The One (by Barbara)

Summary:    Starsky experiences jealously and abandonment when a woman enters Hutch’s life. But, he struggles even more when Huggy is the bearer of bad news.
Category:  Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  Crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  9669


 

“I feel like a donut.”

“Funny.” Hutch smirked. “You don’t look like a donut.”

Starsky sneered at his partner’s attempt at wit.

The pair were three hours into their shift. Business was slow. For a change of pace, they cruised their beat in Hutch’s car. Starsky did his best to ignore the rickety Ford’s creaking and knocking and focused instead on coaxing his buddy into an afternoon snack.

“Come on Hutch. It’s about time we indulged in the delicacies of our profession.”

“Donuts are NOT a delicacy Starsk.”

“Well, it all depends on what flavor you get.”

“This I gotta hear.” Hutch sniffed in anticipation of his friend’s explanation.

“Take the double chocolate donut for example.”

“Do I have to?”

“You can get a double chocolate donut just about anywhere.”

“Yeah, so. What’s your point?” Hutch begged the question as he removed his eyes from the road and looked across at Starsky.

“My point is, there’s a new coffee shop just around the corner. And, word down at the station is that they have a TRIPLE chocolate donut that is out of this world.”

“Out of this world, huh?” Hutch sounded unenthused.

“It’s like a jelly donut see.” Starsky used his hands to describe the tender morsel. “It’s a chocolate donut with chocolate icing. But, the kicker is they fill it with chocolate cream in the center.”

“The only thing that’s going to kick, is your heart in about twenty years.” Hutch scoffed.

“Ah come on. Dats not very nice.” Starsky’s complexion turned from pleasure to pain.

“I’m telling you Starsk. You’ve got to start loving your body or it’s not going to love you back.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What I mean is, you have to pay more attention to what you eat. You’re not as young as you used to be.”

“We’re the same age, dummy.”

“Starsky.” Hutch looked over at his partner again. “How many years have we been together?”

“Oh, I don’t know… six, seven years.” He shrugged.

“And, how many times have I begged you to eat better?”

“More times than I can remember.” Starsky rolled his eyes.

“Exactly. So, why don’t you listen to me. Why won’t you take better care of yourself?”

“Okay, okay. I get it all right! I get it.” Starsky resigned – he threw his hands in the air for serenity.

“Really?” Hutch sounded surprised.

“Yes really. Now, turn right at the next light.”

“What for?”

“The coffee shop is two blocks down.”

“I thought you said you were going to eat better.”

“No. I said I got your point.”

“You know Starsky?” Hutch said with disgust. “I don’t know why I care.”

“Neither do I. Now pull in right here.”

Under protest, Hutch pulled into the tiny parking lot of the coffee shop. It only held four or five cars. Starsky opened the passenger door before the car came to a complete stop. He got out and closed it again and peered at his partner through the open window.

“You comin’?”

“Sure.” Hutch said as he flipped the gearshift into park. “I love to live dangerously.”

“Be nice. Can’t you just be nice?”

“You’re nice, I’m cute remember?”

“Oh yeah.” The curly-haired cop snapped his fingers in mocking remembrance.

“Starsky, you know how I feel about places like this.” Hutch complained as he followed his partner into the café.

“Just come on, will’ya.”

Once inside, the duo took a seat at the counter. The place was brand new but it had the feel of a 50’s diner. Elvis played through the ceiling speakers. Linoleum and chrome shone in the three o’clock sun that streamed through the blinds.

“This place reminds me of diner I used to hang out in when I was a teenager.” Hutch said as he scanned the restaurant.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I hated that place.” He made a face. “But, it was the only place in town.”

Again, Starsky sneered and exhaled with exasperation at his friend’s negative attitude.

“Can I help you boys?” A young lady asked from behind the counter.

When they turned their attention to the waitress, both Starsky and Hutch did a double take. She was absolutely breathtaking. Her shoulder length, sable hair framed her cherub face. Her pink cotton waitress uniform fitted her so well, it was as if she wore nothing at all. It hugged her in all the right places. But, her most redeeming feature was her eyes. They were big and round and the color of lilacs. They were edged with long, black lashes. The partner’s looked at her with their mouths agape. Her beauty left them speechless.

“Boys?”

There was still no response from either of them.

“Gentleman?” She tried again. “What can I do for you?”

“I can think of a few things.” Starsky muttered to Hutch under his breath.

“Pardon?” She asked sweetly.

“I said.” Starsky recovered. “I hear this place has a great triple chocolate donut.” He grinned broadly showing off his greatest asset – a laser beam smile. It actually made his eyes twinkle like a matinee idol’s.

“Yes we do. Would you like one?”

“Yes please. And a cup of coffee.”

“How about you handsome?” She turned her attention to Hutch.

But, he said nothing. He was simply thunderstruck. Starsky jabbed him in the ribs with a sharp elbow, almost knocking him off his stool.

“Oh, huh, yeah.” He finally replied with dumbfounded eloquence. “I’ll have a glass of milk.” He too, threw her his best dashing grin.

“Is that all you want?”

“I’ll take your phone number too.” Hutch said shyly – his voice was as rich and smooth as butter cream.

“My phone number, eh?”

“Yes.” Hutch rested his elbow on the counter and placed his chin on his knuckles. “You do have a phone, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do, but I don’t give out my number very often. You can never be too careful these days.” She teased playfully. “You know, with all the unseemly characters around and everything.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about me.” Hutch assured. “I’m a cop.”

“A cop?”

“Yep… detective, first class actually.”

“Oh no. Detectives are the worst! Especially the first class ones.” She winked as she turned to place the boy’s order.

The men watched her walk away, taking in every subtle movement. Hutch let out a quiet whistle and then sighed with pleasure.

“Wow.” Starsky commented. “She’s somethin’.”

“She sure is.” Hutch agreed as the pair watched her prepare their order.

She returned with a plate that held the triple chocolate donut squarely in the center of it, a steaming cup of coffee and a large glass of milk.

“There you go, detective’s first class. Enjoy.”

“Wait a minute.” Hutch reached over the counter and gently took her wrist to stop her from leaving. “Where are you going?”

“I have other customers.” She replied simply.

