This story continues on from If I Can't Have You.
Then Neither Can He
Riley knew what the tall blond man beside him was going to do as soon as they walked into the squad room. As the doors slapped behind him and he threw his jacket across the chair he was already reaching for the telephone. This was a progression in the wrong direction – or would that make it a regression?
Either way or whatever the word for it was, Riley concluded, it was not good. Not a good sign at all. He hadn't even bothered with a coffee first to at least put up a bit of a pretense of being casual, nonchalant, unperturbed. Didn't even in fact wait to pull out the chair from the desk. In stead he'd just grabbed for the phone and started jabbing at the numbers.
The crease in his brow was deepening and he tapped anxiously on the side of the desk with his pencil. Next would be the hand rubbing across the bridge of his nose. If the phone didn't answer it would be a sworn oath. Riley was already fearing for the battered metal filing cabinet, its dents testimony to two weeks worth of frustrated phone communication between Hutch and his partner.
Yep, Riley thought, after two weeks he knew just about all Hutch's moves in the realm of phone communication etiquette with his out of action, suspended partner Starsky.
Likewise he knew his own place and what was best for him. Accordingly he was already mapping out his strategy. First and foremost - avoidance. That is what he needed now. It had not taken him long to get his part down pat. And so he moved away, put his head down and looked for all the world like he couldn't hear , see or feel the tension emanating from his new Trainer - Detective Sargent Ken Hutchinson. He had learned very quickly that it did not pay to be caught up in the fallout of everything that was off par between his superior and his "erstwhile " partner, David Starsky. And since Starsky's suspension by Captain Dobey more than two weeks ago, there was an awful lot off par between the two.
Coffee made just like he knew his superior preferred he edged over and placed in next to Hutch's elbow. Hutch half grunted in acknowledgement and then suddenly seeming aware that Riley was actually real and standing beside him, he softly mouthed a thanks and gave his trainee what was probably the beginnings of the thumbs up sign. Suddenly he jerked and listened and Riley surmised that the phone had picked up on the other end. Time for Riley to move and move fast.
Riley breathed out, relieved for his own sake that Starsky had answered this time. God knew the filing cabinet could not bear the brunt of one more dent. Hutch's fist just naturally seemed to find that same spot every time the phone had rung out at his partner's place. Riley pulled hard and yanked at the resisting battered and poorly aligned drawer- courtesy of one very angry blond Detective.
Paperwork, file, memo anything in his hand so that he could sit and appear engrossed was the name of the game. He glanced around and found others in the squad room also visibly steeling themselves for the blond's vented emotion, the telephone in his hand a red flag to all around him.
Everyone was trying but not succeeding to block out the one side of the conversation between the two partners as Hutch's tone became more agitated.
"It's well past nine at night. Why did you take so long to answer the damn phone?
A deep frown.
You know why…I told you I was going to check in and see how the session went for you today.
An agitated tap of the pencil.
You did go didn't you? Starsky? Starsk? Tell me you didn't miss it again –
Mouth drawn into thin line and frown deepening further.
OK …' K, good, Thank God…you know you just have to go through the motions –
A slight relaxation of tensed shoulders.
What? Come on that is just plain dumb. Just go to bed and forget about it will you? I can't – on shift till the morning and you don't need it anyway. Don't argue with me about this Starsk – Starsk –Starsky! You shouldn't be out drinking when you're still recovering.
Ah, you stupid …..stubborn….shit for brains "
Thumb and forefinger pressing hard into the bridge of his nose.
He looked up now and realized that although no one was in fact looking at him they had all heard him.
He slammed down into the chair and pulled over the typewriter, scraping it across the desktop so that Riley thought his teeth would clatter from the noise.
"Riley bring those damn files over we were looking at earlier will you. Let's get down to these reports."
Riley settled beside Hutch to begin the tedious process of report writing. He actually didn't mind doing reports at all but he picked up real quick that it was not cool Detective behavior to ever admit to enjoying report writing so he put on his dour face to match his Sargent's. Though he thought that Hutch's facial expression probably had more to do with his phone call to Starsky than the report in front of him.
