Remember to Breathe
Allison turned to get out of Starsky's new Camaro then looked back when she didn't hear his door open. "Come on, David."
"I don't wanna," Starsky pouted.
"Oh, don't be like that. She's still the same person you always knew."
"No, she's not."
"I know you two have been through a lot. She's missed you." Allison cocked her head to one side and smiled. "She got all prettied up just for you."
"Nuh uh, that's not true."
Allison sighed and then shrugged. "Fine. I'll go see her myself. See you at home." She climbed out of the car, shut the door and started to walk toward Merle the Earl's garage.
Starsky jumped out of his car. "Wait a second, Laura."
Allison smirked then wiped the grin off her face before turning back to Starsky with her hands on her hips, feigning annoyance. "What?"
Starsky fidgeted with his collar. "Just give me a sec."
Allison walked back over to him. "David, it is just a car." She held up a hand before he could object. "I know you love it but aren't you glad you didn't have to sell it? Like you said, we keep it in the family." She unconsciously put her hand on the slight bump under her shirt which made Starsky smile.
"Yeah, you are right, sorry."
"Hey, just look at this beauty of a car you have here." Allison waved her arm along the length of the shining jet black Camaro. And you still have a little of the tomato, er, red on here." She gestured at the bright red detailing along the bottom of the doors and fenders.
"She'll always be with me, right?"
"Right, now come on – I want to see my car!" Allison twirled and headed toward Merle who had come out of the garage.
"Well hello there, Miss Starsky-to-be. Are you ready to see my masterpiece, my pièce de rèsistance?"
"Earl, you know I did not want anything flashy," Allison warned. "This is a car for a mother, as you know."
"I know, I know. Don't you worry your pretty little head. Get a move on Starsky, I ain't got all day." Merle headed for a car draped with a large gray tarp as Starsky double-timed to catch up. With no pomp or circumstance, Merle quickly pulled the tarp away to reveal the newly-painted Torino.
Allison gasped as she leaned down to get a closer look at the paint. At first glance it was a midnight blue but the sun shining on it revealed tiny glittering flecks within the color. Even Starsky who was trying to remain upset at losing his beloved red car was amazed. He reached out and gently ran a hand over the hood.
"Merle, it is amazing," Starsky said.
"It is, Merle. It is almost like it is not a single color."
"It's not. What you are looking at is state of the art. My own invention. Top secret, not even my own mother will be told how I do it." Merle stuck his thumbs in his suspenders and his chest jutted out with pride.
Starsky leaned down and peered in a window. "And no furry dashboard. I'm impressed," he said, standing back up.
Allison took a few steps back. "I love it, absolutely love it. Thank you."
"You are most welcome. Enjoy." Merle leaned in and gave Allison a peck on the cheek as he handed her the keys. He then pulled a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and presented it to Starsky. "And you can enjoy my bill. Good day."
Allison smiled as she watched Merle strut off back into the garage while Starsky unfolded the bill and stared at it with his mouth agape.
"That bad, huh?"
"How soon can you get a job as a dentist? For that matter, how soon 'til Junior there can get a job?"
Allison giggled at her fiancé and rushed to get into the Torino. "See you at home!"
Hutch was pruning a rosebush out front when he heard the familiar sound of Starsky's Torino approaching. He turned and waved as he spotted the beautiful shining dark blue car. Allison had the windows down and the radio was blaring Zeppelin's 'Black Dog.' She parked the car in the driveway followed by Starsky.
"Whatcha think?" Allison asked looking from Hutch to Alice who had come from the backyard with Jamie in tow.
"Pretty car!" Jamie exclaimed before the grown-ups could say anything. Starsky joined Allison next to the Torino. "Uncle Stars, Allison's car is prettier than yours."
Hutch chuckled and Alice and Allison exchanged a grin while Starsky folded his arms and rested a hip against the Torino.
"Hey, hey – don't do that; you'll scratch the paint," Allison said pushing him away. That got Hutch laughing out loud.
"It's my car," Starsky said but he drew in a breath when Allison's head snapped around.
"Oh? I thought you said this was my car." She folded her arms across her chest as Alice did the same.
Hutch cringed in sympathy for his friend. He reached for Jamie's hand. "Come on, Jamie. Let's go play out on the swing set."
Jamie took his hand and pulled him along. "Yeah, they are going to yell. Let's go."
At dinner Starsky complained about the price of the paint job on Allison's Torino.
"Don't worry, Dobey will give you a raise after the wedding. That'll help," Hutch said.
"How do you know?" Starsky asked, making a face.
"Because he gave me one when I got married."
The women chatted about the upcoming wedding. Allison sighed. "I wish my father were here." She leaned back and ran a hand along her stomach. He's not here to give me away. He'll never see his grandchild." Starsky exchanged a sad look with Hutch.
"I know it doesn't help much but I believe he will be there with you on your wedding day and the day Little Starsky there is born," Alice said.
Allison smiled slightly. "I know."
"Little Starsky, cute." Hutch said lightly. "Have you thought of names yet?"
"Oh no," Allison said, starting to brighten. "It is much too early. I figure we will toss some names around but when I see him or her, I'll just know." Allison looked over and saw a dark cloud pass over Starsky's face. "Are you okay, David? I know my father's spirit is always with me."
Starsky looked up at her. "No, Honey, it's not that." He glanced over at Hutch again. "I'm just thinking of Moreen Speelman and how she is missing her little girl right now." He looked over at Jamie who was sipping chocolate milk through a straw.
Alice shook her head sadly. "I can't believe she's been gone for almost two months."
"We have APBs out on her and that deadbeat father all over the place but…I just wish there was a way that everyone – not just the police – could hear about this and could see her picture. Maybe that would help find her."
"That's an amazing idea, David."
"It is," Hutch said, "but for now we just have to hope the police departments are sharing their information."
"They could be anywhere right now. I feel like we are giving up…" Starsky said angrily.
"We have exhausted all possible leads. We've done all we can." Hutch put his fork down and leaned back in his chair rubbing his tense neck.
It was quiet for a moment while everyone's heart went out to the woman and the missing little girl. Alice sighed and said softly, "I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't find my little one." She leaned over and kissed Jamie's red curls.
Later that night, Starsky put his George Winston album on the stereo, picked up the cocoa for Allison and the beer for him from the counter and brought them to the couch. He sat down next to his love and she melted into him with a sigh. They sat for a few minutes enjoying the music until Allison heard a slight snicker from Starsky.
She leaned back to see his face. "What?"
"I was just thinking how weird it is that Hutch and Alice went to Brooklyn to get married and now I'm staying here in Bay City and bringing my family out here for our wedding. It's just funny how it all worked out."
"And thank goodness it did work that way or we may never have found each other." Allison rested her cheek against Starsky's chest.
"I don't know, maybe. But I feel like we would have found each other again. This is meant to be." Starsky could feel Allison's smile against his chest.
"I think you are right," she replied, wrapping an arm across him and pulling him in tight.
~ S&H ~
"Come on, Cap'n, we have to do something – it has been months." Starsky paced across Dobey's office. The office door was open to the squad room and Hutch looked on from his desk.
"We can't put every missing person on the news, Starsky, you know that. Look, I know you have put your heart and soul into the Speelman case but…"
"But nothing! I can't just let this go. I can't look that woman in the eye and tell her 'Sorry, we tried.'"
"I'm not saying you do that!" Dobey stood up as quickly as his large frame allowed.
Starsky backed down and stopped pacing. "Sorry, Cap'n. I just want to find her. And I want to put that lowlife guy behind bars."
Dobey relaxed and sat back down behind his desk. "I'm not saying to give up entirely, you know that."
"Yeah, I know."
"Now get back to work and close the door on your way out." Dobey pointed the end of his pen at Starsky and motioned toward the door.
Starsky grinned slightly. "Thanks, Cap'n."
