A book deal, do you believe that? I guess that's what almost dying can get you these days—well, besides the months of hospitals, doctors, painkillers, antibiotics, relapses, physical therapy.... Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the book deal. The true story of me and Hutch versus big, bad Gunther. It had all the makings of a New York Times bestseller, or so we were told. A tale of cops and robbers, with a full cast of characters that included hit men and hookers, snitches and corrupt officials. An exciting story full of drama and intrigue, with life and death at stake.
Yeah. My life, and Hutch's.
Hutch hadn't been shot, thankfully. But he'd been a target, just like I was. I don't forget that. He never stopped being a target either, all that time he was out there, tracking down the people responsible for gunning me down. He was vulnerable, plus he was working at a disadvantage—I wasn't there to watch his back. Huggy did great, don't get me wrong, but part of Hutch was here with me, so really, his focus was divided. When I think about it now, it gives me the shakes, how exposed he was.
Anyway, about the book deal. I thought it was a crazy idea at first, mostly because the story about Gunther was only a part of our lives and what we did. A pretty notorious part now, I admit, but still; fuck if I was going to let Gunther's attempted hit define me or define Hutch. My partner did an amazing job against huge odds, no question, and he deserves all the credit he got for bringing down Gunther and his whole crooked empire. But Hutch was an amazing, caring, good cop, way before all that shit went down.
So I pretty much laughed the whole thing off. But then Philippa Martinez, a literary agent, came by to see me. And she kept coming. She was persistent, I gotta give her that. Persistent, and pretty damn persuasive. Pip said our side of the story, me and Hutch's, really hadn't been told yet.
"I think it's a crying shame," she said. "It's like David bringing down Goliath with a slingshot, and all anybody hears is 'poor Goliath.'"
She wasn't wrong there. The official reports released to the public weren't much more than the bare bones of Gunther's fall, with details kept to a minimum so as not to compromise the State's case. On the other hand, Gunther had paid for—and gotten—a ton of favorable spin in the media during the months leading up to his trial. Fortunately, it hadn't washed with the judge, who, unlike Raymond McClellan, couldn't be bought. Thank God for that. James Marshall Gunther was found guilty on multiple counts of extortion, racketeering, conspiracy, and murder, not to mention the attempted murder of yours truly. He wasn't ever going to walk the streets as a free man again. Yet, the perception of Gunther as a successful businessman who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time didn't go away. There was open speculation about a frame-up against him by BCPD and the District Attorney, despite the overwhelming evidence. Even after they locked him up, there was still a lot of vocal sympathy for the bastard. It was a definite sore spot with us, and Pip knew it.
But the clincher for me was when Pip said, "Look, if this book sells well, you'll be set financially." She paused and added, bluntly but not unkindly, "You need the money, don't you? I'm authorized to offer you a very generous advance."
I did need the money, that was for sure. You see, I wasn't going to be a cop anymore.
Oh, the doctors hadn't come out and said it outright yet, but I knew. I mean, I was functioning pretty well for a guy who’d been ventilated the way I’d been. Some might’ve called it a miracle, even. I was alive, and finally at the stage where it was likely I’d stay that way, so long as I looked both ways when I crossed the street. I can do most things your average Joe can do, more or less.
But I can’t run like I could before. I can’t scale a fence taller than me, can’t chase a hype down and subdue him. Can’t back up my partner.
And that, as they say, is that.
I’m not happy about it, but I ain’t exactly sad about it, either. Maybe I would have been, if things hadn’t gone down the way they did. If you’d have told me way back when I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie that my career would be over before my 37th birthday, I’d have laughed… right before I popped you one in the mouth. I’d never have believed you, and would have been pretty pissed off by the very idea, that’s for damn sure. That’s part of the problem with being young and stupid, I guess. You can’t imagine being any other way.
I'm not that much older than that rookie version of me, but in cop years… yeah. I'm not young and stupid anymore. Or at least, I hope I'm a lot less stupid. My career as a police officer is done. But that doesn't mean my life is over.
