|Out Of The Blue
Author: Monika11 PM
Starsky and Hutch run across two ladies. Can they help to solve the case?Rated: Fiction K - English - Drama - Words: 14,475 - Reviews: 5 - Published: 09-19-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3161066
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Out Of The Blue
"I got it!" Starsky's hands rested under one side of the bureau and with Hutch on the opposite side as they hauled the furniture through the little front garden into the house. "Where to?" Starsky hissed and Hutch motioned to the wall next to the window.
"Wow! That's it for today, pal, isn't it?" Exhausted Starsky plunged onto the couch that was standing in the middle of the living room. Late afternoon sunshine flooded the room and though it looked still a bit disarranged, Starsky had to admit it was a lovely new home for Hutch after his divorce from Vanessa.
"Is there anything left in the old apartment?" Starsky asked propping his feet on the coffee table in front of him and looked questioningly at Hutch who shook his head. "Be back right away," he said and he left the house to come back with a six pack beers.
"Here we go." Starsky caught the can mid air, opened it with a popping sound and took a big gulp. Hutch kept standing and sipped from his beer. He looked around, engrossed in thoughts.
"C'mon, get some rest, Blondie," Starsky pointed to the empty space on the couch and Hutch started from his reverie and joined his partner.
"Are you happy now?" Starsky asked.
Hutch smiled. "It's a nice home. Thanks for finding it."
"To be honest, it was Hug, who gave me the hint. One of his cousins was involved with the lady who lived here and when she moved out to live with him…the rest is history," Starsky mused.
"Do you think it was cousin Julian, the nice guy who helped you get me out of that crazy "We are happy forever" community?" Hutch asked, still feeling a little uncomfortable when he thought of their first case.
As an undercover assignment they had lived in the community. At that time Hutch was still suffering from Van dumping him. In the community he had found the understanding he was longing for, had met another girl, Susan, but in the end he had been drugged like many others of the community. Starsky, Huggy and Julian had helped him out in an audacious action at night.
"Yeah, I think Huggy mentioned Julian," Starsky said watching his friend attentively.
"Hey, it's all over now. No need to worry anymore. They didn't find any residue of the drugs on your last check-up." Starsky nudged Hutch in the side and received a relieved smile from his partner.
"Okay, what about getting some food into my stomach?" Starsky got into action again. Reaching down a hand to help his friend up, he moved to the entrance door.
"Hutch, look, you have nice neighbors!" Starsky called back to his friend. Hutch couldn't hide a smile when he stepped outside and saw the duck family who were floating on the canal in front of his little cottage, gabbling loudly.
The sky turned an intense warm colour as the sun began to set. Stunned, both men
watched the beauty of nature 'til the growling of Starsky's stomach goaded them hurry to Huggy's for a late dinner.
It was almost midnight when Hutch stopped his car in front of Starsky's apartment.
"Well, Buddy, have a good night. See you tomorrow," Hutch said hesitantly. It was the first time in months that each of them was staying at his own home.
"Same to you, pal," Starsky smiled and got out of the car. "In case you feel lonely, call me and I'll be right by your side."
"You wish!" Hutch snorted and started the car to leave.
When he arrived at the little house by the canal he tried to look ahead. Finally he didn't have to spend the nights on Starsky's lumpy couch. After Van had left him, Hutch wasn't up to staying at the apartment he had shared with her. Fortunately Starsky and he were assigned to live undercover in that strange community. Things turned the wrong way and the last-time his friend was there to save him from the depressing drugs they had put in the healthy shakes. Hutch had been weak and helpless when Starsky had taken him home. The medical examination revealed that the drugs weren't life –threatening, but it would take some time for them to leave his body completely.
Embarrassed Hutch remembered those flashbacks when he woke up at night having the urgent wish to end his life – Only then he would gain the happy life they had promised him before. The aftereffect of the drugs made him look frantically for a way out of his friend's care. There were times he wanted to run away when Starsky had held him back, soothing him and telling him that he needed him and that he acted still under the influence of the drugs.
Concentrating on the present Hutch unlocked the door and stepped in. There were still some boxes that waited to be unpacked. That would be a plan for the next day, Hutch decided as he shed his clothes and went to take a hot shower. The spray of the water made him feel relaxed and tired. Toweling himself dry he could do without any nightwear. He let himself fall onto the soft mattress, ready to fall asleep. He stretched his limbs and groaned contented. Finally sleeping in his own bed! He turned to one side and closed his eyes. But sleep wouldn't come easily. He found himself listening to unusual sounds. Something was missing. Was it the silence in the house, the new surroundings? He turned from one side to the other. His thoughts went back to the last months and suddenly he knew what was wrong: Starsky's presence, their banter and arguments, what kind of TV program the best was for both; even Starsky's questions about some odd things he had heard somewhere and wanted to share with Hutch were altogether something special that Hutch had got used to.
Feeling lonely all of a sudden, Hutch thought about his ever so excited partner and best friend. A little smile crept over his face when he remembered Starsky's enthusiastic description about a car he had seen on their way to the cottage. Candy red with white stripes…With a chuckle Hutch fell asleep…
Instead of going to bed Starsky slumped on his couch and switched the TV on. There was a comic marathon and he expected Hutch to make a sarcastic comment – but Hutch was in his own house. Starsky got a little nervous. He went into the kitchen to fetch a beer. Returning to the living room he noticed that he had two bottles in his hand, one for Hutch…
Ridiculous, he scolded himself and lay down on the couch. Something between the cushions caught his attention – one of Hutch's T-shirts. Dummy, he never put away his things, Starsky thought but instead of stashing it, Starsky held it in his hand and lay his head on the cushions. The feeling of having Hutch nearby let him fall asleep.
"Starsky and Hutchinson – in my office!" growled Captain Dobey from the other side of the door. Starsky rolled his eyes before he let Hutch enter first.
"Don't you dare!" Dobey looked at the door behind Starsky. Carefully Starsky let the door fall shut without using his foot.
"What's up, Capt'n?" Hutch sat down on the chair in front of Dobey's desk and Starsky perched on the arm of the chair.
"A man is missing his wife and his two children – this morning they found their car burnt down in a forest at Southhill. Still no trace of the woman and her children. We got the case. Find out if it's a crime. Officer Raleigh has some more information for you. She'll be here at ten. That's it.
Hutch, by the way, I've heard you found a new home. Good luck with it – And now, out of my office!"
"How was your first night, Blondie?" Starsky asked.
Hutch answered as expected. "Well, anything is better than your lumpy couch , so my back isn't giving me any trouble today." Neither of them confessed that they had missed each other. Pensively they sat down at their desk to finish their reports.
"To Captain Dobey?" They heard a female voice and looked up from their reports. A young woman with long brown hair and a serious expression on her face looked questioningly at them.
At that moment Dobey opened his door, smiled at the woman and said: "This is Officer Raleigh. Miss Raleigh, may I introduce you to my detectives Starsky and Hutchinson. They are working on the Miller case. You can give them all the information they need to know."
Dobey disappeard into his office and Starsky immediately went to miss Raleigh's side to shake hands with her. "I'm David Starsky and this is Ken Hutchinson," Starsky shoved Hutch in her direction.
She said smiling: "Well, nice to meet you. About the case…" Starsky let her sit down at his place; he perched on the corner on the table watching her with interest. Hutch made some notes while she was telling them all the facts they knew so far. It had been a happy family when the woman had left the house with the two children to visit her mother as the husband said. They never arrived at their destination and the next morning Robert Miller had gone to the police to put an APB on his wife and children.
Two days later they had found the rest of the car in a forest. Because of the wreck, it was hard to find traces of proof that a crime had been committed.
"Thanks for your information, miss…," Starsky beamed at her.
She said, "Jane, I'm Jane Raleigh and you are…"
"David Michael Starsky, but for you Dave."
Hutch chuckled. Obviously his partner had a soft spot for the lady. He wasn't surprised when Starsky snapped his fingers and said: "What about lunch? I'm starving!" His smile grew larger when he looked at Jane Raleigh and Hutch understood at once.
"Uh, I have some paperwork to do. So if you don't mind to go with detective Starsky, miss Jane…" Hutch smiled and got an affectionate pat on his back from his partner.
"See you later." With a conspiratorial smile, Starsky left with his new acquaintance.
To take time by the forelock Hutch decided to question the neighbors of the family. The address was not far away from Parker Center and when Starsky came back from his lunch they supposedly would be a step further.
When Hutch turned onto the street he was surprised to see neat little houses with trimmed front gardens. Everyone he talked to told him that it was a normal family. The man owned a small business with five taxi cabs. Hutch was told where the place was and when he arrived he spoke to two of the drivers. They seemed very depressed and told Hutch that Mr. Miller hadn't appeared that morning. Understandable that he wasn't in the condition to fulfill his job on such a sad day.
