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LOST IN THE NIGHT

This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.

 

Many thanks to Rebelcat for her great beta work.

 

NYC, September. 1957

The low-voiced  yet bitter exchange between his parents still echoed in Kenny’s ears as he hurried down the red-carpeted flies of stairs. Almost out of breath, he reached the luxurious front hall of the Hilton Plaza Hotel in New York City, getting outside.

“Your job, your business, your damn clients! That's the only thing that really matters to you, Richard! Just that! To the hell with anything else, right? To the hell with your family!” Eileen Hutchinson had hissed angrily to her husband just a few minutes ago.

“My job, my business, and my ‘damn clients’, as you call them, are the ones making it possible for you to be right here, now, ready to celebrate your goddamned birthday tomorrow in one of the most expensive hotels in the world, Eileen! Not to mention, their money allows you to live in a very high-priced ten-room house with cooks, maids and even a butler at your service, for Christ’s sake! Have you perhaps forgotten that?” Mr Richard Hutchinson had snapped back, badly-hidden disdain in his equally low voice. The heart of their oldest son, silent spectator of their fight, broke a little more hearing every word his parents kept saying to each other.

Unable to keep listening for another minute to the argument they were having, and thinking for umpteenth time that day how lucky  his youngest sister, was to be in a boarding school in Europe, the kid had picked up his jacket and stormed out of the hotel room. He had rushed downstairs, never slowing down until he had left the building.

It was not until then, once Kenny was already in the street, that he allowed himself to ease his pace. He took in a few, deep lungfuls of the fresh night air. That place, that sumptuous lair of rich and powerful people, had a suffocating effect on the 14 years old teenager. It was something that he was unable to understand on a conscious level, and even less able to explain if anyone had been concerned enough about his feelings to ask. Young Kenneth Hutchinson just knew that he didn't like that place…and that place didn't like him either. He simply felt that he didn't belong to that world of cold, pretentious and ambitious people and needless luxuries, though he had been forced to deal with it throughout his childhood. He didn't care if he had lots of the stuff that most other kids craved. He only wished for the only thing that seemed beyond his reach. A happy family and a little of true love…

xxxxxxx

Young Dave Starsky carefully closed the door of his shared bedroom where Nicky, his youngest brother slept soundly, unaware that his brother was about to spend the next few hours out of home. He would be hanging around, like he did most nights, with Ritchie and Matt Castelli; two of his friends from the humble neighbourhood in which he had been born and raised, up in South Brooklyn.

The curly-haired kid stepped into the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed a cold slice of homemade pizza, leftover from the dinner .He popped it into his mouth while heading for the front door, checking his hip pocket to make sure that his clasp knife was there, ready to come into action if needed. The streets where he hung out with his pals weren’t the safest ones at night, and Dave wasn´t willing to take any unnecessary chances.

Silently as a cat, the kid left his place. The night air brushed his face and he tried to forget, if only for a few hours, the heavy silence, the sadness and the undying mourning his home had been buried under for the last four months. His father, Officer Michael Starsky, had been fatally shot just a few feet away, on the sidewalk across from his front door. What Dave never wanted to forget was all the love and happiness that he had enjoyed while his father was still alive, nor did he ever intend to let go of his desire for revenge. It ate at him with renewed strength every time that his eyes, almost against his own will, went to the spot in the sidewalk where the blood of his father, his role model, had been shed.

Some day soon, he’d be a grown man and not just a teenager. And that day he’d take, with his own bare hands if he had to, the lives of those who had taken Michael Starsky´s life…

xxxxxxx

Kenny had walked for a long while along the streets of upper Manhattan among lots of people, all of them too focussed on their own business to pay any attention to the blond kid who seemed to be a little lost in the immensity of that awesome and vibrant city.

Giving himself time for his anger to cool, and at the same time, savouring his freedom and solitude among the crowd, Kenny kept walking. He wondered for a moment if his parents would have missed him yet, but then decided that most likely they would be still too focussed on their argument, or on the unspoken resentment following it, to realize that their son had left the hotel almost two hours earlier. If his sudden escapade was going to cause him any trouble, he just could deal with it later.

The kid wasn´t in the least concerned about getting lost or getting himself in any trouble. Sure, that could happen, but at that moment he just didn´t care. He just knew that he needed to be in his own for a while longer, far from the arguments between his father and mother, the silent hatred hanging between them, the big, painful charade that was his family.

Kenny had spent those hours sightseeing, as just one more of the thousands of tourists who visited New York every day of the year. At one point during his stroll he stopped by a deli to have a grilled cheese sandwich and a soda and after that, he resumed walking until his legs began to ache with exhaustion.

Still unwilling to go back to the hotel, despite that a glance at his wristwatch told him that it was later than he had guessed, Kenny then climbed onto a bus. He didn’t care too much about where it was heading. He only wanted to keep enjoying his unplanned time on his own for as long as possible.

For a while, he watched the city landscape through the vehicle’s window, but he was tired, partly from having gotten up very early that morning but also because of the long walk through the streets. Kenny, lulled by the soft voices of the people around him, began to doze off, until a female voice and a gentle shaking of his shoulder took him out of his drowsiness.

“Son…wake up, son.” An older lady said, looking at Kenny with a hint of concern in her grey eyes.

“Huh…Oh…Sorry?” He stuttered, rubbing his face and feeling still a bit sleepy.

“This is the last stop, kid. I thought that maybe you’d want to get off here.” The woman said.

“Oh, yeah, sure ma´am, thanks.” Kenny thanked the lady, rising from his seat and getting off of the bus. Once all the passengers had left, the bus started on its way back to the depot.

It was just then, seeing the dark place where the bus had stopped and all the people that had filled it walking away from him, each one of them heading in their own directions, that Kenny began to wonder if being there, alone by night and on a deserted-looking street of an unknown neighbour was such a wise idea…

xxxxxxx

Dave was still with his buddies, though they weren’t doing anything special. They were just killing time, sitting onto a couple of battered and dirty mattresses in a derelict warehouse only lightened by the dim glow coming through the window from a street lamp, and sharing some laughs, cigarettes and beers that Ritchie and Matt had managed to sneak out from his parents’ fridge. They talked all the while of trivial subjects such as girls, baseball or muscle cars, knowing, but not caring, that being in an unsafe neighbourhood at night could be dangerous.

Maybe their main reason for being there and not asleep in their beds, or doing their homework in their bedrooms, or even simply hanging out at home spending some time with their parents, was that the little group of rebel kids thought that nobody really cared about where they were…

“Hey guys…Did you heard that?” Matt said tilting his head to the left to better hear the muffled sound of steps coming from a short distance behind them.

“Let’s take a look.” Dave said, almost instinctively sliding a hand into the pocket of his jeans to touch his clasp knife, as all three kids got to their feet and went outside the warehouse.

Ritchie was the first one to reach the source of the noise. It turned out to be a blond and lanky boy about his own age, neatly dressed in expensive clothes, who was looking rather scared and absolutely out of place in that dark and neglected area of the city.

“What the fuck are you doing here, huh?” Ritchie asked the blond kid, stepping closer to him and folding his arms defiantly across his chest; his whole stance radiating hostility, like a feral street cat claiming his territory in front of an intruder.

“Oh…well, I-I was looking f-for a p-payphone or a cabs s-stand.” Kenny explained trying hard to control his stutter. He didn’t want to sound as scared as he was feeling at that moment. His only answer was a burst of noisy guffaws from two of the three kids surrounding him.

“S-so n-no l-luck, b-bu-buddy.” Matt mimicked pitilessly.

Dave, the only kid that hadn’t laughed stepped between Matt and Kenny. He shoved his buddy backwards with a rough slam to his chest, making the young Hutchinson flinch startled.

“Hey, hey, come on Matt! Give the guy a break, will ya?” Dave demanded firmly. He was just a hardened and quarrelsome kid, most likely a loser and as worthless as Matt and Ritchie were, but unlike them, Dave Starsky had never been able to find any enjoyment in making fun of people who looked weaker than him or who seemed to be in trouble, or who were just plain scared, like the blond boy in front of him at that moment.

“What´s wrong with you, pal? Did you get lost?” The curly-haired boy asked Kenny, shamelessly scanning him from top to toe with his eyes. The unknown blond wore a tidy haircut and a conservative outfit of tanned slacks, jacket and a maroon-beige stripped rugby shirt; all of it stating his upbringing in a traditional and most likely upper-class American family.

“G-guess so...” Kenny said shyly, while discreetly taking as well in the appearance of the dark haired boy. He seemed to be about his age, though that was the only resemblance between them. Their physical appearance was totally opposite, as different as their attire. The kid facing Kenny wore his curly hair combed into the so-called ducktail style, with a generous amount of hair grease to keep it in place, though the hair on the top front of his head was deliberately disarrayed so that a few untidy curls hung down over his forehead. Matching with his hairstyle, he, like his two friends, was dressed in cuffed jeans, white t-shirt, black leather jacket, and boots; all of which gave him a somewhat intimidating look. The boy was slightly shorter than Kenny and the other two kids as well. He was also thinner than his friends, but even so, an unambiguous air of leadership and self-confidence radiated from him, especially from the dark blue eyes that stared at Kenny’s without blinking.

“So, welcome to one of the uglier spots of the Big Apple, Blondie.” The curly-haired boy said nonchalantly, with a crooked smile. “By the way, these guys here are Ritchie Castelli and his brother Matt. My name’s Dave; Dave Starsky.”

