Part 2d.

Finding the Chevy and the radio inoperative hadn't angered Starsky too much. It was expected. But the condescending way his keys and gun were left on the front seat had been galling, as if he only rated a casual shove out of the way to warn: stay back. During the long walk down the dirt road, the slow-burn had turned back to worry. He was so late.

Luckily, the main road was a major artery. Starsky barely remembered to thank the driver of the truck that had picked him up, jumped down and ran to the first taxi he spotted. It dawned on him that he didn't know exactly where he was going. "San Pedro and Wilmington. Just keep driving through the south harbor piers."

The Long Beach Harbor on San Pedro Bay was the largest on the Pacific Coast, handling more than 20 million tons of cargo annually. The streets choked with all manner of transportation and transportables reflected its massive workload. The taxi slowed to a crawl. "Get outta here," Starsky snapped impatiently. "Don't you know your south from your north? I want the outer harbor."

The outer harbor was the older one, in service for close to a century. It was showing its age, parts of it now obsolete and left to erosion. Starsky sent the taxi through the streets, in and out of each and every one, not sure what he was looking for.

However, when he saw it, there was no mistaking it, and his heart sank. Black-and-whites were converged around a warehouse, uniformed cops, narco units, and waterfront officials were all over the place.

"Wait for me," he said as he jumped out of the cab, noting by the loads being carried out of the warehouse and absence of handcuffed prisoners that he'd caught the mopping-up end of a bust. Don't let this be it, he thought, while knowing that two big deals in the same area was too unlikely a coincidence. Hutch, where the hell are you?

He didn't recognize the officers. They had to be from the 14th precinct. He approached a group, flipping open his badge and identifying himself.

"Hey," someone said, "another one from Metro."

The grudging tone told Starsky that Metro had stepped on some toes. "What happened here?"

"Oh, not much. Just the biggest heroin bust of the decade and we get the shit-detail while you guys get all the glory."

"Look, I don't know what the hell's goin' on, and I don't care. I just wanna find someone. Anybody here know Detective Sergeant Hutchinson from Metro?"

"We had too many of your hotshots here to keep count," the man snapped.

"He was...uh, on the inside. Tall, long blond hair, real light, wearin' a black jacket?"

"On the inside?" another officer joined in. "Does he carry a .357?"

"Yeah, that's right," Starsky answered, wondering what that meant.

"He must be the one I disarmed. Remember the blond you frisked up there?" the Oriental officer asked another one, pointing at the top level of the warehouse.

"Oh, him. I think he was gone with the first batch of arrests. Check with your own department."

Starsky ran back to the taxi, feeling sick. "Metro Police Department. Step on it," he shouted at the driver. Too late. Too damn late.

The taxi pulled in front of the Metro. Starsky jumped out and dashed up the steps. He almost crashed into some uniformed-cops rushing down, outfitted with helmets, bullet-proof vests and high-powered rifles. Meredith, also outfitted, was in the middle of the crowd.

"Where have you Come on!"

"What's goin' ?"

She shouted without stopping. "Come on, we have a sniper. An officer down already!"

Starsky froze, caught between two imperatives, unable to respond to either.

"Damnit! Are you coming?"

She was his partner, going into action. An officer was down. He cursed the loyalties tugging him in opposite directions but
not kind enough to split him into two.


He snapped out of immobility. "My car," he shouted, ran to the Torino, and vaulted over the hood.

Meredith jumped in, attached the Mars light to the roof and filled him in quickly. "Corner of Jefferson and South Main. Two dead, more injured. He's on top of an eight-story building. Sounds like he's got a goddamned ammunition dump up there. Downed the chopper. The pilot had the sense to aim for a deserted construction site."

She tuned in the radio, and that's when they learned that the marksman in the chopper had bailed out; the pilot hadn't been able to. A few blocks later, the cross-talk on the radio informed them that the top staircase of the building had been found rigged. The bomb squad was coming in.

