"So whadda ya think about this huh? Partnered up. You 'n' me? Did ya ever think that after we left the Academy and went our different ways on patrol that we'd wind up here in the same precinct? As partners? Pretty amazin' don't you think? Hutchinson?"
This hyped up whirlwind with dark brown curls and an almost (but not quite, as I was in a resistant mood right at that moment) contagious grin was my freshly appointed partner, David Starsky. He was demanding my response in the characteristically over-enthusiastic way that I had well-remembered from both our Academy days and whenever our paths had crossed on the patrol beat over the past four or so years.
I knew that he was on a similar track to me professionally. He too had aligned his career to move almost directly from patrol officer to Detective and had applied for the exams, the same as I had.
That we had both been successful in our career pursuits as Detective Sergeants to this point and had wound up ready for day one on the new job was not that surprising to me. I knew I worked damn hard to get here. I knew Starsky's tenacity and drive could get him to wherever he was aiming.
It would however have been a completely different story if you had asked me where I thought this guy would end up in life when we first encountered each other in the classroom at the Academy. One lecture in and one session out on the oval with physical tactics training, I thought I had him pegged in the 'buck the system and opt out before he starts ' category. He was, I thought, a typical anti-establishment guy – a tough boy from the east coast, who I felt might have a big chip on his shoulder. I couldn't describe the chip and probably in my earlier arrogant days I had no interest in doing so. This guy, I thought, had too little patience with books and rules and way too much testosterone on board to make it in the force. I was sure my appraisal was sound; I had always been a good judge of character.
Well the younger Hutchinson gut feelings were well off at that time. By the end of three months in the Academy, Starsky had well and truly blown my abilities to predict human nature right out of the water. He had in fact not only completed his full Academy training but had graduated as a reliable rookie and then gone on to fulfill a decent stint as a patrolmen. He had survived to this date with not a blemish to his record and a reputation among the officers as a tough but fair player. The man "least likely to" then went on to sail successfully through the detective exams.
Recounting my memories of him over the past years, I stopped mid thought. How did I end up with so many recollections and impressions of a man who for all intents and purposes was a relatively unknown to me on a close level?
I could name at least half a dozen other guys with whom I'd worked on patrol, or been pals with since the Academy. I don't believe that I could comment with any authority on their motives or directions in life. In fact I could not be bothered to try to figure them out personality-wise. They were acquaintances, nothing more – guys I worked with and promptly forgot the minute the shift ended. So why did it seem that I had done some serious analyzing on Starsky?
I recalled now my reactions to the paperwork that came through regarding my new job as Detective Sergeant. I was still working at the precinct I'd been attached to for about two years as a flat foot. I had quickly skimmed down the writing on the page looking only for the details of my new position as Detective Sergeant. Until I exhaled I was not aware that I had been actually holding my breath waiting for the revelation of this information. This was important, life-changing. The name of my new partner jumped up from the documentation.
His face and his personality came quickly to mind. I knew exactly who he was and what he was like.
The very fact I did know was perplexing.
All of this was going through my head as I now took in the object of my introspection. Starsky was jamming his arms into his beaten up leather jacket smiling in that characteristic lop-sided boyish way. God! He was so eager and over the top – so excitable. His behavior reminded me of the young golden retrievers we used to have on the farm when I was a kid. He had that boundless energy and an indefatigable playfulness.
It was at odds with my more careful demeanor.
His appearance was quite different to when we had last seen each other in uniform. Then his hair had been regulation short and his face clean-shaven (well as clean-shaven as it possibly could be with the dark swarthy coloring and abundance of body hair). Now his hair, though still short was showing its curl, and with his slightly shadowed jaw, his well-worn tight jeans and sneakers he belied the image of anything resembling an officer of the law. Add to this his effusive, hyped up personality and no citizen, good or bad, would ever pick him as the 'heat'. Of course this was the whole point of our partnership. This human dynamo and I were now, officially partners of the law - undercover.
While Starsky seemed to effortlessly convey his casual hip persona I could not be so sure about my ability to blend so easily into the dirty backdrop of our beat's neighborhood. Although I wore the similar street dress code as Starsky, jeans and collegial jacket, I still had to keep reminding myself I was no longer an officer in blue. There was also something decidedly 'street cred' about how Starkey looked in his casual gear compared to me. No doubt it had a lot to do with how he moved his body through space.
Right now he leaned nonchalantly up again the doorjamb, his arms crossed looking like he did not have a damn care in the world. Moments before he had been swaggering around the office, sashaying up to Minnie one of the female uniforms, pressing his body into her personal space and giving her his most beguiling smile. She loved it and so did anyone of the other females in the squad room or outer office.
Yes he would fit very easily onto the streets and make our tasks to inveigle ourselves into crime scenes a lot easier than many other cops. His slight Brooklyn twang and habit of lazily dropping the ending off his words added another layer to his quasi-bad boy look.
Now we were both out of uniform and stripped of this conforming symbol our differences as two guys partnered together for the first time, really stood out. My own persona and demeanor was just so dramatically different to Starsky's. I was as light as he was dark, as phlegmatic as he was talkative, as careful and methodical as he was haphazard and unpredictable, I was inclined to academia and he was inclined to ….. Ah, yes, I remembered now - cartoons.
I recalled one drunken night when a bunch of us graduating rookies ended up in some hotel room to continue the revelry. Every time I came back to consciousness from my drunken state I became freshly aware of Starsky sprawled on the couch among beer bottles and rubbish, laughing inanely as some horrible ear-splitting cartoon show on TV.
" Huh! What's up with ya? Not feeling so good there Hutchinson? Nah! It'll pass. You'll live to drink another day. Should watch this stuff." He waved his carton of popcorn at the television and gave me a teasing smile. " It'll make ya' feel better. Promise. It always works for me. Here ya' can share my popcorn." The buttery sickly smell was shoved under my nose and I fought back the nausea.
I just moaned and rolled back into the sofa. Who was this guy who could just chill out so easily and be so comfortable in his own skin? Cartoons for God's sake!
Hell I had forgotten about that night till just now.
Looking at him now, I decided that he had not changed a bit. Still just a big overgrown kid.
And, this is the guy who is going to have my back? A popcorn munching, cartoon watching big kid. Hope to hell he can still handle a gun.
But of course I knew that Starsky's persona had two sides...I had already seen him in action over the years on the force and did not doubt his crediblity as a cop. He and his gun were well acquainted. What concerned me now was how was our acquaintance going to work as a partnership. That was at the forefront of my mind.
It was damn obvious that we were totally different, but it still remained that we had been put together. I wondered what others made of him and me? Best not to go there. It would be revealed soon enough as cops were renowned for forming opinions of their peers and letting those opinions be heard.
