Witness (by Barbara)

Summary:  After months of undercover work, Hutch is targeted by a mob boss.  Starsky is blinded by revenge and puts a young girl in danger.
Category:  Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:   7100


 

The rhythmic flapping of baseball cards against bicycle spokes echoed off the culvert walls. Three young boys raced down the dry Bay City canal trying to gain on each other. The day couldn’t have been brighter as the noon sun shone down on them making the waterway scorching hot. Heat waves rose from the cement surface like steam from a boiling kettle.

One boy pulled away from the pack. His face was joyous as he looked back at his pals to gloat. But, his feeling of merriment came to an abrupt halt as he looked ahead again and then slammed on his breaks making the tires screech. When his comrades caught up to him, they too stopped to gawk. There, at the base of a large drainage pipe, lay a man.

He wore a tattered plaid shirt and cargo pants that were drenched by the trickle of sewage that oozed from the conduit. His hair appeared to be blond but was disguised by dirt and wet grim. His face was dry and redden from the powerful sun. His right arm sprawled awkwardly and was obviously broken. Dried blood smeared his bruised and battered face. The sight of the man scared the boys.

The kids got off their bicycles one-by-one and approached with caution and morbid curiosity. They encircled the man, wincing at the state of him.

“Is he dead?” One boy asked.

“I don’t think so. It looks like he’s breathing.” Another replied as he gently kicked the foot of the body to try and wake him.

“Do you think he’s drunk?”

The boys just shrugged in unison.

“I’m going to get my mom.” The leader of the pack announced.

“You better not. We’ll get in trouble.” The final boy cautioned. “We’re not supposed to be playing down here.”

“I don’t care. I’m going to get my mom. You guys stay with him.”

“No way.” The others said as they scrambled to their bikes. “We’re getting out of here.”

As his friends abandoned the scene, the leader scampered up the side of the culvert and ran home to get his mother. She appeared on the street just above the drain pipe and looked down in horror. She did not wait a second longer before running back home and calling an ambulance. Just moments later she could hear the sirens in the distance. A crowd had gathered all peering down at the body. Several good Samaritans made their way down the steep, concrete grade to help. All they could do was give benign comfort.

When the Paramedics arrived the crowd all pointed into the massive ditch. The EMTs scaled into the culvert with the gurney lowered by ropes. They gave aid to the man and then loaded him onto the stretcher and pulled him up the side of the ditch. Several citizens in the crowd helped. It was a difficult and time-consuming rescue. Once safely in the ambulance, they rushed him to the hospital. With the sirens now fading, the neighborhood people dispersed and continued with their day. The mother put her arm around her son’s shoulder and they walked home.

“You did the right thing, dear.” She said.

“I hope he’s okay. He looked like a nice man.”

*****

TWO DAYS EARLIER

“Hey. Captain?” Starsky hissed as he peered atop the newspaper he was reading. “Who’s that?”

A man had entered the squad room. Starsky noticed him immediately. Hutch was buried in finishing a report and did not acknowledge the new comer or the conversation.

“That’s our new detective.” The Captain replied as he leisurely sipped his coffee while perusing a file. “He just started.”

“Is it just me, or does he look a lot like Hutch.” Starsky remarked.

“I suppose.” Dobey said as he cocked his head to the side to get a better perspective.

“You suppose? He could be Hutch’s brother. His TWIN brother! He even dresses like him. Did he take ‘Hutch’ lessons or something?”

Hutch had yet to raise his head. He was totally engrossed in his work. The truth was he had been under cover for the last three and a half months investigating a drug king pin. It had been exhausting and dangerous. Finally, that morning, he got the warrant to arrest him and he and Starsky brought William Stafford in and booked him for a number of offenses including first degree murder.

Hutch had to get everything right on his statement because this criminal was particularly nasty. Hutch knew it first hand, as he’d posed as one of Stafford’s underlings. He couldn’t let even the slightest mistake get by or Mr. Stafford would be right back on the streets. Hutch’s concentration was intense as he focused on every minute detail.

“Hey Josh!” Dobey called across the squad room. “Come on over here and meet Starsky and Hutch.”

The man waved and worked his way through the obstacles of tables and chairs to get to the threesome. Starsky stood to shake his hand. He beamed his trademark smile.

“Starsky. This is Josh Bolton our latest recruit. He just made detective. Moved up here from San Diego.”

“Nice to meet you.” Josh said cordially.

“You too.” Starsky greeted as he studied the man unashamedly. Josh was a perfect carbon copy of his partner. The resemblance was uncanny. “Welcome aboard.”