He wanted to say something to Hutch that would be comradely and supportive like " Well, don't worry any more Hutch, he'll be in bed and getting plenty of rest like you want him to and now you can relax knowing that you've talked to him and he's ok."
But he didn't say it.
Still didn't think it was his place, or his right just yet .
Looking at the dented filing cabinet, he wasn't altogether sure that to say anything at all about Starsky would be in his best interests. The whole subject represented a minefield to him. He had already seen far too many casualties this week. A well intentioned query or comment to Hutch about Starsky could set off any of these dormant explosions.
Riley edged closer with the files and like the rest of them he relaxed again now that the last phone call for the night was over. Not the worst one they'd had this week and at least the rest of the night would not be punctuated by any more calls involving Starsky.
Well that is what he thought anyway.
Two or so hours later and Hutch was pulling the paper out of the typewriter with one exasperated yank. He smacked it down beside Riley and stretched out his long body putting his feet up on the desk.
"There! Finished. Can you run your eyes over that last one? I think that does it for the reports. We are actually on top of them for the first time in a week."
"Well Ken, there was an awful lot to catch up on if you remember." Riley smiled a little brazenly now , more confident with his own style of squad room smart talk.
"Well Riley that is why they call you boys in blue Rookies. We older guys wait for you kids to come along in training and mop up all that left over stuff for us. "
He laughed lightly now as he tapped Riley with a file.
"Seriously, Riley you've been a huge help in getting on top of all this mess. Unfortunately report writing is not something that – ahhh- either Starsky or I excel at. Getting Starsky to even sit long enough to string out a single paragraph is asking a lot of him."
"I know Ken, I've already figured that he is more of an action man and not a desk man".
"Well you've got that one right."
Just then the extension buzzed shrilly on Hutch's desk.
"'Huggy ? Late for you to be dropping me a social call. Must be well after eleven now. "
Hutch quickly picked up a sense of urgency in Huggy's voice.
"Yeah it's getting late and soon it might be too late. If you're not in the middle of something heavy at work right this minute it would be in your good partners best interests to high tail it down here as soon as you can."
"What the hell? He said he was going down there for a drink and a catch up with you when I spoke to him before, hasn't he gone home yet?"
"Nope he sure hasn't. But right about any minute now he's gonna be goin' out the door on the end of a big brute's flying fist. He's spoilin' for a fight Hutch and I think Mr. Bar Brute over there is gonna be happy to oblige him."
As the phone clanged in his ear and Huggy caught the angry yell from the other end and a mad scrambling sound he put his own phone piece down.
Huggy said to nobody in particular. No one was really paying him attention now as most of the patrons, scenting blood, were lining up for ring side seats in the imminent bar fight performance that Starsky was now setting up.
"Guess that means he's on his way down here then."
Starsky had come into his bar less than two hours ago. One look at his face and Huggy knew he was in for it. Starsky had many faces and could slip from one end of the spectrum to the other in moments. In the last weeks Huggy couldn't recall seeing much variety in his friend's face – having all been variations on his black moods.
Tonight as Starsky pulled out a stool and bellied up to the bar rather than a table, Huggy caught not just blackness in his face but a flash of vibrant anger. Not a good combination in his curly haired friend and one that Huggy feared would do no better with when combined with liberal amounts of alcohol which Starsky was obviously intent of consuming. He had ordered a double straight up, bypassing his customary drink of choice, beer.
"So my man, how is the world of kickin' back and takin' it easy goin' for ya? Been getting' some zzz's in and restin' up like the doctor ordered?"
As soon as he'd said it he wanted to pull it back.
Smart, real smart Hug, just rub it in. Rub in the sensitive issue of suspension from the force. Now you've asked for it.
Starsky didn't take too long on giving it.
"Shut the fuck up Huggy. Ain't no doctor's orders, just Dobey's. I ain't on any sick leave and ya know it. It's called suspension, also starts with an 's' but comes with no pay . And, I don't need no freakin' rest – I need to get back out on the streets and back into my life. "
"O….K…. Then let's try for 'how's the weather out your way?' been Starsky?"
