It was pitch-black in the room. Starsky couldn't see anything. He tried to adjust his eyes to the darkness, but the curtains must had been drawn close. He had to find the light switch. He fumbled for the wall. There it was. He gave a sigh of relief when his fingertips touched something weird. It was sort of clingy and Starsky shuddered. Cobwebs?

He hated all things that reminded him of his trips to the nature with a certain Ken Hutchinson, who loved camping trips and bugs and bears...

Starsky bumped into something hard. It clattered and Starsky almost cried out. A skeleton! He turned left abruptly and crossed the room in wide strides to get to the window. He heard something shuffling around him and suddenly his neck was gripped. The applied pressure let him choke. He gave a suppressed scream, then sagged down to his knees and fell on the floor.

Suddenly the room went bright and ten little faces were looking down at Starsky.

"Hey, Uncle Starsky has been murdered!" one of Rosie's friends shouted and readjusted his magical hat.

"We have to call the detective to find the murderer," another little girl said very excited and Hutch, who was leaning relaxed against the wall, right next to the skeleton, smiled.

"Yeah, we should do that. Rosie, you can come in!" Hutch called.

Then he looked at his friend, still lying motionless on the floor and chuckled. "You could compete with the dying swan, pal, you know that?"

"And you shouldn't have brought in the skeleton without my knowledge," Starsky hissed back, before he sprawled theatrically on the floor again.

Rosie entered the room with a serious expression on her face. She looked impressed at the body before her and introduced herself.

"I am Detective Rosie Dobey and I have to ask you all where you have been when the murder happened. Everyone has to tell me the truth except the murderer. This way I'll find out who has killed Uncle Starsky."

She gave him a worried look, and Starsky opened one eye and winked at her.

Relieved, Rosie started her interrogation. She loved this game. It gave her the opportunity to follow after her father, Captain Dobey. This year it was double fun because her favorite friends, Hutch and Starsky, had promised to join her Halloween party.

"Uncle Hutch, where were you when Uncle Starsky was murdered?" Rosie asked Hutch.

"Well, I was buying a present for my girlfriend," Hutch smiled.

Rosie continued with her interrogation and asked Hutch for the second time where he had been when the murder happened.

"Don't you remember? I just told you that I was cleaning my car..." Hutch said, in his most convincing voice.

"Stop it." Rosie pointed at Hutch. "You must be the murderer, because when I asked you before you told me that you were buying a present for your girlfriend. You are under arrest!" And Rosie put out some toy handcuffs to arrest Hutch. All the other little guests cheered.

Starsky was barely heard when he complained, still lying on the floor. "Can someone help me up? I think, my batman costume is a bit tight, can't move so well..."

"Come on," Hutch reached down to pull his friend up.

"Now I'm hungry," Starsky exclaimed and digged into the poison green wobblepudding though the licorice spider on the ground of it was a little disturbing...

The bell rang and Rosie went to open the door. They heard a scream and hurried to the door to come to her aid.

After a short moment of astonishment, Hutch had to chuckle. The tall mummy in front of them could only be their friend Huggy. Rosie had escaped into Hutch's arms, but when Huggy announced that he had to talk with the lady of the house, Rosie whispered into Hutch's ear: "Is that Huggy Bear?"

Hutch only nodded, and Starsky who came out of the living room, still munching, had to admit: "Wow! What a costume, Huggy!"

Hutch bent down to Starsky in his batman outfit. "Well, and I thought you were overdressed!"

"Can't say the same of you," Starsky criticized, looking at Hutch's guise: A little button on his shirt had a witch on it.

"Friends, let me have fun with you." Huggy looked down at the children who were admiring his appearance.

"But first I have to talk to Uncle Hutch and Uncle Starsky. Okay, little lady?"

Rosie agreed, still feeling very important as a detective. She nudged her friends back into the living room.

"What's up, Hug?" Hutch wanted to know.

"Yeah, I got a phone call from Mickey. He told me to inform you that he wants to meet you as soon as possible. Told me that he could give you a tip on a most wanted drug dealer. He wants to make up for the shit he did last time."

"Where are we supposed to meet him?" Starsky asked.

"At the botanical gardens," Huggy explained, and Hutch looked sceptical.

"Why not in town? Woe to him if it's nothing serious."

"Okay, Huggy, then you brighten the Halloween party and we'll meet your special friend Mickey. We'll be back soon!" Hutch dragged Starsky to the front door.

"Wait! What about my costume? I can't...!"

"You can!" Hutch said with determination and pushed Starsky gently to the car.

By the time they neared the botanical gardens, Starsky had stopped protesting. It was getting dark already and nobody would take notice of him, he hoped.

