December 23rd: A Holiday Mystery by m. butterfly

December 20

Hutch hated everything about Christmas — including surprises of any kind.

He’d just finished blending his breakfast concoction when someone knocked. He assumed it was his better half, who must have had the traffic fairies on his side for a change.

“It’s not locked, Starsk. C’mon in.”

When Starsky didn’t burst in right away, Hutch headed for the door to investigate. But he didn’t open it.

“It’s too early to be pulling one of your stupid stunts, if that’s what you’re doing,” he warned. “Starsky?”

Silence was the only answer he got.

It then occurred to him that he hadn’t heard the red and white clown car pull up to the curb in front of the building. Now in full detective mode, Hutch slowly drew his weapon and eased the door open.

The hallway was devoid of people — including any potential assassins or demented, dark-haired jokers — but something had been left there. Sitting at his feet was a smallish box wrapped in green paper, adorned with a red ribbon and a sprig of mistletoe. Plastic mistletoe. What wasn’t there was a noticeable gift tag.

“No,” he mumbled. “No, no, no, no, no.”

He gripped the door frame and took a deep breath.

If Diana Harmon had escaped from the California Institution for Women, he would’ve been notified immediately. Right?

Exhaling loudly, he reholstered his gun and ran a hand over his face. Chances were more than good that Nurse Nightmare was still locked up, so this couldn’t be her doing. Even so, he was going to proceed with caution. He nudged the box with his boot, and it didn’t nudge back, so maybe it wasn’t a living thing. That would be good, right?

Unless it was a dead rat. Or a steaming pile of dog shit. He crouched down and sniffed the air directly above the box.


The familiar rumble of that ridiculous excuse for a police officer’s car drifted up the staircase and filled Hutch with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he’d be glad if he weren’t alone in his discomfort with whatever was happening. But Starsky was more likely to call him paranoid and other names and tease him with unadulterated glee.

Hutch was so busy playing out various conversations and scenarios in his head that Starsky’s typically boisterous arrival startled him.

“Blondie!” Starsky chortled. “How long you been waiting to greet me?”

“Jesus!” Hutch pointed at the box. “This is what I’m standing out here for. Not you.”

Starsky’s eyes traveled to the tip of Hutch’s finger. “And what are we looking at?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hutch said as though he were addressing a particularly dense child. “Maybe it’s a harmless Christmas present. Or a tarantula. Or, even worse, a fruitcake.”

“The only fruitcake around here is you.” Starsky sighed, bent down, scooped up the box, and breezed his way past Hutch into the apartment.

Before a sputtering, stuttering Hutch had time to react, Starsky plunked the object of his best friend’s suspicion down on the kitchen table. “If you’re not going to open it, I will.”

“No! Wait!”

Starsky grasped Hutch by the upper arms and shook him playfully. “Relax, Baby Blue. You’re getting worked up over nothing. Probably nothing.”

Hutch wriggled free and threw his hands in the air. “That’s what I’m worried about. What if — what if it’s a rattlesnake?”

“Oh, my God.” Starsky started tugging at the ribbon. “You’re a nutjob. You know that, don’t you?”

“Fine!” Hutch growled, bumping Starsky aside with his hip. “I’ll do it. But I’ll feel like an idiot if it’s not meant for me.”

“Yeah, you’ll feel like an idiot.” Starsky leaned into Hutch’s back and peered over his shoulder. “See if there’s a card inside.”

“Starsk,” Hutch growled, “you breathing in my ear like an obscene phone caller is really irritating, which I’m betting is why you’re doing it.”

“Fine.” Starsky was pouting, from the sounds of it. “I’ll stand over there, by the piano. Would that be less irritating for you, your Grinchiness?”

With a non-committal grunt, Hutch carefully tore off the wrapping paper and took off the lid. “Nope. No card here.”

“Well, what do you see?”

“Uh, one, two, three — three things, all covered in tissue.”


Hutch rolled his eyes. “Tissue paper, dummy. Tissue paper.”

“Then look under the tissue paper already!”

“Wow,” Hutch said, peeling the tissue from the first of three items nestled in the box. “I never would’ve thought of that on my own.”

“So? What it is?” Starsky asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Hutch held it up for Starsky’s inspection.

“It that a pear? Don’t eat it!” Starsky said in a silly, high-pitched voice. “Could be poisoned, like in Snow White.”

“Apple, Einstein.” Hutch put the apple on the counter and started working on revealing the next gift. “It was an apple in that fairy tale. Not a pear.”

Starsky shrugged. “It scares me that you know that. Jeez, this is one interesting set of presents, huh?”

The other two items were a pine-tree-shaped car air freshener and a 45 RPM single.

