Striped Tomato (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There was a wavering but increasingly steady tapping coming from the other side of the closed door. Hutch hesitated before entering his partner's apartment, recognizing the sound of a typewriter. The mental picture of Starsky pecking his way through filling out report forms made Hutch snicker at the thought of him seriously typing anything on his own time. Carving it out of stone with a fist hatchet would be faster, Hutch thought to himself, snickering a little.
He gave into curiosity and opened the door. Starsky didn't even look up from where he was hunched at his desk, laboriously making his way through the page that curled, half finished, out of the dilapidated old typewriter.
"Hey, buddy, what're you doing?" Hutch broke the silence, and Starsky jumped in his chair at the sound.
"Didn't hear you come in." He turned away from his task and looked up to meet Hutch's inquisitive gaze. "I'm finally gonna do it."
"Write that book I've been talking about. You know--about all our cases?"
"You're not serious?"
"Why not? People would be interested in this stuff. Maybe it'll make us rich."
Hutch was a little amused, and touched, at the way Starsky always spoke in the plural about his get-rich schemes. Maybe it'll make us rich. Maybe he didn't deserve all the teasing he usually got from his more level-headed partner.
"How's it coming?" Hutch asked, finally craning his neck over Starsky's shoulder to investigate.
"It's a work in progress," Starsky responded, covering the page with his hand. "I don't know as it's very good anyway. I just got started last night."
There were several finished pages next to the typewriter, a small pile considering his partner looked like he had been hunched there all night.
"Maybe writing it out would be easier," Hutch suggested, sitting at the kitchen table and taking a bran muffin out of the bag he had brought from the donut shop a few blocks away. Starsky's chocolate donut waited in the bottom of the bag for its owner to abandon his literary pursuits. "You got any coffee on?" Hutch looked hopefully toward the kitchen counter.
"I did last night, but I think I drank it all."
"You've been at this all night?"
"I got some ideas, and I couldn't sleep, so it seemed like the thing to do. I was never too good in English Comp, so I figured I better work on it while I had the inspiration. I just wish it flowed more."
"If you want me to read it--"
"Nah. You'd probably laugh--Dobey doesn't like my writing style too well either." Starsky got up with a degree of defeat in his demeanor. He dug into the bag for the donut he knew would be waiting there and took a bite. "Maybe you were right."
"You're the intellectual half of this team, not me." He returned to the desk and tossed a clear plastic cover over the typewriter. Hutch recognized the ugly machine as one the department had discarded as it started phasing in the electrics. Man, those machines were a trip to get used to, Hutch smirked to himself. Just when I got one of these things mastered, they go and change everything again. Every time I look at a key, it seems like the letter's on the page. Unless I try to type without remembering to turn it on first, he mused. He realized his flight of fancy on typewriters was an avoidance of Starsky's remark. Maybe I can be a little cruel when I tease him sometimes, Hutch thought.
"I was joking about that, Starsk. Not much gets past you, partner." Hutch continued chewing on his bite of muffin. Starsky sat across the table from him.
"Seriously? You think I'm smart?" The question was completely innocent, no trace of sarcasm in the dark blue eyes that were regarding Hutch so seriously.
"Of course you're smart," Hutch retorted, almost annoyed in his tone. Maybe I've been putting the guy down long enough that he really thinks I think he's dumb. Maybe he's starting to believe me... "Starsk, don't you know the difference between when I'm teasing you and I'm serious?" Oh, great, another implication that he isn't as perceptive as he should be. Open mouth, insert foot, Hutchinson, Hutch chided himself silently.
"Oh, sure." Starsky looked at his watch, as if the concept of time were just occurring to him. "Damn. We're gonna be late again." He got up and headed for the door, with Hutch close on his heels.
"If we ever show up on time, Dobey'll think we're early."
It was a dull day at best, cruising the streets, taking a few routine calls they could have left to black and white units. The weather was at least cooperating, with temperatures in the seventies and a nice breeze making its way through the open windows of the Torino. After lunch at a drive-in restaurant, they returned to the precinct to catch up on a little paperwork.
Hutch noticed his partner's typing skills were beginning to improve from all his recent practicing. He also noticed how pensive Starsky seemed, as if he were still wrapped up in whatever he had been creating the night before. How in the hell could you go back through all that stuff and come up with something readable out of it, Hutch mused. Poison, heroin, bullet wounds, grief...who in the hell would want to read the damn thing if he did get it finished? It depressed Hutch just thinking about it. He couldn't help but express some small part of this thought to Starsky, though he had promised himself he would do nothing more to stifle his partner's creativity.