In a corner of the entrance a person was hiding. Had to be Mickey. Most of the visitors had already left the garden; the place wasn't crowded any more.

"Mickey, you'd better make it worth our time," Hutch snarled. "What do you have for us?"

Mickey was staring at Starsky who tried to hide behind Hutch.

"Come on, we haven't got that much time." Hutch wanted a fast answer.

"Hmm, when I visited an old pal of mine who is working here, I saw Carlos Montana. I know that you couldn't arrest him so far, and for a few bucks I can tell you where he is..."

"I don't believe it!" Starsky had left his backing and gave an impressed whistle. "Where is the guy? We've been chasing him for almost a year. Tell me where you've seen him?"

Starsky was getting impatient, and when he saw Mickey's expectant glance he wanted to look for money in his jeans pocket. Embarrassed, he remembered that there were no pockets at all on his batman costume.

"Hutch, would you--?"

Hutch rolled his eyes and gave Mickey some notes, till the man looked satisfied.

"I've seen him over there in the tropical greenhouse. But take care. There are snakes, reptiles and colored birds and carnivorous plants in it," Mickey whispered conspiratorially.

Looking at Starsky again he chuckled. "When he sees you, Starsky, maybe he'll give up voluntarily."

"Don't you dare..." Starsky started to teach him a lesson, but Mickey hurried to disappear.

"Shouldn't we ask for backup?" Hutch asked, and Starsky refused at once.

"Me and Thee as always, don't you think?" Starsky nudged his partner encouragingly.

"It's only because of your costume, right? The other officers shouldn't see it. Maybe Mickey wasn't so wrong when he said that Montana..." Hutch teased Starsky, but when he saw the furious glance on his friend's face, Hutch moved a little faster to avoid a kick in his butt.

Getting serious again, both men entered the green house, taking care of not making a noise that could attract the fugitive.

Huge plants surrounded them; it was almost dark now. The tropical heat made them sweat. Something crawled in front of them: a snake. Hutch pointed to a big turtle on his left that was occupied with eating a cabbage. There was a certain rushing in the air. Carefully they stepped forward and saw a little waterfall around the next bend.

They stood still to listen for any noises that could lead them to the most-wanted drug dealer on the west coast. But, it seemed, Carlos Montana had vanished. Starsky brushed past a plant and backed off when he heard a wing beat. A parrot flew up and Starsky followed its movements.

"Look, Hutch, there are many more beautiful birds," Starsky whispered into Hutch's ear. Then he remembered the plant he had just touched and he checked his elbow. Hopefully it hadn't been such a carnivorous plant...

"Where the heck is he?" Hutch hissed. "Look. That must be the exit."

At that moment they heard a loud "Boo!"

Both men ducked, then they heard a frightened yelp from near the exit. Someone was moving frantically away from something.

Starsky and Hutch locked glances for a moment. In an instant they had reached their fugitive, had overpowered the terrified man and had cuffed him.

"Boo!" it said again.

The three men looked up and at least two of them snorted with laughter. A little parrot was sitting there looking down at them and repeated his well trained "Boo!" for each visitor who wanted to leave the green house.

"Not too bad, huh?" Hutch was still laughing and, looking up at the bird, he said: "We could hire you for special tasks. What do you think?"

The parrot skipped to another plant that was nearer to Starsky, shook his head again and again and made sounds like "Tsk-tsk-tsk."

"Look, he's admiring your batman costume," Hutch couldn't stop teasing his friend.

Carlos Montana tried to get a word in.

"I have the right..." he exclaimed.

"...to shut up!" interrupted Starsky, and made eye contact with the parrot.

"Hey, I've got an idea, birdie. If I am batman, you can be my buddy, Robin. But what about this turkey on my left?" Starsky asked the parrot and pointed to Hutch. The bird remained quiet, opened his beak as if he was yawning. "What do you mean by that?" Starsky was fascinated by the coloured bird. "Okay, I understand. He's nothing special like us. Hey, he can be our butler. It's Hutch. Say: Hutch, Hutch, Hutch."

"Boo! Boo!" answered the parrot.

Starsky said, "Okay, accepted."

He grinned at Carlos Montana, who was looking blankly at the detectives. Starsky dragged him out of the greenhouse, giving Hutch a gentle squeeze on his arm. "You coming?" Starsky asked.

"In a minute," Hutch said. He looked at the parrot again and said, "Thank you for your help. Do you want a souvenir? This is for you." Hutch removed the button with the witch from this shirt and held it up to the bird.

Curious, the parrot took the button. It sparkled a little and he seemed to like it.

"Happy Halloween!" Hutch smiled and left the green house.


The end


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