Out of the Mists

 

Chapter Six

 

Dobey had no idea how long he and Starsky sat in the hallway outside the morgue, the detective’s anguish branding the captain’s heart.  Somehow, Starsky recovered enough to eventually raise his head.  He stared at his captain for a long moment before he finally found his voice.  “We have work to do.”

 

His words caught Dobey by surprise.  “Look, Dave, I really think you need to get some rest.  Why don’t we¾?”

 

“No, there’s something I have to do first.  I need to call his parents.”  Starsky’s voice broke and his eyes again filled.

 

“Why don’t you let me call them?  I am...his captain, and it’s my responsibility to notify next of kin¾ 

 

“No,” Starsky interrupted quietly, resolve mingling with grief.  “This is my responsibility.  He...was my partner, it was my job to protect him, and I think the least they deserve is to hear it from me.”

 

Dobey sighed heavily and rose to his feet, pulling Starsky up with him.  He was going to argue, but seeing the firm set of the detective’s jaw made him change his mind.  Starsky had a clear sense of duty and honor, and nothing the captain could say would ever change that. 

 

“Come on, then,” Dobey replied, steering Starsky back up the stairwell.  “We’ll use the phone in my office.” 

 

˜ 

 

Dobey perched on a corner of his desk, watching in silence as Starsky reached out a trembling hand to dial the phone.  There was a long pause, and Starsky quickly rubbed his eyes with his free hand.  The captain had never seen Starsky so vulnerable, and the gesture made his own throat tighten.

 

After a few seconds, Starsky began to speak.  “Mrs. Hutchinson?  This...this is Dave Starsky.”

 

Dobey could only hear one side of the conversation, but from Starsky’s responses, he had a good idea what was being said on the other end of the line.

 

“Yes, ma’am...yes, I’m fine.  Mrs. Hutchinson, is your husband there?  I need to talk to you...to both of you.”  Dobey looked on wordlessly, hoping his mere presence could somehow lend strength.  Starsky’s face was pale and haggard, his features made even more gaunt by the dim lighting in the room, and Dobey wondered once again what would happen to him once the dust had settled and reality set in. 

 

“He’s in the room with you now?  Good.  Mrs. Hutchinson, there’s no easy way for me to say this, but...”  Tears streamed down his face as he tried to find the right words to say.  “I am so sorry.  Hutch...we...we don’t know how, or...or who yet...I...” 

 

Dobey felt his own eyes fill as he gently pried the telephone receiver from Starsky’s trembling grip.  “Mrs. Hutchinson?  This is Captain Dobey.  It is my very sad duty to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty.”  He had delivered this same speech many times, but this was different.  This was Hutch. 

 

“Kenny is dead?” came the trembling reply.  “Are you sure?”

 

Dobey could hear her sobbing as he tried to continue.  “Yes, Mrs. Hutchinson, unfortunately we are sure.  I am so very sorry.”

 

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, and for a moment, Dobey thought perhaps Mrs. Hutchinson had broken the connection.  A strong male voice came over the wire, and Dobey recognized it as Hutch’s father’s.  He had spoken with the man only days ago to arrange Hutch’s bail, but now the circumstances were greatly changed, and the voice he heard was filled with sorrow and rage.

 

“Captain Dobey?”  Mr. Hutchinson bellowed into the receiver.  “Would you mind explaining to me what the hell is going on here?  We just bailed my son out of jail on some sort of assignment, and you assured me that he was safe.  Safe, Captain.  And now you’re telling me he’s dead?  Didn’t you even realize my son was in danger?  How do you explain this kind of negligence, Captain?  How could you have allowed this to happen?”

 

Dobey sat stunned, at a loss.  He swallowed a few times and attempted to reply, but had no idea what to say.  The truth was, he was asking the same questions of himself and had no answers.

 

To his surprise, Dobey felt the receiver being pulled from his hand.  It was obvious by the look on his face that Starsky had heard every word Hutch’s father had spoken and was willing to deal with the outburst.

 

“Mr. Hutchinson?” Starsky said quietly, respectfully.  “This is Dave Starsky.”

 

Although he couldn’t make out the individual words, Dobey heard the voice on the other end of the line raise even further in volume.  Starsky sat stoically, his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he allowed the other man’s anger and wrath to wash over him.  Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, the noise quieted, and Dobey guessed the other man had simply run out of steam.