Starsky cursed as he rounded a TV van on its way to the site like a homing pigeon. The Torino screeched to a stop behind hastily erected barriers. The detectives jumped over the wires some news crews were trailing all over the place. Starsky pushed away a microphone someone thrust in front of his face as soon as he flipped open his badge. More officers than should be spared were kept busy with crowd control. He heard Meredith shouting for someone to get into the office buildings to clear the windows of the spectators she had just spotted. She caught up with him as he skidded to a stop behind a black-and-white.

"Go get your gear," she said.

"Uh, that's okay."

"What do you mean that's okay? Go back and get it." He raised his head, assessing the situation. "You have your gear, don't you? Starsky?"

"Certainly I have it. Just not, uh, in the car."

"Oh, great!"

Hands fumbled at his head and a too-tight helmet slid down over his eyes. "Hey!"

"Shut up! We'll share mine until I find another set. Since you insist on sticking that air-space out, you get the helmet." Before he could argue, she was gone, heading for the Coordinator's van.

"Baleboosteh," he muttered, following her.

Lieutenant Warren of Special Task Force saw them coming and pointed up. "The bomb squad's going in. Cover them."

Under protective fire, the bomb squad slipped into the building. When ground barrage ceased, another answered from the rooftop, causing no harm, except to the vehicles. Starsky and Meredith ran low to Warren.

"Do we have an ID?" Starsky asked.


"Has he concentrated on any place?" Meredith wanted to know. "Any particular office or store?"

"Indiscriminate, as far as we can tell."

If they could have established a grudge directed to a specific location, it might have been possible to track it down to an identity, and hopefully, to some people the sniper was inclined to listen to. Without an ID, the detectives had no place to go. STF could deal with the sniper; the investigators were there to investigate.

"We'll get our people out to ask questions," Meredith said, without the slightest trace of optimism. It was too big an area, and too crowded to find anyone with answers, which may or may not exist there in the first place. But procedures had to be followed.

"Go ahead. I'll see if he's changed his mind about negotiations."

Starsky was looking up at the buildings. "No chance of higher ground, I see."

"Not since we lost the chopper. I won't send another up unless absolutely necessary." Warren pointed at two buildings to the east and north of the sniper's location. "The best we can do is get level with him. Trouble is, the roof he's on is blocked in very well. A lot of cover, even a blasted rooftop herbarium up there."

"He's gotta be familiar with the building. At the very least, he spent a lot of time there, setting up. Is the building emptied?"

"Top floors. They're barricaded at the lower levels. Couldn't get them out without exposing them to fire."

"Come on, Meredith, let's find some phones," Starsky told his partner, then asked Warren: "Got a directory for the offices in there?"

"You set up your center. I'll get one to you in a little while."


A briefing room had been hastily converted into an operations center for the prosecutor's staff. The District Attorney glared at Hutch over the piles of reports and depositions when the officer walked in and added another inch to the paper mound.

"Detective Hutchinson, do you know how little of my family I see as it is?"

Hutch ran a hand through his wet hair. He had finally gotten around to washing the blood out of it in the locker room. "That should be most of the major stuff."

The DA rifled through the additions and handed them to a secretary, to be passed onto his assistants busily dividing up the work. Shortly, he noticed that the blond man was hovering over his shoulder. "Something on your mind?"

"I was wondering, can they claim entrapment?"

"You want to know if they can or if they will?"

"Both, actually."

"Can they? Sure. Will they? You bet."

Hutch sighed in irritation. Trust a legal mind to equivocate over terminology when the answer was the same in both cases. He decided again that he had been well rid of that law degree. "And?" he insisted.

"And what?"

"Can they get away with it? And don't," he extended a finger into the DA's face, "quibble. Can, will, whatever. You know what I mean."

"You're really worried about this, aren't you?"

How could one possibly put it into words? Its closest analogy was a woman carrying a fetus to term, now awaiting delivery. Hutch couldn't explain it. A person either felt it in his guts, or he didn't.

"All right. Of course they'll claim entrapment. It's the only leg to stand on, and in the normal course of legality, there's some sound foundation for it."

