Home

 

HEART OF GOLD

 

By Elisa Valero and Cristina Pereira

 

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.

A lot of thanks to our beta reader Stacee Phelps for all her help and friendship

 

 

That morning of early spring was sunny, yet cold, after two days of apparently endless downpours along with violent gusts of wind. But, according to the weather forecast, the storm would come back to strike the city at night.

 

They were patrolling their beat in companionable silence around the, until that moment, quiet streets of downtown Bay City. Starsky was driving while eating a jelly donut; Hutch sipping his second cup of coffee; both of them plunged in deep thoughts.

 

Their last case was really a disturbing one. Three homeless people had disappeared in several parts of the city along the last month. The police hadn't the least clue about their whereabouts until, finally, a day earlier, and by chance, a group of hikers found their corpses in the bottom of a deep pit in a hidden spot in the forests.

 

Hours later, the forensic report threw a frightening new light on the case. The vital organs, hearts, kidneys, livers and lungs, had been carefully removed with surgical procedures in all three dead bodies.

 

“So, what we have got so far?” Starsky asked, thinking in a loud voice rather than really waiting for any answer. “No need to be a rocket scientist to guess it. Either, a bunch of very meticulous weirdoes, or a case of organ dealers.” He continued brooding on.

 

“And, not one single clue to find them, by the way.” Hutch answered ironically.

 

“Meanhile those poor people are out there, defenceless, and only God knows when those monsters are going to strike again…That sucks, man!” Starsky snapped, taking the cup of coffee from Hutch's hand and draining the already cold drink.

 

“Help yourself, partner.” Hutch mocked.

 

“HEY! BUT, WHAT…?” Starsky shouted out, throwing the Styrofoam cup out of the car window. Squealing tires sounded and a sharp turn of the Torino steering wheel followed his words.

 

A little confused for a moment, Hutch was not late in seeing what was going on. Two nasty- looking guys pushing around and bothering an old homeless in the shadows of a side alley. The poor woman was struggling weakly to get free from the grasp of one of them, as the other one knocked over a crummy shopping trolley that she always carried around, spreading all her meagre belongings on the ground.

 

“Damn, Hutch! She’s Old Becky!” Starsky said pulling to a stop in the entrance of the alley as both they jumped out of the car, guns in hand and breaking into a run.

 

After coming from nowhere some months earlier, Old Becky had become a regular inhabitant of that part of the city. And, since the first time in which she begged them for some coins, pretty often the two softhearted detectives would give her a few dollars or would buy some food for her and her pet. She was an old and thin woman of unidentifiable age, presumably in her seventies, who, wearing rags and accompanied by an equally old and one-eyed dog, used to wander around the downtown looking in dumpsters and trashcans for something to eat or to add to her collection of odd stuff.

 

“FREEZE, POLICE!” Hutch shouted out. In seeing both detectives rushing after them, one of the thugs froze in his spot raising his hands over his head in surrender mode, while the other one tried to flee.

 

“Get him!” Starsky said to Hutch already cuffing one of the men to a near drainpipe.

 

“Okay guy, legs spread.” Starsky quickly frisked the perp “The end of the party will be in the precinct. My partner and I, we are looking forward to ask you and your nice friend a lot of questions. But, let me say something to you. You both got yourselves in hot water this time. You bet…You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law

 

Starsky was reciting mechanically the Miranda rights to the man while keeping an eye on Hutch, ready to help him if needed. In that moment, the other perp, tall and strong though very young, like his partner in crime, was climbing up a nearby wall until his attempt failed when Hutch, grabbing his ankle and tugging it down, did make him loose his balance and fall heavily over the detective.

 

“SHIT! Get off of me, scumbag!” Hutch snapped grabbing the man’s collar and getting to his feet, dragging him upright before frisking him and cuffing his hands, leading him where Starsky was, while telling him his rights.

 

“Okay Starsk. We’re done here. Let’s ask for a black and white to take these two jerks to the pre-” For a moment, Hutch’s heart missed a beat. The perp was securely fastened to the drainpipe, but Starsky was out of sight.

 

“Starsk?...STARSKY!” The blond one shouted out in a slightly high-pitched voice.

 

“Yeah, Blondie. Right here. Mind stopping yellin’? You’ll scare the lady.” The voice of Starsky, soft and calm, came from behind a huge pile of cardboard boxes some feet away.

 

After securing the man to the same drainpipe where Starsky cuffed his pal, Hutch stepped towards there to see his partner squatting down beside Becky, who, curled up in a corner, was shaking as silent tears slid down her pale cheeks while she was holding to her thin dog as if to a lifeline.

 

“It’s okay, Becky, it’s okay...Shhht. Everything’s fine now. Detective Hutchinson and I got them, and they aren’t going to hurt you...Trust us, okay?” Starsky said to the old homeless woman in a soothing voice.

 

“Hey, you! Pals! Are you thinking of leaving us stuck to this fucking pipe too long?” One of the goons asked in an alcohol-filled voice.

 

“Yeah, what’s the matter, huh?” The other perp echoed. “We have our rights, pigs!”

 

“Shut up, okay? I don't like to hear a single word coming from your dirty mouths. I make myself clear?” Hutch raised a warning forefinger before squatting next to Starsky. There, the woman was sniffing, cleaning her nose with the back of her hand and raising her eyes to look shyly at the curly-haired detective.

 

“You okay, Becky?” Starsky asked, reaching a hand out to help the woman to get to her feet.

 

“Y-yeah...I’m fine Detective Starsky. Thanks.”

 

“I’m going to ask for a unit to take those two out of here, Starsk. Be right back.” Hutch said, briefly squeezing Starsky’s arm. He nodded, before turning to look back at Becky as Hutch headed towards the Torino.

 

“Okay Becky...You got any place to stay? Lately these streets aren’t the safest place for a lady.”

 

“Lady?...Oh, that’s so nice of you, Detective…” The old woman's cheeks seemed to blush a little as she answered. “But, I’m not a lady. Not any more. I’m as little of a lady as any of the other female homeless that night and day keep wandering around these stinking alleys. And, like the others, here is where I belong”

 

“Dave, okay? You can call me Dave. And, about the other matter, I don’t think that you belong to any stinking alley. Nobody belongs to a place like this, neither deserve it. I prefer to think that you’re in temporary financial problems…huh?” Starsky gave Becky his warmest smile “I keep thinking that you are a lady, and that you should get a better place than the streets to stay.”

 

 “You’re a nice young man, Detective Starsky…but, somebody with such a good heart like you working on the streets…that worries me. It can be very dangerous.” Becky said maternally.

 

“That’s my whole point, Becky.” Starsky answered. “I have the best of partners to cover my back, and my gun as well, but what about you? What do you have to protect yourself? The streets are becoming less safe every passing day. Already you know what happened to some people around here, I guess.”

 

“Yeah, I know it. All of us are aware of it, Detective. They are missing.” Becky said, looking down sombrely.

 

“No, Becky, they aren’t missing any longer. They are dead. Killed.”

 

“K-killed?” The old woman muttered as fear tinged her features.

 

Starsky nodded, then kept talking. “Becky, I don't wanna scare you, but, maybe those guys over there aren’t related with the murders. We can't know it yet. And, if they aren’t who we’re looking for, that will just mean one thing. That the killer or killers are still on the loose. Listen, Becky. How about going to St. Patrick’s home? If you want, my partner and I, we can take you there.” Starsky offered looking at Hutch, who in that moment, was already back by his side.

 

“That it’s a nice place, and from what I’ve heard, food is pretty good in there. I’m sure that giving the current circumstances, Father Ralph could get a bed for you.” The curled-haired detective kept saying when a patrol car entered the alley, and after parking behind the Torino, two officers approached them.

 

“Hi, guys.” Hutch greeted. “Looks like those black and white pieces of junk are getting faster lately.”

 

“Hiya, Hutchinson…Starsky.” The older officer greeted back “This time you were lucky. We were just a block away”

 

“Those two are our guests, I guess.” The other officer asked looking at the perps cuffed to the drainpipe.

 

“That’s right, Richards. Take them to the precinct; we won't be long. First though, we’ve got something to do.” Starsky said.

 

Both officers took the perps to the patrol car, heading to the precinct as Starsky and Hutch kept talking Becky into going to a shelter.

 

“Okay, Becky, so, what about it? Huh? Can we take you to St Patrick’s?” The brunet asked once more.

 

The woman shook her head “Oh, no. Sorry, detective, but I can't go there. Father Ralph can’t admit Bum there. He told me so the last time I went...Bum can't stay there. There or in any other place like that, for that matter. And, I’m not leaving him here, alone. He’s my friend. The only friend I have.”

 

“Bum?” Starsky asked before realizing that Becky was talking about her dog; a bony and ugly crossbreed that reminded vaguely a greyhound, though with rougher and longer grey fur.

 

“He’s a sad dog. I can see it. Sad because nobody but me loves him.” Becky spoke while stroking the head of the dog. “Yeah, poor Bum is ugly, and old. I know it. But, I don't care. One day, he showed up, and began following me. The poor animal wanted just a little of love, like me, I guess. Since that day, we keep sticking together. He’s my dog. I share my food with him, I look after him, and he gives me his unconditional love, not judging me. It's not a bad deal; don't you think so, Detectives?”

 

 “Becky…Listen, Becky.” Hutch said taking part in the conversation “There’s some places where we can take Bum. And this way you can-”

 

“No! I’m not about to abandon him to his fate in any horrible dog’s shelter!” Becky cut off becoming upset “Do you know for a chance what happens to the dogs like him there, Detective Hutchinson? What sooner or later, they have to do with the dogs that aren’t cute, healthy or young? Those dogs that nobody likes?” Feeling himself out of words, Hutch sighed. He had only an answer to that question. Yes. He knew.

 

“Becky, listen to me, please.” Starsky insisted. “This is a serious matter. Homeless people are being kidnapped and killed. You might be in danger.”

 

“NO! I’m not going anywhere! I won't leave Bum, and that’s all!” Becky said bursting into tears and holding her dog tighter, like a scared child.

 

“Take it easy, Becky. Take it easy. Officer Starsky is just trying to help. Both of us are.” Hutch said patiently “Now, let me think a sec, okay?”

 

“There’s nothing to think about. I’m not going anywhere without Bum…I´m sorry, detectives.” The old woman said before leaving, walking with her slow steps and with her dog in tow.

 

Running both hands through his curls, Starsky turned to look sorrowfully at Hutch.

 

“I´m sorry, Starsk,” he said “But you can't force her to go anywhere if she doesn’t want to. You know that.”

 

“And, just because she doesn’t wanna give up her damn dog.” Starsky added in toneless voice.

 

“Come on, Starsky, you tried.” Hutch said, putting his arm around Starsky’s shoulders.

 

“Yeah. I did…And, guess what, Blondie? Though it pisses me off, the fact is that I understand how she feels. I can't blame her…I mean, if that poor thing, Bum, is her only friend in this lousy world, then I can understand perfectly why she’s so adamant about not leaving it…Even if that means to starve most of the days, or to spend all the nights sleeping in the open.”

 

“And, what if that means to be the next target of a gang of killers? What about that?” Hutch asked, staring at the space.

 

Starsky shrugged his shoulders “I don't know, Hutch. I only know that we have to keep working to prevent it from happening.”

 

“Okay, so, lets go back to work.”

 

*******

 

The rest of the day went like it was supposed to. Both men arrested earlier turned out to be just a couple of goons with a sickening way to get  fun scaring old people, homeless or any other of the most unprivileged citizens of the city. They were usual drug and alcohol consumers, and both had criminal records for burglary and fights with knifes, but nothing so far like kidnapping or murder.

 

“Okay, so it seems that they aren't who we’re looking for and our man is still in on the loose.” Starsky said, once back in the squad room.

 

“Come on, partner. Try to see it this way. Those bastards weren’t doing anything good walking freely around the streets either.” Hutch said, trying to cheer up Starsky.

 

“Yeah, sure. You got a point there. But you forget something, Blondie. Already, they got a lawyer, Blake; the same one that got them out of the mess the other times. Right now the guy must be already working to get those two out  on the streets again,  until the day in which they’ll be back here, but not for any burglary, fight or for scaring somebody, but for murder…How revolting!”

 

“This crap is part of the game, Starsk. We both know it. And, we know that we can't change the rules.” Starsky didn't answer, but got to his feet. Heading for the window, he looked absent-mindedly out.

 

“Okay, Starsky. How about calling it a day? I guess we could use some rest. A couple of burgers, some beers and some pool at Huggy's. That's just what we need right now.” Hutch said with faked enthusiasm.

 

“Sure, why not?” Starsky shrugged his shoulders. “Come on.” Grabbing his jacket and tiredly shuffling his feet, he followed Hutch out of the precinct.

 

*******

 

At night, and as the weather forecast announced earlier, the storm came back.

 

So, those twenty-century wizards with their magic wands were right this time, too…Starsky thought, tossing and turning in his bed.

 

Outside, the storm was forcefully striking the streets. Gusts of wind crashed the rain against the windows of Starsky's apartment as lightning tore across the sky every now and then, followed by noisy thunder.