"For letting me vent." Starsky winked and closed the door behind him as he went back to his desk.
Hutch looked up as Starsky sat down. "It was worth a try, Buddy."
"Yeah," Starsky said leaning his chin on his hand.
"Look, don't forget I'm going out at lunch to check out that school with Alice and Jamie."
"Oh yeah. I can't believe our little girl is going to start school in the fall."
"Me neither, seems like just yesterday…" Hutch stopped talking when he looked up and saw the expression on his partner's face. "Uh, Starsk, what's that look for?"
"School, that's it!" Starsky stood up and started pacing the length of the room while Hutch looked on, bewildered. "Suzanne would be in school right now."
"Yeah, if the father did enroll her – we don't know that."
Starsky deflated a little and stopped pacing. "He has to. He just has to."
"What do you have in mind?"
"What if we start faxing her picture to all the grade schools? Maybe someone will recognize her."
"Starsk, do you know how many grade schools there are in this country? And who has the time to do this?"
"I know we can't do it across the country but we can start right here in this county and maybe fan out further. Jeanene is always asking me if there is anything she can do for me."
"I'm not sure using Dobey's secretary is a good idea."
Starsky sat back down and leaned over his desk. "I'll ask him first then I'll get a list started. She can work on it little by little." Starsky's eyes pleaded at his partner. "Whatya say, Hutch?"
Hutch nodded. "It's something, Starsky. Go for it."
Starsky happily smacked his hand on the desk as he reached for the nearest phone book. "This is great, Hutch. I have a good feeling about this."
At dinner that night, Alice told Allison and Starsky about visiting Jamie's new school.
"Are you excited about starting kindergarten, Jamie?" Allison asked and Jamie nodded as she stuck a string bean into her mouth.
"So, Starsky came up with an idea of sending out Suzanne Speelman's picture and description to the grade schools in the county and maybe beyond."
"David, that's a fantastic idea."
Starsky gave a half shrug. "I just hope it works."
"Well, I'll be praying," Alice said and reached and gave Starsky's hand a squeeze.
"David, did you stop at the florist and give him the down payment?" Allison asked, taking a bite of her dinner.
Starsky grimaced. "Oh no, Laura. I forgot, I'm sorry. I got so wrapped up in getting the numbers of the schools for Dobey's secretary and typing up the cover letter."
Allison waved her hand at him as she chewed. "Don't worry about it. I can go between classes tomorrow."
"No, I'll do it tomorrow. I promise. Hutch'll remind me, right Pal?"
"Yeah, I'll remind him, Allison."
"Is that the last thing that needs to be done?" Alice asked.
"We pick up the new suits early next week and I have my last fitting Wednesday to make sure both of us fit in the dress." Allison stuck her stomach out and everyone laughed.
"You'll look beautiful," Alice said.
"Yeah, both of you will," Hutch added.
"Thanks," Starsky said smiling over at his friend.
Hutch looked down at his plate and cut a piece of his chicken. "No, I meant Allison and the baby." He looked up, popped the chicken into his mouth and grinned as he chewed.
"Why you…" Starsky began but trailed off.
"Putz," Jamie completed the sentence for him.
"Jamie, I told you to not use that word," Alice scolded while both Hutch and Allison hid their smiles behind their napkins.
"She picked it up from Nicky and just won't give it up," Starsky explained to Allison.
~ S&H ~
Starsky looked nervously through the crowd, bouncing up and down on his toes to see over the stranger's heads. His eyes spotted a light blue pillbox hat bobbing toward him and then the wide grin of his brother Nicky behind it.
"Ma!" Starsky called out to his mother. She was dressed in a suit with a modest navy blue skirt and jacket with a pale blue blouse with ruffles at the collar. Her dark blue eyes twinkled just like her eldest son's.
"David, my son." Martyna Starsky reached up and put her hands on her son's cheeks pulling him down to her level. She kissed him on the mouth.
"Hi, Ma," Starsky said when she released him, "Hi, Nick. How was the flight?" Starsky gave his brother a friendly hug and took one of the two suitcases he was carrying.
"Fine," Nick replied
"Horrible," Mrs. Starsky answered.
"Uh, which is it?"
"I didn't have any problems but Ma here thinks the seats were too small, the stewardesses were dressed too skimpy and the pilot flew too haphazardly."
"Oh, it was so bumpy!" Mrs. Starsky exclaimed.
Starsky opened his mouth to explain turbulence but caught the look in his brother's eye. "Okay, Ma. Well, you are here now and that's what matters. Come on, my car is this way. Oh, Nicky, wait 'til you see my new ride."
"Whatya mean? You finally gave up the stripped tomato?" Nick laughed at the expression on Starsky's face at the use of the phrase.
"Not quite, Laura is driving it now since her car was totaled."
As they walked, Starsky's mother clucked her tongue and shook her head. "How is my little Laura? She is healed?"
"Oh yeah, Ma. She's great – more than great." Starsky winked over at Nick with a nervous grin. He hadn't yet told his mother about Allison's pregnancy waiting instead to tell her in person. Nick winked back knowingly.
The little group stepped out of the terminal. A police woman was writing a ticket and was just placing it under the wiper of Starsky's Camaro. "Hey, hey – what are you doin'?" Starsky pulled out his badge and showed it to the officer who looked from it to Starsky to his family.
"Have a nice day, Sergeant," she said, snapping her ticket book closed and walking away. Starsky stood open-mouthed while Nick laughed gleefully.
"That'll teach you, Dave. But, hey, she's a beauty," Nick said as he looked over the shining car.
Starsky stuffed the offending ticket into his jean's pocket and pulled out his keys. "Yeah, thanks. Rides like a dream too. I had the suspension…"
"David, I would like to leave this airport." His mother stood with her arms crossed.
Starsky picked up his pace, unlocked the trunk then the passenger side door. "Sorry, Ma."
Once he pulled out onto the main road he smiled back at Nick then over at his mother. "I can't believe you are both here. This is great."
Mrs. Starsky reached over and patted her eldest son's knee. "I'm so happy you are finally getting married, David. Next are babies, yes?"
Starsky glanced nervously in the rear view mirror at his brother. "Sure thing, Ma."
"Maybe sooner than later, right Davey?" Nick said from the back seat then bit his lip to keep from laughing as Starsky shot dagger stares at him from the mirror.
"That's good. You aren't getting any younger, David, and neither am I."
"You are still young and beautiful, Ma," Starsky said reaching to rub the back of his hand on his mother's cheek.
"Watch where you are driving, young man," she admonished.
"Oh, sure, now I'm young. A minute ago I was getting too old." Starsky put on an indignant expression then grinned.
Starsky ran to open the passenger-side door and helped his mother out of the car. Alice came out the front door with Jamie.
"Martyna! Oh, welcome to our home. How are you?"
Mrs. Starsky kissed Alice's cheeks and bent down to receive her hug and kiss from Jamie. "I am wonderful now that I am with you again, beautiful Alice. And you too, Nuna," she said leaning down to kiss Jamie on the top of her head. "Alice, your house is so lovely."
"Well, come in, please, come in."
"Ma, that's my place back there," Starsky pointed proudly at his little home beyond the pool.
"Too small. You must find a new home for your wife."
Starsky felt rebuffed. "I know," he whined. Nicky laughed and threw his arm round his brother's shoulder as they walked into the house together.
Alice led Mrs. Starsky through the front door. Starsky showed Nicky the den where he would be staying then took his mother's suitcase upstairs. Jamie went back to playing with her dollhouse.
"I'll show you your room later, Martyna. Sit down and relax. I will get you some tea. Nicky, would you like some coffee?"
"Sounds great, thanks Alice."
Starsky bounded down the stairs. "David, walk on the stairs. You'll break your neck."
"Sorry, Ma," Starsky said, feeling like a little kid again.
"And where are Kenneth and your lovely bride?"
