a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you
should go home and examine your conscience."
David Starsky sat behind the wheel of his red Ford Torino, staring at the passenger seat.
It was empty.
Starsky rolled his eyes and shifted his weight against the car's leather interior, feeling his guns' warm metal press against his ribs. The sun was shining brightly outside, despite the early morning hour. It reflected sharply off the hood of the idling car, throwing a sunspot on the front of the Venice Place apartment building across the street. Right on Hutch's window.
Ken Hutchinson was late. Starsky glanced at his watch. Okay, so maybe three minutes didn't qualify as 'late' yet, but there was still breakfast to be ate, and Starsky was hungry now. Hutch had promised they could grab some doughnuts this morning before reporting to Captain Dobey, and by God, Starsky would not let his partner weasel out of his promise.
Starsky pressed hard on the Torino's horn. An angry shout echoed through the street from a neighboring occupancy. "Sorry," Starsky muttered, a response born from his nice-guy reflex. He sighed, then ran a hand through his dark curly hair and dropped his elbow onto the car's window frame. He glanced at the empty passenger seat.
The bang of a door being thrown open pulled his attention back to his partner's apartment. "Finally," he sighed, dropping his hand to the steering wheel. The Torino shuddered in relief and Starsky eased his foot off the brake. "I'm leaving!" he shouted as the striped car slid forward on the asphalt.
Hutch jogged across the street and grabbed the door handle. "Would ya wait just a minute Starsk? I'm coming."
Starsky grinned as the blonde detective opened the car door and threw himself inside, landing heavily on the black leather seat. "Bad morning?" he asked casually as Hutch pulled the door shut.
Hutch straightened himself and took a deep breath, obviously centering his emotions. Starsky grinned wider and moved his foot from the brake to the gas as his partner replied, "No, I was just a few minutes behind. Why are you in such a hurry?"
In response, Starsky let his jaw drop in exasperation, hoping to jog the blonde's memory.
"Come on partner, a nice big, fried, sugary doughnut is what you need this morning. It'll wake you up."
Hutch swallowed and looked at Starsky. "I already had breakfast." He paused. "Nice shirt."
Starsky glanced down at his chest and the blue shirt that covered it. "Thanks," he replied, then turned his gaze back to the road. "But that algae shake wouldn't count for a meal anywhere."
Now Hutch huffed with indignation. "It's not algae, Starsky, like I've told you a million times before-"
"Please Hutch, not before breakfast, huh?"
They were halfway to Krispy Kreme when Hutch spoke again. "Perfect weather for our camping trip," he said as he looked out the passenger window.
Starsky groaned inwardly. "Yeah."
"Oh come on Starsk, it'll be fun."
Hutch chuckled then sobered. "I really like that shirt."
"Do we have to camp all weekend?" Starsky whined. He knew he was whining, and he didn't care. "Three whole nights outside?"
"That's the idea."
"Come on, it'll be good for ya. Breathe some fresh air, get some exercise…"
"Get stung by insects, sleep on the hard ground…"
"Hillbilly." Starsky steered the car into the parking lot. "You're buying," he said, reminding his partner as he turned off the engine.
"I'm contributing to your early death," Hutch replied, nonetheless retrieving his wallet.
Starsky was already out of the car. "Hey, I love this song!" he exclaimed as the upbeat tempo of 'My Sharona' reached the detective's ears. The song was playing on the radio of a Pontiac that was stopped at the intersection and Starsky immediately began shamelessly bobbing to the beat.
"Would you knock it off, you're in public," Hutch said as he followed his partner into the store.
"That song is at the top of the charts," Starsky replied.
"Doesn't mean it's good."
Starsky selected three doughnuts and placed them in a bag. "Yeah it does, Blintz. The more people buy the record, the higher it moves up the charts."
"I know how it works," Hutch grumbled. "But the people buying the record have no taste in music to begin with."
Starsky's jaw dropped in time with his bagged breakfast. "I bought the record."
Hutch paid the cashier, seemingly avoiding Starsky's gaze. "Exactly. Let's go."