“What’s the song?” Starsky asked, indicating the small black disk with a brief tilt of his head.

“‘I Think I Love You.'”

“Do you think? Or do you know?”

“Ha-ha. You’re a laugh riot, Starsk.” Hutch put his hands on his hips. “If this stuff really is for me, I have no idea who sent it.”

“If only we knew a couple of brilliant detectives…”

“Go ahead, Sherlock.” Hutch took the forgotten blender container from its base. “Detect away while I finally have my breakfast.”

“That’s not what I’d call breakfast,” Starsky muttered as he adjusted his imaginary deerstalker. “Okay. What we have here is a Partridge Family song, a pear, and an air freshener shaped like a tree.”


“And it’s elementary, my dear Watson. You have a secret admirer who likes Christmas carols. A certain Christmas carol, at least.”

Hutch slurped down his health shake and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “How did you deduce that, pray tell?”

Starsky held up three fingers. “A partridge,” he said, folding down the ring finger. “A pear.” The middle finger was lowered next. “And a tree.” Down went the index finger. “‘On the first day of Christmas,'” he sang, charmingly offkey, “‘my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.'”

“That’s pretty lame, Starsk. I don’t know what the first day of Christmas is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not December 20.”

“If you can come up with anything better, be my guest.” Starsky started heading for the door. “If you’re finished drinking that puke-green slop, maybe we could go to work. If that’s all right with you, of course.”

With a final look at the strange bounty he’d received, Hutch trailed after what had to be the most irksome man on the planet.

December 21

There was no knock on the door the next morning. No package awaiting him.

Hutch figured yesterday’s incident was nothing more than a case of mistaken delivery, so…

Case closed.

But the moment he and Starsky entered the squad room, he saw it sitting in the middle of their desk: a green box.

“What the hell?”

Starsky was loving this, if the smirk on his smug little mug was anything to go by. “I’m beginning to think the first present was sent to the right person after all.”

Fairly confident that this box was as benign as the other, Hutch dragged it over but paused before removing the lid. “Care to make a prediction, oh great songs-of-the-season expert?”

Starsky’s grin was spreading rapidly and infuriatingly. “‘On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves.’ But since you didn’t get an actual partridge in a pear tree yesterday — which I’d be grateful for, if I was you — I doubt there’s a couple of live birds in there.”

Hutch didn’t need his crazy-for-Christmas friend to tell him that. But what he pulled out of the tissue-padded box wasn’t at all what he was expecting.

“Okay, Hutch. Look,” Starsky said, evidently misreading Hutch’s surprise as confusion. “These two brown things?” He snatched the Saran-wrapped lumps from Hutch’s fingers and wiggled them in his face. “They’re called Turtles but they’re not made out of real turtles. They’re chocolates with pecans and — ”

Hutch grabbed them back. “I know what Turtles are, mush brain!” He nodded at the two white bars of Dove soap he’d also discovered. “And if you start explaining what these are, I swear to God I’m going to — ”

“You’re going to what? You asked for my help and I’m helping you. And this is the thanks I get?”

Hutch groaned. “Okay. Yes, you’re helping me. Thank you. But do you have to be so damned annoying about it?”

December 22

The Third-Day-of-Christmas gift wasn’t discovered until late in the afternoon.

They’d returned to Metro after a long, tedious day to do mounds of paperwork when Hutch found another green box. This one had been stashed in the desk drawer where he kept his meager supply of pens so they’d be safe from “sticky” fingers — particularly Starsky’s.

It was the lightest package of the bunch because all it contained were three yellow marshmallow Peeps swaddled in a small blue, white, and red flag.

“Hey!” Starsky chirped. “Three French hens!”

Hutch pinched the bridge of his nose. “These are getting worse. What do you think tomorrow’s will be?”

“For four calling birds? Beats me. You’ll just have to wait and see.”

But patience was something that Hutch was in shorter supply of than usual during the holidays.

December 23

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Starsky needled Hutch all the way to work. If Starsky hadn’t been driving, Hutch would’ve pushed him out the door the second the car came to a stop.

“C’mon, babe, admit it: you’re flattered. You like the attention.”

“No, I don’t. It’s weird.”

“But someone — your ‘true love’ — is giving you Christmas presents every day.”

“Hah! My ‘true lunatic’ is more like it.” Hutch cleared his throat. “Speaking of which, uh, you still don’t think it couldn’t possibly be Diana Harmon, do you?”

“What? No! I guarantee you that it’s not her,” Starsky said emphatically. “She would’ve sent you body parts. Probably my body parts.”

That elicited a small shudder. “Yeah. Probably.”

Starsky squeezed Hutch’s knee. “Hey, pal. You haven’t been thinking it might be her this whole time, have you?”