“Oh yeah.” Hutch looked around the place. “Well, what about your number? Can I call you sometime.”

“Well, I don’t know.” She pondered. “My mother always warned me about men like you.”

“Like me? What about men like me?”

“She used to say that charming, blond, blued-eyed men are more dangerous than wildfire.”

“Well… I’m not that charming.” Hutch snickered bashfully.

“That’s right.” Starsky interrupted. “He’s not that charming.”

Hutch glared at his partner. Starsky bit into his donut as he watched the display of shameless flirtation between the two. He felt like a third wheel.

“Don’t mind my partner miss.” Hutch implored. “He was raised in a barn.”

Starsky gave Hutch a droll glance.

“I can assure you,” he continued, “I’m as gentle as a week old kitten.”

“Even they can give you a nasty scratch.” She replied with squinted eyes.

“You’ll never be in safer hands.”

“That’s right ma’am, he’s got good hands.” Starsky blurted. “He played baseball in college.”

Both Hutch and the young lady ignored him. They looked at each other intensely.

“So, can I have your number?”

“I suppose. But, don’t tell my mother.”

“I won’t utter a word.” Hutch whispered and then kissed her hand. “What’s your name?”

“ Shannon.”

“What’s yours?”

“Ken. But, my friends call me Hutch.”

“Hutch? You mean like a rabbit’s house?”

“No, no… it’s short for my last name. Hutchinson.”

“Cute.” She said.

“See Starsky. I told you I was cute.”

“Yeah and I’m…on my own.”

*****

After Shannon and Hutch became an item, Starsky saw less and less of his best friend socially. It seemed that Shannon was “the one”. Starsky was glad his partner had finally found true love and he’d never seen Hutch happier. It was like Hutch had become a complete person who now had a new outlook on life. He talked about marriage and children. Starsky hoped that one day he’d be as lucky. Hutch often thanked his partner for his hankering for a donut that day.

One evening after a double date, Hutch and Shannon along with Starsky’s latest fling, decided to finish off the night at their favorite haunt “The Pits”. Huggy Bear welcomed them as always and showed them to their usual table. Hutch seemed to glow. He simply shone with pride and love for his girl. She too, beamed with delight at finding the man of her dreams. At midnight, Hutch stood to make an announcement.

“Attention! Attention everyone!” He said as he tapped his empty beer glass with a knife. “I have an announcement to make.”

With his arm slung around his date, Starsky sat looking up at Hutch. He wasn’t sure what was in store. Huggy stood behind the bar and stopped preparing a drink to hear what Hutch had to say. The patrons who knew him turned their attention to the flaxen-headed detective that stood before them.

“It is with great pleasure that I say to you all here gathered tonight, that I have asked Shannon to be my wife. And…” Hutch tried to continue over the cheer that went up after his statement. He held his hand up to quiet everyone down. “And, and… Shannon has said YES!!”

Another rah rose from the crowd. They clapped and raised their glasses to toast the couple.

“Thank you. Thank you.” Hutch responded to his friend’s glad tidings.

Shannon stood beside her man and he cupped his hand around her waist. They fit together like a set of novelty salt and pepper shakers. She held out her left hand to show off her new diamond ring. She looked like she was so high with excitement she could float in mid air. Huggy approached them. He shook Hutch’s hand and gave Shannon a kiss on the cheek. Starsky plastered a smile on his dazed face. He looked somewhat out of sorts.

“Next round is on the house.” Huggy announced and the crowd cheered yet again.

After accepting all of the best wishes from their friend’s, Hutch and Shannon sat back down to resume their private party.

“Congratulations Hutch.” Starsky said with melancholy.

He stood and walked over to Shannon and gave her a kiss. When he returned to his seat, he swallowed hard to try and lubricate his now dry throat. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He did his damnedest to hide his lack of enthusiasm. Hutch did not pick up on Starsky’s joylessness.

“I’d like you to be my best man, buddy.” He said as he placed his hand on his partner’s shoulder.

“Absolutely. Of course.” Starsky forced another smile. “I’d be honored.”

But, Starsky could only feel a sense of loss rather than illation for Hutch and Shannon. He knew Hutch would ask her to marry him eventually and he thought he’d be glad about it. But, when the moment came, it was like he’d been punched in the gut. Was he jealous? Was he afraid it would affect their working relationship? Did he think Shannon had replaced him as Hutch’s closest and dearest confidant? Was Shannon good enough for Hutch? Starsky wasn’t sure. All he knew was life as he knew it was about to change.

*****

“You’re late.” Hutch chastised as he threw himself in the passenger seat of Starsky’s Grand Torino.

“I’m not late. You’re early.”

“You were supposed to pick me up at 8:00. It’s twelve minutes after.” Hutch grumbled. “A lot of good those expensive watches do for you. You’re never on time.”

“Oh well, whatever.”

Starsky pulled away from the curb in front of Hutch’s Venice Place apartment building and headed downtown to police headquarters to report for work. They had not spoken since Hutch’s engagement announcement the night before. They rode in silence until Hutch finally broke the ice.

“So? What do you think?”

“What do I think about what?”

“In case you missed it, I asked Shannon to marry me last night.” Hutch said slightly irritated. “What do you think about that Starsk?”

“I think it’s great. Congratulations. I hope you and Shannon are very happy together.”

But, Starsky didn’t sound convincing. He made no effort to make eye contact with his partner. He lazily drove with his left wrist slung over the top of the steering wheel looking straight ahead. Hutch squinted with puzzlement.

“Is anything wrong Starsk?” He looked down at his hands and picked at a hangnail.

“No. What could possibly be wrong?”

“Look it. I know you better than you know yourself. I know when something is on your mind. So, what’s up? What’s bugging you?”

“Nothing’s bugging me. I’m fine.”

“Starsky?”

“What?”

“You’re acting like I’ve done something terrible. Have I? Are you mad at me?”

“NO! Nothing’s wrong I said.”

“Come on Starsky.”

Hesitation hung in the air like a thundercloud.

“Well,” The curly-haired cop sighed fully aware that he couldn’t hide anything from Hutch. “I guess I’m…, well I guess I’m a little upset.”

“No kidding.” Hutch replied sarcastically.

“Give me a break wouldja?”