 

He, unable to go back to sleep, got out of bed, headed to the kitchen to drink a glass of chocolate milk, while an image and an idea kept nagging his mind. The image was that one of a thin and scared old woman holding to her dog. The idea, take her out of the streets and to a safe place.

 

“Okay. Time to do the right thing.” Starsky said to himself, already heading back to his bedroom to get dressed. He knew without a doubt what he wanted, or rather, what he needed to do, for his own peace of mind. He'd take Old Becky out of the dangerous streets and would bring her to live with him, in his apartment as long as needed until to find a good solution for the old lady’s future.

 

Hutch is going to kick my ass for this… I can almost hear him…Starsk, for God's sake!  Did you lose your mind!... Terrific, Starsky, That's a great idea! A hell of a great idea! But, I got even better one. How about taking in all the homeless people and stray dogs of this fucking city to your place!...

 

Starsky's mind ran through all the possible reactions of his best friend while looking fruitlessly for an umbrella that he knew he had put away somewhere.

 

T'rrific! Looks like I'm not going to find that dumb thing around here! Not paying anymore attention to the matter, but, just looking forward to get Becky, Starsky did put on his jacket and grabbed his car keys, leaving the apartment.

 

Starsky hurried to his car as the rain dampened his hair. He drove, not as fast as he wanted because of the violent downpour, towards where he knew he could find the old woman. The deserted warehouse where she used to spend the nights.

 

When he came there, about fifteen minutes later, the intensity of the storm had decreased, becoming just a thin rain and the streets of that area were silent and deserted.

 

Starsky parked the Torino and cautiously drawing his gun, he got out of his car, hearing only the splashing of his sneakers' soles on the wet pavement. The street where the warehouse was placed was only lightened by a crummy street lamp, which looked ghostly, and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to prickle. Definitively, he wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

 

He was about to step into the derelict building, when a soft sound coming from his back reached his ears. It was a ragged breathing, coming in short pants and mixed with muffled sobs.

 

Starsky, turning on his heels, headed carefully towards the trash cans where the sound was coming from, peeking behind them.

 

Who is in there? He asked.

 

N-nononoplease...Don´t kill me...P-Please...

 

“Becky!” Becky was hiding there, with her eyes tightly shut and holding Bum, who was waving his tail softly, staring at Starsky from his only eye.

 

“Becky. It's me. Detective Starsky…Dave. Calm down, Becky.” Starsky said, holstering his gun and kneeling down close to the woman while taking off his leather jacket to wrap it around her trembling body.

 

“Take it easy, Becky; are you okay?”

 

“Detective?” The old woman asked, slowly opening her eyes, as if scared of what she could see.

 

“Yeah, Becky, it's me…What's wrong?” Starsky asked, helping her to her feet.

 

“I've s-see them Detective Starsky! I've seen t-those men! And t-they have seen me too!”

 

Men? You mean...? How long ago did it happen?” Starsky asked, looking instinctively around.

 

“A little while ago…I was looking for Bum.” The woman explained. “He went after a cat, and you know, I don't want him to get lost or hurt by a car, so I went out to take him back. Then…then, I saw them. Two men. They’d caught…I don't remember his name. A black guy that lives on the streets, too. He looks pretty young. In his mid thirties, I guess. Tall and strong. He wears long and pretty fun looking hair, I think young people tell it rastas, and he wears broken glasses, too…They…they…Oh! Sweet Jesus!”

 

“They what, Becky? Please. This is very important.” Starsky asked in soothing voice, taking the gnarled hands of the woman between his.

 

“They grabbed the guy by his back, pressing a hankie or something against his face; then he fainted…”

 

“And?” Starsky urged.

 

“They loaded the man into a black van…I saw everything hiding here…But, I was very scared, and I stepped backwards. I…I stumbled and I fell down…Then one of them saw me!”

 

“Calm down, Becky, you’re safe now. I'm not going to let anybody to hurt you, but you must tell me all that you saw. What happened then?”

 

“That man exchanged some words with the other one and they began to approach me...” Becky swallowed dryly. “Then, thank God, a car parked just there for a couple of minutes.” She pointed with her head to a spot some feet away “Maybe the driver went by the wrong street or…well, I don’t know, I just know that in seeing that car, those men got into the van and left.”

 

“Did you ask that car's driver for help, Becky?”

 

“Oh, no…No.” Becky shook her head vigorously. “I was too scared to move …Besides, I didn't want anybody to get hurt by those bastards…I tried to hide, to flee, but I was terrified, and I couldn't move or think clearly…My legs gave way and I couldn't breath…” Then, she burst into heartbreaking sobs.

 

“Hey, hey, Becky, calm down.” Starsky soothed the upset woman.

 

“You must help me, Detective! They saw me and now they’ll come back to kill me! I'm very scared! Please…please help me!”

 

“Don't cry Becky. I'll help you. First thing, though, we should go to the precinct. There, we'll show you some pictures, and maybe seeing them, you'll be able to recognize those men. Do you think you can do it?”

 

“I-I will try, Detective.”

 

“Great. Now, let’s go.” Starsky said, leading Becky gently to the Torino, with Bum on her heels.

 

He, after settling the woman in the passenger seat, wincing at the sight of the dog treading on the leather upholstery to jump on her lap, asked dispatch to get Dobey at his home.

 

In the third ring, he answered the phone with a tired voice.

 

“H'llo”

 

“´Night, Cap. It's Starsky.”

 

“Starsky?” Dobey´s voice sounded wide-awake at the moment. “Are you okay, Dave?”

 

Poor, old cap, I'm sure that I scared him to death! Starsky thought with a smile “I'm fine, cap. Sorry for calling you this late, but it's very important. I got a lead on the homeless murders. An eyewitness. And, another man was kidnapped, by the way.” Starsky then filled Dobey in all that Becky told him.

 

“I'll put an APB on them right now, Starsky. All the units on duty will start looking for that van in a matter of minutes. By the way, is Hutchinson with you?”

 

“No, Cap. I’m alone.”

 

“Okay. I'll call him while you’re coming here with that woman.”

 

“Thanks, Cap. We are on our way.” With that, Starsky settled the mike back in its hook, and looked at Becky.

 

“This seat is so comfortable, Detective. And so warm.” The old woman said, delightedly caressing the soft leather of the seat.

 

“Huh?...Oh, yeah, sure. It is. Okay, Becky. Let's go to see those pictures.” The woman just nodded, feeling a bit scared.

 

“Hey, don't worry.” Starsky encouraged her with a warm smile. “There's nothing to be scared about. I'll be with you.”

 

A little while later, Starsky halted in the precinct parking lot, leading Becky, with her dog always by her side, to the squad room, that at that late hour was almost empty. Actually, there was only Bertha; one of the cleaning ladies that kept herself busy mopping the floor.

 

Once there, Dobey was already waiting for them.

 

“Hi, Cap. She's Becky…” Starsky hesitated, realizing for first time that he didn't know her second name.

 

“Rebecca Cavanaugh.” She introduced herself sheepishly.

 

“I'm Captain Harold Dobey, nice to meet you, Mrs. Cavanaugh.” Dobey said politely reaching his hand out to shake the woman’s, looking at Bum from the corner of his eye.

 

“Eh…It's Bum, Cap. Becky’s dog. I…we don't want to leave him alone in my car.” Starsky apologized.

 

“Don't worry, Captain.” Becky said. “Bum is a good dog. He'll keep here; quiet as long as I am.” As if understanding the woman’s words, the dog curled up on the floor under Hutch´s desk and began to fall asleep.

 

“Come on, Becky, sit down please.” Starsky offered a chair and a cup of coffee to her, before picking up a couple of books from a cabinet at his back.

 

“Now, mind looking at these guys, and telling us if you can recognize any of them?”

 

“Sure, Detective.” Becky said giving all her attention to the images in front of her

 

“Did you call Hutch, Cap?” Starsky asked, looking down at the pictures.

 

“Yeah, Partner, he did.” Hutch voice came from the door as he entered in the squad room.

 

“So, you must already know what happened awhile ago, right?” Starsky asked.

 

“Capt’n told me that Becky saw the kidnappers.”

 

“Yep. She saw our men, and it seems that they saw her, too, by the way. They were two guys, and they got another victim. Because of that, we’re here. To see if some guy from the mug books is ringing a bell in her mind, though the street was pretty dark, and she couldn't make them out clearly…”

 

*******

 

“Shit! That Goddamn woman saw everything, Gary! Everything!” The driver of the black van snapped out.

 

“Calm down, Frankie. We must think clearly our next move.” The man sitting by his side said calmly.

 

“Think clearly? To the hell with that crap! We are in a mess …I can smell it!”

 

“Listen, Frankie...”

 

“No, you listen! Mr. Tanaka told us that the whole thing would be piece of cake! That we would win a lot of easy money! But, now it’s going all wrong! First, that lousy homeless seeing everything, and then, that fucking car parking there! This is-”

 

“SHUT UP, FRANKIE! YOU’RE PANICKING!” The man called Gary yelled out, roughly slamming the dashboard with his palm.

 

“We’ll solve this, okay?” He added, lowering down his voice. “It doesn’t matter what that damn old bum saw. She isn’t going to tell anybody about it. We’ll make her shut up forever… And we’ll do it right now…”

 

*******

 

Two books of pictures later, Becky, looking tired and discouraged, was still unable to recognize any of the faces.

 

“No…I'm sorry, but I can't…I'm not sure. It was too dark, but I don't think that any of these pictures is of the men that I saw.”

 

“It's okay, Mrs Cavanaugh.” Dobey said patiently. “You tried. I guess that we could take a break now. There's still more pictures to look at, but I don't think that we can do any good this night…Maybe you could try it again tomorrow?”

 

“Sure…If you want…”

 

“Okay. Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson can arrange a new appointment with you.”

 

Then he talked to his detectives “Look, boys. If you don't mind, I'm going back home; tomorrow we have a lot of work to do. It’ll be a long day.”

 

“No problem, Cap. We'll take care of things here. Go home.” Hutch said as his captain was already grabbing his jacket and suppressing a yawn.

 

“Thanks for your help, Mrs. Cavanaugh.” Dobey said. She just nodded shyly.

 

“Starsky, Hutchinson; I want you both here first thing in the morning. Good night.” With that, Dobey headed to the door with his firm step

 

“Okay, now what?” Hutch asked, closing his eyes and tiredly pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

“Now, you can drive back home and get into bed. You look beat, partner.” Starsky said.

 

“I am, I guess.”

 

“Alright, so go home, Hutch. I can take care of the lady.”

 

“You're sure Starsk?”

 

“Go, Hutch…I got enough of your ugly mug for today.” Starsky joked, gently pushing Hutch towards the door.

 

“Okay, okay. Got it. Good night, Becky.”

 

“Good night, Detective.”

 

“I'll pick you at your place in the morning, Starsk. At seven o'clock.” Hutch said in his way to the corridor.

 

“Sure, Blondie.” Starsky said, then turned to look at Becky. “And, now, Becky, you’re coming with me, okay?”

 

“Coming with you? But…Where?...Look Detective. I'm not going to any shelter, I told you so this morning.” She said stubbornly, already heading to the double glass doors of the squad room and snapping her fingers to call her dog.

 

“Wait, wait a moment Becky…You got me wrong.” Starsky said, striding to face her. “Nobody’s talking here about any shelter. You are coming with me, but to my apartment.”

”What?...Oh, no, please, Detective, don't make fun of an old woman.” She said, showing hurt in her tired eyes. “Maybe I am just a poor homeless and I haven't anything, however, I don’t deserve…”

 

“Shhht, I'm not joking, Becky.” Starsky gently cut off the woman's words “In fact, earlier, I came to the warehouse to take you home.”

 

“Bu-but…why? I don't get it.”

 

“´Cause you’re a good person with bad luck. I can see it, and I think that it's time to start hitting that bad luck as well…Besides, you'll not want to be there, in the street if those guys are coming back, right?”

 

“Are you kidding me, Detective?” She asked mistrustfully.

 

“No, Becky, I'm not kidding. And, right now I'm taking you to my apartment. You and Bum, of course. You'll not come back to the street. Never more. Promise.” Starsky said with a reassuring smile.

 

“I…I don't know what…what to say, Detective Starsky.” She stuttered “Nobody was so nice with me since…Well, I don't remember the last time in which somebody's treated me this way…God bless you.” The woman was crying again, though this time not out of fear, but out of gratitude.

 

*******

 

“Hey, you!...Wake up!” Gary rattled the shoulder of the man that was napping in a corner of the warehouse.

 

“COME ON, MORON! WAKE UP!”

 

“Uh? …What?...Hey, where's the fire, guy? I was fucking sleeping!”

 

“I'm looking for a woman.” Gary said as Frankie just stood silently by his side.

 

“Oh, yeah, a woman…Let me say something, pal. I wouldn’t turn up my nose at that, either, but I haven't a lousy buck for-” The sound of a violent slap resounded in the walls of the deserted building.

 

“HEY! Why you did that!” The man tried to get to his feet, but there was still too much alcohol clouding his reflexes and he failed miserably.

 

“A homeless: grey short hair, thin, small. Wearing a dark sweater, maybe grey, or blue dark, I'm not sure…She’s a scum like you if you ask me…” Gary said pouring contempt through his voice. “She was wandering around here just a while ago.”