Hutch slumped. "Well, at least they can't involve the department. Only me."

"Cheer up, Sergeant. I said `in the normal course.' Assurances are scarce in our professions, but I can safely give you one now. They won't get far with it. This is one case where the public opinion is going to work for us. All the liberal press is going to be on our side for a change. The Capitol started burning up the phone lines. NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith have already jumped on it, and that's just the beginning. There might be a lot of closet sympathizers out there, but believe me, nobody who's anybody will be interested in committing political suicide. So in this case, there's a big difference between can and will. Can they try? Yes. Will they succeed? No. Public opinion is going to bury them. You can relax."

Relieved, Hutch leaned back against the wall. The DA gathered some papers and continued. "Speaking of public opinion, I should start to generate some." He went out to talk to the reporters choking the corridors of the precinct. He was the picture of cool, dignified professionalism, but Hutch could almost see the politician inside rubbing his hands with sadistic glee.

An interoffice door opened and the desk sergeant stuck her head in. "Ah, Hutchinson. Dobey wants you. This way, if you don't want to be mobbed."

"Be there in five," Hutch said as he brushed past the sergeant, heading for the bathroom.

Finding it deserted, he gratefully locked the door, needing a few minutes alone. With the adrenaline pumping all day long, he was still high-strung. There was a jumpiness in him, which, now that the whole thing was all over successfully, was turning into sheer exuberance. He felt an overwhelming urge to move, run, laugh, shout something! It was almost like the times he had come home with a good grade or some honor gained on the athletic field, barely able to restrain the words until there was someone to blurt them out to. His skin felt too confining, and he restlessly paced the small enclosure, something bubbling inside, begging for an outlet, needing

Suddenly, he realized what he wanted to do and came to a stop. He stayed still for a moment, then shook his head and went to splash his face with water.

Progress of sorts, he mused, leaning on the sink. The last time I wanted to share something with him, I was throwing up my guts in the john.

He looked around. Still in the john, though. Oh, hell....

He dried his face and headed out. Dobey was waiting. Besides, he had been all of three years old when it had been impressed upon him, in no uncertain terms, that if he was foolish enough to break something, he should at least be man enough not to cry because he wanted it back.

On the way to the Captain's office, he looked out the glass door into the crowded corridor. The heroin bust was going to send Miller and Osgood up for a long time, but that was paling in comparison to the aftershocks. Documents confiscated at various locations had revealed a web of political intrigue. Many city and state officials had been pulled in it; even the FBI hadn't been spared. It was going to take a long time to untangle. In the meantime, the press was having a field day.

Hutch noticed some familiar figures, waiting at the door to an interrogation room, and went to Washington's desk. "What's IA doing down here?"

The black man was wearing a smug smile. "Sharpening their claws, itching to take a swipe at McInroe."

It was news to Hutch. "You mean we got him?"

"Sure did. These people are incredible. They've never heard of discretion. McInroe was on their payroll list, in clear black and white. It's like they wanted everything perfectly documented for posterity, like they never for a second thought they were doing anything wrong."


"Well, that's a break for us." An uneasy pause followed, until Washington said: "Uh, Hutchinson, look, I'm sorry, okay? I
mean, for "

Hutch interrupted. "I know. So am I. I was going through a bad time and you caught the worst of it. I know there's no excuse for "

It was Washington's turn to interrupt. "What say we call it even and start over?" He held out his hand and the blond man took it.


Dobey was hanging up the phone when Hutch walked in. "That was Captain Lee. 14th precinct isn't pleased with you." The first that waterfront district police had heard of the bust going down right under their noses had been when they'd been hastily recruited to give a hand with the raid. Tempers were frayed over there, as well as their red tape. "You'd better get down there, help them write their reports, and you be nice."

"Yes, sir," Hutch readily agreed.

"Don't waste time, though. So far, I've kept you safe from the news hounds so you can wrap up your case. And they were more interested in catching the big names hiding their faces. But they won't give us room to breathe until they get a piece of you, and you know it."

