Old Friends, New Enemies (by Barbara)

Summary:    After years apart, Hutch is reunited with his “little brother” Kiko. But, the reunion is anything but sweet when Starsky discovers that the young man has gotten in with the wrong crowd.
Category:  Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  Crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  8349


PART ONE

It was a brisk January morning. As a matter of fact, it was down right cold. Hutch had thrown on a T-shirt but as soon as he stuck his nose out the door he ran back upstairs and put on his gray turtleneck sweater as well. His black and white baseball jacket was layered over that.

He stood on the sidewalk in front of his apartment. He could see his breath and stamped his feet to keep warm. His hands were shoved in his pockets.
Hutch often waited on the sidewalk for Starsky to pick him up. But,  this morning he’d wished he’d stayed in the warmth of his living room and watched for him from the window. His dance finally ended when he saw the sun glint off the hood of Starsky’s spotless Tornio when it turned the corner. It screeched to a halt in front of him.

“Where the hell have you been?” Hutch complained as he slid into the passenger seat of the car slamming the door. “It’s freezing out there.”

“I’m only five minutes late.” Starsky retorted as he pulled into the street and sped toward police headquarters. “I had a late night last night… if you know what I mean.”

“Again?”

“Well, you know how it is.”

“Not lately I don’t.”

The ride was quiet for several moments until Hutch detected a strange odor.

“Starsky.”

“Um?”

“Just wondering.”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t mean to get personal or anything.”

“Is there a problem?”

“Sure is … you stink.” Hutch said bluntly.

“STINK? What do you mean I stink? I just had a shower.”

“Where did you get that cologne? A livestock feed depot?”

“I’ll have you know… this is expensive stuff.”

“Oh really. I hope you didn’t wear it on your date last night.”

“As a matter of fact I did. And it was a beautiful thing.”

“What? You’re cologne?”

“No. My date.”

“You must be dating a scent impaired woman because you smell like the poultice my mother used to hang around my neck when I had a cold. Remind me to borrow your after-shave next time my sinuses are clogged.”

“Will you please. Jenny and I had a terrific time last night. She said I smelled great.”

“Oh yeah? And just what did Jenny smell like – an onion bun?” Hutch said.

He waved his hand in front of his soured face. And, despite the cool air, rolled the window down in an attempt to let the stench escape.

“Heeeeey. It’s not that bad.”

“Starsky. It’s bad. When we get to the station you are washing it off because there is no way I am spending the rest of the day in this car and that toxic waste you call after-shave.”

The officer’s banter was interrupted by the static voice of the police dispatcher through their well-used Motorola radio.

“Zebra Three. Zebra Three. Come in please.”

Hutch rolled the window back up but not before taking a deep breath of fresh air. Starsky shook his head like Hutch was crazy to think his choice of cologne was anything but sweet. He sniffed the air like a bloodhound trying to pick up any trace of his foulness then shrugged.

“Smells fine to me.”

“Take my word for it Starsk, it’s burning my throat.” Hutch grabbed the mouthpiece of the radio. He clicked the button with his thumb. “This is Zebra Three. Whatcha got?”

“There’s a two eleven in progress at Mape and Ocean. Bernie’s Pawn Shop.” Came the monotone voice. “Shots fired.”

“This is Zebra Three. We are responding.” Hutch confirmed. “That’s just two blocks up Starsk.”

“I know… I know.”

“Okay… okay.” Hutch mocked as he reached for the police light, opened the window again and placed it atop the car.

As the cops turned the corner onto Mape, they witnessed a small gang of teenagers outside the front of the store. The siren that sounded from the Torino made them scatter like terrified sheep. They were all wearing matching jackets and each kid wore a balaclava.

The doors of the car flung open like the wings of a phoenix. One youth squared himself before he took flight and shot at Starsky as the twosome got out of the car. The curly-haired cop ducked the bullet that whizzed by his ear. He banged his shoulder on the curb when he fell. He let out a yelp, grabbed his arm and scrambled for cover. By the time he’d gotten back on his feet, Hutch was in full pursuit of the kid. The coldness exposed Hutch’s breath and puffs of smoke billowed behind him as if he were a steam engine.

The man could run. His stride was long, straight and powerful – poetry in motion. Both he and Starsky were fast on their feet but not fast enough to chase down a seventeen-year-old running for his life.

Starsky didn’t bother trying to catch up to Hutch. At this point it was futile. He regrouped and moved toward the store. He rubbed his shoulder and rotated it to make sure it still worked. It did, but not without some discomfort. He pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered in front of the pawnshop. Morbid curiosity took hold.

“Okay people.” Starsky announced. “Let’s move it along. Nothing to see here.”

He entered the place where two men lay face down on the floor. Starsky checked both men for vital signs, but he knew they were dead. The scene was gruesome. He began his investigation right then and there and waited for Hutch to return. He found the phone and called for backup, an ambulance and the coroner. When he finally hung-up, Hutch had waded through the crowd on the sidewalk and entered the store. He was out of breath and bent over to try and regain his wind.

“Too fast for you, huh?” Starsky jabbed with a smirk.

“That… kid… “ Hutch panted “…could run.”

“I think you’re just getting old.”

“Starsky. If I’m old… then you are too.”

“Oh, well – whatever.”

Hutch finally straightened up and only then noticed the carnage.

“Holy shit!”

“You got that right.” Starsky agreed as he continued to peruse the place for evidence. “Murdering two people for a couple of bucks ain’t kosher, if you know what I mean.”