All of these thoughts were uppermost in my mind, as we had sat in the Captain's office earlier. We had been summoned there for our first official briefing with our new Superior. Captain Dobey was a big man, formidable and loud and he addressed both of us in a way that suggested his tolerance for smart-assed behavior was zero. The reputation of this respected black Captain of Detectives had gone before him and I know that from where I was sitting that morning, I wasn't too sure what to expect from him. Apprehension was not far from the surface for me right at that moment.
Apprehensive was not the word I would have used to describe how my new partner was looking as he sat in the other chair. Starsky seemed about as perturbed about his first meeting with his new captain as he might be about the prospect of choosing what he would have for breakfast. In fact he was more perturbed about his breakfast because I had to forcibly drag him away from it in the departmental cafeteria to get both of our asses up to the meeting on time. I had already learned that Starsky and food were not easily separated.
In fact I couldn't believe it but there he was in the meeting, still trying to shove a sugary donut into his mouth while Dobey was pulling out files and arranging paperwork for us to sign. I glared at him and had to jab him more than a few times to hurry up and get rid of the damn donut before Dobey turned his attention toward us. When Dobey finally leaned forward and fixed his eyes on the two of us, I leaned toward him too, waiting for his commanding direction.
First impressions were important and I needed to demonstrate my engagement in his authority. I waited expectantly for his opening remarks.
To this day I will never forget those first words to us – so short, but powerful...so freaking humiliating!
"STARSKY! Wipe your damn face!" Dobey's voice boomed in the small room. No! That surely did not just happen! I felt myself color. Starsky obediently obliged, swiping the back of his hand across his face, and smiled, unabashed.
"Ah sorry Cap'n. Little sugary I guess. Yeah, greasy too" . He wiped his hand down his jeans like a three-year old.
Mortified. I was totally mortified. How could such a hallmark occasion, a watershed in my career, be so forever indelibly marked by my superior talking down to us like a couple of kids?
Well the words were addressed to Starsky of course, not me, but I felt the mortification as my own. Now why should I feel like that for Christ sake? I was not the one with half a donut plastered over his face. Here I was our first day together and already I was feeling some misplaced joint connection with this man. God help me. I could have killed Starsky with my withering look. At least he had the decency to look a little shame-faced for a moment.
So we somehow got through our first meeting together with the Captain. I would like to think that we were able to salvage enough of our dignity to regain some lost ground from the donut incident, to leave him with an impression that we were serious contenders for noteworthiness in his department. But something about the way Dobey's one eyebrow was raised whimsically at the two of us as he closed the door with "now get outta my office and get onto the streets and start nailing some asses!" made me second-guess myself on that one.
Starsky wasn't second-guessing himself at all. He was raring to go and start nailing said asses, so here we were jacketing up to roll on our first day out together.
"Pretty amazin' don't you think Hutchinson?"…I was brought back to the now.
I was still sufficiently miffed enough by Starsky's performance in Dobey's office not to respond to his happy refrain about being paired up. Pointedly I just left his comment hanging between us. Starsky however lost none of his buoyancy in the face of my poor team spirit. He did however give me a longer look with his head on the side a little as if trying to figure my mood and my reticence. Then in an instant he was back in full force.
"OK, then – well lets roll partner! My car awaits us".
During our session with Dobey it had been agreed to that Starsky would be able to use his own car for our undercover vehicle. It made sense I guess because (well, according to Starsky anyway ) the engine was in great shape, it was capable of speed and supposedly, it handled beautifully. I knew (yet another of the many facts I must have unconsciously filed in my brain about Starsky) that he was a car nut and so he was probably more of an authority on these matters than me. Besides, I was not in a position to argue. My own car was the opposite of all those things. I am not a car junkie and my car is a testament to that. It is basic, practical and well admittedly just a bit clunky. But it does me and I like my car. I am sure that Starsky would not.
So on this issue I conceded to Starsky. I would find other ways to leave my mark in the partnership. A car that he was familiar with would be a smart move and as we needed to drive around "under the radar" in our undercover guises, it would better fit our chameleon requirements.
All of these sane, rational, logic conclusions went out the proverbial window when we entered the departmental garage.
Starsky trotted a little ahead of me and made an extravagant flourish with his hand toward something that was big, red and white. Make that big, red and white and overstated!
I pulled up short and nearly ran into his back. My internal groan quickly became very audible. With what I was looking at, it was hard to suppress it.
In his usual happy excitement I think my groan must have gone over Starsky's head.
"Isn't she beautiful huh? My baby! Look at her! A sight to behold ain't she?"
"What the fuck is that?" I was trying for emphasis of the expletive here.
"Huh?" Obviously not the response he was hoping for from me.
"That – that monstrosity with the white stripe – that hood's car? Is that – you mean to tell me, that that "striped tomato" is your car? You want us to drive around Bay City in THAT?"
"Whadda ya talkin' bout? Of course it's my car. It's my candy apple red Torino with over 240-horses under the bonnet – it is one beautiful engine! Wait to ya' feel the power in her! She can get from zero to ….."
"Starsky I don't care if your damn engine is gilded in gold. We cannot drive around in that car. We are going to have to get back to Dobey now and get a departmental vehicle requisitioned until we can arrange something better. Apart from the fact that is garish and vulgar, it is totally ridiculous to consider using it as an undercover cop car."
"Now wait just one minute Hutchinson. You don't NEVER, never think ya' can insult my car"
"Ever, ever insult your car"
"Why are you repeatin' what I said for? Stop being a wise-guy will ya? I am serious here. This is serious stuff. You have just insulted my car. I don't mind ya' insulting me, but you don't insult my car."
"So you don't care if I insult you, just your car? Well that says something."
"Ok Hutchinson. I have had enough of you lookin' down your – your acquine nose at me and judging' me."
"Aquiline, aquiline nose. And its not."
"Well whatever your nose is, you are looking down it and I have had it! Do ya' think I know what ya' thinkin' about me huh? Mr. Grade A Hutchinson? Don't ya' think I don't realize that you and your other stuck up pals from the Academy think I am shit? Bad boy done good? That's what all of ya' used to think isn't it? And now it is burning your gut to realize that ya' got me as partner; low life Starsky. You probably want to be standing beside one of your other golden haired snobs with their filthy rich parents and their college educations"…
He stopped mid sentence , suddenly deflated , as if he had run out of steam.
The vehemence and the burst of ferocious pride that had crackled in his voice just fell away. The dark blue eyes which had just flashed steely dark, closed as he rubbed his hand down his face. The feisty tiger retreated into a forlorn, hurt and beaten down dog. Make that, a beaten down puppy.
He cut the air with his hand as if to shut himself down.
"Ahhh….Just forget it will ya Hutch? Just forget it."
