Chapter 1: Ghosts And Bullets
Hutch stood by the window at Starsky’s place, mesmerized by the tropical storm that had spent the last three days visiting Bay City and vicinity. He smiled around the lip of the long neck beer bottle he had forgotten he already drained. Hutch wanted another, but he knew he'd never leave Starsky’s tonight if he indulged.
Hutch shrugged to himself. Who was he kidding? He knew when Starsky started the day reminding him that it was Friday the thirteenth,then went on to regale him with spooky horror stories Starsky swore were true, that he would be right where he was tonight. If he were honest with himself, there was nowhere he would rather be.
Hutch jumped as he felt something ice cold roll across his neck. Starsky’s own beer bottle.
“Starsk! Cut it out! What are you, six?”
Starsky, as usual, was completely unrepentant.
“Hutchinson, you are too easy. Where were you in that blond head of yours? You… okay?”
Hutch noticed the hesitation. He wondered if Starsky was thinking that he was thinking of that bitch, Kira. Hutch certainly didn’t want Starsky dwelling on that fiasco tonight.
“Actually, partner, I was looking for ghosts between the raindrops. After all, most of those campfire tales you spouted of to me today started with, It was a dark and stormy night.”
“Yeah, well, they were all true, at least to your knowledge. Not that I’m counting, but that’s your fourth beer. You ain’t gonna chase ghosts away by getting plastered. I’ll order a coupla pizzas. Oh, and I’m takin’ your keys, metaphorically. You drink that, you stay the night. Hey wanna play a game?”
Hutch tried to steel his expression, even though he knew Starsky saw right down into his soul most days. They were almost back to normal. The hurt in Starsky’s eyes at Hutch’s recent betrayal was slowly turning to an odd sort of loving concern. Starsky was worried about him. Hutch hadn’t decided yet if he preferred the raging anger. That he could take. He deserved it.
Hutch lifted his beer. “Not really up for monopoly, pal. Reminds me too much of that rich scumbag we’re trying to take down. What is it about having money that turns a man to crime?”
“Maybe it’s the not having it. Nobody wants to go back to the streets once they fight their way out. Righteous morality tends to fly out the window when hunger and need knock at the door.”
Hutch took a long drink. It hurt Hutch’s heart knowing that his friend was probably speaking from experience.
“True, Starsk. But in some men it builds character and a sense of wanting to give back.”
Starsky ducked his head. He could never take a compliment from Hutch without making it into a joke. Hutch waited.
“Well, rich kid from Duluth. You can pay this boy back by paying for the pizza. So, Monopoly is out? I don’t feel like chess or backgammon. Oh, I got this game at a tag sale the other day. Hold on a sec.”
Hutch went to the stereo as Starsky rummaged in his bedroom closet. He turned on a light jazz FM station he liked for background music. Starsky emerged from his bedroom, the grin on his face like sunshine on a rainy day, or night.
“Found it! My grandmother used to play with this all the time. I didn’t know they still made them.”
Curious, Hutch took the box from his hands and read the descriptions.
“A ouija board? Speak to the spirits? Is this a joke, buddy?”
“No, no. It’s fun. Look it’s made by Hasbro. They wouldn’t try to con ya. You never heard of this?”
Hutch raised his eyebrows. “Nope. My grandmother would have said I was possessed by the devil and tanned my hide if I tried to speak to the spirit realm. Okay, I’ll give it a go.”
Starsky lit up the room and Hutch had to chuckle. If Starsky only knew how much Hutch would be willing to give to have his partner happy, whole and by his side for eternity if not longer.
Starsky literally bounced to the kitchen to set up the board. It only took a minute, since the game had only two parts. The board itself and the planchette.
Hutch sat at the table and picked up the board.
“Hutch, I’m gonna call for pizza. You want your regular healthy veggie concoction?”
“Yeah. Thanks babe.”
“No problemo, Blondie. I’m getting a garbage pie, a little of everything. Rain always makes me hungry.”
Hutch snorted at that statement, while he looked over the Ouija board. It had a Victorian look to it with dark colors and vintage ornate letters. In the left upper corner was the word, yes, adorned with a smiling sun. The right upper corner held the word no, and a quarter moon. At the bottom was the word ‘goodbye,’ with images of a mystic playing the game on either side. The middle of the board held an arched alphabet and below it a line of numbers, one to zero.