"Hutch is at work and Laura is at the college picking up her diploma."
"Oh that is wonderful. I am so happy she has a career, although it will be difficult once the babies come."
Starsky fidgeted nervously. "Yeah, well, she can work part-time." He got flustered and wanted to change the subject. "Ma, did Alice tell you she is going to start college in the fall?"
Alice came into the room carrying a tray with coffee and tea cups. She placed it on the coffee table and handed Mrs. Starsky her tea.
"She did tell me that on the phone. I am very proud of you, Alice."
Alice blushed as she handed a coffee cup to Starsky. "Thank you, Martyna."
"You'll see Allison tonight at the rehearsal dinner. I'm still not sure what there is to rehearse, it is such a small wedding. You two didn't have one and your wedding was perfect," Starsky said, smiling over at Alice.
"It was perfect but the rehearsal would have been nice too. It is a 'dry run' so you don't feel so nervous."
"Alice, may I use your restroom?" Mrs. Starsky asked as she placed her tea cup down.
"Of course, right over here." Alice rose and walked Martyna to the hallway near the den and pointed toward the bathroom. She came back and sat down in the chair next to where Jamie was playing. "Starsky, you will have to tell her soon."
"I know, I know. I just don't think that is something you should tell your mother over the phone." Starsky looked over at Nick. "Do you think she's going to go through the roof, Nicky?"
"You may get a lecture but in the end, she is just going to be thrilled she will finally be a grandmother."
"I hope so. I'd hate to miss my own wedding because my mother put me in the hospital." Alice and Nick laughed. "I'm serious; she scares the heck out of me."
Later, Starsky drove his mother to the church alone saying that Allison would meet them there. Hutch would drive Alice, Nicky and Allison's bridesmaid there a little later.
Starsky introduced his mother to the priest just as Allison came through the door.
"Mrs. Starsky, it is so wonderful to see you again." Allison hugged the older woman and kissed her on the cheek.
"No more 'Mrs. Starsky.' You will call me Martyna now."
"Okay, Martyna. Thank you."
"Ma, Father Pedersen said that we could sit in the office over here." He took his mother by the elbow. "Come on, the three of us have to talk before the others get here."
They settled in at a small table in the office. Starsky folded his hands in front of him and cleared his throat. "Ma, you know I love Laura with all my heart, right?"
"You have loved her since you were a child."
Starsky blushed and Allison smiled. "I think you're right. Well, I want you to know that when we started dating we…" Starsky fumbled over his words. "Allison is a lady and…"
"What he's trying to say, Mrs. Starsky – er, Martyna, is that I'm going to have a baby."
Starsky looked shocked at his fiancé's bluntness but his expression was even more shocked when his mother answered.
"You know?! Did Nicky tell you? Why that…"
"No, he did not. I had my suspicions when the wedding was arranged so quickly but I was certain of it when I saw you, Laura."
"Oh? Why?" Allison ran a hand down the front of her coat. She hadn't even removed it yet.
"I can see it in your face. And it will be a boy."
Starsky's shock melted into a smile. "A boy? Ma, you are okay with this?"
Mrs. Starsky shrugged. "It isn't the way that it should be or the way it was when I was young but I know these things happen. You are not children. I also know that without this happening, you two would still be getting married – am I right?"
Starsky reached and took Allison's hand. "You are very right, Ma."
Mrs. Starsky leaned over and kissed her son on the cheek. Allison got up and went to her and wrapped her arms around the woman.
"Starsk? Allison?" Hutch called from the main church.
"They're here," Starsky said. He took Allison's hand. "You ready to do this thing?"
Allison stood up and removed her coat. "Yeah, let's do this."
Martyna stood up and hooked her arm through Starsky's and then her other through Allison's. They walked out of the office together.
~ S&H ~
Starsky peeked through the curtain out to the church. He smiled nervously as he watched his friends filtering in and taking seats near the front of the church. He ran his finger under his collar and made a face like he was choking. Hutch reached out and straightened the knot.
"Leave it alone, Starsky. And breathe, don't forget to breathe." Starsky nodded and took in a deep breath. "I know you aren't used to wearing a tie but you look good so knock it off."
"Thanks, Pal. You look good yourself." Starsky admired Hutch in the charcoal suit that matched his. Their ties were dark with pinstripes of mauve that were chosen to match Alice's dress.
The music changed and Hutch pointed into the air. "That's our cue." The two men moved out of the small room and stepped up to the altar. The priest joined them. Nick came down the aisle with their mother on his arm. She beamed at Starsky who blushed. After she was settled in the front pew, Nick moved to join Starsky and Hutch.
Allison's friend Elizabeth, the ER nurse, came down the aisle next in a simple floor-length light mauve gown with spaghetti straps and a short lace cape that covered her shoulders and arms to the elbow. Alice came next in the same dress in a darker mauve. Hutch smiled and gave her a wink. She winked back and then blew a kiss over to Jamie who sat with two of Alice's former coworkers, Belinda and Tabitha.
The music paused for a moment and then 'Here Comes the Bride' began to play. Everyone rose and faced the back of the church. Starsky strained to see his bride. He could just make out her lone silhouette before she stepped into the light of the church. Starsky blinked back tears and smiled at Hutch. Allison wore a floor length ivory satin gown with an ivory lace overlay. There was a wide satin ribbon below the bodice with a small bow in front. The capped lace sleeves had the same satin ribbon at the cuff. In her hair she wore a simple matching satin headband. Her flowers were off white and pink rosebuds with baby's breath wrapped with dark mauve ribbons. Her sweetheart neckline framed the beautiful strand of pearls that Mrs. Starsky had loaned Allison for her 'something borrowed.'
Allison reached the altar and took Starsky's hand. He mouthed you're beautiful. She blushed and looked down demurely which made him smile wider.
Father Pedersen began the ceremony. "Welcome, everyone. We are gathered here today in the sight of God to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes and blessings to David and Allison. Life is a gift given to each of us as individuals, and during this life we learn to live together in harmony. Love began as a gift to us from our family, and then friends. Through these gifts of love we learn to both give and receive love in our lives. Learning to love and live together is one of life's greatest challenges, with the greatest rewards, and is the shared goal of a married life together. David and Allison asked me to remember their fathers and Allison's mother who are looking down at their children on this special day."
Allison wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. Starsky reached and squeezed her hand and gave her a teary-eyed smile. Nodding at him she turned her attention back to the priest.
Father Pederson looked over to the matron of honor. "Alice will now do a reading from the old testament, Ruth chapter 1, versus 16 and 17."
Alice took her place at the lectern and cleared her throat nervously. She looked over at Allison and Starsky and smiled then began, "But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."
Starsky looked at Allison and whispered "Follow me." She nodded sweetly, remembering the song he sang to her the day she got home from the hospital.
Father Pedersen continued. "In this sacred and joyful moment, we call upon the highest in you, David and Allison, the divine inner presence that brought you to love and has chosen for you the sweet commitment of marriage. For you we ask every blessing of this moment; a confirmation of the wisdom of your choice; great happiness on the path that is set before you; discretion, kindness and care as you walk upon it, strength to live out your purpose, grace and peace through each step of your journey, and beloved family and friends to support you."
Starsky turned back to Hutch and grinned. Hutch smiled and patted his best friend on the back.
"Please join hands. Allison, are you here to ask David to be your partner, your lover, your friend and your husband? Do you intend to give him your deepest friendship and love, not only when you are feeling bright and alive, but also when you are feeling down? Not only when you remember clearly that you are a manifestation of God, but even in those times when you forget?"
"I do," Allison said, her eyes shining.
"David, are you here to ask Allison to be your partner, your lover, your friend and your wife? Do you intend to give her your deepest friendship and love, not only when you are feeling bright and alive, but also when you are feeling down? Not only when you remember clearly that you are a manifestation of God, but even in those times when you forget?"