I had only a second to register his use of my name in its abbreviated fashion. He had never called me that before, and no one else in the force ever had either. When I was a kid, it was a name I loved to hear my friends call me. How could he know it was a favored nickname from my youth? He could not have known. But it was only a second of wonderment because just as I raised my hand to him he turned sharply on his heel and walked away. The door of the department's rear entrance banged shut in his wake.
"Shit!" It had all happened so fast and I was trying to take in that he had left.
I stood transfixed and more than a little shocked.
I stared hard at the red Torino with its perfect white paintwork streaking along her length. I saw the shiny, shimmering coating of wax polished to a glowing sheen and the fender so buffed that I could see my face in it. I saw the immaculate interior of the car, the worn black vinyl seats without a mark of dirt on them, saw the polished gears and chrome fittings, the windows without a smudge. I saw too that this car was an extension of my new partner, a representation of his self-discipline and attention to detail that no doubt the army had instilled in him.
Starsky's tour of duty in 'Nam had made him a standout in all the physical aspects of Academy training. I don't recall him ever sharing too much with the other trainees about Nam, but I was aware of his years in the army.
Why did I know these things about Starsky, someone I only knew peripherally up until now? And why could I not wipe that last image of his hurt face out of mind?
I saw my reflection in his clean, passenger's window and at that moment I didn't like what I saw. The view of myself and my behavior right then did not look very pretty.
"Hutchinson you are one stupid asshole."
It was not difficult for me to find him. How did I know that he would be somewhere near food? He was smashing his fist into the vending machine in the basement, threatening the machine with hideous atrocities if it failed to deliver up a candy bar for nix. I approached him carefully, with a measured; "I am not here to harm you" arms out wide feel to it. It was not unlike how I might have once approached a skittish horse in the pasture. I needed to regain some level of trust here and if I was really honest I was fearful that, similar to a cornered horse, he might very well bolt.
He sensed me quickly despite his desperate grapple with the machine and turned to watch my approach. I was grateful that he did not stare me down or make the scene difficult for me. In fact, he looked almost as though he was back to being Starsky, the ebullient rogue, with no sign of hostility in his eyes, no reproach in his small smile. His face and body language told me straight away that he was giving me another shot at what I had so far really fucked up between us. This was some guy. He had already moved on from the scene outside in the garage.
Unfortunately I was not so emotionally robust.
"Starsky….Star….sky…I, I " Oh crap why did I revert to that pathetic stuttering whenever I started to get emotional? I got the sense that Starsky already knew about this tell-tale habit in me and could pick straight away that I was struggling here.
"We partner, had better hurry up and get our asses into gear. C'mon lets get out there on the streets before Dobey hears we are still jackassing around the candy machines down here. No point in gettin' all het up about the appearance of my car. Whadda think Hutch? May as well take her out for a spin today and we can go figure the rest of the story 'bout a better cop vehicle down the track. There's probably no other cars to use today anyway as I already let the squad car pool know that I had our wheels covered. So buddy, like it or not, my Torino is your ticket to ride for today. "
I took a breath and felt a little sick and very, very small. "Starsky…I"
He was already jangling his keys and dancing about at the garage exit door. "I know my name well enough, you don't have to keep repeating it for me to remember Hutch. Will ya come on already? We got work to do. We need to hit that pool room down on Lexington, shake out that weasel that Dobey told us about and then - well then we might just have time to stop by my favorite burrito stand for an early lunch. Its hours since I ate those donuts. I'm already starvin'. You like burritos Hutch? No wait, yep now I recall you're one of them health nuts aren't ya? Oh well no worries, I know this whacky girl who works in a hippie shop over on….."
And it went on and on. Starsky's mood breaker tactics. His voice was cascading and laughing, filling the room and then the outer garage, all the while he swaggered toward his beloved car and waved his arms about wildly to ensure I was invited, involved, and a part of his happy go lucky bubble.
I was accepted even if I felt like I didn't deserve it.
I put aside any lame attempt to justify my earlier cruel behavior and callous treatment of this generous man. I would not under-estimate or misjudge him again so quickly. Starsky knew exactly what he was doing right now with this routine. As he ushered me into his car and leaned on the door, he stopped for one moment in his frenetic whirlwind of chatter and placed his hand on my shoulder. He shut his mouth on the running commentary, and just looked me straight in the eyes. I was powerless to look away. For me, like most males, prolonged eye contact with another male could only ever be a menacing threat. Starsky's dark blue eyes were anything but menacing. They spoke forgiveness of me, self reproach for his own outburst and a soothing gentleness that was quietly freaking me out.
I had to say something just had to put me and my stupid mouth back into the right gear. I had to make something right from what I had done wrong to this guy. But I never got that chance. He snapped his fingers, gave me the quickest discernible wink and closed the passenger door. By the time he re-emerged on the driver's side and started to rev his "baby" up until she gave out a deep-throated purr, I had given up.
This was to be one of the first of many lessons Starsky taught me in our relationship - "Knowing when to move on 101".
He pumped the gas and we tore out of the garage onto the street, Starsky somehow squeezing the Torino into a frighteningly small gap in the busy morning traffic. As the car moved through the gears and negotiated around a stationary car to break into the next lane, I stole a quick sideways glimpse of my partner. His profile was a study in composure and concentration. Gone was the hyped up verbosity. This was Starsky's domain. For the first time that morning I relaxed a little and sensed that we were comfortable in each other's presence. As we approached a set of lights and slowed the pace he gave me a quick sidelong grin .
"How ya doin' there Hutch? Ok?'
No hesitation this time and I was pleased to feel the dreaded stutter was gone.
"OK!" I said it with my eyes too and I knew when his face broke into a huge grin, he got both the verbal and visual answer he was hoping for.
For the rest of the day we explored our new domain and began to get the feel for this whole new game of undercover law enforcement.
At the same time there was another level of exploration going on and this one was far more crucial to both of us. This was a silent, careful two-way appraisal. We were taking each other's measure and testing out what we might have together as partners. As we went through the motions of responding to several calls , interviewing witnesses and making a couple of arrests, I could begin to get a real feel for how Starsky worked. I think he was equally warming up to my particular style and approach.
It seemed good; we seemed to be good together.
This revelation was not alluded to by either of us but the vibe was alive and tangible. I could not qualify why our first day on the job seemed so comfortable and effortless. Not just yet anyway. The easy rhythm we quickly fell into defied the brevity we had really known each other and the prejudicial circumstances we were working under. We were not exactly having a party here. Finding out about ourselves as partners whilst swimming around in the cesspool that was to be our beat, was not conducive to warm social bonding and was not without pressure and stress for both of us.
So why then did this very exhausting first day feel so damn rewarding?
