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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

ALP - alien life plant


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Response to a 'killer plant from outer space' challenge, that´s been posted at the shfanfiction list.

When Starsky hurried down the steps of his bank towards the parked Torino, a strange picture greeted him: instead of openly showing disapproval by either sitting on the Torino´s hood or awaiting his partner´s return with an angry glare - like Starsky had expected him to do - Hutch sat on the passenger seat, holding a newspaper. Seemingly completely indrawn by whatever article he was reading, he didn´t see Starsky, who halted in his steps, frowned, then slowly continued to approach the car - he didn´t trust the peace. After all, it *could* be a trick.
 
The moment he opened the driver´s door, he started his litany of defensive apologies, not wanting to give Hutch any chance to even start. "I know, I know. Sorry it took so long, but it was *not* my fault. There was this nine-year-old, who wanted to know how much money she had on her account, but she had forgotten her password, you see, and so they had to go through all the files or whatever, and then she started crying, and everybody believed she belonged to me, and... uh... Hutch?"
 
There was no response. In fact, Hutch hadn´t moved at all. He didn´t seem to have noticed his friend´s return.
 
"Huuutch," Starsky tried again, this time tapping him on the shoulder.
Hutch jumped. "Wha... Oh, you´re back."
 
"Hm-mm," Starsky nodded absently. He had just discovered that the newspaper his friend had been so gripped by was the one he himself had bought that very morning on their way to the precinct. It was one of those yellow press things he took an occasional liking in. He grinned. Widely.
 
"Got your money now?" Hutch asked. He seemed untypically unembarrassed about what he´d been caught at reading.
 
"Yep," Starsky replied. He pointed his chin at the newspaper. "Found something interesting?"
 
To his surprise, Hutch nodded eagerly. "Yeah! Look." Folding the paper, he shoved it into his friend´s line of vision. "Right there."
 
Puzzled, Starsky blinked, but followed Hutch´s outstretched finger. "'Local florist discovers killer plant from outer space'," he read the headline.
 
Underneath, there was a large black and white picture of an elderly man holding an odd looking long-leaved and large-bloomed plant in a pot. He grinned like he had just won the jackpot and held his free thumb up.
 
Starsky looked at Hutch again with a mixture of dismay and excitement showing on his face. "Is that...?" he started incredulously.
 
Hutch nodded. "Jerry." Drawing the paper back, he stared at the picture and shook his head. "I wonder how much they paid him for that."
 
Jerry was the owner of 'Jerry´s Flower Shop', Hutch´s favourite source of plants. He had long ago turned into more of a friend to Hutch than just a regular shop owner, though. At first, Hutch had chosen Jerry´s shop over others, because there were relievingly few blooming plants in it, that might aggrevate his allergy, when he´d stop by, and, despite the name, rarely any flowers. Only some months after his first visit had he found out, that the reason for that was Jerry´s own allergy to blooms.
 
No need to mention a special customer-florist-bond had formed instantly...
 
"What d´you mean, 'pay him'?" Starsky asked. "This is journalism you´re talking about. They don´t buy their information."
 
Hutch just looked at him.
 
Starsky shrugged. "Don´t look at *me*,  I didn´t sell you aliens in pots for the past four years." As if hit by a sudden thought, he suspiciously narrowed his eyes. "Have you checked your green house for any weather balloons lately?"
 
"That´s so funny coming from a man, who drives what you drive," Hutch replied dryly and grabbed Starsky´s arm to look at his watch. "What d´you say we go see Jerry about this? I´d like to hear the story behind it."
 
Face falling - plant-shopping with his partner wasn´t something he was very fond of - Starsky cast Hutch an annoyed glance. "You just wanna see this plant."
 
"Don´t you?" Hutch countered. "It´s from outer space," he added, brows climbing up.
 
Starsky sighed. He started the engine. "I hate that place," he grumbled. "It´s green, and it stinks. Like spinach. It´s spinach turned into a shop. If Popeye was twohundred feet tall-"
 
"You know something, Starsk?" Hutch interrupted him, rolling his eyes. "Sometimes I wonder if *you*´re from outer space."
 