And I can live with that.
"Write a book together. You really want to do this?"
"Yeah, I do." I held my breath and waited.
Hutch had listened without comment the whole time I'd made my pitch, his eyes intent and searching on mine. He hadn't reacted at all, even when I told him I wasn't going to go in for reinstatement. That part had been really hard to say, but once the words were out, I felt a kind of relief, and the rest of it was easier. The fact that he didn't seem surprised helped, actually, as I'm not sure I could have gone through with it if Hutch felt like I was abandoning him or our partnership. What I was proposing was something we could do together, even if he was still on the force and I wasn't. We’d still be partners. Hell yeah, I wanted this.
He said it so matter-of-factly, at first I thought for sure he was going to drop another shoe. I waited for the 'but…' to follow. Then I realized he was smiling, a bright, happy smile that lit up his face and chased every dark doubt away.
"Okay." I let out my breath and laughed. It was a little shaky, but Hutch pretended not to notice.
I pulled a couple of beers from his fridge and handed one to him. I popped the tab on my can and tapped it against his. "Here's to us: David Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson, soon to be award-winning authors."
He nodded, but said, "'Kenneth Hutchinson and David Starsky' would look better on the cover, don't you think?"
I didn't, but I wasn't going to get into an argument with him, it'd just spoil my beer. I could humor him for now, and have Pip handle it later. "Yeah, whatever."
"And 'award-winning'? Don’t get your hopes up, Gordo. You do realize writing a novel is nothing like writing a police report, don't you?" he said.
"Oh, I don't know," I replied. "Dobey always did say my reports had a… a literary flair."
He raised a brow. "I don't think 'literary flair' were the words he used. In fact, I think his exact words were—"
"It doesn't matter what his exact words were," I cut in. "The point is, the Captain recognized my potential for, ah, creative writing. It'll be a piece of cake."
He snorted, but his tone softened. "Award-winning or not, I think it's a great idea, Starsk. People should know the truth about what Gunther did to you."
"To us," I corrected. "Yeah, but I'm thinking: Gunther ain't the whole story, you know? We tell that part, sure; but we can also write about us. What it means to be cops and partners, what it's like to function as a Zebra unit. How we work our beat." An idea popped into my head. "Who knows, maybe someone at one of the television networks will read our book and want to make a show about it. They'd have to buy the rights from us, wouldn't they? Then we’ll really start raking in the dough."
Hutch just rolled his eyes at me and went to get us more beer. But it seemed like the idea grew on him, because several beers later he said thoughtfully, "A TV series, huh?"
"Sure." I had thrown it out without really thinking, but now I was feeling the alcohol buzz and actually warming up to the possibilities. "It's exactly the kind of thing those programming people are on the lookout for. Cop shows are very popular these days. Look at Kojak, Streets of San Francisco, The Rookies. You know, action-adventure, gritty life on the streets, tough stuff."
He made a 'huh' face. "So who do you think they’ll pick to play me?"
I thought about it for a second. "Maybe that actor in Magnum Force?"
"Clint Eastwood?" he said, confused.
"No, dummy, the tall blond one who played one of the renegade cops."
"Oh, him." Hutch shrugged. "He’d be okay, I guess."
"What about me?"
"Hmm. Is Paul Muni still available?"
"He's too old," I said, a little offended. "Not to mention, he's dead."
"Oh. Too bad." He squinted at me. "You look a little like the actor who played Harry Houdini."
If Hutch truly thought I looked like that actor, he was a lot drunker than I was. But at least this one wasn't dead yet. And he wasn't all that bad-looking. Ah, what the hell. If it made Hutch happy, I could roll with it for now.
"Okay, it's settled." I held up my empty can like a microphone and said in my best announcer's voice, "Tune in on Wednesday night for ABC's newest crime drama, Starsky and Hutch, starring Tony Curtis and David Soul….
"What's so damned funny, Hutch?"