“And, this is Ken Hutchinson.” Dobey continued. “Hutch. This is Josh.”

Hutch barely turned his attention to the new guy and just gave him a mild salute. He poured over his report and did not want to be distracted.

“He’s a little busy.” Starsky commented with slight embarrassment – like a mother offering an excuse for a misbehaved child.

“That’s okay.” Josh replied. “I understand.”

“I’m thinking of partnering him up with Harley Watts.” Dobey said.

“Sounds like that would work.” Starsky approved. “Harley’s a good man.”

“Yes he is. I’m just waiting for him. Then I’ll put these two to work. Should be great competition for you and Hutch.”

“Competition? It’s not a football game, Captain. We are just trying to maintain law and order. There’s no competition.” Starsky scoffed.

“Right.” Dobey sounded dubious. “Come on into my office Josh and we’ll get you oriented before Harley gets here.”

Dobey and Josh entered the inner office to the side of the squad room leaving Starsky to his newspaper and Hutch to finishing his masterpiece.

“You didn’t have to be so rude.” Starsky commented.

“I wasn’t rude. I just need to get this done.” Hutch replied without making eye contact as he struck the typewriter keys with precision.

“You didn’t even notice that that guy is your clone.”

“Not possible. This can’t be cloned, Starsky. Shame on you. I am one-of-a-kind.”

Starsky rolled his eyes.

“That’s for sure. But, I’m not sure in a good way.”

“What other way could there be… there. I’m finished.” Hutch announced as he pulled his report for the typewriter. “Finally. It’s over. We can get back to our normal lives.”

“Well, after the trial we can. In the meantime, we have to make sure you’re safe. Without your testimony, all the time we put into this will be for nothing.”

“Safe? Why wouldn’t I be safe?”

“Hutch, don’t be so naïve. You know what Stafford is capable of. He’s got boots on the ground. I think we need to talk to Dobey about setting up a safe house for you until the trial.”

“That could take months! I’m not spending months in a safe house. I just spent months away from home in that crumby motel. I’ll be fine.” Hutch dismissed as he banged the papers on his desk to straighten them and then clipped them together. “I just want to get back to work. I’m going to take a few days off to recuperate, then back on the streets we go, partner. You worry too much.”

“Only about you.” Starsky said unabashedly.

“Awww, that’s so sweet.” Hutch mocked. He chuckled at his own sarcasm.

“Listen Hutch. If anything is going to happen. It’s going to happen to you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Plague AND Botulism? Really?”

“That was completely out of my control.”

“And so is this. Remember the last time you were a star witness? You ended up at the bottom of a canyon underneath your car.”

“Well, that was different.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, Stafford isn’t stupid enough to do anything to a cop.” Hutch reasoned. “I know the man pretty well. He may be a mob boss, but he is honorable. He knows he just has to do his time.”

“Honorable? That’s a new one. An honorable criminal. Dats a little naive don’tcha think?” Starsky said warily.

“Maybe. I just don’t think he’s a threat.”

“Okay then.” Starsky shrugged. “If you say so. Hey! How about some dinna to celebrate?”

“Nope. Tonight I’m going to go home and have a nice hot shower. Then I’ll have a cold beer and a bite to eat, maybe watch the game. Then I am going to bed for a very long time. My bed! I’m going to sleep and when I wake up tomorrow morning I am going to roll over and sleep some more.”

“Alright. I guess you do deserve to sleep in your own bed after a few months in the shit hole motel.”

“You’ve got that right, Gordo.” Hutch agreed as he stood and put on his jacket. “Now drive me home.”

“Please.” Starsky mocked. “Please drive me home? Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?”

“I’m too tired for manners. Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

*****

“I should have stayed with him.” Starsky whispered as he held vigil bedside Hutch’s intensive care bed. “I had a really bad feeling when I drove him home Friday night and I should have listened to my gut.”

“Let’s not play the blame game, okay?” Dobey advised as he stood behind his detective. “He’s my responsibility and I should have seen this coming. I dropped the ball here not you.”

“So much for not feeling guilty, huh Captain.”

Starsky arrived at the hospital when the Paramedics called to tell him that Hutch had been found in the culvert by the three young boys. They found Starsky’s phone number in Hutch’s wallet. Captain Dobey arrived shortly after Starsky called him. Huggy was on his way.

“We’ve got to get him out of here.” Starsky stated with urgency.

“Well, what did the doctor say?”

“Hutch just got out of surgery. I haven’t seen the doctor yet.”

“I’m going to go find out what’s going on.” Dobey declared as he turned to leave.

But, he didn’t get far as the doctor swished open the curtain that surrounded the bed. They just missed bumping right into each other.

