Hutch bombed into the bullpen, flinging a manila folder in front of her startled partner without a word, her eyes snapping with anger.
“What’s this?” Starsky asked even as he opened it and scanned the contents. “…1977 tax returns… so?”
“So?” she spluttered. “So?!? So I can’t fill them out!”
Starsky blinked. “Of course you can, you helped me do mine last week---“
“That’s not the problem!” She fished out the form and threw it onto the desk. ”This is!” She tapped the form with a now-tapered forefinger.
One glance and Starsky understood the problem. “Oh, hell.”
“Yeah, oh, hell!” Blowing the air out of her cheeks, Hutch sank into a chair. “There is no way I can justifiably fill out records for Ken Hutchinson! Not any more!”
Starsky leaned over and laid a hand on her forearm. “Hey… we’ll figure somethin’ out.” He smiled. “We always have before.”
“But Starsk, this is the Federal Government. I don’t want to go to jail for tax fraud!”
“It’s only fraud if you try to cheat. You’re not tryin’ to cheat the Feds, you’re tryin’ to pay them. That’s a huge difference.”
“Still,” Hutch heaved a sigh.
“Look,” Starsky said, pushing the paperwork toward her. “Just pay them. And try not to worry.”
Hutch tilted her head. “Just pay them. And what happens if I get audited, huh?”
At that moment, Dobey’s bellowed ”STARSKY! HUTCHINSON! MY OFFICE! NOW!” rang across the bullpen.
“Looks like tax troubles will have to wait,” Hutch grumbled as she followed Starsky into the office.
“What’s up, Cap’n?” Starsky asked as he helped himself to coffee as Hutch closed the door and sat down in front of the desk.
“Oh, yes,” a new voice all but purred. “Oh, she’ll be perfect.”
Two sets of blue eyes snapped to the man in jeans and a sweatshirt leaning on the windowsill. He had a triumphant grin on his face and his eyes raked Hutch’s form. “Perfect, indeed.”
Hutch squirmed, uncomfortable with the scrutiny. She got the distinct feeling she was being mentally undressed. “Uh…Captain?”
For his part, Starsky was glaring daggers at the newcomer. He’d crushed the paper cup and coffee had spilled all over his hand, but he didn’t even notice. He’d taken an instant and almost violent dislike to this man. “What the hell is goin’ on, Cap’n?”
Dobey sighed. “This is Lieutenant Danvers, from Vice. And, as I told him, I agree to nothing without your input.”
“Vice?” Starsky scowled. “We’re Homicide, not—“
“Starsk, your hand!” Hutch was on her feet and by his side in seconds, unfolding her handkerchief and blotting the coffee up.
Danvers nodded, filing this away. “Yes, but we need Homicide’s help. There’s been a rash of murders on the East side.”
“I read about those,” Hutch said, praying the crushed cup from Starsky’s fist and dropping it in the wastebasket. “Dancers and hookers.”
Starsky nodded, never looking away from Danvers. “Yeah, but I still don’t see how this ties in with us.”
“Simple,” Danvers smiled. “We need an inside woman.” His eyes resumed their leer of Hutch. “And it was recommended that Ms. Hutchinson be that decoy.”
“Not by me,” Dobey was quick to put in. “I disagreed with this.”
“Why her/me?” Starsky and Hutch asked together.
Danvers took a step towards Hutch. “Isn’t it obvious, Sergeant? You’re the prettiest detective in the entire department.”
As that statement hung in the air, Starsky stepped forward, his body between Danvers and Hutch. "What. Did. You. Say?" he asked, his voice cold.
Danvers raised his hands. "Just callin' 'em like I see 'em," he tried to placate.
"Yeah?" It didn't work. If anything, it made Starsky madder. "Well, seems to me you've been callin' things wrong here, bucko! That's my partner you've been ogling since we walked in here!"
"Starsky...." Hutch began, jerking on his sleeve.
Starsky waved her off and moved forward again, till he was nose to nose with the stunned Vice cop. "Well let me tell you somethin', mister eyes! That is more than the prettiest detective in the precinct! She is a human being!"
"Starsky!" Hutch's voice was more urgent now.
"And if you think, for one minute, I'm gonna let you get away with your pompous, arrogant--"
"Starsky!" shouted right in his ear.
"What?" he turned and heaved a sigh as he saw her face. "I'm goin' for a walk," he snarled as he headed for the door. "I can't stand to be breathin' the same air he is."
Dobey finally found his voice. "Starsky, I haven't dismissed you yet!"
"Tough!" Starsky called over his shoulder as he slammed the door.
Hutch shot them a helpless look as she ran after him.
