ARE YOU SURE THIS IS HOW PAUL MUNI GOT STARTED?
Paul Michael Glaser was tired. Dead tired. He had been filming all night long and what he really wanted to do was go home. But it looked like it was going to be a few more hours. He glanced over to David Soul, who had somehow found a place to curl up his long body and take a nap.
They were up in Topanga Canyon, on the side of a cliff overlooking the city. This was the last night of shooting of the last episode of the season. Tomorrow, he and his beloved Elizabeth were off to Morocco for a month of much needed R and R. He was looking forward to it.
"Paul, we're ready for you,” the director called.
"Yeah, we're coming," he replied with little enthusiasm.
They had been trying to get this scene in the can for two hours. The director needed Paul and David to run down the side of the hill, jump into the ever-present Torino, and roar off down the canyon. But, of course, everything had gone wrong. Fans kept shouting from surrounding houses, jets flew overhead, and even a stray cat had jumped on the hood in the middle of the shot. Consequently, they had run up and down this same hill eleven times.
"Hey, Davey." Paul nudged him with his foot.
"Yeah, yeah, okay." David Soul rose wearily and stood beside Paul. He put his hand on his friend's shoulder and remarked, "Think we can get it this time?"
"We'd better. My feet are killing me."
They headed up to the start position of the shot. David climbed the steep hill first, winding his way around the narrow path. Paul followed slowly, favoring his left foot, so he was looking down when David stopped suddenly in front of him. Unaware, Paul crashed into his back. David reached around to steady him, which only served to knock him more off balance. Paul stumbled back into a large pine tree, struggled to regain his step, and caught his foot under an exposed root. He gasped in pain as he tumbled headlong down the side of the hill. He landed in a heap and was still.
Voices floated disjointedly around him. Paul struggled to open his eyes, but a giant weight kept them closed. He recognized David's voice above the rest.
"C'mon, Starsk, talk to me, buddy."
Paul struggled to remember his next line. Was he supposed to wake up? Which scene was this? Why did his head hurt so much?
"Get that paramedic over here, now!" A familiar voice boomed in his ear.
What is Bernie doing here? Bernie Hamilton, the actor who played the venerable Captain Dobey, shot most of his scenes back at the soundstage. Paul wished he could remember his script. Then maybe he could figure out just what was going on. Well, overtime or no overtime, he was going to have to interrupt this shot. He concentrated all his strength and was able to crack open his left eye. He saw the concerned face of his on-screen partner. Directly behind David stood about half a dozen police officers. Funny, he didn't remember so many extras out here before.
"Wha. . .what scene. . .?” Paul's voice was barely a whisper.
"Take it easy, buddy. Take it easy."
Oh, thought Paul, this must be Shootout. But why aren't we in the restaurant? He struggled to his elbows, opening both eyes.
"He's coming around, Captain."
Paul looked into the familiar eyes of his friend and co-star. "Davey, what’s going on? I don't remember. . ."
"Just take it easy, Starsk. You gotta good bump on that thick skull of yours. The paramedics are on the way to take a look at you."
"No wonder my head hurts.” Paul looked over David's shoulder to – wait! There should be cameras, lights. Maybe they. . .he whirled his head around, which caused him severe dizziness. No cameras. "Where's the crew? The cameras?"
"Okay, Starsky, it was a great collar, but do you really think it merits cameras?"
"Collar?" The sharp pain in Paul's head was making it difficult for him to understand. "What are you talking about? Where's Joe? And quit calling me Starsky. Can we go to Cut, please?"
Paul was interrupted by the arrival of the paramedics, who quickly shooed everyone away and began to examine him. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the pain in his head.
"A concussion and some contusions.” Paul opened his eyes to see the paramedic talking to Bernie and David.
Where is Joe? Joe Naar, the show's producer should be here. If he really had a concussion, the studio would need to be notified. And what about his ankle? He knew he had at least sprained it in the fall.
"What about my ankle?"
The three men turned toward him. "Your ankle's fine, Sergeant," replied the paramedic, "are you experiencing some pain?"
"I think I hurt it when I fell . . ."
"Fell? When did he fall? Hutchinson, I thought you said Stryker hit him over the head."
Why was Bernie calling David “Hutchinson”? And why was David looking at him so strangely?
"He did, Captain. I think Starsk's just a little confused. Maybe I should take him home with me.”
"No, Elizabeth's supposed to pick me up . . . we're going to Morocco . . ."
"Morocco? Maybe we should let the paramedics take him to the hospital,” Bernie stared down at the injured man.
"No, Captain, I'm sure he'll be okay, once I get him home."
Paul felt himself being lifted by the other man. He gingerly put weight on his left foot. No pain. He wriggled his toes. His ankle felt perfectly fine. He didn't understand it. This was so weird. As he tested his reflexes, he got a better look at the surroundings. What he saw didn’t make him feel any better.
They were in a deserted parking lot, not up in Topanga. There were about half a dozen squad cars, an ambulance, four or five unmarked cars, and a paddy wagon – no sign of a single camera or light or even a grip. Instead, he saw about fifteen extras in uniforms, none of whom he recognized. In fact, except for David and Bernie, he didn't know anyone.
"Think you can walk to the car?"
Paul shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs, and looked up at his friend. There was something very wrong here.
"C'mon, buddy, let's get you home. You'll feel better, I promise."
Well, at least one thing was still the same. David could look at him and know what he was thinking. He allowed himself to be led to the Torino. David opened the passenger door and looked expectantly at Paul.
"What are you doing?" Paul frowned.
"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm driving you home. You surely don't think I'm letting you behind the wheel?"
"No, I mean, why are you taking this car?"
"What do you suggest we take? Just get in, Starsky. You keep acting freaky and Captain Dobey will order you right into the hospital, quick."
"I'm acting freaky? You're the one who keeps calling Bernie Captain Dobey. And where the hell is everyone? Huh?”
"Just get in the damn car.” Something in the other man’s voice warned Paul not to argue, so he flopped into the seat and slammed the door.
The first thing to hit him was the smell. Like stale coffee and week old burritos. The car was a mess. He was then startled by the noise of the radio.
"Zebra 12 and Zebra 10, please respond Code One to a 211 in progress at 1212 Ocean.”
“Zebra 12 responding.”
“Zebra 10 copies and we are en route."
As he listened, he realized why the sound was so odd to him. It was the first time he had heard the radio live. Usually, the sound editors put it in at post production, but now he was hearing actual transmissions. If this was some sort of prank, it was an elaborate one.
He looked up as David got into the driver's seat and shut the door. He watched him start the car and pull into traffic.
"Hey, I'm sorry, Starsk. I really didn't mean to yell at you. I guess I'm still buzzed after what happened."
"Will you please quit calling me Starsk? You know how I hate that."
"Well, just what do you want me to call you? Rafferty? Or how about Hack? That's a good one – or how bout Zack?"
"David, please. My head hurts enough without you adding to it."
"You don't want me to call you Starsk, and yet you keep calling me David? Are you sure you're okay?" He looked so concerned that Paul felt bad – almost.
"Well that's your name, isn't it?” All of a sudden, he wasn't sure of the answer himself.
Hutch looked at his partner for a beat and then said, "My name is Ken Hutchinson."
"And I guess that makes me the ever-popular David Starsky? I mean your real name."
"That is my real name."
"Fine, whatever." Paul crossed his arms over his chest and stared straight ahead. He didn't know what was going on, but he was in no mood for any of David's stupid pranks.
Hutch yanked the Torino out of traffic, pulled to the nearest curb, and cut the ignition.
He turned toward the scowling man beside him. "Listen, Starsky, I'm not sure what’s going on with you, but unless I get some straight answers, I'm taking you to the emergency room, whether you like it or not, you got it?"
Paul, continuing to stare out the window, just nodded.
"Okay," Hutch began, "first of all, just who do you think I am?"
Paul turned his head enough to reply, "This is completely idiotic – you are David Soul, of course. You are the irritating actor who portrays Ken Hutchinson on television."
Without letting Hutch interrupt, he continued, "And I am one Paul Glaser, also an actor, although not nearly so irritating, who portrays David Starsky, also on that same television show. And up to a few hours ago, we were both shooting that show. Until I fell down that hill and woke up here in Never Never land."
Paul was startled to see genuine shock on his friend's face. He watched him reach into his pocket and pull out his wallet. He extracted something and handed it to Paul. It was a California driver's license. It belonged to one Kenneth R. Hutchinson.
Paul took the license and shrugged. "Yeah, so, it's a prop."
"A prop," Hutch sputtered. "That's it. I'm taking you to the hospital right now." He reached for the mike. "Zebra Three to Central. Show us 10-14 at County General."
"No, please." Paul reached up and touched his arm. He wasn't sure where he was or what was happening, but he did know he didn't want to go to a hospital. Hutch ignored him and kept driving.
But was David really taking him to a hospital? Maybe this was some big surprise for him. Maybe they were on Candid Camera. That's it. Why didn't he think of it before?
He looked around the interior of the Torino. This car had been through the mill. He wouldn't be able to find a hidden camera if someone showed him where it was. He started to open the glove compartment when he felt a hand on his arm.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm looking for the hidden camera."
Hidden camera? Hutch shook his head. What was up with his partner? Television cops? Bernie? Joe? That paramedic must have missed something. Starsky had been alone with Stryker for some time before the rest of them got to him. Maybe one of those goons slipped him something. But then what would the hospital do? Put the confused detective in bed and leave him there for twenty-four hours? The one thing Starsky had said that made any sense since he came to was that he didn't want to go to the hospital. He made his decision.
"Zebra Three to Central. Please disregard last transmission. Show both myself and Sergeant Starsky 10-8."
Paul looked up from his camera investigation in surprise.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm taking you home and we are going to get to the bottom of this. And by the time we're finished, you'll probably wish you were in the hospital."
David Starsky knew it was coming. He turned just in time to see Mac Stryker, reputed crime boss and “scum of the earth,” as his partner liked to call him, raise the brick above his head. A white light exploded in his eyes and everything went black.
"Paul, Paul, can you hear me?"
He could hear Hutch's voice. He felt himself coming around. But who was Paul? He struggled to open his eyes. As his vision cleared, he saw his concerned partner bending over him.
"I'm okay, I'm okay. Lemme up, will ya?” He struggled to his elbows. The world tilted and he closed his eyes against a wave of nausea.
"Take it easy, Paul. Help is coming. Just lie still."
"Stryker, where's Stryker?"
"I don't know – just lie still."
Starsky obeyed his partner, laid his head back and looked up into the pine trees, trying to clear his throbbing head – pine trees? Where the hell was he? He sat up quickly, despite the darkness that threatened to wash over him, and looked around. This was not the deserted parking lot where he had cornered Stryker and his men. It looked like he was up in the mountains somewhere. And where was everyone? All he could see was Hutch and a lot of lights and cameras. Cameras!? The bloodsucking press was here already? But just where was here? He looked to his partner for answers.
"Hutch, where are we?"
"Hutch, huh? Well, little buddy, where we are is done for the year. My guess is that your header down this hill effectively ended today's shooting. And if that ankle's not broken, you are on your way to Morocco.”
"Shooting? Who was hit? Where's Dobey? Man, my head is killing me.” What was Hutch talking about? Morocco? If he could stop the pounding in his head, maybe he could get a grip on this situation.
“Paul – David,” a strange voice shouted.
“We're here, Joe. Over here.” Starsky watched as his partner motioned to some men coming around the path toward them.
"We saw him fall, but couldn't find you. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I think Paul broke his ankle. He was unconscious when I got to him."
The stranger knelt beside Starsky. "Paul, how you doing?"
Starsky looked around to see whom the man was talking to. Four more men had come around the path and now everyone, including Hutch, was staring at him.
"Well, I have no idea who Paul is, but my head is killing me." He turned to his partner, "And will you stop telling everyone my ankle's broken? Stryker hit me in the head, not the foot."
Starsky struggled to get up. Both Hutch and the stranger jumped to help him.
"I don't think you should do that, Paul. Have you looked at your ank. . .?”
"Aghgh,” Starsky screamed in agony as he put his weight on the injured foot. He sagged into the arms of the man Hutch called Joe.
"Easy there, Paul,” Joe soothed. "We got some help to get you down from here. Don't hurt that ankle any more."
In too much pain to protest, Starsky allowed himself to be carried the rest of the way down the hill and lifted into a waiting ambulance.
He felt someone jump in beside him and turned to thank his partner for coming with him, but it was not Hutch. It was the stranger. Joe. What the hell . . . ?
He searched the crowd that had gathered at the door for a familiar face. Any familiar face at this point. Finally, he saw the one he was looking for and croaked out a pathetic "Hutch. . .?"
David Soul looked up into the ambulance at his friend. He saw the blue eyes silently pleading with him. "Hey, Joe, let me go with him, okay?"
Joe and David exchanged glances above the dark curly head.
"Okay, but I'm calling for backup to meet you at the hospital. I don't want some mob there waiting to catch a glimpse of the injured Starsky and Hutch. You know what happens when you two show up together in public?"
David just nodded and climbed into the ambulance. Joe shut the door and turned to walk back to the rest of his crew. "Actors," he muttered.
The Torino pulled to a stop in front of 1027 1/2 Ocean. Hutch jumped out and ran around to open the door for his partner.
Paul got out and looked up at the apartment in confusion. Then it dawned on him. Candid Camera. "Okay, I get it. Since you are playing Hutch, I guess now we go up to your apartment and you fix me up with some desiccated liver and butterfly bones."
Hutch ignored him and started up the stairs. Paul shook his head and followed behind. He caught up at the apartment door and looked up. The key was resting on the lintel. Whoever planned this had paid attention to every detail.
"Oh, allow me." Paul reached up, retrieved the key, and opened the door.
He got as far as the piano and stopped. It was exactly the same. The apartment was a duplicate of the set. What the hell was going on? He staggered over to the couch and sat down. His head was spinning.
Hutch was beside him in an instant. "Hey, buddy, are you okay?"
Paul looked into the concerned eyes of his friend and pleaded, "What the hell is going on, Davey? Please tell me."
"That's just what we are going to find out – together. You want something to drink?" Hutch asked as he headed into the kitchen.
"A Perrier would be great." Paul just kept looking around the room in amazement. It was just like the set. But different. It looked, well, lived in.
"Yeah, right – how bout a root beer?"
Paul looked up in surprise. "You know I don't eat refined sugar."
"Excuse me? Since when? Did you alert the Hershey Company?"
Realization hit Paul. "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot the charade. I'm supposed to be Starsky, so I guess it’s petrified burritos and candy bars for me. Well, no thanks. Just give me a glass of water."
Hutch got them both a glass of water and sat down in the chair opposite his scowling partner. "Okay, let's start at the beginning. What exactly do you remember about today?"
"Well, we were shooting up in Topanga and I was following you up to the start and you bumped me and I fell. I remember catching my foot under some root and then I woke up in that parking lot. You know the rest.” Paul looked at the man seated in the chair.
Hutch was staring at him like he had lost his mind. "You don't remember finding Stryker's men and chasing them to that lot? You don't remember letting me out of the car and going off after Stryker alone?"
"No, what episode is that? Wait, I remember a Stryker in Snowstorm – didn't he get put in jail at the end?"
"You, know, the episode when we caught the dirty cops stealing the cocaine? And that dog kept showing up wherever we went . . ."
"You mean the cluster at Bear Lake?" Hutch asked.
Well, I think that's where it was supposed to be – didn’t we shoot it in the valley somewhere?"
Hutch looked at his partner seated on his couch as if he was an alien. "Shoot what in the valley?"
"The scenes at Bear Lake."
"We went to Bear Lake. And I killed Corman.” Hutch frowned. He’d never really gotten over the fact that he’d had to kill a fellow officer. Starsky knew that. Why would he bring it up now? What the hell was wrong with him?
Paul watched Hutch as the memories replayed on the other man's face. This guy really thinks he killed Corman. He suddenly felt very tired. He leaned back against the cushions of the couch, his head throbbing. He hoped he would be rid of the pain before he had to get on the plane – Elizabeth.
"Hey, where's the phone? I really need to call Elizabeth. Whatever is going on here, I need to let her know I'm okay."
"Who's Elizabeth?” Hutch asked.
"Who's Elizabeth? C'mon, David. Enough is enough. I'm the one who got a concussion, remember?"
"Yeah, that's why I'm asking. Ever since you got that knock on the noggin, you seem to have created a new cast of characters in your life. First Bernie, then Joe, and now Elizabeth. What next? Doodle Town?"
Paul eyed his friend, confused. "Doodle Town? Oh, you mean Diana Scarwid."
"Who the hell is Diana Scarwid?"
"The girl who played Lisa – you know – Doodle Town?"
"No one ‘played’ Lisa. She is a real person. Why is it you remember some things and yet you can't remember your own name? You are David – I am Ken.” Hutch's voice thundered through the room.
Paul stared at him, surprised at the intensity. The David Soul he was used to was a very gentle man not in the habit of bellowing. He watched as the man who had become like a brother to him the last two years spun around and began watering a plant.
Hutch ignored his partner, trying to gather himself.
Paul rubbed his temples. "I feel like I've been beamed up to some parallel universe. It's like you want me to believe that everything we shot on the show really happened."
Hutch turned and gave him a patented Hutchinson glare. He shook his head and then plopped down on the couch. They both sat silently for a moment, each lost in thought. Suddenly, Hutch leapt off the couch and whirled to face the man still seated.
"Okay, what if, just for a minute, we say that what you are saying is true? That you are really not David Starsky, but Paul, uh. . ."
