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A FEW QUIET?...DAYS OFF

 

 

NOTE.  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.

 

 

(To my great friend Sandra. Somebody very special who’d make me smile and even laugh along one of the more confused moments in my life, and who was, no doubt, the best gift I could find in the way.)

 

 

The phone rang a bell, awakening Hutch early. Too early after one night spent at the Pits, where he and Starsky would join the birthday party of Dora, one of the bar’s waitresses, drinking more beers than he could recall.

 

With a monster headache throbbing in his temples, he reached his arm out from into the covers, picking up blindly the receiver.

 

“H´llo?”

 

HUTCH!”

 

“Starsk?...Wha-“

 

“GET OUT OF BED HUTCH!!” The urgency in Starsky´s voice rang an alarm into Hutch´s mind, fully awakening him.

 

“Hold on Starsk, I´m coming!” Hutch said while leaping out of bed and grabbing his jeans.

 

“We got a week in Hawaii Blondie!…ISN’T GREAT? Hawaii! I never was there!”

 

“Huh?” In that moment, as his body relaxed a little, Hutch began to realize that Starsky wasn´t in trouble.

 

“A week…WHAT, Starsk?”

 

“Uncle Al and Auntie Rosie, Hutch! They gave us a travel to Honolulu!”

 

“Okay, Starsk Take it easy. Mind telling me more calmly what travel are you talking about?” Hutch sat down on his bed, looking at his wristwatch: 7´15 am. That early hour in the morning, an awful hangover and an overexcited Starsky yelling in his ear was really a hell of a bad mix.

 

“A travel to Honolulu! An all-expense paid week for you and me in a hotel! Uncle Al and Auntie Rosie won some money in the lottery. They gave some of it to my mom, would pay some bills…And now, they’re giving us that travel, Hutch!  I tried to refuse, of course, but they insisted, and already you know how Auntie Rosie can be when she gets something into her head…Isn´t t´rrific, Blondie?”

 

“Oh…Humm…yeah. That’s sounds great, partner. But, let me see if I got this straight. Are you including me in your plans…Or I got it wrong?” Hutch asked rubbing tiredly his face.

 

“Of course I´m including you in my plans! Who else could I want to travel with?” Starsky said matter of factly.

 

“With Captain Dobey, maybe?” Hutch teased.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Nothing, Starsk. Never mind.”

 

“Listen Hutch. Mind getting out of bed and coming over here? We got a lot of things to do before Monday.”

 

“Humm…But, when we should go there, Starsk?”

 

“Already I told you, Blintz. Monday morning.”

 

“Monday morning? And why all that hurry, if I can ask?”

 

“´Cause we got the next week off, or maybe you forgot that?”

 

“Oh, yeah. A week off…”Hutch answered unable to deal with his over energetic partner at that early hour

 

“Okay, now, no more chat, Hutch! Move your lazy ass and come over here. I´ll fix some breakfast.” Sounding excited like a kid, Starsky hanged up the phone.

 

Hutch got out of bed, lazily stretching his body and looking through the window, from where the morning rays of sun lightened up his bedroom.

 

“Aw Starsk! I just wanted to get a little more sleep this morning…”Shuffling tiredly his feet he headed to the bathroom, while picturing with a smile his partner´s enthusiastic mode.

 

Once showered and after washing down a couple of aspirins with his morning health shake, Hutch drove to Starsky´s place, getting there a little while later.

 

He stepped into the apartment, as his friend´s voice, humming cheerily from his bedroom, reached his ears.

 

“Po-popo-popo-popo!”

 

“Starsk?”

 

“In here, Blondie! Packaging up some clothes!” Hutch headed to Starsky´s bedroom, to see him digging into his wardrobe and drawers and throwing a growing pile of clothes onto his bed.

 

“Do you think your suitcase will have room enough for all that stuff, partner?”

 

“Well, at least I´ll try.” Starsky said struggling to set which looked like all his trunks, jeans, shorts and t-shirts in his suitcase

 

“Are you hungry Hutch? In the kitchen you´ll find coffee, juice, milk, muffins and some cereals. Help yourself. I´ll be right there!” Shaking his head, Hutch headed back to the kitchen, still hearing the happy humming of Starsky.

 

Once in the kitchen, Hutch poured himself a cup of coffee, when Starsky came in there, picked a muffin and wolfed it down in a couple of bites.

 

“Sounds fun, huh, Blondie? A week in Honolulu. Sun, warm beaches, Daiquiris in the seashore” He said, sitting down in a chair with his thousand watt smile plastered in his face.

 

“Wonderful tropical forests, waterfalls, volcanoes…You´ll be able to take a lot of shots there” Hutch added starting to feel pleased with the idea of that travel

 

"Volcanoes? Oh, no. No way Blondie. I´ll take pictures, sure, but if you think that I´m getting close of one of those things, then you’re very wrong.”

 

“That’s wild nature, buddy. A true spectacle.”

 

“Well, I was thinking in other kind of spectacle, as a matter of fact. Can you picture the lot of wonderful ladies wearing their bikinis that we´ll meet in there Hutch?”

 

"Hey! What’s the matter?" Hutch cut off "Already you’d try with all the girls in here and now it´s moment to open new horizons?"

 

“Oh, well. I´m sure that all of them are going to be thrilled just getting the chance to meet a man like me.” Starsky said waving his brows in his Groucho impression.

 

“I bet Starsk. I bet. I just hope that some of those ladies will have eyes for me too.” Hutch played along, despite knowing too well that Starsky was just feigning. Doing his best to look strong, though he knew as well; both knew that Terry’s murder happened almost a year earlier was still a knife sticked in the deepest of Starsky´s soul.

 

“Hey Hutch!” Starsky exclaimed getting to his feet “Did you eat your breakfast? We got a lot of things to do. Hurry, partner!” Without giving Hutch time to answer, Starsky took the coffee mug out from his hands almost dragging him to the front door.

 

“STARSK! Where the hell we are going now?” The blonde one asked almost choking with a sip of his coffee.

 

“To the travel agency to pick our fly tickets and hotel reservation, of course!”

 

“Yeah…of course.” Hutch repeated in a whisper, following Starsky outside.

 

All the weekend spent among a hectic lot of activity, as Starsky, dragging Hutch around, and feeling excited like a child did seem unable to stop. They went to pick their tickets, packaged their baggages, and by Starsky suggestion, they cleaned up their apartments and watered Hutch´s plants.

 

Monday morning, they were in the airport lounge, waiting for their fly. Hutch was trying to read a book, while Starsky was sitting down in his chair, just to get to his feet and start pacing a moment later, before sitting down again, as Hutch finally, taking his eyes out from the book, began to follow his movements as if watching a tennis game: Moving his head from left to right, and looking at his partner with a deadpan expression in his face, until Starsky noticed it.

 

“What?” He asked impatiently to Hutch.

 

“In this pace, I think that in ten minutes you could be in Honolulu.”

 

“Funny…very funny. Why they don´t called for our flight yet?”

 

“Maybe because it´s not the time yet?” Hutch teased him, smiling at the sulky face of his friend.

 

“How come that you can stay sitting for so long, just waiting?”

 

“Because there’s no use in walking miles around the whole airport like you are doing. It’ll not make the hours to pass more quickly. Starsk, our fly will be called into a half an hour. And I don´t going to stand the sight of you sitting down and raising and pacing around until then.”

 

“Okay, okay Hutch I´ll sit down and I´ll keep still in my seat.” Starsky said, though unwilling to do it.

 

“Sit down Starsky…Now. Please” Hutch whispered, pointing at Starsky with his infallible Hutchinson finger, as his friend sat down if just for a little while, before raising again and starting over his pacing in front of Hutch´s resigned look

 

“Sometimes I can feel exactly what your mother had to go through to bring you up…” The blond one said a while later, rolling his eyes.

