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A Time To Grow

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Bay City

 

Ken walked into the empty classroom, not surprised to find he was the first one there. He was only a half hour early. Automatically, he headed for the first seat in the first row and sat down. He took his pen out of his shirt pocket and laid it on the desktop next to the new notebook he’d just purchased. Great, now I only need to kill twenty nine more minutes.

He’d never been so nervous in his life, and at the same time, he was excited and impatient for things to get started. Joining the force felt right. It felt like what he’d been born to do.

Just in case the Bay City Police Academy didn’t agree with him, Ken had found a job at a drug store not far from the Huntleys’ house. Helping people find the aspirin or the cough syrup wasn’t the highest paying job he’d ever had, but it was the most satisfying. It had also helped fill the time while he waited to hear if he’d been accepted to the Academy or not.

While Luke and Doris had applauded his initiative at finding contingency employment – they’d put their foot down when he began looking for an apartment.

Luke had pointed out that he would be living in the Academy dorm if he were accepted and would only end up paying rent on an apartment he wouldn’t even be living in. If he wasn’t accepted, well then he could find an apartment somewhere.

Ken had agreed that it was the smart thing to do. The money in his new account at Bay City Bank and Trust – The Friendly Bank – would last him that much longer. He was thankful once again that his grandfather had set up a stipulation in his trust fund that he had to work every summer – somewhere other than his father’s law firm or for one of his father’s friends.

There was a nice little nest egg built up from summers spent working various jobs, everything from a lifeguard to a grocery store stock boy – all honest money earned the hard way.

Other cadets began to drift into the room. A few smiled and nodded at him, but most ignored him, moving to fill the seats around him. They all looked exactly like Ken had expected a police academy cadet to look. I don’t fit in here.

Hoping to settle his nerves, Ken began making a list of what he would need in an apartment. Plenty of light for his new plants, for one thing. New plants to replace the ones left behind at the frat house, for another. The poor things were probably already dead. Maybe he should have shoved them into a box and let them take their chances on the road with him.

 

Dave walked into the classroom, not surprised to find it was almost full. He was running late again. Automatically, he headed for the last seat in the last row and sat down. He scrounged through his pockets and took out a stubby pencil. He laid it on the desk next to the old Big Chief tablet Aunt Rosie had found in a box of his old school things. Great. Now how do I kill the last five minutes?

He’d never been so nervous in his life, and at the same time, he was excited and impatient for things to get started. Joining the force felt right. It felt like what he’d been born to do.

A few other cadets rushed in, ignoring him as they took the last few seats. They all looked exactly like Dave had expected a police academy cadet to look. I don’t fit in here.

The guy in the front row caught his attention. Clean cut – blonde – five bucks says he has baby blues – looked like an ad for the Boy Scouts. That was the guy they wanted. Not some kid from New York whose pop was friends with a gangster.

Trying to settle his nerves, Dave started making a list of what he wanted for his car. Center line chrome mags to replace the ones his little brother had sold, for one thing. A new paint job to cover the scratches left by his brother, for another. That’s what he got for letting Nicky borrow his car when he’d visited Bay City last year.

“All right, cadets.” An officer in uniform walked into the room. “Congratulations on taking your first step toward becoming a Bay City police officer. We’ll see how many of you are here for the next step.”

There were a few nervous laughs. Dave settled back in his seat. He’d seen this before and knew pretty much what was coming. His drill sergeant in basic training had given him a preview. Complete with pushups.

“I’m Sergeant Wiles. I’ll be one of your instructors for this portion of your training. By the end of this training – you will know the law – you will be expert marksmen – or you will be history.” He sat down on the edge of the desk. “Now that you ladies know who I am and why I’m here – let’s find out who you are and why you’re here. Starting with you, blondie.”

Ken had already anticipated being first. That was one reason he always sat in the first seat in the first row – to get things like this over as quickly and painlessly as possible. “I’m Ken Hutchinson.”

“Stand up!” Sergeant Wiles barked. “And face your fellow cadets!”

He shot to his feet and turned so that the others could see him. Keeping his eyes carefully trained on an invisible spot over their heads, just as he’d learned in his public speaking class, Ken took a deep breath and started again. “I’m Ken Hutchinson, and I’m here because I want to help people.” He was proud of the fact that he didn’t stammer.

There was laughter and snickering from the others. Ken quickly sat back down, eyes forward and face red.

Now that wasn’t very nice. Dave looked around at his classmates. Several of them were still snickering at the poor sap who wanted to help people. Why the fuck are they here then?

“Next!” Wiles snapped when the next cadet didn’t get to his feet quickly enough. “Don’t make me wait all day!”