Hutch left the building and Starsky turned to the female cashier. "He drinks algae for breakfast," he said, excusing his partner before following Hutch outside.
Starsky stepped off the store's front step, his blue Adidas thudding softly on the glistening concrete. "You're one to talk, ya know," he started as he crossed the parking lot. Hutch was leaning impatiently against the hood of the brightly painted car and looked up at Starsky's approach.
"Will you hurry up?" Hutch asked, his face contradicting the sternness of his voice.
Starsky continued, unfazed by Hutch's dwindling mood. "I'd take The Knack any day over Eric Clapton."
Hutch glared at Starsky as keys the keys jingled. "The man happens to be a real artist. We'll see where The Knack is in five years."
The partners got in their respective seats as Starsky brought the car to life. "At least we both seem to agree on the end of Disco."
"My Sharona," Hutch grumbled to the glass of the passenger window.
Starsky had his hand in the paper bag and his fingers sticky with doughnut glaze when the police radio beeped. "All units please respond to an 11-8 in the alley behind Daisy's Dry Cleaning on Vine Street. Possible 905V, proceed with caution."
Starsky shoved the doughnut in his mouth for storage as he turned the heavy car in the direction of Vine Street. He glanced at Hutch, whose hand was on the radio. "905V?"he mumbled around the doughnut.
Hutch shrugged. "Something about an animal," he said, but Starsky though it sounded like a guess. "This is Zebra 3, we are responding."
The car was pointed straight down the long stretch of road before them and Starsky took the doughnut, sans one bite, from his mouth. "We're not even in the woods yet and already the animals are attacking." He took another bite. "If this is any hint as to how our camping trip is going to go…"
Hutch rolled his eyes and threw the mars light on the roof of the car with practiced ease.
When they turned onto Vine Street, the location of the alley couldn't have been more obvious than if a giant flashing neon sign had been hung overhead. Three marked police cars, lights silently swirling blue and red, were parked with their noses to the alley's opening like steady bird dogs pointing a pheasant.
"Guess this is the place," Starsky teased as he downed the last of his doughnut and slid the Torino amongst the other cars.
Starsky and Hutch exited the car, guns drawn, and entered the dirty stone alley. The other officers were almost to the end of the alley, guns aimed at something Starsky couldn't yet see, and looking very nervous. He looked to Hutch, sent him a mental 'Be Careful' and nodded when the thought was returned. Together they traveled down the length of the alley, becoming more tense with each step, and stopped beside one of the focused officers.
Now that they were closer, Starsky could see what the problem was. Actually, the growling caught his attention first, and for once, it wasn't his stomach. In the corner of the end of the alley, amidst a rusted-out dumpster and yellowing newspapers, stood a shaggy, haggard dog, the cliché of all stray dogs. It's long, wiry brown hair was thickened with mats and debris, and despite it's substantial size, couldn't weigh more than 45 pounds. It's long tail hung low between it's hind legs, swishing back and forth as a snakes' might. It's ears stood upright but flopped forward, and it's piercing eyes resembled a hawks', glaring at the armed men through the long eyebrows obscuring it's face. The dog's head was also held low, causing it's knobby shoulder blades to jut roughly against it's hide as a low rumble tumbled through the animal's throat.
"Uh, Hutch… I think the 'V' in 905V stands for vicious."
Then Starsky noted the bottom of a shoe lying on the other side of the dumpster, behind the dog. Caught up in the entrancing display from the animal, he had forgotten about the fallen person for which they had originally been called to the scene to investigate. The person may very well still be alive, but the defensive dog was blocking their aid. "Who's gonna do it?"
The officers looked at each other nervously.
"Look at it, it's most likely sick anyway. You'd be doing the poor thing a favor," Starsky said, lowering his 9mm a fraction.
"It's a dog," one of the officers replied.
Starsky took note of Officer Todd's name badge before rolling his eyes. "And it preventing us from helping a citizen," he said, glancing at Hutch. "Fine," he sighed after no one moved. "I'll do it."