Hutch picked up the oddly shaped planchette. It was plastic, roughly heart shaped with the word ‘ouija’ along the edge. The center held a round, clear window with a small metal pointer in the middle. Hutch turned it over to find three small feel. He wondered how it worked. He didn’t have to wonder for long.
“Okay, babe. Let me explain. It’s real simple. No winners or losers or rules.”
Hutch snorted again. “Definitely your sort of game, buddy.”
“Shut up and listen, wiseguy. You’ll make the vibes negative with your snarky attitude.”
“Wouldn’t want that.”
“Pay attention! See you put the plastic thingy in the middle and place your fingers lightly on it, like… like when you are typing on a typewriter.”
Hutch really laughed at that. “You mean when I type. You’re gonna hunt and peck the spirits to death.”
“Just… just… do it. Come on. Put your fingers on the damn thing. Then we ask a question to get things rolling.”
“Okay, Starsk. Don’t get mad. I said I would play. But I don’t see how…”
Starsky relaxed his shoulders and placed his fingers on the planchette. Hutch did the same.
Starsky spoke softly, “Are there any spirits willing to talk to us tonight?”
A minute passed and Hutch opened his mouth. Just then the planchette violently moved to yes, almost falling off the board with its power.
“Holy shit!” Hutch called out. “What the hell? Starsky you moved that… that thing.”
Starsky chuckled. “Hutch, geez. Calm down. That’s how it works. Here you do it yourself. The spirits won’t mind.”
Starsky placed his hands palms down on the table. Hutch once again placed his fingers on the planchette. He stuttered out a question.
“Ummm. Who… who are you?”
Hutch gasped as he felt the plastic move beneath his fingertips. He knew he wasn’t doing it. It moved gently this time, hovering over letters as Starsky read them out.
“M. I. C. K. Mick.”
Hutch glanced at Starsky who shrugged, them put his fingers back across from Hutch’s.
“Hi there, Mick. Welcome. You got a message for us?”
The planchette seemed to come to life and moved quickly around the board. Starsky repeated each letter out loud.
“D.A.N.G.E.R. B.E.W.A.R.E. T. H. R. E. E. B.L.O.O. D.Y. H.O.L.E.S.”
“Shit!” Hutch stood and nearly fell over his chair. He wiped at his face. As Starsky had read the words aloud, Hutch had seen a flash of an image of his best friend dead with three bullet holes in his jacket. Blood seemed to still be dripping in front of his own eyes. He couldn’t catch his breath.
“Hutch? Hey, Hutch come on, babe. It’s okay. It’s just a stupid game.”
Suddenly organ music filled the apartment, rather the the light jazz Hutch had selected moments earlier. Hutch swivelled violently with the strange sensation that someone was behind him. A knock came to the door and Hutch tripped over the coffee table, sending it crashing to the floor.
“Jesus, fuck!” shouted Starsky. He ran to the stereo in time to hear the DJ apologize for a technical difficulty. He turned it off. Starsky hesitated a moment before going to Hutch. He jerked open the door to find the pizza guy looking bored, but slightly curious.
“Hold on a sec, pal. Gotta get my wallet.”
Starsky ran back to Hutch who had lifted himself onto the couch, still breathing heavily.
“I’m okay, Starsk. Go get the pizza. Here.” Hutch tried for his wallet, but Starsky held him back.
“Sit. Don’t move. I got this.”
Starsky threw a twenty dollar bill at the pizza guy and grabbed the two boxes from him. Starsky hoped the huge tip made up for the door slamming in his face. He dropped the pizzas on the counter and bounced back to Hutch.
“You okay, babe? You hurt anywhere? You hit your head?”
Starsky had his hands all over Hutch. Hutch took one long shaky breath and wrapped his arms around his partner holding him close.
“I saw you dead, Starsk. Three bullet wounds to the back.”
“Hey. Hey, Blondie. I’m here. Nothing’s wrong. I should have known you were a sensitive guy. It was just the game messing with your head. I’ll burn the stupid thing if you want.”
“No! Starsky, no! I gotta know what happens. I gotta know how to keep you safe. It’s gotta tell me how!”
Hutch pushed Starsky away. He moved swiftly across the room and sat at the kitchen table. He placed his trembling fingers on the planchette.