Maybe, I concluded to myself, the rosy feelings and easy banter we had lapsed into was all a result of my woeful behavior and resultant guilt earlier that morning. Perhaps we were being extra considerate of each other because of the car incident. Thus the smooth sailing.
However by the end of the first week I could no longer mis-attribute anything. For whatever reason, and I was still no closer to defining it, Starsky and I worked. We worked the streets, we worked our perps, we worked the snitches, and we worked up the beginnings of a productive undercover law unit. Above all else though, and no doubt the reason why all these sparkly things were happening for us – we worked as partners.
Our third week into the job and we had hit our stride. Each morning we would climb into the Torino. Since that first fateful morning when its status had been placed in serious jeopardy by my churlishness, it had reasserted and held its rightful place as our wheels. Why not? It had proved itself to be a fast and reliable car even if it was in everyone's face with its appearance. Besides I knew how much it meant to Starsky and yes, well, the truth was that the damn car was growing on me. Of course, I would never let Starsky know that – better that he thought I was prepared to suffer in silence.
We would finish our shift and call it a day, night or morning or whatever hours we were keeping. Mostly we were bone tired and just needed to go home to ice up a bruise, soak tired muscles or just crash out. Once or twice (ok, make that four times, but who was counting anyway?) I had made a throw away suggestion to Starsky about catching a beer together to wind down after our shift. I was a little nonplussed that he had rain checked me on each occasion or used fatigue as a boycott. I did not press it. I might have thought it a little strange because surely we could find something to pass our time with over a drink given our easy camaraderie during working hours, but well…maybe he just didn't want to cross the line of a professional working relationship.
Well, that is not really true. I did not accept his refusals in such a matter of fact fashion at all. I let my LTD know all about it as I sat there fuming at his latest brush off of my offer to hang out together that night.
"Bullshit! Too tired my ass! What is with you Starsky? Can't even sit down over a beer with me!" What gives here?"
It did not make sense to me. On the job we were synching so well. I know we were developing a good level of trust in each other and I could say with certainty that Starsky was a partner I really wanted beside me a tight situation. God, my lower ribs were proof of that. I rubbed my mid section lightly where it was still tender from a fight in an alleyway two days ago.
Two goons had cornered me and I took a bit of a beating before Starsky showed up to join in the fray. The bigger of the two had me pinned as I was now wiped out from the effort I had put into trying to deal with both. He was laying into my mid section when I heard Starsky's cries from the alley entrance. "Hutch!"…and when I could not call back to reassure him I was ok, he let out an escalated "Huuutttccchhhh! "
Next thing I knew Starsky ripped the thug from me and wiped the ground with his face - literally. He tidily cuffed the two thugs together and by the time he came and knelt beside me I was starting to get my breath back.
"Thanks partner, I wasn't doing too well there. Glad you showed up when you did." I struggled up with Starsky's help and caught the look of dark anger in his eyes as he watched me wince with the pain.
I was coughing and gasping at the ripping spasms across my gut. He stayed supporting me until I recovered enough to stand and then he helped me limp back to the car where he had the two goons cuffed together on the ground. He was none too kind with how he dispatched the two of them into the back of the Torino - to put it mildly. I actually grimaced when I heard the loud "thwack" of the head of the guy who had been pummelling me when Starsky had arrived on the scene. Starsky had made sure his head had made solid contact with the roof of the car as he was pushing him to the back. I believe this was the first time I heard my partner pull out what was to become one of his many classic lines used in apprehesions and arrests.
"Oh jeez, jeez, oops! Sorry 'bout that. Was that ya" head? Should learn to duck when ya' get in the back of a two door."
Back at the station he took care of the booking and insisted I rest up at the desk while he typed up the report. Now that was a surprise! I had already figured how much Starsky and reports did not go together. So even though he abhorred writing them, he refused to allow me to leave my spot where I'd slumped in my chair, feeling sore and sorry for myself.
Yes it was easy for us even in those very early first weeks to act considerately of each other and to make sure that the other was always safe and ok. So, why I thought, if we were starting to bond so well on the job at least, did he still pull back from buddying up after work?
I would have liked to have had the balls to confront Starsky with these words but for now my old beat up car was the only sounding board for my frustrations. Later on that evening, my plants had to put up with a similar tirade. "What is it about me that is the problem here?"
I was pissed off with him for stalling on moving our partnership from the streets to chilling together a bit socially. I could damn well have a beer with any other of my old patrol mates so what the hell did it matter. "So who gives a fuck? Not me Starsky?"
So, pushing aside my disappointment and layering up on my denial, I busied myself with other social networking. I arranged a few catch-ups with guys I had known well over the past few years. We shared some beers. We shared some work stories; we shared some laughs and some ribald exchanges about women. Hell, we shared a lot of crap, but I never felt that I connected with these guys like I did with Starsky.
It was just not the same and I already had the feeling that it might never be again.
We had been partners for well over a month when it happened.
That was when the dynamics changed and we moved onto a completely new level as partners.
It was an ugly precedent. Looking back I guess that sometimes human ugliness shows itself in order to reveal what can be true and pure about being human. We have to take the bad as well as the good. So maybe in life we get payoffs. For me this event marked a point in life that I have always heard described at a watershed. Yep, in the scheme of things, this was a watershed moment for me.
I would like that it had never happened, but it did and I can't change that. And well, as the saying goes, shit happens. Well one thing for sure is that day, shit walked into our precinct.
I had been in the squad room for over an hour trying to make headway with one of our many overdue reports. My neck muscles were seizing into pillars of rock and my head was threatening to go out in sympathy with it's own thumping headache. I had already downed way too much coffee. It had reached the point, where, uncharacteristically for me, I just had to have some sugar and fast, otherwise this report was not ever going to hit Dobey's desk.
Luckily I could do my sugar-hit number without the risk of Starsky springing me and blowing my reputation. I berated him mercilessly for what he was doing to his body with his candy addiction, and never missed an opportunity to nag him about the amount of junk with which he plied himself. Right now he was thankfully out of the picture – off on one of his 'chilidog with the lot' sojourns. Huh! My subterfuge would go undetected, my partner none the wiser. The Hutchinson integrity, "my body is a temple" mantra would remain intact.
Steps away from the vending machine in the hallway I heard some familiar voices calling out to me from the reception area.
" Hey! Ken! Wait up."
I was surprised to see two of the guys that I had hung out with a lot during our days in the Academy. I had seen them on and off over the last few years, while we were all patrol officers. Chris O'Connell and Pete Jackson.
"Pete, Chris, hey you two! Hey great to see you guys! What are you doing down here in my territory?"