“Not really. Not after I saw what was in the first box. But maybe — ”

“Hutch.” They came to a red light and Starsky turned to his tense passenger. “It’s not her. Trust me. But it’s easy to eliminate her as a suspect. As soon as we get to Metro, the first thing we’ll do is put in a call to make sure she’s where she’s supposed to be. Okay?”

“I should’ve done that when this — whatever the hell this is — started.”

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda. We’ll do it now.”

True to his word, Starsky had the phone in his hand the minute they arrived at their desk, and it took no time at all to determine that there was nothing to fear from the still-incarcerated Diana. Because Hutch was sufficiently appreciative of Starsky’s thoughtfulness, he offered to get some much-needed caffeine for both of them. But when he returned from the coffee stand, he nearly dropped the mugs when he saw another gift — very thin and square and perfectly obvious — on the desk.

“Starsky! How — how did that get there?”

“How did what get where?” Starsky glanced up from the file he’d been bent over. “Oh, that. Hmmm. Must’ve happened when I went to Dobey’s office to look for more of Edith’s Christmas cookies. He said they’re all gone, but I don’t believe him.”

Perhaps that wasn’t the only unbelievable thing here. It was mighty strange that three of the four packages had been placed either on Hutch’s desk or in Hutch’s desk. Even stranger, no one he’d asked — and he’d asked everyone — admitted to seeing anything.

“It’s a record,” Starsky said.

Hutch sat down heavily and stared at what was clearly an LP. “With a mind like yours, it’s a wonder they haven’t made you chief of the BCPD by now.”

“Oh, quit stalling and start unwrapping. I want to see what you got.”

Representing the four calling birds of the Christmas carol was The Byrds Greatest Hits album. A decent present, for a change.

“Clever,” Hutch mused, “but wasn’t The Byrds a five-man band?”

“Gimme that.” Starsky plucked the album away from Hutch. “For your information, there were seven principal members, although the average number that performed at any one time was five. However, as you can see, there are four guys on the cover. Four calling Byrds.”

Hutch snorted. “And what will my mysterious true love give to me on the Fifth Day of Christmas?”

“Five golden rings.”

“Five golden rings, huh?” Hutch crumpled the green wrapping paper into a ball and aimed it at the trash can, just missing it. “I doubt I’ll be getting that. How about five golden onion rings?”

“Nah. They’d get cold too fast and wouldn’t make a very good gift.”

“You think stale Peeps are a good gift?”

“Peeps never get stale.” Starsky sounded a little indignant. “They last forever. Like Twinkies and cockroaches. Everyone knows that.”

“Uh-huh. Whatever it is, it’s going to have to show up at my place, since we’re off for the weekend.”

“For the Christmas weekend. You said you’d go shopping with me tomorrow. Remember? I still need to cross Huggy off my list.”

Hutch groaned. “Why do you always have to shop on Christmas Eve? It’s the worst day of the year to be wandering aimlessly from store to store like a lost sheep. Do I have to join you on this fool’s errand?”

“Yes! You promised! Besides, I want to see what your secret Santa comes up with next.” Starsky took a healthy swig of his coffee. “You still have no clue who it could be?”

“No. No clue.”

But he did have a theory, which he intended to test in the morning. And Starsky didn’t need to know that — yet.

December 24

Starsky had informed Hutch that he’d pick him up by 9:00 a.m., so he’d better be ready.

Hutch was ready, all right.

He’d been standing silently behind the door of his apartment since 8:30, waiting for the knocking to begin. At 8:45, he yanked the door open the moment he heard knuckles meet wood.

“Good morning, Starsky.” He leaned against the frame, crossing his arms and furrowing his brow. “What’ve you got down there?”

Caught crouching, Starsky popped up faster than a festive Jack in the box. “Uh, hi! I got here faster than normal for a Saturday — especially the Saturday before Christmas, which, as you know, is tomorrow — and found this on your doorstep.” He thrust a package toward Hutch. “So, um, here.”

Hutch didn’t budge. “Funny that I didn’t hear you pull up.”

“Couldn’t find a parking spot nearby, so I’m way down the street.”


“You gonna let me in?” The latest box, which remained in Starsky’s outstretched hands, was of the white cardboard variety, with a sparkly green bow stuck on top.

Hutch gestured with his right arm, then followed his partner inside and plopped down on the sofa.

“Where do you want it?” Starsky asked.

“What is it?”

Starsky put the gift on the coffee table and swallowed. “How should I know?”

“Because it’s from you, isn’t it? They’ve all been from you.”