Starsky just scowled and spun around on his stool taking in the small bar crowd and wiping his face with the back of his hand. The first double shot gone already.
He motioned to the bar girl for a second shot.
Huggy stood and watched him. He tried again.
"So how do you think that Riley guy is going to work out as a trainee? Nice kid but seems a little green to me. Hope Hutch hasn't got his hands full with him."
Even worse Huggy, even worse.
Face it , he thought, no subject's safe here tonight.
Go to the other end of the bar and leave him be.
But he couldn't. For Hutch's sake and his own sense of concern for the moody man in front of him, he would stand his ground and take whatever Mr. Cranky was going to hand out. And there would be plenty judging by Starsky's increasing agitation.
"Wouldn't know, haven't really talked to him – Hutch got put on nights with the kid and so we are not really shootin' the breeze together that much at the moment. Hutch seems to like the kid so….."
Huggy thought there was a layer of looking a little lost beneath the surface prickliness.
He ventured a little deeper – maybe the alcohol would loosen Starsky up enough to spill some of his pent up heat. Huggy thought that he sorely needed to decompress.
"So my man, how yare really? I'm gettin' the drift here that this late night visit to my bar and the way you are downing those drinks is sayin' that ya' not doin' so good. 'Sides that you sure don't look too damn happy right about now."
"Hey I didn't come here to talk about my feelings Huggy. Had plenty enough of that already. Just want to sit here and mellow out so keep those drinks comin' ….and put 'em on my tab will ya?"
"Ok Ok, I hear ya Curly. But if you need to talk you know where to find me. I'll be right here keepin' my eye on you."
An hour later Huggy thought that his friend was certainly starting to look mellow. He'd lost track of how many drinks he had put away and was starting to become concerned about Starsky's increasing level of inebriation. His concern heightened when he watched him stand up from his place at the bar and move over toward the pool table in the corner of the room.
A tall, thickly muscled man had been playing a game of solo pool while knocking back a few beers for the past hour or more. Huggy had been aware of him out to of the corner of his eye. He had seen the guy in his establishment before and for the most part he kept to himself.
Huggy watched Starsky saunter none to steadily over to the pool table where the big guy had recently put down his cue and headed to the john in the back of the bar. As soon as Starsky picked up the discarded cue and began placing the balls in position Huggy sensed the threat.
The john door banged and the man reappeared. Catching sight of Starsky he stalked over to the table , his big red face clouding.
"Hey you! What the hell do ya' think ya doing hey?"
Starsky barely registered him.
"I think it's fairly obvious don't ya? This is called a cue and this here is a pool table and I'm 'bout to play it so move away and give me some space will ya'?"
"You know I was playing a game there and just went to the john – see there's my drink still sitting there. Now why don't you move away from the table and go back to your spot in the corner before I use this cue stick in a way that won't feel to good to ya'"
The big man's voice was rising now and as it did Starsky merely shrugged his shoulders and continued with his setting up of the game.
"No that's not gonna happen ya see 'cos I feel like a game and I'm gonna have a game, now clear off - ya' puttin' me off my stride here."
The other bar patrons were starting to pay attention and some of the chatter and background din in the room quieted as focus was drawn to the two men at the pool table.
Huggy rolled his eyes and considered his options. No point in approaching Starsky – not in the mood he was in. The other guy wouldn't likely listen to him either.
He turned to his barmaid. She looked a little apprehensive too having sensed the atmosphere across the room.
" I think my fine establishment might be just about to get a hiding. Trust that curly headed idiot to put himself into this position. Gonna be trouble here soon – big trouble."
He lifted the phone –
"Time for a call to the Po-leeece station pronto. "
Riley held tight to the dashboard as Hutch veered wildly around the corner and accelerated down the last strip of road leading up to Huggy's Bar. For yet another time that night he had joined his senior for a call out but this time they were not so much cruising the streets as screaming down them. They'd made excellent time since Hutch had hauled him away from his desk less than five minutes earlier.