"Oh, I do!" Starsky said.
"As you travel through life together, I caution you to remember that the true measure of success, the true avenue to joy and peace, is to be found within the love you hold in your hearts. Who holds the rings?"
"I do," Hutch said, his voice cracking. He took the rings from his pocket and placed them on Father Pedersen's bible.
"These are the rings that David and Allison will wear for the rest of their lives, that express the love that they have for one another," Father Pedersen said. He then gave Starsky Allison's ring.
Starsky slid it onto Allison's ring finger as he said, "I, David, take you, Laura…Allison, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, or for worse, for richer, or for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to honor and to cherish unconditionally. Forsaking all others, I will be faithful to you. With This Ring, I Thee Wed." He slid the ring the remainder of the way.
Allison took Starsky's ring and repeated the same vow and slid his ring onto his finger. Starsky flexed his hand and looked at the ring, whispering, "This feels weird."
Father Pedersen continued, "As the two of you have united as husband and wife, and as you this day affirm your faith and love for one another, I would ask that you always remember to cherish each other as special and unique individuals, that you respect the thoughts, ideas and suggestions of one another. Be able to forgive, do not hold grudges, and live each day that you may share it together - as from this day forward you shall be each other's home, comfort and refuge, your marriage strengthened by your love and respect. Oh God, our hearts are filled with great happiness on this wedding day. They come before You pledging their hearts and lives to one another. Grant that they may be ever true and loving, living together in such a way as to bring happiness to the marriage.
Temper their hearts with kindness and understanding; rid them of all pretense of jealousy. Help them to remember to be each other's sweetheart, helpmate, friend and guide, so that together they may meet the cares and problems of life more bravely. And with the passage of time, may the home they are creating today, truly be a place of love and harmony, where Your spirit is ever present.
Bless this union we pray, and walk beside David and Allison throughout all their lives together. Amen."
A murmur of "Amen" came from everyone in attendance.
"May the Lord bless and keep you both all the days of your lives. May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord provide to you all the love and happiness the world has to offer, and above all else, give you His great peace. Amen. David and Allison, in so much as the two of you have agreed to live together in matrimony, have promised your love for each other by these vows, the giving of these rings and the joining of your hands, I now declare you to be husband and wife."
A beaming Starsky and Allison turned to face their family and friends in the pews.
"I present to you Mrs. Allison and Mr. David Starsky. You may kiss!"
A cheer went up from the small crowd gathered as the couple kissed. Allison then wrapped her arms around Starsky's elbow and they moved down the aisle smiling and laughing.
~ S&H ~
The reception was held at The Pits which Martyna disapproved of until she walked into the bar.
"Huggy, you have really outdone yourself. This place looks incredible," Starsky said, holding tight to his new wife's hand.
Huggy took a bow then reached for Starsky's mother's hand. He kissed it and laughed when the older woman blushed.
"Mr. Bear, aren't you losing business today?"
Huggy brushed the comment away. "Sunday is my slow day anyway but this was my gift to the happy couple." He leaned over and kissed Allison's cheek.
A waitress came by with a tray of champagne as Hutch called out, "A toast!"
Martyna looked worried but Huggy handed Allison a special champagne flute marked by an ivory ribbon. He winked at her and she relaxed when she realized Allison would not be drinking champagne.
Hutch held his glass and faced the bride and groom.
"We are all friends here so I know I don't have to introduce myself. And you all know how I feel about Starsky over there…excuse me, Dave." Hutch grinned. "That feels weird." Everyone laughed. "Starsk, I want you to take Allison's hand." Starsky put his glass down on a nearby table and held Allison's free hand with his left. "Now I want you to put your other hand on top of hers." Starsky did as he was told. "Now, Starsky, remember this feeling because it will be the last time you ever have the upper hand."
"Hey!" Starsky called out and pulled his hands away but Allison laughed and grabbed them back. He smiled and kissed her.
"No, seriously, I want to say that I could not be happier for you two. This relationship started many years ago and it was thought it couldn't continue but through miracles we can never truly understand, Dave and Allison are reunited." Hutch smiled and looked away, his Adam's apple bobbing, showing the emotion he was trying to keep in control. He cleared his throat and raised his glass high. "Here's to the bride - may she share everything with her husband...and that includes the housework." The crowd snickered as Allison nodded. "Here's to the groom, a man who kept his head even while he lost his heart." There was a murmur of aw from the group. "Here's to the new husband, and here's to the new wife, may they remain lovers, for all of life. May your love be added, may it never be subtracted, may your household multiply, and may your hearts never be divided. Cheers!"
Everyone raised their glass and shouted out, "Cheers!" Hutch grabbed a spoon and tapped it on his glass until Starsky and Allison kissed.
"Now, let's get this party started!" Hutch called out. Huggy dropped a quarter into the jukebox and everyone moved into the center of the room to dance.
Jamie danced more than anyone until she finally dropped off to sleep on the bench in Starsky and Hutch's favorite booth. Alice watched as Dobey took off his suit jacket and draped it over the little girl before going back to dance with his wife.
Starsky noticed Hutch take a beer and sit down across from the sleeping Jamie. Allison was chatting with his mother so he tapped her on the shoulder and gestured toward Hutch. She nodded and let go of his hand.
When Starsky walked away, Allison turned toward the older woman again. "Martyna, may I ask a favor?"
"Of course you may, Laura."
"I know you told me to call you by your first name now but…"
Martyna tipped her head to look into Allison's eyes. "What is it, child?"
"I was wondering…could I call you Mom? I miss my mother so much and I've known you since I was little so…"
Martyna reached out her arms and pulled Allison into a hug. "Of course you may call me that. Anything you want I will give to you, my child."
Allison blinked back happy tears. "Thank you so much, Mom." The two women hugged again.
Starsky came up to Hutch who looked up at him and smiled. He looked over at Jamie filling Starsky's side of the booth so he slid over to make room beside him. Starsky sat down and leaned back with a sigh.
After a moment he looked over at Hutch and they both said "This feels weird." They laughed.
"You okay, Buddy?" Starsky picked up Hutch's beer and took a swig.
"Yeah, I'm great. Just tired from all that dancing."
"Oh yeah, me too. It has been a great day, hasn't it?"
"Sure has," Hutch said, taking the beer back from Starsky and taking a drink. "Huggy really outdid himself."
Starsky nodded in agreement and looked around the room. "Who would have thought The good 'ole Pits would look good in twinkle lights." The two friends laughed. Starsky looked back over at Hutch. "Hey, you remember when you got upset when I said you'd be okay without me now that you had Alice and Jamie?"
"I understand what you mean even more now. I have this amazing wife and a new baby on the way but if anything…"
"It makes us stronger," they said in unison.
"Yeah, right?" Starsky said grinning.
"Absolutely, Partner." As Hutch picked up his beer, the waitress delivered a fresh one to Starsky. The two men clinked the classes together and drank.
"Thanks, Hutch. Thanks for being my best man."
"Sure thing, Pal. Can you believe we both got married within six months of each other?"
"It is pretty amazing how it worked out but it is also so great that we get to be married dads together now after all these years."
"It is amazing," Hutch agreed. He paused a moment then put his arm over the shoulder of his best friend. "I love you, Starsk."
One corner of Starsky's mouth pulled up in a grin. "I love you too, Blondie."
Alice came over to Allison and Martyna. "Hey, would you look at that." The three women leaned against the bar and smiled as they watched their favorite men.
~ S&H ~
Starsky and Allison went to San Francisco for their honeymoon. When they returned they started to look for a house but wanted to find one close to Hutch and Alice. They both agreed they had plenty of time and were content staying in the pool house even after the baby was born. Allison found a dentist's office that needed someone to fill in while one of the dentists was on maternity leave and she would return right before Allison was due.