“Sorry sir.” The doctor said as he avoided the collision. “I didn’t see you there.”

Dobey ushered him into the space as Starsky rose to greet him.

“How is he?” He asked with worried anticipation.

“He came through the operation very well.” The doctor said as he reviewed Hutch’s file.

“Is he going to be okay?”

“Well, let’s take a look here.”

The doctor spent a few long moments reading the lengthy medical report as Starsky and Dobey looked on anxiously.

“Well?” Dobey asked impatiently.

“Well. His right arm was badly broken. We set it, but it’s going to take quite a lot of rehab to get it working again. But, that is not my biggest concern.”

“What is?” Starsky inquired.

“He’s suffered a fractured skull and I have to inform you that he is in a coma.”

“What?”

“We had to induce one in order for his brain to heal – to prevent any more swelling. He’s also sustained internal bleeding and several broken ribs, not to mention superficial cuts and bruises. All of that will heal in due course. I am no detective,” The doctor continued, “but your friend was not meant to survive this. Quite frankly, he still may not.”

Starsky stared at the physician blinking rapidly to try to absorb the news. He scowled deeply. His throat dried and his heart sank. He took a few moments to digest what the doctor was saying.

“Are you telling me he’s going to die?”

“Not if I can help it.” He assured. “I’ll do my utmost to bring him through this. But, I had to in good conscience, give you his odds.”

“And they would be?”

“He’s on the better side of 50% full recovery. That is the best I can offer right now.”

“Well, we’ve got more than just Hutch’s odds to consider here.” Starsky professed.

“Oh? What’s that?”

“He can’t stay here.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s not safe here.”

“I’m not following you.” The doctor said with puzzlement. “He couldn’t be in better hands than in this IC unit. I have only the best staff to care for my patients. Our positive outcomes are the best in the State.”

“I don’t deny that, doc.” Starsky answered. “But, Hutch is in this condition because he is the main witness in a trial. They tried to silence him and when they find out he survived, they will try again. We have to go into hiding. We have to get him out of here as soon as possible or all your medical know how won’t mean shit.”

“Oh. I see.” The doctor replied with concern. “I wasn’t aware of the circumstances.”

“Well, now you are. So, I’m open to suggestions, but we can’t wait. We have to get Hutch to a safe place! Today.”

“But, he can’t be moved.” The doctor stated. “He’s in no shape to go anywhere. If he’s moved his odds will decrease significantly. I can’t be responsible for him if he leaves this facility.”

“I’ll take responsibility.” Starsky said. “We have no choice. Now, get him ready to go.”

“But…”

“No but’s, doctor. I know this is unorthodox, but Hutch’s life depends on it.”

*****

“They just threw him away like garbage, Captain. And, they’re not going to get away with it. Nobody can do this to Hutch without dealing with me. And right now, I’m as mad as a badger caught in a steel trap. Look at him! Look at what they did! They are going to pay for this.”

Starsky broke down. The rage he felt was almost painful. He struggled to control his festering wrath and an overpowering urge to punch a hole in the wall. Guilt and concern engulfed him.

“Listen, Starsky.” Dobey reasoned. “There is no way Hutch will survive if he is removed from this hospital. Do you really want to take that chance?”

“If we don’t, he’ll be dead anyway. We can’t protect him here.”

Huggy had joined the group and the threesome gathered just outside the drape that hid Hutch from view. They huddled to discuss an exit strategy. Several nurses and doctors scramble about the unit to gather equipment and supplies to pack up for Hutch’s perilous journey. It was a new concept to them but they were given the task and they all sprang into action to make it happen.

“I’m thinking about taking him to Huggy’s apartment.” Starsky submitted.

“That’s fine with me.” Huggy agreed.

“But, what about all the equipment attached to Hutch to keep him alive?” Dobey asked.

“It will all have to go with him. We’ll need a full-time nurse and the doctor will have to start making house calls. At least once a day.”

Captain Dobey paused for a moment. He cross his arms as if it would improve his thought process.

“We’ll place a phony story in the papers that a police officer was killed. That he was a witness in a high-profile trial.” Dobey outlined. “That should satisfy Stafford and his soldiers that Hutch is out of the picture.”

“I’m not going to let them get away with this.” Starsky declared.

“Well, what do you suggest we do?” Dobey asked.

“Josh.”

“Who?”

“Josh Bolton. The new guy.”

“What about him?” Dobey asked.

“Captain. The man is Hutch’s twin. We’ll put him in Hutch’s hospital bed. We’ll set up two officers to guard his room. We’ll publish a story in the newspaper about a cop who SURVIVED. That should bring them out of the sewer and try again. Then we can catch those bastards once and for all.”