"Doesn't it get you down--going over all that stuff again?"
"Huh?" Starsky looked up from the report he was filling in. "This?"
"No, the book."
"Oh, that. Sometimes. Last night was kind of depressing I guess. Maybe it was what I was writing. I thought it was because I had all these thoughts going through my mind and my fingers wouldn't work fast enough to get them all down. Then I'd realize I forgot something and have to start over."
"You need a typist."
"What made you start on this all of a sudden?"
"I dunno. Maybe I thought we should record all this somewhere. You know, like it meant something? Like getting shot or losing Terry or Gillian really meant something important...in history...so when we're dead, somebody still might think about all of it. Maybe I wanted to see if there was any meaning in it myself."
"I gave up on trying to find any meaning in this a long time ago."
"The misery that goes with it. If you're religious, you can say suffering's good, and you'll get to heaven faster. If you're not, you just suffer."
"Maybe when I get done with this I'll figure out what it's good for. Maybe I should forget the whole dumb thing. God knows I'm no Shakespeare." He looked back at the report and scowled. "Damn typos." He returned the form to a particular spot and looked satisfied with himself that he had adequately disguised it by typing the correct letter over the top.
"Starsky!" Dobey bellowed from his office. They waited for the "Hutchinson!" to follow, but it didn't. Starsky looked puzzled, shrugged at Hutch and then went to his superior's office. Dobey slammed the door shut behind Starsky, so Hutch was left to ponder the possibilities without the benefit of successful eavesdropping. Whatever it was, it didn't sound good.
About five minutes later, Starsky emerged with a pile of papers in his hand. He tossed them on the desk and sat in front of the typewriter again.
"Dobey just got around to reading the reports I did while he was on vacation."
"All that stuff on the Harper case?"
"That and a half-dozen little things we tied up."
"He wants 'em all redone and on his desk by the end of the week. This one? Too many mistakes!" He slapped the papers on the desk angrily. "This one," his voice rising, "too flowery--stick to the facts!" He slapped another document down. "And this one," his voice lowered to almost a growl, "all seven pages of it, isn't satisfactory because my freakin' margins aren't lined up!"
"Starsk, calm down. Hey, it's not that big a deal. Give 'em to me and I'll see what I can do."
"Oh that's right. I should give them to someone who knows how to do them, right? The brains of this team?" Starsky stood up and snatched his jacket off the back of the chair.
"I didn't mean it that way--I just mean maybe I could--"
"Yeah, fix it. I know. Well, have at it because I'm not doing it again!" He stormed out of the office with all the defiance of a high school kid whose been collared by the principal in front of his friends. Dobey had a reputation for demanding perfection in the reports turned in to him. He saw it as a mark of respect for the importance of the job. Hutch rose from his chair and tapped on Dobey's partially open door.
"Come in, Hutchinson."
"I hope you're not going to hold that against him," he started pleading Starsky's case.
"He's blowing off steam. Doesn't change anything. He still has to do those over." Dobey smirked. "I have a teenage son at home, Hutch. Pulls the same tantrums as your partner. Doesn't change what he has to do around the house either."
"He's a little touchy about his writing skills at the moment."
"There's nothing wrong with Starsky's writing skills that a little typing practice and some self-discipline wouldn't cure." Dobey laid down the report he was reading. "If your partner was really incapable of any better than what he turns in, I'd have to accept it. But I've seen a couple of flashes of brilliance out of that flake that I plan on seeing on a regular basis. When he gets over his tantrum, he'll fix those up and they'll be damn good reports."
"Did you tell him that?"
"Hutchinson, I wasn't calling him in here to build his self-image. I was demanding from him what I know he's capable of. I shouldn't have to stroke his ego to get that. Now don't you have something else to do?"