“Starsky? What’s the matter? I thought you’d be happy for Shannon and me.”

“I am! I am happy.”

“Well, it sure doesn’t sound like it.”

“I’m just…”

“You’re just what?”

“I’m just afraid things won’t be the same between us anymore. I feel like you’re going to leave me behind.”

“I’m not going to leave you behind, Starsk.”

“Yeah, but… you’re getting married. It won’t be ‘me and thy’ anymore.”

“It’s not going to change anything between you and me. You’re my best friend. You’ll always be my best friend.”

“Really?” Starsky said sheepishly.

“Yes really.”

“What about when you have kids and I’m still alone eating cereal for dinner in my dumpy little apartment. You’re going to have to buy a bigger house and move away to the suburbs. I’ll never see you again!”

“Hold on a moment. One step at a time.” Hutch chuckled at his partner’s distress. “Next thing you know you’ll have me retired and in a rocking chair.”

“It’s not funny. You’re all I’ve got. This isn’t the way I thought we’d end up.”

“Hey, now what kind of talk is that, huh? You’ve got more now. You’ve got me AND Shannon. She loves you too you know.”

“She does?”

“Of course she does.”

“Really?” Starsky was starting to sound more up beat.

“How could she not?”

“I don’t know.” He sounded lost.

“Listen. Starsky. You are my partner. Shannon will be my wife. She will not replace you. Nobody could replace you. Things will change a bit but for the better. And, you know what they say?”

“No. What?”

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” Hutch responded with confidence.

“Will you name your first child after me?” Starsky offered with a crocked smirk.

“Don’t push it.”

*****

Over the next several months, Starsky tried to get used to the idea of sharing Hutch. He was a frequent visitor for dinner and Shannon catered to him cooking only his favorite foods. She even made some Mexican meals for him. It was like she was doing all she could to win him over.

Shannon was aware of Starsky’s concerns and how much he meant to her future husband. She knew that if she was going to make her marriage work, she’d have to accept Starsky as not only Hutch’s friend but also as his family. Shannon didn’t mind. She liked Starsky. She was always glad to see him no matter when he showed up on Hutch’s doorstep.

The couple still split their lives between Hutch’s apartment and Shannon ‘s condo. Most of Hutch’s free time was spent with nuptial preparations – booking the honeymoon, looking for a new home to share, banquet halls, churches, cakes, photographers and tuxedos. The Hutchinson wedding was going to be a posh affair.

Some of Hutch’s family would make the trip from Minnesota for the big day. Most of the attendees would be Hutch’s friends. Shannon had no family. She was an only child and both her parents were dead. Only a few of her friends would make up her side of the guest list.

Starsky began arrangements for Hutch’s stag as well. A cop’s bachelor party was quite a fete. It included all the raunchiness of the red light district of Amsterdam. It would be held at “The Pits” of course, in one of Huggy’s private, back rooms. The only request Shannon made was that Starsky hold the party a week before the wedding. The last thing she wanted was a hung over groom.

She was really a cool lady. Starsky had grown quite fond of her and begrudgingly came to the realization that she was an absolutely perfect match for Hutch. She gave him his freedom as well as all the attention any man could ever ask for. But, in the back of his mind, Starsky wished he’d never talked Hutch into going for that triple chocolate donut ten months earlier.

Hutch was absolutely head over heals in love with Shannon . He talked about her constantly. Starsky put up with it even though it got tiresome at times. But, he knew Hutch had finally found complete and utter happiness and Starsky had to be glad for him. Or at least, he tried his hardest to be.

The partner’s continued on with their work. Sometimes it was dangerous and intense, but most of the time it was tedious and boring. After work Hutch would rush home to his woman and Starsky would go home alone. Occasionally he’d date, but he had yet to find anyone that could even come close to what Hutch and Shannon had. He had it with Teri and with Rosie too, but right now he had no one special in his life. It irked him. He couldn’t shake the feeling of being left in Hutch’s wake.

*****

With engagement parties, showers and the wild bachelor party all over with, it was now down to brass tacks. The wedding was only two days away. All seemed to be in order – every detail and plan taken care of. There was nothing left to do except wait.

Starsky sprawled on his couch watching television. He wore an unbuttoned shirt over a pair of grubby, yellowed boxer shorts. He was barefoot, and unshaven and bore the expression of a down and out hobo. A half eaten pizza lay mangled in its box on the coffee table. He rested a bottle of beer on his chest.

Despite Shannon ‘s efforts to make Starsky part of her little family, he still had mixed feelings. He missed Hutch. He was having a great deal of difficulty dealing with the loss of his friend and all they used to share. He was depressed and as each hour went by he became more and more morose. His friendship with Hutch seemed to be drifting farther and farther away with every tic and toc.

“Come on!” He blasted himself aloud – desperately trying to snap out of feeling sorry for himself. “Get over it, will ya!”

He rose from the sofa and sloppily sauntered toward the kitchen for another beer. As he approached the refrigerator the phone rang.

“Yeah?” He answered curtly.

“Starsky? Huggy.”

“Hey Hug.”

“You alone?”

“Of course. I’m always alone these days.”

“We need to talk.” Huggy said bluntly.

“Okay. Go ahead.”

“No, no. I need you to come see me.”

“Now?” Starsky glanced at his watch. “It’s ten-thirty.”

“Right now. And, don’t mention anything to Hutch.”

“What’s going on Hug? I’m really not in the mood.”

“Just get down here… now.” Huggy ordered gently.

“Okay.” Starsky sighed. “Give me a half hour.”

He slammed the receiver back into its cradle. He put the beer back in the frig and went to put on some clothes. He left his apartment five minutes later in an irritated huff.

*****

“Okay Hug. Whatcha got?”

Huggy Bear held up his scrawny forefinger and nodded at Starsky’s presence. He had not noticed him enter from the back alley entrance and settle on the stool at the end of the crowded bar. Huggy finished preparing a tray of drinks and then made his way over to Starsky.

“Come on upstairs.”

Without objection, Starsky slide off the stool and followed Huggy up the staircase to the landing two flights above. The noise of the patrons echoed below them as Huggy pulled in tight.

“What is it?” Starsky probed.

“We’ve got a problem.” Huggy finally divulged.