"For you?" Starsky replied. "Oh yeah."

*****
                                                               
As always, Jerry was sitting on the bench in front of his shop, smoking his pipe. Upon seeing the Torino, he grinned and waved.
 
"Hey Jerry," Hutch greeted him with a smile, when he emerged from the car.
"Hutch!" Jerry said happily and stood up to pat the blond´s shoulder. "So good to see you again, kid! Where´ve you been? Chasing the bad guys?"
 
"Usually," Hutch agreed. "You remember my partner?"
 
"Sure!" Jerry nodded, holding out his hand for Starsky to shake. "Wait... Daniel!" he exclaimed, proud of himself for having recalled the brunet´s name. "Stal... Stales... uh..."
 
"David," Starsky corrected friendly, if not very enthusiastically. It was the same story every time they saw Jerry. After the old man had finally managed to remember Hutch´s name correctly, it seemed he had stopped straining his memory altogether. "Starsky."
 
"Right!" Jerry said, flashing Starsky an apologetic smile. "Right. Starsky. Well - what can I do for you today?" he asked Hutch over his shoulder, while he stepped into his shop, Hutch and a very unhappy looking Starsky following in after him.
"Some very nice looking new beauties just came in this week from-"
 
"Mars?" Hutch finished. He held up the newspaper.
 
The old man blushed. "You read that, eh?"
 
"Oh yeah," Hutch nodded, frowning in mock concern. "And we were worried, y´know, since..." Looking at the article, he read, "'The up until now completely unknown killer plant with the scary green blooms lives off pure energy, that it sucks out of its unaware victims´ bodies, when they are not looking. Reports go one alone could kill a grown man within mere seconds.'"
 
Hutch stopped and narrowed his eyes, as if he was inspecting the show owner closely. "Funny. I´d say you look okay."
 
"Maybe it´s just Jerry´s shell some alien has now taken control over," Starsky suggested.
 
Hutch nodded, impressed. "Could be," he whisperd, brows risen as if afraid.
 
"Okay, okay." Jerry lifted his hands defensively. "Wise guys." He rolled his eyes and sighed. "My grand-son just got a job with that stupid paper, and he needed his first article to be a hit."
 
"*That*´s a *hit*?" Hutch asked incredulously and stared down at the article again.
 
"I thought your grand-son was working for the 'Times'," Starsky talked over Hutch´s words.
 
"He used to," Jerry answered. "But it didn´t 'match his ambitions'. So..." He shrugged.
 
The detectives exchanged a quick glance.
 
"Uh... w-well..." Hutch cleared his throat and looked around. "Where is the star of the print media now? Can we see it?"
 
"I´m sorry," Jerry said. "I already sold it. Just this morning, right after the paper came out, a man bought it."
 
"Strange," Starsky muttered, absently flapping his index finger against a low hanging leave. "Who´d voluntarily buy a killer plant from outer space?"
 
Hutch cast him a dry-humored glance. "Maybe as a gift," he suggested sarcastically, earning a scowl.
 
"Well," Starsky said, "it was nice meeting you again, Jerry." He nodded friendly and turned around. "Let´s go, Hutch."
 
He had already opened the door, when he noticed his partner wasn´t following. "Hutch?"
 
Looking back, he found Hutch inspecting a plant about the size of his palm, that he had picked up to study it. It looked as if he was tickling its small leaves, while next to him Jerry was explaining something about water and nourishment.
 
Starsky rolled his eyes, let the door fall shut again and marched over to Hutch. Unceremoniously, he grabbed his friend´s arm. "C´mon, we got a call."
 
"We did?" Hutch instantly tore his eyes away from the little plant, handed it over to Jerry. He hastily said his goodbyes and followed Starsky outside. Just as his partner was starting the engine, he frowned, puzzled. "How did you make it here and back inside again that fast?"
 
"Didn´t," came the curt reply.
 
The Torino shot into motion, hurrying towards traffic like a hunted antelope seeking its crowd.
 