 

“Really? So, let me tell something to you, I was a good kid, the best kid in the whole neighborhood if you ask, and my mother never had a single complain about me!”

 

“Yeah Starsk. You were a good kid. And cows can fly…” The announcing of their flight interrupted their banter, and both men rose from their seats, heading to the gate.

 

The flight went uneventful. Hutch spent most of it trying to read his book, though failing sadly in all his attempts because of the unstoppable chatting of Starsky.

 

“You´ll see Hutch. It will be a lot of fun. And the hotel will be packed out with nice ladies. Stunning beauties…Blonds, brunettes, red–haired ones.” He said with dreamy expression.

 

“Yeah, sure. And all of they will fall in love with you in the blink of an eye, right?” Hutch mocked.

 

“Oh, well, already you know about my charm with ladies. But don´t worry partner. I´m sure that I´ll get to introduce you some nice girl as well.”

 

“Hey! Thanks Starsk. That’s my partner!” Hutch patted Starsky´s shoulder “Now, mind if I end reading this book? Huh?”

 

“Oh, sure Hutch…sorry:” While Hutch finished reading the last chapters of his book, Starsky spent the rest of the fly asking for snacks, flirting with the stewardesses and, apparently don´t remembering for one time his usual fear of planes, until they landed in Honolulu International Airport, being welcomed there, to Starsky´s delight with the traditional Hawaiian lei greeting.

 

After that, they took their baggages from the conveyor belt, and went out of the terminal building, renting a blue Chevrolet in the airport, and going towards their hotel. Finally, and after driving along some miles through the crowded traffic of the city, they arrived there. Both detectives were climbing the entrance stairs, when a tearful young woman, wearing a maid uniform almost bumped into them.

 

“YOU CAN’T SACK ME THIS WAY!” She shouted out looking back at the hotel entrance and aiming towards there a menacing forefinger. “You´ll pay for this, do you hear me? You´ll pay for your mistake very expensively! BASTARDS!!” After those words, the woman ran downstairs getting lost in the street, as Starsky and Hutch followed dumbfounded her leave.

 

“Man! That lady looks pretty pissed off. What must be goin´ on with her?” Starsky wondered.

 

“Who knows, Starsk.” Hutch shrugged. “Come on partner. I need to take a shower” Without a second thought about the woman, they got into the hotel hall, heading to the reception board, and asking for their room.

 

“Good evening, Miss.” Starsky said to the receptionist “I´m David Starsky. And he´s Ken Hutchinson. We have a room booked here.”

 

“Oh, of course.” The smiling girl behind the board answered “Good evening, Mr. Starsky. Mr. Hutchinson…Blue Sea Inn Hotel is very pleased for welcoming you.”

 

They signed in the registration book and got a map of the surroundings. A moment later, the receptionist was holding the key of their room out to Starsky, when he felt something jerking his denim-covered ankle.

 

A tug accompanied by little, though fierce growls…

 

When he looked down, Starsky saw something that to him it looked just like a hairy bug, but in fact it was a tiny Yorkshire terrier with a little red bow crowning its head.  The dog was enthusiastically hanging to his jeans´ leg, unwilling to let his prey free.

 

“Fluffy! Let the gentleman alone!! You´re a very bad child! I´m ashamed of you! Fluffy!!” a plump old lady, wearing a fuchsia tracksuit said, trotting towards where the dog was still biting into Starsky´s jeans.

 

“Oooohhhh! You don´t know how much sorry I am, sir. Excuse my Fluffy. He doesn´t meant to hurt you.” The old lady apologized, picking up the dog.

 

“Oh, never mind ma´am. I´m okay…he hasn’t hurt me” Starsky said smiling though still watching the tiny dog from the corner of his eye.

 

“You both are here to have vacations too, I guess?” She asked glancing curiously at the floral leis hanging around their necks and at their baggages.

 

“Yeah. My friend and I we´ll spend a week here. We’re coming from California.” Starsky answered as Hutch nodded his greetings to the lady.

 

“Oooohhhh! California! Isn’t a wonderful place?” The woman squealed clapping with delight, as Starsky, too late, realized that strike up a conversation with that effusive lady was nothing but a mistake.

 

“I never was in California! I hope you´ll don't mind telling me a little about that place. By the way, my name is Gladys. Gladys McMillan,”

 

 “Dave Starsky. And my friend, Ken Hutchinson” They three shook hands, despite the barking of the irascible Fluffy, that kept pinned under Mrs. McMillan’s arm.

 

“Nice to meet you, young men. I´m spending some days here with those girls over there too.” Which she called girls were two ladies that were sitting down and chatting in one of the hall couches, all of them like Gladys, in their seventies

 

“They are Martha and Barb.” Gladys said pointing at her friends with her forefinger “Later, I´d like to introduce you them more properly. We’d be very pleased if you both wanted to have a drink with us. What do you say, huh?” Gladys asked hopefully.

 

“Oh, well. We wouldn’t want bother you and your friends Mrs. Mac…” Starsky tried to decline politely the offer.

 

“Oh, no, no, no, Dave!” Gladys accompanied each “No” with a gentle pat in Starsky´s arm. “Call me Gladys, okay? Just Gladys. And about that; two men so nice and handsome like you both never could bother us. The girls and I we´ll be very pleased if you both want to join us, about that you can be sure” She said with a wink.

 

“Thanks Gladys. You´re very nice. We´ll be very pleased too having those drinks with you and your friends.” Starsky answered, looking a little embarrassed, as Hutch did make his best to hold down the fit of giggles that struggled to burst from the bottom of his stomach.

 

“Okay, so, it´s settled. Now, go to your room to set up your stuff, and later we´ll drink some dry Martinis, before dinner, okay?” Gladys patted gently Starsky´s cheek before turning back where her friends were.

 

“Really you have a way with girls huh, partner?” Hutch mocked as the bellhop took their suitcases.

 

“Well, Blondie, you know. I can´t help. All ages´ ladies loves me”

 

“Let´s go to our room, Romeo!” Hutch said stepping into the lift.

 

Once in their room, they placed their clothes in the wardrobe, took a shower and changed their jeans and denim t-shirts for a more formal clothes for dinner. Later, they went down to the dining room, hopping that the Starsky´s fan club, as Hutch soon began to call the ladies, wouldn’t be still in the hall, so, when the lift stopped in  the first floor, both men peeked out to the large room before getting in there, releasing a breath, in seeing that Gladys and her friends were out of sight.

 

Starsky and Hutch were heading to the dinning room, when a high-pitched barking followed by Gladys´ voice sounded at their backs.

 

“Oh my Goooood! Daaaave! Keeeen!” You look so handsooomeee! Like two movie actors! The girls will be so pleased meeting you both!” Both detectives exchanged a quick look before turning to face the woman with their best smiles shinning in their faces.

 

“I bet that you´re the most beautiful and elegant lady in the whole hotel, Gladys” Starsky said kissing the back of the woman’s hand. She had changed her lurid tracksuit by a pair of white pants and one blouse of flashing golden satin.

 

“Oooohhh Dave, little imp! You´re so delightful! If I was forty years younger you wouldn’t escape!” Gladys said naughtily.

 

Don´t worry lady Hutch thought. After this, He´ll don´t get to escape from me… 

 

Without losing her grip in Fluffy´s leash, Gladys placed herself between Starsky and Hutch, sliding each one of her stocky arms under theirs, and walking decidedly towards the hotel bar where both detectives did meet Martha and Barb.

 

After the introductions, they drank their Martinis chatting cheerily, to end  in the dinning room, where Starsky and Hutch tried to get a table in their own, though all their efforts were fruitless, and soon they were having dinner in the same table that the old-timer ladies shared.

 

“And tell me, Kenny…” Barb asked Hutch “Mind If I call you Kenny?”

