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Let Me Explain

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“Starsk! Wait up! Let me explain. It’s not what you think.” Hutch put his hands out as if to grab hold of his partner’s windbreaker-covered arm.

Starsky stopped in his tracks. “How do you know what I think, Hutchinson?”

Hutch glanced around, making sure they weren’t in anyone’s way, here in the alley behind the warehouse. It was free of moving traffic at the moment - black and whites were nose-to-tail some distance away, and an ambulance was waiting, it’s rear doors open, cops and civilians peopled the area, but no one appeared to be getting ready to drive over them - so he didn’t bother to attempt to drag his clearly incensed partner into a safer location. He banished the anxious look from his face and smiled. “We’ve known each other since our first day at the Academy. I think I read you like a book by now, and you know me just as well.”

A little of the irritation left Starsky’s expression and body language. “Yeah?”

Hutch began walking toward the Torino and Starsky fell into step beside him. “Yeah. You’re thinking she’s not my type. That she’d be about as good for me as… Well, as Van was.”

Starsky almost smiled as he unlocked the driver’s side of the car and hit the lock release on Hutch’s side. When they’d settled into their seats, Starsky put his pissed-off face back on. “Why’d you ask for her phone number, then?”

“Because…” Hutch took a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. “Because you didn’t see the exchange I did. You were taking care of Stuben, making sure he was okay, until the paramedics got there. I was checking the empty spaces on the shelves, when I glanced out the window. She was in the back of the crowd of lookie-lous, her head close together with a scruffy-looking dude who just happened to resemble the man Stuben had described as the one who robbed and pistol-whipped him.”

Hutch could tell Starsky was already beginning to put things together.

“Then she came running inside," Hutch continued, "apologizing for being so late, solicitous of Mr. Stuben’s condition, chattering like a magpie, with a look on her face that I began to suspect was satisfaction.”

Starsky lost all trace of anger. “The minute we walked in there, we both figured it was an inside job.”

Hutch nodded. “Right.”

“You asked for her phone number so we could investigate her.”

Hutch allowed his pride in Starsky’s perspicacity to show. “Right, again.”

The smile that grew on Starsky’s face was sly. “She must have given her boyfriend the codes to Stuben’s alarm system, told the guy when her boss would be there by himself, and was conveniently late getting to work this morning.”

Hutch refolded the paper and put it back in his pocket. “That’s exactly the way I figure it.”

Starsky fired up the engine and dropped the gear shift into Drive. “Let’s ask Minnie to find an address for this sterling example of the workforce, bring Dobey up to date…”

“Do a little surveillance,” Hutch added, “and then, once we’ve got them dead to rights…”

“Bust her and her scruffy boyfriend,” Starsky finished.

Hutch patted his partner’s arm in agreement. “My thoughts precisely!”

Pausing at the end of the alley, Starsky glanced over. “Guess we do know each other pretty well.”