 

“Hey, guy,” the homeless man snapped, finally able to get to his feet. “Maybe you think that I am the concierge of that pigsty?” Gary grabbed him by the front of his t-shirt, raising his clenched fist menacingly, when Frankie stepped between both men.

 

“Gary…No.” Then, facing the homeless man, he produced a bill from his pocket.

 

“A while ago, she was out there, in the entrance. And with her, there was a dog.” Frankie said to the man that stared eagerly at the money in his hand.

 

“Oh, yeah. She's Becky.” The homeless said, reaching out his hand to pick the bill, though Frankie was faster to hide it behind his back.

 

“We want to know where we can find her.”

 

“She used to sleep here. She and that dirty dog of hers…But, right now she's not here.”

 

“WE KNOW THAT, DAMN!” Gary exploded unable to hold his impatience any longer. “What we wanna to know is where the hell she is!”

 

“She left…with a guy.”

 

“Come on…TALK!” Gary pushed.

 

“With one of the cops from the ninth precinct that are sticking their noses around here: you know, trying to find out what happened with those missing guys.”

 

“WHAT? WITH A COP?...You’re sure of that?” Frankie asked, becoming pale.

 

“Oh, yeah. A plain-clothes. A curly-headed guy that drives an unmistakable car…red, with a white strip. A Ford Torino. I saw them getting into that car and leaving a while ago…”

 

 

*******

 

“Welcome home, Becky.” Starsky said with a smile, turning on the lights and shutting the front door at his back.

 

The old woman looked around, obviously pleased with what she saw. 

 

“Oh…what a nice place…All is so tidy and clean…And, it's not cold!” She said with sincere amazement, as if she had forgotten long ago what to feel warm was.

 

“Do you live here alone, Detective? Becky  asked Starsky.

 

“Yeah, Becky. I’m a bachelor. Looks like my job isn’t the best one to set up a family.” He thought for a moment of Terry and all his broken dreams, but forced himself to come back to the present.

 

“You’ll sleep here.” Starsky stared showing his bedroom to Becky. “And, I have a few old covers in my wardrobe. Bum will sleep perfectly on them.”

 

“But...what about you? Where are you going to sleep? It looks like you have just one bedroom here.” The old woman asked.

 

“The couch will be fine for me, don't worry, Becky.”

 

“Oh, no, Detective… I can't…”

 

“No more `Detective`, okay? Just Dave. Now, we are housemates. And, about the couch, I'm pretty used to it, from all the nights that Hutch; I mean Detective Hutchinson spends here and I spend in his place. It’ll be okay for me.”

 

“Thanks, Dave. For everything. Thank you so much.” Old Becky said as a lump formed in her throat. Feeling a little embarrassed, Starsky simply nodded with a smile before stepping into the kitchen.

 

“It looks like you and Detective Hutchinson are good friends.” She said, looking a picture of both men standing onto the Torino´s roof, arms over each other's shoulders.

 

“Sure we are. He's my best friend, and a good man. A real good guy.” Starsky stated proudly while the woman kept looking at the portrait.

 

“Did you have something to eat tonight, Becky?" He changed the subject, picking a dish with meatloaf, a jar of pickles, and sliced bread out of his fridge.

 

“Oh, no, please… I don't wanna bother you.” Becky said stepping into the kitchen, though her eyes shined with the sight of the food.

 

“No problem, Becky. I had dinner a while ago, though right now I could use a midnight snack as well. Hutch says that I am always hungry, and it looks like he's right.” Starsky joked. “How about some meatloafs sandwiches?”

 

“Sounds good.” The woman answered shyly.

 

“Oh! Besides, I got something for our friend.” Starsky said while opening the fridge again, holding out for the dog three portions of two days old pizza with anchovies, pepperoni and salami that he wolfed down in the blink of an eye.

 

“Hey! Look, Becky! He liked it!” Starsky exclaimed with child-like amusement. 

 

“Sure, Dave, he did!” she laughed.

 

“Tomorrow I will go shopping for groceries, but right now this and some water will be fine for him, I guess.”

 

A little while later, two plates filled with meatloaf sandwiches were settled on the table along with two glasses of milk.

 

“Can…Can I wash my hands, Dave?...I hate to be that dirty.” Becky asked looking down at her own hands.

 

“Of course, Becky, make yourself at home.” Starsky answered, leading the woman to the bathroom where she meticulously washed her hands.

 

“After our meal, you can take a shower or maybe a bath if you want.” Starsky said once they were sitting down in the table “I'll give you some of my pyjamas and a nightgown. They will be too big for you, but I'm afraid that for now, you'll have to get along with them. Now, let’s eat.”

 

They did ate their food in comfortable silence, until, raising his eyes, Starsky saw Becky staring at him with a melancholic smile.

 

“Are you okay, Becky? Do you wanna eat something more?”

 

“You're just like him, kiddo. Gentle, caring, brave; a good man.”

 

“Just like who, Becky?”

 

“Like Bruce. My son.”

 

“You have a son?” Starsky asked in amazement. “And then, why…I mean why are you…?”

 

“Why I am wandering around, and living on the streets? That’s what you mean?” She cut off in a whisper.

 

Starsky nodded silently.

 

“Bruce can't help me any more. He died. In a car crash happened some years ago. While going to the city with his father to sell our farm stuff…In that car crash and in just a split second, I lost my family and I began to walk alone through life.”

 

“I'm so sorry, Becky.” Starsky said looking down.

 

“Maybe you would like to see them?” The woman asked while digging in her pants hip pocket and producing a crummy wallet from where she picked a picture of a tall and dark-curly haired man in his late 50's, a younger version of that same man, and a smiling and younger image of herself.

 

“This is one of our last moments together. Two weeks later, they…well, you know.”

 

“Becky, you don't need to talk about if you don't feel like doing it.” Starsky tried to say.

 

“No, Dave, it's okay. It feels good having somebody willing to hear me for a change…”

 

For a while, Becky kept telling Starsky the story of her last years while absent-mindedly caressing the small family portrait.

 

“…From that day, alone and without forces enough to go on, I began to lose everything. Especially my mind…The last year before Steven and Bruce's deaths had been a very hard one. Some months earlier, a horrible and huge twister struck the farm that we had in Oklahoma. Most of our animals died and our house and crop ended up almost totally ruined, so to rebuild all of that and start over, we had to ask the bank for a second mortgage. We were working hard to get back on our feet, and we thought that we could do it. But, then, I lost my family. Since that day, and without them by my side any longer, I hadn't any reason to go on…” Starsky kept listening in a respectful silence, knowing that Becky needed to pour all that pain out of her soul.

 

“I'd fall into which doctors calls a post traumatic stress disorder…In short, I tried to kill myself, but just to end up shut in a nuthouse for a few months …Oh!...I don't wanna scare you, Dave…I'm not any dangerous nutcase.” She hurried to say candidly.

 

“I know that, Becky. No sweat.” Starsky said, squeezing gently her hand

 

“While I was there, and the doctors were trying to get me back in my right mind, as you can guess, I couldn't work, neither pay the mortgage payments, so soon the bank got hold of our farm…then, once discharged from the hospital I moved to Bay City, to my younger brother’s place. But, guess what? Turns out that the poor guy is married to a nasty and stuck-up woman…A true bitch…Our fights and problems were something usual. I was unhappy, so was my brother, and she, Martha…well, she got a load off of her mind the day I left, I guess.”

 

“What did you do when you moved out of your brother’s place, Becky?”  Starsky asked feeling truly involved with all that Becky was telling him.

 

"I left just with a small saving. I moved to a cheap block of apartments near the place where I am…well, where I was living until now. Back then I still had the hope to be able to start over on my own. To find some job…Anything. But, looks like nobody is willing to give employment to an old woman in this city…The result of my attempts is obvious, I guess.” She said with a wry smile, getting to her feet and beginning to clean up the table.

 

“There's some chance that you could go back to your brother's Becky?” Starsky asked, standing as well and helping the woman.

 

“No, Dave. Not in my life. I was only a nuisance for him and Martha…They don't love me.”

 

“But, if they…”

 

“Listen, kiddo. If you’re changing your mind about me staying here, it's okay, I can leave right now…”

 

“No, Becky, no!” Starsky said vehemently. “It's not that! But, I think that they have the right to know what you are going through. The obligation and the right to help you. Don't you think so?”

 

“My brother did lose all his rights in the same moment that he allowed Martha to treat me the way she did. Like if I was just a heap of scum! If I am what I am right now, just a pathetic homeless, is mostly his fault!”

 

“Okay, Becky. I got it. Don't worry. We'll work things out. Now, how about going to bed? It's very late and you must be tired…Do you wanna take that shower now? Meanwhile, I'll pick some of my clothes for you to wear tomorrow. After work, I'll get more suitable stuff for you, but a pair of my jeans and a sweater will be okay for a while.”

 

“You don't have to do it, Dave.”

 

“You're right; I don't have to. But, I wanna do it anyway. And, you don't know how stubborn I can be, so, I'm afraid you can't do anything about it.” Starsky joked.

 

“Now, I can see it, son.” She said, smiling tenderly and cupping Starsky's cheek with one of her hands.

 

“What?” Starsky asked, a little puzzled.

 

“Now I know that God hasn’t forgotten me totally. You're the proof, honey”

 

“Let's go to bed, Becky.” Starsky said, smiling back.

 

A little while later, the only sounds in Starsky's place was the calm breathing of two people and a dog soundly asleep.

 

 

*******

 

After leaving the warehouse area, Gary and Frankie did come back home, discussing all the way about any way to get themselves out of trouble.

 

“And, now? Huh? What we are doing?” Frankie asked in dismay. “That woman left with a cop, and maybe she could see us clearly enough how to identify us. We must find her but right now she could be in any shelter in this damn city, or back on the streets!”

 

“Oh! Headline!” Gary mocked angrily. “Do you wanna a tip, pal?...if you are unable to say something that we don't know already, then why you don't shut that big mouth of yours?...If you don't stop prattling,  I can't think.”

 

“We don't have anything to think about, Gary! You fucking know it! We can only do one thing. We must run while still we have any chance.”

 

“If you think that Tanaka is not going to find us sooner or later, no matter where we are hiding, then really, you’re stupider than I thought.”

 

“So…What's your plan, wise guy?”

 

“My plan right now is to get rid of you at least for a while, to go home and to have a couple of drinks before going to bed. If I can think without you being around, I'm sure that I'll be able to work things out.” Gary snapped, stopping the van in front of Frankie’s place.

 

“Okay, man. No problem, go home and think…And, don't forget to let me know when you get one of those brilliant ideas of yours.” Frankie grunted, opening the vehicle’s door.

 

Almost without giving Frankie time enough to climb out of the van, Gary left in full speed. Once at home, and after pouring himself a large glass of bourbon, he lay on his couch, staring at the ceiling and sipping his drink. They were in a mess. He knew it, as he knew that Akira Tanaka didn't let them go easily out of their deal of getting homeless people; donors, as he used to call them, to go on with his lucrative business of human organs traffic.

 

When the phone rang, a bell awakening him with a start, Gary was for a moment unable to remember where he was or how much bourbon he had drank before falling asleep

 

“Hello.” He answered with a slurred voice

 

“Hi, honey.”

 

“Bertha, damn!” Gary looked at his wristwatch: 6.40 a.m. “What's wrong with you? Can't a man get some sleep?”

 

“Stop the grumbling, sweetheart. Your friend Bertha's got a hot tip for you. And, it's worth it, you can bet. Sorry for not calling you earlier, but you know. I was working in the precinct, and we don’t want any of those stupid cops hearing what I've to say to you, right?”

 

“Okay, Bertha. I'm listening.” He said, reaching for his pack of cigarettes placed in the near coffee table.

 

“Things got pretty wrong for you and that jerk Freddy last night, right?” She asked playfully. “If my information is right, you left an eyewitness of your haunting on the loose.”

 

“How in the hell did you know that, Bertha?” Gary asked, already wide alert.

 

“Well, that’s my job, darling. To have my eyes and ears wide open full time. And let me say that Tanaka is pretty pleased with the results of it, well, in fact, the guy likes all that I'm doing for him, if you get my drift.” She laughed lasciviously.

 

“Out with it, Bertha! I'm not in the mood to play games!”

 

“That old homeless woman was in the precinct last night looking at some mug shots.”

 

“And?”

 

“Easy, honey. She hasn’t identified any of you. At least for the moment.” Gary released a breath, “However, and since I guess that you are eager to solve the mess that right now you both are into…What about picking up a paper and a pen to write down the address where you can find the lady and that sappy cop that is giving her shelter at his place?...”

 

*******

 

Something wet and warm was covering Starsky’s face, running sinuously from his chin to his forehead and all over again with slow, rhythmic movements. All was darkness and he couldn’t breathe, nor move. A load in his chest was paralyzing his lungs.

 

`It has trapped me! God! The Alien got me! It has killed Ripley and the rest of the Nostromo’s crew and now it’s about to eat me alive! Why in the hell did I had to leave the force and became an astronaut? Just to get myself into this mess!`

 

Starsky tried to move, but the heavy creature keep him pinned against the floor.

 

HUUUUUTCH!”