"Glaser. My name is Paul Michael Glaser."
"Okay, so if you're not Starsky, prove it."
"What do you mean?"
“Well, no two people are exactly alike, no matter how much they look like it."
Paul did not enjoy this little game. "Of course we're not alike. He's a character I created. He's not real."
Hutch was relentless. "Convince me, then. What makes you different?"
"What makes you think I actually think you are who you say you are?" Paul countered.
"No – you answer me first. So, what about it? You got any weird allergies? Six toes? Birthmarks? Scars?"
Paul frowned. "Scars? Like an appendix scar?"
"You have an appendix scar?"
"No, does Starsky?"
"No – this is ridiculous. You are Starsky."
"I thought you were going to believe me." Paul retorted.
"I know, but. . ." Hutch lifted both hands in exasperation.
"C'mon, Hutch, there's got to be something." Paul was finally getting into this little game. He shot the detective his best Starsky smile.
Hutch rolled his eyes. "Well, if you’re not Starsky, you must be a clone, because that cheesy grin was all him."
"Except I drive a blue Beemer and despise ‘Linguini widda clams.’” Paul chuckled at his own humor.
“That’s it!" Hutch's voice startled Paul. He was beginning to believe that the man standing before him was not David Soul. He was just too boisterous.
"What's it?" Paul asked.
"The scar. From the shootout in the restaurant.” Hutch took a step toward the couch.
Paul stood up. "What shootout? Oh, Shootout. Where I, I mean, Starsky gets shot in the Italian place?"
"The bullet missed your spine by a hair's breadth. They had to remove it by going in through your side. I'd know that scar anywhere. Take off you shirt.” Hutch demanded.
"I don't have a scar." Paul backed away slowly. "I was never shot. It was a script. A TV show."
"Prove it," challenged Hutch.
"This is ridiculous. I’m going home." Paul started toward the door. His eye caught sight of a framed picture on top of the piano and he stopped. He reached over and took the picture in his hands. It was a photograph of himself and David. Well, at least it looked like them. But it had been taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. And he was wearing clothes he had never seen before. Not to mention the fact he had never been to Paris with David.
"Where was this taken?" He held out the picture to Hutch.
"Where does it look like? Paris. We went there two years ago, remember? That was right before you ate your weight in escargot and puked all the way to Italy." Hutch smiled at the memory.
Paul searched the other man's familiar eyes for the truth. He shook his head and pulled the picture almost to his nose. The two men being photographed smiled like fools. For all intents and purposes, it looked like a publicity still for the show. Like it was "Starsky and Hutch Go to France." Because the faces staring back at him were not Paul and David but the two detectives they portrayed. He put the picture back on the piano, swallowed hard and turned to face the other man.
"I really don't know what the hell is happening here, but you have to believe I am not David Starsky."
He unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it down off his shoulders. Hutch stared at the curly haired chest, familiar to him as his own. "Turn around," he demanded.
Paul turned and to Hutch's amazement, there were no marks. The jagged scar that had been Starsky's souvenir of that awful night was gone. The only blemish on this back was a small half moon scar at the back of the neck.
"Wha . . . the . . . hell . . ." Hutch croaked.
"I told you." Paul said gently. Even if this really wasn't David Soul, which he was now starting to believe, he still felt a connection with this man behind him.
It was now Hutch's turn to fall heavily onto the couch. He continued to stare at the half- dressed man before him. How is this possible? He struggled to remember the last time he had seen Starsky without a shirt. The locker room, maybe? Did he see the scar then? This situation was getting more hinky by the minute.
"David . . ." Paul ventured.
"If I'm going to believe that you're this Paul person, then do me the same courtesy, huh? Call me Ken. Or Hutch."
Paul shrugged back into his shirt. "Okay, Hutch. Where do we go from here?"
"I have no idea. I was hoping you would sleep this hallucination off and be back to normal in the morning, but now . . ." He motioned to Paul's chest.
Paul sat down beside the detective. "Yeah, tell me about it."
Meanwhile, David Soul was doing his best to answer the questions being tossed at him from all directions by the large press contingent that had swarmed the hospital. Unfortunately, the backup that Joe promised was a lone security guard who had long since given up and left in search of coffee. Finally, Joe himself appeared and whisked David off to a secured area of the hospital.
"Sorry, David. Some goof put it out that the two of you were headed here."
"Good news travels fast."
Joe nodded. "How's Paul?"
"The ankle is broken. And he has a concussion."
"Does he still think. . .?” Joe was hesitant to even ask the question.
"Well, when I left him to head off the reporters, he was asking the doctor if he could get a walking cast so he wouldn't be stuck writing reports for ‘Cap'n Dobey.’"
"Geez. What does the doctor think?"
David ran his hand through his hair in exasperation. "Get this – he thinks Paul is so funny. He seems to think it's all a big publicity stunt."
Joe grimaced. "Great. I can see the headlines – TV Star Thinks He's Really Starsky. We gotta get him outta here. You call Elizabeth yet?"
"Well," David hesitated, "I was waiting till we know a little more. I mean, just what do I tell her? Oh, Elizabeth, you might have to postpone Morocco. See, Paul hit his head and now he's really Starsky?"
"Tell me about it,” the producer replied, "Spelling paged me twice on the way here."
They were interrupted by the doctor walking toward them with a big grin on his face.
"The patient is resting comfortably. I think a twenty-four hour observation would be advisable. Although, when I left him, he was trying to convince one of my nurses to give him a sponge bath." The doctor shook his head, chuckling. "You know I'm a big fan of your show. I can't believe how much Mr. Glaser is like his character. He even asked me to come out and find ‘Sergeant Hutchinson’ for him."
Joe and David exchanged glances. Then, in his official Producer voice, Joe said, "Now, Dr. Callahan, I do hope that Mr. Glaser's condition will be kept in the strictest confidence. You know how the media likes to distort things. I recommend a short press conference in about twenty minutes. You can talk about his condition and. . ."
David drifted away from the conversation and headed toward Paul's room. He shook his head in wonder again at the Hollywood Machine. Was he the only one who thought that something needed to be done about Paul's condition and to hell with the media?
"Dat's showbiz," he muttered to himself. Well, he was going to do something about it. He would convince Paul to go with him to see another doctor or a specialist. Maybe it was a form of amnesia.
"Yo, Blondie!” A voice burst out of the room he had just passed. He whirled around. Was that Paul? Maybe he was even worse off than he thought. He started into the room the voice had come from and stopped in shock at the sight before him.
Propped up by pillows, with his left foot now in a cast, Paul had his arm around a beautiful blonde nurse. Two other nurses were sitting at the foot of the bed. Still another was bending down, signing his cast. He looked up at David, grinning from ear to ear.
"Hey, Hutch, where ya been? Me and the girls have been looking for you."
One of the nurses turned and saw David. "Oh, my gosh, it's Hutch. I can't believe it. Starsky and Hutch in the same room.” She held out a medical chart to the still stunned David. "Will you sign this for me?"
David took the chart and glanced at the other signature on it: Don't let the whippos get you down, David M. Starsky.
He quickly scribbled his own name, handed the chart back, and said in his most persuasive tone, "Hey, ladies, can I have a minute alone with my partner, here?"
With some grumbling, the room emptied. David Soul turned to the now-pouting man in the bed.
"Whatcha do that for, Hutch? I was just getting around to phone numbers. It's the weirdest thing. All the people in this place keep asking me for my autograph and telling me how much they love me. And did you get a load of those nurses? I think I've died and gone to heaven.”
David just stared in amazement at his partner. It was like he was getting the Starsky Special. Paul was completely in character. But why? There was something definitely wrong here.
"You sure you feel okay, Paul?" he asked.
"Paul? Don't you think you're getting a little carried away with that Paul Muni thing? I feel fine except my head hurts and this cast is already starting to itch. Didja see I got 'em to put on a walking one so Dobey can't keep me on desk duty.” The words just tumbled out, just like Starsky.
"It's so weird, though. Everyone acts like they know me and I don't recognize anyone but you. You think Stryker gave me amnesia or something?” Starsky looked at his partner.
He really thinks he is Starsky, David thought to himself. Thank goodness he had held off calling Elizabeth. She would just freak out over this. He took a deep breath and waded in.
"Have you called Elizabeth?"
"Elizabeth. Your girlfriend. The woman you live with. The woman you're supposed to be going to Morocco with today?"
Starsky frowned. "Morocco? What the hell are you talking about, Hutch?"
David tried another route. "Who do you think I am?"
“The Queen of England. Whadda ya mean? Why are you acting so weird? And where's Dobey? I figured he'd be here by now.”
This is not going to be easy, David thought, I can't believe the doctor thinks he's okay.
He turned to see that very doctor entering the room.
"Well, Mr. – uh – Starsky – it looks like you are going to get out of here. Your producer has convinced me that you will be more comfortable resting at home. A nurse will be up with a wheelchair in about fifteen minutes.” He turned toward David.
"Mr. Soul, Mr. Naar asked me to tell you that he will have a car for you at the laundry exit. An orderly will escort you. It's been a real pleasure having you both in our hospital.” And with a nod, he was gone.
Starsky, upon hearing he was leaving, had already maneuvered himself out of the bed and was hopping over to grab his pants. He untied the gown he was wearing and let it drop to the floor as he stuck his cast into the leg of his jeans. He started to lose his balance and began hopping crazily. David lunged forward to try to steady him, which made him lose his own balance and he fell toward the bed, taking Starsky with him. They landed in a heap, Starsky on top.
"Thanks buddy. You're a real help, ya know?" Starsky struggled to get off his friend.
"My God, what is that?"
Starsky tried to twist around to see what Hutch was talking about, but strong hands kept him immobile. He felt his partner trace the scar on his back.
"Hey, you're tickling me.” Starsky squirmed under the grasp and pulled away. He stood and turned. The shock on Hutch's face startled him.
"Hey, Hutch, what is it? Are you okay?"
"Where? How – your back?” David managed to choke out.
Realization hit Starsky. "Oh, my scar. I never look at it so sometimes I forget I even have it. What's wrong with it?"
"How – how did you get it?"
"Oh, that's funny, Detective. Just help me get dressed, will ya?"
David stood up and reached for his arm. “No, really, where did you get that scar?"
Starsky stared back into the troubled eyes of his partner. He's serious.
"It's from when I got shot in the restaurant. You sure are acting strange. You would think Stryker hit you over the head."
David frowned. "The restaurant? You don't mean Shootout?"
"Yeah, I guess you could call it a shootout. I don't remember much. I guess you don't either.” Starsky reached for his shirt.
David grabbed his arm. "But you didn't really get shot. It wasn't real. How the hell could you have a scar from something that's not real?"
"What the hell are you talking about? Hutch, you’re beginning to worry me."
"And will you quit calling me Hutch? You know my name. Use it."
"I think that doctor should take a look at you.” Starsky hopped over to the door.
This is not happening, David thought. "No, uh – Dave – wait."
Starsky turned back toward his partner. "Dave? Now I know there's something wrong with you."
"Can't we just sit down for a minute and talk about this?"
"I have a better idea.” Starsky hopped closer. “You go get my car and get me outta here and then we'll talk about whatever you want."
"Joe's sending a car."
"Joe who? Where's my car?"
"Starsky, sit down and shut up."
Recognizing the tone in his partner's voice, Starsky sat.
Satisfied, David took a deep breath and began. "Okay, I don’t know what is going on here, but it's obvious I need to fill you in on a few facts you seem to have forgotten. I'm not sure if you have a serious head injury or what, but your reality is slightly skewed.”
He held up a warning finger to stop any protest. "My name is David Soul. You are Paul Michael Glaser. We work on a television show together called Starsky and Hutch. We were filming that show when you fell down a hill and broke your ankle. You also hit your head. At first I thought that the reason you have continued to act like your character Starsky was because of that injury. But now, after talking to you and seeing your back, I'm not sure myself what is going on. What I do know, is that in a few minutes we are going to have to walk out of this hospital. You keep acting like you have been, and the media is going to have a field day."
Starsky just sat and stared, opened mouth at the man before him. TV show? Character?
David continued, "Now, what I think is that we both should sneak out that laundry exit. I'll take you to my house and we can try to figure this out. I don't think we should tell anyone about this yet. I'll call Elizabeth and tell her something – God knows what. And if this is some practical joke you have cooked up, I will probably never forgive you.” David turned and looked out the door for the orderly.
"Well, that is the biggest piece of garbage I have ever heard!” Starsky sputtered angrily.
He was interrupted by the timely appearance of Joe Naar, with the promised orderly.
"David, you ready?"
"Yeah." Both men answered in unison. David Soul glared at David Starsky.
"Uh, Joe, could I talk to you for a minute?" David led the producer out into the hallway.
Starsky folded his arms across his chest in irritation.
“Mr. Glaser, I'm a really big fan of yours." the orderly said.
Starsky looked at him with curiosity. "Who do you think I am?"
The timid man was taken aback. "You're Paul Michael Glaser. Is there something wrong, sir?"
"How do you know me?" Starsky grilled.
"Oh, I watch your TV show every week."
"TV show? What's it called?"
The orderly gave Starsky a peculiar look. He had heard through the hospital grapevine that the actor was in the hospital for a concussion, but he can't remember what his own television show was called?
“Starsky and Hutch, sir. It's on Wednesdays at ten. I never miss it."
Now it was Starsky's turn to stare at the orderly. He ran his hand through his hair and frowned.
"Something wrong, Mr. Glaser?"
"No, no, nothing.” He sagged onto the bed. Wait'll Hutch gets a load of this.
But that was Hutch out in the hallway talking to that stranger, Joe. Or was it? Starsky had watched enough science fiction movies to allow his mind to wander. Parallel universe? Symbiotic Transfer? Twilight Zone?
"This is just terrific."
"Pardon me, Mr. Glaser?"
Starsky hadn't realized he’d spoken aloud. “Oh, nothing. Sorry, I was just thinking."
Joe and David reentered the room. Joe nodded to the orderly and said, "Well, Dave, are you ready to get out of here?"
Starsky stared at the stranger. "I know you from somewhere? You that new captain everybody's been talking about?"
"C'mon, Starsk," David Soul interrupted, "let's go.” He took the handles of the wheel chair.
Starsky stared at both men, huffed, and slunk into his ride.
"I'll call you as soon as we get settled in,” David said to Joe as the duo started off down the hallway with the orderly tagging behind.
Everyone they passed did a double take. Starsky just sat slumped in the chair, glaring back at them. They reached the laundry exit and David walked ahead and opened the door to the limo that was waiting.
Starsky sat upright, suddenly interested. "This is our ride? Hey, maybe I'm going to like this TV star thing.” He hopped to the door.
"Just get in.” David waved to the orderly, gave the address to the driver and they were off.
"C'mon, Paul, we've been up this same road four times. There's no one out here."
"Just a little further. I think I recognize that tree.” Paul stared out the window.
Hutch glanced over to his passenger, so concentrated on the surroundings. Lord, he looked like Starsky. And talked like him.
Well, sort of. Starsky had a hybrid New York accent from his early days. If he listened carefully, he could tell that this man hailed from somewhere further up the eastern seaboard.
"Are you from Massachusetts or Rhode Island?" he asked.
Paul looked startled. "Boston, how did you know?"
"I'm a detective. It's my job." Hutch smiled. "It's the accent. It's close to Starsky's but different."
"But his accent is mine. I created him.” Paul was still struggling with the idea that there really was a live David Starsky roaming the world.
Hutch, on the other hand, had bought into it completely. With all that he and his partner had seen in their line of work, he could just about believe anything. In fact, this whole situation was starting to remind him of Terry Nash. Maybe this guy sitting beside him was like Terry. Maybe his memory had been reprogrammed. Maybe someone had gone to a lot of trouble to turn this guy into a clone of his partner. But if that was true, then where was Starsky? Hutch was itching to get out on the streets and find out, but he couldn't really do that with Paul riding shotgun. They would both be committed. So instead, they were up here in the middle of the night looking for clues to Paul's other life.
"There! Right there!” Paul's shout startled Hutch out of his musings.
"Stop the car."
Hutch complied and Paul was out the door in a flash, heading up an embankment. Hutch swore silently, turned off the engine, and scrambled after the quickly disappearing figure.
"Paul, hang on. It's pitch black out here."
"C'mon. This is it." Paul thrashed in the bushes.
Hutch caught up to him. Paul was on his knees, sifting through what looked like a pile of dirt. He yelped and pulled his hands out and held them up to Hutch.
"See, I told you I was here.” He held three cigarette butts in his hand.
"That just shows that someone littered here."
"No, look at the brand.”
Hutch did, and shook his head, not understanding.
"They're French. David only smokes French cigarettes. He got hooked on them when he was touring last summer."
Hutch took a closer look at the butts. They did look foreign, but who left them and how long they had been buried in that pile of dirt was anyone's guess. He looked up to see Paul taking off up the hill again.
Paul stopped suddenly and turned around. He rubbed his forehead and slumped to the ground, exhausted. Hutch walked over and sat down beside him. They seemed to be finding themselves in this position a lot. Side by side and completely stumped.
Hutch patted Paul on the leg and said, "C’mon Stars . . ." He caught himself quickly. "Paul, you're pushing yourself too hard. Remember you do have a concussion. Maybe we should call it a night and start out fresh in the morning."
"But I can't. I have to keep searching. Elizabeth is probably worried sick about me.” He hurled a stone into the underbrush in frustration.
Hutch watched the rock sail into the night. "Do that again." he ordered.
"Throw a rock."
Paul frowned. "You throw a rock. I'm going to look for more clues.” He started to rise.