“Mick, please. Tell me how to prevent it.”
Starsky placed his hands on Hutch’s shoulders. He said a silent prayer that Mick would placate his friend. Then he would destroy the board.
The movement started slow and steady, as if it was trying to break bad news as easy as possible. Starsky read out the letters and words as before.
“G. U. N. T. H. E. R. H. I. T. P.O.L.I.C.E. G. A. R. A G E. M.A.K.E. M.Y. S.O.N. W. E.A. R. A. V.E.S.T. I .L.O.V. E. Y.O.U. D.A.V.I.D.”
The planchette jumped to the word ‘goodbye’ and flew off the board. It broke into pieces as it hit the kitchen floor.
Starsky whispered, “Mick -- that was what the guys called my father, Michael. That was my pop, Hutch.”
Hutch stood slowly and took Starsky in his arms. “Listen and listen good, David Starsky. We are bringing this Gunther guy down. You are going to wear a vest under your shirt. Don’t give me any grief about it. Because I’m here and I’m alive and I’d do anything to keep you safe, Anything. I love you too, and I can’t live without you, babe.”
Starsky held Hutch close as he cried, murmuring soft words of comfort and placing light kisses on his hair. He looked down at the ouija board and whispered, “Thanks, Mick.”
Chapter 2: Undead
Hutch touched his long fingers to one edge of the plastic, heart-shaped planchette that sat in the center of the Ouija board. Across from him, Starsky placed his fingertips similarly on the opposite edge.
“Are you there, spirits?” Starsky solemnly intoned.
Except for a slight flickering of the flame from the candle on the table beside them, nothing happened.
“This is ridiculous, Starsky,” Hutch huffed. Of all the harebrained ideas you’ve had, this has to take the cake. Thinking that you can talk to spirits through a board with letters on it is just plain nuts.”
“Come on, Hutch. Just give it a try. My Aunt Edna met Uncle Hal this way.”
“By playing a board game with him?”
“No, dummy. She and her girlfriends were messing around with a Ouija Board one night and they asked the spirits who she should marry. The triangle spelled out the letters, H P.”
“Yeah - Hal Plimpton. Three months later they met at a bar mitzvah in New Jersey and the rest is history.”
“That’s just coincidence, Starsk. And not a very interesting coincidence at that.” Hutch removed his fingers from the planchette and sat back. Around them the room was in shadows, with the only light coming from flickering flame of the candle.
It was an evening in late October and he and Starsky had just finished watching ‘House on Haunted Hill.’ During the movie, they’d played their detective skills against each other to see who would correctly pick the last man standing. When Hutch won, then admitted he’d seen the movie at least a dozen times, Starsky had gone to his closet and pulled the Ouija board out from beneath a box of baseball cards and pile of sweaters knitted by his mother, but which the California climate made pointless.
“Here, smarty pants,” Starsky has said as he arranged the board on the kitchen table. “Try to outsmart the spirits.”
Hutch had made a show of sighing in exasperation but went along with Starsky enough to turn off the lights, light the candle and set his fingers on the Ouija’s planchette.
“Now what?” He asked.
“We ask it questions about what’s going to happen,” Starsky said, studying the board.
“Okay.” Hutch cleared his throat and pressed down on his edge of the heart-shaped piece with it's clear, round center. “Who am I going to marry?” He asked with exaggerated sincerity.
Starsky screwed up his face and was about to say something when the planchette began to move beneath their fingers. It traveled across the board and stopped on the letter D, then awkwardly changed it's trajectory and landed on the letter S. Then it stopped.
“D S,” Hutch commented. I don’t know any woman with those initials except maybe Donna Summer.”
“There ya go. Donna Summer is hot,” Starsky grinned back at him.
“Now when am I ever going to get to meet Donna Summer let alone ask her to marry me?” Hutch replied acerbically. “Besides, you were moving the piece.”
“I was not,” Starsky responded with indignation. “It was the spirits. I’ll prove it,” he asserted in the face of Hutch’s continued disbelief. “Ask something else. Something that you know the answer to, but I don’t.”
There wasn’t much that fell under that category, Hutch figured, but at last he asked into the air, “what pet did my sister have when we were kids?”
With their fingers gently in place, the planchette skimmed the board to spell out ‘cat.’
“Well?” Starsky asked. “Did she have a cat?”