"Sure, Captain." Hutch slid quietly out of the office and looked at the pile on the desk. He fingered through the pages, and though he had usually given little thought to what Starsky came up with when it was his turn to write the reports, he was now genuinely curious to see what his partner did with the facts of the case. The one that had been labeled "too flowery", was. But it was almost novel-ish. Hutch found himself re-reading the facts of the case as if he hadn't already lived it. Starsky's humor and passion for the job was evident, as was his much-overlooked eye for detail. If I were a captain, I'd be relieved to get one of these things that didn't put me to sleep, he thought with a chuckle. When you stripped away the lousy typing skills, even the reports that had been returned for too many errors was well thought-out and almost more detail-oriented than Hutch's own recollection of the facts.
He grabbed his jacket and started out to find his partner.
Starsky was sitting in the sand, watching the gulls fly over the water. This setting could almost inspire a profound idea for something in his book. He laughed at himself. Me, a writer. There's a hoot. He re-ran different jokes in his mind, good-natured teasing from his partner and his friends...things like comparing the depth of his thinking to a little kid's wading pool. He couldn't remember now if that was something Hutch said...nah, Hutch was never really mean-spirited about anything. He just tries to get a rise out of me, Starsky thought with a laugh. But he really doesn't think you're too smart. You're the dumb one in the team, remember? A nagging voice echoed in his mind. How could an almost straight-A college grad think you had anything worth putting on paper? How could he really think you had anything profound to say at all?
Hutch always listens to what I have to say, he thought defensively. He's a good actor, the voice replied. He doesn't want to hurt your feelings, dummy. Dummy. Chump. Idiot. Meathead. Moron...heard those names a few times, Starsky thought. But all in good fun. Hutch didn't mean anything by it. He's my best friend after all. And if your best friend can't tell you, who can? Part of another conversation shot him down again. How many times did Hutch catch him with a quick comeback or trick him into saying or doing something by playing head games with him? But that was Hutch. He was smart, and he had a good sense of humor. It was only natural he'd try to pull a few tricks here and there. I must get boring to him to get away with it so much, Starsky thought. He watched the gulls circling the water, catching fish. Pretty smart birds...
"Starsk?" Hutch opened the apartment door with his spare key after getting no response from Starsky. He didn't know what he expected to find. It would be pretty rare for Starsky to be in there and not open the door, even if he was mad.
Hutch approached the typewriter with its pile of finished pages. The page Starsky had covered was still rolled into the typewriter. It's going to stay rolled up now. Did you think to take it out of there, dummy? Hutch thought with a snicker. Then he caught himself. How many times did he use a word like "dummy" on Starsky? Too often. It was a figure of speech mostly. Or a slam on the fact that Starsky sometimes didn't worry as much about life's little details, like a curled up piece of paper. And he could be maddening at times, and sometimes he did do things Hutch couldn't figure the logic for, and he'd just say something like that. Beat saying something like jerk, creep or SOB, didn't it? Maybe not. Maybe those words said what they meant at the time, conveyed anger, and nothing deeper.
He gave in to the overpowering desire to see what was really locked up in that mind of Starsky's. He settled into the desk chair and started reading the laboriously typed pages. The title immediately amused him; it was handwritten on a blank cover sheet. The writing was a little less than perfect, so Starsky must have committed it to paper in a late night, coffee-sustained inspiration.
Me and Thee and the PD
"I've been staring at this page for an hour. I don't know if what I'm about to do will make any sense, or any real difference in the world. Sometimes I wonder that about my whole damn job. Does it make any sense, or any difference to anybody? I wondered that when my father was shot and killed. He was a cop too. One dead cop. Did it make a difference? It did to me, and I hope I can look back at his work, and say that it mattered to someone else. Like a woman he saved during a hostage situation. She sent him a snapshot of herself and her new baby a couple of years later. So he felt like it was all worth it, if only for those two lives. Wonder if he still felt that when he died? I'll never know...
I thought about going back and telling the story of my life before I was a cop. I thought maybe my readers should know all about David Michael Starsky. Who he is, why he is the way he is, all that background history. Truth is, I think being a cop defines what I am, and who I am...that and Hutch. Hutch has been my partner on the force for several years now, and we've known each other for a few before that. Kenneth Hutchinson came from Minnesota, (I'm from New York myself--city boy all the way), graduated from college, and was supposed to be doing something great by now. What's the definition of great? Hell, I don't know. Maybe it's making big wads of money or having one of those big fancy offices with the squishy carpeting and the mahogany desks? Anyway, he became a cop, instead, and maybe that's my fault, because I never questioned what I wanted to do, and once Hutch and I became friends, we never questioned that whatever we did, we'd probably do it together. So here's this well-educated farm boy busting bad guys in the big city. He could be a singer, but I don't suppose that's any more dignified for a college graduate than being a cop. He can sing like nobody I've ever heard. What a voice. Anyway, now that we've been introduced, I can go about the business I'm trying to start here.