Hutch yanked him back down to the ground. "No, I mean it. Do that same action you just did again. Throw a rock."
"No, I think I saw something. Just throw it."
With a disgusted huff, Paul grabbed another stone and launched it into the bushes. It sailed out of his hand, headed for the trees and disappeared. Disappeared?
Both men scrambled to their feet.
"What the hell . . .?"
"See, I told you I saw something. Do it again."
Paul picked up a handful of rocks and tossed them. They seemed to drop off the face of the earth. Hutch grabbed a big stick and threw it in the same direction. The same thing happened. The pair looked at each other and then ran over to where it looked like the rocks disappeared. They searched the bushes and on the ground. There was nothing there.
Paul walked a little further into the trees and yelled, "Hey. What the hell . . .?"
Hutch joined him.
“Watch this.” Paul waved his hand in the air. About two feet in front of him, his hand started to distort and then disappeared. It reappeared as he drew it back toward him.
Hutch did the same thing. His hand wavered, disappeared, and reappeared when he drew it back.
"What do you think it is?” Paul whispered.
"I have no idea."
They began to experiment with the area. They found it to be about four feet wide by six feet tall.
"It's the size of a door," Hutch said as he felt out the dimensions.
"A door?” Paul stuck his leg out and watched as it disappeared and reappeared. "Okay, this is starting to be one big Twilight Zone episode gone bad. Are you sure we're not on Candid Camera?” He turned to see Hutch reach into his jacket for a pen and hold it out. The pen and half his arm shimmered and disappeared. He pulled back and his arm reappeared without the pen.
Hutch stepped back, pulling Paul with him. "Be careful. Something just grabbed that pen out of my hand."
"What the hell is this?"
Hutch shook his head. “I have no damn idea. If Starsky were here, he would be swearing it was an alien portal or something like that. He would have decided by now that you walked through it and ended up in the parking lot."
"Well, why not?” Paul asked.
"Oh, c'mon, you don't buy into all that Star Trek science fiction stuff, too?"
"Well, something strange is happening. How do you explain it?"
"I sure wouldn't think it was an alien gizmo. My guess is that we have stumbled into some government experiment gone haywire." Hutch replied calmly.
"As in our government? CIA, top-secret stuff?” Paul was curious.
"You are paranoid."
"Well, you would be too if . . ."
"Oh my gosh, Terry Nash.” Paul interrupted.
Hutch stared at him, shocked. "How the hell do you know about Terry Nash?" he asked suspiciously.
"Don't look at me like that. We did that episode. The Set-Up. No wonder you think it's a government conspiracy."
"Episode?” Hutch was infuriated. "Just how does somebody turn what we are doing into a television show?"
"I don't know. Maybe it happens simultaneously. You think this all has something to do with Terry? Or those creeps that got away?"
Hutch looked away from Paul. "Terry's dead," he said quietly.
"Dead? That didn't happen in the show."
"Well here in the real world, it did. The ‘creeps’ you refer to gassed him. Almost got me and Starsky, too. It was a damn nightmare. But I guess that didn't happen in the show, either.”
The two men stared at each other. Hutch was seething. How dare this man just show up and start to minimize his life into one big cops and robbers show.
Paul, watching the crimson creep up the familiar, yet different face, grabbed him by the arm.
"Hey, Hutch, we're on the same side here."
Hutch looked into the same blue eyes he had seen every day for the past six years and let out a sigh. It wasn't fair. His head told him he was staring at his partner. But his heart knew it wasn't so. Even standing here looking at an identical twin, he missed Starsky. And yet, he felt a strong connection to the man before him. He shook his head. He had to find out what was going on.
Paul watched all this play across Hutch's face. It was funny, but he could almost feel what he was thinking. It was like on that first day he and David Soul auditioned together. Paul had walked into the room filled with producers, directors, and studio heads and felt immediately drawn to the other actor lounging against the wall. Before they were done, he knew he had found a friend. He wondered what David was doing at this moment. Probably trying to find him. Wouldn't that be a kick if Starsky was . . .?
"Hey, I just thought of something."
"What? Another episode?"
Paul ignored the sarcasm. "What if Starsky fell through a door, too? What if he's now with David?"
"I don't get it."
"Well, what if Starsky and I have switched places? What if he is living in my world?"
Hutch frowned. "Starsky a TV star? I just don't see it," he retorted, although something about this latest theory made sense. At least it would make him feel better if Starsky was a big star and not being held captive somewhere. Or worse.
"I'll just go back." Paul started toward the door.
Hutch grabbed Paul and pulled him back. "You are not going anywhere. We have no idea what the hell this thing is. You don't know what will happen if you go in there. You might jeopardize both your lives. Just c'mon.” Hutch headed down the hill.
Paul watched him go for a moment and followed reluctantly. "Where are we going?"
"We are going to find some answers."
They arrived at the Torino. Hutch opened to door and looked over the roof at Paul. "But first, we need to do something about you. We can't go around town asking about Starsky with you standing right beside me. You better get a disguise."
"For your information, I am an actor. I can become whoever you want me to be."
"How about my partner. Can you become my partner?” Hutch regretted the words before they were out of his mouth.
Paul just glared at him and climbed into the car, without saying a word.
Way to go Hutchinson. He recalled what Paul had just said to him. We're on the same side, Hutch. This was not a good situation for either one of them.
He climbed into the Torino and started down the mountain. Paul stared out the window and ignored him.
"Well," Hutch said, "the first thing we need is a dose of reality we can both relate to."
“Where would be the correct question, Mr. Glaser. And The Pits is the answer. Let's go see Huggy."
"Huggy?” Paul thought of Antonio Fargas and smiled.
Hutch was bolstered by the smile. "See, he already made you feel better."
"Yeah, let's go see Huggy.” Paul settled back into his seat and they roared off into the night.
Two days later, Starsky was basking in the sun, poolside. Having taken immediately to the life of a Hollywood star, he had wined and dined himself until Paul's pants that he was wearing were about to burst. David Soul had exhausted himself trying to keep the enthusiastic detective under wraps. Unlike his cosmic counterpart, who shunned publicity like the plague, Starsky ate it up with a big spoon. Just this morning David had found Starsky on the phone with Freddie DeCordova, setting up an appearance on the Tonight Show that included all three of the actresses from Charlie's Angels. If Starsky had only known how long Johnny Carson himself had been after Paul to come on the show.
They had given up trying to convince each other who they actually were, and had just accepted the fact that something strange was going on. David had called Elizabeth and tried to explain (without really explaining) the situation, but it didn't go well and now she was in Morocco with her friend, Anne.
Oh well, David thought as he approached the sun-baked detective, Paul will have a lot of explaining to do when he gets back. He shook his head. It had been over two days now and they were no closer to solving this mystery.
He had made the rounds with medical specialists that first day and they all concurred with the physician at the hospital. Concussion. No signs of brain damage.
He had also (as a bribe to get Starsky to go to the specialists) taken the detective all over the city, where they scoured the streets for just one thread of Starsky's other life. They had journeyed into the heart of the inner city, looking for any snitch, pimp, or hype that Starsky recognized. David had been fearful for their lives most of the time because, what Starsky failed to realize was that people did recognize him, not as a tough homicide detective, but as Paul "Starsky" Glaser, the TV star.
Even in his cast, Starsky would saunter into the roughest bars in all of Los Angeles, doing a great "Dirty Harry" impression. Inevitably, he would be recognized, a mob would form, and they would end up hustled out some back alley by a sympathetic bartender.
And as if that little adventure wasn't enough, they had almost been arrested when David mistakenly drove him by the location they used for the exterior shots of Hutch's apartment. Starsky had bolted up the stairs and was in the process of accusing the actual inhabitants of everything from trespassing to kidnapping and extortion by the time David had caught up with him. It was a good thing that the tenants were already fans and easily placated with a promise of a future visit to the set.
"Hey, bathing beauty, you'd better get ready. We have to be at the studio in an hour.” David was taking Starsky to the soundstage to see if they could find anything there.
"We taking the limo again?” Starsky stood and stretched like a cat. He squinted at the man standing before him. It still shook him to think he wasn't looking at his partner – the similarities were amazing. And so, Starsky had realized in the last couple of days, were the differences. For one thing, David smoked like a chimney. Both Hutch and he had given that up right after the academy. They needed the lung capacity for chasing down bad guys.
As if on cue, David struck a match and lit another cigarette. "Yes, Mr. Showbiz, they're sending one over."
They were both startled by a female voice calling from inside the house.
"Hello – anybody home? David? Kristofer?”
A smile spread across David's face. "Lynne. We’re out here.” He started toward the house and was met by his girlfriend, Lynne Marta. They embraced and David gave her a long, passionate kiss. Starsky watched, stunned.
The couple pulled apart. David ruffled Lynne's blond hair and said, "What are you doing back? I didn't expect you for another week.” Lynne had been gone over a month, shooting a television movie in London.
"Thanks a lot, Mr. Soul. I love you, too." She noticed the other presence on the patio. "Oh, hi Paul. I didn't see you. Hey, aren't you supposed in Morocco with Elizabeth . . . what happened to your foot?” She looked from one man to the other.
"You!” Starsky finally found his voice.
"Uh, Lynne, hon, there's something I need . . ."
"You!" Starsky repeated, taking a step toward the confused woman.
"Paul, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost. I haven't been gone that long.” Lynne took a step back.
Starsky looked from her to David. "Cheryl? You and Cheryl?"
David frowned and shook his head, not understanding.
Starsky turned back to Lynne. "Cheryl, don't you remember me? It's Dave. Dave Starsky."
"Dave Starsky? Paul, just what are you doing? Who's Cheryl?" It dawned on her. "Oh, I get it. You mean Cheryl, my character from The Bait? Yeah, that's a funny one.” Lynne glanced over to David.
David, finally realizing what was going on, grabbed Lynne by the arm and said, "Listen, I really need to talk to you a minute – alone.”
He attempted to lead her into the house, but Starsky reached out and grabbed her by the other arm.
"C'mon, Cheryl, tell this guy you know me."
"Starsky," David cut in, "hang on. Let me explain some things to her before you start the interrogation."
"But she's the first person besides you that I recognize."
"That's because she's been on a couple of episodes."
"And she lives with you?" Starsky turned his attention back toward Lynne. “I thought you were moving back east."
Lynne shook free from both men. She whirled around with her hands on her hips. "Somebody better tell me just what is going on here. Is this some twisted game you two play when nobody's around? And what happened to your foot?"
From inside the house, the doorbell rang. "Great. That's our car,” David said. "Lynne, just come with us. I'll explain on the way, okay?"
"But David, I just got here. Where are you going?"
"We have to go to the studio. Just come with us and I promise I'll explain everything, please."
He led her into the house with Starsky following behind, muttering under his breath.
Lynne turned back to the scowling man. "Excuse me?" she asked.
"Oh, I was just saying that it sure is funny, you shacking up with Blondie here, when according to the last time you and I talked, you made it very clear that you preferred brunettes.” He lifted his nose in the air and swept past her.
Lynne stared in disbelief at his back as he limped down the hallway. David gave her an uneasy smile and steered her out the door.
"This had better be good,” she said to both men as they all three climbed into the limo.
Actually, Lynne took to the incredible story better than David had anticipated. In fact, she thought of questions for Starsky that had not entered David's mind. During the ride to the studio, she went episode by episode, grilling the detective about his actual case history.
"What about Monk? Did you kill him in that alley? And how is Hutch doing with that whole addiction thing?"
Starsky looked uncomfortably from her to David.
"Lynne,” David interjected, "maybe Starsky doesn't want to talk about it. Remember, it's not really public knowledge.”
Lynne's hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, I'm so sorry Paul . . . I mean Starsky. I was just curious in the differences in the stories. I didn't mean to . . ."
"That's okay," Starsky replied, “I wanna know, too. Hutch is still okay so far. It was a pretty rough coupla months, though. You know Forest hasn't even gone to trial yet?"
"It took him two months to shake the heroin?” David was surprised. It had been hard enough for him just to portray someone withdrawing from the awful drug and that was for just a week.
"Well, yeah, including the relapse, about two months he was off work."
"Relapse? What relapse?” David and Lynne asked in unison.
Starsky shrugged. "Well, about two weeks after we found him, Hutch went down to the docks and got into some trouble. Huggy and I searched for him for two days. We thought Forest had nabbed him again. He finally showed up at Terry's, more strung out than before. But that's been over a year now and he's doing fine."
Lynne placed her hand on Starsky's knee. "And Terry?"
Starsky swallowed hard and looked out the window. David nudged Lynne and glared at her, shaking his head in warning.
Starsky turned back to them, his face carved in stone. "What do you know about Terry?" he asked evenly.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to upset you . . ."
"Just tell me – what happened to her here?” Starsky eyes were like blue steel.
David reached over Lynne and laid a hand on Starsky's shoulder. "Prudholm shot her,” he said softly.
"Damn.” Starsky hit his fist against his thigh.
"I'm so sorry, buddy."
Starsky's head whipped around at the familiar endearment. "Hutch . . .” He searched David’s eyes, willing them to be his partner's. His face crumpled and he turned to the window to hide his emotions from these virtual strangers.
"Let's just concentrate on the present problem, shall we?” David warned Lynne.
They rode in silence through the studio gate. The car drove up to the soundstage and stopped.
"Well, here we are. Home sweet home.” David opened the door and climbed out. Lynne started to follow but Starsky grabbed her arm. She turned back to him.
"You were on episodes, right?" Starsky asked.
"Yes, two. And I'm doing one next season."
"So you have different people who play different people in different stories, right?"
David, hearing the conversation, came around the limo and opened Starsky's door. "They're called actors, Starsk – c'mon, let me show you around."
Starsky ignored him and hung onto Lynne. "So you can find Terry for me, right?" he asked.
Finally realizing where the detective was going with his line of questioning, David leaned down so he was eye level with Starsky. "No, Starsk – she's an actress, not Terry."
Lynne gasped. “Oh my gosh, what if she is just like the real Terry?"
David glared at his girlfriend. "You are not helping, Lynne."
Starsky concentrated his efforts on David now. "Who is she?"
"David, he thought I was Cheryl – what if Season . . .?”
"No! She's not Terry and I'm not going to let you put yourself through that.” David bellowed at Starsky.
Starsky got out of the limo and stood toe to toe with David. Anyone watching would have thought they were rehearsing a scene from the show. They stood silently for a moment, nose to nose, blue eye to blue eye.
"Who is she, David?” Starsky whispered menacingly.
"She's not Terry." David answered, matching intensity.
"Tell me.” Starsky said.
"I am not going to tell you and you can drop the Dirty Harry crap – I’m not impressed!"
Starsky watched David's face turned a very bright red. He began to giggle. He couldn’t stop himself. The giggle turned into a chuckle, which developed into an all out guffaw. David frowned worriedly at him. It's gotta be the stress, he thought. But it was funny watching as Starsky grip his sides, tears streaming down his face, trying desperately to control himself. David started to chuckle himself and soon the two were hanging on to each other, convulsed in laughter.
Lynne got out of the car, took one look at the hysterical men, and stomped off into the soundstage. They laughed even harder. They were gasping for breath, trying to compose themselves when a golf cart pulled up beside them.
Starsky looked up and froze, shocked. David looked to see what had finally silenced him.
"Just what sort of merriment do we have here?" asked a smiling Clint Eastwood.
"Clint, how are you?” David walked toward the cart, hand extended.
Clint Eastwood grabbed the hand and said, "Not as well as the two of you, it seems.” He glanced over to the other man – now a statue. "Paul, you okay?"
David looked back to Starsky, who was staring, mouth gaping, at the tall, sandy-haired actor before him.
“Hey, Paul,” David gave Starsky a nudge, "you remember Clint?"
Starsky, finally coming out of his coma, rushed to the cart, grabbed his idol's hand, and pumped vigorously, declaring, "Oh, it's such a great honor to meet you, Mr. Eastwood, I uh, you, are my most favorite, ever. I've seen Magnum Force about twenty times, gosh, I mean . . . wow."
David grabbed Starsky and steered him away from the cart. "Great to see you again, Clint, we gotta go. See you soon."
They left the real Dirty Harry looking after them, puzzled. He shook his head as he drove away, muttering, "TV actors."
"But, hey.” Starsky protested.
"Just c'mon, Starsk. You wanna blow your cover? Remember, you're Paul Glaser, cool sophisticated star."
"You mean, he – uh I know Clint Eastwood?"
"Yeah, you've met him before."
"Well, why didn't you tell me? This is information I need. Who else do I know?” Starsky looked like a kid who had just been informed he inherited an entire candy store.
David chuckled at his friend. Friend? I guess he is my friend, I inherited him from Hutch. "Starsky, you know a lot of people."
"Terrific. Do I know Paul Newman and Robert Redford?"
"I think you know Bob from New York.” David answered.
"Bob? Wow, wait till I tell Hutch." Suddenly Starsky fell silent.
David draped an arm around his shoulder. "C'mon, Starsky, let's go see if we can find a way to get you home."
They walked into the soundstage.
Starsky turned to David. "Not until I see Terry."
"You have a one-track mind, you know that?” David closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, "Okay, I don't think it's a good idea but I'll see what I can do."
"Great.” Starsky's demeanor turned on a dime. "Okay, my same-yet-different partner, where do we start?"
David opened a door. "Here."
They were suddenly looking at the set of the squad room. Starsky stood hesitantly for a moment, and then walked in. He wandered around in the unusual silence of the room he knew like the inside of his beloved Torino; stopping to pick up a coffee cup, thumb through a dummy report. He stopped at the sight of the piggy bank, in its familiar spot between him and Hutch's desk. He picked it up and shook it. Empty. He turned and smiled at David.