“Sure she did,” Hutch conceded. “But lots of little girls have cats. It was a good guess, Starsk.”
“Okay. I’ll ask it a question only I know the answer to - something unique - and I’ll even keep my fingers off.”
Starsky stuck his hands in his lap and thought for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was thick with memories, “What was my pop’s nickname - the one only ma called him?”
Hutch rested his fingers feather-light on the planchette and held his breath. Damn the spirits, Hutch thought. They better not mess this up. How could he fight something he couldn’t see, much less believe in?
Just then plastic heart Hutch was barely touching began to quiver and move. He watched in fascination as it slowly made its way across the board first to one letter and then another. Hutch looked up at Starsky’s face as a smile spread across it in recognition.
It had spelled out ‘Z E E S K E I T.’
“Is that supposed to mean something?” Hutch asked.
“Zeeskeit. That’s it! It’s Yiddish for sweetheart.” Stasrky nearly bounced out of his chair. “That’s what my ma called my pop when I was a kid. See, I told you this thing would work. You just have to have an open mind.”
Starsky was convinced they'd made contact with some spiritual being. He practically glowed with delight. Meanwhile, Hutch shivered. How could this be just another coincidence? Zeeskeit. It wasn’t a word Hutch had ever heard before. In fact, he wasn’t even sure it was a word. He’d just have to trust Starsky for it. That was a circumstance he knew well.
“I’m sorry, Starsk. He must have been a great guy. I’m sure you miss him.”
Even in the dim light of the candle he didn’t miss the change that had come over Starsky’s face — a portrait of grief and love for the father he’d lost so young, yet colored, as always, with cockeyed optimism in the face of the improbable. And Hutch was reminded for the thousandth time that day of why this man, his partner, was so dear to him.
“It’s okay, Hutch,” Starsky replied. “Ya know, sometimes Ma says she swears she can still feel Pop nearby. Now ask it what’s going to happen in the future,” he urged.
Hutch pushed away from the table. “No. I’m tired. Time to call it a night.”
“C’mon Hutch. Don’t you want to know?”
“A piece of plastic can’t tell the future. Grow up, would ya?” Hutch retorted, sharper than he meant to. But after surviving a bout with heroin and a deadly virus, along with having been shot at, beaten up, and run off the road more times than he could count, he was happy to just have today. To be doing what he loved to do, with the person he loved best.
Hutch’s life was far better than he had ever expected it could be or, as he sometimes thought, he deserved. He didn’t dare do anything to jeopardize that. If this crazy board could somehow reveal the nickname of Starsky’s long dead father, what other secrets might it reveal?
“Just put your hands back on the triangle,” Starsky ignored the predictable snappishness and replaced his fingers on the edge of the planchette as if to demonstrate.
Hutch gritted his teeth. “Okay, one more question. But then I’m going home.” He aligned his fingers on the edge but before either of them could say anything more, the planchette began to move.
“Stop moving it, Starsk. I haven’t asked anything yet,” Hutch said, annoyed.
“I was just about to tell you the same thing,” Starsky shot back. “You stop moving. I’m not even touching the thing.”
“You must be, because I’m sure not.”
Nevertheless, the game piece was moving as the tips of their fingers hovered above the plastic. Starsky and Hutch watched wide eyed as the planchette slid, briskly this time, across the board, stopping at first one letter and then another. It’s path seemed clear and decisive, until it finally came to a stop. ‘Beware the police garage,' it had spelled out letter by letter in the flickering light.
Starsky repeated the sentence aloud, looking up at Hutch. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He questioned haltingly, as if the board could answer back. “What’s so dangerous about the police garage? We’re in it every day.”
“Maybe it’s the way you drive in it,” Hutch observed with a tight smile, even though he didn’t find any humor in the Ouija’s message. He shivered again as if a cold wind had whipped through the room. He felt an urge to run around snapping all the lights on and only the thought of Starsky’s resultant teasing kept him in place.
Starsky leaned back in his chair, white-faced and shaken, as if the wind had been knocked out of him. “It’s gotta mean something important, Hutch. But I got no idea what.” His excitement with the game was clearly over. Now he just seemed — spooked.
It wasn’t a good look for him, Hutch speculated with concern. Time to put an end to it. He stood and grabbed his jacket. “Put the damn thing way, Starsk. Next time we’re sticking to Monopoly.”