“I hear ya.” Hutch answered still struggling to regain control of his respiratory system. “Any witnesses?”

“Haven’t asked yet. I just called for back up and an ambulance.”

“I’ll call the coroner.” Hutch started for the phone.

“I did dat too.”

“Oh… well, aren’t we efficient.” Hutch said sarcastically as he wiped his brow of sweat and sniffed.

“Well at least one of us is.” Starsky stated with a sarcastic grin.

Hutch gave his partner a stabbing leer.

“Looks like the same MO as the one over on Stroud a couple days ago, huh?”

“Sure does.” Starsky agreed.

“I’m going outside to see if anybody saw anything… unless you’ve already done that too.”

“Nope. I saved that for you.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I know.”

*****

PART TWO

“YOU’RE LATE!” Captain Dobey blasted as his two detectives entered the squad room.

“Captain. We had a call on the way to work.” Hutch explained, “Did you want us to punch in here first and then answer it?”

“Don’t give me attitude Hutchinson. You have a radio don’t you… USE IT!”

“Huh… yes captain.”

Dobey stood at the door of his office reading a report and eating a Danish.

“Well, get in here and fill me in.” Dobey barked.

“Huh… yes captain.”

Starsky and Hutch glanced at each other, rolled their eyes and smirked. They were used to being chastised by their superior. Most of the time they deserved it. It kept their day-to-day administrative lives interesting. They seemed to get great joy out of pissing off Captain Dobey. It was one of their favorite hobbies.

The large black man sat behind his desk without taking his eyes from the report he was reading. The two detectives sat in the chairs opposite the desk and slouched like sulking teenagers in silence until Dobey eventually gave them his full attention. He finally placed the paper on his fairly organized desk and leaned back in his chair.

“So?” He asked skeptically.

“Well, we were on our way to work this mornin’ Cap and we got a robbery in progress call right near Hutch’s place. So we answered it.” Starsky reported.

“Turned out to be more than a robbery though.” Hutch added. “Two men were killed. Same MO as the one on Stroud a couple of days ago. About six teenagers. All dressed in what looks like some sort of gang jacket. Black silk with a cobra on the back.” Hutch outlined as he glanced at his notes. “All wearing ski masks too. I interviewed several witnesses at the scene, but no one could make any ID’s.”

“Thing is Cap. These kids seem to be using the robbery’s to experiment in murder.” Starsky explained. “It’s almost like they enjoy it. Like… that’s the goal – not the money. They choose easy marks but not very lucrative ones.”

“Could chalk that up to inexperience.” Dobey deduced.

“Yeah. It could be.” Hutch pondered. “But, these victims weren’t just murdered… they were massacred. Could be some sort of right of passage or initiation.”

“Well, lets make this morning’s incident their last.”

“How do you propose we do that captain?” Starsky asked.

“Good old-fashioned detective work boys.” Dobey replied. “Pack yourselves breakfast, lunch and dinner because you’ll be spending the next couple days in that Campbell’s Soup can you call a car.”

“Talk to him. It’s not my car.”

“Hey!” Starsky protested.

“And, by the way.” Dobey winced. “One of you stinks.”

“It’s him captain. It’s his aftershave.” Hutch said pointing at his partner with a lazy wag of his thumb.

“He smells like the poultice my mother used to put around my neck when I had a head cold.”

“That’s what I told him?” Hutch corroborated.

“It’s not that bad.” Starsky insisted.

“It’s bad. It’s burning my throat.” Dobey said as he coughed.

“I don’t believe this.”

Hutch laughed and nodded approvingly at Dobey’s observations. Especially when they were exactly the same as his.

“Get out of here and don’t come back until you’ve shut down this gang. Got it?” Dobey roared seemingly tired of the discussion.

“Loud and clear captain… loud and clear.”

*****

PART THREE

“If there is one thing I hate about this job… it’s a stake out.”

“You’ve been a cop for a long time, Starsk. You think you’d be used to it by now.”

“Well, I’m not. And, besides, why do we have to use your car. It’s like sitting in a dumpster.”

“Starsky. Using your car for a stake out is like sitting in the middle of the road in a canoe… naked. It sticks out like a sour thumb.”

“Oh really.”

“Yes, really.” Hutch curbed the conversation. “Why don’t you read the paper or something.”

“It’s a slow news day.”

The pair sat quietly for several moments. Watching a drug store on a Monday morning wasn’t exactly exciting. It was like watching paint dry. Every minute seemed to last an hour. Hutch leaned his elbow on the edge of the car door and rested his chin in his relaxed fist. His curled fingers pushed his cheek up forcing his eye half closed. Starsky laid his head on the headrest and closed his eyes. He sighed deeply.

“I hope Huggy’s right.” He murmured. “Word on the street points to this place.”

“Huggy’s usually right.”

“You know. I can’t figure that guy out.”

“Who?”

“Huggy.”

“Why?”

“How can one person know so many people?”

“Don’t know. He just does.” Hutch shrugged then paused momentarily. “Well, I could use a coffee. You want one?”

“Sure.”

“Okay. Be right back.”

“Oh and Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“Get me a candy bar too will ya?”

“Starsky. It’s only nine-thirty.”

“I know. I didn’t eat breakfast.”

“You know, one of these days you’re stomach is going to explode.”

“Why would it do that?” Starsky answered naively.

“Oh nothing.” Hutch said disgusted. “No reason.”

The blonde cop exited the car and again shoved his hands into the pockets of his baseball jacket for warmth. Starsky watched him cross the street and around the corner.  As he lazily turned his attention back to the drug store he noticed several boys gathering in front of it. They wore the same distinctive jacket witnesses had described at previous crime scenes.