"Well, you got that part right. We never have a penny in there, either."
The detective sat down at his desk. David watched, only guessing what was going on in his mind. What if this were happening to him? What if he had ended up in the real squad room?
"Starsky, I got something."
"Yeah?” Starsky continued to rummage through a desk drawer.
"What if Paul is with Hutch?"
Starsky lifted his head. "Huh?"
"Think about it. What if you and Paul have somehow traded places? What if he is sitting right now in the real squad room with Hutch?"
Starsky caught on. "You mean like some time warp? Or parallel universe? Or like when Captain Kirk beamed up as two different people?"
David nodded. "But how? Why? Where? We couldn't even find that vacant lot where you said you got hit.”
"The hill.” Starsky stood up. "Why didn't I think of it before? This Hollywood lifestyle is warping my brain. It's probably on that hill where I broke my ankle. Hey, now that I think about it, if this is true, then Paul broke my ankle."
David just shook his head, hopelessly lost in Starskyspeech.
"We must have traded places at the exact same time Paul broke his ankle. Cause all Stryker had was that big brick – which he probably hit Paul with. I bet that had to hurt."
David tried to contribute. "So what you are saying is that Paul fell down some rabbit hole and ended up in Wonderland?"
"Can't you actors think of anything else but movies? What I mean is, we need to get back to that hill. That's where everything started.” Out of habit, Starsky strode purposefully through the squad room door, which was not attached to the frame. The door fell to the floor with a crash.
David walked up behind the detective. "Uh, Starsk. . ."
"Yeah, yeah, I know – it's a prop."
They headed out the other door and into the waiting limo. David gave the driver directions to Topanga Canyon and they were off. As they passed through the studio gates, David could have sworn he heard the first few strains of the theme song as they headed onto the crowded streets.
Paul Michael Glaser was bored. He looked over at the detective sitting on the driver's seat of the Torino and sighed.
"You okay, Paul?” Hutch asked.
"Tired of sitting here, that's for sure."
Not wanting to let anyone else in on their little problem, Hutch had decided they should act like business as usual. So, for the last two days, the pair had been on a surveillance team that was staking out the residence of an alleged Mafia boss.
It was the safest assignment Hutch could find. Captain Dobey was skeptical when they had requested it, but Paul had done a good job of convincing him that he needed a rest after the Stryker incident. In fact, except for a few raised eyebrows at the suddenly new healthy eating habits, no one even suspected that Starsky wasn't Starsky.
Except Huggy. Within three minutes of walking into The Pits, Huggy had pulled Hutch into a corner, asking him what was up with his better half. When Hutch tried to explain the twisted story, Huggy marched right up and began asking Paul a series of very personal questions. Finally satisfied that the boys were not pulling one of their famous gags, he got right on the phone with every voodoo/fortune teller he knew. Soon The Pits was full of incense and incantations. Nothing worked.
So, here they were, doing what Hutch not so fondly called the grunt work of the police department.
"How do you do this?" asked Paul.
"Oh, you get used to it. You know, Mr. Glaser, police work is not all car chases and gunfights. Starsky and I probably spend 75% of our time on paperwork and this kind of assignment. Wrecking your illusions?"
"Well, I know that you can't roar around slaying dragons and saving damsels all the time, but this is mind numbing."
"Just try it with Starsky constantly eating chili dogs and reading the National Enquirer to you – that's mind numbing."
They both laughed. During the last couple of days, the two had settled into an easy companionship. When they weren't working, they were searching for answers. Hutch had struck out with any government help. His buddy at the justice department had just laughed, and he was hesitant to go too deeply into the FBI, especially after Terry Nash.
So, they spent all their time together, searching for answers themselves. Hutch glanced over at Paul scrunched down in the seat. Just like Starsky. He shook his head. Is this ever going to end? Or am I forever stuck on traffic detail with a clone?
"Hey, Hutch, somebody's coming.” Paul straightened up and pointed toward the house. They watched a black sedan pull into the driveway.
"Get down." Hutch pulled the excited man back against the seat.
"Oh, yeah, our cover." Paul grinned.
Two large men got out of the car. They walked around to the back door and opened it, keeping an eye on the surroundings. A man in a wide brim hat stepped out.
"I don't believe it." Hutch whispered.
"I'll be damned. He did come back."
"The guy who lives here?"
"The very one. For once the Feds were right. Stay down, Paul. I'm gonna call for back-up."
Paul pointed as a second car came squealing around the corner and up the driveway. It was a tan Ford, filled with four men armed with large automatic weapons. They drove within range and fired at Monte and his men. One of the men shoved Monte towards the house and the other opened fire on the Ford. The men in the Ford returned fire and Monte’s man fell to the ground. The other men in Monte's car bailed out and headed for the house. The Ford squealed to a stop and its occupants chased the others into the house, guns blazing.
Hutch grabbed the mike and shouted, "Zebra Three requests back-up at 1123 East Raintree. Shots fired. We need an ambulance. Officers involved. I repeat, officers are involved."
Paul, mesmerized at the sight before him, turned quickly at this last remark. "What officers?"
"Paul, just stay here. Do not go anywhere. Here." Hutch handed Paul Starsky's Beretta.
Paul held it gingerly in his hand. "Where are you going?" he croaked.
"Just stay here. When the backup comes, tell them what's going on." Hutch made his way carefully toward the house.
Paul sat stunned for a moment. This was way too real. Those were real guns and real bullets and real blood. Hutch! Real or not, he couldn't let Hutch do this by himself. If Starsky were here, he'd be right with his partner, moving up in tandem to the house. Paul had done it himself dozens of times with David. Of course, that was in front of a camera and no one was shooting at them. Still, he had to try.
Resolved, Paul slipped out of the car and ran to the nearest tree. He could see Hutch climbing up the side of the porch. He made his way to the bushes that were next to it.
"Hey, Hutch." Paul used his best stage whisper.
Hutch wheeled around at the sound, Magnum drawn. Seeing Paul, he lowered his gun and hissed, "What the hell are you doing?"
Any other comment was lost in the burst of gunfire that erupted from the window. Paul dove into the bushes. Hutch rolled off the porch and joined him.
"I told you to stay in the car . . ." Hutch started.
Paul interrupted, "You couldn't go against these guys alone. And Starsky would never forgive me if I let you get killed."
Hutch just frowned at him and peered out at the house.
"What is going on in there?" Paul asked.
"Well, for once it looked like the Feds were right. Vic Monte's supposed to be in Mexico, hiding from some tax evasion charges. Looks like he came home for a visit and the wrong people found out and came by with a welcoming committee."
Paul looked over to the man lying in the driveway. "What about him?"
"Dead, I would imagine.” Hutch peered out of the bushes, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on inside the house. For the moment it was quiet. Where was that backup? He sure couldn't go in there alone. He looked over to Paul, who was still staring at the dead man in the driveway. He could see his hand shaking as he tightened his grip on the Beretta.
"Hey, Paul, not so tight. It's likely to go off in your hand.” He reached over and patted Paul’s shoulder.
"It's so real," Paul whispered, "how the hell do you do this?"
Hutch knew the man beside him needed something to keep him from giving into the hysteria that was becoming evident on his face. "Just like Carnegie Hall, my man – practice, practice, practice."
Paul finally chuckled, a little maniacally. Hutch took it as a good sign.
"Okay, my dear thespian. Think you can assume your favorite character for a moment?"
"Good," Hutch continued, "we need to get the bad guys out of the house so that we can go in and rescue Monte, assuming of course that he's not dead already."
"So we need a distraction.” Paul said, warming up to the idea.
"How about if we go over and honk the horn of the car. They come out to investigate and we sneak in."
"Oh, c'mon, Paul. Even in the movies the crooks aren't that dumb."
Shots rang out from house. Both men huddled lower in the bushes.
"Too late for plans. We gotta move now." Hutch looked at Paul, "You know how to handle that thing?"
Paul looked at the gun in his hand and then at Hutch. “Yeah, but I'm usually shooting blanks."
"Not now, my friend. You gotta make every shot count. Follow me and keep your head down. I don't want your partner mad at me, either."
They crawled out of the bushes and around to the back part of the house. In the distance, sirens could be heard coming closer.
They reached the back porch. Steps led up to a back door next to a window. Hutch dove under the window and motioned for Paul to follow. Instead, Paul's eyes grew wide and he pointed to the window. Hutch’s eyes followed Paul's gesture to the barrel of a semi-automatic.
"Drop it, pig.” Hutch recognized one of the men from the Ford. He dropped the Magnum on the ground and stood up. Paul shrank back into the bushes.
"You, too, over there. Throw out your piece." he ordered.
"Do what he says, Paul." Hutch directed.
Paul tossed the Beretta to the ground.
"Come out where I can see you," the man growled. Paul did as instructed. He and Hutch stood side by side, facing the man.
The sirens were right on top of them now. A second man came running out of the house.
"Murray, it's the heat! We gotta get outta . . .who the hell are they?"
"I found em in the bushes. Cops. I thought the place was clean."
"Uh, fellows, if that's all you need, we'll be going . . ." Hutch took a step sideways into Paul who stumbled back into the shrubs.
"Just hold it. With your friends on their way, looks like you two's gonna be our ticket out.” The other man stepped off the back porch and yanked Paul out of the bushes. Murray kept his gun trained on Hutch's chest.
"Where's your cuffs, pig?" The man threw Paul back down to his knees.
"I don't have any cuffs," Paul replied with a bravado that he didn't feel.
"They're in my left pocket, Gordo.” Hutch never took his eyes off Murray, holding the gun.
The other man roughly snatched the cuffs and grabbed Hutch's left arm. Paul, still on his knees, coughed quietly. When Hutch looked over to him, the actor looked up at him and back to the ground. Hutch’s eyes followed Paul's to the Beretta, lying a mere three feet from Paul’s left hand. He thinks just like Starsk – hope he reacts like him.
Hutch gave a slight nod and turned his head toward the goon who already had his left hand cuffed and was reaching for his right. With a quick movement, he twisted around and kneed the man in the groin, who fell to the ground with a gasp. At the same moment, Paul rolled to the left and came up with the Beretta. Murray, who was just about to plug Hutch, whipped his gun around as Paul made his move. Paul dove into the bushes as the shot went wide, and Murray swung his piece back towards Hutch, who had leapt towards Murray at the distraction.
With a strangled “Hutch!” Paul recovered and emptied the Beretta in the direction of Murray, who was hit with the first shot and fell back into the window. Glass shattered. Paul continued to pull the trigger. The empty chambers kept clicking.
Hutch recovered, hurried over and took the gun from Paul, who stood staring at the broken window. The man on the ground moaned and Hutch quickly got him cuffed. Shots were heard from inside the house and, as soon as it had begun, it was over. The yard was suddenly crowded with police officers. Hutch identified himself and turned over the thug to a uniformed officer. More officers were coming out of the house with prisoners. One of the prisoners was holding his arm. It was Victor Monte.
As the procession passed Hutch, Monte said, "Well, Hutchinson, you saving my life is becoming a habit. I must remember to thank you properly. A nice Chianti, perhaps, for you and your partner?"
"C'mon Monte.” Officer Taylor yanked the gangster in the direction of the car. "You guys okay?"
"Yeah, Dan,” Hutch replied. "You got everyone?"
"All but the two that bought it. Coroner's wagon is on the way. Dobey wants you guys in his office as soon as you give statements here. He's not happy."
"Thanks, Dan.” Hutch glanced over to Paul who was still staring at the broken window. Slowly, Paul started up the back steps. Hutch joined him as he stood over the dead man.
"I killed him.” Paul whispered.
"You saved our lives is what you did. Starsky couldn't have done it better. When you rolled and grabbed that gun, you were just like him. You do that a lot in the show or what?"
"I killed him." Paul repeated.
Hutch, noting the shock on Paul’s face, put a hand on the familiar shoulder. "Listen, Paul. You killed him because he was about to kill you – not to mention me. It was self defense. There was nothing else you could have done.” He grabbed Paul’s shoulders and spun him around to face him. "Nothing else."
Paul looked into the eyes of his new friend, searching for consolation. His head slumped and he crumpled into Hutch’s chest, stricken. Hutch wrapped his arms around him.
"It's okay, just let it out." Hutch patted the familiar back. After a minute, Paul took a ragged breath and with a shudder, straightened up and looked at Hutch.
"Sorry. I guess I just freaked out."
"Hey, that's nothing. The first time I shot someone in the line of duty, Starsky had to carry me down to Huggy's for several stiff ones before I could function again."
Paul gave Hutch a watery smile. "I guess this is what we call method acting."
Hutch put his arm around Paul and led him away from the house. "Well, you'd better get ready for more, my friend. Dobey's already after us and we've got about ten hours worth of reports to write when we're done here."
"I like it better when we get to go to a commercial instead of paperwork.” Paul was still shaky but drew strength from Hutch. "Just how much trouble are we in, anyway?"
Hutch rolled his eyes and shrugged. "Oh, about as much as usual. We went in without back-up and we used excessive force – same ol' same ol'."
"So, was this what you thought?"
"Yep, we saved dear old Monte from being snuffed. Did you hear him thanking me for saving his hide for the second time? Scumbag."
Paul was confused. "Second time? Vic Monte. That name sounds. . .oh. That Vic Monte."
"What are you talking about?” Now it was Hutch's turn to be confused.
"The ‘It was only supposed to be Monte. Vic Monte shot my brother,’ Vic Monte. From Shootout?"
Hutch frowned, now understanding. "From the series, again? Yeah, the restaurant where you – Starsky got those scars. You remember the lines? What we said?"
"Look, I don't know who you are and I don't know why you're here and right now I really don't care. What I do know is that my buddy here's got a bullet in the back and unless I get some help for him, NOW, you're gonna have a dead cop on your hands, you understand?” Paul held his hands out and smiled at Hutch.
Hutch shuddered. "Don't do that."
"Whatever happened to the lovely Teresa who helped you?"
"She got a suspended sentence and moved to New York with her boyfriend.” Hutch scrutinized the actor standing before him. "You sure you're doing okay?"
"Well, I don't know if I'm ever going to be okay with all of this, but I do feel better, thanks to you."
Satisfied with Paul's answer, Hutch turned and walked over to a uniformed officer. Paul couldn't hear the conversation, but Hutch was grinning as he walked back.
"What?" asked Paul.
"I just got Lawrence to finish up here so that we can go take another look up in Topanga before Dobey gets a hold of us."
"You want me gone that much? Whatcha gonna do when we get up there, shove me through the door?"
"Just c'mon, Paul, I'm trying to spare you the wrath of one Harold C. Dobey."
"Oh, good idea. Maybe Starsky can come back and face him for me."
They headed to the Torino, arm in arm.
David Soul and David Starsky were halfway up the canyon road before either one noticed the limo was not as crowded as before.
"Uh, David," ventured Starsky, "didn't we forget something?"
David grimaced as he realized what Starsky was getting at. "Oh hell. I forgot all about her."
"Well I guess we better go back and get her, huh."
David looked out the window for a moment. "Ah, screw it. She can find her own way home. It'll teach her not to go stomping off like that."
"Well, she's your girl, but don't you think that's a little cold?"
"She'll get over it. She always does. This is more important." David smiled weakly. "To tell you the truth, things aren't going all that swimmingly in that department anyway. You know . . .” David's voice trailed off.
"Say no more, my good man. Hutch has rotten luck with women, too. It must be in your genes."
David smiled and settled back into the seat. "Yeah, tell me. I practically need a scorecard for my ex-wives alone."
"How many times have you been married?"
"Twice. Seems like twelve, though." David turned to Starsky. "You ever been married?"
"No, thank you. In fact, except for Terry, I haven't even gotten close. Besides, after watching Hutch go through his nasty divorce, I want no part of it."
"Hutch has been married?" David was surprised. He remembered he and Paul had added a line about Hutch's ex-wife Nancy during the pilot. It had just been a throw away – a meaningless ad-lib. He guessed they'd better watch that in the future.
"Yeah, for about two years. Vanessa. What a bitch.” Starsky still couldn't think about that woman without his blood pressure elevating. "She just didn't feel that being a cop's wife was good enough for her queenly self. She put Hutch through the wringer. I didn't think he would ever get over it. He's been rid of her for about 3 1/2 years now. Thank God for small favors."
David listened to Starsky's rant with amusement. "Aw, c'mon, Starsk – tell me how you really feel about her."
"Oh, sorry. Just don't get me started on Hutch and women.” He turned to David. "So, how long have you and Cheryl, I mean Lynne, been together?"
"A couple of years. She sang on my album." David stared out the window, lost in thought.
"Your album? You have an album?” Starsky sputtered.
David smiled. "Yes, I do. It's doing quite well, actually. When we get home, I'll give you a copy."
"Terrific. You know Hutch is a great singer. I always tell him he should get into the music business. And I could be his manager."
David smiled again, noticing how every other comment out of Starsky's mouth was about Hutch. They’re even closer than we portray them. He wondered if Paul was finding the same thing in Hutch. The series was definitely going to have a different look next season. If there was a next season.
"Here we are. Stop right here." David instructed the driver as Starsky peered into the fast approaching twilight.
"Where are we? Looks like the middle of nowhere."
David jumped out and turned to help Starsky.
"You sure this is the place?" Starsky was skeptical. This looked exactly like the last ten miles they had driven.
"I should. We climbed all over this place.” He turned to Starsky. "You gonna be okay with that foot?"