 

“Oh…no, not at all, In fact I love to be named thus.” Hutch said, as seriously as he could.

 

“What are you doing for a living?”

 

“Oh, well…I. I mean, we, well, we…” the blond one tried to answer yet not too comfortable with the idea of telling to unknown people what their job was.

 

“Our job is related with helping people.” Starsky helped Hutch out.

 

“Helping peeeeople!” Gladys cut off impressed “That’s real beautiful Dave; I actually thought that you both were Hollywood actors, but that’s much better.” That night, undoubtedly, the old lady was having the time of her life.

 

“And tell me, sweetie. How you’re doing that? You know, helping people. Are you doctors maybe? Firemen? Policemen?”

 

“Oh, well. In fact I don´t think that our job is really worth to be speaking about in this lovely evening, Gladys.” Hutch said in an attempt to change the subject. “How about speaking about your vacations? Are you having a good time here?”

 

“Oh, sure.” Gladys answered, apparently forgetting the job´s matter “This place’s a lot of fun. We’re spending wonderful whiles in the bingo every night.”

 

“Policemen!” Martha, who until then was the most silent of the group, snapped, staring at Hutch. “You´re policemen. Right? Or detectives…Or maybe FBI agents; Because of that you don´t want to talk about…in all the detectives’ novels I’ve read, policemen detectives and FBI agents never want to talk about their job”

 

“Oh, well, we…” He answered feeling out of words.

 

“Don´t try to hide it! You´re policeman. I´m sure!!” Martha insisted, feeling proud of her own perspicacity.

 

Wonder if the perps can see it so easily too when we go undercover. Hutch thought “Yes Martha. We are police Detectives. In Bay City.” He said finally, giving up.

 

“BUT THAT’S TERRIFIC HONEY! WE´D NEVER MEET TWO POLICEMEN!! And besides so handsome like you both! That’s NEAT!!” Gladys said excited. In hear his owner squeals, Fluffy; that until then was napping in her lap, woke up barking hysterically at Starsky. Definitively, the little dog seemed to hold some kind of grudge against the curly-haired man.

 

“Err…yeah, plain-clothes...actually.” Starsky managed to add, sipping his wine while feeling flustered like a teenager.

 

Hutch thought that things couldn´t get worse in their first night in Honolulu, but he was wrong. Terribly wrong. Awhile later, he and Starsky wanted just to be swallowed by the earth, when all three ladies, after recalling all the times that any cop helped them out in a way or another one, began to pay their personal tribute to the police and its members with a warm applause in front the other fellow diner’s amazement…

 

After dinner, the night would follow in the little hotel’s bingo, where the ladies did play uninterruptedly along more than two hours, don´t allowing Starsky and Hutch, their lucky charms, as they called them, to leave.

 

 

*******

 

“God!...Many nights like this one and I could turn into a old ladies serial-killer” Hutch grunted, already back in their room.

 

“Oh, come on Hutch, they are nice! They just wanna get new friends here” Starsky said while untying his tie.

 

“Yeah, little imp.  They are really nice” Hutch teased sinking in his bed. “By the way Starsk. D´you have noticed it?”

 

“What, Blondie?”

 

“Those people down there, in the dinning room. None of them seemed to be younger of seventy.”

 

“Yeah. That’s odd. Where the hell are the younger customers here?” Starsky asked

 

“Who knows? Maybe they are shut in their rooms, hiding from Glady´s gang.”

 

“Never mind, partner. Tomorrow we can ask to some employee about that. Now, how about getting some sleep, huh?”

 

“Sure Starsk. Let´s sleep.”

 

 They were really tired. Next night both friends wanted to go out and enjoy the city night´s life, but at that moment the only thing they were thinking was in getting into their beds and having a good night´s sleep, so, minutes later, none of them were any longer awake.

 

Next day, even Starsky awoke early, looking forward to have a morning of sun and beach. First though, they went to the dinning room to have breakfast. And then was when Hutch thought that his face would crack from laughing…

 

In their way there, Starsky stopped in the receptionist board to ask the smiling woman why they didn´t succeeded  seeing any young customer in the whole hotel.

 

“Oh, well, Mr. Starsky” She answered without losing her professional smile. “Right now, most of our customers are a retired ladies group that usually spends ten days here every year, in this same month. This time besides, one of them, Mrs. Jackson came with Sandra. Her four-year grandchild”

 

“You said most of your customers. What about the others?” Starsky asked still unwilling to believe his misfortune.

 

“The rest of the customers are you and Mr. Hutchinson.” The desk phone rang a bell interrupting the girl explanations, as Starsky, whispering his thanks, headed to the dinning room, with Hutch giggling some steps behind.

 

“Cheer up, partner. You got a real fans club here in record time. What man could get a feat like that? That´s impressive” Hutch joked, patting Starsky´s back as they seated down in a table.

 

“Yeah…impressive.”  Starsky mumbled under his breath.

 

“Hi…”A tiny voice interrupted them; the voice of a dark-haired little girl who’d keep her face half-hiding behind a teddy bear.

 

“Hi sweetie. Who are you?” Starsky asked to the kid.

 

“My name’s Sandra. And he´s Freddy” She patted the teddy bear’s head “And you? What’s your name?”

 

“I´m Dave. Nice to meet you, Sandra...Freddy. ” Starsky reached out his hand to shock ceremoniously first the smaller one of Sandra, then the teddy bear’s leg.

 

“Hi little one, my name is Ken.” Hutch said smiling at the child.

 

“You both are friends?” She asked to Starsky.

 

“Yeah, we are.”

 

“And you go to school together?”

 

“Oh, well…we could put it this way:” The curly-haired detective answered.

 

“How old are you?’” Sandra kept asking. “Oh never mind! I´m four years old. Already a big kid. Almost as big as you both I guess.”

”Sure Sandra. This guy here has more or less your same age.” Hutch said as Starsky glared at him.

 

“Know something?” The kid asked lowering her voice. “I´m here with my grandma. But she and her friends are too boring….And I don´t got any friends to play with here. Only Freddy”

 

“Oh, sweetie. What a shame!” Hutch said pretending to be sorry.

 

“Do you like to play cops and robbers?” She asked again

 

“Oh yeah, in fact it´s our favorite game.” Starsky explained with a huge smile tearing his face.

 

“I’ve thought that, if you wanna, we could be friends, and we could play together…”

 

“That would be nice, Sandra.” Starsky answered, feeling his heart melting in front of the lovely child

 

“Great, but if you don´t mind, Freddy and I we´ll be the cops and you both will be the robbers. Okay?” Sandra stated seriously. “Don´t worry. We´ll don´t hurt you. We are good cops.”

 

Both men exchanged an amused look. “Deal, Sandra.” Starsky said fingering her long hair. “Oh, sorry. I mean Officer Sandra”

 

The child giggled with delight “Okay. From now on, we´ll be friends and we´ll play together. It will be fun, You´ll see…Now I must go to eat my breakfast.” The little kid was about to left, when an old lady approached the detectives´ table.

 

“Sandra, honey. Don´t bother these gentlemen. Please, excuse my grandchild; she loves to talk to everybody” Sandra’s grandmother apologized.

 

“Oh, no, she’s not bothering us at all. Sandra is very nice.” Hutch said as both rose from their chairs.

 

“Know something grandma?” Sandra said tugging her grandmother’s sleeve.  “They are my new friends. And we´ll play cops and robbers together.”

 

“Oh, that’s fantastic. And what’s your friends´ name, dear?” The lady and both detectives introduced themselves exchanging some polite phrases, and after that, they headed to their table as Sandra and Starsky waved hands.

 

“God Hutch…I´m in love” He said, smiling at the leaving child.”

 

“Yeah. She’s something.” Hutch agreed.