 

“DAVE!! Dave, son! Are you okay?…” In hearing Starsky yelling, Becky hurried from the kitchen just in time to see him falling from the couch, dragging Bum along in his fall.

 

“Come on, Bum! Get outta Dave!” Starsky opened his eyes to the familiar surroundings of his apartment. He wasn’t no longer in any fancy spacecraft, but on the floor of his living room, under a very affectionate dog that kept licking his face, as Becky tried unsuccessfully to get a hold on it.

 

“Oh…shit!” Starsky, getting himself free of Bum and after managing to disentangle his legs out of the blanket, jumped to his feet, and picking the clean clothes that he’d set onto the coffee table last night, headed with unstable feet to the bathroom, slamming the door at his back.

 

“I’m so sorry, Dave. Bum was only trying to be friendly. You don't know how sorry I am...”  The old lady apologized contritely through the closed door.

 

“It's okay, Becky. I’m fine, yeah…fine.” He mumbled under his breath, splashing some cold water on his face and trying to stop the shaking of his hands. “I wasn’t meaning to be rude with you…or Bum. It's just that I was having a nightmare and I…well, never mind. I’m going to take a shower now.”

 

He peeled off his pyjamas, stepping into the shower while making a fool of himself.

 

`Alien?…The Nostromo?...God, Starsky! Hutch is right and neither of those scary movies nor the sandwiches of meatloaf with pickles, ketchup, and mustard before going to bed are too good for your mind ...Okay, guy, try to get a grip, or you will cut your own throat with the razor blade while shaving…`

 

After some minutes and already showered shaved and dressed, Starsky emerged from the bathroom, noticing delicious breakfast smells reaching his nose.

 

“Are you okay, Dave? Did you get hurt?” Becky asked concernedly.

 

“No...No, I’m fine. I just woke up a little startled. I was having a nightmare.”

 

“Okay son. So now, how about eating some breakfast? I’ve fixed coffee, some eggs, bacon and toast. You don’t mind, I hope…”

 

“Oh, no. "It’s okay. Thanks, Becky. It smells great.” Starsky sat down at the kitchen table, looking sideways at Bum, who seemed to feel at home, and for Starsky’s sake, wasn’t looking any longer like any viscous and revolting space monster, but just like the skinny old dog that it was. 

 

In that moment, Hutch, after knocking on the door, went into the apartment carrying a donuts bag for Starsky’s breakfast.

 

“Morning, Starsk!”

 

“In the kitchen, Blondie!” Starsky called out.

 

Once in the kitchen, Hutch froze in his tracks in the sight of Bum eating a breakfast of milk with cereal and Becky, wearing a sweater, jeans and sneakers of Starsky, refilling his cup of coffee.

 

“Hey, Hutch! What are you carrying there?” Starsky asked, nonchalantly picking the brown paper bag from Hutch’s hands.

 

“Do…Donuts, Starsk…huh…Good morning, Becky.”

 

“Good morning, Detective Hutchinson.” Becky looked a bit uneasy to Starsky, who smiled confidently at her.

 

“Mind excusing us a moment, Becky?” Without a further word, Hutch grabbed Starsky by his arm, almost dragging him to the entrance and closing the door behind them.

 

“What the hell is going on here, Starsky?” He asked in a tense whisper.

 

“Nothing is goin´ on here, Blondie. I was eating a terrific breakfast, and in a while I’ll be going to work with my favorite partner. And that’s all.” Starsky said with a sparkle of amusement dancing in his eyes.

 

“Huh-huh…Don't play smart ass with me, buddy.” The Hutchinson finger came from nowhere to aim straight at Starsky’s nose “What is she doing here, Starsky?”

 

“If you don't mind, can we talk in my living room? Why in hell are we whispering here? Becky is in there. And she must be thinking that we are two very bad-mannered guys.”

 

“Or, maybe she just thinks that I’m trying to put some sense into the head of my crazy partner! Last night I left you in the precinct. You were about to go back home, alone, or at least that was what I thought. And now, you are with Becky and her dog eating breakfast.”

 

“And so what?” Challenge replaced the amusement in Starsky’s eyes.

 

“And so what?” Hutch repeated “Starsky, for God sake! Maybe you did lose your mind!”

 

`Aha…I was waiting for this, Blondie! ` Starsky thought.

 

“That’s terrific Starsky! You had a hell of a great idea! But, let me ask you something. Why did you not take all the homeless people and stray dogs of this fucking city to your place? Huh? That would be an even better idea...”

 

`Geez! If in some TV channel there was such a ´Guess what your partner is about to say´ quiz show I could be the absolute winner!`  Starsky joked inwardly, before moving to cut off Hutch’s tirade.

 

“Now listen to me, Hutch. Becky is here ´cause I want her to be off the streets, especially now that after seeing those guys she can be in danger. Momentarily, and until I’m able to work things out and find a better place for her, she’s living with me, in my apartment. And nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind, okay?”

 

“But why, Starsky? Why? Maybe you have to take care of all the people in trouble that you find around?”

 

“Damn, Hutch! That woman isn’t any worthless waste. She’s a human being! She had a house, a husband and a son. But life was nasty beyond words to her and she lost everything…She could be my mother!”

 

“But she’s not.”

 

“You’re right. She’s not my mom, nor yours…That’s great, don't ya think? Let’s celebrate!” Starsky said ironically.

 

“I didn’t mean that, partner… Listen, Starsk. I understand how are you feeling, but-“

 

“No, Hutch. I don't wanna keep talking about this, okay?  I appreciate your concern. Really, I do, but I’m already grown enough to make my own decisions.” Determination shone clearly in Starsky´s eyes as he talked, and looking at him, Hutch knew that all his attempts to change his friend’s mind would be useless.

 

“Okay, Starsk, okay. You win…But I can't help myself. I think that this is a big mistake.” The blond detective said with a sigh.

 

“Maybe you’re right, partner. But, Becky needs some help. And, I’m going to help her...And now, if you don't mind, can we go back inside? We are already late, and I didn’t eat my breakfast”

 

“Sure, Starsk. Let’s go.”

 

“Hutch, please.” Starsky looked pleadingly at Hutch.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Once in there, don't make that poor woman feel bad, okay?”

 

“Of course, Boy Scout.” Hutch joked, squeezing Starsky´s shoulder. “I’ll make you to feel proud of me.”

 

They went back into the apartment and as Starsky requested of him, Hutch wasn’t impolite or cold with Becky at any moment. In fact, though he didn’t like the situation, mostly because he had the gut feeling that it would bring only trouble for Starsky, seeing the nice and defenseless old woman, longing for a little of love, Hutch understood perfectly why his tender-hearted friend had taken her to his place.

 

“Starsk, we are late.” Hutch said a little while later, already standing up while draining his coffee. “Dobey asked us to be in the precinct first thing in the morning. Remember?”

 

“Sure, let’s go, Blondie…Oh, Becky.” Already heading to the door, Starsky turned back around. “In the kitchen’s cupboards you’ll find spaghetti and a couple cans of stewed meat for lunch, and in the fridge you have milk, orange juice, eggs and-“

 

“Okay, okay, kiddo, don't worry.” Becky cut off. “I’ll find everything. Bum and I will be fine. Now go, or that gentle captain of yours is going to get angry.”

 

“Becky’s right, Starsk, let’s go.” Hutch said, looking impatiently at his wristwatch.

 

Finally, both men were heading towards Hutch’s car, when Becky went out to the entrance, holding the bag of Donuts, and calling out for Starsky.

 

“Dave! David, son! You forgot your Donuts!” In seeing the woman going down the stairs, Hutch shook his head, rolling his eyes.

 

“Come on, partner. A little of patience, huh?” Starsky whispered before trotting towards Becky. “Thanks, Becky. I’m coming!”

 

Then, in just that moment, all hell broke loose when a shot came from somewhere, missing Starsky only by a few inches.

 

“GET HOME, BECKY!” Starsky shouted out at Becky stooping while drawing his gun.

 

“STARSKY! GET DOWN!” Hutch yelled as another shot resounded in the air. The blond one drew his gun while rushing to his partner, almost dragging him behind his car, covering Starsky tightly with his own body, and preventing him from using his gun. In just a split second, the unforgettable image of Starsky’s body lying on a growing puddle of blood and almost dying in the parking lot of the precinct took possession of Hutch’s mind, clouding any other thought.

 

“Hutch…Hutch! Get offa me!” Starsky said, struggling to get free from the barrier that Hutch was putting between him and the shots. “Damn, Hutch! You’ll get shot!”

 

A third shot followed the second one while Starsky, managing to move apart from Hutch, who kept trying to protect him with his own body, shot against one of their attackers that in that moment disappeared among the undergrowth.

 

When a fourth shot didn’t come, both men peeked over the LTD hood, and later searched the surroundings, not making out anybody.

 

“Hutch?...You okay, Hutch?” Starsky asked still scanning with his eyes their surroundings.

 

“Yeah…I’m okay…But you….S-Starsk…B-blood. Y-you’re bleeding…” Hutch stuttered in a thread of voice, feeling dizzy and unable to breath under the weight of overwhelming memories.

 

“Becky, Hutch! We must get her!” Starsky, unaware of the blood on his clothes, and impelled by the adrenaline still running through his system, broke into a run, climbing the stairs two at time as Hutch hurried after him.

 

“BECKY! BECKY, ARE YOU OKAY?” Starsky shouted out, rushing inside his apartment and looking for the woman around the entire place.

 

“Ye-yes…Fine Dave…I’m fine...You?” The faltering voice of Becky came from behind the couch.

 

“We’re okay, Becky.”

 

“STARSKY! You were shot! Lie down partner! I gotta call for an ambulance! Let me take a look at the wound!” Hutch said almost hysterically, storming into the apartment and trying to force Starsky to lie down on the couch while unbuttoning his shirt with shaking hands.

 

“Hutch!...HUTCH!...For God’s sake, Hutch! What’s the matter with you?” Starsky asked grabbing Hutch’s arms “I’m fine partner. I didn’t get shoot. Easy, Hutch, easy…Oh, God!” Starsky winced as he noticed the warmth of the blood on one of his hands.

 

“You’re hurt, Starsky…blood…There’s blood on your shirt…” Hutch mumbled, reaching out a shaking hand and brushing with his fingertips a stain of blood on the front of Starsky’s shirt.

 

“Calm down, Blondie. We have to get you to a hospital…The blood is coming from your arm. You’re the one who got shot!”

 

In that moment, and as reality hit him, Hutch’s legs gave way and he fell to his knees whispering `Thank God` under his breath as a thread of blood slid down his own hand dripping to the floor…

 

*******

 

Along the last hour, and after making two phone calls; one to ask Huggy for some help to hide the old woman in the room he had above The Pits, and another one to Becky, Starsky was finally pacing forward and backward in the Memorial Hospital waiting room.

 

Waiting to know about Hutch’s condition, a thought added worry to his concern. `Hutch was acting in such a strange way!…as a matter of fact he seemed terrified... Much more scared that it’s supposed an experienced cop like him would be in a situation like that…but why?`

 

“Somebody here for Detective Kenneth Hutchinson?” A mid-aged doctor asked, coming from the surgery area and making Starsky lose his train of thought.

 

“I’m Detective Starsky. Detective Hutchinson is my partner How’s he doing?” Starsky said, approaching the doctor in two strides.

 

“Nice to meet you Detective Starsky. I’m Doctor Martin.” The doctor reached out his hand to shake Starsky’s. “Your partner was very lucky this time. The bullet didn’t damage the humerus and we took it out of his arm without trouble. In fact, it was almost a flesh wound.” Starsky released a relieved breath as the doctor kept explaining. “Right now he’s in recovery, but in a while we’ll take him to a regular room. On the other hand, we want him to stay here for a few days, then, and if everything’s alright, he can go home. “

 

“Can I be with him?” Starsky asked eagerly.

 

“Sure, Detective. As soon as we have him established in his room, a nurse will come to take you there.”

 

About ten minutes later, a pretty, blond nurse approached Starsky, smiling gently.

 

“Please, Detective, come with me.” Starsky followed the nurse through a long corridor towards Hutch’s room. When he entered, the blond detective was still asleep, so Starsky carefully dragged a chair to his friend’s bedside, and sat down to watch over Hutch’s sleep.

 

A while later, Starsky was distractedly leafing through pages of a magazine, when Hutch began to wake up from the anesthesia, looking pale and groggy.

 

“Hey, Blondie, how ya feel?…” Starsky asked, getting to his feet and bending towards his partner.

 

“Thirsty.” Hutch whispered. Then, Starsky reached out for a pitcher, pouring water in a cup and offering it to Hutch.

 

“Thanks.” Hutch said quietly after swallowing a few sips, averting his eyes from Starsky’s.

 

“You okay, Hutch?” The brunet asked with concern reflected in his eyes.

 

“I’m fine, Starsky…It hurts a little, but I’m okay. No big deal…”

 

“It’s good to hear that your arm isn’t hurting too badly, partner, but right now I’m not talking about it.” Starsky said, looking straight into Hutch’s eyes.

 

Hutch breathed deeply before answering. “Yeah, I know Starsk. You’re talking about how I made a fool of myself earlier, right?”