We've handled a lot of different cases in the last several years, but I don't think anything could compare to the last two. I think we've seen more love and loss, more war and peace and more laughter and tears in those years than anyone should. Do those sound like dichotomies? I suppose they are."
"Dichotomies?" Hutch repeated aloud. Since when does Starsky know words like "dichotomies"? Did I ever engage him in a conversation where he might have a chance to use it? Or have I just assumed that was reserved for college boys like myself? I guess I tease him about reading the dictionary anytime he uses something with more than two syllables in it. He resumed reading.
"One of the more memorable cases we've worked on involved cops in our own department, on the take. We actually were dumb enough to have this child-like faith in the brotherhood of police that we never thought it could be true. Cops were under suspicion of pocketing $1 million worth of coke...we were under suspicion ourselves. We didn't do it, and we assumed they didn't. They were family men and we wanted to protect their careers--boy, were we dumb."
Hutch laughed out loud in the empty apartment. You got that right, Starsk. And that child-like faith? Maybe you're right. Maybe it was that case that destroyed what was left of innocent blind trust...he looked back down at the page. He skimmed through some of the carefully explained details of the case. He remembered them only too well. But at a point, Starsky's train of thought caught his attention again.
"By the time the case was wrapped up, we had seen our snitch murdered, been forced to bring about the death of one of our own in self-defense, and learned something important about our Captain. Maybe it was worth all the hassle to bust the guy who murdered his partner and best friend. I know it would be worth anything in the world to me if I were in his place...God, just thinking about that scares me. Writing about it makes me skittish. It seems like bad luck to even admit it could happen someday. It could be me, or it could be Hutch. If it has to happen, I hope it happens to me. Hutch is smart, and he's practical. He could handle it, do the right thing. I think I'd go crazy. Kill somebody, destroy something. There's so much pain in this thought that it rips my heart out right now, when I know everything's okay.
You don't know until you've faced death with somebody so many times, and enjoyed life with that same person all the while, how scary that can be. You get to be dependent...and I know there's probably some heavy psychological analysis that goes with all that, and maybe I could use some of it. That's the hell of this business--loss. First you lose your innocence, then your idealism, and then possibly everything and everyone you love. I have. Well, almost. I've lost my father, my fiancee was murdered by some psycho nut with a grudge against me, and I've almost bought the farm a few times myself. That leaves me with Hutch. He's all I've got left that I care if I lose, and he's the one who's at risk the most. Lousy, crazy world, crazier business.
Yet there are days I think someone cares about what we do. Maybe it's some old folks at a rest home we helped get through to city hall. Of course, they tried to blow it up first, so that got our attention. But they wound up with better food and living conditions, and I like to think we helped. And we got a guy who murdered women and wrapped them in antenna wire off the street and into a mental hospital. The authorities investigated the doctor who released him. They ultimately released the doctor. Too bad it had to cost Helen her life. Helen was probably my first serious love. We talked about marriage, kids, all that stuff. It's probably best I didn't try it. Would have only been a disaster. Helen was a cop too, and a good one. Got killed during an undercover assignment, by a pervert killing cocktail waitresses. It wasn't even related to her case. Just a damn lousy draw of the cards. We had broken up by then...but you don't stop loving someone just because they tell you it's over and that you should move on.
Then last year I got poisoned. Obviously, it wasn't fatal...I'm still here. It was so weird staggering around that day, thinking it was my last on earth, and not knowing what to do first. Hutch was with me, like always, and we were trying to track the killer. He was there to catch me when I fell (literally), and hold me when I was so sick I thought I was going to die right there in a dirty back alley, or when the pain was so bad I couldn't stand it by myself anymore. I wonder sometimes if he hadn't been there, if I would've died earlier in the day. If I hadn't had somebody to hold onto, who wanted me to hold on...it's a nice feeling to be wanted.
Hutch has been through some hard times too in the last couple of years. He lost the woman he thought was going to be "the one", and he had some personal crises to work through. It doesn't seem fair sometimes. He's a good person. He deserves better."