Hutch had thrown down the receiver, grabbled his jacket , patted his holster to check his gun and barked at his trainee.
"Riley, up now. Gotta go! "
"Ah Sir? Did we get a call out?"
"You could say that – Christ, what is HE doing? He's going to get himself killed."
Since the day he had got to know Ken Hutchinson a whole lot better when they had met down in Communications – Riley had come to know something for sure. Working with him was never without its moments. Especially when it involved his partner Starsky.
Riley trotted along behind the tall detective who was striding down the hallway toward the exit of the station, all the while cursing under his breath about how he was intending to kill his ex partner with his own bare hands if only he managed to stay alive for the event.
Riley barely got his door closed before Hutch revved the battered Ford and squealed out of the parking spot.
Hutch was yelling a lot and posing a lot of rhetorical and very colourful questions about his ex partner. But one look at the face next to him had Riley deciding instinctively that he needed to do two things.
Stay quiet and hang on tightly for the ride.
When Hutch was in this frame of mind it was better to lay low and wait for the storm to pass.
Hutch threw open the back door of Huggy's bar and heard Starsky before he saw him. Or rather, he heard the sound of Starsky's body at work before he saw him.
The thought of Starsky's tender flesh only just now healing being pummeled spurred him forward into the room.
Patrons were now clinging to each other and pulling back against the walls or their tables and Huggy was yelling at both men to break it up.
"You fuckin' prick – thinking ya' could take over my game and butt in - I'll fuckin' break your face open for that."
As Hutch took in the scene – the big man with the big mouth was picking himself up from the floor where Starsky had just put him with a blow and was now coming back at his opponent with refreshed rage and verbal threats.
Starsky was holding onto the corner of the pool table, clutching his side and breathing hard, blood was trickling out of his mouth and his own eyes were narrowed with violence and unspent aggression. Hutch took in the simmering violence but did not miss the unmistakeable signs of pain in his partner. His body could not handle an assault like this so soon after surgery.
The man launched himself at Starsky and grabbing him roughly by the neck and head he started to bring his knee up to Starsky's mid section. It was obvious that Starsky was not going to have the strength to pull back from the strike.
Hutch lunged and grabbed the big man from behind.
"No! Off him! Off him now! "
He grabbed the man's collar with one hand and his arm with the other and jerked him back and away from Starsky roughly.
Being taken by surprise from behind the man howled at the intervention and lost balance, crashing back into the nearby table.
Hutch took the opportunity to look at Starsky who was staggering to the side and looking murderously at his partner.
"Starsky stay back! Stay back. Huggy, Riley grab him now! Don't let him go till he calms down."
Hutch turned back to deal with the big man, anticipating that he would be next in the firing line.
"Who the fuck are you? Now get outta my way. I've got a head to beat in."
Hutch held up both hands toward the man in retreat.
"Just settle down now. It's over. Over. Keep your distance."
The man stood up tall now and advanced toward Hutch threateningly.
"Like hell buddy, now move or I'll move you"
Hutch didn't want to complicate matters by bringing his badge into the situation but if he had to he would. This guy was out for Starsky's blood and if he couldn't talk him down quickly the scene was going to get a whole lot uglier.
Starsky was straining in the grip of the two men and abusing them both and Hutch as well.
"You heard him Hutch. Let him go. This does not concern you – get out of here and leave us to it. We have a score to settle and don't need ya' in our way."
With both arms constrained now he aimed a knee at Riley's torso, and Riley deftly veered away his young face suffusing with red. He had no real idea how to handle this man and was acting purely on his training reflexes now. In reality he was highly intimidated by Hutch's partner.
Hutch continued to face off against the big man but threw over his shoulder.
"Shut up will you Starsky unless you want to end up in a cell tonight – both of you. Just calm it now."
"Riley cuff him if you have to . "
He heard a curse of indignation from Starsky and a growled threat at Riley.