“We do?”

“Yes we do.”

“And, just what might that problem be?”

“Hutch.”

“What about him?”

“I got some bad news.”

“Huggy will you please.” Starsky said impatiently. “Stop beating around the bush and tell me what the hell is going on!”

“It’s Shannon. She’s married.”

“Whaaaa?”

“You heard me. She’s got a whole load of husbands. All over. Four for sure that we know of.”

“Who’s we?”

“A P.I. came in here today asking about Shannon . Well, actually her name is Michelle. He was hired by one of her husbands to track her down. It seems she has a nasty habit of marrying men and then leaving them high and dry. She cleans out their bank accounts, sells their stuff. Then she just disappears, changes her name and moves on to the next city and the next guy. It’s how she makes a living.”

“Huggy.” Starsky said with disbelief. “Do you know what you’re saying?”

“I wish I didn’t my man. I really wish I didn’t.”

“This can’t be happening.”

“It’s happening alright. What are we going to do?”

“Hutch is crazy about that girl Huggy.” Starsky implored. “He’s going to marry her on Saturday.”

“I know. What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know if we can do anything.”

“What are you talking about? Aren’t you even going to warn him?”

“He won’t believe it. I’m not sure I do.”

“Look. Here’s the P.I.’s number. He has proof.” Huggy handed Starsky a matchbook with a phone number scrawled on it. “Call him.”

Reluctantly, Starsky took the info. He stared at it for a moment and then locked eyes with his friend.

“Huggy. If you’re …” He wagged his finger in his face hoping it was all a terrible joke.

“Hey. Come on Starsky. I love Hutch too. I don’t want to see him get hurt. But, I think as his friends we should at least save him before he bleeds to death.”

Starsky had no retort. Huggy was right. He’d meet with the P.I. the next day and find out the whole story. That burning feeling that had plagued him now raged. Had his intuition been right all along? He was about to find out.

*****

Starsky drove home in a haze of worry. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. How could he tell Hutch that the love of his life was a liar – a shyster? He truly didn’t know.

After watching the late show on TV, he finally went to bed but lay awake staring at the clock. He watched the digits on the dial flip – minute after minute. He dreaded dawn. He would have no choice but to call and question the P.I. Huggy had met that day. It would be unpleasant and Starsky’s head swam with scenarios as to how to escape the inevitable. There seemed to be no way out. Guilt and anxiety crept into his being almost paralyzing him.

Starsky was still transfixed with the clock when its alarm blared at 6:15 am. He calmly reached over to turn it off. He mashed his face into the pillow in an unsuccessful bid to hide. But, he knew he had a responsibility. He had always protected Hutch like a mother bear and Hutch him. This was no different. It would be difficult but he had to find out all he could about Shannon before she ruined Hutch’s life forever.

The phone rang.

“Lo?”

“Good morning my best man.”

“Oh. Hey Hutch.”

“You ready to go? We’ve got a lot to do today.”

“No, I ah… I just woke up.”

“Well, get yourself in the shower. I’m on my way over to pick you up.”

“Something’s come up at work and I gotta go down and straighten it out.”

“I didn’t hear about anything.”

“Well, Dobey didn’t want to bother you. It’s not important. I think I messed up on some dates or something. It won’t take long.” Starsky stalled for time. “I’ll swing by your place when I’m done.”

“Okay.” Hutch seemed satisfied. “But, hurry. We need to pick up our tuxes and I need to see the minister and pay for the flowers. I need to cover a whole bunch of stuff before the wedding tomorrow. So don’t leave me here too long.”

“Yeah, yeah okay.”

“Starsk? Don’t let me down buddy. I need you today.”

“Okay, okay. I hear you. I won’t.” He replied with angst. “I’ll be there around nine, nine thirty.”

Starsky hung up the phone. Hutch sounded so excited. Starsky sat on the edge of the bed and placed his face in his hands. But, he couldn’t procrastinate any longer. He picked up the matchbook with the P.I.’s phone number on it and dialed.

“Yeah?”

“Is this Phil Shaw?”

“Yeah. Who’s this?”

“My name is Dave Starsky. My friend Huggy Bear says you have some information on a Shannon Whitmore?”

“Oh yeah. He told me you might be calling.”

“Can I meet you somewhere?”

“Sure, ah… let’s grab some breakfast at Cory’s. It’s at…”

“I know where it is.” Starsky said. “Seven-thirty okay.”

“See ya then.”

*****

“Are you Starsky?”

“Dats me.”

“Have a seat. What can I get you?”

“Just coffee.”

Phil Shaw was younger than Starsky had pictured. He kind of looked like a Ken doll. Not at all like the stereotypical private investigator. He didn’t have a speck of sleaziness about him. He wore a nicely tailored suit and was as clean cut as a U.S. Marine. The way he looked made his credibility soar in Starsky’s mind. He expected to meet an old, gruff man with a stogy not someone that Starsky could have gone to high school with.

“Waitress?” Phil flagged down his server, “Could I get a cup of coffee for my friend here and I’ll have a refill too please.”

“So? What have you got?” Starsky began. “What’s this all about?”

“Huggy says you’re a detective.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, then you deal with this sort of thing all the time.”

“I’ve seen a lot of things Mr. Shaw.”

“I understand that your partner is engaged to Michelle. Oh, ah… Shannon .”

“That’s right. They’re getting married tomorrow.”

“Well, I’m glad I got here when I did then.”

“Just spill it will ya?” Starsky was through with the small talk. He was in no mood for pleasantries. “Just give me the facts. What the hell are we dealing with here?”

“I was hired by John Ramstead. He married Michelle two years ago in Boston. Two weeks after they got home from their honeymoon, she cleaned out his bank accounts, sold his car and emptied his pension plan savings. He never heard from her again. So, he hired me to find her. My investigation led me to three other men.” Phil glanced down at his notes. “Richard Gordon in Miami , Bill Stevens in Chicago and Ivan Stemkoski in Houston. All had the same story except each man had married a woman with a different name. She’s been Teresa, Amanda, Dana, Michelle and now Shannon. They are all the same woman. She is wanted in seven states for grand theft and fraud. No one’s been able to catch up with her yet, but I intend to.”

“Why Hutch. He doesn’t have any money?”