“You know, Hutch? Terry and I, we wanted to have kids. Especially a little girl like Sandra. And I know that she would’ve been a hell of a great mommy” Starsky said as his heart squirmed again under the weight of that pain that apparently never would end.

 

“I know Starsk…I know.” Hutch answered squeezing gently his friend’s shoulder. “And I know as well that some day you´ll meet somebody special, as special as Terry was. You´ll get married and you´ll both have a lot of little Starskys that will be the luckiest and most spoiled kids in the whole world.”

 

“Do you think so?” Starsky asked showing once more at Hutch his poignant naivety.

 

“I´m positively sure of that, partner. Come on Starsk. We got a wonderful day out there. Let’s go hit the beach, okay?”

 


*******

 

Along the next days, and despite all the attempts of Starsky´s fan club to spend the whole day with him and Hutch, they had a really good time going to swim in the beach, enjoying a few excursions and taking pictures to the breathtaking landscapes. Also, they’d stroll around the city, having dinner in typical Hawaiian restaurants or going to some night clubs and discotheques to dance and have some drinks. Besides, they got the chance to attend a luau, offered by the hotel, experiencing this way a traditional Hawaiian feast.

 

Starsky got time as well to play with Sandra and spoil the child, as Hutch kept wondering who of them got more fun.

 

On the other hand, they’d meet Gladys and her friends from time to time in the hotel, and then, in front of their insistence, Starsky and Hutch hadn´t other chance but spending some whiles with them. Luckily the ladies were part of a package tour’s group, so they had a very full program of activities.

 

*******

 

“Starsk?” Hutch asked to Starsky that evening, looking at the old people group that was coming back to the hotel hall to suppertime.

 

“Huh?”

 

“That lady…The white-haired one wearing thick glasses…” He nodded to one lady that walked silently, mingled among the boisterous group, carrying a traveling bag “Did you’ve seen her before?”

 

Starsky looked at the old woman. “No. I don´t think so…However I´m not paying too attention to them, I guess…Why?”

 

“I´m not sure, but she doesn´t fit in that group of people, Starsk. She doesn´t look…” Hutch stopped,trying to find the right word. “She doesn´t look old.”

 

Starsky raised his brows questioningly. “She doesn´t look old?…What means that, Blondie?”

 

Hutch waived his hand “Never mind, partner, forget it. A few days far from the bad guys, and my mind is already seeing things in its own.”

 

Starsky tried to look the woman more attentively, but she wasn´t any longer at sight.

 

“Don´t worry Hutch. Two more days and we´ll back home chasing the bad guys again. Come on. Try to relax”  Starsky said patting Hutch´s  abdomen “The night´s city is waiting for us.”

 

Both men went out of the hotel to have dinner, going later to a night club and meeting there a couple of nice girls with whom  they’d spend a very funny night, dancing and having some drinks, before taking them back to their homes and calling it a night, not without fixing a new date for the next night.

 

“Oh man! I´m exhausted! Pam seemed to be tireless.” Starsky said plopping in the passenger seat of their car.

 

“Yeah. You both had a great time in the dance’s floor.” Hutch said starting the engine.

 

“Well. Sheryl and you didn´t seem bored either.” Starsky retorted winking at Hutch.

 

“That lady’s kind, Starsk. And a real beauty. It´s a shame that we don´t live closer to each other. I wouldn’t mind dating somebody like her more often.”

 

They kept chatting quietly and looking forward to get to their beds as Hutch drove towards the hotel. Near there though, and as all their senses became alerted, they saw the first signs that something was wrong…

 

An unusual traffic jam for those late hours in the night…

 

A dense dust floating in the air, prickling their noses…

 

Some customers wearing their pajamas and night gowns, standing, crying and moaning near to the hotel entrance…A young waiter kneeling down beside a dead companion, closing his eyes…A few bodies lying on the ground, dead…

 

And as a background of all that horror, the building front’s façade, crumbled. Gone…

 

“Hutch…” Starsky whispered, staring breathless at the scene.

 

That’s the hell. The hotel is gone and instead we came to the hell. It was Hutch´s first thought, as an illustration of Dante´s inferno printed in one of his books crossed oddly through his mind.

 

He pulled a halt as near as possible to the entrance hotel and both jumped out of the car, rushing towards there, already going fully into cop mode.

 

“What happened?” Hutch asked to a bellhop that looked shocked the devastation around him with empty eyes. But the boy didn´t answer.

 

“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE!” Starsky repeated to the terrified kid rattling his shoulders.

 

“F-fire. An explosion. Some people died...A few customers…And a waiter too…Oh God!” The young boy broke down bursting into tears as Starsky run towards the receptionist and Hutch helped him  to sit down, trying to offer a little of comfort to the distressed kid.

 

“My friend and I are cops, Miss.” Starsky said flashing his badge to the receptionist, who at that moment was pressing a handkerchief against the bleeding forehead of a tearful customer “Has someone called the firemen and the police?”

 

“There´s no phone. The switchboard office is nothing but debris. Mr. Ahuna, the hotel’s manager went to look for help.”

 

“There´s somebody left in there?” Hutch asked.

 

“I think we managed to get all the survivors out of the building…But I can´t be totally sure about that, sir...The fire began just about a half an hour ago, and we aren´t too many employees here along the night shift …”

 

“SANDRAAA!” Mrs. Jackson’s voice, coming from among the mess of people, dust and debris, yelled out hysterically, over the receptionist words “I CAN´T FIND MY GRANDCHILD! SHE’D LET GO OF MY HAND AND IS IN THERE!...SOMEBODY HAS TO HELP HER!!”

 

In hear the old woman heartbreaking yells, Starsky and Hutch ran towards her.

 

“Where was the kid when you’d lost her, Mrs. Jackson?” Starsky asked in soothing tone.

 

“W-we were trying to go do-downstairs…then, part of the ceiling did fall in…I fainted for a little while, I g-guess…And somebody helped me to get out of there. But by then my child was out of sight! Sandra´s missing! Somebody has to find her! PLEASE, HELP MY BABY, PLEASE!!”

 

“Okay Mrs. Jackson. Try to calm down.” Starsky said “In what floor were you both when Sandra got lost?”

 

“Fo-fourth…Our room is…was 407, in fourth floor…Oh God! Help my kid...Please!”! Mrs. Jackson was too upset to notice it, but nobody was hearing her last words. Starsky was already running towards where just awhile earlier the hotel entrance’s stairs were, as Hutch tried to stop him.

 

“STARSK! WAIT STARSKY! IT’S DANGEROUS!!” Hutch reached Starsky, grabbing his arm and forcing him to turn and face his eyes.

 

“That kid is in danger Hutch. We must help her!”

 

“Of course, we´ll do it. But just after finding the safer way to get in there, partner. The structure building could collapse any moment.” Hutch tried to convince Starsky, though as he´d guess, uselessly.

 

“THERE´S NO TIME FOR THAT, HUTCH!! SANDRA´S IN THERE, AND SHE CAN DIE! I´LL DON´T LET HER DOWN!!” Starsky shouted out, jerking his arm back and climbing the smoky and half-crumbled stairs.

 

“SOMEBODY GOT FOR A CHANCE A FLASHLIGHT HERE?” Hutch asked to the upset people around.

 

“He-here.” A hotel maid, with her left arm wrapped in an improvised bandage produced a little flashlight from her night gown’s pocket holding it out for Hutch.

 

“Thanks Miss.” Hutch stared in the terrified eyes of the woman, cupping soothingly her cheek for a moment before running after Starsky.

 

Once in the hall, all was darkness, smoke; destruction. Not even the emergency lights in the corridors were working .Hutch, inwardly thankful to have the flashlight, turned it on, climbing cautiously the stairs to the fourth floor from where Starsky´s voice could be heard.

 

“SANDRA! SANDRA, SWEETHEART. CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Starsky shouted out in the middle of the silent corridor.