“Ken…Kenny Hutchinson. N-nice to meet you.” Kenny said politely, reaching out a hand. For a moment Dave looked puzzled, then bewilderment was quickly replaced with a sparkle of amusement.

“What the heck! A little good manners aren’t going to hurt me, I guess. Nice to meet you too, Blondie!” he said brightly, vigorously shaking Kenny Hutchinson’s hand while his lips curled into something that looked to the blond one like a friendly smile.

Dave’s good-natured attitude towards Kenny seemed to be the cue for Ritchie and Matt to let go of their hostility. They didn´t make any move to shake the newcomer’s hand, but both kids visibly lowered their guard. At least Kenny was pretty sure that none of them were going to be a threat to him.

“Okay Blondie, so you got lost, huh? How come? And where did you come from?” Dave Starsky asked as he stepped back into the warehouse with Kenny walking by his side, and the Catelli’s brothers just a few steps behind.

“I´m visiting from Duluth, Minnesota.”

“You´re from Minnesota?” Dave whistled, scratching his head. “Geez! I´m not too sure where Minnesota is, but that seems like one hell of a long walk…I think.”

“Oh, no…It’s not like that.” Kenny hastened to clarify. “I mean, I am from Minnesota, but right now I’m in New York, spending a few days in a hotel with my parents. We came here this morning.” He said, trying to get around the point that he was staying in one of the most expensive hotels in the whole city. “A while ago I got on a bus in Manhattan and it looks like I fell asleep during the ride, and when I realized it, I…well, I was here.” The blond boy explained, embarrassed.

“And let me guess.” Ritchie said matter-of-factly. “Then you found out that there’s not going to be any more buses until tomorrow morning, right?”

“Well, yes…that´s right.” Kenny answered feeling stupider than he ever had before in his entire life.

“Don’t sweat, Blondie. Good ol’ Davy will take you to the nearest payphone or to a cab stand if you prefer.” Dave assured him.

“Oh come on, pal!” Ritchie complained. “What are you? A fucking boy scout?...How about just telling him the way? I guess Blondie here can’t be that thick, after all.”

Hearing Ritchie’s offensive comment, for a moment Kenny was tempted to just walk away. However, his common sense, plus the fact that he was totally lost, made him stay and wait.

“Forget it Ritchie.” Dave said, waving a hand at his friend. “I’m taking him there and that´s all. Maybe you don’t care, but I don’t wanna be responsible for this guy getting himself into any mess bigger than he can handle while trying to get back to his hotel.”

“Okay, okay, do it your way, Davey.” Ritchie gave up. “But I´m leaving. Babysitting golden boy here’s not my idea of fun. See you, pal…You coming Matt?” Ritchie asked his brother. Together they strode out of the warehouse and disappeared from view.

“Morons.” Dave mumbled under his breath

“Listen Dave, you´re very nice, but I guess that if you can tell me how to get there, I ...” Kenny tried to say.

“Cut the crap, Blondie.” Dave cut off briskly. “I bet you’d get lost again before turning the nearest corner. I´m taking you there. End of the discussion.”

“Okay…Thanks” Kenny said unable to argue with Dave, who seemed to be a truly stubborn person.

“Wanna beer, Blondie?” Dave asked then, picking up a bottle of beer from the filthy ground and tossing it to Kenny, who failed sadly in his attempt to catch it in mid air, feeling even sillier than he had felt just a short while earlier.

“I don’t drink alcohol, thanks.” He answered seriously, after casting a brief glance at the bottle smashed into pieces at his feet. He was trying to preserve the last remains of his quite damaged dignity.

“Yeah, okay. I got it.” Dave said rolling his eyes and stifling a chortle. “You don’t smoke, either, I guess?” He asked, taking a mangled cigarette from his jacket pocket and offering it to Kenny.

“No…of course not. That’s a stupid vice. Besides I’m just fourteen.” He explained as if that one had to be a convincing answer for the streetwise boy in front of him.

“So what? I’m fourteen too, and I don’t know what it has to do with having some fun.” Dave stated, sticking the offered cigarette between his own lips and lightening it.

“Tell me something, Blondie. Have you ever been laid?” Dave then asked bluntly, accompanying his question with an obscene motion of his hands, as the blond one felt all the blood in his body climbing to his cheeks and neck. “You know, I´m talking about having a little fun with a girl…Or maybe that´s a stupid vice, too?” The curly-haired boy mocked, mischievously enjoying the other’s clear embarrassment.

“I don’t think that it’s any of your business, actually.” Kenny answered curtly, turning on his heels and striding resolutely out of the warehouse. Enough was enough. Okay; he was lost in a part of New York that to him looked like another planet, but he wasn´t a little child, and eventually he’d be able to find a cab or a public phone on his own, without the help of that coarse and ill-mannered kid.

“Hey, pal, where are you going?” Dave asked hurrying to reach the blond one.

“Back to my hotel, if you don’t mind. It’s getting late.” Kenny answered in cold voice.

“You got mad at me; is that, right? You got mad at me because of my question.” Dave said with faked naivety, facing the blond one and blocking his way with his own body. Despite the innocence in his voice, the cheeky kid didn’t looked sorry or ashamed in the least. He was just having some fun testing the newcomer, though Kenny was unable to see it.

“Listen Dave. I’m real grateful for your offer to help me find a way out of this place. I mean it. But I still think I’m perfectly able to…” Kenny’s tirade was abruptly cut off when a huge, stocky hand firmly grasped his shoulder. The kid squealed in terror as he spun on his heels to face the owner of such a massive hand…

“Hey, Benny! What´s up?” To Kenny’s amazement, Dave, instead of breaking into a run for his life, cheerily greeted the newcomer. He was a man, apparently in his mid forties, dressed in filthy and ragged clothes. He was also as tall and huge as a gorilla, bald, and almost wholly toothless. He smiled at the curly-haired kid, not paying any attention to Kenny, yet still not letting go of his shoulder.

“Hi kid.” The man replied. Kenny, on hearing him speak, realized that he was affected by a speech impairment of some sort, or maybe even of a mental disability.

“Got ya some coins for your old friend Benny, Davey?” The man asked the kid, finally releasing his hold in Kenny’s shoulder. “You know, kid. I hate to have to ask people for money, but I hadn’t anything to eat since yesterday, and well, I just was hoping that you…” Benny trailed off, lowering his gaze to the ground, ashamed.

“It’s okay, champ. Let’s see what we can find here.” Dave said, digging into the back pocket of his jeans to produce his wallet. He amiably patted Benny’s arm, smiling warmly at him, as if the man was somebody he really cared for, and not just an outcast of society.

All of sudden, gripped by an unexpected strong emotion. Kenny yearned to someday be on the receiving end of a demonstration of kindness like the one that was developing right in front of his eyes.

At that moment, all the desire to punch Dave’s nose that he’d been feeling only a minute earlier vanished completely, and he only wished with all his might to be able to find a friend willing to treat him with the same respect and gentleness that the curly-haired boy gave Benny.

“I´m sorry, Benny. I can’t give you more. I guess you’ll be able to get at least a donut and a cup of coffee with this.” Dave said, handing a little loose change to the huge man. “Things aren’t going too well at home since pop passed away; you know how it is…”

“I know, kid; I know. Don’t worry…Thanks Davey. You’re one of a kind.” the man said fondly squeezing Dave’s shoulder.

Benny was already stepping away when Kenny, dismissing from his mind all of his father’s lectures about why wasn’t a good idea to give money to bums, hurried after him.

“Hey, sir! Benny! Wait Benny!” Kenny said trotting after Benny while producing his wallet from his jacket pocket. Dave looked silently at him; an approbatory smile curling a corner of his lips.

The brunet stayed in his place, watching Kenny hand a few bills to Benny. He only approached the blond one after Benny, releasing him from a bear hug, patted the kid’s back so enthusiastically that Kenny stumbled forward, nose-diving on his hands and knees to the dusty ground.

“You okay, Blondie?” Dave said, looking amused while Kenny got to his feet, trying to brush the filth off of his clothes.

“Now tell me. What’s that guy? Half-human half-bear?” He asked, still sweeping his jacket as he looked after the disappearing form.

“Yeah, he’s yet quite strong…When I was a little kid he was a boxer. A great one, by the way. Several times champion, I’ve heard. And as odd as it sounds, he got a lot of money from boxing…But it looks like he couldn't save it for too long.” Dave explained gravely.

“Why? What happened to him?” Kenny asked with genuine interest.

“He got himself into big trouble…gambling debts, to be precise. Looks like he was unable to stop gambling, I dunno, maybe he was just trying to reach a lucky strike to clean his debts, but it looks like that that lucky strike never came. Whoever was the one who had lent him the money was after him to pay up; Benny kept gambling and his debts kept piling up until one day, a coupla goons would beat him within an inch of his life. According to what pop told me, he spent weeks in a coma just to wake up with the mind of a little kid.” Dave stopped explaining, giving Kenny time to soak in all the horror and despair of the story.

“But that’s awful!” Kenny said shocked. “Did the police find the people who did it?”

“They tried, but as far as I know, those goons were never caught. By the way, Blondie.” Dave asked, changing the subject “How much did you give to Benny? The guy seemed to be thrilled, actually.”

“Oh, no big deal.” Kenny said, modestly. “Enough for him to get a decent meal, that´s all.”