“You are playing with fire, Starsky.” Dobey blasted. “I’m not going to put Josh in that position. What if something happens to him? Then what?”

“Can we at least see if Josh is up for it?” Starsky pleaded.

Frustrated, Dobey huffed before leaving the huddle to call Josh.

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to put someone in Hutch’s place?” Huggy asked tentatively. “Can you live with yourself if something happens to him?”

“I know I can’t live with Stafford getting away with trying to kill Hutch.”

“I hear ya.” Huggy resigned.

“What time have you got?” Starsky quarried.

“It’s almost 2am.”

“Okay. I’m going to track down the doctor and let him know the plan. Then we can finish preparing Hutch for the transfer.”

“Don’t you want to wait and see if the new guy is game?”

“He will be, Hug. He will be.”

*****

It was 3:30am when a man entered the IC unit. Starsky did not recognize him at first and went on full alert and confronted him. He feared yet another hit on Hutch. But, it soon became clear that the man was Josh. He wore a dark wig and baseball cap. Horn rimmed glasses and a tan trench coat added to his disguise. Starsky looked at him squarely and placed each hand astride Josh’s shoulders.

“Thank you.” Was all Starsky said.

The medical staff whisked Josh away to another room to get him changed into a hospital gown. By that time they had begun to wheel Hutch out the side door and down the freight elevator. A laundry van that had been equipped with medical paraphernalia awaited. The doctor and Starsky accompanied Hutch along with the nurse who had been recruited for his long-term care.

Starsky crawled into the van alongside the medical team and they drove the 20 minutes to Huggy’s apartment. He had rearranged his living room furniture to make space for the hospital bed and equipment.

They brought Hutch up the back way and wheeled him into his new home for the foreseeable future. Once settled, all seemed serene. To the doctor’s surprise, Hutch handled the trek very well. All his vital signs were very good.

“Well, we made it.” The doctor said with a satisfied sigh. “Your partner is very strong.”

“My partner has the constitution of a bull elephant.”

“So it seems.” The doctor agreed.

“Listen. I can’t thank you enough for all this.” Starsky said with sincere gratitude. “I know it’s out of the ordinary, but our LIVES are out of the ordinary. Hutch wouldn’t have survived if he stayed at the hospital.”

“I understand and you’re welcome.”

The doctor took a few more moments to check all the equipment and Hutch’s blood pressure, temperature and breathing tube. The blond detective was oblivious to all the fuss.

“Well, we’ve done all we can. It’s all up to him now.” The doctor said as he headed for the door. “I’ll be back in the morning to check on him.”

“Thanks doc. But, can you do me a favor?”

“Another one? What now? Free prescriptions?” He chuckled.

“That would be nice, but no.” Starsky replied whimsically. “When you come here, can you dress in street clothes and come up the back way?”

“Certainly, Mr. Bond.”

Starsky grinned at the doctor’s attempt at humor. He guided him to the door and said good night.

The young nurse that was assigned to caring for Hutch hovered around her patient, primping the sheets and feeling his forehead for any sign fever.

“Thank you for doing this.” Starsky uttered.

“You’re welcome.” She answered sweetly.

“I don’t know how long you will have to be away from your family so I really appreciated it.”

“That’s okay. I don’t have a family. Besides, I’ve always had a secret ambition to be a Super Hero.”

“Well, you certainly are mine. What’s your name?”

“Jennifer.”

“I’m David. And, that’s our host over there. The enigmatic Huggy Bear.”

Huggy tipped his hat to the young lady.

“I have a spare room you can use, Miss Jennifer.” Huggy said as he pointed down the hallway. “Make yourself at home. Right now, I’m going to bed.”

“Thanks Hug.”

“I left some clothes for you on the sofa, Starsky.”

Huggy wearily left the living room to hit the hay. It was a trying and eventful night and he had a bar to open for business in the morning. He was severely tuckered.

“Well, thanks again Jennifer, but I’ve got to go.” Starsky stated.

“Go? Where?”

“I’ve got to get back to the hospital.”

“Why?”

“Because they think Josh is Hutch. And, I would be where Hutch is. It would look suspicious if I wasn’t there with him.”

Starsky outlined as he began to disrobe.

“What are you doing?” Jennifer asked with slight shock.

“I’m changing my clothes.”

Somewhat leery, the nurse just stared at him and scrunched her face with puzzlement.

“I don’t want anyone to see me here, so I have to disguise myself when I’m coming and going. Wearing some of Huggy’s wardrobe should do it.” He said as he held up the yellow, polyester suit his friend left out for him. “Then when I get to the hospital, I will change back into my clothes.”