Dobey sighed. "Great. Just great."
"Yes...." Danvers murmured. "Yes, she is...."
Dobey frowned at him, an uneasy feeling pricking his spine.
Hutch shoved open the door and bombed into the locker room. Dropping down onto the bench beside Starsky, she laid her hand on his arm. “Mind telling me what that was all about?”
Starsky whirled, his eyes huge in disbelief. “What the hell are you doing in here?”
She folded her arms over her stomach and fixed him with a glare. “What? It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve followed you in here.”
“Y-Yeah, but y-you weren’t—“
Hutch rolled her eyes. “Oh, for heaven’s sake! Starsky, will you quit?”
Starsky blinked, visibly startled. “Quit? Quit what?”
“Quit using this—“she gestured at her body, “to change the subject! What was that in Dobey’s office about?”
His eyes narrowed. “I don’t want you doin’ this.”
She frowned. “Now hold on, I haven’t said one way or the other yet!”
Starsky took one of her hands. “I can’t explain this, but I’ve got a real, real bad feelin’ ‘bout this. I don’t like Danvers. I don’t trust him. My gut’s screamin’ at me he’s up to no good.”
Hutch studied her partner’s eyes. He truly believed what he was saying – she could read that in the azure depths.
Hutch took a deep breath. “Let’s go tell Danvers we need time to think on this. We need to talk more, that’s clear.”
Starsky studied her face, and then nodded.
To say Danvers wasn’t happy would have been a gross understatement. “We don’t have time to wait while you two putz around!” he bellowed. “Lives are at stake here!”
Starsky opened his mouth, but Dobey beat him to it. “Danvers, they said they would think about it. Now leave them be, and let them think.”
Danvers’s eyes narrowed. “Fine,” he growled, stabbing a finger toward Hutch. “But if there’s another death, it’ll be on your head.” With that, he stormed out of Dobey’s office.
“Nice guy,” Starsky growled.
Starsky was awakened by an incessant pounding on his front door. He rolled over and groaned.
Six AM… on their day off….
“This had better be important,” he growled as he rolled out of bed.
The pounding grew more intense. “Starsky!” A woman’s voice rang out, shrill with distress. “STAARSKYYY!”
He froze, his eyes widening. All annoyance vanished like a switch was thrown, replaced with a cold worry. “Hutch?” Throwing on a robe, he raced to the door and flung it open.
Hutch stood there, her cerulean eyes huge and wild. Her breathing was ragged, and she was in her jogging outfit. Random strands had slipped from her loose braid and tumbled around her face willy-nilly.
“Hutch, what happened?” he asked as he pulled her inside and closed the door. He scanned her as he did so, looking for any sign of injury.
There was no visible injury, just that wild, terrified look in her eye and the trembles that wracked her body. She all but collapsed onto the couch, holding something close to her body.
He sat beside her, gently laying a hand on her back. “What is it, partner?” he asked softly.
In reply, she handed him what she held – the morning edition of the Bay City Voice. He took it and unfolded it – and everything suddenly became clear. “Oh, shit….” He whispered, seeing the headline.
MURDERER STRIKES AGAIN – HOOKER FOUND DEAD
Starsky turned back, just in time to hear Hutch’s whispered, “My fault… should’a done what he wanted….”
“Hey – hey!!” Starsky forced her chin up. “Look at me. Listen to me! This was not your fault. This wasn’t anybody’s fault but the sicko!”
She shook her head gently. “If I’d have just gone undercover—“
“That might have been you.” Seeing he finally had her attention, he nodded. “He was a little too eager for you to go undercover. I say we find this killer ourselves.”
Slowly, Hutch shook her head. “But it’s Vice’s case—“
“Danvers said it himself – he wanted you. You’re Homicide. That makes it Homicide’s too. We’re just doin’ what he asked us to do.” He smiled his crooked smile. “Our way.”
At last, Hutch began to smile, too. “Our way. I like the sound of that.”
“Thought you might.” He petted her knee and stood up. “Let me get dressed, then I’ll drive you home so you can do the same.” “
Then what?” she called to his back.
“Then we go talk to Dobey.” He paused in the doorway. “By the way, how’re your taxes coming?”
With a groan, she keeled over on the couch. “Still trying to figure it out.”
He smiled again. “You will. I know you will. Call Dobey and Huggy, huh?”
“Huggy? Info?” she called as the door closed.
“And breakfast!” he called back.
“Figures,” Hutch chuckled as she picked up the phone.
Starsky sat in Hutch’s apartment, looking over the paper while she changed. There was a distinctive rap on the door, and he smiled as he got up and opened it. “Tell me you brought breakfast!”