September came. Alice started her business management classes at UCBC, Jamie started kindergarten and both Starsky and Hutch hoped that the schools that they had faxed Suzanne Speelman's picture to had kept it on file and she would be found. Starsky occasionally stopped by Moreen Speelman's office to check in on her and assure her that Suzanne had not been forgotten. It broke his heart to see the pain in the woman's eyes which never dimmed despite all the time that had passed.
September also brought Allison's due date. She was due at the end of the month. She finished out her commitment at the dentist office at the end of the first week of the month and was now at home with her 'nesting instinct in full gear,' as Alice explained it. Huggy had put on a baby shower for them at The Pits early on a Saturday before the lunch crowd arrived. Allison and Starsky received a cradle from the Dobey's and Starsky happily put it together and set it up next to their bed. The little house was now feeling cramped even though Allison had put her things in storage before leaving her apartment. They were both thankful they could stretch out at the Hutchinson's house.
"I'm going to miss being so close to them," Allison said one Sunday while she folded freshly washed baby clothes and put them into the top drawer of her dresser.
"Me too, Honey. I've been talking up the neighbors and they all seem pretty cozy so I don't think we'll be able to be close by. I have my realtor, Chris, keeping an eye out for places within the area, don't worry. I'm just glad you were able to work as a dentist the last few months. That is almost our down payment right there."
Allison came out of the bedroom and sat down next to Starsky. She put her swollen legs up on the coffee table. "Alice said she plans on staying home even if she starts her own business and she is practically begging me to go back to work so she can get her hands on this little one to babysit." Alice rubbed her bulging abdomen. "I can certainly work part-time so we can afford a nice house in the area."
~ S&H ~
Hutch came back into the squad room and saw that somehow Starsky had gotten away from his desk. He sighed as he went to sit back down but then could hear his partner's voice. He shook his head realizing he was speaking to Jeanene, Dobey's secretary, about the Speelman notifications. A few minutes later, Starsky darted back into the room and sat down.
"Hutch, I was talking to Jeanene and she said she had started to resend some of the notifications since she was afraid the schools had forgotten about them. She's been getting calls back saying that not only do they have Suzanne's picture up in the principal's office but a lot of them have taken it upon themselves to send the information along to more schools."
"Starsk, that's great."
"Ain't it t'rrific? We are going to find her, I just feel it."
Hutch, always the voice of reason, thought about telling Starsky that he had had that feeling for months now and she hadn't been found but he didn't want to quash his partner's enthusiasm.
Two weeks later, the break they were looking for finally came.
Dobey opened his door and called out sharply, "Starsky, Hutchinson, in my office now."
Starsky looked over at Hutch with a look of anticipation. They both jumped up and hurried into the office and shut the door.
"We found her. We found Suzanne Speelman," Dobey said breathlessly.
"What? Where?" Starsky blurted out.
"She's down in LA County. One of those flyers you and Jeanene sent out reached the Van Deene Elementary school in Carson down there."
"Carson? Cap'n, we know that area," Starsky said looking excitedly over at Hutch. "That's were our friends Gage and DeSoto are from. Please, let us go get her."
"Local PD can pick her up and bring her home," Dobey said, although his tone waivered. He knew his men had put everything into this case and he wanted them to be able to see it through to the end.
Hutch got up and approached Dobey's desk and stood next to Starsky. "You know we need to get her and bring her home. We owe her mother that."
Dobey looked down at his desk blotter as he contemplated what his detectives were saying. Starsky used the opportunity to send a silent thank you over to Hutch for backing him up. Hutch smiled back at him. Dobey looked back up. "All right, I'll make the arrangements. You contact the mother. She should be close by because that little girl is going to be pretty scared and confused."
Starsky popped up onto his toes. "You betcha, Cap'n – and thank you." He ran from the room.
Hutch nodded over at his boss, "Thanks, Captain."
"Bring her home, Hutchinson." Dobey ran a hand over his head as Hutch left the office.
When Hutch reached his desk, he saw Starsky with his hand resting on the phone. "Can't reach her?"
Starsky looked up. "No, I can't tell her this over the phone, Hutch. I need to go down to her office and tell her. Are you coming?"
"No, you go ahead without me, Starsk. I'll stay here and take care of all the arrangements to save time."
"Thanks, Buddy," Starsky said as he bounced toward the squad room doors. "I'll catch up with you soon."
Starsky waited in the lobby of Moreen's office building. She came off the elevator smiling sadly at him. She thinks I'm here just to check in, Starsky thought. His heart beat faster in anticipation of telling her the good news.
"Hello, Sergeant Starsky. I'm sorry, I mean Dave." she reached out her hand to shake his.
Starsky grabbed onto her hand with both of his and pulled her close. "We found her," he said grinning. He then took her by the elbow as he saw her knees go out from under her. "Whoa, let's sit down, Moreen."
Moreen's mouth worked silently as she searched to put into words her multitude of questions. "Where?" was what she finally got out.
"In Los Angeles."
"Only two hours away and it took all these months…"
"There are a lot of people and a whole lot of schools between here and there."
Moreen look up sharply. "Oh no, Dave – I wasn't criticizing."
"I know," Starsky soothed. "And I wouldn't blame you if you did."
Moreen placed her hand over Starsky's where he rested it on the arm of her chair. "You did everything you could, David. You and your partner. I can't thank you enough." She removed her hand and grabbed a tissue on the table nearby. "When can I go pick her up?"
Starsky sat down across from her. "We need to go about this the right way, Moreen. We need to be sure she is safe before we go after Andy."
Moreen nodded. "Yes, yes. I understand."
"Now my partner is back at the precinct working out the details. Can you leave work soon and come to the station."
"Of course, but I took the bus in today. Can I ride there with you?"
Starsky smiled. "Absolutely. I'm right out front. Take your time. I'll be waiting for you. Or do you want me to come with you – you were a little shaky there for a minute."
Moreen stood up and smoothed her dress. "No, I'm okay now. I'll be out in ten minutes."
Back at Metro, Hutch caught Starsky up on the details. They met with Dobey and it was agreed they would go out the next morning. Starsky and Hutch would be the leads on the operation with full cooperation by the LAPD. It would be a two-part operation. First, they would go to the school and secure Suzanne's safety. Then they would go to the address listed on the school's records. No one was able to find any information on a workplace for the father who now went by Andrew Stearns.
Starsky turned to the fidgeting mother beside him. "Moreen, do you have any family that can go with you tomorrow? You can follow us in your own car. That way you can take Suzanne home with you after Andy's arrest."
Moreen shook her head. "No, no family. I have a friend that I can ask to go with me, though."
"Good. Let's meet here at 8 A.M. tomorrow morning. We just have some details to work out with the LAPD so you are free to go. Try to get some sleep." Starsky rested a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"I don't think I will be sleeping again until I have my Susie in my arms," Moreen gave a nervous laugh. "Thank you, Dave. Thank you all for everything." She shook Captain Dobey's hand and then Hutch's. She hesitated a moment then gave Starsky a kiss on the cheek before she left the squad room.
"I don't want to jinx it but I want to say good job to both of you," Dobey said as he headed back to his office.
"It was all Starsky, Captain. He was the one who came up with the idea to contact the schools."
"It was a damned good idea too, Starsky. Damned good." Dobey sounded gruff but everyone knew he was proud of his best team.
"I'm going to make a final call over to Detective Perry in LA and then call it a day," Hutch said, picking up the phone.
Later that night, Starsky and Allison were relaxing on the couch at the Hutchinson's house after dinner. Starsky was enjoying resting his empty coffee mug on Allison's belly and watching it wobble back and forth as the baby kicked and stretch.
"I was going to tell you to knock that off, Starsk, but I have to admit that is wild." Hutch looked over at Jamie and then Alice. "I sure wish I could have been there when you were pregnant with Jamie." His expression was wistful for a moment then he shook it off. "Sorry."