Instead of standing around, waiting for Starsky to deny what was undeniable, Hutch got to his feet, strode over to the table, leaned over, and touched his nose to the side of the box, inhaling deeply. “I’d say — donuts. From Randy’s. Either Glazed Raised or Plain Cake. Which is it?”

“Plain Cake.” Starsky picked at a cuticle. “Your favorite.”

“Five golden rings, huh? Who buys five donuts?”

“I do.” Starsky took a step back. “Well, I should be going. The mall awaits. Uh, Merry Christmas, Hutch.”

“Oh, no you don’t, buddy boy. You’re not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, I am.”

“Nope.” Hutch couldn’t keep a straight face any longer. “I need someone to help me eat these donuts. They’d better be fresh.”

“They are,” Starsky said without his usual enthusiasm for sickly sweet junk food.

“I made coffee. Want some?”

“No.” Starsky rubbed his palms on his jeans. “Like I said, I’m leaving. This was a big mistake.”

“Starsk — ”

“Let me talk and then I’ll go,” he said, finally looking Hutch in the eye. “You’ve had the worst luck with women since the day we met, practically. But it got worse after Gillian — um, after she, uh — ”


“Yeah. And then you hit rock bottom with Diana.”

“Because she tried to stab me to death, you mean?”

Starsky’s chuckle was strained. “Something like that. You’re either going to get yourself killed, or die old and alone, and I can’t — I thought you needed to know that there’s someone in your life who’s crazy about you who’s not literally crazy. But,” he said, hugging himself, “it seems that I’m all wrong about your feelings for me. All I did was upset you and make you worry, not to mention — ”

Smiling ruefully, Hutch held up a finger, then patted Starsky’s flushed cheek tenderly. “Just wait a second, okay? Don’t move a muscle.” He rushed over to his bedside table, returning to the living room with his right hand behind his back. “I know this isn’t the real deal, but I’d like to see if it works anyway. And I need your help.”

As he closed in on Starsky, he revealed what he’d been holding and raised it above their heads.

Starsky blinked. “Is that the — ?”

“The mistletoe from your first gift? Why, yes. It is.”

“You big jerk!” Starsky’s laugh was wobbly but genuine as he thumped Hutch’s chest lightly. “I thought you were mad at me. Mad as in furious.”

“Watching your squirm was fun at first, but I let it go on too long. Sorry.”

Starsky cleared his throat. “Don’t be. I deserved it for making you think Diana was on the loose again and harassing you and giving you stupid stuff.”

“‘Stupid stuff?’ Are you kidding me? I love everything you gave me! Okay, maybe not the Peeps. But everything else was witty and charming. Coming from anyone else, they might’ve made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bizarre collection of Christmas presents. But once I realized you were the gift giver? Babe, it’s the sweetest and most thoughtful thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

“Yeah?” It was wonderful to see Starsky cheerful again. “So, when did you know?”

“Yesterday.” Still holding the plastic sprig aloft, Hutch tugged Starsky in tight with his free hand. “When were you planning on telling me?”

“Tonight, if you hadn’t figured it out by then.”

“Because tonight is Christmas Eve?”

Starsky shook his head. “Because I had nothing for days six through twelve. Tomorrow would’ve been ‘six geese a-laying,’ for crying out loud.”

“I think I might have something for that,” Hutch leered. “But I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Right now, I want to put this mistletoe to good use before I lose all feeling in my arm.”

As it turned out, plastic mistletoe worked in a pinch.

And goosing — or trying to goose — your true love six times will, in fact, get you laid.

13 thoughts on “December 23rd: A Holiday Mystery by m. butterfly”

  1. Squeee—I adore it! It’s so Starsky. I absolutely adore it. My very favorite line which I burst out laughing when I read it and still laugh just thinking of it “They’re called Turtles, but they’re not made out of real turtles.” It’s such a Starsky thing to say. And Hutch’s grumpiness is perfection too.

  2. Such a cute, funny, full-of-love story. I could just hear their voices – Starsky being so clever and thoughtful, and Hutch being at first paranoid, winding Starsky up, and finally showing his thanks and appreciation. And the six geese-a-laying comment at the end was brilliant. Thank you!

  3. Brilliant interpretation of the first five days of Christmas gifts. Thanks for thinking of this, writing it so well, and than sharing it with everyone. Nicely done!

  4. Oh, what a joy this was to read! The banter was perfect, Starsky’s interpretation of the first five gifts was so imaginative, and there was even a few non-animal geese that ended up being the best gift of all! Thanks so much!

  5. What a fun story. I had a hunch who was gift-giver but I never had any luck at guessing what the actual gift would be. Thanks for the Christmas surprises!

  6. This was so much fun! Great dialogue and the last line made me chuckle. The boys were so in character and I was anxious along with Starsky too. Thanks for a great story.

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