Dave slumped back in his seat, listening as each cadet got up and gave their cookie cutter statements. To enforce the law – to protect and to serve – to defend justice – they had no idea what it was like out there.

When his turn came, Dave stood up and looked over his fellow cadets again. He had been going to say he was here because he figured being a cop had to beat driving a cab.

Instead, he pointed to the blonde guy in the front row who was still staring straight ahead as if he was watching his own private movie on the wall. “I’m gonna help him help people.”

Ken turned. A slightly scruffy guy in an Army jacket was still standing. A rush of gratitude filled him, and he smiled.

Dave grinned back at him before sitting down.

“Well, it looks like there’s just two of you ladies who knows why you’re here.” Wiles gave the cadets another once over. “Except for Colby here, who’s looking for direction and thinks I’m an information kiosk.”

The sergeant stood up and walked to the front row of desks. “The rest of you think you’re in some bullshit TV show.” He looked them over, a smirk on his face. “Elliot Ness doesn’t work here, ladies. I do.”

“You ladies are going to hate me – and that’s exactly what I want –“ Wiles grinned as a trim blonde woman in uniform walked into the classroom and leaned against the back wall. “And as much as you hate me – you’re really gonna hate my partner.”

“If you’re here so you can drive fast and carry a gun – do everyone a favor and get the hell out now –“ Wiles stalked along the first row. “You’re here to bust your ass – learn the law – and protect the citizens of Bay City. You die for them if you have to – “

Stopping, Wiles looked down at the clean cut-blond kid in the front row. ”If you’re lucky – if you’re really lucky – you’ll find a good partner – “ He lifted his gaze to the guy in the last row wearing an old Army jacket, before looking over to his own partner. “And maybe you’ll both make it to retirement.”

 


    

 

Ken signed the form and shuffled it to the bottom of the pile. Apparently the ton of paperwork he’d done when he applied to the Academy wasn’t enough. Someone sat down at the table, making it jiggle, and he looked up to see the guy from class who’d sided with him.

“Hi, I’m Starsky.” Dave held his hand out. “Dave Starsky.”

The guy’s accent was an odd blend of east and west coast. Ken took his hand and shook it. “Ken Hutchinson.”

“So, Hutch, you really wanna help people?”

“Yes, I do.” No one had shortened his name like that since Jack had, back in high school. “Do you really want to help me?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Starsky, it’s a deal then.”

Starsky smiled widely. “Great! I get to be Bogie, though.”

“What?”

“You know, Casablanca? Humphrey Bogart and Claude Raines?” He dropped his voice and did his best Bogie. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

Hutch searched his memory. “I’ve heard of Casablanca – I’ve never gotten a chance to see it.”

“You’ve never seen it? What? Were you deprived as a child?” Starsky sighed over the sad life of his new friend. “Come on, Hutch, let’s grab a room. John told me which ones are the best.”

“A room?”

“Yeah. Here.” He pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Hutch.

Unfolding the paper, Hutch found a list of assigned roommates. Partway down the list he found Starsky & Hutchinson. He’d forgotten for a moment that they would be living in a dorm.

“’Less you’ve got somebody else you’d rather room with?”

He looked up at the quiet question to see Starsky looking at him, face open and trusting. Had anybody ever done that before? Hutch didn’t think he knew anyone who wore their emotions out in the open like that. “No, no, I don’t know anybody out here.”

“You know me.” He smiled.

The smile was contagious, and Hutch smiled back.

Gathering his papers, Hutch got up and followed Starsky out of the break room. “Where’d you get this list?”

“I swiped it off the bulletin board.”

“You did what?” He looked around and then shoved the list into his pocket. “Are you trying to get into trouble?”

“No, just trying to get the jump on the other guys. Unless you want a crappy room?”

“No, but that’s not the point.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Starsky patted him on the back. “We’ll stake out a room, we’ll put the list back, and later we can catch the early show at the Lux.”

“The early show?”

“Casablanca – they show it three times a day.” They’d reached the dorm area and he looked at the room numbers. “You like popcorn, Hutch?”

“Popcorn – you know, my name’s not Hutch.” He didn’t know what to make of this whirlwind that had befriended him. “What would you think if I called you Starsk?”

“That’s okay.” Starsky shrugged. “Nobody else ever has, but it’s okay if you want. So you like popcorn, Hutch?”

“Yeah, sure I like popcorn.”

“Good.” He stopped as he found a room number John had recommended. On the end of the corridor so it was quiet, and close to the side door so he could slip out easily. “You can buy.”

Hutch started laughing as he followed Starsky – Starsk – into the room. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

“Exactly.” Starsky smiled confidently.