"What about his regular passenger today?" One of the drivers asked and Hutch found out that their boss had a passenger every day for same trip to the West End. The drivers couldn't help with the exact address but Hutch was confident he could find out. It was possible that there was a connection to the case.
"Where have you been?" Hutch was received by an angry and concerned Starsky.
"Sorry, intended to come back earlier," Hutch said apologetically and told Starsky about speaking with the neighbors and the cab drivers.
"I've just heard that search and rescue is combing the forest. Maybe they find a clue that can help us to locate Mrs. Miller and the children," Starsky said checking out the folder again.
"Am I already hungry again?" Starsky asked himself, listening to a growling stomach.
"Sorry, it's me," Hutch blushed. "I forgot to eat."
"Then let's go for a snack, Blondie," Starsky smiled, got up full of energy and snatched Hutch's jacket from the chair.
"What are you waiting for? Can't let my buddy starve to death," Starsky joked and Hutch followed him shaking his head.
Munching his sandwich while Starsky sipped on a banana –vanilla milkshake, Hutch listened to Jane Raleigh's amenities.
"She's really kind of special, you know Hutch. I don't know, but maybe we'll meet again for dinner." Starsky was enthusiastic and Hutch could understand. Being there for Starsky the last months, it was time to go on dating the ladies. This was a first step. "Buddy, you deserve it." Hutch said wholeheartedly. Starsky grasped Hutch's hand and squeezed it.
"The same goes for you."
"Anything else?" the waiter asked dumbfounded, looking at their clasped hands.
"Nothing at the moment. What about you, Dahhrlin'?" Starsky said in a falsetto voice and made the waiter blush and rush away.
"Starsk!" Hutch shook his head and tried to hide the laughter. Then he got serious again.
"Any objection that we check on the bars at the West End? Maybe we can get some information about the tours Robert Miller has regularly."
"Why not? It's late afternoon. It won't be too crowded now though but I have the feeling it's my lucky day," Starsky said winking at Hutch.
Soon they had arrived at the quarter with bars and dancing and gambling halls.
"I can't imagine that Mrs. Miller with two little children should have gone here and disappeared," Starsky said pensively when they entered the dark room.
Soft music was played, there were only a few people sitting at the bar.
"A drink for the gentlemen?" the redhaired woman behind the counter asked them. While Starsky was looking for some pictures Jane had given him of the Miller family Hutch was watching the woman intently. He cleared his throat and said questioningly:
The redhaired looked at him confused, then she said quietly: " Ken? Ken Miller?"
Not believing his eyes Starsky took a closer look at the lady.
"Yeah, it's me," Hutch said and a bright smile crossed his face.
"Then you must be Dave Brown," she said in direction of Starsky and he was about to object when he remembered their alias names– during their undercover assignment at the community they had been Ken Miller and Dave Brown.
"Hi Susan, how are you?" Starsky smiled and looked at his still speechless partner. Hutch's face showed all emotions from joy, skeptical hope and bafflement.
Starsky nudged him in the side and Hutch reacted and took Susan's hands in his. "Nice to see you again. Where have you been all this time?"
Starsky left for the men's room chuckling softly. Out of the blue they had met respectively remet two women they liked.
When Starsky came back, Hutch was still holding Susan's hands and they were looking each other deeply in the eyes.
Starsky put his arm around Hutch's shoulders and said: "Buddy, have you told her why we are here?"
Hutch blushed a little, then he said: "Susan, we're looking for a woman with two little children. They're missing. Starsky , show her the pictures, please. Have you seen them here?"
Susan looked at the detectives. Slowly she said: "Does that mean you're working for the police? Ken, I didn't know…" She looked uncomfortable and Hutch tried to calm her.
"What's wrong with our job? We're helping people." He let loose her hands but Susan grasped after them to hold them tight. Then she looked at the picture.
"Sorry, I haven' seen them and don't know them."
"What about this guy?" Starsky put a picture of Robert Miller out of his pocket. Susan looked at the picture, frowned and said: "Somehow he resembles a man who came here for a while…"
She locked glances with Hutch and said: "Ken, my shift ends at 7. Can't we meet for dinner? I would like to talk to you."
"Sure, why not," Hutch said after an encouraging smile from Starsky.
When they left the bar they had mixed feelings. Hutch was thinking of having found Susan, whom he was in love with at the community. Susan had been the woman after Van who had given him more self confidence. With her he could have planned his future. After being rescued from the obscure community he had lost touch with her.
He would take his chance now to renew their relationship.
"I'm not sure about this Mr. Miller," Starsky said. "Why is he sitting in a bar at the West End instead of waiting for passengers in his cab?"
"Maybe he needed a break or was waiting inside the bar to look for somebody who needed a cab drive," Hutch supposed but it didn't sound convincingly.
"We can talk to him tomorrow. Let's call it a day. I told Jane I'd meet her later and you have to get ready for your date with Susan." Playfully Starsky caressed Hutch's hair at the base of his neck and got a shy smile from Hutch.
"Yeah, I wonder why she is working in such a bar; not the right place if you ask me," Hutch said.
"Don't worry too much. Okay, see you tomorrow – and don't overreach yourself!" Starsky smiled when they parted.
"Same to you!" Hutch responded laughing and pointing his finger at Starsky.
"Mornin'!" With a big yawn Starsky entered the squadroom, trudging toward the coffee machine. As always he filled a mug for Hutch too and handed it to his partner. Hutch was bent over a folder, so Starsky leaned down next to Hutch's ear and asked: "How did it go with Susan?"
Hutch played with a pen, seemed to be deep in thoughts, but then he lifted his head and grinned at Starsky.
"Well, I think she still loves me a bit."
"That's my boy!" Starsky exclaimed and squeezed Hutch's shoulder. Some other officers were looking in their direction and Starsky went on whispering. "Are you gonna meet her again?" Hutch nodded and Starsky smiled, snapping his fingers.
"Okay then, first the work, then the enjoyment." Starsky reached out his hand for the folder of the Miller case, but Hutch held back giving him a questioning glance. "Jane?" he inquired.
Starsky said quietly, "She wore me out, Hutch…watching the late show of three King Kong movies!" A bright grin showed Hutch that Starsky had enjoyed the evening as well.
Soon they were ready to do a little more questioning referring to their case. They were told that the family went to church regularly, though Mr. Miller didn't attend the services frequently because he had to work. A sister of Mrs. Miller told them under tears that the two children were to have been baptized at church the following Sunday. There wasn't any reason the woman would have abandoned her husband, taking the children with her.
Starsky and Hutch spoke to the pastor about the disappearance. It wasn't surprising that he also praised the family life as almost perfect. He couldn't believe in a failed marriage. What was left behind was the disturbing feeling that a crime had been committed.
However, as long as the bodies weren't found there was still hope for a happy ending.
The detectives shoved the depressing thoughts about the job aside and attended to their private life.
Jane Raleigh had the night shift the following days, so Starsky decided to clean his apartment and wax his car. In the evenings he felt tired enough to fall asleep after watching TV for an hour. He knew that Hutch was with Susan and he withstood the urge and call his best friend. He still missed their togetherness. It amazed him how he got used to him, that there wasn't any other human being who he felt that close with. His own brother, Nick, lived with his mother far away in New York and Starsky got the impression that their connection had been destroyed when he was sent to California to live with his aunt Rosie and Uncle Al. Then he had met Hutch at the academy and after they had put the prejudices about the "underdog" from New York and the "upper class kid" aside, their friendship had grown day by day.
Starsky sighed and got ready for bed, dreaming of a sweet lady who would be with him soon again.
"Hutch, believe me, there was no other chance. I had to take this job. It doesn't mean that I have to go with the customers; it's up to me…" Susan's voice trailed off. Drinking from the glass of wine he had offered her, she leaned back against the cushions. Hutch was watching her desperately. Dark circles around her eyes showed that she had led an unhealthy life the last months. When he had met her at the community she was a beautiful girl, full of hope that life was offering all she wished for. They had planned their future not knowing that their euphoric feelings had been based on drugs in the drinks. Hutch was the lucky one who had friends like Starsky and Huggy who cared for him afterwards. Susan obviously had been left alone after the police had closed the community.
"What's wrong with you, baby?" Hutch wanted to know, lifting up her chin. She avoided his gaze and looked down on her hands. Hutch noticed a slight trembling and a terrible suspicion surged.