*****
 
It was some hours - and a long discussion concerning Hutch´s plant-shopping habits - later, that they got an emergency call sending them into a rather wealthy part of the city, where a very upset man by the name of Thomas A. Pollen already awaited them, standing in the doorway to his nice and bright looking house. He was in his late forties, clad in blue and white striped pyjamas and desperately clinging to a baseball bat.
 
"Mr. Pollen?" Hutch asked from the safe distance of the car, that Starsky had parked across the street. "Thomas Pollen?"
 
"Who´re you?!" the man yelled back. His grip tightened around the bat, until his knuckles turned white. The remains of his gray hair stood up in all directions.
 
"Police, sir," Hutch replied, waving his badge for a proof. "We had a call."
 
"Yes!" Polled nodded eagerly, relief audible in his voice. "Finally! What took you boys so long, anyway?" he raved, while the detectives reluctantly walked over to him. "A person could die, before you guys arrive some place, d´you know that? Do you even care?"
 
Hutch´s hands shot up in defens, as the last question was spat directly at him.
 
"Mr. Pollen," Starsky hurried to say calmingly. "I´m Detective Starsky, this is Detective Hutchinson, and we care a lot about keeping people from dying. Now - would you please give me the bat and then tell us what´s going on exactly?" He held out his open hand and, seeing the man´s obvious distrust, smiled. "Please, sir?"
 
Pollen squinted his eyes at them, suspicious. "Are you armed?" he asked in a half whisper.
 
Starsky and Hutch exchanged a brief meaningful glance. Rule number something: if possible, humor the crazed ones. They nodded mutely.
 
"Okay." Pollen handed Starsky the baseball bat, revealing that his hands were shaking.
 
"Good," Starsky praised. "And now - who is going to die?"
 
"He wants to kill me!" Pollen exclaimed, panicked.
 
Hutch frowned, stretching his neck, as he tried to look past Pollen into the house. "Who?"
 
"He!" Pollen replied, pointing at the house across his, where the Torino was parked. "Matt Weiler! He´s going to kill me! He said so!"
 
"Okay, easy," Hutch said, making a calming gesture. "No one´s going to kill you. We´ll see to that." He glanced at the house, at Starsky, then back. "This Mr. Weiler, is that a friend of yours?"
 
"Would a friend say he´ll kill me?" Pollen snapped.
 
"So who is he then?" Starsky asked patiently.
 
"He moved here about a month ago," Pollen explained. "And ever since he came here, he´s been after me." Suddenly, his expression changed. From the contorted mask of fury, his features went to clear fright. A fear, that seemed to have grown inside his eyes for a long time, flickered on his face like lightenings in a thunderstorm.
 
"He´s one of them," he told the detectives in a strained whisper. The gravity of his message was appearantly so heavy, it was hard for him to even form the words; his confused audience could barely understand him.
 
"'Them'," Hutch repeated quietly.
 
"And who... who are... 'them'?" Starsky asked.
 
Pollen didn´t appear to be listening. Yet another change had taken place. All of a sudden, he seemed particularly interested in Hutch, whom he studied closer, eyes once more narrowed to mere slits. His nose wrinkled, as if he was sniffing the blond.
 
Startled, Hutch took a hasty step back, shooting his partner a nervous glance.
 
"Mr., uh, Mr. Pollen, sir-" Starsky started, but Pollen interrupted him, his index finger flying up to point shakily at Hutch.
 
"He´s one of them too!"
 
Since up until now he had never been aware to belong to any kind of 'them', Hutch flinched. Sensing a gaze on him, he turned his head to see Starsky watching him suspiciously. He rolled his eyes and looked at Pollen again. "No, I´m not."
 
There was no reaction from the man but a help seeking sideglance at Starsky.
 
"I´m not one of them," Hutch tried again. "I assure you."
 
"Prove it," Pollen ordered, lifting his chin, as if pointing at something.
 
Hutch sighed, lost, and turned to his partner, who had folded his arms in front of him.
 