 

“Yes, sir,” Starsky again spoke quietly, never raising his voice.  “I understand.  We’ll arrange for you and your wife to be picked up at the airport if you’ll just call as soon as your travel arrangements have been made.  We’ll discuss the details of the...service when you get here.

 

“Yes, sir.  And please tell Mrs. Hutchinson...tell her I loved him, too...”  Starsky’s voice trailed off as he slowly hung up the phone.

 

Silence filled the small office as both men stared into space, each lost in his own private turmoil.  Dobey was the first to recover and he levered himself off the desk, gripping Starsky’s shoulder as he moved toward the squadroom.  “Stay here.  I need to make another call.”  There was no response.

 

Dobey sighed heavily and made his way to one of the vacant desks.  He noticed his own hand was shaking as he picked up the phone and dialed his home number.  He gripped the receiver tightly, wishing he could be there to comfort his family as he broke the news to them, but he knew Edith was strong.  She would be able to handle her grief and that of the children as well.  Right now, he would stay with Starsky, hoping his detective would accept his comfort, though it was a pale substitute for what he had lost.

 

“Hello?” Edith’s soft voice came over the line, and Dobey felt his composure slipping.

 

“Edith.  I...”  Suddenly at a loss for words, Dobey sat heavily in a chair, tilting his head back in an attempt to blink the tears from his eyes.

 

“Harold?  What is it?”  Edith’s voice was full of concern.  Fifteen years of marriage had taught her every nuance of her husband’s voice, and whatever the reason for his call, she knew it couldn’t be good.  “What’s wrong?  Harold, talk to me and tell me what’s wrong.”

 

The tone of his wife’s voice finally broke through Dobey’s grief and, as gently as he could, he relayed the news of Hutch’s death.  After she regained her composure, Edith agreed to tell the children and to set up the guestroom so Starsky could stay with them as long as he needed to.  They hoped the constant, loving support of their family could somehow help lessen his grief in the bleak days that lie ahead.

 

Dobey hung up the phone and walked back into his office.  As far as he could tell, Starsky hadn’t moved at all.  He placed his hand on the detective’s shoulder.  “Starsky?”

 

Slowly, Starsky turned to look at his captain, his eyes reflecting a combination of grief, anger, and something that couldn’t be named.  He didn’t say anything, but patiently waited until his captain spoke again.

 

“I just talked to Edith, and we think it would be best if you came to the house and stayed with us for a few days.  She is talking to the children right now so they’ll be prepared when we get there.  We can stop by your place, pick up a few things¾

 

“No,” Starsky interrupted quietly, getting up from his seat and pulling his jacket around him more tightly.  “I have work to do.”

 

“Look, Starsky,” Dobey said wearily, trying to interject just the right amount of authority into his voice.  “It’s been a long day...long weeks.  You’re tired, and I really think you need to come with me.  Don’t force me to make this an order.”

 

“No, Captain,” Starsky replied quietly, his voice devoid of emotion.  “I need to see Huggy.  I need to tell him.  He deserves to hear it from me first.”

 

“Okay,” Dobey conceded.  “We’ll go tell Huggy, then we’ll come back to¾

 

“No, sir,” Starsky said once again, steely determination replacing the haunted grief in his eyes.  “After that, I’m gonna find the son-of-a-bitch who killed my partner.”

 

The slamming of the squadroom’s outer door echoed in the eerie silence of Dobey’s office as he picked up his coat and hat and headed home.

 

˜ 

 

Rather than driving straight to Huggy’s, Starsky drove toward what Hutch had labeled “The Cove,” a secluded inlet they had discovered during a rare weekend off.  Few tourists traveled this far north in the Ventura Beach State Park, and the locals preferred the more sandy areas where they could see and be seen.  “The Cove” had a fair stretch of pale sand that became rockier where the ocean could vent its fury against the large boulders. 

 

By the time he got there, it was dusk, and, predictably, no one was in sight for miles in either direction.  Starsky parked the Torino and began his weary trek to an outcropping of rocks.  The tide was just turning, and the waves gently lapped against the monoliths.  Starsky sat down on one just off the beach, not even bothering to take off his tennis shoes, or lift his legs out of the pull of the ocean. 

 

The sunset colors washed across his face, the red and gold reflection staining his tears. 