“She’s not looking for rich. They insist on prenups. No, she’s looking for stable, everyday guys that she can prey on quickly and then make her move. She’s out for fun and just enough money to get her to her next victim.”

“Do you have a picture of this woman?”

The blood ran from Starsky’s face when he saw the spreadsheet Phil placed in front of him. It was Shannon. Her hair was blond and short in the photo, but it was Shannon all right. Her eyes could not be mistaken.

“Are you okay Detective Starsky?”

“Yeah, um… yes.” His confirmation stuck in his throat like a dry piece of toast.

“Is this your partner’s finance?”

“It’s her.”

“Well can you take me to where she is? I can end this thing right here and now and save your friend a whole lot of grief.”

“No. I gotta think of a way to handle this. I gotta tell him… somehow.”

“Wouldn’t it just be easier if you left it up to me. Then you’d be off the hook.”

“You don’t know Hutch. If he ever found out that I knew about this and didn’t tell him, he’d never speak to me again.” Starsky said with intense concentration. He paused to think a moment. “I’ll make a deal with you.”

“What’s that?”

“I’ll give you the where and when of the wedding tomorrow. Be there and you’ll get your girl.”

“Don’t screw me on this one detective. I know you’re looking out for your partner but I’ve got $50,000 dollars in rewards coming to me.”

“You’ll get your money.” Starsky said as he wrote out the name of the church on a napkin and pushed it in front of the P.I. “I wish I didn’t have to say this… but thanks.”

“I’m sorry it had to happen to your partner. I hear he’s one of the good ones.”

“He’s more than that Mr. Shaw. He’s the best.”

*****

Starsky did stop by the station to run Shannon through the computer. He needed to know beyond a shadow of doubt that she was the one Phil Shaw was tracking. To his dismay, all of the information he was given by the P.I. was true. With everything now confirmed about her, Starsky had no choice but to talk to Hutch. It was something he was absolutely terrified about. He knew that Hutch wouldn’t believe him. Nobody could win with news like this. Armed with all the paperwork about Shannon, Starsky drove to pick up Hutch. It was 9:32 a.m. when he pulled up in front of Hutch’s apartment. With his stomach in knots. he walked up the stairs and knocked on the door.

“Come on in Starsk.”

Hutch was finishing his morning dishes. Starsky tentatively opened the door and entered the flat.

“Did you eat?” Hutch asked.

“No.”

“Do you want something?”

“I don’t want anything you want to offer me for breakfast.” Starsky replied with disgust.

“Ah come on Starsky. Are you sure you don’t want me to whip you up one of my special shake. It’ll make you feel like a new man.”

“I’d love to be a new man right now.” Starsky muttered inaudibly.

Starsky flopped onto the couch and picked up a magazine off the coffee table. Hutch leaned against the counter and dried his hands with a dishtowel. He wore a skin tight t-shirt that was so white it was almost blinding. His smile matched it perfectly. He absolutely exuded happiness and anticipation.

“Did you get that paperwork sorted out?”

“Yeah, ah… it was nothing. You know Dobey. He’s such a stickler for details.”

“You ready to head out then?” Hutch asked.

He tossed the damp towel over the sink and then crossed the floor to the door and reached for his jacket.

“I guess so.”

“You okay Starsk? You seem a little down.”

“I’m fine. Just tired.”

“I didn’t get much sleep last night either. But, I’m running on love, man. I’m running on love.” Hutch gloated.

Starsky forced a smile at his partner’s obvious joy. He stood and followed him out of the apartment and down to the car.

*****

Hutch was higher than a kite as Starsky drove him from errand to errand. They had their final tuxedo fitting, dropped off a check at the florists and the photographers, picked up the wedding rings and got a haircut. By the time three o’clock rolled around, Starsky was exhausted. He felt sick. No opportunity had arisen yet to break the bad news to Hutch. He was just so jubilant. His enthusiasm tore at Starsky’s heartstrings. He just couldn’t bring himself to tell Hutch about Shannon .

“Wanna go over to Huggy’s and grab a burger?” Hutch asked as he slid into the passenger seat of the Torino – his hair perfectly coiffed. “I have to see him about tomorrow anyway.”

“Hutch?” Starsky said from behind the wheel – he pounced on a split second of courage.

“Yeah?” Hutch answered with a beaming smile.

“Nothing.”

He couldn’t do it.

“You okay Starsk? You’ve been kind of quiet. Everything alright?” Hutch sounded sincerely concerned.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.”

“Okay then let’s get something to eat.”

“I’m really not very hungry.”

“Since when are you not hungry.” Hutch jabbed. “You’re always hungry. Are you getting sick or something?”

“I think I meant be getting a cold.” Starsky sniffed.

“Well, let’s get you home then. I want you healthy for tomorrow. I’m going to need all the support I can get. I can do the rest of the errands myself.”

“I am pretty tired. You sure you’ll be okay?”

“Of course. You’re not my mother you know.”

“I know.” The curly-haired cop dismissed with a frown.

“Starsky I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. I don’t remember it being like this with Van. This time is different. I feel like my life is going to start tomorrow. I feel great! I love Shannon so much. I love her more than… life itself.”

Starsky did not respond to his partner’s revelation. He couldn’t. He screeched away from the curb and drove Hutch home. After he dropped him off, Starsky returned to his apartment. He immediately called Huggy to tell him he’d yet to talk to Hutch about the situation and to keep his mouth shut. Huggy was surprised that Starsky had let it get this far but he assured Huggy that he knew what he was doing. The next 24 hours would be the longest of Starsky’s life as he struggled to find a way to save his partner.

*****

The wedding march began and the congregation stood in anticipation of the bride. The small church was filled with Hutch’s friends, family and colleagues. Captain Dobey and his wife Edith were in the second row.

Starsky and Huggy stood beside Hutch in front of the minister at the front of the church. Huggy wore a more flamboyant suit than what Hutch and Starsky had on. Hutch knew when he asked him to be an usher that he’d not go for just a plain ole tux. No, he wore a bright red outfit with a purple scarf and white shirt. Hutch wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Hutch shone in the light that filtered through the stain glass windows. He had a halo around him. He looked like the happiest man on earth. He turned to watch Shannon walk up the aisle. She was alone – accompanied by no one. She looked stunning. Her dress was sleek and elegant and wrapped her perfect body. When she reached Hutch they looked at each other intently. It was like they were the only ones present.