Starsky shrugged. "You heard the man. Prove it."
 
Hutch closed his eyes for a moment. He silently counted to three, then very friendly asked, "Mr. Pollen, would you please-"
 
"I´m not gonna talk to you!" Pollen cut him off indignantly, as if it was an incredible insult, that Hutch even dared to address him again, after he´d been without any doubt identified as one of 'them'. Incredulous, he focused on the other detective, obviously waiting for him to do something about the untenable situation.
 
"Why don´t you, uh, wait in the car, Hutch?"
 
Hutch stared at his partner. "You gotta be kidding."
 
Starsky cast him an urgent glance, drawing in the corners of his mouth in an apologetic gesture.
 
Hutch rolled his eyes. "I´ll be over there then, " he stated, pointing over his shoulder. "With the others."
 
Starsky nodded.
 
Hutch strolled off, shaking his head slightly.
 
At the Weiler house, he rang the bell. A moment later, the door was opened by a tall, lean man about Thomas Pollen´s age. He was perfectly tanned and dressed as if for a Florida commercial - khaki shorts, short-sleeved shirt with palmtrees and waves and surfers on it, baseball cap, sandals.
 
"Hiya," he said and smiled, showing a row of perfectly white teeth. "What can I do for you, boy?"
 
"Police," Hutch said curtly, flashing his badge. "Are you Matt Weiler?"
 
"Sure am!" the man replied proudly. His smile faded into a frown, though, when he spotted Pollen talking to Starsky across the street. "Aw, no, is this about that lunatic again?"
 
"You mean Mr. Pollen?"
 
Weiler sighed. "Listen, Detective... ?"
 
"Hutchinson."
 
"Hutchinson. That guy has been going on my nerves ever since I moved here. The day I stopped by at his house to introduce myself, y´know, just to say 'hi, I´m new, I´m Matt', the usual stuff - he threw me out of his driveway! Yelled something about me wanting to kill him. Completely crazy!" He laughed. "Appearantly, I´m one of-"
 
"'Them'," Hutch finished. "Yeah. I heard."
 
Weiler studied him for a moment and grinned. "You too?"
 
Hutch´s gaze snapped up at him. "Wh-what makes you think so?"
 
"Just guessing."
 
Hutch sighed. "Okay, so what exactly... do 'we' do?"
 
"Don´t ask me," Weiler said. "Ain´t got no clue. But it´s better than being *him*, that´s for sure."
 
"Uh... yeah. Well, Mr. Weiler, Mr. Pollen insists you threatened his life. Is that true?"
 
Weiler stared at him disbelievingly for a moment, but suddenly snapped his fingers. "Oh." His face lit up. "That! Yeah! Yeah, sure." He nodded eagerly. "Sure I did."
 
"You told him you were going to kill him?"
 
"Not directly," Weiler replied with a smug grin. "I told him I´ll plant something in my yard."
 
Hutch frowned. "What? What d´you-"
 
"Hutch," Starsky´s voice from behind him cut him off.
 
Hutch turned around. His partner leant against the Torino, looking none too happy.
 
"Just a second," Hutch told Weiler and walked over to his friend, brows lifted questioningly. "What?" he asked.
 
Starsky looked from Weiler, who waved friendly at him, to Hutch and sighed. "You´re not going to believe this."
 
"Try me."
 
"He," Starsky pointed at Weiler, "is the guy, who bought Jerry´s plant this morning."
 
"What?"
 
Starsky nodded. "Pollen says Weiler used to lift his newspaper, and when I asked which paper..." He gestured at the driver´s window he leant against, meaning the newspaper inside.
 
Hutch ran a hand over his face. "How long `til our shift ends?" he mumbled.
 
Starsky ignored him. "Anyway, today Pollen caught Weiler reading the front article on his porch. He threatened him with his bat, and Weiler told him he´d go get that plant, plant it in his yard and train it to crawl across the street every day to slowly suck up Pollen´s life energy."
 
"And Pollen believes that?" Hutch burst out.
 
"You really are one of 'them', aren´t ya?"
 