“Wow. Sounds like a lot of work.” Jennifer said.

“Not really, but it has to be done or they may find him.”

Starsky talked as he changed.

“He means a lot to you doesn’t he?” She said out of the blue.

Starsky sauntered over to Hutch’s bed where Jennifer sat vigil. He finished buttoning up his brightly flowered silk shirt, looked down at his comatose partner and frowned.

“Yes, he does. He’s closer to me than my own brother. I trust him with my life and he trusts me with his. Yes. He means a lot to me.”

“Intense.”

“That’s a good word for it.”

Starsky went back to the sofa and threw on the yellow blazer. He placed the final touches to his new look with a patch denim hat and black sunglasses. He whirled around to model his outfit for Jennifer.

“Well? How do I look?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes. Honestly.”

“You look hip.”

“Hip! Dats what I was going for.”

*****

Starsky had arranged a main floor janitor’s room for a place to change from Huggy’s threads back into his usual shabby jeans, t-shirt, adidas and leather jacket.

He got back to the hospital around 5 a.m. He was running on pure adrenaline. It was that and his bitter determination to avenge Hutch’s brutal beating that kept him going.

He returned to the 3rd floor ICU unit to hopefully trick Stafford’s men into thinking Josh was Hutch. He had to stay on alert to anyone suspicious and most of all to protect Josh. But, Josh was not a sitting duck either. He came prepared. Concealed beneath the sheets that covered him up to his neck was a .357 Magnum.

Starsky approached Josh’s bedside and was taken aback by just how much he looked like Hutch. Starsky nodded at the 2 police officers that stood guard. Josh played the part and never moved a muscle. If he knew Starsky was there it was not apparent.

*****

The days and weeks that followed were exhausting. Back and forth from the hospital to Huggy’s apartment with little sleep or nourishment was punishing to Starsky mentally and physically. He lost weight and fatigue etched his face. All his efforts to this point seemed futile as nothing out of the ordinary occurred at either location. But, Starsky had to be diligent. He had to continue the façade for the safety of both Josh and Hutch.

The staff at the hospital played their parts too, giving the illusion that Josh was recovering and slowly weaning him off machines and tubes eventually moving him to a private room. The same routine was happening for Hutch. He too was improving and was now cognizant and convalescing nicely at Huggy’s place. Jennifer and the doctor’s daily visits were instrumental in getting Hutch on the road to recovery.

Starsky and Hutch had become very fond of Jennifer. She was so dedicated to keeping Hutch comfortable and meticulous about all of his medical needs and meals and hygiene. She was just a gem. She was funny and upbeat considering the circumstances and they knew she would be their friend for life. It was clear to them that it was she that saved Hutch’s life.

Dobey tried to urge Starsky to abandon his mission. He reasoned that if Stafford hadn’t tried anything to this point, he probably never would. When Dobey visited Josh in the hospital, Starsky happened to be there keeping mock vigil. The Captain decided right then and there to conduct an intervention with his sergeant.

“Look Dave.” He began. “You were right to assume the worst. But, the trial is set for next week. I think it’s safe to send Josh home. And, Hutch too.”

“No.” Starsky insisted as Josh looked on.

He lay comfortably in his bed with his hand’s behind his head. He liked this call of duty. All the attention from the nurses, gifts and rest suited him just fine. He could milk this assignment indefinitely.

“But there hasn’t been any sign of threat from Stafford to either Josh or Hutch.” Dobey reasoned. “All these resources and your time and effort are being wasted. The doctors, the nurses… Jennifer. You and they need to get back to work. Hutch is well enough to testify and that’s exactly what he is going to do. Now go home. Get some rest. I’ll see you in the office bright and early tomorrow morning. I’ll arrange to get Hutch home in the next few days. And, let poor Jennifer get back to her normal life. This vendetta of yours is over.”

“Just one more week, Captain. Just until the trial begins. It’s not safe yet. I can feel it.”

“Fair enough.” Dobey agreed reluctantly. “One more week. That’s all you’ve got. You okay with that Josh?”

“Works for me.” He answered as a pretty nurse entered the room with a shaving kit.

“Thanks Captain.” Starsky said with mild relief. “I’m heading back to Huggy’s to check on Hutch. I’ll fill him in on the plan.”

“You do that.” Dobey said. “Well, I’m heading home.”

“Have a good evening Captain and say hello to Edith for me.”

Dobey gave both his men a reserved wave and left. Starsky turned to Josh and took a seat next to the bed.