Starsky was preoccupied with turmoil – he was in hell. He barely noticed that the service had begun. He scanned the crowd for Phil Shaw. He spotted him standing at the back by the door in anticipation of Starsky’s cue. What that was, Phil wasn’t exactly sure. The organist ended the music with a flourish, and Starsky was jolted back to the task at hand when the minister began to speak.

“We are gathered here today on this beautiful afternoon to join Ken and Shannon in holy matrimony. It is something one does not enter into lightly. Only a man and woman as much in love as this couple we see before us should wed and so let us begin.”

Starsky couldn’t watch. He stared at the floor searching for what to do. There had to be a way out of this. Then it happened. Starsky’s last chance – his only recourse. The minister continued with the service.

“If there is anyone here that knows of any reason that these two should not be bound by marriage, may they speak now or forever hold their peace.”

There was a brief moment of silence. Starsky’s heart pounded like a jackhammer. It was so loud, he thought the entire assembly could hear it. He took a breath before he spoke.

“Me.” He said with simple boldness.

The guests gasped. A murmur fluttered through the church like a flock of pigeons.

“I beg your pardon?” The minister asked as he had never experienced anyone actually stepping forward before.

“I have a reason.” Starsky answered with trepid strength.

Hutch whipped his head around and locked eyes with his partner. They widened and radiated electric blue. They began to water with fury. With shock and utter disbelief he blinked rapidly trying to bring Starsky into focus. His mouth was agape and his scowl deepened. Astonishment shrouded his complexion. Huggy centered himself between them in anticipation of a fracas. Shannon held her breath.

“What are you doing Starsky?” Hutch was finally able to say.

“Hutch, I need to talk to you.”

“Now?”

“Just for a minute.” Starsky sounded desperate. “Please. It’s important.”

“Important? I’m getting married here. What are you doing?”

Rage was setting in.

But, before Starsky could make his case, Shannon bolted. She pulled her hands out of Hutch’s gentle grasp and ran to the back of the church leaving Hutch the picture of bewilderment. Phil Shaw was able to apprehend her and as gingerly as possible escorted her out of the church. He was prepared as two police cars awaited outside.

“ SHANNON!” Hutch yelled out.

He ran after her down the aisle and ploughed through the heavy wooden doors into the brilliant sunlight of mid afternoon. He saw Phil on the sidewalk holding onto his bride with her hands behind her back. He was pushing her toward one of the police cars. She didn’t put up a fight. Hutch caught up to them and pounced on the P.I., feverishly trying to protect his girl.

“LET HER GO! DON’T TOUCH HER!”

Starsky followed and joined in on the scuffle. He tried to stop Hutch from attacking the private investigator but he was too strong – powered by raw anger. Hutch pulled Shannon away from Phil and punched him in the stomach. He wrestled him to the ground and began to pummel him. Starsky jumped onto his partner to prevent him from killing the P.I. Huggy joined in to help restrain Hutch.

Shannon just stood there with her head down. She said nothing as the men continued their fight. The guests had gathered on the steps of the church and witnessed the entire appalling scene. Starsky and Huggy struggled to control Hutch and it was only when Captain Dobey stepped in to help them that they succeeded.

Phil Shaw regained his composure and was able to stand. He brushed himself off and limped over to Shannon. Calmly he took her by the elbow and guided her into the backseat of the black & white. Shannon made no effort to console Hutch. She went calmly and quietly. Hutch tried desperately to pry himself loose from the strangle hold his comrades had on him but he couldn’t break loose. He watched in horror as the car drove away with his bride never looking back.

“ SHANNON!” Hutch yelled after her.

“HUTCH CALM DOWN!” Starsky barked – he had Hutch in a headlock fighting desperately to control him.

With a surge of energy Hutch managed to break away. He furiously faced Starsky with a look of absolute hatred. With the back of his hand, he slapped him across the face. When Starsky was able to recover from his partner’s emotional attack, he slowly looked up to try and explain his actions. But, all he saw was Hutch in a full sprint in pursuit of the police car. Everyone watched as he disappeared down the street and out of sight. Then all eyes turned to Starsky.

“You better have a good excuse for this.” Dobey fired. “What is this all about? Who was that man? And, why the police?”

With his tuxedo now rumpled and moist with sweat, Starsky stood there in absolute anguish. He tried to gain his breath. Huggy placed his hand on Starsky’s shoulder for moral support. Only he knew the circumstance.

“Well? What have you got to say for yourself?” Dobey barked.

“Not a thing Captain. Not a damned thing.”

*****

Hutch went missing. For three days, Starsky searched the city for his partner. But, he was nowhere to be found. He went to all of his favorite haunts, but no one had seen or heard from him. Even Huggy had no ideas of where Hutch might be.

On the fourth day, Starsky entered “The Pits” and plunked himself in a booth. It was the middle of the afternoon and the place was almost empty. Huggy poured a shot and made his way over to talk to Starsky who sat motionless. He slid in across from him but Starsky gave no sign of recognition that his friend had joined him.

“You look awful.” Huggy said without remorse. “Here, drink this.”

“What have I done?” Starsky uttered with a graveled voice. He was barely lucid. He had yet to make eye contact with Huggy.

“You did what you had to do.”

“I was such a coward. Why didn’t I tell him before? How could I do such a terrible thing? What the hell was I thinking, Hug?”

“It’s for the best. You know that. Hutch would have gone through with it otherwise. He wouldn’t have believed it. Even if he did, he would have married her anyway. Nah. You did right. It was the only way.”

“He’s gone. Nobody’s seen him. He’s just vanished. Maybe forever.” Starsky finally raised his head and looked squarely at Huggy for solace.

“He’ll be back. When he’s ready.” Huggy reassured. “He’ll be back.”

“But, he’ll never forgive me. Even if he does come back, he’ll never forgive me for what I did to him.”

“Sure he will.”

“No. No.” Starsky replied woefully. “It’s over. I don’t blame him. I’d feel the same if it was me.”