Hutch shot Starsky a scowl, then looked back up at Weiler. Following the man´s gaze, he found himself looking at Thomas Pollen, still huddled in his doorway, clinging to the baseball bat, that Starsky had handed him back.
 
"Okay, so what d´we do? Weiler says Pollen is... annoying him," Hutch said, making it audible, that that was a careful choice of words. "Which clearly indicates *his* mental health, I might add. In return, he likes to bug the guy. That´s mean," he shrugged, "but not a crime."
 
"He wants to plant a killer plant in his yard," Starsky pointed out.
 
"It´s his yard," Hutch replied, stopped, as if listening to his own echo, and added, "And it´s no killer plant. There´s no threat whatsoever here. Let´s go."
 
He already moved to walk back up and apologize for the inconvience, but Starsky held him back. "Uhm... actually, there *is* a threat here."
 
"What d´you mean?"
 
"Pollen said that if we don´t do something, he´ll keep watch over Weiler´s... activities and keep us updated."
 
Hutch´s face fell. "He´s gonna call the police every few hours for the rest of the day?"
 
"`Fraid so. And then think about what´ll happen, when the thing will be actually *there*."
 
Haunted by visions of call after call after call coming in over the next days - weeks? - that cops would *have* to answer every single time, until someone would finally take mercy on the BCPD and admit Thomas A. Pollen, Starsky and Hutch looked down at Matt Weiler´s shiny green yard.
 
Hutch was the first to snap into action. "Come," he ordered, taking over the lead, as they took the steps back up to Matt Weiler.
 
"Mr. Weiler, did you buy a plant this morning?" Hutch asked.
 
"The weirdo told you, huh?"
 
"Yeah, uhm, well, we need that plant. We´re... uh... going to confiscate it. Please bring it out, we´ll take it with us."
 
Starsky´s eyes flew to his partner. "Hutch-"
 
"Hey, wait a minute," Weiler protested. "You can´t just take it with you. I bought it, it´s my property, and as far as I see it, there´s no immediate danger, or an emergency that would justify your-"
 
"What´re you, a lawyer?" Starsky interrupted him.
 
"As a matter of fact..."
 
"`Triffic."
 
"Mr. Weiler," Hutch tried again, "please. I bet you don´t even like it. You just bought it to bug your neighbor."
 
"It´s still my property."
 
"Okay, how about I buy it from you?" Hutch suggested, unnerved, and after some unsuccessful rummaging produced two crumbled bills from his back pocket. Blinking hopefully, he offered them to Weiler, who furrowed his brows.
 
"Two bucks? Are you kidding?"
 
Surprised, Hutch looked down at the bills in his hand. "Uhm..." He patted his jacket pockets and found another dollar.
 
Weiler shook his head. "Listen, son, I paid ten dollars for it, and if I have to give up a fun revenge, the least I want is my money back."
 
"Ten bucks?" Starsky asked, eyes wide. "Are you serious? Who would pay-"
 
"Starsk, lend me seven dollars, will you?"
 
*****
 
"Achoo!!!"
 
"`Triffic."
 
"*sniff* Thanks."
 
"Yeah," Starsky muttered. "So, d´you want me to drive by your place so you can... drop off your new green friend?"
 
"Wh... Starsk, in case you - achoo! - *sniff*... in case you haven´t noticed, I´m allergic to my new green friend. Achoo!" Sniffing, Hutch rolled down his window some more, while trying to shove the plant on the back seat further away from him without having to turn his face towards it. "Not to mention - achoo! - it´s ugly," he added despisefully, as if his body´s reaction to it was the plant´s fault.
 
It was no subjective view, though. Jerry´s killer plant from outer space *was* indeed as ugly as it was large, its blooms being of an odd, almost khaki looking green. "Looks like a bunch of army boxers in a bush," Starsky had commented upon seeing it.
 
Any remarks Hutch could have uttered had faded into a series of sneezes.
 
"So what´re you gonna do with it?" Starsky asked, looking over at his friend, who was sitting with his head half outside the window and didn´t hear him. "Hutch!"
 