"Oh, pulleezze. Just lead the way, my blond piper."
They made their way carefully through the brush up to the place where first Paul and then Starsky had fallen. It looked innocent enough. Starsky, plugging into detective mode, began methodically searching the area. David watched him for a moment and joined in. They worked in silence, each concentrating on the four by four area in front of them.
"Hey, what are these?” Starsky held up three cigarette butts.
“Probably mine. I, uh, must have dropped them when we were filming."
"Littering is against the law, David.” Starsky looked stern and then grinned. "So this must be close to where you two were . . . hey.” He bent down and picked up a plastic bottle.
"This is Hutch's.” He was holding up what looked like a juice bottle. The label read Black Strap Nectar.
David took the bottle and examined it. It looked like any of a million plastic containers. "What do you mean – ‘It's Hutch's’?"
"Well, he's the only one that drinks this poison. He's been here."
"Oh, come on, Starsky – that’s stretching it – even for you."
Starsky glared at him. He crushed the bottle in his hand and hurled it into the bushes in frustration.
"That's littering, Detective. . .hey, where did it go?”
The bottled had sailed into the trees and. . .disappeared. Starsky quickly picked up a stick and tossed it in the same direction. It disappeared. Like their counterparts, the men had discovered The Door.
"How about if you tie my leg with a rope. Then I'll go through and if it's really bad you can pull me back.” Paul was standing at The Door.
"No way," replied Hutch, "you saw what it just did to that other stuff."
"Then what the hell did we come up here for?” With all that had happened today, Paul was at his wit's end.
"I don't know." Hutch was equally ragged. "Why do I have to have all the answers? You’re the one who dropped in on me, remember?"
They squared off, glaring at each other. Then, in a gesture that was completely Starsky, Paul shrugged and said, "I'm starving – ya got any squirrel bait in your pockets?"
Hutch did a double take. He grabbed Paul by the arm and studied his face, carefully. "Starsk..?" he ventured.
Paul rubbed his forehead. "I don't feel so good.” He shook his head. “I keep hearing this voice."
"Sit down.” Hutch led Paul to a stump.
He sat, running his hands through his hair. "This is so odd – did you hear that?" he asked Hutch.
Hutch stared at the actor, worried. Maybe this was delayed shock from the shooting – or
his concussion. "What do you hear, Paul?"
"Well, I'm not sure, but . . . here comes one.” Paul was still for a moment and then, "Whatcha go and do that for, Hutch? You can't just turn it off right when the naked girls are coming on."
Hutch blanched and sat down hard next to Paul. "How could you know that? What else?"
Paul closed his eyes and then began speaking. "Why, Hutch, why? Why should I keep living? There's no reason. . ."
Hutch locked eyes with Paul and finished the sentence with him. "Cause you'll just die, too. Everyone has. Why can't I?"
Paul opened his eyes, shocked. “You hear it, too?"
"No, I've just heard it before. That's what Starsky said to me the night after Terry died. I
found him drunk on the floor of his bedroom, ready to blow his head off. No one knows what went down that night but him and me."
Paul just stared at Hutch, baffled.
Suddenly, an object sailed toward Hutch's head. Surprised, he ducked and rolled off the stump, coming up crouched, Magnum drawn. Paul, not as well trained, just fell backwards.
Hutch crept over and picked up the object. It was a crushed bottle of Black Strap Nectar. It looked like it had come out of nowhere. Playing a hunch, he walked over to The Door and tossed the bottle through. Paul picked himself up and walked over beside Hutch. About two minutes passed and sure enough, the bottle came back.
"What the hell?" Paul was startled.
Hutch quickly turned to him. "You hear that voice, now?"
"Yeah, it said just what I said, “What the hell. . ."
"It's Starsky!” Hutch shouted.
"Starsky is in there."
"Hutch, get a grip. Starsky is where?"
Hutch whirled around to Paul. "Give me a pen and paper," he commanded.
Paul reached into his pocket and handed Hutch Starsky's note pad and pencil. Hutch took it and scribbled something on the paper. He bent down, picked up a rock, wrapped the paper around it, and heaved it through The Door. Paul watched him and asked, "Now what?"
When the bottle came back, David Soul freaked out.
"Let's get the hell outta here." he exclaimed.
Starsky grabbed his arm. "No, wait, this may be the answer.” He picked up the bottle and tossed it in the direction of the newly christened Heebie Jeebie Place. The bottle disappeared again.
"C'mon, Starsky – this is too weird. Let's go back to the car and call the police."
"Police? Just what do you think I am – a crossing guard?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a rock zooming toward his head. He dove into David and they both went crashing into a tree.
"Ow, get off me!” David squealed from somewhere under Starsky.
Starsky picked himself up and reached a hand down to help David. "Aw, quit griping. I just saved your life. Didja see that thing coming at us?"
David stood and wiped dirt off his pants. "Well, next time, give me a little warning, will you?"
Starsky, who was already off looking for the projectile, ignored him. He spotted the offending object and picked it up. He unwrapped the paper, read the note, and gasped.
David ran to his side. "What is it?"
Starsky handed him the note.
STARSKY, IT'S ME. ACKNOWLEDGE AND SEND BACK. HUTCH
David could not believe his eyes. He looked up at Starsky in amazement.
"Gimme a pen." Starsky ordered.
David fumbled through his pockets and shook his head. “I don't have one. You really think that's from Hutch? How?"
Suddenly a pencil sailed into Starsky's forehead. "Ouch! Hey, it's a pencil. That proves it's Hutch. He knows I never can find anything to write with."
He picked up the pencil, scribbled on the back of the paper and heaved it through The Door.
"Incoming." Paul warned Hutch.
The message fell to the ground. Hutch picked it up, read it, and exclaimed, "It’s him. It’s Starsky!"
He handed Paul the note.
HUTCH, YOU HIT ME IN THE HEAD WITH THAT PENCIL. STARSKY
Paul and Hutch looked at each other. Then they looked at The Door. Then, without speaking, they joined hands and jumped. Their bodies dissolved and then disappeared.
Starsky was pacing back and forth in front of The Door. "C'mon, c'mon," he begged.
David watched him with amusement. Paul sure got that impatient child thing right, he thought.
"Take it easy, Starsky. You're gonna give yourself a stroke."
"It's been ten damn minutes. How long does it take him to write me back? I gotta go see . . .” Starsky limped to The Door. As he walked through, his body quivered, shimmered and disappeared.
David, stunned, stared at The Door. "Oh, no, you're not leaving me out here alone."
He hesitated briefly, took a deep breath, and followed Starsky.
They landed in a heap. Paul got up first. He looked around. They were on what looked like an empty stretch of highway. A yellow line stretched endlessly before and behind them. He reached down a hand to help Hutch.
"Where are we?" Hutch asked.
"Hey, you're the detective, you tell me." Paul whispered in reply.
"Paul, why are we whispering?"
"I don't know – maybe I'm afraid of Klingons."
They started walking down the road.
"Why are we going this way?" Paul asked after a moment.
"Why not?" replied Hutch.
"Well, where's Starsky?"
Hutch turned to his companion. "Listen, Mr. Question Man, you know as much about this situation as I do. So quit looking to me for all the answers, okay? I'm as ignorant as you are."
"Understood, Sergeant.” Paul saluted the detective and turned to walk the opposite way. Hutch followed. They walked in silence for a few minutes. Suddenly, Paul stopped and cocked his head. "You hear that?"
Hutch stopped and listened carefully. Nothing. "What do you hear?”
Paul held up his hand. He began walking away from the road. The terrain dipped down into a culvert and then up into an empty dark field.
"Where are you going?" Hutch called after the fast disappearing figure. "Paul!"
"It’s Starsky. I can hear Starsky!”
Hutch took off after Paul. He quickly caught up and grabbed him by the arm. "Hey, hang on."
"He can hear me, too. Come on, Hutch, we gotta hurry.” Paul pulled away from Hutch and broke into a run across the field. Then, as suddenly as he had started, he stopped. Wind gusts came out of nowhere, practically knocking the men off their feet. Hutch stumbled over to Paul, who was staring down into a huge canyon. He had come within inches of plummeting over the edge. The wind intensified and the two men clung to each other. They were blown backwards and fell to the ground. The earth began to lurch under them. A huge crack divided the field. Gigantic boulders erupted out of the earth.
"What is going on?" Hutch tried to shout over the din.
Paul scrambled to his feet and began pointing and shouting. Hutch could barely make out what he was saying.
"STARSKY. IT’S STARSKY."
Hutch whirled to where he was pointing. Through the dust and debris, he could barely make out two figures coming toward them. One of them was limping. He grabbed onto Paul to keep from falling again. The men were getting closer. As they came within shouting distance, Hutch could barely make out a voice, calling, "Hutch! Hey, Hutch."
Paul and Hutch began making their way towards the other men. It was rough going. The once-flat empty field was now an obstacle course of convulsing earth and monstrous boulders.
The wind was fierce and kept knocking them back. In fact, the closer the four men got to each other, the worse the weather got.
Starsky stumbled and David reached down to help him. For a brief second, they were out of sight of Paul and Hutch. The wind died and the ground stabilized.
"What the hell . . .?" Hutch was puzzled.
"It's a paradox. We're not supposed to be here together."
"Who? You and me?"
"No, us and them. If we're in some parallel universe, then our presence is fouling up some balance, I bet."
To confirm Paul's theory, David and Starsky reemerged and started toward them. The wind immediately began to gust and the ground buckled, throwing all four men around like rag dolls.
"STAY BACK." shouted Paul, "IT’S US – WE’RE CAUSING THIS."
The men stood about six feet apart. Starsky, already hampered by his ankle, pitched wildly and fell against a large chunk of upturned earth. The movement dislodged a huge boulder that had been balancing precariously on the pile of dirt and began heading right for him. Paul, without thinking, lurched forward to help him. He grabbed his cosmic twin by the jacket and yanked him out of the way. Starsky grabbed onto Paul's shoulders and they both tumbled to the ground. Then, to the dismay of Hutch and David, their bodies began to shimmer and fluctuate, and they disappeared.
The sky cleared and the earth was still.
When they came to, they were sitting against the delivery door of the Pits. Starsky looked over to Paul and scrambled to his feet.
Paul got up and inspected the alley. "Where are we?” He stared at his twin. "Well, this is very strange. You look just like me."
Starsky turned to him. "Now, wait just a minute – you’re the one that looks like me."
They stood face to face. Two pairs of blue eyes stared at two dark curly heads. Thunder clapped and the sky looked threatening.
Paul glanced at the sky. "Looks like we brought the storm with us."
"Hey, that's my jacket.” Starsky accused.
"Well, what was I supposed to wear?” Paul looked Starsky up and down. "I see you had no trouble raiding my closet."
Starsky looked down at the now filthy gabardines he was wearing and back to Paul. ''Oh, yeah, sorry, uh, Paul . . ."
Paul extended his hand. "Paul Michael Glaser. I can't believe I'm introducing myself to you."
Starsky took the hand and shook it enthusiastically. "David Michael Starsky. I know whatcha mean. Hey, do you really know Robert Redford?"
Paul was taken back by the question. Starsky just ping-ponged from one thought to another, with no logical direction. "Well, yes, why?"
"Damn. I shoulda had David introduce me. Well, c'mon. Let's go find them.” Starsky limped through the door and into The Pits.
Huggy Bear looked up to see Starsky come through the door. He looked behind him for the familiar tall blond, but was flabbergasted to see Starsky again.
"Hey, Hug. You seen Hutch?" Starsky limped up to the bar and slid onto a stool. Paul stood directly behind him. Huggy stood frozen, staring at the apparition before him.
"Huggy? Hey." Starsky followed Huggy's gaze to the man standing behind him. "Oh, yeah, uh, Hug, I'd like you to meet a friend . . ."
Huggy broke out of his daze. “Yeah, we met. But, where did you come from – and where's Hutch?"
"Hi Huggy. We were hoping you knew where the blonds were," Paul said. "We seemed to have lost them."
"Lost them? Lost them?” Huggy reached over, grabbed a hank of garlic and slipped it over his head. "Whadda ya think this is – missing persons?” He leaned down under the bar and came up with a large cross. He took a step back. “I haven't seen anyone that even resembles your partner. Oh, I think Diane needs me in the kitchen.” Huggy sidled down the length of the bar.
"Hey Hug – what gives? What's with the vampire act?" Starsky followed Huggy. "Where are you going?"
"It's probably a little disconcerting for him to see us together, don't you think?" Paul said.
Both Starsky and Huggy turned toward Paul.
"Dis . . . con what?"
"Nice vocabulary, Mr. Glaser." Huggy walked back toward him. "You need a beverage?"
"A Perrier would be nice. With a twist, please."
"Coming right up, my man."
"Uh, hello. I hate to interrupt this little mutual admiration society, but I need some questions answered.” Starsky stood with his hands on his hips.
Huggy turned toward the pouting man. "Oh, yeah, Starsky – there's a guy in the back booth wants to see you. He came in here about ten minutes before you and your other half showed up. Said to tell you he had the answer to your identity problem. I didn't think anything of it till now."
"Why didn't you say so?” Starsky headed toward the back of the bar.
Paul turned to follow him. He stopped and spun back around to Huggy. "Do we need some kind of backup or anything? We don't have any guns."
Huggy smiled. "Understood, my astute thespian. You go watch out for your brother there and I'll see what I can do about your little lack of protection.”
Paul caught up with Starsky. "So you wanna push or shove?"
"Huh?” The detective looked strangely at Paul.
"You know – push or shove – good cop, bad cop – like in Snowstorm.”
"Skip it." Paul said.
"Okay,” Starsky agreed. "Hey, let me go first. It might freak him out to see the both of us."
Starsky stepped up to the booth. "You wanna talk to me?" he asked the man seated there.
"Detective Starsky, I presume? Or do I have the pleasure of Mr. Glaser?” The man leaned out of the shadows and looked up at Starsky.
"I'm Starsky – who are you?"
"Please, have a seat. And invite Mr. Glaser to join us. I believe I can answer some questions for you.” The man smiled and gestured to Paul.
Starsky turned and said, "Come on, Paul."
Both men slid into the booth, opposite the stranger. He was an older man with thinning gray hair and a neatly trimmed gray moustache. He was dressed in an expensive brown wool suit. A cane rested at the end of the table. His hands were folded in front of him. On the fourth finger of his right hand was a strange ring. It was two intertwined serpents. It was silver and the snake's eyes were rubies. The snakes twisted all the way up the back of his hand where they separated and wound around the thin wrist.
The man shook his head in wonder. "It is really incredible just how alike you look."
"Yeah, yeah, it’s a big kick. Now who are you and what do you know about us?" Starsky barked.
Paul put a hand on Starsky's knee, hoping to calm the detective down a little. If this was an example of Starsky's interrogation style . . . a thought occurred to him, we are doing push and shove – I could get into this.
He spoke up. "Uh, Mr . . ."
"Please call me Zorak."
"Okay, Mr. Zorak, what my partner here is trying to ask is – just what type of information do you wish to share with us?"
Starsky rolled his eyes. Oh great, what are we, in some play here? "No, what I want to know is who the hell you are and what do you know about us?” He glared at Paul.
"Gentlemen, please. If you would allow me to speak, I will be happy to answer all of your questions.” Zorak smiled at the two men.
Paul returned the smile. Starsky kicked him under the table. Paul quickly replaced the smile with his best Starsky snarl. "Yes, do tell,” he said sternly. Starsky grimaced and turned his attention to the strange man before him.
"Let me begin by telling you about myself. . ."
David and Hutch stood for a moment, staring at the space that their respective partners had just occupied. Hutch turned to David.
"Hi there. You must be David.” He extended his hand to the actor.
"David Soul. I guess I should say it's nice to meet you but I feel I already know you so well – Hutch.” He shook the offered hand. "This is unbelievable."
"Tell me about it. Where do you think they went?"
"Who knows? What was Paul yelling about us causing this destruction?” David swept his hand across the field.
Hutch shook his head. "I'm not sure. He was yelling something about a paradox and that we're not supposed to be here."
"Paradox?" questioned David, "like in Star Trek?"
"When those checkered men kept jumping all over and upsetting the balance of nature?"
Hutch shook his head, not understanding.
David continued, "Because they were not supposed to exist in the same place at the same time. But now we are here and nothing is happening."
Hutch looked around the field. All was quiet. It was odd, indeed. He turned to his double. It was a very strange sensation to look into his own eyes. "How did you and Starsky get here?"
"Well, as much as we could figure out, we fell through a kind of door."
"Up in Topanga?" Hutch asked.
"Yes, the location where Paul and I were shooting."
"So you think the Starsky boys fell through another door?" asked David.
Hutch chuckled. "Starsky boys? I love that. Yeah, probably, don't you?" He began picking up rocks and tossing them in from of him. David joined him. Nothing unusual happened.
"Maybe it’s just them. Maybe The Door is caused by their life forces," David suggested.
"Then how did we get here, too? And where is here?” Hutch heaved a big piece of sod, frustrated. It sailed about four feet and disappeared.
"Hey, you found it.” David walked toward the spot.
"Be careful, David. We don't know how big that door is."
"Stay still and I'll find the opening.” Hutch picked up more rocks and began tossing them around David's body.
"I hope you have good aim. I really don't want to be knocked unconscious by one of those boulders you're heaving.” He smiled weakly at the detective.
"Don't worry, I have great aim. I carry a Magnum for God's sake." And to prove his point, Hutch let one sail about a quarter of an inch above David's left ear.