 

˜ 

 

By midnight, the bar was in full swing and at capacity.  Huggy danced from one end of the bar to the other, alternatively serving the people perched on the stools before him, and filling the orders his waitresses called out over the din.

 

As he turned, Huggy was surprised to find Starsky behind him, his pant legs and shoes still wet, grabbing a bottle of the bar’s best whiskey and two glasses, then gesturing with his head to be followed. 

 

“Starsky, are you nuts?  Can’t you see The Bear is else-wise occupado?”  A new thought struck Huggy.  “Unless...”

 

Starsky looked back and met Huggy’s eyes.  The expression on his face was all Huggy needed to convince him to follow Starsky up the stairs to the spare room.

 

˜ 

 

If anyone had been able to watch the scenario as it played out, they wouldn’t have needed to hear what was said to realize some unthinkable tragedy had struck the lives of the two friends.  The grief and sorrow that drained the life out of Starsky was evident in every move, every gesture he made.  He pulled two chairs to face each other, then sat down and offered the slim black man a glass.  After Starsky poured whiskey in the glasses, he tipped his, indicating Huggy should drink as well.  Leaning forward, his elbows propped up on his thighs as though he could no longer bear his own weight, Starsky spoke, his overwhelming loss etched on his face.

 

Huggy’s face became a mask of rage as he hurled the glass across the room, shattering it against the wall.  The slender man sprung up out of his chair and paced the room, ranting, demanding answers that his friend could not give.  Finally, Huggy ended up near the wall, where he leaned against it with one hand, giving into his grief and tears.

 

Mechanically, Starsky poured himself another glass of whiskey, downing it in one drink.  A second one followed, then he stood slowly and crossed to the bed.  Setting the bottle on the floor next to it, Starsky lay down, moving as though his entire body ached. 

 

After a moment, Huggy pulled a corner of the bedspread over the still, but not yet sleeping form.  Starsky stared at the wall, engrossed in his own private hell.  Huggy hesitated to speak, searching desperately for some small measure of comfort to offer his friend.  So he just gave up, knowing there would never be anything he, or anyone else, could say that could ease the other’s pain and rage. 

 

Silently, Huggy left the room and closed the door behind him, leaving Starsky to grieve.

 

˜ 

 

The next morning, Starsky met the Hutchinsons at the airport, wearing the same clothes he had worn the day before and, surprisingly, had slept in for a few hours at Huggy’s.  He was met with consuming grief by Hutch’s mother, and stony, bitter silence from his father. 

 

Starsky drove the two to their hotel, where Dobey met them.  The captain briefed them on their son’s “case” and again offered his condolences.  He also assigned them a departmental clerk, who would later act as their chauffeur and assistant, as they made the necessary arrangements for their son’s funeral. 

 

Initially, Richard Hutchinson had demanded his son’s body be taken back to Minnesota to be buried in the family plot.  But a quiet plea from Starsky had swayed Hutch’s mother that he remain in California at a gravesite reserved for officers killed in the line of duty.  Muriel consented, understanding that her son had grown to love the West Coast and had come to call Bay City home. 

 

Richard was angry enough to argue his point, but his bitterness won out—blaming his son for his own death by continuing in the profession the older man had abhorred—and he gave up the fight.   

 

After Hutch’s parents were registered, Starsky continued on to the station.  Jameson had promised an expedient autopsy and gave his word that Starsky would also receive a copy of the report, even though two other detective teams were officially heading up the investigation.  Dobey knew he could never justify to IA or the chief allowing Starsky to remain on Hutch’s case, but he also knew that no amount of persuasion or threats would deter Starsky from looking for his partner’s killer.

 

Again, Starsky slipped up the back stairwell of Metro, avoiding as many people and their condolences as possible.  Once he reached his floor, he all but ran down the hallway, keeping his eyes forward, and not meeting the pitying gazes of his co-workers.  Inside the squadroom, his fellow detectives immediately assailed him.  But when they started to offer their sympathy, Starsky raised his hand to cut them off and nodded, acknowledging their kindness without letting it permeate his fragile control and focus. 

 

Starsky slipped past them to the desks he and Hutch had shared.  He paused for a moment, pulling a tight rein on his emotions, and lowered himself in his chair.  Almost reverently, he rested his hands on the open cardboard box containing Hutch’s personal effects that had been sent up from the morgue, and a copy of the coroner’s report as promised.  It was a testimony to Hutch’s sacrifice that the information was already available, in that the coroner would have had to stay up the entire night to complete it so quickly.