 

“Oh. Come on, Hutch. I don't mean that…But, if you ask me, you did seem about to break down back there. What’s the matter, huh? Talk to me, partner.”

 

“Starsk, I…” Hutch stopped for a moment, as if looking for the right words. “The truth is that what happened this morning reminded me…well, you know…Gunther and all that…”

 

Just then, realization hit Starsky.

 

“Aw, Hutch! Sorry…I’m so sorry…I didn’t know…”

 

“No. Nothing to be sorry, Starsk. I behaved like a newbie. When I saw blood on your shirt, I thought that it was yours instead mine…I thought that you had been shot and I…I got scared. I haven’t seen blood on your clothes since…since that day…I’m sorry Starsk…” Hutch closed his eyes, turning his head towards the window.

 

“Hutch…Hutch, look at me.” Starsky asked firmly. Once Hutch opened his eyes to meet his partner’s, Starsky spoke again.

 

“It's okay, Hutch…Back there you panicked. But, it can happen to any cop sooner or later. You know that.”

 

“I’m your partner, Starsky. Supposedly I have to keep my head clear to cover your back, and instead, I get scared like a rookie.”

 

“Okay, you got scared. But, you did cover my back anyway. Actually, you’d put your life in risk to protect me.”

 

“Starsk…”

 

“No, Hutch. Scared or not, you did what I expected. What any cop would expect of his partner. And, you did it perfectly.” Starsky said softly “Come on, partner. Forget the whole matter and try to get some more sleep. I’ll be here, okay?”

 

“´Kay.”

 

Without any more words, Hutch, feeling calm and safe with his best friend by his side, closed his eyes, sliding towards a peaceful sleep.

 

*******

 

Gary and Frankie had failed once more. They knew for sure that if their boss, Akira Tanaka, knew it, they would be in very serious trouble. And, they knew as well that most likely, the powerful Asian man wouldn’t be late in knowing it.

 

“Shit! We are like we were in the beginning. With the woman and the cop still going around.” Frankie stated.

 

“I KNOW IT, DAMN IT! I KNOW IT ALL!” Gary yelled out “And, guess what? I’m more than fed up of hearing you telling me over and over that same crap. The cop and the woman are alive, and it looks like we are too stupid to get rid of them, and as far as they are alive, we are in a mess, so what? Any suggestion to get ourselves out of this?”

 

“Hey, hey! Take it easy, pal. I haven’t got all the answers...” Frankie snapped defensively

 

“We don’t need any answers, Frankie! The only thing we need is to kill that fucking woman and that’s just what we are going to do! And, we will do it very soon. You can bet!” Gary said as his insanity shone in his eyes.

 

*******

 

 

Next morning, Hutch, feeling much better, was already looking forward to be discharged from the hospital, as Starsky kept by his side, unwilling to go home if just for awhile to take a shower and change his clothes.

 

“I’m alright, Starsk, but you look like hell. Mind going home and getting some real rest? I’ll be okay. And, I’m not going anywhere, you bet.”

 

“The one who’s not going anywhere it’s me, Hutch. I’m fine.” Starsky said firmly.

 

“No, Starsk, you’re not fine. Look at yourself for crying out loud! You look exhausted! Why in hell do you have to be more stubborn than a damn mule?” The room door opened and Huggy’s appearance carrying a brown’s paper bag cut off Hutch’s complaints.

 

“Hey, Hutch! How’s my white bro doing?”

 

“Hi, Hug!” Hutch greeted back. “I’m okay. Just wanting to get out of here.”

 

“I guess so. By the way, I brought you a fruit shake and some other healthy stuff from Chez Huggy.” Huggy said, placing the paper bag on the nightstand

 

“How’s Becky doing, Hug?” Starsky asked.

 

“Oh! The lady is fine, Starsky.” Huggy answered, waving his hand “My cousin Marcia came to town for a few days to pay a visit to her favorite cousin Huggy, and looks like she and Becky hit it off pretty well. You should see them, chatting endlessly like long time friends!”

 

“Cousin Marcia?” Starsky asked trying to remember if Huggy had told him before about that member of his endless list of relatives.

 

“She’s the one who, along her husband, owns a ranch in Colorado where they are taking care of some special kids...Remember?”

 

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Starsky remembered that Huggy had told him and Hutch about his older cousin Marcia and the work that she and her husband kept doing since more than ten years ago at their ranch, taking care of mentally impaired kids without family.

 

“Don’t worry about Becky, Starsky. She’s safe, out of sight of the bad guys, and having a good time with Marcia. By the way.” Huggy changed the subject. “I don’t wanna seem nosy, but as I was coming in, I heard my blond bro talking. Mind telling me who’s stubborn here? Curly maybe?” The black man joked.

 

“Yeah, he is. Who else?” Hutch answered sulkily. “He keeps thinking that I am a little kid unable to stay alone for some hours while he goes home to take a shower, eat something and get some sleep.” Hutch said preventing Starsky from retorting, raising his warning forefinger.

 

“Aha. I got it. And how about doing like Hutch asks, huh?” Huggy asked to Starsky. “Your old friend Huggy is here to take care of Blondie, so you can leave knowing for sure that he’ll be fine.”

 

“See?” Hutch asked. “You heard him, Starsk. Huggy will be here, and I’ll be fine. Now, mind going home before I personally get out of this damn bed, cuff you and get your ass into the first available cab to your place?”

 

“Okay, okay, partner. No need to get upset.” Starsky raised his hands with his best childlike expression. “I’m going home. But, I’ll be back here in a few hours.”

 

“Fine. I’ll be here waiting for you.” Hutch kept up the banter. “But, don’t miss knocking on the door before coming in, Starsk. You know. In a couple of hours Patty will start her shift and maybe then she could want to run some checks on me...”

 

“Don’t worry Hutch. I’ll knock on the door.” Starsky smiled. “Maybe you haven’t noticed it yet, but I’m a very polite man.” Saying that, he headed to the door, just to turn back before leaving.

 

“Huggy, if something’s wrong...” Concern replaced the smile on Starsky’s face.

 

“Of course, Starsky. You don’t need to ask. If something’s wrong with Blondie, your friend Huggy will call you.”

 

“Thanks, Huggy.”

 

*******

 

On his way to his apartment, Starsky felt more tired than he wanted to admit back in the hospital to Hutch. His back was aching from the long hours spent in the uncomfortable bedside chair and a headache was throbbing in his temples. In fact, right at that moment, he was only looking forward to take a shower and to crash in his bed.

 

He tiredly climbed the stairs up to his apartment and after unlocking the door, he stepped into the front room, when just for a split second, a sixth sense warned him about something…something unknown and dangerous, making his whole body tense. It was too late though. A sharp pain in the back of his skull was the last thing he felt before the darkness surrounded him...

 

*******

 

“Take a seat, please, gentlemen.” Akira Tanaka invited Gary and Frankie to sit down in two black leather armchairs placed in front of his desk.

 

“And, let me offer you a couple of shots of Scotch. It's high quality. The best one.” He said, pouring two drinks of amber liquid in both Murano crystal glasses and extending them out for both men.

 

“Okay, gentlemen. And now, if you don’t mind, let’s try and solve the little problem that we have here.” Tanaka said after sitting behind his desk, going straight to the heart of the matter. “According to my latest information, it looks like you both made a little mistake, right?” Tanaka stopped briefly, looking at both men with his piercing black eyes.

 

“We are very sorry, Mr. Tanaka, but we broke into that cop’s place looking for the woman and then, well...he came in there, and we...” Gary squirmed in his seat under the icy look of Tanaka.

 

“We hadn’t any other choice but get him.” Frankie added. “We know that it was a fucking stupid thing to do, but maybe...”

 

“Hum…Mind caring your language gentleman?” He said, frowning while standing up to start an unnerving pace around both men. “English is too beautiful a tongue to spoil it using dirty words. Don’t you think so?”

 

“Sorry, sir.” Frankie apologized, feeling intimidated in front of the small, yet imposing man. The fact was that Mr. Tanaka always brought all those Fu-Manchu movies that he used to watch in his childhood to his mind, despite the fact that the man wore a tidy haircut and was always perfectly shaved and dressed in expensive, occidental-style suits. 

 

“Mr. Tanaka...” Frankie dared to say.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I...I mean we...well, we’ve thought that maybe to catch the cop wasn’t such a big mistake after all...I mean, he can be very useful for you. The guy looks very healthy...”

 

“I know, I know.” Tanaka said. “Any of our clients would be willing to pay a large amount of money for his organs, and of course, since the mistake is already done, I will take advantage of that, but to bring him here is still a very wrong idea, mostly because right now, all the city police must be looking for him. The truth, gentlemen, is that I can’t say that your latest failures make me feel too satisfied.” He added, sitting down again, picking the silver paper knife that was resting on his desk and running his fingertips along its blade.

 

“Mr. Tanaka…We-” Tanaka raised a hand to interrupt Gary’s words.

 

“In fact, I’m pretty disappointed with you both.” Frankie and Gary nervously drank long drinks of their whiskies. “I promised you a very substantial commission for each one of the donors that you were bringing to me, and I complied with it, right?”

 

Both men nodded obediently like two kids getting a rebuke.

 

“As an exchange though, I was expecting a well done work. Not a string of stupid mistakes. And, let me tell you, that the kidnapping of that cop is the biggest one of all them.” The soft, low tone in Tanaka’s voice did make Gary and Frankie cringe, but at the same time, it had such a hypnotic quality that it did make their eyelids feel oddly heavy.

 

“Really, all that has happened is a big disappointment for me. However, and since I am a very understanding man, I’ve thought about something that you both can still do to please me and regain my esteem.” An evil smile curled the lips of Tanaka.

 

“Wh-what’s that?” Frankie asked in slurred voice, noticing that the walls in the room began to spin.

 

“Still you don't guess it, my dear gentleman?” Tanaka did make a theatrical pause. “Okay, never mind. I can understand that right now your brains aren’t in too good shape to work fast. Let me give you a clue…You’re both young, supposedly healthy...Like the police officer that you brought here. But, there’s a little difference between he and you both. A lot of people must be already looking for him, but instead, nobody will look for you if you are…How I should put it…missing?”

 

“N-No!...P-please…” Gary begged getting to his feet with a big effort, suddenly understanding, before falling in a heap to the floor.

 

“Mr. T-Tana…ka…You can't…” Frankie mumbled, standing as well, and tightly grasping the edge of the desk to keep upright.

 

“Oh, yes…I can. Of course, I can. I’m sorry, gentlemen. But I’m not willing to waste the only benefit that I can still get from you both.” Saying that, Tanaka pushed slightly against Frankie’s chest with the tip of the paper knife, making him lose his balance and fall onto the already unconscious Gary on the Persian carpet.

 

“Robert.” Tanaka said after punching the button of his intercom. “Call Doctor Evander. He has a new job to do. And, please, get somebody to help you take something out of my carpet.”

 

 

*******

 

 

Starsky woke up lying down o a stretcher settled in the middle of a little room. He was dizzy and his head ached.

 

The room was completely white, the door, the walls, the floor, and there wasn’t any furniture but for a cupboard with transparent doors, containing medical stuff inside. Actually, everything reminded him of a hospital. He tried to move, only to notice that his wrists and ankles were firmly tied with straps to the stretcher. Besides, he noticed that he was dressed in a white hospital gown.

 

“HEY! IS SOMEBODY IN THERE?” Starsky shouted out. “LISTEN TO ME, PALS! I AM A COP! YOU’RE KIDNAPPING A COP!...HEEEY!! CAN SOMEBODY HEAR ME?

 

Starsky kept shouting out, but soon, seeing that nobody was answering his calls, he gave up. Trying to get a hold of the suffocating terror that was gripping his very core, the detective looked around while trying to make out some noises or voices, but then, after looking more attentively at the walls, he saw that they were padded, and seemingly soundproof. The memories of his brief stay in Cabrillo flooded his mind, adding a new fear to his already climbing terror

 

`Okay, Starsky. Get a grip. Whatever mess got yourself into this time, I’m sure that Hutch knows it. He must be already looking for you…` Starsky tried fervently to convince himself, despite knowing that Hutch was in the hospital, and that surely his partner was still thinking that he was sleeping soundly in his own bed.

 

The door opened, interrupting Starsky’s train of thought and a man in his early fifties, tall and pale, wearing white a coat, entered. With a cold smile shinning in his face, the man approached the defenseless Starsky.

 

“Glad to see that you are finally awake, Detective Starsky. I am Doctor Ronald Evander. Nice to meet you. Oh! And, don't bother yourself remembering my name. If I’m telling it to you, it is because I know that soon you’ll not be able to repeat it to anybody…” The evil smile of Evander grew even broader.

 

Starsky stirred fiercely in a vain attempt to get himself free from the straps that had him pinned to the stretcher.

 

“FUCK! LET ME GO!” Starsky snapped.

 

“Be careful, Detective. Doing so, you’ll get nothing but hurting yourself. And, let me say, right now you are too valuable to my boss to let that happen. Besides, I guess that you’ll like to know what is about to happen to you…”

 

*******

 

“What time is it, Huggy?” Hutch asked for the second time in the last ten minutes. “Starsky is being real late, don’t you think so? He said that he would take a shower, eat something and rest for a while, but….”