Starsky took aim at the mangy, cornered dog. "Wait," Hutch said, lowering his weapon and putting a hand on Starsky in one fluid motion. "Let me try something first," he said, looking deeply into Starsky's eyes before turning and jogging back to the alley's opening.
"What is it with you people," Starsky sighed, lowering his gun once more.
"Have you ever owned a dog, sir?" Officer Todd asked.
"No," Starsky replied. "Never had much interest to."
"Well, then, with all due respect, you wouldn't understand."
"I guess not," Starsky replied, looking at the cowering animal. It's eyes were almost orange, and they were watching the alley's opening with interest. When the thing wasn't growling or baring very pointed canine teeth, it could almost be considered pet-like.
Hutch's feet pounded the wet asphalt in a runner's rhythm as he returned. In his hand was a white and green bag. Starsky felt his eyes widen. "Hey! That's my breakfast!"
"It's for your own good, buddy," Hutch replied, sparing Starsky a brief glance.
Starsky felt his eyes go even wider when he recognized the determination set on his partner's face. "Oh no, you are not going over there-"
"Starsk, it's okay. He's just scared. Once he realizes we won't hurt him, he'll be alright."
Starsky's eyes narrowed. "How do you know it's a 'he'?"
Hutch smiled. "Cover me?"
"As always, Blintz," Starsky replied softly, smiling at his friend's damn good-heartedness. His gun raised and found it's target, his finger tight on the trigger as Hutch moved forward towards the dog.
At Hutch's slow approach, the dog took a small step backwards, it's hock hitting the brick wall of a building. The dog's head lowered again and that unsettling low growl rumbled deeply.
"Hey boy, it's alright," Hutch murmured, his voice light and friendly. He turned his body slightly so that he was no longer approaching the scared animal head-on. Starsky watched in amazement as the dog responded by lifting it's head a fraction.
"Look what I have," Hutch continued as he rattled the paper bag. "This is a present from my partner back there."
Starsky watched as Hutch seemingly made a show of turning his head away from the dog to look at the four armed men. He looked back to the dog, took another step closer, his gaze not ever meeting the dogs', then discreetly licked his lips and turned his head to the other side.
There was magic at work here, Starsky was sure of it as the dog stopped growling and cocked it's head. He watched the proceedings down the length of his gun with more interest than he when watching the news on TV this morning. Without looking, he knew the other officers were captivated as well.
"Good boy," Hutch praised gently as he smiled. He sank to the ground, narrowly missing a puddle of oily water, and leaned back against the brick wall. "Come over here and get a treat."
The uniformed officers lowered their guns as the dog actually responded, taking hesitant steps toward Hutch and his offering. Starsky, the self-appointed protector of his best friend, remained in arms, not quite trusting the shaggy animal.
"Good dog," Hutch repeated as the dog moved roughly ten feet away from it's original location to join him. He held out the doughnut and the dog took it with caution, eyeing the man sitting before it with a soul-searching gaze. Finally, as the dog actually began to eat the offering, it's tail raised in a happy wag.
"It's alright," Hutch called to Starsky, still not yet touching the animal.
Starsky let his gun drop to his side as the uniformed officers moved to assist the still body behind the dumpster. "Are you sure?" he asked even as his holstered his weapon.
When the dog had finished the doughnut, it moved closer to Hutch and shoved it's black nose against the bag in Hutch's hand. With a grin, Hutch handed over the last doughnut. "I think so," he replied.
Starsky moved forward and the dog jumped, sinking to the asphalt in a submissive crouch beside Hutch. Starsky turned questioning eyes toward Hutch.
"I told you he was just scared," Hutch said, letting his hand fall slowly in front of the dog's face. The dog puffed, it's nose twitching as it smelled the warm hand then turned those sad orange eyes to Hutch's face, squinting through it's long hair.
Starsky felt odd as Hutch smiled at the dog and slowly rubbed the animal's cheek. Was it jealousy? A longing to have the same magical effect on vicious animals? No, Starsky realized, it was sadness.
That mutt had eaten his free breakfast.
Officer Todd approached. "Caucasian male, late fifties. DOA. Appears to be of natural causes."