"Captain, couldn't you ?"

"No, I couldn't! Get it over with so we can get `em out of our hair. I expect you back soon."

Hutch knew he'd lost the argument. He headed for the door and stopped. "One more thing, Captain. Marcellus Cobb. I sent him from downtown to the waterfront, then followed right on his heels. If anybody adds it up I think we should bring him in."

Dobey considered. "Bring him in, sure. Then what do we do with him? Isn't he too far gone?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. What's that clinic upstate? O'Hare's? I hear they have a good success rate with cases others won't touch."

"O'Hare's is not a charity organization. It's an exclusive and expensive clinic."

"If you can pull the strings to get him in, well, I'll see to the rest." Grandfather's trust fund had to be good for something. Hutch's insistence that they would live on a rookie officer's paycheck while the fund collected dust had been another reason that had sent Van packing.

"Don't get your hopes up, but I'll see what I can do," Dobey said. "Tell the patrol to pick him up. And you get back here as soon as you can."


Starsky was chafing at the bit. Bomb squad was taking forever to clear the staircase. They were now checking air vents and heating ducts to the roof, to see if they had also been tampered with. In the Ambassador Travel Agency they had commandeered, the detectives had spent hours talking to people on the phones, who either knew nothing, or sent them on wild-goose chases after things like a donut delivery boy who'd looked suspicious. They were regularly accosted by someone or another who demanded to know when they could get back to work. Starsky had run out to check the company that maintained the building, figuring that a repairman had the best chance of setting up something like this, but had come back empty.

"Some of these might lead somewhere," Meredith complained, "but I don't have the uniforms to send out on every obscure hint."

Starsky realized they had been rather short-handed. "Where the hell's everyone?"

"I'm not sure. I was out tracking a witness on that extortion case all morning. I heard Dobey and Washington were up all night, setting up on a hot tip. Apparently, it broke just before noon. It must've led to other things. When I got in, people were rushing out on warrants covering creation's half acre."

The constant worry in the back of Starsky's mind crested with full force. "Uh, you hear anything about Hutch? See him, or anything?"

The subject was obviously still a sensitive one to Meredith. "No," she answered shortly. She looked out of the window at the overcast sky. "It's going to pour. If it gets dark, we'll be here half the night."

She jumped when Starsky slammed both fists on a desk. "I can't take it anymore!" he burst out. "There's gotta be somethin' " He was out the door before the end of the sentence.

"Starsky!" she shouted after him, and grabbed a cop to push him in front of a phone, thrusting her notes at him. "Take over." She ran after her partner, but Starsky was already pulling away in the Torino.

He headed for the construction site, locating it by the wisps of smoke still escaping from the `copter wreck. There, he found what he was looking for. He brought the car to a turn on its axis, drove back, and pulled to a stop in front of some STF officers.

"Anybody know how to operate a crane?" He motioned at the officer who nodded. "Get in. Rest o' you, clear traffic on Jefferson to Fourth." He didn't hear Meredith shouting after him in his hurry to be gone.

"What did he want?" Meredith demanded to know from the officers.

"He asked us to clear traffic on Jefferson to Fourth."

"Clear it then."

"We have to check with our Lieutenant," someone indignantly pointed out.

"You get to work. I'll clear it with Warren." One partner acting like a damned fool was no reason for the other to stop supporting him to the best of her ability in whatever scatterbrained scheme he had cooked up.

Meredith was still with Lieutenant Warren when a noise made them turn to see the crane approaching on Jefferson, the boom raised as high as it could go. She didn't have to see into the overhead cab to know exactly which idiot it contained.

"What the ?" Warren was saying.

"Your men still on the rooftops?" Meredith asked.

"Yes. What's ?"

"My partner's up there. We have to cover him."

"Your part He's a detective! He's got no business "

"Order your men to keep him covered, damnit! We can argue the red tape later." She took off at a run for one of the tall
buildings. She'd have Starsky's hide later. First she'd have to keep it safe, if possible. Warren had given the order. Fire was erupting from the two buildings to the east and north of the sniper's roof, hopefully forcing him to keep his head down. She found a spot for herself and her rifle on the rooftop.