 

“C’mon, Hutch. Let aside your mother hen routine for a while. Curly is already a big kid. Surely he had to be exhausted. Let him sleep.” Actually, Huggy was worried too, but didn’t mention it to Hutch.

 

“No. I know Starsky. I had to push him to go out of here. He should have been back here for hours now. He knows that you need to go back to your bar…”

 

“Don’t worry about that, Bro. I can manage it.”

 

“I’m not worried about your bar, damn it!” Hutch snapped, “I’m worrying about Starsky! He went home more than seven hours ago! I have a gut feeling that something is wrong with him. I’ll call Dobey. Maybe he has seen Starsky.”

 

Hutch picked up the receiver of the phone sitting on the nightstand, dialling Dobey’s number. After a brief talk with his captain, the detective looked sombrely at Huggy.

 

“What?” Huggy asked, already guessing the worst.

 

“Starsky isn’t in the precinct. In fact, he wasn’t there at any moment. And, he doesn’t answer his phone either. Dobey is about to send a patrol car to his apartment to check it…SHIT! I knew it!” Hutch said, trying to drag himself out of bed, but two firm hands prevented him from moving.

 

“Hey! No way, my man! You can’t just leave the hospital in your current condition.” Huggy stated.

 

“To the hell with my current condition! Something is happening, Huggy! Starsky is in trouble! I know it!”

 

“I will call your doctor.” Huggy said, hurrying to the nurses’ station as Hutch was already getting out of bed and looking for his clothes in the closet.

 

Despite his doctor’s advice, Hutch finally left the hospital. He took a cab directly to Starsky’s apartment where two officers and Dobey were already looking for any clue of what had happened there. The blond one stopped in his tracks in seeing a little stain of blood on the hall’s floor.

 

“Starsk…” Hutch, doing his best to keep his head clear, squatted down to look more carefully at the brown stain as more frightening memories; this time of Starsky’s name written in blood on a mirror, threatened to make him to lose his balance.

 

Hutchinson.”

 

Hutch felt the warm touch of a large hand on his shoulder. He didn’t need to look backwards to see the concerned expression on Dobey’s face.

 

“You should have stayed in the hospital, son.”

 

“No, Cap. I HAVE to find Starsky. That and nothing else.”

 

After staring in the worry-filled eyes of his superior officer for a moment, and without giving Dobey a chance to answer, Hutch stood and left Starsky’s apartment, heading to his LTD, parked beside the Torino since the day earlier when the ambulance had taken him to the hospital.

 

With his injured arm throbbing and feeling dizzy under the mix of painkillers and worry, Hutch drove to The Pits. Once there, and as careful as possible, he told Becky about Starsky’s disappearance since he was hoping that the old lady could be somehow useful in helping to find him.

 

“God! My poor kid! David…David has to be okay, right?” She asked with a trembling voice after hearing Hutch’s careful explanations.

 

“Hope so, Becky. I really do. But, I have to find him. And, by now I only know that he went to his apartment some hours earlier, to get some rest. That was the last time I saw him. For all we know, he was kidnapped in his own place.”

 

“They did it, right? The same guys that I’ve seen kidnapping the black man in the alley? They were looking for me and now…they got David!”

 

“I guess so. Becky, please. Is there something you can add to help us find Starsky? Maybe something more about those men that you didn’t remember earlier? Try it, please. It's very important.”

 

“No…I’m very sorry, son, but I only know what I’ve told you both and your captain.” Old Becky answered in a tired voice.

 

“It's okay, Becky. You tried. I know how much you’d like to help us find Starsk.” Hutch said, unable to hide his worry. Then, he left the room to join his fellow police officers in the search of any clue to find his missing partner.

 

*******

 

Starsky, light-headed, sick to his stomach and hurting, had lost the account of time. Along the last twenty-four hours, Doctor Evander, accompanied by a nurse, entered a few times in the room where he was shut and tied to the stretcher. The first time was to draw blood from him, and later, to run more physical tests on him.

 

Other times, he had been wheeled to another room, with more sophisticated medical equipment in it to take more tests. Some of them painless, like chest x-rays or an electrocardiogram, another ones, extremely painful, like when Evander, accompanied by one nurse and who looked like three strong orderlies entered in the room, wearing surgical gloves and carrying a metallic tray containing antiseptic, swab and other medical stuff besides a few big and frightening syringes and equally large needles.

 

“I’m sorry, Detective, but I’m afraid that what we have to do now is a pretty painful test.” The man seemed to be enjoying the moment as the terror-filled eyes of Starsky went first to the goons surrounding him, and then to the syringes and the needles.

 

“Unfortunately, it’s totally needed. We can’t miss this test in order to know if something’s wrong in your cerebrospinal fluid, and to know it, my dear detective, we haven’t any other choice but to make you a lumbar puncture. I dearly advise you don’t try to move and keep still along the test. It has to be done anyway, and this way it will be easier for you. Now, if you don’t mind, my assistants will cover your mouth. I’m very sorry, but I can’t concentrate in my work hearing my patient’s screams.” The doctor stated as one of the orderlies covered Starsky’s mouth with a wide piece of bandaid. After that, the men that stood beside the stretcher removed the sheet that covered the detective and began untying his wrists and ankles. It was then, when in a desperate attempt to escape, and despite the dizziness that slowed his reflexes, he tried to get to his feet and off the stretcher, ready to fight. However, one of the goons threw a fierce punch to his face, making him fall, stunned to his knees and hands on the floor as his nose began to bleed. Then, the men grabbed him by his upper arms, settling him back on the stretcher and undressing him of the gown, before rolling him onto his side. Holding him firmly with iron-like hands as the nurse rubbed a spot in his lower back with a swab dampened in antiseptic, they forced him to curl into a knee-chest position with his neck flexed forward.

 

“Okay. Let us start. First thing, I will insert the spinal needle deeply among two of your vertebras.” Evander explained in calm and academic tone as Starsky felt his glove-covered fingers feeling his lumbar area.

 

“I’m sorry, Detective, but I must warn you. This part is going to be a little painful.” An evil amusement shone in the doctor’s eyes in saying so. “Nurse, please, a little more light.” The nurse turned on a focus, aiming the beam of light towards Starsky’s back as the doctor; syringe in hand, bent closer to him.

 

Then, Starsky felt a sharp pain as the needle pierced his skin and began making its way inside his back.

 

None of the people around the stretcher seemed to feel the least pity as his face began to sweat and wince under the pain that the doctor was causing him.

 

“Once the needle pierces the spinal membranes, it’ll reach the cerebrospinal fluid.” Evander explained. “Then, I’ll take in a little of that liquid and the test will be over.” As Evander was talking, Starsky felt a stab of pain even stronger running along his whole spine.

 

“Oh! I’m very sorry! Looks like the needle did meet the bone.”

 

`Hutch!...Hutch, help me…Please…It hurts…Hurts so bad!...Hutch!` Starsky was unable to talk but his thoughts went to his friend, holding to them like a lifeline as he felt the needle sliding out of his back and waves of pain ran through his spine and thighs. Then, the doctor gave new instructions to his assistants.

 

“Gentlemen, please, mind holding the patient a little more curled over himself? Nurse, antiseptic, please.” The orderlies moved Starsky into an even more uncomfortable position. Then, Evander, going on with his concerned-doctor’s performance, turned to face his patient just enough to meet his eyes that were pouring hatred at the physician.

 

“I’m afraid I must try it once more.” Evander said. “Hope this time I’ll get it. Try to relax; I know how much it hurts, but you are doing fine. Hold on a little longer.”

 

Then, all the process repeated itself, beginning with the nurse drying Starsky’s sweat-drenched back. Pain. The sounds of Evander at his back, picking a new needle, peeling off its wrapping and placing it in the syringe, the nurse cleaning Starsky’s lumbar area with antiseptic, producing more pain just with that soft touch, the needle being pushed into his tortured flesh as the unfortunate detective was wrapped in a cocoon of excruciating pain.

 

As the large spinal needle was being pushed slowly and painfully into his back, Starsky, wishing to yell but unable to do so, unable as well to move under the vice-like grip of the men holding him, began to moan hoarsely. Begging silently for the end of the torture and clawing his fingers in the stretcher’s surface as tears of pain fell from his tightly closed lids.

 

Seemingly, on purpose, the doctor needed even a third attempt to reach the spinal fluid, and finally he got it in one vertebral disk space down. Along the endless while that Evander needed to make the spinal puncture, Starsky wasn’t lucky and he didn’t pass out. At the end, the men that had held him, tied his ankles and wrists again, leaving him this time lying on his stomach and moaning softly as his head, legs and lower back were hurting and an unbearable thirst burned in his dry mouth.

 

Starsky was about to be killed. He knew it. It was just matter of time. He wasn’t late in knowing that he had been trapped by the same organ dealers that had killed all those unfortunate homeless people in the last weeks, and now, here he was. Waiting defenselessly for his own death.

 

Evander had told him that once the results of all the medical tests would be ready, he would be taken to surgery, where a team of surgeons would remove his vital organs to sell him. He didn’t knew who was behind this macabre business, but he knew that this time, his odds for survive were growing thinner as minutes went by.

 

*******

 

Mr. Tanaka was in his office, reading a report. A very detailed report about David Michael Starsky. There was a lot of information. His new donor was a healthy man, but his medical report showed something unexpected. His body had scars and traces of severe damage suffered not so far ago in time. And, there were some organs that could not be used. David Starsky’s heart and lungs weren’t useful to be transplanted to anybody. Other than that, all his other organs were okay. Mr. Tanaka was angry and frustrated. Hearts and lungs were the most expensive organs in the market. He whispered tiredly and closed the report. Then, he punched his intercom to call Doctor Evander. He didn’t liked that doctor, mostly because Tanaka, despite to be a man without scruples nor conscience, hated the gratuitous violence and he knew through the nurses that the sadistic doctor found a sickening pleasure of making his patients suffer unnecessarily along the tests. But, Evander was good in his work as well as a loyal collaborator, and as far as Tanaka was concerned, that was what really mattered.

 

“Already I’ve read your medical report, Doctor.” Tanaka said once Evander stepped into his office.

 

“Unfortunately, this man’s body wasn’t as useful as I had thought, but I can still make money with him. Use as much organs as you can. Just call me when everything is finished.”

 

“Of course, sir. It’s a shame that this young man’s lungs and heart are damaged. Undoubtedly, he suffered a shooting, a few years ago, I guess. We can't take any risks using those organs. Otherwise his kidneys, liver, corneas and many others of his organs are fine.”

 

“You’re sure about that, I hope? I don't want any mistakes. I have a reputation to keep and I cannot risk putting it in jeopardy by selling the wrong stuff to my clients.  In fact, right now, I’m about to call one of them who’s been waiting for a liver for his son for a long time, and according to this report, the cop is the perfect donor for him. Make sure that your job will be perfect. I make myself clear?”

 

“As always, Mr. Tanaka. Or maybe I’ve disappointed you in any other of my works?” The doctor answered before leaving the room as Mr. Tanaka was already picking up the phone receiver to call Mr. Stephen Barns. A rich businessman from North Dakota that would be very happy knowing that finally his beloved son, seriously ill from cirrhosis, was going to get a new and healthy liver in just a few hours.

 

 A few minutes later and after settling all the details regarding the deal with his client, Tanaka replaced the phone receiver in its hook, when without even a knock, his office’s door flew open and Robert, his right-hand man stormed inside, panting for air and looking flushed.

 

“Robert! What the hell happened! I am very busy, and I don't like interruptions!” Tanaka barked standing behind his desk.

 

“So-sorry, Mr Tanaka, but the guy…the homeless guy that Frankie and Gary got in the alley is missing…He was about to be taken to surgery when somehow he managed to escape!”

 

“WHAT?...What the hell are you telling me?” Tanaka’s eyes flashed evilly, glaring at the scared ones of Robert. “Are you telling me that a simple, poor devil managed to escape from all of your vigilance? DAMN BUNCH OF MORONS! GET HIM! NOW!

 

*******

 

The whole ninth precinct was looking for Starsky, running against the clock. Hutch kept pushing all the street informants, without resting or eating; just drinking lots of coffee and swallowing aspirins. He wasn’t paying any attention to the growing pain that irradiated from his arm to his back, and the fever that kept climbing dangerously, shaking his whole body with shivers.

 

As the night’s darkness began to fade, the blond detective, feeling exhausted, and running out of time and answers, drove once more to the warehouse where Becky had been living until the night in which Starsky had taken her to his place. He didn’t know what clue he could find there, nevertheless, and impelled by an unknown gut feeling, he went back there.

 

He stepped in the dark and stinky place, looking around and making out some forms lying on the ground. A few homeless covered with tattered blankets or newspaper sheets began to wake up to a new day as other ones kept sleeping soundly. Soon, all of them would leave their night’s shelter to start a new day looking for something to eat, gathering useless stuff in trashcans or begging for some coins from the passers-by; but, at that moment, all was still, silent…The only one to break the calmness in the place was one of the homeless. He wasn’t sleeping but kneeling down in a corner, hectically picking up some stuff and stuffing it carelessly in a crummy suitcase while mumbling unintelligible words in low voice.