Starsky sighed. "Call it in. Don't touch the body until the medical examiner looks at it." He looked back to the dog and his partner. They both met his gaze, the dog thumping it's tail and it's long, wet hair swishing in the movement. "And call animal control."
"Aw come on Starsk…"
"Oh don't start Hutch, okay? What are you going to do with it?" Starsky countered, shifting his weight.
"I don't know, but you can't just send it off to be executed."
Starsky sighed. There weren't many things that could turn his by-the-book partner into a sympathetic bowl of mush, but strays were one of them. "You know darn well that the animal shelter would try to find it a good home, so don't lay that guilt trip on me-"
"That's his name," Hutch replied, resting a hand on the dog's shoulders. "Gordo."
"Aww, Hutch, come on…"
"I think it suits him," Officer Todd spoke up.
"I told you to call this in," Starsky snapped. Todd's smile told him he was forgiving of the harsh order. "You can't do this," Starsky continued, his attention refocusing on Hutch. "You're a detective, you've got no time for a dog."
Hutch must have gotten tired of looking up at Starsky, because he pushed himself to his feet, using his height to his advantage now. ""I'll find him a home, I swear. I'll just take him home and give him dinner tonight, then tomorrow I'll place him with a nice, loving family."
Starsky winced as Hutch's blue eyes turned liquid. He was doing it, giving Starsky the patented 'Take-Pity-On-Me-Puppy-Dog-Gaze' that Hutch usually reserved for the women. Starsky forced himself to look away, but accidentally caught the same heartbreaking gaze from the thin dog. He sighed in resignation. "I swear, if that thing leaves fleas in my car, I'll-"
"Not you, the dog."
Starsky's eyebrows dipped quickly as a look of hurt passed over his face. "Oh. Right." Then he caught Hutch's teasing smile and returned it. "Well, we had better get going. We're late."
The partners turned towards the alley's opening as more officials arrived. The dog, seemingly petrified of being alone, lurched forward and pressed itself to Hutch's leg. Starsky took note of the way the dog's head was the perfect height for the blonde detective to pet without having to bend over, fitting under Hutch's palm as if the dog had been created just for that purpose.
"Dobey's liable to have us do paperwork all weekend," Hutch muttered as the three walked towards the Torino.
Starsky's face lit up. "That would mean-"
But Hutch was too fast. "You'd really rather sit at that desk all weekend than go camping?"
Starsky shrugged. "There's the candy machine…"
"You gave my breakfast to the mutt."
They reached the car, and Hutch looked at Starsky over the roof. "He needs it more than you."
"What are you saying?" Starsky asked with defiance as he opened the driver's door.
Hutch mimicked the action on the passenger side, and without a word, the dog leaped into the backseat. The detectives sat down and pulled the heavy doors shut simultaneously. "Nothing," Hutch replied, staring straight ahead.
Starsky looked down at himself, feeling strangely self-conscious. "You're just jealous because I don't have to turn anorexic for 48 hours at a time."
Hutch rubbed his temples. "Starsky, it's more than that, it's about-"
"Your dog stinks."
When Hutch didn't reply, Starsky glanced at his partner. Hutch was staring at him. "What?"
"Where did you get that shirt?"
"I had one just like it. Raise you arm."
"I didn't take it from you," Starsky replied, inching away from his partner.
"I didn't say you did. Now lift your arm."
Starsky obeyed, searching his partner for any clue as to what was going through that blonde skull.
Starsky let his arm fall to his side. Hutch looked straight ahead. "I gave that shirt to the Salvation Army last week. There was a small hole under the arm."
Starsky's face fell and he narrowed his eyes, checking the fabric himself, then looked back to his partner. Hutch was trembling with restrained laughter. "Well I like it."
"It is a nice shirt," Hutch laughed freely now. "I should know."
Starsky sank into his corner of the car with a frown and gunned the engine. He turned the car onto the street a little rougher than necessary, trying to get his point across. Something warm and wet landed in his ear and he flinched away, seeing the dog's head retreat out of his peripheral vision.
Hutch laughed harder as Starsky wiped at his ear and grumbled about insensitive partners and mangy mutts.