very unsteady Hutch to his feet. Hutch suddenly remembered where he was.

                “You all right Starsk. How’d the bust go?”

                “A few problems but nothing too bad. You were right about it being difficult to cover all entrances and exits. A couple of them got away but we got the main players.”

                “Good.”

                “Right. Let’s get you checked out at the hospital,” Starsky said, leading his partner to the beige wreck he liked to call a car. “I’ll drive. Give me your keys.”

                Hutch handed them over. “Do I have to go to the hospital?”

                “Yes.” As he started the engine, “Starsky said, “You realise the trouble you’re going to be in?”

                “Dobey was mad, huh?” Hutch said, clutching his head with a groan.

                “I’m not talking about Dobey. I’m talking about Mac. You’re going to be in big trouble. Less than two weeks to the wedding and you’ve got quite a shiner. It’d better heal before the wedding or you’re gonna have a black eye in all your wedding photos.”

                What Hutch said couldn’t be repeated.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

On the afternoon of Saturday March 1st, Hutch stood nervously in the doorway and peered into the church. Although it was a full half hour before the ceremony was due to start, there were quite a few people already sitting in the pews.

                “You all right buddy?” Starsky’s voice asked softly. “You look a little green.”

                Hutch swallowed. “I can’t believe I’m this nervous. I didn’t feel this bad when I got married the first time.”

                “That’s a good sign,” Starsky observed.

                “It is?”

                “Yep. Means it means something this time. Mac’s the right person and you’ve just realised the responsibility you two are taking on together.”

                Hutch raised both eyebrows. “You been reading Joyce Brother’s column again?”

                Starsky punched his arm. “Nah, I’m just smart!”

                Hutch smiled and started to relax a little. He looked into the church again. As expected there were more people on Laura’s side of the church than on his. He was only expecting Starsky’s family; the Dobeys; Kiko, his mother and Molly; Huggy and his date; and a few work colleagues. He’d kept his list small – only wanting the few people he really considered friends. Laura’s list had been longer but then Laura always made friends more easily than he did. His eyes fell on two unfamiliar figures sitting on the groom’s side of the church. Unfamiliar yet somehow familiar. He stiffened.

                “Hey Hutch. You all right?”

                He heard Starsky’s question even as he found himself being pulled by an invisible thread towards the front of the church. He could feel Starsky’s presence at his shoulder, staying close, and he was grateful. He stopped at the aisle third from the front.

                “Mom?”

                The woman in a cerise hat looked up, smiled as she stood up to greet him and then burst into tears.

                “Mom, don’t cry!” Hutch’s arms were around his mother in an instant, displacing her hat as he pulled her in close.

                He risked a glance at his father and was surprised to see a small smile on his lips. “Hello Kenneth.”

                Hutch couldn’t speak so he just nodded. After a few minutes, he felt his mother pull away and released her. Suddenly a handkerchief appeared in her hand, placed there by Starsky.

                “Good job I always carry a hankie for weepy females,” he was saying.

                Eleanor Hutchinson offered him a watery smile as she wiped her eyes and nose. Richard held out his hand and shook hands firmly with Starsky.

                “David. It’s good to see you again.”

                Starsky hid his surprise well. “Good to see ya too, sir.”

                Hutch was totally bemused. “How are you here?” he asked.

                “Laura rang us a few weeks ago to introduce herself. We were surprised naturally,” Richard began to say. Hutch stiffened waiting for the inevitable lecture on manners and etiquette. “…but we were so glad she contacted us,” his father finished saying.

                Covertly, Starsky placed a hand under Hutch’s elbow. His friend looked about ready to faint from shock.

                Eleanor spoke: “She’s rung us a couple of times since. We’ve got to know her a little – I can’t wait to meet her…We’re so happy she invited us to your wedding…I h-hope your glad too?”

                “Of course Mom. I’m really glad you’re here.”

                Hutch’s father cleared his throat awkwardly. “Kenneth…I’m sorry we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye…I hope we can do better in the future…I wouldn’t have missed this day for anything and the fact that we nearly missed out…Well that hit home. I’ve never been very good at saying I’m proud of you…but I am.”

                Hutch swallowed and held out his hand to his father expecting a formal handshake. Instead his father took the proffered hand in both his hands and held it tightly. A handkerchief was unexpectedly waved under Hutch’s nose.

                “Good thing I got two of these suckers!”

                Everyone started laughing as Hutch took the hankie and elbowed Starsky in the stomach. Hutch took a steadying breath. “I’d better go and speak to the minister. Laura will be here soon…but we’ll talk properly later.”

                His parents nodded at him and smiled.

                Starsky placed an arm around Hutch’s shoulder as they headed towards the vestry and the minister.

                “Did you know, Starsk?”

                “Nope. Laura kept that one quiet. You okay?”

                Hutch swallowed. “Yeah, just astounded that they’re here and even more astounded that they’re glad to be here.”

                Starsky gave him a squeeze and then let him go. He knew what this meant to his friend and was grateful that Laura had somehow pulled off a miracle.

                “Mac’s definitely a keeper, Hutch.”

                “I know…I didn’t think it possible but I think I love her even more than I did yesterday,” Hutch said.