“Listen.” Huggy said with absolution. “It may take time, but Hutch isn’t stupid. He knows you wouldn’t do anything to hurt him. He’ll see that you were only trying to protect him.”

“Maybe.”

“You know he’ll do his research. You know he’s probably finding out everything he can about Shannon. That’s just the way he works. He has to find these things out for himself. When he’s recovered from the shock of what happened on Saturday, he’ll have to find out why you did it. He knows deep down that you’d have to have a good reason. Why else would his best friend do something like that? Hutch will search for a reason.”

Starsky’s face seemed to brighten as if he’d just been given sight.

“What?” Huggy asked as he recognized the flash of clarity in Starsky’s expression.

“Thats right.”

“What’s right?”

“He would.”

“He would what?” Huggy probed with intrigue.

“He’d do his research.”

“You know I’m right. If there’s one thing I know about my man Hutch, he’s thorough and tenacious with two capital T’s.”

“The only place I haven’t looked is the station.”

“The station?”

“Work Huggy. He’s at work. It’s the only place he could be.”

“But, wouldn’t someone have seen him?”

“Not if he didn’t want to be seen.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Thanks Hug.”

“Anytime.”

“I’ll call ya later.”

“Make sure you do.”

With renewed energy, Starsky flew out of the bar and drove down to head quarters.

*****

“Hey Minnie.”

“Hi Sugar.” The tiny policewoman greeted Starsky as he briskly made his way down the precinct corridor. She joined up with him and wrapped her arm around his waist. In turn, he threw his arm over her shoulder affectionately. “I heard what happened on Saturday. I’m so sorry. How’s Hutch do’in?”

“Not very well I’m afraid. Can’t say as I blame him.”

“Poor baby.” Minnie said with mournful sincerity.

“I don’t suppose you’ve seen him.” Starsky asked.

“You mean you haven’t?”

“Not since our unfortunate run-in at the wedding.”

“Oh dear. Poor thing.” She said again. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Just keep an eye out for him. He’ll surface sooner or later.”

The pair parted and Starsky began his search. He knew the building inside and out. He and Hutch had roamed these halls for almost eight years. Starsky knew the inner ventricles of the kitchen in the cafeteria, the computer center and every nook and cranny of all the stock rooms. Not to mention the idiosyncrasies of every vending machine in the place. But, there was one area that was rarely used. There was one place where Hutch could do his research in peace and easily escape any probing from fellow officers or clerks.

The basement of the building had a number of dingy rooms that held boxes and boxes of archived files. It held fifty years of paperwork relegated to the bowels of the ship. Piles of materials, old office furniture and typewriters were laid to rest in a series of rooms below the parking garage. They would make for a perfect hideaway. Hutch could covertly collect everything he needed and then retire to the basement to study and regroup.

Starsky quietly took the stairs down into the dungeonlike cellar. It smelled musty and the air was cool and damp. The hallways were dimly lit and framed with cobwebs. He came to the first door and tried to open it. It was locked. He moved onto the next one. It too was closed tightly. But, then as he got closer to the end of the corridor a sliver of light shone from underneath the door on the end. He approached with caution.

With his right hand placed squarely on the center of the door, Starsky squeezed the knob and turned it. The door creaked opened and all he could see was a mass of cardboard. Stealthily, he entered the room and felt his way through a cleared path that led to the back.

There, sitting on the floor, was Hutch. He leaned against the cinder block wall with his legs wide apart. Between his feet was a lit desk lamp. Open files were scattered around him. Photos of Shannon were splayed out in front of him. Hutch was still wearing his groom tuxedo and the rose boutonniere that was so perky days before was now wilted and brown. The suit was soiled with sweat and grim. If Hutch heard Starsky enter the room, he did not acknowledge him.

“Hey.” Starsky said timidly.

“What are you doing here?” Hutch hissed without raising his head to react to his partner’s presence.

“I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Well, aren’t you the noble friend.” Hutch growled with obvious sarcasm.

“I’m so sorry.”

“How long did you know about this?” Hutch asked still staring at the floor. He gestured to the papers.

“The Thursday night before the wedding. That P.I. paid Huggy a visit that day and then he called me.”

“You bastard. Why Starsky? Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you have to humiliate me like that?” Hutch said with welled emotion.

Starsky crouched like a baseball catcher. He leaned his elbows on his knees and let out an extended exhale.

“I know I should have told you. But, I just couldn’t do it. You were so… well, I have no excuses. I should have told you and I’m sorry I didn’t. And, I’m sorry about Shannon too.”

“You coward. How could you do that to me?”

“If I had told you, would you have believed me?”

Hutch finally looked at Starsky.

“No.” He admitted wearily. “Probably not.”

Starsky gently fell backward onto his rump and took a place next to Hutch. The cement wall was damp and cold. He pulled up his knees and leaned his forearms on them. He laced his fingers together.

“You okay?” Starsky asked after a momentary pause.

“Oh yeah. I’m just great.” Hutch said flippantly. “The woman I love is a fraud, my best friend humiliated me in front of everyone I know. My life is over. Am I okay? Oh sure. I’m just peachy. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“I think you’ve done enough, don’t you.”

“Come on Hutch. I’m not the enemy here. Shannon ‘s the one who…”

“DON’T even go there partner!” Hutch warned. He was in obvious pain.

“We’re still partners then?” Starsky smiled cautiously.

“Don’t push it Starsky. I’m not in the mood. You’ve still got a lot of groveling to do yet.”

“Okay. Okay. I’m sorry.”

There was yet another hesitation.

“I want to see her.” Hutch finally divulged.

“If you really want to.”

“I do.”

“She has a court date today. Are you sure you’re up to seeing her? I mean you’ll only be able to talk to her through the glass at county.”

“Starsky. Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m not some snotty nosed rookie? I know what to expect.”

“I’ll drive you over there.” Starsky offered as he stood and held out his hand to help Hutch off the floor.

Hutch reluctantly took it and the pair left the storeroom leaving it littered with Shannon ‘s files and transgressions.