 

“Hey, sir. Mind answering me a few questions?” Hutch asked, approaching him, when the man; black, tall and strong, rushed towards him yelling gutturally and throwing the off- guard detective to the floor on his back. His head pounded painfully against the wall, adding a new pain to his already aching body.

 

“FREEZE! POLICE!”  Hutch shouted out, drawing his gun and aiming at his attacker.

 

“I’m leaving! They’ll don’t get me again, do you hear me? My guts aren’t going to be sold to any rich bastard!” The man shouted out. “Shoot me if you want, but I’m not being a guinea pig for that bunch of psychos!”

 

As the man kept talking, Hutch shuffled to his feet, approaching him while showing him his badge.

 

“Take it easy, pal. I don't wanna hurt you, okay? I’m a cop and…Wait…Wait a moment…Again? You said `They’ll don’t get me again…?

 

Suddenly, while getting closer to the man, Hutch recalled the physical description that Becky had made of the homeless man kidnapped two nights earlier in this same place.

 

… In his mid thirties… Tall and strong. He wears long and pretty fun hair…rastas and he wears broken glasses, too.

 

That description was exactly the one of the man in front of him.

 

“You…You are the man that was kidnapped two nights ago, right?” Hutch asked, still unwilling to believe his good luck.

 

“Why do you want to know it?” The black man asked mistrustfully.

 

“I am a police detective. Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, from the ninth precinct. My partner is missing, and I have good reasons to think that the same people that kidnapped you have got him. You must help me to find him, please.” Hutch, drained by the last hours’ events just had enough strength to beg. And, at first, the heartbreaking plea in his voice didn’t convince the hardened homeless man to talk.

 

 

*******

 

 

Tanaka was upset. Upset, angry, and more scared than he wanted to admit to himself. The efforts of all his men to find the missing homeless man were fruitless, so at that moment, he and his crime emporium were seriously threatened. On the other hand, Starsky’s surgery couldn’t be stopped or delayed. He had already promised Mr Barns, his client from North Dakota, a new liver for his son, and he knew that he better wouldn’t break a promise make to such powerful man.

 

 

*******

 

The black man, who turned out to be named Ben Perkins, was filling Hutch in with all that he saw before escaping out of Tanaka’s house. At first, Ben was unwilling to talk and to go to the precinct. The only thing he wanted was to leave the city. Finally though, the threat of an arrest worked out, and soon, with the help of two huge complete cheeseburgers and beers, Hutch was in front of him, hearing all that he had to tell.

 

The story that he told was amazing to say the least. The homeless man explained to Hutch about the hours that he would spend in a large house in the forest, in a room, tied to a stretcher and going through a complete series of medical tests. He also told Hutch about the Asian man that seemingly was the head of the sinister organ dealers’ organization. The homeless man never saw Tanaka, in fact he didn’t even knew his name. The only thing he knew, hearing the chat between two nurses, was that the man was born in the States, though of Japanese origin.

 

“A doctor called Ronald Evander told me that once the tests were done, and they were sure that I was healthy enough, they’d take me to surgery and my vitals organs would be removed to be sold!” Ben said among a bite of his burger. Then, he explained to Hutch how; almost miraculously, he managed to flee hiding himself in a laundry cart among a pile of bloodstained surgical scrubs and sheets.

 

“You have to stop them detective! You have to!” Ben urged Hutch.

 

“That’s just what we want to do, Ben, but for that, we need to know exactly where we can find those people. Can you remember it?”

 

“Oh, yeah. Sure. I’ll be unable to forget that place in my entire life, I guess. They are hiding in a very luxurious house. In fact, it seems a palace in the middle of the forests!”

 

“Where Ben? Where’s that house?” Hutch pushed the man into talking. “Please, Ben...This is extremely important. My partner’s life can be in danger!”

 

“About thirty miles north from here.” Then, Ben began to ramble, getting lost in his own scarring memories. “That place is frightening, Detective Hutchinson! They got doctors, nurses and medical equipment there. It's such a hospital. But, the doctors and nurses aren’t there to heal people but to kill them! The surgeons are removing all the organs of the people! Killing them!”

 

“Listen to me, Ben. Do you think you could show me how to get there?” Hutch asked, doing his best to sound calm.

 

“I can try and draw a map for you if you want, though I’m not too good with drawings.”

 

“No, Ben. I’d rather prefer if you were guiding us there. You aren’t too good with drawings. You told me so.”

 

“NO!...” Ben cut off Hutch’s request “I’m very sorry, but I’m not going back there, Detective! Not in my life!” The man said, trying to hide the tremble in his hands, burying them under the table.

 

“Look, Ben. I can picture how much that place scares you, but you are safe now. You’ll go there with me. Besides, other cops will be there to protect you, and nobody will be able to hurt you. Honest, Ben. Trust me.” Hutch said, feeling himself at the end of his patience.

 

“And why in hell should I trust you?” Ben asked rudely.

 

“Because I am a good guy and because an even better guy, closer to me than a brother, a man that I love dearly could be killed by those monsters, Ben. That’s why.” Hutch was out of arguments and decided to play honest with this man who was clearly defeated and disappointed with the whole world.

 

Ben thought silently for a moment, chewing his second burger, then he lifted his eyes, staring into the blond detective’s ones.

 

“Okay. I’ll trust you. Call all those cops. I’ll guide you all there.”

 

“Okay, Ben. Thank you so much. Let’s go” Hutch said jumping to his feet and approaching Ben.

 

“Now?... I haven’t eat my breakfast yet.” Ben said looking sadly at his half-eaten burger in a way that for a moment brought to Hutch’s mind the beloved image of Starsky.

 

“Your breakfast must wait, Ben. A man’s life can be in danger. However, I’ll buy you as many burgers as you want later. Promise. Now let’s go.”

 

Both men hurried to Hutch’s car, and after calling Dobey to ask for a couple of units to join them, Hutch drove towards where Ben indicated.

 

They left the city with Dobey and two patrol cars in tow. Along some miles, they went by the highway. Then, Ben said that they had to leave it and go for a narrow and bended road that soon became a forest track.

 

*******

 

After all the medical tests, Doctor Evander, accompanied by his usual assistants, went into the room where Starsky was still kept gagged and lying naked on his stomach. Despite himself, the exhausted detective cringed in see him approach, this time carrying an IV set on the metallic tray.

 

“Hi, Detective. How’s your back doing? Does it hurt too badly?” Evander, pretending to check on Starsky’s lower back, jerked the bandaid away, roughly touching the sore spot where the three large needles had been inserted just a few hours earlier; making him groan weakly.

 

“Okay, my dear detective. Your back is healing nicely. It still will hurt for a while, but it’s something usual after the test. By the way, let me congratulate you.” The doctor patted Starsky’s cheek. “You did make it fine through the lumbar puncture. Not anybody would be so brave through such a painful test. I’m very sorry that it was hurting you so much. Well, and now, the good news. All your tests are already done, and, let me say you that minus your heart and lungs, all your other organs are fine to be donated. Now, my assistants will roll you on your back, and the nurse will start an IV on you. Don't be afraid. This time it’ll not hurt you.”

 

Evader’s helpers untied Starsky numb limbs, rolling him carelessly on his back before tying him again. The rough movement sent waves of pain to his aching lumbar area and he felt too drained to start any struggle. He had only enough energy to watch the frightening people move around, as the nurse tied a rubber band around his arm, disinfecting the area and looking for the vein, before sliding the IV´ needle inside, fixing it with a bandaid.

 

“This IV contains all the fluids that your body will need along the surgery and until all the organs will be removed. Then, as you can guess, it’ll not be needed any longer.” Evander said as nonchalantly as if he were talking about the date to remove the plaster from a broken leg.

 

“Now, if you don't mind, I’m going to get myself ready for surgery. My assistants will wheel you to the operating room in a little while…Oh! And, don't be scared. everything will be over very soon. Just relax.” The crazy doctor was unable to hide the sickening pleasure that he felt looking at the scared eyes of Starsky.

 

 

*******

 

Following Ben’s instructions, Hutch drove along, the seemingly thousands of miles of narrow paths running together, to end almost two hours later. Pulling to a halt along with Dobey’s car and two patrol units in a spot in the forest, out of the sight of the house inhabitants, Hutch then exited his LTD and he and Dobey ran silently until reaching the mansion while Ben waited with the four patrol officers.

 

Hutch, with his injured arm increasingly hurting, and feeling the fever burning in his body, climbed the entrance stairs. Dobey followed him closely, and then moved ahead to ring the doorbell. A few moments later, somebody peeked through the spy hole, but the door kept closed.

 

“It’s the police! Open the door, please.” Dobey said with a firm voice, however, nobody opened.

 

“We aren’t leaving! Open the door!” Hutch shouted out. Through the door, some voices could be heard but neither Dobey nor Hutch could make out clearly what the people inside was saying. Finally, a young woman wearing a maid’s uniform opened the door.

 

“Good morning, gentlemen. In what can I help you?”

 

“Good morning, Miss.” Dobey said, as he and Hutch showed their badges to the woman. “I am Captain Dobey and he’s Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, from the Bay City Police. Can we come in? We need to ask some questions to the house owner.”

 

“I’m very sorry, gentlemen, but I’m afraid it will not be possible. Mr Tanaka is very busy right now.”

 

“I beg your pardon, Miss, but we must insist. This is very important.” Hutch added, when Akira Tanaka approached to the door waving the young woman to leave.

 

“It's okay, Lori. You can go. Good morning, gentleman. I’m Mr. Akira Tanaka, the house owner. What can I do for you?”

 

“Good morning. I am Captain Dobey and he’s Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, from Bay City’s ninth precinct.” Dobey and Hutch flashed their badges again.

 

“Have you seen this man?” Hutch cut off Dobey’s introduction, showing a picture of Starsky to Tanaka, who despite recognizing the man in the portrait, didn’t move a single muscle in his face. 

 

“No. Why? Should I?” the Asian man asked, staring calmly at Hutch’s face.

 

“Listen, Mr Tanaka” Dobey said. “This man is one of my best detectives, besides Detective Hutchinson’s partner. Detective Starsky has been missing for a couple of days now.”

 

“I’m really sorry to hear that, Captain Dobey, but why would you have thought that I could know where this man is?”

 

“Oh! For God’s sake! STOP THAT CRAP!” Hutch exploded, pushing aside Tanaka and storming into the large hall, gun in hand.

 

“Hey! Wait a moment! What you are doing is illegal!” Tanaka said. “This is housebreaking besides police brutality! I’m going to call my lawyers!”

 

“STARSKY! STARSK, I’M HERE!” Hutch yelled, out climbing the stairs towards the upper floor.

 

HUTCHINSON!” Dobey barked, hurrying upstairs after Hutch.

 

“You can't do this, officer! My lawyers will destroy you!” Tanaka said, following both men upstairs and facing Hutch. In that moment, Dobey was already calling the other police officers through his walkie-talkie

 

“Listen to me, Mr. Tanaka.” Hutch said, grabbing Tanaka’s collar, bringing his face closer to the other man’s, until being almost nose-to-nose. “And listen to me well, because I’m not joking. Both you and me, we know what you are really doing for a living. Just that will be enough to send your sorry ass to prison, but right now, I am looking for my partner. And if he’s in this place, and you have hurt him somehow, then God help you ´cause no hole in this fucking world will be deep enough to hide you from me…Got it?” Hutch released his hold on the man’s collar before resuming his search for Starsky.

 

The cold hatred in the detective’s voice did make Tanaka lose a little of his inner assurance. The Asian man leaned against the wall for a second, trying to regain his composure as Hutch, Dobey, and the other police officers kept looking for Starsky through the whole house.

 

Dobey and two officers looked on the first floor, Hutch and the other two patrol officers on the second one. The blond detective opened a few doors calling out for Starsky, not finding him anywhere, until, at the bottom of a long corridor, he did read a warning sign that froze the blood in his veins:

 

WARNING: Surgical area. Authorized personnel only.

 

Despite the warning, Hutch, terrified by what he could find there, pushed open the double doors. Stepping into an anteroom and looking through a large glass window to one operating room, his heart missed a beat in seeing a group of surgeons working around a body lying on the surgical table.

 

“Sweet Jesus!…Let me be in time.” Without a second thought, Hutch looked around for some surgical scrubs to put on. Luckily, there was a white plastic cupboard containing sterile clothes that Hutch quickly put on over his own ones.

 

The detective entered the operating room. “I am Detective Hutchinson, from Bay City Police.” He said softly to not startle the surgeons, holding his wishes to tear that place apart. “What have you done to him? Is he still alive?”

 

“Take it easy, Detective.” Doctor Evander said, moving some steps away from the surgical table to face Hutch. “We are doing major surgery to this patient, and it has to be ended. We can't leave him this way. We must end our work.”

 

“Bullshit! You’re not doing any of that, but killing him. Removing his organs.” Hutch peeked at the man lying on the surgical table. He guessed what he was about to see. He knew it. However, in seeing him, his world crumbled under his feet.

 

“Oh my!... Starsky!”  There, unconscious, pale and defenceless, his partner, his best friend was, and that meant only one thing. It was too late for Starsky. It was all over.