Alice came over and sat down on the arm of the chair he was in. She softly ran her fingers through his hair. "Don't be sorry, Handsome Hutch. I wish you could have shared it with me too." Hutch took her hand and kissed it, reaching to stroke her cheek.
"Being pregnant has been a lot of fun. I can't wait to meet this little person but in a way I'm sad to see it end."
"I know what you mean, Allison," Alice said, "I loved it too."
"You should have another baby then," Allison said with a grin and Starsky smiled.
Hutch and Alice looked at each other nervously at first then laughed. "Hey, why not," Alice said.
"I'm game if you're game," Hutch replied.
"Oh yeah do it, you guys!" Starsky exclaimed and everyone laughed as Hutch's cheeks tinged pink.
"I didn't mean it that way," Starsky said, smirking.
After a few minutes Starsky sighed and leaned his head back against the cushions of the couch. "I can't believe by this time tomorrow, Suzanne Speelman will be tucked in her own bed."
"From your lips to God's ears, David," Allison replied, turning to wrap an arm around his chest.
~ S&H ~
Starsky glanced out the back window of Hutch's Firebird and saw Moreen's Mustang behind them.
"She's still with us, don't worry, Starsk. I'm keeping an eye on her." Hutch tapped on his rearview mirror.
Starsky shifted back to face forward. "I know, I know. I'm nervous, is all. I want this to go according to plan. I want to nail that scumbag."
"Me too, Buddy. There is the possibility we won't arrest him today but at least Susie will be reunited with her mom."
Starsky's mind whirred through the possible scenarios of how this day would go down then nodded in agreement. "That's what matters most."
An hour later, Starsky had the directions to the school in his hand and directed Hutch through the many turns. "Okay, right on South Vermont. Van Deene should be just up the road. Yes, I see it on the right."
Hutch pulled into the parking lot in front of the school. A black and white police car was parked next to an unmarked car. A tall thin man in his mid forties stood next to the cars. Starsky waved to Moreen as she pulled in beside the Firebird followed by Wilson and White in their own car.
Hutch reached out and shook the tall man's hand. "Sergeant Perry, I presume? I'm Ken Hutchinson."
The rest of the group introduced themselves then Sergeant Perry turned to Moreen. "Mrs. Speelman, your daughter is now safe in the principal's office. I have a female police officer with her. I thought that might be less frightening for the little girl. If you'll come with me now." He rested his hand on the woman's back and led her into the building.
"Starsky, calm down would ya. You are going to bounce right off the pavement." Hutch watched his partner wringing his hands nervously.
"I'm not going to calm down until this is done."
"Hey, we are half way there." He patted Starsky on the back.
A few minutes later the front door of the school opened and the policewoman stepped out and held the door. Moreen came out next holding a little dark haired girl in her arms. They were both crying tears of relief. Hutch looked over at Starsky and smiled at the look of pure joy on his face.
When she reached the parking lot, Moreen put Suzanne down and stooped down next to her. "Susie, this is Sergeant Starsky. He is one of the men that helped me find you, Sweetheart."
Starsky bent down and put out his hand to the girl who took it shyly. "Nice to meet you, Susie. You can call me Dave."
"Thank you for finding me, Dave. I want to go home."
Starsky stood up and choked back a tear. "You are going home, Sweetie. Real soon."
The group conferred about the next steps while Moreen and her friend stood under the shade of a nearby tree. After firming up the details, Starsky approached Moreen and took her aside. "The officer that was with Susie in the school will now drive you both to the station. Your friend can follow in your car. They have a place for you to wait until we meet up with you later today."
"He won't be able to see Suzanne, will he?"
Starsky shook his head. "No way. He won't even know you are there, I promise."
Starsky smiled over at Susie then joined Hutch at the cars. "Let's go."
Hutch led the caravan of marked and unmarked police cars to the address the school had on file. The house was a tiny bungalow on a narrow street. All the houses along the road were dilapidated with overgrown lawns and fences in need of repair. The house they approached only had half of the once-white picket fence standing. Starsky looked into the back yard and could see the next street over. He directed Wilson and White to move to that street to ensure Speelman didn't escape through neighbor's yard. After seeing Wilson's car in place, Starsky took the two steps up onto the rotting front porch. He knocked sharply on the door.
"Andrew Speelman, this is the police. Open up."
Suddenly there was a scuffle of footsteps inside the tiny house. Starsky stepped aside away from the front door and put his hand on his gun. The sound of a door opening could be heard then Wilson called out from behind the house, "Stop right there!" A door slammed so hard, the frame of the house shook.
Realizing Speelman had tried to retreat out the back door, Starsky pulled his gun and moved away from the house just as the sound of a window being broken could be heard. Starsky threw himself behind the black and white that was directly in front of the house as a bullet whizzed past his head. Hutch grabbed onto Starsky's sleeve and yanked him further behind the protection of the cruiser.
Starsky looked up at Hutch with a silent thank you but his face suddenly changed from relief to horror. Hutch whirled around to see the familiar blue Mustang approaching. "Moreen? What the hell is she doing here?" Starsky shouted and Hutch had to grab onto him again to keep him from launching himself into the hail of gunfire that now ensued. "Oh my God, she must have heard us at the school when we mentioned the address, Hutch!"
Moreen slammed the car into park and got out. Starsky screamed for her to get down but could only look on in horror when a bullet hit her in the chest.
"Nooo!" Starsky screamed and pulled from Hutch's grasp. He reached Moreen who was slumped in the middle of the street. Scooping her into his arms, he moved to the sidewalk behind her car. Another shot rang out and Starsky stumbled when it creased his bicep. He managed to keep his hold on the bleeding woman and laid her on the ground.
"Starsky?!" Hutch called out when he saw the bullet hit his partner.
"I'm okay but she needs an ambulance!"
Hutch pulled open the cruiser's door and reached in for the radio. He requested the needed paramedics but advised them that they were currently under fire.
Behind the car Starsky cradled Moreen's head in his lap. "What the hell did you think you were doing?" His question went unanswered. He felt her life slipping away. "Don't do this, Moreen! You just got her back. She needs you! Don't do this. Keep breathing. Don't forget to breathe."
Starsky heard the sirens approach then stop down the street. He prayed silently as the gunfire stopped. There was some shouting but he was too wrapped up in holding onto Moreen to hear it clearly. Suddenly Hutch was by his side. Starsky looked up sadly and Hutch waved at the squad that it was clear for them to approach.
Hutch pulled open the slice in Starsky's jacket sleeve and peered in. "Doesn't look too bad."
"Starsky? Hutch?" Paramedic John Gage came up onto the sidewalk with his gear in his hand. His partner, Roy DeSoto, followed behind him.
"She needs help, Johnny, please," Starsky said as he looked up at his friend.
"Sure, Starsky. Let me have her," Johnny said, gently taking Moreen's weight as Hutch helped Starsky slide out from under her.
Johnny put his hand on Moreen's chest and looked sharply at Roy. "Get Rampart on the line, quick."
Hutch leaned down and whispered to Starsky, "Let's give them some space to work, Starsk." He held Starsky's good arm and pulled him to his feet.
As Roy waited for the vitals to relay to Rampart, he watched Starsky carefully. "Is that a bullet wound?"
"It can wait," Starsky snapped. "Take care of her."
Roy looked over to Hutch for concurrence and Hutch nodded.
Starsky watched in horror as Johnny began to cut away Moreen's clothing to start CPR. He looked around as if coming out of a trance. "Where is he?"
"LAPD took him into custody and they already left."
"Everyone okay?" Starsky squinted over at Hutch.
"Yes," Hutch replied. He took hold of Starsky's arm as they heard Johnny call out "Clear!" Starsky jumped at the sound of the defibrillator.
"She's not gonna make it, Hutch."
