Hutch stood in the opening of the small hotel bar and slowly scanned the vacant tables. There were only a few occupied tables and one booth in the corner with a couple who were obviously more interested in each other than the ambience the intimate setting provided. Hutch looked to the bartender whose back was to him.
He slowly made his way to the bar and eased onto the stool. The bartender walked over with a towel in hand.
“What’ll it be?” the curly haired man asked.
“Comin’ up,” he replied.
Hutch almost smiled as watched the man saunter away to get the beer. He slipped a couple of bills from his pocket and tossed them on the bar just as the beer was set in front of him. “Keep the change.”
“Thanks, pal,” the bartender said gratefully.
Hutch gave him a short nod and sipped at his beer. He’d only been sitting quietly for a few minutes when a beautiful dark-haired woman glided up to him. Hutch sighed and slowly set the glass down.
“You left the party, Ken,” she hotly stated. “Those are important people and friends of ours!”
“They’re your friends, Van,” Hutch told her. He was too tired to argue with his wife and it showed on his face. “I didn’t want to come in the first place. Let’s just go home.”
“No, we won’t go home! Ken, these people are important to our future. You’ll need these contacts when you finish Law School.”
“I’ve been in Law School for less than six months, Van. This party was more important to you than it ever was to me.”
Vanessa reached forward and ran her fingers through Hutch’s hair. “We both need this, Ken. If we don’t start meeting the right people now, getting a job with the best firm in the city will make it that much harder.”
Hutch rubbed his eyes and turned towards his wife. “Listen, Van. Make my excuses and have a good time. I’m just not up to this.”
“And look like a fool?” Vanessa said raising her voice. “You leaving me there alone with no explanation certainly didn’t win us any points. But if someone sees you in this bar while I’m upstairs in the penthouse, it won’t look good.”
“Van,” Hutch said with a heavy sigh.
“I expect to see you at the party in ten minutes. Don’t disappoint me,” Van warned.
Hutch watched her glide away and he finished off his beer. He motioned for a second one. As he pulled a bill from his pocket, the second glass was set before him.
“It’s on the house,” the bartender sympathetically told him.
“I can pay for it.”
“I know. Just seems like you need it worst than most.”
“Saw that, did you?”
The bartender grinned. “Every customer in here saw it and heard it.”
“A total of five people,” Hutch said with a slight smile.
“She’s beautiful,” the bartender observed.
“Yep, she certainly is.” Hutch took a long drink from the glass.
Hutch nodded. “Almost two years.”
“I heard there was some major shindig on snob floor. I didn’t take you for the type.”
Hutch shyly smiled. “Guess I’ve never could mesh well with those of my social standing.”
The bartender laughed. “Is that what they call it?” He shook his head and flipped the towel over his shoulder. “The boss asked if I wanted to work it and I told him to get one of the younger guys who need the money.”
“The Carlisle’s usually pay their help fairly well from what I’ve been told.”
The bartender shrugged his shoulders. “I get by which is all I really need. Just got me to worry ‘bout.”
“Not married if that’s what you mean, but I’ve got a few relatives that like having their Davy boy around.”
“Davy?” Hutch chuckled before taking another drink.
“Dave or David. Some people call me Starsky.”
“That fits you,” Hutch agreed. He held out his hand. “Ken Hutchinson. My friends call me Hutch.”
Starsky shook his hand. “I like that. You look like a Hutch.” He pulled the towel off his shoulder and wiped the bar. “Law school, is it? It’s a decent profession.”
Hutch shrugged his shoulders. “Suppose.”
Starsky paused and leaned against the bar. “You don’t sound too thrilled with your career choice.”
“My father’s a lawyer and so are both of my uncles.”
“You’re gonna be a lawyer ‘cause that’s what your family does?”
Feeling defensive, Hutch asked, “Anything wrong with that?”
“I mean it doesn’t sound like a good reason to make a lifetime commitment to somethin’.”
Hutch sighed and played with the glass. “I suppose. Just seemed to be the next step.”
Grabbing a handful of peanuts, Starsky said. “Don’t make it the right one.”
“A bartender playing at shrink. I think you missed your calling.” Hutch took a large drink.
Starsky chewed on the peanuts thoughtfully and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, it pays the bills. I keep hopin’ inspiration will strike.”
Hutch raised his glass in salute and smiled. “Here’s to the both of us waiting for inspiration.”
Starsky grinned and watched as Hutch finished off the beer.
“I’d better get back.” Hutch stood up and pulled a bill from his pocket.
Starsky held up his hand. “I said it was on the house.”
“Gave me a lot to think about. It’s the least I can do.”
“I did?” Starsky was surprised.
“Yeah,” Hutch confessed. He tossed the bill on the bar and shoved his hand in his pocket. “I’ll drop by one of these nights and maybe we’ll figure out what inspires us together.”
After giving Starsky a wave, Hutch left the bar.
Less than a week later, Starsky was back at work at the small bar. With only a few customers, he knew he’d get off earlier than usual. Hearing the opening of the door, Starsky looked up to see his new friend headed in his direction. Instead of seeing the bright smile he liked, Hutch’s face was lined with despondency.