“I can’t thank you enough for doing this. I really appreciated it. Hutch does too.”

“Believe it or not, I’ve enjoyed it.” Josh revealed. “Easiest assignment of my career so far. If only they were all this cushy.”

“Ha. Yeah, well. I guess you’re right. Could have been worse. I’ll see you tomorrow. And, thanks again.”

Starsky wearily made his way out of Josh’s hospital room and down to his make-shift change room in the basement. It was Sunday evening and visiting hours were just ending. The shiny hallways of the hospital the bustled an hour before were now eerily quiet. Shiny, dim and quiet. It was unnerving.

As Starsky stood at the elevator, his heart began to pound. It caught him off guard because there seemed to be no reason for it. All he knew wat that his intuition was telling him that something was wrong. Something was about to happen. It was at that moment, a gun shot rang out. It echoed through the halls and a woman let out a blood-curdling screamed. Starsky bolted back to Josh’s room at full speed and was shocked to see a dead man sprawled out on the floor – his weapon still in his hand. Josh was standing in his hospital gown holding a smoking gun.

Several doctors and nurses appeared at the door. The medical staff rushed to give aid to the strange man but he was already dead.

Starsky didn’t waste an instant. He knew Stafford had finally made his move and Starsky had to get to Hutch. Without a word he dashed out of the hospital room, down the hall to the stairs. He had no time to wait for an elevator. He scrambled into the lobby and out the back door to the parking lot. He had rented a non-descript car to attract less attention. He slid into the driver seat and peeled away toward Huggy’s apartment. Sweat drenched him. Blood pulsed through his veins. His ears burned with fury. Fear engulfed him. Was he too late? Had Stafford’s men found Hutch? Was he already dead?

Starsky arrived at the apartment building, skidding to a screeching halt. He, scaled the stairs up to the 3rd floor and moved stealthily down the corridor toward Huggy’s apartment door. With his heart still in overdrive he drew his gun. Despite the panic that surged through his body, the building seemed serene. He placed the key in the door knob and turned it slowly. He cracked it open and carefully moved inside. When he entered the living room, his heart sank.

“Oh no.” He said woefully. “NOOOOOO!”

Jennifer lay dead on the floor. And, Hutch was gone.

*****

Starsky cradled Jennifer in his arms. She was cold and limp. He could do nothing else but sob.

“I’m sorry, Jen. I’m so sorry.” He wept.

He picked her up and placed her lifeless body on the sofa. His detective instincts were abandoned. He didn’t care that he had tampered with a murder scene. He just wanted to give Jennifer comfort… somehow. It was then that Huggy appeared at the door. He had just innocently returned home from work expecting a quiet night in.

“What happened?” He asked apprehensively. “Where’s Hutch? Is Jen okay? What’s going on?”

“She’s dead, Hug.”

“Oh no. How could they do that?” Huggy said as his eyes filled with tears. “How could they kill that beautiful, little girl.”

He slowly walked over to the sofa where Starsky had laid her. He reached down and touched her on the cheek.

“Oh no.” He said again with pure anguish. “Poor, sweet girl.”

“They tried to kill Josh too. At the hospital.” Starsky stated quietly. “And, they’ve taken Hutch.”

“This can’t be happening.” Huggy said as he found a blanket to cover Jennifer with. “Everything was going so well. Everything was fine.”

“Call an ambulance, will you?” Starsky sniffed trying desperately to gain control. “And, take care of Jen.”

“Of course I will. You know I will. Where you goin?”

“I’m going to find Hutch.”

*****

Starsky called Dobey at home to tell him the bad news about Jennifer. He too, was upset and lost for words. They all had become so close to her. She was nothing but kind and loving and she was murdered for it. The guilt Starsky felt was almost debilitating but his drive to find Hutch and avenge Jen’s death was far more powerful.

As Starsky drove to the jail where Stafford was being held pending his trial, he simply could not hold back his tears. He was so exhausted. He was overcome with grief. He was scared. He’d never felt so alone in all his life. But, he couldn’t let Stafford see any of his emotions. He had to be strong. He had to find Hutch. That was his mission now.

It was midnight when he arrived at the jail. Starsky flashed his badge at the guard and ordered them to get Stafford into an interrogation room immediately. They showed Starsky to a room where he was left to sit and wait. It was painful. His breathing was swift. His expression cross. He paced the room impatiently trying to calm himself down. After several deliberate exhales, he finally sat at the table, clenched his fists and closed his eyes.

It took the guard 20 minutes to get Stafford down to the interrogation room. It was the longest 20 minutes Starsky had every endured. But, finally the lock on the door clicked. It opened and there stood Stafford. The guards guided him into the room and seated him across the table from Starsky. The two men made frigid eye contact.