"Are you taking drugs?" She didn't say anything. Hutch gripped her arms and unrolled her sleeves. No injection mark was to be seen and Hutch gave a sigh of relief.
He put his arms around her shoulders and held her tight.
"Promise me that you're never going to take drugs!" he urged her but she sadly shook her head.
"It's not that easy, Ken," she mumbled and finally faced him, her reddened eyes showed the misery she was in.
"When the community was closed I could live with my sister for a short time. Her boyfriend couldn't stand me, the sudden changes of my mood, so I had to leave. I asked in bars for a job and Eddie was so kind to give me a chance." She sniffled and Hutch gave her his handkerchief.
"Is Eddie the owner of the bar where you work now? What has happened to you then?" Hutch stroked her back trying to soothe her – and himself.
"Well, I was still suffering from desperate feelings. Once I ran out of the bar, abandoning my job because I had the feeling to need a swim at that moment. Another time I broke down crying for no reason and Eddie was about to fire me in case I went on with this strange behavior."
"And so?" Hutch was afraid to hear the rest but he had to know to help her.
"Eddie introduced me to a friend of his. He said he was a doctor, but now I'm not sure at all. He offered me a special medicine that would calm me down and let me forget the bad dreams and feelings. I took them in good faith – still don't know what kind of medicine it is." Susan leaned against Hutch's chest and closed her eyes. Protectively Hutch held her in his arms promising himself that he would help her through whatever may come.
The next days passed uneventfully. The crime lab didn't find any proof of a crime. Robert Miller had been interrogated several times; it seemed that he had been waiting for customers in his cab when his wife and children had disappeared. They hadn't been successful in finding any clues in the forest or in the destroyed car.
Starsky was happy with Jane. They could not only talk about their work, but had the same interest for weird and mysterious things in the world. She, too, liked watching old movies, and sometimes they had playful arguments about who was the worst actor of a scene.
Whenever Starsky asked Hutch about Susan Hutch said "Fine, she's okay," but Starsky saw the worried glance in Hutch's eyes. It was time for a talk between the two of them.
"Jane, darling, do you mind if I stay with Hutch next weekend; I need to talk to him," Starsky said when she left him Wednesday morning.
"Do you want to get rid of me?" she pouted but felt pacified when he kissed her passionately once more.
"So easily you won't get rid of me!" he laughed and watched her leave. He hoped that she wasn't one of those women who were jealous of his closeness with Hutch. So far she couldn't complain; Starsky had been with her every day because Hutch spent his free time with Susan.
"Any plans for the weekend?" Starsky asked Hutch on Friday when they were both finishing their overdue reports.
Surprised Hutch stopped writing and looked into dark blue eyes full of concern. He knew that Starsky was worrying about him and so he smiled. "I would like to practice some basketball with my best buddy."
"That's a deal. Breakfast is on me. See ya!" Starsky winked at Hutch before he left the room.
That night Starsky had no problems falling asleep.
The next morning Starsky arrived at Hutch's little cottage full laden with food from the grocery's. After the third knock he let himself in.
The blinds were still drawn but Susan wasn't there. Hutch's tousled hair was peeking from under the covers, so Starsky went into the kitchen, put the bag on the counter and rummaged around to get attention. Finally he went over to the bed, sat down and put his hand on Hutch's shoulder to wake him up.
Hutch stirred and turned on his back leaving his arm over his eyes.
"Are you gonna get up or should I make lunch instead of breakfast?" Starsky asked softly. Dropping his arm Hutch opened his eyes realizing who was with him.
"This late?" he croaked and saw the time on the alarm clock.
"Well, I'm in the kitchen, "Starsky said and got up pulling the covers with him.
"Don't," Hutch protested lightly when he felt the cold air on his naked skin, but then he managed to trudge to the bathroom.
"Here's your coffee – it has been a short night, right?" Starsky asked when Hutch entered the kitchen in his old sweats, hair still wet from a shower. Hutch nodded, sipping from his coffee. Obviously he wasn't in the mood to talk and Starsky didn't push him. They were eating their breakfast in companiable silence, until Starsky remembered something he had forgotten.
"Hutch, do I have some sports wear here? I forgot my shorts!"
"I don't think so. I've just moved in, as you know. But, I'll have a look." Hutch disappeared into his bedroom to get dressed while Starsky put the plates in the sink and washed up. Looking out the window he saw it was going to be the right kind of day to be outside and have some fun.
"Here you are." Hutch handed Starsky some shorts of his and Starsky snorted. "Okay, but if I'm gonna lose them, I can blame you, right?"
"You wish!" was Hutch's short answer. He got the basketball and was dribbling it on the floor.
"No extra practice!" Starsky joked and tried to snatch the ball out of Hutch's hands.
"Go get dressed first," Hutch said walking to the door.
Quickly Starsky changed into Hutch's shorts and followed his friend, kicking him lightly in the butt.
"Don't you dare," Hutch snorted, hiding a little smile.
On the basketball court they fought for each ball. Soon they were joined by two young teens who made their game even more heated. Starsky played against Hutch and one kid. He tried to get the advantage of being quicker in his movements than Hutch. Hutch had longer arms though and Starsky played a little tricky looking for Hutch's ticklish spot.
"Hey!" Hutch gasped losing the ball. Starsky smiled, confident of victory. It lasted only a short time. Being ready to throw the ball into the basket he was encircled by strong arms that held him down. The ball went past the basket.
"Foul! You're cheating!" Starsky shouted good humored. The other boys lost their interest in the game and left.
"Wow, not too bad." Starsky sank on the curb catching his breath.
Hutch joined him panting: "Well, I'm not at my best, should have some more practice."
"If you need a sparring partner, here I am," Starsky assured him, looking around. "What now?"
"If you don't mind, there's a little diner near the beach. We could have a snack there," Hutch proposed and Starsky was all for it.
Hutch stretched carefully and got up bracing himself on Starsky's knee. He lent his friend a hand to get up, too.
The drove to the beach and Starsky was excited when he found a good place to have the right view of the beauties that were passing by. Hutch's eyes followed a long-haired lady in a tight dress.
"You know, when I met Susan during our undercover assignment she was a happy girl," Hutch started and Starsky concentrated on his friend.
"I remember, buddy, and you fell for her. I was jealous of your relationship with her, felt left out somehow." Starsky said seriously. It had been a hard time for him, working on their first case alone while Hutch only had eyes for Susan.
"I'm sorry, Starsk, I don't know what had happened to me. I should have been with you working on the case. Instead I was carried away by the idea of planning a future with Susan." Hutch patted Starsky's hand.
"Tell me about Susan. You're worried about her – what happened?" Starsky asked. Hutch told him about Susan's mood swings, her strange behavior she obviously didn't have under control.
"And now she's taking some kind of drug, I'm sure. When we're together she acts restlessly after a short time. At night she falls asleep only to wake up after a couple of hours. Then she needs more of her "medicine" as she calls it. Last night I tried to talk her out of taking these pills. She got furious and we both couldn't sleep at all. She left me early this morning, said she wanted to talk to Eddie… What am I gonna do? I want to help her!" Hutch looked down at the menu.
Starsky kept quiet as he didn't know what to say at this moment. They ordered two sandwiches with soft drinks. Eating in silence, each of them followed his own thoughts – almost at the same time they locked glances and started to speak. Hutch smiled and let Starsky speak first.
"Hutch? Shouldn't we talk to that bar owner who gave Susan the job? He has to stop giving her those pills, otherwise we could investigate him on dealing drugs. Or you tell Susan to give up that job. Maybe Huggy can do something for her." Hutch nodded affirmingly.
He appreciated Starsky's help, but he knew about Susan's temper and her addiction to the "medicine" that seemed to calm her. It wouldn't be easy to convince her.
Nonetheless, Hutch smiled. "Could be a chance, buddy. Tomorrow we talk to Eddie in his bar. Then we can ask him about Robert Miller, too. If he was alone in the bar, if there were connections… Now let's stop worrying. Are you ready for a beach walk? To our left it's getting less crowded and there are beautiful cliffs and seabirds we can watch."
"How romantic, Blondie," Starsky said waggling his eyebrows. Hutch laughed, freed of his worries, for the moment. Starsky had the ability to cheer him up no matter how bad he was feeling.
They paid for their food and struggled through the soft sand until they had left behind the beach activities. They only heard the rolling of the waves and the cries of seagulls. A breeze had sprung up and cooled their heated bodies. Finally they slowed, feeling the exhaustion of having walked such a distance.
"When are we going to arrive in San Diego?" Starsky joked and let himself fall into the sand.