Huggy Bear laughed as he sauntered in. “Of course, of course! When has The Bear ever let his main curly one down, huh?” He set several bags down and began unloading them. “Four Huggy Bear Breakfast Especiales – sausage, eggs, French toast and fruit for Blondie, milk, and –“ he lifted out a thermos, “coffee!”
By now, Starsky’s mouth was watering. “Four, Hug?”
“One for you, one for the beauteous blonde, one for me, and one for the Marshall.” The smile faded slightly. “He is on the way, yeah?”
Unlike with Danvers, there was no trace of outrage at his description of Hutch – this was Huggy Bear, after all. Starsky knew it was just Huggy being himself. He nodded. “We called him right after we got here.”
“Mm, that better be French toast that I smell!” Hutch called as she entered the kitchen, smiling. “Hi, Huggy.”
“Well, you look like a million bucks!” was Huggy’s enthusiastic assessment of her tasteful blue pantsuit and pale yellow blouse. He took her hands but did not kiss her cheek as he normally did his female friends, out of respect for her still adjusting. When she was ready, she’d let him know.
Hutch laughed and squeezed his hands before dropping them and turning to Starsky. “Could you help me out?”
He smiled and took the ribbon from her, motioning for her to turn around. He swiftly plaited her hair into a tight braid and was just securing it when there was a second knock on the door.
As they were both occupied, Huggy answered it. “You’re late, Marshall.”
Dobey scowled at him and he walked inside. “Brown, one of these days ---“
“Ooh, you’re gonna make me one’a your badges?” Huggy smiled and shook his head. “I already got several gigs goin….”
Dobey rolled his eyes and sighed. Looking toward Starsky and Hutch, who were busy partitioning the food, he asked, “I gather you saw the paper this morning?”
Hutch froze for a second, her face paling as she set down the plate of French toast. “Yeah,” she said, her voice shaky and soft. “We saw.”
Dobey nodded. “And I hope your partner pounded it into your thick skull that this was not your fault.”
Surprised, Hutch’s head snapped up, her eyes wide. Starsky chuckled and rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. “Tried to, at any rate,” he told Dobey.
“Well, it’s not,” Dobey said forcefully. “And you two have been unofficially assigned to the case.”
Hutch frowned. “Un-officially?”
Dobey nodded. “I called Captain Hastings in Vice. There never was an undercover operation headed by Danvers.”
“I knew it!” Starsky burst out.
Hutch shook her head. “Then why was he so intent that I --“
“We don’t know – yet,” Dobey growled.
Huggy frowned. “Well, why ain’t you grabbed this guy and asked him?”
“Nothing we’d love more, Brown,” Dobey sighed. “But we can’t do that.”
“Why the hell not?” Huggy blew. “Cause sleazeball’s a cop?”
“No. Because Danvers has gone missing.”
With those words, the case took a decided turn for the strange. Breakfast was gulped down, Huggy was ordered to lock up, and the partners raced to the Torino they’d arrived in.
Dobey watched from the window, a proud smile on his face. Huggy grinned and set to cleaning up the breakfast debris.
“Take care o’each other, you two,” Huggy breathed.
“What’ve you got?” Hutch asked as she sat down and handed her oddly pale partner some coffee.
“Somethin’ I don’t really wanna face,” he sighed, wiping his face.
Hutch frowned and looked over a file. “Wow… he was none too gentle with her, was he?”
Starsky shook his head. “That’s not it. We gotta find Danvers and fast.”
“How come it’s so urgent?”
“There’s been five murders. Five hookers dead. Every one was between five-seven and five-eleven. Every one had long blonde hair and blue eyes.”
Hutch studied the files. “Yes…”
“Hutch, how tall are you?”
Startled at what seemed like a change of subject, Hutch looked up at her partner. “Five-eight…why?”
For answer, Starsky flipped over five pictures. Every one of the victims, in happier times.
Hutch’s spine ran cold. “Starsky – every one of them look….”
“Like you,” he whispered.
Her long braid swayed as she shook her head. “Well…this would explain why he wanted me to go under…”
“Only problem is, there wasn’t any undercover operation going on.” Starsky leaned forward, tapping a photograph. “Which begs the question – what was he really up to?”
Her eyes widened. “You’re not suggesting that Danvers –“
“Hutch, these women look like you. He was very hot and heavy to get you. He all but threatened you, and then after a fifth murder, he vanishes.”
Hutch sighed and rubbed her aching forehead. “I don’t believe this… I do not freakin’ believe this…. Okay, say Danvers is involved. What’s the motive?”
“I don’t know yet.” Starsky stood up. “But we’re gonna find out.”