Both of them were still boys in blue, neither having moved out of the patrol section. "Well we were just in the neighborhood and thought we would drop in! Shit, no man! We just had to bring in some perps and fix the paper work up from this end. One of your boys here has been tailing this loser we cuffed and we had to square it all up with him." Jackson explained and then slapped me lightly on the shoulder by way of greeting. O'Connell too gave me a similar greeting. I felt pleased to see them too.
O'Connell leaned his arm onto the wall and surveyed the corridor and the squad room I had just exited.
"See Pete, told you this was where he was hanging. Knew that you were stationed here in Metro Ken. Big time Detective Sergeant eh? Always were the smart one Hutchinson. You'll be a going for lieutenant next." O'Connell laughed and ribbed me.
"Oh come on, cut the crap. Just getting my teeth into this job as it is. Plenty to keep me occupied here for a time. Besides it's good – yeah it's real good." It was. It was in fact damn good. "Not that I don't miss the patrol, but its different you know? "
I was aiming for diplomatic here; after all they were still in blue. Christ! What a joke on me that turned out to be. Should have saved my breath.
"Yeah? No shit? Well that's a surprise man! Thought you'd be ready to cut and run?"
The smile went out of my eyes and I felt immediately wary. O'Connell's face had taken on a nasty edge.
"Why would that be?"
Laughter and sideways smirks were transmitted between O'Connell and Jackson. But it was O'Connell who was doing all the talking.
"Aw Come on Ken! We know you, remember? You were one of us at the Academy. It must be hard for you with your new partner." More smirking, mainly from O'Connell.
"Sorry? I was one of who at the Academy? " I was starting to get a bad feeling in my gut about where this was heading.
"We heard you got partnered with David Starsky from our intake. Jew boy from the streets in New York. All those 'normal guys' that went through the detective exams with you, and you landed the Jew! We all had a laugh about it. Sorry Ken, but you got to admit, you the golden boy of the group and you of all people got shackled with the token Jew. You two would have to be a stand out …the big blond WASP and the dark Jewish Boy! "
Jackson was started to look decidedly uncomfortable and put his hand up to O'Connell's arm as though to stop him saying anymore. O'Connell brushed him aside.
" Hey Pete what do you reckon Starsky does when he gets called 'Pig ' when he's out on the streets hey? Wouldn't go down too well for the Jew would it?"
I stared hard at Jackson then. Was he with O'Connell on this? He visibly shrank back against the wall and frankly looked a little sick. Obviously he wasn't with O'Connell on this, at least not right now in front of me. He tried again with his partner, throwing me a desperate look as he pushed at O'Connell's arm.
"Chris just shut the hell up will you! What are you trying to do here?"
O'Connell took no notice of Jackson. Where was all of this coming from I thought, as I started to feel the blood pulsing in my head .
"Hutchinson come on... "
So my surname now? All the swaggering buddydom gone.
" You know you could put in a submission to get a new partner. You don't have to let this ruin your career. The boys at the top would understand. After all they should have known that you would not have wanted a bloody Kike as your partner? Ditch Starsky and move on. There'll be some other Kike on the force who'll take him off your hands." The sneer on his face was twisted. This son of a bitch was twisted.
I had not been able to move. Frozen by his venomous anti-Semitic diatribe, I watched his tight mouth spit out his filthy words where they just seemed to hang there suspended in the air. So many thoughts went through my head in that moment. Foremost were shock and revulsion and pure hatred. I felt bile in my throat and pressure in my veins; my threatening headache was now a pulsing fucking aneurysm in my temples.
Truth was, I never knew Starsky's religious background. Never occurred to me to ask and didn't mean a flyin' fig to me anyhow. I looked down and saw my fists curling in and my forearms tensing.
The rage was building, not just at O'Connell but also at myself. I had counted this man as a friend once, God he was probably reflecting back to me thoughts and opinions that he thought we shared, that he thought we had in common.
The bile rose up even further. Was O'Connell being inclusive of me with this blatant hatred of the Jews? Is this what he thought I would be feeling and thinking? Like him? Like other racists on the force?
Is this the sort of man other people saw me as?
And then, the worst thought of them all filled my head .
I remembered then Starsky's hurt words to me in the garage that first day. "You probably want to be standing beside one of your other golden haired snobs". Is this how Starsky saw me? Was this the barrier between us? No wonder he had refused to associate with me socially.
I knew then I wanted to beat O'Connell and all that he represented senseless for what he had just said. Perhaps if I beat him hard enough I could begin to erase some of my own self-disgust at ever having associated with this asshole and his filthy prejudiced friends, those "golden haired snobs".
I lunged. O'Connell of course did not expect it. Why would he? He thought we were on the same wavelength. This realization sickened me. My hardened fist crashed into his jaw once, twice and then I delivered a quick third blow into gut, low and hard. He sagged boneless, not even holding up a defensive arm to try to ward me off, but still I pulled him up, held his head again and went for his temple with the same ferocity.
I was aiming to obliterate not only his words against Starsky, but also the fact that he had somehow used me in his vitriol against my own partner.
Jackson was yelling and pulling at me. I knocked him aside with a quick jab to the ribs and proceeded to drag O'Connell up from the floor once more where he was moaning and grunting. He was harder to hold up now, his head tipped forward onto his chest. My hand found his hair and I wrenched his head up and back so I could look him in the face as I threatened him again with my fist and my eyes.
"You sick fuck! What are you talking about? I should fucking kill you! I don't want a new partner you asshole. I have one! I have one you hear me?"
Was I screaming? There was thundering in my ears, blood pounding in my head. Yes, I was out of control, but my rage was unstoppable.
I was not aware of scuffling feet in the hallway and background noises, doors opening, people yelling. O'Connell's slack face was my only focus. His split lip was oozing blood and his nose was spurting it. One eye socket was already a fiery mass of red, his eyeball a sea of blood and broken capilleries. His one good eye looked dazed and yet shocked at the same time.
Could he really not know what he had just said?
Could he have possibly not known that he was being provocative to me?
Suddenly I felt a force behind me and a firm hand blocked my raised fist. Strong hands were on my arms, pulling me away and into the hard chest that was pressed against my back. I struggled to get more of a grip on O'Connell. A voice that I now knew so well was in my ear. Despite the furor of the scene and the thunder in my ears, Starsky's voice was quiet and contained.
"Its Ok now Hutch, Its ok. Let go now. It's all right now. Hutch, Hutch…listen to me now, let him go. It don't matter what he says. Ok? Hutch." When at first I would not release my grip on O'Connell he kept his voice calm and quiet, but leaned in closer, so close that his lips brushed my ear.
He repeated the line, this time dropping the Brooklyn slang. " It doesn't matter Hutch. What he says and what he thinks doesn't matter to me."