“Looks like golden boy here isn’t as stuck-up as he looks.” Dave joked good-naturedly, patting Kenny’s back.

“That´s how I look? I mean, like a snob?” Kenny asked, suddenly despairing.

“Well…” The curly-haired boy trailed off, carefully trying to pick the right choice of words. Finally, though, he went for a straight answer.

“Nope…Not, really. You don’t look like a snob…just a little weird.” Dave answered with his usual honesty. “But just at first sight.” He hurried to add. “Also, you do look stunningly rich…I’m wrong?”

“Well, that depends on what you call stunningly rich. But, yes. I am.” Kenny admitted, not yet sure why he was being so open with an unknown boy, who clearly had nothing in common with him, nor with his background or lifestyle. “My father has a nice amount of money in his bank account; so maybe you can say that I am rich, though technically, the rich one isn’t me, it’s him.”

“Yeah. I got it.” Dave said, scrutinizing Kenny with his eyes for the second time that night, as if trying to find any specific physical trait that revealed the difference between a rich guy and a poor one.

“Okay, Dave.” Ken announced, eager to move on from the subject of his family’s wealth. “Now, if you don’t mind I must go to find a cab, a phone or whatever. It’s getting real late and my father is going to go ballistic if I don’t show up soon in the hotel.” He added, looking worriedly at his watch.

“Hey!...That´s neat! A real beauty!” Dave exclaimed all of sudden, excitedly looking at Kenny’s expensive wristwatch.

“What?” The blond kid exclaimed, at a loss.

“That watch…It must have cost you big bucks.” Dave stated, still looking fixedly at the watch around Kenny’s wrist.

“Oh, well…my father…”

“Can I take a closer look at it?” The brunet asked, eagerly reaching out his hand, clearly expecting Kenny to hand the item over.

“Oh, s-sure…sure, why not?” Kenny answered uneasily. ´Because this guy is going to break into a run once you give him your damn wristwatch, leaving you out here lost, alone and without it, and later, if you manage to get back to the hotel in one piece, your father is going to beat the hell out of you, for being so damn stupid, that´s why. ´A inner voice chided Kenny, however, and maybe because he was too intimidated by Dave’s strong personality how to say him no, he took the watch off of his wrist and held it out to the brunet, who took it, inspecting it and caressing its smooth face with his thumb, almost reverently, as if a rougher touch would make it disappear or break it into pieces.

“It’s beautiful… so damn beautiful…I wish I was able to get one like yours someday,” the brunet said, handing the wristwatch back to Kenny. He took it, letting go of a breath that he didn´t know he had been holding.

“Hey Blondie, what’s wrong?” Dave asked, looking at the other boy’s stunned face. Kenny didn’t have time to answer before Dave spoke again.

“Oh, yeah, let me guess,” the curly-haired kid said bitterly. “You’re surprised because I haven’t run away taking your fucking wristwatch with me, right?” He stared into Kenny’s eyes, a mix of anger and hurt masking his angular features.

“Oh…well, no…I don’t…” Kenny trailed off, once more chastising himself for his lack of insight. He wished he could make out the truthful people from the dishonest ones, or at least be able to hide his feelings from the others.

“So let me tell you something, damn rich boy!” Dave said raising his voice and stepping closer to Kenny, his hands balled into white-knuckled fists at both sides of his thighs. “I am a Starsky! Do you hear me? I’m a Starsky and maybe I’m dirt poor, but the Starskys aren’t thieves, or crooks of any sort! My father was a cop. A damn good cop who’d paid with his life trying to clean the scum off of the streets of this rotten neighbourhood, and I´m sure as hell that he’d come back from his grave to kick my ass if I was ever tempted to steal so much as a fork from a damn greasy spoon! Got it, golden boy?” Having said all that he wanted, the kid turned sharply on his heels, and strode resolutely away from Kenny.

“Sorry! Sorry Dave! I´m very sorry!” Kenny said, running after the kid. “I am a damn asshole, and stupid, and any other thing that you wanna call me! You´re right! For a moment back there I thought that you were going to steal this piece of junk, but I was wrong! Terribly wrong and you don’t know how sorry I am! Forgive me, Dave!...Forgive me.” He pleaded.

Dave halted so suddenly that Kenny almost bumped into him. Not yet turning to face the other, he said in calmer voice.

“Wanna know what I’d like to do right now more than any other thing, Blondie?”

“What?” Kenny asked meekly.

“Punch your nose… punch your whole rich and pretty and stupid face into hamburger; into something so unrecognizable that not ever your mother would be able to make out the difference between it and a piece of raw meat. That´s what I’d like to do.”

Kenny swallowed hard before answering. “No wonder.” He said soberly “I’ve practically called you thief.”

“Yeah. You did it. And I'm not a thief.” Dave said, turning to look at Kenny.

“I know.” The blond one answered as both kids stared into each other’s eyes.

“I'm not a crook. Nor a goon. And because of that I'm not going to beat your face into a pulp. Don’t forget it, Blondie.” A tense silence hung between both kids. Neither of them moved, until Dave produced a cigarette from his jacket pocket, lighting it.

“It’s okay, Blondie. Let’s forget this crap…You got any spare money?” He asked suddenly, taking the other one aback.

“Oh well, not much, after which I gave to Benny, but yes. I have yet some. Why?”

“Buy me something to eat. I'm hungry.”

“But I…It’s late, Dave…My parents.” Ken, attempted to argue, despite realizing that he was feeling hungry, too.

“Oh, come on! To the hell with that! I bet your parents are missing you about as much as my mother misses me! Besides, it’s not so late yet. If we hurry to get there before they close, I know a diner where you can get terrific burritos, and also burgers, pizzas enchiladas, hotdogs, and the best milkshakes you have tasted in all your life!”

“And salads? Do they serve salads and fruit juices?” Kenny asked shyly.

“Salads and fruit juices? Oh, come on, Blondie! Who in their right mind would possibly care about rabbit food?” Dave asked straightforwardly, just to guess the answer a second later. “Oh…yeah, yeah. I know. You care about that.”

“Well, I just…”

“Guess what Blondie?” Dave cut him off. “You really are a little weird. A nice guy but definitely a bit in the odd side.”

“Hey! I'm not weird! I just like healthy food. It helps to keep me fit! ” Kenny protested more energetically that he had wanted.

“All that tasteless green stuff can’t be as healthy as people claim, pal, believe me…Keep eating it for much longer, and I bet that soon you’ll see a nice tuft of grass growing up from your ears.” As Dave spoke, Kenny distractedly raised a hand to his right ear and rubbed it. He couldn’t help himself.

“Okay, now, no more chitchat, Blondie. Let’s go to get a bite to eat,” Dave said. He crouched down to grab a handful of pebbles from the ground, putting them in his jacket pocket.

“What do you want those for?” Kenny asked, unable to guess the next move of the surprising boy standing by his side.

“To get us a mean of transport.” The other answered, enigmatically.

“Say what?” The blond kid asked, raising his eyebrows

“You’ll see, Blondie. Just follow me and you’ll see. Now let’s go. We don’t got all night to waste,” he said as both boys left the warehouse.

They walked a few blocks through a lonely and poorly lighted street, until finally, Dave halted in front of a small, neglected house. Then, as Kenny looked questioningly at him, the kid dug into his jacket pocket and retrieved the handful of pebbles.

“What…what are you going to do now?” Kenny asked, a frown drawn on his forehead.

“Shhht…Shut up or you’ll screw my plan!” Dave commanded in a whisper.

“Plan? What plan? I thought that we were just going to get a bite to eat.” Kenny whispered back.

“And we are, but first we need to find a nice, quick way to get there.” The brunet explained, throwing a pebble against one of the windows.

“But?...Dave! What are you doing? You´re going to break that window!” Kenny said as Dave threw a few more small rocks against the glass.

“Shut up Blondie, will ya?” The brunet said in a sharp whisper. Then both kids saw a light turn on behind the window. A few seconds later, it slid up and a boy, a few years older than Kenny and Dave, stuck his head out.

“What´s the matter with you, kid? Don’t you know that some people have to get up early to go to work?” The boy asked, scratching his bare chest.

“Lend me your Belle, Jimmy. Just for a while. I’ll bring her back to you in about an hour or so.” Dave whispered as Kenny stood a few steps away, watching the scene with silent puzzlement.

“Oh, no, Davey. No way, forget it. I don’t wanna get myself into trouble.” The boy in the window refused.

“Come on, Jimmy, I’m not going to get you into any kind of mess, I’ll be careful, honest.”

“Listen Davey, if a patrol car sees you, then…” Upon hearing that, Kenny’s heart missed a beat, and he began seriously considering his chances at getting away from that wild kid while still he could.

“No one’s going to see me, Jimmy. We only want go to Martin’s to get something to eat, and I’ll park in the rear alley. No one will see me driving…oh, come on, pal! Let me take Belle, please! You did it other times, and I’ve always give her back to you without trouble!” Dave begged, as Kenny realized with shock what this was all about.

“Okay Davey, okay. I’ll lend you Belle.” Jimmy grunted “But be careful. If any cop catches you driving my car…”

“No problem, pal. That’s not going to happen.” Dave confidently assured his friend. The boy disappeared from the window only to return a moment later. He tossed the car keys to Dave.

“Thanks, Jimmy, you’re a friend.” The curly-haired kid smiled widely.