Hutch walked down to Vice and smiled at the desk clerk. “Hi, Judy.”
“Hey, Kay,” came the reply. Since Hutch could no longer go by her given name of Ken, she’d chosen after Valentine’s Day to go by her initial. People automatically expanded it to ‘Kay’. “What’s going on?”
Hutch sat down and leaned forward slightly. “Think you can scrounge up an address for me?”
“Depends on whose it is,” Judy smiled.
“One of your detectives – Danvers.”
Judy nodded. “The two of you workin’ with him, then?”
“Something like that.”
She moved to her files and copied it onto a card. “Here you go, Kay. Bit unusual, though, isn’t it?”
Frowning, Hutch took the card. “Say what?”
Judy nodded at the card. “For Dobey to assign you to help him while he’s unreachable.”
Hutch blinked. “Unreachable?”
“He’s been on vacation for a few days now.”
Blue eyes widened and Hutch turned the card over and over in her hands. “Uhm….Judy…..would you mind if I took a peek at his file?”
Judy hesitated. “I’m not really supposed to… I’ve done enough by giving you his address….”
“All I want is to see his picture.”
At that, Judy’s tense shoulders lowered and she smiled. “Now that I can do.” She lifted a spare ID badge from the file and handed it to Hutch.
Hutch studied it, her eyes narrowing in puzzled anger. It was the same man, there was no doubt about it.
Judy was a good friend, honest as the day was long. If she said Danvers was on vacation, then as far as she knew, he was on vacation!
But he’d been in Dobey’s office just the day before….haranguing them, furious….
What the hell was going on?
Starsky shut off the Torino and turned to his partner. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do,” Hutch said, her jaw set and her eyes blazing. “This is too strange for me. I have to know what he’s got for me –“
Hutch nodded. “This whole case has turned personal. How the hookers fit into it suddenly isn’t clear. Danvers wanted me. Me. Why? Are they connected? How are they connected? Did Danvers kill those women? Where is he, why did he say he’s going on vacation when he was in Dobey’s office?” She let out a groan and leaned back in the seat. “Too damn many questions.”
“And not enough answers.” Starsky nodded. “All right – let’s go see if we can get some.”
The pair walked to Danvers’ apartment. Starsky knocked. “Danvers! Open up!”
He pounded. “DANVERS! Open the door NOW!”
Drawing his gun, Starsky nodded to Hutch, who drew hers and flattened against the wall. Starsky tried the door, and found it locked. Taking a deep breath, he kicked the door in.
“GAH!” Hutch gagged, grabbing her handkerchief and holding it to her nose and mouth.
“Yeah,” Starsky gagged as well, stepping into the apartment and threw the windows open to try to air it out.
For her part, Hutch moved through the apartment, looking for anything – ready for anything. She cautiously opened the bedroom door.
“STARSKY!” she called, whirling around and losing her meager lunch.
Starsky ran to her side, peering into the bedroom. “…holy….”
Lieutenant Danvers from Bay City Vice lay on the bed. From the odor, he’d been dead for days.
Hutch climbed to her feet. “Shit – losin’ it like some rookie….”
Starsky rubbed her shoulder. “This’s enough to make anyone lose it.”
She shook her head. “This case gets more and more bizarre. Let’s get out of here, call Dobey—“
“C’mon,” Starsky agreed and they left the apartment. Reaching the Torino, Starsky lifted the mic. “Central, this is Zebra-3. Patch me through to Dobey, will you?”
A moment later, Dobey’s voice barked, “Starsky, where the hell are you?”
“Nice to hear from you, too,” Starsky quipped, and Hutch shook her head.
Dobey barked, “I’ve got Danvers in my office right now. You two get back here and get this thing hashed out once and for all!”
Starsky and Hutch’s eyes met. “Repeat, Cap’n?” Starsky spluttered. “Danvers is in your office now?”
“I’m sitting here looking at him!”
“Roger, Cap’n, we’ll be right there.” He cut the connection. “All right, that’s not possible….”
Hutch pointed at the apartment. “Well, he sure as hell isn’t going anywhere!”
“Call the coroner,” Starsky said as he climbed into the Torino. “Stay here till they get here.”
“Wait! Where’re you…”
He turned the engine over. “I’m gonna find out once and for all what’s goin’ on.” He reached down to put the Torino in gear.
As the striped car peeled away from the curb, Hutch jumped headfirst into the window.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” Starsky gasped.
Grunting with effort, she turned around and got herself situated in the front seat. “You didn’t honestly think I’d let you go alone!” She picked up the mic and called a coroner’s van to the address.
Starsky pointed the Torino toward Police Headquarters, grinning all the while.
That’s my girl….