 

“Wait Starsk! I got a flashlight!” In some strides Hutch reached Starsky.

 

“I can´t find her Hutch, DAMN I CAN´T” Starsky said among a fit of cough.

 

“Take it easy partner. We´ll find the kid”

 

They opened the 407 room and other doors, lightening the pitch black bedrooms, looking inside, and calling out for Sandra,  when the spine-chilling sound of a new explosion coming from somewhere beneath their feet shook for a second the building’s walls.

 

“There could be more explosions here, Starsk.” Hutch said frowning “The boiler, the kitchen’s gas. Maybe even some flammable stuff they could have stored somewhere, you know, cleaning products and all that.” Hutch warned.

 

“That means that right now we can be standing in the middle of the most spectacular fireworks of the whole city. That´s just t´rrific!” Starsky answered “Okay, Hutch let’s keep looking for the kid...Sandraaa!!” The brunet, unwilling to give up, kept calling out for the little girl, when he heard a tiny weep coming from behind one of the elevators doors.

 

“Hutch!” Starsky whispered, rushing towards there, with Hutch in tow

 

“Sandra?...Sandra, sweetie. Are you there?” Starsky asked hopefully, approaching his ear to the metallic doors, but don´t hearing an only sound.

 

“Starsk…”

 

“No, Hutch. I´ve heard something behind this fucking door. I´m sure!” Starsky turned back, calling once more out for Sandra.

 

“SANDRA! CAN YOU HEAR US? WE ARE DAVE AND KEN, YOUR FRIENDS. ARE YOU IN THERE, HONEY?”

 

“Da-Dave?...Ken?” The tearful voice of the kid reached both men’s ears, while the smoke kept growing thicker, making their eyes to water.

 

“Yeah Sandra. We´re here. Don´t worry, honey. We´ll get you out of there” Starsky answered as a smile came to his face.

 

“I´m scared…this place’s very dark” A new weeping cut the child’s words

 

“Got you hurt, honey?” Hutch asked to Sandra.

 

“No…But I´m thirsty, and hot. It´s very hot in here.”

 

“Okay Sandra. Don´t be scared. You are a police officer. Remember? And police officers don´t get scared. Hold on a little more, baby. We´ll get you in no time.”

 

“I wanna my grandma…I´m scared” Sandra moaned from inside the elevator cubicle.

 

“Do you know any song Sandra?” Starsky asked struggling to open the thick steel doors just with his bare hands.

 

“Not, Starsk. Wait a moment.” Hutch said looking around the dark corridor to find something useful to pull the doors open.

 

“S-Song?” the kid asked from the other side of the doors.

 

“Yeah, honey. You have a beautiful voice. Why you don´t sing some song for us? How about…I don´t know, maybe Puff, the Magic Dragon? You know that song, don´t you?”

 

“Y-yeah…” The little girl’s answer was  almost a whisper

 

“Okay. I´ll start.” As Starsky tried to keep Sandra distracted singingthe beginning of the song, Hutch did found an emergency cabinet, containing an axe and a fire hose inside.

 

“That will work.” The blond one said. Wrapping his arm in his jacket, he´d hit hard the glass, breaking it, picking the axe and hurrying back to the elevator.

 

“Sandra…You are singing just fine, sweetie. Keep on doing it a little more. We´re about to get you out of there, okay? Trust us. Everything’s gonna be okay!” Starsky said trying to soothe the child.

 

“O-okay.” Sandra answered with shaking voice.

 

Starsky and Hutch were using the axe’s blade as a lever, to open the elevator doors. Meanwhile, Sandra kept singing unsteadily, when an ominous screech did make the kid to shout out panicked

 

“SANDRA? YOU OKAY SANDRA?” Starsky asked frantically.

 

“I´m scareeeed!!…Heeeelp:” By then they had manage to open the doors enough how to let a man going through, just to see that the cabin wasn´t any longer there but about eight feets down, stuck  between two floors.

 

“FUCK! WHERE THE HELL ARE THAT GODDAMNED FIREMEN?” Hutch snapped hitting hard the wall with his palm.

 

“Sandra…Sandra, honey. Don´t cry. I´m coming. Everything’s okay. Now I´ll get down and Ken and I we´ll get you out of there.” This time Sandra didn´t answer to Starsky, just kept weeping while both detectives tried to soothe her.

 

“Shit Hutch! The poor kid is terrified” Starsky whispered with his heart going with little Sandra.

 

“Sandra?...Listen Sandra. Now we must look for some stuff to get you out of there. But we aren´t leaving okay?” Starsky assured to the child “We´ll be back here in a minute. Meanwhile, how about telling us a tale? Do you know any?”

 

“Yeah…The three bears.” The shaking voice of Sandra did come from her small, dark prison.

 

“We don´t know that tale Sandra. We´d love to hear it. Mind telling it for us?”

 

“Okay…” Sandra began to tell the tale as both detectives looked around trying to make out in the half-darkness the stuff they needed.

 

“We must get a rope or something Hutch. We´ll tie it around that column” Starsky said pointing with his head to a near column. “Then I´ll get into the elevator across the ceiling hatch, fastening Sandra with the rope, lifting her over my shoulders and helping her to climb up on top of the cabin.” As a realization hit his mind, Starsky stopped talking and went to the emergency cabinet, picking up the fire hose.

 

“What?...” Hutch began to ask

 

“Since jumping over the cabin wouldn’t be the smartest idea, I guess, I´ll need this.” Starsky was already tying the fire hose around the column, while telling Hutch all the steps of his plan.

 

“After getting Sandra on the top of the cabin, I´ll climb up there, and then I´ll reach her out for you. That will be better for the kid than if you get her tugging up the curtain. She could get too scared hanging in the void.”

 

“Wait, wait a minute here Starsky. Why in hell are you the one who has to do that and not me?” Hutch asked.

 

“Cause surely the kid will feel more trustful if I am who gets in there. No offense Hutch, but I´m her favorite one.” Starsky teased Hutch in a try to lighten a little the tension of the situation. “Take it easy Blondie. There´s not a big high, just a little more than a man’s length. I´ll get down there Hutch. And I´ll don´t discuss that” Starsky said firmly.

 

“Okay, okay.  We´ll do it your way. But be careful, partner.” Hutch said not trying to hide his worry.

 

“Sure Hutch. Let´s look for any rope.” They were already glancing around looking for something useful to tie around Sandra’s body, when Hutch asked something that Starsky was already thinking about.

 

“Starsky?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Do you think that we can convince the kid to kept calm once on the top of the cabin, and while you’re climbing up there? And what if she has giddiness, fear of highs or something?”

 

“Humm…Well, if she gets too upset while I´m getting out of that damned thing, then, you´ll must get her by tugging up the curtain.”

 

“That’s too risked Starsky. I think that we should wait for the firemen… I mean, the cabin could fall down under your weight.”

 

“There´s no time for that Hutch! Even without my weight over it the cabin IS already falling down. We must get Sandra out of there right now.” Starsky said steadily.

 

“Okay partner. You got a point there.”

 

“We´ll don´t find any fucking rope here Hutch. Okay, we´ll use this.” Starsky said already climbing on a chair to let down an unburned lace curtain.

 

A moment later, they were back close to the elevator doors and Starsky was about to slid down.

 

“Let’s check first if the wires are damaged Starsky.” Hutch aimed with the flashlight towards the elevator wires, making sure that it weren’t broken, and then Starsky, exchanging a nod with him began to slip down by the fire hose, until standing on top of the cabin roof as carefully as possible.

 

God…Help us please. Help us to get that poor kid out of this mess…Starsk wouldn’t’ stand if something happens to her.  Hutch prayed silently.

 

Luckily, the hatch opened easily, and soon Starsky was into the cabin, soothing one upset Sandra, as outside, some sirens sounded closer.