"Just try it kid and see what happens."
Hutch was not taking his attention off the man who was still homing in toward Starsky with his eyes.
"What – so you're a damn cop? And you know this guy?"
"Look I don't want to bring the law into this right? Huggy here will let all this pass if you just pull your heads in now. If you don't then yeah, I'll have to restrain you both. Now I suggest you calm down and back away. "
"This moron here" he snarled at Starsky "has it coming to him. He started it and by God I'm gonna finish it. He wants a walloping'? I'm only to happy to give it to him – smart prick – taking over my game. Crazy son of a bitch if you ask me."
Hutch worked it now.
"Your right – yeah so right. He is crazy now." Hutch didn't want to think what looks he'd be getting from his friend right now but decided it would be worth it if he could bring this drama to a conclusion.
"Look I know this man and he's going through a tough time with his wife – things are really really bad at home for him you know. She's pushing on him way too hard and well – he's just – well you know how it is with men when their women give them a hard time. He's not in a good place right now. I'm just sorry you got to be on the receiving end of it. Real sorry."
The stormy face and tensed body position eased a little. The man uncurled his fists and coughed a bit.
"Well yeah – yeah – I can get that. I know I feel like beaten' the shit out of someone too when my woman gives me a hard time and we're not getting along."
Starsky let out an expletive and yelled.
"Hutch! What the fuck are you saying? What are you doing? Hutch? What is this crap? I'm gonna kill ya! Hutch! "
Hutch turned his back on Starsky now and walked a little closer to the other man.
"Listen to him – just so full of anger. Wants to go for me too and he will try. That's how it is when women get to like this. It's tough on we guys isn't it? Real tough. But we have to stick together as buddies in times like this. He's hurting real bad and I just have to be there for him. Trying to keep him out of trouble - like now. Just till he gets though this rough spell. Its not easy, shit no, its damn hard."
The performance was hitting its mark and Hutch watched with relief as his singular audience was showing obvious signs of capitulation. He almost felt guilty with how the other guy was being humbled by his words until he realized that half of what he said was the truth anyway. It was damn hard keeping Starsky safe and out of trouble while he was still so angry about everything that had happened to him over the past weeks.
The man didn't resist now when Hutch helped straighten out his clothes and brushed him off. He drew him toward the far end of the bar and pulled out a stool.
"Here let me get you a beer – is that what your drinking? and indicated to Huggy's bemused waitress.
'Thanks for being understanding about all of this. Wouldn't want to see either of you end up in the slammer tonight just because my friend is not doing too well with his home life. God knows he has enough to sort out. Once the drink has worn off he'll feel terrible for what he's done here tonight."
"Well it's not that bad really – just a bar brawl that coulda' got outta hand but its all good now. I feel sorta bad now that I went for him. He does look kinda' in a bad way I guess. Noticed him earlier in the evening. Feels like he's lost something I guess."
Hutch handed him the beer and tapped the man knowingly on the shoulder. He lowered his voice, but doubted that the indignant noises Starsky was still making in the far corner of the room would allow him to hear what he said to the man.
"You're right there buddy – he feels like he has lost everything that is important to him. Fact is that no amount of fist throwing is going to help him until he works it all out himself you know?"
Taking a long swig of beer and cricking his neck the man gave Hutch a knowing look.
"Know what ya' mean. I'll leave ya' to sort out your friend and ah – hope he figures out his woman. Thanks for the beer."
As Hutch walked back to his still pinioned partner he realized that out of the two of the men he had just pulled apart, he had probably just dealt with the easier of the two.
Big boy back there was no match in comparison to what he was sure Starsky had waiting for him.
Thing is buddy, you're not the only one who is feeling angry right now. What the hell are you trying to do to yourself?
He was quietly furious about his partner's self- destructive behavior.
Hey there readers...glad to be back with the second part of this story! I am still in Italy so it is hard to write and post - but will do my best to keep the story flowing until I leave for home. Thanks everyone for re-joining the saga of If I Can't Have You...Then Neither Can He.