His words and tone calmed me. It was as though some of my molten rage was being drained from my body by his hands and voice. I uncurled one hand from O'Connell's hair and dropped my raised fist. I let myself fall back into Starsky's hold and collapsed into him. We both half knelt on the floor when I could nolonger support my buckling weight. The rage that I had unleashed had left me totally depleted. I turned to look up at my partner's face, my whole body still vibrating with the anger and the adrenaline rush.
"I , I …..Starsk….I just wanted to ….he, he …" His eyes were full of pain and I could see his concern for me so transparent in his face. He summoned up a faint smile for me then, steadying me as he pulled me upright from the floor and drew me fully away from the battered O'Connell.
"I know Hutch. I know what you wanted. C'mon with me now. We're gonna be ok." He was talking to me like I was some traumatised victim. Didn't he realise that he was the victim? It should be me who was worrying about him. He had this whole scene ass first. But right now, I did feel like I had been the one belted up and not O'Connell.
He led me over to the chairs near the washroom and guided me into the nearest one before I fell. He was gone for only a few moments and when I looked up again he was gently taking my throbbing right hand and pushing a wad of cool wet paper towels against the bleeding knuckles.
"Aww Christ Hutch, look what you've done to your hand ya' big blond lug. You gonna have to keep some pressure on this till I get ya' some ice." He was pressing the wad tightly and giving me yet another of his half little smiles. His façade was not lost on me. I could see his concern for me but I could already see the hurt there too. Hurt for both of us?
Looking at him directly now I was appalled at what I realized he had witnessed. "Starsk, I am so sorry about what…."
His eyes bore into mine, all pretenses of trying to lighten the situation gone now. All at once he seem defeated too and his body started to turn away from me. Was he shutting me out? God, did he think that O'Connell and I were on the same wavelength? I wanted to try to get through to him now and I my throat felt choked as I tried to articulate something that was so very important. Paramount to us as partners.
" I just want to… I...just..." I could not get anything out. The stutter had me again and the words were hard to get right now too. What could I say to negate what he had just heard about himself? Where could I begin to make it better? Every declaration that came to my tongue would not come out because I feared how it might come across. How shallow and crass.
"Hey, it's not true Starsky, despite what you heard, I am not like those other cops. I don't hold it against you for being a Jew."
Oh what a fucking awful mess this bigotted world is in.
Starsky cut off my struggle. " Well buddy, I think its time for us to face the music before Dobey comes out with both guns blazing. The whole department could hear O'Connell cryin' like a baby when you decked him, so better that we get to him first before he comes for us."
I knew then he did not want to talk to me about it. I sighed and started to stand. "Yeah, guess you're right. But it's me, not us who needs to sort this out."
"No it's something we both need to sort out. This is not just your problem Hutch."
There is no you or I in this relationship, just us. Get it? " His sincerity was almost too much for me and in my current state I hoped I could hold it all together till I got through this next step.
I could not deal with him now, could not keep looking at his face for fear that I would see there his disappointment in me. I had been part of a racial attack on him – whatever my role had been; I was involved in what happened and why it happened. "Please Starsky" I was trying not to look him directly in the eyes now "Just let me deal with this huh? It's me who caused it all and it's me who needs to sort it out. There are going to be some big repercussions and you don't need to get dragged into the mess. Please just give me a moment here, then I will come in and deal with Dobey."
Did he give in too easily? Did I want him to argue and demand to be by side when I faced Dobey about what had gone down? It didn't matter now, as he had already nodded silently and walked back toward the squad room doors.
Just as well he had left. After all I might just have sealed my own fate with my actions. Starsky did not need to brought down with me.
My shoulder was already starting to ache and my bloody fist was screaming but this sorry state of my body did not exempt me from the inevitable disciplinary coal I had to walk over sooner or later. I sat for a few more minutes staring down at my raw fist. In the background people were pulling O'Connell up and supporting him over to one of the side rooms to give him some privacy and no doubt to assess his battered face. Without Starsky beside me now I felt strangely vulnerable. I could not cope now should someone try to approach me about what had just happened.
So I stood and walked to the squad room and to some relative seclusion.
Sometime later I exited Dobey's office, and wearily made my way out to the bathroom to wash up and try to clear my head. I was exhausted physically after the fight but the meeting had finished me off mentally. I headed back to my desk to get started on the requisite paperwork for the incident. Laid out on my side of the desk was a cup of water, a bottle of aspirin and a wrapped up ice pack. Starsky of course. I scanned the squad room and outer office looking for his familiar curly head and felt a pang of disappointment that he was not there.
Not that I had any idea of what I could begin to say to him. I was still feeling sick in the stomach to realize that he had witnessed the whole soul-wrenching scene between O'Connell and me. Sometime soon though I would need to face him and talk this thing through. His absence now seemed to confirm that already he was backing away from me and that I had lost immeasurable ground in our professional relationship. Worse still was a mounting fear that we might have lost whatever had been growing between us as friends. I swallowed some aspirins and slumped further down into my office chair. I bargained with God that once the aspirin kicked in enough to stop the burning in my hand I would get the paper in the machine and start typing.
I sensed his presence then. I could feel his energy. Starsky was suddenly at my elbow with my jacket in one hand and his car keys in the other. For the second time that day I felt the gentle pressure of his hand on my shoulder. "Pain bad?"
I responded with a wince and a shadow of a smile. "Been better that's for sure. But well that's what I get for using other cops for punching bags."
"Well come on ya poor invalid, lets get out of here."
I raised my eyebrows in a quizzical expression and cast a look at Dobey's door and back to my typewriter and the forms.
"Hey, its all cool. Squared it with the Cap'n. We need to get out of this place for a while. Think we both need it don't ya"? That can wait. C'mon let's cut this place for an hour or so."
For a moment I considered his well- intentioned offer, but right now it was not what I needed. There was not enough emotional energy in me to rise to the occasion of chilling out at some hot dog stand while he tried to divert me from my miserable state. Starsky's classical distraction games were not going to be enough for me right now.
All of this was weighing heavily on me and I could not just push it aside. I gave him a dispirited shake of the head. "No Starsk, I'd just rather stay here and get this shit done and out of the way. Besides I need to ….." what did I need? I needed him to deal with this, with me, with us…what this whole episode represented and where it left us now. Maybe we were not going to make it as partners after all. He seemed always to fall just short of opening up to me about the really tough things between us. Hell it was damn obvious that he did not seem to want to give me the opportunity to do the same. If he was going to close me out on this level, then better not keep trying with him.