"What?" Hutch asked, sitting back down again. Instantly, he had to sneeze.
 
"Gesundheit. I asked what d´you want to do with it now?"
 
"I don´t - achoo! - know, but I´m surely not ta- achoo! -taking it home with me! Achoo!" Hutch squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and frowned, when he opened them again. "What´re you grinning at?" he asked, irritated.
 
"Just thinkin-"
 
"Achoo!"
 
"-thinking. Y´know, seems to me the killer plant *is* drawing energy out of someone here."
 
"Achoo! Aw, shut up."
 
"Okay." Starsky briefly lifted his hands off the steering wheel.
 
"Achoo! Achoo! Man, we need to get this thing outta here!"
 
"Where d´you-"
 
"Achoo!"
 
Starsky waited for a second, every so often glancing at his side to watch Hutch, then tried again. "Where do-"
 
"Achoo!"
 
"Okay, that does it." With that, Starsky pulled over at the side of the street, where he´d spotted a bench.
 
Hutch didn´t need any request - he was out of the car, before Starsky had even turned off the engine. He threw the door shut behind himself and leant against it, head tilted backwards, and drew in deep breath.
 
Starsky watched for a moment, and when Hutch´s gaze found him, asked, "You okay?"
 
"Yeah."
 
Nodding, the brunet set off for the bench and sat down on the head-rest. Hutch joined him, sitting down beside and below him on the bench, still enjoying the unhindered breaths he was suddenly allowed to draw in.
 
Reaching down, Starsky patted his shoulder. "`Kay, I take it you don´t want to consider wearing a mask in your green house from now on, huh?"
 
Hutch just shot him a glance.
 
"Allergy pills?" Starsky suggested innocently. "Worked for my aunt Debbie."
 
"What was she allergic to?"
 
"Uncle Nate."
 
"I see. No, no allergy pills. But... you know something?"
 
"What?" Starsky asked.
 
His friend grinned. "I´m just gonna give it to you."
 
With absolutely no expression on his face, Starsky blinked. "Uhm... come again?"
 
"You," Hutch explained happily. "I give it to you. As a gift."
 
"You can´t give me something you had to borrow money from me to buy," Starsky said. "Speaking of which, you still owe me seven dollars."
 
Hutch rolled his eyes.
 
"Hutch, I can´t take the plant. You sleep on my couch all the time, and I don´t want to listen to your sneezing all night. It´s even worse than your snoring!"
 
"First of all: I don´t snore. And second: when was the last time I slept on your couch, anyway?"
 
"Last night!"
 
"Okay, so put it in your bedroom."
 
Silence.
 
"Starsk?"
 
Starsky didn´t meet his friend´s eyes. Suddenly he seemed fascinated by his shoes.
 
A notion growing, Hutch grinned. "Starsky?"
 
"I don´t want the ugly thing, and that´s that," Starsky snapped. "You bought it, you deal with it."
 
"I don´t... You´re scared!" Hutch exclaimed, chuckling. "I don´t believe it! You´re afraid it´s from outer space!"
 
"Am not!"
 
"Sure you are," Hutch laughed. "You believe it´s an intelligent, evil, murderous being from-"
 
"I do not!" Starsky cut him off. He paused, as if thinking, then said, "Though, y´know, sometimes they do have a point in those magazines. There´s a little truth in everything."
 
"Like in what?" Hutch grinned. "That Elvis is still alive?"
 
"They never found his body."
 
The grin fell. "Yes, they did. Of course they did."
 
"Oh yeah? Where?"
 
"In his *house*, Gordo! Jeez!"
 
"Oh." Pause. "I´m not taking it. Find somebody else."
 
*****
 
"Hey Hug!"
 
"Hi Huggy, how´s it going?"
 
"What do you guys want?"
 
Taken aback at the snapped greeting, Starsky and Hutch stopped in the entry to the Pit´s, exchanging a surprised glance.
 
