The sandwich was about two inches from Starsky's mouth when Hutch suddenly snatched it out of his hand and took a huge bite. Starsky glared. Hutch just smiled around the mouthful and handed it back.
"Cruthers and Lambert are late," he commented.
Starsky grumbled, but the truth was the sandwich grab had been well within the rules, especially considering the generous sips of soda Hutch had been sharing.
But it had been a big bite. And Hutch had made off with his only remaining pickle slice, Starsky noticed.
"You took my pickle."
Hutch covered a grin by brushing off his lips. "Yeah, well, fair's fair, the way you took mine last night."
Starsky grunted his disgust at the stupid joke, even though his cock gave a little hello! at the memory. He finished his sandwich and then tapped his pocket, darting Hutch a pointed glance.
The crinkle of cellophane was loud in the silent car, Starsky's meaning clear: Hutch wasn't getting any of his Fig Newtons.
Hutch's face fell.
Starsky patted his pocket again and grinned. Not even a bite. Even though I know they're your favorite. Maybe next time you'll think twice before stealing my pickle—
The radio crackled.
"Zebra Three, Zebra Three. There has been a delay with the relief team. Please maintain position until you receive further communication."
Hutch grabbed up the mike. "This is Zebra Three. We copy, Dispatch. Over and out."
Starsky sighed and took a look at the storefront. All was quiet. He reached into his pocket. The Newtons were warm from his body heat, and should be nicely gooey and soft by now. He played with the edge of the cellophane, trying to draw out Hutch's torment.
Hutch gave a sniff and then turned around in his seat and leaned over the back, going digging.
What's he looking for? I don't remember him....
Hutch came back up with a thermos in his hand. He held it on his lap, raising an eyebrow Starsky's way.
Shit! He brought coffee. Oh, man, a cup of joe would go perfect with my Newtons.
Hutch unscrewed the cap of his thermos and then loosened the inside plug so he could pour himself a cup. The rich coffee smell wafted over, and Starsky swallowed jealously.
Hutch screwed the stopper tight and then took a sip from the cup, shooting Starsky a smug look.
Starsky hovered in indecision, then opened his Newtons. They were warm and slightly gooey—just perfect. He broke off half of one and grudgingly held out the piece.
Hutch plucked it out of his hand and popped it into his mouth, taking a sip of coffee right afterward.
"Mmmm," he said with annoying satisfaction.
Starsky reached over and grabbed the cup from his partner, then alternated bites of the sticky, sweet cookie with sips of the dark coffee.
He finished the cup and passed it back. Hutch screwed it onto the thermos bottle and then stretched out his legs. He reached for the paper on the seat between them just as Starsky did. A subtle tug of war ensued, and Starsky ended up with the front two pages, both slightly torn.
He started reading, keeping the corner of his eye on the storefront.
After a while, Hutch gave a heavy sigh, and Starsky generously passed back the front pages, taking A5-A18 in exchange.
A dark-haired man in a long coat walked down the opposite side of the street, apparently heading for Chantel's Jewelry.
"It's him," Starsky said quietly.
Hutch reached for the radio and called it in.
"Copy that, Zebra Three. Proceed with apprehending the suspect. Use extreme caution; subject may be armed and dangerous. Backup is on the way."
"10-4, Dispatch. This is Zebra Three, we're moving in."
Starsky checked his piece and then got out of the car, easing the door shut. They sped quietly across the street. The suspect had already let himself into the building where, Starsky knew, the jewels from the heist across town were probably being held, likely in that big black safe in the back. All week, since the heist and the murder, the teams had been waiting for Chantel to resurface.
They were ten steps from the door when Starsky looked down and realized his shoelace was untied. He lifted his hand in a 'wait' sign and bent to tie it.
When he looked up, Hutch was gone, the door to the jewelry store slightly ajar.
Starsky cursed silently and ran up to the door, then cautiously slipped into the dim room. He was two steps in when he heard shots fired and a crashing sound coming from the back.
Heart thumping a crazy beat, he ran to the curtained-off doorway and slid his Beretta into the gap, holding the curtain open with his other arm.