“Yeah sure, whatever. But I want Belle back in a coupla hours as much. Do you hear me, Davey? A coupla hours.”

“Sure Jimmy, trust me.”

“Now get lost. A guy needs his rest.” With these words, the young man named Jimmy closed his window and disappeared from view.

“Okay, Blondie, let’s go. I’m hungry,” Dave said, heading towards a car parked a short distance down the street from them.

“Wait, wait a moment, Dave.” Kenny said striding to reach him. “Are you planning on driving a car?”

“Of course I’m planning on driving a car. I’ve did it lot of times before…What’s the problem with you anyway?”

“Do you really know how to drive?” The blond boy asked in bewilderment.

“Yep. Damn well, actually,” Dave said, proudly.

“But you’re fourteen. That’s against the law, Dave!” Kenny exclaimed, not yet believing that he was having this talk at all.

“What’s against the law? To be fourteen?” The brunet wisecracked, giving Kenny his best innocent look.

“Oh, come on! You know what I mean!” The young Hutchinson snapped.

“Yeah, of course I know.” Dave countered defiantly, becoming serious. “But as far as I’m concerned, that’s none of your damn business, Blondie. Now I’m going to get into that car and I’m going to drive to Marty’s to get something to eat. You coming?”

“What if the police catch us?”

“Then most likely I’ll spend a nice long while sitting in a cell at the nearest police station, and if you’re convincing enough, instead of going there with me, you’ll have the once in a lifetime chance to ride back to your hotel in a neat, comfy patrol car…But, to get it, you have to tell the cops that I kidnapped you.” Dave joked.

Kenny couldn't help but laugh at that comment. The whole situation was almost inconceivable; the idea that he, the trustworthy, responsible and even boring Kenneth Hutchinson, was about to ride in a car driven by an underage boy, who obviously didn’t have a driver’s license, was plain bizarre in of itself. Yet, despite it all, he felt a flicker of excitement tickling in his stomach. He was living the first adventure of his life, and he was starting to truly enjoy it.

“Cool huh?” Dave asked, looking in admiration at the car he was about to drive. It was a little 47 Ford Opera Coupe, recently waxed, painted in purple and customized with fire flames on its front end and grille.

“Guess what, Dave?” Kenny said, as both kids got into the car.

“What?” Dave asked, starting the engine.

“I wouldn’t say that…You know, about you kidnapping me. If the cops catch us, I’ll stick with you. Till the end.”

“Fine, pal. You’re a good guy.” Dave said, looking at Kenny with a mischievously impish smile. “And in return, I´ll drive you to Martin’s in old lady style… I don’t want you to have a heart attack in the passenger seat of Jimmy’s Belle.”

“Well, that’s real nice from you, Dave, thanks” Kenny answered looking at his companion of ride from the corner of his eye.

Both kids were silent for a few minutes. Dave was driving through the empty streets much less smoothly than he had promised Kenny. It seemed almost as if he was purposefully looking for every bump in the road, pushing the gas pedal far more often than the blond kid would have liked.

Finally, he broke the silence with another one of the odd questions and remarks Kenny was beginning to expect from him.

“Kenny Hutchinson… humm…That’s not a cool name, if you ask me.”

“What?” Kenny asked, at a loss as where that statement could possibly be going.

“Kenny sounds too… How do I put it?... Too much like a little kid’s name. And about Hutchinson… well, it’s just too long; too pretentious, if you get my drift.” Dave elaborated by taking his hand off of the steering wheel and gesticulating widely for emphasis.

“Put your hands on the wheel, Dave, for Christ sake!” Kenny shouted, startled. He grabbed the dashboard tightly with both hands.

“Whoa pal! Take it easy or you’re gonna have a stroke!” The curly-haired boy exclaimed, amused. “As I told you, I know how to drive. And probably better than any of the cab drivers in this fucking city.”

“Yeah, sure… Anyway, mind driving with both hands in the wheel… Please?” Kenny asked running a hand across his suddenly damp forehead.

“Of course, Blondie, no problem,” the brunet said. He raised his hands in a placating gesture, as Kenny’s face become a couple of shades paler than before.

“Like I said, Kenny Hutchinson is a name that doesn’t suit you. Nah... not at all.” He continued with his explanation, ignoring the other’s gaze at his hands on the steering wheel. “You look more like Hutch to me.”

“Like what?” The blond one asked, his eyes wide.

“Hutch. It’s a nice nickname. It sounds strong… it has personality.” Dave felt proud of his own cleverness.

“It sounds stupid.” the other said grumpily.

“That’s just because you aren’t used to it yet.” Dave insisted, “But after you’ve heard it a few times you’ll come to like it. You’ll see, Hutch.”

“Oh, okay, have it your way,” the newly nicknamed boy said, shrugging. “I don’t mind… No one’s going to call me that, anyway.”

“Well, I don’t care about the others, but I’ll do it. That’s for sure. Now you just have to think a little and find a nickname for me.” Dave encouraged, playfully.

“For you? I don’t know, I just…” The blond kid trailed off, finding the matter silly and childish, and yet, despite himself, also wanting to play along.

“Something with character, like your new nickname. Come on, Hutch, think about it.”

“I don’t know… How about Starsk? You know, your surname, but without the Y at the end?”

“Starsk, huh? I like it. Yeah, I like it.” Dave agreed, pleased. “Okay, Hutch, we’re here,” he announced, parking the purple car in a dark rear alley.

The boys climbed out of the car and walked into the diner, picking a table near a wide window. The place, small, poorly lit by a few murky lamps, and rather grimy, was almost empty. As a matter of fact, there was only one patron, sitting on a stool by the bar and draining the last of his beer before leaving. The only sound came from a radio set hidden somewhere, from which the voice of the announcer could be heard talking about a dangerous inmate who had managed to escape from Attica Correctional Facility the day earlier.

The waitress, a pregnant woman who despite her advanced gestation seemed to be the only one serving the patrons at that late hour, approached their table with a notepad and pen in her hands to take their order.

“What would you like, dears?” She asked, while filling their glasses with icy water. She gave them a smile that tried to mask her obvious discomfort as she rubbed her large belly.

Both kids placed their orders. A huge cheeseburger with onion and pickles, with a side of French fries, plus a soda and a chocolate pie for Starsky, and a salad alongside of a tuna sandwich on whole wheat and a glass of milk for Hutch. Soon they were eating their meals while chatting about both light and serious subjects. Both, despite the many differences between their personalities, shared the same odd feeling of being more at ease with each other than they had been in a long time, maybe in all their short lives, with any other of their friends.

Starsk, as the kid wanted to be named by the blond one, told to his new friend about his other friends, his life in his humble neighborhood and especially about how the recent murder of his father had shattered his family, turning his once happy home into an endless nightmare of grief and hopelessness.

Hutch told Starsky about his dreams, his family, all the problems undermining daily his parent’s marriage and all the big expectations that his demanding father had for him. Expectations that had nothing to do with the real wishes the unhappy kid had for his future.

“My father wants me to be a prestigious lawyer, like he is... But I… I just don’t wanna spend all my life doing that kind of job,” Hutch said, using his fork to stir the last remains of salad on his plate. “I’m not too sure about what I wish to do yet, but I don’t wanna be a lawyer, that’s for sure. I’d rather find a way to help people, not from behind any desk, or in an office, but on the streets, being with them, getting to know them, sharing their feelings and problems. I think that this is the only real way to help people.” A pensive silence hung between both boys until Hutch spoke again.

“What about you, Starsk? What would you like to do for a living?” The blond drained the last of his soda.

“Dunno,” he answered flatly. “I only know that I’d like to leave this rotten place. I’d like to see other people, visit other countries… I’m not sure yet. Maybe in a few years I’ll join the army, or I’ll sign myself onto a cargo boat. Yeah, that’ll be a good idea; I love boats… But, before I go anywhere I’ve got something very important to do,” the curly-haired kid added darkly, lowering his voice.

“I know it’s none of my business, but… What’s that, Starsk? What’s so important that you have to do?” Hutch asked softly.

“I’m going to track down and kill my father’s assassins,” the brunet said, looking up. He tugged sharply at the napkin hanging from his t-shirt collar, and squeezed it tightly in his fist, his dark blue eyes shining with rage and pain.

“Oh…Come on Starsk, you can’t be serious,” Hutch said, feeling his heart rate increase. “That’s revenge, pure and simple revenge. And that would destroy your life. You’d turn into a killer, like the ones who killed your father. You’d go to prison… Maybe even…”

“Before sending me to prison, they would have to find out that I did it. I mean, they got to have proofs, don’t you think?” Starsky cut him off, still staring fiercely into Hutch’s eyes. “The fact is; the police aren’t doing anything to find pop’s killers… And somebody has to do it. Somebody has to punish them for good.”

The blond kid struggled to find the right words to say, he wanted to stretch out his hand to squeeze Starsky’s shoulder; to convey with that touch all his understanding, but, unsure of the brunet’s response, he couldn’t gather up the courage to do it.

“Starsk… I… Just don’t know what to say. I only wish that you’d think twice before doing something that…”

“Listen, Hutch. Can we drop this matter?” Starsk asked, getting to his feet. “I don’t wanna keep talking about it. After all, like you said, it’s none of your damn business how I choose to throw my life away.”

“Starsk, I... Well, I was just trying to help, that’s all.” The blond one answered warily, standing as well and placing a few bills onto the table.