“Terrific.” Starsky exhaled as he straightened up in his seat.

He looked back over his shoulder for Hutch, but he knew he was on his own. At least for the next ten minutes or so. Problem was that was just enough time for the gang to reek havoc. He argued with himself whether he should go and get Hutch or not. As his brain processed all the pros and cons of the situation a gunshot rang out.

Instinctively, Starsky got out of the car and pulled his gun from its holster. He fired one shot in the air to alarm his partner back to the scene. Hopefully, Hutch would hear the fracas and come running. Starsky sprinted toward the drug store. He yelled a warning for the kids to stop but they ignored him and fled. Now in full stride, Starsky targeted the boy that carried the bag of loot.

Several blocks down the boy ducked into an alley with Starsky right on his heels. Leaping like a panther onto its prey, he tackled the teen skillfully bringing the pursuit to an end. The bag went flying sending bills fluttering in the air like a flock of pigeons. Starsky flipped the kid over and pulled off his mask. He was astonished when he recognized the boy.

But, before he had the chance to confront him, the other gang members engulfed the detective. They swarmed him forcing him to release his grasp on their comrade. The youths threw what ever was handy. Some used their fists or kicked while others pummeled him with scraps of wood or loose bricks. Starsky fell and curled into the fetal position. He folded his arms around his head for protection.

“HOLD IT! POLICE! FREEZE!”

Hutch had turned into the alley and shouted the warning. He held his gun above his head and fired a shot. The gang stopped their assault and tore down the lane away from the cops who were so intent on capturing them. Hutch reholstered his weapon and ran to his partner. He knelt over him and placed his hand on the center of his back.

“Starsky! Starsk… you okay?”

“Yeah…” He groaned. “I think so.”

“You’re bleeding.”

“That tends to happen when you get hit with a two by four.”

“Can you stand up?”

“I’m not sure.” Starsky responded blinking his eyes rapidly trying desperately to remain conscious. “Kids today, huh?”

“Here. Let me help you up.” Hutch offered grabbing Starsky’s right forearm and pulling.

“Aaah!” The curly-haired cop cried in pain. He recoiled his arm and cradled it like a baby.

“What? What did I do?”

“My arm. I think it’s broken.”

“Let’s get you to the hospital.” Hutch said as he steered his partner out of the alleyway, through the gathered crowd and down the street back to the car.

*****

PART FOUR

“How is he?” Hutch asked when approached by the doctor that just set Starsky’s arm.

“He’ll be fine. It wasn’t a bad break. Nice and clean.” The physician explained. “He’ll have to have the cast on for six or seven weeks though. Took four stitches over his eye too. He’s very lucky.”

“Yeah… or unlucky.”

“It’s his right arm so he might be laid up for awhile.”

“No no… he’s left-handed.”

“Lucky then, isn’t he.”

Hutch grinned, finally submitting that it could have been much worse.

“Can I see him?” He asked.

“Yes. I’ve admitted him over night just to be sure. I always like to keep my eye on someone who’s been hit on the head. He’s in room 317.” The doctor gestured to the elevators.

“Thanks very much.”

Hutch shook the doctor’s hand and made his way up to Starsky’s room. When he got there he poked his head in the door.

“Hey! Can I sign your cast little boy?” He joked.

“Sure. If you don’t write down any dirty words.”

“Starsky…” Hutch huffed, “I don’t know any dirty words.”

“Of course you don’t.”

Hutch walked across the room in front of the bed next to his partner. A young man lay there motionless and Hutch gave him a suspicious side-glance as he passed. He sat in the chair that was between the window and Starsky’s bed.

“What happened to him?” Hutch asked pointing to the man with his chin.

“No idea. He hasn’t moved since I got here.” Starsky said as he pushed himself up with his good hand and tried to find a more comfortable position.

He looked at Hutch to see if he’d get a hand from him but he didn’t seem to pick up on Starsky’s hint.

“Do you think he’s dead?” Hutch querried.

“He’s breathing isn’t he?”

“I think so.”

“Then he isn’t dead.”

“Oh… so how is it?”

“Good. Doesn’t even hurt.”

“Give it a couple days, pal.” Hutch warned. “What about your eye?”

“Dat hurts.”

“Yeah, it’s turning a nice shade of blue. As a matter of fact it’s starting to match your crumbie jeans, which I might add are under lock and key. I don’t want to get yelled at like the last time.”

“Do you have my watch?”

“Yep. Here you go.”

“I think I’ll wear it over the cast.”

“Ah Starsky, don’t do that you’ll stretch the band.”

“It’s a stretchy band, Hutch. It’s supposed to stretch.”

“Well don’t blame me when it breaks.”

“I won’t. Besides I’ve decided to set a new trend.”

“You’re a trend-setter all right. David Starsky… esquire.”

“Hey. I like that.”

“I thought you might.”

Hutch glanced over at the man in the other bed again. He seemed to be very curious about him. Starsky shuffled around in the bed again, searching for the comfort zone. Hutch never clued into helping his partner.

“Doc says you can go home tomorrow.”

“Good. I hate hospital food.”

“I’ll bring you something for dinner. What do you want?” Hutch asked but was surprised when he got no reply. “Starsk? What do you want to eat?” He stared at his friend apprehensively. “Something wrong?”

“Hutch.” Starsky said hesitantly.

“Um?”

“I gotta tell you something.”

“Nothing fatal I hope.” Hutch joked cautiously upbeat.