"An explanation," Starsky finally spoke and continued on his way inside the bar, that was deserted at this early hour. "What happened to your mood?"
 
Putting the glass he had just been polishing with angry force down onto the counter, Huggy slumped his shoulders "The health department."
 
Starsky whistled in sympathy, sitting down at the bar. As if out of reflex, he reached for a bowl with peanuts nearby. "Had a visit?"
 
"A phone call," Huggy corrected. "Announcing the visit."
 
"That´s not too bad," Hutch tried to cheer him up. He too sat down at the bar and - equally reflexively - got a beer put in front of him. He nodded a silent thanks and glanced around. "Looks clean to me," he stated.
 
Starsky grimaced at Huggy. "You´re in trouble, man."
 
Hutch rolled his eyes. "Funny, dirtball."
 
Before Starsky had any chance to shoot back a reply, Huggy cut him off. "Now, is there a reason for you to grace my endangered etablissement with your presence, or what? Because if you don´t plan on grabbing a bottle of Mr. Clean and-"
 
"Don´t give him ideas," Hutch quipped and, ignoring his partner´s grumble, added, "No, we, uhm, w-we have something for you."
 
Huggy frowned, puzzled. "What?"
 
"Yeah," Starsky agreed. "We´ve a gift for you. A, uhm... an opening up gift.
 
Y´know, for the opening of the Pit´s."
 
"That´s six months late," Huggy pointed out.
 
"Aw, Huggy," Starsky exclaimed as if hurt, "you don´t think we´d just give you anything, do you?"
 
"Right," Hutch nodded. "Took us months alone to *find* it, and then there was the-"
 
"Yeah, yeah, quit the late show and show me what it is you wanna dump here, alright?"
 
"'Dump'?" Starsky repeated. "Hey, Huggy, pal, we don´t-"
 
"Just go get it, Starsk," Hutch interrupted him, having caught a decidedly dangerous looking sparkle grow in the unnerved bartender´s eyes.
 
Following Hutch´s glance, Starsky jumped off his barstool and hurried outside.
 
Left behind, Hutch took a sip from his beer. "You´ll like it," he assured Huggy and winked.
 
"I´d like a framed certificate, saying that this bar needs the next health check, when Ray Charles is voted president."
 
"Uhm... That´s close," Hutch smiled sweetly and took another gulp from his beer.
 
"Watch out," Starsky´s voice appeared from the entry a few minutes later, when he stumbled down the rest of the stairs, balancing the large plant in his hands, while trying to see his feet. "Here it comes. Ta daaa!" And with that, he put it down on the nearest table, standing back next to it. He panted slightly from the effort, but grinned widely. "Well, what d´ya say?"
 
Huggy didn´t say anything. Looking from the plant to Starsky to Hutch, who was biting his lip against a pressing sneeze, he drew in a deep breath. "I just finished cleaning the tables."
 
Hastily, Starsky picked the heavy plant up again. "Sorry. Where d´you want it?"
 
"Back on Mars," Huggy replied dryly.
 
"Oh." Starsky´s grin faded. He glanced at Hutch, then lowered the plant to the ground. "You know about that?"
 
"What the bear doesn´t know, is not written, yet," Huggy informed him.
 
"Hm. And you don´t want it? A real out of this Earth plant? Cosmic energy? Think about the PR!" Starsky suggested hopefully.
 
"I´m more thinking of the killer plant sucking the energy out of my business, once the guys from the health department see it spread its germs all over the interior."
 
"Huggy, it´s a plant," Hutch explained. "Plants filter the air. You should be surprised, if they don´t close your place, because it has *no* plants."
 
"Yeah, listen to the man," Starsky said. "The only reason he hasn´t died from dust lungs by now, is because his place is crowded with the little greenies."
 
Hutch nodded in agreement. "Right!"
 
Huggy was not convinced. "Why don´t you keep it?" he asked after a pause.
 
"Hutch is allergic to it," Starsky answered.
 
"And Starsky´s too chicken."
 