 

Feeling his eyes beginning to burn, Starsky looked past the box, his gaze scanning the empty desk across from him.  Someone had placed a framed picture of Hutch there, a black silk ribbon tied across it to honor their slain friend and fellow detective. 

 

Starsky forced himself to swallow and look away.  Dobey’s office door was open, indicating that the captain was out.  Starsky snatched up the box and quickly entered the small room, shutting the door behind him. 

 

Shakily placing the box on the edge of the desk, he sat behind it.  Somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to sit in either of the leather chairs where he and Hutch had been so many times before, receiving an assignment—or a reprimand—from their captain and friend, brainstorming a case, or just killing time. 

 

Desperate to touch a bit of Hutch’s life rather than read the grim details of his death, the coroner’s report was laid aside.  Starsky scrubbed his eyes before he drew out Hutch’s billfold, the worn leather smooth in his hand.  He opened it, both in the event that there was any evidence or clues to be gleaned, and for his own sense of comfort.  There was nothing unusual inside—twenty-two dollars, a credit card Hutch never used, his driver’s license, a few pictures.  At the very back of the photo sleeve was a picture of the two of them, taken the day they graduated from the Academy.  They both wore huge pride-filled grins, ready to take on the world.  Savoring the photograph, Starsky felt very old. 

 

Laying aside the wallet, he reverently drew out Hutch’s badge and opened it.  The dull gleam of the shield made his heart catch in this throat.  Quickly, he stuck the badge and wallet in his pocket.

 

More metal shone from within the box.  Hutch’s pocket watch—an heirloom from his grandfather—beckoned him next.  Starsky opened the piece, amazed that it still ran after all the beatings it had taken over the years.  He then hooked the chain to his belt loop and tucked the watch into his pants pocket.

 

Hutch’s tiger-eye ring was slipped onto his index finger, too large for the fourth.  The favorite mother-of-pearl moon and star necklace Starsky also hooked around his neck, where it intertwined with the leather cord of his Chinese coins.  Hutch’s shirt lay on top of his slacks, shorts, loafers, and socks, and Starsky pulled out the plaid oxford.  The material of the collar was rough and stained.  A crusted substance had been flaked away by the lab for sampling, and he guessed it was whatever Hutch had been cooking, and had perhaps been the cause of the second-degree burns on the side of his face and throat.

 

Some darker stains lay on the front of the shirt, which Starsky determined were most likely blood.  It was no small comfort that the size of the stains didn’t indicate a fatal wound.  Nothing else appeared to be out of the ordinary with the rest of Hutch’s clothes, and he returned them to the box. 

 

Picking up the coroner’s report, he tried to force himself to focus—compel himself to think like the detective he was—in order to absorb the information before him.  The more he could learn about the circumstances of Hutch’s murder, the better chance he had of catching the killers and exacting justice.  Or vengeance.  Right now, he was leaning toward the latter.

 

Starsky had to steady the paper with both hands as he read the cold matter-of-fact details of the state of his partner’s body.  He couldn’t bring himself to think of it as a “corpse.”  He first turned his attention to the statement at the beginning of the document, listing the cause of death: suffocation.  He shut his eyes and forced himself to draw a breath against the roaring in his head.  It took a supreme effort to shove away the scenario his tired mind painted of Hutch’s last struggle, desperately trying to breathe, being mercilessly overpowered, the final, inevitable realization that he was going to die—alone.

 

His vision began to tunnel as he continued to read the gruesome details: the percent of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and oxygen in Hutch’s blood, the contents of Hutch’s stomach, the remaining units of blood, the weight of his brain...

 

He fled the office, pounding down the hallway to the men’s room where he threw up violently again and again, even after emptying his stomach.  Exhausted, he climbed up from where he had fallen to his knees and made his way to the sink to rinse out his mouth. 

 

Drying his face with a handful of paper towels, Starsky rubbed the grit out of his eyes and looked into the mirror.  The haunted face that stared back at him was that of a stranger, and he knew nothing in his life was ever going to be the same again.

 

The bile had left an acrid taste in his mouth, and he dug through his pockets, searching for a mint.  He finally came up with a half-empty roll of lifesavers and a note stuck to the candy at the end. 