“That kid I grabbed today… the one with the bag of money.”

“Yeah.”

“It was Kiko.”

Hutch frowned as if he hadn’t heard properly. He looked at his laced fingers and paused before he looked up again.

“Kiko? My Kiko?”

“Fraid so.”

“No.” Hutch dismissed. “He’s a good kid.”

“Hutch. You haven’t seen Kiko in over four years.”

“I know but…”

“But what? Kid gets in with the wrong crowd and it doesn’t matter who’s raised him or befriended him, he’s going to find trouble. Kids that age follow the leader… know what I mean?”

“No. I know Kiko, Starsk. He just didn’t have it in him.”

“You’re right. He didn’t have it in him when he was eleven but he’s what… fifth, sixteen now? People change.”

“He just turned seventeen.” Hutch stated somewhat dazed.

“Okay. Seventeen.”

Hutch rose from the chair and turned to stare out the window. He had to ponder this conundrum. The chilly weather made the city look crystal clear. It was like it had been made with cardboard cut outs.  He leaned on the ledge – his arms spread wide apart for support. He let out a large sigh that left a perfectly round circle of frost on the glass. Starsky played with the plaster of his cast that went from his knuckles to his elbow and waited for Hutch to absorb the news. Finally, he faced his partner again.

“Did he recognize you?”

“He sure did. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes.”

“Oh boy.” Hutch sighed again. “So… what do you think we should do?”

“I think we should visit Mrs. Ramos.”

“I hate to worry her.”

“Hutch. She probably already knows.”

“Why wouldn’t she call me if she knew Kiko was in trouble?”

“She probably thought she could handle it and she knows you’re busy.”

“I’m not THAT busy.”

“Who knows why. We’ll ask her tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Hutch replied woefully.

“Didn’t you mention something about dinner?” Starsky queried trying to change the subject.

“Starsky. You amaze me sometimes.” Hutch sounded annoyed.

“WHAT?”

“It’s not always about you and that over active stomach of yours.”

“Hey. I’m hungry… and sick.”

Starsky’s childish response made Hutch give in to a pathetic smile.

“Okay… okay. What can I get you?” Hutch raised his hand to stop his friend from responding. “Don’t tell me… Mexican.”

“You’re a mind reader.”

“You’re mind is easy to read.”

“Listen Hutch?” Starsky said as his partner turned to exit the room.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t worry about Kiko. We’ll straighten it out.”

“Murder isn’t that easy to straighten out, partner.”

Starsky had no retort.

*****

PART FIVE

Hutch picked up Starsky from the hospital early Tuesday morning. Starsky’s eye was now swollen shut but he didn’t seem to be in any discomfort. Needless to say, Hutch would do the driving for a while.

“Nice eye.” Hutch commented.

“I think it kinda suits me. Makes me feel like a hockey player.”

“At least you still have all your teeth.”

The twosome got in the car and headed for Hutch’s old neighbourhood to talk to Kiko’s mother. Starsky could tell his partner was nervous and worried. He felt for him. They had no choice but to question Mrs. Ramos. The ride was quiet, as each man seemed distracted with memories of a sweet young boy.

Kiko’s father had died of cancer when the boy was only six. His mother enrolled him in the Big Brother program at the local YMCA a year later. He and Hutch were matched up and they hit if off instantly. They shared many happy times together. When Kiko turned thirteen, he spent less and less time with Hutch. The kid was too busy with his friends. They eventually lost touch – something Hutch always felt guilty about.

Mrs. Ramos also took in Molly. Molly, or Pete as she liked to be called, was an orphan Starsky and Hutch befriended after her father was murdered. Molly eventually found her mother’s sister in New York and went to live with her aunt several years ago.

Hutch parked his LTD in front of the Ramos home. He and Starsky got out of the car and walked up the path that led to the modest house. Nothing had changed. It was still well kept with a pretty garden on each side of the steps. Hutch glanced at Starsky for reassurance before he knocked on the door.

“Huuuutch!” Mrs. Ramos said joyfully as she opened the screen door. “It is so good to see you. Oh dear Starsky… what happened to you? Come in, come in.” She gushed guiding the two men into her living room. “Let me get you some coffee and cake.” She offered with her sweet Spanish accent.

“Sounds good.” Starsky responded never one to turn down food.

Hutch smiled graciously, remembering how gentle and caring she was. They waited patiently for her to prepare the refreshments.

“How’s Molly?” Hutch asked.

“Very well. She just called yesterday. She’s been accepted to Brown.”

“That’s great… just great.” Both men answered simultaneously.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” Mrs. Ramos said as she walked across the living room carrying a tray.

“Well, we’re here because we’re worried about Kiko.” Hutch began.

“Kiko? Why would you be worried about him?”

The partners glanced at one another realizing from her demeanor that she had no idea what her son had gotten himself in to.

“Mrs. Ramos?”

“Yes Hutch?”

“We’ve been working on a case. It involves a gang of boys. Yesterday morning we were staking out a drug store and a robbery and murder took place. Starsky ran down one of the boys… the one holding the money and well… it was Kiko.”

“NO! Not my Kiko? He was in school yesterday.”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Ramos,” Starsky continued, “there’s no mistake.”

“Is this how you got hurt?” She asked sadly.

“Yes ma’am.”

She began to cry.

Hutch knelt beside her to give comfort. He put his arm around her and told her he’d take care of it. He glanced at Starsky and as he did he saw Kiko standing in the kitchen. Kiko must have come in the back way through the complicated maze of canals that carved through the neighbourhood. When he locked eyes with Hutch he bolted and ran out the back door. It creaked and slammed alarming Mrs. Ramos and Starsky.