I sensed him there beside me waiting. Was he working himself up for another one of his lighthearted bantering performances in order to cajole me from my mood? No jokes today Starsky, I thought, just leave me here to wallow in this mess for a while and to try to sort it out for myself. I could feel him looking down and being very untypically Starsky in his quietness. As a rule he was never quiet around me. Silence and quiet in Starsky usually heralded in one thing only - violence and anger. I knew him well enough now to discern when he was about to go for someone by gauging his 'silent barometer' – he would go deathly quiet and then pounce. Given that I knew he was not angry with me, but just hiding the depth of his feelings about what had happened I was uneasy and confused by his long watchful silence.
All at once it was as if he made up his mind about something and he crouched down to my eye level. I waited, questioning him with my eyes.
"Hutch. Hutch, Hey!" I waited sensing his frustration with me and the situation between us.
" For fuck's sake stop it now."
" I know what ya' churned up about. I can see it in ya face. You don't think I haven't heard that shit before? You don't think I won't hear it again? It doesn't matter to me Hutch. I can deal with it, I've always had to deal with it and you, Hutch, you are gonna have to learn to deal with it too if you wanna me my partner. You can't go around smashing every guy's face who don't like Jews. Your fists will never keep up. Besides I need these fists to watch my back with the bad guys who count. Not losers like O'Connell." He wrapped his fingers around my forearm and gripped me tightly. He backed up the hold with his direct gaze. "You had my back today Hutch and I love what ya did for me. But ….from now on you just have to let this stuff go. Promise me huh? "
Finally. How long had I been waiting for him to talk to me like this? To say what had to be said and to be dealt with between us?
I wanted to get my own stuff out now, the words that had been choking me up came rushing out.
"I could not hear him say those things about you Starsk! How can you expect me to accept that? You can't ask me to do that."
Starsky sighed then , and rising from his crouched position, he pulled up a chair to sit down beside me.
"But don't you see Hutch. It don't matter. It only matters if you let it hurt ya' and honest Hutch, honest….it don't hurt me. I am who I am, I'm my own man and I won't waste my time or energy on flakes who get in the way of making me feel ok about myself. " A sad smile "All that matters to me is that as my partner I can trust ya, that you'll always have my back for what really counts and that you know that you can have the same trust in me."
I rubbed my face and shook my head. "Why would he say those things Starsk? I feel like I do not even know that man now? Where did all that come from?"
Starsky blew out a big breath. "Well I dunno' 'bout O'Connell's deep down feelings 'bout his beliefs and stuff, but I've got a pretty good idea why he is so angry 'bout Jews. I guess that puts me in the firing line with him."
'Why what do you know about him?"
"Last year, round Thanksgiving time I think, there was a big scene went down on a call out down 'round the docks. Then been a report of a bust in to one of the warehouses and a known group of young kids who'd be hitting on places were likely the perps. Three units responded, O'Connell and Jackson were the first respondents on the scene. Smithy and I came in at the end but the action was mostly over by then. It seems that O'Connell got a little too trigger happy, too quickly and a young kid got hit. Died later in the ambulance. Steinberg and his young rookie were second on the scene and were backing up O'Connell and Jackson.
When Smithy and I pulled up there was a big number going on between Steinberg and O'Connell. Steinberg was trying to help the kid best he could till the medics arrived. Later, Steinberg reported O'Connell and recommended IA put him under the microscope. He went in strong against O'Connell. Reckon he shot the kid cold."
"I didn't hear about any of this" which of course is not surprising as we have a big force and do not keep tabs on each other unless it gets through to the precinct grapevine.
"But the worst of it for O'Connell was that the IA leaning on him came at a real bad time for him. He was lining up for a Sergeant's position. He was a hot favorite for the promotion and it was all in place 'cept the sign off. Steinberg's report put an end to that for him. He's back in line now with the rest of the boys. Somethin' tells me O'Connell has taken Steinberg's assessment of him real personally. He even tried to put it back on Steinberg, sayin' Steinberg had it in for with him as he was a good catholic boy and wanted to put him in his place for reasons other than professional."
It was at least starting to make more sense as to what was ticking in O'Connell's sick head to make him go at Starsky.
"So Hutch, I am not goin' to let that loser put me down just cos' he is trying to blame somebody for his own mistakes. See not worth it and not worth you smashing your hand up for either. O'Connell's just goin' to have to work on his attitude to Jews or he's not goin' to have much of a career left soon."
Starsky stood, once more handing me my jacket.
"Starsk I am worried that you might have thought, feel….that what O'Connell said, what others guys might have said or you have heard…."
"Oh shut up ya big softie. I have known you for a lot longer than you realize. I probably had you worked out way back in the Academy. Do you think I would want to be your partner if you were like O'Connell or others like him? Do you think for a moment I would stay partnered with you? "
He held his finger pointed at me then to reinforce his words.
"Ya' not like him Hutch. Ya' never have been. Ya' one of the good guys Hutch. But I think you needed to find all of that out for yourself and you did today and that is why you are hurting because you still have not completely got it. Hey it wasn't nice, O'Connell plays dirty. But look at this way. I got to see where I stand with you and you got to realize that you are nothing like that asslicker."
"But Starsk – when I acted like a jerk about your car. You called me, what was it? A 'Golden Boy'. I am worried that you think I am like that, that I could be…."
I was getting really worked up at that point and was afraid in my beaten down mood I could not get the words out without strong emotion taking me over.
Once more Starsky jumped in to save me from myself "Yeah, yeah I know. I said that stuff to you then, coz I was really hurtin' about my Torino. I told ya' then, ya' not allowed to put down my car didn't I? " His jokey interjection did save me and I recovered some composure. Christ, that was close. I was not sure yet whether I could bring tears into this mix. We were making headway here but tears were a big step up in our friendship.
Starsky went on while I continued to pull myself together " So yeah, I know I called ya' golden boy or somethin'…but hey ya' are anyway. But ya' not a bad golden boy Hutch. Ya' ok, and well before today I had that all figured out. Just had to wait for you to catch up with me and for ya' to realize what wonderful assets you got in me as ya' partner, and how indeniably wonderful I am!"
He poked me then, a big grin to push the comment home.
I could not help myself. My mood felt so much lighter I just had to have a go.
"Undeniably wonderful Starsk. Undeniably."
"I know Hutch, I know. You don't have to repeat it. Whadda ya tryin' to give me a big head or somethin'?"
I saw at once that he did not miss the opportunity to volley my correction back to his advantage. His wicked smile made me realize I had fallen into his trap.
"Smartass. 'Indeniably' a smartass." I offered up the touché to him.
"Hutch if ya' keep workin' with me ya' better step up with that grammar of yours. Can't have ya' makin' me look dumb by ya' sayin' the wrong words and stuff."
We both laughed. "Ok then come on already will ya' Golden Boy. Goldie... Blondie." He tilted his head a little and thought about it. "Yeah Blondie. I like it. It suits ya'."
"You're not calling me Blondie Starsky."