It had suddenly hit Starsky as a personal affront. Ordinarily, he was philosophical about being the Dutchboy with his thumb in the dam, trying to hold back the deluge from people who didn't even appreciate his efforts to any degree. But all at once, it was too much to take. A maniac was holding him hostage to his twisted whims while he plodded through useless procedures, with his guts tied into knots. He was going to put a stop to it.

Too infuriated to remember his dislike of heights, Starsky rode the crane bucket, scanning the rooftops in front of him. The kid maneuvering the crane knew what he was doing. He had swung the boom around so the bucket was approaching the building from the southwest, out of the way of the cover fire. The sniper was still able to fire, though. He had to stay low, so it was haphazard and mostly went wide, but some hit the cab, a few even ricocheted inside.

The load block was hooked to cables; the bucket swung wildly, making it almost impossible to aim. Starsky got in one good shot, saw it hit the crouching man squarely, and was ready to stand when he realized the sniper was wearing a flak jacket and the shot had only stunned him briefly. He couldn't sight the much smaller target the head presented from his mobile position. He was eight feet over the roof, with the herbarium between him and his target momentarily. He jumped, landing in a roll. Someone had to be watching closely; the cover fire immediately ceased.


"Officer in the line of fire!"

Dead silence fell around Meredith's abused ears. She scrambled to her feet and ran to the exit. The elevator carrying her down took interminably long while the idiotic chant inside her head went in a loop: You get yourself killed, David Michael Starsky, and I'll kill you.

She indiscriminately plowed through the crowd to come to a sliding stop next to Lieutenant Warren. "You have to get the second chopper up!" Warren seemed inclined to argue. "This is it," she shouted. "Now we can trap him in cross-fire. Come on, that's my partner up there!"

However furious Warren was with the meddling Metro detectives, he still grabbed the mike to issue the order. He also applied an iron grip on Meredith's shoulder before she could rush off. She clamped down on the cry that almost broke out; even through the vest, the kick of the rifle had left her with a mass of bruises there.

"No," Warren stressed after he put the mike away. "You're not going up. One unauthorized idiot is plenty."


All Starsky could do was to protect himself as much as possible and hope for the openings which were few and far between. He had taken the STF officer's rifle, but had no extra ammo for it. He had his own weapon and plenty of clips but the small gun couldn't begin to measure up against the sniper's arsenal. He wished he had listened one of those times when Hutch had tried to talk him into a .357, instead of saying, sure, the first time we go on an elephant hunt.

A bullet shattered the glass right over his head. He felt stray shards stinging on his hands. This position was also becoming untenable. He located a cement block and rolled for it, reaching it scant seconds ahead of the trail of bullets that doggedly followed. The sniper now knew exactly where he was. He couldn't keep the man guessing as he could behind the much larger cover of the herbarium. It was fast winding down.

It came even faster than he'd expected. As soon as the hail of bullets died down, another noise it had been subduing became unmistakable: the whirr of chopper blades cutting through the air. Starsky risked lifting his head to see it rising like a bird of prey from behind the sniper. Caught unaware, the man also jerked his head up, the light skin of his neck suddenly becoming visible against the dark collar and the blackened face.

It was pure reflex that made Starsky immediately lift the rifle and fire. His mind was busy registering surprise. He had thought the man was black, but now realized he'd darkened his face like a combat soldier's. The high-powered bullet found the vulnerable flesh and tore it to bloody bits.

The chopper was coming down for a landing when Starsky knelt by the corpse. Only a major muscle on one side of the neck was still keeping the head attached to the body. Starsky averted his eyes, swallowing hard. One never really became immune to carnage. The man was dressed in jungle fatigues, decorated with military insignias. The blood-splattered combat medals were familiar to the detective from his days in Vietnam. Another victim of a war that insisted on leaving its swampy, sweltering wilderness and haunting the asphalt jungles of a city half a world away.