"I've got the best. I've got you, partner," Hutch said aloud to the empty apartment. Maybe he could finally say something like that to more than an empty apartment. Maybe he could learn to let his emotions hang out a little more. Hooked on finding out what Starsky's next flight of meditation would be, he kept reading.
"When he lost this woman, I thought he'd go nuts. He did for just a few minutes, but he pulled it together, and we went after the people responsible. I don't want to say her name, or tell you what I meant before about personal crises, because it isn't mine to tell. The only reason I bring it up at all is that Hutch deserves credit for rising above all of it. Illness, a car accident that left his leg mangled and in therapy for quite while, which he also worked through and overcame, losing her...somehow he still cares. Deep behind those baby blues, he still carries a torch for something, something aesthetic and beautiful and untouched by all this ugliness."
Here we go again: aesthetic? Hutch had caught the reference to illness, and knew Starsky was talking about his brief heroin addiction. And he would never mention by name the famous lost girlfriend, Gillian the hooker. Confidences safe until death...And as cynical as I feel sometimes, can I still be considered to carry a torch for something? Or is it this particular person who can look into my soul and see what's still hidden in there? Maybe he's the only one who really cares to dig that deep, that thinks what's in there is worth finding. Then Hutch thought about how much Starsky always seemed to enjoy hearing him sing. I guess I could believe I was something pretty great if I only had to play to this audience of one. He knows my mind and my soul better than I know my own, and when I sing, he knows what I mean, even if it isn't clear to anybody else. He knows what's behind it. Maybe that's why he always tries to sing along with me, even when I don't want him to...Hutch laughed a little. Starsky's book went on a little further, detailing a couple of other cases that seemed to jump out at him. Hutch pondered that perhaps he was the only other person who would find these ramblings of any particular interest, but they were important ramblings to him. Hutch skimmed a few more pages of case details, and then stopped again:
"I think the value in all of this suffering, and that's what I've been struggling to find, is that it focuses you into what matters in your life. You say what you want to say to the people you love, and you spend as much time as you can with them, while you still can. I don't know if I've ever told Hutch all this in so many words, but I've tried, though not too eloquently. I'm not all that great with words--he's got a pretty good corner on that department--but I try. I'm going to have to try harder, probably. So maybe that's what makes us cops such an intense lot--we have to live while we can, the fullest we can, and..."
And this was where Hutch had come in with his muffin and shattered the creative moment. Starsky even pondered the same questions he did...echoed his soul.
Starsky would probably be mad he'd read it. And saying everything he wanted to say to his partner would be awkward to say the least, so Hutch sat at the typewriter and embarked on a project.
Book Review: Me and Thee and the PD, by David M. Starsky
"I am not sure how broad the appeal of this new book will be, but I know it has taken this reviewer on a journey down memory lane, one that wasn't easy to take, but was as rewarding as it was living through it. Yes, it was rewarding living through all that misery because I had you there to help me get through it. And because I learned how much you meant to me when I thought you were dying in my arms in that dirty back alley. And now I'm going to live the author's advice...I'm going to say what I have to say while I can still say it. I love you, you big--well, I was going to say dummy, but I think that's a pattern I've fallen into I should get out of, because I really don't mean anything by it. Besides, I know now that you used all these big words without a dictionary around here anywhere. I guess that means I have to stop joking and let the statement stand alone, no kidding around. I respect your skill and your intelligence. You're my best friend, the best partner I could ever have, and I love you."
Hutch didn't re-read his paragraph or give it another thought. He left it in the typewriter and hurried for the door. He passed Starsky on the stairs.
"Lookin' for me?" he asked Hutch.
"I'm runnin' a little late now, partner. Just came by to see if you were okay. I'll call you later, huh?" Hutch hurried down the rest of the steps and got in his car. Starsky watched him drive off, a little curious as to what his rush was. Shift must be over by now, he thought to himself, opening his door and going inside.
He spotted that his papers had been disturbed, and there was a new sheet in the typewriter. He sat down and read the short paragraph there. The last few words were a little distorted and blurred by the clouding up of his eyes, and a couple of tears escaped as he smiled widely at the last line.
This stupid book would never get finished, he realized, as he stacked up the pages neatly. Nonetheless, he put his one and only book review safely in the pages of his photo album...the apex of a brief, and successful, literary career for David M. Starsky.