“Thanks, Hutch, but there’s nothing you can do to help me. Nobody can. What has to be done, has to be done and that’s all.” The brunet kid took a deep breath before speaking again, this time in lighter tone.

“Well, Blondie I guess our fun ends now. Over there you got a payphone to call for a cab or you can call your parents if you want.” Starsky said, pointing with his chin at the opposite wall where a phone that had seen better days hung forlornly. “I have to get back to Jimmy’s to give him his Belle. I don’t wanna piss the guy off.”

“Yeah...” Hutch answered in a barely audible voice, feeling a sudden lump in his throat, a lump that he didn’t know Starsky was feeling as well.

“Bye, Blondie. I hope your parents won’t be too mad at you.” Starsky said, patting Hutch’s arm before heading towards the diner doors. He waved goodbye, as Hutch watched his exit.

“Bye, Starsk. Take good care of yourself, buddy,” the blond kid said, raising his hand, still standing in the middle of the empty dinning room even though Starsky had already left.

“Hey honey… are you okay?” Hutch felt a hand onto his shoulder and turning, he saw the waitress. She looked concerned.

“Uh?… Oh, sure, ma’am… I’m fine.” Hutch said. “Can I use the phone, please? I need to call for a cab.”

“Oh, I’m very sorry, but the phone’s not working. We called the company a while ago, but they’re not coming to fix it until tomorrow morning.”

“But then… How can I get a cab to go back to my hotel?” Hutch asked, distraught.

“Dunno, sweetheart. The nearest cabstand is about a mile and a half away from here. Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll find a cab in the street, or you can look for a payphone on your way, or…” Hutch, forgetting his manners, didn’t wait for the waitress to finish, but instead broke into a run. The woman, rubbing absentmindedly her belly, watched the boy leave before returning to her task of cleaning the tables.

“STAAAARSK! WAIT!” Hutch shouted as he ran to the back alley where the brunet had parked the car a while earlier.

“STARSK!” Hutch called out again trotting to where Starsky was already starting the engine, almost bumping against the driver’s side of the car.

“Hey Blondie! Where’s the fire?” The brunet asked, killing the engine and climbing out of the purple painted Ford.

“The… the phone’s not working.” The blond one explained pointing at the restaurant while gasping for air “I can’t call for either a cab or my parents.”

“Okay, no problem, Hutch. I’ll give you a lift to your hotel.” Starsky offered nonchalantly.

“Are you nuts?” Hutch asked, grimly. “You can’t go through the streets of Manhattan driving a car, Starsk! A traffic cop could see you and then we’d find ourselves in a hell of a mess!”

“Okay, okay. You got a point there, I guess.” The brunet conceded. “No ride to Manhattan. I’ll just drop you off at the nearest cab stand. But before I take you there, gimme a minute, will ya? I need to hit the john.” Starsky said. He strode toward the restaurant entrance with Hutch a few steps behind him.

Once back inside the small diner, maybe because the waitress was out of sight and there weren’t any patrons around either, Hutch felt a unexpected shiver running up his spine.

“Be right back, Hutch,” the brunet said, heading toward the restrooms. Hutch waited for him, idly looking over the records in the jukebox placed in a corner, unaware of the sound of steps at his back.

Many years later, as if fate was playing a nasty trick on him, Hutch, in an Italian restaurant and on a stormy night, would find himself in a very similar situation, and like that moment, this one would be a prelude to big trouble, too…

The blond boy heard the steps getting nearer to him, but just as he decided to turn around he felt something hard press against his back.

“Listen kid, there’s a gun pointed straight at your back,” a husky male voice said behind him. “Don’t make any fuss and maybe you’ll live long enough to reach your majority… Come on, turn around slowly and nicely,” the voice commanded.

Shaking from head to foot, and feeling his legs turning into wobbly jelly, Hutch did as the man commanded, turning around to face him.

“Ple-please, sir… I-I don’t wanna give you any trouble…” Hutch managed to say while taking in the frightening sight of the muscular, tall man standing in front of him. He had piercing yet small black eyes, angular features, black, thick hair, and a rough face lined with deep and premature wrinkles.

“Fine, then things will be much easier for all of us. Hands up where I can see them!” the man commanded, all the while pointing at Hutch’s chest with his gun, so near to him that he could smell his nauseating alcohol-filled breath.

The blond kid was so utterly terrified that just for a moment he forgot that he was only there because Starsky had wanted to go to the restroom. He had also forgotten that the brunet was going to reappear at any moment…

“Okay, Hutch. Let’s go.” Starsk said just then, heading out from the men’s restroom. The felon, upon seeing him, gave a quick jerk at the collar of Hutch’s shirt and forced the shocked boy to his knees and hands, before putting a large foot on his back and pinning him face down against the floor.

“Hands up and come here, curly, or I’ll blow your guts all over this fucking place!” the man hissed.

“Okay… okay, guy; take it easy... No need to get mad.” Starsky answered with counterfeit coolness, raising his hands and slowly stepping closer to the armed man.

“Is there anybody else in here?” he asked, pointing his gun at Starsky as he took his foot off of Hutch’s back and pulled him roughly to his feet.

“How the hell can I know? I’m not the owner of this joint.” The brunet snapped, staring defiantly into the older man’s eyes. The felon’s lips curled in a sarcastic smile. Then, without warning, he gave the boy’s face a fierce slap, sending him crashing to the floor.

“Starsk!” Hutch exclaimed, wanting to rush to the brunet, but too terrified to move.

“I’m… I’m okay, Hutch... yeah… fine,” Starsky mumbled, scrambling to his feet. He wiped away the blood seeping from his split lip with the back of his hand, while looking with hate-filled eyes at his attacker.

“Look, scumbag,” the man addressed Starsky, shoving the blond one toward him. “Let me make things clear. I am the one with the gun. That means that I am the one in charge here, and for your information, I hate cocky, bigmouthed children. Try to not forget it, and watch your mouth if you don’t wanna piss me off any further, okay?”

Then, as if the situation wasn’t bad enough for both kids, the forgotten waitress came out of the ladies restroom. She was walking unsteadily, holding her abdomen with both hands.

“He-help me… I need to get to the hospital… My baby!” she said. She winced once in pain, before uttering a long, deep moan and collapsing to the floor.

Both the boys and the man froze in their spots for a moment, until the last one spoke firmly to the woman.

“Oh, come on, honey! Don’t you know that one’s the oldest trick in the book? Stop playing your stupid games and get up, now!”

“I’m… I’m n-not joking, sir… My baby’s going… going to come...” She said tearfully, struggling to get to her feet. She sat down in one of the booths with Hutch’s help.

“Listen… listen, sir.” He said warily. “Can’t you see it? The lady’s not lying. She really needs to get to the hospital!”

“SHUT UP, DAMN! SHUT UP ALL OF YOU! YOU´RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!” The man barked, slamming the bar with his large hand, making both kids to flinch.

“What do you wanna from us?” Starsky asked softly, trying to stare into the man’s eyes and not at the gun pointing at him and Hutch.

“From you?” The man asked back, cocking an eyebrow, before bursting into a loud guffaw. “Oh Geez, you’re real funny, kid, ya know that?” Becoming serious, he said, “I don’t want anything from you three… nothing at all. You’re just my hostages. Sort of merchandise that I’m going to trade for a car, money and a safe passage outta here. But all in its right time. Right now I’m hungry and I’m going to get something to eat.” He moved closer to the waitress and Hutch.

“You both! Get up and come with me!”

“Wh-why…Where are we going?” She asked in bafflement.

“Has this joint a pantry closet?” The man asked, instead of answering the woman’s question.

“Oh… well, yes… yes, it has.” She answered, too upset to guess the obvious plans that the felon had in mind for her and Hutch.

“Fine. Now show me the way, honey. You both are going to spend a nice, quiet while in there.”

“But… You can’t do that, man!” Starsky exclaimed. He immediately regretted his unwise outburst.

“I can. Do. Anything. I want… Do I make myself clear, smartass?” The man spat, as he grabbed a handful of the brunet’s hair, and pulled his head backwards, pushing the barrel of his gun under the kid’s nose. Hutch and the waitress watched the scene unfold in mesmerized horror.

“It’s o-okay, sir, it’s okay. No q-questions… We’ll do anything you want us to do,” Hutch ventured to say, fearfully, trying to appease the enraged man. He wondered why that curly, impulsive boy had to have such a big mouth.

“Come on, move! To the pantry!” The man ordered, releasing Starsky’s hair to grab the kid’s arm in an iron grasp, while pointing at the woman and Hutch with his gun.

A moment later, once the waitress had handed the pantry keys to their captor, she and the blond kid went obediently into the small room.

“No you don’t. You’re coming with me to the kitchen,” he said to Starsky, when the brunet attempted to step inside the pantry with the other two. “I have to have at least one hostage with me all the time, just in case.” Saying so, he locked the door and pointed his gun at Starsky’s back, pushing him toward the entrance of the diner, where he turned out the lights and hung the closed sign on the front door, before heading with the boy to the kitchen.

xxxxxxx

Over the next while, Hutch, despite being scared out of his mind, did his best to seem calm for the sake of the equally frightened waitress. He tried to convince her that everything was going to be okay eventually, all the while trying to think of some way to unlock the door of the claustrophobic little room.

“My… my baby… I can’t give birth to my baby in here... It’s… It’s so cold!” She said to Hutch with a trembling voice. The blond boy took his jacket off, wrapping the waitress’s shoulders with it.