"Not before tomorrow evening – at this speed," Hutch joked back. He sat down too and leaned back on his elbows. Watching the waves he said pensively; "Starsk, sometimes I think I'm worrying too much. If Susan isn't able to get off those pills, maybe I have to live with it. I don't want to lose her again. This time I have to hold on…"
"Maybe you're right, but don't let her drag you down, too, Hutch." Starsky's concerned blue eyes were gazing at his partner. "Honestly, you don't look so well these days. I don't want you to be hurt by her, if you know what I mean." Starsky coughed, a little embarrassed and added quietly, "I need you."
"Hey, is it getting soapy here or what?" Hutch tried to lighten the mood and at the same time hide his own emotions. Without Starsky he would have been left alone after his experiences in the strange community – like Susan.
"Look, what's over there in the ocean? Looks like a bottle. Have you ever heard of messages in a bottle from far away, bringing the finder fortune and luck?" Hutch pointed his finger to the waves rolling toward the beach and Starsky followed the direction.
"You're right, could be a bottle. Hutch, let's try to catch it! Who gets it first wins a dinner at Huggy's, okay?" Starsky was all excitement. Looking around to see if anyone else was nearby, Starsky started getting rid of his shorts and underwear.
"Hey, then I hope you've got enough money to buy me a Huggy's Special," Hutch snorted, fighting with his pants, shoes and shirt.
"In your dreams!" Starsky shouted. "Are ya ready?"
"Go!" Hutch exclaimed and started running through the sand. He almost stumbled over his own feet and Starsky tried not to laugh about his klutzy partner. He focused on the bottle that was dancing above and beyond the waves. Both men dived into the water; the shock of the cold water took their breath away for a moment. Starsky who had never been fond of swimming, except in a pool at a hotel, was surprised about his braveness jumping into the surf of the ocean. He did the crawl to get faster to the bottle. Hutch who had started with backstroke to give Starsky some advantage, changed his opinion very quickly when he realized that Starsky had overtaken him. He saw his friend in front of him, his head bobbing up and down the waves. Then Starsky was reaching for the bottle.
"I got it!" he exclaimed holding the bottle in his hand. At the next moment he gave a yelp thrashing around with the bottle still in his hand.
"What's up?" Hutch shouted giving all his strength into his swim strokes to come nearer to his partner.
"My leg! It's cramped! It hurts. Help!" Starsky panicked and for a moment his head went under water. Hutch knew from experience how unpredictable a panicked swimmer's movements could be for both of them. Starsky came up again gasping for breath and thrashing around. "Hutch, can't stand it any longer, can't swim either... Help!"
"Calm down, buddy," Hutch tried to soothe his frantic partner but he didn't succeed. Keeping a certain distance, Hutch swam around Starsky and neared him from behind. "I'm here, don't worry, keep quiet," Hutch said spitting out some salt water. Starsky couldn't keep his head above the water and was about to lose his fight against the waves when Hutch was there to put his arm over Starsky's chest and under his arm, holding his partner on his back in the water. Swimming backwards Hutch pulled Starsky with him. Gasping for air Starsky felt Hutch's strong arm support him and as often before the magic of their friendship worked: Starsky stopped fighting; he trusted Hutch to bring him back safe.
Hutch prayed that he would be able to bring his partner back to the shore as he felt his strength waning.
A big wave carried them nearer to the beach. Hutch tried to find ground under his feet and gave a relieved yelp when he was felt his knee scrape the sandy beach.
"We made it, babe," Hutch whispered into Starsky's ear. Starsky seemed to be unresponsive as he stared into the distance and was obviously in shock.
"C'mon, try to stand alone, it's not deep here," Hutch encouraged his partner, releasing him.
Immediately Starsky sagged down, a painful expression on his face.
"Okay, let's get you to the beach, " Hutch said putting his arm around Starsky's waist. Half carrying his friend through the whitecaps to the shore Hutch laid Starsky down on the cool sand.
"How are you?" Hutch croaked looking at Starsky's face grimacing with pain.
"My left thigh, it hurts. I can't move it, Hutch," Starsky said trying to reach down to his leg.
"Wait. Let me help you." Hutch remembered an exercise he had learned a long time ago when he had trained for the Duluth junior swim championship.
He crouched to Starsky's feet and bent both feet in Starsky's direction. Starsky moaned, then gave a sigh of relief and relaxed.
"Thanks, Hutch, it's getting better. Boy, can't say how good it feels. Without you I wouldn't have made it. You…" Being suddenly aware of their nakedness Starsky stopped talking and smiled a little embarrassed.
"Hm, before I declare my love to you, let's get dressed, okay?"
Hutch smiled. He was happy having his joking partner back.
"Sure schweetheart," Hutch imitated his friend's Bogart voice. "Where're our clothes by the way?" Looking around Starsky pointed to the left.
"Must be over there. Wow, quite a distance, isn't it?" It was hard to believe that they had been drifted away this far by the waves. Scrambling up to their feet they moved slowly toward their clothes.
"Wait, I forgot something. Be right back," Starsky said suddenly and retrieved the bottle he had found in the sea.
"It will remind me of this day – and I'm looking forward to my special dinner at Huggy's, best pal of mine!"
Hutch rolled his eyes. Quite slowly they made their way back to their car.
"Let's head home to take a shower," Starsky said and slumped down on the passenger seat. Hutch left the parking lot looking back at the now deserted beach. Darkness had set in. In spite of all the excitement at the end it had been a good day together with his best friend. Everything was going to be all right. Reassuringly Hutch patted Starsky's knee that felt still a little sandy. Absent-minded Hutch rubbed the sand away.
Half an hour later both men were sprawled on Hutch's couch, feeling refreshed after a long shower but totally exhausted. "Can't wait to get my free dinner at Huggy's," Starsky mumbled, eyes half closed. Seconds later a light snoring made Hutch smile. Starsky was out.
Hutch rested his long legs on the coffee table and leaned back against the cushions. Later he could make some scrambled eggs for them, after he had relaxed a moment…
Starsky awoke with the feeling as if he had worked his butt off. He needed to go to the bathroom and tried to get up. Something heavy pinned him to where he lay and he opened his eyes. One of Hutch's legs was stretched out across Starsky's back.
To get back some blood circulation in his own legs Starsky wiggled his toes and poked accidentally into Hutch's nose. Hutch sneezed and sniffled opening his eyes slowly.
"Whaaat's this?" He held Starsky's foot in his hand, not understanding at all what this was all about.
"Mornin', pal, welcome to the good ol' times. Hope, your back isn't killing you after this night. At least it's been your own couch this time," Starsky said, untangling himself to get up.
On his way to the bathroom he paused to look at the bottle they had found in the waves.
"No message in it, Hutch," Starsky mumbled and disappeared into the bathroom.
Hutch stretched out full length on the couch, his muscles were aching from the strain from yesterday. Besides his old back problems were back with intensity. Moaning, Hutch sat up only hoping that a migraine wouldn't come up. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to enjoy this Sunday with Starsky.
Hutch remembered that they had decided to talk to Eddie in his bar. He shoved the worrying thoughts aside and trudged toward his kitchen to make some breakfast.
"Your turn, Hutch," Starsky came out of the bathroom, washed up and shaved. He was looking for his jeans and found them behind the front door where he had taken them of in a rush the day before. Chuckling he went to Hutch's bedroom to come back with one of Hutch's shirts.
"Hope you don't mind," Starsky mumbled .
He sat down at the kitchen table watching Hutch who was preoccupied with the scrambling eggs.
"Your back's hurting again – let me finish the eggs and you take a hot shower, pal," Starsky insisted. He went to Hutch's side and took the fork out of his friend's hands to stir the eggs.
"Thanks, buddy." Hutch said and with a pat on Starsky's stomach he left for his shower.
There was a knock at the front door and Starsky frowned. They weren't expecting anyone. He went to open the door.
"Hi Dave, you're awake already, that's great! Where's Ken?" Susan was all excitement and Starsky wondered what she was up to.
"C'mon in. Sit down and have breakfast with us. Hutch is in the shower." Starsky offered her a chair and made some toast for her. "How's the job?" Expectantly he looked at her, noticed her sparkling eyes and her fluttering smile.
"I like it. Eddie is so kind, he cares for me and has offered me… Hi Ken, I've missed you." Susan got up and rushed out of the kitchen into Hutch's arms.
Starsky concentrated on making the breakfast, hearing Susan's giggling in the hall and Hutch's soft complaints having a hard time to get dressed.
They entered arms slung around each others shoulders. Hutch was looking happy and Starsky only hoped that it would last.
"It's a pleasure for me to present you a breakfast a la Starsky," Starsky beamed at them, fully aware that Hutch had done the main work. They sat down to eat and after a while Starsky spoke.