"You don't know that, Starsky," Hutch replied although he felt his friend was right. Wilson and White joined them, looking glum as they listened to the frantic activity beyond the Mustang. "Good job out there, guys."
"Thanks, Hutch. I'm glad we got him." Wilson spotted the blood on Starsky's arm but Hutch just shook his head relaying the message that Starsky was okay and not to mention it.
An ambulance pulled up and once Moreen was stabilized, they whisked her into the vehicle with Johnny by her side. Once Roy closed the doors, he picked up the trauma kit and moved toward Starsky.
"Let me take a look at that, Starsky." Starsky followed the paramedic to the squad and sat down on the back. Hutch was at his side, glad that they couldn't see the bloody stain where Moreen had lain.
After taking off his jacket and cutting away the shirt, Roy wrapped the wound. "I can call another ambulance but this doesn't look too bad."
Starsky waved him away. "I'm fine."
"You will need to have it cleaned out and it will require a few stitches," Roy said quietly. He could see his friends wore torn up about the woman that his partner was now trying to save.
"I'll bring him in myself, Roy. You go ahead," Hutch said. Roy nodded and moved to collect the gear, supplies and items from the ground. "Come on, Buddy." Hutch led a dazed Starsky to his car and got him settled in the passenger seat.
After following up with Detective Perry, Hutch got behind the wheel.
"Do you need directions to the hospital, Ken?" Perry asked.
"No, but thanks. We have been there before." Hutch smiled sadly up at Perry then put the car in gear and pulled away.
Hutch led Starsky into the emergency room doors and looked down the hall. He spotted Roy at the base station.
"Starsk, sit down here. I'm going to find someone to take a look at you." After settling Starsky in a waiting room chair, he met up with Roy.
"Hutch, I asked Dr. Morton to take care of Starsky. If you bring him into room two, Morton will be in shortly."
"Thanks, Roy," Hutch said looking around. "How is she?"
Just as Roy went to answer, a door opened and Johnny came out. He ran a hand through his hair as he walked over to where his partner stood. "She didn't make it. I'm sorry, Hutch."
Hutch glanced down the hall where Starsky sat, his back to them. "Yeah, thanks. I'll let him know."
"I'm sorry, Hutch, but we have to get back to work," Roy said as his handy talkie went off. "Are you staying in town?" He followed Johnny down the hall.
"No, not this time. I'll call you soon."
Sighing heavily, Hutch moved to collect his sulking partner.
Thirty minutes later, Tom Wilson came into the emergency room and spotted Hutch sitting in the waiting room. Hutch saw him and stood up.
"How is he?"
"He's getting stitched up. He'll be fine."
"I wanted to let you know that we went back to the police station and spoke to Moreen Speelman's friend. She was pretty messed up about what happened. Have you heard anything?"
Hutch looked down at his hands. "She didn't make it."
"Oh man, that's rough. Well, Diane Vanada is the friend's name. Looks like Child Protective Services will be getting involved. I asked Diane if Moreen and her husband had family that she could contact and she told me that they had no living relatives that she knew of. Moreen was an only child whose parents both died and Andy was an orphan and in the system himself until he was eighteen."
"Oh, no." Hutch rubbed his eyes. "Well, have they headed back to Bay City?"
"Yes and no," Wilson said and Hutch looked up at him, confused. "Diane left but said she had four kids of her own. She didn't take Suzanne with her."
"Where is Susie now, then? Still at the station?"
"No, she's out in the car with my partner. She's asking for Starsky."
Hutch let out a breath. "What a mess."
"I called Dobey and he has arranged for us to bring Suzanne back to Bay City. CPS here has cleared it."
Hutch contemplated their next move. "Look, Tom, Starsky should be out soon. Can you take her to get something to eat – we all are hungry. There is a place called Lucky Burger just down the street."
"Yeah, we passed it. I know where it is."
"Great. We'll meet you there as soon as we can."
"Will do, Hutch." Tom headed back out into the parking lot. Hutch sat back down to wait for Starsky to be released.
Not long after, he looked up to see Dr. Morton come out of the treatment room followed by Starsky. Morton gave Starsky a packet and shook his hand then hurried off.
Hutch met Starsky as he came down the hall. "Everything okay, Pal?"
"Yeah. S'fine. I'm beat."
"How about some dinner? Wilson and White are waiting for us at Lucky Burger."
Starsky sighed then his head popped up. "Where is Suzanne?"
"She's with them, Starsk. We are bringing her back to Bay City."
~ S&H ~
Starsky sat sideways in his seat in the Firebird and looked back at Suzanne Speelman asleep on the backseat. She had her arms wrapped around a fuzzy brown bear that Starsky had stopped and bought her at the hospital gift shop.
Hutch looked over at Starsky, his brow knitted with worry. "How's the arm? I still have some of my soda left if you want to take a pain pill."
Starsky shook his head then said, "She's all alone."
"Not really, Starsk. They'll find her a good foster home," Hutch replied and heard Starsky scoff. He understood and knew 'good' foster homes were few and far between.
An hour later, Hutch pulled into his driveway. It was late and the houses were both dark. He had called from the burger place and explained the situation and let the wives know that they would be bringing Suzanne home with them. Tomorrow they would contact a CPS intake officer and begin the process of finding the little girl a place to live.
As Hutch got out of the car, the back porch light came on and Alice came out of the house. She kissed her husband and then Starsky. "Are you all right, Starsky?"
"I'm fine, Alice." Starsky looked up as he saw a light come on in his house. Allison came out and ran to Starsky. "Whoa, slow down, Honey." Allison wrapped her arms around Starsky's neck and hugged him. She then gently touched his bandaged arm. "I'm okay. Just a crease."
Alice moved to look into the back of Hutch's car. "Oh, poor little angel. I have Jamie's bed waiting for her. Jamie is in our bed for the night. I thought Suzanne would be more comfortable in her room instead of the spare room."
"Good idea," Hutch said. He opened the back door and took the girl into his arms. She stirred and looked up at Hutch then around at the others.
"No," she said as she pushed at Hutch.
Alice shushed the girl. "Hi, Susie. My name is Alice. Will you come and stay with us for the night?"
Susie shook her head and looked around. Her eyes landed on Starsky. She wriggled herself free of Hutch and ran and wrapped her arms around Starsky's waist. He stooped down to face her. "Susie, this is my wife. Would you like to stay with us tonight?" Susie glanced up at Allison and then buried her head back against Starsky and nodded.
"Where will you put her?" Alice asked, worried.
"We'll be fine, Alice," Allison said. "It'll be good practice, right David?" For the first time since that morning, Starsky smiled.
~ S&H ~
The next morning, the CPS intake officer came to pick up Suzanne. Starsky and Allison sat at their tiny kitchen table with the girl and watched her eating her breakfast. Alice was in the yard with Jamie and she directed the woman to Starsky's house.
"Hello, I'm Christine Maher from Child Protective Services."
"Yes, come in. I'm Allison Starsky. This is my husband, David. And this is Susie." Susie put down her spoon and looked shyly at the new face.
"Hello, Susie. It's nice to meet you." Christine sat down and spoke to Susie for a while then said, "I saw a swing set outside. Would you like to go out and play?"
"Yes, Susie," Allison said, smiling. "Jamie is outside. She is almost your age." The three adults walked outside with Suzanne. Allison introduced the two girls and then put Suzanne on a swing and gave her a push. Hutch came from the house and joined them. They left the girls and went to sit on the picnic table on the porch.
"I'll give her a few minutes then take her with me. I want to thank you for keeping her here last night."
Starsky looked over at Susie. "Miss Maher, Allison and I have been talking and we'd like to keep Susie here with us for a while more." Alice and Hutch exchanged a surprised look then Hutch smiled and nodded. His partner was a softie when it came to kids.
"That's admirable, Sergeant, but I can see you live in what is basically an in-law apartment. Suzanne needs her own room. We have strict guidelines."