“Stay with her.” Hutch ordered as he too ripped through the living room, to the kitchen and out the screen door after Kiko.

The dust he’d kicked up hung in the air and made it easy for Hutch to follow. The blonde cop ran flat out to catch up and finally the teen came into view.

“KIKO!” Hutch yelled after him. “KIKO STOP!!!”

But his requests were ignored and the chase continued.

“Come on. I just want to talk to you… KIKO… PLEASE STOP.”

The boy finally gave up and turned to face Hutch barely out of breath. Hutch on the other hand was winded. He bent over and leaned on his knees and sucked air into his choked lungs. Kiko squared himself and pulled out his knife.

“Oh man. You’re pulling a knife on me now.” Hutch straightened up still puffing. He held out his hand as if begging. “Come on Kiko… what are you doing?” He implored.

“Stay away from me Hutch.”

“Can’t we talk this over?”

“No.”

“Why not? We’ve always been able to solve problems together… remember?”

“This doesn’t concern you.” Kiko spoke sternly.

Hutch approached his old friend gingerly like someone trying to snare a scared animal. He continued his gentle conversation… his plea for peace.
As he got closer he suddenly realized Kiko’s gang had surrounded him. He could hear a chorus of switchblade’s echo in his disbelieving ears. He’d let his guard down. Hutch cursed under his breath, scolding himself for getting into a situation he might not get out of. He didn’t want to draw his weapon until it was absolutely necessary. He would if he had to.

“I’m telling you for the last time Hutch. Stay away.”

“You know I can’t do that. I’m a cop.”

“DON’T!” Kiko warned posturing like he would attack.

Hutch took another step.

“Let’s go get something to eat and talk about this. Please Kiko. You’re in enough trouble. Don’t make it any worse than it already is. What about your mom? She’s back at the house crying.” Hutch expounded. “Why are you doing this? What went wrong buddy?”

“I’m not your buddy.”

“We’re friends Kiko… aren’t we?” Hutch said with a wounded tone.

“We used to be.”

“I care about you. Call off your friends. Come on Kiko.”

“I’m not a kid anymore Hutch. I don’t need you.”

“Seems to me you do.”

“Hutch. Just go. Before you get hurt.”

“I can’t. Not until we settle this before…”

Hutch was cut short as the circle of youths closed in on him. One boy reached into Hutch’s jacket and stripped him of his gun. He was helpless now. Kiko’s eyes were still locked with his big brothers. Hutch could see Kiko’s pain. He seemed torn. He was positive Kiko would call off his gang but he pulled his stare away. Kiko turned and ran down the narrow pathway beside the canal and out of sight, leaving Hutch to fend for himself.

The sharp pain in his ribs made his knees buckle. Hutch grabbed his torso and felt the warmness of his own blood seep through his laced fingers. He was instantly breathless – incapable of sound. He fell onto his right shoulder and curled into a ball. The gang dispersed and Hutch’s consciousness faded to black.

*****

PART SIX

Starsky’s uneasiness stung. The fact that his partner had not yet returned made his stomach flutter.

“Don’t worry Mrs. Ramos… everything will be fine.” He assured as he rose to exit the back door. “Stay right here. I’ll be back.”

The lane way that ran behind the house was eerily quite. The only sound was the chirp of a single bird and the buzz of a few flies circling over a garbage tin. The cool air made Starsky feel like he was wrapped in a wet rag.

“HUTCH?” He called tentatively.

He looked one way and then the other. He decided to take the path down the side of the canal to track down his partner. The gravel crackled under his feet. The calmness of the area was disturbing. The canal water trickled softly even though it seemed stagnant like a sink of dirty dishwater. The atmosphere made Starsky’s saliva dry up. His cut, swollen eye pulsed with the rhythm of his accelerated heart rate.

“HUTCH!” He tried again.

He’d walked for several blocks with no sign of Hutch and, no sign of Kiko. He made his way over one of the bridges and stopped in the middle to survey the area. Only then did he see him. He was on the other side of the river and on the ground. He wasn’t moving. Starsky broke into full stride to get to his partner. He slid when he got to Hutch like a baseball player into third base.

“Oh God… no!” Starsky whispered.

He rolled Hutch onto his back. The repositioning made the back of Hutch’s right hand slap the ground with a thud. Starsky put his ear to Hutch’s chest. His heartbeat was barely traceable.

“SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE!” He shouted, but there was no one to hear him.

He didn’t want to leave Hutch but he was going to have to.

“I’ll be right back buddy. Hang in there.” He rambled with panic. “Don’t you die on me. I’ll never forgive you if you die.”

But Hutch was oblivious of Starsky’s plea. He lay motionless – his clothes salted with dust – his lungs laboring for oxygen. One arm was stretched out while the other, sticky with clotting blood, lay lifeless across his ribcage. Grime dulled the platinum strands of his hair – its familiar angelic sheen gone. Raw instinct and shear will were the only things keeping Hutch alive.

Starsky took off – his feet scrambling over the ground like a character in a Loonie Toon. He’d never run so fast in his life. He took the same trail back to the Ramos home and got into Hutch’s shit-brown LTD.

He sounded the siren and tore up the street to where he’d left Hutch. He sailed over the bridge – all four wheels leaving the pavement. When he landed, the nose of the Ford hit the asphalt and the license plate flew off and into the water.

He didn’t bother to call an ambulance. There was no time. He knew he could get Hutch to the hospital faster then calling and waiting for help. There was still no one around. The neighbourhood seemed abandoned.