David flinched and held his hands up. "That's enough. I'll find The Door." He turned around and bent down to pick up his own rocks. As he did, his head shimmered and disappeared. The rest of his body shook violently. Hutch jumped forward and grabbed David's legs to try to pull him out before he was torn in two. The men struggled against the force of The Door. David began to slip further into oblivion, pulling Hutch with him. Then, like a vacuum gone haywire, they were sucked in and were gone.
“Remind me why we are up on this God-forsaken hill again?”
Starsky was hungry and his ankle throbbed, so another hike up Topanga Canyon was not his idea of a good time. They had listened to Zorak weave his incredible tale of time continuum and government cover-ups and UFO's until Starsky's head was spinning. How much of what Zorak told them was the truth was a question in both he and Paul's mind. According to the strange man, they were merely pawns in an international battle that was taking place in 2007 for control of some top-secret time travel experiment called "The Guardian.” Sounded too much like a Star Trek episode for Starsky to swallow.
But the guy sure knew a lot about both him and Paul. And he told them that to get back to the correct time alignment (his words) they had to get back to the place where the flux (his word again) was created. It seemed that something would happen in the future to one of the four men that would affect history (he wouldn't reveal who) and so they were chosen as a good experimental group. But, as many men of science do, the brains behind the experiment had failed to calculate the human element involved. They had no idea that the men would actually find The Door, which Zorak called the "Stratum Aura" but, Starsky gathered, it had really thrown a monkey wrench in the whole proceedings.
The original plan had called for Starsky and Paul to trade places for 48 hours and then return to their own time. The data collected could be studied and integrated into the Guardian experiment. They hadn’t researched their subjects well enough, though, it seemed. So, Zorak had been sent to unsnaf the snafu, so to speak.
"What I don't like is Borax saying that Hutch and me live in a parallel reality and you live in real time. Hah. Like I could really be a TV star in real time."
Paul ignored the ravings of his twin, concentrating instead on Zorak's instructions. The Door was only active during the third phase of the moon, which left them less than 24 hours to find the blond ones and get back on the correct side of the galaxy. Zorak had had to return to his time, because the energy that was being used to keep The Door open didn't allow for any extraneous traveling.
"Starsky, will you please stand still so we can find this damn thing." Paul was getting impatient. It seemed that all the sullen detective wanted to do was complain.
"I thought that Clorox said we had to go separately through this time."
"We do but we have to find the place first. Start looking. And his name is Zorak." He glared at Starsky.
"Now you sound like Hutch. You're supposed to be me, remember?” Starsky picked up a handful of pebbles and began the procedure that was becoming routine. Paul watched for a while and then moved to a different area to do the same. No luck.
"Do you hear anything?" Paul asked.
"Just two suckers heaving rocks into the trees. Where is it? It was easy to find the other time," Starsky said.
"Last time I could hear you when we got close. You hear Hutch?"
"What do you mean you could hear me?" Starsky was intrigued.
"I don't know. It was like I was reading your mind."
"Reading my mind? What did you hear?”
Paul hesitated. "Well something about naked girls . . ."
"What? Like me and naked girls? Don't tell me anymore. Anyway, I don't hear anything."
Paul smiled. Starsky was very candid – just as he had imagined him to be when he created him. He shook his head and leaned against a tree.
"Well, it must have been because you were right on the other side of The Door. That's why I thought maybe you could hear your partner. I'm surprised you can't read his mind, you're so close to each other."
Starsky eyed him suspiciously. "How do you know how close we are?"
"Starsky – I've lived your life the past two years, remember? I was there when you found him in that ravine. I was there when you shot Bellamy on the roof. I was there when Terry. . ." Paul's voice trailed off. Maybe he had gone too far.
"It's okay. David and I have already discussed it. Hey, David would never tell me, but, you already got the scripts for next year right?"
Paul frowned, not understanding. "Not all of them. I've read a few . . . why?"
"Well, tell me – what happens to us? You could really give us a jump on all our cases if you tell us what's what."
Paul now understood. Sure, they had seen about a dozen new scripts for next season. He was even directing a couple himself. But to tell Starsky the outcome? Wouldn't it change history – somewhere? And how could he tell him that Hutch gets the plague and he meets Rosie Malone and they lose their good friend, Jackson? How could he tell him about John Blaine?
"Hey, c'mon Paul. What happens? Is it bad? Does Hutch die or what? You gotta at least tell me that."
“Of course he doesn't die. He's the star of the show. But, Starsk, we don't do all your cases. Hutch was telling me about the one where you had to rescue a little girl from a roof and you fell and broke your arm. That never happened in the show. And we never stopped another mafia hit on Vic Monte . . .”
"Another mafia hit on Vic Monte? What are you talking about? Vic Monte is supposed to be in Mexico."
Paul smiled weakly. "Uh, Starsk, there's something I need to tell you. I-uh-you-uh-we shot a guy today."
"Shot a guy? We? How do we shoot a guy without me knowing about it?"
"Well it was really me, but I was you."
"Well, Hutch just went in and I knew that he needed you-well-me and so I followed and then Murray had that gun and I looked at Hutch and he hit the other guy and Murray started to shoot him so I just . . . shot Murray.” Paul wound down to silence and looked at Starsky.
A great clap of thunder interrupted Starsky’s response. The earth shook and the wind began to wail.
"Hey, they must be close." Paul shouted above the din.
"Who was shooting at Hutch? And what does that have to do with Vic Monte?" Starsky shouted back.
"I'll explain later. We gotta find The Door." Paul picked up a handful of stones and hurled them at the trees. His entire hand disappeared.
"Hey, you found it." Starsky exclaimed.
The force behind The Door began to pull Paul through.
"Starsk . . . I can't stop." Paul struggled against the force.
Starsky grabbed Paul's other arm and yanked hard. It was useless. Paul's body began to shimmer and disappear. Then Starsky's began to do the same.
"Terrific. This is just terrific." he shouted as he disappeared.
David Soul came to first. His initial thought was that someone had run over him with a truck. Everything hurt and he couldn't move his lower body. As he became more conscious, he realized something or someone was holding him down. He lifted his head slightly and saw the top of a curly head resting on his stomach. He laid back and closed his eyes. His head was throbbing. All this “traveling” through that damn door was giving him one heck of a migraine. He tapped the unmoving figure lightly on the head.
"Starsky, you okay?"
The body on top of him moaned and the dark head burrowed further into David's ribcage. He pushed Starsky's head up and shook it. "C'mon, Starsk – you're killing my legs."
The weight rolled off and said, "Guess again, Solberg."
"Paul?” David was stunned. "Is it really you?"
"Yes, unfortunately. I feel like somebody rolled a truck over me." Paul slowly got to his knees. "It's really great to see you, pal." He smiled.
David gripped Paul’s shoulder. "Same here, old friend. I was beginning to think this nightmare was never going to end.”
Paul took David's hand and helped him up. They both stood together, unsteady. David took Paul into his arms and they hugged.
"I'm glad you're okay."
"Ditto. Hey, where do you think they went?" Paul replied.
"Don’t know. Better yet, where are we?"
They looked around them. It looked like they were up on that same hill in Topanga. It looked to be late afternoon. They were home.
"How do we get home from here?" Paul asked.
"I guess we hope some Starsky and Hutch fan comes along and offers us a ride. Until then, we walk."
"David, wake up.” Starsky had been trying to rouse the actor for over ten minutes. They were back in Huggy's alley. How he had lost Paul and found David was a mystery to him. Zorak said that he and Paul had to walk through The Door at 8 pm, two minutes apart and they would all end up correctly. But when Paul had fallen and taken Starsky with him, it was all screwed up again. Now, he had found David unconscious behind a dumpster and no sign of Paul – or Hutch.
"C'mon, David . . . talk to me," Starsky pleaded.
The blond man groaned and opened his eyes. He saw the concerned blue eyes staring at him and it took all of three seconds to figure out just whom they belonged to.
"Quit yelling, dirtball. I gotta whale of a headache."
Starsky's eyes widened. "Hutch . . .?" he stuttered.
"Who were you expecting? John Denver?"
Starsky yelped and grabbed Hutch by the shoulders and yanked him towards him into a ferocious bear hug.
"Hey, ow . . . Starsk." Hutch's protests were half-hearted. He was just as glad to see his partner.
Starsky pulled away and looked into Hutch's face. "Hutch, is it really you? Are you okay? Wow. Hutch. Am I glad to see you."
Hutch put his arms around his pal. "Same here, buddy – are you okay?"
"Yeah, except for this broken ankle that Paul gave me – hey, where's Paul?
"No clue. How about David?"
"I thought you were David. Hey, we’re home."
Hutch smiled with relief to have Starsky back. He looked around. "Where are we?"
"Behind Huggy's. I didn't want to go in until I figured out who, and where, we were."
"Well, let's go in. Hug'll be glad to see us.” He put his arm around Starsky's shoulder and they walked into The Pits.
Something was definitely wrong. David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser had the taxi drive around the block four times and still they couldn’t find Paul's house. The same thing had happened at David's residence.
"We're not home. We're still in TV land." Paul finally spoke what both of them knew.
"So what do we do now?"
Paul leaned up to the driver and said, "1027 1/2 Ocean, please."
"Are you sure?" the driver asked suspiciously. "You know the fare is up to $78.00?"
"Listen, buddy, just drive us there, we got the money," David barked.
The taxi pulled up to the address and Paul looked sadly up to Hutch's window. "I guess we should see if they're here too."
"Two to one they're back at my pool, enjoying themselves." David opened the door and got out.
"Hey.” The driver leaned out the window. "How bout my $95.75?"
Paul, who had gotten out on the other side, came around to the window and reached in his pocket for some. . .lint. "Oh, I got Starsky's stuff. You'll have to pay the man, David."
"That is the lamest excuse I have ever heard." David smiled at Paul and handed the driver some money, who, satisfied, took off, leaving the two actors looking up into what was, until about four days ago, just a figment of their collective imaginations.
"You're not going to believe it when you see it," Paul said. "And the key's really above the door."
"This is incredible." David shook his head.
They headed up the stairs. When they got to the landing, they could hear voices coming from the apartment. Relieved, Paul knocked on the door. He was stunned when it opened and a tipsy Captain Dobey burped in his face.
"Hey. What the hell? Starsky, Hutch, you order some look-alikes?"
“Uh, Captain. . .where's Starsky?" Paul asked the tottering grizzly bear.
Starsky and Hutch, upon hearing the exchange and seeing a glimpse of Paul, were at Dobey's side in a heartbeat.
"Oh, lord." Hutch said under his breath.
David smiled at the two detectives. "Hi guys. I bet we were the last people you expected to see on your doorstep."
"Get in here," said Starsky, "before someone else sees you.” He pulled the two actors past the stunned captain and slammed the door.
David looked around the apartment in amazement. Paul, dejected, sat down on the sofa. Starsky joined him.
Hutch led the confused Captain to a chair. He then turned to the pair on the couch.
"How? Why?" he asked Paul.
Paul shrugged. "We have no idea. We landed up on Topanga. We thought we were home
until. . ."
"Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?” thundered Captain Dobey.
The four men turned toward him. This was going to be a problem.
"Uh, Cap'n . . ." Starsky started.
". . . there’s something we need to tell you,” finished Hutch.
Dobey looked at his two detectives and then over to their duplicates. He shook his head. "This had better be good.” And he settled back in the chair to listen.
Two hours later, with the Captain deposited back into the bosom of his family and marginally satisfied with the hastily collaborated, but almost believable fairy tale, all four men were seated around Hutch's kitchen table, making great headway into a case of beer. And having the most frustrating conversation of their lives.
“So maybe this Zoltar knew you two would be at The Pits – maybe you were sent there,” proposed Hutch.
"His name was Zorak – Z O R A K – for detectives, you two sure have a hard time with names,” Paul teased.
"That's because we don't have hours to pore over them in a script first." Starsky shot back.
"Oh, Zorak, Borax, Clorox, what's the difference?" asked Hutch.
"That's my partner." Starsky said triumphantly and sneered at Paul, who just rolled his eyes at his twin.
David, who had been listening quietly to the familiar banter, interrupted. "I don't mean to be the heavy, but has anyone taken a look outside lately?"
They all turned toward Hutch's kitchen window. The sky had turned eerily black and the wind vibrated the glass. Suddenly, a loud crash was heard on the sun porch as a table of plants tipped over in the storm.
"Oh, my babies!” Hutch ran to the back door and flung it open. The force of the wind threw him back into David, who had jumped up to help. They landed together with a thump on the floor.
Paul and Starsky sat laughing as David and Hutch struggled to untangle their long limbs and stand up.
"It's really too bad that vaudeville's dead," chuckled Paul. "You two would make a great comedy act."
"Yeah," added Starsky, "the Blond Blintz Balladeers."
Hutch got up first and helped David to his feet. They both turned toward the table. Paul and Starsky applauded.
David turned to Hutch. "You want to come back with me?" he asked.
"Yes, please. I thought one Starsky was bad enough."
"C'mon, let's go rescue your brood.” David draped his arm around Hutch and they both headed to the porch, ignoring their partners.
Starsky watched them for a moment, and then shot out of his chair and into the kitchen.
"You want another brew?"
Paul got up and joined him in the kitchen. "Yeah, thanks.” He leaned against the sink and looked hard at the detective.
"So, what do you really think, Starsky? How are we going to get back?"
"Well, my mirror image, I don’t know. What I do know is that it's 3:30 AM. That's seven and a half hours after Soultrain told us when we had to get back. It's looked like a monsoon all night and we are no closer to figuring this out than we were two days ago. And now add to the mix that Dobey will wake up soon and see right through that cockamamie load of bull we fed him last night."
"Yeah, oh. He already thinks it's very strange that I show up with a broken ankle and can't remember the details of a shooting I was personally involved in. . .but now. . ."
"Oh, I don't know, I thought your bit about twin sons from different mothers was inspired. Ever think of becoming a screenwriter?"
"Make way for the injured," Hutch bellowed as he came through with a handful of broken plant clippings.
"Hey, you're getting mud on me," Starsky protested. "Watch what you’re doin, Hutch."
"Well, get outta the way, genius."
The two detectives continued to harangue each other as David came in and sidled up to Paul. "How we doing, buddy?"
"Well, buddy, except for the fact that we may be stuck forever in this cartoon, we are doing peachy,” Paul retorted.
"Hey, buddy yourself, it's not like I want to be here, either you know," David shot back.
"Could have fooled me, Soul.” Paul was deliberately picking a fight.
David could not for the life of him figure out why. "What the hell is that supposed to mean, Glaser?"
Starsky and Hutch, hearing the tone in the other men's voices, stopped playing and turned their full attention to the actors before them. David and Paul's voices grew louder as their tones grew uglier. They were blowing off steam, really, not unlike they did when things were not going well on the set.
"Is this what we look like when we're fighting?" Starsky asked.
"We never fight." Hutch was mesmerized by the drama unfolding in his kitchen.
Starsky looked at him like he had lost his mind.
"We never fight? Where have you been living, under a rock?"
"Shhhh, I want to hear this." Hutch waved his hand to quiet his partner.
"Maybe if you quit playing cops and robbers long enough we could figure this out," David growled at Paul.
"Hey," Starsky interjected, "watch it."
Both actors turned to the detective. They had completely forgotten that they were not alone.
David smiled. "Oh, sorry."
"Yes, excuse us," Paul added, "I guess we got a little caught up . . ."
"Looks to me like you were having a knock down drag out," Starsky interrupted.
"I was having deja vu, myself. I can remember some doozies Starsk and I have had in this very room," Hutch added.
"What were you having, Hutchinson?" Starsky asked.
"Déjà vu," Hutch answered.
"Gesundheit," both Paul and Starsky said at the same time.
David and Hutch grimaced.
"That joke gives me a rash," Hutch complained.
"I'm with you, my fair-haired brother. And they thought we should be in vaudeville. . ."
"Ah, vaudeville, how I miss vaudeville.” A strange voice came from the living room and all four men whirled around to find Mr. Zorak himself seated comfortably on the couch. Hutch gave a surprise shout and instinctively pushed in front of David and Paul and shielded them with his body while barking, "Who the hell are you?"
Starsky came around David and stopped Hutch. "It's Zorak."
"Zorak? How'd you get in here?" Hutch demanded.
"Mr. Hutchinson, I presume? Pardon me for not standing, but the traveling always makes me feel a bit shaky.” The old man extended his hand to the steaming Hutch. Grudgingly, Hutch shook it.
Zorak leaned to Starsky, whispered loudly, "Is he always this volatile?" and winked at Paul and David.
"Oh, Mr. Soul, also lovely to make your acquaintance."
David stepped forward cautiously and shook Zorak's hand. The old man then turned toward Paul.
"Greetings, Mr. Glaser. I trust you're well?"
"Quite, thanks," answered Paul, "but I'm surprised to see you here."
"Yes, well, seems you and Mr. Starsky ran into a bit of a bother, am I right?"
Starsky raised him hands in protest. "Hey, your door sucked us in."
Hutch was at the front door, checking the locks. "How the hell did you get in here?" he demanded.
"All I want to know is how to get back," interjected David.
Zorak held up a thin hand. "Gentlemen, if you would indulge me for a moment until I catch my breath, I will attempt to answer your questions."
"Would you like something to drink?" asked Paul, always the gentleman.
"Yes, thank you, water will be fine."
Paul went into the kitchen. Starsky sat on the couch next to Zorak. David sat in a chair opposite, and Hutch, still skeptical, stood by the piano, keeping a watchful eye in case of more unexpected guests.
Starsky, sensing his partner's anxiety, looked over to him and said, "C'mon, Hutch, sit down. It's okay. Zorak here is on the up and up."