Starsky had a beer ready for the man by the time he slid onto the stool. “What happened?”
Hutch took a long drink of the beer before replying. “Can I have something a little stronger?”
“You driving?” When Hutch shook his head, Starsky poured him a scotch.
Hutch drank half of it before speaking. “Van.”
“Had it out,” Starsky speculated.
“I quit law school today.”
The news hit Starsky like a bomb. He didn’t expect anything like this. “You sure about that?”
Nodding, Hutch said, “I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. After talking to you, I know there’s something better out there.”
Starsky wasn’t sure if he wanted to be the reason for Hutch’s sudden decision. He glanced over at the other bartender talking with a girl at the far end of the bar. “Hutch, let’s go somewhere else and talk about this.”
“I think he can handle two customers.”
Hutch finished off the drink and Starsky returned with a jacket in hand. He followed Starsky out the door to a Buick Electro. Hutch studied the car before looking at Starsky. “This is yours?”
Starsky shrugged his shoulders. “My aunt’s. I’m saving up for something that’ll catch my eye.” He opened the passenger door for Hutch.
Hutch slid inside and watched Starsky amble to the driver’s side of the car. He smiled inwardly as his curiosity about the man increased. Half an hour later, Hutch walked into Starsky’s small apartment which consisted of three rooms.
Starsky headed to the fridge and called out over his shoulder. “Sit down, Hutch. Just relax and I’ll get us a couple of beers.”
Hutch settled onto the couch and Starsky returned with two beers. After sitting on the couch a few feet from Hutch, Starsky stated, “I take it your wife didn’t approve of your decision.”
Looking down at his beer, Hutch said, “I can’t blame her. I quit without talking to her about it first.”
“You didn’t tell her you’d been feeling this way?” Starsky was a little surprised.
“Yeah, she knew. I’ve told her that I wasn’t crazy about law school. I dropped a bomb on her today.”
More like she blew up, Starsky silently surmised. “If she knew you’d been feeling this way, she couldn’t have been that surprised.
Hutch snorted and a bitter smile crossed his face. “She has visions of my being a partner in a large law firm like my father.” After sighing heavily, Hutch leaned forward. “I really blew it.”
“So go back,” Starsky offered.
“I don’t want to,” Hutch honestly stated. “I want more.”
“What’s more than being a lawyer, Hutch? There’s a lot of stuff you can do.”
Chuckling, Hutch said, “You’re the last one I expected to be encouraging me to go back to school.”
“Let me ask you this. What more is there than being a lawyer?”
Thoughtfully, Hutch fingered the beer can. “I want to do some good. Help people.”
“Sound like you’ve got something in mind.”
“Not really,” Hutch said leaning back. “I want something hands on. I want to be able to look at something and see the good I did. Being a lawyer just isn’t it, Starsky.”
Hutch sharply swung his head. “What?”
“Cops. They do a lot of good in the world and putting the bad guys away does all that you want.”
A small smile appeared on Hutch’s face as he thought it over. “Yeah, I guess so. I really enjoyed the criminology classes.”
Starsky closely studied Hutch. He could see the idea taking seed in Hutch’s mind. “If you do it, I will to.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” Starsky said with a half-grin. “It’s kinda been in the back of my mind and listening to you just decided it for me.”
“Starsky, are you willing to change your entire life just on my say-so? You barely know me.”
“Hey, you dropped out of law school because of me. If we’re gonna drown, we’ll take each other down together.”
Hutch laughed and Starsky couldn’t help but join in. “So if we’re going to do this, I guess one of us had better contact the police academy. Find out how to apply.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Starsky said. “I’ve got a friend that’s a cop. He’ll know what we need to do.”
“You have been thinking about this,” Hutch said with narrow eyes.
Starsky shrugged his shoulders. “He’s been dropping hints.” Starsky finished off the beer and crushed the can in his hands. “What will the wife say when you tell her?”
Sighing, Hutch looked up at the ceiling. “She’ll probably be the reason California has its next big quake.”
“Yep. Vanessa has a mean streak.”
Starsky couldn’t help but wonder how vicious the woman was. Seeing the far-away look in Hutch’s eyes, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. He couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt a good man like Hutch. “Hutch, maybe you ought to think about this for a few days.”
“No,” Hutch replied firmly. “Being a cop is right for me. I feel it inside, Starsky. Van will just have to learn to accept it.”
Starsky thought back to the bar when he first laid eyes on the striking Mrs. Hutchinson. She was the last person he could imagine being a cop’s wife. Starsky straightened and looked at Hutch squarely in the eyes. “I want us to make a deal.”
“We go to the academy together. Even see if we can room together.”
“Because I think we could really help each other and besides, Hutch, you’re my friend. Think I wouldn’t want to room with my buddy?”
Hutch chuckled. “Deal.” He smiled fondly at Starsky. “Thanks, Starsk. Means a lot you being here with me.”
Starsky shyly grinned. Hutch was the last guy in the world he expected to make friends with and it wasn’t something he was going to take lightly. Starsky had a feeling that they would come to rely on each other while in the police academy.