 

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM, YOU BASTARDS? YOU’VE KILLED HIM!” Hutch rushed towards Evander, pinning him against one wall and pressing his gun to his chest as the other doctors and nurses kept frozen in their spots.

 

“N-no…He’s f-fine…still. We were just beginning…we had just cut his abdomen…”

 

“DON’T TRY TO FOOL ME!” Hutch yelled, pressing his gun barrel tighter against the doctor’s chest and menacingly brushing the trigger.

 

“You must believe me, Detective Hutchinson. Look at the heart monitor. His heartbeats are steady and strong. His chest moves.” Evander said in a faltering voice as Hutch, without removing the gun off his chest, looked at the heart monitor first, then to Starsky’s raising and falling chest.

 

“I swear to you, Detective. He’s fine and no organ was removed out of his body yet. He’s not in a life-threatening condition, but we should stitch the incision right now. ”

 

“Okay.” Hutch breathed deeply. “I’ll give you a chance. Now, we’ll approach the table. And you’ll stay by my side. Your assistants will stitch Starsky’s wound and meanwhile, I’ll keep my gun against your back. And, let me warn you; only one wrong move and I’ll spread your damn guts all over this room. Is that clear?”

 

“Doctor! The patient is haemorrhaging! His blood pressure is falling!” One of the surgeons said.

 

“HELP HIM, DAMN IT!” Hutch shouted out, pushing Evander’s back hard with his gun. The doctor began to give orders to his assistants and they started working hectically for some minutes on the body lying on the table, as Hutch was looking astonished at the terrifying scene in front of him, still aiming at Evander’s back and praying silently for Starsky’s life.

 

`Please, Starsk…Hold on, partner! Hold on! I’m here…Everything’s going to be okay, but now you had to hold on! `

 

At the end of the longest minutes in Hutch’s life, the anaesthetist announced that the bleeding was stopped and the patient’s blood pressure was climbing again to a normal level. A little while later, with Starsky’s vitals stabilized, the doctors began to stitch the incision in his abdomen, disinfecting and dressing the wound later. By the end of the surgical operation, a medical helicopter equipped with a mobile ICU was already waiting on the outside to take Starsky to Memorial Hospital.

 

That was the last time that Ronald Evander was in an operating room as a surgeon. His next step would be joining his boss, Akira Tanaka, in the L.A County jailhouse.

 

 

*******

 

 

As soon as Starsky was wheeled into the ER area, the medical staff, already informed about the ordeal that the detective had been through, rushed him into radiology. After a complete series of x-rays, they could say to Hutch´s relief that Evander was telling the truth and no organs in his body had been removed and there weren’t symptoms of internal bleeding either. The only injuries that Starsky had was the large incision in his abdomen, besides a bruised lumbar area, result, as the chief doctor guessed, of a roughly done lumbar puncture, but according the doctors opinion, with the right care, rest and some time, those injuries would heal nicely in matter of a few weeks.

 

After making sure that the cut in Starsky’s abdomen had been properly treated and bandaged, and once they’d start an IV with serum and antibiotics in his arm, finally the doctors settled him in one room. What Starsky needed most at that moment was to get as much rest as possible. And Hutch, being by his side, would make sure he would get that rest.

 

 

*******

 

 

There was only fog. Fog in everywhere, tick cold and frightening, clouding his senses. Starsky tried to move, but his limbs, his whole body seemed to be totally uncooperative.

 

I´m dead...that´s what happens. I´m dead and now my organs are in other bodies all around the country.

 

 That thought, even if being disturbing enough, wasn’t surprising Starsky in the least. After all he had been taken to surgery just for that. To be killed…to have his body sold in pieces, somehow as if he was a cow, a pig or any other farm animal.

 

“Hey Starsk…You awake?” That voice though, wasn’t mean to sound in that moment and place, neither, once he had managed to open his eyes had Starsky expected to see those concerned blue eyes looking at him. Those eyes he knew so well.

 

“Hutch?”

 

“You got yourself in a fine mess this time, uh, partner?” Hutch’s voice teased gently.

 

“H-Hutch?…Are you dead, Hutch?” The brunet asked. About his own death he hadn’t any doubt left, but about Hutch…Well; wherever he was at that moment, Hutch simply wasn’t mean to be there with him.

 

“No partner. I’m not dead. Neither are you. Dobey and I, we found you at time.”

 

“G-glad to hear t-that.” Starsky slurred while Hutch reached for a cup of ice chips and a spoon settling in a metallic tray in the nightstand.

 

“Are you thirsty, buddy? Wanna some ice chips?” Hutch asked.

 

“How a-about a cold b-beer?” Starsky joked weakly.

 

“Sorry partner. No luck this time. In a few days, maybe, but now you’ll have to get along with this.” Hutch said while giving   a couple of spoonfuls of the ice to Starsky that the brunet swallowed gratefully before talking again

 

“My s-stuff?”

 

“Your stuff? Your organs do you mean?” Hutch asked smiling. Starsky nodded while feeling carefully his bandaged abdomen with his fingerprints.

 

“All in its place and working fine” Hutch reassured to Starsky. “And that people is already arrested, Starsk. Tanaka and his gang aren’t going to kill anybody else to sell their organs. Never more.”

 

“G-great.” At that moment Starsky wasn’t able to talk too much, but his heart, free of one heavy burden, was able too feel all the joy and relief he couldn't put into words

 

“Now how about getting some more sleep, buddy?” Hutch asked. “You look whipped. We can have more of this talk later.”

 

“Good idea…” Starsky said relieved. He was alive, all his organs were where they belong, inside his body and the bad guys were arrested. Hutch had told him so. And Hutch had never lied to him. With that certainty he slided peacefully back to sleep.

 

 

*******

 

Along the next days, Starsky recovered quickly and uneventfully. He needed a little longer to get the fears and the nightmares out of his mind, but under Hutch’s constant care, he soon managed to get his peace of mind back., though, as usual and despite all the evilness he was used to see in a daily basis in his work, and especially after solving a case as sinister as that one had been, there were some things; some human behaviours that Starsky wasn´t yet able to understand, and that bothered him, more than he was able to said

 

“Just for money, Hutch!” He said getting out of his hospital bed and walking carefully towards the large window, still holding his aching abdomen. “Only for one large enough amount of fucking money they were able to grab those poor people and to kill them. Those bastards were using the homeless people like they’d use livestock; as if they hadn’t enough misfortune in their lives…Damn! How it can have that kinda people in the world Hutch? I can’t get it! Just I can’t!”

 

Most of times, when Starsky showed Hutch his most innocent and naive side, the blond one would find himself out of words. Out of answers. And he doubted that there was anything right to say. However, he knew that Starsky wasn’t waiting for any answer actually. Rather he just needed to give vent to his anger in facing his own failure to fight the evilness in the world.

 

“That kind of things happen Starsk. And they will keep happening. Here and all around the world. It sucks, but we both know how things are” Hutch said standing beside Starsky, placing a comforting arm around his partner’s shoulders.

 

“And there’s nothing we can do to stop it, right?” Starsky asked still looking through the window.

 

“Well…I wouldn’t put it in such a pessimistic way, partner.” Hutch answered. “In fact this time we did it. We’d catch the bad guys. And we are a couple of damn good cops, so, as soon as you’ll be back in the streets, we’ll catch more of that scum, you’ll see.”

 

“Yeah…but this time it has been a close call Hutch…A too close call if you ask me. If you hadn’t found me just when you did…” Starsky said unable to hold back a shiver.

 

“I found you Starsk.” Hutch said pulling Starsky closer to him “That´s the only thing that counts. That I found you....”

 

“Hutch?” Starsky asked taking his eyes off the window to look at Hutch.

 

“Hum?” Hutch looked back at Starsky

 

“Nothing; just thanks. You know… for finding me”

 

“My pleasure, partner.”

 

As Starsky had said, that one had been a close call, but once more, and as always with his best friend by his side, he would manage to get back to his feet, willing to enjoy all the good things that life had still in store for him.

 

 

EPILOGE

 

 

“Hey, Hutch! I got letter from Becky!” Starsky welcomed Hutch, waving the letter in his hand and smiling broadly despite the fact that his left hand hold on to his abdomen, where the large cut was still healing.

 

“Yeah? And how’s she doing with Huggy’s cousin and the kids?” Hutch answered, stepping into the kitchen, where he got a couple of root beers, holding one of the soft drinks out for Starsky.

 

“Listen.” Starsky popped the cap off the bottle and took a sip, while unfolding the letter to read it.

 

Dear Dave:

 

Just a few lines to let you know how happy I feel here:

 

I am very busy from dawn to dusk, but happy beyond words. And, I’ll never forget that I owe all this happiness to you and your friends, my beloved kid. I just hope that God will bless all of you forever.

 

The kids are simply lovely and Marcia and her husband; well. What can I say about them both? I doubt anybody could have found more generous and gentle people anywhere. They welcomed me in their home, as I was such a mother for them and a grandma for the kids.

 

I feel truly loved here. They are always taking care of me, going the whole day behind my heels to make sure that I don't miss any of my meals. You should see me now, Dave. I think that I already have a few extra pounds thanks to Marcia’s delicious meals and cakes. Even Bum is getting fat! You have to taste her cooking some day, kiddo. I’m sure you’d love it.

 

Know something? Often I thought of all those street people and I pray for them. And, at times, I feel a little guilty thinking of all those things that I got and they’ll never have. When Marcia and her husband asked me to move to their ranch and help them to raise the kids, I got a second chance in my life, but what about all those unlucky people? What they have?…Less than nothing I guess. Well, at least, thanks to Hutch and you, any evil man thirsty for richness isn’t threatening their lives anymore.

 

Okay, honey. Now I must go. Today is our laundry day and huge piles of dirty clothes are waiting for Marcia and me. As I’ve told you, here, work never ends.

 

Write me soon, and let me know how you both are doing. Are the injuries that those criminals did to you healing nicely? Hope so. And, I hope that Hutch takes good care of you, and makes you eat well.

 

I’ll pray for you both.

 

Love,

 

Becky. 

 

As Starsky finished reading, both men had lumps in their throats. After the events that ended with Tanaka and his accomplices in prison, and Starsky and Hutch in the hospital, Becky went to see them, feeling glad and filled with plenty of new hope. The cause was a talk that she had had with Huggy’s cousin. Back then, Marcia asked Becky to join her and her husband in their efforts to give a loving and happy home to her kids, as the black woman used to maternally call the children under her care. Becky didn’t need to be asked twice, and when Marcia returned to Colorado, she moved with her. From her leave, that was the first letter that Becky had sent to Starsky, and he couldn’t be happier reading such good news

 

“Becky seems to feel really happy, huh?” Hutch asked, squeezing fondly Starsky’s shoulder.

 

“Yeah, seems so.” Starsky answered, smiling softly, still staring at the letter in his hand.

 

“Geez, buddy. That lady adores you! I’m sure that if once back at the precinct, you tell her that Dobey is giving you too much paperwork, she can come back from Colorado just to throw on him a hell of a rebuke.” Hutch joked, getting to his feet

 

“Jealous, maybe?” Starsky nagged, with his best childlike expression

 

“Oh, no. Rather overwhelmed by the weight of duty.” Hutch followed pleased the banter. “Becky wants me to take care of you, and let me say that that’s not an easy task at all, buddy. Your ability to run into trouble once and again is starting to be too hard to bear in my old age. Let aside the matter of the food…How in hell did she think that I can make you eat well?

 

“Hey! My eating habits are perfect, Blondie! By the way, I’m starving. Right now I would kill to get a huge cheeseburger, a ton of fries and a few beers in the Pits.”

 

“I’m afraid you must wait for that, Starsk. You were discharged from the hospital just a couple of days ago, and you are still convalescent. And, look at my arm.” Hutch looked down at his arm, settled in a sling. “I’m not in much better shape, either”

 

“We are well enough for a while of fun and a good meal, Hutch…Pleaaaseeee.” Starsky begged with his best puppy look.

 

“Oh no. No way Starsk. This night you’ll not talk me into going anywhere. Not yet. Already, you’ve read Becky’s command. I must take care of you. And, let me say that I take that command very seriously.” ´Cause if you weren’t by my side, life wouldn't be worth living any more. ` Hutch thought, looking in the eyes of the kind, decent and caring man sitting by his side. The friend that meant more than his own life for him

 

“How about some Chinese food, popcorns and Monopoly instead? My treat.” Hutch asked, already picking up the phone receiver to call the Chinese restaurant.

 

“Okay, if there’s not any other choice…But I’ll tell Becky how much you mistreat me!” Starsky teased him.

 

They spent that night among Chinese food and root beers, a few Monopoly games and a Frankenstein movie in the tube, along with a bowl of popcorns, until Starsky fell asleep in the couch, snoring softly and with some Monopoly bills still in his hand.

 

In seeing his friend dead to the world, Hutch got to his feet, and after picking the bills from Starsky’s hand, he lifted his legs, settling them onto the couch before taking the old afghan from the headrest, carefully covering his partner’s sleeping form.

 

“Sleep well, Starsk.”

 

Becky wanted Hutch to take care of Starsky. And, he wanted nothing but to do so. Nothing else could be more important for the blond detective. Then and in all the years to come.

 

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

Back to: STORIES INDEX