 

“Dave!” In seeing Starsky entering across the elevator ceiling, the kid rose from the corner where she was curled up, rushing towards him.

 

“Are you okay, little one?” Starsky asked kneeling down and cuddling her.

 

“Scared…I´m scared.” Sandra moaned among tears.

 

“There´s no reason to be scared Sandra.” Hutch said from the shaft “You aren’t alone here.  We are with you. We and Freddy.” Hutch said looking at the teddy bear resting in the elevator’s floor.

 

“Now, we´ll get you out of there Sandra.” Starsky said confidently “But you must do all that I´ll ask you for, okay?”

 

“No…I´m scared. I wanna my grandma…” The child cried again, as Starsky and Hutch tried to think any way to make her to cooperate.

 

“Sandra…Sandra, honey. Would you like to have a police officer badge like this one?” Starsky said, producing his badge from his pants rear pocket and showing it to the kid.

 

Sandra stopped weeping and looking fixedly the badge, she nodded vigorously. “It´s beautiful.”

 

“Yeah. Sure it is. And once back at home, we´ll send you one alike. Promise. But only if now you keep doing all that I  say. Okay?”

 

After some seconds of hesitation, and looking again the shinning badge of Starsky, the child said trustfully. “Okay…What I must do now?”

 

“Great” Starsky smiled at her “First, I´ll fasten you with this piece of curtain around your body, okay? Then, you´ll pick up Freddy and I´ll lift you both on my shoulders. You´ll see. It will be fun…”

 

With Hutch´s help, Starsky managed to turn the task of getting Sandra and himself on the top of the cabin into a game for the little girl. Once they were there, the firemen and two paramedics, rushed finally in the fourth’s floor corridor.

 

“My partner and a kid are down there!” Hutch said pointing at the elevator.

 

“I´m Lieutenant Purdy, officer. You and the child are okay?” One of the firemen asked to Starsky, putting his head into the elevator shaft.

 

“Sure. A little tired and sweated, but once out of here, we´ll be fine.”

 

“So let’s work. Now I´ll pick up the kid. Can you hold her up for me officer?”

 

“Starsky. Detective Dave Starsky. That blond guy out there is my partner, Detective Ken Hutchinson, by the way.” Starsky said lifting Sarah up to Purdy

 

“Nice to meet you.” Lieutenant Purdy greeted.

 

“Come on Sandra. It´s over. Just a little stroll up, and you´ll be back with your grandma.” Starsky encouraged the kid.

 

In the blink of an eye, Sandra was safe and sound in one paramedic´s arms that, after soothing the child checked her vitals and gave her some sips of water.

 

“It´s your turn, Detective Starsky. Now…” The fireman words were interrupted by a muffled noise coming from above their heads as a few large pieces of debris loosened heavily over the elevator top.

 

“WATCH OUT!!” Lieutenant Purdy shouted out, as Starsky, out of reflexes stooped, trying to cover his head with his arms in a useless attempt to dodge the inevitable impact, stumbling backwards and falling head first through the hatch while the elevator rushed menacingly some foots down, and his limp body hit the floor, already unconscious and under a few large pieces of concrete.

 

“STARSKYYYY! NOOO!!” Hutch yelled out reaching his hand out to the emptiness, looking down to the cabin and trying to jump inside it.

 

“NO! The elevator could fall down!!” The firemen’s superior officer advised grabbing him with the help of two firemen.

 

“I MUST GET HIM OUT OF THERE!!” Hutch shouted at Purdy struggling to get free from the firemen strong grasp.

 

“No. You not, Detective Hutchinson. We´ll do it, and you´ll let us to do our work, okay?” He said firmly, as he and his men loosened their grip on Hutch. Then Purdy facing both firemen and paramedics, began giving orders and organizing Starsky´s rescue.

 

“Okay Ron. You and Dan will go to the elevator machinery’s room and will get this piece of junk in the second floor.”

 

“Yes lieutenant.” The firemen answered in one voice before disappearing downstairs.

 

“You” Purdy said to the paramedics “Come with us; and you, take the child back with her grandmother and later join us in the second floor. Hurry! We got work to do!”

 

“If you know how to get the elevator working, then, why you want to lower it to the second floor and not to the first one?” Hutch asked Purdy as they rushed downstairs.

 

“We don´t know for sure what happens with that thing, detective. Surely some wire or the brakes are seriously damaged and it could rush down any moment. Therefore, we must get the elevator to the nearest floor and prevent any chance of it falling down with your friend inside, so, we´ll get him out of there in the second floor. Later we´ll put Detective Starsky in a stretcher and we´ll take him out of the building. Look, detective: We are good in our work. Trust us.

 

Which Hutch felt at that moment, wasn´t mistrust, but just worry. Plain worry and fear. The same fear he felt every time in which Starsky got hurt and he was unable to prevent it from happening or help him…

 

Soon, the firemen got the elevator in the second floor, with doors open, settling carefully Starsky onto the stretcher and taking him out of there.

 

In having a better sight of his partner´s form, Hutch heart missed a beat. The firemen had to move apart a piece of debris  from over Starsky´s head and another one from his chest, while he kept unconscious and bleeding through a large slash in his forehead that ended  near his temple, among his thick curls

 

“Be careful!” The older paramedic warned “He could have spinal injury:”

 

“W-what? Spinal injury? Y-you mean…His spine could be broken?” Hutch managed to stutter.

 

“We don´t know detective.” He said “He fell head first. Besides, the debris hit his head. That piece of concrete was pretty heavy. For all we know he could suffer cervical or skull fracture. We aren´t going to take any chance here.” As the man spoke, he and his companion were working efficiently on Starsky, wrapping a cervical collar around his neck, checking his vitals, starting an IV and fastening him securely to the stretcher, before settling an oxygen mask on his face.

 

“His blood pressure is falling and his pulse’s weak and unsteady. Possible internal bleeding. We must get him to the hospital right now!” The paramedics were raising the stretcher with Starsky from the floor, when the elevator, with a frightening screeching rushed down, to end crashing in the shaft’s bottom.

 

All of them looked at each others speechless along a moment, until Purdy, taking again control on the situation kept giving his instructions.

 

“Okay guys. We got still a lot of work to do. Let´s take this man down! Hurry!” The paramedics carried carefully Starsky downstairs, and soon he was into one of the ambulances that kept waiting in the street. Hutch climbed by his side and the vehicle raced with light and siren towards Queen’s Medical Center…

 

 

*******

 

 

This can´t be happening…Simply it can´t… Hutch kept brooding

 

 Just a couple of hours earlier, they were having a real good time, dancing in a night club, with two beautiful ladies. Suddenly though, everything turned wrong. And Hutch felt himself still unable to react to that twist in the night´s events…

 

It doesn´t matter if we are in Bay City, New York or Honolulu…We are always getting ourselves into trouble. He thought ironically.

 

Why? Damn, why? Why a fucking good time has to end this way? We are in Hawaii, for God sake! But not in the beach, or taking shots to any waterfall or volcano, but in a lousy hospital! Fuck! Starsk was enjoying this travel so much!

 

After more than two hours of waiting, and after uncountable walks along the corridor and too coffee cups for his nerves, Hutch was already going crazy, out of worry

 

Possible internal bleeding…Cervical or skull fracture…Spinal injury…The paramedic’s words kept repeating themselves over and over in Hutch´s exhausted mind as more minutes kept going by.

 

No…God. Please, don´t allow that to happen, please…

 

“Detective Hutchinson?” A nice-looking young doctor dragged Hutch out from his thoughts.

 

“Starsky…How’s Starsky doing? Has he spinal injury?” Hutch asked in faltering voice.

 

“Oh, no, no. Calm down detective. His cervical vertebras are fine.” In hear that words Hutch felt his legs to buckle, as a wave of relief washed over him.