When Starsky screeched to a halt where Hutch had been stabbed, he rushed to him and sat him up. Hutch’s head flopped forward and rested momentarily on Starsky’s shoulder. Starsky seemed unaware of his broken arm as he threw Hutch up and over his shoulder like a fireman would. Adrenaline pumped through his veins like white water.

Hutch’s dead weight made it difficult for Starsky to walk. He staggered back to the car. With his good arm, he opened the passenger side door and stuffed Hutch into the front seat. He shut the door then ran around the front of the car and got in behind the wheel. He lifted Hutch’s head and rested it on his thigh for support. He hung his cast-laden forearm over his partner to secure him for the rough ride ahead.

“Hutch?” Starsky hissed frantically. “Hutch? Stay with me. Do you hear me? Hutch?”

Starsky drove wildly toward the ER. He thought Hutch was already dead.

“God damned kid. I’ll kill’em. If I ever get my hands on him I’ll ring his scrawny little neck!” He muttered as he drove. “Don’t die! Please God… don’t die.”

*****

PART SEVEN

“Captain?” Starsky said.

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU TWO BEEN?” Dobey blared over the phone to his detective. “WHY CAN’T YOU CALL IN? IF I’VE TOLD YOU ONCE…”

“Hey… take it easy! It’s Hutch.”

“Hutch? What about him?”

“He’s been hurt.”

“WHAT?”

“He tried to confront Kiko and he stabbed him.”

“Kiko? What the hell are you talking about Starsky?”

“Look it… can you get down here? I’ll explain everything then. Hutch is in surgery. I’m in the ER at Cedars Sinai.”

“I’m on the way.”

Before Starsky could hang up the pay phone, he saw Huggy Bear walking down the corridor toward him. He wore a deep purple, jump suit with a brightly patterned silk scarf. He looked like he’d spent the day sky diving with a troop of circus performers. His sunglasses were perched on the top of his head. He hadn’t seen Starsky yet.

“Hug!”

“There you are. Hutch okay?”

“First of all, how did you know we were here?”

“I know everything Starsky. I thought you knew that by now.”

“Tell me exactly what you know?” The cop sounded desperate.

“Huh?”

“About what happened to Hutch?”

“I know he’s been stabbed. I know he’s hurt bad.”

“How do you know that Hug? Who told you?”

“It’s on the street man.”

“What does that mean Huggy? I gotta know who told you. I gotta know who did this. Was it Kiko? Just tell me. Was… it … Kiko?”

Starsky held the front of his friend’s jumpsuit and was shaking him.

“Kiko? Hutch’s little brother?” Huggy seemed surprised. “Hey, let go will you? You’re gonna rip it. Easy man… easy.”

“Sorry… and yes Hutch’s little brother.” Starsky’s intensity seemed to deflate.

“Far as I know, it was one of the Cobras. Don’t know which one. Is Kiko mixed up in this?”

“I thought you said you knew everything.”

“I thought I did. Kiko must not go by Kiko anymore. Most of those guys use their street name.”

“Oh.” Starsky said wearily – exhaustion finally setting in.

“What the hell happened to you anyway?” Huggy asked pointing to the cast on Starsky’s arm.

“Cobra’s broke it.”

“What? When?”

“That stakeout at the drug store yesterday morning you tipped us to.”

“They give you that eye too.”

Starsky simply nodded.

The pair shuffled to the waiting area as they conversed. It was a holding place where family and friends waited to hear if their loved ones were dead or alive. Starsky hated it. He hated being out of control. He hated the fact that he’d had to spend so much time there. He and Hutch had a tumultuous seven-year career. A career littered with injuries – from minor cuts and bruises to near fatal gun shot wounds. Not to mention Terry and Jack and a number of other close friends who hadn’t been as lucky as he and Hutch. It was at times like this that Starsky questioned being a cop. Was it worth it? He wasn’t sure.

“Is there a Detective Sergeant Starsky here?” A surgical suited doctor asked.

His mask hung around his neck like a well-used bandana. His cap was rimmed with perspiration.

“Yeah. That’s me.” Starsky got out of his seat and approached the man. “How’s Hutch?”

“You’re friend is in critical condition.”

“Oh my God.” Starsky murmured – his eyes glassy with anxiety. “Is he going to die?”

“His right lung was punctured and that is what is giving him the biggest problem. His lung collapsed. We sewed it up and got it going again. He’s lost a great deal of blood. It made his vitals very weak during surgery. He held his own though. He’s very strong.”

“Is Hutch going to die?” Starsky asked again.

“Frankly… I don’t know.” The doctor admitted. “He has a ways to go before we know if he’ll pull through or not. But, like I said he’s strong. I’d say his chances are fifty-fifty.”

“When can I see him?”

“Not until tomorrow morning I’m afraid. We’ll take good care of him until then. I think you should go home and get some rest yourself detective Starsky. You don’t look very well.”

“I’m okay. Are you sure I can’t see him?”

“Quite sure. Go home… doctor’s orders.”

“Come on. I’ll drive you home.” Huggy offered as he gently pulled on Starsky’s sleeve.

“I think I should stay… what if…”

“Starsky there is nothing you can do here. Hutch is going to be fine. Besides, the doctors right… you look a little seasick.”

“Yeah… okay.” Starsky submitted somewhat distracted.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” The doctor gave the detective a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

“You’ll call me if there’s any change… you have my number right?” He called back to the doctor as Huggy escorted him out of the waiting room.