 

Starsk—we need to talk.  I’m pretty close to having all the evidence we need and can wrap this up.  Hell of a way to make a living, huh?  Maybe when this is all over, we should just call it quits and go rob banks in Bolivia—what do you think?

 

There was no signature, but he knew the handwriting as well as his own.  Thinking back, Starsky decided that Hutch must have gotten Huggy or someone to slip the note into his pocket a few days before the arrest, where it had stayed unnoticed until then.  Starsky felt his rage returning, sweeping over him and burying his grief.  But this time, his anger was directed at Hutch rather than his partner’s killers or himself.  His eyes locked with the reflection in the mirror. 

 

“Why didn’t you listen to me, Hutch?”  His voice started low, then rose in volume and intensity as he unleashed the anger he shamefully harbored against his partner.  “If you’d gotten out when I wanted you to...if you’d listened to me for a change, then maybe you’d still be here!  Maybe then I wouldn’t have to go through the rest of my life hating myself for not being there when you needed me!” 

 

He had moved without thinking and his reflection in the mirror fragmented crazily as the glass spider-webbed.  Starsky stared at the multiple images numbly until the pain in his hand intensified and he sensed the warm dampness of blood.  He raised his hand as if surprised to see the injury.  Blood dripped onto the cement floor until Starsky shook himself out of his daze and rinsed off his hand in the sink, then wrapped a few paper towels around the wound.  

 

As he moved toward the door, a uniformed officer entered, prompted by the sound of shouting and glass breaking.  “What happened in here?”

 

“Don’t know.  Somebody must’ve broke the mirror.”  Starsky shook his head as he made his escape.

 

˜ 

 

Officer Minnie Kaplan stood at the back door of Dobey’s office and peered inside, her heart breaking at the sight before her.  Starsky had returned to the captain’s chair, the plain cardboard box on the desk before him.  He was hunched over, his head resting in one hand while he stared sightlessly at the floor.  His other hand was cradled carefully in his lap and was wrapped in a blood-spattered paper towel.  To the slim female officer, he looked like a man who had just about reached his limit.

 

Unsure of how to approach the detective, Minnie decided her first concern should be the injury on his hand.  She hurried to the nearest first-aid box and opened it briefly, searching through the contents for anything she might be able to use.  Confused, she settled on closing the box and taking the whole thing with her.  She could decide what she needed when she saw for herself what the paper towel was hiding.

 

Noisily clearing her throat, she swept into Dobey’s office and placed the first-aid box on the desk.  Hands on hips, she turned to face the dejected man sitting before her.  “So, Starsky,” she began nonchalantly, leaning her weight against the edge of the desk.  “What have you done to yourself this time?”

 

Starsky slowly raised his head to look at her, his eyes reflecting pain and confusion.  “What?” he asked softly.

 

“Your hand, darlin’.  If it wasn’t for that paper towel, you’d probably be bleeding all over the floor right now.  Why don’t you let me take a look at it?”  She held out her hand expectantly, and Starsky raised his injured hand obediently.  Minnie knelt on the floor and gently unwound the paper towels, careful not to cause her friend any undue pain.  “What happened?”

 

Starsky looked at her blankly.  “Just blowing off steam, I guess.  Trying to get it to all make sense.”

 

Minnie felt the sting of hot tears prick the back of her eyes.  She studied the injured hand before her, and pulling the first-aid kit off the desk, she laid it on the floor and opened the lid.  “It doesn’t look too bad,” she said, trying to keep her mind focused on the task at hand and her voice light.  “Got a few ugly cuts here, though.  Let’s see if I can find something to fix this up.”  She rummaged around and finally came up with some antiseptic cream, a roll of gauze, a small bottle of peroxide, and several cotton balls.  She tipped the bottle of peroxide to moisten the cotton balls, and gently began wiping the wound.  In her heart, she knew Starsky needed a lot more than just a quick fix job on his injured hand.  But she also realized no one could give him what he needed most—his partner. 

 

As she worked, Minnie looked up at Starsky.  His face was an unreadable mask, but his pain radiated off him in waves.  His demeanor was quiet, almost to the point of meekness, but there was an underlying current of something far more volatile and frantic.  His hand trembled under her touch, and she knew it had nothing to do with the sting of the antiseptic.

 

“Sorry, honey,” Minnie said gently, as she wrapped clean gauze around Starsky’s hand and fastened the end with a small piece of tape.  “Hope I didn’t hurt you too bad.”