                Starsky just grinned at him.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Hutch watched as Rosie Dobey and Sarah, Laura’s niece, walked down the aisle followed by Laura’s sister, who was matron of honour, and Ali, who was chief bridesmaid. Then Laura appeared, leaning on the arm of her father. He felt his heart skip a beat. As he took her hand he was concerned to find it was stone cold and then he realised he could feel her shaking. Just before they turned to face the minister, he whispered, “Laura honey. Are you all right.”

                “I am now,” she whispered back.

                Hutch could feel Laura’s hand shaking throughout the whole of ceremony and was therefore surprised that her voice was totally rock-steady when they made their vows. As they sat for the address, he took the chance to take both her hands in his and start rubbing them gently to warm them up. She smiled happily at him and her hands began to lose some of their chill. By the time they went through to the vestry to sign the legal certificate of marriage, her hands were warm and she was no longer shaking. Before they had to go back into the main body of the church, Hutch took the opportunity to pull Laura into a hug.

                “You okay? How come your hands were so cold?”

                Laura shook her head. “It must just have been nerves. It was weird. We got to the church and I just suddenly started shaking and my hands went ice-cold. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it down the aisle without fainting but then I saw you and everything was all right.”

                Hutch held her close and whispered, “I love you more than I can say…Thank you for inviting my parents.”

                Laura said, “I was worried you might be cross with me but I had to try to get them to come…for your sake. It just felt like they should be here.”

                “I didn’t know how much it would mean until I saw them…Thank you honey. I think sometimes you know me better than I know myself.”

                “It’s my wedding present to you.”

                Hutch kissed her. “Ready to go back out and face everyone?” he asked.

                “Yes, as long as I’ve got you with me I can face anything.”

                Hutch started smiling as they headed out of the vestry. “Even your father’s speech?”

                “Yes, even that!”

                “What’s the betting he manages to work a reference to golf into it?”

                “I won’t take that bet, it’s inevitable.”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

 

Hutch was standing watching his parents with a look of utter amazement on his face. By some incredible fortune, Alasdair MacKenzie and his father had hit it off and were now planning to meet at some world class golf course at the next available opportunity. His mother was dancing with Starsky and laughing at whatever he was telling her.

                Laura came over and dragged him onto the dance floor for a slow dance. As the next tune started, Starsky appeared at their side. “Mind if I cut in?”

                Laura looked at him bemused. “Who are you asking? Me or your partner?”

                “Ha! Funny, Mac, real funny.”

                “Well I just thought I’d check.” She grinned as she allowed Starsky to whisk her away.

Hutch went over to sit next to his parents.

                “Mom, Dad? You having a good time?”

                “The best,” his mother said.

                His father placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “A great time, thank you, son.”

                Hutch couldn’t find the words to say how he was feeling so he just smiled at them. The music stopped for a while as the musicians took a break. Starsky appeared.

                “Mind if I borrow Hutch for a minute?”

                “Not at all, David.”

                Starsky pulled Hutch to his feet and led him away from the crowded room towards a small atrium with a marble bench overlooking a small fountain.

                “You all right, Starsk?”

                “Yeah. Just wanted to speak to you before it gets any later. The car will be here soon to take you to the hotel.”

                “Is it that late already? It’s been a great day. Thanks for everything you’ve done to make it run smoothly.”

                “My pleasure, buddy.” Starsky reached in his pocket and pulled out a small folded piece of paper.

                “What’s this?”

                “My bill.”

                “What?” Hutch said. “Bill for what?”

                “My matchmaking services.”

                “I thought the engagement party was payment?”

                “Nah that was just the deposit, you still owe me.”

                “You’re kidding me!”

                Starsky punched his arm. “Just read it.”

                Hutch opened the paper and read:

               

                Fee for David Starsky matchmaking services:

                Be happy for ever and bring me back a t-shirt from Hawaii.

               

                “I was right,” Hutch said. “You are a goofball but I love ya.”

                Starsky pulled a hankie out of his pocket. “Here you go, you big ball of mush.”

                From the archway, they heard Laura’s voice: “Dave? Are you making my husband cry?”

                “Well, he’s looking a bit teary but he’s not actually crying yet,” Starsky said with a grin.

                “Then I’d better rescue him before he does,” Laura said. “Honey, the car’s here.”

                Hutch stood up and grabbed Starsky and gave him a quick hug before taking Laura’s hand and heading back through the crowd of guests that were waiting to wave them off. Starsky went and found Ali who was waiting right by the door. As Laura and Hutch came past, Ali hugged Laura and Starsky shrugged.

                “You’d better have another hug partner if she’s getting one,” he said. Before he let Hutch go, he whispered in his partner’s ear, “Good things come to those who wait and you’ve waited long enough, buddy. Be happy with Mac. You deserve it.”

                “Thanks.”

                As Hutch and Laura were driven away, everybody waved and then returned inside for one last dance and to say their goodbyes to each other.

                Ali linked her arm through Starsky’s and said, “Hutch asked me to give you something after he left.”

                “Oh what?”

                Starsky couldn’t help laughing and shaking his head as he accepted the proffered handkerchief from Ali’s hand.