*****

She entered the visiting area. And, even though she wore the jail issue orange jumpsuit, it could not detract from her beauty. Hutch sat with his hands placed neatly on the desk. His fingers were interlocked so tightly his knuckles had turned white. He’d removed his jacket, cumber bun and bow tie. His tailored shirt was wrinkled and covered in dirt. His usual cherub hair was stringy and dull. He could barely keep his eyes open. He was so tired. But, when Hutch saw Shannon, his heart fluttered as it always had. He was still in love with her no matter what she’d done.

Starsky had called ahead deciding that Hutch was in no shape to deal with the situation through a Plexiglas window and a cold phone receiver. He pulled some strings to allow Hutch and Shannon to meet without any patricians. The guards found a nice quiet room for them to say good-bye.

Shannon crossed the floor toward Hutch and took a seat across from him. She seemed defiant and unremorseful. She had yet to look at him – her lilac eyes focused on the ground.

“Hello.” He greeted softly.

She did not respond.

“I just have to know one thing Shannon.” Hutch began hesitantly. “Do you love me?”

Shannon finally raised her head and gazed into Hutch’s brilliant blue eyes. She smiled unsettlingly.

“No.” She replied without a trace of shame.

“What?”

Her answer caught him off guard – what remained of his strength seemed to drain from his very being. A shade of gray veiled his now gaunt face.

“Sorry babe.” She said.

“But…”

“Look Hutch. It’s all true. I just wish your partner had minded his own business.” She said coldly. “I should have known better than to get mixed up with a cop. But, hey, I needed a challenge for a change. I was getting awfully bored with all those other morons. I did something I promised myself I would never do.”

“Oh? What’s that?” Hutch seemed afraid of her answer.

“I let my guard down and I allowed myself be attracted to you. I liked the way you looked. But, that, I’m afraid is the only thing that set you apart from all the others. I feel about you the way I feel about them.”

“And that would be?”

“Nothing. You men are all alike. Parasites… every last one of you.”

“You’re a sick girl Shannon. You need help.” Hutch responded genuinely. “And, just what would you call your behavior over the past year?”

“Survival.”

“So all the time we had together was just…”

“When you walked into the coffee shop that day, I knew. I knew you’d be perfect.”

“Perfect?”

“Yes. The perfect little pawn. You and your partner think you’re so tough. But, deep down you’re both a couple of losers. You were the easiest mark I’ve ever had.”

Hutch tried to keep his emotions in check. He had to look away to regain control. He’d never felt such heartache. Shannon ‘s obvious evilness was hard to take. She’d played him like a game of chess and he struggled to admit that he’d fallen for it. He took a deep breath before he spoke again.

“Well, I guess all I can say is… good-bye.”

“Good-bye Hutch.”

“Have a nice life in prison. You deserve nothing less.”

He raised himself out of his chair and turned to leave.

“Hey!” She called after him with angst at his remark.

He turned to acknowledge her last words to him. But, he did not look at her.

“You never needed me anyway. You’ve already got a wife. Starsky. I hope you two are very happy together.”

“You can count on it.”

*****

EPILOGUE

“I feel like a pastrami on rye.” Starsky announced.

“Funny. You don’t look like pastrami on rye. You look more like tuna on toast.”

“Come on. I’m hungry. Chasing down that prep this morning gave me an appetite.”

Starsky was really proud of Hutch. He’d come through the whole Shannon fiasco with a great deal of dignity and class. It had been several months since she was found guilty of her crimes and was sentenced to fifteen years. Hutch testified at her trial. It too was devastating.

The men made amends as well as they always knew they would. There was no question about it. The detective’s relationship was as solid as the Hoover Dam. Occasional cracks occurred but they were always mended. Hutch managed to wade through all the muck and mire of the Shannon affair and had settled back into his life.

“You know Starsk.”

“Now what?”

“Cured meats are really high in cholesterol and sodium. You should really try to avoid them.”

“I’ve seen you eat cured meats.”

“Yeah, but now I know better. I was reading this article and …”

“Oh stop. Will you please, just stop?”

“I’m just trying to look out for your well being Starsk.” Hutch outlined from the passenger seat of the Torino as they cruised awaiting their next call. “Now. I know this great place down by the shore that I’d like to take you to. Lunch is on me and you’re going to love it.”

Starsky looked at Hutch side ways with obvious suspicion.

“What have they got?” He asked wearily.

“Lots of healthy things. Fresh fish and salads. It’s great!”

“Fresh fish and salads. You’re kidding me right?”

“No. I’m not kidding you. Come on. Try it. Will you just try it?”

“I have tried it. I want a deli sandwich. Can’t I just have what I want without having to endure a lecture from you?”

“Nope. Turn left here.”

“Oh geez.” Starsky submitted as he executed the turn in a huff.

The men pulled up to a small building with a patio at its side. It looked out over the ocean. It was a calm day and the sun shone brilliantly. Sea gulls screeched above. As they got out the car, a large bird dropping landed on the hood of Starsky’s car drawing an ominous leer from him. Hutch grinned uncomfortably and shrugged.

“We’re at the beach. What do you expect?”

He directed Starsky to the patio and sat him at a table.

“There. Isn’t this nice?” Hutch said as he perused the sand for lovelies.

“I guess.”

“Hello doll face.” The waitress said to Starsky. She’d snuck up on him startling him with her greeting.

“Well, hello.” He replied flirtatiously.

She was gorgeous. She looked like she lived on the beach. Her white blonde hair contrasted her deeply tanned skin. Beneath wild bangs peered eyes the color of a Bermuda lagoon.

“What can I get for you handsome?” She asked Starsky with a coy wink.

“Oh no.” Hutch muttered fearful of déjà vu. “No. No.”

“No? What do you mean no?”

“Come on Starsk.” Hutch insisted. “We’ve got to go. I think I heard the radio. We have to go ma’am. Duty calls.”

“Duty calls? I didn’t hear anything.”

Hutch grabbed his partner by the arm and dragged him out of his chair. Starsky tried to protest as he saw the waitress slip farther and farther away. She stared at the duo with puzzlement at Hutch’s reaction to her come on.

“What are you doing?” Starsky gripped. “Can’t you see that girl wants me? She’s beautiful.”

“I can see that Starsky. I’m not blind.”

“But, I thought we were going to have lunch. I think I’m going to like some healthy food for a change.”

“Over my dead body.”

***The End***

Return to Barbara’s homepage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.