“T-thanks, kid… you’re very kind…” She said trying to control her shaky breathing.

“You’re welcome, ma’am… What’s your name, by the way?” Hutch asked hoping that a little conversation would be helpful in easing the woman’s distress.

“Carol… Carol Garret.”

“Kenny Hutchinson.” Hutch introduced himself. “I really wish we had met in very different circumstances.”

“Yeah… Me too.” She paused to take a deep breath. “Guess what, Kenny?... I wasn’t expecting my baby to be born yet. My due date’s in about two weeks.”

“Well, so it looks like your kid has a real bad timing, huh?” he joked softly, eliciting a weak smile from Carol.

“Do you think we’ll be able to get outta here alive, Kenny?” She asked then, candidly.

“Sure, Carol… I’m sure of that. We’ll do it, you’ll see,” he assured, as he looked at their surroundings, searching for something useful to pry the lock open.

“Is the kid out there a friend of yours?” she asked. She looked at the closed door as she absently rubbed her belly.

“Starsk? Oh, yes, he is.” Hutch answered without hesitation, truly meaning his answer.

“I just hope that son of a bitch doesn’t hurt him.” she said, before a new contraction took her breath away.

xxxxxxx

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the unknown man was fixing himself a huge sandwich and taking a beer from the large fridge, all the while aiming at Starsky with his gun...

“I guess that you’d like to know who I am, right?” the man asked Starsky while loading cold cuts onto four slices of white bread. “I’m Jacob Kravitz. The escaped inmate from Attica’s prison,” he explained upon seeing that the kid didn't seemed too eager to ask. “Most likely you’ve heard about me.”

“Yep. On the radio.” Starsky said, in flat voice.

“And also, I guess you’re wondering why I’m here. Why, after escaping from prison, I’d come to this city full of cops instead of heading for Tijuana, or something... After all, as you most likely know, Attica is pretty far from here.” He kept talking as he sat down on a wooden stool.

“Doesn’t make much sense, huh?” the man asked, popping open the cap of his beer bottle. “Well. Let’s say that I had to take care of some business here… I had to kill my wife’s lover, actually.” He paused, taking a long drink of his beer. “What’s wrong, kid?” The man asked then, staring coldly at Starsky, with an edge of impatience in his voice. “Haven’t your parents taught you to be polite and talk with people when they are trying to have a nice chat with you?”

On hearing that, young Starsky swallowed dryly, searching his mind for something appropriate to say. Instead, though, he found himself uttering the only question that his brain could form at that moment.

“And you did it?”

“Of course I did it, kid.” Kravitz’s lips curled into a wicked smile full of pride. “Years ago, when I found out that Bertha, the damn bitch who happened to be my wife, and Roy were having an affair, I killed her. Then, before I had a chance to get my hands on Roy, the police caught me and sent me to the pen. But that doesn’t matter anymore, because just a while ago, I finally blew out the fucking brain of that bastard and now his sorry body lies in a stinky alley not too far from here. He got what was coming to him all these years. It’s as simple as that.”

“Guess what?” Starsky said all of sudden. “I understand you… I mean; I understand why you killed them.” The kid stated, trying somehow to get Kravitz to trust him, just as his father had told him to do, if someday he found himself trapped in a hostage situation. He sounded sincere and convincing, though actually his thoughts and feelings were in turmoil. Was that what the desire for revenge did to people? Could he turn into a man like Kravitz, if he was unable to find a way to let go of his hate? If he kept sticking to his plan to some day kill the ones who had killed his dad?...

“You can’t understand it, kid. To understand, you’d have to know all that they did to me. All that they took away from me.” Kravitz said gloomily.

“Tell me about… Please, Mr. Kravitz” Starsky asked timidly. “I’d like to understand you. I really want to.”

“They let my kid, my pride and my joy die.”

“W-what? I mean, how?” Starsky asked, stunned.

“My poor Tommy was a wonderful child. Sweet, lively and smart, gorgeous as any of those kids you see in the TV commercials, with his dark hair and his blue eyes… Now, he’d be 15, more or less your age, I guess…” The man paused to stare at Starsky with a sad smile curling his lips “I would give anything to have Tommy back by my side.” Kravitz added in low voice “But he had epilepsy… a quite severe form of it, that wasn’t responding to the medication as well as doctors expected. One night I was at work… and back then I hadn’t clue about it yet, but while I was out, that bitch, Bertha, was in my own bed, fornicating with her lover like two lustful beasts.” Kravitz stopped to drink a long gulp of his beer, his sandwich totally forgotten onto the counter.

“That night, Tommy, my little man, had a seizure while his mother was sound asleep in the arms of that bastard… Well, she didn’t heard anything, and when she and her lover awoke, it was too late for Tommy. According the autopsy, my son had choked to death with a bite of cookie that apparently he was eating when he suffered the seizure … And guess what?” Jacob Kravitz asked in strained voice, as his eyes filled with tears of anger and despair. “When he died, my kid was just eight years old… Just eight, for God’s sake!”

“Christ…” Starsky whispered; his compassionate heart full of sympathy towards the unhappy man in front of him.

Just then, a spine-chilling scream and the sound of hard pounding came from the near pantry closet filling the entire place.

“DAMN IT! CAN´T A GUY GET A BREAK LONG ENOUGH TO EAT SOMETHING?” the startled man bellowed, slamming his beer bottle down on the kitchen’s large counter.

“Help! Let us out! Please!” came Hutch’s muffled voice from behind the pantry door. “The lady’s going into labor! Please, sir! Open the door!”

Without further word, Kravitz got to his feet, ruthlessly grabbing Starsky by his arm and dragging him along with him toward the pantry door.

“Shut up! Stop pounding that door, fuck! You’re going to wake up the whole neighborhood!” The man shouted out.

“Okay. No more wasting time. I think it’s time to get the party started once and for all.” Kravitz announced, halting in mid step and heading back, towards the phone in the dinning room never releasing his tight grasp in Starsky’s arm.

“What...What are you going to do?” The kid asked, apprehensively.

“I’m going to call the police to ask them for a car, a safe way to leave the States and money. After all, that was my reason for being here. And they better give in on my requests, or else they will be responsible for three deaths… Four, actually.” Kravitz stated picking up the phone receiver. Starsky feared the outburst to come, once the felon realized that the phone wasn´t working.

“But?...What the hell? What’s wrong with that fucking piece of junk?” The man asked right then, having brought the receiver to his ear.

“It… it’s not working.” Starsky answered softly, wondering for a moment if the clasp knife that he had in his pocket was going to be of any help against an infuriated and armed man who seemed to him as big as a gorilla.

“DAMN! WHO IN HELL ASKED ME TO COME HERE!” Kravitz roared slamming the receiver down hard. “Listen, kid! Now I’m going to take that woman’s car and I’m going to leave this goddamned place!” While saying this, he dragged Starsky back towards the pantry door. “And you’ll come with me!”

On hearing that, the heart of the dark-haired boy sank. His mind raced, looking for any way to escape and help Hutch and Carol.

“You first! I don’t wanna any surprises!” Kravitz commanded, once they were facing the pantry door. He held the key out to Starsky and pushed him forward with the barrel of his gun. Knowing that Kravitz wasn’t in the mood to stand any defiance, the kid unlocked the pantry door and stepped in with the tall man behind, just to see Hutch standing on a stool, by the entrance side, ready to drop a heavy can of tomato sauce over Kravitz’s head. Unfortunately, he was behind Starsky.

“FUCKING DAMN KID I’M GOING TO KILL YOU! I’LL BE DAMNED IF I DON’T KILL YOU RIGHT HERE AND NOW!” Kravitz hollered upon seeing Hutch. He shoved Starsky aside and rushed towards the blond one, roughly jerking his jacket and making him to fall off the stool and onto the floor, where he started punching and kicking the defenseless kid’s head and back with his enormous fists and feet. Hutch tried to protect himself, curling his body into a ball and covering his head with both arms.

“Let him alone, you bastard! You’re going to kill him!” Starsky screamed, leaping onto Kravitz’s back. He tightly wrapped himself around the man’s upper body, making him to lose hold of his gun that slid under a nearby shelf, while Carol screamed with all her might.

Then, all of a sudden, a fast item flew in the man’s direction, missing him by a few inches and hitting instead the back of the blond kid’s head. Hutch suddenly stopped his attempts to protect himself from Kravitz´ blows.

"Oh... shit..." Carol whispered in disbelief, seeing that the bottle of wine she had thrown at Kravitz had hit Hutch instead.

Kravitz, seeing Hutch go limp on the floor, froze just for a second. Then, before he had time to react, a piercing pain, coming from Starsky’s clasp knife, bit into his right shoulder blade.

“Aaahhgggg! Shit! Shit! SHIT! DAMN KID! You’re dead! Did you hear me? YOU´RE DEAD!” Kravitz howled, reaching his muscular left arm backward, and grabbing a handful of Starsky’s jacket. He easily dragged the kid over his head, and threw him against the wall ahead them, where Starsky crashed before sliding in a heap onto Hutch. The blond kid began to struggle to get out from under the weight of the brunet’s body. Meanwhile, Carol, almost paralyzed by a new, and particularly painful, contraction watched helplessly the scene.