 

“It’s okay,” Starsky replied.  “I didn’t really feel it.”

 

Minnie picked up the scattered packages around her and, getting up off her knees, crossed the room to throw them in the trashcan.  She heard Starsky rise from his seat and, when she turned, saw he was standing at the windows, staring out at the afternoon sunshine.  She closed the space between them in three hurried strides and touched him gently on the arm.

 

“Starsky?”  No one more than three feet away could have possibly heard her strangled whisper.

 

Starsky turned to look at Minnie, his face beginning to crumple.  “Not yet, Minnie,” he managed to choke out.  Please.”

 

As much as she wanted to honor her friend’s wishes, Minnie found it impossible to leave.  Years of working with Starsky and Hutch had left her with fierce feelings of love and protectiveness toward them, and those feelings rose to the surface in waves as she watched the man in front of her slowly fall apart.  So, instead, she walked over to the slightly open office door and shut it firmly.

 

“I can’t leave just yet, Starsky.  I don’t think you should be alone right now.”  She slowly approached the grieving man, her arms outstretched in invitation.  “I know you’re hurting, honey, we all are.  And I know nobody can ever give back to you what you’ve lost.  But, please, Starsky, please don’t shut me out.  I couldn’t bear to lose both of you.” 

 

Wordlessly, Starsky closed the small space between them and wrapped his arms around Minnie, giving and receiving much-needed comfort and strength.  Had anyone witnessed the scene, it would have been impossible to tell which of the friends was giving and which was receiving consolation.

 

˜ 

 

A short time later, Dobey walked into his office and stopped abruptly.  “Minnie,” he said, surprised.  “What are you doing here?  Did we have a meeting I forgot about?”

 

Minnie turned around, startled, and took another swipe at the traces of tears still lingering on her cheeks.  “Oh, no, sir.  I was just talking to Starsky.  He left right before you walked in.”

 

“Did you see which way he went?”  The captain ran a hand across his face.  “I need to talk to him about...”  His voice trailed off as he spotted the first-aid kit lying on his desk.  “Are you hurt?”

 

“No, sir.  Starsky needed some gauze, and I was helping him out.  I’ll put it back right away.”

 

“The mirror in the men’s room.”  He nodded knowingly.  “Was he hurt?”

 

“Um...”  Minnie debated how much to reveal.  She couldn’t lie to her superior, but she also did not want to compromise the trust of her friend.  “He had a few scratches on his hand.”

 

“I see,” Dobey replied, sitting heavily in his chair. 

 

Minnie stared silently at the captain, waiting for him to continue.  She couldn’t recall ever seeing him so tired and frustrated, his concern for Starsky and grief over Hutch’s death depleting his energy.  She remembered a number of times when the detectives’ antics had caused him some consternation and a few bouts with high blood pressure, but this was different.  This was permanent and nothing that could be remedied by medication.

 

Dobey sighed and looked up at Minnie, eyes full of compassion.  “I don’t know what to do for him, Minnie.”  His eyes took on a faraway look.  “It’s broken, and I don’t know if it can ever be fixed.”

 

Minnie looked at him, not understanding.  “The mirror’s no big deal—”

 

“I don’t mean the mirror.”

 

˜ 

 

Standing on the corner of the sidewalk, Mickey appeared either terribly nervous, or up to something.  The man’s perpetual shaking made him a lousy pickpocket—one of his former professions—but the tremors now gave him an air of harmlessness that aided him in hustling the occasional buck, or getting information to feed to the highest bidder.  Peering down the street, watching for a minor numbers’ runner he’d planned to feed some information for a quick twenty, Mickey was completely taken by surprise when several tons of red and white steel drove up over the curb, missing him by mere inches.  Mickey backpedaled until he was stopped by the wall of the liquor store behind him.  He was further driven into the bricks by the fury in Starsky’s eyes.

 

“Tell me something.”

 

Mickey’s lungs constricted in fear, cutting off his air.  “I don’t know nothin’, Starsky, honest!  I haven’t heard a thing.  There’s nothin’, I swear!”

 

Starsky leaned back away from the smaller man, but the rage in his eyes never diminished.  “You mean to tell me that the cop who was responsible for getting more pieces of scum off the street than any other officer in the history of Bay City is killed, and no one’s talking?  How stupid do you think I am, Mickey?” 