“Can I help you, Detective?” Stafford said smugly. “You awoke me from quite a pleasant dream.”

“Where is he?” Starsky hissed.

“I assume you are inquiring about Hutchinson?”

“You know exactly who I’m inquiring about.”

“Let’s just say I’ve had him stashed away for safe keeping.”

“He better be safe.” Starsky seethed. “If you touch one hair on his blond head, I’ll kill you.”

“Well, it’s a little late for that. His blond head was meant to be severed weeks ago. You just can’t get good help these days. But, I can assure you, my new staff is much more efficient.”

Starsky did everything he could to restrain himself. He knew losing his temper would just make things worse. He sighed heavily.

“I get it Stafford. If Hutch testifies, you’ll never see the light of day again. I understand. I know what you want.”

“Oh. And, what’s that?”

“You want to make a deal.”

“I’m afraid I haven’t given you enough credit Detective Starsky. You’re smarter than you look.”

“Name it.”

“Well, that’s obvious isn’t it?” Stafford began. “I want out of this place and a jet to any country that will take me. Is that too much to ask?”

“I assume if I arrange that for you, you will return my partner alive?”

“One must never assume. But, yes, if you do that for me, I’d be happy return that fink partner of yours… unscathed.”

“How do I know you’ll keep up your end of the bargain? After all, you are a puss sucking, murdering bottom feeder.”

Stafford smirked at Starsky’s descriptive verbal attack.

“You have my word. But, can take the word of a puss sucking, murdering bottom feeder?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No.”

*****

Starsky met Dobey at the station to discuss the plan. It was Monday morning. 7am. Not knowing where Hutch was made his gut churn. He felt nauseous. He sat in his usual seat in Dobey’s office. He couldn’t help but glance over at the empty chair beside him where Hutch always sat. He returned his focus across the desk to the Captain and spelled out Stafford’s demands.

“He says he’ll return Hutch alive if we get him out of the country.” Starsky stated wearily.

“Do you believe him?”

“I have to.”

“It could take days to get everything in order… lawyers, officials, consulates.”

“I know and in the meantime, I don’t know where he is. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. Hurt. Please Captain. This is Hutch we’re talking about. I know you’re against bargaining with kidnappers. But, there is no choice here. Please. We’ve got to meet Stafford’s demands. Please.” Starsky implored.

“So, Stafford win’s then, huh?”

“We will all win if you do this.”

“What about Jennifer?” Dobey chided. “She’s the biggest loser in all this.”

“I know. And, I will have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

Dobey paused momentarily before picking up the phone to make all the arrangements for Stafford’s release and relocation. Starsky just sat quietly and watched. He could barely keep his eyes open. He was totally spent. When Dobey finally finished his series of calls, he stared across at his detective.

“Go home, Starsky.” He demanded.

“No. I have to look for Hutch. He’s out there… somewhere. I’ve got to find him. I can’t go home until I find him.”

“Listen to me Dave.” Dobey replied with conviction. “I want to you to go home and wait. You are just going to make matters worse. Everything will come together and when it does, you will be the first to know. There is nothing you can do here. We’ll get Hutch back. Now, get out of here. And that’s an order!”

Starsky stared blankly at his boss. He knew he was right. There was nothing he could do. He silently stood and left the office.

*****

Starsky plodded up the stairs to his flat. Every single step seemed insurmountable. His legs felt like lead. His brain – numb. He hadn’t been home for 3 weeks. When he entered, he just stood there disoriented. Then fury suddenly surged to the surface. He took off his jacket and slammed it to the floor. He threw his keys across the room into the kitchen, shattering an entire shelf of glasses. He shouted a string of profanities before collapsing onto the couch in a heap of sorrow. He sat there defeated, frustrated… helpless. He had nothing left. Starsky held his face in his hands then curled into the fetal position and finally fell asleep.

*****

It was 9pm. Monday night. Starsky still lay on his sofa. He was more passed out than asleep. He felt a gentle tap on his shoulder and heard a voice.

“Starsk?”

But, Starsky thought he was dreaming. He didn’t budge.

“Starsky?” The voice sounded again.

He opened his eyes and was puzzled to be face-to-face with Hutch. Starsky blinked rapidly to try and bring his friend into focus. Was he dreaming?

“Hutch?” He said with disbelief.

“It’s me, Starsk. I’m okay. It’s over.”

“Hutch?” Starsky repeated.

He leaped to his feet and embraced his partner. Elation filled his being. When he finally let go he stood back in astonishment that Hutch had been returned unscathed. Maybe Hutch was right. Stafford was honorable.