“Don’t worry. I’ll call you myself.” The doctor replied.

As the twosome exited the hospital Captain Dobey had just pulled up. Both men opened the doors and got into his car.

“What’s going on? How’s Hutch?”

“He’s… he’s in critical condition Cap.” Starsky mumbled. “We can’t see him until tomorrow.”

“Come on let’s go back to The Pits and have a nice stiff drink.” Huggy suggested.

“Then will you fill me in?” Dobey asked impatiently. “And what the hell happened to your arm Starsky?”

“Let’s get that drink.” He responded.

*****

PART EIGHT

Dobey dropped Starsky off at his apartment as dusk fell over the city. It was still cold – unusually so for Southern California. It was sobering. He’d spent several hours at The Pits going over the last two days with him. But when Dobey noticed Starsky fading, he insisted on getting him home for an over due night’s rest.

Starsky semi-saluted his boss as he watched him drive away and then shuffled up the wood plank stairs. He slowly opened the front door to his place. He flipped on the light and headed straight for the couch. He flopped onto it without even removing his jacket. He’d forgotten the mass of blood that had dried there. He was too tired to care.

He closed his eyes for what he thought would be a few minutes but ended up falling asleep. It wasn’t until the throbbing in his eye and the ache in his arm became uncomfortable that he awoke. It was eleven-thirty.

Starsky struggled to sit up. He rubbed his good eye with his good hand and stood to go to the bathroom. He took several aspirins, stripped his clothes off down to his shorts, hit the lights and went back to bed. He left a trail of blood stained clothes through the kitchen, the living room and ending at the doorway of the bedroom.

Sighing deeply and starring at the ceiling his thoughts were with Hutch. He didn’t like being separated from him, especially when Hutch’s life hung in the balance. The feeling of helplessness was stifling. It choked him.

Starsky knew ignoring his own fatigue wouldn’t help matters. He’d get a few hours sleep and then get back to the hospital. His uneasiness and worry kept him awake for a while but he just couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. He turned onto his side and within moments was asleep.

*****

Their hands were so tightly clasped they looked like knotted robe. The skin looked like a single piece of stretched leather. Starsky lay stomach down on the edge of a cliff. He leaned over it and held onto his partner for dear life. Hutch dangled like a rag doll over a deep gorge. But his weight was too much – the edge of the cliff too unstable. Hutch’s face was etched with terror. He struggled desperately to hang on but couldn’t. Their grip slid further and further out of control until it reached their fingertips. Hutch began to fall. The image spooked Starsky and he bolted awake making the bed bounce like a trampoline. He thought it was his subconscious telling him that Hutch had died. His heart pounded. He was covered in a veil of sweat.

“I didn’t do it.” Came a solemn voice from across the room.

The intrusion made Starsky jump out of his bed and turn toward the sound. Now his heart was in overdrive and with one eye still closed he desperately scanned the dimly light room for who ever was there.

The purple hue of dawn crept across the room but faded to blackness into the corner. What was left of moonlight shone through the window blind and projected a striped pattern onto the bed. It looked like a violet zebra.

“Who’s there? Who is it?” Starsky panted – his adrenaline surging.

There was no answer. He could only make out a figure standing in the shadows. Starsky dove at the bedside lamp and flipped the switch. The sudden brightness made him squint. It made his eye sting.

“Kiko?”

“I didn’t do it.” The young man said strongly.

“Oh… Kiko… it’s you.” Starsky said somewhat relieved. He swallowed hard and let go an exaggerated exhale. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? You scared the shit out of me!” He held his chest trying to calm his respiration. “How did you get in here?”

“I didn’t do it.” Kiko said yet again ignoring Starsky’s spray of questions. “I didn’t stab Hutch.”

Starsky’s knees folded under him like a lawn chair and he sat on the edge of the bed and let his head fall forward. He continued to breathe heavily still trying to regain his composure. He glanced at his watch that was still strapped around his cast.

“Then who did?” Starsky finally responded. “Last time I saw you, Hutch was chasing you.”

“Is he dead?”

“No.”

“Is he hurt bad?”

“Yes. Yes he is Kiko.” Starsky snapped. “A knife in the ribcage will to do that.”

“I want to see him.”

“Who did it Kiko? If you didn’t… then who did?”

“I’ll tell you everything. I just have to see Hutch.”

“Everything?” Starsky stood and faced the kid. “What do you mean everything?”

“I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. It was the money I wanted not the killing.”

“Did you have anything to do with those murders Kiko?”

“I never killed anyone.”

“Do you know who did?”

“Yes.”

“You’re talking about turning in your friends. Are you sure you know what that means?”

“They’re not my friends.”

“Could have fooled me.” Starsky stood and began to walk toward the bathroom as the conversation continued.

“I just wanted the money Starsky. Then it got out of hand.”

“Did you ever think of getting a job? I mean, what were you thinking Kiko?” Starsky lectured. “Why didn’t you come to Hutch or me if you needed help? I can’t believe you would be this stupid… I thought you were a good kid.”

“I am. I am good.”

“NO YOU’RE NOT!” Starsky had had enough. “Three people are dead man! Hutch is in critical condition. You broke my arm. Money! God damn it! There’s more to life than money. What did you need the money for? A new skateboard… drugs? Jesus Christ Kiko… this is serious!”

“No. My mom is sick.”

“What?”

“She’s diabetic.”

“Listen… Kiko. You’re in big trouble. We’re talking about murder charges here kid.” Starsky gestured sympathetically holding out his hand for effect.

“I know. And, I know what I have to do.”