Mechanically, he searched the pockets and carried what he could find to the chopper, without bothering to check them out. He already knew more than he cared to about the man he'd left lifeless in a pool of blood; he wasn't interested in an identity to carry around with the image. Let someone else mop up. He had places to go to, the living to worry about.

"Take me down," he told the pilot. Rain was falling into the premature night brought on by the heavy-bellied clouds.


Meredith was furious, that much he could see from the set of her jaw and sparking eyes. He also saw Warren bearing down on them and knew he was in trouble. Worse than either, TV crews were edging closer.

He quickly thrust the documents into his partner's hand. "Take over, please. I have to go."

"You !" she spat out and couldn't seem to find the words to properly convey her anger.

"I'm sorry. Really, I am. It just got Please, Meredith. I have to go. Please." He felt he was about to be trapped by the crowd.

Something in his look caused Meredith to parole him. "Go." She turned to intercept Warren.


Rush hour traffic, made worse as usual by the downpour, added to his frustration. The image of the dead man would fade; it was part and parcel of his existence, long since accepted. However, right now it was still upon him. He'd once been young, too young to have turned to dealing out terror and death. Starsky knew the psych profile only too well. The investigation
would reveal him to be a quiet, introverted, studious young man, and those who knew him would shake their heads in disbelief. Of all people, they'd say, who'd have thought? But Starsky knew that it was precisely those who were alien to horror before they were cast into hell that ended up exploding or finding refuge in the oblivion of drugs.

There had been three choices in Vietnam. The easiest way out had been to intercept a bullet. If one were to survive, he either grew up quickly and learned to cope, or became a time bomb.

Starsky would forever live with the day he had grown up. Not in the middle of a battle, or in the insidious jungles which claimed more lives than enemy bullets, or in one of the innocent-looking villages turned into death traps. It had happened on a relatively peaceful day, right in the middle of a secure camp. Kids were always dashing in and out of compounds, and when he had seen the child running, his first thought had been if he had any candy to offer her. She looked about seven, but with the starvation rampant in the country, could've been as old as twelve.

Next second, he had realized the child had explosives strapped all over her small body, and she was heading straight for the mess tent, overflowing with troops. Knowing that in another minute she'd be dead anyway, taking others along, hadn't helped one bit when he had raised the M-16. For an instant, he had seen his machine gun tear a jagged path into the frail body, almost severing a stick-thin arm, then the explosives had gone in chain reaction, finishing his handiwork with painstaking thoroughness. In that instant, he had grown older than he ever cared to be.

His immediate reaction had been blind, impotent rage. He would have gladly burned the world to get to the monsters who had turned a small child into a self-destructing weapon, and him into an executioner. He had stayed drunk for a week and had awakened in a stockade, covered with scrapes and bruises from whatever free-for-alls he had managed to throw himself into. The rage had been gone, in its place a deep hurt for the innocents, the pawns, the helpless, the misguided. Maybe his choice for the direction of the rest of his life had been made then the protector of the innocents to atone for one terrible choice that had been forced on him.

It wasn't their fault. Not that emaciated girl-child's, not the young man's who had ended up a corpse on a rooftop it wasn't Hutch's fault, either. There were too many users out there, too many vultures. Heroin addiction had been forced on Hutch, and ever since then he had to live with a fault-line in his body, in his mind. If Starsky hadn't been so damned blind, he'd have seen how Hutch had been steadily sinking for the last year under loads nobody should carry alone. Instead of helping, he had allowed one sin to destroy years of loyalty and had left his friend by himself in the jungle, fair game for anyone who wanted to take advantage. Someone may have discovered his vulnerability and decided that a new addiction would make a perfect puppet out of him. That was the only conclusion which made any kind of sense. Although Starsky had been alerted, he had been too slow to do anything about it, holding onto a ridiculous resentment like a selfish child. Now it might be way too late, and he would never forgive himself.