Dobey looked on from the front door. Once he witnessed the partner’s reunion, he quietly left the apartment.

“Are you okay?” Starsky asked placing his hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

“Yes. Actually. I am.” Hutch replied somewhat surprised himself.

“But, how did you get here? What… where?”

“Stafford got on a plane 2 hours ago. He gave Dobey my where abouts and here I am.”

Starsky hugged Hutch again. It made him smile broadly.

“Okay, okay.” Hutch laughed at his friend’s show of affection. “I’m glad to see you too buddy.”

“Here. Sit.” Starsky instructed. “I’ll get you some water.”

“How about a beer?”

Starsky ran to the kitchen and grabbed 2 beers. He returned to the living room and sat beside his friend in utter relief. It only took a few seconds for his excitement to wain and he was quickly overwhelmed with guilt.

“Jennifer’s dead, Hutch.”

“I know. I couldn’t save her. I tried, but I couldn’t.”

“Where were you? I wanted to find you but I just didn’t know where to start. All I could do was confront Stafford and then ask Dobey for help.”

“I was right down the hall from Huggy. They rented an apartment a few doors down.  They had been staking us out all along. All they had to do was sit and wait. When the opportunity came, they pounced.”

“I feel like a fool.” Starsky confessed. “I thought I was so smart. But, why did they have to kill Jen? She never hurt anyone. Why?”

“You know what kind of people we’re dealing with, Starsk. She was no use the them. She was merely collateral damage. They didn’t give a shit about Jen.”

“I don’t know how I can move on from this.” Starsky said.

“We go on the way we always do, partner. Full throttle and straight ahead.”

*****

EPILOGUE

It was an unusually cool day in Bay City. Cloudy and cool. Starsky and Hutch stood alongside a large crowd gathered at the cemetery to say their last farewell to Jennifer. Dobey, Huggy and Josh were there too. And, it seemed like the entire staff of the hospital and of course Jen’s family and friends.

The short ceremony was unbearably sad. There were lots of tears and heart-wrenching wails. But, all Starsky could do was look at Jen’s mother. It was his fault. He accepted all the blame. He put Jennifer in danger without much thought of what could happen. Crushing guilt filled his being. He could feel Hutch’s hand on his shoulder for support. He knew what his partner was going through. When the crowd dispersed, Starsky walked over to Jennifer’s mother to give his condolences and to confess. Hutch followed close behind.

“Mrs. Raymond?” Starsky said softly as he took her hand.

“Yes?”

She sounded just like her daughter. Her eyes were the same too.

“I’m David Starsky.”

“Oh, yes David. Jennifer told me all about you.”

“She did?”

“Yes. She would call me in the evenings and tell me how Hutch was doing. She made me laugh by telling me all about the outfits you used to wear. She loved you both. She was so happy she could help. It was like she was on a little adventure.”

A single tear fell from Starsky’s eye.

“Don’t cry, David. Jennifer knew the risks. And, so did I. But, it’s what she wanted to do. She did not die in vain, sweetheart.”

“But, Mrs. Raymond. I put her in a dangerous situation without any thought to her well-being. I was so blinded by my own agenda, I never even considered what could happen. The truth is, at the time, I didn’t care. Can you forgive me? I’m just so sorry. I can’t…”

Starsky broke down.

“I know you are, dear. So am I. So are all of us. Jennifer was a beautiful, sweet girl and we will all miss her. Of course, we forgive you.”

“I want you to know, that I intend to bring them to justice. I will track them down and they will pay.”

“You do what you think is right, David. Just make sure you do it for the right reasons. I have to go now.”

The two separated. Mrs. Raymond walked slowly back to the limo and she got in. Starsky and Hutch were left by the gravesite alone.

“Let it go partner.” Hutch offered softly.

“I don’t think I can.”

“You did the best you could Starsky. You didn’t do anything wrong. You did what you thought was right at the time. No regrets. We are in the wrong business for regrets.”

Starsky turned to face his friend. Hutch grabbed him around the back of the neck and their foreheads touched.

“Come on.” Hutch said. “I have my own respects to pay.”

“Who’s that?”

“That kid that found me in the culvert.” Hutch divulged. “I think I’ll buy him a new bike.”

***The End***

2018

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One thought on “Witness (by Barbara)

  1. I liked this story and other than a few S&H stories I’ve been enamored by RP stories recently as you know. I like H/C stories involving my favorite character – mostly the comfort part and there is always a lot of that in your stories. In this series I like Hutch so I especially liked this story.

    Like

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