At that moment, Kravitz had managed to pull the clasp knife out from his own back and was stepping menacingly towards Starsky, with the blood stained switchblade tightly grasped in his hand and his face contorted in a mask of pain and insane rage, too infuriated to notice the quick exchange of looks between both kids…Too blinded by anger to notice at first, how Starsky began to convulse in the floor, how his eyeballs rolled up, his back arched up in a taut arc and a thread of saliva escaped from between his lips.

“Starsk?... Dave? Dave answer me, please!… STARSK!” Hutch said frantically, kneeling beside the convulsing boy and looking at him with terrified eyes, as Kravitz stopped in his tracks and the clasp knife fell from his hand with a clang.

“Is… is he… epileptic?” The man asked becoming pale and with a blank stare in his eyes, approaching Starsky. Then, moving as one person, and taking the felon aback, Starsky scrambled quickly to his feet, forcefully shoving him backwards, as Hutch crawled under the shelf retrieving the gun that had slid under it a while earlier, aiming at the tall man with shaking hands.

“What… what means this?” Kravitz asked in bewilderment, as Carol, from her spot in the floor, uttered a new tearful, long moan.

“I’m sorry, friend. Very sorry.” Starsky apologized earnestly, taking the gun from Hutch’s hands into his much steadier hold. “I hate to play dirty, Kravitz. I really do… And this one was a risky move also. But I had to try it. It was you or me... All of us. Now, hands up. And don’t try anything, okay? If I haven’t another choice, I’m going to pull the trigger. I mean it… Hutch, look for a rope or something to tie him up.” Starsky asked, firmly as Hutch, never taking his eyes off of Kravitz, struggled to hide his fear.

“Fucking bastard! I… I…” Kravitz stuttered as Starsky kept aiming the gun at him. The man had given up any attempt to fight, meekly letting Hutch to tie his hands and ankles, just wincing in pain when the injury in his shoulder blade throbbed.

“Tell me something, kid,” The felon asked Hutch, as he was tying his ankles. “You knew it, right? You knew that Curly there was playing a trick on me. He hadn’t any chance to tell you about what he was going to do, but you knew it nonetheless, don’t you?”

“Sort of.” Hutch responded curtly, still musing in astonishment about the unexplainable and silent connection he had shared with Starsky short earlier.

xxxxxxx

The next minutes were a rush of activity. Both boys helped Carol to her feet, and out of the pantry, locking Kravitz in there. Then they took the waitress to the small office that the owner of the diner had in the backroom, helping her to lie down on the crummy couch placed against one of the walls.

“I’m going to look for help, Hutch, you stay with her.” Starsky said, nodding at the woman.

“WHAT? Why…Why don’t you stay with her and I go for help instead?”

“Because I don’t know nothin´ about childbirths or babies and you don’t know how to drive a car, that’s why.” The dark-haired kid countered, already heading out of the office.

“Okay, okay, then why can’t we take her to the hospital in the car?” Hutch tried again, terrified at the idea of staying alone with a woman about to give birth.

“No, please! I… I can’t move! It… it hurts too much… I just can’t!” Carol whined among labored breaths.

“You heard the lady, Blondie. She can’t move!” Starsky said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time. Meanwhile, you go to the kitchen of this joint and boil some water. Besides, you have to get all the clean towels you can find. And take the gun, just in case,” Starsky said, holding the gun out for Hutch. Neither of them had forgotten Kravitz.

“Wait Starsk!... w-why… why must I boil water and get towels?” Hutch asked in a trembling voice.

“Geez, buddy… I´m not too sure.” Starsky answered, scratching his head. “However, in all the movies I have ever watched, when a woman is going to give birth to her baby, everybody around hurries to get that stuff, so it must be the right thing to do, I guess….And don't forget to get a clean knife and…”

“A KNIFE?” The blond boy cut off with a shriek, as his headache climbed up a few notches. 

“Hey, take it easy, Blondie. The knife’s just to cut off that thing that keeps the babies attached to their moms, you know, the navel’s rope, or imblical cord or whatever its name is. Don’t worry Hutch, everything’s going to be okay,” Starsky cheerfully reassured Hutch. He patted his shoulder before hurrying downstairs and getting to his car, driving towards the nearest police station.

Once the brunet had left, Hutch went to the kitchen. While he waited for the water to start boiling, he quickly assessed the situation. He was alone with a woman who was about to give birth at any moment. She needed help, and he was the only one who could give her that help. No matter if he felt unable to do it. No matter either if the whole scenario would have been plainly unbelievable for the blond kid, if just a few hours earlier, somebody had told him what was going to happen that night. The only thing that mattered right then was that he had to let go of the panic gripping his entire being and help Carol. For the first time in his short life, Kenny Hutchinson was the one in charge in a very difficult situation, and he just had to take things in his hands and be useful.

“You can…You're able to do this, Kenny, you can, you’ll help the lady and everything will be okay…” Hutch kept repeating to himself, trying to find some self-assurance in his words.

“Heeelp!” Came the high-pitched voice of Carol from the backroom, making Hutch put aside his thoughts. “Help me, Kenny! My…My baby!”

That was the last time the kid had any chance to think, or doubt, or be aware of his own fears. From the very moment in which he hurried to the back room carrying some towels and the pan containing the hot water and until help came, Hutch became both eyewitness and actor in the most frightening yet awe-inspiring experience he had ever been through.

Apart from Carol’s, his hands were the only ones that helped the newborn into life and his hands, too, were the ones that cut the umbilical cord and cleaned the small body, wrapping the baby in his own jacket.

And finally, once the fear was gone, all of that did make Hutch to feel content and proud of himself, as never before he had been.

A while later, a stretch of time that for Hutch seemed endless, Starsky came back to the diner with two police officers and two paramedics, just in time to see Carol, drained after the nightmarish experience she had went thought, dozing off on the couch, covered with a worn out afghan, as Hutch, looking sweaty, pale and exhausted sat onto his heels on the floor across from the couch, tenderly holding in his arms a tiny baby who seemed to look fixedly at the blond one’s eyes.

“Is a boy… And I… I h-helped… I helped C-Carol to give b-birth to him, S-Starsk… I did it!” Hutch stuttered in choked voice, raising his eyes to meet Starsky’s.

“Yeah, buddy. You did it.” Starsky said crouching down beside Hutch to look at the small bundle of life.

“Hey, little one, welcome to this crazy world,” he said smiling at the baby and caressing with his fingertips the soft cheek, before one of the paramedics took the infant from Hutch’s arms while his companion checked efficiently Carol’s vitals.

“Guess what, Hutch? Don’t ask me why, but I knew it. I was just sure that you could do it. That you can do anything you want or you have to.” The brunet added confidently while helping the shaky blond one to his feet.

“Yeah? I wasn’t too sure, actually.” Hutch said, running his trembling hands through his hair.

“Trust good ol’ Starsk on this one, buddy,” the streetwise kid said. “You’re stronger than you think. And you can do anything; do you hear me? Anything…”

xxxxxxx

After a trip to the ER of Memorial Hospital where doctors checked on Starsky’s split lip and the bruises that Kravitz’s kicks and punches had caused Hutch, besides the lump that had grown up in his head because of the bottle that had hit the wrong aim, both kids had been taken to the station of the NYPD fourth precinct, where, at that moment, and as the first sunrays of a new day entered through the squad room windows, young Kenny waited to sign his statement, with his upset and scared mother by his side, who kept fussing over him before his father’s reproving look.

“As soon as we’re back at the hotel, you’re going to give me a detailed explanation for this irresponsible and immature behavior of yours, Kenneth, and it has better be a good one. Do you hear me?” Mr. Richard Hutchinson demanded angrily of his son, his words spat in low, cold voice. The boy, still feeling overwhelmed by the night’s events, wondered if he would have any chance to see Starsky before leaving. The brunet kid had been lead to the captain’s office as soon as they had been taken to the station by a patrol car, and it looked like he wasn’t going to get out of there any time soon.

“Oh, come on, Richard, give Kenny a break, please. He’s exhausted.” Hutch’s mother was pleading at that moment. “You’ve hear Sergeant Preston. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Not just that, but what's more; he has been very brave.” Sergeant Preston interrupted, once more trying to explain the facts to the man in front of him, yet being quite sure that nothing was going to placate the badly hidden anger glaring in his eyes.

“As we’ve explained to you, your son and Starsky´s kid, somehow did manage to subdue a very dangerous criminal who had escaped from Attica Penitentiary, Mr. Hutchinson. Also Kenneth helped Mrs. Carol Garret, the waitress of the diner they were held as hostages in, to give birth to her baby. Actually, you should feel very proud of your son instead of being angry at him.”

“Phone call for you, Sergeant Preston” A uniformed officer said then, approaching Preston, who excused himself and headed to his desk to answer the call.

“So according that so-called police sergeant, Kenneth leaves the hotel on his own to go wandering through the city, then, as if that wasn’t enough, he decides to spend most of the night hanging around with a young lowlife, getting himself into a hell of a mess and it turns out that I should feel proud of him? That’s odd reasoning, if you ask me; a real weird one!” Richard Hutchinson mocked sarcastically.

“Starsk isn’t any lowlife, father! As a matter of fact, he’s the son of a valiant police officer who died in the line of duty a few months ago. Also, last night he saved my life! All of our lives!” Young Kenny heatedly defended his new friend.

“Don’t answer me back, and don’t you dare to forget the respect you owe me, young man, or you’ll have something more to regret today!” Kenny’s father admonished tersely.