Hutch was crouched down over the suspect, one knee wedged into the small of the guy's back.
"You have the right to remain silent..." Hutch droned. He cuffed the guy and looked up.
Starsky was angered to see a trickle of blood running down Hutch's temple. The glass underfoot leading from a shattered jewelry display told Starsky the origin. Way to go, smart guy. Hide behind a glass case.
"Nice to see ya," Hutch said, a little sarcastic.
Starsky growled something about Hutch's mother, but kept it low. Not in front of the children.
They wrapped up. The jewels were there, of course, distinctive ones with no provenance forthcoming from the perp, who looked decidedly green. He was going down for a long visit to the slams.
At Metro, Hutch did the typing. Starsky thought about buying a candy bar, but what he really wanted was one of Huggy's famous patty melts. With lots of pickles.
"What?" Hutch said, flipping his pencil over and erasing something on the report still in the carriage.
Starsky hadn't realized he was staring. "You get little bits of rubber in the damned thing when you do that," he said, cranky. "And then when it's my turn, the hammers stick."
"Bars," Hutch said. He blew on the page, then brushed at it.
"They're called 'type bars', not hammers."
"Great. My partner's a typewriter dweeb."
Hutched reached into the top drawer of his desk and tossed a bag of mixed nuts at Starsky as if that would fix things.
But it did help a little. Still, when Hutch handed him the report to sign, Starsky got pissed all over again.
"What is this—we adding a little realism to the reports?"
"What is it now?" Hutch sounded impatient. It was true, the guy who did the typing shouldn't have to put up with any shit, normally.
"You got blood on it," Starsky said. His throat was a little dry. "What's it called, when they make movies like they're real life?"
"You mean Cinéma vérité?"
"Yeah. Well, try to keep your vérité from dripping all over the report next time."
Hutch sighed. "Come on, let's get you to Huggy's. I think you need a patty melt."
Starsky thought maybe Hutch was right, for once. He signed the report and, ignoring the bloody smudges, dropped it in Dobey's inbox.
Huggy brought their food in a hurry, probably because Hutch had given him a look when they ordered, an 'excuse my partner's rudeness, he's too hungry to be civil' look. While they ate, Hutch tried to lighten him up, but Starsky wasn't buying, and restricted his answers to "Yeah?" and "Huh." More huhs than yeahs, really, which he could tell was really starting to piss Hutch off.
He was sure of it when Hutch did the unthinkable and reached across the table, stealing Starsky's very last bite of patty melt and popping it into his mouth.
That was a clear violation. You never took a guy's last bite. Especially not of his patty melt—not when he'd been saving just the perfect amount of cheese and beef right there in the last piece of crust all soaked with meat juice.
"Son of a bitch," Starsky exploded.
Hutch just smirked at him. It was like the bastard wanted to make him mad.
"First, you steal my pickle slice," Starsky started, ticking off his fingers, "then you steal my paper. Then you...you...."
"Yeah?" Hutch leaned forward, his elbows on the table. He looked very interested all of a sudden. "What else?"
"You...you fucking didn't wait for me. You went in without me even though I gave you the sign I wasn't ready—"
"When I had to tie my shoe. I gave you the sign, plain as day."
Now Hutch just looked puzzled. "You mean when you tilted your head?"
"No! That was just me looking at my shoelace."
"But you usually nod just before we go in."
"Yeah, but after that I...wait. You thought I nodded I was ready?"
"Of course." Hutch leaned back again. "You think I'd go in without you?"
Well, no. Except, yeah, ever since he'd taken a couple slugs, Starsky had been keeping a wary lookout for Hutch babying him, and this time he was certain he'd caught him at it.
Only, apparently he hadn't.
"You want one of my fries?" Starsky said in apology.
Hutch shook his head, and his teeth flashed in a quick grin. "What I really want is your pickle. You gonna give it to me tonight?"
There was only one possible response to that question.
Starsky never did get to finish his fries.
November 11, 2006
San Francisco, CA