Hutch gave his partner a typical “you are so naïve brother” look and settled firmly against the piano.
Starsky shrugged and turned toward Zorak.
"Here you go, Mr. Zorak.” Paul handed a glass of water to the old man.
"Thank you, Mr. Glaser.” Zorak took a long drink and settled back into the couch. "As I was saying, we seem to be in a bit of a pickle. I'm sure you're wondering how you all ended up here together. Well, as unfortunate as it was that you and Mr. Glaser failed to get through The Door, it was probably for the best. You see, we've had a breach of security at the Guardian headquarters."
"Breach of security?" Starsky asked.
"Yes, unfortunately. It seems we have what you policemen call a ‘mole’ in our midst."
"A mole?" David asked, confused.
"Yes, Mr. Soul, a mole; or, if you will, double agent. Someone planted within the organization to destroy it."
David nodded and Zorak continued.
"It seems not everyone in 2007 is, as you say, hip to the idea of time alteration experimentation. Some of these detractors were very interested in the failure of the Guardian and took great steps to insure that failure. Unbeknownst to us, the good guys, the calculations through the Stratum Aura had been manipulated in a way that had the two of you actually followed my instructions, it would have meant certain death."
"So, how did you get back here?" asked Starsky.
"My own expeditions through The Door were not involved in the original experiments. If you remember, I was sent here after the four of you began waltzing to and fro."
Hutch, who had heard just about enough, said sharply, "This is all a real nice fairy tale, and I hate to show disrespect to a guest, invited or not, but I haven't heard anything that tells us just how we get out of this mess."
Paul joined in. "Yes, Mr. Zorak, I must agree. Just tell us what we have to do to get back."
"Hey,” Starsky said irritably, "let the guy finish, will you?"
"Yes, this is fascinating," added David.
Zorak just smiled at the men. "You know what is really fascinating is that your personalities have juxtaposed so well within the fabric of reality."
"What?" four voices exclaimed in unison.
The old man just chuckled. "It's quite marvelous, really. I do wish my colleagues could be here to share this with me. Except for the unusually high curiosity levels, you are prime candidates."
"Candidates? Guinea pigs, you mean," Hutch growled.
Zorak looked at the unhappy detective and nodded his head. “Message received, Sergeant. You want me to cut to the chase. Okay, here it goes. It's going to be nigh on impossible and quite dangerous for Mr. Soul and Mr. Glaser to return to their own dimension." He held up a thin hand to stop the protests. "The scientists at the Guardian, though, have concurred that the one chance you do have is this: within the next 48 hours, all four of you must return to the medial plain, and it is there that they have calculated the coordinates for a risky, but hopefully successful, return."
"Why can't we just go back up to Topanga? We know how to find that,” Starsky asked.
"Yes, Zorak, the last time we were all in that medial plain, it was not the most stable place. What's going to stop it from rocking and rolling again?" Hutch added.
The old traveler sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Well, obviously, you are not going to just follow my instructions blindly are you? Very well, I warned the Guardians that you would not be placated with half-truths and innuendos. When you finish with Captain Dobey, I will attempt to show you what you need."
"What does Captain Dobey have to do with this?" sputtered Starsky.
The phone rang.
"He's on the phone," Zorak replied calmly.
Four pairs of blue eyes stared incredulously, first at the phone and then at the old man. The phone rang again and Hutch strode defiantly over, grabbed the receiver, and barked "Hello."
As he heard the voice on the phone, he turned to Zorak with a stunned expression.
Starsky jumped up and went over to Hutch, who nodded at his partner.
"Holy hell . . ." Starsky was flabbergasted.
Hutch was startled back into reality by the tone in his commander's voice.
"Yeah, yeah, okay, Cap'n. No, they're still here. But Cap . . . but . . . all right, all right, I got it. We'll be there in twenty minutes.” He hung up the phone and turned to Starsky.
"We gotta go. Everyone's being called back in. Because of the storm.” He then looked at David and Paul. "He wants you, too."
"What?" Starsky shouted.
Hutch turned to his agitated partner. "Well, you told him they were cops. What was I supposed to say – oh, sorry, Captain, we were lying to you, they’re really our doubles from a different dimension?"
"How can we go with you – we are you." Paul stood up and faced the detectives.
"Yeah, we're not trained as cops," added David.
"Look, they need every available body. They don't care if you're trained or not. This storm we’re causing has knocked out power in three quarters of the city, and the canals are about to crest to full flood stage. We can make sure you just direct traffic, okay?"
Paul looked at David, who nodded. Starsky looked to Hutch, who also nodded.
"What about Zorak?" asked Paul.
"Oh, don't worry about me, gentlemen. Just go save the world and I'll be here when you get back, which, if my calculations are correct, will be in approximately ten hours."
True to his word, when the foursome returned precisely ten hours and 32 minutes later, the old man was sleeping peacefully on Hutch's couch. Starsky headed for the kitchen. "Anybody need a cold one?" he asked.
"Yes, please," David replied and sat down quietly beside Zorak.
Hutch, not so polite, barked, "Hey, Mr. Zorak."
"Shhhhhh," came from the kitchen and also the bedroom, where Paul had flopped onto Hutch's bed, exhausted.
Zorak opened one eye. "Oh, hello, gentlemen. Back so soon?"
"Hey, you're the one who said we'd be back in ten hours. So here we are," responded Starsky, who walked out of the kitchen with two bottles of beer, one of which he handed to David.
"Yes, I did," the old man replied, "so, are you men ready?"
"For a nap, maybe," Paul remarked from the bedroom.
Just then, Hutch's front door flew open. Three men with automatic weapons burst into the room. Starsky dropped his beer on the floor and reached for his gun. Hutch leapt over the table and covered Zorak and David with his body as he grabbed for his own weapon.
The intruders opened fire at the three men on the couch. The force of the bullets, and the added weight of Hutch, tipped the sofa over backward. Paul, upon hearing the gunfire, dove off Hutch's bed. Starsky, now behind the pole, cut the first two thugs down with two shots. He then dove to his right, came up in a shooter's crouch and blasted the last man into the piano.
Pausing for a moment to make sure the men were down, he rushed over and kicked the guns out of their reach.
"Hutch," he shouted as he jumped over the table to the overturned couch. They had been fired on from almost point blank range. He was out of his mind, knowing that only by a miracle his partner was not already dead. Paul came crawling out of the bedroom. He looked at the devastation around him, the three men on the floor. He saw Starsky’s face twisted in agony and swallowed hard.
"Where are they?" he asked the detective.
At that moment, Starsky reached the couch and . . . there was no one there. No bullet-ridden corpses, no blood, nobody. "What the hell?” Starsky did a complete three-sixty, shaking his head. "They were here, they were shot, so many rounds . . ." He sat down heavily on the coffee table.
"Starsky, what the hell happened? Who are those guys? Where is everyone?"
Starsky rubbed his eyes and tried to squelch the panic that rose in his throat. From a distance, sirens could be heard. It had sounded like World War III in the apartment so he was not surprised. A neighbor more than likely had called the police.
Paul got up, came around to the detective and placed his hand on Starsky's shoulder.
"Starsky, please, talk to me."
"They were on the couch, those men busted through the door and started firing. . .Hutch tried to cover them . . . no use."
"Where did they go?"
Starsky pulled in a ragged breath, his years of experience rising above his panic to take over.
He walked over to the men and began going through the pockets looking for identification.
"Get a good look at these guys so you can give a description, Paul."
"I'm not doing a damn thing till you tell me where the others are."
Starsky walked over until he was face to face with his mirror image. He placed both his hands on Paul’s shoulders and stared into his own eyes.
"Listen, Paul, I don't know where they are. Maybe they fell through one of those doors. But no matter what, there is no way they survived that blasting. Now, in about two minutes the cops are going to be here . . ."
Paul twisted away from the detective. He went over to the couch and tried to pull it upright.
"Well, if they went through a door, we gotta follow them . . ." Paul tried in vain to put the old couch back into the sitting position.
Starsky grabbed the other end of the sofa. Hutch is dead, Hutch is dead, Hutch is dead, his brain kept screaming.
"It's no use, Paul – I saw them hit with my own eyes.” The couch creaked over and Starsky sat heavily on it and buried his heads in his hands. "Oh God, Hutch, no."
Paul came around and sat down beside Starsky and encircled the grieving man in his arms. Starsky turned toward his twin and they clung to each other, lost in a haze of agony and dread. Starsky clutched at Paul's leather jacket like a drowning man.
"C'mon, Starsk – maybe they made it through before they got hit."
"No way, no way – I saw it.” Starsky shuddered as the horrible moment when he realized that his friend was dead replayed again in his head. "I'm sorry, Paul – no way.”
"Oh, God, both . . . gone . . ." The situation finally hit home for Paul and he let go of Starsky and collapsed into the back of the couch.
Sirens screamed through the room and voices could be heard coming up the stairs.
Starsky reached over to comfort Paul as the first two police officers came over the threshold, guns drawn. What they saw made them stop in shock. The apartment looked like a war zone. Broken glass and ceramic pieces littered the floor. Two bodies sprawled face up, side by side, next to the coffee table. A third body slumped against the piano. Blood splattered everything. Three automatic rifles were stacked neatly in the corner. Other officers entered behind the first two and began searching the apartment.
Officer Gillison reached for his radio. "This is Zebra 12. Hold the air – we got a cluster here. It's a mess. And get me Captain Dobey . . ."
His transmission was interrupted by a booming voice that almost shook the radio out of the officer's hand.
"Gillison. What the hell is going on there?" Dobey's voice echoed into the quiet room.
"Looks like some kind of hit, Cap'n. Three bodies I can see . . ."
"Who?" the commander's voice thundered.
Officer Berstrom, a twenty-year veteran, understood the one word request and reached for his own radio.
"It's not them, Captain. No one I've ever seen."
"Well, where are they?"
Officer Drake, just coming from the sun porch, shook his head.
"They're not here, Captain. No sign of either Sergeant Starsky or Hutchinson."
The couch was empty.
"I'm on my way." The radio was still.
Back in the squad room, Captain Dobey reached for his jacket, murmuring a prayer under his breath. His two favorite detectives had stumbled into something big, he could feel it. He hadn’t bought that garbage they’d shoveled at him the night before, and he had just been in the process of running the fingerprints of the mysterious doubles that had appeared of nowhere when the call had come in. Somehow, he would get to the bottom of this. But first, he had to make sure with his own eyes that they were all right. They were his boys after all.
After what seemed like an eternity, Paul and Starsky landed on a hillside, but just what hillside?
Starsky immediately jumped up and began searching the area for his partner. Paul, who had not weathered the jump well, struggled to his feet.
"Damn, where are they?" Starsky shouted.
As if to answer him, the wind picked up and the ground began to shake.
"Where are we?" Paul tried to shout over the roar. He clutched his ears and stumbled toward Starsky. They clung to each other as the hurricane-like weather pounded everything around them. Then, as soon as it had come, it was gone.
All was still. The two men looked around them, confused.
"Just what does that mean?" Paul asked.
Starsky began walking in a big circle. "I have no idea. I thought that if we were together all hell broke loose. Where'd it go?"
"Give us a little credit, gentlemen, for being able to fix at least one part of this experiment gone amuck,” a familiar voice answered.
Both men whirled around to find Mr. Zorak himself comfortably seated on a tree stump, looking for all the world like he was just out on a Sunday stroll.
"What the hell . . ." Paul said.
"Where's Hutch?" Starsky hustled over to the old man and picked him up by the shirtfront. "Tell me now. Where's my partner?"
Paul grabbed Starsky's arm and tried to pull the men apart. "Starsk, c'mon – let him go."
Paul tried in vain to pull Starsky off the old man. A flash of the interrogation scene from Pariah went through Paul's mind. He wondered if he possessed the power to stifle the detective's fury with just a gaze.
"Please," choked Zorak, "let me go . . ."
Paul managed to snake one arm between the two men and wrapped his other one around Starsky’s back. He pulled hard and got Starsky off balance enough so he relaxed his death grip on the old man. Paul then squeezed in between so that he was nose to nose with the furious detective.
"Starsky," Paul pleaded, "don’t antagonize the people we need – he's the only one who can help us find them – don't kill him."
He looked hard into the eyes of his twin. Starsky's eyes were bursting with fury. He finally loosened his grip on Zorak, who slumped to the ground, panting.
Starsky stared back at Paul and the anger turned to agony as he dropped his hands to his side and bowed his head. Paul grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into a brief hug, which Starsky returned, whispering, "Thanks," before stepping aside and toward Zorak.
"Sorry.” Starsky offered his hand to Zorak.
Zorak ignored him and slowly pulled himself up. "Well, Sergeant, if you're quite done with your Gestapo tactics, I can take you to your beloved partner."
Both Paul and Starsky jumped toward Zorak.
"You mean they're alive?"
"Where are they?"
"Did he get shot?"
Zorak held up a shaky hand. "Gentlemen. Please."
They stopped their questions and stood, side-by-side, like two schoolboys being called down by the teacher. Zorak looked at them, smiling to himself. These men were surely a passionate lot. He had just been through a similar experience with the blond contingent. It had taken three attendants to restrain the furious Hutch when he discovered that Zorak had left Starsky back in the apartment to battle the intruders alone.
"Both Mr. Soul and Sergeant Hutchinson escaped the unfortunate incident unscathed. We were able to get them through the Stratum Aura before any bullets hit their mark. They are presently relaxing comfortably at the Guardian Headquarters, which is where I would be happy to escort you, if you are ready."
"Well, why didn't you say that?" Starsky asked.
Zorak ignored the comment and motioned toward a break in the trees ahead. "You need to link arms, please. The drain on the Aura has been considerable and you need to concentrate your body mass as much as possible."
Paul grabbed Starsky's arm. "They're okay."
Starsky shook off Paul’s hold, wrapped both arms around the surprised actor, and lifted him off the ground. "Yeah. Can you believe it? That’s terrific!” He spun around on his good foot and then put Paul down. He wrapped his arm around Paul's waist and pulled him close. Paul draped his arm around Starsky’s shoulders and they both grinned foolishly.
"Okay, Borax, we're ready."
Zorak shook his head and led them through The Door. At the last moment as their bodies shimmered into nothingness, Starsky jumped onto Paul's back.
"This concentrated enough for ya, Clorox?” he shouted as the woods grew silent.
"Where the hell is he?” Hutch growled. "He left hours ago."
"We don't know how long it takes to travel, Hutch. Sit down. You're making me nervous."
The detective ignored the actor and continued to pace.
They were in a ten-by-ten foot waiting room. Well, at least, that's what Zorak called it when he left them there to go retrieve Paul and Starsky.
The room was all white – from the white walls and ceilings to the little white pillows on the little white sofa. David was slumped on one end of the couch, watching his twin trying to wear a hole in the white carpeting.
"All this white is starting to give me a headache.” David rubbed his temples as Hutch made his umpteenth pass in front of him.
"It's that damn door. I'm sure it's really doing great things to our nervous systems. We'll probably all get brain tumors, if we live through this.” Hutch stopped and turned toward David. "Are you sure you saw three men?"
David stood and placed his hand on Hutch’s shoulder. "I told you what I saw. Three men, three big guns, and then you fell on me and we ended up here. End of story."
Hutch ducked away from David's touch and sat heavily on the couch. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. "I know, David, I'm sorry. It's just I don't see how Zorak could know if they're really okay or not. I mean, Starsky's good, but one Beretta against those automatics . . . I should have been there."
David sat beside Hutch. He understood the frustration. Their experience here so far had been surreal at best, with all the men in protective suits, white of course, moving around them like they were some kind of lab rats. And no one was telling them anything about Paul and Starsky.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the two men in question appeared before their eyes. They watched in amazement as Paul, with Starsky on his back, tumbled to the floor.
"Hey," shouted Hutch. He bounded off the couch and knelt beside the pile of Starskys, who were slowly coming around, groggy from the traveling.
"Where are we?” asked Starsky as he rolled off Paul and tried to get his bearings.
Hutch lifted him up by his jacket collar. Starsky looked into his partner's eyes and smiled. "So, you are alive, Blintz.” They hugged briefly.
David Soul helped Paul off the floor and onto the couch. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I guess. That door gives me a royal headache. Just think what it's doing to our bodies."
"That's exactly what I was saying.” Hutch turned Paul. "It's probably destroying
our nervous systems."
Starsky chuckled to himself as he joined Paul on the couch.
"What's so funny?" Hutch asked.
“Well, Paul is supposed to be me, but he's really just like you."
Hutch looked from Starsky to Paul. Paul shrugged and said, "Great minds think alike."
"Well, they're both hotheads," David commented.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Both Hutch and Paul snapped.
"See what I mean?" laughed Starsky. "You think our brains got swapped?"
"I hope not – I'd hate to think I'd have to teach you chess all over again," Hutch teased his partner.
"I know how to play already," Paul stated.
"That's debatable,” David replied.
“Oh, and you're Bobby Fisher?"
Any answer was lost in a great clap of thunder. The white room shook and all four men grasped for something solid to hold on to. The noise grew louder and the couch started moving across the room.
"Hey,” shouted Starsky as he tumbled onto the floor, taking Paul with him.
Hutch and David fell to their knees, covering their ears to shut out the cacophony. The roar turned to a high-pitched whine. Hutch felt like a razor was ripping through his head. He shouted in pain and slumped to the floor, overcome. Starsky crawled to his partner as the pain in his own head threatened to pull him down into darkness. He bumped into something and as he tried to focus he realized it was David, also unconscious.