 

“No!  I don’t think...I mean, I didn’t say you were stupid, Starsky!”

 

“So, don’t jerk me around.”  Starsky leaned toward him until his face was a mere inch away.  “Talk to me.”

 

Mickey put up his hands defensively, feeling the unspoken threat as surely as if Starsky held a gun to his head.  “Look, I...I may know somethin’, but I don’t know if it’s related or not, okay?”

 

When Starsky still didn’t say anything, or even blink, Mickey rushed on.  “My friend—the one who blabbed to me about Hutch’s cover being blown—he told me somethin’.”

 

“What friend?”

 

“Aw, Starsky, c’mon.  You know I can’t reveal my sources.”

 

Starsky open-hand slapped the bricks right next to Mickey’s head, causing him to flinch away.  He grabbed the smaller man and violently forced him back in front of him. 

 

“Okay, okay.  Rupert...Rupert Jones.  He started working for Vic Monte about a year and a half ago.  He told me he was supposed to do some work with these new guys out of Singapore.  Something to do with a new horse connection.” 

 

“What else does this Rupert know?”

 

“I don’t know, I swear!  C’mon, Starsky, that’s all I got, honest.  Didn’t I do good, telling Huggy Bear that Hutch’s cover had been blown?  Doesn’t that tell you how sincere I am?”

 

Starsky’s eyes narrowed as he growled his response.  “Too little, too late.  For all I know, you found out that Hutch was undercover and sold him out to Monte, then told me to cover your weasely little backside.”

 

Mickey’s eyes bulged as he began to tremble harder.  “No, no, no!  You got it all wrong, Starsky!  I really did try to do you two a favor after I screwed up with that Forest thing!  I swear on my mother’s eyes, Starsky!”

 

Starsky studied the other man for a few tense moments, making Mickey shrink under the scrutiny.  The set of Starsky’s jaw danced under his gritted teeth.  “I want Vic Monte.”

 

“You think he had Hutch killed?”

 

“Probably.  But even if he didn’t, Hutch...Hutch died trying to bring him down.  I’m gonna finish this, and you’re gonna get me what I need.”

 

“Whoa, wait a minute, Starsky, back up.  What makes you think I’ve got anything on Vic Monte?”

 

Starsky took a step back and crossed his arms.  “Maybe you don’t.  But I’ll bet your life on the fact that your buddy, Rupert Jones, does.”

 

Mickey’s eyes bulged.  “You’re nuts!  You think Rupert’s gonna sell out Vic Monte?” 

 

Starsky nodded once.  “Yes.  And you’re gonna help him do it.”

 

“No...no, no, no, no!  There’s no way I’d fink out Vic Monte.  He’d kill me in a heartbeat!”

 

“Look, dirtbag, you’re dead either way, because if you don’t help me, I’m going to let Vic Monte know, in no uncertain terms, that you tipped off the cops that Hutch’s cover was blown!”

 

“You wouldn’t!”

 

The expression on Starsky’s face assured Mickey he would, and with a great deal of satisfaction.  Mickey didn’t think it was possible for him to tremble any harder.  “Okay, all right.  What do you want me to do?”

 

˜ 

 

The rest of Starsky’s day was divided between tracking down some of his other contacts on the street and reviewing the case with the two teams working on Hutch’s case.  He was grateful when it was suggested they meet somewhere other than the station.  Starsky struggled between finding some comfort in the condolences from so many people that liked and respected Hutch, and his own raging grief that threatened to spill over whenever anyone reached out to him.

 

The four detectives went over the evidence and leads with Starsky in a respectful, matter-of-fact manner that made it easier for him to take it all in and process.  Starsky again reviewed with them the details of the Vic Monte sting Hutch had been on. 

 

When they parted, Starsky was told McMillian had been looking for him earlier, and to check in later that afternoon.  Starsky thanked the men for their determination in tracking down Hutch’s killer as he left.  If these men had known him better, they would have realized Starsky’s acceptance of letting them head up the investigation was an act, and that, in reality, he would do everything in his power to see that justice was served¾ Starsky style.

 

Starsky turned the Torino off the freeway, heading away from Metro.  He would check in with McMillian later, but first, he had to meet with the Hutchinsons to plan his partner’s funeral.

 

˜ 

 

Chapter Seven