In all likelihood, Hutch had been arrested earlier that day. Up until now, he had been functioning as a police officer, however miserably. That probably meant he'd been getting small fixes frequently. After half a day in a holding cell, he could be alone and hurting. Not much Starsky could do about the hurting, but Hutch wouldn't have to go through it alone. Hopefully, he could run some interference, beg Dobey to let him take over the questioning and spare his friend the handling by those who didn't care.

Afterwards? Well, there was such a thing as bail. And bail-jumpers? Why the hell not? There were other cities. New York, for one. He knew his way around there enough to stay a jump ahead of the law until Hutch kicked the habit again. If he was too far gone this time for cold withdrawal, Nicky, with his shady connections, should be able to find a doctor who'd keep his mouth shut and supply him with the necessary drugs for rehabilitation. And after that, there were other countries. One thing he knew, as long as he drew breath, Hutch was not going to jail, into the mercies of those he had helped put there.

Hold on, babe, he thought, as he said to hell with the regulation that insisted he couldn't use the siren unless he was responding to an emergency and slapped the Mars light onto the roof.

Click to see larger image


The precinct was overflowing with reporters. Exactly how big was that damn bust? Starsky wondered, pushing through the crowd. He managed to make his way to the reception desk.

"Where's Hutch?" he demanded of the desk sergeant.

"Should be at the 14th precinct," was the answer.

"14th ? What the hell's he doin' at ?" Were the arrests divided between the precincts? He was angry at himself for not having checked while he was there. Now what was he supposed to do? He didn't have any IOUs to collect at the 14th. Maybe the Captain could be persuaded to intercede. He had to get the full story from someone, anyway. "Dobey still here?"

"In his office."

He went to the squadroom, hurrying to the Captain's office, when he was intercepted. "Oh, Starsky."

He glared at Washington, thinking, If he gloats, he'll be pickin' his teeth outta his tonsils.

"Hutchinson was asking for you," the black man continued, smiling.

Starsky felt terrible. When the chips came down, who else was there to ask for. Except he hadn't been around. And if Washington didn't wipe that smirk off his face

What came out of the detective's mouth next was unexpected. "I owe you an apology. You were right and I was wrong. I'm sorry."

That threw Starsky. "Huh?"

"About Hutchinson. But, damn it, how was I supposed to know? Even Dobey didn't know. I think he's still trying to decide if he should kick the man or hug him."

Starsky was getting bewildered. "Hold it hold it a minute. What the hell're you talking about?"

"Where have you been? Don't you know what's been going on here?"

"Looks like, don't it? Tell me."

Washington did. In detail. Enthusiastically. As it sank in, Starsky started to feel weak, as if he were going to pass out. "Hey, are you all right?" said Washington. "Hey, Starsky?"

"Washington." Dobey's door opened. "Hutchinson's not back yet. Go out there and talk to those reporters. They're going to
fawn on somebody if it kills us all. Might as well be " The Captain noticed Starsky and assumed a chastising tone. "Ah, so there you are! I just got off the phone with Lieutenant Warren. What do you mean by sticking your nose into Special Task Forces' business?"

He continued scolding, but Starsky wasn't hearing any more. The blood that had drained out of his face rushed back up, scalding him, pounding in his ears. I don't believe this! I dash about like mad, shreddin' my insides all day long, I charge into the rescue and SURPRISE: I'm not needed shit, I'm not even wanted! One guess, idiot, as to whose idea it was to strand you at that fuckin' factory. Keep outta the way, boy. Don't be a pest. The Hero of the Day is collectin' his laurels, and I'm standin' here getting' chewed out. Ain't that funny? Ain't that a scream?

I've had it!

Starsky tore out of the squadroom while Dobey was still talking. The same outrage carried him like a spearhead through the crowds in the halls, down the steps and into his car. Viciously, he put it into gear and roared away.

Idiot, idiot, idiot! I get ready to break every rule in the book sure, why not? Throw away everything, think of makin' an accessory of your own brother, bargain for junkin' your job, even your country, settle for never seein' your mother or girl again and for what? `Cause Hutch needs me.

Guess again!