"Starsky!” Paul crawled toward him, fighting the hideous noise with all his strength. The two men met and clung to each other, willing themselves to stay alert.
"We gotta find out where that’s coming from!" Starsky shouted through clenched teeth.
With effort, they pulled themselves up and stumbled to what looked like a door.
As both men reached for the knob, it was yanked open and they fell out into a hallway, at the feet of Zorak, who immediately covered his ears against the terrible sounds coming from the room. He looked past the men in a pile at his feet, saw Hutch and David unmoving in the room, and turned quickly to a panel on the wall beside him. He opened it and held his strange ring up to the orangish-colored light that emanated from it. Starsky and Paul watched in amazement as Zorak became bathed in the light. The sound began to subside and Paul and Starsky struggled to their feet. As the noise grew fainter, Zorak's whole body became brighter, almost as if he were lit from within.
The whine dissipated and Zorak pulled his ring from the panel, slumping exhausted to the floor. Starsky spun around and bolted back into the room to Hutch. Paul helped Zorak up and led him onto the couch. He went to David.
Both Hutch and David were slowly coming around. As soon as Starsky was assured Hutch was okay, he turned a furious face to Zorak, who was lying on the couch, panting.
"That’s it, Zorak. We’ve been your damn lab rats long enough. Either you get us back or I swear I'll tear this damn place apart until I find someone who will."
"He's not kidding, you know,” Hutch added weakly as he pulled himself to his feet. "Just what was that little treat, Zorak? You almost killed us."
"I'm so sorry," Zorak wheezed. "Malfunction – didn't know – overrun.” His sentence was lost in a hacking cough that only served to make him weaker.
Paul helped David to his feet and the four men stood above the ailing Zorak waiting for answers they felt they more than deserved.
After a moment, he began to speak again. "You must accept my apologies and those of my colleagues. I'm afraid you have all been victims of gross misjudgment on the part of the scientists here at Guardian. After further examination, it has become painfully obvious that no formula or calculations can ever be accurate when measured with the human spirit. That combined with the personnel glitches we have experienced have forced the complete termination of the entire project. It was a mistake from the beginning, I'm afraid. I must say, though, that you men are a tribute to the human race. Your integrity and compassion should be held forth as an example for all to follow, especially here in my time.”
Starsky was out of patience. "What does all this have to do with you getting us outta here?" he interrupted.
"You're irritating my partner, Zorak. I wouldn't do that if I were you." Hutch, just a notch less irritated, was too tired to argue with the man and was happy to let Starsky take over, inserting wry commentary when needed, of course.
Paul whispered to David, "They're doing push and shove."
David frowned at his friend. "What?"
"Push and Shove. Like in Snowstorm – with George Dzundza."
"Yes, really. Starsky and I did it already with Zorak."
Starsky whirled around. "You got something you wanna say, guys?"
"Oh, no, Starsk, you're doing quite well.” David replied.
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances and Hutch shrugged and gestured his partner to continue.
"So, what's it gonna be Zorak? How do we get home?" Starsky leveled his gaze at the “suspect.”
"You will be home in approximately eight minutes, Sergeant. Does that suit you?" Zorak smiled at Starsky.
The men all spoke at once. They surged as a unit toward the older man.
"But what about the dead men in Hutch's apartment. Who were they?” Starsky demanded.
"Dead men? You got them all, Starsk?" Hutch was incredulous. His partner was good.
"I hope you don't think that was my doing, Sergeant. I don't know who those men were, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may have to do with a certain Vic Monte and Company," Zorak replied.
Starsky turned to Paul. "What were you saying about Vic Monte earlier?"
"Well, Starsk – Hutch can tell you." Paul squirmed under the intense gaze.
Hutch turned his full attention toward Zorak. "What do you know about it? Was it a hit?"
"Yeah, you know the future. Who were they?” Starsky turned back toward Zorak.
"Gentlemen, I am not at liberty to discuss any part of this experiment or the ramifications with you. I'm sorry. But, since we seem to have put you at a disadvantage, plucking you away like we did, I am authorized to tell you this.” Four pair of blue eyes focused in on the old traveler. "But then, no more questions. You don't have much time if you want to return home.” He directed his comment toward Starsky, knowing full well the level of curiosity in this particular man was prodigious and not easily satisfied.
"Okay, okay. Just tell us what we need to know and we'll go," Starsky demanded.
"The men at your apartment were indeed what you call hit men, sent by a certain Crazy Joey Fortune to avenge his honor or some type of antiquated notion like that. Apparently, Sergeant Hutchinson and Mr. Glaser recently thwarted an assassination attempt on Mr. Fortune's rival Mr. Monte and that really got him steamed, so to speak. Make any sense to you?" Zorak leveled his gaze at the officers.
"Joey Fortune – from Murder at Sea? You mean Jose Ferrer?” David said.
"I thought we, uh, you guys got him with the dune buggy,” Paul added.
The detectives whirled on the actors.
"We did get him. He jumped bail. What is Murder At Sea?” Starsky asked.
"Another episode?” Hutch asked Paul.
"Sorry, Hutch. We wanted to go on a cruise. We were good with the bombs, though.” Paul smiled.
"What bombs?" asked Starsky.
"The bombs Joey planted on the ship. And we – well, you and Hutch found them all and tossed them over the side – saving everyone on board."
Starsky and Hutch exchanged amused glances.
“Like we’d ever get to go on a cruise – kind of out of our jurisdiction.” Starsky shook his head.
“The writers on your show have vivid imaginations. That could only happen in television," Hutch said.
"You mean I ran all over that ship for no reason?” David had his own broken ankle during that episode and filming those scenes had been excruciating for him.
"I'm sure it was exciting for your viewers," Hutch replied.
"Yeah, I wish I coulda seen that," Starsky said.
"Gentlemen, the time . . .” Zorak interrupted.
The four men once again turned their full attention to their host.
"Now, about the journey," Zorak continued, “the coordinates have been set so that you will return to the medial plane for a span of 45 seconds, and then be transported to your own dimensions, safe and sound with no lingering effects. In fact, most of what has happened will gradually fade from your memory. So, except for experiencing a slight headache, this will all be a bad dream in a matter of days.”
He stood slowly and faced the group. In the brief time he had spent with them, he had grown quite fond of these men, impatient and demanding as they were. He felt a surge of emotion as he looked at each one.
Starsky, the banty rooster, always ready to fight, especially when his partner's well-being was involved. And Hutch, equally passionate, but with the rough edges smoothed out. If they had more time, Zorak would have liked to become more acquainted with Hutch’s gentler side. They had chutzpah, these brave men, these defenders of justice. Zorak was glad to know that each would live a long, happy life. They surely deserved to.
He reached out and shook first Starsky's, then Hutch's hand. "My wishes go with you. Stay safe and look out for each other. And remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Leave some of the bad guys for tomorrow, okay?" He desperately wanted to add that they should always park in the front of the police station, but knew that was a lesson the partners would have to learn themselves.
He then turned toward the actors. He reached for David's hand and looked into the gentle blue eyes. He knew David had some rough going ahead. But Zorak felt heartened, knowing that this son of a minister was fundamentally grounded, and would find his way home eventually.
David nodded and moved to stand near the detectives as Zorak turned his attention to Paul. The passionate thespian had been especially kind to the traveler from the future and Zorak was grateful.
Paul reached out and patted the older man on the shoulder. "I guess you'll be glad to see us go," he said.
Zorak's eyes welled with tears and Paul looked at him quizzically. "Mr. Zorak, what is it?"
What is it? Such a simple question with such a complicated answer. Zorak took a deep breath and struggled to get his emotions under control. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he wrapped his thin arms around Paul and hugged him close.
"Every day is a gift, Paul. Cherish each one. And remember, in times of strife find your strength in the love of your friends,” Zorak whispered.
Paul nodded, not really understanding, and patted Zorak on the back. Zorak finally released him, wiped the back of his hand across his eyes, and sighed heavily.
"I'm getting too old for this," he said, mostly to himself.
He gestured to The Door. "Okay, gentlemen, if you are ready.” His ring shimmered under the florescent lights.
"Hey, wait. The ring. I wanna know about that ring. And the noise . . . how'd ya stop it?” Starsky halted his forward movement.
"There are some things, Sergeant Starsky, that are better left a mystery." Zorak lifted an eyebrow like Spock. "Besides, weren't you the one in such a hurry to leave?"
"Yeah, Starsky, come on.” Hutch steered his partner towards The Door.
"Shall we?" David turned toward Paul.
"After you, Mr. Soul," he replied.
"Oh, no, after you.
"Oh, no, no I insist . . .”
"Will you two come on,” Starsky and Hutch shouted in unison.
David and Paul laughed at the detectives and swept dramatically past them, out The Door.
Hutch grabbed Starsky by the arm and they followed, Starsky pausing for a brief moment to turn back to Zorak with one last plea.
"C'mon Ajax – just a hint – what's the ring for . . .”
His last words were lost as Hutch shoved him the final three feet – knowing it was the only way they were getting out of there. The last thing Zorak saw was Starsky draping his arm around his partner’s shoulders.
They landed softly on a hillside in the medial plain. All four men scrambled to their feet and looked around for the next door – the one that would finally take them home. In the right order. There was an opening in the trees ahead and Starsky picked up a rock and heaved it. It disappeared.
He turned toward the others. "That was easy. How much time we got?"
"Probably about 30 seconds,” Hutch replied.
The four men stood for a moment staring at each other.
Hutch spoke first. “Well, I can't say it's been fun . . ."
David walked up and pulled Hutch into a hug. "Be careful, okay? I've got three
more years on my contract, I don't want to leave the show prematurely, you got that?"
Hutch returned the embrace and slapped his twin on the back. “I’ll try. You take care, too, David. Don't let show business get to you."
Hutch then turned toward Paul. "I'm really gonna miss you." They hugged and Paul reached up and squeezed Hutch’s neck.
"Thanks for everything, Hutch.”
Their eyes met briefly and Hutch smiled. "I oughta thank you. You saved my life, you know. Have you ever thought of going into police work as a career?"
They both laughed.
David and Starsky shook hands.
"Thanks for showing me around Hollywood, David. And tell Cheryl, I mean Lynne, so long for me. Sure wish we could have met some more stars. Maybe next time this happens . . ."
"Bite your tongue, detective. Hey, take care of my blond brother over there, okay? He's not as tough as he looks," David said.
Starsky nodded and turned toward Paul. He was surprised to feel a lump rise in his throat. "Hey, you take care of yourself, too. You gotta keep our mug gorgeous, ya know."
Paul laid a hand on Starsky’s shoulder and looked for the final time into his own eyes. “You be careful, Starsk – please. Don't let those wise guys and whippos get the best of you. I don't wanna have to come back here and straighten things out. Oh, and sorry about the ankle."
Starsky laughed and they hugged. "It’s okay – at least the Torino's an automatic."
The wind began to pick up and the earth began to shake, ever so slightly.
"Well, as they say in show business," Hutch said, "I think that's our cue."
"How did you learn so much about show business?" Starsky asked his partner. “I was the one in Hollywood."
The other three men laughed as they made their way toward The Door.
"Oh, Starsky, my friend – you are Hollywood." Paul patted him on the back.
"Good one, Paul.” Hutch nodded.
"See. I told you. Our brains did get swapped."
"I guess that means no more chili dogs and burritos and root beer and . . ."
"No way. I love that stuff," Starsky protested as his body disappeared through The Door.
Hutch turned and gave the actors a final wave as he too disappeared.
Paul and David smiled at each other. Yes, the show was certainly going to be different next year. They linked arms and followed through The Door. As they shimmered into nothingness, Paul let out a very un-Paul-like whoop. David turned to him in surprise. Paul just shot him a patented Starsky Look and David shook his head as the trees grew silent and the earth was still.
"Paul. David. Where are you?" Joe Naar was getting worried. They had all seen Paul take the header down the hill and watched as David made his way down to him. But that had been a full five minutes ago and now they couldn't find them.
"Up here, Joe. We're up here.” David waved his hand to show their position and then turned toward the man lying so still on the hillside.
"C'mon, Paul – snap out of it.” He slapped him lightly on the cheek. Paul opened his eyes and gazed at David.
"Where are we?" Paul asked cautiously.
"Back in Topanga. Joe and Shotgun are on their way up. You okay?" David asked.
"If we're in Topanga and you're David Soul, then I'm better than okay. What day is this?"
"I think it's right when you fell. We went back in time."
"That means my ankle . . ." They quickly examined Paul’s leg. No injury.
Paul chuckled to himself. "Starsky still has my broken ankle."
"We're home, partner." David smiled.
"Thank goodness. How about you – you feel okay?"
"Just the headache Zor . . . Zor . . . what was his name?" David was already forgetting.
"That's funny, I don't remember either."
Joe and the others came around the trail. David helped Paul to his feet and they met them.
"Paul, that was quite a tumble – you okay?" Joe asked.
"Just a headache, Joe," Paul replied.
"Well, gentlemen, they're breaking out the champagne down at the trucks. This season is officially a wrap.” Joe smiled at his two costars. It had been a long year and the cast and crew were happy to be heading into hiatus.
"Whoooeee," shouted Paul. “I gotta go call Elizabeth.” He hurried down the hill.
The others watched his retreating figure, stunned. That was not at all like the Paul Glaser they knew.
"You sure he's all right, David?" Joe asked.
David smiled as he watched Paul leave. Being with Starsky had definitely loosened up the usually serious actor. David thought the change was for the good. He turned and draped an arm around Joe and headed down the hill.
"Oh sure, Paul's okay. Just a little ‘Starsky’ fever, I think. Now, did you mention champagne?"
Hutch helped a still-groggy Starsky into the Torino.
"Hutch. You call tomorrow and tell me how he's doing," Captain Dobey ordered.
"I will, Cap – and you call us if you get anything on Joey Fortune, okay?"
Hutch closed the passenger door and walked around to the driver's side and slid into the seat.
"It would have been nice if Zorak had dropped us back before Stryker hit me over the head. I think he did that on purpose.” Starsky grimaced at the throbbing pain in his temple.
"Just be glad you lost the broken ankle.” Hutch turned the key and the engine roared to life. "Besides, he said you would have a headache. Think Dobey remembers anything?"
"I don't think so – we came back far enough in time so he doesn't know anything. And if we can nab Joey before he gets to Monte, we're in the clear.” Starsky settled down into the seat. "Ya know I must really be out of my head to let you drive."
"Listen Gordo, you've got no choice – it was the hospital or the Hutchinson Clinic – so just be glad I agreed to take you in." Hutch bantered happily, glad to be back in their own world with his own partner by his side.
Something caught Starsky's eye and despite the pain in his head he reached down to the floor of the Torino and picked up two odd coins. "What are these?" he asked.
Hutch glanced over at what Starsky was holding up to him. "Oh, those are Paul's I Ching coins. That's weird that they’re still here."
"I Ching. It's a divination method developed over many centuries by the Chinese. It’s said to be the root of Taoism, and even Confucius was influenced strongly by King Wen who wrote the first commentaries on the sixty four hexagrams . . .”
"Hutch, please, my head hurts enough. English, will ya?"
"Let's just say that they're Paul's good luck charms, okay." Hutch sighed. No more long stakeout discussions of Eastern philosophies. It was back to burritos and comic books. And that suited him just fine.
"Well, they're my good luck charms now.” Starsky dug around and found a dark string in the glove compartment, slipped the coins on it, and tied it around his neck. "This way I won't forget what happened like Zorak said. I'm never taking them off."
"Never?" Hutch asked, amused.
"Never. Not even if I get shot," Starsky replied.
"Are you planning on getting shot, partner?"
"Aw, you know what I mean, Hutch. I think maybe these were left here as a tailspin for us."
Hutch was perplexed. “Tailspin . . . oh you mean a talisman."
"Whatever." Starsky clutched the coins in his hand. Then, true to form, he suddenly changed gears. "Hey, I'm hungry."
"I thought your head hurt. Why don't I take you home and fix you something there. You really ought to take it easy.” Hutch turned onto Ocean Street.
"Naw, all you got is squirrel bait up there. I want real food. Let's go get some Italian."
Hutch slammed on the brakes as both men stared at each other, spooked. A shiver went down Starsky's spine as he recalled an eerily similar conversation.
"Starsk . . .” Hutch gave a warning look to his partner.
"Well,” Starsky took a gulp of air, “how bout we stay at your place and you scramble us up some eggs?"
Hutch let out a relieved breath and hit the gas. "Good choice, partner."
He pulled the Torino to the curb at 1027 1/2 and turned off the engine. Both men looked up into the familiar windows of Venice Place. It was good to be home.
"You need me to help you up?" Hutch asked Starsky.
“I think I can make it," Starsky replied, "as long as you're behind me."
They looked at each other for a moment, and then Hutch reached over and patted his friend on the back. "Always partner. Always."
"Me and Thee, huh?" Starsky grinned.
"You got it, my man."
They made their way up the stairs, Hutch keeping a guiding hand on Starsky's elbow, just in case.
"You got any salami?"
"Now, Starsk – you really think I keep that nasty stuff in my house?"
"Well ya could at least think of me and keep something edible in there."
"I am thinking of you when I refuse to buy that garbage."
"Garbage? Hutch, it’s un-American to not like salami."
"Starsky, I hate to tell you, but I don't think salami is an American creation."
"Whatever. How bout some chili?"
Their voices faded as the sun shone down on the bright red Torino. The world was right and the day was full of promise. And maybe Hutch could finally get Starsky to eat something that was good for him, with vitamins.
Yes, well, that's a whole other story.