Hutch sat in the dark at the small table in Starsky's kitchen and rested his head in his palms. Across town, Starsky lay unresponsive and near death in a hospital bed, the victim of a drive-by shooting. An attack that happened in, of all places, the police garage.
Since then, Hutch had barely slept, focusing all his energies on bringing down the person who had ordered the hit. And begging the Powers That Be to not take Starsky away from him. Life without Starsky would be unbearable.
Hutch remembered how, six months ago, they'd sat at this table arguing over a Ouija board. Starsky had insisted it was a spirit-led conduit to knowledge of the future. Back then, the Ouija had warned them of a danger that waited for them in the police garage. Hutch had acted dismissive of it at the time. But for weeks afterward, the thought had kept him up at night until he drove it from his mind with sheer force of will. Now the cryptic message came roaring back, pounding like a jackhammer in the back of his head.
Beware the police garage.
Beware the police garage.
Maybe if Hutch had taken the warning more seriously, he told himself now, he could have stayed one step ahead of catastrophe. He could have done more to protect Starsky. Maybe he even could have saved him.
Damn his ego and feigned superiority! Damn him for not seeing the world the way Starsky did.
And damn that cursed Ouija Board.
A new thought suddenly struck Hutch, causing him to jump up and practically run to Starsky’s closet. He tore through the semi-organized contents, most of it as familiar to him as his own things, until he found the flat, rectangular-shaped box at the bottom. Apparently, Starsky had set it away, never to get it out again after that October night.
Hutch had guessed correctly. Starsky had been as unnerved by the experience as Hutch. Perhaps even more so. But they hadn’t spoken of it since.
Now, Hutch had no idea what compelled him to retrieve the macobre game board. Yet, there it was.
Hutch slammed the box down on the table, opened up the board and placed the planchette firmly in the center. He glared at it, daring it to leap up or lash out at him. But it was only a lifeless piece of plastic.
Hutch sat back down in the chair and, with a grimace, placed his fingertips on one edge of the plastic triangle. The letters of the board wavered before his eyes and he blinked, fighting off waves of exhaustion, fury and desperation.
“Ask it what’s going to happen in the future,” he heard an echo of Starsky’s voice encourage him.
Hutch might simply have asked the Ouija the obvious yes or no question - would Starsky live? - but the words stuck in his throat. “What,” Hutch swallowed hard, “what will it take to keep Starsky ... alive? Bring him b..back to me,” he demanded of the Ouija instead. He was willing to offer the unseen powers who controlled the board anything in return.
The planchette sat motionless for long minutes and Hutch’s fingers began to tremble with fatigue. He fought the urge to pick the damn thing up and hurl it against the wall. Tears of helplessness stung his eyes. If only he could confront the spirits face to face.
Just as he was about to give up, the planchette quivered and began to move. With Hutch’s fingers barely touching it, the piece slid from letter to letter, spelling out two short words.
Y O U R L O V E
“My love?” He spoke aloud to the empty room. Love was such a simple word, but it contained a world of complications and heartache. Hutch himself knew how love could cause a heart made of hopes and dreams to break. Now the mystical board wanted him to trust that love could restore Starsky’s physical heart that had been damaged beyond what science could fix.
He wondered if it was possible. Hutch wasn’t the childlike dreamer that Starsky was. His beliefs were rooted in the practical. He’d given up on dreams long ago. He suddenly found he had a thousand more questions to ask.
Were the powers that controlled the board evil or good? What chimera could possibly understand about he and Starsky and the invisible tie that bound them? What did this spirit know of love?
Hutch touched trembling fingers to the planchette. “Who are you?”
When the planchette sat motionless on the board Hutch chided himself bitterly. This was all ridiculous. Just like the idea that love alone could save Starsky. He lifted his hands and pounded his fists on the table in anger and frustration, causing the planchette to jump.
Then, if it’s own accord, the small plastic triangle with moved across the board to spell out another word. A word he’d only seen once before.
Z E E S K E I T.
A wife’s love for her husband. A parent’s love for his child. And now, Hutch’s love for Starsky. In a way, wasn’t it all the same? Real love never dies.
Comforted and energized, Hutch put the Ouija board back in Starsky’s closet and headed out. He had work to do.