 

“How about sitting down, Detective? By the way, I´m doctor Gregory Keach.”

 

Hutch, feeling unable to speak just nodded as the doctor guided him to sit down in a chair, before sitting himself in the nearest one.

 

“As I told you, his spine wasn´t injured. However he suffers linear skull fracture, which means a break in the bone resembling a thin line, though without splintering, depression, or distortion of bone. We ran several tests on him, not finding other brain damage, beyond a concussion. But the patient is still unconscious, and until he´s not waking up, we´ll can´t get a more accurate diagnostic. On the other hand, we´d give him some stitches in his forehead. Besides,  one of Mr. Starsky ribs is cracked, because of the debris impact, and he suffered an internal bleeding too, that we are already taking care of, administering him a blood transfusion. All that though, isn’t our main concern, but his head injury is a very different matter, therefore we´ll keep a close eye on him in the next 48 hours.

 

“W-when he´ll wake up doctor?” Hutch asked, feeling weak and dizzy.

 

“Really, I´m sorry but we haven´t an answer for that. Maybe into a couple of hours, or maybe later, we don’t know it for sure…”

 

“You don´t know?...WHAT THE HELL DOES MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW? ARE YOU DOCTORS OR WHAT?” Hutch shouted out getting sharply to his feet.

 

“Calm down, detective.” The doctor asked softly. “We are doing as much as we can to help him. He´s in good hands. Trust us.”

 

“Okay, okay. Sorry doc. Excuse me. I´m pretty nervous, I guess.” Hutch apologized himself sinking back in the chair “Can I see him?”

 

“Of course detective. Come with me” Doctor Keach leaded Hutch through a corridor, entering first in the ICU area and later in Starsky´s room, with the usual warning of not disturbing the patient and to stay there just for a little while… that last was a warning that Hutch, of course wasn´t willing to obey.

 

“Hey Starsk…You scared the hell out of me in that elevator, partner.” Hutch said sitting down in Starsky´s bedside, feeling one more time frightened by the hospital equipment buzzing around them.

 

Starsky did lay in bed, pale and still, wearing a white bandage around his head and another one wrapping his abdomen, an IV in the crook of his arm, an oxygen mask over his face, and a few electrodes attached to his chest.

 

God thanks, though, this time he´s breathing in his own…Hutch thought.

 

Along the next hours, Hutch kept there, almost motionless, silent. Watching over Starsky´s sleep. Of course, minutes later, one nurse asked him to leave, but he managed to, somehow convince her  to let him stay there, at least as long as Starsky was unconscious.

 

In this way was how; first the rest of the night was over, and later the morning as Starsky kept still unconscious.

 

“Starsky....Come on buddy. Already you’ve got enough sleep. Don´t you think so? How about opening your eyes for me, partner?” Hutch asked resting a hand over the shoulder of one unaware Starsky.

 

“You saved Sandra, Starsk. The kid is safe and sound thanks to you. I bet your fans club is right now thrilled beyond words. I guess none of those ladies got the chance to meet a real hero before today”

 

As if echoing his words, a soft knock sounded in the door.

 

“It looks like we got company Starsk. I´ll be right back.” Hutch got to his feet heading towards the room´s door, to meet in the frame one tearful and pale Gladys, carrying a parcel and a huge envelope.

 

“Ken…Son.”

 

“Gladys…” Surprised, Hutch went out of the room, closing carefully the door at his back.

 

“How´s Dave doing, Ken? Do you need something? Maybe some sandwiches, or coffee? Somebody to talk with for a while?” The lady´s voice sounded soothing, calm. That irritating high-pitched tone that until some hours earlier was her main feature was gone now.

 

“He´s holding on, Gladys. Thanks.”

 

“We are all here, son. In the hospital chapel…Well, not all. Just the survivors that aren´t hospitalized.” Gladys bowed her head as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. We’re all praying for that brave and kind friend of yours.” She pointed with her head to the door behind Hutch “And we´ll keep here until he wakes up. You can be sure of that. He´s a hero. You both are. You know that, right?”

 

“Oh, no Gladys, we just…” Hutch tried to say.

 

“You are just heroes, honey.” The old lady cut off.  “That and nothing else. And thanks to your braveness a four years child will have a tomorrow, a future waiting for her…Know something?” Gladys asked after a pause to pull herself together “Barb is gone…She and Mrs. Martin. Besides, a waiter; Matthew was his name died in the fire too, and a few customers more...”

 

“I´m so sorry Gladys. Which happened is so awful.” Hutch answered, sharing sincerely the woman’s sorrow.

 

“Have to look face to face at the death is hard at any moment.” She spoke staring at the space “But in my old age is even worse, Ken. Thousand times worse…” There was so many pain and hopelessness in the old lady´s words that Hutch couldn´t help himself, and holded her into a silent embrace.

 

“I´m okay, son, I´m okay” She said a moment later, sniffing and pulling away from Hutch´s arms “Well. Now I must go. This is for Dave. Give it to him when he wakes up, okay?” She holded the parcel and the large envelope out for Hutch.

 

“Sure Gladys, I´ll do it.”

 

“It´s just a little thing from all of us. And this.” Gladys nodded at the parcel “It´s Freddy. Sandra’s teddy bear. She wants Dave to have it.” A lump in his throat prevented Hutch from answering.

 

“Mrs. Jackson wants to come over here and see you both. She’s very grateful, but right now, she’s in another floor in this same hospital. No big deal, just too smoke for her old lungs. You know, son. We aren´t young girls any longer. However she’ll come here as soon as possible.”

 

“It´s okay Gladys. I understand. Wish her well.” Hutch answered squeezing softly the woman hand.

 

“Dave will be okay, Ken. I know it.” Gladys said brushing Hutch´s cheek before leaving.

 

Hutch stayed for a moment there, looking with a smile the enormous “Get better” card signed by most of the hotel customers and the teddy bear, before coming back to the room to keep his vigil on Starsky.

 

“It was Gladys, Starsk.” Hutch said sitting back in the bedside chair. “She brought a couple of presents for you. One of them is from the hotel customers. The other one’s Freddy. She said that Sandra wants you to have it…You know Starsk? That people is here. In the hospital chapel. Just praying for you. And Gladys told me that they´ll stay there until you wake up. You must do it soon, partner. Or that poor people will grow even older in there...”

 

Losing clue of the time pass, Hutch kept there, looking often for some trace of awareness in his unconscious partner’s face and thinking in the soulful words of Gladys.

 

Some hours later, already in the evening, the hotel manager came to the ICU area to ask about Starsky´s condition, to tell Hutch about the explosion’s cause and also to offer all the help they could need. The man looked sorry and ashamed.

 

“It was an arson detective Hutchinson.” A pale and drained-looking Mr. Ahuna said to Hutch in the ICU corridor. “Three Molotov cocktails made up simply with alcohol, a few glass bottles and rags. She´d throwed one near the boiler, other one in the kitchen and the third one in…”

 

“Wait, wait a minute Mr. Ahuna …She?” Hutch cut off. “That does mean that you know who did it?”

 

“The police found in the hotel’s kitchen the corpse of Miss Mahuli. Apparently the fire trapped her in there. That lady was a recently dismissed maid. She’d give us a lot of problems, and now…” The man breathed deeply before speaking again “You don´t know how sorry I am, detective Hutchinson. Of course, if your insurance don´t pay for it, the hotel insurance will pay you for all your lost stuff. Clothes, suitcases, besides the hospital bill, and an indemnity. I wish we could do something more…”

 

“Which happened in the hotel is not your fault Mr. Ahuna.” Hutch said gently “But…About that woman, Miss Mahuli was her name?” The hotel manager nodded “How you can be sure that she was the guilty party?”