"Now tell us about your job and nice Eddie." Hutch looked expectantly at his girlfriend.
"Ya know, I feel much better, now that Eddie has changed my medicine. His friend says these pills are better for me, and it's really true! Ken, I'm so happy!"
Hutch frowned and held her at armslength. "Susan I told you to stop with these pills. That doesn't sound good at all! I'll talk to Eddie to stop that crap, otherwise we'll investigate…"
"Don't you dare!" Susan's voice became agitated. "He's all I have! He's given me a job. Where have you been, Ken, when I needed you? You left me…"
"Stop it, lady!" Starsky butted in. Nobody was hurting his partner and making him feel guilty.
"It's okay, buddy," Hutch had paled because of Susan's agitated behavior attributed to the pills she had obviously taken.
For a moment there was a desperate silence in the kitchen. Starsky thought about leaving. He couldn't stand it any longer watching his best friend suffering from a love that seemed to have no future. "I have some errands to do," he said getting up from the table.
"I'm coming with you." To Starsky's surprise Hutch buttoned his shirt, tucking it into his waistband and strapped on his holster and gun.
"Susan, you can stay here. Starsky and I have to do a job. We'll be back later. When do you have to go to work?"
"Not at all today," Susan stated not so sure about her earlier attitude. "Eddie was so kind …" her voice trailed off.
"See you!" Hutch pulled her close, then he dragged Starsky out of the cottage, breathing deeply when they were standing in the little garden and saw the duck family passing by.
"Hey, you did good!" Starsky tried to encourage his friend and ran his hand up and down Hutch's arm.
"Wish you were right," Hutch mumbled. Then he straightened.
"Let's go to speak with Eddie. He has to let go of Susan." Starsky nodded and followed Hutch to the car.
In the morning hours the streets were deserted when they reached the bar. It wasn't open, so they tried to get in through the back door. "Hey, lucky us," Starsky said when the door wasn't locked. They went through a dark hall and saw a sign "office". Hutch knocked and a muffled voice was heard."Yeah?"
"Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson from BCPD," Hutch announced opening the door. A middle-aged broad-shouldered man was sitting behind a fully laden desk. He got up slowly, an uneasy expression on his face.
"What's this visit about? You got a warrant?" He sounded somewhat aggressive and Starsky responded in a cold voice.
"That depends, Mr…."
"Eddie Fowler." Little sweat drops appeared on his forehead. He got more nervous when Starsky began to look over the pages of the numerous folders on the desk.
"That's private," Eddie snarled not very convincingly and Hutch butted in.
"Eddie, there's a woman whom you gave a job recently. What can you tell us about her?"
"Amanda? She's the best waitress I have. She can…"
"I'm speaking of Susan," Hutch said very calmly and Eddie made a grimace.
"Forget her. She isn't able to entertain the guests, she refuses to go with them…"
"Did you give her anything to keep her calm...pills or any such thing?" Hutch showed some impatience now.
Eddie hurried to say: "I didn't do anything. She begged me to help her with her depression and I introduced her to a guy who could help her. Though I have to admit, I can't stand this chick. She isn't worth…"
"That's enough. You won't see her again."
Hutch turned to leave when Starsky had found in his jeans pockets what he had been looking for the last few minutes.
"A last question, Eddie," Starsky said dragging the man behind his desk and dropped him into his chair. "Do you know these people? Have you ever seen them? Better you remember very well, if you don't want us to raid this beautiful place!"
Puzzled Eddie looked at the picture showing the Miller family. "And?" Starsky didn't peg way.
"That's Robert," Eddie mumbled, looking confused at Starsky. "I never thought he had a family."
"Don't you read the newspaper, man?" Hutch asked and Eddie bent his head. "Mostly the sports news. What has happened to Robert? Haven't seen him in a long time."
"Can you tell us if he was alone, or was anybody with him? Did he come regularly? How long did he stay?" Starsky's crackled questions made Eddie dizzy. Open-mouthed, he looked at the two men, not understanding anything. Starsky leaned over him and Eddie hurried to answer.
"Robert Miller was a good guest. He has a cab company and as far as I know the man he was with was a customer. They sat in a corner talking about business I think. Maybe they wanted to start a new one, but I'm not sure."
"Do you know his name?" Hutch wanted to know.
"No idea, officers. Really! You should ask at Joe's "Moulin Rouge" next door. I heard them mentioning that name."
"Behave yourself." Hutch almost smiled when he followed Starsky to the door. Glancing back he saw an exhausted man wiping his sweaty forehead.
"So far so good," Starsky said, rubbing his stomach.
"Don't say it!" Hutch muttered. "Over there is a restaurant."
"You can read my mind, Blondie," Starsky said pulling on Hutch's sleeve. "Let's have a little to eat and talk about the case – and Susan."
Satiated from a good meal, the future didn't look too bad at all.
"Hutch, Eddie said Robert Miller and the other guy were talking about a new business. But as far as I know the Millers don't have a lot of money. They never went on vacation and her mother complained they once couldn't pay the repair of the washing machine. At least it said so in one of the folders. Don't you remember?"
Hutch rubbed his eyes. Obviously he hadn't read the reports about the questioning carefully enough being occupied with Susan's well-being.
"Sorry buddy, I think you're right. Tomorrow we should contact the bank for information. What do you think about going home to see if Susan's still there? I have a bad feeling because our abrupt parting this morning."
"Sure, let's head home. What about a dinner at Huggy's with our ladies? I promised to call Jane anyway and maybe Hug has a job for Susan," Starsky said optimistically. Hutch smiled softly. As always when he was together with Starsky he felt comforted by his friend's ability to see the brighter side of the situation. Driving home he listened to Starsky's chatting about the wonderful things they could do now that they had found the right ladies to share their lives with.
Good-humored they arrived at the little cottage.
Whistling Hutch unlocked the door and called for Susan. Nobody answered.
"Maybe she's outside feeding the ducks," Starsky said hopefully and went to look over the canal.
"Starsky! C'mon here!" he heard Hutch's appalled shouting and immediately he rushed into the house.
"Where are ya?"
"In the bedroom. Oh no, it can't be true!"
Starsky's heartbeat quickened when he saw Hutch bent over the lifeless form of his girlfriend.
"She's dead, Starsk, I'm sure. She isn't moving at all and I can't find a pulse!" Frantically Hutch was moving around.
"Let me see. - Hutch, step aside so I can check her heartbeat." Starsky put his head on Susan's chest and to his relief he felt a light heartbeat.
"Hutch, she's still breathing. She's unconscious though. Let's call an ambulance!"
While Starsky made the phone call, Hutch sat down on the bed caressing Susan's cheek whispering soothing words to her.
"Look, what I found." Starsky held a half empty bottle of pills in his hands. "She probably took too many of these. We should get them analyzed…"
Hutch only nodded, his full concentration was on Susan.
When the ambulance arrived Starsky gently drew Hutch away from Susan, so the paramedics could take care of her. They lay her on a gurney to take her to hospital. "I should go with her," Hutch said.
"Okay, and I'll call Jane to cancel our dinner at Huggy's," Starsky said. Hutch nodded and looked at him as if he wanted to ask something.
"I'll come with you if you want," Starsky said. A relieved smile crept over Hutch's face.
He took Starsky's arm mumbling "Thanks, pal."
Soon they were on the way to Memorial Hospital. Both men followed their own thoughts. Hutch felt guilty of having left Susan in the cottage alone. He should have prevented her from taking those pills. Why had she taken half the bottle, he mused. Was she still so unstable that she felt she had to commit suicide because Hutch had scolded her? He wanted her to get rid of the addiction but obviously she couldn't give them up at this point.
Hutch sighed and looked questioningly at Starsky who was breathing heavily, too.
"Hey, you worry so much about Susan, too?" Hutch asked affectionately.
Starsky admitted, "Sure. And right now I'm thinking about how to tell Jane that we won't meet this evening…"
"Starsk, go and see Jane! I don't like to see you in trouble with that beautiful lady and I can manage this situation with Susan alone." Reassuringly Hutch squeezed Starsky's shoulder.
"I'll talk to her, explain the situation. Maybe she can come to the hospital. I don't want to leave you alone." Starsky had made his decision.
While Hutch spoke to the doctor about Susan's condition Starsky called Jane.
"Dave, good to hear from you! How was your weekend with your friend? I can't wait to see you! Let's meet at my apartment. I've got a surprise for you."
Starsky gulped not feeling comfortable at all. "Sweetie, I'm so sorry, but could you come instead to Memorial Hospital…?"
"To the hospital? Dave! Don't tell me you had an accident and got hurt! Or did you have the urge to help any perp on the street and got shot? It's your free day, dammit!"