Expectantly, they both stared at Huggy, willing him to accept their 'gift'.
Making a show out of studying the plant for a long moment from behind the counter, Huggy rubbed his chin. "No," he finally said curtly and at Starsky´s dismayed glance added, "It´s ugly."
 
"Hmmmyeah," Starsky mumbled, scratching his head, as he stood back to look at the plant as if it was a piece of art. Finding he couldn´t deny the uttered truth, he smiled at Huggy. "But it´s from outer space, doesn´t that count for anything?"
 
"Get it out of my bar along with your butts," Huggy said and picked up the glass again, when Hutch´s pleading voice made him look up.
 
"Hug, please - don´t send me back into the car with that thing again. Please. J-just... just stash it into the storage room or something. Take it home. Anything."
 
Huggy furrowed his brows. "Why don´t you just throw it away?"
 
Hutch froze. "Throw it..." Seemingly unable to finish the horrible sentence, he trailed off, finished his beer and stood up. "Good luck with the health men, Huggy. Starsk, pick up Killer Plant, we´re leaving." And off he went, sneezing five times in a row, as he passed Starsky and the plant.
 
Watching after him, Starsky sighed, then shrugged. "Never mind him," he told Huggy, who didn´t look like he minded them leaving, anyway. "His allergy, y´know? Makes him weird. See ya."
 
"Starsky," Huggy´s voice held him back.
 
"Hm?"
 
"Don´t forget your Marsian."
 
"Oh. Right." Flashing a faked grin, Starsky picked up the plant. "Sorry. See you, Hug."
 
"Don´t fall on the stairs."
 
Unintelligable mumble-grumbles marked Starsky´s stumbled way out and to the car, where Hutch, holding his breath, held the door open for him to put the plant back in.
 
"Okay," Starsky panted. "Is there a plan B? Because if not, I´m with Huggy."
 
Understanding, Hutch widened his eyes. "Starsk, it´s a plant! You don´t throw away a piece of nature!"
 
"It´s not from our nature," Starsky quipped, but his partner was not impressed.
 
"We don´t throw it away, and that´s that."
 
"Into a park?" Starsky suggested hopefully.
 
"It´s a house plant," Hutch said, irritated. "It needs more water than just rain."
 
"How do you know that? You´ve never seen it before!"
 
"If it could grow in California, it would grow in California," Hutch pointed out, and that was the end of the discussion. He turned around the Torino to the passenger side.
 
"Your wisdom is humbling, Blintz," Starsky muttered, unenthusiastically opening the door.
 
"Achoo!"
 
"Blame yourself."
 
"What?"
 
"Bless you."
 
"*sniff* Thanks. Hey, I think I ha- achoo! -have an idea."
 
"As good as the last one?"
 
"J- achoo! - just drive, will you?"
 
*****
 
"Starsky! Hutchinson! My office! Now!"
 
Instantly jumping to their feet at their superior´s barked order, the detectives hurried inside Dobey´s office.
 
"Yes Cap´n?" - "You yelled, Cap?"
 
"D´you know anything about this?"
 
Blank gazes. "About what?" Starsky asked.
 
Hutch bit his lip.
 
"That thing!" Dobey explained, pointing at a large, oddly khaki-colored plant covering half of his desk.
 
"Oh," Starsky said and smiled. "Didn´t even see it. Nice. New?"
 
Hutch clenched his jaws.
 
"Quite," Dobey growled.
 
"Was that Edith´s idea?" Starsky asked innocently. "She always complains about how plain-"
 
"Achoo!" Hutch sneezed. "Sorry, it´s... Achoo! Achoo!"
 
"His allergy," Starsky quickly explained to Dobey, grabbing his partner´s arm. "Probably your plant. I better get him outta-"
 
"Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! *sniff*"
 
"-outta here," Starsky finished and, while shoving Hutch towards the door,
checked his watch. "We´re done for today, anyway. See you tomorrow, Cap.
Don´t forget to water the-"
 
"Achoo!"
 
"-the plant. I heard they need a lot. Bye!"
 
The door fell shut.
 
"Starsky!"
 
 
THE END

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