 

“Well. In fact we can´t. But the forensic team found thick glasses and the remains of a white wig in the corpse, you know, to look like one of our old customers I guess.”

 

She doesn´t fit with the rest, Starsk. She doesn´t look…She doesn´t look old… His own words; that words he´d say to Starsky last night, came back to Hutch´s mind.

 

“God Heaven’s…I was right…” Hutch said, more for himself than for Mr. Ahuna. The man was about to ask something when a nurse and Doctor Keach, brushing past them and rushing into Starsky´s room did make Hutch to forget him and their conversation to run towards there without even an apology.

 

“What happens, Doctor?” Hutch asked striding towards Starsky´s bed.

 

“Good news Detective. Our patient is awake. We saw in the monitor a change in his heartbeats, so we came here to check on him. And that’s the cause.” The doctor said with a smile.

 

Then Hutch noticed that Starsky was looking at him through half-opened eyes.

 

“Hey, partner! Welcome back. You had me pretty worried for a while.” He said almost in a whisper, bending towards Starsky and squeezing gently his limp hand.

 

“M´head Hutch…h-hurrs…thirsty…” Starsky said with slurred voice as the nurse approached carefully a spoonful of ice chips to his mouth.

 

“Take this, Detective. You´ll feel better.”

 

“How ´bout a new head for me, sweetheart?” Starsky asked weakly to the nurse, before taking the offered spoonful of ice.

 

“I know how you’re feeling Starsk…I know.” Hutch said in soothing voice.

 

“Y-yeah? And how ya know?...Wasn´t your head the one that hit against a fuckin´ piece of ceilin´…” The nurse, doctor Keach and even Hutch chuckled despite themselves, as Starsky tried hard to get some more words past his lips.

 

“S-Sandra?”

 

“Sandra is fine Starsk. And she gave a present for you. Gladys did bring it awhile ago, along with a card signed by a lot of hotel customers” Hutch said unwrapping the teddy bear and showing it to Starsky, who, weakly holded out an arm to pick the toy.

 

“Hummmneat…”

 

“As I can see, you remember all that happened, Detective Starsky.”

 

“Ithinksssoomnnhh”

 

“Okay, in the morning, we´ll run more tests on him,” Keach explained to Hutch “But his memory is working; that’s a good sign. Now I want you to go back to sleep, okay?” The doctor asked looking at Starsky.

 

“´Kay” He mumbled already sliding back to sleep

 

The night was calm, Hutch stayed at Starsky bedside, too exhausted to keep awake, despite his best intentions.

 

None of the nurses on duty along that night were able to prevent a smile of tenderness every time they got into Starsky´s room, in the sight of Hutch sleeping with his upper body bending over his friend’s bed, and taking his hand, and Starsky, holding a yellow teddy bear in his arms, smiling softly in his sleep.

 

 

*******

 

Along the next days, Starsky kept improving, and all the medical tests showed that he would reach a full and quick recovery.

 

A few days later and once he was already feeling better, Hutch, finally and in front of his partner’s curiosity, did tell Starsky the cause of the fire, as Starsky  listened the whole story in utter bewilderment.

 

“Next time you’re seein´ something strange, Blondie, how about playing cops for a while, huh? Even if we are in our time off.” Starsky joked sadly.

 

Those days too, Hutch´d find the right moment to tell Starsky about the people dead in the arson. They both knew perfectly that often, life could be very nasty, however, that wasn´t any help to soothe their sorrow and frustration in facing the madness that pushed people to make so absurd and unexplainable things.

 

“I can´t get it.” Starsky said; his eyes two mirrors of grief and confusion “That woman was willing to kill a lot of old people, Hutch…Even a little kid...”

 

“She had to be nothing but a true nutcase, Starsk.”

 

“Another one…And there’s a lot. Hiding in everywhere. Willing to hurt and kill innocent people just to fulfill their sickening revenge wishes…I can understand it, Blondie. Really, I can´t” Who was speaking wasn´t the cop, neither the streetwise. Was the child living into Starsky´s soul; that kind and naïve child that Hutch, for his own sake, wished that never would be gone.

 

 

********

 

As soon as Starsky was moved out of the ICU and into a private room he got the visit of Gladys and other hotel customers that filled his room of presents, but especially, his heart of warm love.

 

But which did make him happier was little Sandra’s visit. She showed up one morning, safe and sound, stepping shyly into his room along her grandmother.

 

“Hey little one, come here!” Starsky said holding out his arms to Sandra, as the child climbed carefully up the bed.

 

“Dave…It´s your head hurting a lot?” Sandra asked brushing with her little fingers the bandages around Starsky´s head.

 

“No, sweetie. I´m okay, don´t worry. I got a very hard skull.”

 

“Mom and dad came here, to take us back home, and they would like to meet you both… Can they come tomorrow?”

 

“Sure Sandra. Tell them that we´d love to meet them too.”

 

“David, Ken…Sons. I don´t know what to say” Mrs. Jackson interrupted, approaching closer to Starsky´s bedside “I´ll be never able to say how grateful I am to you both.”

 

“We didn´t do anything special Mrs. Jackson. Nothing that any else wouldn’t have done.” Starsky said as a slight blush grew in his cheeks.

 

“No David. You´re wrong. You saved my little Sandra, but also, you teached me something that I hadn´t chance to learn until now” She stopped, looking down at her own hands for a moment, then, she lifted her head again, staring back into Starsky´s eyes. “I am 73 years old, son… Most of my time’s already over And until now, I didn´t know what the whole, the unconditional generosity was…It sounds odd, I know. But it´s the truth. You showed me that the goodness of people is something real…Still possible. So, besides Sandra´s life, I owe this too to you both.”

 

“Oh…well, us…”Hutch stuttered, as Starsky tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

 

“From now and forward, along the rest of my life, every time I´ll think about love and generosity, I´ll know that it´s not any empty and meaningless word, but something with a true meaning. And I´ll remember you both, sons. You both will be always here.” Mrs. Jackson said placing a hand over her heart.

 

“Well, maybe we should leave now." She added. "David needs his rest. Come on Sandra. Let´s go.” Sandra climbed out of Starsky´s bed as he picked her teddy bear from the nightstand, offering it to the child.

 

“Are you sure that you don´t wanna to have Freddy back with you, Sandra?”Starsky asked.

 

“Oh, no.” She shook her little head.“Freddy’s yours now Dave. Didn´t you know it? Mrs. McMillan brought him to you when you were still sleeping. I´d ask her to do so.”

 

“I know, honey, but I thought that maybe you would want to keep him. You both look like you’re very good friends” Starsky explained as a smile curled his lips.

 

“You are my friend too Dave. And I prefer you to have him. Freddy’s a good cop. I´m sure he´ll take good care of you.” Sandra stated, placing the teddy bear back in Starsky´s lap before taking the hand that her grandmother held out for her and leaving the room.

 

“Well, partner.” Starsky joked with a bittersweet smile, as the never fading  image of Terry crossed again his mind “Looks like our fate is to get teddy bears from nice girls that finally are always leaving us behind…Do you think officer Freddy will be able to get that old lazy of Ollie out of your bed and into the cops thing?”

 

“I don´t know Starsk. But, who knows?  Maybe Sandra’s right, and we could use a couple of cops to take care of us and keep us out of trouble, at least for a little while…” Hutch said.

 

“Yep…It´d be a good idea after all. By the way, Blondie. We must ask Dobey for a couple of new badges.”Starsky said with a sparkle of mischief shinning in his eyes

 

“A couple of new badges?” Hutch asked puzzled.

 

“One´s for Freddy and the other one is for Officer Sandra…Remember? I´d promised her that she’d have her own badge.”

 

“Oh, sure…sure Starsk." Hutch smiled "Dobey will be really glad knowing that the ninth precinct is getting new cops…”

 

 

 

THE END

 

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