Starsky heard her ranting. "It's about Hutch, I mean Susan, Hutch's girlfriend. She was found unconscious, probably an overdose," Starsky said suddenly very calm.
"I'm coming." He heard Jane say, then the line was disconnected. Dumbfounded he looked at the receiver. So she understood him…
"Buddy, all okay with Jane?" Hutch came up to him and put his arm on Starsky's shoulder.
"Think so," Starsky mumbled and saw the deep concern on Hutch's face.
"Not so good. They're fighting to bring her back from the deep unconsciousness. Maybe we found her too late. I would never forgive myself if…" Hutch sounded devastated and Starsky could only hold his friend, mumbling soothing words to him until he felt Hutch relax a bit. "Let's sit down over there." Starsky pointed to a couch in the waiting lounge. They had just sat down when the door opened and Jane entered the waiting area.
"Jane!" Starsky stood up to hug her. He put his arms around her holding her tight. He felt her resistance though and looked into her eyes searching for any reason.
"Dave, I'm sorry for Susan, but please come with me. You promised to be with me tonight. I'm sure Hutch can handle this." She looked over to Hutch and gave him an encouraging smile. "Look, you've been with your friend almost the whole weekend. We haven't seen each other for days, so I would really appreciate if you stay with me now." She sounded full of determination and Starsky had to catch his breath before he answered.
"Jane, no hard feelings, but I don't want to leave Hutch in this situation. You could stay with us for a while until we know a little more about Susan. She's still in critical condition. Maybe we can go to Huggy's together later, huh?"
"David, you don't understand. I 've got a surprise for you at my home and I want you to come with me now!"
"Then I'm afraid the surprise has to wait, sweetheart." With these words Starsky let her loose and turned to his partner.
"You can't do that!" Jane called after him, knowing that she had gone too far. "Wait, I'll stay with you..," she changed her opinion. Approaching Hutch, she bent down to hug him briefly making good for her earlier behavior. "I'm so sorry for Susan, hope she's going to be well soon," she mumbled sitting down next to Hutch. Tiredly he smiled at her feeling at the same moment that Starsky on his left had tensed. Something wasn't right between the two, Hutch mused.
Susan's doctor came out of the examination room and looked searchingly over the waiting area.
"Doc, any news?" Hutch had stood up, followed by Starsky. Jane watched the men standing together and talking to the doctor. Starsky had slipped an arm around Hutch's waist, they seemed to be inseparable. Feeling left out Jane couldn't hide her jealousy of this close friendship she witnessed right in front of her. Would she ever be able to compete with Hutch? Subtly she shook her head. She had to do it the other way round. Leaving Starsky the space he needed. Being together with his friend whenever he wanted. But she would spoil him and making herself indispensable. Remembering the romantic moments they had had so far, Jane felt quite confident. Unless David had a soft spot for his partner, too… Jane chuckled pushing away any doubts.
"Hey, good news!" Starsky beamed at her dragging a smiling Hutch with him. "They say she will be fine after a withdrawal treatment. She has to stay at the hospital for observation though…"
"Don't forget the pills we have to go after," Hutch added looking more relaxed now.
"Can I help you guys with this?" Jane heard herself ask wondering about her own generosity.
"That would be great. You could take the pills to the crime lab to get them analyzed." Starsky looked at her gratefully. He kissed her and she cherished this moment. Everything would be all right.
Hutch handed her the pills. "Thanks, Jane. The next dinner at Huggy's is on me."
"Betcha!" Starsky snorted, then said, getting serious again, "Hutch and I are going to have a talk with the doctor who gave Susan these pills. Eddie may tell us where we can find him."
"Oh Starsk, Eddie will be overjoyed to see you twice in one day," Hutch smiled.
Jane smiled, too, though she didn't know what they were talking about. Smiling was always better than ranting, so she left with a "See you later, friends."
"I'll call you!" Starsky called after her, then he shook his head.
"What is it?" Hutch asked. "Do you think you don't deserve this lovely lady?"
"I don't get it, Hutch. Half an hour ago she wanted me to come home with her at once. Now she's all friendliness though I told her I wanted to stay with you here at the hospital."
"Don't worry. I can tell you stories about Vanessa, you wouldn't believe," Hutch said, taking his jacket from the couch.
"Let's head to Eddie's again, and maybe we can have something to eat at "Moulin Rouge". I remember a menu next to the entrance door," Starsky added, following his partner outside the ward.
"Not you again!" Seeing the two detectives in his bar, Eddie had the wish to vanish into thin air. Listening to their questions, he shook his head. "I can give you his name, but you can't speak to him right now. He's on a business trip to the Caribbean. At least that's what he told me. Can I do my job now?"
"Sure, handsome Eddie," Starsky snarled adjusting Eddie's tie with a rough gesture. Hutch had scribbled the name of the doctor in his notebook. Both detectives left the bar not very contented with the investigation.
"It's been a long day, Hutch. I need some food and you also look as if you could do with something real healthy," Starsky joked walking towards the "Moulin Rouge".
It was quite dark inside. Soft music waved through the bar. A waiter led them to a table from where they had a good view over the bar. Hutch wiped his eyes; suddenly he felt the tiredness. It had been a long day with a lot that had happened. He yearned for his bed, for some undisturbed sleep. Susan…Keeping his eyes shut Hutch remembered her pale face on the gurney. At least they could stabilize her at the hospital…
"You tired?" Hutch felt Starsky's finger brushing softly over his closed eyes.
"A little," Hutch smiled opening his eyes again. He was grateful for the dimmed light; it was good for his eyes. Starsky's concerned gaze was on him.
"I'm fine, pal. Let's have something to eat." Hutch took the menu to choose a chef salad. Starsky had difficulties to pronounce the French name of his meal; it was something with noodles, as Hutch exclaimed to him.
"As long as it isn't desiccated liver, it's fine with me," Starsky joked. The waiter took their order and Starsky looked around.
"The men's room is over there, I think," Hutch helped.
"Thanks, what would I do without you?" Starsky said and got up.
When he came back he had a confused expression on his face. "Hutch, maybe I'm wrong but it seemed to me as if on the opposite side of the bar Robert Miller is sitting with another guy. Have to look at the picture again to be sure though…" Starsky rummaged in his jeans pockets and came up with the picture of the Miller family. "Yes, it's him!"
"Hmm, interesting," Hutch mused tasting from his salad. "Do you think we should talk to them about the new business they're planning?"
"I prefer to speak to the guy alone first," Starsky said munching on his noodles. Hutch nodded and they finished their late meal.
With a big yawn Starsky leaned back. He was about to suggest to go home when he saw a movement on the other side of the bar.
"Hutch, they're leaving. Let's follow them. At least we'll know where the guy lives. Then we can head home. C'mon, buddy." They paid at the bar and left the "Moulin Rouge".
A cab was just driving round the next corner. Starsky and Hutch hurried to Hutch's old Ford to follow the car.
In Long Beach the cab stopped in front of an apartment building and let his passenger out.
When the cab had disappeared Starsky and Hutch got out of their car and approached the man.
"Sir, we have some questions. BCPD," Starsky introduced themselves and looked into the confused eyes of a man.
"Quite late, isn't it, gentlemen?" he asked waiting expectantly.
"Sorry, we just wanted to ask you about the cab driver Robert Miller. Do you know him?" Hutch was awake now and got into action.
"Sure. Robert and I met when I needed a drive to the Westend. Since then we meet regularly. Is it because he's missing his wife and children? He has a very hard time and I can't believe that they have disappeared without giving him a note. It's too sad," the man said. Hutch was ready to write down the men's name.
"Hm, Mr. Humble, we've heard you plan a new business with Robert Miller. Is that right?"
"Not exactly, officers. I'm the owner of a trucking company and Robert wanted to rent one of my trucks to expand his activities. His little cab company doesn't bring enough money, so we tried to think about a cooperation."
"Interesting. Has he already worked for you and did you get to know his family?" Starsky wanted to know. Mr Humble shook his head. "Unfortunately not. I would have loved to meet them. My wife and I have asked for a meeting but so far we didn't have the chance. And now…It's too sad. Poor Robert." Mr. Humble looked uncomfortable and Starsky locked eyes with Hutch. They could call it a day. They said their goodbyes, looking forward to getting some rest.
Arriving at Starsky's apartment, Hutch shook his head when Starsky asked him to come up for a beer.
"Sorry, pal, too tired. See you tomorrow. And thanks for being my sparring partner this weekend."
"You're welcome. Thank you for rescuing me from the ocean. I owe you…," Starsky said seriously, reaching out his hand to grasp Hutch's. Lingering for a while they felt the bond that had grown since they met at the academy.