He gave that crooked lop-sided smile I had become so used to seeing when I knew he was not going to give up.
"Oh yeah? Come on Blondie, we better clear this joint before Dobey expects us back."
He helped me into my jacket as my bum hand and knuckles refused to co-operate with my sleeve. It felt good to be walking out now, with something substantial just having been attained. We had navigated some obstacle and were on the other side.
Just outside of the squad room door I did a double take. O'Connell was still there, standing up at the main desk with Jackson who was speaking on the phone. What the hell... I had thought that they would be well clear of the place by that point. I had not even considered how to deal with seeing him again.
"Oh Shit Starsky…" I faltered in my step not sure how to play this one out and certainly not up for it at that time.
Starsky sensed my uneasiness. He never so much as hesitated and swaggered toward O'Connell. The look on O'Connell's face at seeing Starsky heading toward him was priceless.
"Hey O'Connell is that you? Wow man ya' sure look a little different to the last time I saw ya'. What is it? It's something... Oh yeah, I see now! Your face is all fucked up. Ugly. Really ugly. " He grimaced at O'Connell like he was something repugnant.
"That's right, now I remember about what happened to your face. Heard you messed with someone's partner. Tsk Tsk O'Connell and you being a cop for so long I woulda' thought that ya' knew to mess with another man's partner is a big no no! Stupid mistake O'Connell. "
My partner pressed his face right into O'Connell's black and blue one and brought his hand up to lightly slap him on the side of the cheek. O'Connell winced and drew his head back violently in a self-protective gesture . He tried to put distance between himself and Starsky's simmering menace, but only managed to back himself into the desk and the wall. Instantly he realized that he had cowered and tried to straighten up. He failed to assert himself and was the picture of humiliation and embarrassment. Starsky laughed and turned back to me.
"O'Connell don't look so good Hutch. I think you might have been a little hard on the guy. I have told ya' before to watch that right uppercut of yours. This poor man is suffering here. "
Very slowly Starsky took his hands away from O'Connell. He gave him one long last look and then a half sneer.
As we opened the exit doors he turned once more to throw O'Connell a barbed look.
"Hey Jackson, make sure you keep your partner in his own precinct from now on. Next time I might not be here to pull Hutch off him for ya'. "
Leaving O'Connell with those last threatening words, Starsky threw his arm around my shoulder. "C'mon partner let's blow this place. When we get back O'Connell and his sidekick might be finally clear of here."
We headed for the Torino.
To Starsky's domain.
To our domain.
Things had changed between us. I felt it and I sensed my partner did too.
That evening it was Starsky who suggested a beer at the close of shift. I had obviously done something right in his eyes and was inanely happy to be considered worthy of finally becoming his drinking buddy. We settled on driving down to a local haunt where a snitch we had grown to trust ran a lively but cozy bar called "The Pits". We did not know it then but that night was to turn out to be the first of many many a night shared together at this bar and with the man who ran it.
It goes without saying that a lot of shit hit the fan for me after that incident with O'Connell. Of course it did. My illustrious career as Detective Sergeant was in serious jeopardy of being cut terribly short after my uncontained outburst. Same goes for O'Connell's career. O'Connell's rascist comments were duly noted as another black mark on his record.
My physical assault on O'Connell was not exempt from bureaucratic scrutiny and judgment. I do not regret my behavior even though I can duly note that it was out of line in a professional sense. It gives me some measure of comfort to know that despite my ass being whipped by the boys at the top, my immediate superior, Captain Dobey made a lot of paperwork on the incident just "disappear,". All of the witnesses to the fiasco were happy to provide verbal and emotional support to me in its aftermath. I often wonder what would have happened to O'Connell and me had Starsky not been there at the time.
One thing for sure, O'Connell would have had a lot more of his face rearranged and I may not have had a career left at all.
And as Starsky so rightly pointed out, I may have taken a little longer to fully appreciate his many "indeniable" wonderful qualities.
Six Months Later
"Starsk, Starsk? Starsky! For God's sake either sit on that chair or stand up because I cannot take one more minute of you rocking back and forth. Get your damn feet off my desk will you?"
I am sitting at my desk, trying but not succeeding for the tenth time this afternoon to get this damn warehouse arson report typed up for Dobey before our shift finishes. Starsky is perched opposite me, seemingly trying to find at what angle he will lose balance on his chair and go crashing to the ground. I am secretly hoping that the precipitously angled chair will in fact crash. It might put an end to his incessant prattling - even for a minute!
He is not helping me. On the contrary he is doing his best to distract me from the task at hand. He is bored and he is feeling lonely. Yes, crazy I agree, but that is Starsky. Even when I am sitting right beside him, he likes to be in the same headspace with me and while I am typing this report he feels excluded.
He is doing this because he wants my full attention and wants to give me his. It's never half way with my partner. All or nothing. When he decides to give, he will give every part of himself. He tries to get the same from me, and as usually is the case, I protest a lot but inevitably give in.
So now, I take a deep breath, push myself away from the typewriter, cursing him as I screw up yet another failed attempt and hurl the paper across the room.
"Starsky, why don't you type the damn report for a change so I can sit there and annoy you? Someone has to do this shit job of reporting and it seems never to be you."
But when I turn to scowl at him and see that happy, open face, I cannot help but smile at him fondly and my words lose all bite. As I know they will, as they always do. I can never seem to stay angry with him. As soon as his dancing eyes meet my angry ones, the flash goes out of mine instantly. So now like always, I give in and give him my attention. It is after all what I secretly want to do anyway, the report now forgotten as we chuckle together and he hands me another cup of acrid departmental coffee.
Since that first day on the job together when we were "officially" partnered, I think that Starsky made up his mind about me. He did his own "official" thing. He made me his partner and his friend and from then on there was no part of him that he did not give or will continue to give to our relationship.
Starsky is the smart one. As he said to me that day after the O'Connell incident, he had it all figured out a long time before me. I was a little slower, or maybe I just needed some jerk from the past to remind me who I really was and what I had in Starsky as a partner.
As I listen to him bubbling on I relax into my chair further and let his familiar presence fill the room. My mind goes back to that day six months ago when we stood in this squad room for the first time as partners. I can still see his muscular frame leaning against the door, his open, genuine face smiling at me.
"So whadda ya think about this hey? Partnered up you and me?" I can still hear his voice. The enthusiasm, the excitement.
I didn't answer him that day and he good-naturedly let it go.
I am sorry for that.
If he was to ask me now I know exactly what I would say. I say it to myself now in my head as I give the man who is, my partner and my best friend, my full attention. The attention that such a friend deserves.
" I think Starsk that you and I will always be the very best of partners."
But it does not matter; I do not have to say it out loud.
We just both know it.