Starsky let out a loud sigh. "We are actively looking for a house now. She was perfectly comfortable with us and she has sort of bonded with me."
Christine nodded. "So I've been told. And you can certainly apply to be foster parents once you are moved into your new home but I'm afraid my hands are tied."
Alice reached out and grabbed onto Hutch's hand and they again exchanged a look. He cleared his throat. "Miss Maher, what if Susie stays with us. We have plenty of room in our house."
Starsky looked at his best friend in amazement. Hutch winked at him.
Christine looked at Hutch's house and then around the yard. "Well, we do prefer the children remain somewhere where they are comfortable." Starsky inched forward on his chair, excitement showing on his face. "I'll take a quick look at your house but I think that would be acceptable. She picked up her briefcase that was resting beside her chair. I have the papers right here. You will need to come into the office and make things official, of course. We will also do a formal investigation into possible family members despite the information Diane Vanada gave."
"Of course," Hutch said. He grinned at Alice and then they both smiled over at Starsky and Allison.
"Thank you, you guys," Starsky said. He grabbed onto Allison's hand and they clung to each other. If they couldn't have Susie themselves, they could not have asked for anything better than this.
Christine finished showing Alice and Hutch the paperwork and explained the next steps. She then looked over and watched the two girls on the swings. "I think those two are going to become friends, don't you?" Everyone turned to watch and nodded in agreement.
After a tour of the Hutchinson's house, Christine went to ask Susie if she would like to stay with the Hutchinsons and after a wink from Starsky, she happily nodded. They said goodbye and Christine left. Susie got off the swing and came to give Starsky another hug. She then hugged Allison. Starsky squatted down in front of her. "Alice and Ken will take care of you; and me and Allison will be right here too."
"Can I take my bear to their house?"
"Why you sure can, Cutiepie," Starsky said with a grin.
Susie took Jamie by the hand. "Come on, Jamie, let's go down the slide now."
Alice folded her arms and laughed. "Life is so simple when they are little. As long as she can take her bear, she's happy."
"Come on, partner," Hutch said, slapping Starsky on the back.
"Aw, I don't want to go to work," Starsky whined, making Alice and Allison giggle.
"Me neither so we will call Dobey and tell him we are taking a personal day."
"So where are we going?"
"To buy some bunkbeds."
Starsky's frown changed to a grin. "Hey, great idea. But…can I have a few minutes? I want to talk to Susie for a minute."
Hutch patted his friend's shoulder. "Sure, Starsk."
Alice called Jamie into the house and Starsky sat down in the swing next to Susie. "Hey, Cutiepie. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?" Susie nodded and stopped swinging. "I'm really happy you are going to stay with us."
"I'm happy too. I know my Mommy isn't coming back and I don't want to stay with my Daddy anymore. Do I have to go back?"
Starsky got off the swing got down on one knee in front of Susie. "No, Honey, you don't have to go back with him. I'm sorry your Mommy is gone. She loved you very much, you know."
"She and I worked hard to find you. It took a long time but we finally found you. She was so happy."
Suzanne got off her swing and put her arms around Starsky's neck. "Will you be my new Daddy?"
Starsky stood up with Susie still wrapped around his neck. He buried his head on her shoulder and nodded. "I would like that very much."
Later that day Hutch pulled into the driveway followed by a delivery van. Allison came rushing out of Alice's house. Starsky put up his hands, "Hey, slow down there, Honey. Where's the fire?"
Alice came out of the house with Jamie and Susie. After Hutch directed the delivery men into the house, he joined the others outside.
Allison excitedly grabbed Starsky's hand. "You won't believe it, David. I have great news. Mr. Fleming died!"
Alice softly giggled behind her hand while Starsky and Hutch looked on in confused horror. "That's good news, Laura?"
"Oh my gosh, no. Oh no, that's not what I meant. Well, Mr. Fleming did die, though."
"Hang on, who the heck is Mr. Fleming anyway?" Starsky asked, his hands on his hips.
"Don't you remember? He's the old man that lived next door." Allison pointed past the driveway to the yellow L-shaped ranch across the fence.
"Oh. Oh, yeah. I remember him now. Nice old coot, er, man."
"Well, Alice and I went to pay our respects when we saw his son stop by." Allison was now bouncing on her toes.
"Yeah, and?" Hutch and Starsky both asked.
"He lives down in San Diego and is itching to sell the house fast." Allison gave Starsky an expression that said she needed him to catch up and figure it out.
Starsky's brow was furrowed then his eyebrows rose up into his hair. "Oh? Oh!"
Allison was nodding furiously. "Yes, yes! I told him we were interested and he said he won't even put it on the market and will deal directly with us."
"Holy cow, Starsk. You may be my next door neighbor," Hutch said.
Starsky hugged Allison and laughed. "Okay, now stop bouncing like that or you'll have that kid right in the driveway."
"Oh, David, then we can apply to be Susie's foster parents."
"Wow," Starsky said simply, overwhelmed.
~ S&H ~
Ten days later, Starsky and Allison closed on their new home. Hutch went to work pulling out the fence that separated the two yards while the Starskys went to complete the last of the paperwork to keep Susie as their foster child. Christine confirmed that no other family was found.
"I am really impressed how well she is doing, Mr. and Mrs. Starsky."
"I love her already. I can't wait to have her under our own roof," Allison said squeezing Starsky's hand. Suddenly she got a strange look on her face and squeezed even harder.
"Laura…are you all right?"
"I…I think I just had a contraction."
Starsky stood up, the chair flying out from under him. "What? Now?"
Allison nodded and smiled. "But you know what the doctor said, don't panic. We have plenty of – OW!"
Starsky spun in a circle and looked over at Christine excitedly. "I'm not sure you have as much time as you think," she said, turning the photo on her desk. She pointed at the oldest boy in the picture. "My Jeremy came so fast, I almost didn't make it to the hospital."
"That's it, Laura – we are going to the hospital."
"Oh, David, don't be…oh oh."
"That's it, come on." He took her arm and helped her stand.
"Mrs. Maher, will you call the Hutchinsons and tell them?"
"I think after all this, you can call me Christine and, of course, I'll call them for you. Now, go." She laughed as she held the door open.
"Okay, remember to breathe," Starsky said as he guided his wife through the door.
"I'm breathing, I'm breathing," Allison said, laughing.
~ S&H ~
Hutch paced the waiting room nervously. "Sit down, Handsome. You are wearing a hole in the carpet."
"How can you sit there so calmly?"
"What is there to get worked up about? This happens everyday."
"Oh sure, you've had experience," Hutch gestured over at Jamie who was playing on the floor with Susie. He flopped down onto a chair. He looked up as Starsky burst into the room.
"It's a boy!"
Alice and Hutch were then on their feet and wrapped their arms around Starsky.
"Congratulations, Buddy. Congratulations."
"Oh, Starsky, I'm so happy for you," Alice kissed Starsky on the cheek.
Jamie came over with Susie following her. "The baby came?"
Starsky got down on his knees. "Yes, James, the baby came. I have a son." Starsky beamed. "And you have a new cousin!" He reached out his hand and Susie took it. She seemed confused and nervous. "Susie, Allison and I have a new baby. Do you like babies?"
Susie nodded and smiled. "Is he my cousin too?"
Starsky looked up at Alice and Hutch and then back to the little girl. "Well, no…but he could be your brother." Starsky's eyes sparkled.
"I'd like to have a brother." Susie replied. Starsky hugged her tight. And I'd like to have a daughter, he thought.
"What did you name him, Starsk?"
Starsky stood up and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. He smiled. "David Michael Starsky, Jr."
"Aw, that's great, Pal."
"I'm a Dad, Hutch," Starsky grinned as tears popped up in his eyes again.
"Twice over," Hutch said looking over at Susie. He laughed as Starsky could only nod with a goofy grin.