The next days they were busy writing reports, visiting Susan at the hospital and taking care of Jane who surprisingly encouraged Starsky to accompany Hutch to the hospital. She seemed to have accepted their dependency on each other.
But the case wasn't solved yet; they hadn't found mother and children, dead nor alive. Dobey was grumpy as never before. He ordered them to investigate again, starting at the beginning. They worked through folders, checked again the statements of relatives, neighbors and friends, but couldn't find any contrariness.
The weeks passed and there were new cases Starsky and Hutch had to go after.
It was a Friday afternoon and both men were looking forward to the free weekend. Hutch could pick up Susan from her treatment at a health resort. Her condition had improved and Hutch's tanned skin underlined his own good health.
"Blondie, it's a deal; we meet at Huggy's on Sunday evening. At last I'll get my free dinner for having caught the bottle in the ocean. You remember?"
"Never heard about that. You must be joking," Hutch responded, hardly hiding a smile.
Starsky was at Hutch's side in a heartbeat and had trapped him in a double nelson. "What was that?" Starsky growled, not letting go.
"Never heard about it," Hutch insisted. The other officers watched them, laughing openly. Suddenly Hutch yelped – Starsky had found his ticklish spot and didn't show any mercy. "Stop it! Yes, I remember and yes, I owe you dinner and yes, I'll wax your car…"
"Really?" Starsky sounded astonished. He let Hutch go, ruffling the blond hair. Hutch tried to compose himself; the others were still laughing and the voice of the young woman who had entered the squadroom was barely heard.
"They told me to talk to officer Hutchinson and Starsky."
"Starsky, Hutch – it's for you." Officer Brent nudged Starsky and pointed to the lady. Starsky had the urge to whistle at the beautiful blonde. She wore tight leggings and a short top. Her high heels made a clacking sound when she walked to their desk.
Hutch looked puzzled, too. "Sit down, please," he said.
Starsky said admiringly: "What can we do for you?"
"I've just come back from my vacation with a friend of mine. Then I heard about Robert Miller and his missing wife and children. I know him; he often stayed in the bar where I work. It's a little strange because he never said he was married let alone that he had children." Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances.
"Are you sure you mean this man?" Starsky showed her the picture and the woman nodded.
"That's him. Too bad that Melissa isn't with me. She's the friend I went on vacation with. She and Robert are real good friends. In my opinion they love each other. Melissa told me that they planned to get married. It's all a little confusing."
"We have to talk to Melissa. Where is she?" Hutch asked.
"Well, she stayed in Mexico. Robert is such a nice guy, he paid for us and let us live in a wonderful apartment near the beach. Melissa is still there; he told her to wait for him. I have to go back to work…would love to meet a guy like Robert…" She sighed.
"And your name is…?" Hutch was ready to write again, snagging a pen out of Starsky's shirt.
"Sandra Bullwinkel, but they call me Sunny," she said.
"Sunny, thank you for your statement. You've been a great help! By the way, where do you work?"
"At the "Moulin Rouge", she said. Then she turned to leave.
Starsky breathed out audibly. Looking after her he had a strange foreboding.
"Hutch, are you thinking what I'm thinking? We have to interrogate Robert Miller again. He's our number one suspect from now on."
"If it's true what Sunny told us, he was leading a double life and at the end he wanted to get rid of his family," Hutch was thinking loudly. "The question is; Where's his wife and the children? Without any corpse we can't accuse him. He's acting like the worried husband and father…it's hard to believe. What about our weekend?"
"Jane is gonna kill me if I put her off. We've planned to go to San Diego until Sunday. There's an oldtimer show and a beach race with selfmade cars…" Starsky's voice trailed off.
"Buddy, the same with me. I have to pick up Susan right away. Don't want to disappoint her. But we can't wait until Monday with the interrogation. You should stay with Jane tonight, make her happy," Hutch twinkled at Starsky, "and promise her another full weekend wherever she wants to go, huh?"
"You're right, Hutch. We let him feel safe and tomorrow we get to him."
Hutch felt sorry for his partner when he heard him speaking with Jane on the phone. That lady had a bad temper when her wishes were foiled. Finally she agreed, a little appeased by having at least one full evening and night with Starsky.
They parted with the uneasy feeling of having a difficult task ahead.
"Mornin'." Gruffly Starsky trudged into the squadroom the next morning. He realized that he was alone; on a Saturday it wasn't uncommon. He was wondering where Hutch was when he heard him whistling and, shortly after, entering the room.
"Hey, you still asleep?" Affectionately Hutch ruffled Starsky's unruly curls. Starsky batted the hand away.
"Your good mood is really annoying. Imagining I could still be in bed in San Diego, enjoying…"
"No details, buddy. Let's get over the interrogation with Robert Miller, then you can enjoy whatever you want. We have to inform Dobey though…"
Hutch knocked on Dobey's door but their captain wasn't present.
"Sure, that he isn't on duty on this wonderful Saturday. He's enjoying…" Starsky's mouth was claimed by a large hand and he was dragged outside.
"As I said before: let's get it over with. We won't have any difficulties finding an empty interrogation room today. How lucky we are." Hutch's good mood was so obvious. He was happy to have Susan back. He had all the time of the world to be with her planning their future. Their main task today was the interrogation and maybe the arrest of Robert Miller.
Turning into the small street with the neat houses nobody would believe that a crime could be committed in this neighborhood. It was quiet; no playing children. It was still too early. Starsky was the first one to get out of the car. He rushed over to the Millers' house and rang the bell. Nothing happened.
"Maybe he's on tour with his cab," Hutch presumed and went back to the car. They checked the place but no cab was waiting there.
"That's strange." Starsky was in cop mode now. "I have a bad feeling, Hutch. What if he knows about us suspecting him of a crime? If he tries to escape where could he go?"
"You think he's a fugitive? Let's ask his business partner, Mr. Humble," Hutch said.
Heading to Long Beach they decided to check the Humble enterprise at the docks first. The whole area was abandoned on a Saturday morning. They approached the section with the container areal and the big garage with Mr. Humble's trucks. The doors were closed and Starsky was about to go back to the car when Hutch pointed to a file of containers behind a fence. "Humble's" it said on the containers and one of them was open.
"Do you think something is going on with that container?" Starsky asked.
Hutch shrugged his shoulders. Slowly they went to the gate to the container terminal. It was open. Nearing the container they noticed the label "Deep frozen meat".
"Look, Hutch, the walls are thicker than usual. Do you think meat can stay frozen a long time..?"
"Sorry to interrupt you. Yes, it can stay there for hours cooled by the truck engine."
Robert Miller was standing behind them, a loaded weapon in his hand. Starsky was rooted to the spot. Hutch groped for his weapon but a shot that barely missed him made him freeze.
"Into the container – hurry!" Robert Palmer's face showed no emotion. Hesitantly both detectives stepped into the container, their thoughts whirling.
"What have you planned? You think it's easier to escape hiding us in a container? That's ridiculous!" Hutch dared to say.
Robert Miller laughed. Then he got serious and an unpredictable expression appeared on his face. "Nobody is going to arrest me. I've planned it in each detail. No one is going to stop me!"
He was about to shut the heavy door when Starsky asked: "Okay, then you can tell us what happened to your wife and children. Where are they? What have you done to them?"
"You'll be very near to them soon. Thanks to Sunny, who called Melissa, I knew that you would be looking for me, so I could prepare the last step."
Pointing his weapon at them Robert Miller closed the heavy door of the container.
"You won't get away with this, Miller! You're just committing another crime – kidnapping two police detectives!" Starsky yelled. From outside he heard a malicious laughter. Then the door closed completely. It was pitchblack.
"Hutch? You still there?" Starsky's voice suddenly sounded insecure.
"Not going anywhere, buddy," he heard Hutch answer. "Where are you?"
"Here, to your right, I think." Starsky mumbled. He followed Hutch's voice and bumped into his partner. "Good to have you here, pal," Starsky said clutching to Hutch's shirt. Hutch kept hold of his partner.
Both men concentrated on any sounds coming from outside their prison.
It was absolutely quiet. "I'm wondering what he's up to…Maybe…"
"Shhh, can you hear that?" Hutch interrupted him. In the distance they heard a noise coming nearer.
"What's that? A truck?"
"Can't be," Hutch answered. "Sounds like a heavy machine, if you ask me." The sound grew louder. Suddenly the container was moved.
"They're lifting us," Starsky was sure. "Maybe they'll deliver us to Mexico as fresh meat."
Hutch gave a small chuckle though their situation was far from funny.