“But…” The kid tried to say.

“Shut up Kenneth! Right now I don’t want to hear one more word coming from you! Do I make myself clear?” the older Hutchison asked, raising a warning index finger and glaring angrily at his son.

“Yes sir… I’m sorry.” Kenny apologized meekly, as if drained of all his might in front of the imposing presence of his father.

At that moment, an older plainclothes police officer approached him with the report of his statement already tipped.

“Okay, kid. Now if you sign this report we’ll be done here and you’ll be able to go back to your hotel and get some rest. I bet that you can use it,” he said, leading Kenny and his parents to a nearby desk.

Kenneth signed his statement and he and his parents were already being guided by the officer towards the squad room exit, when the Captain’s office door opened and Starsky, accompanied by a woman in her early forties who by her physical resemblance to the kid had to be his mother, stepped outside.

“Take into consideration what I told you, David, will you?” The police Captain was telling the kid, as the woman protectively surrounded his thin shoulders with her arm.

“Looks like you’ve been pulling some stupid stunts lately, son. Hanging around late at night, driving a car and carrying a switchblade in your pocket to just name a few. And eventually, your behavior can cost you dearly,” Captain Bradford warned Starsky paternally. “However, I must admit that you and your friend did great last night. You got a very dangerous situation under control, and you did it intelligently and bravely. Apart from a few minor injuries, nobody got seriously hurt, and also you both saved lives. Let me tell you that what you got deep inside are nothing but the essential qualities that any good police officer must have.”

“Thanks sir.” Starsky answered blushing despite himself.

“You don’t have to make any decision yet, David” The Captain kept talking “Actually, though most likely you’ll won’t agree with me on this one, you are still just a child, younger than any of my own kids are, and you have years ahead of you before you can begin making decisions regarding your future. I’m only asking you to think about it… I know that your father would be real proud of you if someday you decide to be one of us, and also, the Police force of this city will be very honored having another Starsky among its members…Will you think about, please?”

“Yes sir. I’ll do it, Captain Bradford…” Starsky answered respectfully.

“Fine, son. That’s the only thing I’m asking you for. Now if you excuse me, I must leave. I’ve a meeting with the commissioner in thirty minutes. See you David… Mrs. Starsky.” The captain said his goodbyes to mother and son before getting back into his office.

“Starsk…” Hutch called out then, shrugging himself loose from his father’s hand placed onto his shoulder and approaching the brunet.

“Hey Blondie, you okay?” Starsky asked stepping towards him.

“Yeah, I´m okay, I guess…You?”

“Oh, fine. I think that right now I could eat half a dozen of burgers before going to bed to sleep a whole week, but I’m fine.”

“Come back here, Kenneth.” Mr. Hutchinson commanded curtly, looking at Starsky and his mother with clear disdain. “I really think that you got more than enough of that kid’s company.”

“No father, this time you’re wrong.” Kenneth answered with a new defiance glaring in his eyes, turning to stare into his father’s. “I hadn’t enough of this kid’s company because… because he’s my friend.” The blond kid took his eyes off his father’s to look back at Starsky.

“Yeah, Hutch. You’re right. Darn right, hell! I am your friend.” Starsky stated with a crocked smile, before dragging Hutch into a bone-crushing embrace.

Along some seconds, both boys kept silently into each other’s arms, before the astounded looks of the adults around them, until pulling apart.

“Anything, Blondie. Don’t forget it. You can do anything you want.” Starsky said solemnly, locking eyes with Hutch before they parted ways, feeling a lump tightening their throats, and without saying further word, because no more words were needed.

EPILOGUE

Bay City. September 1967

Ten years had gone by since that night. For the first few months, both kids got occasionally in touch with each other via phone calls, but eventually they left childhood behind and life, while turning them into young men, took Dave Starsky and Kenny Hutchinson through very different paths, although those dangerous yet exciting hours that they spent together were never entirely forgotten, but rather put aside in that place of their minds where the long-lasting memories did lay.

After rough years of disagreements and arguments with his parents who regardless of their son’s wishes had planned his whole future and especially his choice of a career as a prestigious lawyer, and after a short and wrong marriage with Vanessa, a very beautiful yet cold-hearted woman who’d bring nothing but unhappiness to Hutch’s life from almost the very first day, he had eventually found his real vocation.

Finally, after thinking carefully about it, he was totally sure of what he wanted to do for a living. And from the very moment in which he had made his mind up, no pleas, arguments or threats had been able to shake his will. He was going to be a police officer and he would do his best to make a difference in the world, as he had always wanted to do.

xxxxxxx

Life for Dave Starsky hadn’t been too easy during those years either. Despite the promise he made to Captain Bradford, in the months following the night he had met Hutch, the kid’s behavior did nothing but worsen, until finally, one night he showed up on his doorstep, beaten, pretty drunk and bleeding from a knife wound in his shoulder. Soon after that, his mother, scared of the nasty turn that matters were taking, and unable to deal any longer with her rebel oldest son, had sent him far away, to live across the country, with her sister Rose and her brother-in-law Al in California. There, as months went by, being far from the wrong friends, and with the help of large amounts of love wisely mixed with the proper discipline, the angry boy began to change into the adult man that he was going to be. A man, stubborn and hot-tempered, yet at the same time, good-hearted, loyal, and decent, who did make his whole family proud of him.

Near his majority, Starsky was drafted into the Army, and soon after that, he had been sent to Vietnam, where he spent months fighting for his country. He went through enough horrors to almost drive him insane before being sent back home with a badly broken ankle. There, and with the proper medical treatment his injury would heal nicely while he had time enough to deal with his nightmarish memories until he managed to come through them emotionally stronger and much more mature than before.

It was during these months that his last doubts vanished and he finally was sure about what he wanted to do for a living. He wanted to help people, to make a difference in the world.

And he knew perfectly well the best way for him to accomplish his goal…

xxxxxxx

That morning it was the beginning of a new life for Kenneth Hutchinson, as he kept thinking nervously on his way to the Police Academy where, in a while, a new course was about to start. A course that he would attend as a new cadet and that he hoped would give him, besides a good training, good memories to treasure in the years to come.

Plunged in his musings, and feeling a little alone and lost among the unknown faces of his fellow new recruits around him, Hutch was heading absentmindedly towards the Police Academy building when a male voice shouted out at his back

“Hey!... Hey you, the blond one! You! Turn around! I’m talking to you!” Realizing that the unknown voice was addressing him, Hutch halted and looked back to see a dark-haired young man about his age trotting towards him.

“Your watch. It dropped out of your pocket when you climbed outta your car.” The boy said, handing out to Hutch the pocket watch that his grandfather had given him months before his death.

“Oh! Thanks… many thanks. This watch means a lot to me… I’m glad I haven’t lost it.” Hutch thanked earnestly, looking briefly at the golden watch before replacing it in his pants’ pocket.

“Never mind… It’s neat, by the way. A real beauty.” The curly-haired boy in front of him kept saying referring the watch.

It was just then, on hearing those words, or maybe on looking at those piercing dark blue eyes that something clicked in Hutch’s mind, and a flow of images and memories of one night, very distant in time, during which he had spent the most awesome hours of his life, replayed itself in his brain.

The physical appearance of the brunet in front of him had gone through a great deal of change since the day in which they had met. Now, he was taller and more muscular. His features had lost the last traces of childhood and a mop of thick chocolate curls that softly waved in the morning breeze had replaced his ducktail hairstyle. He also wore much more casual clothes and blue sneakers, but his sapphire eyes, and his playful smile were still the same ones that Hutch could remember very clearly.

“Dave?... Starsk?” Hutch asked astonished, as a smile curled his lips.

“Hey… hey! Hutch! It’s you, Blondie? It’s really you? Oh my! I can’t believe it!” Starsky said, as his own smile mimicked the one in front of him, and he reached out his hand to vigorously shake Hutch’s

“Oh, come here!” Starsky exclaimed then, pulling the blond one into a hug, while patting his back.

“What the hell are ya doing here, Blondie?” Starsky asked, once both men had pulled away from each other’s arms

“I’m going to be a cop, Starsk,” Hutch stated proudly “And you? Are you going to join the academy, too?”

“Yep. I wanna be a cop. A damn good one, like pop was!” Starsky said enthusiastically.

“Hey! That means that we’ll go through our training together! Isn’t that great?” Hutch asked, no longer feeling lonesome in the middle of all those unknown people.

“Terrific!… And who knows? Maybe some day we can even be partners!” Starsky kept on picturing their future, as he and Hutch began climbing the stairs.

“That would be fun, you bet!” Hutch light-heartedly followed the other’s train of thought.

“We’d be a terrific team, Hutch. The best one in the force… Besides, if you remember, in our first bust together we did quite well.” Starsky joked.

“No, Starsk. Not just quite well, but damn well.” Hutch countered in mock seriousness.

“Yeah, you’re right. Damn well!” The brunet agreed, placing a friendly arm around Hutch’s shoulders

Both young men disappeared into the hall of the large building, feeling comfortable with each other, making plans for their future and chatting cheerfully, as the long time friends that they already were.

They’d have plenty of happy moments lying ahead for them, although they would also have to deal with hard times, and they’d have to stare death in the face more than once, as well. But mostly, life would be good and generous for both young men, and its first gift for them was the seed of a friendship that, after years of waiting, finally had found the right soil to grow up strong and invincible.

THE END