“I’m going to have to take you into custody. You could go to prison. You do realize that don’t you?”

“Yes.” He answered simply.

“Where will you mother be then? Did you ever think of that Kiko?”

The boy stayed silent.

“Okay… okay.” Starsky calmed himself. “Let me get some clothes on and we’ll go see Hutch.”

*****

PART NINE

“Hey.” Hutch said weakly.

“Hey yourself.”

“I thought I could smell that aftershave.”

“I wore it especially for you. I thought if you were in a coma it might bring you out of it.”

“That aftershave could raise the dead Starsk.”

Starsky sat next to Hutch’s hospital bed late Thursday evening. Hutch had been transferred to a room after two days in intensive care. Starsky was relieved to see his partner finally awake and somewhat cognizant. He was free of tubes or any breathing machines. The only thing hooked up to Hutch was an IV.

It had been a long and trying few days, but Hutch had pulled through and his prognosis was excellent. This was the first time Hutch had been coherent enough to carry on a conversation.

“How ya feelin’?” Starsky inquired.

“Like I’ve been stabbed.”

“Guess what… you have been.”

“You’re eye looks better.”

“Yeah… I CAN SEE!” Starsky joked like he’d just been given sight by a faith healer.

The pair smirked at they’re poor attempt at banter. There was a slight pause before Starsky changed the subject.

“You’ve got a visitor.”

“Oh yeah… who?”

“It’s Kiko.”

“Little shit.” Hutch huffed quietly. “How’d he get here?”

“He turned himself in. Showed up in my apartment two nights ago. Almost gave me a heart attack.” Starsky recounted. “He says he only got involved in the Cobras for the money. Says his mom has diabetes and he needed it for insulin. He’s going to spill everything Hutch… name names.”

“Oh really.”

“Yep.”

Hutch closed his eyes momentarily and sighed. It seemed he was mulling over Starsky’s explanation of Kiko’s behaviour.

“He’s right outside. He’s been here for days. He feels really bad about what happened.”

Hutch didn’t seem interested.

“Do you want to see him?”

It took a long time for the blonde cop to finally respond and when he did he simply nodded.

Starsky gave Hutch an encouraging pat on the shoulder before he got up and went to the door. He opened it and Kiko stood there shyly. When he raised his head to look at Hutch he couldn’t help but smile. He walked in and sat next to his old friend.

“Wipe that smile off your face Kiko.” Hutch whispered with disgust. “I wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for you. You hurt me man… you really hurt me.”

“I’m sorry.” Kiko replied sheepishly. He’d expected another round of preaching.

“Just tell me what you were thinking? Why didn’t you trust me? Why didn’t you ask me for help Kiko?”

“I didn’t think you would.”

“Why not? We’re friends. Friends are for life. Real ones are.”

“I’m sorry.” Kiko said again as tears started for flow uncontrollably.

“Now you know. Right?”

“Yes.”

“You can come to me or Starsk for anything and so can your mom.”

“But, what about jail?” The boy whimpered like a child. “What about my mom when I’m in jail.”

The truth was Kiko was scared. And, he was ashamed that he’d let himself be led. If there was anything he’d learned from Hutch, it was to be his own man. He cried because he was angry that he hadn’t trusted the one person who’d shown him true friendship. That he’d put his faith and life in the hands of criminals.

“Jail is the price you’re gonna have to pay. You know that right? We’ll look after your mom.”

“Come on Kiko. Let’s let Hutch get some rest okay.” Starsky interrupted.

The young man stood and began to walk out of the room. A uniformed police officer waited for him in the hallway. When he reached halfway he turned to Hutch again.

“Do you forgive me?” He asked.

“Of course I do. That’s what friends do. Hell, look at Starsky. I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.”

Hutch’s comment made his partner look puzzled but brought a smile to Kiko’s face.

“Kiko?”

“Yes Hutch?”

“Don’t forget to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is freedom.”

*****

EPILOGUE

Kiko was sentenced to ten years for armed robbery and manslaughter at a juvenile facility near Bakersfield. His sentence was reduced due to his co-operation with the police in the arrests of the Cobras and the fact that he’d had no previous criminal record. Hopefully, in five years he’d get parole. He’d be twenty-two years old – young enough to start over.

But his life would be a danger zone from then on. He and his mother would have to move and change their identities to escape any retaliation from angry gang members. But first, Kiko would have to endure and survive prison life.

Hutch recovered. Within a month he and Starsky were back on the streets. They’d arranged insulin treatments for Mrs. Ramos through a health care program sponsored by the BCPD. A few dollars was taken from Starsky and Hutch’s pay each week. They were glad to do it. They’d check on her until Kiko was released.

*****

“Man. I can hardly wait to get this cast off.” Starsky complained as Hutch drove to the hospital to get the cast removed. “It itches like crazy.”

“Hey Starsk?” Hutch piped up without recognizing his partner’s grumbling.

“Hum?” He answered – preoccupied with jamming a pencil between the plaster and his skin. He scratched vigorously.

“I’m starting to get used to that aftershave.”

“Sorry Hutch. I used up the last of it this morning. You’re going to have to get used to the new stuff.”

“New stuff! Oh no, Starsky. Can’t you just refrain from wearing any cologne.”

“Nope. I gotta reputation to uphold with da chicks… if you know what I mean.”

“Not lately I don’t.”

“Well, maybe if you smelled like me you wouldn’t have that problem.”

“Starsky. I am not attracted to women who like the smell of a wet dog.”

“Hey, it doesn’t matter to me.”

“Naturally.”

***The End***

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