Now the swinging of the container showed them that they were transported through the air.
"Can't we shoot the doorlock?" Starsky asked bracing himself against the wall.
"Can't see anything, dummy." Hutch's voice was soft. Was there fear in it?
Another movement downwards and the container hit a hard surface. At the same time gurgling sounds surrounded the container.
"Hutch! They put us into the water! What the hell…!" Starsky clung to Hutch's sleeve, He could feel Hutch's tension when the container went deeper and the gurgling sounds changed into something duller.
"He intends for us to drown, buddy," Hutch said in a low voice. He moved in the direction of the door. It seemed to be watertight, too, at least for the moment…
Starsky held on to Hutch's shirt; the more he realized that they were trapped under water, the more he felt freaked out. Though he couldn't see anything he knew that they had only little space and there was no chance to escape.
Starsky's heartbeat accelerated. His breathing became labored.
"Buddy, what's wrong? Dumb question, I know, but your breathing…" Hutch's concerned voice was near his ear.
"I can't stand this!" Starsky shouted and he let loose of Hutch and ran against the walls of the container. "I have to get out! I need more space! Hutch, let me out!" Frantically Starsky strayed around, almost hyperventilating.
Hutch tried to get a grip on Starsky in the darkness; he had to calm his friend before Starsky was totally carried away.
"Sshhh, buddy, don't worry. I didn't know about your fears. C'me here, stop being this agitated."
"I have to get out! Help!" No one would hear them, Hutch was sure. He stumbled forward and got a hold on Starsky. He tried to break free though and Hutch had to apply some pressure to keep Starsky close. He encircled his frightened friend with strong arms from behind and drew him against his chest. He felt Starsky's frantic heartbeat, the trembling of his body.
"Close your eyes, Starsk, it's all gonna be all right." We're going to drown… "Just think of something beautiful," Hutch tried to soothe his friend.
"Are your eyes closed?" Starsky gave a light nod, his body all on edge.
"Imagine a nice situation where you long to be. Hm, any ideas? Jane is such a wonderful person." He won't see her anymore if we're going to die right here... "Imagine her with you in San Diego…" Starsky gave a moan and Hutch knew it was the wrong idea to distract Starsky.
Suddenly Starsky said in a soft voice: "You remember the picnic after our graduation when your parents and my Ma were there? That was wonderful."
"You're right, it was a sunny day and that my parents had arrived at last was a real surprise…" Sorry, Mum and Dad if I misunderstood your good intentions; can't make it up now…
"Yes, I was happy for you. And Ma really liked you…"
"Yeah, the Starsky clan is a special one…" Except Nicky, your brother…
"I never thought that we would become friends when I saw you first, Hutch." Starsky turned his head toward Hutch. Obviously he was able to relax more. Hutch could even imagine a crooked smile on Starsky's face.
"I wasn't happy either, getting a roommate with such a terrible taste in food. Munching all the time…" Buddy, I'll miss your eating habits…
"If I knew you loved desiccated liver or such a crap I would never have …" Starsky's voice trailed off and he gulped audibly. "Hutch, we're going to die, get drowned or we're buried alive, starving to death, and we're babbling nonsense! Oh my God, we have to do something…"
Instead of getting in action Starsky leaned heavily against Hutch. Hutch tightened his arms around Starsky's chest. At least you've calmed down…
Thinking aloud, Hutch said, "We're great detectives, aren't we? Now we know that Robert Miller did the same with his poor family, put them into a container – dead or alive – and lowered the container into the water. No one would look for them on the bottom of the ocean."
"And no one will look after us, right?" Starsky said, not hiding the hopelessness he felt.
Hutch sighed his response. He hadn't left a note to inform Dobey about their plan. It should be a simple interrogation and an arrest if they got a confession. He never imagined this effect.
Starsky's hand came up cupping his cheek. Hutch leaned into the touch forgetting for the moment where they were.
As if he knew Hutch's thoughts Starsky mumbled, "Let's not give up hope that we get found. If not, it's kind of a comfort for me that we're going down together, Blondie. Dying alone must be terrible."
Starsky shifted until he was face to face with Hutch. At this moment the container was moved with a groaning sound. Starsky was flung against the opposite wall.
"Now they're going to destroy the container," Starsky gasped. There was more movement. Gurgling sounds of water could be heard.
"Starsk, it's lifting!" Hutch was almost sure about it. He reached for his partner. There were other sounds, and suddenly the container began to swing.
"We're out of the water," Hutch said, not believing what was happening.
"Hutch, you think they've come to get us out of this?" Starsky sounded like a child before Christmas.
Heavily the container was set down. Voices were heard and suddenly the door opened a slit. Light shone through it and when the helpers had opened the heavy door completely, they saw two huddled men squinting their eyes against the light.
"David!" Jane Raleigh stepped into the container first. Imagining what the two men had been through she moved slowly towards them. Cautiously she put her arms around Starsky. He leaned into her embrace without releasing Hutch. She turned to the blond who had put his arm over his eyes.
"Hey you two, it's good to have you back." Slowly Hutch opened his eyes dropping his arm. Squinting both men looked at her in astonishment.
"Is it you, Jane? How did you know…?" Starsky whispered.
Jane smiled. "You told me you intended to arrest Robert Miller. I had a bad feeling about it – thank God we came in time. We had to check the whole area and had no idea where you could be. At last we saw the crane still reaching over the water. Then we could imagine where you were. We located the container deep in the water and started to work getting you out."
"Jane, how can I thank you?" Hutch's voice was hoarse, he had trouble keeping his composure after all the tension had vanished.
"Let me be your friend, too." Jane got serious. "I'd like to be part of your wonderful friendship…"
"It's a deal!" Hutch hugged her tight.
Jane reached up and kissed Hutch on the cheek.
"Hey! What about me?" Starsky pouted.
With a smile Hutch leaned into his friend and kissed him. Starsky looked dumbfounded. Laughing, Jane and Hutch drew Starsky to the waiting ambulance.
After being checked they were dismissed and could help the other officers to look for another container. It was sad news when they located it not far from the spot where Robert Miller had intended to kill them. When the crime lab arrived to open the container no one was able to hide his emotions. They had guessed right. Three corpses were found in it; starved to death as it looked like…
And Robert Miller was on the run.
Three weeks later…
"Starsk, can you help me with the lawn seats? How many people will come to my house-warming party?"
"Dunno. What counts is that I finally get my free dinner, Blondie," Starsky said, munching on a candy bar.
"Well, you won't have much appetite if you go on eating that way," Hutch smirked. Half an hour later all was prepared. The Dobey family arrived first. They couldn't stay so long because of little Rosie, their daughter.
Taking Starsky and Hutch aside, Dobey informed them that Robert Miller had been arrested in Mexico. He would never get the chance to live with Melissa. She had been interrogated for hours and had a nervous breakdown when she heard about her fiance's double life.
So far Robert Miller had denied any statement.
"Hi everybody! Where're my best pals, heroes of the BCPD?" Huggy arrived with baskets full of food and drinks.
"Hold your horses, Mr. Bear," Dobey grumbled as he hid a smile.
Soon they were all enjoying their meal. Hutch had Susan in his arms. She looked much better after her treatment.
Starsky was looking around searchingly. "Has anybody seen Jane"?
"I've just seen her ...Wait a moment, buddy," Hutch said, released Susan and disappeared into his cottage.
"Jane, hurry up with the bottle. Starsky is already asking for you!"
"Just a moment. Hutch. Can you help me with the closure? I hope he can read all our little messages and no water will infiltrate."
"I'm sure it'll be a nice surprise. Getting a message in a bottle will be the greatest for him! You know the bottle he caught in the sea was empty."
Hiding the bottle behind his back both stepped outside again. Jane joined Starsky and Hutch motioned Cal, Rosie's older brother, to come to him.
"Cal, here's the prepared bottle. Throw it into the water a little further up the canal. In some minutes the bottle with our messages should arrive here. Can't wait to see Starsky's face."
"Okay, Uncle Ken. See ya!"
"It's really a nice surrounding, Hutchinson," Dobey smirked and all the other guests agreed.
"I told him the first day he had lovely neighbors," Starsky laughed and pointed at the duck family who were approaching without any fear of the people standing on the bank.
Contemplating the peaceful place Starsky got suddenly excited.
"Hutch, there's a bottle in the water! Do you think it's empty like the one I found in the ocean?"
"You have to check, but be careful. Not that I have to rescue you again.."
"…And losing the next bet: Waxing my car!" Starsky ended laughing heartfully.
Carefully he fished the bottle out of the water. Astounded he opened it and getting misty eyes, he read all the loving messages his friends had written to him.